John and Cyn Go to Connecticut

John Haber
in New York City

A Play for Voices

(Scene: Now, that wouldn't be fair, would it? This is a play for voices, after all, and perhaps sound effects. But I will tell you that the characters are one woman and two men, thirty- or forty-something, and a small boy. "Thomas" refers to a train on television and in books for children.

The action spreads over days but runs continuously, with no more than ordinary pauses in speech where the ellipses appear. I imagine the speakers right on each other's heels, all but talking over one another as the scene progresses.

Whenever a writer draws on life, one is supposed to remind readers of the obvious, that all characters are fictions. On the other hand, when writers inserts themselves into fiction explicitly, one is supposed to show off the levels of one's art by omitting the warning. I think of Woody Allen's movies, with himself and his friends as actors, or Frederick Exley's novels, with only real names. Since I would have changed the names if I could have come up with better ones, I insist on a warning.

If one is tempted to ignore it, I shall give just one example: the original of Steve speaks four languages and works as an intelligence analyst. I, of course, am the exception and am every bit as obnoxious as I appear, but that is incumbent on writers. I hope the burden has been at least somewhat justified.)

Cyn: John, even you are going to enjoy yourself.

John: Sure, let's pretend it's a weekend and we're not working.

Cyn: It is a weekend. You are taking time off that Monday now, because I'm already on my break, and I desperately need to get out of here. You think with Miles I could plan this alone?

John: I'm not sure it's a model, but I found my way here alone. So where, Cynthia?

Cyn: I can't even think about it. Oh, and I sent Steve an e-mail. He can come over from England, stay at my place, free, if he wants.

John: Um, makes sense while you're away.

Steve: Hello, John. So you're coming, too, I hear.

John: On a bet.

Cyn: Oh, I decided Steve's coming with us.

John: It appears so. Now, okay, Cyn, Steve, I don't think it's fair to you guys, not to mention my friend not even three, if I make the plans for us all. Maybe I can look some things up over the weekend.

Steve: I really couldn't say. I'm afraid I don't know America well enough.

John: Hey, great. Look at this. . . . So what do you think? Drive to D.C., see the Rothko retrospective and the sights, like real tourists. Head for Philly and then down past Valley Forge. The Hudson River valley is close, just gorgeous and full of memories. And Connecticut has those seaport towns, a huge shoreline. I think there's a showing of Jules and Jim in New Haven. . . .

Steve: They all sound good.

Cyn: I have no idea. . . . Rothko, god, my favorite artist. . . .

John: Really? I was afraid that option wasn't nearly black enough.

Steve: You mean Washington in the summer?

Cyn: Maybe Pennsylvania Dutch country, only I'm thinking it's so far. I can do without the drive.

John: Probably Miles can, too.

Cyn: He is so good in the car. It's all the packing before that . . . and the laundry and bringing his medicine and getting him into the car and. . . . I'm thinking these things would be so good to show Steve, but. . . . Someone else decide.

John: As in me?

Steve: I really couldn't say.

Cyn: I could just sit somewhere, anywhere, like a beach, and stare off for two days. . . .

Steve: Actually, I'd just as soon get out of cities.

John: That makes it research time on Connecticut.

Cyn: I honestly don't care. . . . I bought Miles a kite for the beach. . . .

John: We have a couple of big ones . . . beaches, I mean . . . with islands, nature trails.

Cyn: How about Maine?

John: Maine is like ten hours. That's one way.

Cyn: Do me a favor. Look at this ad online, for an inn.

John: In the Berkshires. How about this time you call them?

Cyn: They didn't call back. Forget it.

Miles: It's John! Hi, John. You're John.

Steve: I really couldn't say.

John: Look, we'll have a nice variety. . . . We don't even have to do the same thing all the time. I could leave you both in New Haven in a museum. I could take Miles to the aquarium while you spend the day zoning out at the beach.

Cyn: I can never sit still at the beach the whole day.

