Like Butterflies

28 Plays Later – 2018

Challenge #1: Write a play about a brave little soldier;

bonus points if it’s set in your home town.

 

Mount Mitchill, Atlantic Highlands, NJ

 

LIKE BUTTERFLIES

 

Scene: Mount Mitchill Memorial Park, Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, 2031

Lights up on two people – DAVID and SARAH – sitting on a curved stone bench, but SARAH is looking away. Upstage of them, center, is a representation of the 9/11 Memoria – an eagle holding a bent and blackened girder from the World Trade Center. Behind that is a rail fence with a couple standing binoculars – the kind you step up to see into. Projected behind everything is a view of Sandy Hook Bay. The light should be blue-tinted except for a dock-light (the high metal-hooded flood lights that shine directly down. In the distance, the calls of seabirds are faintly discernable.

David is 35-ish, with a military buzzcut. He’s dressed in a polo-shirt with a NASA patch on the pocket, a hoodie open over it, and khaki pants. SARAH is a bit younger – 30 – , wearing a cardigan over a sundress. She’s visibly pregnant.

DAVID (pleading): Come on, Sar… talk to me. I have to report to the base at dawn, and I don’t want to leave with you angry.

SARAH (still turned away from him): There’s nothing to talk about.

DAVID: You could say goodbye, at least.

SARAH: I thought we were done with goodbyes.

DAVID: It’s not me; it’s the job.

SARAH (turning toward him): That’s what you said when you spent six months on Mars last year. That’s what you said two years before that, when they gave you a similar post on the Space Station, and that’s what you said, when you packed us up and moved us to the moon for a year.

DAVID (interrupting): I thought you liked living on the moon. You seemed happy at Luna Colony. You certainly seemed to enjoy the swimming pool.

SARAH: Okay, yes, there was something lovely about swimming in zero-gee under the transparent dome, but it’s not the same as breathing real air or swimming in a real ocean. It’s definitely not a place to be when you’re starting a family.

DAVID: It’s one mission, Sar, and then I’m telling them I only want ground assignments.

SARAH: Mars was technically a ground assignment.

DAVID: Ground assignments on Earth, Sarah.

SARAH: Earth only?

DAVID: Earth only. I promise.

SARAH (relenting, fierce, but flirty): I’m gonna hold you to that, Soldier.

DAVID (amused): Soldier? Really?  Darlin’ I’m a sailor who navigates a sea of stars.

SARAH: Yes, well. Soldier sounds better. (She takes a beat. When she speaks again, she gestures to the memorial) Do you think they’d be proud of us? My dad? Your uncle?

DAVID (also gazing at the memorial, reaching out to trace one of the names etched thereon): I think so. I know they’d be waiting to greet our little bundle of joy. Hard to believe it’s been thirty years since then.

SARAH (arms wrapped around her pregnant belly): It feels like yesterday, sometimes. I mean, I was only two, but I remember Daddy tossing me in the air, and kissing me before he left for work, and then the next thing I remember was Mom crying and holding me so tight.

DAVID (putting his arm around her): I remember my father being in tears. I don’t think I’d ever seen him cry before. (softer) He lost his twin that day. I don’t think I ever realized how deep that pain went.

SARAH: No. You couldn’t.

(The two fall silent, a quiet remembrance taking hold. Suddenly SARAH jumps.)

SARAH (surprised): Hey!

DAVD (worried): What is it? What’s wrong?

SARAH (smiling, her voice full of wonder): He kicked.

DAVID: He…?

SARAH: Or she. The baby. Our baby kicked. (She pulls his hand to her belly). Here. Feel.

DAVID (concentrating and then delighted) Aw, wow! That’s – that’s awesome! (Addressing the belly) Hey there, little solider. I’m your dad, and I love you. And I promise not to be away too long.

SARAH (amused, pointed):  Little soldier? Not sailor?

DAVID (sheepish): Well, soldier just sounds better. (Beat) What’s it feel like?

SARAH: The baby? You felt it.

DAVID: No. I mean, yes, but… no. I mean… what does it feel like from inside?

SARAH (after a few seconds thought): Do you remember how you described launching into space the first time? Like butterflies…

DAVID (with her): … fluttering in your stomach. (Continuing alone) And then a jolt. And then more butterflies.

SARAH: It feels like that. But… more.  (Beat) It feels like that when you leave, too, but the butterflies are in my heart. I worry from the moment you launch to the moment you land. I grew up without a father, David, because of senseless, stupid violence. I don’t want our little butterfly to do the same.

DAVID (reassuringly): She won’t. He won’t. It’s one mission, Sar, I promise. A quick jaunt to the outer rings and back. (Affectionate, but teasing) Come on, be my brave little soldier, and I’ll be home before you know it.

SARAH (miffed): I’m not your little soldier.

DAVID: Maybe not, but you’re carrying our little soldier. So, be brave for his or her sake, because if you are, I will be, too.

SARAH (dubious): You get scared, when you’re up there?

DAVID: Of course, I do. Not the kind of fear that stops me, but the low-grade worry in the back of my head: What if she leaves me? What if something happens to her or the baby, and I can’t get home in time? What if something happens to me, and she never knows what really happened?

SARAH: I didn’t think… you always seem so confident.

DAVID (joking): Well, yeah. Can’t have you thinking I’m a wuss.

(SARAH shivers, and DAVID takes off his hoodie and wraps it around her shoulders. Then he stands.)

DAVID: Come on, let’s go home. I have it on good authority that butterflies are much calmer when they’re warm and cozy.

(He pulls SARAH to her feet and she loops her arm through his. )

SARAH: Take the scenic route. I want to watch the stars.

They walk off, stage left, arm in arm.

The lights fade to black.

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Like Butterflies by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.