Winter 1993, Volume 10.1

One Act Play

William Kennedy

Dinner at the Phelans

William Kennedy was born in Albany, New York, on January 16, 1928, where he was educated by the Christian Brothers and graduated from Siena College in 1949. After a two-year stint in the U. S. Army in the U.S.A. and Germany (1950-52), working on army newspapers, Kennedy became a reporter in Albany, and later in Miami, Florida, and Puerto Rico, where he became the founding managing editor of the San Juan Star, the English daily, in 1959. His journalistic assignments included sports, politics, literature, and especially film criticism which led him to co-author the film The Cotton Club with director Francis Ford Coppola in 1984. He also wrote the screenplay for his own novel Ironweed, filmed in 1987 in Albany under the direction of Hector Babenco. In 1961 Kennedy gave up journalism to write serious fiction and has since taught creative writing at Cornell University (1982-83) and the University at Albany, SUNY, where he is currently Professor of English.

After Kennedy was awarded a MacArthur Foundation fellowship in 1983, he founded and directed the New York State Writers Institute at the University of Albany. His awards include the Pulitzer Prize for Ironweed and the New York Governor's Arts Award, both in 1984. Kennedy lives with his wife, Dana, a former professional dancer, in Averill Park, near Albany. They have two daughters, Dana and Katherine, and a son, Brendan.

Written after The Ink Truck (1969), Kennedy's acclaimed "Albany Cycle" of novels includes Legs (1975), Billy Phelan's Greatest Game (1978), Ironweed (1983), Quinn's Book (1988), and Very Old Bones (1992). His non-fiction works include O Albany! (1984), and Riding the Yellow Trolley Car, a collection of essays, memoirs, reviews, and reportage, scheduled for publication in 1993. With his son Brendan he has co-authored two children's books, Charlie Malarkey and The Belly Button Machine (1986) and Charlie Malarkey and the Singing Moose (forthcoming).

Read a conversation with William Kennedy.

Dinner at the Phelans was written for performance at The Actors Studio in New York City in 1993. It was adapted from the author's novel, Very Old Bones, published in 1992.

The Scene

The principal action takes place in the parlor and dining room of the Phelan house in Albany, N.Y., in summer, 1898 and in winter, 1934. Main entrance door is off parlor, downstage right. Kitchen door is upstage, off dining room. Back stairs come down into dining room, stage left. The rooms barely change in 36 years.

One sequence takes place in an apple tree that gives full vantage to an empty second-floor bedroom in the Daugherty house, next door to the Phelan house.

The Characters

The Phelan Children (ages in 1898 and 1934)
Francis Phelan, 18 and 54
Sarah Phelan, 15 and 49
Chick Phelan, 12 and 46
Peter Phelan, 11 and 45
Julia Phelan, 10
Molly Phelan, 8 and 42
Tommy Phelan, 7 and 41
Kathryn Phelan, 38, mother of the children
Katrina Daugherty, 33, a neighbor
Orson Purcell, 10, unacknowledged son of Peter
Ben Owens, undertaker
Undertaker's helpers (2)
Priest (confessor)
Father Joe Mahar

December, 1934. Lights up on Peter Phelan and Orson Purcell standing in front of main entrance to Phelan house on Colonie Street in Albany, N.Y. Two large boxes are on ground as Peter fishes for keys to open door. Behind them stands the Electrician, with tool box and large length of wire.

Peter: Yes sirree, Orson, you're a witness. We're bringing the light of the world to Colonie Street, at long last.

Peter opens door, then he and Orson carry boxes inside. He calls out when he enters.

Peter: Peter is here!

They set down boxes in parlor, furnished with antiques. Gas chandeliers are pendant in parlor and adjacent dining room. Electrician enters and Peter points to parlor chandelier.

Peter: That's the monstrosity I want taken down.

Electrician: Well first I gotta cap the gas. Then I'll run the wire along the ceiling and out through the front wall, over the window.

Peter: Whatever works.

As Electrician goes to work Peter cuts twine that binds both boxes. Sarah comes into parlor, Molly behind her. The two are dressed similarly in long-sleeved, high-necked white blouses and full skirts below the knee. Molly is pretty, Sarah is not; she's severe-looking.