Miles: Trucks, John.

John: Yes, Miles. Would you like to play trucks? We're going to drive a car. I'd love a bed-and-breakfast. Wonder what I can find this short notice, especially allowing kids.

Cyn: Any cheap motel.

John: I found three guidebooks over the weekend. I'll start calling hotels.

Miles: We're going to the beach.

Cyn: One room, two double beds, two men. Maybe I'll let you take turns.

John: It's the seventies, then?

Steve: I really couldn't say.

John: I found a motel that is willing to take us.

Cyn: Something doesn't feel right. Why not spend more?

John: It was hard enough to find this one.

Cyn: What do you know about this place?

John: What does this place know about you? Look, we're picking them blind, so why not out of a decent guidebook rather than a state list? We can move if we don't like it.

Cyn: It's not a barracks, is it?

John: Yes, bring your own gun. Push-ups at six-thirty.

Cyn: It's going to be a barracks. . . .

Miles: We're going to the beach.

Cyn: John, you're picking Steve up at the airport when he gets in?

John: You need the car his whole trip? I wasn't planning on taking tomorrow off, too.

Cyn: How do you expect him to drive Wednesday coming right off the plane? He'll be groggy, on the wrong side of the road. . . . He'll get killed.

Steve: Oh, me? I'd be happy to.

John: I'll get killed at work. . . . Oh, hello, Steve? Shall I get you at the airport? When is your plane?

Steve: It might run late. I'd just as soon take the bus into town.

John: So I found a car, weekend rate. I'll go out to Newark on Friday.

Cyn: I've just reserved a car. Mine's cheaper. . . . Well, no, but I get the whole week!

John: Tell you what. We won't cancel either yet, and Steve can let us know whether he'll get use of the car the rest of the week after we get back. So Steve?

Cyn: But mine is so cheap . . . for a full week. . . .

Steve: Did you say we have two cars?

John: No, no, you see . . .

Steve: I'm sure I'll find use for it. Cyn was talking about my helping her move some of her things.

John: Done. . . . Cyn's car, and wait till you experience my driving. Weekend of fun all to itself.

Cyn: So would you tell me why you now go and cancel your rental on me?

Miles: I'm driving a car. To the beach.

Steve: Hello, everyone. Just got in. Five hours late somehow. . . .

Cyn: Steve will meet you Friday and go to Newark. . . . He has to be there. Otherwise he isn't a driver. . . . Do either of you have American Express? My deal on the insurance needs it.

Steve: I really couldn't say.

John: I know I don't.

Cyn: Why don't you? This is . . . too . . . expensive. . . . I've solved it. We'll pick the car up together, Saturday, as we leave. You're taking next Wednesday off, too, to get Miles to school, right?

John: Look, I don't have to get the car now, and I get off early. I'll take Miles a few hours, and you'll be fine.

Cyn: Take him to the playground. Steve will meet you.

Miles: I don't want to go to the park.

Cyn: If it's raining come back here or he'll get sick. I'll be here, alone, trying to use the little time I get to pack, do laundry, what else. . . . It's beyond me how I do this.

John: I'm calling from the bookstore. Miles is happily destroying the shelves, and it gets us out of the rain. It's great.

Cyn: A nightmare. A nightmare. I've been on the phone hours with the car rental changing it to Saturday. You lose the whole deal. . . . .

John: Miles!

Miles: You're John. I'm Miles.

Cyn: The sitter says she saw you out in the rain with the top off the stroller. What are you doing? She said he'd had an asthma attack just this afternoon.

John: She told me he'd had an attack yesterday instead, with you.

Cyn: You think I don't know what he did yesterday?

John: And the top of the stroller is on. And we're indoors, and the rain has stopped.

Cyn: You sure?

John: Yes, and the sun is coming out. We'll go to the playground.

Cyn: I don't know when I'm going to pack. I'm overwhelmed. . . . Miles? Miles! Come eat. . . . Miles, we're going to the beach! I want to leave really early.

