Grandma's Ashes
A play
Published: 2000-01-01

published by Actors Drama Library, New York City
in association with
L’Atelier des Rêves

© 2000

Cast of Characters

PA:

BOY:

GIRL:

CLERK:

MAYOR:

MINISTER:

BANKER:


The play is set in a small town and its outskirts.

Scene I

AT RISE: A wooded place. PA stands in front of a curtained area; BOY crouches next to him.

PA: Step right up, Ladies and Gentlemen, see Grandma’s Ashes. For only ten insignificant dollars see the original Ashes of the original Grandma. They killed her and tried to do away with her remains. But we have her authentic ashes right here.

(Listening to the silent question of an imaginary public)

Does it really matter, ma’am, whose Grandma she was? Why, she could have been yours.

(Pointing to people in theater audience)

Or yours, or yours. She could have been the grandmother of any one of you.

(Listening as before)

They killed her, ma’am, the people that burned her to ashes.

(Listening as before)

She died under mortal circumstances, sir. Under what other circumstances does anyone die, I’d like to know!

(Listening as before, shaking his head sadly)

How do you know these are really Grandma’s ashes?

(PA sighs)

I’ll pass over that question, sir, as being too insulting to the memory of the dead to merit an answer. But you can see for yourself, you can judge for yourselves whether or not these are Grandma’s bona fide ashes, or some cheap and tawdry imitation.

(Listening as before)

Of course you can get your money back if you don’t like the show! Satisfaction is guaranteed. You will get what you pay for, folks. Absolutely.

(PA holds hand out, takes imaginary money, smiles, nods)

Thank you. Thank you, kindly.

(PA scrutinizes curtained area for a moment, then turns to BOY)

PA: Continued) Slim pickins, today, boy. Just a bad spot, I reckon. I guess we’ll have to shift into our peripatetic mode.

BOY: You mean walk around again?

PA: Precisely.

BOY: I don’t want to carry that thing around all day. It’s too hot.

PA: It was hot for your poor Grandma, too, when they burned her to ashes.– Your poor Grandma carried you around in her arms when you were a little baby, and she never complained.

BOY: I don’t remember.

PA: Yes, she did. I saw her with my own eyes. She carried you around everywhere, rain or shine, hot or cold. And you won’t carry her for just a few hours. I never saw such a grandson!

BOY: Oh, all right. When do we get going?

PA: (Glancing at curtain) As soon as those two–oops! Here they come! And do they look ticked as all get-out! Hide!

(PA and BOY hide, watch stage area, speak to each other sotto voce)

BOY: Do you think they’re really going to call the police?

PA: No, I don’t reckon they will. They’re just letting off steam, that’s all.

BOY: That man looks pretty angry.

PA: Well, wouldn’t you be angry if your wife kept telling you what a fool you were to let yourself be gypped out of–

BOY: They’re going away!

PA: I expected they would. That’s the way folks are, son. They don’t want to make trouble over a few lost dollars. Always count on that.

BOY: They’re gone.

(PA and BOY come out of hiding)

PA: We’d better get a move on, boy.

(BOY removes and folds curtain, picks up urn of ashes)

PA: (Continued) Let’s get cracking.

(PA and BOY tramp in a wide circle around the stage)

PA: (Calling out) Grrrandma’s ashes! Come and have a look at Grandma’s ashes, folks. Only ten tiny dollars, reduced from twenty just for today, folks, that’s right, just for today, half price! Ten teensy-weensy dollars for a look at the biggest bowl of human ashes you have ever seen. Come down and have a looksee. (To BOY) My throat’s starting to give out, boy, I must’ve strained it yesterday. You’d better take over.

BOY: (Calling out) Grandma’s ashes!

PA: Don’t just throw the line away like that, son. Put some gumption into it. Roll that “R”! Grrrrrrrrandma. Put your heart into it, boy. Grrrrandma’s Ashes!

BOY: I thought you were hoarse.

PA: I will be soon if I keep this up. Now, go ahead. Try it.

BOY: Grrrandma’s ashes!

PA: Go on.

BOY: The original ashes from the original Grandma.

PA: That’s it.

BOY: They killed her. But we have her bona fide ashes right here. Come and have a looksee. Only ten dollars.

PA: On sale.– Put some life into it!

BOY: On sale!

PA: Reduced from twenty.

BOY: Reduced from twenty!

PA: Son, you are doing a great job!

BOY: On sale today only! Half price! Come and have a looksee! Only ten insignificant dollars.

(PA and BOY wait. No one appears)

PA: Ah, it’s no good. I’m getting fed up with carrying this thing around.

BOY: I’m the one that’s carrying it around.

(BOY puts urn on ground)

PA: We ought to find ourselves a permanent space. It’s not right to carry Grandma’s Ashes around like this, under the rain and snow and broiling sun. She wouldn’t have liked it. I’m not as spry as I used to be, either. Pains in my legs, pains in my arms–and a pain in my heart, son, a burning pain. If I had the cash, I could buy a building, set up a permanent museum, a memorial. Then we could just sit back and wait for folks to come to us.

BOY: What if they didn’t come?

PA: They’d come. I’d advertise. You could go to college, study advertising yourself. Come up with a campaign. Hell, if they can sell soda pop through advertising, I reckon we can sell Grandma’s Ashes the same way.

BOY: Where are you gonna get the cash to send me through college?

PA: You could work your way through. That’s what I would’ve done. If I hadn’t had so much to do with Grandma’s Ashes.

(Looking off)

Wait a minute. What’s that building over there?

BOY: Looks like some kind of government building.

PA: Well, that’s where we’ll go. We’re citizens, aren’t we? We have as much right to government assistance as anybody else.

BOY: What kind of assistance?

PA: Why, assistance with Grandma’s Ashes, of course. Here, pick that up and follow me.

(BOY picks up urn, goes with PA to steps of Government Building)

PA: (Continued) Hello! Mr. Mayor! Mr. Burgermeister! Mr. Prime Minister! Mr. Principal!

BOY: A principal’s the head of a school!

PA: I’m just trying to get his attention, it doesn’t matter what I call him. – Hello! You, sir! Yoo-hoo! Mr. Selectman! Mr. President!

(A CLERK appears)

CLERK: What’s all this? You can’t just yell like that on the steps of City Hall. The mayor’s trying to work. He has the welfare of the townspeople to attend to. Go away!

PA: Well, we’re a couple of townspeople. What about our welfare?

CLERK: Townspeople, huh? How come I haven’t ever seen you before?

PA: Because we just got into town. Does that give us fewer rights than everybody else?

CLERK: No, but–the mayor’s busy.

PA: We’ll wait.

CLERK: What’s your business here?

PA: Grandma’s Ashes.

CLERK: Who?

PA: Grandma’s Ashes. Surely you’ve heard of Grandma’s ashes.

CLERK: I’m not sure that I have.

PA: Got them right here. Never travel without them. boy! Show the man Grandma’s Ashes.

(BOY opens urn. CLERK peers in)

CLERK: Yes, I see. Grandma’s Ashes. And?

PA: There’s no “and.” It’s just Grandma’s Ashes.

CLERK: I mean, what about Grandma’s Ashes?

PA: Well, a lot have folks have demonstrated a considerable interest in these ashes, and frankly, we’re getting pretty tired–my boy and I–we’re getting mighty tired of hauling them back forth across the country.

CLERK: What does that have to do with the mayor?

PA: Well, you see, it’s like this, sir: we figured if the mayor could give us a public space, you know, rent free or supported by contributions or something to that effect–we figured that it would save everybody a lot of time and energy and it would also educate folks about what happened to Grandma so they’d make sure nothing like that would ever happen again.

CLERK: What did happen to Grandma?

PA: They killed her.

CLERK: Who’s “they”?

PA: The people that killed her and burned her to ashes.

CLERK: Look, the mayor doesn’t have time for this. He’s extremely busy. You’re creating a nuisance. You’ll have to clear–

PA: Do you want Grandma to be killed again?

CLERK: How can she be killed again if she’s already dead?

PA: Some other Grandma could be killed.

CLERK: Whose Grandma?

PA: Your Grandma, for instance.

CLERK: Are you threatening my grandmother?

PA: No.

CLERK: Why bring my grandmother into it?

PA: I didn’t.

CLERK: You most certainly did.

PA: When?

CLERK: Just now.

PA: Oh! That’s because you mentioned my grandmother first.

CLERK: I did not!

PA: (to BOY) Boy, bear a little witness here. Did this gentleman or did this gentleman not mention Grandma?

BOY: Yes, he did. (to CLERK) Yes, you did, sir. You and my father just now had a talk about Grandma and her ashes.

CLERK: But that was because he brought the subject up first.

PA: I don’t believe that’s precisely accurate, sir. In fact, to my recollection, you brought the subject of Grandma’s Ashes up.

CLERK: I?!

PA: Let me refresh your recollection, if I may. You asked us what our business was here. Our business is Grandma’s Ashes. Therefore, you, not we, brought Grandma and her ashes into this discussion.

CLERK: This is the most–!

PA: Now, sir, I’m at your service. What further information can I give you about Grandma and her ashes, now that you’ve brought the subject up once again?

CLERK: I never even–!

(The MAYOR enters)

MAYOR: What’s all this hullabaloo?

CLERK: I don’t know, Mr. Mayor, something about Grandmothers and ashes…

PA: Good day, sir.

MAYOR: Good day.

PA: Say “Good day” to the mayor, boy.

BOY: Good day.

MAYOR: Good day.

PA: Fine town you have here, Mr. Mayor.

MAYOR: Thank you.

PA: Full of decent people.

MAYOR: Thank you.

PA: And headed by the decentest person in town.

MAYOR: Why, thank you!

PA: The minute I laid eyes on you, I knew you were a compassionate man.

MAYOR: I do my best.

PA: A man who places the concerns of his constituency before his own.

MAYOR: Of course, of course.

PA: A man who would give a member of his constituency the shirt of his back, if he had to.

MAYOR: Naturally.

PA: So we figured, my boy and I–he’s Grandma’s grandson, and the apple of her eye!–we figured if anyone could help us out, that person would be you.

MAYOR: Help you out?

PA: Well, you see, Mr. Mayor, it’s like this: Grandma’s Ashes–there they sit, a prey to the elements. Now, if we had somewhere where we could put them on display, nothing fancy, just a little building somewhere, maybe here next to City Hall.

MAYOR: Have you tried the realty office?

PA: You don’t understand, Mr. Mayor. We’ve devoted our whole life to the memory and preservation of Grandma’s Ashes. We don’t have the kind of money to rent a building worthy to be her final resting place.

MAYOR: I see. Well, as you no doubt know, with the fiscal crisis…

PA: Uh-huh.

MAYOR: Yes, and the fluctuations of the stock market…

PA: Yeah.

MAYOR: I’m glad we understand each other.

PA: I’ll just throw them in the river, then.

MAYOR: What?

PA: Grandma’s Ashes. I’ll just throw them in the river. Boy! Take Grandma’s Ashes and throw them in the river.

BOY: What ri–?

PA: Throw them in. Get rid of them. Who cares about them, anyway? Who cares about poor old Grandma?

MAYOR: It’s not that I don’t care about poor old Grandma, but–the fiscal crisis…

PA: I understand, Mr. Mayor. Sorry for taking up your time. – Well, son, we’d better hurry over to that meeting of the National Committee for the Preservation and Memorialization of Grandma’s Ashes.

BOY: What mee–?

PA: We don’t want to keep all those important folks waiting. They have to get back to their businesses and banks and corporations and holding companies and what have you.

MAYOR: What’s this about a meeting?

PA: Nothing, Mr. Mayor. Don’t let us keep you from the business of the township.

MAYOR: A committee, you say?

PA: A few dozen of the town’s most illustrious citizens have taken it upon themselves to set up a national organization that will concern itself with the preservation and memorialization of Grandma’s Ashes. These distinguished gentlemen have asked me to favor their gathering with my humble presence. And as they are men for whom time is money…

MAYOR: Who is this committee made up of, exactly?

PA: I’m surprised you haven’t heard of it, Mr. Mayor, before now. I’m sure you’d recognize many of the names on its board. I believe many of them are quite active in politics.

MAYOR: It is strange that I’ve heard nothing about it.

PA: Well, you will, Mr. Mayor, before long. You most surely will.

