Not to be copied without the author’s permission.
(When Harriet Met Sally)
(A play in 2 acts)
By Carl Djerassi
Dedicated to the memory of Diane Middlebrook.
That a scientist, turned late in life into a playwright, should dip into his past professional life for inspiration should hardly be surprising. And since human reproduction—or more precisely, the control over reproduction—has concerned me for decades as a scientist, it was inevitable that I should use this most personal of personal human experiences as grist for this playwright’s mill. My first theatrical venture, An Immaculate Misconception, illustrated in the form of a “science-in-theatre” play some of the ethical dimensions of the use of one of the most exciting assisted reproductive techniques, ICSI (the acronym for intracytoplasmic sperm injection, meaning the direct injection of a single sperm into an egg under the microscope). That this topic continues to strike a responsive chord on the stage is reflected by the fact that the play has by now been translated into 11 languages since its 1998 premiere in Edinburgh.
Five plays later, in Taboos, I return to the same topic of sexual conduct in an age of technical reproduction, which can also be described as the impending separation of sex and reproduction—the former as usual for love, lust, or curiosity, but the latter increasingly under the microscope by, diplomatically couched, “alternative” means. But instead of focusing, as I did in my first play, on the technical “yang” of this theme, I now turn in my sixth play to the social “yin” with its much more subtle and complex components. As Chinese cosmology proclaims, only a combination of yin and yang produces all that comes to be, in other words the next generation of persons and of ideas.
Terms such as “marriage,” “family,” and “parent” used to have firm denotations. They were the rock on which our cultural values rested. Terms such as “embryo,” “baby,” or “twin” were also considered unambiguous. Assumptions that marriage must be heterosexual and that a child cannot have two parents of the same sex were never even considered assumptions, because they were beyond questioning.
All of these terms have become destabilized, their meanings blurred, their ranges extended. Some would blame in vitro fertilization technology during the past three decades for these developments, but in actual fact major social and cultural changes—primarily in the United States and Europe—were even more responsible for the monumental shift that has caused so much fear and antagonism, especially among the ever increasingly strident fundamentalists in the United States. So why not write a play about a situation where “family” and “parent” have assumed disturbingly fuzzy meanings? This is why I have situated Taboos in two of the socially and politically most polarized parts of the United States: the San Francisco Bay Area and the American Deep South.
But even though I have spent half my life in or around San Francisco, I do not wish to be considered a proselytizer for one view. Taboos was written in Europe—mostly in London, but early parts also in Ireland and Germany—by an agent provocateur born in Europe who has rediscovered his European roots and with them a more distanced as well as more nuanced view of America. Unquestionably, agent provocateur is the role that suits me best as a late-blooming playwright, because most of the issues interesting me are intrinsically provocative as well as complex. Indeed, by definition, they are unsuited to black and white answers in spite of the public’s and the media’s desires. Few topics are as provocative and complex as the present questioning of the social meaning of parenthood and family, where every horror projection can be countered with a “But what if?” scenario. That is why in Taboos I have mostly taken the yin side of the argument.
London, January 2006
SALLY (SYDNEY) PARKER, 33 years old, anchor woman for a San Francisco television station, later the mother of Tucker.
CAMERON PARKER, 35 years old, brother of Sally, conservative, church-attending certified public accountant in Mississippi. He speaks with a pronounced Southern accent.
PRISCILLA PARKER, Cameron’s wife, early thirties, highly conservative and religious housewife, later the mother of Ashley. She also speaks with a pronounced Southern accent.
DR. HARRIET CAROTHERS, 37 years old, urologist in San Francisco, later the mother of Jan.
MAX CAROTHERS, 32 years old, brother of Harriet, lawyer in the Public Defender’s Office, San Francisco.
The present, mostly in San Francisco, occasionally in a small town in Mississippi.
Scene 1: SALLY in pant suit walks toward park bench, looks at watch, then sits down near one end, leaving plenty of space next to her. Takes red rose from her bag, removes protective plastic covering, which she folds carefully and puts back into bag. Starts trying different locations for the rose: first in button hole, then in hair, then behind ear, but then decides to fix her hair with both hands and momentarily grasps stem in her mouth. At that moment MAX appears.
MAX How can you talk with a rose in your mouth?
SALLY (Flustered, quickly takes rose into her hand). I was just fooling around.
MAX (Points to bench). Mind if I sit down?
SALLY I’m afraid I’m expecting someone.
MAX That’s okay. I’ll get up the moment he appears.
SALLY I’d rather—
MAX (Interrupts her while sitting down) You look familiar.
SALLY I probably just have a common face.
MAX No, you don’t. Have we met before?
SALLY (Firmly) No… definitely not.
MAX What makes you so sure?
SALLY I would’ve remembered.
MAX Maybe… but I have seen you before.
SALLY Must have been somebody else. (Holds rose stem between her knees while moving back jacket sleeve to look at her watch).
MAX I hope your date is not standing you up.
SALLY (Starting to get annoyed) Let me worry about that.
(His cell phone starts ringing. Quickly looks at number, then answers it)
MAX Hi. (Pause). The answer is yes. (Pause). Mm hmm… red. (Pause). See you. (Hangs up and then turns to Sally). Sorry about that.
SALLY (More nervous and irritated) Do you think you could use one of the other benches?
MAX I guess you’re in no mood for company.
(Starts to rise at which point HARRIET approaches)
(Addressing Harriet). That was quick. (Gives her a peck on her cheek while pointing to place on bench he just vacated). Give me a ring when you get home.
HARRIET (While sitting down, still addressing Max). Will do.
(Max exits. SALLY is flustered, not knowing whether she is the expected date. HARRIET points at Sally’s rose, which is still clasped between her knees.)
(Sally, flustered, slightly separates knees whereupon rose falls to the ground. Harriet quickly picks it up, smells it and then hands it back to Sally)
(Disapproving). All appearance, but no real substance. This one is odorless.
SALLY (Defensive): I didn’t buy it… it was given to me.
HARRIET So why bring it to the park?
SALLY (Shrugs shoulders) The color goes with my jacket.
(Harriet studies her, a slight smile on her face, which disconcerts Sally)
I hope you don’t mind (points to bench)… I’m expecting someone (again looks at her watch)
HARRIET Why, of course. Sorry. (Gets up and leaves)
(Sally again fidgets with rose, finally decides to hold it in both hands, folded demurely in her lap. Long pause… whereupon HARRIET suddenly returns, this time a yellow rose in her hand).
(Cheerfully) Hi! I’m Harriet.
SALLY (Somewhat annoyed) You fooled me!
HARRIET I hope you’ll forgive me. (She offers her the yellow rose). Here… smell it… nice scent.
SALLY (Smells it quickly and returns it) How come yours smells?
HARRIET Because I threw away the one Esther gave me and bought a new one!
SALLY (Relieved laughter) I follow the rules and you break them! Promising beginning! By the way… my name is Sally Parker.
HARRIET I know.
SALLY You mean, Esther told you about me?
HARRIET Of course. I don’t go on blind dates… at least not anymore.
SALLY She told me nothing about you. Absolutely nothing! Just “trust me.”
HARRIET You’re that trusting?
SALLY On the contrary! I’m very much the wary type. But there was something about Esther: motherly… and yet tough and all-knowing.
HARRIET True. Otherwise, I’d have thrown her out of my office.
SALLY Office? What kind of office? In fact, what do you do?
HARRIET What would you like me to be doing? According to Esther, you gave her a list of desiderata.
SALLY (Laughs) I didn’t come with a list. She drew one out of me, insisting that all professional matchmakers do that. And “desiderata” was her word… I’ve never used it before.
HARRIET Still… what sort of office would you “desire” I had?
SALLY A place that isn’t just a job.
HARRIET Any preferences?
SALLY No. I just want to know what you get out of your work. Does it excite you?
SALLY So what do you do?
HARRIET Later. What about your job? How does it feel knowing you’re being ogled by thousands of people every morning and evening? Having to look perfect each time?
SALLY Presentable! Not perfect.
HARRIET Not a hair out of place… impeccable make up? I’d call that more than presentable.
SALLY You get accustomed to it… especially when somebody else does it for you.
HARRIET So you love it?
SALLY Actually, it’s the pits. I get up at 4:00AM five days a week.
HARRIET No wonder you went to a matchmaker. Who’d want to live with someone with such weird hours?
SALLY I’m quitting.
HARRIET (Surprised). Oh? (Suddenly reaches over and tousles Sally’s hair).
SALLY (Taken aback, tries quickly with her hands to smooth her hair but Harriet stops her) Now why did you do that?
HARRIET I just wanted to see you with bed-head.
HARRIET You don’t just look presentable… you look like the real article… especially with your hair disheveled.
SALLY Thanks. (Somewhat timidly, tousles Harriet’s hair for a moment). So do you.
Sudden awkward pause while they both play with their roses.
HARRIET (Offers her rose to Sally) Here… keep it. A gift.
SALLY Thanks. (Looks at her red rose and suddenly tosses it away). I can’t give that to you. As you said: all appearance… no substance. (Beat). By the way, who was that man who greeted you?
HARRIET My brother.
SALLY You sent him to spy?
HARRIET Just to check you out. I wouldn’t have come if he hadn’t given me the okay over the phone.
SALLY But what could he’ve found out in a minute or two? Especially since you seem to have watched me on TV.
HARRIET TV is always sanitized. No hair out of place… no four letter words. For instance, off camera… do you ever say “fuck?”
SALLY (Grinning) Shit yes.
HARRIET (Laughs) That’s a relief. (Beat). What about jeans?
SALLY (Puzzled) You want to know about my parents?
HARRIET Not those genes. Do you wear jeans?
SALLY Sure… I wear them.
HARRIET Too bad. I hate jeans.
SALLY But why? Every one wears jeans.
HARRIET Exactly the reason I can’t stand them.
SALLY Did you tell that to Esther?
HARRIET No… she didn’t ask about my desiderata. It’s you, who’s paying her fee.
SALLY I see. (Pause). Okay… I’ll give the jeans to “Good Will.”
HARRIET (Nonplussed) You’ll do what?
SALLY Get rid of the jeans.
HARRIET Because of what I just said?
SALLY (Nods) Mm-hmm.
HARRIET But that’s not enough of a reason!
SALLY You seemed to feel so strongly about jeans.
HARRIET But still—
SALLY You’d be annoyed every time you saw me in jeans.
HARRIET True… but how do you know we’ll even meet again?
SALLY Do you think we’ll meet again?
HARRIET (Studies her closely, wagging her head) Probably. (Suddenly tousles again Sally’s hair). Yes… definitely yes!
SALLY You see.
HARRIET See what?
SALLY The jeans are my gift to you. (Raises yellow rose she held in her hand). I’d like to see you again. And getting rid of a couple of jeans is no big deal.
HARRIET You only have a couple?
HARRIET That’s not so bad. I thought you’d have a closet full of them.
SALLY No compromises! If you don’t like jeans, even one would spoil it. (Grins). No fucking jeans.
HARRIET What about pajamas?
SALLY What about them?
HARRIET You wear them?
SALLY You mean in bed?
HARRIET Even when you’re alone?
SALLY I said “never.”
SALLY And you?
SALLY Now it’s my turn for an important question.
HARRIET Fair enough.
SALLY Are you a pussy lover?
HARRIET (Taken aback) Isn’t it a bit premature to ask such a question?
SALLY Not for me it isn’t. (Suddenly realizes Harriet’s interpretation). I’m allergic to cats.
HARRIET (Laughs) I see. No… no pussies.
SALLY That’s a relief. (Beat). Back to your brother. You never told me what he could find out in a couple of minutes about a total stranger. Or did you give him all the dope you got from Esther?
HARRIET Nothing. I wanted his first impression.
HARRIET Because he’s good at first impressions. I trust him.
SALLY I envy you.
HARRIET You’re an only child?
SALLY I’ve got one brother… Cameron.
HARRIET Unusual name.
SALLY Yeah… so was mine: Sydney.
HARRIET You changed it? Why?
SALLY I was fed up getting letters addressed to Mr. Sydney Parker.
HARRIET “Sydney and Cameron.” It would make interesting camouflage for gay couples. Offhand, you wouldn’t know what sex you’re dealing with.
SALLY My parents would go ballistic if someone ascribed such a motive to them.
At this point, Harriet’s cell phone rings which she picks up. Checks the number and starts listening. Sally, somewhat irritated, turns partly away from Harriet, takes water bottle out of her bag and takes a few sips.
HARRIET (Into phone) You’ll be okay. Just drink plenty of water. (Pause). At least a couple of liters. (Pause) No… not all at once. (Pause). In that case, make an appointment. (Hangs up, turns to Sally). Sorry about that.
SALLY You always carry a cell phone with you?
HARRIET (Notices Sally’s expression). You don’t approve?
SALLY I hate them. Like you… with jeans.
HARRIET But why? Everybody has a cell phone.
SALLY (Laughing). Like jeans. (Beat) But it’s impolite… answering it while you talk to someone else. Besides, I don’t want to be reachable 24 hours a day.
HARRIET Not a bad reason. But what about your water bottle? You always carry one with you?
SALLY Most of the time.
SALLY Keeps me hydrated. It’s supposed to be good for you.
HARRIET Says who?
SALLY Says…. everybody. Even you… just now on your phone.
HARRIET That’s different. I was talking to a sick man. You look in great shape.
SALLY What’s wrong with carrying a water bottle and taking sips from it?
HARRIET How much did you pay for this bottle of water?
SALLY I don’t know. Maybe a dollar fifty.
HARRIET If you have to drink… why not tap water?
SALLY All those chemicals?
HARRIET You drink distilled water?
HARRIET You see? (Suddenly looks at the cell phone still in her hand) Too bad I can’t throw it away right now and impress you. But I need it… for my patients.
SALLY Say… what kind of a doctor are you?
SALLY I thought only shrinks always need to be reachable.
HARRIET My patients are mostly men. To them, urologists are even more important than psychiatrists.
SALLY Still… may I ask you for a favor?
SALLY The next time we meet, could you leave your cell phone at home? So it’s just you and me?
HARRIET I can’t leave it at home. But I’ll turn it off… for you.
Scene 2. A few weeks later in Harriet’s apartment.
MAX Well? How’s it going?
HARRIET Promising. (Long pause)
MAX Is that all you’ve got to say to your nosy brother?
HARRIET Sally would like to start a family.
MAX Wow! (Beat) And what was your response?
HARRIET Why not? (Pause)
MAX And that’s all? My opinionated sister, who never lets her brother say anything unchallenged, suddenly rolls over.
They both laugh.
HARRIET I didn’t “roll over” but I understood what Sally meant. Her family broke off with her… totally… once she announced that she was gay… so she wants a new family… with all the accoutrements.
MAX You mean kids?
HARRIET Well… one at the outset.
MAX Is that why you’re suddenly talking French? Accoutrements! (Beat) And then you told her mais oui? You’re talking about one of the truly monumental decisions in life—
HARRIET I’m just mulling it over…
MAX How blasé can you get?
