Family Planning

Robot head looking front on camera isolated on a black background

Note: this story is for prompt #2 of “Covid Metamorphosis,” in which we were asked to begin and end with provided quotations from Ovid.

“I want to speak about bodies changed into new forms.”

I looked up at my partner, who was hovering in the door of the workroom while I was slicing tomatoes for a salad. “Basil?”

He held up the head – or ‘cranial unit’ as he preferred to call it – “as you know, my first attempt at creating a child did not go well.”

I remembered. We’d become friends not long after his first child – Noelle – had died after a series of cascade failures caused her neural net to disintegrate.  “And you’re concerned it will happen again?”

“I am, but only in the sense that any parent is worried about the survival of their children. I worry about Elizabeth injuring herself while snorkeling with you, or climbing trees with her friends or…”

“Okay, I get the point. So… what’s this about bodies and changing forms… and why are you quoting Ovid, anyway?”

“Ovid’s line seemed an appropriate entrée into this conversation.”

“Oh.” I rinsed tomato guts off my hands and dried them on the towel near the sink. Turning around and leaning against the sink, I gave my husband my full attention. “So, which bodies are we changing?”

“This one. I believe… I believe it would help me to move past the loss of Noelle if, rather than allowing this child to choose their gender and appearance, we select it for him.”

“Him?”

“You lost a son.”

We lost a son,” I corrected. And we had, two years before Elizabeth was born. Our son, Jake, had been stillborn. There had been no discernible cause. Sometimes, even with all the technology of many, many worlds, horrible things just… happened. “We are not building a replacement.”

“No, we are not. But, we have a living, thriving, daughter. I believe this child should be a son. For balance.”

“Balance, hmm?” I sensed there was more to it than that. “Not because a son would likely be a lot like you?”

“Perhaps, partially, but, by choosing his gender and appearance, we could blend our features to create a child that truly represented both of us.”

“My skin, your eyes?” I asked, with only a hint of a teasing lilt in my tone.

“Precisely.”

“Your hair, my nose?” It was bad enough Elizabeth had inherited my wild, unruly hair. We would not curse a synthetic child with the same.”

“If you wish.”

“You feel really strongly about this, don’t you, love?”

“I… Yes, Zoe, I do.”

“Alright.”

“All-right?”

“Alright,” I repeated. “Congratulations, Dad, it’s a boy.”

Basil turned back to the workroom, but I called his name, and he paused. “Dearest?”

“What’s the other reason – the true reason – you want a son?”

“Elizabeth is our daughter, but she is your child. Blood of your blood. I wish… I wish to have a similar child, to follow after me.”

“A legacy.”

“In a sense. Many poets have written of immortality via offspring, as well as great works….”

“And that’s why you want a son?”

But Basil didn’t give me a simple affirmative. Rather, he quoted Ovid again,  From anyone else it would have seemed pompous. From my husband, it made perfect sense:

“If there is truth in poet’s prophecies, I shall live.”

Metamorphosis

Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

Metamorphs. Changelings. Shapeshifters. They seem like something out of science fiction or fantasy. As a life-long geek (I maintain that I have too much fashion sense to be a nerd), I think of Maya from Space: 1999, Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Loki, both from mythology and from the Marvel comics and movies. t

And of course, I think of Kafka.

But the reality is that we are all metamorphs. We all change, adapt, evolve as we progress through life.

And right now, the world is changing around us. We’ve been told to stay home for the month of April… maybe longer…  We’re not to congregate. Bars and restaurants are doing curbside only. Churches and schools are going online.

What will happen in thirty (or sixty or ninety) days when we begin to ease back toward what we previously thought of as normalcy?

How will the world have changed?

And, how will I?

Well, we work from home anyway, so our day-to-day isn’t that different. I don’t have new blocks of unscheduled time to fill.

But…

I have a list of exercises given to me by my physical therapist.

And I’ve got a new writing project (this one) that I’d really like to complete.

And a fanfic epic I’d like to work on.

But right now… right this minute? I’ve been in migraine hell for a week, and nothing is working. The pain recedes and returns, and a month from now… I just want a clear head.

Transformation.

Changing.

Metamorphosis.

It’s all relative.

Isn’t it?

The Second Voyage of Calypso

Jacques Cousteau Statue by Ron Jordan

Brief: Take one of your previous plays and expand it in some fashion.

Excerpt:

JACQUES:                  (watching both) I see why you brought Mr. Steinbeck to join us.

JOHN:                         Because she likes my work?

JACQUES:                  No… because she sees a kinship between herself and us.

JOHN:                         A kinship. Because we both love Baja?

JACQUES:                  That probably sparked the flame, but no… it’s because she sees us as alike. To this lovely young woman –

MELISSA:                   Hey, I’m almost fifty; I’m hardly young.

JOHN:                         Maybe not in years, but definitely in miles.

JACQUES:                  You have youthful energy, my dear. In any case, as I was saying, to this lovely young woman, we are the same. We are both explorers. I spend more of my time under the sea, you on the surface, but… in this we are the same. (to MELISSA) You… you’re an explorer as well.

 

Follow the link below to read the entire play.

027 – The Second Voyage of Calypso

Post-Its

Pears

Brief: Write a play with no plot.