MAYOR: Look, let’s talk this over in the privacy of my office.

PA: You’re certain I’m not intruding?

MAYOR: Not at all.

PA: You wait for me here, boy, and keep a hawk’s eye on Grandma’s Ashes.

(PA, MAYOR, and CLERK go into Hall. GIRL appears)

GIRL: What do you have in there?

BOY: Grandma’s Ashes.

GIRL: Your Grandma?

BOY: Yeah, I think so.

GIRL: Don’t you know?

BOY: Yeah, my Grandma, yeah.

GIRL: Can I have a look?

BOY: It’ll cost you.

GIRL: How much?

BOY: Ten dollars.

GIRL: Ten dollars?! All I have is ten cents.

BOY: That’s not enough.

GIRL: Couldn’t I pay you next time?

BOY: No.

(GIRL starts to exit)

BOY: (Continued) Wait a minute! Maybe we could make a deal.

GIRL: Such as?

BOY: Well, how about ten cents and a kiss?

GIRL: A kiss? What do you know about kissing?

BOY: Plenty.

GIRL: I bet you’ve never even kissed a girl before.

BOY: Sure I have!

GIRL: A big boy like you! Never even kissed a girl before.

BOY: Say, I’ve kissed plenty of girls.

GIRL: Oh, yeah? Name one.

BOY: Well, there was– There were lots of them, that’s why I can’t remember their names.

GIRL: You’re not from around here, are you?

BOY: What difference does that make?

GIRL: It’s just that–you seem different.

BOY: I’m just the same as everybody else from around here.

GIRL: But you have, well, you have a very exotic, intelligent look about you.

BOY: (Pleased) Have I?

GIRL: Yes. I bet you know an awful lot.

BOY: Well, I study a lot, you know.

GIRL: Can I test you?

BOY: Go ahead.

GIRL: What was Ronald Reagan’s first wife’s name?

BOY: Mrs. Reagan.

GIRL: Hm. Who was Richard Nixon?

BOY: Anthony Hopkins.

GIRL: Hm. How much is six times six times six times six times six times six times six?

BOY: Two hundred seventy-nine thousand, nine hundred thirty-six.

GIRL: See. I knew you were smart. You know a lot more than the boys around here do. Except about American history. Where are you from?

BOY: All over.

GIRL: What does that mean?

BOY: We travel around a lot. My pa and I.

GIRL: It must be fun to travel. Seeing lots of different places and meeting lots of new and interesting people. Have you been to the East Coast?

BOY: Plenty of times.

GIRL: And the West Coast, too?

BOY: Oh, yeah, we get out there quite often.

GIRL: And up North?

BOY: Just came from there.

GIRL: It must get very cold.

BOY: You get used to it.

GIRL: What about down South?

BOY: Sure.

GIRL: How’s it down there?

BOY: Hot!

GIRL: You don’t mind the heat?

BOY: No, I don’t mind. I don’t mind any kind of weather.

GIRL: And you never get lonely?

BOY: Loneliness is kid’s stuff. When you’ve traveled around as much as I have, everywhere is home, and…

GIRL: And nowhere is home?

BOY: Say, what are you writing a book?!

GIRL: No, it’s not that. It’s just that I’ve always wanted to travel myself and traveling fascinates me.

BOY: After a while, one place is about the same as any other.

GIRL: Do you meet a lot of girls traveling around?

BOY: Tons.

GIRL: Are you the kind of guy that has a girl in every port?

BOY: Several.

GIRL: Are you sorry when you have to leave them?

BOY: I guess I am.

GIRL: Do you write to them?

BOY: Sometimes.

GIRL: What do you say?

BOY: Oh, all kinds of stuff. Romantic stuff, you know.

GIRL: Stuff about how you’d like to kiss them?

BOY: Uh-huh.

GIRL: And poetry?

BOY: Sure.

GIRL: Can you recite one of the poems you wrote to them for me?

BOY: Well, it’s kind of personal stuff.

GIRL: Just one? I won’t repeat it.

BOY: Well, uh, one went, uh, one went like this:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

If I was with you now,

I’d kiss you.

GIRL: You’d kiss me? Well then, go ahead and kiss me.    

(BOY hesitates shyly)

GIRL: (Continued) If you were from around here, you’d know that all the boys in town are dying to kiss me.

BOY: Says you.

GIRL: Don’t you think I’m pretty?

BOY: You’ll pass.

GIRL: Maybe you don’t like girls.

BOY: Who says I don’t?

GIRL: Well, why don’t you kiss me, then?

BOY: You mean, right now?

GIRL: Who’s stopping you?

BOY: Right here in the open?

GIRL: Do you want to go inside?

BOY: Inside where?

GIRL: I don’t know. Inside City Hall?

BOY: No, I don’t want to go in there. My pa’s in there.

GIRL: What’s he doing in there?

BOY: He’s talking to the mayor.

GIRL: What about?

BOY: Grandma’s Ashes.

GIRL: Grandma’s Ashes. I almost forgot all about them. Can I see them?

BOY: What about that kiss?

GIRL: You do drive a hard bargain.

(GIRL kisses BOY)

GIRL: (Continued) Do you still want the ten cents?

BOY: How about another kiss?

GIRL: My kisses are worth much more than ten cents.

BOY: Well, I don’t have any money. What if I let you carry around Grandma’s Ashes for awhile?

GIRL: Why would I want to do that?

BOY: You can make loads of money doing it. My pa does.

GIRL: How much does he make?

BOY: Oh, he makes all kinds of money.

GIRL: Just by carrying around a heap of ashes?

BOY: (Offended) It’s not a heap of ashes. It’s Grandma’s Ashes.

GIRL: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you.

BOY: I don’t even think I want to kiss you again.

GIRL: I said I was sorry.

BOY: You shouldn’t talk about Grandma’s Ashes like that.

GIRL: I won’t do it again.

BOY: Grandma was, you know, she was– She used to carry me around wherever she went, when I was little. She used to never put me down. Except when I went to sleep. Then she’d put me down.

GIRL: You must have been very attached to her.

BOY: Yeah, well, it’s all kind of hazy now.

GIRL: Will you be staying in town long?

BOY: That depends on how my pa makes out with the mayor. We’re trying to get the mayor to give us a permanent memorial for Grandma’s Ashes.

GIRL: Oh. That’s a nice thought.

BOY: We think so.

GIRL: And if you get the permanent memorial, that means that you’ll stay here?

BOY: We wouldn’t want to be separated from Grandma’s Ashes.

GIRL: Where would you live?

BOY: With Grandma’s Ashes.

GIRL: In the same room?

BOY: Probably in a different room. Or a different building. We wouldn’t want to crowd Grandma.

GIRL: Will you go to school?

BOY: I guess so.

GIRL: What will you study?

BOY: (Shrugging) I don’t know. Accounting or dentistry.

GIRL: Will you come to visit me?

BOY: Will I!

GIRL: But don’t bring Grandma’s Ashes.

BOY: Oh, I won’t.

GIRL: Bye, now!

BOY: Bye!

GIRL: See you soon!

BOY: I hope so!
GIRL Bye!
BOY Bye!
(PA exits City Hall, rubbing his hands; sees BOY in a daze)

PA: Boy!–Boy! Did you get too much sun?

BOY: (In a daze; waving) Bye! Bye!


PA Boy! I’m talking to you!

BOY: (Snapping out of it) Yes, sir!

PA: Who were you saying goodbye to?

BOY: (Relapsing into daze; waving) Bye! Bye!

PA: All right, that’s enough of that foolishness. I’ve got some good news, boy: the right honorable mayor of this town is going to give us a permanent resting place for Grandma’s Ashes–gratis!

BOY: Huh?

PA: Will you snap out of it, son?! Do you understand what I’m telling you? You won’t have to carry Grandma’s Ashes around anymore.

BOY: You mean, we can stay here in this town?

PA: That’s right.

BOY: And we don’t have to wander around any more?

PA: That’s right.

BOY: Never, never, ever, ever again?

PA: Not unless we take a notion to move on.

BOY: Oh, what bliss!

PA: Bliss?! What’s the matter with you, boy? You haven’t started smoking that loco weed while my back was turned, have you?

BOY: Oh, pa–I’m in love with the most beautiful girl!

PA: In love! How could you fall in love in the ten minutes I was in there talking to the mayor?

BOY: Oh, she’s so beautiful, pa. She has such soft hair, and such big eyes, and such a cute nose, and such a pretty mouth–

PA: All girls have those things.

BOY: But not like she does, pa.

PA: Is she a local girl?

BOY: Yes, pa.

PA: I don’t like that.

BOY: Huh?

PA: I don’t want you getting involved with the local girls. Not at your age.

BOY: Not girls. Girl. There isn’t any other like her.

PA: Just the same, I don’t think it’s a good idea. It’s liable to take your mind off why we came here.

BOY: Why did we come here?

PA: Why, to deposit Grandma’s Ashes, of course.

BOY: Oh.

PA: You forgot all about Grandma’s Ashes, didn’t you?

BOY: No, I didn’t. They’re right here.

PA: Yes, but you weren’t thinking about them. You were thinking about that girl. A girl you’ve only known for a few minutes. And you’ve been carrying Grandma’s Ashes all your life. And here you are ready to throw them away–

BOY: I never would!

PA: –for some little local girl that you just met. I never saw such a son.

BOY: I’m sorry.

PA: You should be. Now take up those ashes on your back and follow me. The mayor said we could keep them in City Hall till he has the final resting place spruced up tomorrow, but I don’t like to leave Grandma’s Ashes where I can’t keep an eagle eye on them. Maybe we could camp out down by the river, just for tonight.

BOY: What river?

PA: Doesn’t this town have a river?

BOY: I haven’t seen one.

PA: Well, in the woods, then. The town has woods on its outskirts, doesn’t it?

BOY: Sure it does. We just came through them on the way in.

PA: That’s right. And that’s where we’ll camp. In the middle of the woods. Grandma always did like nature. Pick up the urn, boy–hoist it up on your shoulder. – That’s it. Grandma’s last night in the open.

BOY: What about supper?

PA: Don’t you worry about supper. You just tote those ashes.

(BOY and PA circle stage)

BOY: How about you carrying them for awhile?

PA: I carried them enough when I was your age, boy. Hither and thither. On the high road and on the low road. I was strong then. Not the wreck of a man you see today. Gone to hell out of devotion to Grandma’s Ashes. – Here, this looks like a nice spot. Dry. Canopied with verdure. We’re lucky there isn’t a river. There’d be too many mosquitoes. Grandma’s Ashes hate mosquitoes.

BOY: Why? Mosquitoes don’t bite ashes, do they?

PA: No, but they hover over them and light on them sometimes. It can be pretty annoying. And you can’t shoo them away because you’d be shooing away some of Grandma’s Ashes at the same time. Ashes are a very delicate proposition, son. You have to keep them away from the elements. Otherwise, they might just blow away. And then where would we be?

BOY: And where would Grandma be?

PA: That wouldn’t make much difference to us, boy, once her ashes were gone. – Here, set that urn down right on this nice dry spot. That’s it. Oh, that urn is surely going to look good in the memorial museum. And folks are surely going to pungle to take a look at it.

BOY: How’d you talk the mayor into building the museum?

PA: Simple, boy: I appealed to his better nature.

BOY: And that did it?

PA: I also suggested that I might sue the township for violation of Grandma’s civil rights if he refused to properly memorialize her ashes.

BOY: And he fell for that?

PA: He didn’t fall for anything, boy. I awakened a sense of shame in him. Besides, he’s up for reelection in the fall. Happy coincidence, isn’t it? I mean it would be a happy coincidence if it weren’t for the sadness of the way Grandma got turned into ashes. You see, a lot of folks have grandmothers here, naturally enough, and the mayor doesn’t want to risk alienating them in the coming election by seeming hard-hearted as regards Grandma’s Ashes.

BOY: Were these other grandmas cremated, too?

PA: I believe they were buried, boy. The dead ones, that is.

BOY: So they don’t carry their grandmas’ ashes around.

PA: I sincerely doubt it.

BOY: So why do we?

PA: Because we’re different from them, boy. How many times do I have to tell you that? I’ve been telling you that ever since you were this high.

BOY: I know. I remember.

PA: We don’t bury our relatives, son, we carry them around.

BOY: Does that mean you want me to carry you around, when you’re dead?