HARRIET (Attempting banter) So now you’re also switching to French?
MAX What else does a mais oui deserve but a blasé?
HARRIET Sally and I are hardly blasé about whether we could establish a family. That’s why the two of us decided to take off for a week.
MAX To do what?
HARRIET Go backpacking. No phones, no people… just the two of us… plus some serious aerobic stuff.
MAX Anything else?
HARRIET I did something I shouldn’t have done. I wonder whether I should tell her.
MAX You can always try it out on me first.
HARRIET When I went to her place, I looked through her medicine cabinet.
MAX Why would you do that?
HARRIET Because you learn a lot about people from what they keep there. What medication they’re on… what kind of cosmetics they use… other stuff. How messy they are in a place where they don’t expect to be checked.
MAX And you found something that bothered you?
HARRIET Bother is too strong a word. It was her toothpaste.
MAX You mean how she squeezed it?
HARRIET (Laughs). Not that serious. It was labeled “organic.” But when I looked at the label, I found it was just fancy bicarbonate of soda… mint flavored.
MAX I don’t get it.
HARRIET I didn’t either.
MAX I mean… I don’t get why that should bother you.
HARRIET It said “free of chemicals.” But what is bicarbonate…if not a chemical? Or the mint flavor? Is it made from mint not exposed to pesticides? It sounds kooky. The price was still on the tube… $5.99. Can you imagine, buying “organic” sodium bicarbonate for $5.99?
MAX Why get upset about that?
HARRIET It’s irresponsible… wasting so much money on bicarbonate. Do you think I should ask her about it?
MAX If I were you I’d keep my mouth shut. She might start having second thoughts. Or if you have to, wait till she brushes her teeth by a brook while backpacking. Then she won’t know you were snooping.
HARRIET If the trip works out, we’ll share a medicine cabinet and I’ll be buying the tooth paste. (Beat) End of snooping…
MAX Not quite. Have you ever done this in my place?
HARRIET You know I hardly ever visit you in your apartment.
MAX True… but you have been there. So did you look?
HARRIET (Somewhat embarrassed) I did… once.
MAX And what were you looking for?
MAX Condoms? To see whether I followed your advice about buying ribbed ones?
HARRIET Female contraceptives… or even some Tampax.
MAX You better sit down and ‘fess up.
HARRIET (Attempts banter) Come on… it’s not a big deal.
MAX Organic tooth paste in your prospective lover’s medicine cabinet is a big deal, but looking for the Pill in your brother’s is not? Listen… we hardly ever have any secrets—
HARRIET (Interrupts) The operative word is “hardly.”
HARRIET What about your girl friends? I’ve met some of them, but when we’re alone, you never talk about them.
MAX That has nothing to do with secrets… it’s all about discretion. Maybe it’s the lawyer in me.
HARRIET Anyway, I wanted to know whether one of them was actually living with you.
MAX So why didn’t you ask?
HARRIET (Laughing) Discretion. Maybe it’s the physician in me.
MAX (Studies her for some seconds) You’re about to go backpacking for a week with your red rosed Sally. Not a bad way to get to know a potential partner.
MAX But you seem to have already made up your mind… other than the tooth paste question. You’re even willing to consider having a child with her. But shouldn’t you first want to find out what it’s like to live together?
HARRIET I just got a gut feeling that she is it! (Beat). You look dubious.
MAX Not dubious… jealous. (Beat). I’ve never had that gut feeling. Or am I just a born bachelor… a rare species these days?
HARRIET Nonsense, You’re wonderful company… you’re gregarious… you have a tough sense of humor—
MAX (Interrupts) Sure… sure. So why haven’t I met the woman I wanna settle down with? Actually, what I’ve been doing lately is looking into the mirror to find out what I really want in a long-term relationship.
HARRIET And what did you find?
MAX Here I am, Max Carothers, with great parents and a super-sister, but I don’t know whether I’d make a good father!
HARRIET A man of 32 is still a kid. You’ve got years to figure this out. Think of us poor women! Think how long it took your 37-year old sister to acquire that gut feeling.
MAX As a physician, you should know that there are more important organs than just the gut for a long-lasting relationship.
HARRIET (Grinning) At least I don’t have to include the testis.
MAX In that case, how do you intend to become pregnant? (Beat) And which one of you plans to be the mother?
MAX And the father?
HARRIET The father? That, of course, is a much more complicated question. With us lesbians, the word father always has quotation marks around it. (Beat). I want to ask you something… but don’t get angry. Promise?
MAX Well… within limits.
HARRIET Typical lawyer’s response. All I want you to do is to consider testing the waters of fatherhood instead worrying about how and when to jump in.
MAX How does one dip one toe into the sea of fatherhood? Doesn’t that usually mean jumping in or staying dry?
HARRIET Would you be willing to become Sally’s sperm donor? You’ve got great genes… and I even share some of them with you.
MAX Je ne sais pas. Or as we would say in the vernacular, “let me think about it.”
HARRIET I’ll put it on the agenda for the back packing: Max as sperm donor and uncle, but not a father. Deal?
MAX I’ll think about it.
END OF SCENE 2
Scene 3. The dining room of Sally and Harriet’s apartment in San Francisco a few months later. A rectangular dining room table (preferably expandable to suit requirements of Scenes 8 and 12) is in the center of the room. It has been set formally and festively, including champagne (still empty) and wine (partly-filled) glasses. The centerpiece, a silver tray with a large elongated object wrapped in gold foil, remains undisturbed. Except for a fourth, untouched setting, it is clear that the meal is nearly over. Harriet, festively dressed, is seated at the table with a glass of wine in one hand and her cell phone in the other.
HARRIET (Into cell phone) You have to pee all the time? That was the idea. (Pause) All right… reduce it to one liter. (Pause. Then, as Sally, smartly dressed, enters from the bedroom:) I’ve got to hang up. (She hangs up and turns to Sally.) Sorry about that.
SALLY You promised.
HARRIET I know, I know. Look, I’m switching it off! Look.
(She switches the phone off. They embrace and kiss. )
HARRIET Sexy baby… (Beat) You ready?
SALLY I guess so.
HARRIET Sure you still want to go through with it?
SALLY Of course. Why wouldn’t I? It’s…
SALLY It’s more than that.
HARRIET Have a drink.
HARRIET You can have one drink.
SALLY I don’t need a drink, I just…
HARRIET It’s Cameron, isn’t it?
(Sally nods. Harriet strokes her hair.)
HARRIET You want to wait a bit longer?
SALLY Oh what’s the use? He obviously thinks I’m a lost cause.
HARRIET Maybe his plane got delayed.
SALLY Then why didn’t he call? I just thought we’d finally be able to…
HARRIET I’m sorry, baby. We’re now your family. Me and Max. And you can include my parents.
(Sally manages a sad smile.)
HARRIET God, you look great!
(Sally cheers up. They kiss. Max enters and interrupts the kiss. He’s well dressed in slacks and pressed shirt but no tie.)
MAX The pastry chef wishes to know if you are ready for the dessert.
(Harriet and Sally break off the kiss.)
Pecan pie. It’s my only Southern specialty.
HARRIET How about waiting a couple more minutes?
MAX (With a tiny note of impatience) Well, why not?
(He grabs a glass of wine and flops into a seat.)
SALLY Damn him!
MAX (As if raising a toast) Damn him! Damn Cameron!
(A pause. Harriet and Max drink.)
SALLY You know, this year he sent me a birthday card. My first birthday card in three years! I took it as a sign.
HARRIET Not everyone finds it easy to forgive and forget.
SALLY There’s nothing to forgive. Besides, he doesn’t even know why I wanted him here.
MAX Okay, look. He dropped you. I’m sorry. Why don’t we just pop the cork, toast each other, and then get started?
SALLY You two go ahead. No alcohol for me.
MAX Oh, come on!
HARRIET Max. Just go get the champagne. Let’s get on to the main event.
(Max exits. Harriet puts music on the stereo and offers Sally a dance. Sally accepts and they dance like a courting couple. At the very least they dance to the first two or three stanzas of Cole Porter’s Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love):
Birds do it, bees do it;
Even educated fleas do it —
Let's do it, let's fall in love.
In Spain the best upper sets do it,
Lithuanians and Letts do it —
Let's do it, let's fall in love.
The Dutch in old Amsterdam do it,
Not to mention the Finns;
Folks in Siam do it — think of Siamese twins.
(As Max returns from the kitchen with a champagne bottle, there is a little rap at the door barely heard above the music. Max, still holding the bottle, answers the door. Cameron stands in the doorway. He is dressed in a conservative suit and tie. His first sight is of his sister and Harriet locked in an embrace. Sally sees him, instinctively pulls away from Harriet. Harriet sees him. At once she goes over to the stereo and stops the music.)
(An awkward pause.)
CAMERON The doorman let me in. I wanted it to be a surprise.
(As Sally rushes at Cameron and hugs him.)
SALLY Come in, come in!
CAMERON I’m sorry I’m so tardy. My plane was late.
SALLY It’s okay, never mind.
(Cameron steps into the room, Sally leading him by the hand. Harriet and Max hang back.)
HARRIET You want to be alone?
SALLY No, no. Cameron… this is Harriet.
CAMERON (Flustered) Pleased to meet you, Ma’am.
HARRIET I’m glad you made it. I’ve always wanted to meet some member of Sally’s family.
(Harriet and Cameron shake hands, with evident coolness.)
HARRIET Too bad you missed the first two courses. We’d finally given up on you.
SALLY And this is Max.
MAX So you’re the mysterious brother.
CAMERON Pleased to meet you, Sir.
HARRIET Pop the cork, Sir Max.
(Max takes the champagne to the table.)
SALLY Not me. Later… maybe.
HARRIET (She offers a full glass to Cameron.) You must join us in a toast to Sally and to this special occasion.
CAMERON (Embarrassed) Much obliged, Ma’am, but—
HARRIET You can call me Harriet.
CAMERON (Even more embarrassed) I can’t…
HARRIET Of course you can.
CAMERON (Points to glass) I mean… I don’t indulge.
(Max and Harriet exchange surprised glances.)
SALLY Cam doesn’t drink.
MAX Well, can I get you something else? Orange juice? Sparkling water? Ginger ale?
CAMERON Any Coke?
MAX I didn’t get Coke. (Grins at Sally) Too much phosphoric acid. You know Sally, obsessed with everything organic…
HARRIET (Joins in) Hates mobile phones…
MAX Never has a hair out of place…
SALLY (Laughingly) Enough compliments! (Beat). Cam and I will both have ginger ale. Color co-ordination!
(Max hurries into the kitchen.)
SALLY (She hugs Cameron again.) I’m so pleased you came!
CAMERON Me too. It’s been a long time. But Jeez… You talk so different … I mean, I’ve seen one of your broadcasts on the Internet. Folks back home would never guess you’re one of us. (Beat) What’s the special occasion?
HARRIET Sally and I are…
SALLY (Interrupting) First things first. You must be hungry.
CAMERON That’s okay. I’ll join you for dessert.
(Harriet suppresses a giggle. Sally glares at her.)
SALLY Well, sit down.
(Cameron takes a seat.)
CAMERON (Addressing Harriet) So Ma’am, what do you do? (Beat) I mean, Harriet.
HARRIET I’m a urologist…
(Max enters with two ginger ales.)
HARRIET …and you’d be surprised how many of my patients call me ‘Ma’am.’
MAX Especially men with their pants ‘round their ankles.
SALLY Max, cut it out!
HARRIET (With glass raised to Cameron) Well. May this be the first of many visits! (To Sally and Max) Success at the first try!
(All three turn to Cameron, waiting for his toast, but he’s tongue-tied.)
CAMERON Jeez… I don’t know what to say.
MAX Anything that comes to your mind.
CAMERON I have no idea what y’all are celebrating… but…
(He raises his glass to no one in particular.)
… whatever it is, may the good Lord bless it… and you.
SALLY (She leans over and gives Cam a kiss on his cheek.) Nice toast, Cam. Cheers!
(They all join in as they clink glasses all around, being careful that every glass is being touched, and sip briefly from their glasses, the conversation ceasing somewhat awkwardly.)
SALLY I don’t think I can stand waiting much longer.
HARRIET Well then, let’s proceed. (She reaches into her pocket to produce what appears to be a gold coin and tosses it to Max.) Catch!
(Max, unprepared for the toss, fails to catch the object, which falls on the table or floor near Cameron, who picks it up.)
CAMERON (Surprised at its lightness) Chocolate? (He hands it to Max.)
MAX Hardly. (He starts to move toward the bedroom door, a little nervously.)
HARRIET (Barely able to suppress her amusement) Sally, think of something suitable to say while we wait.
CAMERON Wait for what?
HARRIET Please put the poor man out of his misery.
SALLY Why don’t you go check about the dessert?
HARRIET Yes, darling.
(Harriet, with a droll smile, goes into the kitchen. Cameron watches her go. There is a momentary pause.)
CAMERON Was that a condom?
SALLY Of a sort.
CAMERON What does that mean?
SALLY Never mind. (Beat) You don’t like Harriet, do you?
SALLY You disapprove of us.
CAMERON You know I do.
CAMERON You know why. It’s unnatural.
SALLY You sound exactly like Mom and Dad. With them, any word starting with “homo” is an abomination. With the possible exception of “homo sapiens” and that only if you make it plain it has nothing to do with evolution.
CAMERON They only did what their conscience made them do.
SALLY Like not inviting me to their son’s wedding?
CAMERON You know that wasn’t my fault. Mom said she wouldn’t come if you…
SALLY And of course we never disobey our parents, do we?
CAMERON Come on, Sid, I’m trying.
SALLY Don’t call me Sid. Those days are gone.
CAMERON Okay… Sally. (Beat) Hey, you remember the time we went to the costume party at the McNulty’s house?
SALLY It was a blast!
CAMERON And you went dressed as Fidel Castro…
SALLY False beard and exploding cigar.
CAMERON It was funny… but also weird.
SALLY I was grounded for a week for that stunt.
CAMERON You were always interested in stuff like that. Being different.
SALLY Different? Maybe back home. But this is San Francisco, Cam, not Mississippi! (Beat) Gays have rights here.
CAMERON Maybe here.
SALLY Here? Listen… gay partnerships or marriages are becoming legal in lots of places… not just California or Massachusetts. Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, South Africa… even England. (Beat) Or take Catholic Spain where they’ve legalized adoption by gay couples.
CAMERON I bet the Pope doesn’t approve.
SALLY Oh, Cam! Just exactly what’s wrong with two loving women adopting a child… or even better, giving birth to one?
CAMERON Hold on a minute. (Beat) Is that what you’re aiming to do?
( Sally remains silent.)
Sally! Is it?
Cameron stares at Sally)
Jeez. Is that what this ceremony is all about?
SALLY Cam. Let me ask you something. What do you think about artificial insemination?
CAMERON I don’t believe in artificial procreation.
SALLY Not even for a married couple?
CAMERON You’re not a married couple.
SALLY That wasn’t my question.
CAMERON Well… okay. I can see how, for a married couple, there might be… circumstances that would excuse it, in God’s eyes. I guess.
