We are thrilled to present this very special holiday episode of Sanctuary: A Radio Play, an annual Thanksgiving tradition at Our Hen House! This special performance marks the world premiere of John Yunker’s Sanctuary at New York City’s Symphony Space during the Culture & Animals Foundation’s Compassion Arts Festival.
ABOUT THE PLAY
A dark comedy, Sanctuary tells the story of Richard (John Frusciante) and Lisa (Mariann Sullivan), a happily married couple whose blissful retirement to small-town Oregon is thrown into disarray when Lisa suddenly decides to go vegan and insists on celebrating Thanksgiving without a turkey AND alongside her new friend and animal activist, Meg (Jasmin Singer). Husband Richard invites his unsuspecting buddy Charley (Michael Harren), who also happens to be the local exterminator, in the hopes of forcing Lisa to stick with the traditional meal. The resulting tensions soon push relationships over the edge. Sanctuary tells the story behind the struggles and joys of navigating vegan ethics around loved ones who don’t quite understand. (Sound effects are by Emmy winner Eric Milano.)
A Radio Play
RICHARD & LISA- Husband and wife, childless, semi-retired in their late 40s. Married long enough to finish each other’s sentences but not long enough to appreciate the assistance.
CHARLEY- The critter guy. A few years short of retirement, though probably never will.
MEG - Animal rights activist. Early 30s. With her tattooed arms and chest, she dresses to display as many as legally possible.
TIME- Just before Thanksgiving.
SETTING- A craftsman home in a small, rural Oregon town.
For scene transitions, use the sounds of sanctuary animals, such as a cow,horse, rooster. Sound effects are noted throughout but may be omitted if they become distracting, such as “feet ascending stairs.”
RICHARD: I’ve been waiting all week for this.
(Sounds of wine bottle opening.)
LISA: Did you hear that?
RICHARD: That is the sound of a 2012 Applegate Valley Viognier.
LISA: No. Upstairs. Sounds like crying.
RICHARD: I didn’t hear anything. Lisa, please. Sit down. Dinner’s ready.
LISA: It’s Theo. He’s upset.
RICHARD: Well, maybe he just needs to cry a bit. C’mon, it’s time you relaxed.
LISA: I can’t. Not while he’s suffering.
RICHARD: Why do you automatically assume he’s suffering?
LISA: You think he wants to be alone up there? He can’t stand to be apart from us.
RICHARD: But you were just up there.
LISA: I know, I know.
RICHARD: If you go back up, you’ll be rewarding that behavior. He’ll cry even more.
LISA: And I’m just supposed to ignore him? Like you?
LISA: What if he hurt himself?
RICHARD: He didn’t. Trust me. He just wants attention. Now, Lisa, for the love of God, let’s eat. I’ve made chicken piccata, which at one point was warm.
LISA: And for me?
RICHARD: You can easily pick off the chicken.
LISA: Jesus, Richard.
RICHARD: Is it so awful if the nasty meat touches your pasta?
LISA: I specifically asked you to prepare my plate separately.
RICHARD: If you were down here helping instead of obsessing over Theo maybe I wouldn’t have screwed it up.
LISA: I’ve made a real effort to cut back on meat, and I wish for once you’d support me.
RICHARD: Just because your diet is whacko doesn’t mean I don’t support you.
LISA: I’m going upstairs.
RICHARD: Wait! I’m sorry. I was kidding. Have some wine.
LISA: Promise me you’ll spend time with him tomorrow.
RICHARD: I always do. An hour a day.
LISA: I need more than an hour. I’ve got that volunteer thing at the animal sanctuary.
RICHARD: For the speeding ticket? I believe that’s called community service.
LISA: I was hardly speeding.
RICHARD: This isn’t Seattle, and you don’t have a job to get to on time. You can afford to drive a lot slower in this town.
LISA: He’s crying again.
RICHARD: Let him be.
LISA: He just wants to see us, to know we haven’t abandoned him. He doesn’t understand. He hates me.
RICHARD: He doesn’t hate you.
LISA: I’m a horrible parent.
RICHARD: Lisa, you’re not. You’re a wonderful parent.
LISA: Do you mean that?
RICHARD: Yes, with all my heart. But I want you to understand something, okay?
RICHARD: Theo. Is. A cat.
LISA: Doesn’t mean he’s not miserable up there.
RICHARD: I agree. But we’re following doctor’s orders. We spent three grand on getting that back leg repaired and the only way it’s going to heal is if he stays locked up in a place where he can’t jump onto furniture, counters, beds. And our walk-in shower is a heck of a lot more spacious than that metal cage they told us to use.
LISA: It’s cold in there.
RICHARD: It’s lined with my comforter. Your Calvin Klein plush throw. A half-dozen pillows. Hell, I could sleep in there.
LISA: Is that a promise? (then) I’m kidding, kidding. Where’s my glass? Okay, I want to make a toast. To Theo. (then) What’s wrong?
RICHARD: (whispering) Did you hear that?
RICHARD: No. It’s coming from the attic. A scratching sound. I sure hope we don’t have squirrels nesting up there.
LISA: Maybe Barnaby’s cold.
LISA: A squirrel. He’s a regular on the upstairs deck.
RICHARD: You’ve named a squirrel?
LISA: I’ve also sketched him a few times.
RICHARD: He posed?
LISA: Don’t be silly. He just likes hanging out on the deck. I think he uses it to get to the bird feeder. Before Theo got hurt, he and Barnaby used to have staring contests through the window.
RICHARD: How can you name a squirrel? They all look alike.