PA: Don’t say dead, boy–not about your pa. Say passed away.

BOY: After you’ve passed away, then.


(PA turns away from BOY, gazes at urn)

PA: Perhaps we might cross that bridge when we come to it.

(PA goes to urn, peers inside)

PA: (Continued) Hmmm! Have you been tampering with these ashes, boy?

BOY: Tampering?

PA: We seem to be missing some.

BOY: I never touched them.

PA: You haven’t been selling them, have you?

BOY: Of course not.

PA: You don’t want to kill the grandma that lays the golden ash.

BOY: Maybe some of the rubes on the road took some.

PA: I wouldn’t put it past them. Some people don’t respect anything.

(LIGHTENING)

PA: (Continued) Oh, not rain–not more bad luck!

BOY: We’ve had good luck so far.

(THUNDER)

PA: A quarter hour of good luck in an eternity of bad luck. We have to protect Grandma’s Ashes.

(HE produces curtain)

PA: (Continued) Here, take one end of this. Just let me get those pegs. What did I do with those pegs. Do you have them?

BOY: You won’t let me carry them. You say I’ll lose them.

PA: Don’t be disrespectful to your pa, boy.– I know I have them somewhere.

(WIND and RAIN)

PA: (Continued) Damn it all! Hold onto it, boy, so it doesn’t blow away!

(CURTAIN is blown away)

PA: (Continued) Here, here, here! Open up you coat and protect Grandma’s Ashes! Hold the urn steady!

(PA and BOY try to protect urn between them. URN falls over, spilling ashes)

PA: (Continued) Get those ashes! Don’t let them spill out! Don’t let them blow away! They’re all we have in the world!

(STORM subsides. FEEBLE SUNLIGHT illuminates stage)

PA: (Continued; HE searches ground) Gone. Gone!
(BOY picks up empty URN, lifts it upside and shakes it. Nothing falls out)

BOY: What are we going to do now?

PA: What can we do?

BOY: Pray?

PA: Pray?! What for?

BOY: Why, in Grandma’s memory.

PA: Praying isn’t going to bring Grandma’s Ashes back, boy.

BOY: I know but–I don’t mean pray for her ashes. I mean pray for her.

PA: For her?

BOY: For her eternal peace. Her eternal rest.

PA: We’re the ones who are going to be praying for our own place to rest if we don’t come up pretty quick with a way to rectify this situation. Well, use your brain, boy. I won’t be always with you. You’re going to have to learn to fend for yourself one day. What are we going to do?

BOY: I guess–I guess this means that we won’t have to carry Grandma’s Ashes around anymore.

PA: It does not!

BOY: But they’re gone, pa. We don’t have anything to carry anymore. We’re free!

PA: Get some twigs and branches.

BOY: What?

PA: Get some twigs and branches. Gather them!

BOY: What for?

PA: To make a fire.

BOY: But everything’s all wet.

PA: Once we get a small fire going, everything’ll dry out in the heat of the flame.

BOY: What are we lighting a fire for?

PA: Are you so warm you don’t want a fire? Anyway, we have to cook our supper.

BOY: I thought you said–

PA: Get a move on, boy. Those few rays of sunshine are dying in the west. If we don’t get in some wood now, it’ll be too dark to do so.

(BOY and PA forage about, collect wood, pile it in a heap)

PA: (Continued) That’s it. That’s the ticket. It surely is.

(PA lights match to wood)

PA: (Continued) It’ll take. It’ll take once a little bit of that wood dries out. There it goes! Oh, yes. Grandma, you have come to our rescue once again. Burn, burn, burn!

(FIRE flares up)

BOY: What about our supper?

PA: Let the fire die down, boy. You don’t want to cook food in flames. The glowing coals are better.

(FIRE dies down, glows)

BOY: It’s glowing now. How about some food?

PA: Man eats to live, he does not eat to live.

BOY: The fire’s almost out.

PA: Good, good.

BOY: What was the point of lighting it if–?

PA: Shhhh! – There, that’s it. Fade, fade–

(FIRE dies out)

–and end. – Oh, what a beautiful evening this is!


BOY You let the fire go out.

PA: Sometimes the cold of a fire is better than its heat. Here, you help me shovel these ashes up.

BOY: Shovel them up where?

PA: Into the urn.

BOY: Are you nuts?

PA: A little more disrespect, son. – Use your hands as a shovel.

BOY: These aren’t Grandma’s Ashes!

PA: Nobody is going to know that.

BOY: But we will. I will.

PA: I’ve always brought you up to keep your mouth shut.

BOY: And I’ve always kept it shut. But not for this.

PA: Take care, boy. Don’t defy your pa. Don’t defy Grandma.

BOY: Grandma’s dead and her ashes are gone and you can’t fool me or anyone else by–

(PA punches BOY in stomach. BOY doubles over and falls. PA gets BOY in choke hold and chokes him. BOY passes out. PA eases his grip but does not release BOY. BOY revives)

PA: Are you all right, son?


BOY Ah!

PA: Try to breathe.

BOY: Ah!

PA: Afterwards, we’ll have some supper. You must be hungry. Can I let you go now?

BOY: Yes.

PA: You won’t be disrespectful towards Grandma, will you?

BOY: No.

PA: You won’t say anything against her?

BOY: No.

PA: Because, other folks–they might misunderstand. Do you catch my meaning? They might think that these ashes on the ground here aren’t really and truly Grandma’s Ashes. But you and I know they are. Don’t we?

(BOY is silent. PA chokes him briefly)

PA: (Continued) Don’t we?!

BOY: Yes!

PA: And you’ll never say anything different, will you, boy?

BOY: No.

PA: What?

BOY: No, I never will.

PA: Cross your heart and hope to die?

BOY: Cross my heart–and hope to die.

PA: Because die you will, my son, if that’s what it takes to instill in you a proper respect for Grandma’s Ashes.

(PA releases BOY; PA holds his hand his heart)

PA: (Continued) I believe I strained the old heart in my effort to fulfill my fatherly responsibility to see that you grow up properly. I can feel it thumping away like every beat is going to be its last. You shouldn’t upset your father that way son. I know you don’t mean it. But it doesn’t have a very salubrious effect on me.– Now, scoop those ashes into that urn.

(BOY scoops ashes into urn)

PA: (Continued) Now put the lid on.

(BOY does so)

PA: (Continued) Now Grandma’s Ashes are as good as new, aren’t they?

BOY: Better than new.

PA: Sarcastic again. Well, you’re young yet. Sooner or later, you’ll learn respect for your elders. I did. – Are you hungry, boy?

BOY: Not especially.

PA: Neither am I. Sometimes I think I could just live on air. That was a beautiful sunset after the storm, wasn’t it? Wasn’t it, son?

BOY: I’ve seen better.

PA: Never contented, are you? That’s a fault. You are committing the sin of being unsatisfied with they way things are. But you’ll get over that. After all, tomorrow is another day. And I’ve got big plans for tomorrow, son. And big plans for Grandma’s Ashes.

BLACKOUT

SCENE II

The Grandma’s Ashes Memorial Museum and Souvenir Emporium. PA is addressing imaginary crowd; BOY crouches next to him.

PA: Grandma lived a blameless life. Every morning she used to wake up and get out of bed. And every night, she used to get into bed and go to sleep. Hers was a simple existence. Till they came and burned her to ashes. “Why are you burning me?” she asked them. “Because we fancy to do so,” they replied. My son here was just a tiny waif when he saw Grandma burned. The shock traumatized him, and left him the way he is, a drooling idiot.

BOY: Hey, wait a minute!

PA: Oh, sometimes he can speak properly. When the fit isn’t on him. But usually he just drools, and drools, and thumbs through texts of accounting and dentistry. Study is his only comfort. But who has the money to send him to school? I don’t. My ordeal has left me unable to provide for my son. But we believe in the kindness of strangers, so if you’ll all kindly drop a donation–not much, 10, 20, 50, 100 dollars–in Grandma’s old sewing box, which is the only thing left of her they didn’t burn. Any donation will be greatly appreciated, and we’ll inscribe your name here permanently on the Benefactors of Grandma’s Ashes Memorial Stone.– Thank you. Thank you, kindly.

(Imaginary crowd makes donations and exits)

BOY: What’s the big idea about putting in that drooling bit?

PA: You do drool sometimes, boy. Everybody does.

BOY: What if my girlfriend had been here?

PA: I told you before about her. I don’t want you seeing any little local girl.

BOY: We’re in love.

PA: It doesn’t matter. I don’t want you to see her any more. She’s twisting you.

BOY: Twisting me?!

PA: Yeah.

BOY: How is she twisting me?

PA: She’s twisting you in such a way that you’re getting all wound up. Remember who you are!

BOY: Who am I?

(PA points to Grandma’s Ashes)

BOY: (Continued) Am I Grandma’s Ashes?

PA: Not yet.

BOY: I don’t want to be Grandma’s Ashes. I’ll never be Grandma’s Ashes.

PA: Don’t sell yourself short, boy. You have all kinds of greatness in you.

BOY: You make me sick with Grandma’s Ashes.

PA: A little more disrespect.

(PA gathers money from collection box, counts it)

PA: (Continued) We made out pretty well tonight, son.

BOY: What do you do with all that money? I never see any of it.

PA: You will, son, you will–when your time comes. The proceeds from the ashes of the grandma shall be visited on the children.

BOY: My time’s taking a pretty long time to come.

PA: Money is the root of all evil.

BOY: Well, how come you’ve got so much of it, then?

PA: I don’t have so very much, son. I expect you’d be quite astonished if you knew the true state of your old pa’s finances. Ah, old is right. My back, my legs, my eyes! I can hardly see this money to count it. This isn’t any way to make a living, at my age. Counting bills out of an old cigar box.– Grandma used to have a gold tooth, did I ever tell you that, boy? Many’s the time I considered that gold tooth, and how it wasn’t doing her any good anyway–all she ate was mush. But she wouldn’t let me put my hands on it. She said it was her tooth. She was selfish in some ways, Grandma was. Extremely egocentric. I wonder what ever became of that gold tooth. You never saw it, did you?

BOY: I never knew anything about it.

PA: No, you wouldn’t have. She used to chew her food with her mouth shut tight, so that she wouldn’t excite any envy in her messmates. – You know where I think that gold tooth is, son?

BOY: Where?

PA: In the town bank.

BOY: The town bank? How did it get there?

PA: Where else do people keep gold, but in a bank?

BOY: But why the town bank here?

PA: Well, Grandma’s Ashes are here. The town bank is the closest bank to where she is.

BOY: But how did the gold tooth get in the town bank? Did she put it there?

PA: No, no, she would never have done anything like that. The people that burned her, they did it. They fished that gold tooth out of the ashes, and put it in the bank.

BOY: How do you know it’s there?

PA: Oh, I know. I know.

BOY: What if it’s not?

PA: It’s there, boy. In some form or another. That gold tooth is there. Sitting waiting for us to claim it.

BOY: What if they won’t let us claim it?

PA: I’ll think of a way, son, to make them let us claim it. Your old pa’s come up with quite a few ingenious ideas in his time, for all the suffering he’s been through, and the thanklessness he’s received from those closest to him.

BOY: I don’t think it’ll work.

PA: How’s that, boy?

BOY: This scheme you’re cooking up.

PA: Don’t call it a scheme, son. You make your old pa seem mercenary. You know I’m the last person in the world to want to profit from the dead–unjustly, that is.

BOY: Anyway, they’re never going to believe it.

PA: How’s that again, son?

BOY: I said, They’re never going to believe it. The townspeople. They’re never going to believe that Grandma’s gold tooth is in their bank.

PA: Why not?

BOY: Because she never lived here. Or even any place around here.

PA: That doesn’t mean anything. Someone could have shipped that tooth in, registered mail, insured, return receipt requested.

BOY: They’ll want to see that receipt, then.

PA: Receipts have got a funny way of disappearing in this world, boy. Especially when it comes to receipts for stolen gold teeth.

BOY: How are you going to prove that Grandma’s tooth was shipped here, then?

PA: Oh, I don’t need to prove it, son. All I have to do is suggest it. The burden of proof is on the townspeople, that Grandma’s tooth isn’t in that bank.

BOY: They won’t fall for it.