SALLY So you’re not against it, in principle?
CAMERON I guess not… under special circumstances.
SALLY And you don’t think my relationship with Harriet is just such a circumstance?
CAMERON You aren’t infertile, are you? If you want a baby, settle down with a decent man and—
SALLY I don’t want a man. I never have and I never will. (Beat) Do you believe in love?
CAMERON You know I do.
SALLY I love Harriet. I want a baby. With Harriet. Not with a man.
CAMERON Jeez, Sally! I don’t know… there are just… some things… I don’t know how to say it… but in God’s eyes it can’t be right.
(Harriet enters from the bedroom, followed by Max. Harriet starts to unwrap the gold foil on the dining table, disclosing a large syringe.)
CAMERON (Surprised) A turkey baster?
HARRIET We’ve got a fully-equipped kitchen.
CAMERON (To Harriet) Y’all trying to shock me?
HARRIET No. But it wouldn’t be difficult. Actually, this one is too small for a Thanksgiving turkey.
HARRIET (To Max) I’ll take it. (She points to handkerchief in his hand containing the condom.)
HARRIET (To Sally) Ready?
SALLY (To Cameron) I’ll be back in a jiffy. (To Max) Be nice to him… try some guys’ talk.
(She heads for the bedroom with the “turkey baster.”)
HARRIET You two might as well get to know each other while we’re busy. It won’t take long.
(As she leaves, with her back to the men so they can’t see what she’s doing, she carefully opens the handkerchief and removes the condom which she holds at the top.)
CAMERON (He points first to the center of the table and then to the door through which Sally and Harriet had exited.) You mean they’re going to use that thing?
MAX I guess Sally didn’t tell you what the occasion was.
CAMERON. No. In her first letter to me in years, she begged me to come. Said I’d bring her luck on the most important day of her life. (Beat) I thought she was getting married… or engaged… or something.
MAX That’s exactly what it is… quite some… thing. Sally quit as our top local TV news anchor for this! And that little chocolate you saw in my hand? Yes, that was a condom. But a special one, without spermicide, which we wrapped ourselves. Actually, we’ve got all kinds here in the Bay Area, we use them a lot. The whole range: ribbed… flavored… pagoda-shaped… and every color under the rainbow. By now they’ve filled the hypodermic with my seed and are probably all finished. . It’s faster than intercourse, no foreplay…
CAMERON Thank you! That’s enough information.
MAX Just trying to help.
CAMERON And I suppose you also consider that… natural?
MAX As far as fertilization is concerned? (He shrugs his shoulders.) It’s just a question of delivery vehicle.
CAMERON That’s all you see yourself as? A delivery vehicle?
MAX (Chuckling) Yeah. Like UPS. Or FedEx in my case. I’m known to be fast if I concentrate…
CAMERON Listen, bud. I realize y’all think I’m a Southern hick, but why don’t you just cut it all out.
MAX My apologies! No brother of Sally’s could be a hick. I shouldn’t have made that crack.
CAMERON Well, okay, then.
(An awkward pause)
CAMERON So… er... Max. You married?
MAX (He shakes his head.) Not yet.
CAMERON How old are you?
CAMERON Why postpone it?
MAX I’ve still got a humongous student loan to pay off. First college... then law school. I’m in the Public Defender’s Office. Indigent clients. So you can imagine how long it will take me to pay off my loans. Besides, I haven’t yet found the right woman. (Beat) So you’re a CPA.
CAMERON That’s right.
MAX A number cruncher.
CAMERON I like to keep people honest… especially with tax returns.
MAX (Genially) Must be good, steady business.
CAMERON I can’t complain.
MAX How long have you been married?
CAMERON Over four years.
MAX Any kids?
CAMERON Not yet, but trying.
MAX You thought about in vitro?
MAX Why not give it a try?
CAMERON I put my trust in the Lord.
MAX Well, it’s your decision.
CAMERON No, sir! God will decide.
MAX Okay. Good luck. You’ll need it.
CAMERON Thank you.
(There is a long, awkward silence.)
MAX So you’re from Europa, Mississippi.
CAMERON Eupora… not Europa.
MAX An anagram of Europa?
CAMERON You think we use anagrams to name our towns? (Beat) Have you ever read any Syriac literature?
MAX (Straight-faced) I do every morning… right after my Yoga.
CAMERON (Calling his bluff) You mind sharing what you read today?
MAX You got me. What is Syriac?
CAMERON Ancient Aramaic… and still the liturgic language of some Eastern Christian Churches.
MAX Don’t tell me you read Syriac.
CAMERON I researched it, because I wanted to know where the name of my hometown came from. In Syriac, Eupora was the old name of Corinth. (Beat) Corinth in Greece… not our Corinth in Mississippi.
MAX Okay, but why so many Greek names in the south? Athens, Georgia, Troy, Alabama…
CAMERON I reckon its all about slavery. The Greeks condoned it and didn’t let their slaves vote, and so did our forefathers. Also the reason for all the Greek columns in our plantation homes.
MAX That makes sense. So it’s Eupora.
CAMERON Sally and me were raised there. Nice town… but too small for a CPA. That’s why my wife and I moved to Jackson. (Beat) So... how did you get to know Sally?
MAX Through Harriet.
CAMERON I see. (Pause) And how long have you known Harriet?
MAX All my life.
CAMERON No kidding?
(Cameron puzzles over this for a moment. Then, walking right into it:)
MAX Yeah. I’m her brother.
(Cameron is stunned.)
CAMERON I’ve had it.
(He stands up.)
MAX You’re leaving?
CAMERON You bet I am.
MAX But you just got here.
CAMERON Nevertheless, I’ve gotta go.
MAX Stay for dessert at least. I spent over an hour on it.
CAMERON (Turning on him) What you’re describing is incest.
MAX Incest? Listen! I’m Harriet’s brother…not Sally’s.
CAMERON You’ve just had sex with your sister-in-law!
MAX I think you’re confusing genetics with some hang-up of yours.
(Cameron goes to leave.)
At least try some dessert! Pecan pie… my only Southern specialty. I did it for Sally’s sake.
(Cameron hesitates by the door.)
MAX You come all this way, and now you’re going to leave, without saying goodbye to your sister?
(Cameron is sufficiently challenged by this to be halted in his tracks. He listens.)
MAX Before you know it, you’ll be an uncle.
CAMERON God help me.
MAX I bet they’ll make it on their first try. They’re the best organized couple you ever saw. For the last three months, they’ve determined Sally’s optimum fertile time practically to the hour. With a fancy fertility monitor—computer-driven—and a drop of urine one can now pinpoint the most fertile day of the month. Just a question of measuring the relevant hormone levels.
MAX So you see, they’re not just a couple of dykes acting out some dumb fantasy.
CAMERON I don’t wanna hear any more!
MAX Do you believe in the idea of the family? Of keeping things in the family?
CAMERON Yes, I do.
MAX Well, that’s what they’re doing in there. You think it’s better to have a completely anonymous sperm donor, someone you never met, someone you know nothing about?
(Cameron is stumped for an answer.)
CAMERON I don’t know what to think. My mind is doing somersaults here.
MAX Well, that’s a start. Now keep it up.
(Harriet and Sally emerge from the bedroom.)
HARRIET Mission accomplished!
END OF SCENE 3
Scene 4. Three weeks after Scene 3. Priscilla and Cameron’s living room in Jackson, Mississippi. Priscilla enters, wearing casual clothes for domestic work and perhaps rubber gloves. She’s carrying a large old cardboard box. She puts it down on the floor and kneels down to open it. She rummages around inside and finds something. It’s a little girl’s doll—a Barbie doll or a rag doll, somewhat old and battered. She studies it, fussing over it for a moment.
PRISCILLA O Lord, give me a sign. Give me a sign, O Lord.
(She stops as she hears Cameron.)
CAMERON (Offstage) Honey?
(She puts the doll away and closes the lid of the box.)
PRISCILLA In here.
(She stands up and crosses to the table as Cameron enters. He’s carrying two Bibles.)
CAMERON What’s in the box?
PRISCILLA (Ignoring that question) Ready?
(They sit down together, taking a Bible each. There is a brief pause as she takes her gloves off.)
CAMERON It’s your turn to read.
PRISCILLA Never mind. I want to hear you do it first.
(There’s just a hint of tension in her remark, which he notices. He opens the Bible and starts browsing through, looking for a lesson. She takes the book from him, finds a page, and indicates for him to read.)
CAMERON “When Isaac was forty years old, he married Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean and the sister of Laban. Isaac pleaded with the Lord to give Rebekah a child because she was childless. So the Lord answered Isaac's prayer, and his wife became pregnant with twins.”
(Priscilla takes Cameron’s hand in hers and they pray.)
PRISCILLA Answer our prayers, O Lord.
CAMERON Lord, answer our prayers. Make my wife Priscilla pregnant.
PRISCILLA I’m begging you, O Lord, to give me a sign that I may become pregnant. Make me pregnant, O Lord. Give me a baby, I’m begging you.
CAMERON And yet Thy will be done. Amen.
(She stares at him as if he had just hushed her.)
PRISCILLA Okay. And now it’s Forgiveness Time. You first. What would you like me to forgive?
CAMERON Well, um... let me think.
PRISCILLA You could start by explaining why you lied to me.
CAMERON I didn’t, Prissy. I’ve never lied to you.
PRISCILLA Why didn’t you tell me you’d gone to see her? Flying all the way across the country…
CAMERON Because you would’ve argued with me.
PRISCILLA No... I would’ve told you not to see that sinner. Your parents would’ve said the same.
CAMERON Don’t bring them into this.
PRISCILLA Why not? You should have more respect for your Mom and Dad.
CAMERON I do. (Beat) All right. I ask your forgiveness for… for not telling you I went to San Francisco.
PRISCILLA Why did you go?
CAMERON She asked me to.
PRISCILLA Did you ask the Lord what you should do?
CAMERON I always do… you know that.
PRISCILLA I don’t believe you.
CAMERON Do I get your forgiveness or not?
PRISCILLA Not yet. I need to hear you say that woman is a sinner!
CAMERON All right. She’s a sinner. But…
PRISCILLA But what? No buts!
CAMERON “Lord, make us ever mindful of the wants and needs of others.”
PRISCILLA Are you praying for her wants and needs? If you mean what I think you mean, that’s creepy. (Beat) Why did you go see her?
CAMERON I wish I’d done it earlier.
PRISCILLA You mean she’s repenting?
CAMERON It’s not for me to say.
PRISCILLA She’s living in sin and will never enter the kingdom of heaven!
CAMERON How do you know she’s living in sin?
PRISCILLA She’s living with another woman!
CAMERON Lots of people are living together… men with women, women with women, men with men… without sinning.
PRISCILLA Unmarried and not sinning?
CAMERON They consider themselves “domestic partners.”
PRISCILLA: What’s that supposed to mean?
CAMERON The legal definition says: "Domestic Partners are two adults who have chosen to share one another's lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring." That’s a quote.
PRISCILLA Where did you get that from?
PRISCILLA Who’s Max?
CAMERON Harriet’s brother. He’s a lawyer.
PRISCILLA So you’ve become buddies? Max and you? And Sally and that woman aren’t sleeping together?
CAMERON I don’t know… I didn’t ask her.
PRISCILLA You see?
CAMERON See what? They live in a nice place.
PRISCILLA Oh, really? Did you ask her what they do in their bedroom as part of a… (She assumes a nasty, sarcastic tone.) “committed relationship of mutual caring?"
CAMERON How can I ask that? What would you say if someone asked what we do in our bedroom?
PRISCILLA It’s none of their business. We’re married!
CAMERON Married people do sinful things in bed.
CAMERON Orthodox Jews are only permitted sex in the missionary position. You, Pris, always want to be on top. Not just lie on top and move slowly. Sit on top… and bounce. (Beat) And then you complain that I come too soon.
PRISCILLA Cameron Parker! Hush! We aren’t Jews.
CAMERON Okay, okay. What about when I asked you to try… (He stops.)
PRISCILLA Try what?
CAMERON You remember.
PRISCILLA I remember nothing.
CAMERON. Come on… you know. (Beat) Use me like a lollypop.
PRISCILLA That’s icky! And you aren’t exactly vanilla-flavored! Cameron! What’s come over you? You’re different since you came back from San Francisco.
CAMERON I haven’t changed. I’m just starting to see things differently. Sally… and Harriet are nice women, who care for each other. I don’t know what else they’re doing… but it isn’t Christian to deny your only sister.
PRISCILLA Tell that to your parents. See how they like it.
CAMERON Maybe I will.
(She glares at him.)
CAMERON But not now. (Beat) Now it’s your turn.
PRISCILLA I haven’t forgiven you yet.
CAMERON Aw, Jeez, Prissy!
(He gets up to leave.)
PRISCILLA Where are you going? Don’t you leave this table until we’re finished!
CAMERON If you’re not going to forgive me, then Forgiveness Time is over!
PRISCILLA All right. Forgiven. My turn now.
(He sits back down.)
CAMERON Go ahead. I’m ready to forgive you.
PRISCILLA Thank you. (Beat) While you were away... I had...
CAMERON (A slight feeling of alarm) What?
PRISCILLA I had... thoughts.
CAMERON (Relieved) Thoughts?
CAMERON Thoughts about what?
PRISCILLA Adultery. (Beat) I had thoughts about committing adultery.
CAMERON (Astonished) My gosh! Anyone in particular?
PRISCILLA No, of course not.
CAMERON So you didn’t do anything about these thoughts?
CAMERON I’m just asking, so I can get the facts.
PRISCILLA The facts are we don’t have a baby!
CAMERON Well... I’m doing everything I can.
PRISCILLA I know, honey. (Beat) Please forgive me.
CAMERON I forgive you.
PRISCILLA I’m much obliged. (She kisses his cheek.)
(The phone rings.)
CAMERON Oh, let me get that, it’s probably Jimmy about golf on Saturday
(He goes to the phone. She goes over to the box and takes out another doll. Unseen by him, she holds it close to her chest and listens as he talks.)
CAMERON (Into phone) Hello... Oh, hi... hi, yeah, I’m… I’m fine... we’re fine... yeah, she’s right here... No, that’s okay, we can talk...
(Now Priscilla realizes who is on the phone. She puts the doll down, tense.)
CAMERON (Into phone) Um... yeah. Yeah, I can... Yeah... Why?... Oh! Oh, Jeez... Oh, my gosh... That’s awesome. I see... congratulations. Okay. Well. That’s… that’s… (He becomes aware of Priscilla’s presence.) That’s... that would be no problem for me... No, no problem. Leave it to me. When would that be?... I see... Okay. Well. We’ll talk again before that... Okay, take care.
(He hangs up.)
PRISCILLA That was her.
PRISCILLA Are you going to see her again?
PRISCILLA Because I have forgiven you? That was for the last visit. You can’t forgive ahead of time!
CAMERON Prissy… I’ve got to see her.
CAMERON In September.
PRISCILLA Why then?