John: What's early?

Cyn: Like by seven, maybe seven-thirty. . . .

John: Saturday at seven? In the morning? I better go home and pack.

Cyn: You think I want to get up that early?

Steve: I really couldn't say.

Cyn: I don't want to spend the whole day driving and not get anywhere. You know we're going all the way to Newark first! I can't manage Miles, and Steve here. . . . Stay now. Aren't you hungry?

John: What time can you get ready?

Cyn: Usually we get up in time for me to leave for school or the sitter at eight. . . . So a little longer with all these bags. Look what I have to bring just for Miles. . . .

Steve: Is this the right water pistol?

Cyn: A barracks, a barracks. . . . Do me a favor while I'm packing? Just call and get a car service to Newark.

John: So eight-thirty, and that way you have enough time?

Cyn: You're walking over here then?

John: It's a car service. He'll pick me up on the way west.

Cyn: They'll charge more.

John: They don't. I asked. I'll be on the corner shortly after eight-thirty, then. Absolutely. . . .

Cyn: It's seven-thirty. Are you awake?

John: I am now.

Cyn: Could you call the car service and change it to nine o'clock?

John: Er, um, the telephone again. . . .

Cyn: What corner again was it?

John: That ringing. . . .

Cyn: Do me a favor? Run out and get some coffee and bagels? Two coffees, for me and Steve, and a plain small bagel for Miles?

Steve: Just one coffee for me, please. . . .

Cyn: Hey, will you wake up? The car is over here, this corner. Where were you this long? Does anyone know where we're driving after this?

John: Steve, since you're on the wrong side of the road as a driver, would you rather wait here with Miles, while Cyn and I rent the car?

Cyn: John, you wait with Miles. . . . Don't any of you have American Express . . . ? Hi, Miles! We're going to the beach. It's this blue car. John, I'm driving. I didn't put Steve on the ticket. He'd be on the wrong side of the road.

Miles: I don't want to get in the car. I want to go to the beach.

John: Steve, I guess you have the guidebook. And those pages I made from the Web and all?

Steve: Oh, yes, didn't get around to them last night. I'll read as we go, get some idea.

John: At some point, yes. See what you think about a good lunch or activity stop.

Cyn: Is there a map anywhere? Where's Miles's truck? Did you leave it at Newark?

John: You packed the trunk. I was in the bathroom.

Cyn: Is this highway ugly, or what?

John: New Haven pizza, or get past the city and not lose time? Anything good along the way?

Steve: I'm afraid I really haven't been able to get much reading in.

Cyn: Are we going through the Bronx? Isn't there another way? (heavy sigh) How did you pick Connecticut anyway . . . ?

John: Now you know why it's called Mystic.

Steve: I really couldn't say. Here. . . .

John: Er, rest stop, then, and a beach. Here's one, it says, up ahead. Two miles. Largest in the state.

Miles: I don't want to go to the beach. I want juice.

Cyn: We're heading there. Hear him coughing? Did you listen to the sitter when she said he had an attack yesterday? That heat and humidity all week. Someone, which exit?

John: It looks like the one after this. Just a few miles.

Miles: Nooo, I'm Miles. You're John.

Cyn: I'm getting off here. I can't take another minute. Then after lunch he'll fly his new kite.

Miles: I don't want to go eat. I want to go to the beach.

Cyn: That was good, Miles. . . . Now they want twelve dollars to let us in? Twelve dollars for the car with the three of us and Miles. You call this a public beach?

Miles: I don't want to go to the beach. I want to go home.

John: I thought there's always a parking charge or something. They do a nice job, I promise. Nature trails. . . . They have to keep it up . . . the beach I mean.

Steve: They must, to keep off the water, I imagine.

Cyn: I'm not doing it. How do we get back into that town?

Steve: I really couldn't say.

John: We go back the way we came.

Cyn: No! I mean, left or right, at this moment.