PA: I suggest you reserve judgment, boy, until the day that you see with your own eyes and touch with your own fingers Grandma’s gold tooth–or whatever shape or form that gold has taken since Grandma’s untimely demise.

BOY: I still say they won’t fall for it. People aren’t that stupid.

PA: I suggest you reserve judgment, son. – Well, we’d better be getting back to the hotel. Terrible thing, isn’t it, to have to live in a hotel, just because the township is taking its own sweet, sacrilegious time to build a house for us to live in?

BOY: They had a house all ready for us. You’re the one who wanted a brand new one.

PA: Naturally I did, son. Not for myself, of course. And if you want to know the truth, not for you either, though you are my own flesh and blood. It was out of respect for Grandma’s Ashes. We are the Keepers of the Ashes, boy, a position that entails responsibly and demands respect. You wouldn’t want us to live in a house that had been occupied previously by who knows what kind of worthless local trash, would you? Grandma wouldn’t want it, either. And we have to think about Grandma, son. Sometimes I believe you forget that.

BLACKOUT

SCENE III

Town Day. An open field. BOY and GIRL have just entered.

BOY: (Carrying miniature urn) I don’t know why I let you drag me down here.

GIRL: It’s Town Day. Don’t be such a sourpuss. You’ll have a great time.

BOY: But I’m not from the town.

GIRL: You live here now, don’t you?

BOY: I’m just passing through.

GIRL: Passing through?! We’re engaged. You call that passing through? (Indicating urn) And I don’t see why you had to bring that with you.

BOY: I take it everywhere I go.

GIRL: What do Grandma’s Ashes have to do with Town Day?

BOY: I just want to remind people.

GIRL: Remind people of what?

BOY: Remind them that Grandma isn’t here to celebrate Town Day because she was burned to a crisp.

GIRL: You’re always so morbid.

BOY: I can’t help it. It’s in my nature.

GIRL: Will you forget about your nature for one night! Look, there are my friends. Let’s say hi.

BOY: No, you go.

GIRL: You don’t want to say hi?


BOY No.
GIRL Why in heaven’s name not?

BOY: They wouldn’t understand.

GIRL: Understand what?

BOY: About Grandma’s Ashes.

GIRL: The whole town knows about Grandma’s Ashes. You and your father have had all those lectures, and seminars, and teach-ins, and now there’s even talk about offering a degree in Grandma’s Ashes Studies!

BOY: What’s wrong with that?

GIRL: All I’m saying is that everybody knows about Grandma’s Ashes.

BOY: But they don’t really know. They can’t. Only people who are related to Grandma can understand. You know, when I’m here in the midst of all these festivities, and I think of Grandma and her ashes that can’t participate in the fun, because she’s dead, you know, her ashes are the proof–when I think of how out of place she is, and how out of place I am–

(FIREWORKS)

GIRL: Oh, look, the fireworks have started!

BOY: I don’t like looking at fireworks. They always remind me of how Grandma was turned into ashes.

GIRL: Can’t you take your mind off it just for a minute?

BOY: How can I with all this flashing fire to remind me of it?

GIRL: Everybody’s waving the flag. I wish we had brought one!

BOY: I brought a flag.

GIRL: You did?! Good. Finally, you’re getting into the spirit of things. Where is it?

BOY: In the picnic basket.

(GIRL searches in picnic basket, produces FLAG)

GIRL: Why, this isn’t our flag! This is just a dirty old piece of rag on a stick!

BOY: Don’t say that! I went to a lot of trouble to make that flag. I took the sack that we used to keep Grandma’s Ashes in, before we had enough money to buy an urn. Don’t you like it?

GIRL: It’s horrible.

BOY: I admit it’s not as colorful as your flag. But I like it more. Do you know why?

GIRL: Because it reminds you of Grandma.

BOY: You’re beginning to understand me.

GIRL: I’ll say I am.

(FIREWORKS fade away)

GIRL: (Continued) Look, the fireworks are fading.

BOY: Just like–

BOY: & GIRL Grandma’s Ashes.

GIRL: I know, I know. Boy, do I know!

(MAYOR enters)

MAYOR: Howdy, young folks. How did you like the show?

BOY: It was all right, but you should’ve mentioned Grandma’s Ashes in your speech.

MAYOR: I didn’t make a speech.

BOY: Then you should have made one about Grandma’s Ashes.

MAYOR: What do Grandma’s Ashes have to do with Town Day?

BOY: You’ll find out.

MAYOR: Well, I’m going over to join in the toast. You young folks care to come with me?

GIRL: Sure, we–

BOY: No vineyard in the world could produce the wine that could redden Grandma’s cheeks again.

MAYOR: Sounds like you’ve got a gift for poetry, young man. Ever write any?

BOY: No. I’ve written a screenplay, though. I call it–
BOY, MAYOR, & GIRL Grandma’s Ashes!

BOY: How did you know?

MAYOR: Just guessed.

BOY: I sent it off to Hollywood.

MAYOR: Heard anything yet?

BOY: As a matter of fact, there’s this director who–

PA: (OFF) Mr. Mayor! Mr. Mayor!

MAYOR: Well, I’d better hurry up and get that drink while there’s still time.

(MAYOR exits. PA enters running)

PA: (Calling) Mr. Mayor! Mr. Mayor!

BOY: He went to have a drink. Some people have no respect for the dead.

PA: You know, boy, you ought to sue that fellow.

GIRL: Sue him? For what?

PA: Like my boy just said: for disrespecting the dead.

GIRL: How did he disrespect the dead?

PA: He didn’t mention Grandma’s Ashes in his speech, did he?

GIRL: But he didn’t give a speech.

PA: That’s no excuse. He could have given a speech about Grandma’s Ashes if he had wanted to. No, he did it deliberately to insult us.

GIRL: Insult who?

PA: Me and my boy here. And Grandma’s Ashes most particularly.

GIRL: Well, I think it’s silly. A speech about ashes on Town Day!

PA: Not “ashes,” girl: Grandma’s Ashes.

BOY: (To GIRL) Do you have to keep disrespecting my grandmother?

GIRL: And that’s another thing: whose grandma is she, anyway? Yours or his?

BOY: What difference does it make? She’s dead and burned, isn’t she?

GIRL: Well if she’s dead and burned, why don’t you bury her, then?

BOY: Look, she’s our Grandma and we’ll decide what to do with her, all right? I don’t tell you what to do with your grandma, do I?

GIRL: You don’t have to, she’s dead and buried, there’s nothing more can be done with her.

PA: I wouldn’t let yourself down that easily, girl.

GIRL: Excuse me?

PA: Just because your grandma’s dead, doesn’t mean there’s nothing more you can do with her. I have a little bit of experience in such matters. If you’d care to have a consultation–

GIRL: A what?

PA: –with an expert on the dead. Yours truly. And so certified by the courts of various states.

GIRL: (Indicating BOY) I’ve got my own expert right here.

PA: So you have. I had forgotten. – Looks like the crowd’s breaking up. What do you say, son? Shall we move into the throng and try these hard hearts for a donation for Grandma’s Ashes?

BOY: I don’t know, pa, it’s getting late.

PA: Yes, I suppose you’re right. Anyway, they’re full of themselves this evening, full of their town, their lives, their futures. They don’t have any thought for poor old Grandma tonight. Some people don’t have any respect for anything. But we’ll take care of that. We’ll teach them respect for the dead. And they shall find that the School of Grandma’s Ashes charges a very high tuition. – Where did you say the Mayor went, boy?

BOY: To get himself a drink.

PA: I believe I’ll join him. I have a little paper here that I’d like to serve on him. Trouble is, I can’t do it myself. It wouldn’t be legal.

BOY: I’ll do it.

PA: I don’t think that would do, either, son. You’re a party to the action yourself.

(PA glances at GIRL)

Now, if your little friend here wouldn’t mind doing you and your old pa a favor–help us get our lawful rights.

GIRL: What is it this time?

PA: A little more disrespect, young lady.

(Shaking his head)

I declare, the youth of this town is going to hell in a handbasket.

BOY: (to GIRL) Can’t you just help us out?

GIRL: Which way did you come in?

PA: Oh, she’s got a sense of humor, all right, boy. They all do. When the joke’s on us.

GIRL: All right, all right, I’ll serve your paper for you. If I don’t, you’ll just pressure somebody else into doing it for you, I guess.

PA: We don’t pressure people, girl–we ask them to examine their conscience and do what’s right.

GIRL: Well, of all the–!

PA: But we can’t stay here gabbing all night. We have to catch the mayor before he goes home to bed. Come on!

GIRL: Don’t you think it’s a little late to be serving legal papers?

PA: He can sleep on it. Let’s get cracking! Come along with those ashes, boy. They’ll help us make our case with the mayor.

(PA and BOY hurry off; GIRL follows reluctantly)

BLACKOUT

SCENE IV

The Town Square. MAYOR enters, reading a document; also PA & MINISTER.

MAYOR: (Reading) “And given that Grandma’s gold tooth was unlawfully plucked from her mouth, and taken from her; and given that it was stowed away in the National Town Bank; and given that interest accrued on such tooth has yet to be calculated but is surely way in excess of the original value of said tooth; given all these things, and given divers particulars not yet mentioned but soon to be, the heirs and survivors of Grandma do petition the appropriate town authorities to release to said heirs and survivors all the gold held by National Town Bank that can be reasonably determined to contain a portion of Grandma’s gold tooth.” Hm!

PA: We just want what’s rightfully Grandma’s, Mr. Mayor.

MAYOR: A gold tooth, you say.

PA: Yes. (Opening his mouth and pointing into it)  Right up here, it was.

MAYOR: Taken from her.

PA: Yes.

MAYOR: By whom?

PA: By them.

MAYOR: Who exactly was this them?

PA: The people that burned her to ashes.

MAYOR: And they put the tooth in the bank in our town?

PA: Precisely.

MAYOR: How do you know?

PA: It’s the closest town to where Grandma is now.

MAYOR: But was it the closest town to where Grandma was when she died?

PA: Do you have something against Grandma?

MAYOR: No, I’m just trying to clarify–

PA: Are you anti-Grandma?

MAYOR: I’m not anti any–

PA: Doesn’t a dead woman deserve to get back the gold tooth that was stolen from her?

MAYOR: Certainly she does, I’m merely trying to ascertain–

PA: Were you one of the people that burned Grandma?

MAYOR: Of course I wasn’t! Why, I never even heard of Grandma until you showed up here–

PA: Never heard of Grandma until I showed up here!

MAYOR: No, and–

PA: Never thought of her suffering.

MAYOR: How could I when–?

PA: Her agony.

MAYOR: It’s not that I–

PA: How she gasped for breath in the midst of the flames.

MAYOR: If you’re going to put it that way–

PA: What other way can I put it? She wanted to come live in this town. If she had been able to, she’d be alive now.

MAYOR: Doubtless, but–

PA: But she was refused. I’m not saying you did it personally…

MAYOR: Refused?

PA: That’s the way it happened.

MAYOR: Refused by whom?

PA: Do you think he signed his name? But he’s here somewhere. We’ll ferret him out, we will! Do you know who he is?

MAYOR: Who?

PA: The person who refused to provide Grandma with housing.

MAYOR: I haven’t the foggiest.

PA: But if we find him, you’ll turn him over to us.


MAYOR Naturally.
PA You won’t protect him.

MAYOR: Never.

PA: And I believe he knows something about Grandma’s tooth.

MAYOR: You don’t say.

PA: He knows the whole story. The why and the wherefore. It’s only a question of time before– Are you stalling?

MAYOR: No!

PA: Why haven’t you acted sooner?

MAYOR: Because I had no idea.

PA: You had no idea? Or you deliberately chose not to have any idea?

MAYOR: I had no idea, I say!

PA: But you’re willing to have an idea now. That’s considerate of you.

MAYOR: I want to cooperate to the fullest extent of my legal ability.

PA: If we could locate Grandma’s tooth in the bank, if we could put our hands on it, and on the interest that’s accrued over these long years, I bet we could find the name of the rascal who did her in, too.

MAYOR: Possibly, but we’ll have to go through the proper channels–

PA: Proper channels?! Did Grandma go though proper channels?

MAYOR: You’ll just have to give me a little time to confer with–

PA: (calling MINISTER) Reverend.

(The MINISTER comes forward)

PA: (Continued) Would you kindly explain to the mayor the gravity and solemnity of my request?