CAMERON It’ll have been nine months.
PRISCILLA (Information is starting to sink in.) You mean she’s having a baby?
(A pause. Priscilla prays.)
PRISCILLA Oh Lord! Here’s your faithful servant… wanting a child more than anything else… and she ends up pregnant! (Beat) How?
CAMERON What do mean “how”?
PRISCILLA Who’s the father? An anonymous sperm donor?
CAMERON No. It’s Max.
PRISCILLA Who’s Max? (Now she remembers. Priscilla’s jaw drops.) Oh, good grief! Max! Good… grief!
CAMERON Yes, yes, I know. (Trying to calm her down) Pris! Sally didn’t fornicate with him. That’s not how she got pregnant.
PRISCILLA How do you know?
CAMERON Because I was there when it happened.
PRISCILLA I can’t believe what I’m hearing.
CAMERON It wasn’t natural—
PRISCILLA (Interrupts) Nothing they’re doing is natural!
CAMERON I meant artificial insemination.
PRISCILLA And you saw that? You… who’s refused to see a doctor about our problem?
CAMERON (Contrite) I know. But why didn’t you go to a doctor? How do I know it’s my fault? Anyway… if you’re considering adultery… you must be blaming me. How do you know it’s my fault?
PRISCILLA Because it must be.
CAMERON Because I’m the sinner in the family? Because I want to do it from behind?
PRISCILLA We aren’t dogs!
CAMERON And that makes me a sinner?
PRISCILLA I… I don’t know! I just want an answer! I need an answer.
CAMERON All right. I’m sorry. How about I go see a doctor?
PRISCILLA (Beat) I thought you didn’t want to.
CAMERON Maybe the Lord now wants me to go see a doctor.
PRISCILLA Okay. When?
CAMERON As soon as you do the same.
PRISCILLA I don’t want to go.
CAMERON You want a baby? Well?
PRISCILLA (Mollified) All right. I’ll go see a doctor. (Now curious). So how did they do it?
CAMERON I don’t think you want to know.
END OF SCENE 4
Scene 5 . Sally and Harriet’s apartment, eleven months later. Harriet is reading a medical journal. There is the sound of a baby moaning a little. Harriet listens. Then it stops. She carries on reading. Sally enters, wearing pyjamas and looking tired.
HARRIET Is he asleep?
(Sally nods, then walks over to Harriet and curls up beside her.)
HARRIET That took forever.
SALLY I think he’s getting a cold.
HARRIET Just give him some baby aspirin and be done with it.
SALLY I am not giving my child drugs unless he really needs them.
HARRIET And so, another sleepless night in store.
SALLY I don’t care. He’s my son.
(Harriet broods on this for a moment. There is a pause.)
HARRIET Glass of wine? A bite to eat?
SALLY I think I’ll just go to bed.
(This perks Sally up a bit.)
SALLY Let me do it to you… I don’t spend enough time babying you.
(Harriet lies on her stomach on the floor with Sally straddling her. Sally begins massaging Harriet’s shoulders.)
HARRIET Hm… hmm… a little to the left… that’s it… hmm…
SALLY You’ve been working too hard.
(Sally continues massaging Harriet’s shoulder. She sees one of Tucker’s toys on the floor; she smiles and chuckles softly.)
HARRIET What’s that chuckle for?
SALLY Oh, nothing… just… he’s so perfect. Like a sculpture.
HARRIET I know. I love holding your little boy.
(A beat, then:)
SALLY What do you mean, “your little boy”?
HARRIET Nothing really… he’s just… he’s your little Tucker.
(Another beat, then:)
SALLY What’s wrong with “Tucker”?
HARRIET Nothing. It’s just a bit… Southern.
HARRIET All I’m saying is, you picked the name.
SALLY And I asked you… and you said you didn’t mind.
HARRIET You didn’t ask if I had any preferences.
SALLY Did you?
HARRIET What’s the difference? Once you proposed “Tucker,” the only option you left me was my mother’s maiden name.
SALLY “Beppuchinsky Parker?” (She laughs.) Quite a mouthful.
HARRIET You think “Tucker Parker” is euphonious?
SALLY Why didn’t you say that then?
HARRIET My heart went out to you when you asked “would you mind ‘Tucker’?” I saw how much baggage you were dumping on the table when you suggested your mother’s maiden name.
SALLY What’s all this, Tucker versus Beppuchinsky?
HARRIET It’s not that.
SALLY Then what? Come on.
HARRIET Look, all I’m saying is, he’s your flesh. I am only a bystander.
SALLY That isn’t fair.
HARRIET It has nothing to do with fairness. I’m facing reality.
SALLY Reality? What reality?
HARRIET You know, soon he’ll start talking. What will he call me? Surely not “Mother”?
SALLY Why not?
HARRIET Two mothers? In just a few years it would become damn confusing.
SALLY All right, then. “Co-mother”?
HARRIET Forget it.
SALLY “Mother” and “Mommy.”
HARRIET Sure. And you know who’ll be the “Mommy.”
SALLY Well… how about “Harry”?
HARRIET You see? He’ll call you “Mom” and me “Harry.”
SALLY Okay. I’ll train him to call me “Sally.”
HARRIET I don’t like it when children call their parents by their first names. They sound like strangers.
SALLY Then we’ll invent names we both can live with. Okay?
HARRIET Okay. (She stands up.) Sally…
HARRIET I don’t know how to break it to you…
SALLY Jesus, Harriet! Are you having an affair?
HARRIET It’s more serious than that.
SALLY What can be more serious than having an affair?
HARRIET I want a baby.
SALLY We have a baby.
HARRIET A child of my own.
SALLY You’ve got a child. His name is Tucker.
HARRIET It’s not the same. I’m like a stepfather.
HARRIET No, stepfather. Somehow, I seem to have acquired all the features of a father… bringing home the bacon and kissing Tucker good night. I’ve even stopped cooking… except for Sunday brunch.
SALLY (She steps back.) Are you jealous of me?
HARRIET In a way… in a very fundamental and stupid way… yes, I’m jealous… but of Tucker, not you. He’s changing me from a partner into a stepfather. (Beat) I used to think that the really fabulous thing about a relationship between two women is that everything is possible… not just in sex. Everything… including being father and mother. But right now, I am mostly just a father.
SALLY How long has this been going on?
HARRIET I don’t remember… maybe since he started sharing our bed.
SALLY But you’ve no reason to be jealous.
HARRIET That’s easy for you to say. (Beat). But I’ve got to give it a try.
SALLY What sort of a try?
HARRIET Well, it’s going to take at least two months preparation because I’d like to use IVF. But first, I need to see how the superovulation will go. I’m 37 years old. Not too old to have a baby provided I’m fertile… but old enough to take precautions.
SALLY You mean amniocentesis?
HARRIET No… I don’t want to take that route. If anything is wrong… abortion would be the only alternative, because I’d already be three months pregnant. I’m opting for pre-implantation genetic screening of the embryos. In other words, no turkey baster. No ordinary artificial insemination. It’s got to be ICSI. A single sperm injected into my egg and then choosing the right embryo. That feels right.
SALLY Are you planning to go to a sperm bank?
HARRIET No. I can’t handle an anonymous sperm donor.
SALLY And after trying motherhood, if you don’t like it, what then? You gonna hand it over to me: “Sorry, honey, I gave it a try, but it didn’t work out. Let’s go back to where we started… but with two kids.”
HARRIET It won’t be like that.
SALLY You’re damn tootin’ right it won’t. Because the baby doesn’t go back into the test tube if you don’t like it anymore.
HARRIET Sally! That’s grossly unfair!
SALLY Is it? Would you be willing to take care of both our children while I go back to work? Or you’ll look after yours and I’ll look after mine? I’m sure that if I ask for my job back, they won’t mind if I bring Tucker into the studio with me.
(She imitates her news reader’s voice.)
“And now back to the White House for some breaking news on…”
(She interrupts herself to imitate the sound of Tucker crying.)
Ahhhhhh…harhhhhhhhhh! (Beat) And then I’ll explain to the listeners that this isn’t a new baby in the White House but my son Tucker who is hungry. Of course, you’ll have a job explaining to your patients in their underwear why you are changing your baby’s diaper while discussing their incontinence problem.
HARRIET Now you’re being stupid. (Beat) Of course, I’ve thought about this!
SALLY I don’t believe it! All you’ve thought about is, “I’ll have what she’s having.” (There is a simmering pause.) I can’t deal with this. I’m going to bed.
(The door slams as Sally exits, leaving Harriet alone and upset.)
END OF SCENE 5
Scene 6. LIGHTS ON HARRIET AND CAMERON in her office a few weeks later, Harriet now wears a doctor’s white coat. Cameron waits while she studies some test results.
CAMERON Mind if I ask a question?
CAMERON What got you into urology?
HARRIET (Laughs) What makes you ask?
CAMERON (Embarrassed) You know. A woman urologist and …
HARRIET A lesbian?
CAMERON Well... yeah.
HARRIET It wasn’t for the obvious reasons… not the ones you and most other men… especially so-called straights… think.
CAMERON I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.
HARRIET (Laughs) That’s okay, you can ask your sister-in-law anything you like. Some people call urologists medical plumbers, but just think what life would be without plumbers.
CAMERON So you wanted to be a medical plumber?
HARRIET Not just that. I’m also interested in male reproductive function.
HARRIET You don’t approve?
CAMERON On the contrary, I think that’s neat. But what do y’all do there?
HARRIET Well, I’ve done my share of vasectomies.
CAMERON You call that “reproduction”?
HARRIET Vasectomies prevent further reproduction. Lots of men find that important. (He frowns.) Although usually only after they’ve had children.
(He nods, apparently finding that more acceptable.)
CAMERON And… what about the other way around?
HARRIET Men who have trouble reproducing?
(Embarrassed, he nods.)
HARRIET They interest me even more.
CAMERON You never asked why I came for such a short visit all the way to San Francisco.
HARRIET (She smiles to make him feel more comfortable.) You missed your sister and your nephew?
CAMERON (Embarrassed). I came to ask whether you can help us.
HARRIET I read your results. Your sperm are fine. Perhaps the problem is your wife.
CAMERON Yeah, the doctor said she had obstructed fallopian tubes and ovarian cysts.
HARRIET That’s a tough call. (Brief pause) Have you considered adoption?
CAMERON Priscilla wants to give birth to our child.
HARRIET Our child? Genetically, half of it would be yours if your sperm is used, but the other half has to come from an egg donor. And even then there’s no guarantee the transferred embryo would implant in your wife’s uterus.
CAMERON (Impatient) I know all that.
HARRIET Okay. Just checking you do.
CAMERON I see. Well, thank you. It’s difficult. I mean, I’ve been losing sleep over this.
HARRIET Whatever it is, you can tell me in confidence. It will never leave this office.
(Cameron nods, appreciating that, thinking it over.)
HARRIET You’re considering IVF, is that it?
CAMERON (After a moment) What else can we do? We want a child… powerfully bad.
HARRIET That bad, huh? Well, I am sorry to hear that.
CAMERON You believe in family?
HARRIET How can you even ask? That’s part of what brought Sally and me together.
CAMERON I never intended to turn my back on Sally. But Mom and Dad… and then Priscilla…
HARRIET Enough! I know all that from Sally.
(For a moment, Harriet lets Cameron struggle to contain his feelings. Then:)
HARRIET I could help you.
HARRIET I’m a urologist…I deal mostly with men… but I know lots of infertility specialists. I could help you find an egg donor.
CAMERON You could? A suitable one?
HARRIET What does “suitable” mean?
CAMERON An egg that’ll help get us someone like Tucker. He’s a wonderful kid.
HARRIET That he is. (Beat) But you’d leave the choice of donor up to a woman you don’t approve of?
CAMERON Listen. Approval and trust aren’t the same. I don’t approve of you…but you know… you’d keep it in the family. That’s what my parents taught me. If you keep it in the family, you can solve all your problems.
HARRIET Okay. I’ll do what I can for you.
CAMERON I’m much obliged.
HARRIET Does Priscilla know about this meeting?
CAMERON Not yet.
HARRIET But you’ve discussed the issues?
HARRIET Well, sooner or later… she’ll need to know what you’ve got in mind. And you’d better make it “sooner.”
CAMERON I guess so.
HARRIET Okay. I’ll leave that up to you.
CAMERON Thanks. I truly appreciate it.
HARRIET You’re welcome.
CAMERON (Getting up to leave.) So what do I owe you for this?
HARRIET Nothing right now. I’m sure I’ll think of something. Bye for now.
CAMERON Bye. (He starts to leave, then suddenly stops and quickly and shyly kisses her on her cheek.) I think you’re neat, Harriet.
HARRIET That’s the nicest compliment I’ve had in some time.
(LIGHTS OUT as he exits.)
END OF SCENE 6
Scene 7. Priscilla and Cameron’s home in Jackson, three months later. Cameron is standing in the middle of the room. From an open door to the bedroom, a suitcase comes flying toward him. He ducks to avoid it.
(Some shirts are hurled at him through the door.)
(Some of his trousers are thrown at him.)
Prissy! You don’t want me to leave.
PRISCILLA (Offstage, as some of his shoes are launched at him:) Adulterer!
CAMERON I wasn’t even in the same room with her!
(Priscilla, enraged, enters from the bedroom brandishing a pair of scissors and his ties.)
PRISCILLA Your sperm committed adultery!
(She cuts through one of his ties.)
CAMERON Now, hold on… those are my ties.
PRISCILLA We’re married… our property is community property. That includes your ties and your sperm… every single one of them.
(She cuts another one of his ties in half.)
The Holy Scripture says so.
CAMERON Where does it say so? (She cuts another tie, quickly.) Never mind. What about when I discard it? (She stops.)
PRISCILLA When you what?
CAMERON You know what I mean.
PRISCILLA I don’t know what you’re talking about.
CAMERON: Sure you do.
PRISCILLA I’m not a mind reader.
CAMERON Well… (He hesitates.)… self-indulgence. That’s not adultery.
PRISCILLA (Shocked) You do what?
(She cuts another tie.)
PRISCILLA Cameron Parker. I don’t ever want to hear that word in our house.
CAMERON Okay! So! It’s sinful to use the word, but not a sin when you practice it?
PRISCILLA What’s that supposed to mean?
CAMERON I’ve seen you do it.
PRISCILLA Once! And I begged the Lord to forgive me.
CAMERON And you’ve never sinned that way again?
(She can’t answer that. Instead:)
PRISCILLA Let us pray. (She sinks to her knees with her eyes closed.) "Oh Heavenly Father, purify our hearts and minds so that we are relieved of the temptations of lust. Strengthen not only me… (She opens her eyes and notices that Cameron is still standing and has not joined her in prayer. Before continuing, she first taps the floor with one of her hands, implying that she wishes him to kneel as well.)… but also my husband against the malice and snares of the Devil. Let my husband’s eyes be opened to his transgressions, and may he go forth and sin no more. Amen.
