Collision Course

a short play in verse by John Enright


[Scene: Darkened room, couple in bed, apparently asleep.]
[Loud Crash]
Suzy:    Was that a dream, or... Mike, are you awake?
Mike:    [Not awake]
         Uh, yeah, of course...
Suzy:                       Well, then, for heaven's sake
         Just tell me - did you hear a giant crash?
         It sounded like a semi going smash
         Into a tree.
Mike:                  Uh, no.  At least I don't
         Think so.  It probably was a nightmare.  Won't
         You quiet down?   You know you need your rest.
[Brenda waltzes in.]
Suzy:    And what's that?  An imaginary guest?
[startled by Mike's presence - had only expected to find Suzy]
         Oh my.  Oh dear.  Say - who the hell are you?.
[turning to Suzy]
         I hear you need a kidney.  Is it true?
Mike:    Another of your charming, quirky friends?
Suzy:    No.
Brenda:      No.  Ours is a bond that quite transcends
         Mere friendship.  How do you do.  I'm Brenda.
Mike:    When you spoke of your friends, you didn't list her.
Suzy:    She's not my friend.  She's just my sister.
Brenda:  Anyway, I've had a fender bender
         Outside with a large immovable object.
Suzy:    What are you doing here?
Brenda:                             Don't change the subject.
         My car, as I was saying -
Suzy:                               Your irresistible force
         For once has met its match?
Brenda:                               Of course.
         Long ago.  On that unremembered morning,
         When Mama brought me home from being born,
         And without warning told me
     [imitates Mother's voice:]
                                       This is Suzy!
         She's your Sis!
     [shrugs ironically]
                          Well, babies can't be choosy.
Suzy:    Speaking of mother... is that how you heard?
Brenda:  It is.
Suzy:         God damn it, she gave me her word.
         I trusted her.  Now see how she repays me.
Brenda:  Honestly, Susan, sometimes you amaze me.
         You spill out your guts with a secret like that
         And expect her to keep it safe under her hat?
Suzy:    I had to talk to someone!
Brenda:                             So did she.
         And as it turned out, her someone was me.
Suzy:    Why you?
Brenda:           Why me?  Because her flesh and blood
         Brought forth my own.
Suzy:                           But don't you think she could
         Find someone else?
Brenda:                      Find someone else whose genes
         Just happen to be like yours?  And by what means
         Would that have happened?  The test results are clear.
         I'm an ideal donor for you, my dear.
Suzy:    What is this?  Get out.  Get out of my sight.
Brenda:  I offer my flesh.   But you want to fight.
Mike:    Darling, please wait.  Did you hear what she said?
Suzy:    Take a kidney from her?  I'd rather be dead.
Mike:    Don't say that!
Suzy:                    Why not?  It's simply a fact.
Brenda:  Oh, really?   Let's see if that claim can be backed
         With substance.  Let's suppose I'd driven faster
         Into that tree - and died in the disaster,
         Bashing my brains to bits in the collision
         But leaving my kidneys intact.  Would your decision
         Not be inclined to change in such a case?
Suzy:    Of course it would.  I wouldn't have to face
         Your living breathing self with gratitude.
         Your death would leave me far more latitude
         About accepting anything of value
         From your estate.  There'd be no need to hail you
         As one who helped me out.  There'd be no sanction
         Of your disgusting views.  But this distinction
         Is totally irrelevant.  You breathe.
         Your walk.  You talk.  You live and clearly seethe
         With deep resentment of my righteous ways.
Brenda:  [pulls pistol from purse]
         Then let's suppose I take this gun and raise
         It to my temples and squeeze off a shot
         Into my head with lead that's hard and hot
         Scrambling the cells to hell within my brain,
         And dropping dead right here.  Would you disdain
         To take my kidney then?
Suzy:                             Please!  Just go ahead!
         I'll gladly take your kidney once you're dead!
Mike:    [Standing in front of Brenda, with his hand out]
         Give me that thing!
         [She gives it to him.]
                              I swear, I don't know who
         Is the crazier one of the two - you or you?
         But one thing's a clear and objective fact:
         I see you're sisters from the way you act!
Brenda:  What?
Suzy:    [Overlapping or in unison with Brenda]
Mike:                 You fight like children, full of spite,
         Ready to die for the right to be right.
         Would someone tell me what this fight's ABOUT?
Suzy:    There's no need, Mike, to scream or shout.
         Calm down, and let's discuss this rationally.
         This conflict started internationally,
         And it's too late for you to intervene.
Mike:    Internationally?  What do you mean?
Brenda:  It started with some trade negotiations
         Between the U.S. and some other nations.
Mike:    [with sarcasm]
         Oh.  That makes sense.
Brenda:                         Well, in a way it does.
         Follow it through.  The heated question was:
Suzy:    Should we or shouldn't we trade with countries where
         Man's rights are trampled on the public square?
Mike:    [Indicating first Brenda and then Suzy]
         I take it you said yes and you said no.
Brenda:  Well, yes.   And then she told me where to go.
Suzy:    If you support raw tyranny, you should
         Emigrate elsewhere!
Brenda:                         Suzy, if you would
         Just listen for a second -
Suzy:                                Oh, I'll listen!
Mike:    Wait a minute, please.  I think I'm missin'
         The point of this stuff.
Brenda:  [to Suzy]
                                    Boycotts don't succeed!
Suzy:    [to Brenda]
         Sometimes they do.
Brenda:                      To make them work you need
         A lot of countries joining in your effort.
         And when you do succeed the ones who get hurt
         Are the poor people - not the ones who lead.
Suzy:    Until the people, rich and poor together,
         Revolt against oppression of their rights,
         It doesn't really make much difference whether