MINISTER: Of course. Mr. Mayor, we’ve know each other many years.

MAYOR: We have indeed.

MINISTER: I know you to be a man of honor.

MAYOR: Thank you.

MINISTER: Won’t you see to it that this poor woman–this Grandma–has her gold tooth restored to her?

MAYOR: If it is within my power.

MINISTER: For we are all sinners.

MAYOR: Yes, yes.

MINISTER: We are guilty.

MAYOR: Of what?

MINISTER: We are guilty past all forgiving.

MAYOR: Of what?

MINISTER: The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.

PA: Yes, and the Lord taketh away from the bank, and giveth back to Grandma–or in this case, to Grandma’s heirs.

MAYOR: What is the exact amount?

MINISTER: No worldly sum can make up for what we did to Grandma.

PA: But a ball-park figure would be all right.

MAYOR: What is the exact amount?

PA: The exact amount is– How much gold did you say you had in the bank?

MAYOR: I didn’t say.

PA: Don’t you know?

MAYOR: No. I’m not the banker.

PA: Well, maybe we should talk to him, then.

(PA, MAYOR, and MINISTER go to BANK door; knocks; BANKER opens door)

BANKER: Good day, gentlemen.

ALL Good day.

BANKER: Can I help you?

PA: Did you know Grandma?

BANKER: Which Grandma?

PA: Grandma as in Grandma’s Ashes.

BANKER: The name doesn’t ring a bell.

PA: Or toll a knoll?

BANKER: I beg your pardon?

PA: Do you recollect a certain gold tooth?

BANKER: Whose gold tooth?

PA: Grandma’s.

BANKER: No. No, I don’t.

PA: You’re sure?

BANKER: I could check my records, but I’m almost certain that no one has ever deposited a gold tooth in this bank.

PA: Now we’re getting somewhere!

BANKER: Pardon?

PA: But someone deposited gold, didn’t they?

BANKER: Oh, yes. Many people have deposited gold.

PA: How many people?

BANKER: I wouldn’t know off hand. I’d have to–

PA: Check the records?

BANKER: Yes.

PA: (Triumphantly) Of course you’d have to check the records! (To MINISTER) You see, Reverend, he’s trying to hide something. He knows they wouldn’t have put it in as a
gold tooth. They melted it down first.
(CLERK passes by)

PA: (Continued) There! That’s him! He knows something about it. Stop, you!

CLERK: Are you addressing me?

PA: Where were you sneaking off to?

CLERK: I wasn’t sneaking off anywhere. I’m on my way home to my wife and dinner.

PA: Likely story. That’s what they all said.


CLERK Who?
PA All of them. All of them that supposedly didn’t know anything about Grandma’s Ashes.

CLERK: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

PA: Don’t you?

CLERK: All I want to do it get home to my dinner!

PA: So did grandma want to get home to hers.

(CLERK makes to exit)

PA: (Continued) Hold on! Not so fast! Tell us about this gold.

CLERK: What gold?


PA The gold from Grandma’s gold tooth.
CLERK I don’t know anything about any gold. I’m a decent citizen–

PA: A decent citizen!

CLERK: –trying to get home to my dinner table and my
wife’s side.

PA: So you don’t know what happened to the gold after you filched it from Grandma?

CLERK: I never filched anything from anybody.

PA: What? Did you just find the tooth in your pocket one day?

CLERK: No!

PA: Then how did you get it?

CLERK: I tell you I never saw it and I don’t know what you’re talking about.

PA: We’ve heard that before. You have money in this bank, don’t you?

CLERK: Some.

PA: How much?

CLERK: That’s no concern of yours.

PA: You see. He’s trying to hide something from us. – You’re an evil-looking person. How many crimes have you committed?

CLERK: None.

PA: How many murders?

CLERK: This is ridic–

PA: How many gold teeth have you stolen from burned grandmas?

CLERK: I never–


PA How many grandmas have you burned yourself?
CLERK None.


PA You’re a liar!
CLERK How dare you!

PA: If he’s so innocent, why doesn’t he tell us how much money he has in the bank?

MAYOR: Maybe you’d better tell him.

CLERK: But it’s none of his business!

MAYOR: Just to shut him up.

CLERK: Very well–though I still don’t see how it concerns you: $6,000.

PA: In gold?

CLERK: No, in cash.

PA: But the cash can be converted into gold.

CLERK: Theoretically, yes, but–

PA: Theoretically?! Look at Grandma’s Ashes. Are they theoretical? – Ladies and gentlemen, haven’t we had proof enough? Not only did this miscreant kill and burn Grandma, he even had the effrontery to pluck from her incinerated mouth the one thing of value that she would have carried to the grave: her gold tooth, which her mother had given her as a wedding gift. Not only did he heartlessly pluck it out, he speculated on it, and with the profits built himself vast mansions wherein he could enjoy sumptuous dinners. I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, is this man fit to live? After having taken Grandma’s tooth and life?

CLERK: Now, hold on a second, sir–you’ve got this thing all wrong.

PA: He’s not even sorry for what he did, he still brazenly protests his innocence. Will none of you rid us of this murderer? Or are you all accomplices in the crime?

MINISTER: I’ll help you see that justice is done, sir.

PA: Finally, a true Christian! Have you got a rope, Reverend?

MINISTER: No, I–I don’t normally carry one.

PA: Well it just so happens that I have one right here. (Produces rope) There you are. That’s very high-quality rope, by the way. It’d cost you a pretty penny if you bought it in a store. But take it, take it. You can pay me later.

MINISTER: (To CLERK) Come over here, you tooth-snatcher.

CLERK: Have you lost your mind, Reverend?

MINISTER: Don’t try to deny what you did.

CLERK: Mr. Mayor! Do you see what they want to do to me?

MAYOR: I’m afraid it’s out of my hands.

CLERK: Out of your hands?! But you’re the mayor.

MAYOR: Yes, but the people have spoken.

CLERK: The people?! A greedy peddler and a demented minister?

PA: You see? He’s anti-Grandma!

CLERK: Mr. Mayor, I call on you to fulfill your duty as an elected official and to stop this ridiculous–

MAYOR: I can’t interfere. I was elected to serve the people.

CLERK: But I’m one of the people who elected you!

MAYOR: Put the noose around his neck.

(The MINISTER attempts to do so. CLERK struggles. MAYOR strikes CLERK, who becomes disorientated. MINISTER slips noose around CLERK’s neck, leads him out)

PA: This is the part I dislike.

(Offstage, in silhouette, CLERK is hanged)

PA: (Continued) O, Lord, hear our prayer for this misguided clerk. As he sowed, so has he reaped. Would that Grandma’s Ashes could sleep the sleep of the justly avenged with the death of this sinner. But Grandma’s Ashes are still awake. For her gold tooth still lies in the house of bondage. And until her gold is liberated, and is in the pockets of her relatives, she shall have no rest. I hope that no one else in this town who had a hand in Grandma’s death and subsequent burning will impede Thy divine justice, O Lord, for I would be sorely grieved to see another sinner’s body hanging from that same sour apple tree that stands over yonder.

(MINISTER returns, carrying CLERK’s watch)

MINISTER: (HE proffers watch to PA) Here. It’s only right that you should have this.

PA: What?

MINISTER: It’s his watch.

PA: No, I… (Looking at watch) Is it any good?

MINISTER: Swiss-made.

PA: Keeps good time, does it?

MINISTER: Never loses a minute.

PA: I don’t know. Why don’t you hold onto it.

MINISTER: I already have a watch.


PA So do I. Somewhere. Boy, have you seen my–

BOY: No, I haven’t seen–

MINISTER: You could keep this one till yours gave out.

PA: No, I don’t think it would be right.

MINISTER: What wouldn’t be right?

PA: Taking a dead man’s watch like that.

MINISTER: Suit yourself. It’s a beautiful watch.

PA: No, I just wouldn’t feel…

MINISTER: (Shrugging) Suit yourself.

(MINISTER is about to put watch in his pocket)

PA: Hold on a second. Let me see that watch again.

(MINISTER shows PA the watch again)

PA: (Continued) Looks like pretty good craftsmanship.

MINISTER: Best in the world.

PA: And it keeps good time, you say?

MINISTER: You won’t find one that keeps better.

PA: (Nodding in direction of hanged man) I reckon he won’t need it anymore, anyway.

MINISTER: Not where he’s gone. You don’t need a watch to keep eternal time!

PA: In that case… (Taking watch and putting it in his pocket) Well, I’ll look after it for you, anyway.– Now let us all join in prayer. – Reverend, would you like to conduct the service?

MINISTER: You may as well do it yourself, at this stage.

PA: Lord, thank you for enabling us to see divine justice done. Grandma’s soul is resting a little bit more peacefully now, though she still has a long way to go. A mighty long and costly way. For mine is the kingdom, the power, and the money. Amen.

(PA turns to BANKER)

PA: (Continued) Now, about Grandma’s gold…

BANKER: You’ll get it, every penny of it, I swear! Six thousand dollars.

PA: I beg your pardon?

BANKER: Six thousand dollars. That man’s–(HE points to hanged CLERK)–money. Every penny of it.

PA: Well, that’s very considerate of you, Mr. Banker.

(BANKER nods graciously)

PA: (Continued) Yes, indeed. Very considerate. So Grandma’s life–a human life–is worth six thousand dollars. I wasn’t aware that the price of a human life was reckoned so cheap in this town.

BANKER: I’m not saying your Grandmother was worth six thousand dollars–

PA: No? She was worth considerably less in your opinion, I suppose.

BANKER: No, no! Considerably more! She was–priceless!

PA: Now we’re talking. So. No sum of money would be enough, would it?

BANKER: Enough for what?

PA: Enough to bring Grandma back!

BANKER: That’s correct.

PA: You just said she was priceless, didn’t you?

BANKER: Yes.

PA: So even if you gave me all the gold and cash and valuables that you have in your bank, that still wouldn’t be enough, would it, to pay for what you did to Grandma?

BANKER: I didn’t do anything to her personally.

PA: You did something to her impersonally, is that it?

BANKER: That’s not what I meant.

PA: You kept gold made from her tooth in your bank, didn’t you?

BANKER: But I didn’t know that the gold was made from her tooth. In fact, it hasn’t really been established that…

PA: That what?

BANKER: That the gold–the gold in question–

(HE takes out handkerchief and wipes his face)
–that it–actually contains–

PA: (Gesturing towards hanged CLERK; to BOY) Boy, would you fetch me back that rope from over yonder?

BANKER: But we can assume it does.

PA: Does what?

BANKER: Contain the gold. The gold from the tooth.

PA: You can assume it does? Why, that’s very magnanimous of you!

BANKER: What I mean is, we can state as a matter of fact–

PA: Of legal fact.

BANKER: Yes, of legal fact–that the gold in question contains the tooth in question.

PA: Contains a part of the tooth.

BANKER: A part?

PA: Yes. Because it might be determined, upon examination of the bank’s assets and reserves, that there might be bits and pieces of Grandma’s tooth in gold bars and coins and doubloons and pieces-of-eight and “x” marks the spot. And do you know what wouldn’t surprise me? I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the gold that contained the sacred relics of Grandma’s tooth had been converted to cash or stocks and bonds or what have you, years ago.

BANKER: (Hopefully) So we wouldn’t be able to get our hands on that gold, would we?

PA: No, but we’d be able to get our hands on the instruments it was converted into, if you catch my drift. Of course, I realize that a thorough reckoning of how much is due Grandma’s heirs for the pain and suffering she and they have been through–


BANKER Pain and suffering?!
PA Of course! Grandma was traumatized by the loss of her tooth and her being burned, and so forth; and I and my boy here, we were traumatized by Grandma’s traumatization. It’s a very complicated psychological process, and therapy is very costly these days.

BANKER: Is it?

PA: I believe so. Psychoanalysts have to make a living too, you know. But as I was saying before I got off on a tangent, I realize that a thorough reckoning of how much is due Grandma’s heirs will take some time–say ten days?

BANKER: Ten days?!

PA: Two weeks, then. I’m not in any rush–and Grandma certainly isn’t. Besides, I believe in taking the time to do things properly. Because not doing things right the first time means doing them twice, if you catch my meaning.

(BANKER nods. ALL but PA and BOY exit. BOY  past PA, goes off stage. BOY’s silhouette is seen looking up at that of hanged CLERK. BOY reenters, points at corpse)

BOY: You never saw that man before.

