DAD – A man in his early thirties. A recent veteran, he has just been honorably discharged from military service.
DAUGHTER – Dad's fourteen year old daughter.
MAN – A representative of Child Protective Services in his early forties.
WOMAN – A woman in her early fifties.
SOLDIERS – Three large military men, dressed in black.
A small, comfy, suburban, home.
The lights come up, and we see a typical living room. A large armchair is occupied by DAD, who is currently reading the paper. Next to the chair is a couch, on which DAUGHTER reclines, reading a book. A low coffee table sits in front of the couch. On the table sits a small beaker, used as a vase, which holds a single flower. A door with a window and cozy curtains is placed stage right. Stage left is a large archway leading to the kitchen, as well as upstairs. The doorbell rings. DAD lowers his paper. DAD raises his paper. The bell rings again.
DAD: See who it is, please.
DAUGHTER puts down her book, goes to the door, and pulls aside the curtain.
DAUGHTER: It's some guy in a suit.
DAD stands and moves to the door, showcasing a fairly large limp. He opens the door.
DAD: Yes, hello?
MAN: Good evening. I don't know if you received our message that I would be dropping by today, the office said they left two or three, but in any case, I am the Child Protective Service Representative that has been assigned to your case.
DAD: I have a case? This is news to me.
MAN: Don't feel bad, technically if you've got a kid, you've got a case, we just don't end up talking to everybody. If it's not too much trouble, could I come in? I've got just a few things we need to discuss.
DAD steps back and gestures for MAN to enter, which MAN does, carrying a folder, a notebook, and a pen. Once in, MAN sees DAUGHTER.
MAN: And hello to you too. Pleased to meet you.
DAD: Something to drink?
MAN settles down onto the couch.
MAN: Some water would be excellent, actually, if you don't mind.
DAUGHTER: I'll get it.
DAUGHTER leaves into the kitchen. DAD sits back down in the chair.
DAD: It's kind of late for a meeting like this, isn't it?
MAN: We try our best to work around peoples schedules as much as we can, so we tend to come on the weekend, or after the work day. It also preemptively eliminates excuses of being too busy to talk with us.
DAD pulls up the leg of his pants, exposing a leg brace.
DAD: Well, I haven't been doing much, lately.
MAN: Of course not. It's just procedure, you know. We like to be sure.
DAUGHTER comes back from the kitchen with a glass of water for MAN, which she places on the coffee table.
MAN: Thank you very much.
DAUGHTER: No problem.
DAD: Hun, why don't you take your book up to your room for a while. I need to talk with this gentleman.
Taking her book, DAUGHTER leaves.
MAN: I'm sure you know what this is about. Generally speaking.
DAD: Yeah, I suppose I do.
MAN: It's really a routine visit in cases like this, especially with your particular background.
DAD: Of course. Let's do what we have to, I'd like to get this over with. No offense.
MAN: None taken, none at all. So, the facts, as they are: On May 19th, at approximately 4:15PM, you were involved in a serious vehicle accident, causing the death of your spouse, and causing severe injury to you, most notably your leg, requiring extensive medical care. Is this correct?
DAD: Yes. That is correct.
MAN: After receiving said medical care, you were recommended to a psychiatrist by your primary doctor, correct?
MAN: To date, you have not been a single time.
DAD: Also correct.
MAN: Which, in a roundabout way, is why I'm here.
DAD: It was a recommendation, not an order.
MAN: Look, you've been gone for a year and a half, and the first day you were back, your wife died. Whether it's appropriate in this situation or not, that sequence of events starts things moving. With you also not seeking out help for yourself, we just have to make sure everything is okay in the home. For your Daughter's sake.
DAD: I just don't believe in therapy.
MAN: And you don't have to. I'm here simply to make sure you are in a sound enough state of mind to provide adequate care for her.
DAD: Determined by one interview?
MAN: Yes. And if I feel the need to follow up further, that step will of course be taken, but the base interview usually gives us enough to go on.
DAD: Okay. And what happens if you don't think I'm in a “sound state of mind”?