Sarah: What are you doing? Who is this boy and that man here?

Peter: The man is our Electrician, and the boy is my landlady's son. Orson, say hello to Sarah and Molly, my sisters.

Orson: How do you do, ladies. I'm pleased to meet you.

Molly: And we you.

Sarah: He speaks well.

Peter: He's a bright boy.

Sarah: What's in the box?

Peter smiles, squats, reaches into box's interior and, with an extravagant gesture, lifts chandelier out, pulls away tissue paper, and holds fixture aloft.

Peter: Fiat lux!

Sarah: What?

Peter: Light, Sarah. Electric light. To replace that ugly thing that's been here burning gas since before Cleveland was President. Light, new light in this house, Sarah.

Sarah: We don't want it.

Peter: How well I know that, dear sister, but we shall have light on the corpse of our mother, light unlike any that ever found its way into this arcane cave of gloom.

Molly: I love it. It's so pretty. Look how it shines, Sarah.

Peter: Wait till you see it lit.

Sarah: If you put it up I'll have it taken down as soon as you go back to New York.

Peter: And if you do that I shall come back here with a club and break every piece of your beloved pottery, glassware, and bric-ˆ-brac. Believe me, Sarah, I am serious.

Sarah: You're a villain.

She walks away and goes up back stairs.

Molly: Don't mind that. I'll talk to her.

Molly examines chandelier more closely. Electrician comes in with ladder and starts dismantling gas fixture. Peter lifts second chandelier out of other box. Molly strokes its chrome and globes.

Peter: This one is for the dining room.

Molly: They're so beautiful.

Peter: They're all of that, and they will give us pleasure. They'll banish our shame at being a leftover from the last century. They'll put a sheen on your beautiful hair, my sweet sister, and we'll be done with gloom.

Doorbell rings, Peter puts down chandelier and answers it. Ben Owens is there, smoking a cigar.

Owens: I got your mother here, Pete.

Peter: Bring her in. She's welcome.

Owens gestures to helpers and they carry in the coffin of Kathryn Phelan, with an accordionesque catafalque.

Peter: In the window, Ben.

Ben and helpers look at the obstacle that the Electrician on the ladder represents.

Electrician: Do you want this thing workin' by tonight?

Peter: We do.

Electrician: Well then I ain't movin' offa here.

Peter: No reason you should. Make yourself at home up there.

Coffin is maneuvered into window area, and Ben Owens opens the coffin lid to reveal corpse of Kathryn Phelan. Molly lights candles at head and foot of coffin.

Peter: How's everything going for you, Ben?

Owens: If I was any better I'd call the doctor to see what ailed me.

Molly: You did a nice job on Mama, Ben. She looks fine.

Owens: Glad you're pleased, Molly. Call if you need anything at all. And I'll be here at five tomorrow for the wake.

Ben and helpers leave, Electrician continues to work.

Molly: I've got potatoes on the stove.

She goes into kitchen. Peter looks at photograph of woman in turn-of-the-century bathing costume.

Peter: Come over here, Orson, I want to show you something. You ever see one of these?

Peter opens cover of player piano at far end of parlor, moves piano bench for Orson to sit down.

Peter: Sit here, Orse, and put your feet on the pedals, then push on them, first left, then right.

Peter sits in armchair beside piano as Orson pumps. Strains of music emerge from piano.

Orson: It's magic.

Peter: It certainly is. Pump faster. Keep a steady rhythm.

The tune comes clear: "In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree."

Peter: This was my sister Julia's favorite tune. (Whispers) Don't tell anybody, but she was my love, my favorite. That's her up there in the bathing suit.

He points at framed photo.

Peter: She was beautiful. She died young. Much too young.

He looks at photo again, then sings.

Peter: I can hear the dull buzz of the bee/ In the blossom that you gave to me/ With a heart that is true/ I'll be waiting for you/ In the shade of the old apple tree.

Sarah comes out of kitchen wearing apron over long black dress, hair severely pulled tight in small bun.

