By Bob Shuman
SCENE: In the woods. A small clearing, off a parking lot–hardly more than a triangle where two parallel felled logs act as benches.
MARY JANE, early 70’s, sits on a log. As at the dog run, using a launcher, SHE plays fetch with the dogs.
CHRISTIE, late 50’s (male), is walking fast to catch up with JUNO, one of his two Jack Russell terriers (the other is Jasper) who has gotten out of her harness. Both JASPER and JUNO drag their leashes on the wet earth.
Both MARY JANE and CHRISTIE wear gloves—CHRISTIE’s are surgical gloves. CHRISTIE is also wearing a mask. MARY JANE leaves hers down—she only pulls it up when a stranger appears.
Beginning of May, still chilly and wet.
CHRISTIE: (About Juno.) Come on Jasper, help me get her.
MARY JANE: Did she go off?
CHRISTIE: Come on, Juno. I’ve got to go get her.
MARY JANE: Can you see her?
CHRISTIE: Excuse, me I’ll be right back.
MARY JANE: I know someone who’s going to “prison.”
CHRISTIE: Jasper, help me get her.
(Jasper runs with CHRISTIE to find Juno.)
MARY JANE: Lantern’s been a bad dog himself, running off.
CHRISTIE: (Off.) Not too far. Come on back, Juno. Come on. Come back.
(There is a clamor in the background. Muted car horns and yells—shaking, pounding, rattling of kitchen utensils.)
CHRISTIE: That’s it, that’s a good girl. Thank you for listening. That’s it.
MARY JANE: Lantern must be doing the loop.
CHRISTIE: Let’s all go see Mary Jane. Jasper, you come too. (To MARY JANE.) Have they been sending people to the hospital ship?
MARY JANE: No, it was sent back—the ship wasn’t even half filled. They were sending patients back to the nursing homes to infect others.
CHRISTIE: (CHRISTIE makes a whooping sound for the hospital workers. About the clamor.) I think today’s Nurse Day.
MARY JANE: Nurse week. Hello, Juno.
CHRISTIE: (CHRISTIE gives another whoop, taking Juno to a tree branch.) A sign was posted in our building about it. I have to watch Juno because she can break out of her harness.
MARY JANE: Here she is. Straight to “jail.”
CHRISTIE: She was just like Dorothy, toodling down the yellow brick road.
(Christie takes Juno to a tree branch of a fallen tree and loops the leash handle over it.)
MARY JANE: There’s one nurse, who walks her dog here in the woods. She helped me, after I got out of the hospital seven years ago. I had a sore on my back–I couldn’t reach it. She came to my apartment and changed the bandage every other day, so I wouldn’t have to go to a clinic. She’s helping Covid patients now.
MARY JANE: He’s been gone longer than fifteen minutes. I don’t like it when he takes so long.
CHRISTIE: (Calling.) Lantern! (To Jasper.) Come on Jasper, stop bringing the ball to Mary Jane. Bring it over here to me.
MARY JANE: I don’t mind.
CHRISTIE: You might be tired of throwing it to him.
MARY JANE: What else would I be doing, since Juno’s been put in the “penitentiary”–and I don’t see Lantern?
CHRISTIE: (About Juno.) Juno was howling at something today.
MARY JANE: Probably critters.
CHRISTIE: Junie, don’t pull on that harness too hard—she broke out of it on the way down here.
MARY JANE: (Calling.) Lantern! His medication must be starting to work.
CHRISTIE: (Calling.) Lantern!
MARY JANE: This breed is supposed to live to fourteen years. That’s why I bought him, because I knew he would be my last dog–but I don’t know if he’s going to make it much longer. He’s eleven and a half.
CHRISTIE: He gets his shots every two and a half weeks.
MARY JANE: His arthritis is giving him a lot of pain.
(CHRISTIE is playing fetch with Jasper.)
CHRISTIE: (Recalling a previous conversation.) Wouldn’t the nurses be taxed anyway?