John: See the booth there, with the teenage girl?

Steve: "This beach for residents of Madison only."

Cyn: Come on, let us in. . . . No, please? Isn't there a public beach . . . ? No, they charge so much.

John: She'll get fired. Or she'll get smart and let us in, then call the cops. Have them bring a stack of books on child care.

Cyn: Just for a few minutes, to fly this kite. . . . No kite, just get our feet wet. . . . We've a little boy here!!

John: Several.

Steve: I really couldn't say.

John: Please don't tell on her, anyone. . . .

Cyn: How do we get out of here? (long exhale) My back has been killing me for days.

John: That way. And then we can head for that steam-train ride in Essex.

Cyn: No! Left, right? (sigh) Look, Miles, it's the Thomas train. We're going to ride Thomas.

Miles: I want to go to the beach.

Cyn: You just went to the beach.

Steve: So did I.

John: I feel my old spot for books. Ah, the Connecticut River. . . . Wallace Stevens, Eugene O'Neill. . . . Um, sorry. While I've bored everyone, we've got almost an hour to wait for the steam train.

Steve: Essex looks quaint on the map. Shall we walk?

Cyn: Back in the car. We'll drive.

Steve: Did we just circle the town without stopping?

John: Miles has got to see this. You can peek inside the locomotive. Miles, see where the fire goes?

Steve: What's the train doing, taking off?

John: We were right there. I was sure. . . . Oh, how did I screw up this time?

Cyn: Oh, I'm sorry, Miles!

Steve: We couldn't have heard any announcement.

Cyn: I was crying because Miles was so hurt.

Miles: We lost Thomas.

John: I'm sorry, Miles. How about we'll come back on the way home Monday?

Miles: We lost Thomas.

Cyn: Miles, will you get out of the front seat.

Miles: I'm driving the car.

John: It's nearly seven now. Should we get right to the hotel in case they're not waiting for us or it's no good? Or go into town and eat first? I know it's getting late either way. . . .

Miles: Mommy!

Cyn: Miles and Steve, stop fighting.

Steve: Let's go eat.

Cyn: Miles, you two boys will just have to solve it back there. . . . I don't want to eat here. It's too formal. How about the one we just passed?

John: That's the one with all the table settings and reservations. . . . Look, stay here. Let me buy the wine. It's intimate here, warm looking, dark. . . .

Miles: I blew out the candle. I blew out all the candles!

Cyn: Miles, leave the other tables alone. This is good. Good choice, John. . . . I'm tired.

Miles: I'm not tired. I'm Miles.

John: Shall we walk a block or two down? It's the old lighthouse, the official sight here.

Cyn: Isn't anyone listening to me? I said I'm tired.

Miles: I don't want to go to bed. I want to go to the beach.

Steve: Rather dark here. Goodness, it's past eleven.

Cyn: Two beds. We'll be so close after this weekend.

Steve: Close to what?

Cyn: Wouldn't you like to know.

John: I thought of a nervous breakdown, but that was yesterday.

Steve: Every hotel office we've passed was closed.

John: No vacancies, too. . . . Oh, thank god. They left the key, taped to the door. We have room thirteen, around behind the pool.

Miles: I don't want to be in the car. I want to go to the beach.

Cyn: Oh, god. The neighbors have kids. They'll keep us up all night.

Steve: Thirteen, eh? Good omen.

Cyn: John, how could you do this? This . . . is . . . hell. It's smells all over. Miles will have an attack. . . . I can hear him. Listen to him.

Steve: They all did say no vacancy. Shall we make a go of it?

John: I don't know what else to do. See how isolated we are? Rescue party comes next week, I understand. So who's sleeping with me?

Steve: I really couldn't say.

John: Look, I'm sorry I didn't come out last week to check them all out personally to see which one you think is most attractive.

Cyn: Don't condescend to me. Attractive. He's coughing!

John: He's been coughing for two days, and look. Gabriel and his parents next door to us are going to sleep after all.

