Years ago, I wrote a short Christmas play for a playwrights group I used to belong to. Every Christmas season, the group put on a holiday festival at the Chance Theater in Anaheim Hills to raise money. So I decided to put my dog Becky in my play as a character. That's Becky in the picture...
Becky's English is pretty limited, so I gave her a non-speaking role. In fact, her character was never to be seen on stage, but only spoken of. Someone later told me that my Becky play would make a good full-length. So, in 2003, I wrote it, and the full-length, entitled A Better Place, made the 2004 O'Neill short list. Not bad, huh?
Anyway, here's the ten-minute. It's called A Dog's Christmas and it was a joy to write...
A DOG'S CHRISTMAS
Cast of Characters
Ali………………Bitch, confrontational, overweight
Artie…………Pug, impressionable, leads with his mouth
Brick…………Akita, tough guy but not a leader
Cyril…………Russian Wolfhound, a thinker, an artist
(Midnight. Animal Shelter. The humans are
all asleep. Four dogs, ARTIE, ALI, BRICK and CYRIL, sitting down to play cards)
ARTIE:Dja hear about Becky?
ARTIE:It sucks! It just sucks!
ALI:What about Becky?
ARTIE:I tell ya. Chicks get all the breaks.
ALI:Oh yeah. Lucky us. We get all the breaks.
ARTIE:It sucks! I mean, it just sucks!
ALI:I’ll give you sucks. Try nursing seven pups.
CYRIL:Wha? What’s all this about Becky?
BRICK:Cyr. I already told you about Becky.
ALI:It’s no big deal, Cyr. Just some type-A males venting about you know what.
BRICK:Hey, shut up, Ali.
ALI:Ooooh, struck a nerve.
ARTIE:Tell ya, you can’t win. The fix is on. Game over, man.
CYRIL:No, Brick. I don’t think you told me.
BRICK:Cyr. I toldja about Becky. I know I did.
CYRIL:You did? Well. Hmmm. I suppose if you say you did, you did. Guess I just wasn’t listening.
BRICK:You never listen. Gotta open your ears, big guy.
BRICK:Uh Cyr. They want you should cut the cards.
CYRIL:What? Oh. Yes. Sorry, Artie.
CYRIL:I really am sorry.
ARTIE:Willya just hurry up and cut?
(Cyril cuts. Artie grabs the deck and
shuffles and deals. As he shuffles and
deals, ARTIE speaks the following to
no one in particular)
That was a nice kid. A real nice little kid. With a pretty mom. They both had real nice smiles. I wouldda been so. Well shit. What am I thinking?
(They play cards as they talk)
Cyril:Of whom are we speaking?
ARTIE:Becky. Who the hell you think we’re talking about?
ALI:Always blaming the female. Cherchez La Femme.
BRICK:So the mom and the little kid. Did they stop and look at you?
ARTIE:They make ‘em look at everybody. Just a formality.
BRICK:Well, what happened?
ARTIE:What happened? You wanna know what happened? I’ll tell you what happened! They were passing my cage and I went to my sit position just like I practiced a million times. You know, butt down, head up, eyes alert. I could tell the little boy was impressed. I even tilted my head so I could give him a really intelligent smile. And then you know what Becky does? She wiggles her tush. Jumps around going “Yap, yap, yap” Crouches down on all fours. Rolls over. And her tongue is goin’ a thousand miles a minute. You can’t compete with that! I tell you. Chicks get all the breaks.
BRICK:Artie. Don’t get upset.
ALI:It is such a double standard in this place. We’re supposed to be attractive, but when a male wants to strut his stuff, we’re supposed to back away and be invisible. Where’s the justice?
ARTIE:All I’m asking is a chance.
BRICK:Didja hear? He’s not asking much, Ali. Just a chance.
ARTIE:I would be the best dog you ever had. I know I would. Just give me the chance. Please take me home. I will make you happy. I’m Artie. Try me. Please.
BRICK:Relax, Artie. Take it easy.
CYRIL:It’s true. Being the dog at someone’s house is a wonderfully unique experience. It was like that for me when I lived with Miss Rosa. What a wonderful woman.
ARTIE:You see? You see? Even Cyril had a shot. What is wrong with me? What is wrong with this picture?
CYRIL:Did I say something wrong?
ALI:Naw. Artie’s a pug. Pugs always whine.
BRICK:(Stage whisper to CYRIL & ALI)
Listen! Will you two watch it!? Artie’s got five days and if he doesn’t find a home, they’re gonna.
(Pantomimes execution by hanging)
So be nice to him.
(ALI & CYRIL blink, look frightened)
CYRIL:(Making the effort to sound especially
nice. ALI flashes a big smile)
ARTIE:Just for the record. How dja hook up with Miss Rosa?
BRICK:Artie. Would you please just relax?
ARTIE:I am relaxed.