(At this point, Cameron yields by kneeling next to her, and continues immediately:)
CAMERON Cleanse my heart, Oh Lord, each time I trespass (Beat) as I surely will again. And may the Holy Spirit protect me that I may continue to serve you faithfully in spite of my imperfections (Beat) and those of my wife. Amen.
PRISCILLA How dare you even speak of self-indulgence? “Thou shalt not spill thy seed in vain. ”Genesis 38.
CAMERON Onan wasted his seed by spilling it on the ground. Mine wasn’t wasted. Mine may help Harriet conceive a child. Is that so sinful?
PRISCILLA That’s it! That is... it!
(She grabs her cell phone.)
CAMERON What are you doing?
PRISCILLA I’m calling your sister! (Beat). What’s the number?
CAMERON Don’t you think you should let Harriet tell her?
PRISCILLA Don’t mention that woman’s name to me! (Throws the phone down in frustration). Why did it have to be you?
CAMERON I might say it was the Christian thing to do… helping someone who was in need.
PRISCILLA Shame on you! With your own sister-in-law!
CAMERON Prissy! They aren’t married!
PRISCILLA Worse! Your own sister’s lesbian lover! How could you?
(She bursts into tears. He approaches her cautiously.)
CAMERON I wanted to know if I was fertile… whether it’s my fault we still have no baby. This way I could find out… ‘cause just looking at sperm under the microscope isn’t enough…and, at the same time, keep it in the family… so to speak.
PRISCILLA “Keep it in the family”?
CAMERON So to speak.
PRISCILLA) It’s my fault… I knew it all along. I’m paying for my sins.
CAMERON Don’t start with that. It’s not your fault… you can’t help it. The doctor says you have obstructed fallopian tubes and ovarian cysts. (Beat.) Prissy, what’s done is done. I did it because I want us to have a baby. If I made a mistake, I’m sorry. But, at least, this way, we all know where the genes come from. And whatever you think, it’s not incest. I didn’t want to hurt you… I just believe in family... in keeping things in the family. You know that. Nothing’s more important to me. That’s why I want us to have a child… real bad. What’s wrong with that? (Beat) “And I will bless them that bless thee…”
PRISCILLA “And curse them that curseth thee.”
CAMERON “And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
CAMERON Chapter 12, verse 3.
PRISCILLA How are we going to solve my problem?
CAMERON Another woman could help.
PRISCILLA Don’t think I haven’t thought about that.
PRISCILLA But who would do that? I know, I wouldn’t do it for another woman… if I was fertile.
CAMERON Some generous woman might.
PRISCILLA How would I find one? I’d be too embarrassed…
CAMERON You want me to try?
PRISCILLA You would? (Beat) But if you do, don’t tell me about her.
CAMERON (Surprised) You wouldn’t want to know who she was? What she looked like?
PRISCILLA Of course I’d want to know something about her: age… health… family background (Beat) and, of course, religion.
CAMERON Religion isn’t genetic. It’s just an egg.
PRISCILLA Still... I’d be more comfortable if it were a Christian egg. But I wouldn’t want to meet the donor… or see a photo. I guess just like in a sperm bank. You get lots of information… genetic history, color, education… even hobbies and favorite authors… descriptive stuff… but no photo or name.
CAMERON (Astonished) Hobbies? Favorite author? How do you know that? (Beat) Pris! You didn’t go to a sperm bank, did you? (He looks at her, suddenly flabbergasted.) You did?
PRISCILLA I didn’t go to a sperm bank…
PRISCILLA I looked at some… on the Internet. You’d be amazed what you can find there. More information on an anonymous sperm donor than I ever knew about my own husband.
CAMERON Why didn’t you tell me any of that?
PRISCILLA I was scared.
CAMERON Of me?
PRISCILLA I don’t know. Maybe I was scared… that I’d be tempted.
CAMERON And now?
PRISCILLA I guess I’m about to yield to temptation. But you’ve got to tell me…
CAMERON (Shocked, he interrupts her.) Wait! You just said you didn’t want to know the identity of the egg donor.
PRISCILLA I don’t want to know about her, I just want you to tell me how you’ll fertilize her egg. Promise you’ll do it with ICSI… and no other way!
CAMERON (Flabbergasted) ICSI? How do you know about ICSI?
PRISCILLA I looked it up on the Internet. With ICSI only one sperm is misused.
PRISCILLA Because it isn’t natural, but I wouldn’t want you to do it the natural way…. with millions of sperm. It seems less sinful… doing it with only one.
CAMERON Well, we may need several sperm. With ICSI, one generally injects more than one egg.
PRISCILLA And what will you do with the extra embryos?
CAMERON Why do you need to know these things?
PRISCILLA Because I do!
CAMERON Get them to freeze them.
PRISCILLA For how long?
CAMERON I don’t know. Until we’re sure we won’t need them anymore.
PRISCILLA And then?
CAMERON (Getting impatient and flustered.) I don’t know. Give them up for adoption?
PRISCILLA Hush! I don’t want to hear anymore about it. (She falls to her knees, dragging him down with her hand.) Oh Lord, have pity on these two sinners who want a child so badly, and grant our wish for a successful birth. Whatever impure thoughts we had… whatever improprieties we committed…
CAMERON … or may commit in the future…
PRISCILLA … whatever secrets we kept from each other…
CAMERON … or may keep from each other…
PRISCILLA (Startled, she quickly looks at him and then interjects:) … or discover unbeknownst to the other…
CAMERON … or even those never uncovered…
PRISCILLA … but especially…
CAMERON (He quickly interrupts her.)… forgive us, because we mean no ill.
CAMERON (He quickly interrupts her again, more forcefully.)… Amen!
CAMERON (Even louder and more forcefully)… I said, Amen!
(He rises from his knees and pulls her up with him.)
END OF SCENE 7
END OF ACT 1
(Unbeknownst to Priscilla, Cameron enters. He stops, surprised to see his wife on the table (or floor), but says nothing.)
PRISCILLA “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful…” (At this stage she shifts into an ordinary loud voice in a rapid, admonishing tone without shutting off the music.) Ashley, honey, that means you’ve got to be good and stay good… and “good” means that you must not sit in the “seat of the scornful.” Remember that, Ashley: never sit there! Never!
(Priscilla resumes quoting in her earlier biblical recitative style from the Psalms, chapter 4, while conducting in the air with her left hand.)
PRISCILLA “Stand in awe, and sin not. Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.”
(She touches her stomach as if she were feeling some pain, then switches to her ordinary loud voice in an admonishing tone without shutting off the music.)
PRISCILLA Ashley, honey.... you'll have to remember not to rumble around too much in mommy’s tummy. So pay attention to your mommy and of course the Lord. It says so in the Psalms.
(She resumes quoting in her earlier biblical recitative style from the Psalms, chapter 8, while conducting in the air with her left hand.)
PRISCILLA ”Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings…” (She quickly switches to loud conventional speech.) Don’t forget… in just a few months that’ll be you, Ashley… and “suckling” means you’ll be drinking your mummy’s milk.
CAMERON (He steps slightly forward, but is still not noticed by Priscilla.) Jeez, Pris! What’s going on?
(Priscilla does not hear him. She resumes quoting in her earlier biblical recitative style from the Psalms, chapter 16, while conducting in the air with her left hand.)
PRISCILLA “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope…”
CAMERON (He steps farther forward and interrupts in a loud voice:) “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”
(Priscilla jumps up and the CD player falls to the floor, cutting off the music.)
PRISCILLA My God, you scared me! What did you say?
CAMERON The end of chapter 16 in the Psalms. But what are you doing?
PRISCILLA Prenatal training of Ashley. Our son.
CAMERON How do you know we’ll have a son?
PRISCILLA I can feel it. But if the Lord provides otherwise, Ashley will also work for a girl. It’s a good Southern name.
CAMERON But we agreed we’d wait until the baby is born before picking a name. (Beat) Together!
PRISCILLA I’ve got to call him something while I talk to him. (She pats her stomach.)
CAMERON And you never told me?
PRISCILLA I was planning to.
(He bends down to pick up the CD player, which suddenly resumes the Mozart.)
PRISCILLA (She leans over to shut off the music.) The Mozart effect. Listening to Mozart raises people’s I.Q. It’s called the transformational power of music. Babies are smarter after listening to Mozart. And rats exposed to lots of Mozart made fewer errors running in a maze. It’s called the transformational power of music.
CAMERON That’s musical snake oil.
PRISCILLA No it isn’t. (Speaks as if she were quoting) The structures of the rondo and the sonata-allegro forms are supposed to help the brain.
CAMERON But you don’t know anything about (dismissive tone) “the rondo.”
PRISCILLA Neither do you.
PRISCILLA You see? So how do you know it’s snake oil.
CAMERON How do you know about the Mozart effect?
PRISCILLA It says so on the Internet.
CAMERON Pris, I don’t know about rats and Mozart, but you’re spending too much time on the computer. It isn’t good for him. (Points to her stomach).
PRISCILLA Too much radiation?
CAMERON Too much information.
PRISCILLA It’s prenatal Christian training. You can’t start early enough. If there’s a Mozart Effect, why not also a Jesus Effect? That’s why I was quoting from the Psalms. You can call it prenatal Christian training.
CAMERON (Losing his calm, almost shouting) Pris! Listen, Prissy! The baby—
PRISCILLA (Interrupts) It’s Ashley.
CAMERON All right… Ashley. But he can’t hear these words… or your music! He isn’t wired yet for that… not three months after the embryo transfer!
PRISCILLA Well, that’s why I have this wiring around me… so Ashley can hear it inside me. (Points to wrapping around her waist). Anyway, what do you know about baby wiring?
CAMERON It takes much longer. Take Einstein. He didn’t even start speaking until after he was two years old!
PRISCILLA I only want a smart baby… not a little Einstein. And listening to Scripture can’t hurt (pats her stomach) little Ashley. You can never start too early.
CAMERON (Shakes his head). Jeez Pris.
PRISCILLA (Beat). Cam… why are you going to California again?
CAMERON I want to see how Sally is managing with Tucker. After all he’s my nephew.
PRISCILLA Is that the only reason?
CAMERON It’s the only one until the next Forgiveness Time.
END OF SCENE 8
Scene 9. LIGHTS ON a scene a few days later in San Francisco apartment of Sally and Harriet. Sally is reading, while Harriet sits quietly staring into space. Max gently rocks baby Tucker in his cradle. Cameron looks fondly at the baby.
CAMERON Cute kid, that Tucker. He hardly ever cries.
MAX Why should he? He’s got two mothers and me.
CAMERON Three parents.
SALLY (Looking up from her book) Two parents… me and Harriet.
CAMERON What about Max?
SALLY He’s the sperm donor.
CAMERON That makes him the daddy.
SALLY Biological daddy.
CAMERON Jeez, Sally—
MAX Forget it, Cam. I’m like you… you’re the biological uncle… and I’m the biological father. (Rocks cradle). At this stage, Tucker doesn’t know the difference.
CAMERON (Shocked, interrupts) Father and uncle isn’t the same. I don’t know whether I could handle it.
HARRIET (Who until now had quietly concentrated, looking into space, gave a start) You don’t really mean that, do you?
CAMERON (Embarrassed) I guess not.
HARRIET I’m relieved. (Beat). I guess I’ll finish with my exercises in the bedroom. (Exits)
CAMERON (To Max) What exercises?
MAX Kegel exercises. When she does them, she doesn’t talk… at least not to us. You interrupted her.
CAMERON Never heard of ’em.
SALLY You should tell Priscilla about them. It’s good for pregnant women.
MAX It will even improve your sex life.
SALLY Don’t embarrass my prim brother.
CAMERON Will someone tell this poor Southern boy what y’all are talking about?
MAX You see, sister-in-law, he’s interested. Tell him.
SALLY You do it. I want to finish my book. (Exits).
CAMERON Are you going to tell me?
MAX Sure… but it’s second hand. I can only tell you about the outcome.
CAMERON Quit stalling.
MAX Lot’s of women do Kegels, not just pregnant ones. They’re designed to tighten a woman’s pelvic floor muscles. (Notes blank expression in Cameron’s face). They’re like a hammock, holding up the pelvic organs. It’s good for pregnant women… tightens up their vaginal muscles. It also prevents leakage of urine and it’s supposed to improve sexual enjoyment in intercourse.
CAMERON You say “supposed.”?
MAX (Grins) Actually, it does.
CAMERON And how does one do them?
MAX Squeeze those muscles hard for 3 seconds, relax and repeat it. Harriet claims, it’s easiest to tell women to think of an elevator with the entrance the vagina of a six-storied building. They’re supposed to contract the muscles at each floor stop. Harriet claims she rides that elevator fifty times a day.
CAMERON And that’s what she did just then?
MAX No one can tell when a woman is exercising: at dull meetings… boring conversations… watching TV… brushing her teeth… you name it. Harriet thinks every pregnant woman should do Kegels. I think you should tell your wife about them.
CAMERON Jeez, Max! We don’t talk about those things.
MAX (Points to Tucker in the cradle) I bet he will when he grows up. At least one of his two mothers will tell him.
Harriet enters, walks over to Max and gives him an affectionate shove.
HARRIET Move… sperm donor. It’s time for one of Tucker’s parents to take over. (Takes the sleeping baby out of the cradle and rocks the baby gently in her arms as she sits down). Actually… go join the other mother. I want to talk to the uncle… in private.
MAX (Good-naturedly) Whatever the doctor orders.
(Bends over to give her a kiss on the forehead and exits)
HARRIET Cam, we’ve got to talk. Seriously.
CAMERON (Taken aback) About what?
CAMERON Us? What do you mean?
HARRIET I’m four months pregnant.
CAMERON I know. That’s one of the reasons I came. I wanted to know how you were. Priscilla felt pretty bad until recently. Morning sickness.
HARRIET You said she’s three months pregnant… she’ll soon be past the worst.
CAMERON Yeah… she feels better now.
HARRIET I thought you came to see your nephew. Why did you want to see me?
CAMERON Because… (hesitates out of embarrassment)… you know why…
HARRIET (Sharply) No, I don’t.
CAMERON Jeez, Harriet.
HARRIET (Sharply) Tell me. Why?
CAMERON (Points at her stomach) I got you pregnant… so I felt responsible—
HARRIET (Quickly, almost angrily) Hold it, Hold it! You didn’t get me pregnant… and you’re certainly not responsible. (Beat) Okay, listen. Listen very carefully: We used a few sperm of yours… seven to be precise… for injection into seven of my eggs. You wanted to know whether you were fertile… you didn’t do it because you wanted a child with me! In your book that would’ve been adultery! And I agreed to use one of your sperm only because I wanted a baby of my own together with Sally. And since she’s your sister, she’s contributing to the baby’s gene pool through your sperm. It was my decision… and it’s my responsibility. You got out of the loop, once you masturbated.
CAMERON (Dry with touch of irony) Much obliged Ma’am... for this clear explanation.
HARRIET I’m not finished. The moment the embryo implanted in my uterus, I offered to let you and Priscilla use some if you wished. That was the only bargain between us. That your wife became pregnant with one of those embryos is your responsibility… not mine. (Ever more intense) When this boy is born (She points to her stomach.) he will be my son. And when Priscilla gives birth that will be your son. Is that understood? Let’s not confuse those two sons.