Cyn: Come on, Miles, we'll turn on the TV.

Miles: I don't want to go to bed. I want to go to the beach. . . .

John: Um, hello. Rather, good morning, I guess. Is that the television again? It's six-thirty.

Cyn: Aren't you going to ask where we were?

John: When we didn't hear a car leave. . . . I'm afraid I've guessed.

Cyn: We slept in the car. I took Miles. He couldn't breathe.

John: It was too late to find anyone at another motel.

Cyn: I managed. I woke them up. . . .

Miles: I'm driving the car.

Cyn: They were booked.

Steve: I shall take a shower.

Cyn: I had to take Miles out of here. Don't tell me you didn't hear what I said last night. I saw you pretending to sleep.

John: Er, um, what did you say?

Cyn: Can you do me a favor? Go and get coffee? That's how tired I am. And we really need some Pampers now. Remember, size 5.

John: Pampers? It's seven-thirty on a Sunday morning, the middle of nowhere.

Cyn: It's somewhere. I'll pack and get ready. Remember, Pampers and three coffees.

Steve: Just one for me, please, black.

Cyn: Let's go the beach. (long exhale) I could hardly sleep in the car. . . .

Miles: I'm driving the car.

Cyn: John, you're driving. I hate driving . . . not ever. My back. . . .

John: You do? So why . . . ?

Cyn: Well, you had said you were a terrible driver.

Steve: I would have driven, you know.

Miles: I don't want to go the beach. I want juice.

Steve: Are we all packed, then? I've been all set for a bit, you know.

Cyn: I apologize. My mistake is playing martyr. Now you should apologize. You should be telling me I'm a saint for what I'm putting up with. A saint.

Steve: Miles, you come with me.

Miles: I don't want juice. I want to go home. I'm going to play with Gabriel.

John: Gabriel, yes. Morning! I'm sorry, really. We must have woken you with the television.

Steve: Ten o'clock now, is it?

Cyn: I'm ready. Miles, are you going in the pool?

Miles: I don't want to get in the car. I want to go to the beach.

Cyn: He's still coughing. Listen to him.

John: Should we stop, look in at the motel first, the one you liked up the road?

Cyn: I'm too tired to deal with it. Later. . . . Do me a favor. Can we go to the hotel first . . . ? This is a palace compared to where you were staying, a palace.

Miles: Mommy, Steve, I'm stuck!

Cyn: We're fighting again.

Steve: Got you that time, Miles.

John: He was in that room for all of half an hour.

Cyn: There's mold all over the place here. Miles and Steve, you guys stop that in the back. John, you're driving. I've had enough.

John: Shall I give you some rest? Steve and I will take Miles to Mystic Seaport, walk around. . . .

Cyn: How about the train?

John: Tomorrow on the way back. No point in doubling back now.

Cyn: What is this? Sixteen dollars for the seaport? I'm taking Miles to the aquarium. Miles, we're going to see the fish!

Steve: I really couldn't say.

Miles: I don't want fish. I want juice.

Cyn: You tired yet, Miles?

Miles: I saw jellyfish. Dolphins eating jellyfish.

Cyn: No, it was. . . .

John: We'll let you get some sleep.

Steve: Yes, here we are again. Another morning, another day, another. . . . Room eight, I think she took for herself?

Cyn: Do me a favor? Another run for coffee?

John: Five minutes and the motel office opens with coffee, free.

Cyn: How can you wait? Two coffees, for Steve and me.

Steve: I think I'll come with you this time. . . .

Cyn: Back? I got some coffee. Where's the sugar?

John: Over there, on the side. These two coffees are yours. Hi, Miles! Want to see what makes the car go? Look in here!

Cyn: What are you doing under there?

Miles: Ghostbusters.

Cyn: All the tubes, he means.

John: Shall we see the steam train at last this morning, on our way back? Miles, the train!

Miles: Jellyfish eating Thomas!

