Well, I'll Be

List of Plays

A Family Drama in One Act by William Armstrong

Susie is a 10-year-old girl wearing pajamas and sitting in her bed (stage right). Her grandmother (Gram) sits in a chair next to the head of the bed. The other half of the stage is dark.
SUSIE
Is this like magic? Are you a fairy godmother or something?
GRAM
Iím your real grandmother. You know that. But this is kind of a magical power I have. You tell me what you want to be when you grow up, and Iíll show you how it will probably work out. Youíre going to see and smell and feel yourself all grown up doing the job. And watch out, because there are always a few surprises.
SUSIE
Iíve been thinking about it all week. I know which ones Iím going to ask for.
GRAM
Well, Iím ready when you are. What shall we start with?
SUSIE
Iíd like to be a model, you know, like a fashion model.
GRAM
Okay, letís take a look.
Lights up on stage left. We see Sue (a 25-year-old version of Susie). She is wearing sportswear (not very glamorous). She is posing for an unseen cameraman offstage. He takes three or four flash pictures, and the session is over. Sue stands waiting for more instructions.
SUSIE
Wow! Thatís me? Iím a model? How come my clothes are so ordinary?
GRAM
Thatís called sportswear. Youíre going to be in the J.C. Penney catalog. This is really a very good job for a model.
SUSIE
Weíre not on the beach, are we?
GRAM
No, youíre just in the photographerís studio. If they need to make it look like youíre on the beach, they can fake it with a computer.
SUSIE
Something smells good! Hey, thereís a whole table of yummy stuff. I can take anything I want, canít I?
GRAM
Yes and no. The photographer provides that food for the models and the crew, but most of it you canít eat.
SUSIE
Why not?
GRAM
You have to stay on a very strict diet. You need to be very skinny if you want to keep modeling. In fact, you probably need to lose another ten pounds right now.
Sue and Susie both cast a dirty look at Gram.
SUSIE
Iím not fat.
GRAM
The camera makes you look fatter than you are. You can have the bottled water and the celery sticks and that sort of thing.
SUSIE
Thanks a lot. I guess I need to go change my clothes. Can I wear something glamorous this time?
Sue exits and lights dim on stage left.
GRAM
Not this time. Very few people buy glamorous clothes; so most of the modeling work is for ordinary clothes. Sometimes, when theyíre advertising perfume or jewelry, you can wear glamorous outfits.
SUSIE
Okay, that was fun, but I really like to eat; so letís try something else.
GRAM
What will it be this time?
SUSIE
Why donít I try being a singer?
GRAM
Okay, singers donít have to stay quite as thin as models. Letís make you a singer.
Lights up on Susan (a 55-year-old version of Susie) who is making phone calls at a desk.
SUSIE
Wait a minute. Thatís me?
GRAM
Yes.
SUSIE
But Iím old! And Iím not singing.
GRAM
Even singers donít sing all the time. And what do you mean by "old"?
SUSIE
Youíve made me older than Mommy!
GRAM
Well, Honey, youíll need to make a living until youíre 65 or so. Your mother isnít even half way through her working years. Sheís still pretty young.
Susie looks horrified at the thought that her mother is young.
GRAM (continued)
At what age does a person become "old"?
Susie isnít sure. She ventures a guess.
SUSIE
30?
GRAM
Well, if 30 is old, you need to know that youíre going to be "old" much longer than youíre going to be young. So youíll want to pick a career that will put food on the table you when youíre old, too.
SUSIE
Okay. So, what am I doing? Am I singing over the phone?
GRAM
No, youíre trying to arrange some singing jobs: church solos, weddings, funerals...
SUSIE
Funerals?! People donít sing at funerals, do they?
GRAM
Well, sure, Honey. A professional singer has to get work wherever she can.
SUSIE
I donít want to be that kind of singer. I want to be a young rock singer.
Lights down on Susan. Susan exits.
GRAM
My fault, I should have known. Letís try a rock singer.