Sarah: Are you insane? Are you out of your mind? Music now?

Orson stops pumping.

Peter: For chrissake, Sarah, I'm invoking Julia. Don't you think she has a right to be here today? Are you going to keep this wake all to yourself?

Sarah slams kitchen door behind her, goes upstairs.

Peter: Continue, Orse.

Orson pumps, Peter hums along with music. Doorbell rings. Molly comes out of kitchen and goes to door at same time Peter rises to answer it. Molly opens door to Deliveryman who is holding baskets of flowers.

Deliveryman: Flowers for Kathryn Phelan.

Molly: That's right.

Deliveryman: I've got four baskets.

Molly takes two baskets and walks with them to the coffin. A second man comes up behind Deliveryman. Peter takes two more baskets from Deliveryman, who leaves. Second man stands staring at Peter. This is Francis. He's a bum.

Peter: Well I'll be a son of a bitch.

Francis: Ya always have been.

Peter puts down basket and extends his hand to Francis.

Peter: Come on in.

Francis wipes shoes on doormat, enters. Peter puts baskets by coffin, speaks to Molly, who is arranging the flowers.

Peter: Say hello to your brother, Moll.

Molly looks, gapes, can't believe it. Throws her arms around Francis.

Molly: Francis. Oh Fran, Fran. We thought you were dead.

Francis: Maybe I am.

Molly: (Pointing to coffin) Come on in. Come in and see her.

Francis: I'll get to it.

Molly: I'll tell the others you're here.

Molly runs up back stairs. Electrician is connecting wire to new chandelier which is now hanging where old gasolier was.

Peter: How'd you find out?

Francis: I was in a lunch room down in Hudson. Been stayin' down there all fall, pickin' apples, fixin' up trucks for the owner, and this fella next to me gets up and leaves the Albany newspaper. I never do read a damn newspaper, but I pick this one up and turn the page, and there's the obit. I look at it and I figure right off, this fella left that paper so's I could see that, and I say to myself, Francis, maybe it's time to go back and see people. And I took the next train that come by.

Francis turns and stares at coffin. He takes off his fedora and holds it.

Peter: What's goin' through your head, seeing her like this?

Francis: I was just thinkin' how much she missed by bein' the way she was. She really didn't know nothin' about how to live.

Peter: Of course you're the expert on that. You're a walking example.

Francis: Ain't sayin' I ever figured out how it was done, Pete, but I still know more'n she did. I got nothin' against her any more. She done what she hadda do all her life, and somethin' gotta be said for that. I just never bought it. And neither did you.

Peter: Things got better when I moved to New York.

Francis: That's what I mean.

Molly comes back down stairs.

Molly: Everybody'll be right down.

Francis: Who's everybody?

Molly: Sarah, Tommy, and Chick. They're all home. Tommy's a bit confused.

Francis: That figures. (He looks at Orson, who's still at the piano) Who's the kid?

Peter: That's the boy. I mean the son of my landlady. Orson, say hello to a brother of mine, Francis.

Orson: How do you do, sir.

Francis: I don't know how I do sometimes, kid. Nice t' meet ya.

Francis: Can I wash up some? Kitchen'd be fine. Still where it used to be?

Molly: Go upstairs, use the bathroom.

Francis: No need.

Molly: Have you had dinner?

Francis: 'bout a week ago.

Molly: I'll set the table. There's mashed potatoes and cold chicken, and Sarah's biscuits.

Francis: Sounds mighty good.

Molly watches as Francis limps toward kitchen door.

Molly: You're limping.

Francis: Bumped my leg a few days ago, but it's gettin' better.

Molly: Let me look at it.

Francis: Nah, nothin' to see. Just a black and blue mark.

Before he can enter kitchen, Francis hears steps coming down back stairs, turns, sees the portly Chick in collarless shirt, and, behind him, Tommy, in winter undershirt, galluses, work socks, no shoes. They come into the parlor.

Chick: Hey, you old bastard. How you doin'?

Francis: How you, old Chickie-pie? You're fat as a pregged-up porker.