         Our cash makes slight improvements to their plights.
         We send a stronger message when we say:
         No trade until the slavery goes away!
         No goods until the rights of man hold sway!
Brenda:  Evading facts of economic science,
         You glory in the spirit of defiance
         And spout forth  speeches in your own defense,
         Loaded with rhetoric, but light on sense.
Suzy:    [Overlapping with last 3 verse-lines
         of Brenda's.]
         Evading, huh?  I'd say your own cognition
         Is in a sorry state, and its condition
         Is proof of your inadequate volition.
Mike:   [Loudly interrupting]
                Okay.  So nuclear family fission
         Explodes again before my very eyes.
         And I must tell you, much to my surprise,
         That I've enjoyed your fireworks display.
         I even think - though this is hard to say -
         That somehow both you girls enjoyed it too.
Suzy:    You call me "girl?"
Mike:                         You're acting like one, Sue.
Suzy:    You think I get enjoyment out of this?
Mike:    Well, if you don't, then something's much amiss!
         You both debate with marvelous facility,
         And in your exercise of this ability
         You both deserve to take your share of pride.
         [to Suzy]
         But who will you debate with once you've died?
         [to Brenda]
         And as for you, my charitable Brenda,
         You're very sweet for offering to lend a
         Spare kidney to your sister.  But I ask
         Is this any way to accomplish your task?
Brenda:  I've offered all I can. What do you mean?
Mike:    I mean the way you engineered this scene.
         The car crash and gun were both fine melodrama.
         They made me sit up.  But emotional trauma
         Is something that Suzy's had plenty of lately.
         I think it might help to approach more sedately.
Brenda:  I got my points across.
Mike:                              Yes, quite conclusively.
         But did you have to do it so intrusively?
Brenda:  I'm only trying to help.
Mike:                              Do more than try.
         Do what needs doing.  That's in short supply.
         Instead of storming out in clouds of glory
         Append a happy ending to the story.
         Stretch yourself beyond this flashy role.
         Gently reach and grasp your living goal.
         Make up with her.  I cannot tell you how
         To do it, but I think you'll know.  So now
         I'll leave you two alone to sort it out.
         My being here, I fear, leads you to shout
         Each other down, as if I were a judge
         Who'll settle this while neither of you budge.
         Forget about proving your virtuous cases.
         Reveal, instead, your secret inner faces.
[Mike leaves.]
Brenda:  He's quite a guy.
Suzy:                       He is.  He somehow keeps me
         Honest when the force of passion sweeps me
         Into a storm of clouded claims that lack
         Full correspondence with the world of fact.
         He does it with some tact, but he insists
         I bear in mind that what exists, exists
         Regardless of my wrath.
Brenda:                             Why do we fight?
Suzy:    Because we care.
Brenda:                   You mean, who's wrong or right?
Suzy:    No.  More than that.  We care about each other.
         We share so much.
Brenda:                     We got it from our mother.
Suzy:    No.  More than that.  From growing side by side
         So close we barely knew how to divide
         Brenda from Suzy.
Brenda:                     Remember how I used
         To borrow your clothes even when you refused
         To lend them to me?  And how I excused
Suzy:             You said my clothes were merely waiting
         To be passed down to you.  And liberating
         Them early from my closet was no crime,
         But just a way of accelerating time.
Brenda:  I'm sure that must have been infuriating,
         The way I treated your clothes like my own.
Suzy:    And yet I found, when I was fully grown
         And moved away, whenever I misplaced
         An article of clothing, my thoughts raced
         First to the hypothesis that you
         Had sneaked it from my closet - though I knew
         That was impossible - but still the notion
         Of your hidden presence filled me with emotion
         Quite bittersweet.
Brenda:                     Is that a tear I see?
Suzy:    You understand there is no guarantee?
Brenda:  Of what?
Suzy:             No guarantee my body will
         Accept your gift, no certainty until...
Brenda:  Until we try. But all the tests looked good.
         And all the doctors told me that you would
         Live longer and more fully with as near
         A match as we can get.
Suzy:                            Still I'll have merely
         So-so health.  And you'll be left with only
         One kidney.
Brenda:              I fear it will be lonely
         Unless you promise that you'll let it visit
         Quite often with its former roommate.  Is it
         Too much to ask?
Suzy:                      Brenda, I'm terrified.
Brenda:  Who wouldn't be?
Suzy:                      I'm doing my best to hide
         My fear.
Brenda:            Forget it.  This is me.  I know.
         You could never hide from me.
Suzy:    [Choking with emotion]
                                        Just so.
[Slowly, tentatively, Suzy reaches her hand out.
Brenda responds by taking her hand.
Brenda:  Living is good, even without full health.
         And every day we love is a form of wealth.
Suzy:    [Swallowing hard, regaining poise.]
         And when it's time to talk about great nations
         Let's leave them out of our own trade relations.
         After all, the reason that we fight
         Is that we want each other to be right
         So that we can stand together in the light!
Brenda:  And when we feel like hurling accusations?
Suzy:    Let's hurl away!  But let us not forget
         We're simply giving voice to our frustrations
         And don't mean all we say - or better yet
         Let's hurl something else!
Brenda:                              Let's hurl a hug.
         For sometimes it's better to hug than to shrug!
[They embrace.]

Special thanks to Nell Robinson for her script critique and to Michael Landman for directorial assistance.  Finally, thanks to Peter Saint-Andre for featuring it on his site.