LISA: I know Barnaby. His tail is short and fat, like he lost part of it. You better not hurt him.
RICHARD: I won’t. I’ll have someone else hurt him.
LISA: Richard, I’m serious.
RICHARD: We can’t have an animal living in our attic.
LISA: We have one living in our bathroom.
RICHARD: That’s different. Squirrels chew through wires. They could start a fire. We just bought this house, for Christ’s sake.
LISA: I don’t care. This is Ashland, Oregon. We live next to a national forest and you act as if animals are supposed to know they’re not allowed near our house.
RICHARD: What if it’s a family of rats?
RICHARD: Yes, rats. We could have rats in our attic. Will you be naming them too?
LISA: Where were we? Oh yes. To Theo.
RICHARD: To Theo.
(Sound of glasses clinking.)
(Next day. Sounds of birds.)
RICHARD: Charlie, thanks for coming over so quickly. My name’s Richard.
CHARLEY: That bird feeder yours?
RICHARD: It came with the house.
CHARLEY: Bad idea. Attracts all kinds of creatures.
RICHARD: Like birds?
CHARLEY: Like rats, raccoons, skunks.
RICHARD: Don’t you want to get into the attic?
CHARLEY: Not yet. I conduct a comprehensive analysis of the perimeter before going inside. Identify all points of entry. The gap in that dryer vent. And that tree should be cut back. A squirrel—assuming it is a squirrel we’re talking about—could drop right onto your roof and make his way inside through an eave.
RICHARD: You think it’s a squirrel?
CHARLEY: Probably a rat. Neighborhood’s full of them. You new in town?
RICHARD: Moved down from Seattle a few months ago.
RICHARD: You’re child-free too?
CHARLEY What? No. Kids spill food, attract rats.
CHARLEY: Ashland is a strange little town. Too many people here feed the animals. Deer. Foxes. Bears. Conditions them to come looking for handouts.
RICHARD: The people or the deer?
CHARLEY: Both. I can take a look at that attic now.
RICHARD: Before we do that, my wife wanted me to ask if you use cruelty-free methods.
CHARLEY: Of course.
RICHARD: You do?
CHARLEY: Some exterminators use poison. Not me.
RICHARD: So you use cages.
CHARLEY: Cages? I use traps. Snaps the neck instantly. They don’t feel a thing.
RICHARD: That’s nice, I guess. My wife—we—were hoping you could remove the creature without actually killing the creature.
CHARLEY: What do you mean? Like catch and release?
RICHARD: Exactly. Catch and release.
CHARLEY: Richard, this ain’t Nature Planet. I can’t sit around in your attic waiting for a rat to wander on up. You see, rats don’t return to the nest every night, sometimes not for weeks. You want cruelty free, you don’t want an exterminator. You want a zookeeper. Now show me the attic.
(Sound of front door closing. LISA and MEG enter.)
LISA: Welcome to our humble studio, Meg.
MEG: Are you sure I can stay here?
LISA: Of course. I’m not using it, what with our injured cat demanding all my attention. I should move my art supplies out of the way.
MEG: Did you draw this?
LISA: The squirrel? Yeah, I know it’s silly.
LISA: You think?
MEG: You’ve really captured his personality.
LISA: His name is Barnaby. You might see him around.
MEG: I’ve always had a weak spot for the so-called road-kill animals. A few years ago me and my friends did this protest down in LA to draw attention to the carnage. We lay naked along the highway in various poses.
LISA: Completely naked?
MEG: Activism isn’t just about holding up signs. It’s about letting go of inhibitions, using your body, your sexuality, to open eyes and minds. Why do you think I have the word Vegan tattooed across my chest? It’s the best billboard I have— why not make the most of it?
LISA: If only I had a billboard like yours.
MEG: It’s not the size that matters. It’s the location. You have very nice legs.
LISA: You think?
MEG: I do. You could put a tattoo right here, on your calf.
LISA: What would it say?
MEG: Vegan. How long have you been?
LISA: How long? Oh gosh, it’s hard to pick an exact date.
MEG: Most people remember the day, sometimes down to the hour.
LISA: I’ve never been good with time. My husband can vouch for that.
MEG: Is he vegan?
LISA: Hardly. He keeps saying I’m going through a phase. I think he’s in denial.
MEG: Denial is stage one.
LISA: What’s stage two?
MEG: Anger. But you’ll get used to it. If you’re not pissing people off, you’re not doing things right.
LISA: Meg, speaking of pissing people off, what are you doing for Thanksgiving?
MEG: Trying to pretend that 46 million turkeys haven’t just died. In other words, drinking.
LISA: Why don’t you come over and drink with us? I’ll cook up a plant-based feast. You can meet Theo.
MEG: Is that your husband?
LISA: No, Theo’s the cat. But you can meet Richard, too.
MEG: Will he be eating turkey?
LISA: Nope. He just doesn’t know it yet.
(Later that day. Courtyard. Sounds of RICHARD breathing heavily, having finished a jog.)
RICHARD: (calling out) Lisa? You in the studio? You left the door open.
(Sound of a shower running.)
Lisa? Why are you showering in here? You want company?
(Sound of water turning off. Shower curtain yanked aside.)
MEG: You must be Richard.
RICHARD: Oh, my god, I’m sorry. I thought you were Lisa.
MEG: Do I look like Lisa?
RICHARD: No. You. The front door was open.
MEG: I know. And now the shower curtain is open. With you standing there. Staring.
RICHARD: I didn’t mean to.
MEG: You didn’t?