Chick: I can't believe this, Francis, I can't believe it. We gave up on you years ago. Never thought I'd see your mug in this house again.

Francis: I thought the same thing.

Tommy is staring, trying to understand what's happening.

Tommy: Franny? Franny?

Francis: Tommy. Howsa boy? Eh? Howsa boy, old Tom-Tom?

Tommy: Franny?

Francis: It's me Tom. It's me. You remember me?

Tommy: Sure I remember, Franny. How's things, Franny?

Francis: Things is like they are, Tom boy. You old horse's ass.

Tommy: Horse's ass. Franny. You shouldn't call me a horse's ass.

Francis: Why not? Where'd a horse be without his ass? Think about it.

Tommy: (He stage whispers to Molly) Horse's ass. Franny called me a horse's ass.

Everybody laughs. Francis is standing next to china closet. He looks at it, turns away.

Tommy: I remember the night the china closet broke, Fran.

Francis: You remember, do you? I guess everybody remembers that, eh Pete?

Peter: That's right. Everybody remembers that.

Peter and Francis are looking toward china closet as lights in parlor go down, lights come up in dining room, where all seven Phelan children are concluding dinner. Kathryn Phelan comes in from kitchen carrying two apple pies. She is wearing an apron over a black dress with high collar. She cuts first pie.

Francis: I don't want any pie, Ma. I got work to do tonight.

Francis gets up, carries his plate into kitchen, returns.

Francis: I'll be back in a couple of hours.

He goes out.

Kathryn: Who wants pie, Peter?

Peter: I don't want any either, Mama. I'm goin' to the ball game.

Peter kisses his sister Julia on the top of her head.

Peter: I'll see you later, Jule.

He goes out. Sarah stands up.

Sarah: Excuse me, Mama. I've got to go to the store. Leave the dishes and I'll do them.

Kathryn: What's going on in this family? Nobody wants pie.

Sarah goes out. Lights down in dining room. Spot rises on apple tree, which Peter is climbing. Lights up in room with curtainless window where Francis is on a ladder, painting woodwork. Peter hides in tree to watch Francis. He sees Katrina Daugherty enter wearing yellow robe and matching ribbon, which holds her hair at the back of her neck. She walks around room without looking at Francis, who notes her presence, keeps painting.

Katrina: Good evening, Francis.

Francis: Good evening, Katrina.

Katrina: You're painting very well.

Francis: Thank you. It's good paint.

Katrina: Are you reading the poetry I gave you?

Francis: I try. I don't get it, much.

Katrina: You'll learn by reading it every day. It'll be as familiar to you as baseball is.

Francis : Maybe.

Katrina walks to window, looks out, only a few feet from Peter, who is hidden by leaves. Peter is very still.

Katrina: For thou alone, like virtue and truth, art best in nakedness . . . Francis?

Francis: Yes, Katrina.

Katrina: Thy virgin's girdle now untie . . .

Francis: What's that, m'am?

Still facing out the window, Katrina undoes the cloth rope that binds her robe about her waist, lets robe fall, undoes ribbon and lets her hair fall. Peter is privy to Katrina's total nakedness. Then she turns and faces Francis and, as she does, the branches of the tree move and Peter looks down to see Sarah climbing up beside him.

Sarah: I've been watching you. What are you looking at?

Peter: (He's frantic) Shhhhhh.

Sarah looks into bedroom in time to see Katrina put her arms around the legs of Francis, who is above her on ladder. Sarah is unable to restrain a gasp as Francis backs down the ladder, embraces the naked Katrina, then kisses her. Katrina unbuttons Francis's shirt, then his belt. Sarah starts to climb back down, stops, takes another look, sees Francis taking off his trousers, then climbs all the way down, rapidly. Peter stays.

Katrina again walks to the window and faces Peter, picks up her robe, spreads it in the middle of the floor, then lies on it on her back. Francis, getting naked, kneels over her, then leans forward onto her and they meet in a prolonged kiss. Peter grabs his crotch, victim of an unexpected orgasm, takes another look at the action, climbs down the tree.

