“The Tetons” by Christopher Woods

MGM

Characters

RECEPTIONIST
A woman, any age

PATIENT 1
A woman, any age

PATIENT 2
A man, any age

PATIENT 3
A man, any age

PATIENT 4
A woman, any age


The Tetons

Scene – A medical office. Four chairs side by side in a row. A small desk with a bell.

Lights up.

A RECEPTIONIST sits at a perfectly clean desk but for a bell.

PATIENT 1 enters, doubled over in pain and takes a seat.

PATIENT 2 enters and takes seat.

PATIENT 1
This is my first visit here.

Patient 2 doesn’t answer.

PATIENT 1
Excuse me…

PATIENT 2
I’ve come here always. Forever.

PATIENT 1
Oh. Does one check in?

PATIENT 2
In?

PATIENT 1
Yes. Announce my presence.                                                                                                                                            
PATIENT 2
Is it so grand?

PATIENT 1
I’m sorry. I mean, does one check in to be seen? Noticed? I have a serious ailment. Maybe a blood malfunction. An organ disorder. Should I check in?

PATIENT 2
Your call.

PATIENT 1 (doubles over in pain again)
Where?

PATIENT 2
Where do you think? Don’t you see the desk?

PATIENT 1 (gestures to desk)
There?

Patient 2 nods.

PATIENT 1
Thank you. Very much.

Patient 1 rises in great pain, approaches desk, and greets the receptionist.

PATIENT 1
Good morning.

No response.

PATIENT 1
I believe I have an appointment.

No response.

PATIENT 2
Ring it.

PATIENT 1
What?

PATIENT 2
The bell. Ring the bell.

PATIENT 1
But isn’t it apparent that I’m here? Barely, but here? Isn’t that enough?

PATIENT 2
Ring the damned bell! I know about this.

Patient 1 reaches out to ring bell, hesitates, then takes a step back.

PATIENT 2
Do it! Pretend you have done it before. Forever.

PATIENT 1
Thanks.

Patient 1 rings the bell timidly and still the receptionist does not respond. She rings it again, louder.

RECEPTIONIST (Rises, vicious)
That’s enough!

PATIENT 2
Now you’ve done it.

PATIENT 1
Sorry, I…

RECEPTIONIST
For god’s sake, what do you want?

PATIENT 1
I have an appointment. With the doctor.

RECEPTIONIST
Today?

PATIENT 1
Today, yes. This very morning.

RECEPTIONIST (nastily)
Oh? Don’t you be so aggressive with me. I don’t tolerate aggressive. Especially from someone like you. Do you understand?

PATIENT 1
I’m sorry. Truly. It’s just that I’m in such pain. Didn’t you receive my records?

RECEPTIONIST
I did, yes. I’m considering them. Everything seems to be in order. I’m a bit offended by your financial records, if you don’t mind saying.

 PATIENT 1(doubles over in pain again)
What’s wrong with my finances?

RECEPTIONIST
I can’t go into it now. Can’t you see how busy I am? Go, have a seat.

PATIENT 1
But I haven’t given you my name.

RECEPTIONIST (stands)
I said, go back to your seat! Now! Shall I call security? It will be most unpleasant for you. Very painful.

Frightened, Patient 1 returns to her seat.

RECEPTIONIST
Take the far seat. I mean it.

PATIENT 1
But I started in this chair.

RECEPTIONIST
That was before your outburst. Take the last seat if you want to be seen by the doctor.

Patient 1 takes the last seat.

PATIENT 1(to Patient 2)
What did I do?

PATIENT 2
More than was necessary, apparently. Not good.

RECEPTIONIST
Mr. Standhope?

PATIENT 2
Good!

He rises and goes to the office with his chair. The receptionist motions him in.

Outer office door opens and PATIENT 3 enters, taking a seat nearest the desk.      

RECEPTIONIST (brightly)       
How good to see you!          

PATIENT 3
Thank you. How are you?

RECEPTIONIST          
So relaxed since going to the beach. It was so wonderful of you to let me stay in your house.

PATIENT 3
It was nothing. We were at our mountain home. I was happy you could enjoy our beach house.

PATIENT 1 (to receptionist)
Madam, is the doctor running a bit late?

RECEPTIONIST (ignores Patient 1)
It’s a lovely, lovely beach.

PATIENT 3
I hoped you would like it. I wasn’t sure. I wanted it to be nice for you.

PATIENT 1
Pardon me for asking, but is the doctor running late?

RECEPTIONIST
There was no reason to wonder. I don’t think I have ever seen such a beautiful beach.

PATIENT 3
That makes me feel so good.

Patient 1 doubles over in pain again.

PATIENT 1
Oh my god.

Slight pause.

PATIENT 1
Excuse me…

RECEPTIONIST (rises)    
Shut up!

She goes over to Patient 1 and slaps her.

RECEPTIONIST
Who do you think you are? Well, I will tell you. You are no one. No one! And your medical records are a disgrace. You waltz in here, a first-time patient, and act like we owe you something. But I have news for you. We owe you nothing. Nothing!

