KENNY-Youngest brother, childlike PAUL-Oldest brother, natural leader RON- Middle brother, melancholic
A car on the highway headed towards Branson, Missouri. Paul drives, Ron rides shotgun, Kenny takes the back seat.
A car. Paul drives, Ron rides shotgun, Kenny takes the back seat.
KENNY: Are we there yet?
PAUL: Yes, Kenny, we’re there yet. In fact we’ve been there for five years. Branson was so nice we decided to stay and raise a family. We have two babies and a poodle named Pitzer.
KENNY: Oh. So we’re just driving to the pet store to get snacks for Pitzer or something?
PAUL: Shut up.
RON: Cemeteries are fucking weird.
KENNY: They’re sort of spooky.
RON: No, they’re straight up weird. There are hundreds of dead human bodies under the ground right there. That’s crazy. Just visually imagine all those bodies right now. (Silence as they all look out the window.) Someday we’ll be dead too.
KENNY: I know. It makes me want to howl at the moon.
PAUL: We’re close now.
KENNY: I can’t wait for the acrobats. Ron, there’s this family of Chinese acrobats from China that do acrobatics.
RON: What’re acrobatics?
KENNY: The. Things. That. Acrobats do. You know the moves and stuff. The acrobatics.
PAUL: There’s also this family in Branson that’s like a bunch of musically talented teenage brothers who cover popular music as a band. But kind of folk-y. It’s not that cool.
RON: I wish I would have visited Mom when she was out here.
KENNY: She was so great. She had these turquoise cowboy boots that she wore when she played, and she was beautiful up on that stage, Ron-
PAUL: Shut up, Kenny.
KENNY: She looked so pretty I could hardly stand it-
KENNY: I wanted to break open she was so pretty-
PAUL: Seriously, Kenny! (A pause.)
RON: I wish I could have seen her.
PAUL: Road stop.
KENNY: I don’t have to go right now.
PAUL: Well I do, so. Road stop.
KENNY: Could you get me a Pepsi?
PAUL: …Yeah, sure. You coming?
RON: I’m alright.
RON: No, I’m good. (Paul gets out.)
KENNY: There’s this lake in Branson. And it’s where- you should see it. The water’s so cold and when you look down into it it’s like you’re looking into the past or something. You just imagine these big prehistoric fish swimming beneath you just like they’ve always done. And that’s where she wanted- it’s where- it’s where she wanted us to put her ashes. In the water there… I miss her, Ron.
RON: Me too.
KENNY: Paul never wants to talk about it. It’s like she doesn’t exist. And you’re not around.
RON: I’m sorry.
KENNY: Why can’t you be around? Why can’t you just move back. For a bit. Please?
RON: I can’t.
KENNY: Why not?
RON: I have a job, Kenny. And Friends. I have a life.
KENNY: Do I have a life?
RON: That’s not what I meant.
KENNY: I don’t have a job. I don’t have friends. Do I have a life?
RON: Of course. Yes, of course.
KENNY: If those are what matter to you I don’t think I have very much.
RON: You have so much.
KENNY: I don’t think I do. I really don’t think I do. (Paul reenters, recovered.)
PAUL: Pepsi. They have this amusement park, Ron, it’s like a miniature really dumb Disneyland. But it’s kind of fun.
RON: Yeah. We should hit that.
PAUL: It’s a weird little place. Branson. A strange, little place…
RON: How’s everything been? How’s it been going?
PAUL: Good…It’s been good.
RON: Yeah? It’s been good?
PAUL: Yeah. Good. Like I said already.
PAUL: Like I said.
PAUL: Good. (Ron and Paul look out the windows. Kenny stares ahead through the windshield. A few moments, then Kenny starts to sing.)
KENNY: Some glad morning when this life is o'er, I'll fly away/ To a home on God's celestial shore, I'll fly away
RON & KENNY: I'll fly away, fly away, Oh Glory I'll fly away / When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly away
When the shadows of this life have gone, I'll fly away/ Like a bird from prison bars has flown, I'll fly away
I'll fly away, Oh Glory I'll fly away/When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly away
KENNY: Do you still believe in that stuff? In flying away and everything.
RON: Well… I don’t know, Kenny. What do you think?
KENNY: I don’t know. I think Mom did maybe. She thought some day she’d fly away and there’d be somewhere to go. And maybe I think so too.
RON: That sounds nice.
