This Magic Moment

[Elsa and Julia are in sixth grade, coming home from school. Resting under the large oak tree in their front yard. Both have backpacks.]

Elsa: I’m so hungry…starved…

Julia: I’ve got half a sandwich—

Elsa: Let me have it!

Julia: I’ll trade you.

Elsa: For what?

Julia: What do you have?

Julia: The ruby ring.

Elsa: Not that. My toy car collection?

Julia: No, no, don’t want that.

Elsa: My baseball pictures?

Julia: You have baseball pictures?

Elsa: Shhhh. I know, I know, I’m a girl—

Julia: You are going to get jammed about that.

Elsa: It’s a secret, so don’t tell.

Julia: Must be a big secret, I didn’t even know.

Elsa: Sammy nearly found out.

Julia: Sammy?

Elsa: Sometimes I just want to punch him.

Julia: Look at the sunflowers—so early in the spring!

Elsa: [picks a flower, begins to pull petals] He loves me, loves me not; hates me, hates me—

Julia: That is not nice!

Elsa: My sister hates me, hates me—

Julia: Elsa, stop it!

Elsa: Sammy hates me, hates me not. I’ll tell him to his face that the sunflower says, ‘hates me.’

Julia: Don’t, don’t, he’s strong and will get you back. [Pause] So, what will you trade?

Elsa: I don’t have much else.

Julia: And the ruby ring?

Elsa: That was grandmas! She wanted me to have it. No way.

Julia: Ok, no ring, no sandwich.

Elsa: You are always so mean—

Julia: No, I’m not. You are the one who hates me… said so—

Elsa: But you want to steal my inheritance. Remember what Grandma gave you? And now this too? That is mean!

Julia: Not always. Just today. [pause] Sandwich, ring…final offer.

Elsa: But this is my mine! You already got—

Julia: Don’t remind me. That’s not relevant.

Elsa: I hate you.

Julia: Go ahead hate me. I’ll tell mom how you ripped your skirt.

Elsa: Don’t, if you do, I’ll really kill you.

Julia: That’s not nice. Furthermore the second time in a week you tore that skirt.

Elsa: I’ll hate you even more.

Julia: Ok, a deal. I’ll be silent about the skirt; I’ll give you my sandwich in trade for the ruby ring.

Elsa: Why must you always—

Julia: That’s the deal [Elsa looks at ring, slowly gives it to her]. Ha, ha, I got the ring! [Gives sandwich to Elsa. Julia and Elsa do not see or hear Isaak. Places ring on finger]. Gives me her aura, doesn’t it?

Isaak: # [In his late twenties] Why are they staring at me? Stop that. I’ll get back at you. I said stop it! I don’t need this in my life! Don’t do this! I’ll get a knife if I have to! Brothers!

Elsa: # [A decade later, now in their twenties. Place backpacks upstate, bring picnic baskets downstage] Why must you always—

Julia: Don’t, don’t…

Elsa: I am still angry with you. Why did I agree—

Julia: To meet? It’s because grandma died, isn’t it!

Elsa: You just had to wear the ring, didn’t you!

Julia: It seemed right—

Elsa: Right in my face, as you always do!

Julia: You want the ring back.

Elsa: You stole it from me, during a weak teenage moment, you stole the only possession I ever desired.

Julia: Sorry, when you will learn a deal a deal.

Elsa: I’ve learned it, learned it.

Julia: Then what about Sammy? What about the time you left dad standing—

Elsa: Don’t dig up the past, you said bygones were bygones.

Julia: And I meant it.

Elsa: So, where’s the ring?

Julia: Over my dead body.

Elsa: What?

Julia: I’ll die first before I hand it back to you.

Elsa: You liar, you mean, you don’t deserve to—

Julia: Get over it. I can’t help it.

Elsa: I will not forget it, someday, someday, I’ll make you pay.

Julia: But you don’t know how. I’m independent, I’m on my own, you don’t know how to make me pay.

Elsa: Ok, let’s start by saying inviting you back to the house has ruined this fine outdoor picnic.

Julia: Let’s eat before it gets cold.

Elsa: There you go again, food first, people second.

Julia: You forgot, the ring first, then food, then people.

Julia: Stop, stop, why do you always take her side?

Elsa: She’s our mother; you’re my sister, that’s why. And it’s just sad, sad that you cannot get over your…

Julia: I’ve had enough of this, I’m going in to see what’s—

Elsa: Wait, remember last time?

Julia: That was more than a year ago, history does not repeat itself.

Elsa: History does not, but she does. But you never get it. You just can’t let go, can you?

Julia: Do you believe the story?

Elsa: In this house, I’ve heard so many.

Julia: The one about how grandma got this ring?

Elsa: Oh, you mean how an angel brought it?

Julia: Slipped it on her fingers while she was dreaming?

Elsa: On one level, yes, I believe it all!

Julia: I don’t.

Elsa: You don’t like the story?

Julia: Of course I like it.

Elsa: That’s what I mean. I believe it as a story.

Julia: But how, how can that happen?

Elsa: You think she stole it… made the whole thing up?

