Sleeping Late 

A domestic crisis in one act

A domestic crisis in one act

Setting: A small kitchen, rectangle-shaped. Counters on two long walls, one interrupted by a double, stainless-steel sink. Above the sink, a window. Beside the sink, a 10-cup drip coffee-maker; on the counter across from the sink, a toaster oven. On one of the short walls, a stove and a doorway to the dining room. On the other short wall, a small, child-sized table with two chairs and a set of French doors, closed, covered by bunched sheer curtains. Behind the curtained doors, a darkened room containing a finally sleeping infant and a tired mother, trying vainly to recover from a night of newborn colic.

Time: Dawn on Saturday morning.

Characters: Father (slim but approaching middle-age, kind, harried); Son (school-age, deliberate, determined to have plans settled); Toddler (cheerful but precipitous, just learning value of words as tools for communication); Mother (offstage, seeing nothing, but in the dark hearing all).

Curtain rises as Father sets a tray of biscuits in the toaster oven. Holding a triangle of jelly-smeared toast, the Toddler moves restlessly and aimlessly around the larger legs of his father. Son is slumped at the children’s table, elbow propped, the side of his head resting against his fist.

“Dad, can I invite someone over?” The Son, launching his weekend.

“Pookie?” The Toddler, opening the refrigerator door. “Grit? Coke?”

“We’ll see—No, no, honey, close the refrigerator door; no Coke for breakfast. Are you still hungry? Want some oatmeal?”

Silence from the Toddler, who won’t dignify this offer with a response.

“Want an egg?”

More silence.

“Maybe I could have someone over, and you could take us swimming at the Y.”

“When Mom wakes up we’ll see. First—”

“MOMMMEEE!” The toddler, his Mother’s existence suddenly recalled to him, drops his toast and dives for the French doors at the end of the kitchen.

“Shhhhh, no-no, Mommy’s sleeping. Mommy’s gone night-night.” The Father, grabbing the Toddler and clapping his hand over the jellied mouth.

“Night-night? NO NIGHT-NIGHT!!” The Toddler falls to floor, arches his back and screams repeatedly, “NO NIGHT-NIGHT!! NO NIGHT-NIGHT!!”

“No, honey, you aren’t going night-night; MOMMY’s gone night-night.”

“MOMMMEEE! POOKIE.” Again the Toddler turns for the bedroom door and is deflected by his father, who lifts him to the counter and allows him to flip the switch on the coffee-maker. Successfully redirected, he flips the switch on and off at least 15 times.

“Or maybe we could go fishing; you haven’t taken me fishing since last SUMMER, and anyway there are worms everywhere now, and if we wait till summer to go again, the ground will be hard as a rock and we won’t ever find any good worms.”

“Worms, mmmmmm.” The Toddler, expressing his opinion of worms. Then, “Grit?”

Coffeepot, struggling to spit out last drops of sludge, snorts and gurgles and moans like an old man in the bathroom first thing in the morning. Urgent to be heard over this auditory assault, the Toddler screams, again, “POOKIE? GRIT?”

“What the HELL is pookie?” The Father, losing it.

“Hell is a bad word. Grit is yogurt. I don’t know what pookie is. Maybe Mom knows.”

“MOMMMMEEEE!” The Toddler slams the refrigerator door shut and turns for the bedroom doors. The Son blocks him mid-spin, and the Toddler hits the floor, flailing his arms and kicking out at his presumptuous brother.

“Hey, cut it out! DAD! Make him stop hitting me.”

“Son, just step away from him. He can’t hit you if he can’t reach you.” Scooping up the dervish in his kitchen, the Father croons cajolingly, “Want some yogurt? How about a little yogurt for breakfast, Sparky?”

The toddler stops crying mid-squall, nods emphatically, smiles up at his father. “Grit!”

“So now can we call somebody up?” Pause. “Um, Dad, I think you might want to take a look at those biscuits.”

The Toddler looks at the singed biscuits his father is pulling hurriedly from the toaster oven. “Bickie?”

“How about Walker. Can we call Walker up?”

“We’ll SEE, son. First you have to eat breakfast and get dressed and pick up your p.j.s off the floor and brush your teeth and put away the toothpaste so your brother doesn’t eat it.” At the sink, the Father, scraping the tops off the biscuits and instilling responsibility in the Son.

“Poo-pay, mmmmm.” The Toddler, smiling through a mouthful of yogurt and affirming his opinion of toothpaste. Then, returning to his initial request, “Pookie?”

“After I do all that, THEN can I invite someone over?” The Son, persistent.

“Want milk or juice with your biscuits?” The Father, distracted.

“Jingle-toe? Pookie?” The Toddler, finished with the yogurt and now seeking indecipherable information somehow related to pookie.

“Milk. And what about inviting a friend?” The Son, undeterred.

“Milk, PLEASE.” The Father, instilling politesse.

“Peas.” The Toddler, assuming verbal correction is aimed at himself.

“Milk, please, thank-you, sir.” The Son, erring on the side of caution. “How about calling Walker?”

“Eat your biscuits, and we’ll discuss it later. It’s 6 o’clock in the morning right now, and your mom is still asleep.” The good husband.

“MOMMMMEEEE?” The Toddler again, exaggerated.

“Shhhhhhhh!” The Father and the Son in unison.

“Mommy!” Small feet padding on linoleum; scramble of larger feet attempting pursuit; click—too late—of an opening door; whoosh as the door swings open to the bedroom, revealing a delighted, yogurt-and-jelly-smeared toddler standing in a shaft of light.

“Mommy,” he says breathlessly, “Pookie?”

“Hon? Do you know what a pookie is? He wants something called a pookie.” The Father, stymied, poking his head into the darkened bedroom as his younger son heads back to the refrigerator.

A muffled crash as something turns over on a cold upper shelf, a squeal of victory, the closing click of the refrigerator door. The Toddler reappears in the bedroom doorway and pushes past his father, holding aloft a small jar of sliced dill pickles. He carries it to his mother to open:

“Pookie!” he proclaims, victorious. “Mmmmmm.”



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