PA: Yes, I did, son. We saw him together. The first day we arrived in this lovely albeit tragic town.

BOY: I mean, before that. You never saw him before that day.

PA: What if I didn’t?

BOY: He’s dead, and you killed him.

PA: I didn’t kill him. The mayor and minister did.

BOY: They killed him on your say-so.

PA: What a powerful man I’ve become, that I can make duly-elected mayors and men of the cloth do my bidding! I, a humble traveling sales– a humble bearer of Grandma’s Ashes.

BOY: Are you just going to leave him hanging there?

PA: They strung him up, they can cut him down. I don’t like to get involved in local affairs.

BOY: I’m going to cut him down.

PA: You leave him hanging right there!

BOY: But he died innocent!

PA: So did Grandma. I didn’t see anybody rushing up to cut her down.

BOY: Was she hanged?

PA: She might have been.

(GIRL rushes on, sees silhouette of hanged man)

GIRL: Oh, my God!

BOY: What are you doing here? This isn’t anything for you to look at. Go back home.

GIRL: They told me this had happened but I didn’t believe it.

PA: Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

GIRL: Where is everybody? Why don’t they cut him down?

PA: He had been left there as an example.

GIRL: An example of what?

PA: Not example of, girl–example to.

GIRL: Example to who, then?

PA: To all those who stole Grandma’s gold tooth, and won’t admit to the theft.

GIRL: He stole Grandma’s gold tooth?

PA: I believe he did.

GIRL: But he didn’t even know Grandma.

PA: You don’t have to know someone to steal their gold tooth, do you? Anyway, if he didn’t steal it personally, he knew who did. And if you don’t speak out against an abominable crime when it’s being committed, you’re as guilty as the perpetrator of the horrendous deed himself.

BOY: So now he didn’t steal it.

PA: Boy!

BOY: (To PA) If you knew he didn’t steal it, why did you…?

PA: If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times: don’t discuss family business in front of strangers.

GIRL: I’m his wife.

(Pause)

PA: Is this true, boy?

BOY: We didn’t want to tell you.

PA: Why not? You’re afraid of your own father?

BOY: Yes.

PA: I never saw such a son. Going behind his old father’s back. Desecrating Grandma’s Ashes.

BOY: When did I–?

PA: Disrespecting her memory. Why, you’re no better than the people that killed and burned her. You’re no better than her folks–(Pointing to GIRL)–who stood idly by and did nothing while Grandma was being roasted over the flames.

GIRL: My family never knew who Grandma was before you came here. We still don’t know.

PA: That’s what they all say. They saw nothing, they heard nothing, and they said nothing. You’re all the same.

BOY: Don’t talk to my wife like that.

PA: She’s not your wife as far as I’m concerned. I never gave my consent. Now get out of here, you local girl–get!

GIRL: (To BOY) Are you going to let him speak to me like that?

BOY: You get back to the house. I’ll straighten this out.

GIRL: You’re a coward!

(SHE exits)

BOY: (To PA) What did you do that for?

PA: What did you do that for? Marrying a local girl. I never heard of such kind of carry-on. Did you get her in the family way, is that it? Did you have to marry her?

BOY: No.

PA: Well, what’d you go and marry her for?

BOY: Because I love her, pa.

PA: Love! There’s only one kind of love in this world, boy, and that’s love for Grandma’s Ashes. Damn local girl. You made a fool of yourself, son. And you made a fool of me, too. And a fool of Grandma. I never should have left you out of my sight. It’s disgusting. What would Grandma say?

BOY: Grandma’s dead.

PA: No. Grandma lives. In our hearts–and in our wallets. – Not in the family way yet, huh?

BOY: Not yet.

PA: But she will be soon, I reckon. Nature must take its course. Just remember one thing, son: Grandma’s Ashes. Don’t ever forget them. – Maybe your getting married isn’t such a bad thing, after all. The girl’s good-looking, anyway. But she’s a thin thing. You think she’s child-bearing material?

BOY: I never thought about it.

PA: It doesn’t matter. I’m sure she’ll do the job. She’s a woman, isn’t she? And we’ll need some little folks around, to look after Grandma’s Ashes, after you and I have gone to glory. And my time is coming soon, son, I can feel it–(HE touches his heart)–I can feel it here. The old heart can’t stand all the strain it’s been through arguing with clerks and bankers whose only concern is to keep their grubby paws on Grandma’s hard-earned billions. They always make it into a money issue. As if that’s what counted. – What are you staring at, boy?

BOY: I’m not staring, pa.

PA:  Get back home to your local-girl wife, boy. She’s waiting for you.

(BOY exits)

PA: (Continued) Damn fool!

BLACKOUT

SCENE V

Boy’s and Girl’s Bedroom. BOY is fussing about miniature urn of Grandma’s Ashes; GIRL waits for him in bed.

GIRL: Aren’t you going to come to bed?

BOY: In a minute. I’m just tidying Grandma’s Ashes.

GIRL: Can’t you do it tomorrow?

BOY: No. If they’re not tidy, I won’t be able to sleep.

GIRL: I’ve been wanting to talk to you.

BOY: About what?

GIRL: About Grandma’s Ashes.

BOY: What about them?

GIRL: Do we have to sleep with them?

BOY: We don’t sleep with them.

GIRL: Do we have to sleep in the same room with them? Can’t you put them in the den? Or in the living room? Or…

BOY: In the kitchen?

GIRL: No, not in the kitchen.

BOY: You’re right. They’d be too close to the oven.

GIRL: Come to bed.

BOY: In a minute.

GIRL: Anyway, aren’t the shrines in town enough? Did you have to bring part of her ashes here?

BOY: They’re not shrines. They’re memorials.

GIRL: Memorials, then. Aren’t the ones in town enough? When you got here, all you said was that you wanted a place to put Grandma’s Ashes, so you wouldn’t have to carry them around anymore. And now they’re everywhere. You’ve got shrines–

BOY: Memorials.

GIRL: –in the bank, in the coffee shop, in the barber’s, in the library, in the school, in the park–

BOY: It’s called franchising.

GIRL: Yes, that’s what it’s called. And what does your father do with all that money he gets from the franchising?

BOY: He invests it.

GIRL: In what?

BOY: In new franchises.

GIRL: (Watching BOY fuss with miniature urn) Are you going to be at that much longer?

BOY: What do you care?

GIRL: Because if you are, I’m going to sleep.

BOY: Suit yourself.

GIRL: It didn’t used to be this way.

BOY: Play another record, will you.

GIRL: There was a time when I couldn’t keep you out of bed with me.

BOY: I’ll be there in a minute.

GIRL: One of these days, you’re going to bring that urn into the bed with you, I know it.

BOY: (HE considers briefly) No. The ashes might spill.

GIRL: Will you stop fussing with that thing and come to bed!

(BOY stops fussing, gets into bed)

BOY: You know, it’s rather disrespectful to call Grandma’s Ashes “that thing.”

(BOY suddenly jumps up out of bed)

GIRL: Where are you going now?

BOY: I forgot to light the light.
(BOY lights light in front of urn, illuminating it; HE gets back into bed. HE sits up staring at urn)

GIRL: Are you going to watch it all night?

BOY: I’m just trying to decide whether it’s illuminated properly.

GIRL: Do we have to go through this again?

BOY: Maybe it should be illuminated from below.

GIRL: You tried that. It didn’t light it up enough, remember? It was gloomy.

BOY: You thought it was gloomy.

GIRL: It was spooky. A big shadow like that. Hovering over us.

BOY: I like to feel Grandma’s presence.

GIRL: No kidding. – Can’t you lie down?

(BOY lies down. GIRL rubs against him. BOY lies still)

GIRL: (Continued) Can’t you relax?

BOY: I’m relaxed.

GIRL: No, you’re not. You’re brooding again.

BOY: I’m not brooding. I’m thinking.

GIRL: Well, don’t tell me what about, because I know, and I don’t want to hear it.

BOY: I wonder what it felt like–being burned to death.

GIRL: She wasn’t burned to death. They killed her first. Remember?

BOY: But maybe she wasn’t quite dead. Maybe she regained consciousness when the flames started to devour her.

GIRL: This is so morbid.

BOY: The truth sometimes is. Maybe she would have died without regaining consciousness, but when she felt those flames searing her flesh–

GIRL: Stop it! How do you expect me to get to sleep with this kind of talk?

BOY: I’m just trying to get the language right for the memorial booklet.

GIRL: You’re going to revise that thing again? You just did.

BOY: It doesn’t matter. When a new truth comes to light, it has to be included.

GIRL: What are you going to do with all the copies you just printed?

BOY: Sell them at a discount. Anyway, we can charge more for a revised edition.

GIRL: You’re getting to be just like your father, always thinking of new ways to make money off of Grandma’s Ashes.

BOY: Don’t say that!

GIRL: Well, you’re the one who talks about franchising her!

BOY: I don’t talk about franchising her. I talk about franchising the memorial. The more the memorial is franchised, the more people know about what happened to Grandma.

GIRL: What difference does it make who knows about what happened to her?

BOY: So it won’t happen to her again.


GIRL How can it happen to her again if she’s already dead?

BOY: It can happen to other Grandmas. Yours, for instance.

GIRL: My grandma’s dead, too.

BOY: Do you have her ashes?

GIRL: No, I don’t have her ashes. I told you. She was buried, not cremated.

BOY: Oh. Oh, well.

GIRL: What would you do with her ashes, anyway? She’s not the Grandma.

BOY: You can never have too much ashes.– And speaking of ashes, I think we should have children.

GIRL: You do? Well, let’s get started!

(GIRL pounces on BOY; HE slips away from under her)

BOY: But we have to get certain things straight first.

GIRL: That’s what I’ve been hoping for.

BOY: We have to agree that Grandma won’t grow up twisted.

GIRL: Grandma?

BOY: Yes. That’s what I’m going to name our child.

GIRL: What kind of name is that for a girl?

BOY: I think it’s a very nice name. Dignified.

GIRL: What about when she goes to school? The kids’ll get her confused with their grandmothers.

BOY: They’ll figure it out.

GIRL: What if it’s a boy?

BOY: (Considering) I might consider “Grandpa.”

GIRL: Aren’t those weird names for kids to have? I mean, isn’t it being a little premature? Shouldn’t they be old before people start calling them that?

BOY: I don’t think so.

GIRL: Why don’t you just go the whole hog and name the kid “Grandma’s Ashes”?

BOY: “Grandma’s Ashes.” You know…

GIRL: It has a ring to it, doesn’t it?

BOY: It does.

GIRL: There’s something wrong with you.

BOY: “Grandma’s Ashes, Junior.” A fine name.

GIRL: I’m going to sleep.

(GIRL turns over and cover her head with pillow; stares at illuminated urn, starts to sing softly)

BOY: (Singing to tune of O, Tannenbaum)
Oh, Grandma dear
Oh, Grandma dear,
How pretty are your ashes!
(MUSIC swells)

BLACKOUT

SCENE VI

Inside the Grandma’s Ashes Memorial. Music: O, Tannenbaum. The URN is decorated with tinsel, ornaments, and flashing lights. MAYOR, PA, BOY, GIRL, MINISTER, and are present. MUSIC finishes with a flourish.

MAYOR: Thank you, thank you, Ladies and Gentleman, thank you for joining us on this sad occasion. We are gathered here together to memorialize this urnful of Grandma’s Ashes and to solemnize this tragic day, the Grandma’s Ashes Winter Memorial Day. And may I present to you now the man who first brought Grandma’s Ashes to our humble town, and so enriched us and himself.

(Applause. PA addresses crowd)

PA: Thank you, kind neighbors all. I think it’s safe to say that when I first came to this town, not many of your knew about Grandma’s Ashes. Well, you know about them now, and how you do!  (to MINISTER) Reverend, would you be so kind as to read the reading?

(PA goes off to one side. MINISTER takes PA’s place. MINISTER reads from thick book)

MINISTER: (Reading) And Grandma was conceived without sin, and they carried her ashes around, because there was no room for them in the urn. And there were in the same country people living in a town, and lo, Grandma’s Ashes came upon them, and the glory of Grandma’s Ashes floated around them. And the people were afraid. And a voice said, Yes, be afraid, for these are tidings of great sadness: for unto you this day are come what will make you forever guilty: Grandma’s Ashes. And suddenly there was a mournful dirge in the heavens, and voices sang: Glory be to Grandma’s Ashes in the highest, and on earth sorrow, and enmity between men. – And now let us sing together the praises of Grandma’s Ashes!