Julia: Grandpa, I think grandpa was the angel who slipped it on—

Elsa: While she was in a daze!

Julia: Ah ha, you get it!

Elsa: Yes, yes, I agree!

Julia: Carried away by angels.

Elsa: So grandma had sex?

Julia: Of course, think about it.

Elsa: Oh my god, angels and … Oh my god!

Julia: Oh my god is right!

Elsa: I didn’t know you would understand.

Julia: No more. From this day onward, nothing but understanding from me. [Reaching into school bag.] You have your pocket knife?

Elsa: Why?

Julia: Just found this apple. We could slice it—

Elsa: I don’t have it. Knives are dangerous.

Julia: But to share this apple—

Elsa: Knives are in school get bloody—

Julia: Ah, I remember.

[#Rebekah enters from house. Quietly but firmly advance to the picnic area. Picks up the four corners of the blanket and picks it up with all the dishes and food clattering to the center. Slings it over her shoulder and walks back inside house].

Elsa: Feel better now?

Julia: All I said, all I said was—

Elsa: We know what you said, and you have done this every year when we plan a nice family reunion to remember Dad.

Julia: Why? Why insist that we get together for a picnic on this day, every year, June 25, the day dad died. And yet…yet—

Elsa: But mention dad’s name and mom goes into this… this zone, like the realm of the zombies.

Julia: She storms into the house and doesn’t see us for the rest of the day ever though we are here, in broad day light.

Elsa: You know all I said was, “so tell us of your memories with dad.”

Julia: That is not what you said. Trying to make it nice and pretty now, aren’t you.

Elsa: Well, something like that.

Julia: Its always the same, “Tell us what was so great about dad that you…” Can you be kind, just once, and say something like, “What do you miss the most about dad?” Or, “Wouldn’t it be great if he came walking down the road the saw us here?”

Isaak: # [In his thirties, has been away a few years] Rebekah, Rebekah, I’m home!

Elsa: [Girls do not see Isaak and Rebekah] I would freak out!

Julia: Of course, he’s been gone so long

Elsa: And wouldn’t sometime let us know? I mean, before they sent him home?

Isaak: Rebekah, Rebekah!

Julia: You expect competence in today’s world?

Elsa: A little consideration at least, I mean, wouldn’t they let us know?

Rebekah: [Dashes out. They embrace]. It is so good to have you home. I’ll quickly make some coffee.

Isaak: I’ll never leave again, trust me. Never.

Elsa: When did you find out, I mean—

Julia: Where daddy was? All those years?

Elsa: Yes, when?

Rebekah: Sit down, out there on the grass. I’ll bring some coffee.

Isaak: Place looks like it always did. You are good in keeping things going!

Rebekah: What’d you say? Can’t hear.

Isaak: Where are the girls?

Rebekah: The twins are in school. Don’t you know what month it is? They are in school.

Isaak: Of course, of course. Mmmm, this is good coffee. I remember how you made it. Tastes the same. And you are the same too!

Rebekah: I am? Really?

Isaak: Why of course. I mean, maybe we can go inside in a bit… the girls are gone… we’re alone…

Rebekah: Oh Isaak, remember that wheat is not ready to harvest the day it is planted!

Elsa: Why is she inside, what could be wrong this time?

Julia: You know that whenever you mention dad and the life he lived, she gets—

Elsa: I know that, I know that. But its twenty years now, surely she can get over things.

Isaak: But we’ve planted and harvested many times so why not—

Rebekah: Please, please, put your hands down. There are many things to discuss first.

Elsa: You think they ever talked about what happened?

Julia: Of course they did… They must have…

Elsa: So why does she react so strongly when we bring it up now, twenty years later.

Julia: She’s still terrified.

Elsa: Of what? Terrified of what?

Julia: Knives.

Elsa: As simple as that?

Julia: Of course. Why else did she scream and run away when I said “This knife is too dull, you can’t cut a thing.”

Elsa: You know darn well she keeps all the knives dull so no one will get cut!

Rebekah: You have never told me why. Why did you do it, Isaak?

Isaak: I cannot say.

Rebekah: Then we cannot go inside, not today.

Isaak: Not at all?

Rebekah: I need to know, now.

Isaak: So I cannot stay, again?

Elsa: And she never let him back in the house again!

Julia: A knife, all because of a knife. Everyone has knives.

Elsa: I’m going in… you don’t think?

Julia: O my god, I hope not. We’d better check.

Isaak: Coffee is all?

Rebekah: I made a picnic for the girls but they didn’t come home today. So, its for us!

Isaak: Wonderful. I walked from town so I’m hungry.

Rebekah: Here is the blanket. Ready for you! Dig in.

Isaak: [Picks up a large knife from the blanket and examines it carefully]. A beautiful knife.

Rebekah: Please, let me have it.

Isaak: The reflection of the sun off the blade shows true stainless steel quality. See how it throws the light against the house?

Rebekah: That is enough, Isaak, enough.

Isaak: Someday a knife like this will change our bad luck—

Rebekah: Nothing of the kind, now put it down.

Isaak: Just a moment, I never seen knives like this… only Germans know—

Rebekah: Don’t do this again, don’t— I’m going inside and leave you here with that knife.