CAMERON It’s not as simple as that.
HARRIET Oh yes, it is.
CAMERON And… if I have feelings?
HARRIET You deal with them. But you and your Christian wife have no rights over my son.
CAMERON Is that a threat?
HARRIET I wouldn’t dream of threatening you. I like you. I’m just giving you the facts.
(There is a tense pause.)
CAMERON How do you know they’ll both be boys?
HARRIET Because I wanted mine to be a boy.
CAMERON But that’s no guarantee. God decides what we get and we’ll be grateful for whatever blessing He bestows.
HARRIET (Gentler) Cam, I don’t want to argue religion with you. This is biology. (Beat) We used ICSI for the fertilization, right?
HARRIET Injecting one sperm into each egg, right?
HARRIET The sex of the child is always controlled by the sperm. A Y chromosome-bearing sperm leads to a boy, an X chromosome-bearing sperm to a girl. I’m sure you learned that in high school—even in Mississippi.
CAMERON So what are you telling me?
HARRIET That the technology… it’s called flow cytometry… has now been developed to separate X- from Y-sperm—
CAMERON (Taken aback) And you used that flow… thingamajig?
CAMERON And you didn’t tell me?
HARRIET That wasn’t part of the bargain. You wanted to know whether you’re fertile. I wanted to have a son, and you wanted to have a child with your wife. There weren’t any more eggs of mine left for new ICSI injections. I was generous enough to let you use some of the remaining embryos and all of those were potential males.
HARRIET Cam, stop using that word. It’s driving me crazy. And what’s wrong with your having a boy?
CAMERON Nothing. But picking the sex of the child is so…
HARRIET Don’t tell me… unnatural.
HARRIET And you think ICSI is natural? Most of modern medicine is full of interventions and materials that cannot be found in nature. You think “unnatural” is automatically “unethical?” (He falls silent.) But I wanted to talk about something else.
CAMERON You mean there’s more?
HARRIET You bet there is.
CAMERON What is it?
HARRIET I wish you and Priscilla had waited until Jan was born before starting with the embryo transfer.
HARRIET My son.
CAMERON Is that what you’re calling him?
CAMERON Why did you want us to wait?
HARRIET Wouldn’t it have been prudent to see first if everything was okay with Jan? After all, the other embryos came from the same woman and the same man.
CAMERON Any other reason?
HARRIET Now… if everything goes according to schedule… the two boys will be born less than four weeks apart.
CAMERON So what?
HARRIET They could even turn out to be twins.
CAMERON I’m sorry. I don’t get it.
HARRIET Of course, not identical twins. But what are twins but siblings from the same biological mother and father… but born at the same time?
CAMERON Your baby and ours won’t be born at the same time.
HARRIET If fraternal twins grow in separate sacs in the mother’s uterus and one breaks prematurely, you can have twins born at somewhat different times… even some weeks apart. They’ll still be twins.
HARRIET Exactly… Jeez! If they’re born that close together, they’re essentially twins… and that, in turn, might lead to a very special bonding with each other…
CAMERON (Shocked) What?
HARRIET Whereas they would not be twins if they were born nine months or more apart. They’d be ordinary brothers. Now I hope you understand why you complicated matters by not waiting.
(Cameron nods, reluctantly.)
HARRIET Of course, only you and I will know that our sons might be virtual twins since for everyone else, two different women gave birth to them 2000 miles apart. You said you wouldn’t tell your wife where the embryos came from.
CAMERON She didn’t want to know.
HARRIET What if she changes her mind?
CAMERON Jeez, Harriet…
HARRIET No “Jeez.” I need to know what you will do if she changes her mind.
CAMERON I don’t know what I’ll do!
HARRIET Well… whatever you decide, don’t you ever forget: My son belongs to Sally and me. Your son is yours and Priscilla’s. Is that understood?
CAMERON I can’t say.
HARRIET You can’t… or you won’t?
END OF SCENE 9
Scene10. Priscilla’s and Cameron’s living room in Mississippi, five months later. Priscilla, looking exhausted and disheveled, paces up and down with her hands over her ears. In the background through the open door are heard the periodic piercing screams of a three-week‑old baby. This screaming at different decibel levels and intervals must continue through most of scene 10.
PRISCILLA (Almost screaming) I can’t stand it anymore! Three weeks… and he hasn’t stopped!
CAMERON (He enters with the screaming baby in his arms.) Pris… try just once more.
PRISCILLA (Almost desperate) I can’t… I won’t… you know it doesn’t help.
CAMERON It’s only colic… you heard the doctor. It’s acid reflux. His guts can’t cope yet with your milk.
PRISCILLA (Again she puts her hands over her ears.) I’ve had it with his screaming.
CAMERON Here… hold him. I’ll bring the new milk the doc prescribed. Maybe it’ll help.
PRISCILLA (She takes the baby, but holds it in a manner that indicates little affection.) All right… but hurry! (The baby screams.) Ashley… will you shut up? … please! Please shut up! (New baby scream) Wait! Please wait! Daddy is bringing some new milk. (New baby scream) Ashley! It’s different from Mama’s milk… I know you hate mine. But I can’t help it, Ashley… it’s all I got. (Less loud baby scream) You should have waited, Ashley… you came four weeks too early. (New louder baby scream) Your tummy hasn’t learned yet how to handle Mama’s milk. (New baby scream, whereupon Priscilla screams.) Cam! Where are you with the damn milk? He’s driving me crazy.
CAMERON (He rushes in with the bottle.) Prissy... don’t use such language… Here’s the bottle.
PRISCILLA (She grabs the bottle, but quickly thrusts it back at him.) Damn you, Cam, damn you! It’s too hot! Can’t you do anything right?
(He leaves. Shortly thereafter, the sound of running water is heard, followed by the baby’s renewed scream.)
PRISCILLA Ashley, you got to wait! Your mama begs you. (New louder baby scream) Ashley… I’ll strangle you if you don’t (Very loudly) shut up!
(There is a renewed loud scream, whereupon she roughly puts the baby into his cradle and falls on her knees, rocking back and forth with her hands clasped over her ears.)
PRISCILLA My Lord and Savior…. I beg you on my knees to listen to this sinner. I do not deserve this punishment. I… do… not… deserve it!
CAMERON (He rushes in with the bottle, then stops, startled to find his wife on her knees, rocking back and forth.) What happened? (New baby scream)
PRISCILLA (She points to the cradle.) I can’t handle it any more.
CAMERON Let me try.
(He bends over the baby, offering the bottle, which produces prolonged silence.)
PRISCILLA (She rises, surprised.) Oh Lord… you have listened to my prayer.
CAMERON Maybe it was only your milk.
PRISCILLA Let me do it.
(She lifts the baby out of the cradle while continuing to feed it with the bottle. After a pause, the screams resume, ever louder. She tries to adjust the position of the baby and bottle without success. In desperation, she flings the bottle across the room and screams at the baby as she practically throws him into the cradle.)
PRISCILLA I hate you! I hate you! God only knows how I hate you!
(Cameron interrupts her, shouting almost as loudly, while picking up the cradle and heading for the door.)
CAMERON Pris! For heaven’s sake! You don’t hate him. You can’t hate him. You mustn’t hate him.
(He takes the cradle into the other room.)
PRISCILLA (Wailing) Lord, forgive me. I didn’t mean what I said!
(He rushes in after carefully closing the door, thus dampening the noise of the periodic baby screams that will be heard in the background through the remainder of the scene.)
CAMERON Prissy, Prissy, Prissy! (He takes her in his arms.) You’ve got to pull yourself together.
PRISCILLA (Sobbing on his shoulder) I know, hon… but I haven’t slept since I came back from the hospital. There must be something wrong with him. I even tried Mozart.
CAMERON (He tries to cheer her up.) Maybe Ashley is overdosed with Mozart. But the good Lord… and time will help. It’s his digestive system… I’m sure of it. The doctor said so. It’s not uncommon with preemies.
PRISCILLA I can’t continue… I’m afraid what I might do.
CAMERON We’ll get some help.
CAMERON Last night, I called Sally.
PRISCILLA Why not your parents?
CAMERON I called them earlier. They said “pray.” And when I told them you’d been doing that all the time, Dad just said ”pray more.” Well, I’ve done that and now I need some real, practical help and they’re too old for that. So I phoned Harriet… I mean, Sally…
PRISCILLA You phoned Harriet? Why did you do that? No lies to me, Cameron, no lies this time! You tell me!
CAMERON I just… because her baby… (Beat) He was born on the same day as Ashley…
PRISCILLA And you didn’t tell me that earlier?
CAMERON I didn’t think you’d take kindly to it.
PRISCILLA But why her?
CAMERON Look, all I wanted was to know how her son was. I wanted to know if they were having any problems…
PRISCILLA Because you’re also his father?
CAMERON Jeez, Pris, I was only the sperm donor!
PRISCILLA But genetically…
CAMERON Well… okay, yeah… the father. That’s why I called.
CAMERON And… she said he didn’t make a peep. Drinks his mother’s milk and sleeps.
PRISCILLA (Explosively) God damn them! All of them!
(During the following, the baby’s screams get louder and louder.)
CAMERON (Utterly shocked) Priscilla Parker! You can’t say that! (He closes his eyes and lowers his head.) Lord and Savior. Forgive my wife, who is not herself. Who is sick in mind and soul for reasons that only you understand. Let her examine herself to see whether she’s still in the faith and do not punish her for blasphemies that she couldn’t have meant. And since only thy words are true, shed light on my wife to lead her back to the path she has lost. Amen.
(As he turns to her, he sees that she has picked up one of one of her dolls, her favorite one, and is rocking violently back and forth clinging on to it.)
PRISCILLA Make it stop... make it stop...
CAMERON Come on… I’m getting you out of here. You need help.
(He takes her by her hand and starts exiting as LIGHTS DIM.)
END OF SCENE 10
Scene 11. San Francisco apartment of Sally and Harriet, four weeks later. Max gently rocks a cradle with Ashley. Harriet sits across from him, breastfeeding Jan. Faint but distinct Mozart music (Oboe Concerto in C major, K. 314) is heard in the background.
MAX I feel sorry for Cam. He’s a good egg.
HARRIET That he is.
MAX I’m glad Sally is taking him to the airport. He needs cheering up before he gets back to Mississippi.
HARRIET Recovery from postpartum psychosis can take time.
(Incipient slight crying sounds from Ashley in cradle. Max takes him out of the cradle and gestures to Harriet.)
MAX They better trade places. I think Ashley is hungry… or maybe it’s sibling jealousy.
(Harriet hands over Jan and takes Ashley, who immediately quiets down as he is fed.)
HARRIET Lucky he’s got two aunts here. There’s no way Cam could have managed by himself.
MAX (Wryly) And four weeks later, here we are.
HARRIET What d’you mean?
MAX I mean, lots of things can change in four weeks.
HARRIET Like Ashley getting over his colic?
MAX Or the aunt not just being a wet nurse.
HARRIET What are you trying to say, Max?
(Harriet places Ashley in the same cradle as Jan, then returns to her chair.)
MAX Remarkable resemblance.
HARRIET Many babies look alike at that age.
MAX Bull shit. Does Sally know how Priscilla got pregnant… and around the same time as you?
HARRIET You should ask Ashley’s parents.
MAX I’m asking you. Or have you been carrying some sort of tranquilizer in your boobs?
HARRIET I thought you worked in the Public Defender’s Office, not the District Attorney’s.
MAX Listen. I’m not just your brother. I’m Tucker’s biological father, and I’m Jan’s uncle. All of which puts me on your side. But am I now also Ashley’s uncle? That wasn’t part of the deal.
HARRIET What sort of deal are you talking about?
MAX (Good-naturedly) To accept your co-parenting with Sally and not to interfere beyond certain limits. In other words, be an affectionate sperm donor and uncle… but nothing more… which suited me just fine… at least until recently.
HARRIET Max… you’ve been wonderful.
MAX I know… but now... I suspect we have a situation.
HARRIET (After a pause) I’m afraid.
MAX (He sits down next to her with his arm around her shoulder.) You’ve got good reason to be. So... was it one of your excess embryos?
(Harriet nods her head.)
MAX And you never told Sally?
HARRIET That’s why I’m scared.
MAX What about Priscilla?
HARRIET (She shakes her head.) She didn’t want to know about the egg donor. And Cam didn’t want me to tell anyone else.
MAX Taking Cameron’s side rather than your brother’s or your partner’s?
HARRIET I wasn’t taking sides. I didn’t want to get involved.
MAX You think Sally will buy that?
HARRIET Please Max, I feel terrible enough.
MAX Does Priscilla know who your sperm donor was?
HARRIET I think so.
MAX (He shakes his head.) As Cam would say, “Jeez, Harriet.” (Beat) I think you need a lawyer.
HARRIET (Sharply) What kind of a lawyer?
MAX (He looks at her for a while, finally squeezing her shoulder.) Me.
HARRIET (Quickly) You don’t know anything about family law.
MAX That’s not important. Your kind of family law hasn’t been written yet. For a start, how would a lawyer define Cameron’s roles? He’s the father of twins… each from a different legal mother… some sort of uncle-in-law of his own son and uncle of his son’s stepbrother… (He throws up his hands.) … I could go on.
HARRIET What’s your point?
MAX You need a lawyer… who’ll keep you out of the clutches of other lawyers… and charge nothing for those services. Can you think of anyone else?
HARRIET Who’s going to sue me? Cameron?
MAX Not on his own. He isn’t that sort of guy. But Priscilla? She may be livid and jealous and revengeful.
HARRIET For what?
MAX Believing she’d been manipulated into giving birth to a child of a lesbian mother. What if she sues for joint custody of your son, who is also some sort of stepson of hers? Or maybe exclusive custody so he’s not being brought up in a heathen home? And sues you in a Mississippi court rather than here in San Francisco? God only knows how a Mississippi family court might rule.
HARRIET You’re out of your mind! She can’t do that.
MAX I hope you’re right. But why, for heaven’s sake, didn’t you have some legally binding agreement with Cameron?
HARRIET For what? For asking him to lend me a few sperm for injections into my own eggs?
MAX “Lending?” It was an irrevocable transfer of title to property… property that you made much more valuable as a consequence of the use to which you put it.
HARRIET (Angrily) There was no agreement about that property being returned upon request! And when I gave him access to some of the remaining embryos, it was a gift… an unrestricted gift. I didn’t even want to know what he’d use them for
MAX: How could you not want to know?
HARRIET (Increasingly angry, bordering on guilt) For me, an embryo in a Petri dish or in a freezer is an abstraction… a clump of 8 or 16 or 32 cells… nothing more, It’s only when that abstraction is transferred into a woman and implants are we dealing with reality. And I was focusing on my own uterus…
MAX Some legal journal will have a field day reporting this if it ever comes to trial.
HARRIET Oh, shit!
MAX I could try to help you avoid this.