Lights up as Sue enters wearing a rock singerís costume. The room is a nightclub. It is dimly lit; a mirror ball casts reflections on the wall. She sings the last few bars of a current rock hit. She then sits at a ringside table and waits. She has a head shot and a manila envelope.
SUSIE
All right! Iím young and Iím singing. [makes a face] What's that smell?
GRAM
Thatís nightclub smell: mostly cigarette smoke, alcohol, perfume, a few other things.
SUSIE
Well, at least this time I got to sing.
GRAM
Actually, youíre auditioning. Rock music is a very competitive field. Youíre trying to get a break. Youíre delivering your picture and your demo CD to the clubís manager. Youíve got to get yourself known, find someone who can help you get to be famous.
SUSIE
You mean I have to spend all my time handing out sample CDís and just hope that someone will like it?
GRAM
Well, there are some other ways, but Iím not going to show those to you.
SUSIE
Why canít you just make me a successful singer from the start?
Lights down on Sue.
GRAM
Well, I could, but...
SUSIE
Letís try that. Make me a famous rock singer - and not old, either.
GRAM
Weíll give it a try.
Lights up on Sue who is still in the rock singerís costume. She sits relaxed, alone, and distracted, eyes unfocused.
SUSIE
I feel ...funny. Whatís happening to me?
GRAM
Youíre feeling the effect of drugs, Honey.
SUSIE
I wouldnít use drugs, Gram.
GRAM
When you became a successful entertainer, you just thought youíd try them a couple of times to see what theyíre like.
SUSIE
Well, I donít like this. Please take away the drugs.
GRAM
Alright, Sweetheart, but...
Sue and Susie convulse in pain. Sue moans. Susie screams.
SUSIE
Aaack! Argh! The pain! What are you doing?
GRAM
Youíre addicted to the drugs. When theyíre not there, you have withdrawal symptoms.
SUSIE
Stop it! Stop the pain.
GRAM
Okay.
Lights down on Sue. Sue exits.
SUSIE
You hurt me, Gram. I never thought youíd do that to me.
GRAM
Iím sorry, Susie. I should have warned you before I let you try that one.
SUSIE
Isnít it possible to be a success without using drugs?
GRAM
Sure it is, but Iím dealing with probabilities here. Even I donít have complete control over what youíre going to experience. Iím really sorry. Maybe we should quit for a while.
SUSIE
You didnít do that just to teach me a lesson, did you?
GRAM
No, but I should have guessed it would happen. We should probably call it quits for tonight.
SUSIE
Oh, no, Gram, I know you didnít mean to hurt me. Letís keep going. Weíll both be careful. Letís do a couple more.
GRAM
Okay, what would you like to try next? Do you want to be a teacher?
SUSIE
No way! I donít want to be a teacher.
GRAM
They have a good retirement plan and a strong union, but if you donít like it, letís try something else. How about a computer programmer?
SUSIE
Are you kidding?
GRAM
You donít like computers?
SUSIE
Computers are okay, I guess. I just donít want to be like Kevin or be around people like Kevin.
GRAM
Kevin likes computers?
SUSIE
Kevin is a computer.
GRAM
I get the message: no computer programming. How about an insurance agent?
SUSIE
Gram! Stop being ridiculous.
GRAM
Sorry. Iíll stop making suggestions. Just tell me what you want.
SUSIE
How about an archeologist?
GRAM
Oh, Iím impressed. Okay, letís try an archeologist.
Lights up on Susan dressed in tan shorts and short sleeve shirt. She wears a pith helmet. She uses a handkerchief to dry her neck and face as she walks to a dig site and kneels on a pad.
SUSIE
Iím old again.
GRAM
I thought we settled that. Besides, some of the best archeologists are older people.
Susie fans her face with her hand.
SUSIE
Gee, itís really hot. Where am I?
GRAM
Youíre looking for evidence of an ancient city in the Middle East. Youíre in the desert. Itís almost always hot here.
SUSIE
Is that why Iím so slow right now? Öor is it because Iím old? I feel like Iím moving in slow motion.