Isaak: Please, don’t leave me, don’t—

Rebekah: Then put that knife down! Here at my feet! Gently.

Isaak: But I love—

Rebekah: You know what you did, that cannot happen again.

Isaak: Gently lays down the knife.

Rebekah: Thank you. [Rebekah picks up the four corners of the blanket and lifts it up. Begins to carry it indoors].

Isaak: The picnic! Where are you going?

Rebekah: Its over. I’m not offering—

Isaak: I’m hungry, I walked from town.

Rebekah: Here, take this, go back into town and get your own lunch.

Isaak: I can’t. What will people think?

Rebekah: Now let me go inside. It is my house. The twins will be home from school soon.

Isaak: Must it always be this way?

Rebekah: Until you are healed, yes. Show me you are healed and things might change.

Isaak: Healed? Healed of—

Rebekah: You know, your complete fascination with knives and what happens—

Isaak: But they tell me there is nothing wrong—

Rebekah: They, they who?

Isaak: At Ingleside! The asylum. That’s who.

Rebekah: Have them say that to me! Write to me.

Isaak: I am now a cook. I am around knives all day. I never hurt anyone.

Rebekah: But you scare people.

Isaak: But I have never hurt anyone. Even when you sent me away.

Rebekah: I am going in. Go buy your lunch. The girls will be home soon.

Isaak: I will come back. I will have a letter! Next summer, I will be back.

Rebekah: Without that letter, there is no admittance here.

Isaak: I will come, I will bring the signed letter, I will carry you into this house. A home I built with my own hands.

Rebekah: And your own hands nearly destroyed it. So, I am going inside to gather together what is left of my life.

Isaak: An hour ago I was happy, delirious about coming home. Its been four long years and now I’m leaving. The door is shut on my life here.

Elsa: # [Younger] Shall we write a letter to daddy?

Julia: Of course. We learned a lot of new words in school today. Let’s write them down and show him what good girls we are.

Elsa: Here’s some paper. Got a pencil?

Julia: Here. You start, you’re better than I.

Isaak: I will return, Rebekah, I will. With a letter. Everything spelled out in detail. Knives are not a problem! Not anymore.

Elsa: Dear Daddy, we miss you and think of you every day.

Julia: Write that we love him. We love him.

Elsa: I will but first, we need to tell him about our day.

Julia: Today is our birthday and teacher had cake with candles and frosting and everything. Got that?

Elsa: Yes, yes, don’t talk so fast.

Julia: And then we sang songs. Songs about our sporty brothers but then we don’t have any. Songs about our loving mothers and we sang as much as we could. Then the song was about caring fathers and …

Elsa: And we stopped singing. We both began to cry.

Julia: We should not write that. Erase it.

Elsa: Ok, no crying in a letter. No crying.

Julia: Just say, after the song we ate the cake.

Elsa: And everyone cheered and shouted “You are the most Elsa Julia we could eve r imagine.

Julia: We all laughed and ran outside to play.

Isaak: Ok, this time she means it. She is not coming out. No fine dining here. Goodbye house, goodbye family, goodbye apple trees, I hope we see each other soon. This time with a letter written in ink, stamped with a seal. [Exit]

Julia: Then the teacher came and told us that since our daddy lives away, we should write him a letter.

Elsa: But you shot back to her. Shouldn’t he send us a letter? On our birthday!

Julia: After all, what does she know about us!

Elsa: Exactly.

Julia: Did you know that they don’t let him have postage stamps?

Elsa: How could I know that?

Julia: I didn’t either.

Rebekah: [Joins their scene] Girls come inside. I’ll have a snack soon.

Elsa: We want to eat here, outside.

Rebekah: [Shouting from inside} I will bring a picnic!

Julia: Should we hide the letter? Like we usually do?

Elsa: No, not this time. It is our birthday. We should ask for an envelope. Stamp. Then mail it.

Julia: Won’t she get all angry again when she finds out?

Elsa: I don’t care. We send him letters and I think he reads them.

Julia: Ok, united we stand.

Elsa: Till death do us part.

Julia: Not really. That is for weddings, not for sisters.

Elsa: I meant till death parts us from daddy. Not each other, silly.

Rebekah: Here is the picnic. Just what you like.

Julia: Sandwiches, bananas and cookies.

Rebekah: Indeed, peanut butter, bananas and chocolate chips.

Elsa: Ok, here’s yours. And Mommy, yours. And last of all…

Rebekah: Oh so proper, what’s happened to you?

Elsa: Nothing at all, this is our first day of school!

Julia: Fifth grade! That’s it. We want to be grown up now!

Rebekah: You will have to wait a few years for that.

Elsa: Peanut butter never tasted so good!

Julia: and the banana! Yum.

Elsa: You’re the greatest, mommy.

Rebekah: Do you have homework? Shall we think about that also?

Elsa: A little bit, we’ll do it in our room.

Rebekah: I can’t see it? Its all a big secret now?

Julia: Oh yes, we can manage, the two of us.

Rebekah: Well, well, you are growing up.

Julia: Where’s the blanket?