MAX She’ll never sue without convincing her husband to join her.
HARRIET And Cam will never agree to that.
MAX I’ve never believed in the word “never,” but I am a believer in preemption. How about getting everyone to agree to arbitration for whatever problems may arise from this spectacularly complicated reproductive mess between five adults… and not all of them consenting ones.
HARRIET And if she doesn’t go for it?
MAX Then at least agree to some group counseling… with all of you.
HARRIET Other than Jesus Christ… can you think of a candidate for that noncompulsory arbitrator of yours?
MAX No, but I can give it a try.
HARRIET Max, why are you so good to me?
MAX What else would I do with my free time? You’re lucky I’m still a bachelor.
HARRIET You’ll make a spectacular husband to some lucky woman.
MAX (Grinning) That I’ve always known. But now that I have dipped my foot into the sea of fatherhood as you once so charmingly put it—
HARRIET (Interrupts) You like it?
MAX I love it. All I need now is to find the right partner and I’m ready to dive in.
(Sally enters, throws her coat on a chair and drops into another one.)
SALLY (Groans) I need a drink… after that scene at the airport. (Pours herself a drink).
SALLY Cam’s been told he can pick up Priscilla and bring her home. He sees it as great news through his rose-tinted glasses. I had to tell him it was a pigment of his imagination.
MAX (Laughs) That’s a good one. I may use that someday in court. (Mimics formal tone) “Your honor… this is just some pigment of my learned counsel’s imagination.”
HARRIET It’s not funny… not now. What else happened?
SALLY He thinks she’ll want to see Ashley right away.
HARRIET And one of us is supposed to bring the kid to Mississippi?
SALLY No. Cameron will bring Priscilla here.
SALLY What do you mean by that?
MAX (With a quick look to Harriet) Nothing.
HARRIET (She points to the cradle.) Look at the two… sleeping so peacefully.
SALLY (Regret in her voice) That won’t last much longer.
HARRIET I don’t know how I’ll cope with that.
SALLY (Sympathetically) I know it’s tough… after breast feeding him for a month… We’ll all miss him. But... you’ll be going back to work…
(Harriet indicates with a look to Max for him to leave the room.)
MAX Let me take the kids into the bedroom.
MAX I think the two of you need privacy.
(He leaves with the two kids. Sally, a little puzzled, watches him go.)
SALLY What was that about?
HARRIET Sally. You noticed any similarity between Ashley and Jan?
SALLY (She shrugs her shoulders.) Some… but at that age many babies look pretty similar… especially if they share the same father.
It’s not just that. (Beat). I mean, common genes... perhaps more
common than you think.
SALLY (Beat) More common than just from the same father? What are you driving at?
HARRIET I don’t know how to tell you this…
SALLY (Now it is sinking in.) Oh my God, Harriet!
HARRIET I am so sorry.
SALLY (Short silence) We had a plan… two children… Tucker and Jan… with us their parents… and Max and Cam their uncles.
HARRIET How could I’ve known it would turn out like this?
SALLY (Almost screaming) Well you’re an idiot! A total, total, total idiot!
HARRIET Listen! You have no idea what I’ve been through this last month. All my energy has gone into learning how to become a mother of one baby, while distancing myself from another.
SALLY (Still screaming) That’s not what I’m talking about! It seems you gave one of your embryos to Priscilla! Anything else I should know about? Is there a triplet hiding somewhere? Or sextuplets? After all, you had seven embryos. What were you aiming for? An ice hockey team?
HARRIET Sally! Please!
SALLY Please what?
HARRIET I thought I was just doing an infertile couple a favor… until I realized I was nursing my child… a child that will be taken away from me.
SALLY Oh, shit, Harriet! Shit, shit, shit!
HARRIET First, you must know that I love you… deeply. Before you walk away, you’ve got to hear that: I… love… you. I’ve loved you from day one.
SALLY Oh, God. How did this happen?
HARRIET Remember when we decided that Cam could be my sperm donor? And you were worried that he wouldn’t want to be just a sperm donor?
SALLY Get to the point.
HARRIET When Cam told me he was looking for a surrogate embryo for Priscilla, but that she didn’t want to know anything about the egg donor, I figured if I used his sperm and my eggs and allowed him and Priscilla to use some of the excess embryos, he wouldn’t bug me once he had his own baby… in Mississippi. About as far away from here as possible.
SALLY (Angrily) But why didn’t you tell me that was the deal? Is there something about me that makes you think you can’t talk to me about these things? When I first met you I thought we had an understanding. You were my rock… solid, stable, reliable… that’s why I picked you. But now everything’s changed. I don’t know who you are anymore. You’re not my Harriet.
HARRIET Sally! He asked me to promise not to tell anybody.
SALLY And you think that promise is more important than our relationship? Jesus, Harriet! You had no right to make that promise.
(Sally picks up the coat she threw on the chair earlier, puts it on and leaves, slamming the door behind her. Harriet stands staring at the door. Max appears in the bedroom doorway and is about to say something when we hear the sound of the key in the door.)
SALLY (Still steaming) The point is, you shouldn't have agreed to the use of any of your embryos without discussing it with me. It's that simple.
HARRIET I could have done that… I should have done that… I wish I’d done that … but I didn’t. (Beat) I now know it was a mistake… a monumental mistake, but what more can I say?
SALLY It’s bad enough what you did. But twins? I am Jan’s co-mother!
HARRIET How was I supposed to know they would use one of my embryos so soon? And that it would implant at the first try? And that their baby would be born prematurely on the very day as my own? If they had waited a few months… Ashley and Jan would just have been two children born 2000 miles apart from two different mothers. Instead they’re sleeping in the same cradle… two twins of mine.
SALLY Well, if you'd talked to me. If Cam—your partner in crime—had talked to me… all this might have come out before any of your embryos were given to him.
HARRIET Sally… I can’t undo the biggest mistake of my life. (Beat) I’m scared of losing you. Of what I’ve done. Of Priscilla. Of what she might do. Poor Ashley will be brought up by a half-crazy, poisonous, Bible-thumping witch, who sooner or later will hate him from the bottom of her soul because he came out of my egg. She will punish him and it’s all my fault.
SALLY The problem isn’t just Ashley. If we get into arguments over who has what rights...
HARRIET It’s a nightmare.
SALLY OK. This is what we’ll do. I’ll fly to Mississippi and break the news to Priscilla and try to contain the situation.
HARRIET You will? (Pause) I’ve made such a mess of things… such a terrible mess. (Beat) Do you still love me?
SALLY (A pause, she then grins) No, I hate you.
(Harriet embraces Sally.)
END OF SCENE 11
Scene 12. A few days later. LIGHTS on Harriet, Sally, and Max in Sally’s and Harriet’s apartment. Sally, still in her travel outfit, her suitcase by her side.
SALLY They’ll be here soon. I told them to check into their hotel first.
HARRIET I can’t stand the suspense. How did it go?
SALLY I think it’s going to be all right. But promise you’re going to keep a lid on it when they arrive. For now we’ll have to let Ashley go back with Priscilla. But that’s not the end of it… it’s just stage one. Priscilla’s still very fragile, so we have to be super careful.
MAX How did you manage to tell her about Harriet being the egg donor?
SALLY Very gently…
HARRIET (After a beat) How did she take it?
SALLY She cried… she screamed... she threw her tea cup at him...
MAX I hope it was empty.
SALLY And then they prayed.
MAX And it worked?
SALLY They have this thing called Forgiveness Time. She invited me to join in, but I could see that Forgiveness Time was already going to be quite a long session without my getting involved, so I just waited outside.
HARRIET Poor Cameron.
SALLY (Suddenly remembers Tucker.) They should be here any moment. Oh, I’m a terrible mother! I haven’t even kissed Tucker hello yet.
HARRIET He’s fine, he’s fine. Max read him “Heather has Two Mommies”… and now he’s taking a nap
SALLY (Guffawing) “Heather has Two Mommies!” I know I have a smart son, but this is for 3 or 4-year old kids.
HARRIET It’s never too early to teach kids that having two mommies is okay. Call it gay imprinting.
(Door bell rings)
HARRIET My God! That’ll be them. Max, would you?
(Max springs up from his chair and goes out. He reenters with Cameron, who is carrying a suitcase, followed by Priscilla. Sally starts to rise.)
CAMERON Well. Here we are.
PRISCILLA We’ve come to pick up Ashley.
(Slowly, Harriet gets up and hands Ashley over to Priscilla, who at once begins nuzzling him.)
HARRIET (Sharp tone) You mean, that’s all? Not even a “thank you”?
PRISCILLA Oh… I thanked Sally back home. I sure appreciated what y’all did, but I can handle him just fine now… no more colic. I told Sally, we’ll stay one more day and then (She again nuzzles the baby.) Ashley flies home with his mommy and sleeps in his own crib, won’t you? You’ll never know you were away from your mommy and your daddy.
HARRIET (Almost livid) What about me? What role do you think I play in all this?
PRISCILLA You have a nice baby. I’m sure Sally will take good care of him with Tucker. She told me you’re going back to work.
(She is interrupted by a noise from Tucker in other room.)
MAX I’ll go.
SALLY Uncle Max has been helping with Tucker while Ashley—
PRISCILLA I’m sure he has.
(Max exits to the bedroom.)
PRISCILLA Cam, honey, will you open up the bag?
(He does so.)
PRISCILLA Get that little cap. He’ll need it back home in the sun. He might as well get his first present now.
(Cameron produces a little baseball cap with JESUS LOVES YOU on it. Priscilla puts it on Ashley’s head. He’s about to close the case… )
PRISCILLA Well, I guess we’ll be going now.
(Cameron stops what he’s doing),
HARRIET (To Priscilla) Could I have a moment with you? (To Sally) You mind?
SALLY Of course not.
(She heads for the kitchen. Harriet waits for Cameron to also leave. He doesn’t.)
HARRIET I don’t want to involve you, Cam.
PRISCILLA Why shouldn’t he be here?
HARRIET For the same reason Sally shouldn’t be. I want to solve one problem at a time.
CAMERON (To Priscilla) It’s okay, honey.
(He goes into the kitchen.)
HARRIET We should get to know each other. Let’s give it a try… the two of us… alone.
PRISCILLA (Dubious) I don’t know about that.
HARRIET Sally said things worked out pretty well between the two of you in Mississippi.
PRISCILLA She’s Cam’s sister.
HARRIET That also makes her your sister-in-law.
PRISCILLA (Reluctantly) I guess so.
HARRIET But you never wanted to know Sally or me.
PRISCILLA What you were doing was sinful.
HARRIET (Sarcastic) Past tense? Whatever it is, we’re still doing it. (Beat) Before we know it, Tucker will be 2. You didn’t even come to his first birthday. Of course, Cameron did. (Beat) You have no idea how important that was for Sally… to have Tucker’s uncle here. And you’re his aunt.
PRISCILLA I just couldn’t come.
HARRIET. Weren’t you curious?
PRISCILLA I didn’t want to know… (Beat). I was afraid. (Beat). I’m still afraid.
HARRIET (Surprised) Of us?
PRISCILLA Your lifestyle.
HARRIET What do you know about (sarcastic) our “lifestyle?” (Waves her hand around the room). Does this look like a house of ill repute?
PRISCILLA It isn’t what I thought.
HARRIET I see. And if it hadn’t been for Ashley’s colic and your own problems you still wouldn’t have come?
PRISCILLA (Suddenly started to sob). I couldn’t take his crying any longer. (Cries even harder). I thought I was losing my mind. (Looks for handkerchief).
HARRIET (Gets a tissue from table and offers it to Priscilla) Here…
PRISCILLA (Wipes her tears) Thanks.
HARRIET Cam brought Ashley here because the baby needed my milk. It worked because Jan and Ashley are twins.
PRISCILLA (Stubbornly) They’re half-brothers. They share a father. They don’t at all look alike!
HARRIET (Furiously) Not alike? (She rips off Ashley’s baseball cap and hurls it across room.) Just look at him without that creepy JESUS LOVES YOU cap. Look! (She thrusts Jan practically in her face.) Spitting images! (Pause) I would like to see Ashley from time to time.
PRISCILLA Out of the question!
HARRIET (Hurt) Why?
PRISCILLA It isn’t right!
HARRIET What isn’t right?
PRISCILLA I will not have my child exposed to a man-hating lesbian!
HARRIET Who says I hate men? I don’t happen to welcome them into my bed. But otherwise? I love my father… I adore my brother—
PRISCILLA Your character then. My child will have a man to look up to.
HARRIET All children need male role models… and male love… and male bonding within a family.
HARRIET But what? Tucker and Jan have two mothers and two uncles. At least one of them spends a lot of time with them.
PRISCILLA Uncles are not the same as fathers.
HARRIET I didn’t say they were. Some biological fathers shouldn’t even be uncles… let alone fathers… and some uncles are almost as good as fathers. Just take Max in there… with Tucker. At least in our family—
HARRIET Why not?
PRISCILLA Because it isn’t right!
HARRIET Says who?
PRISCILLA It isn’t natural!
HARRIET You didn’t become a mother the natural way. Does that make it wrong? Is your family now missing a mother?
PRISCILLA No. No. No! You are wrong!
(Impasse. Harriet tries again.)
HARRIET They’ll always have a special bond, Jan and Ashley. They are twins. Are you going to deny them that?
PRISCILLA They’re not twins! Yours is much fatter.
HARRIET You know damn well why that is so… with Ashley born prematurely and then his colic. But they’re fraternal twins…
PRISCILLA (Stubbornly) You’re talking about enzymes—
HARRIET (Now truly irritated) Oh, for God’s sake! What do you know about enzymes?
PRISCILLA I know!
HARRIET You know what, exactly? What? Give me some interesting facts about enzymes! Go on! Surprise me!
PRISCILLA I looked ‘em up on the Internet.
HARRIET (Explodes) The Internet? Jesus Christ!
PRISCILLA Don’t take our Lord’s name in vain!
HARRIET (About to lose her temper completely) Jesus! Half-brothers! And what exactly was my role in all this? To provide the right enzymes to cure his colic… and nothing else?
PRISCILLA It was your embryo… but my baby.
HARRIET (Sardonic) Why don’t you go back to the Internet to see what you can find under “genes”?
PRISCILLA I don’t need the Internet to tell me about my child. For nine months, Ashley and I formed a relationship. You understand? A relationship that’ll last until death! I talked to Ashley while he was in me… when you didn’t even know what had happened to your embryo! Sure, I’ll always be thankful to you for that gift… but I’m not just an incubator for your embryo. Ashley is my child. He’s been baptized. (Almost hysterical) Baptized! Do you hear that?
HARRIET (Now calmer) I’m not going to argue with you about nurture vs. nature. Especially not when I nursed that kid for the past month. Or do you think I’m just a milk cow?
(A long, seething pause. Cameron and Sally, having heard the argument, come quietly out of the kitchen and look on.)
I hope you don’t think you have any rights to my child?
PRISCILLA To Jan? No… I don’t. But since Cameron’s the father, you’ll need to check with him.