Cyn: Take him to the seaport first. Toddlers are free. . . .

John: Miles, see the poles for the sails, just like your boat in the bathtub at home. Let's go see where the sailors lived.

Miles: It's a pirate boat . . . ! She's hitting fire.

John: That's the blacksmith, hammering the iron. Feel how heavy this is. She bent it. Miles, look at me for a picture?

Miles: Bent. Mommy!

Cyn: Listen to him still coughing. Get in the car. . . . Miles, we found Thomas.

Miles: Where is Thomas?

Cyn: We're inside Thomas.

John: Ooh, sexy. Miles, leave Mommy alone and sit with me. She's sleeping.

Cyn: Come on, can't you keep him still half an hour? Steve especially is absolutely no help. . . . So selfish. . . . No! Would you watch how close you are to that car? I was in an accident once. You could see it coming. . . . (sigh)

John: Yes, I'm sure you're helping me drive better.

Steve: I really couldn't say.

Miles: Mommy!

Steve: Got you, Miles.

Cyn: I was fine. Just broke a leg. . . . It's called post-traumatic stress syndrome. I really believe that now. And I'm sure you just think I'm being anxious all the time. . . . Watch out!!!

Miles: Steve has a big nose.

John: Nothing like honesty in relationships.

Cyn: Are you and Steve fighting again in the back? I'm sorry, you'll just have to work it out. I need a rest. . . . Where are we?

John: Everyone awake? We've just left Rye and are about to reach Bourbon and Scotch, thank god.

Cyn: That's supposed to be funny? Where are we . . . really?

John: We've entered New York City this very minute. Almost home. Just a few more miles.

Miles: Nooo, I'm. . . .

Steve: I really c. . . .

Cyn: New York. Just what I needed. Would you watch that . . . ? Wait, let me and Miles off at his doctor's five minutes while you sit in the car? See a pay phone?

John: I'll pull up to that one phone there . . . ?

Cyn: She's so nice. "Where have you two been?" This side of the street. . . .

John: Hmm, will they object if we sit illegally over there? We'll knock the cars over in between.

Steve: I'd be happy to.

Cyn: That guy, waving at us.

John: Oh, dear, he's right.

Cyn: Welcome to New York. . . .

Steve: Yes, I can see what caused it, a nail in the tire. Is there a jack?

John: A jerk?

Cyn: Steve, stop, please don't. I called. We have roadside service.

John: I didn't count on this. None of us planned on this. I'm exhausted. We're all exhausted.

Cyn: John, stay here with Miles till I'm back with another car? Steve is just underfoot, useless.

Steve: Miles, you play with me. Where's this trash go?

John: I've been swallowing mine.

Cyn: I'm going to be left alone with so much left to do . . . unpack, get Miles to sleep . . . myself, alone. . . . Well, if you're feeling that way, . . . just . . . LEAVE.

John: Now stop. You listen to me. This is what happened today. Maybe we're missing a signal of a need once, but that's not selfish. Selfish is having no priorities other than your own needs. I have to get home, I have been away from the office for three days, I have to check for an agenda for a job interview the next day, get enough sleep to come off halfway decent. . . .

Cyn: Get your hands off me. You can go, for good.

John: You've been betrayed and abandoned for good by every friend I've ever met, and now you're going to be betrayed by me. You see a pattern here?

Cyn: What makes you think you're so special you're needed? Your bag is inside.

John: You can keep the key. I'll wait until someone else lets me in. . . .

Steve: John. . . . Where are you? This message is from me. . . . Steve. It's not Cyn this time.

Cyn: John, when you get home, mind telling me where my key is? (sigh) And I'm throwing Steve out . . . tonight. It's a long story.

Steve: John, where are you?

John: Steve, if you get this, I've left a key with the doorman.

Cyn: I suppose that means he just found a plane and went home. . . . (exhale) The sitters are taking Miles to school tomorrow. You're off the hook.

THE END

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