DEAD & BREATHING

Available in Library

A cranky old cancer patient who just wants to die already does everything she can to convince her hospice caregiver to assist her suicide. Which, hilariously enough, turns out to be a lot.

Read Sample

(The master suite of an old-money home,
where CAROLYN— old and sick and not at
peace with either— sits grumpily in a
claw-foot tub full of water. She is
being carefully bathed by VERONIKA- a
robust woman in her late-thirties whose
loud and loose mouth is miraculously
incongruous to the delicate
deliberateness of her hands.)

VERONIKA
Yes ma’am, I saw a lot of weird stuff in the ER, but that tops’em all. In fact, that’s right about when I decided to get into caring for the elderly. Shit. Old people are generally wise enough to know a watermelon’s got no place up their ass. You gotta appreciate the man’s sense of adventure, though. I bet he’s a real hoot in bed. Or in the produce aisle— ha! If he worked at a grocery store and got an employee discount, that’d be like an endless sale on sex toys for him. That’d be some shit, wouldn’t it? You think his coworkers ever suspected him of being food fetishist? Can you imagine? “Mr. Smith, is that a cucumber in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” HA! That wasn’t his name, by the way— Mr. Smith. I changed the name to protect the… well I was gonna say the innocent, but I think a watermelon up the ass pretty much precludes you from that category. Hell, the watermelon may’ve been the only innocent party up in that camp. Still. I wouldn’t put the man’s business out on the street like that. It’s illegal. And unprofessional. And I am nothing if not professional. Spread’em, sister. I gotta get at your happy flaps…

(Offstage, a doorbell rings.)

VERONIKA (cont.)
Aw, just when the convo was gettin’ good. That’s probably your meds. Listen, if I run and get that, you promise not to pull any crazy old people stunts? You gonna be okay without me for a minute?

(Carolyn just glares at Veronika.)

VERONIKA (cont.)
Okay then. Don’t go slipping off while I’m down there, Ms. Ma’am. (shouting as she goes) I’m comiiiiiing…

(Veronika exits the bathroom. Carolyn
watches her go, heaves a heavy sigh when
she’s gone. Slowly, Carolyn slides down
in the water until she is fully immersed.
She can only stay under for about eight
seconds before she pushes herself back
up, which takes some effort. She takes
a moment to catch her breath before her
eyes land on the sink, which is a
veritable buffet of pharmaceuticals.
Carolyn goes about the business of
getting out of the tub. It takes a little
while, but once she’s out, we see that she
has a surgical scar on her lower-abdomen.
She makes a bee-line for the prescription
meds. She grabs one of the bottles,
tries to read it, can’t. She shakes it
as best she can so that the pills rattle.)

CAROLYN
Mmph.

(She puts down the bottle, picks up
another, shakes it. It produces a
decidedly different rattle. The
right one, apparently, because Carolyn
tries opening the bottle. Fumbling
fingers. Failure.)

CAROLYN (cont.)
(to the bottle)
Fuck you.

(She looks around some more, catches
sight of a hair dryer sitting
on the vanity, goes for it, plugs it
in. She makes her way back over to the
tub. She’s just about there when the
plug is yanked out of the outlet.
She looks back at the unplugged plug,
sighs and rolls her eyes. Just then,
we hear Veronika returning.)

VERONIKA
(off-stage)
Ooooo-wee! Guys applying for delivery man jobs must send pictures in with their resumes, because being fine as hell is
clearly a prerequisite for employment…

(At this, Veronika has opened the door.
She takes a moment to register the sight
of Carolyn standing over the bathtub
with a hair dryer in her hands. Then
she just continues doing what she was
going to do —opening the box of new
prescription meds, arranging them
on the sink, and talking about the
delivery man.)

VERONIKA (cont.)
Maybe it’s just the uniform. I don’t know what it is about men in uniform— that seems to be a universal aphrodisiac. Generally. But that man? Specifically? Mmph! He does that uniform a few different favors.

(Veronika has finished arranging the
meds and is moving toward Carolyn. Over
the following, Veronika takes the hair
dryer from Carolyn, puts it back on the
vanity and starts to help the old woman
back into the tub.)

VERONIKA (cont.)
I imagine he don’t look too bad out of uniform either… heh!

CAROLYN
(resisting Veronika)
Enough.

VERONIKA
Hmm?

CAROLYN
I said enough. I’ve had enough.

VERONIKA
Ooo girl, we ain’t wash the most important bit yet, though. Just two more min—

CAROLYN
That’s not what I mean and you know it, you lowly hussy. Enough. Enough of all of it. Of you and… and… that dumpster you call a mouth. Of being sick. Of this life. This stupid,
useless life that insists on extending itself despite me. I’m sick of it. And anyway, I don’t know how I feel about you being so eager to get at my happy flaps, so let’s not and say we did.

(Pause.)

VERONIKA
Well, go ‘head, Ms. Ma’am! That’s the first time you said more than two words to me since I started here! Good for you! I was starting to think you had cancer of the throat, too. But you alright! And if you don’t want to keep your breadbox clean, that’s fine with me, but we both know your immune system is shot to shit, and that you’re susceptible to infection in the darndest places. Hmph, if you think living is so intolerable now, just wait ‘til you’re living on the toilet, pissing shards of glass.

(A moment before Carolyn grudgingly
starts to get back into the tub.
Veronika tries to help, but Carolyn
waves her off. Once she’s seated,
Veronika gets back to the business of
washing Carolyn. They are quiet for
a moment.)

Cast Requirements

2 Black Women (1 - 30's/40's, 1 - 60's)

Set Description

An old money home; present

Production and Development History

Developed at the Lark