GRAM
Itís nothing to worry about. Youíre just being careful not to miss anything as you sift through the dirt.
SUSIE
So Iím looking in the dirt for old cities?
GRAM
Sort of.
Lights down on Susan. Susan exits.
SUSIE
Can you show me what Iíd be like as a young archeologist?
GRAM
Sure, but you really need to get over your prejudice against being old. When you get old, youíre still going to be "you".
SUSIE
Well, Iíd rather be young. But Iíll say one thing: When you made me old, I wasnít as scared or nervous. That was kind of a good feeling.
GRAM
Thatís very perceptive of you, Susie. Good. Shall we try a young archeologist?
Lights up on Sue who is sitting at a table in a library reading a textbook.
SUSIE
Now, what am I doing?
GRAM
Youíre in the library, studying. You see, when youíre young, you spend most of your time learning about archeology; so you can do it when you get older.
SUSIE
When is something going to happen?
GRAM
Sh! In a moment. Keep watching. Here it comes. Now.
Sue turns the page and continues reading.
SUSIE
Turning a page? You call that "something happening"?
GRAM
Actually, reading and understanding the book is more important than turning the page, but I thought you meant something you could see.
SUSIE
Hmph! This book is really boring. How much longer do I read?
GRAM
Oh, quite a while. And you take notes, too.
SUSIE
When do I get outside? When do I look for ancient treasure? Where are the traps and bad guys?
GRAM
Traps and bad guys?
SUSIE
Indiana Jones hunts for treasures, but thereíre always traps and bad guys.
GRAM
I donít think thatís much like real life. In fact, I can only think of one archeologist who ever found what youíd call treasure. Most of them just work in libraries or comb the dirt for bones or bits of pottery.
Sue pulls an old map out of the book and unfolds it. She stands and leans over the table to examine the map carefully.
SUSIE
Aha! Whatís this? A map. I love maps. I love to pretend that Iím traveling to all those places.
GRAM
Imagination can make any job an adventure. You need a good imagination to be an archeologist.
SUSIE
Well, itís not quite what I thought it was, but it might still be fun.
Lights down on Sue. Sue exits.
GRAM
Do you want to try any more?
SUSIE
Iíd like to help people. Can you make me a doctor?
GRAM
I think that can be arranged.
Lights up on Susan. She is dressed in a doctorís lab coat. She is writing and reviewing notes on a clipboard.
SUSIE
Iím in an office.
GRAM
Before you say anything about being old, let me tell you that you canít be a young doctor. To be a doctor you have to go to school for eight or ten years. If I made you young, youíd still be in school.
SUSIE
I wasnít going to say anything about being old. So what do I do as a doctor?
GRAM
You spend about half your time seeing patients and about half your time writing reports and filling out paperwork.
SUSIE
Do I cut people open?
GRAM
I made you a family doctor, but I could make you a surgeon if you'd like.
SUSIE
No, thatís okay. I donít think Iíd like all the blood. Itís not so bad on TV, but you make everything so realistic.
GRAM
Doctors have to be able to tolerate blood. Youíve got to deal with people who are sick and hurt. Youíve got to be strong and confident at all times.
SUSIE
That makes me feel good. Iím proud of what I do. I only wish I didnít have all this paperwork to do. Wow! Eight years of school?
Lights down on Susan. Susan exits.
SUSIE (continued)
Letís try something else. I want to try something exciting, something dangerous, I guess. Is it too dangerous to be a police officer?
GRAM
The exciting moments are usually the dangerous moments. Iíve already hurt you once tonight; I donít want to do that again. Vice might be kind of exciting, but letís try Homicide. You can track down killers, but they probably wonít shoot at you.
Lights up on Sue. She is in civilian clothes at the scene of a crime. She uses tweezers to put a tiny piece of evidence into a plastic bag. She examines things and takes notes.
SUSIE
Someone was killed, and Iím trying to figure out who did it.
GRAM
Yes, but you have to do more than that. You have to prove that he did it. You have to show the jury that the murderer couldnít be anyone else.
