Maisie’s Dead: A Comedic Tale of Love and Marriage
Copyright © 2007 by William D. Coffey, All rights reserved
Act Two, SCENE 6: Saturday just after the noon hour, the social room
SATURDAY JUST AFTER NOON. The social room. Chairs in two angled rows face a simple podium (3 chairs in front row, 4 in second). Eighth chair leans against wall near the door. John enters, followed by Clyde, Smokey, Preach and Herb.
So John, your wife Frieda – you sure she won’t come to Maisie’s me-mor-ial?
She definitely is staying home. I’ll be lucky if she’s still at home when I get back.
It weren’t really as bad as she took it. And I b’lieve my back actually does feel better.
Course it does! It ain’t often I can straighten out two people in the same day!
Gotta hand it to you, Preach. It was amazin’ what you done for that old lady Germaine.
[Jessie, Maud and Germaine enter]
Who you callin’ an old lady, buster?
CLYDE [hands up quick, backing away]
No offense, ma’am, no offense! Hope yer back’s okay!
My back feels better than it has for a month, thanks to preacher man there!
It was a pleasure, Germaine, ma’am. May I escort you to a seat? [offers his arm]
[He seats her on end of front row, sits beside her. They mime chatting]
Well, it looks as if everyone who’s coming is here. Lawyer Smith did not find any living relatives, so let’s get started. Everyone find a seat, please…
[ Simultaneously: Clyde takes remaining front row seat beside Preach; Smokey sits by Maud, Herb sits by Jessie ; they all mime talking]
Thanks for coming everyone. We are here to honor Maisie’s last wish as requested in her will. We are the proper people to celebrate her life, as she wanted, because each one of the five men here played an important role in Maisie’s life …uh… [fading] …at one time or another. Smokey, Preach, Herb and Clyde – each of you enjoyed being married to Maisie for seven years … and I myself was married to Maisie for seven months. [aside] What an odd coincidence that number is…
She always bet on the seventh horse in the seventh race! And most of the time she won! I got to bettin’ that way my self! You fellers ever notice her doin’ that?
Yeah, I did!
Well, yeah, that was sorta her thing…
Yes, well… as I was saying, Maisie was last seen seven months ago, and now it’s been seven days since Clyde called to tell me of Maisie’s death. Clearly, Maisie loved life, and she lived it to the fullest. I’ve heard each of you tell warm stories about her. You are now invited to tell some more of your…
[Frieda steps into the room and stops, holding a large envelope in front of her]
…favorite stories about how good it was to be married to Maisie. [notices Frieda]
I mean, during the years when you were married to her. So now I’ll just ask…
John… [all seated turn to stare at Frieda]
…who’d like to go first… Yes, dear?
John, this special delivery, certified, priority mail was just delivered to the house for you.
For me? Well, uh… Can it wait? We’re sorta into…
It says “OPEN IMMEDIATELY.” On the front. In big black letters.
It says “AT THE MEMORIAL SERVICE.”
That’s what it says. “OPEN IMMEDIATELY, AT THE MEMORIAL SERVICE.”
In big black letters. On the front. See? [she holds it up]
Really! That’s odd. Who’s it from?
Your lawyer. [She walks forward, hands the envelope to John. She gets the extra chair, seats herself, crosses legs and arms ]
Why, this says it’s from Ben Smith! What in the world?
Better open it, John.
Yeah John, lessee what is this says it’s gotta be opened right here right now!
Well… [he fumbles it open, removes letter, muttering] …I just don’t see why it has to be opened right in the middle of a funeral…
SMOKEY, PREACH, HERB, CLYDE
[John stares at the letter; all present stare at John; silence…]
What’s it say, John?
[John remains silent, stares intently at letter, flips it to read second page]
John, if it’s important enough to stop the show, you must tell us what it says.
I don’t believe this.
Out with it, man! What’s the damn thing say?
JOHN [looks up at last, dramatically]
This letter is from Ben Smith, the lawyer I hired to help me respond to Maisie’s will.
As you know, Smith was to try to find anyone who had been married to Maisie in the past thirty-five years, and invite that person – or persons – to this memorial service.
Now this letter… well… I think it’ll be best if I just read it to you. Here goes:
“Dear Mister Welford, I write to advise you that I am waiving my customary fee in this case. The work you hired me to do has been finished, and you owe me nothing.”
Well, there’s a good deal!