ALL Ashes we have seen on high
Sweetly drifting o’er the plain.
Never doubt or question why,
Just pay again and again:
Pay-ay-ay-ay-ay,
Pay-ay-ay-ay-ay,
Pay-ay-ay-ay-ay, pay to see,
To see Grandma’s Ashes.
Pay-ay-ay-ay-ay,
Pay-ay-ay-ay-ay,
Pay-ay-ay-ay-ay, pay we must
To see Grandma’s ashy dust.

MINISTER: (Raising urn) The Ashes of Grandma.

ALL The Ashes of Grandma.

(MINISTER and ALL kneel as PA little bells. All rise)

PA: (To ALL) It won’t be ended
Till my palm’s been greased
Forever and forever.

ALL So be it.

MAYOR: And now, let us all go in depressed togetherness to light the Town Square Gigantic Grandma’s Ashes Urn.

(ALL exit except BOY and GIRL)


BOY Did you like the service?

GIRL: I liked it better in the old days.

BOY: You sang as loud as anybody.


GIRL I didn’t want to be the odd girl out.
BOY I got you a Grandma’s Ashes Winter Memorial Day present.

GIRL: I got you something, too.

BOY: Open mine first.

(BOY hands GIRL present gift-wrapped in paper with urn motif. GIRL opens present)

GIRL: Just what I always wanted. Another miniature Grandma’s Ashes Urn.

BOY: It’s not your usual miniature Grandma’s Ashes Urn. It’s a musical miniature Grandma’s Ashes Urn.


GIRL Wonderful.
BOY Here, wind it up.

GIRL: You do it.

(BOY winds up urn)

URN Aaaahhhh! Aaaahhhh! Uuuuhhhhh! Uuuuuhhh!


GIRL What the–?! That’s supposed to be music?
BOY Well, it’s not really music–that’s the sound that Grandma made while she was being burned.


GIRL Charming.
BOY You don’t like it.

GIRL: I love it.

BOY: You can take it back if you want. I kept the receipt. You can exchange it. They have other urns with other sounds. There’s a nice one with the sound of the roar of the fire and the crackling of the flames.

GIRL: Gee, it’s hard to decide. I’ll have to think about it.

BOY: They come in other colors, too.

GIRL: Here, open my present.

(SHE hands BOY present; BOY hands her back urn)

BOY: They didn’t have any urn paper?

GIRL: They were all out.

(BOY opens present. It is a CERAMIC CHRISTMAS TREE)

BOY: What kind of a present is this to get me?

GIRL: You don’t like it?

BOY: How could I like it?

GIRL: It’s an old-fashioned thing. It’s like what we used to have here in the town square at this time of year.

BOY: I know that.

GIRL: It’s green–the color of life. Don’t you like green?

BOY: I prefer gray, personally. Charcoal gray.

GIRL: You know what the fir trees smell like in the woods? That clean smell. That lively smell. We used to bring a tree into the house and–

BOY: You killed an innocent tree?

GIRL: And then we’d decorate it with lights and ornaments–

BOY: Why are you telling me all this? Are you trying to make a fool out of me?

GIRL: No, I just–I know you have a very keen interest in history.

BOY: So?

GIRL: Well, this is a part of history, isn’t it? It’s our town’s history.

(BOY throws CERAMIC TREE on ground; it smashes to bits)

BOY: It is now.

GIRL: What did you do that for?

(GIRL bends down to pick up pieces, placing MINIATURE URN on ground)

BOY: Anyway, it wasn’t a real tree. It was just a little green piece of plaster. No big deal.

GIRL: But it was so pretty!

BOY: Not to me, it wasn’t. – Sometimes I wonder about you. Getting all worked up about a little bit of crockery. There are more important things in life than knickknacks like this.

GIRL: Like Grandma’s Ashes, you mean?

BOY: Shut up! On this day of all days you have to mock Grandma’s Ashes.– Grandma was a person, do you understand? She came and was burned. Afterwards her ashes floated around. And someday–someday–

GIRL: She’ll come again?

BOY: What?

GIRL: Will you see her again someday? Your grandma?

BOY: How could I see her again if she’s dead and burned into ashes? Are you nuts?

GIRL: But you were saying, “Someday–someday–” I thought–

BOY: Someday my pa’s going to pungle. I’ve been carrying these ashes around all my life, but he’s the one with the full pockets.– We’d better get going. We’re going to miss the ceremony.

GIRL: I don’t feel like it.

BOY: You don’t feel like going to see the Town Square Gigantic Grandma’s Ashes Urn? On this day of all days? What is wrong with you, girl?

GIRL: You sound like your father. (Looking at pieces of CERAMIC TREE) I’m going to glue this back together.

BOY: What’s the use of sticking together broken pieces of nothing? Just leave it.

GIRL: No.

BOY: Leave it, I said!

(BOY scatters pieces with his foot. GIRL  them. BOY scatters them again)

GIRL: Stop doing that!

BOY: I told you to leave them be. Or better, sweep them up and chuck them out.

GIRL: I won’t.

BOY: Well, I will, then.

(BOY tries to gather pieces together; GIRL pushes him away repeatedly; BOY finally gives up)

BOY: (Continued) You know, there’s something seriously wrong with you.

GIRL: With me?!

BOY: Being so concerned about broken bits of junk.

GIRL: It’s not junk.

BOY: Old-fashioned rubbish. Out-of-style trash. Look at you, wallowing around in the dust. It’s unhygienic.

GIRL: I’ll survive.

BOY: Yeah, you’ll survive–but what about Grandma’s Ashes?

GIRL: I’m not talking about Grandma’s Ashes now! To hell with Grandma’s ashes.

(PAUSE)

BOY: Apologize to me.

GIRL: No.

BOY: Apologize to me, and apologize to Grandma.

GIRL: No. I want a divorce.

(BOY picks up MINIATURE URN, thrusts it into GIRL’S face)

BOY: Kiss Grandma’s Ashes!

GIRL: You’re sick!

BOY: Kiss Grandma’s Ashes! Bow down before them! Bow down before them and worship them!

(BOY tries to force GIRL down before MINIATURE URN. SHE resists)

GIRL: Let me go!

BOY: Bow down before them, I said!

(GIRL frees herself from his grasp)

GIRL: Bow down before what? You must think I’m stupid. You must think everybody in this town is stupid.

BOY: Well, aren’t they?

GIRL: Grandma’s Ashes! And then you talk about me being concerned with crap! You know those ashes you keep in the house?

BOY: Grandma’s Ashes!

GIRL: What you call Grandma’s Ashes!

BOY: What’s that supposed to mean?

GIRL: One day, when you were out with your pa touring the Grandma’s Ashes Memorial sites, I took a handful of ashes out of that urn.

BOY: You stole Grandma’s Ashes!

(GIRL shrugs)

BOY: (Continued) So you could sell them, I bet. And then you talk about me and my pa being greedy after a dollar.

GIRL: No, not to sell them. I don’t sell dead people’s ashes. I took them to be tested.

BOY: Tested?

GIRL: Analyzed, that’s right. To a chemist. And do you know what he told me?

BOY: (Covering his ears) I don’t want to know.

GIRL: (Trying to pull BOY’s hands from his ears) Do you know where he told me those ashes were from?

BOY: Who is he to say where they’re from? Chemist! What chemist?

GIRL: A certified chemist.

BOY: Certified by who? He’s just some charlatan, most likely, ready to tell you anything you wanted to hear to gyp you out of your money.

GIRL: I didn’t tell him I wanted to hear anything. I just brought him the ashes and said, Tell me where these ashes are from.

BOY: It doesn’t matter what you said or what he did. You had no right– He had no business– How dare you profane the sacred–

GIRL: He said they were from–

BOY: Shut up! I don’t want to hear these lies!

GIRL: What lies? I haven’t said anything yet.

BOY: You and he cooked up some lie, I know. Some lie to desecrate, to dishonor, to mock Grandma’s Ashes.

GIRL: Whose Grandma was she, anyway? I never did get that straight from you. Was she your grandma, or your father’s grandma?

BOY: It doesn’t matter.

GIRL: Was she the grandma of either of you? Was she ever a grandma at all? Did she ever exist?

BOY: I’ve heard enough. I won’t stand here and listen to these insults–

GIRL: You haven’t heard anything yet. You’re going to listen to what the chemist told me.

BOY: I am not!

GIRL: I listened to you and your father talk about Grandma’s Ashes until I was sick to death of the story. Now it’s your turn to listen to me.

BOY: If you say one more thing against Grandma’s Ashes I’ll–

GIRL: Grandma’s Ashes! Ashes of twigs and leaves and grass!

BOY: It’s a lie!

GIRL: Yes, it’s a lie! A lie you made this whole town pay for through the nose. You murdered a man–

BOY: I never murdered anybody.

GIRL: Hanged him for nothing! You don’t call that murder?

BOY: It wasn’t murder. It was an execution. He was guilty.


GIRL Guilty of what?

BOY: Of profaning Grandma’s Ashes.

GIRL: He didn’t know anything about Grandma’s Ashes.

BOY: Yes, he did. They all did. Besides, they found anti-Grandma’s Ashes literature in his house.

GIRL: Who found it?

BOY: They found literature in his house that said, Down with Grandma’s Ashes!

GIRL: You and your father are wrecking the bank, robbing the savings of everybody in this town. Every day more money goes out of it to settle this or that new claim of your father’s, and God knows what he does with it.

BOY: He puts it aside. He’s saving it.

GIRL: For who? Grandma?

BOY: Yes!–No! He’s saving it because–he’s going to build schools with it.

GIRL: Schools?! What kind of schools? Grandma’s Ashes schools?

BOY: The country needs a Grandma’s Ashes University! It doesn’t have even one so far. All it has is Grandma’s Ashes study programs, and that’s not enough, because to really understand the truth about Grandma’s Ashes–

GIRL: Ashes from twigs and leaves and grass!

BOY: But it can’t be! The Grandma’s Ashes that I keep in the house, they’re the real thing. I took them before the storm, just to make sure that I’d have my fair share, that I’d have a least some share. Because my pa, he–you never know what he’s– Are you sure you got those Grandma’s Ashes from the house?

GIRL: Where else would I have gotten them from? The Grandma’s Ashes Memorial Museum and Souvenir Emporium? It’s always crowded with folks when it’s open, and it’s locked up tight when it’s closed, and only your pa has the key.

BOY: But I took them before the storm and the wind and the rain and the fire and the coals and the–the–

(HE kneels on ground, holding his head in his hands, moaning)

BOY: (Continued) Aaahhh! Aaahhh! Pa, pa, why have you…? Aaahhh!

GIRL: Are you all right? Do you want me to get help?

BOY: No! No help, no help, no one, nothing! I’m all right! Stay here.

GIRL: What was all that about a storm and rain and fire?

BOY: (Getting up) Nothing. That was all–incidental. It has no historical importance.

GIRL: Historical importance? Are you sure you’re all right?

BOY: The past is what you make of it.

GIRL: You’re sounding more and more like your pa every day.

BOY: Why shouldn’t I? The ash doesn’t float far from the fire. – The chemist said those ashes were from twigs?

GIRL: And leaves and grass.

BOY: Who have you told about this?

GIRL: Nobody.

BOY: What about this chemist? Does he know that he was testing Grandma’s Ashes?

GIRL: No. I told you. I just brought him the ashes and asked him to test them.

BOY: And what are you going to do now–with what you’ve found out?

GIRL: I’m not going to do anything. I want you to do something.

BOY: And what might that be?

GIRL: I want you to throw away those ashes and throw away that urn and give that money back to the townsfolk you stole it from.

BOY: What would I get out of doing that?

GIRL: Forgiveness.

BOY: Forgiveness? From who? You?

GIRL: From God.

BOY: God is Grandma’s Ashes. God exists only in Grandma’s Ashes.

GIRL: I feel sorry for you.

BOY: You should.

GIRL: Why?

BOY: Because I’ve been though a lot. I’ve suffered.

GIRL: You haven’t suffered. You’ve just made other people suffer.– Goodbye!

