Reconciliation by Lightning Storm

SETTING: A living room of an apparent Victorian-era house. There is a storm going on; thunder can be heard, and through the window drapes lightning can be clearly seen. We hear two people in the dark room, one man, one woman, talking in whispers. No lights can be seen other than the occasional lightning flash.

MAN (angrily): Goddamn it, light already!

WOMAN (concerned): Are you doing it right?

MAN: Of course I am, Janine, whaddya think I am, dumb?

JANINE (haltingly, placating): Well, no, I just--

MAN (interrupting): Shut up already. (shifts position, floorboards creaking. A noise can be heard, as if he stumbled; swears profusely) I knew we shouldn’t’ve come here, Janine. You and your damn agreeable-ness, sayin-- (mimicking a simpering feminine tone) “Oh yes, I’ll housesit your house! Not storm nor sleet nor husband can stop me!”

JANINE (mutters something under her breath darkly)

Floorboards creak again with movement. A bright light comes up suddenly, the fire starting, causing MAN to fall backwards from his post near the hearth. JANINE holds a fireplace lighter in hand and walks to a nearby chair. The lighter drops from her hand with a bang, clattering on the floor.

JANINE (with tired satisfaction): There it goes.

MAN (shouts): I tol’ya I could get it to work!

JANINE: (shakes head, not saying anything. Looks to MAN, rubbing her temples tiredly) What now, Clive?

CLIVE: (moves to window, peeking out the curtains, before returning.) Ah, I dunno... I guess we wait out here, like we said. I dunno when Jeff gets off, though. He said he’d call before he an‘ Sophie start the drive out, but I can’t get no reception down in this hell-hole of a house. When was it made, anyway? Before the frickin’ wheel? (grumbles)

JANINE (sighing): I’m sure I don’t get service here either, but really, can you please---

Lighting flashes brilliantly before thunder crashes; the noise makes CLIVE run to the other chair, scurrying to ball up in its width. Recovering, he quickly straightens out, as if trying to erase his momentary cowardice. Rain begins to beat against the window panes.

JANINE: They sound like bullets, Clive. (he murmurs his response, looking intently into the flickering flames.) Anyway, as I was saying… I don’t remember what I was saying. (shakes head and sighs) Don’t you think that maybe…(trails off)

CLIVE: Maybe what?

JANINE (looking at Clive): Maybe there’s something off about Jeff, Clive. I don’t know what, but he--

CLIVE (defensively): He what? Whaddya got against him? He’s been good to our daughter, and she seems happy enough with him.

JANINE: I don’t know. (looks over at CLIVE, stares back at fire.) He gives me the creeps. Like there’s something wrong with him.

CLIVE: (grunts) Like what?

JANINE (exasperated): I don’t know! Just…wrong!

CLIVE (with dark sarcasm): Yeah, because everybody’s just wrong, you know? Uh-huh, I get it. Sure.

JANINE: You don’t believe me?

CLIVE (snorts): I believe ya, Janine. I believe ya fine; Sophie’s living with some damned monster who gives you the creeps.

JANINE: No you don’t. (crosses arms over chest)

The fire waves and goes out. CLIVE curses angrily; the scuffling of the chair against can be heard. A clicking sound is repeated in the dark. The wind beats the rain against the windows.

CLIVE (sullenly): Damn lighter.

JANINE: Use mine.

The fire starts again. CLIVE sits back in the chair.

JANINE: As I was saying, did you ever get the feeling that maybe--

CLIVE: (angrily gets up from the chair and begins to pace, gesticulating widely) You know what, Janine? I think maybe you’re the one who’s ‘just wrong’. Nothin’ seems to be good enough for you! I mean, come on; who agrees to housesit during the storm of the century? How are ya not wrong?

JANINE (defensively, cowers into the chair): I’m not--

CLIVE (continuing, ignoring her rebuttal): Y’know what you do bothers me sometimes! Ya get on my case about frickin’ socks bein’ left on the floor, nag me about bein’ late for dinner, et sectra et sectra. An’ what do ya do ‘round the house? Sure, ya clean, and ya do it fine, but what’s the worth of a clean house and maybe some dinner when I come home to hear you just nag at me? On top of that, ya do all that whining--why do ya think I stay out past dinner? I mean sure, I love ya, but come on, Janine, you’re not exactly the easiest person to live with, baby. (breathless now) Maybe it’s just ya, Janine, with the problem!

JANINE (quietly, after his diatribe): I---I have the problem? Well…What about you, Clive? (stronger now, heating up) What about having to deal with you, leaving your stuff strung out around the house? Or not even at least having the decency of calling your wife when you’re gonna be late for dinner? (stands up, gets in CLIVE’s face) How about when you’re sleeping off a hangover when you should be going to work? Huh? Maybe I’m not the one with a problem, Clive-y ol’ boy, maybe it’s just you. (yelling) How could it be me with the issues when it’s you? (slaps him)

The room is silent, only heavy breathing can be heard. JANINE and CLIVE look at each other, angry and scared. CLIVE’s hand is rubbing his cheek. Lightning and thunder roll through the house, drowning out the rain for a moment. CLIVE turns after a moment, goes to the window and stays there. JANINE returns to her chair, molding herself into a ball and rocking softly, watching the fire. After some time, she calls out to him.

JANINE: Clive? I, uh…. (trails off uncertainly) Clive…

CLIVE: Janie… (sighs, leans his head against the window) I’m sorry. I guess I’m the one with problems. I shoulda--

JANINE (conciliatory, moves to CLIVE): No, no, I just wanted… (sighs) Clive, maybe we could just--

A knock sounds at the door between peals of thunder, loud and abrupt. Both CLIVE and JANINE jump at the sound. JANINE goes to the door and lets in the two new guests. She and the new woman share words, a garbled mix of greetings and conversation; the man stands back, waiting as the women talk. JANINE leads the two into another room, their racing babble interrupted by the storm. She soon returns to the living room and to CLIVE.

JANINE: Sophie looks happy, at least
CLIVE: (grunts his response)

Silence fills the room. A mumbled conversation is heard from another room, the sound of light banter and laughter.

JANINE (uncertain): So…Truce?

CLIVE: Yeah. Yeah, truce. That’s a good thing there.

CLIVE and JANINE slowly meander back to the now-dying fire. He stops to add another log to the flames, and then returns to her side.

JANINE (quietly) That’s good… I think, maybe…maybe we both have problems, you know? (CLIVE grunts in response) I’ll take that as a yes, then. So… We should both try harder, you think?

CLIVE: Yeah, that’s be good. Maybe counseling if it gets too bad.

They chuckle at that and hug each other. JANINE leans her head on CLIVE’s shoulder as the flames kick up again.

JANINE (looks up seriously at CLIVE): Jeff still gives me the creeps, though

They both laugh, startling when the thunder peals, and laugh again.





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