Jan Donley, Author of The Side Door

Plays

Give the Dog a Bone - a look inside the manuscript

Postcard for Give the Dog a Bone

Characters: Cast of Seven

*These three characters should be played by the same actor.

Time: Present, Past

Place: A prairie location in middle America

Some parts of the stage are “indoors,” and some parts are “outdoors.” There are benches and stools (or chairs) that the actors can move to represent the various indoor and outdoor “furnishings.” The set should be impressionistic. For instance, the tree might just be a post on the stage. There is a bridge (maybe the edge of the stage—maybe a rise of some sort) that looks out over the audience, as if the audience is part of the river it spans. All actors can be on stage the whole time, and lights can be used to indicate their entrances and exits.

AT RISE: FRANNY sits on a stool (or chair). A bicycle leans against a tree.

FRANNY It was always about bones. Nothing more than that. You have a fancy psychological name for it. You want to give me a diagnosis. And I’m saying—it was about the bones. Yes, I stopped eating. Yes, I had to be hospitalized, but everyone wanted to fix me by feeding me. I kept saying, “I’m not hungry for food. This is not about food.” But the doctors, the nurses, the psychologists just wanted to feed me—fatten me up. Even though I knew my hunger was not about food, no one listened. (Pause.)
You really think my case is so fascinating? It’s not really. I was a kid who wanted bones. Some girls take to dolls and some girls take to fairly tales. I took to bones. And Mom didn’t like it. (Lights up on ELLEN.)

ELLEN I had a different idea of you.

FRANNY My dad wouldn’t say it out loud, but he kind of thought of me as his son. (Lights up on CALVIN. He hands FRANNY a baseball cap.)

CALVIN Here. Legend has it that if you wear a Cubs cap often enough, someday that damn team will win. (Lights down on ELLEN and CALVIN. FRANNY puts the hat in her lap.)

FRANNY He taught me how to fish. We’d sit on the Ribbon River Bridge, but we couldn’t tell Mom about it. She had this thing about me drowning just like her sisters did.

Frances was 15 when she died. And that was the age I was when Mom really got upset about the bones. (FRANNY stands and puts on Cubs hat. She walks over to her bike. Lights up on ELLEN and CALVIN. FRANNY rolls her bike toward them.)

ELLEN You’ve been out in the prairie again, haven’t you? Look at that shirt. It’s dirty. I just washed it yesterday.

FRANNY I like it dirty.

ELLEN That’s easy for you to say. Wait till you’re my age and doing the laundry.

FRANNY C’mon, Mom. It’s got at least one more good wear in it.

ELLEN You’re just like your Aunt Frances. Isn’t she, Cal?

CALVIN If you say so.

FRANNY Did she get her shirt dirty, too?

ELLEN She was a tomboy-like you.

CALVIN Good Lord, Woman—can’t you ever talk to your daughter without bringing up a dead sister?

ELLEN Don’t call her that.

CALVIN That’s what she is. She was your sister, and now she’s dead.

ELLEN Enough!

FRANNY Did Aunt Frances collect things like I do?

ELLEN What kinds of things? (FRANNY moves back to her stool, takes her baseball cap off, and sits.)

(Lights down on ELLEN and CALVIN.)

FRANNY The first bone I found was so smooth, I couldn’t keep my hands off it. I carried it in my pocket, so I could reach inside and hold on to it. It didn’t matter what kind of mood I was in-the bone always made me feel better. It was smooth and old and absolutely perfect. I thought it was alive. But then one day, I couldn’t find it. (Lights up on ELLEN and CALVIN. ELLEN holds something in her hand.)

(FRANNY puts on cap and stands.)

ELLEN I found a rock in your jeans when I was doing the wash.

FRANNY It’s a bone, Mom. I thought I lost it.

ELLEN You mean to tell me I’m holding onto a bone?

FRANNY Can I have it back?
(FRANNY reaches for it.)

CALVIN A bone? From what?

FRANNY A coyote, I think.

ELLEN Bones belong outside, not inside.

CALVIN Let’s see. (CALVIN reaches for it.)

ELLEN I’m afraid I can’t let go. It’s stuck.

CALVIN (To FRANNY). Your mother needs some help.

ELLEN (Looks helplessly at her clenched hand.) Now look what’s happened.

CALVIN You’re all tensed-up is all. Relax. Breathe.

FRANNY This always happens.

CALVIN Give her a minute, Franny. She’ll loosen up.
(CALVIN rubs ELLEN’s shoulders.)
Better now?
(ELLEN breathes deeply. Her body visibly loosens.)
Good. Go ahead, Franny. Take your bone.
(FRANNY opens her mother’s hand and retrieves her treasure.)

FRANNY My mom had a hard time letting go of stuff.
(Lights down on FRANNY.)

ELLEN Bones? I told you we needed more control. Now look what’s happened.

CALVIN She just likes to collect things. That’s all.

ELLEN Honestly, Cal. Bones? They’re parts of dead bodies. It’s not fitting. It’s not proper. Reverend Glass says a tomboy is a sinner waiting to happen.

CALVIN Yeah, well. That reverend’s a pervert waiting to happen.

ELLEN Calvin!

CALVIN The man wears white gloves.

ELLEN He doesn’t like dirt.

CALVIN What kind of man doesn’t like dirt? That’s just not natural.

ELLEN I swear, Cal. You’ve rubbed off on our daughter. You’re the reason she goes out there on the prairie digging around in the dirt—collecting God knows what…

CALVIN Not a bad thing to inherit—collecting stuff. I used to go down to Bluff Creek and look at the rocks under water. I’d scoop them out and once I got them home, they didn’t look the same. I put them in the bathtub with me, so I could see them wet again. My mom thought that was pretty funny—instead of toy boats, I had toy rocks. (CALVIN laughs at his own joke.)

ELLEN Those were rocks. These are bones.

CALVIN I’m just saying—it’s a phase. She’ll outgrow it. I did. Do you see me collecting rocks anymore?

ELLEN Just in your head.

All writings © Jan Donley 1985-2017
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