BRICK:I don’t want you getting upset.
ARTIE:What are you talking about? I am relaxed, dammit! Very relaxed! Extremely relaxed! I’m just trying to understand some stuff, OK? Just trying to get some clarification.
BRICK:You’re pissed. I know when you’re.
ARTIE:I am not pissed!
BRICK:Yes, you are!
ARTIE:Hey! Don’t try and psychoanalyze me, OK? Cyril, willya tell me about Miss Rosa? Please.
BRICK:Don’t tell him, Cyril. It’ll upset him.
ARTIE:C’mon Cyr. Talk to your buddy Artie.
ALI:I thought this was a friendly card game. Anyone wanna play cards?
ARTIE:Now Brick, you’re starting to piss me off.
CYRIL:(Getting flustered and nervous)
Brick. What do you want me to do?
BRICK:Shit! I give up! Just go ahead and do what you damn well want.
ALI:Don’t you just love how decisive males are? So hands on, take charge?
ARTIE:Yeah, why doncha butt out, Brick?
BRICK:OK, screw it then.
ARTIE:Yeah, just screw it, dumbass.
BRICK:Right. Screw it.
CYRIL:Brick. I’m really don’t want you to be mad at me. I didn’t mean.
BRICK:I said it was OK!
ALI:Didntja hear him say it was OK? It’s OK. Sheesh!
CYRIL:OK. Uh, Artie. So what exactly did you want to know?
ARTIE:I wanna know all the details. And the details behind the details. Like. Where’d Miss Rosa find you?
CYRIL:Oh, ha ha. It was more like me finding her.
CYRIL:To put it succinctly, I walked into her yard.
ARTIE:Walked in? Walked in from where?
BRICK:His owners dumped him out in the sticks.
CYRIL:Yes. Sad to say. One day they wanted me. The next day they didn’t.
ARTIE:Wait a minute. Are you talking about Miss Rosa? I thought you said.
BRICK:No. Artie. This was before Miss Rosa.
Brick. It’s Cyril’s story. Okay?
BRICK:Well screw it. Everybody’s dumpin’ on me. Guess I’ll just shut up.
ARTIE:Good plan, asshole.
CYRIL:It was a young couple. No children. Dual income, no kids. DINKs. And they were away all day.
ARTIE:They left you alone?
CYRIL:They’d come back at night. They fought all the time and the woman would drink and kick me.
ARTIE:You shouldda bit the bitch!
CYRIL:That’s not my style. To make a long story short, New Year’s Day they were both home. They put me in the car and we went for a ride out on the country roads and.
BRICK:And they threw him out of the car.
That happened to me, too.
CYRIL:Brick, it wasn’t exactly like that!
BRICK:All right, not exactly. They didn’t throw him out. They pushed him out. Then they drove off.
ARTIE:They did this on New Year’s Day?
CYRIL:Right after the Rose Bowl.
ALI:My owners did it to me on Labor Day. I was pregnant.
CYRIL:I started walking and I came to a house. And there were chickens in the yard and two skinny cats who hissed at me and a big tom turkey and there was Miss Rosa tossing seeds to the chickens and the turkey. And she turned to me and she said, “Happy New Year, big fella. You look hungry.”
CYRIL:I wasn’t hungry but I smiled and nodded. She went inside and came back out with the biggest soup bone I ever saw in my life.
CYRIL:She never cursed me. She never kicked me. She never scolded me. She always said, “Good boy. Good dog.”
ALI:My female intuition is kicking in.
(Takes a hanky, dabs her eyes)
I know this is gonna have a sad ending.
ARTIE:Hey! You wanna put a sock in it? So what happened next?
CYRIL:One morning I woke up early. I heard the cats in the kitchen. I knew something wasn’t right. I walked in and I saw her there on the floor. The cats already knew she was gone. They were hissing and growling. I told them I was sorry. They rubbed against me and told me they were sorry too. That was the only time those cats ever spoke to me.
That is so sad.
CYRIL:One of Miss Rosa’s sons came to the house around noon and they took her away.
ARTIE:I’m sorry, Cyr.
That is so sad.
CYRIL:She was a saint. I loved her.
(Tears well up)
She was a saint.
(Long reflective silence. ALI continues to quietly sob)
ARTIE:A good woman like Miss Rosa. Good to dogs. Good to cats. Good to birds.
ARTIE:Do you think she’s you know. Somewhere? Out there?
CYRIL:Artie. I have no doubt she’s up there looking down on us right now.
CYRIL:I believe a virtuous life is rewarded.
ARTIE:Wow. So. So. Are you including uh. You know. Dogs in this?
CYRIL:There are virtuous dogs. Just like there are virtuous humans. And virtuous cows.
ARTIE:Do you think?
CYRIL:You’re a good dog, Artie. You’re a shoo-in.