one for the kids

(TOMMY and JILL creep quietly onstage. they are dressed in their pajamas. the stage is empty save a plastic bag and, if possible, a Christmas tree)

TOMMY: Is he there?
JILL: I don't see him.
TOMMY: Maybe he's hiding!
JILL: Santa doesn't hide, dummy. He's too big.
TOMMY: But it's been a whole year! Maybe he lost weight!
JILL: His suit is bright red. You could see that, even in snow.
TOMMY: Okay.
JILL: Okay!
TOMMY: Okay!
TOMMY: You go!
JILL: No, you!
JILL: Fine. (steps forward, nervously) Santa?
TOMMY: Do you see him?
TOMMY: Ready?
JILL: Ready.
TOMMY: Both at the same time.
JILL: Okay.
TOMMY: One...two...three!
BOTH: Presents!

(they charge forward and see the plastic bag)

TOMMY: What is it?
JILL: It's a plastic bag!
TOMMY: A plastic bag?
JILL: Yeah.
TOMMY: I wanted a bicycle.
JILL: Shut up, dummy!
JILL: Santa will get mad and take away the present!
TOMMY: That's our present?
JILL: Sure it is. It has to be. I was good this year. Weren't you?
TOMMY: Yeah.
JILL: So that must be the present Santa brought us for being good.
TOMMY: Maybe that plastic bag could be a fun toy.
JILL: You think so?
TOMMY: Oh, sure. We could do lots of stuff with it. Like play catch.
JILL: Or I could carry my dolls in it!
TOMMY: Right! It could be a secret spy balloon for my army guys!
JILL: We could use it to play dress-up! You could be the father coming home from work, and the bag is your suitcase!
TOMMY: This plastic bag is a great toy!
JILL: (looks up) Thank you, Santa!
TOMMY: I know! I'll wear it on my head and be a monster!
JILL: Ooh! Do that!
TOMMY: Okay! When I come out, be scared!
JILL: Okay!
TOMMY: I'm going to go hide now!

(TOMMY puts the plastic bag over his head and walks offstage. there is the sound of a thud. JILL waits and then calls out)

JILL: Ready! (waits, louder) Ready! (waits) Tommy? (walks offstage)


WENDELL: Not a Christmas I'd like to see in my house, that's for sure. And I'm not just saying that because Yasmine Bleeth wasn't sitting under the tree naked. Hello, everyone. My name is Wendell Burgess, and I'm here to speak to you on behalf of the United White Trash Appeal. Christmas is about the children, isn't it? I mean, there's all that religious stuff about stars and oil and God, but when you get down it, it's about the kids. That's why the United White Trash Appeal needs your donations now more than ever. This holiday season, trailer parks across the nation will be full of scenes like the one you just saw. Where's Pop? Got drunk with the guys and drove his motorcycle into the crick. Where's Ma? Got her hair done ten feet high, probably wound up caught in some low-flying airplane and she's halfway to Canada by now. It's messed up. I mean, I'm no stranger to wild times. You get a few rounds into my old buddy Harry Dickerson, he'll run you round the mulberry bush a good one. But these people...well, shit. (calls offstage) Can I say shit? Is that okay? (listens) Come on now, look who we're talking about. I don't think it's a new word to them. (listens) Yeah, well. (turns back) Sorry, everyone. Cranky interns. Anyway, for just a few dollars a day, these scruffy young hicks can be fed, clothed head-to-toe in wrestling merchandise and sent to school, for all the good our mockery of an educational system is going to do...(listens offstage) Oh, fine. Aren't you the bright-eyed idealist. (turns back) If you can't send money, send supplies. Trailer parks need old tires. Do you realize that some of these children don't have a rusted-out Mustang sitting on cinder blocks in front of their trailer? These are things that we take for granted, but many have to do without. Got any large slabs of meat? Doesn't matter how old they are. Send them along. I have no idea what the hell these people do with them, but they get used. These people need all the squalor they can get. Don't take my word for it, though. Kids?

(TOMMY and JILL return)

WENDELL: We'll send you a photo of the greasy little bastard you adopt and keep you updated on how he or she's doing. Meet Tommy. This bright-eyed piece of trailer trash loves nothing more than watching NASCAR, throwing rocks at stray animals and feeling tense yet intrigued by gay people. Say hello, Tommy.
TOMMY: Pa's in the crick again.
WENDELL: The United White Trash Appeal also features an exchange program. It's perfect for families with drinking problems. Think this kid's going to complain if Mom's sauced on the cooking sherry? Heck no. He'd be confused if she wasn't.

(TOMMY and JILL move to opposite sides of the stage and are greeted by HUGO and LOUISE, respectively)

LOUISE: Hello, my American friend. Welcome to France! Would you like to go to the museum to see art?
JILL: My momma wrote a poem once.
LOUISE: Tell it to me!
JILL: "Roses are red,
violets are blue.
Stay away from my man, bitch
or I'll fucking kill you."
JILL: "Bitch whore slut."
JILL: Not you. That was the end of the poem.
TOMMY: Why are you crying?
HUGO: (weeping) Tell me the kitty is okay!
TOMMY: What, are you a sissy?
HUGO: Oh, kitty, I am so sorry! I did not mean to hurt you! I love you kitty! Come back!
TOMMY: Baby.
WENDELL: See? The United White Trash Appeal offers a learning experience for everyone. Of course, for most people it's a lesson in the depths to which humanity can sink...(listens) I am not being unfair. I was in a trailer park the other day and I saw a pack of wild dogs shi-, uh, pooping in the street, and I was yelling at them to, but it turns out the wild dogs were the chamber of commerce. (listens) I am not making that up. Check out the budget reports. The wild dogs are running the tightest ship that place has seen in years. (turns back) Folks, it's more important now than ever. This holiday season, please make a donation to the United White Trash Appeal. Take a little bit from the dirtiest part of your heart and send it over. (looks over at TOMMY, who is throwing rocks out into the audience, and shakes his head) God knows these savages need it.

one for the kids by marc heiden december 1999