Rebekah: What blanket?

Julia: Remember we always had picnics here under this tree but with a blanket?

Elsa: Of course you remember, the red one.

Rebekah: I’d better go look for it. I haven’t seen it all summer.

Julia: Let’s finish the letter to daddy.

Elsa: Maybe we should ask him… you know… how—

Julia: What happened to break him away from us?

Elsa: You mean put him in Ingleside?

Julia: Can you write that?

Elsa: Sure… and daddy, can you tell us what happened? There, is that good enough?

Julia: More, we need more. Who decided to call the Sheriff? Did you go willingly?

Elsa: Really, you want me to write that? I mean, how—

Isaak: # [Earlier, girls don’t see him] Don’t you dare ever do that again. Don’t you dare come at me—

Rebekah: Isaak, put that knife down!

Isaak: This knife is sharp and I know—

Rebekah: Isaak! Down with that bloody knife!

Isaak: I practiced the other day! I saw the cowboy at the rodeo and I can throw—

Rebekah: Isaak! Sit down and hand me that knife.

Elsa: And daddy, Julia and I want to know what happened. Nobody tells us anything except the Sheriff came and you went away. Sometimes we are afraid because—

Julia: Don’t say that. No Sheriff will come to get us. Just ask what happened. That’s all.

Elsa: Ok, I will erase that part.

Rebekah: I’ll bring you come coffee. Coffee always calms your nerves.

Isaak: What are you doing with that knife?

Rebekah: I’m cleaning it and then hiding it from you. From the girls. Anybody that brings fear upon this house.

Elsa: So, I’ll just ask what happened. Nothing more.

Julia: Think he’ll tell us the truth?

Elsa: I hope so. I mean we are his children, don’t you think parents always tell the truth. To their own children?

Julia: Maybe.

Elsa: Maybe?

Julia: Of course, that is what being a parent is all about: teaching the difference between truth and fiction.

Elsa: Of course.

Julia: What is taking mom so long?

Elsa: You mean with the red blanket?

Julia: Yes, think she can’t find it?

Isaak: # Ok Sheriff, I told you all that I did. Now, what about the other guy, Ezra? Oh, you talked with him already. What did he say?

Rebekah: Tell me what happened!

Isaak: See this knife! I killed! I slit the throat!

Rebekah: Put the knife away! Put it away!

Isaak: Yes, I’m so sorry. Sorry this happened.

Rebekah: Sheriff, this is what happened. When we butcher, he always stands near the sheep with his big knife. Then at the right moment, a time that only he can sense, he takes the knife and cuts its throat. Today, that did not work.

Isaak: If only he had not yelled! It distracted me! And now, now the Sheriff is here.

Rebekah: When he tried it today, the trouble maker, you got his name didn’t you? Screamed “stop, wait!” And so Isaak missed the throat. The sheep jumped and Isaak chased it stabbing it as much as he could. Half of the time he missed the sheep altogether. He lost his mind trying to kill that sheep. Some of the men tried to help but they all feared his knife. So finally, he collapsed here, right in front of the house. And I took the knife and hid it. And one of my brothers went inside, dialed your number and so you are here. Trust me, it is all in the past now. Things are normal.

Isaak: What? I have to leave with you? You mean I can’t stay here, on my farm, with my family? I will not!

Rebekah: Just once, do what he asks. Go with him. You’ll be back soon! Go.

Julia: # What was the last time we had a picnic here?

Elsa: Ages, ages.

Julia: Junior High school.

Elsa: Oh yes, after dad left us.

Julia: He didn’t leave, the Sheriff hauled him away.

Elsa: Leaving, going, obeying orders, it doesn’t matter. He was absent.

Julia: Isn’t it amazing that mom kept this farm going till now? It’s a long time. Alone!

Elsa: Aren’t you forgetting one thing?

Julia: Huh?

Elsa: I was right by her side: feeding chickens, tending sheep, organizing work crews for the harvest.

Julia: I guess I—

Elsa: You guess you did what?

Julia: Nothing.

Elsa: Out with it!

Julia: Didn’t realize you felt so—

Elsa: Of course. Think it was easy to do all that work, nearly flunk high school. And the whole time my sickly twin sister has all the free time to hit the books.

Julia: Sorry, didn’t I write home from college … I am sorry.

Elsa: And you—

Julia: Please, can’t we stop this now.

Elsa: You have the ruby ring.

Julia: You traded it for a big secret! A secret I have kept all these years.

Elsa: I don’t care now, so what if I got into a fight with Albert. He tried to stab me with a scissors but only caught my skirt.

Julia: And you? You know what you did.

Elsa: It was a superficial cut.

Julia: You stabbed him in the arm with yours.

Elsa: It was skin deep. He has forgotten it a long time ago. Can’t you.

Julia: Forgotten? Forgotten? He still shows people his wounds!

Elsa: His badge of courage. Of course, I could have known. Now it’s testament to his bravery. Probably tells people it happened in the war!

Julia: What would you expect him to say? A twelve year old girl got the best of him!

Elsa: But no boy ever tried to lay a hand on me after that. Can’t say that about you—

Julia: Oh be quiet.