RICHARD: No. I mean. I didn’t mean to barge in. I was out there. I saw the open door. I heard the water. I thought a pipe had burst.
MEG: I think it very nearly did.
RICHARD: This is my house, right?
MEG: Richard, I’m Meg. Your wife said I could stay here.
MEG: Is there another?
RICHARD: No. I just. How do you two know each other?
MEG: We met at the animal sanctuary. Where I work. I should probably get dressed.
RICHARD: Me too. I mean, undressed. I mean. I need a shower. (quietly) A cold shower.
(Sound of front door opening.)
LISA: That was a long run.
RICHARD: I met our neighbor.
LISA: Now, before you fly off the handle, I was going to ask you—
RICHARD: It’s okay.
LISA: What’s okay?
RICHARD: It’s silly to leave that studio empty when there are people out there who need a place to live.
LISA: We’re talking about the same person, right? Meg?
RICHARD: The girl with the tattoos on her—yes. Meg.
LISA: I was worried you’d take one look and want nothing to do with her.
RICHARD: I’d like to think I’m a bit more open minded than you give me credit for.
LISA: How far did you run exactly?
RICHARD: Not far. You know, maybe we should invite her over for Thanksgiving.
LISA: I already did. Why are you suddenly feeling social?
RICHARD: I figured it would be a nice gesture. We can’t eat a whole turkey ourselves.
LISA: Meg doesn’t eat turkey. She’s vegan.
RICHARD: So that’s what was written on her—wait, vegan is worse than vegetarian, right?
LISA: It’s better. No dairy. No eggs. No leather.
RICHARD: I’m glad you’re not that extreme.
LISA: I am now.
RICHARD: Since when?
LISA: Since meeting Meg.
RICHARD: You can’t just become a vegan like that.
LISA: Why not? It’s not as if I need a license. I was headed in that direction anyway. Just another small step in my journey toward a more compassionate life.
RICHARD: That’s more than a small step, Lisa. That’s leaping across the goddamned Grand Canyon.
LISA: You could take this opportunity to join me.
RICHARD: I don’t think so. That is one leap too far. (then) Wait a second, you’re serious about this? No turkey?
LISA: That’s right.
RICHARD: Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day of giving thanks, not a day of giving up everything to be thankful for.
LISA: Don’t be so dramatic. It’ll be fun. Instead of eating a turkey we’ll adopt a turkey with a donation to the sanctuary. Meg works there, you know. I was also thinking you and I could start volunteering a few days a week. (then) Are you feeling okay? You don’t look so well.
RICHARD: Maybe I did run too far.
(Wildwoods Animal Sanctuary. Sounds of animals.)
LISA: How’s Abigail doing?
MEG: She’s taken to caring for Buddy, the calf we adopted six months ago. And I think Buddy likes having someone to look after him.
LISA: It’s so peaceful here. My parents used to take me to the zoo every summer and I hated going because the animals never looked happy. Never had enough room. Always pacing. But here, they have so much room. And there’s no pacing. It’s the opposite of a zoo.
MEG: One day we’ll look back at zoos the way we look back at the Roman coliseum. When animals retire with us, they’re not expected to perform or be visible to humans. They’re expected to be themselves, finally, themselves. The horses, they were raised to carry humans on their backs—the cows, to have milk stolen from their bodies. The pigs, to give birth on demand. And now, they can relax, and recover, as much as possible. They get a few moments in life to be as they were intended. They can’t tell us they’re happy. But you can see it. In the way they walk, or in how deeply they sleep. Or the first time they begin to play with one another.
LISA: I could learn something from them.
MEG: What do you mean?
LISA: I’ve been semi-retired now for three months and I feel more stressed than I was in Seattle. I was raised by a pair of type As. Maybe that’s the problem. A fear of standing still. Or wasting time. I can’t even listen to music on the radio anymore; it has to be NPR. And now that all my old college friends are connected on these social networks, we’re still competing, showing off our babies and cars and second homes like report cards for all to see. I wanted out. I really did. I thought coming down here would help. But you can’t escape the Internet, can you?
MEG: It’s not about escaping. Your problem is that you’re still performing for others. It’s like you’ve got a bit in your mouth and spurs at your sides. And you’re being pushed along at full gallop.
LISA: So how do I stop?
MEG: Simple. You toss off your rider.
LISA: Sounds simple enough. Growing up, I never liked the taste of meat. But I always cleaned my plate, did what I was told. I wanted to be the good girl.
MEG: Take it from me. Bad girls have more fun.
LISA: We’ll test out that theory tomorrow, when, according to Richard, I will ruin Thanksgiving as he knows it.
MEG: Richard should be grateful that you haven’t left him already.
LISA: I think he has a crush on you.
MEG: Too bad for him. I’m not his type.
LISA: Not into men?
MEG: I’m into men. And women. Just not carnivores.
(Morning. Sounds of LISA sniffling. RICHARD enters.)
RICHARD: Lisa? What’s wrong?
RICHARD: Did somebody die?
LISA: No, no. Meg emailed me an undercover video from a turkey farm in Missouri.
RICHARD: Not another one.
LISA: It’s not another one. The last one was a chicken farm. This is turkeys. I’ll send you the link.
RICHARD: No. Please.
LISA: Why not?
RICHARD: Because I don’t like to watch those videos.
LISA: You of all people should be watching. What people do to these animals. You have no idea.
RICHARD: I have a pretty good idea. But can I help it if I crave turkey for Thanksgiving?
LISA: Too bad. You’re outnumbered, two vegans to none.