Lights down on tree, spot on Sarah, kneeling in confessional, wearing a mantilla, talking to Priest (who is only a voice).

Sarah: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned, it's been two days since my last confession. I watched two people touching and kissing and one of them was naked.

Priest: You watched? Where did you watch?

Sarah: Through a window.

Priest: You were spying on them?

Sarah: No, I just happened to see them.

Priest: How did you just happen to see them?

Sarah: I climbed a tree.

Priest: Then you did it deliberately. You were spying.

Sarah: No, Father. I didn't know they were there.

Priest: Then why did you climb the tree?

Sarah: I was following my brother, but when I saw what he was watching I climbed down.

Priest: How long did you watch?

Sarah: I don't know. A minute maybe.

Priest: You saw someone kissing naked and you watched for a minute?

Sarah: I didn't watch to watch.

Priest: Then why did you watch?

Sarah: I was watching my brother watch and I wanted to see what he was watching.

Priest: Did you enjoy watching?

Sarah: No, Father.

Priest: Are you sure?

Sarah: I didn't enjoy it. I hated it. I hate that sort of thing.

Priest: Well, then I don't think you have anything to confess. I think your brother is the one who should come to confession.

Sarah: I'll tell him. But don't you want to give me any penance?

Priest: Not tonight.

Sarah: Are you sure?

Priest: Quite sure.

Sarah blesses herself and stands up. Blackout. Spot on Francis and Peter, standing together as Sarah enters their light. She is still wearing mantilla.

Sarah: You've got to confess. Both of you. Confess to the Priest and confess to Mama. Francis, you've got to tell Mama you've been living in the occasion of sin by working for that woman. And you, Peter, you'll confess that you spied on them, a peeping tom. I'm ashamed to be in the same family with the both of you. You know nothing about chastity, either of you. And you've got to tell Mama how that woman behavedbut you can't be vulgar when you tell her. We can never tell Mama that you actually put your hands on that woman's naked body. How could you do such an awful thing?

Francis: Listen, don't knock it till you tried it.

Sarah slaps Francis and runs out of room. Spot out, lights up in dining room where children are seated at table. Francis and Peter find seats, Sarah comes in behind her mother, carrying food, and all sit down and start to eat.

Sarah: Mama, Francis has something to tell you.

Francis: No I don't.

Sarah: You'll tell her or I will.

Francis: I got nothin' to say.

Sarah: Then Peter will tell.

Peter: Not me.

Kathryn: Will somebody tell me what this is all about?

Chick, Julia, Molly, and Tommy are bewildered at their mother's question and Sarah's inquisition.

Sarah: It's what Francis is doing.

Francis: Sarah doesn't think I oughta work for Katrina. I think Sarah oughta mind her own business.

Kathryn: Why not work for her?

Sarah: There's more than work going on over there.

Kathryn: And what might that mean?

Sarah: Are you going to tell her?

Francis is exploding with rage.

Kathryn: Well?

Sarah: She put her arms around him.

Kathryn: What does that mean?

Francis: It don't mean anything.

Kathryn: Why did she do that?

Francis: She likes the way I work.

Sarah: He's lying.

Kathryn: How do you know? Did you see her do this?

Sarah: Yes, and so did Peter.

Peter: I don't know what I saw.

Sarah: Don't lie.

Peter: Everybody's a liar but Sarah.

Kathryn: What were you doing, watching over there?

Sarah: I followed Peter. He's the one who was watching.

Peter: You're a lousy rat, Sarah, a real lousy rat.

Kathryn: Never mind namecalling. I want to know what went on. What is she talking about, Francis?

Francis: Nothin'. I work for Katrina, that's all. She's a nice person.

Sarah: She was naked.

Kathryn: Naked!

Kathryn stands and grabs Francis by the ear.

Kathryn: What've you been doin, young man?

Francis stands and jerks his head out of his mother's grip.

Francis: I walked into her room when she was dressing. It was a mistake.

Sarah: He's lying again. He was painting and she took her robe off and she was naked. And then she threw her arms around him and he did the same thing to her. And she undid his belt.

Kathryn: Is that true?

Her face is inches from Francis.