Let me read on. “As the work progressed I collected a substantial amount of information. Some of this information will be of interest to Smokey, Preach, Herb and Clyde. So – as your attorney – I now ask you to ask them if they want to know the truth of my findings.”
HERB, PREACH AND SMOKEY ALL TOGETHER
HERB: What the hell…?
PREACH: What is he sayin’?
SMOKEY: What’s he mean “the truth of his findings?”
Here’s what he says next. He’s actually speaking directly to the four of you:
“I trust you have answered ‘Yes’. Gentlemen, you no doubt know that John obtained a divorce after Maisie left him thirty-five years ago. What you may not be aware of is that none of you bothered to do the same. And, for your information, neither did Maisie.”
Ho – ly Smoke! You mean she was still married to me when…
CLYDE [leaps to his feet]
It’s worse’n I thought!?
PREACH [on his feet, points at Smokey]
You mean she wasn’t divorced from him when she stood at the alter with me??!!
She did the disappearin’ act! I figured she would’ve got the divorce!
Did she ever divorce any-body??!!
My extensive legal research in several states reveals that Maisie never obtained a divorce from anybody. Not even John – it was his own legal actions which resulted in her being divorced from him. Thus, in consequence of your respective failures to file for divorce, all four of you are, unto this very moment, still married to Maisie.”
HERB, CLYDE, SMOKEY, PREACH
[they make a general incoherent babble]
Gentlemen, there’s more: [they immediately fall silent in postures of attentive anxiety]
“You will probably be interested in my corollary finding that the prosecuting attorneys in each of the four districts in which your four marriages took place, respectively,…
Damned if he don’t talk like a real lawyer!
PREACH [waves Herb down]
“…are not presently aware that bigamy has taken place in their respective jurisdictions. Consequently, none of these prosecuting attorneys has yet brought charges for bigamy, nor are they likely to do so, unless some party informs them that bigamy has occurred.”
So what’s he sayin’? Is somebody going to tell somebody we’re all still married to the same woman so they can send us all to jail together?!
This guy’s a lawyer! Can’t he head this off?!
“I would like all four of you to know that I have taken steps to head off the unpleasant possibility of your being prosecuted, and perhaps jailed, for the crime of bigamy. Since each of your marriages to Maisie took place in different jurisdictions, it is possible to file divorce proceedings in each jurisdiction, separately, without any one of them knowing about the others. Nor do they know anything about you, or about Maisie.
“Feeling certain that each of you, upon knowing these factors, would approve my doing so, I have taken the liberty of filing petitions for your four divorces, in absentia. The simplest approach was to charge you, as absent defendants, with abandonment. Thus, all four of you are presently in process of becoming divorced from Maisie.
HERB, CLYDE, SMOKEY, PREACH ALL TOGETHER
HERB: Hell, she abandoned me! Anyway, what difference does it make? She’s dead!
SMOKEY: After all these years!
PREACH: If this don’t beat all I ever heard!! And the poor woman dead and all…
CLYDE: All I did was just go out to buy bread and beer…!!
GERMAINE [raises her hand]
Quiet! Let’s hear the rest!
Yeah, y’all hush!
[clears his throat, smiles pointedly at Frieda; she re-crosses legs and arms]
“By the same token, Maisie is presently becoming divorced from all four of you. She wants me to tell each one of you how sorry she is that this, at last, must happen…”
HERB, CLYDE, SMOKEY, PREACH ALL TOGETHER
HERB: A dead woman WANTS?? What in the HELL!!!
CLYDE: HULLO, WHAT’S THIS??!! SHE’S DEAD… AIN’T SHE?
SMOKEY: What are you sayin’? READ THAT AGAIN!!
PREACH: Holy ta-moley! Oh lordy goodness…!
JESSIE [she points at John]
Read on, John!
“…but she feels the time has come when she must set you all free. She asks me to tell you she still loves each of you, but she now must move on with her life.”
What life? I thought she was dead!!
“No doubt you all thought Maisie was dead, otherwise you wouldn’t be here today to hear these words. So I shall explain why your being here was necessary.”
FRIEDA [she stands; begins pacing]
This had better be good, John!
“You fellows no doubt realize that the number ‘seven’ has always played a significant role in Maisie’s life. It is very important to her. Maisie believes she is the reincarnated seventh daughter of a seventh daughter – but we won’t go into that here. You must have noticed also that Maisie’s ‘sevens’ have played a role in your lives too.”
I knowed it!!