KENNY: Yeah… She sang that song last time we saw her. Remember, Paul?
PAUL: (Softening.) Yeah, Kenny. I remember.
RON: She loved her church songs. Her spirituals. I remember when she sang for Pearl Smith’s funeral out at the cemetery. It was like she was channeling something. Like when she sang she could hold everyone there because she wasn’t just singing, she was believing it all too. Among all those tombstones and pine trees. Walking over the tops of all those underground people just lying there underground…
PAUL: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
PAUL: Do you remember Pearl Smith?
RON: Yeah. She was older. You know, one of those old ladies you find in churches.
PAUL: Yeah, but do you remember her?
RON: I don’t. Maybe not as well as you. I was a kid, really.
PAUL: She was terrible.
RON: Oh, come on. She was just an old church lady.
PAUL: No, she was mean. And not even just like old person mean where they get culturally insensitive and everything. She was straight up mean.
RON: What, she wouldn’t give you church cookies in the fellowship hall?
PAUL: Church cookies?
RON: Yeah. Church cookies. Like the wafer-style, you know like waffle textured, cream filled. Like pink cream. Church cookies.
KENNY: I love church cookies!
PAUL: Well anyway, Pearl Smith. I remember she had this dog. One of those, oh, they look like bulldogs, but not quite-
KENNY: A Pug?
PAUL: Yeah, a pug. And she was just merciless with this thing. She carried around this old hymnal, and would just whack this dog. Practically over nothing. Like if it got in the way or whatever. Just whack this dog. Pretty hard too. And you know, it’s just a poor dog not trying to do anything wrong, just getting wailed on—
RON: Okay. She was mean. I get it.
PAUL: Well, what I’m trying to say is, if Mom sang so powerfully at Pearl Smith’s funeral she might of looked like she was channeling some sort of power, but I don’t think she probably really gave a shit.
RON: Nice, Paul.
PAUL: I’m just saying.
RON: Okay. Nice.
PAUL: Just saying. (A few moments.)
KENNY: Are we almost there yet?
PAUL: Yeah, we’re almost there yet.
KENNY: Good. Cause I gotta go.
KENNY: No. I gotta go.
PAUL: Really, Kenny?
KENNY: Yeah. So what?
PAUL: We just stopped at a bathroom.
KENNY: I didn’t have to go then.
PAUL: But you have to go now?
KENNY: Yeah. But it’s okay cause we’re almost there yet.
PAUL: But we were just stopped at a bathroom.
KENNY: But it’s okay.
KENNY: We’re almost there yet.
RON: It’s okay.
PAUL: You need to figure yourself out, Kenny.
KENNY: I know. I know I need to figure myself out. Sorry.
RON: It’s okay.
PAUL: Not everything has to be okay, Ron.
RON: What’s that mean?
PAUL: It means not everything has to be okay. It means you’re not around so much so you probably don’t know that Kenny does this every time we’re ever in a car.
RON: Is it that big of a deal?
PAUL: It’s every time. Always.
RON: It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. It might add 10 minutes to our trip even if we stopped. Maybe you just need to take a few breaths.
PAUL: Maybe you just need to shut up when you don’t really know what you’re talking about. You’re not around, Ron. It seems like it’s not really your place to comment when you can’t even come around to give me a hand once in a while.
PAUL: And we’re just gonna go to Branson, and maybe we’ll even bond for a day or two and you say you’ll visit more often. But then when we leave, it’ll just be me and Kenny alone in that big house. Just me and Kenny. Me taking care of Kenny.
KENNY: I’m sorry. That you have to take care of me.
PAUL: That’s not what I meant—
KENNY: I wish you didn’t have to too. So, I’m sorry.
PAUL: Don’t be. It’s fine.
KENNY: I am.
PAUL: Don’t be.
RON: I’m sorry, Kenny.
RON: I just am. For not being around, and for all of it.
PAUL: When we get to Branson, what do you want to do?
KENNY: Well. First, I want to go out to the lake. And I know that the water’s so cold, even when the day is hot, but I want to stick my feet in. I want to find a rocky beach, which is the best kind of beach because it feels so funny on your feet, and I want to put my feet in the water and stay there until the sun starts to go down and the moon comes out and the crickets and everything. And then, after that, I want to watch the acrobats.
Matt Beard writes dramatic works and novels, and plays music with his band Friends Of The Bog in Chicago. Ask him anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.