Receptionist returns to desk.

PATIENT 3 (to Patient 1)
That’s unfortunate for you. Off to such a bad start.

RECEPTIONIST
Mr. Jenkins, the doctor will see you now.

PATIENT 3
So soon?

RECEPTIONIST (smiling)
Of course! (beat) Thank you again for the lovely ring.

PATIENT 3 (carrying his chair with him into the office) 
Please, call me Frank. At this point, there is no need for formalities.

RECEPTIONIST
Why, certainly, Frank. Thank you Mr. Jenkins. Frank.

PATIENT 3
Oh, before I forget, I want you to know that my wife and I are going to the beach for a holiday.

RECEPTIONIST
How wonderful! Such a beautiful beach.

PATIENT 3
Yes, it’s that. But I wondered if you might want to stay in our mountain hideaway.

RECEPTIONIST
Oh, Frank.

PATIENT 3
I trust the mountains will appeal to you. The Tetons, you know.

He gives her a knowing smile.

RECEPTIONIST
They will be marvelous, I’m sure. The Tetons.

She winks.

PATIENT 3
Yes, the Tetons. It’s the least I can do. You’ve treated me so well. So very well.

Patient 3 winks, then carries his chair into the office.

PATIENT 4 enters and walks to the desk to ring the bell.

RECEPTIONIST
Hi! No need for that. For the bell.

PATIENT 4
No? But I thought that was the way.

RECEPTIONIST
Not for the special people. And certainly not for you.

PATIENT 4 (chuckles)
Oh.

RECEPTIONIST
I don’t need to tell you why you are so special to me.

The receptionist rises, moves around the desk, and kisses Patient 4 hard on the lips.

PATIENT 4
I remember now.

RECEPTIONIST
And so do I. (beat) The doctor will see you in just a moment. I don’t want to keep you waiting.

PATIENT 4
Good. I have to tell you, I have been in such pain.

Sounds of pain from Patient 1.

RECEPTIONIST
I can imagine. But I warned you.

PATIENT 4
You did. But…

RECEPTIONIST
It’s probably my fault, using the Terminatrix Supreme strap-on so soon. We should have taken our time, worked our way up to it. I feel guilty.

PATIENT 4
Please! It’s my own doing. I begged for it, didn’t I?

PATIENT 1 (weakly)
Excuse me, but I’m bleeding.

Receptionist ignores Patient 1.

PATIENT 4
You meant well. You wanted to please me. It’s my own fault. I don’t want you to feel guilty, please. I even brought a gift for you.

Hands an envelope to the Receptionist.

RECEPTIONIST
For me? You shouldn’t have.

She opens the envelope and smiles.

PATIENT 4
But I wanted to! I told you that I have no relationship with my children. I’m alone since becoming a widow. You have shown me such kindness. Frankly, you’ve satisfied me sexually like no one ever has before. That’s why I had my will changed. Everything will be yours, my dear.

RECEPTIONIST
I’m so touched.

She kisses Patient 4 again.

PATIENT 4
You deserve it. All of it.

RECEPTIONIST
I hope so. (beat) I’ll be going away for a week. To the Tetons. Would you like to go with me?

PATIENT 1 (hoarsely, desperately)
Help me! I’m losing consciousness.

PATIENT 4
The Tetons! My God!

RECEPTIONIST
Yes, to a very close friend’s chalet. Twelve thousand feet elevation. Imagine that.

Patient 1 falls to the floor.                                              

PATIENT 4
But my brain aneurysm. I worry about the thin air.

RECEPTIONIST
Don’t be silly. Good, fresh air is a curative for that little old aneurysm. Teton air. The best.

PATIENT 4
I guess so. The Tetons.

RECEPTIONIST
Good, then it’s settled. (beat) The doctor will see you now.

Patient 4 wrestles with her chair, but has trouble picking it up.

RECEPTIONIST
Let me get that for you.    

Patient 4, the Receptionist, and the chair, begin to move towards the office.

PATIENT 1
Help me. Please!

RECEPTIONIST
You’ll have to ring the bell.

PATIENT 1 (gasping for breath)
How can I? I can’t move.

RECEPTIONIST
Then you need to see the doctor.

PATIENT 1
Isn’t that what I’m doing here?

RECEPTIONIST
You should have come earlier. Or later. The office is closed now. Come back another time. The doctor is already gone. And I am leaving for the Tetons.

The Receptionist puts her arm around Patient 4, carries the chair with the other, and they exit into the inner office. As they leave, Patient 1 dies on the floor.

BLACKOUT

✶✶✶✶

Chris -Self-portrait_300dpi_Christopher Woods_edited-1

Christopher Woods is a writer and photographer who lives in Chappell Hill, Texas. He has published a novel, The Dream Patch, a prose collection, Under a Riverbed Sky, and a book of stage monologues for actors, Heart Speak. His photography has also appeared in ACM.