MARY JANE: Yes, in their own states, but this is in New York—we’re the ones who asked them to come help us. (Pause.) They should have protected the elderly first, but they didn’t know. A 40-year-old can get over the symptoms in a few days.
CHRISTIE: (Going to Junie, to look at her harness.) We’re going to have to get Junie a new harness—she can slip out of it, too.
MARY JANE: At my age if you wake up without something hurting you, you’re dead!
(CHRISTIE begins laughing.)
CHRISTIE: Did you hear about the llama?
MARY JANE: What was that about? I saw something. In Belgium?
CHRISTIE: It’s this llama, in Belgium. Named Winter. In Ghent, Belgium. She produces antibodies—two kinds of antibodies.
MARY JANE: I just saw the picture on the Web. Dark brown.
CHRISTIE: Humans only have one antibody. So this other one can stick to the virus.
MARY JANE: I wondered why they were talking about a llama.
CHRISTIE: This antibody gets into the spikes–you seen those pictures of the coronavirus? Those spikes? And makes them . . . I guess it can wad up in there.
MARY JANE: At least they’re trying.
CHRISTIE: Makes it less effective.
MARY JANE: I looked up that show. It was first made as a movie in 1943, with Roddy McDowall.
CHRISTIE: My Friend Flicka.
MARY JANE: It only lasted a season in the late Fifties.
CHRISTIE: I knew there had to be a serious horse show.
MARY JANE: 1957.
CHRISTIE: Mr. Ed was more popular—it was comic.
MARY JANE: (Imitating Mr. Ed.) “Will-burr.”
CHRISTIE: (Suddenly.) You watch it, Jasper. I saw you try to eat that poop—you’ll be next (to go to jail). You stop that, you hear me?
MARY JANE: The Post said that the number of deaths at Hebrew Home have been under-reported.
MARY JANE: A friend sent it to me yesterday. 192 deaths.
CHRISTIE: (Stunned.) I worked right there,
MARY JANE: The highest in the state.
CHRISTIE: Next to it. Until March.
MARY JANE: I know.
CHRISTIE: I didn’t hear about this.
MARY JANE: They were piling the corpses in the old retreat center.
CHRISTIE: We know someone who works there.
MARY JANE: Yes, from the dog run. Her mother also lives there. Ruff-Ruff’s owner.
CHRISTIE: One of my students worked as a waiter there.
MARY JANE: There are infections among the staff. The paper said that.
CHRISTIE: I think people from my church (also work there).
MARY JANE: I always used to, I was trying to pray. I went to Catholic School with French nuns. I looked up to them. But I stopped. Something always seemed to be happening, so I didn’t pray anymore and never started again—and now things are so chaotic—and I can’t pray now.
MARY JANE: I’m afraid for people going into hospitals. You go in and you might never come out. Families can’t go to visit. People are dying and they’re alone.
CHRISTIE: (Juno breaks out of her harness.) She broke out of her harness. She can snap the holder on the harness. Juno you come back here. I don’t want her running away.
MARY JANE: Juno, you come back.
CHRISTIE: (Suddenly.) Don’t you run, Juno. Junie, you come back here. I don’t want her going down to the swamp.
(CHRISTIE runs after JUNO.)
MARY JANE: You’re not going anywhere—you come back with us.
CHRISTIE: Jasper, you stay here with me.
(Juno is running off. Silence.)
CHRISTIE: Come back, Junie.
MARY JANE: She’s had enough of being tied up . . .
CHRISTIE: Come on back. Don’t go anywhere.
MARY JANE: She’s tired . . . of everything . . .
CHRISTIE: This leash comes off. This leash comes off. It slipped over her head.
MARY JANE: . . . and the pandemic. She sees what it’s doing.
(JUNO begins howling.)
CHRISTIE: Stay right there. That’s a good girl. I’ll come get you.
MARY JANE: I’m glad an animal is helping us solve this.
(The howling gets louder.)
(End of Scene)
Copyright (c) 2020 by Bob Shuman. All rights reserved. Photos: Winter, the llama, Straits Times; Jasper and Juno in “jail.”