Francis: She's a little crazy sometimes. She does funny things.

Kathryn: Taking all her clothes off in front of you? You think that's funny?

Francis: She doesn't know what she's doin' sometimes. But she's really all right.

Sarah: He put his arms around her and they kissed for a long time.

Francis: You bitch. You stinkin' little sister bitch.

Kathryn swings her left hand upward and catches Francis under the jaw. The blow knocks him off balance and he falls into the china closet, smashing its glass door, shattering plates, cups, glasses, then falling in a bleeding heap on the floor.

Lights down on dining room, up in parlor, 1934, where Peter, Francis, Molly, Tommy, and Chick are standing. Orson at the piano. Electrician on ladder speaks up.

Electrician: I think we're ready to turn on the juice.

Peter: I've said it before. Let there be light.

Electrician turns switch, light erupts, making room brilliantly bright. Peter applauds and all follow his lead. Electrician comes down from ladder.

Molly: Oh isn't this glorious! What a grand idea you had, Peter.

Electrician: I'll come back in the morning to do the dining room.

Peter: We are in your debt, my good man.

Electrician: Right.

He goes out.

Molly: Oh my, what a difference.

Peter: The new era begins.

Francis: Uh huh.

Molly: Well the food's ready, everybody, so let's eat. You sit where you always sat, Francis.

Francis puts his fedora on top of china closet. They all take their places at the dining room table.

Chick: So what's with you, Fran? You gonna hang around or you gonna disappear again?

Francis: Couldn't quite say. Just came to see the family. Don't know what tomorrow'll bring. I thought Sarah was comin' down.

Molly: She'll be down. She's getting dressed.

Francis: You look pretty, Moll. Real, real pretty. You got a beau? Somebody sweet on you?

Molly: Not really.

Francis: How about Sarah? She didn't marry, did she?

Molly: No.

Francis: I ran into Floyd Wagner down in Baltimore. I'm on my way to Georgia and old Floyd, he's a cop now, he was gonna arrest me. Then he seen who I was, and instead of arrestin' me he bought me a beer, and we cut it up about the old days. He said he went out a few times with Sarah.

Molly: That's so. Sarah broke it off.

Francis: So Floyd said.

Sarah comes down back stairs in a dress identical to the one Kathryn was wearing when she hit Francis.

Sarah: Never mind about Floyd Wagner.

Francis: Hello, Sarah. How you been?

Sarah: Fine, thank you.

Francis: Good. That's good.

Tommy: Sarah looks like Mama.

Francis: I noticed that.

Sarah: So, you're back. You look well.

Francis: Is that so. I wouldn'ta said so.

Chick: Francis can be a bearer at the funeral. I just thought of that. Now we only need one more.

Sarah: Francis won't be here for the funeral. Francis isn't staying.

Peter: What?

Sarah: He's not staying. He's not part of this family and hasn't been for 30 years. Feed him if you like, but that's all he gets out of us.

Molly: Sarah, that's wrong.

Sarah: No, nothing wrong except that he's back among us. And I won't have it. Not on the day my mother is waking.

Francis: Right. I seen her wakin'. I seen her dead, and now I see her again, not dead at all. Nothin' changed here since I left the first time, and now I remember why I left. Sarah's got a way of joggin' your memory.

Peter: Sarah doesn't run this house.

Chick: Right. Absolutely right. Sarah don't run nobody.

Francis: It's okay. Not a thing anybody's gotta worry about. I'm a travelin' man, and that's all I am. Never counted on anything more than seein' she was really dead. I figure, she's dead, I'm free. Know what I mean Chickie pie?

Chick: No.

Francis: What's gone's gone, and I figure good riddance. She wanted me dead is the way I see it. Ain't that right, Sarah?

Sarah: You were dead for years. You're dead now. Why don't you go live in the cemetery?

Molly: Sarah, stop it.

Francis: You know, you turned out just right, Sarah. Just like I knew you would. You ain't got a speck of the real goods in you. You ain't got one little bit of Papa's heart in you. You're somebody they oughta cut up and figure out, 'cause you ain't hardly human, Sarah.