RICHARD: And what if I had a friend over who wanted turkey?
LISA: For that to happen you would first need a friend.
RICHARD: What I need is my protein.
LISA: That’s crap, and you know it. You can get just as much protein from beans and tofu, and with none of the artery-clogging cholesterol.
RICHARD: Why is it that every conversation between us gets interrupted by a public service announcement? (Sound of the fridge opening.) Hey, where’s the milk?
LISA: I don’t drink milk anymore.
RICHARD: But I do.
LISA: Then you can go buy some.
RICHARD: I’m supposed to get my own groceries now?
LISA: Meg made a very good point the other day. She said that if women stopped serving meat for dinner, most men would become vegetarians overnight. But most women are too worried about disappointing their husbands to take a stand.
RICHARD: You appear to have cleared that hurdle without a hitch.
LISA: I know this is challenging. It’s going to take some getting used to.
RICHARD: For you or for me?
LISA: For us, Richard, for us.
RICHARD: But I’m not vegan!
(Faint sound of cat meowing.)
LISA: You woke Theo.
RICHARD: I have ears.
LISA: It doesn’t bother you?
RICHARD: Of course it bothers me. That’s why I’ve got noise-canceling headphones.
LISA: You could also, I don’t know, go up there and see what’s wrong.
RICHARD: I’d be howling too if I was stuck up there. Look, we’ve just got four weeks left and he’ll be a free cat.
LISA: I don’t know if I can make it that long.
RICHARD: What are you saying? That you’re liable to snap before his leg heals?
LISA: I’m just exhausted, that’s all. You complain about not having the peace and quiet you need to write your great American novel. But I haven’t done any painting either.
RICHARD: This is ironic, isn’t it? You’re not sleeping. We’re on edge, arguing all the time. And over a 12-pound cat. If Theo were a child he’s be in junior high now and at least we’d have something to show for all our efforts besides a pillow-lined master bath.
LISA: So you want children now?
RICHARD: No. It’s just that we didn’t have kids so we could be free. Weekends free of birthday parties and soccer matches. Traveling the world on a whim. I felt like we were in on some secret that nobody else had figured out. But the fact is we simply replaced one child with another, one that will never leave home. (then) Where are you going?
LISA: I’m going to the sanctuary—traveling on a whim. Want to come?
RICHARD: I’ve—I’ve got plans.
LISA: I’ll bet you do.
(Sound of a blender gone wild.)
RICHARD: What’s going on in here? Did something explode?
LISA: The top came off the blender.
RICHARD: It’s like a crime scene; I can’t even see the countertop. What is this stuff?
LISA: Cashews. I’m making cashew cheese. And failing. I should have practiced beforehand.
RICHARD: Lisa, why are you doing this to yourself? You realize we still have real cheese in the fridge.
LISA: That’s not the point.
RICHARD: But look at you. You’re running around like a madwoman. If you had simply cooked our normal meal you’d be sitting on the couch drinking wine right now.
LISA: This is our normal meal. (Knock at the front door.) Please tell me that isn’t Meg.
(Sound of door opening.)
CHARLEY: Happy Thanksgiving.
RICHARD: Come on in, Charley.
LISA: I didn’t know you were working today.
RICHARD: Charley, I believe I heard a trap go off last night in the attic.
CHARLEY: I’ll have a look. You two don’t mind if I step away for a moment, do you?
LISA: Not at all.
CHARLEY: Oh, and before I forget, here’s a bottle of wine. Nothing fancy.
(Sound of heavy feet ascending stairs.)
LISA: Why do I get the feeling Charley is planning to stay awhile?
RICHARD: Because I invited him.
LISA: You invited the rat guy to our Thanksgiving?
RICHARD: He prefers critter guy.
LISA: Why on earth did you do that?
RICHARD: You said I needed to start making friends.
LISA: Yes, but doesn’t he have his own family to spend the day with?
RICHARD: His wife died a few years ago. Kids live across the country.
LISA: Well, I hope he’s not expecting turkey.
RICHARD: That’s just it. Charley is very old-school about Thanksgiving.
LISA: Oh. I see what you’re doing. It’s not going to work.
RICHARD: He’s our guest, Lisa
LISA: He’s your guest and it wouldn’t kill him to go without meat for a day. (lowers voice) He could stand to lose a few.
RICHARD: You said that if I had a guest who wanted turkey that we could serve it.
LISA: Richard, please. Don’t you think that’s just a little bit insulting to Meg?
RICHARD: So it’s okay to insult Charley instead?
LISA: Why are you doing this to me? I am going crazy as it is just trying to decipher these recipes.
RICHARD: What are you cooking, anyway?
LISA: I am trying to make a lentil casserole, braised mushroom stew, gnocchi with tomatoes and eggplant, and, if I haven’t yet died of a heart attack, a white bean butternut and kale soup. With vegan pecan pie for dessert. Oh, shit!
(Sound of frantic opening and closing of cupboard doors.)
RICHARD: What’s wrong?
LISA: I forgot something. Damnit!
LISA: Vegetable broth. They come in little cubes.
RICHARD: We have cubes.
LISA: Those are chicken cubes.
RICHARD: Meg won’t know.
LISA: Of course she’ll know. Can you please run out and pick up some?
RICHARD: If I leave this house I’m coming home with a turkey.
LISA: Fine. I’ll go out.
RICHARD: This is nuts. Just use the chicken cubes.
(Knock on front door.)
LISA: Oh, God. That’s her.
MEG: (calling out) Hello. It’s the vegan who came to dinner.