HARRIET (Explodes) I see. You think I… as the egg donor… have no rights with respect to Ashley but your Cameron’s puny little sperm will give him rights to my son?
SALLY Harriet, please…
(Max has come out of the bedroom.)
MAX There’s a 2-year old boy in this bedroom who can hear every word you’re saying. A boy to whom I’ve just read this book (waving the book)! You remember… it doesn’t matter how many mommies or how many daddies your family has… it doesn’t matter if your family has sisters or brothers or cousins or grandmothers or grandfathers or uncles or aunts… each family is special. The most important thing about a family is that all the people in it love each other. Tucker doesn’t understand any of that yet, but he soon will. And eventually, so will the other two boys. Aren’t you two ashamed of yourselves? If you have something to resolve, why don’t you discuss it like sensible adults?
HARRIET (After a beat) I’m sorry.
(A long pause. Max notices something hanging out of the suitcase.)
MAX (To Priscilla) Is that a doll?
(Somewhat surprised, Priscilla nods. Max goes over to the suitcase, lifts the lid to push the doll inside, looks inside the case.)
MAX That’s quite a collection you’ve got here. How come you brought them?
PRISCILLA They were mine as a child. I brought them for Ashley… for company.
HARRIET Don’t you think Ashley needs male company rather than girlie dollies?
PRISCILLA Some of them are boy dolls.
MAX (Kind tone) Which is your favorite?
(Priscilla, unsure of what else to do, goes over to the case and brings out the battered old doll we saw her with before.)
MAX How long have you had her?
PRISCILLA Since I was four.
MAX She’s lasted well. You must have given her a lot of love over the years. (He addresses the others.) Listen. I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you people pull up some chairs? And put the children into the crib… it may be their last time together for a long time.
(Baffled, but going along with it, Sally and Harriet move toward chairs, but Priscilla and Cameron remain standing. Max addresses them.)
MAX Come on… why don’t you give it a try. What have you got to lose?
(Priscilla and Cameron start to sit down, but on opposite sides of the table.)
MAX Not that way. Two of you on one side… and two on the other. And Priscilla, mind if I borrow some of these dolls? I think it might help. I promise to be gentle with them.
PRISCILLA (Hesitatingly) I guess it’s okay.
MAX Thank you.
(Priscilla and Cameron place themselves close together on one narrow side of the rectangular table and Harriet and Sally on the opposite side. Max sits down in the center of one of the unoccupied sides of the table. He addresses the entire group as he looks around, from time to time favoring one group over another.)
MAX You realize, of course, that I don’t usually do this sort of thing. My business isn’t to resolve problems. I’m not a judge… I’m usually an advocate for the accused.
(He notices Priscilla whispering to Cameron. He addresses Priscilla.)
MAX But here we have two accusers who are also both defendants. Why don’t you let me take both your sides. (To Priscilla) I barely know you but my fellow sperm donor over there (He points to Cameron.) can vouch for me.
PRISCILLA (Hesitates) I don’t know…
CAMERON (Quickly interrupts) Prissy, let him try.
PRISCILLA I guess so.
MAX Okay. Here (pointing to Sally and Harriet.) we have two highly intelligent professionals… too busy in their work to have much time for random encounters… who wanted (he draws quotation marks in the air with his fingers.) “to get married” after they were lucky enough to have met each other.
PRISCILLA Two women can’t get married!
MAX (Calmly) Priscilla! I drew quotation marks around those words. The fact is… Harriet and Sally wanted (he again draws quotation marks in the air with his fingers.) “to get married”…. for better or for worse, until death do them part.
MAX (He interrupts her, raising his hand.) Both of them now have children… which is not that unusual…
PRISCILLA It’s pretty unusual back home.
MAX I can assure you, it’s anything but in San Francisco. However, what is unusual is the familial relationships of the mothers to the sperm donors. And especially the further relationship of one of them (he points first to Cameron.) to a woman… meaning you, Priscilla… who became (he again draws quotation marks in the air with his fingers.) “a mother” by decidedly unnatural means.
PRISCILLA You can’t put quotation marks around that word! I am a mother!
MAX. Of course you’re a mother. The quotation marks referred only to the means whereby you became one. And now, let’s get to the heart of this mess!
SALLY Mess? If you think that giving birth to two wonderful children…
HARRIET Three children!
MAX If I remember right, “mess” means something like “untidy, disordered or unpleasant.” And doesn’t that pretty much sum up where we are all right now? Eight persons… two brothers to two sisters… two sperm donors to three sons… two uncles to three nephews… and a couple with a marriage certificate and another couple without one. Anyway, let’s call this side of the table (he points to the side where Cameron and Priscilla sit.) “Mississippi.” And (now he points to the side where Sally and Harriet sit.) this side of the table “San Francisco.”
(Max reaches into the suitcase and brings out three dolls: Priscilla’s favorite and two smaller ones. He addresses Sally while grouping the three dolls close together in the middle of the table.)
MAX Sally, I need three sheets of paper and a pen…. and some Scotch tape.
(Sally brings them to him, whereupon he writes each child’s name in big letters on the sheets while talking.)
MAX This is Jan… this one can be Tucker… and this one, Ashley. And to avoid any confusion, let me label them.
(He tapes the name pages to the front of each respective doll.)
MAX What I would now like each of you to do in succession is to move each child to the adult couple where you think they belong. Understood? (They all nod.) Now let’s start with you, Priscilla.
(Priscilla quickly reaches for the Ashley doll and moves it right next to her.)
PRISCILLA There you are.
MAX Don’t you want to move the other two?
PRISCILLA No… I have made my point.
MAX (To Cameron) Cam.
(Cameron leans over to move the Tucker doll all the way across table next to Sally. Harriet quickly reaches over and moves that doll so it is between her and Sally.)
MAX Harriet… it’s not your turn.
(Max reaches over and moves Tucker back to the position next to Sally where Cameron had placed it originally. Then he turns to Cameron.)
MAX That’s all?
CAMERON Could I pass until the end?
MAX Sure. (To Sally) In that case, you’re next, Sally.
(Sally quickly carries out the Tucker move that Harriet had initiated and then moves Jan right next to him, thus placing both Tucker and Jan right between Sally and Harriet.)
MAX No other move, Sally?
SALLY (She hesitates, then moves Ashley away from Priscilla slightly toward the center.) That’s it.
MAX (To Harriet) Harriet?
(Harriet reaches across table and moves the Ashley doll all the way to the center. Priscilla immediately reaches over to put him back next to her.)
MAX (To Priscilla) Priscilla… you can’t do that! It’s not your turn.
PRISCILLA Ashley belongs to me!
MAX Priscilla! These are dolls, not children. (Max moves the Ashley doll back toward the middle, where Harriet had placed it.)
PRISCILLA I don’t care. Ashley belongs here. (She moves him back.)
(Harriet reaches all the way over the table—practically lying on it—for the Ashley doll, but before she can move it, Priscilla grabs it as well.)
HARRIET (To Cameron) Your wife seems to think children are dolls.
CAMERON (To Harriet) That was unfair. (Gently to Priscilla) Prissy… let go. It’s just a game.
(Reluctantly, Priscilla relinquishes her grip, whereupon Harriet moves the Ashley doll back to the center.)
MAX (To Harriet) Any other moves you wish to make.
MAX (To Cameron) You passed earlier. You have two more moves.
(Cameron hesitates for a moment, then reaches for the Ashley doll and moves it still closer to “Mississippi,” but not as close as Priscilla had placed it.)
MAX Okay. In that case…
CAMERON I’m not finished yet, Max.
(Cameron reaches way over the table for the Jan doll and moves it from Harriet and Sally toward the middle, though still closer to the “San Francisco” than the “Mississippi” position.)
CAMERON That’s it.
HARRIET (Under her breath) Jesus!
MAX (After looking slowly around the table) We’re getting close to the end. You can each make one more move… but only one! Let’s do it in the same order as before. Priscilla, you first.
(Priscilla moves the Ashley doll back next to her; Cameron gestures that he does not wish to do anything; Sally does likewise; whereupon Harriet looks up angrily. She reaches over to Ashley—again practically lying on the table—ready to move the doll back toward the middle when Max interrupts…)
MAX Harriet, remember, one move only.
(Harriet drops her hand, sits back in her chair and then quickly grabs the Jan doll and moves it back next to her from the position where Cameron had placed it last.)
HARRIET (To Priscilla) If this (she points to the Ashley doll.) had reflected reality, who would’ve breast fed Ashley the last four weeks?
PRISCILLA May the good Lord forgive you for such cruel words.
HARRIET You think it’s cruel asking why you won’t move Ashley partly to our side?
(Harriet suddenly makes a play for the Ashley doll. In reaction, Priscilla grabs at it. In the ensuing tug of war, the doll breaks in half.)
PRISCILLA You’re wicked! Look what you’ve done! May the good Lord forgive you for your wickedness.
(Priscilla, upset that her favorite doll has broken in two, holds the pieces in her hands.)
CAMERON (To Max) Some game!
PRISCILLA A true Christian would now ask for forgiveness.
HARRIET Meaning that I should apologize for the broken doll?
PRISCILLA. Of course. You broke it.
HARRIET Alright… I apologize. And now, will you as a true Christian apologize for wanting to cut off all future contact with a biological child of mine?
PRISCILLA Ashley belongs to me! You’re a doctor… and you handled the embryo as a doctor. I converted it into a baby. I’m the mother.
MAX Everyone, listen. Just listen, before this entire situation gets out of hand. Harriet was wrong thinking she could just let Cam use an embryo however he’d see fit, and now she knows it.
HARRIET Of course I know it now. But why belabor the point? I’ve already told that to you… and to Sally… and I will repeat it now in front of Cam and Priscilla. (Loud and slow). I made a mistake… a mistake that can’t be undone.
MAX (To Priscilla) When she put Ashley to her breast… she discovered a mystery she was not prepared for. You can’t blame her for feeling Ashley belongs to her, too. Why shouldn’t she be entitled to visitation rights with Ashley? You imply that Cameron has them with respect to Jan. (To Cameron) When Harriet gave birth to Jan, how did you feel? A little envious, perhaps?
CAMERON I asked the Lord to free me of my envy.
SALLY Who were you envious of?
CAMERON Of Max. Because sperm donors aren’t just sperm donors and nothing else. But Max had the advantage of being close to you two and Tucker.
MAX If that’s how you feel, then you and Priscilla should move to San Francisco.
PRISCILLA What? (Beat). Let us pray. Give us the strength not to compromise as we bring up Ashley within the Christian faith, even though he was born by artificial…
CAMERON (Interrupts) Alternative…
PRISCILLA I mean alternative means. And since there are still four embryos…
CAMERON (Interrupts) Five …
PRISCILLA Are you sure?
PRISCILLA Even better! And since it would be sinful to destroy them and the Lord has taught us to go forth and multiply... surely it is right that we create further life through such alternative means… So bless us, Oh Lord, with siblings to Ashley, which we shall bring up as thy faithful servants in a true Christian household. Amen.
HARRIET Wait a moment! Those are my eggs!
SALLY You’ve got to ask her.
PRISCILLA No, I don’t. She gave them to my husband.
HARRIET I didn’t “give” them to him… I was generous enough to allow him access to some. (To Cameron) Isn’t that right, Cam?
CAMERON I guess so.
PRISCILLA (To Harriet) What were you aiming to do with the rest?
HARRIET (Addresses Cameron) Hadn’t I told you that I might need them if something happened with my pregnancy?
PRISCILLA But your baby is okay. What use could you now have for them?
HARRIET What gives you the right to even ask that question? (Beat). Suppose I wanted another child?
SALLY Harry! Are you serious?
HARRIET You and I can discuss this some other time. After all, embryos can be stored for years.
PRISCILLA Get the suitcase, honey.
SALLY You’re not going now?
PRISCILLA (Firmly) Cam, get the case. (Beat). Cam! The suitcase, please.
(Priscilla gets up and takes Ashley. She turns to Cameron.)
CAMERON Honey, I don’t think we should leave just yet.
PRISCILLA (Bitter) Fine. You stay. But I’m taking my child to Mississippi.
MAX Priscilla, I don’t think you should leave.
(Priscilla goes toward the door.)
CAMERON Prissy! You said “a true Christian household.” But the Bible says, “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established.” We’ve all got to show some understanding…
PRISCILLA (Dismissive) That’s the Old Testament!
HARRIET In that case, how about listening to Jesus!
“In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.”
CAMERON (Quickly) John 14, verse 2.
PRISCILLA (Surprised to Harriet) You… quoting from the Scriptures?
HARRIET And why not? Because I don’t flaunt my knowledge openly? Or are these words less valid coming from me?
(Priscilla heads for the door.)
SALLY: Wait, Priscilla! "Give, and it shall be given to you. For whatever measure you deal out to others, it will be dealt to you in return." That’s what Cam and I were taught at home.
(Priscilla opens the door.)
HARRIET (Desperately) You can’t go! Those are the words of your Savior!
MAX (Firmly) Harriet. Leave it.
(Harriet looks at Max in surprise. Priscilla exits with Ashley. Cam looks at the others, and, with a helpless shrug, goes after her.)
HARRIET What God can allow this to happen?
(She throws herself onto the sofa, sobbing. Sally goes to comfort her.)
MAX Umbrella Christianity might work with Cam, but not with people like Priscilla.
HARRIET If citing the Bible doesn’t convince her, what will?
MAX Just be patient.
(Harriet looks up Max)
HARRIET (Angrily) You all let her win.
MAX It’s not about winning. It’s about patience.
(A long pause)
(They all stop to listen. It’s a baby’s cry, quite faint.)
SALLY It must be Tucker. I’ll—
HARRIET (The realization dawning on her) That’s not Tucker.
(A moment. The baby’s cries become more distinct. Max, wry as ever, looks at his watch.)
MAX I’d say it’s feeding time.
(The door slowly opens again. Priscilla and Ashley—by now screaming-- are in the doorway, Cameron standing behind.)
CAMERON Pris changed her mind.
Strobe lights go on which make the remainder look like dream-like, slow motion
(Cameron remains at the door while Priscilla enters the room and stands in front of Harriet. She holds out the screaming Ashley. Without a word, Harriet takes the baby from Priscilla. Then she sits down on the sofa, and begins unbuttoning her blouse. Almost as a deliberate act of teasing, she turns her body away from Priscilla, places Ashley on a cushion on her knee and begins breastfeeding him whereupon the screaming stops almost immediately.
(Cameron steps into the room and closes the front door behind him delicately. Priscilla quietly sobbing takes a seat. Cameron sits beside her and tries to console her. Sally and Max walk toward the sofa AS THE STROBE LIGHTS GO OFF, followed by a long silence as Harriet quietly feeds Ashley.
MAX The Lord hath taken away and now the Lord giveth. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
PRISCILLA (Looks up shocked). That’s not what it says in the King James Bible! It’s the reverse!
MAX I know. This is the Gospel according to Mendel..
HARRIET Praise the Lord… and Gregor Mendel for giving us genes.
END OF PLAY