(GIRL makes to leave. BOY grabs hold of her)

BOY: Get over here.

GIRL: Let go of me!

BOY: Where are you going in such a hurry? To tell everybody what you and your chemist friend found out?


GIRL People have a right to know.
BOY No, they have a right not to know. That’s what they have a right to do. Everything’s peaceful in this town now, everyone gets along, and now you want to ruin everything.

GIRL: Let me go!

BOY: I’ll let you go. (HE pulls her closer to him) I’ll let you go, don’t worry about that. But I swear on Grandma’s Ashes, if you ever breathe a word of what this lying chemist told you, if you every mention anything about Grandma’s Ashes being from twigs and leaves and grass, I’ll catch up with you. You can travel to the ends of the earth, I’ll find you. I’ll hunt you down, I will! No grass is high enough, no wall thick enough, no hole deep enough to hide you. I’ll ferret you out, wherever you are. When you leave your house in the morning, I’ll be waiting for you; when you come back at night, I’ll be behind you, right at your heels, walking faster than you, catching up with you. You won’t be about to escape me.

GIRL: And what’ll you do to me when you catch up with me?

BOY: I’ll introduce you to Grandma. Do you understand?

GIRL: Let me go.

BOY: Do you understand?

GIRL: Yes.– And I married you!

BOY: Nobody can be married to me without being married to Grandma’s Ashes. You never were.

GIRL: I married you! I held you in my arms and I loved you!

BOY: But you didn’t love Grandma’s Ashes. Don’t you understand?

GIRL: No.

BOY: You could never understand. You’re incapable of understanding. I should’ve listening to my pa. He warned me against getting mixed up with girls like you. I tried to raise you to our level, but...a waste of time! So, so long, local girl! Go back to your stupid, lying townsfolk. But just remember: you keep your mouth shut! If you don’t, if I ever  start running short on ashes, I’ll come calling.

(BOY releases her. SHE runs off)

BOY: (Continued) No-good local girl.

BLACKOUT

SCENE VII

The Town Square. The Square is empty save for PA and BOY and the Gigantic Grandma’s Urn brightly lighted.

PA: Son, that was a very moving memorial ceremony we had tonight. Very moving. They opened up their hearts to us, didn’t they? Very generous.

BOY: They didn’t have much of a choice.

PA: What?

BOY: I said they didn’t have much of a choice. They were under a court order.

PA: Oh, yes, they were, weren’t they. Still, I like to believe that even if they hadn’t been under that court order, they still would have opened their hearts to us so generously. But that’s the way I am. I like to believe in the good in folks. I don’t like to look at the bad. – They gave us everything we wanted?

BOY: Uh-huh.

PA: Down to the last penny?

BOY: Yeah.

PA: You’re sure, now, boy? Because sometimes folks like these, they smile in your face while they’re cheating you. You know how they are. They wouldn’t think twice about swindling two strangers like us. – Where’s that local girl?

BOY: She’s not here.

PA: Has she gone to visit her folks?

BOY: I expect so.

PA: It’ll be good for her to spend some time with her family. Family’s all we have in this life, isn’t it, boy?

BOY: Is it?

PA: Of course it is. – You say they gave us everything?

BOY: Yes. And a little more besides.

PA: A little more besides? Very generous. So I reckon we’ll have enough to build that retirement home I have sometimes spoken to you of.

BOY: Enough to build that and anything else we fancy to.

PA: With the big porch with the white columns?

BOY: Uh-huh.

PA: And the big lawn sloping down to the road?

BOY: Why not?

PA: And that long, meandering driveway snaking through the shade trees?

BOY: If that’s what you want.

PA: And the big gate with the big sign: “Family Members Only”?

BOY: “Family Members Only,” yeah.

PA: And a place, a special memorial room for Grandma’s Ashes.

BOY: Unless you want to keep them in the town.

PA: No, I don’t want to keep them down there. Not in that dirty old rat hole.

BOY: It’s brand new!

PA: It was brand new when it was first built. But that was some time ago. No, we need some place newer, some place bigger. Because nothing’s too good for Grandma’s Ashes, boy. I want them in a proper place, up in the big house. After all, we owe everything we have to Grandma and her ashes.

(PA doubles over slightly, coughing in pain)

BOY: Are you all right, pa?

PA: I reckon it’s just the excitement, son. And that champagne toast to celebrate the Coming of Grandma’s Ashes. I’m not used to champagne. I think it soured my stomach.

BOY: Do you want some whiskey, pa?

PA: You know I don’t drink whiskey, son. And you shouldn’t either. It takes your mind off things.

BOY: That’s why I drink it.

PA: No, son, it’s a bad habit. Whenever you want to take a shot of whiskey, just think about Grandma’s Ashes, and the desire will pass. Ahhh!

(PA grabs his left arm)

PA: (Continued) Son, have you ever heard about heart attacks starting with a pain in the arm?

BOY: Yes, I have.

PA: Well, I have a terrible pain in my arm right now.

BOY: Are you having a heart attack, pa?

PA: I might be.

BOY: Do you want me to fetch the doctor?

PA: Not yet. He’d probably charge me an arm and a leg for the visit, anyway. No sense in throwing money away. No matter how much you have. That’s how you lose it all. A fool and his money– Ahhh!

BOY: Are you sure you don’t want me to call the doctor, pa? He lives just down the road.

PA: No, he’d take a taxi here, I know he would. Anything to inflate the bill. You can stay here for a while with me, can’t you? You don’t have to rush back and see that girl, do you?

BOY: There’s no hurry.

PA: What’s the matter, boy? Is she giving you a hard time?

BOY: She wants a divorce.

PA: How much is it going to cost us?

BOY: Pardon?

PA: How much is it going to cost you? How much does she want?

BOY: She didn’t ask for anything.

PA: She will, don’t worry about that. She will. And remember: don’t give her one bit of Grandma’s Ashes.

BOY: I won’t.

PA: Not one iota.

BOY: I won’t.

PA: Because give them one ash, and they’ll be back for more. They’ll want the whole thing.– You know what the worst thing about all this is? Just when I found the proper resting places for Grandma’s Ashes, a place that people would visit and pay their respects and leave a donation–just when I found that place, I’m not going to be able to live to enjoy it. Doesn’t that beat everything? Not very considerate of Grandma, if I do say so myself.

BOY: You’ll live to enjoy it, pa.

PA: No, I won’t.

BOY: Why not?

PA: Because I’m dying, son. The spirit is leaving me. It’s pounding on my heart hard, and it’s saying, “Let me out! Let me go!” I can feel it.

BOY: It’s the champagne.

PA: No, it’s not. I know what it is. It’s the cold hand of Death, finally come onto me after a lifetime of selfless devotion to Grandma’s Ashes. But at least I have some consolation. Through my efforts, folks have come to believe in Grandma’s Ashes.

BOY: Congratulations.

PA: Why, thank you, son. It’s nice of you to congratulate your pa on the great accomplishment of his life.– Son, I want you to promise me something before I die.

BOY: You’re not dying.

PA: Maybe I’m not, maybe you’re right. But you promise me something in the meantime, anyway. You promise me–you promise me–do you hear?

BOY: Promise you what?

PA: That you’ll bury me in the ground. In a deep grave. And if anyone wants to pay their respects, they’ll come to my tombstone, they’ll come to my grave in the sweet, musty earth, and they’ll stand over it, and pay their respects. Do you understand what I’m telling you, son?

(BOY looks at PA quizzically)

PA: (Continued) I’m telling you that I don’t want to be cremated–I don’t want to be burned. I don’t want you hawking my ashes around the country like I was some kind of freak show! Do you understand me, boy? – Why are you looking at me like that?

BOY: No reason.

PA: You’ll promise me, won’t you?

BOY: Sure I will.

PA: You cross your heart and hope to die?

BOY: Yes.

PA: You swear on Grandma’s grave–ashes?

BOY: Yes.

PA: And if you break your oath, swear that you understand that you will be damned to everlasting torment.

BOY: I swear.

PA: You will be doomed to wander the world with no rest, no peace.

BOY: I swear.

PA: Say it: If I break my oath, if I whore my father’s remains, may I be eternally damned.

BOY: If I break my oath, if I whore my father’s remains, may I be eternally damned.

PA: (Leaning back) Now I can rest. My heart is at peace. – Did you say you had some whiskey, son?

BOY: Some bourbon.

(BOY produces a flask. PA takes it and drinks)

PA: I never did understand what they all saw in this. It does have a sweet taste, though. And it warms your insides.

(FLASK falls from PA’s hand; his  goes to his heart)

PA: (Continued) Maybe you should fetch the doctor, son.

BOY: Are you sure, pa? He’ll take a cab.

PA: I’ll reimburse him

BOY: He’ll charge an arm and a leg.

PA: If you don’t fetch him soon, boy, I’m not going to have an arm left to pay him with.

BOY: Maybe it’ll pass in a minute.

PA: I’m the one that’s going to pass in a minute if you don’t hightail it on over to the doctor’s. I need something for my heart.

BOY: Something to make it brand new?

PA: I don’t want a new heart, son, I’m happy with my old one. After all, this heart and I have been through a lot together. I just want something to make it keep working as it has been, that’s all.

(BOY stands motionless)

PA: (Continued) What’s come over you, son? You haven’t grown bitter against your old pa, have you? At this late stage in his life? This is a time for forgiveness, son, not recrimination. – It’s not the money, is it, boy? You’re not standing there waiting for your old pa to pass away so you can get your hands on the money, are you? Because that wouldn’t be right. The money wouldn’t do you any good if you came by it that way.

BOY: You mean for the money to do me any good, I’d have to come by it honestly–decently?

PA: That’s the way it is, son. Tainted money never brought anyone any happiness.

BOY: Not even you?

PA: Not even me, boy. And I could swear that on a stack of–Grandma’s Ashes.

(PA gasps for breath)

PA: (Continued) I can’t breath, son! I can’t breathe! Fetch the doctor! – O Grandma’s Ashes, Grandma’s Ashes! Why have you short-changed me?                           

(PA dies)

BOY: Pa? Pa, are you all right? Can you hear me?

(BOY pokes PA gingerly, satisfies himself that PA is dead)

BOY: (Continued) It’s just like the old days, isn’t it, pa? I’m crouching next to you, and–well, you’re not standing up anymore, that’s the difference. Stand up, pa–hawk your wares! You were the best salesman the world has ever seen. And I’m going to be worthy of your memory, pa, I’m going to carry on in your stead. Hell, I’m going to outsell you!
– I know what I promised, pa, but I’ve got to do what has to be done, before that local girl lets the cat out of the bag. You won’t hold it against me, will you, pa? You’d do the same thing in my place, wouldn’t you? Of course you would. You see, if they do another test on those ashes, well, the jig’ll be up, won’t it? They’ll take the house away, and all the gold back. And what about that fellow you had strung up? They’ll probably blame me for that, accuse me of being an accomplice. I don’t want to go to prison for life, pa. So you see, they haven’t left me much of a choice. You haven’t left me much of a choice either. You always taught me never to disrespect Grandma’s Ashes, didn’t you?
– After the funeral, I’ll dig you up, that’s what I’ll do. And I’ll bring you to that place in the woods where we had such merry times together. I’ll make a little pyre, just like you taught me to. Too bad you won’t be there to see it. You would have enjoyed it, I expect, watching those coals glow.
– And you’ll be proud of me, pa, when I’m standing next to Grandma’s Ashes, standing right beside you, calling out just like you taught me–because I’ll never forget what you taught me, pa, I’ll never forget. The show must go on!
– Grrrrrrandma’s Ashes! Get your red hot Grandma’s Ashes, the one and only guaranteed original. Authentically preserved! Grandma’s Ashes walk, they talk, they craaaaawl on their belly like a reptile! Grrrrrrandma’s Ashes! For only ten small dollars, see–see and sift your fingers through Grandma’s Ashes. Yes, touch their authenticity with your own hands–touch and believe! Satisfaction is not only guaranteed, it is absolutely required! Step up, folks, don’t be shy. Step right up and see the show!


END OF PLAY


Additional information about this document
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Author(s): Stefano Giocamonte
Title: Grandma's Ashes, A play
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Published: 2000-01-01
First posted on CODOH: June 29, 2000, 7 p.m.
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Comments: Play, Actors Drama Library, New York City 2000
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