A recently retired bus driver, 65, quite out of shape.
A slim, athletic woman, 60, married to Wally
The curtain opens on a very neat, very masculine study. Stage right is the doorway entrance to the study where we see WALLY seated in a stylish desk chair that he slowly wheels over to his desk. The chair seems to be attached to him as he kicks out his legs to gain momentum and direction; in fact, he could almost pass for a strange new kind of insect. Wally could leave the chair any time he wishes, but he has no desire to. He’s a perfect example of inertia in motion. When Wally reaches the desk he pulls a large world atlas out of a drawer and begins to thumb through it. Suddenly we hear a woman’s scream. His wife, MYRTLE, bursts into the room on roller skates, holding a cage.
He’s dead! He’s dead! Telemachus is dead! He’s dead, Wally! Telemachus is dead! (Wally grabs the cage, examines it) I was watching him running the wheel like he always does, like he loves to do, and he just sort of squealed and flopped over. I can’t believe Telemachus is dead.
WALLY (examines gerbil with his finger)
Oh, Wally, it’s so cruel. He was the sweetest gerbil we ever had. How could he leave us?
I don’t know, Myrtle. I don’t know! You say he was on his wheel when it happened?
He was hitting such a graceful stride when it…
Myrtle covers her face with her hands as Wally pulls out the tiny odometer attached to the wheel.
My God, look at these figures! Telemachus put three tenths of a mile on his odometer since I checked it last night.
You can’t be serious. Let me see.
Myrtle skates over to Wally.
WALLY (visibly shaken)
It’s not fair! He had so much further to go. (Pause) I guess the little fellow went out in his prime, hitting his stride. You can’t ask for a more noble death.
What? Spinning himself into a grave is a noble death?
Why can’t you offer me some comfort? I loved Telemachus much more than you’ll ever know.
Myrtle skates up behind Wally and puts her arms around his neck.
Yes, I know.
I felt…I felt as if you’d given birth to him, Myrtle. That he was really my son.
Oh, Wally, that’s disgusting.
How can you call love disgusting?
Love’s not disgusting, but the papers on the bottom of his cage are. If you felt so strongly about Telemachus how come I always had to change the papers?
He was my baby, my baby. I always thought of him as a tiny Rumpelstiltskin, majestically at his wheel, spinning out golden love.
He did have a rather strong smell, Wally.
WALLY (in tears)
He was a good boy. A hard working boy.
But he never got anywhere, Wally. Do you think Telemachus lived a full life?
Of course he did! What kind of nonsense are you talking?
He lived in a cage, Wally.
He lived in a cage and ran around in circles.
Why are you being so cruel? What was the alternative? Have you forgotten the time you set him loose in the garden?
I…I don’t want to think about it.
WALLY (holds the cage up to her face)
Look at him! Look at the boy! Yes, he lived in a cage. Yes, he ran day and night on his wheel. But what happened the time you decided to give him his freedom? The day you put him next to the cucumbers and told him he was free?
I…I don’t remember. Leave me alone, Wally. I don’t want to think about it.
Myrtle grabs for the cage; Wally pulls it away.
What happened to Telemachus the day you locked him out of his cage?
MYRTLE (holds up her arm as if fending off a blow)
That’s right. And what else did he do?
He peed on the turnips.
That’s right. And what else did he do?
At this point Myrtle is skating around the room as Wally chases after her in his desk chair.
I don’t remember.
WALLY (like a petulant child)
What else did he do? What did he do? What did he do? What did he do? What did he do?
MYRTLE (spins, faces Wally)
He…ran away from me.
That’s right. And when was the next time you saw him?
Stop it, Wally. Stop it! It’s too horrible!
Myrtle! When was the next time you saw Telemachus!
Myrtle breaks down into tears and puts her head in Wally’s lap.
The next time I saw him was down the road by the Flanagan property.
And where was he?
I told you. At the Flanagans’.
Where was Telemachus, Myrtle?
Myrtle jumps to her feet, skates over to a corner, and screams.
He was inside! He was inside their Great Dane’s mouth!
That’s right! He was being chewed up by the Flanagans’ dog. And you called it freedom! You called it a gift!
MYRTLE (near tears)
How did I know he—
WALLY (wheels over to her)
—I rescued him. I gave Telemachus a second chance at life! (Myrtle is crying) He had a quality existence. Telemachus had love, security, food, clean papers. But more important he had a purpose, a mission. He had motion!
But he never got anywhere, Wally. He just went around in circles.
What’s wrong with circles? What shape is your wedding ring?
MYRTLE (looks at hand)
That’s right. Don’t you understand when Telemachus traveled in a circle he viewed life at every possible angle?
You know, I never thought of it like that.
It’s true. I made that discovery way back during my professional driving test, when they made me do figure eights with the bus. You see, driving a bus was not only a career, but an education.
You have such a brilliance, Walter Leggit. Are you ashamed of having me as a wife? Am I too dull?
WALLY (kisses her)
What, are you kidding? Any woman who can produce such offspring (He holds up cage) is worth her weight in gold, Rumpelstiltskin or no Rumpelstiltskin. And speaking of golden rumps…
He squeezes Myrtle’s behind.
MYRTLE (giggles, pulls his hand away)
Stop that! Don’t be so fresh in front of Telemachus. He’s still warm.
Wally gazes at the cage and gently pats it.
Telemachus was all man. He’d have understood. (Pause) I miss him. I miss my baby, sweetheart.
We can get another pet, Wally.
I suppose so. But can he be replaced?
Oh, come on, Wally. Telemachus is the seventh gerbil we’ve had in the past three years.
WALLY (shakes head)
Yes, but none of them racked up the mileage old Telemachus did. I guess the little darlings are built for speed, not endurance. I’ll pick up his successor tomorrow morning.
WALLY (in deep thought)
What is it?
Honey, do we have to get another rodent? Can’t we get a dog or a cat this time?
Why not? Why can’t I have a pet I can pick up and hug? What’s wrong with a cat?
They’re lazy. They sleep twenty hours a day.
Then let’s get a dog. A strong, energetic dog. They can last twenty years.
Oh, great! Can’t you just see us in twenty years, bent over and using a cane, walking a dog? Besides, ever since I pulled Telemachus out from the jaws of the Great Dane, I hate dogs. All they ever do is piss on your tires.
Myrtle furiously skates over to Wally and snatches the cage out of his hands.
I’m going to bury him in the turnip patch!
Myrtle skates out of the room.
Wally wheels himself over to the door, cups his hand to his mouth, and calls out to his wife.
No, don’t bury him there, Myrtle! Turnips grow below the ground. I don’t want Telemachus sharing his space with anything else. Plant him in with the cucumbers.
Wally slowly wheels himself back to his desk and shakes his head.
I guess people deal with their grief in different ways. (Pause)Where was I?
Wally picks up his world atlas and flips through the pages as he slowly spins in his chair. His spinning becomes faster as he excitedly turns the pages, until his chair whorls out of control and he falls off.
End of Play.
Mark Blickley is a widely published author of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama. He is a proud member of the The Dramatists Guild of America and PEN American Center. His most recent book is his text-based art collaboration with fine arts photographer Amy Bassin, Dream Streams.
Amy Bassin is an artist from New York City whose work encompasses artist books, altered books, drawing, sculptural décollage, photography, and video to raise awareness about social injustices against women, children and free press. She is a recent residency recipient at Vermont Studio Center and co-founder of the international artists’ collective, Urban Dialogues, which participated in a residency and exhibitions in Lisbon, Portugal, and Belgium. Her work has been exhibited and published both nationally and internationally.