SUSIE
That sounds hard, but I donít want the bad guys to get away with murder. Do I have to go to the funerals?
GRAM
No, I donít think so.
SUSIE
Good! Then I donít have to listen to anybody singing.
Susie smiles broadly at Gram.
GRAM
Well, Inspector, do you want to keep collecting clues or go back to the office?
SUSIE
Can we chase some bad guys?
GRAM
Maybe next time. I donít think I can control the outcome right now.
SUSIE
Okay, Iím willing to stop for tonight.
Lights down on Sue. Sue exits.
SUSIE (continued)
Did you ever do this with Mommy?
GRAM
You mean: Did I ever show her different things she could do for a career?
SUSIE
I know you didnít or she wouldnít be a bookkeeper now.
GRAM
You act as if being a bookkeeper is some horrible thing.
SUSIE
Itís not horrible. Itís just boring. How could she spend her whole life doing something boring?
GRAM
Your mother doesnít have all the choices that we did tonight. She doesnít have a college degree, so she canít be a doctor or an archeologist or anything like that. Sheís not a model, a singer, or an actress. If she took a dangerous job, sheíd worry about who would take care of you if something happened to her. Besides, you didnít try being a bookkeeper. You might find it interesting.
SUSIE
Yeah, right.
GRAM
And thereís something else. Your mother wants to spend more time with you. She can make a living as a bookkeeper and still have plenty of time to be with you.
SUSIE
Yeah, well, I want a job thatís exciting. A job where I can be a hero.
GRAM
Hmmm, what is a hero?
SUSIE
Gram, you know what a hero is.
GRAM
I know what I think a hero is, but what do you think a hero is?
SUSIE
Someone who fights bad guys, I guess.
GRAM
And who are these bad guys?
SUSIE
Well, terrorists or drug dealers...
GRAM
So you have to be a police officer to be a hero? Thatís one kind of hero, but what about firefighters who rescue people from burning buildings? Are they heroes, too?
SUSIE
Yeah, sure. Firefighters are real heroes.
GRAM
So heroes are people who risk their lives to save other people?
SUSIE
Right. Thatís what heroes are.
GRAM
So if people actually give their lives to help other people, would they be heroes?
SUSIE
Yes, but I donít want to die just to be a hero. Canít I be a live hero?
GRAM
Of course you can. Thatís what your mother is.
SUSIE
[laughs] What are you talking about? She doesnít do anything dangerous. You said so yourself.
GRAM
A hero doesnít have to do dangerous things; a hero has to be willing to give up her life for someone else. Thatís exactly what your mother has done.
SUSIE
What do you mean "give up her life"? Mommyís still alive.
GRAM
Oh yes, sheís very much alive, but she works all day as a bookkeeper. She gave up any chance of a glamorous job so she could raise you. She canít pick you up from day care every day if sheís touring the country as a singer or searching for mummies in Egypt. She canít take a dangerous job where she might leave you as an orphan. No, she gave it all up to be with you.
SUSIE
[teary] I didnít want to ruin her life.
Gram comforts Susie.
GRAM
Oh, no, Honey, you didnít ruin her life. Itís just the opposite. You brought joy into her life. She loves you very much and wants to take care of you. She wants to help you have a wonderful life. We both do.
SUSIE
What if I have a baby? What would my life be like then?
GRAM
There are a million different things that could happen. Maybe next time we could explore some of those. But now, why donít you get some sleep?
Gram tucks Susie into bed.
SUSIE
Good night, Grandma. Thank you.
GRAM
Good night, Sweetheart.
Gram starts to leave, but turns back.
GRAM (continued)
Oh, I never answered that question about your mother. You wanted to know if I had ever showed her what her life could be like in different jobs. The answer is "yes". Weíve done it quite a few times. In fact, we did it just last month. Susie.
Susie seems to be asleep already.
GRAM (continued)
Sweet dreams.
Gram kisses Susie lightly and exits. Fade out. Curtain.


Copyright © 2002 William Armstrong



List of Plays