Elsa: See, you have wounds too; they are deeper than your skin. [Pause] The difference is that you will never talk about it. Never laugh about it. Its still that painful for you.

Julia: They are not the same.

Elsa: I left my pain behind me. Can you? Did mother ever find out?

Julia: No. Never.

Elsa: You never told her?

Rebekah: # So good to see both of you home today? How was school?

Julia: Just fine. I got another gold star for my math work.

Rebekah: Terrific! And you, Elsa? [Pause] Did you hear me? Elsa?

Elsa: I’m eating my sandwich. Not polite to interrupt people when they are eating.

Rebekah: You didn’t eat it all at lunch? Hmm, maybe I pack too much food!

Elsa: O no, just today.

Rebekah: Times are tight. I’ll soon have to cut back somewhere.

Elsa: But not on lunches.

Julia: No, not on lunches. They are just right now.

Rebekah: And look at this! A new rip?

Elsa: Well, you know those old desks. Just can’t be helped.

Rebekah: Maybe I should talk to the teacher about the desks.

Julia: She’ll be more careful. We promise!

Rebekah: We promise? So you were in on this?

Elsa: She means... I’ll be more careful. I will. Just don’t talk with the teacher.

Rebekah: [Looks at Julia, at Elsa]. Something fishy going on. I can smell it.

Julia: Oh no, we promise. Nothing fishy. The desk had a loose screw and it caught her skirt. The janitor fixed it.

Elsa: [Gratitude toward Julia]. That’s what happened.

Rebekah: Go in, get the sewing kit, I’ll sew in a patch. [Elsa exits].

Julia: I’m staying out her to finish my homework. I’ll be in before dark.

Rebekah: So, what really happened?

Julia: Didn’t see a thing.

Rebekah: She didn’t get into a fight with Sammy again, did she?

Julia: Oh now, Sammy was out with the boys playing softball.

Rebekah: We don’t want any more trouble from that family.

Julia: I know. I know.

Rebekah: His father was the one—

Julia: We all know that! He screamed at the butchering.

Rebekah: Stay away from him. He’s trouble. Elsa found that out.

Julia: I turn the other way when he comes by.

Rebekah: Tell me what really happened. You think I believe this folderol about a desk tearing her skirt?

Julia: Like I said, I didn’t see it. I only know gossip.

Rebekah: So what is the gossip?

Julia: My lips are sealed. No news from me.

Rebekah: [Rising] Today is that someday. I need to know.

Julia: Sorry, mom. I’m not the person to ask.

Rebekah: I see you have the ruby ring!

Julia: Oh, you noticed?

Rebekah: She buys your silence? [Pause] Good for you. The ring will last an eternity. The skirt will be too small in a year. Good for you.

Julia: But mom—

Rebekah: What?

Julia: Nothing, nothing.

Rebekah: I know, you don’t need to say a thing. Go in now. Change for the evening.

Julia: You really mean that? You want me to have the ring?

Rebekah: To be honest, Elsa is so rough, so quick to fight anyone; I doubt she could hang on to it for long.

Julia: Thanks, mom [exits]

Rebekah: # I’ll be in a minute. Isaak, Isaak. Where did we go wrong? You were so strong, so bold, so, so tough as though nothing could ever hurt you. And now we all hurt and where are you to rescue us? And Elsa, she’s like you – a fortress of strength and I fear, like you, will crack someday and fall apart.

Isaak: But Sheriff, you shouldn’t just listen to them. I have my own view. No, no I’m not saying they are lying. They are my neighbors. But they shout and scare me. Just when I have a knife and hold it, so. Is that right? Frighten someone just as he is about the kill a sheep? I mean, we need food for winter. Can’t live on snow. What are you saying? Get in the car? Ok. Where are we going? Ok. [Exits].

Rebekah: What happened, Isaak? No, no, I don’t want to know about the knife, the sheep, the neighbor. What happened to you? All that strength gone… evaporated from you and left a dry shell of a man. How?

Julia: # The connection here is really bad.

Rebekah: Think we’ll find her?

Julia: Hope so.

Rebekah: How long ago was it?

Julia: When she stopped answering my emails and phone calls?

Rebekah: Why yes.

Julia: Years. But I thought you were in touch with her.

Rebekah: Ha, ha. Thought so too.

Julia: What do you mean? You wrote and someone replied and it wasn’t Elsa?

Rebekah: Seems so.

Julia: O my god! So she might be dead.

Rebekah: That’s why I begged you to come home right away.

Julia: Ok, I’m here. But how can we find her now? Her last address was Omaha, wasn’t it?

Rebekah: A rented box. If you write, someone will write back. General stuff. Work is great. Health is good. Neighbors are friendly.

Julia: The handwriting. Is it her handwriting?

Rebekah: Who writes by hand these days? Its all computer stuff.

Julia: Should we go to Omaha and look—

Rebekah: I did, twice. A week each time. No luck.

Julia: Damn.

Rebekah: I see you’re still wearing the ruby ring.

Julia: Never part with it. It reminds me of my heritage. My life isn’t much, but my heritage means a lot.