LISA: Hi Meg, come on in. (whispering) Please don’t let her in the kitchen. I don’t want her to see this.
RICHARD: Hey, Meg. Let me take you up to meet Theo.
MEG: Before you do that, you got any nutritional yeast I can use?
RICHARD: Nutritional yeast?
RICHARD: That sounds like a question for Lisa.
RICHARD: Because I’m not a woman.
MEG: You have no idea what nutritional yeast is, do you?
LISA: Hi, Meg. Happy Thanksgiving.
MEG: Your husband thinks I have some sort of yeast infection.
RICHARD: How am I supposed to know what nutritional yeast is?
MEG: I’m addicted to that shit. I was going to add it to this snack mix I brought over.
LISA: How nice of you.
MEG: Can I help with the cooking?
RICHARD: Do you have a hazmat outfit?
(Sound of heavy footsteps.)
CHARLEY: False alarm. The traps are empty.
MEG: Who’s this?
RICHARD: This is Charley. Charley, Meg.
CHARLEY: Hi there.
MEG: Have I seen you before?
RICHARD: Charley is the—
LISA: Charley has been helping us clean out the attic.
CHARLEY: That’s one way of putting it.
LISA: Richard, why don’t you talk to Charley about the this evening’s menu while I take Meg up to meet Theo.
(Sounds of feet ascending stairs.)
RICHARD: Right. Charley, I’m afraid I have some bad news. There was a little miscommunication between me and Lisa and, well, there’s no turkey.
CHARLEY: No turkey?
RICHARD: I understand if you want to leave.
CHARLEY: What if I were to find us a turkey?
RICHARD: I couldn’t ask you to do that. Besides, nothing’s open.
CHARLEY: I make no promises. But they don’t call me the critter guy for nothing.
(Sound of front door closing following by feet running downstairs.)
LISA: Where’s Charley?
RICHARD: He stepped out.
LISA: He was upset, wasn’t he?
RICHARD: Actually, he took the news surprisingly well. Where are you going?
LISA: Where do you think? Just do me a favor and keep Meg far away from Charlie. She can’t find out what he does for a living. I don’t want anyone getting hurt.
RICHARD: Meg will be fine.
LISA: I’m talking about Charlie.
(Sound of a manual typewriter.)
MEG: Did I just travel through a time machine?
MEG: That typewriter. Lisa told me you were a bit older than her but I had no idea.
RICHARD: Very funny.
MEG: Where is everybody?
RICHARD: Out running errands.
MEG: And what are you working on?
RICHARD: A novel.
MEG: Now it all makes sense.
RICHARD: What do you mean?
MEG: A typewriter is the perfect device for someone stuck in the past.
RICHARD: I’m not stuck. And I’m no luddite if that’s what you’re getting at.
MEG: I just think it’s very interesting that you have no problem surviving without spell-check yet you can’t go a day without meat.
RICHARD: Humans don’t need spell-check to survive. You can talk all you want about tofu but if we were cavemen, we’d be back killing animals by hand.
MEG: Oh yes, the paleo argument. Humans have adapted to wearing clothing, using electricity, driving cars, talking on cellphones—and yet when it comes to dinner, we are completely incapable of evolution.
RICHARD: It’s in our DNA.
MEG: Apes live almost entirely on plants. How do you explain that one, Mr. Professor?
RICHARD: I don’t want to argue with you. I’ve done enough of that already with Lisa.
MEG: It wouldn’t kill you to support your wife once in a while.
RICHARD: You don’t know my wife. If I hold strong, this diet will pass like all other diets that came before.
MEG: This is not just any diet, Richard. This is a way of life.
RICHARD: It’s a way of life that I won’t be living.
(Sound of front door opening.)
CHARLEY: Dinner is served.
MEG: Holy crap!
CHARLEY: Isn’t he a beaut?
RICHARD: You killed a wild turkey?
CHARLEY: And a big one at that. Nine pounds. No need to defrost this fella.
MEG: I’m going to be sick.
CHARLEY: I guess I won’t ask you to help me skin him.
MEG: Was this your idea?
RICHARD: No. I thought he was running to the store, not the woods.
MEG: I can’t believe you, the both of you. How are you going to explain this to your wife?
RICHARD: I’ll tell her that it’s just part of Charley’s job.
MEG: Job? You’re that exterminator?
CHARLEY: I prefer critter guy.
(Sound of a mouse trap snapping shut.)
MEG: What the hell was that?
CHARLEY: Sounds like we just caught ourselves a rat.
MEG: And now you have your appetizer.
RICHARD: Wait! Meg! Come back!
CHARLEY: Looks like it’s just going to be you and me.
RICHARD: You can say that again. (Sound of tires screeching.) What was that?
CHARLEY: Looks like your wife’s car.
CHARLEY: Don't worry, she’s walking away. Looks a little shaken up.
RICHARD: Lisa? Lisa, are you okay?
MEG: Lisa hit a squirrel.
RICHARD: Oh, thank God.
MEG: She’s in shock, Richard.
RICHARD: What are you holding? Lisa?
MEG: What do you think?
RICHARD: This isn’t that squirrel? The short tail?
MEG: It’s Barnaby. Just place him on the porch, hon. We can give him a proper burial later.
CHARLEY: You know, I could skin the squirrel too. Depends on how hungry you all are.
RICHARD: The turkey is enough, Charley.
CHARLEY: Richard told me you needed one, so I shot one above Lithia Park.
LISA: Richard, how could you?
