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Passed Throught the Station
(SOPHIE, a small girl aged nine, sits at a desk writing a letter.)
SOPHIE: (speaking out loud as she writes) Dear therapy clinic, (aside) Note to self: find out the name of the clinic. (writing) My name is Sophie Peterson, and I’m nine years old. My mom is staying there. I want to know when she’s coming back. I hope she doesn’t come back because I – (reconsiders, exaggeratingly scratches what she wrote, and starts anew) Hi, therapy place, my name is Miss Scarlet Parlette, and I’m a secret agent. Don’t tell anybody. I’m writing to ask for information on one of your patients– (SOPHIE shakes her head and crumples up the paper. She stands and dramatically throws it into a trash can.) Oh, why bother? I sound stupid, and knowing something doesn’t make better anyways. (SOPHIE looks towards the cluck nervously and sits back down, staring at it.) Nine fifty-five. All aboard and all not. It’ll stop. It’ll stop. Then it’ll pass through. (SOPHIE drops to the floor center stage. She hugs her knees and rocks herself, beginning to sing a sweet but sad lullaby. She abruptly stops after two stanzas and buries her face into her hands, sobbing. MS. WRENLEY rushes in stage-right. She sits on her knees and tenderly puts an arm around her.)
MS. WRENLEY: Shh. Sophie darling, it’s alright. (To herself) Why did this girl have to be left alone? What kind of mother would do that? (At this, SOPHIE cries louder.) Honey, I’m sorry. I really am. (SOPHIE leans into her in a full embrace.) Your mom is…just getting some help, Sophie. She’ll be back.
(SOPHIE breaks away.)
SOPHIE: No. Mother said she wanted to get away. She said she couldn’t take it. Ms. Wrenley, I think I did something to upset her.
MS. WRENLEY: No, no, darling. Not at all. Your mother is just…(drifts off)
SOPHIE: My mother is sick of me, that’s what. She never wanted me, never wanted this. She never wanted me to take care of. She said herself, ‘I should have never had a baby. A baby’s too much work.’ My mother said, ‘Why did God have to do this to me?’ and she said, ‘He let Zeke leave me!’ and, and…’I guess he does make mistakes,’ she said. She said, ‘Just look at my child!’
MS. WRENLEY: Please, don’t let that get to you. Do you hear me? Your mother’s young, Sophie. She’s barely twenty-four, and she endured hard times…
SOPHIE: (interjecting angrily) Oh, I gave her a hard time?
MS. WRENLEY: (softly) Sophie…darling…listen to me. I was not you. It had nothing to do with you. I think it was more that she wasn’t ready, and it was the wrong situation. But none of it is your fault. This is all your mom’s problem. Your mother’s sick, Sophie. In her head. And she’s going to get it all sorted out, she is. She will. Soon.
MS. WRENLEY: (sighs) However long it takes.
SOPHIE: I don’t want someone who doesn’t love me.
MS. WRENLEY: (beat) You’re here for now. And I’m glad. Sophie Darling, you’re a blessing to me…You’re mom’s looking for a job right now.
SOPHIE: What? She can’t be. Mother’s sick. You just said that.
MS. WRENLEY: Oh, that’s right. That’s what I meant. You’re mother’s getting help. Just don’t worry, okay?
SOPHIE: (grouchily) My mother used to tell me not to worry. It doesn’t change anything.
MS. WRENLEY: Well, I’m not your mother. And did your mother let you help make cake for parties? (Sophie shakes her head.) Well, then. I’m certainly not your mother. Sophie darling, my son’s coming here.
SOPHIE: (A bit more brightly) Felix?
MS. WRENLEY: (Nods) Mm-hmm. He’ll be here this afternoon.
SOPHIE: I thought he was with Mr. Wrenley.
MS. WRENLEY: He still can visit. He can show you give you some of his music to listen to. He writes songs and poems. Would you like to hear them when he comes? (Sophie nods.) Well, then. I’m in the mood for cake, aren’t you? With gobs of frosting! (Sophie giggles.)
(MS. WRENLEY grins. The telephone rings. SOPHIE watches curiously as MS. WRENLEY answers it.)
MS. WRENLEY: Morning? (pause) Oh, hello, Mary. No, I…(covers the phone, speaking to SOPHIE) Sophie darling, the recipe’s on the counter in the kitchen. Will you get the ingredients out for me? (SOPHIE skips off stage-right pleased. MS. WRENLEY returns to her conversation.) Yes, now, I know you think I should tell the girl. But – (pause) I know she ought to know, Mary, but I don’t want to distress the girl any more than she already is. She’s nine years old, for goodness sake! (sighs) Oh, how’s Felix? Well, he was at that camp for just about six months. I think that probably did him some good. (pause) Yes, it is a psychotherapy center, but I don’t want to be telling that around. (pause) No, but Sophie’s quite savvy with the dictionary. (pause) I know, Mary. (pause) But, see, I don’t want to get anyone worked up. (pause) Well, I think it’s not the best idea. (A shatter sounds from off-stage where Sophie is in the kitchen.) Sophie! (pause) Oh, nothing. I have to go, Mary. (hangs up)
SOPHIE: (calling from off-stage) Ms. Wrenley?