Rebekah: No one’s life means much anymore, now that we’re so split apart.

Julia: Tell me about it. Wish I could turn back the clock.

Rebekah: To the picnics we had here.

Julia: Earlier, much earlier. To that shameful day—

Rebekah: Why?

Julia: Maybe we could change it somehow.

Rebekah: The knife, the Sheriff, the car, the asylum. That’s my life.

Elsa: # I got it! With this knife I got it. One slit of the throat and that was that! See the blood! Dripping down my arm! Such glorious blood. Daddy, I got it. No one screamed. No one stopped me! You would be so proud. Your very own flesh and blood killed the helpless thing on her very first try. Everyone stood back in amazement. “A woman did that,” I heard someone shout.

Julia: Elsa? Elsa?

Rebekah: Can you see us? Elsa?

Elsa: Isaak! Daddy! Isaak! I can’t wait to tell you of my strength!

Elsa: No one can hurt us again. I will find you Isaak and shout to you. Our name is now restored. I killed that kid! O Sammy if you could have seen that! I ran my fingers through his shaggy locks and just like that [gestures slit throat]. That’s how you gain respect in this town.

Julia: [Approaching Elsa] Elsa, Elsa, we are here. Join us. Let’s have a picnic.

Isaak: # [Appears older, in business attire]. I heard someone calling my name. Who… who is calling me?

Julia: Look! Mom, look!

Rebekah: Oh my! Does he see us?

Julia: Daddy! Daddy?

Rebekah: Isaak! Julia, hide the knife!

Julia: In the basket.

Rebekah: He doesn’t see us.

Julia: Is he dead?

Elsa: Oh daddy! Look at you! You are so, so proper!

Isaak: Is that you Elsa? Or is it Julia?

Elsa: Its me, Elsa, the rough one.

Isaak: Why did you come here?

Elsa: I brought you a knife.

Rebekah: No, no Elsa, don’t.

Elsa: A bloody knife.

Rebekah: Don’t you remember, Elsa!

Isaak: Oh my Elsa, I don’t need it. I’ve had enough of knives.

Elsa: But mommy always said you—

Isaak: Go clean it. Wash the blade and put it away.

Elsa: But I killed the goat, just for you.

Isaak: Thank you, you are a child after my own heart. No father could ever love a child more than that. Now take care of it. [Elsa exits].

Rebekah: Sorry, Julia, sorry you had to hear that. He loved you too! [Pause] I love you.

Julia: I know. He always saw himself in Elsa.

Rebekah: Not true—

Julia: Of course it is true. Don’t lie to me.

Rebekah: Isaak loved you both.

Julia: Not equally!

Rebekah: But fairly. No two people are ever equal but yet one can be fair. And Isaak loves your too.

Isaak: I keep hearing my name. Hello! Where are you? Who is calling my name?

Julia: We are. Your wife Rebekah and I, Julia.

Isaak. Rebekah? Julia?

Rebekah: Can’t you see us?

Isaak: I hear you but where… where…

Elsa: I cleaned the knife and here it is.

Isaak: You didn’t put it in a drawer?

Elsa: We will need to butcher the goat, won’t we? The goat I just killed?

Rebekah: Don’t give him the knife, Elsa, don’t.

Julia: Where should we hide, mom?

Isaak: I hear voices again. Sounds like Rebekah.

Elsa: Here is the knife, don’t you want it?

Isaak: Where is the ring I gave you? Gone? Sold it for a pot of gold? Silence?

Elsa: Daddy, it is gone. You know me. I can’t keep anything very long.

Isaak: That was my mothers. The only inheritance I ever received from her. And now you…you—

Elsa: Don’t you dare come near me! I won’t let you touch me.

Isaak: Put it down. Elsa, put the knife down.

Elsa: I’ll put it down if you promise one thing!

Isaak: Promise.

Elsa: You won’t come near it!

Isaak: So you believe those stories too?

Elsa: What else can one do?

Isaak: Put the knife down. I won’t take it. I don’t want it.

Rebekah: I can’t believe it.

Julia: He doesn’t want it.

Isaak. Julia! I see you behind the tree! Come here. [Walks toward her].

Elsa: Julia, have you been listening in on this? [Rebekah goes to pick up the knife from the ground where Elsa dropped it. She takes it inside].

Isaak: Who would ever believe this? My twins together!

Julia: Where have you been?

Elsa: Not telling. Someday, maybe. Now I’m here, isn’t that enough?

Isaak: And you have to ring? Julia, how did you get the ring?

Julia: O, it was nothing. A simple trade.

Elsa: Tricked me.

Julia: I had something Elsa wanted so, we made a deal.

Isaak: And no knives?

Elsa/Julia: None!

Isaak: Good. Knives kill, you know. Killed our family.

Elsa: Daddy, you don’t have to think about that anymore. I took care of that.

Isaak: You did?

Elsa: I went out back, and when I could find any goats, cornered a goat—

Julia: We don’t have goats.

Elsa: I saw one. Caught one.

Isaak: And then?

Elsa: It was so easy, so slick. And it was as though a quarter century of shame washed away.

Julia: She’s lying, again.