RICHARD: It was an honest mistake. Lisa? Honey?
(Sound of footsteps heading up stairs.)
MEG: Richard, go up with her.
RICHARD: Not yet. The cat will calm her down. She just needs time with Theo.
MEG: Theo and a Xanax maybe. I’m serious. She’s losing her shit. If you don’t go up there, I will.
RICHARD: Leave her a moment. The cat will calm her down.
MEG: This is all your fault.
RICHARD: I didn’t run over the damn squirrel.
CHARLEY: Hey, Richard, you got a carving knife?
RICHARD: Top drawer in the kitchen.
MEG: She’s been on edge all day because you and critter guy insisted on eating turkey.
RICHARD: The only reason she’s on edge is because she’s been busting her to ass to cook you the perfect meal. Would it have killed you to eat chicken stock?
MEG: That’s what her errand was about?
RICHARD: Yes. She didn’t have any vegetarian cubes, and she didn’t want to offend her precious houseguest. So in an effort to save one animal’s life, she ends up taking another.
MEG: I’m going to go check on her.
RICHARD: No. Meg – wait! (Sound of feet running upstairs.) Crap. Now I’m going to look like a total ass because I’m not up there comforting my wife. But it was a squirrel, for crying out loud. Does every road kill deserve a 21-gun salute?
CHARLEY: I can’t find the knife, Richard.
RICHARD: It should be here. Unless Lisa took it.
MEG: (calling out) Richard. Call 9-1-1.
LISA: How long have I been asleep?
MEG: A few weeks.
MEG: Just messing with you. It’s only been a few hours.
LISA: That’s not funny.
MEG: Hospitals bring out the dark side in me.
LISA: Where’s Richard?
MEG: In the hall. Pacing. You know, you’re supposed to cut along the veins, not against them. Ensures the veins don’t close up, so you bleed out.
LISA: I wasn’t trying to bleed out.
MEG: You did a pretty good job of fooling me.
LISA: I was just so, so angry—
MEG: I know. You had a hell of a day. But you know these squirrels. Sometimes you just can’t avoid them.
LISA: I was going too fast. I always go too fast.
MEG: You’re being too hard on yourself.
LISA: In Seattle, there was this squirrel that used to frequent our apartment balcony. I think the previous tenant used to feed him, so I continued feeding him. I know I shouldn’t have because it kept him coming around our street. Then one rainy morning I was headed out to work and I saw him. In the middle of Western Ave. A body flushed out of a truck’s wheel well. Blood dripping out of his mouth, still alive, still moving, trying to make it back to the sidewalk. Then another set of wheels. And another. I don’t remember running into the street but apparently I did. I do remember our doorman, picking me up from the sidewalk. I was holding this motionless animal in my hands. You know what the doorman said? He said, “It’s just a squirrel.” I could have strangled him right then and there. Just like Theo is just a cat. I’m just a crazy cat lady. How many lives have been ruined by that word?
MEG: I’m sorry.
LISA: That’s why we’re here, you see. Living in this tiny Oregon town, far from the city streets and the highway and rush hour, and I was going to get it right this time. So what do I do? I drive too fast. Because I’m crazy out of my mind with my husband resenting me and me trying to do something right for once. Cook a compassionate meal. Cruelty fucking free.
MEG: It’s not your fault.
LISA: Like hell it isn’t.
MEG: Fair enough. You’re going to have to learn to live with that. Just like you’re going to have to learn to live with the knowledge that you spent most of your life responsible for the death of thousands of animals. For the record, so do I.
LISA: You ate animals?
MEG: Of course. I’m from Texas. My parents had an easier time accepting that I was into girls than they did accepting that I didn’t want to eat my Grammy’s meatloaf!
LISA: How do you turn it off? This awful awareness?
MEG: I find vodka helps.
RICHARD: (calls from hall) Lisa?
MEG: He’s been loitering out there all night. I can send him home.
LISA: No. It’s okay. You can let him in. Thanks for taking care of me.
MEG: Now it’s time for you to do a little of that yourself.
(Meg exits as Richard enters, tentatively)
RICHARD: Lisa, how are you doing?
LISA: I’m fine. Fine. When can I get out of here?
RICHARD: It might be a while. Someone from psych needs to see you.
RICHARD: I am sorry. About the squirrel.
LISA: His name is Barnaby.
RICHARD: I’m sorry about Barnaby.
LISA: But you’re not sorry about the turkey.
RICHARD: I’m sorry that things have gotten so tense between us.
LISA: I used to feel like this marriage was my sanctuary. I could be myself around you.
RICHARD: You still can.
LISA: Not without being ridiculed. Treated as if I’m crazy.
RICHARD: Lisa, you cut your wrists over a squirrel.
LISA: It wasn’t only about the squirrel.
RICHARD: Our first date. Where did we go?
LISA: You know where.
RICHARD: Capitol Grille. I had the steak, and you had...
LISA: Richard, please.
RICHARD: What did you order? What did you eat?
LISA: Veal. Are you trying to make me feel worse?
RICHARD: No. I’m just saying that some of my best memories are of the meals we shared. The Fenway Franks at Red Sox games. All those nights out at Legal Seafood. Am I supposed to regret all of that?
LISA: Just the food.
RICHARD: I can’t regret one part and not the rest. I don’t regret any of it. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m a mass murderer of animals just like Meg says. I don’t care. It’s who I am. It’s how I was raised. It’s in me.
LISA: It’s not in me. Not anymore.
RICHARD: This is all my fault.
LISA: It’s not. It’s my journey.