Excerpt:

Scene 5: Electricity

 

He:                              (proudly) I’ve made the center light switches match.

 

She:                              So, up is on, and down is off?

 

He:                              No, they’re opposite, because otherwise the door switches don’t match.

 

She:                              You know I’m just gonna switch them back later, right?

Follow the link below to read the entire play.

026 – Post-Its

Cold Therapy

Ice Hotel Chapel

Brief: Use environmental sustainability as the inspiration for a play.

Notes: It’s possible that I just wanted to set something in an ice hotel.

Excerpt:

YUERIG:                    Good, good. We are here tonight to talk about sacrifice.

WOMAN 1:                Like the animals who sacrificed themselves to give us the blankets on the seats?

WOMAN 2:                I don’t see you sticking your bum down on bare ice.

MAN 1:                       Can we just listen to the man?

YUERIG:                    The harvesting of wool doesn’t harm sheep, and removing the matted, heavy fleece keeps them cool in summer.

MAN 2:                       So, what’s your point?

YUERIG:                    Sacrifice. It’s what we are called to do during Lent, right? Give something up to prove our love of God, and our worthiness for redemption… but what do we sacrifice?

Follow the link below to read the entire play:

025 – Cold Therapy

Going Viral

Wet Ones

Brief: Write a comedy.

Notes: I thought it was amusing that so many personal hygiene products (handy wipes, hand sanitizer) were out of stock on Amazon.

Excerpt:

CHAD:                        No… the flu is actually far more lethal. A lot of this is circumstance. A lot more is hype.

 

KAREN:                     And close quarters in China… still I worry. I mean, my hands are getting dry and scaly from washing them so frequently.

 

CHAD:                        I know. I know.

 

KAREN:                     And even the expensive hand lotion doesn’t help.

 

CHAD:                        Maybe try moisturizing wipes.

 

KAREN:                     Wipes? Like Baby wipes?

 

CHAD:                        No, like handy wipes. Like that show from years back… Priest or Nun or whatever.

 

KAREN:                     Monk.

 

CHAD:                        Right, Monk.

Follow the link below to read the entire play:

024 – Going Viral

Scenes from a High School Cafeteria

cafeteria

Brief & Notes: This was meant to be the “rules” challenge, but one of the reasons I switched to the untimed track is that I don’t have the energy for long pieces right now. So consider this the one-act version.

Excerpt:

KAI:                Okay, I was pretty. But my life wasn’t. (to Mari) It’s not bad to be new, honey. New kids have the mystique advantage. When people have known you all your life, changing their perceptions is really, really hard.

 

ANA:               What Kai is trying to say….

 

KAI:                (cutting her off) What Kai is trying to say is that ninth grade was when I came out. And suddenly my best friend, who had come to sleepovers at my house for years, wouldn’t even talk to me anymore, outside of classes.

 

ANA:               Dion and his friends… Gardner and Ione, especially… totally gave Kai a snubbing of the kind unseen outside of Amish country.

 

KAI:                It’s been three years and… ( he breaks off as GARD approaches.)

 

GARD:            Ladies. Kai. Got a minute?

 

KAI:                (getting up) Depends. Did you bring cash?

 

GARD:            I have what you need.

 

ANA:               Oh, I sincerely doubt that.

 

GARD:            Really, Ana? (beat) Kai? A minute?

Follow the link below to read the entire piece.

023 – Scenes from a High School Cafeteria

Until There Are None

untiltherearenone

 

Brief: Create a performance art piece, on paper.

Excerpt:

Cage 1: A woman. She is gaunt and tired. Her cage is filled with pacifiers and onesies.

USED FOR BREEDING:      I have never known grass under my feet. I have never known love. I have been used to crank out litter after litter of babies I never got to raise. I am lonely. I am hungry. I am only well-fed when I am pregnant. I hope my babies are safe and well. But I will never know. When  my ability to breed is over… I will be left to die. Alone.

 

Cage 2: Male or female, but they are bruised and abused.

 

BAIT DOG:                            I was offered for free, and a nice woman came to get me. I thought I was going to a new home. Instead, I went to a cage, and then I was thrown in to a ring with bigger dogs who tried to kill me. I don’t want to fight. I just want a human to love. I wish someone would stop the pain. I saw one of my friends die in the ring. I don’t want to be next.

 

Follow the link below to read the entire piece.

022 – Until There are None

 

A Thing For Sharks

47Meters

 

Brief: Write a play in a restricted amount of time. (This is brief 21. Out of order because I’m really sick.)

Notes: The movie they watch is 47 Meters Down: Uncaged.

Excerpt:

STEVE:                       I also found a movie for you to watch.

 

LAUREN:                   Something funny or cozy?

 

STEVE:                       Well, you’ll probably find it funny. But you have to promise not to throw things at the screen this time. One television every six months is all we can afford.

 

LAUREN:                   You take away all my fun.

 

STEVE:                       Just watch.

 

He settles next to her on the bed, and picks up a remote. Cheesy horror movie music begins…

LAUREN:                   You found me a shark movie! A bad shark movie!!

Follow the link below to read the entire play.

020 – A Thing For Sharks