Elsa: Will you be quiet! Ruby ring, be quiet. You have your heritage all wrapped around your finger. I am still in search for mine.

Isaak: We will offer you more than a ring, just tell us where did you see goats?

Elsa: In back of the house. By the small barn.

Rebekah: Ok, the knife is safe. Here are the sandwiches. Can we have a picnic just like we used to?

Isaak: That is impossible. Too much time has flown by. We can’t go back to old times. And Elsa says she killed a goat! Do you have goats?

Rebekah: Maybe, maybe not. If she says it was a goat, then for today, it was a goat.

Julia: Talk about bending the truth.

Rebekah: We are together again, mother, father, twins, that is the only truth we need.

Isaak: Goats or no goats, it is great to be home again.

Julia: You need to tell us, you owe it to us, your kids, why the knives? Why?

Isaak: That was so long ago. Long—

Julia: You tell us or I leave!

Elsa: Me too!

Rebekah: Isaak, can you just clear the air, once, just once. Then we will forget all about it, won’t we. Won’t we?

Elsa: I understand it, I get it now, the pleasure, the joy, the release—

Julia: I don’t, I am in the dark.

Isaak. So, this is the whole story, no this is the part you need to know… no this is—

Elsa: You are stalling.

Isaak: Ok, I will tell it.

Rebekah: Now listen.

Isaak: Many years ago, many years ago. My parents came to this country from far, far away. They didn’t know the language. They didn’t know anyone. They had a hard time and then my parents had many troubles. But you don’t need to know those. What is important is that when I was born, they were already very old. Too old for me to have a normal life with my own parents. Then one day my father said, “Because I am so old, and you just a child, we need to go to a mountain to worship.”

Elsa: But there aren’t any mountains around here!

Isaak: That is just it. We walked and walked. Finally, my father could not go any farther. So we stopped. I gathered some wood and leaves and brush to make a fire and by then my father was asleep. At least I thought he was asleep. So, I laid down on the leaves to rest. The next thing I knew, there was a man standing over me with a large knife. I was scared, too scared to yell, too scared to run and yet he just stood there. Frozen in mid-air. Then I heard a loud voice coming from the bushes, “Don’t, don’t do that!” It sounded like my father’s voice. And yet I could not see anyone. So this man lowered his knife and I rolled off the pile of sticks and leaves. I stood up, and there was my father. No one else. [Pause]

Elsa: That’s all you remember?

Isaak: That’s more than I remember. I may have added a few details.

Julia: And the knife? What about the knife?

Isaak: My father took it home. It is the same knife I always used for butchering. We kept it hidden except on butchering day. And until that one day, it was like magic. I, as awkward as I was, with that knife, I had perfect aim. So I began to curse the heavens for failing me. It was the fault of that knife the angel gave us. And my ranting and raving about that placed a curse on all of us.

Rebekah: It was your love of that knife...that scared them. All of them. That’s why they called the Sheriff.

Isaak: When that knife, when my father’s knife failed me, I knew a curse had fallen on us.

Rebekah: That is not a curse, that’s just life.

Julia: Are you telling the truth?

Isaak: Of course.

Elsa: Why have you never told this before?

Isaak: Who would believe such a story?

Elsa: Mother, why didn’t you tell us? Remove all this mystery.

Julia: You believe all this? Its even a greater mystery.

Isaak: Because of my father, we have been cursed. We live on this earth and yet roam around as though we don’t belong anywhere. I was no longer free; free to be myself. The shame of it all began to destroy me, us.

Rebekah: No, no Isaak, that is not true. Somethings just happen and we need to accept them. They are not curses. .

Isaak: Every word I uttered was shaded by shame. But then the most amazing thing happened. As we started our long walk home, suddenly we were lifted up, as by an angel, and in an instant stood here, in front of this house.

Rebekah: How did you get here today? They finally release you from the asylum?

Isaak: A Sheriff came and signed papers.

Julia: So, one sent you to the gates of that hell, another brings you back.

Elsa: All these years… no… yes… I have to say it. All these years I’ve been so angry. At you.

Isaak: Me?

Rebekah: Elsa, enough, let’s try to be happy today.

Elsa: Angry, even hated you!

Rebekah: That is cruel! Elsa, stop.

Elsa: I’ve waited for this moment for you to apologize to us, the universe. Instead you come home as though we all will forget!

Julia: Elsa, please.

Elsa: Don’t “please” me, not now. I have to say what I have to say. Tell us you are sorry, sorry for all the pain, suffering and loneliness you brought to this house—

Rebekah: God forgive you, you don’t know when to stop!

Elsa: When you were hauled away, we suffered for your sake. And I could not, cannot take it any longer! [Dashes off].

Rebekah: She didn’t mean it. She’ll calm down.

Isaak: I think she did mean it, I will talk with her, later. I can’t, not now.

Rebekah: Isaak, Isaak, let this suffering end. We had a good life, while you were away, we really did.

Julia: Now that is a big fat lie, and you know it.

Rebekah: Not you too, Julia, not you too. Let’s be quiet for a—

Julia: I’ve been quiet too long, bottled up all these feelings. Now is the time for me to say things. All through grade school the kids teased us, “Where’s your daddy?” And, “Where’s that knife?”