MS. WRENLEY: Sophie. Sophie! Are you all right?
(SOPHIE runs into the living room stage-right.)
SOPHIE: (babbling) Miss Wrenley, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to break your bowl. Honest I didn’t. Oh, please don’t send me away. Please, please, forgive me. I’ll clean it up right away. (starts to run off)
MS. WRENLEY: Hold up! (SOPHIE turns back) I’ll clean that up later. I was planning to get a new one anyway. (MS. WRENLEY sits on the couch and pats the seat next to her) Come sit. (SOPHIE sits) Now, dear, it was a mistake.
SOPHIE: But, Miss Wrenley, I saw something!
MS. WRENLEY: Did you? And what was that?
SOPHIE: Well, you know how I told you how I went to the hospital with Mother last year? (MS. WRENLEY nods) And how it smelled like dried blood? (MS. WRENLEY nods eagerly) Well, I found a nice big bowl and set it down next to the list. I was looking for the flour and going through one of the cabinets. All the way in the back, there was a lunch carrier. I know I should have minded my business, but it had ‘Felix’ written on it and I took it out. I was just looking at it, that’s all. I don’t even know why I was. But when I opened it, there was a knife covered in red. I knew it weren’t tomato cuz it had no seeds and because it smelled like the hospital. (MS. WRENLEY frowns and looks down at her lap) Miss Wrenley? Why did he have that?
MS. WRENLEY: (hesitantly) Felix…he…It doesn’t matter now. You don’t need to worry about it.
SOPHIE: But why –?
MS. WRENLEY: (interrupting, but gentle) Hush, Sophie darling. Felix should be a good boy now.
SOPHIE: Should be?
MS. WRENLEY: (firmly) Will be.
SOPHIE: Does that mean he wasn’t before? Is Felix sick like my mother? In his head? (MRS. WRENLEY says nothing.) (doubtfully) Mrs. Wrenley, do you still want to bake a cake?
MS. WRENLEY: Of course. (The doorbell rings repeatedly. SOPHIE covers her ears.) Coming! (MS. WRENLEY rises and walks towards the door stage-left. SOPHIE jumps up and trails behind her.)
SOPHIE: What about cake?
MS. WRENLEY: We’ll have cake. (MS. WRENLEY opens the door to FELIX, a boy about fifteen wearing the typical jeans, a tee, and sneakers. He appears a normal, teenage boy.) (smiling) Felix. (She opens the door wider, and FELIX walks inside. He drops his suitcase, and he stares at SOPHIE. ) This is a girl I’m fostering.
SOPHIE: I’m Sophie. You’re early. We were going to make cake.
FELIX: (shrugs) Sounds good.
MS. WRENLEY: How was camp?
FELIX: (spins towards her, angrily) Camp? Is that what you call it? I was there since November.
MS. WRENLEY: (warningly) Felix –
FELIX: Alright, Mom, I’ll go along with your pretending. Okay? Yes, Mom, camp was great. We roasted marshmallows and sung campfire songs. It was the best experience.
MS. WRENLEY: I was only asking, dear.
FELIX: Yeah, well, I was answering.
MS. WRENLEY: (to Sophie) Honey, can you stay here with Felix while I make the cake and clean up the glass. You can frost it when I’m done.
SOPHIE: (protesting) But you said –
MS. WRENLEY: I didn’t think he would come this early. Please, Sophie?
SOPHIE: Fine! I didn’t think Mother would get rid of me, but she did.
MS. WRENLEY: Sophie, that’s not true. (SOPHIE turns away.) Felix, come into the kitchen, please. I need to talk to you for a brief moment. (FELIX and MS. WRENLEY exit stage-right.)
(Sophie looks the suitcase and pulls out sheet music. She tilts her head while looking at it. FELIX returns from stage-right.)
SOPHIE: (excitedly) Do you play? This looks difficult.
FELIX: (takes back the papers) It wouldn’t be if you knew how to read.
SOPHIE: I know how to read! But that’s not words.
FELIX: No, it’s notes.
SOPHIE: I’m not dumb. I know what notes are. They’re what makes up a song.
FELIX: It isn’t just the notes, Susie –
SOPHIE: (correcting) Sophie.
FELIX: (ignoring her interjection) A song compiles of tempo, counts, tones, feelings, emotions. So much more besides notes!