RICHARD: It is my fault. If Theo hadn’t gotten hurt, you wouldn’t have gotten obsessed with the—with Barnaby—and we wouldn’t be here right now. I started this.
LISA: I’m the one who went vegan. And you didn’t run over Barnaby—I did that.
RICHARD: I hurt Theo.
LISA: You what?
RICHARD: I hurt Theo. I lied to you.
LISA: What did you do?
RICHARD: He was on the counter. I yelled at him to get down, but he wouldn’t, just like always. So I squirted that water bottle at him, and for some reason he wasn’t expecting it because he practically fell off the counter trying to get away. He landed wrong. That’s how he hurt his leg. He wasn’t playing, like I told you. He was running away from me.
LISA: He could have done the same thing on his own.
RICHARD: But he didn’t. I did it to him. And I don’t even know why I did it, only that he drives me insane when he jumps on that damn counter. So what if he licks the stove—what do I care? Except that I do. I’ve always wanted him to, I don’t know, not act so much like a cat. I won’t make fun of your diet anymore. I promise.
LISA: I don’t blame you for Theo. Or Barnaby. I don’t blame you for not supporting my lifestyle. You are the same man I married. I’m the one who changed.
RICHARD: That’s okay. We’ll figure it out.
LISA: There’s nothing to figure out. This isn’t a negotiation. There’s nothing to compromise. You believe that eating animals is okay, and I don’t. And as trivial as that may seem to you, it means everything to me. That's why I think we need to take a break.
LISA: I would appreciate, before I get home tomorrow, that you move into the studio.
RICHARD: It’s my home too.
LISA: I’d move to the studio myself, but I want to be with our cat.
RICHARD: What about Meg?
LISA: Let me worry about her.
RICHARD: It’s all the drugs. You’re not thinking clearly.
LISA: I’ve never been more clear.
RICHARD: Fine. I’ll move out of the damn house. That house, by the way, was my sanctuary. Not that you care. But I’ll move out because you want me out. You want the house. Fine. Take the fucking house. Take the fucking cat.
(Courtyard sounds. Knock on studio door.)
RICHARD: Pack up. You’re being evicted.
MEG: What’s the hurry?
RICHARD: None of your business.
MEG: She kicked you out, didn’t she?
RICHARD: It’s none of your business.
MEG: It’s about time.
RICHARD: Is this your idea of activism? Breaking up marriages?
MEG: You did that all on your own, Richard. Would it have killed you to share one of her meals for once? Or take her to the Red Onion?
RICHARD: The Red Onion is for health nuts and hippies.
MEG: And the occasional happily married couple.
RICHARD: Lisa was perfectly happy as a part-time vegetarian, and then you come along with your extremism and suddenly she’s not good enough. She goes from savior to sinner overnight. And all to please you.
MEG: She’s not doing it for me.
RICHARD: Of course she is. She looks up to you. She envies your free-spirited life. And I watch her with her new cookbook and the websites, and all I can see is a woman running a race without an end.
MEG: You make it sound harder than it is.
RICHARD: Answer me this. Can you be 99 percent vegan?
MEG: What do you mean?
RICHARD: I mean, can you be vegan six days out of the week and on day seven splurge on a Bacon Egg & Cheese? Would you still be vegan?
MEG: Of course not.
RICHARD: Even most religions aren’t that severe. You can be a Christian and still sin on occasion.
MEG: Veganism isn’t a religion.
RICHARD: Oh, it is. You want everyone to feel guilty, so they come to you. The church of veganism. To wash away their sins. And let’s not forget the side benefit—you get to judge others, all of us carnivorous heathens. And you have your gurus. Your tithing. And your endless debates over which celebrity is a real vegan or just a poseur.
MEG: We don’t promise salvation.
RICHARD: Sure, you do. You promise salvation by way of compassion. You preach that not to be a vegan is to live in sin.
MEG: I’m not sure what you’re trying to prove here, Richard. All I can say is that I’d rather be an imperfect vegan than a perfect carnivore.
RICHARD: Where are you going?
RICHARD: That’s my home.
MEG: Not anymore, it’s not.
RICHARD: You’re moving in with my wife?
MEG: That’s right. Your wife—make that ex-wife—invited me.
RICHARD: Fine. You can have her.
MEG: Oh I intend to.
MEG: Bye, Richard.
(Living room. Sounds of a coffee maker.)
MEG: Hey, sleepyhead. How you feeling?
LISA: I can’t believe I slept in. What’s all this?
MEG: I once worked as a sous chef at a vegan joint in New York. Picked up a thing or two.
LISA: You spoil me.
MEG: That’s the idea.
LISA: About what happened last night...
MEG: You want an encore performance?
LISA: I, I don’t know what came over me.
MEG: I do. Me.
LISA: I’ve never done this sort of thing before.
MEG: Do you regret it?
LISA: No. Not at all. Do you?
MEG: What do you think?
LISA: I think you have very few regrets.
MEG: Don't worry. I’m not the nesting type.
LISA: You serve animals, not people.
LISA: Maybe I could come out to the sanctuary with you. Spend the day. Would they let me sketch a few of the animals?
MEG: I don’t see why not.
LISA: I was thinking I could donate my artwork. To help raise money.
MEG: That’s a great idea. You are a special woman. (The distant sound of a manual typewriter coming from the studio interrupts the moment.) There he goes again. If he’s going to keep this up, I might have to file a noise complaint.
LISA: It’s okay. It’s nice to hear him writing again.
MEG: I can’t believe you lived with this racket.
