box of jars

ron pullins
The List
WOMAN, Female, 40s

The thing is done now. All that is left to do is for the woman to prepare herself for what is to come. She has her list, though, and she can use it to prepare herself to go on, to do what she must, and to act surprised.

Interior of a house, kitchen, on a hot summer afternoon. Kitchen counter covered with bills, papers, a notebook and dirty breakfast dishes.

WOMAN enters wiping her hands. She pauses, finds her notebook on a shelf, opens it and begins to read, first to herself, with affirming grunts, then aloud. She stands distraught, but she gains self control throughout the monologue, as if each entry is another nail, another board added to the box she builds around herself, preparing herself for what is to come. Some entries she reads, some she adds. Some are on one page, some on another. She says each entry clearly, as she briefly recalls the moment behind them. Her feelings fade as the play moves through its arc, except as she learns her new refrain, 'Check on children...,' which contra wise rises in emotional strength, until at the end, she adds it to the list, and then exit to perform her last motherly duty.

			(Enters, one hand rubbing the other, etc. 
           	 	She finds her notebook, opens it, reads)

Peanut butter on his toast ALWAYS! 

			(Nods affirmative)

ALWAYS shut the gates. ALWAYS be sure the gates are closed! 
Don't listen to friends complain.
Always smile.
Always appear happy.
Never skip Sunday school and church unless dying....or driving to see his mother in Inman.
Never be negative about purchase of doughnuts.
Only fix Jake's favorite foods.
	Brisket like his mother makes at Inman.
	Get recipe from Jake's mother.
	Meatloaf....  Chop the onions smaller
Fix Sloppy Joes for kids. 

			(Looks up from list, looks at door, resolves eyes closed)

Check on children.
Act surprised.

			(Returns to the list)

Diet. No coffee. No bread. No potatoes.
One small helping of everything for me
No desserts
Never be sick
No fans. No heatpad.
Get control of the finances
Make bank deposit.

			(From pile of bills)

September. Macys....  Mastercharge....  Dentist....  Pennys....  Washington Mutual....  Utilities....
Meal tickets....  Groceries....  Church....  Insurance....  Football game....

Cut church.  
Call Hilda about cleaning house.
Find outside job.
Keep cabinet doors shut.

			(Checks to see they're shut)

Be sure the gas is off in the stove.

			(Checks stove)

Lock all doors and windows.
Call Overhead to fix garage door.
No visible anger.
Don't throw things away.
Never complain. Always agree.
Spend nothing.
No makeup, no lipstick, no perfume. No more Avon!
Don't express negative thoughts.
Don't mention physical aches and pains.
Buy tampons.
Keep children quiet....
Keep children quiet while Jake reads the paper....or works in the basement.
Wake promptly with alarm.

			(Looks up from list, glances at doorway, rubs her hands)

Check on children.
Act surprised.

			(Returns to the list)

Always make sure Jake has a clean shirt.
Never mention his job until he mentions it.
Be positive.
No TV for me.
Invite Denny's for dinner.
Invite Orie and Janie.
Apologize to Kate and Elmer.
Don't wear slacks in Inman.
Don't talk to the brothers, etc. 
Lose 20 pounds.
Get oil at Mobil.
No work on Sunday in Inman.
Don't become angry or depressed with dad.
Check with mother on house payment.
Keep house neat at all times.
Never talk about the budget.
Do laundry every day. Don't let anyone run out of anything.
Call Dr. B about IUD again. Foam?
Pluck eyebrows.
Shave legs.
Find time to exercise regular. Get butt in shape.
Get dog vaccinated. Papers to city clerk. Pay fine. 
Clean fish tank. Get book on care and feeding of turtles.
Get bedroom mirror for Jake. Don't complain. Don't watch.
Clip fingernails – dog.
Clip fingernails – kids.
Flea collar. Remember coupon!
Check safety on Jake's guns under sofa, in closet, in bedroom.
Never get upset with anyone. Be firm and patient.
Find turtle.
Wake promptly with alarm.

			(Quits looking at the list, thinks to herself)

Check on children.
Act surprised.

			(Returns to the list)

Don't argue with the children today.... No.

			(Pause. Looks far away)

Keep convertible gas tank more than half full.
Don't be inconsistent.
Wear tight, short clothes -- except in Inman.
Nail polish and jewelry -- except in Inman.
Buy nail polish. Call Avon.
Shut up about kitchen!
Don't want more or less than we have.
Keep my hair combed at all times.
Wear scarf or rain hat. Don't be proud.
Don't make extreme statements! 
Never buy or wear anything to bed that covers me up. Skimpy, see-through....or nothing at all.
Never complain about being too hot or too cold.
Never criticize church.
Don't talk much in public. Listen most of the time. 
Don't get involved with other people's problems. Let them take care of themselves.
Get recipe for three-bean salad from Inman.
Get shed painted. Or paint it myself.
Paint basement steps.
Take driver's license eye test.
Vacuum house.
Load Jake's things in car.
Clean mirrors.
Ironing. Be thorough, but fast.
Magazines for Judy to take to school.... No.

			(Looks up from list, looks far away., Deletes the entry.)

Check on children.
Act surprised.

			(Nods. Returns to the list)

Clean sinks and tub.
Scrub kitchen.
Get red car washed.
Cancel.... Hayrack ride, Saturday 5:30
Iron Rex's tie.
Don't tell anyone how I feel.
Never run out of any household supplies, especially soap, toilet paper, or Kleenex.
Don't ask for a bigger car. Never complain.

			(prosaic aside)

But if he buys another car, don't question his choice or timing. Just shut up and don't show anything but approval.
Buy Judy shoes and sweater.
Take Rex's favorite jacket to the cleaners.
Measure Rex for favorite jeans.

			(looks far away)

Keep up a happy, no problem façade.

			(pause, breathes deep, repeats as she adds to the list as she speaks)

Check on children.
Act surprised.

			(Closes notebook, looks to the door far away, then exits saying...)

Check on children.
Act surprised.