Sarah: You're a tramp, Francis. You were a tramp when you were a child. You and your Katrina.

Francis: She remembers Katrina, Pete. Got a memory like a elephant, this sister of ours. You remember Katrina too?

Peter: Everybody remembers Katrina.

Francis: Unforgettable lady.

Sarah: Don't bring that old filth back in here.

Francis: Filth. That's Sarah's favorite word. Where you'd be without filth I can't even figure, Sarah. You and filth, some double play. Old Floyd Wagner told me how you and him talked about filth all them years ago.

Sarah: Make him leave.

Francis: Floyd told me last time he saw Sarah . . .

Sarah: Never mind anything Floyd Wagner said.

Molly: Sarah, let him talk.

Chick: What about Floyd Wagner?

Francis: Old Floyd. He came to see Sarah one night and she threatened to stab him with a pair of scissors.

Molly: What?

Sarah: It's a lie.

Francis: Floyd said she was afraid he might kiss her, and start doin' other filthy stuff, so she snatched up the scissors and told him to keep his distance or she'd stab him in the belly.

Sarah: Oh, you foul thing.

Sarah runs to parlor and stands beside coffin. She covers her ears to avoid hearing what Francis is saying.

Francis: Floyd swears to it. He said he never did get to kiss Sarah. And after the scissors business he sorta lost interest.

Peter: I think we can change the subject.

Francis: Suits me.

Everybody is silent. Only Tommy keeps eating. Spotlight on main entrance as Father Joe Mahar arrives and rings doorbell. Both Molly and Chick get up to answer it.

Chick: That's probably Father Joe Mahar. He said he'd come early.

Molly: Yes, we've got to talk about arrangements at the church.

Silence. Tommy eats last bite, gets up from his chair.

Tommy: I gotta go to the bathroom.

Peter stares at Francis, who pops a crust of bread into his mouth, then takes a sip of tea.

Francis: Always great to come back home, Pete. Always great to come home.

Silence. Francis points toward new chandelier in parlor where Priest is talking to Molly, Chick, and Sarah.

Francis: What made you buy the new ceiling light?

Peter: It was time to bring us out of the dark ages.

Francis: Nice and ritzy. Who picked it out?

Peter: Orson and I did, didn't we Orse?

Orson nods.

Francis: You still doin' newspaper work?

Peter: No, I make my living as an artist, if you can call it a living.

Francis: An artist. By god, that's a new one. What kind of artist?

Peter: A painter.

Francis: That's good. I like paintin'. My most favorite saloon had a paintin' back of the bar. Only reason I hung out there was to look at it. Eased my mind, ya know what I mean?

Peter: What was it?

Francis: Birds, mostly. Birds and a naked woman. Reminded me of Katrina.

Peter: Katrina. It's hard to forget Katrina.

Francis: It ain't hard. It's impossible.

Molly: (From the other room) Peter, Father Joe wants to talk about the funeral mass. Just for a minute. He'll be right back, Fran.

Peter: Excuse me a minute, Francis.

Peter leaves room. Francis looks across table at Orson, the only person left.

Francis: Just you and me, Orson.

Orson: Yes, sir.

Francis: You don't live here either, do you?

Orson: No, sir. I live in New York.

Francis nods, picks up napkin and folds it, raises his pantleg to reveal a ghastly wound, large, purple, somewhat bloody.

Francis: I think I'll borrow me one of these napkins.

He blots wound with napkin, then wraps it around wound as a bandage and binds it with piece of twine from his pocket.

Orson: What happened to your leg?

Francis: I had me a little accident. But it's gettin' better. Be all healed up in no time.

He lowers pantleg, stares at Orson.

Orson: Where do you live?

Francis: I live in the weeds, mostly. And then sometimes there ain't even no weeds.

Francis smiles broadly. Orson also smiles, shakes his head, takes it as a joke. Francis stands, takes his hat from the top of the china closet. He puts his fingers to his lips in a shushing gesture to Orson, gives farewell salute to Orson, limps toward, and then out, kitchen door. Orson stares at the doorway. Lights fade.