LISA: I like typewriters too. That one over there is mine.
MEG: The red Olympia?
LISA: Richard gave it to me after I moved in with him.
MEG: I guess Victoria’s Secret was closed.
LISA: You don’t understand. There were plenty of men who would have given me lingerie or jewelry. I worked in marketing at a software company, and had no shortage of admirers. It didn’t hurt any that the ratio of males to females there was about a hundred to one. I gorged myself on eligible men. Men with more disposable income than free time. They bought me everything, anything I wanted. It was only money to them, and they had too much of it. They were getting older, desperate for a wife and a family. I think that’s why I was so drawn to Richard. He didn’t want a family. And he didn’t throw money at me. For months the only sign I had that he liked me were these goofy typewritten notes he sent via interoffice memo. His version of texting me.
MEG: Judging by the racket he’s making next door, I’d say he just discovered sexting. (In the distance, the sound of typewriter dinging.)
(Sounds of hammering a post into the ground.)
RICHARD: Charley, I really appreciate you helping.
CHARLEY: When I heard you were living out here I felt a little bit responsible.
RICHARD: Thanksgiving was not your fault. I invited you.
CHARLEY: Where’s the tattoo girl?
RICHARD: She’s in there.
CHARLEY: She’s living your wife?
RICHARD: It’s temporary.
CHARLEY: I’ve heard that one before. Like I said, is a funny little town.
RICHARD: You think this sign will do any good?
CHARLEY: It can’t hurt. Now hold it straight. A few more taps should do it.
(Sounds of more hammering.)
RICHARD: Barnaby would be proud.
RICHARD: The squirrel.
CHARLEY: If I named every animal I came across I’d need a telephone book.
RICHARD: Do you ever feel guilty? About all the killing?
CHARLEY: Sometimes. But I tell myself that I’m not the judge nor the jury. I’m just the executioner.
(Sound of front door opening.)
MEG: Richard, what I have told you about keeping it down out here?
RICHARD: Evict me, why don’t you?
CHARLEY: What do you think of the sign?
MEG: “Squirrel crossing.” Not bad. Now you just need a skunk crossing sign, deer crossing sign, raccoon crossing sign—
CHARLEY: You’d run out of street first.
MEG: It’s a nice gesture, Richard. There’s hope for you yet.
CHARLEY: What about me?
MEG: You kill animals for a living.
CHARLEY: It’s just a job.
MEG: Would you give it all up to have sex with me?
CHARLEY: Just tell me where and when.
MEG: Then there’s hope for you too, Charley.
CHARLEY: Wait—where are you going?
RICHARD: I think she was speaking rhetorically.
CHARLEY: Ah well, I got places to be.
RICHARD: I hope to see you around.
CHARLIE: I can guarantee it. Your neighbor’s got an ant infestation. Here comes your wife. See you later.
LISA: That squirrel looks awfully familiar.
RICHARD: I modeled him after Barnaby.
LISA: It’s nice. Thank you.
RICHARD: Living out here I had no idea how many squirrel there were in our yard. I can hear them running across the roof. You know the sound that squirrels make? Like birds chirping?
LISA: I do.
RICHARD: I always thought it was birds making that noise. I never bothered to just stop and look up.
LISA: I’m surprised you can hear them over your typing. It sounds like your book is coming along.
RICHARD: It’s not what I thought I would be writing.
LISA: Not a sci-fi thriller?
RICHARD: It’s about an animal rights activist. She’s a hero of sorts.
RICHARD: Yeah, well, I suppose I’m starting to understand what it feels like to be an outsider. So, how are you and Meg doing?
LISA: I’m not entirely sure. Meg, you know, is a free spirit. But she’s been good to me.
RICHARD: You deserve that. I’m sorry I wasn’t more supportive.
LISA: If I were to do it again I might not have pushed you so hard. We go at our own pace.
RICHARD: Speaking of, how is Theo?
LISA: He’s walking around, no limp. Desperately wants his freedom. You want to come say hi?
RICHARD: I’d love to. But it might be safer when your significant other is away, speaking of—
LISA: Meg, what’s with the backpack?
MEG: A little last minute I know, but I have to be somewhere.
RICHARD: You’re leaving?
MEG: Wipe that smile off your face, Richard. No, she didn’t kick me out. There’s a sanctuary in Utah. They need help, like real bad. And this sanctuary is on good footing now, so I go where I’m needed.
LISA: You’re still needed here.
MEG: I rescue animals. Not people.
LISA: You do a little of both. When will I see you again?
MEG: I’m sure I’ll pass through again before long.
RICHARD: You’ll be in the studio next time.
MEG: If he doesn’t dedicate his book to you, I’ll kick his ass.
LISA: Don’t worry, I’ll do it first. Stay in touch, okay?
RICHARD: I guess the coast is now clear. Are you all right?
LISA: I am. I’m good actually. It hasn’t been easy forgiving myself for killing Barnaby but I realized last night that if I hadn’t been driving so fast I wouldn’t have met Meg either. It’s time I slowed down, learned to be more patient, with me, with you, with Theo, with the world.
RICHARD: I was thinking that after we give Theo his dinner, maybe you and I could go out to the Red Onion.
LISA: The Red Onion? You sure you’ll survive?
RICHARD: I’m willing to take that chance. At least at the end of the evening we might have a restaurant memory that we both can look back on fondly.
LISA: At least until you get the check. Look up in the tree! A squirrel!
RICHARD: Yeah, that’s Elizabeth.
(Lisa and Richard enter the house)
END OF PLAY
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