MAN: Do you really think we'll have to worry about that? Why don't we cross that bridge when we come to it?
DAD: Why don't we cross it now? It's a simple question.
MAN: With a complex answer. But, putting it as simply as possible, if you are found unable to provide a safe and nurturing space for your child, a few different things may happen. You may have to undergo court-mandated therapy, you may be assigned a live-in nurse until you're capable of running a household on your own, or, in the most extreme case, your child could be completely removed from your care.
DAD: I see. That's your job, is it?
MAN: Occasionally it is. But before proceeding any further with my question, I think it might be vital to explain something. I am not here to take your child from you. That's not my goal here, tonight.
DAD: Well that's good. Where do the children go when you take them away?
MAN: Usually to a relative. I understand your father took care of her for a while while you were in the hospital.
DAD: He did. If that were to happen, could I still see her?
MAN: That would depend on the circumstances surrounding her removal. But let's not go too far down this path. I highly doubt it will come to that.
DAD: I hope not.
MAN: Are you ready to begin?
DAD: We haven't?
MAN: Not formally.
DAD: Do you mind if I grab a drink, or will that count against me?
MAN: It's your house and it's after 5, don't let me stop you.
DAD stands, stretching out his leg a couple times.
DAD: Do you have a family?
MAN: No, actually. My work is my family.
DAD heads toward the kitchen.
DAD: In my experience they're rarely the same thing.
DAD exits. MAN scribbles a note. DAD returns with a beer.
DAD: I'd offer, but I figure you're on the clock still.
MAN: I appreciate it. Ready to begin?
DAD settles into the chair and takes a drink.
MAN: To begin, could I simply ask you to describe the events of May 19th for me?
DAD: The whole day, or just the wreck?
MAN: Anything you deem important.
DAD: Okay. That was the first day I had seen my wife in 18 months. It was actually supposed to be a week or so earlier, but they always find a way to stick it to you just a bit more right before you leave. Temporary Security Freeze... We were on a tiny ass island that they don't even bother putting on maps, how much could our security really be compromised? So I get home a week late. But I'll bet you already know all this, don't you?
MAN: Please, continue.
DAD: Yeah, I'll bet you do. So I'm coming home, and I use some of this money to buy a nice bunch of flowers so that I'm not coming home empty handed. Trying to be a sweetheart. She – my wife – used to like surprises like that. I get to the house and it's just like every homecoming video you've ever seen. Tears, hugs, kisses, the damn dog jumping all over and barking. Just beautiful. We decide to go get my daughter from school, have the day to ourselves, as a family. We even brought the dog.
MAN makes a small note.
DAD: Didn't know that one, did you? Yeah, we had a dog, write it down. On the way to the hospital, something happened, I got distracted, we jumped the median, last thing I remember was the grill of a semi-truck. After that it's all just flashes of hospitals and worried doctors. May 19th. Exciting day.
MAN: The dog –
DAD: Also died. I miss that dog.
MAN: My condolences. If I may, and please understand that no offense is meant by this, you don't seem too emotional when talking about such an … intense experience. I'm not saying that it has anything to do with, well, anything, just something I observed.
MAN: Do you miss your wife?
MAN: I know, it seems insensitive, but it's a routine question. Your ability to articulate your feelings is important. So why do you miss her?
DAD: Because I loved her and now she's gone.
MAN: Thank you. What happened to your daughter that day?
DAD: Nobody picked her up from school. When she had waited for a couple hours, she just walked home. Then when we weren't there, she called her Grandfather. He came over, and they started looking for us. Eventually they found out where we were. Of course this is all second hand info from her Grandfather. Just what I've been told.
MAN: That must have been an awful day for her.
DAD: For all of us.
Man: How did she handle it?
DAD: Better than I would've, especially at her age. Her Grandfather said she never actually seemed afraid, just very concerned. Until she got to the hospital, at least, but she's never liked hospitals.
MAN: Is there any reason for that?
DAD: Can you show me a kid that likes hospitals?