“No doubt you have noticed that your time with Maisie lasted seven years. You will have noticed a seven-year ‘gap’ between Herb and Clyde. Perhaps you have wondered if Maisie had another husband during that gap. Let me assure you, in the affirmative. Yes, she was married to another man during those years. And I am that man.”
PREACH, HERB AND CLYDE ALL TOGETHER
PREACH: There’s number six! The damn lawyer! Lord, if this don’t beat all I ever saw!
HERB: Well now I know where she went when she disappeared fourteen years ago!
CLYDE: That’s where she come from when I run into her at the track seven years ago!
If she’s so much into this ‘sevens’ thing, has she moved on to husband number seven? Or what? Why is this damn lawyer back in the picture anyway?
“You may be wondering why I am back in the picture, writing this letter, given Maisie’s penchant for seven-year marriages – or, if I may say so – one thirty-five-year marriage with sequential seven-year segments. I shall now explain. You probably have heard that some marriages are made in heaven. In these rare and extraordinary cases, a man and a woman come together again and again, over many lifetimes. Popular examples are Anthony and Cleopatra. Or Romeo and Juliet. Or Ben and Maisie.
“Yes, to make a long story short, Maisie and I are one of these rare cases. She tried to maintain her seven principles. After being married to me for seven years, she tried to move on with you, Clyde. She hopes you weren’t upset over the bread-and-beer matter.”
Upset!? Me!? OH HELL NO! WHY WOULD I BE UPSET!!??
“Maisie knew I would be in that same parking lot that night. The time had come. She and I knew we must get back together. It was our destiny…”
Why!?? Seven years was up! How come she didn’t move on to husbands number seven, eight, nine and ten — just like always!?
“…because she knew she had to break her seven-year chain – because I had discovered the truth about myself, and I had passed that truth on to her. The truth was revealed to me that I am the reincarnated seventh son of a seventh son.”
PREACH [furious, fist up]
By God they deserve each other!!
“I made this wonderful mystic discovery over a year ago. That same revelation told me I must move my law practice away from Chicago, here, to this nice little town where Maisie grew up. By being here, I would be able to trace all the threads of Maisie’s life over the past thirty-five years, so that I would be prepared when the time came for us to resume our latest lifetime together. John, I had the whole story together long before you hired me early this week, so I cannot charge you for this work. It would be unethical.”
The man is concerned with ethics!!
“Seven months ago I discreetly revealed to Maisie, a seventh daughter, my seventh-son revelation. And so she knew! And so she went to the corner market for bread and beer.”
Well, that explains about ever’ damn thing but one. What’s this malarkey about her gettin’ drownded on Lake Michigan?
“You’re probably wondering about reports of Maisie’s death by drowning on Lake Michigan. That little diversion was necessary to cover one remaining detail. As former husbands, you will understand that — since Maisie never divorced you — she never divested herself of your various last names. All those names were legally hers.
She found this a great convenience many times over the years. Depending on circumstances – getting a bank loan, a credit card, paying a traffic ticket, whatever – she could be Maisie Pickins, Maisie Stoll, Maisie Jones or Maisie Waddle. Or even Maisie Welford. The simplest way for me to legally clean out all those old bank accounts and records she had created, in all those names and in so many places, was for Maisie to be thought dead. And the simplest way to accomplish that was for her to go out on the lake and disappear.”
Disappearin’ shouldn’t have been a whole lot of problem for her!!
“It wasn’t much of a problem, and we knew it would help bring the five of you together for this very occasion. But now all that is over. Final divorce papers will be delivered to each of your present home addresses. Clyde, yours will be mailed to the Lighthouse. The slate shall be wiped clean and she will be – only and forever – Maisie Smith. Missus Ben Smith! Celestial happiness unbounded! Gentlemen, Maisie and I wish to thank all of you for creating this happy occasion. We know you have all done a wonderful job of celebrating her truly amazing life. Have a nice day.
“Sincerely, Benjamin F. Smith, Esquire, Attorney at Law.”
` [John pauses]
Ladies and gentlemen, that is the end of the letter. Like he says… have a nice day.
[John lays the letter down, walks directly to the door and exits.
[After a moment, Frieda quickly exits]
[After another moment, Jessie quickly exits]
[After another moment Maud and Germaine quickly exit]
[Four remaining heads hang in silence, conveying melancholy ]
[After another moment Smokey, head down, slowly exits]
[After another moment Preach, pensive, slowly exits]
[After another moment Herb, hands crammed in pockets, slowly exits]
[After another moment Clyde starts to exit, turns back, pauses, then slowly exits]
…to be continued…
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