Rebekah: He has suffered enough, don’t hurt him again.

Julia: In high school, it only got worse. Then one night after graduation, while walking in town, these boys cornered us. They started shouting, “Yur daddy’s nutty, and yur slutty!” over and over again, “Yur daddy’s nutty, yur so slutty!” Then then started groping us. And when one of them, Sammy, grabbed Elsa’s breast, she pulled a knife from a purse—

Isaak: A knife! No, no not knives—

Julia: Yes, a knife. A switch blade. And she struck him, gashed his arm. They screamed and ran. We came home, washed up and I took Elsa to the train station to visit our relatives.

Rebekah: You liars, you told me she had to leave for a job!

Julia: Of course we said that, of course. What did you want us to do? Call the Sheriff? Yes, daddy, it was because of you that she suffered!

Isaak: And Sammy?

Julia: What? Oh, he was ok, just a few stiches.

Isaak: And the knife?

Julia: We threw it in the river.

Isaak: I’m so sorry, so very sorry. This is all because of me. The shame—

Elsa: The bar-b-que is ready! Come in a have a feast!

Isaak: A bar-be-que?

Rebekah: Roasted goat. She killed a goat this morning.

Isaak: You, you killed a goat? How’d you do that?

Elsa: It was my magic moment. Grabbed its curly coat and stabbed it. Butchered it also. Come, come its getting cold. [Exits]

Isaak: Makes one forget all the troubles in life, doesn’t it? Roasted goat. Nothing can compare with that.

Rebekah: Let’s make a fire and have roasted goat.

Isaak: As we did so many years ago.

Rebekah: All this talk of food makes me hungry, let’s go. I haven’t been this famished for ages. I’m going… going [exits].

Isaak: [goes to light wood in firepit]. We will be redeemed. Our name will be restored. We will have—

Elsa: # [Enters with sunflower bouquet. She is in a different time frame then the rest of the scene, aging] Look at these sunflowers. Bigger than ever. [Picks one; begins pulling petals, murmurs.]

Julia: I’m not hungry, I’ll come in later.

Rebekah: Don’t be a loner, join us.

Rebekah: Never mind that, too long. Far too long.

Isaak: Your sister has prepared a feast.

Julia: Later, give me a minute or two, I’ll come later.

Rebekah: A lot to think over, isn’t it [exits].

Isaak: I see, this is all so sudden, too many memories.

Julia: Do you have to go away, again? I can’t stand it when you go away. Thinking of you there, behind the walls?

Isaak: This time I’m here for good; I’ll never leave. They’ll have to carry me away.

Elsa: [pulling petals] Grandma hates me, gone! Mommy hates me, gone!

Julia: You will stay, forever? [Exits].

Elsa: Daddy loves me, hates me…departed!

Isaak: My dear one, I promise. Something about you, you have taken on your grandmother’s aura.

Elsa: Julia hates me, dead! [Shows ring, lights slowly fade on Elsa] And now I, spiteful me, carry this inheritance … Julia loved it so much… I pretended but really… just used it to argue… that’s normal in a family, isn’t it? Maybe I’ll toss it in the fire…on the other hand… [Pulls knife from boot] And here I go [hold up knife with blade pointing to throat].

Isaak: No! Elsa! No! Drop the knife.

Elsa: [Lowers knife] Daddy, I thought you were dead!

Isaak: Give me the knife! [Pause] It belonged to my mother. Give it [Elsa holds it against throat again].

Elsa: Leave me! Leave me!

Isaak: Don’t do what she did! Don’t!

Elsa: [Lowers the knife] I tried, daddy, I tried… I really tried to love…

Isaak: Throw it… toss it… [Elsa walks to fire]. Wash your hands of this!

Elsa: Let the flames purify your sorrows [Drops knife into fire. Puff of smoke].

End of Play

About the Author

Lauren Friesen

Lauren Friesen, Ph.D., was born near Henderson, Nebraska where he resided until matriculating at Bethel College (Kansas). He received his Ph.D. with honors from Graduate Theological Union and the Department of Dramatic Art at the University of California-Berkeley. From 2000 to 2013 Friesen served as Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Michigan-Flint. Currently he is the David M. French Distinguished Professor of Theatre Emeritus at the University of Michigan. He was the founding director of the Master of Arts in Arts Administration program for the Rackham Graduate School at the University of Michigan. He also served as Professor of Drama and Director of the John S. Umble Center at Goshen College. The Kennedy Center awarded Friesen with the Gold Medallion for Excellence in Theatre Education and the Indiana Theatre Association presented him with the Outstanding Contribution to University Theatre plaque. In 2013 Pacific School of Religion presented Friesen with the Distinguished Alumni award. Lauren and his wife, Janet Burkholder, have been married forty-six years and are the proud parents of Erica who was married to Blair Franklin and Eliot who is married to Carrie Meyers. Erica and Blair have two sons, August Emerson and Maximus Grey. Eliot and Carrie have two daughters, Greta Catherine and Alexandra Claire.