MAN: Actually yeah, one or two.
DAD: Well, there's always a couple, aren't there?
MAN: Usually, yes. Moving back to the wreck now. You say you were distracted. What exactly was it that distracted you?
DAD: You know, I've had a lot of time to think about that. The most honest answer I can give you is, I don't know.
MAN: You know that you were distracted, but you don't know what distracted you?
DAD: No, I don't. Not exactly.
MAN: That seems odd.
DAD: I'm sure it does.
MAN: If you had to guess...?
DAD: Forgive me, but this doesn't seem the time to be guessing.
MAN puts down the notepad and pen.
MAN: Off the record, then.
DAD: Is it really?
MAN: Would I lie?
DAD: I don't know you. So, yes. Probably. But I'll give you my best guess.
MAN: I appreciate that.
DAD: It was probably the moment she told me that she was pregnant.
MAN: That's a very specific guess.
DAD: That's not the part I have to guess about. I know that part.
MAN: Seems simple. Your wife tells you she's pregnant, you lose control of the car, boom, accident.
DAD: Basically, yeah. But go deeper, and there's still one piece that I can't put together in my head.
MAN: What's that?
DAD: From the outside, you wouldn't think it could be missed, would you? I haven't seen her in a year and a half, she tells me she's pregnant, it's obvious what she did. Except at the time, it's not. At that moment, when you've been away from home that long, all that's in your head is excitement. You're going to have another baby. Life is wonderful.
MAN: So you're telling me you didn't even realize your wife had been unfaithful?
DAD: That's the thing. I don't know if I did or not. That's the question that's been in my head for the last couple weeks. Was I excited enough to crash the car? Angry enough? Or was it actually just an accident? I ended up talking with the doctor about it during physical therapy, when I was on a ton of painkillers. My guess is that's why he recommended the psychiatrist. He thought it was important I know.
MAN: Do you think it's important?
DAD: I think it's important to me, but shouldn't matter much to anybody else. Well, maybe my daughter.
MAN: You can't see why others would want to know?
DAD: I can give you a very bland answer here. Yes, I can see why it would be important to make sure I didn't intentionally wreck the car to kill my wife and her potential baby. That would tend to reflect badly on a parent. Thus, your visit this evening.
DAUGHTER enters in a rush. Her thumb is dripping a small amount of blood.
DAUGHTER: Do we have any band-aids?
DAD: Honey –
DAD gets up and limps quickly to DAUGHTER. He presses on the wound, stopping the blood.
DAUGHTER: It's not my fault, it's not like I mean to.
DAD: We've talked about this...
DAUGHTER: I know, it was an accident.
DAD: Go get a paper towel from the kitchen and rinse it out first. Cold water, not hot.
DAUGHTER leaves to the kitchen.
MAN: What happened?
DAD: She chews her thumb. Absentmindedly, kind of like some people chew their nails.. She usually realizes before it gets that bad.
MAN: How long has this been happening?
DAD: The chewing or the bleeding?
DAD: She's chewed her thumbs for quite a while. A couple years, I think. The bleeding, well, her Grandfather said it started after her Mother died. It's a nervous tic, of course it would get worse.
MAN is scribbling in the notebook.
MAN: So, bleeding since May 19th?
DAD: No, I said since her Mother died. She was in the hospital for two days. Maybe my Father just didn't notice, but he said it only started after she finally died.
MAN: And it continued?
DAD: It's stress. It only happens when she's stressed. 90 percent of the time, it's fine.
MAN: It doesn't seem healthy.
DAD: No, it doesn't. That's why I'm going to get her help if it doesn't stop.
MAN: I would advise that you do so sooner rather than later.
DAUGHTER enters. She is holding a very wet, very red, paper towel wrapped around her thumb.
DAUGHTER: Dad, it's not stopping.
DAD: Sweetie, Christ –
DAD unwraps the paper towel a bit, blood drips onto the floor.
DAUGHTER: I think it's bad.
DAD: Honey, what did you do?
DAUGHTER: I don't know, it's just not stopping.