SOPHIE: (laughs) Yeah, and I’m sure that my cereal was happy this morning.
FELIX: No, really. You ever heard the music Mom plays?
SOPHIE: She was playing it this morning.
FELIX: And how did you feel?
FELIX: So it was cheery, debatably.
SOPHIE: (beat) Will you play for me?
FELIX: Why should I?
SOPHIE: My mother used to sing to me sometimes.
FELIX: Yeah? What happened?
SOPHIE: Well, she had to go away.
FELIX: Had to?
SOPHIE: (nods) Uh-huh. She didn’t want me. Tried to kill herself.
FELIX: Oh, good. So you know. Mother just told me all about it. I thought that she would have lied to you.
SOPHIE: Mother was trying to get away from everything, from me. (beat) Mother and I lived right near a train station, you know.
FELIX: No, I didn’t know. Go on.
SOPHIE: I used to go there all the time. So I could get away when Mother would be in one of her moments. She almost always was. I would go to the station and look at the times. The most recent one, the last time I ever went there, I looked at the schedule. It was the most peculiar times for the evening: 7:12, 9:55, 10:14, and so on. I took it home with me and magnetited it onto the kitchen fridge. I got home from school the next day, and when I went to the fridge to get some juice, I saw 9:55 circled. I certainly didn’t circle it, so I knew it was my mother who did. I was so excited. I thought…I thought that we were going on a trip. (beat) I remember waking up. I looked at the clock, and it was 10:13. I heard the ‘Whoo. Whoo. Whoo’ of the train, stronger than I ever heard it.
FELIX: Because of your mother?
SOPHIE: (nods) But the train was far enough away. Enough time, I mean. (pantomiming) The conductor stopped and yanked her off the tracks.
FELIX: (in disbelief) Is that what happened. Well, tell me this: what did you do when she got home?
SOPHIE: Nuh-huh. They didn’t let her come back. She went to a mental hospital.
FELIX: Is that what she told you? A mental hospital? You mean like a psychotherapy center?
SOPHIE: What does that mean?
FELIX: Never mind.
SOPHIE: You want me to get the dictionary?
FELIX: Nah, forget it.
(MS. WRENLEY enters with cake stage-right.)
MS. WRENLEY: The cake is ready!
FELIX: (aggregately) Mother.
MS. WRENLEY: (oblivious) Yes, Felix dear?
(MS. WRENLEY cuts SOPHIE a piece. She grabs it gratefully and sits on the floor to eat.)
FELIX: (through gritted teeth) Cake can’t fix the fact that I was locked up for six months. You can’t go on pretending what happened didn’t happen. You know what they made me do there?
MS. WRENLEY: No, what would that be?
FELIX: They made me learn to read music. They made me play, Mom. They made me, so said, ‘express’ myself. They made me feel, Mom, when they were supposed to hollow me.
MS. FENLEY: Sometimes it’s better to go along with the wind than resist it.
FELIX: (loudly) But I don’t want the wind!
MS. WRENLEY: If there’s no wind, than you’d get buried underneath the snow.
FELIX: I already am. Don’t you see that? Mom, I’m already buried. And the wind can’t get to me if I’m buried!
MS. WRENLEY: (disappointedly) I thought the clinic helped you.
FELIX: (laughs) It didn’t help me. All they did there was shove a guitar into my hands, and said “Here, play this,” so they could keep me occupied and out of their kitchen drawers. They distracted me; they had my soul fill with emotion. Sure, they talked to me from time to time, but no one was willing to help me. No one would listen.
MS. WRENLEY: But I thought –
FELIX: Yeah? You thought a lot of things, didn’t you? Don’t you. You think it would best to keep a secret from this little girl. (points to SOPHIE)
MS. WRENLEY: (pleading softly) Felix, please.
FELIX: She thinks her mom’s in a mental hospital. She thinks her mom was saved.
(SOPHIE drops her fork.)
MS. WRENLEY: (losing patience) Felix, you stop it right now!
FELIX: No, Mom! When are you planning to tell her what really happened? Or did you think you could avoid, it shove it off, just like I was a problem that you pushed out of the way?
(SOPHIE trembles on the ground, clutching her ears. She squeezes her eyes shut and shakes her head. MS. WRENLEY and FELIX turn their attention to her.)
MS. WRENLEY: Sophie? Sophie darling, I’m so sorry.
SOPHIE: (shouting) Make it stop!
SOPHIE: It’s so loud! Make it stop! Make it stop! (After a moment, SOPHIE uncovers her ears and relaxes.)
MS. WENLEY: What are you talking about?
SOPHIE: I heard the train warning sound, just like I did that night. But there were no screeching to a stop like I thought I heard. It was rumble and clack and whoosh. The train kept going. It kept going.
(End of scene.)