ANGELA, wife of ROGER. In her early forties, she is trim and tastefully dressed in a straight skirt and blouse, along with a lightweight cardigan and a pair of flats that appear nicely maintained, if not new. Her hair is cut short and neatly tapered.
ROGER, husband of ANGELA. Also trim and in his early forties, he is wearing slacks with a white long-sleeved shirt, unbuttoned at the collar. His short black hair is neatly trimmed, as his goatee, both of which are now showing unmistakable flecks of grey. His bearing and demeanor reflect the self confidence one would expect of a highly regarded professor at a prestigious university.
The action takes place in the home of the principal characters. ANGELA is reading a book while sitting in a comfortable-looking chair in a “family room” that is adjacent to the kitchen. The room is furnished in what might be called a “modernized” traditional style. It is neat and uncluttered. On one wall a “regulator” style clock is ticking softly to the swing of its pendulum.
To the left is a hallway leading to bedrooms, bathrooms and Roger’s study. To the right one sees a part of the kitchen, including a counter on which sit several appliances, as well as a slotted wooden block holding kitchen knives.
The time is 10:00 p.m.
ROGER (emerging from the hallway, then standing at the entrance to the family room, sleeves rolled up, appearing tired): I’m calling it a night.
ANGELA (looks up from her book, gazes at him for a moment, then nods and smiles faintly): Okay.
ROGER (matter of fact): Coming?
ANGELA (still smiling faintly, but otherwise betraying no emotion): In a bit.
ROGER: (turning back toward the hallway, revealing no disappointment): I guess I’ll say goodnight then.
ANGELA (catching him mid-stride, her voice rising slightly): Before you go….
ROGER (stopping and turning back toward her): Yes?
ANGELA: Before you go, I wanted to ask if you’ve read it yet.
ROGER (somewhat puzzled): Read what?
ANGELA (mildly disappointed): My story. I gave it to you last week, remember?
ROGER (after a moment’s hesitation): Yes, yes, I remember. And yes, I’ve read it.
ANGELA: What did you think?
ROGER (quickly glancing at this watch, as much for her as for him): Now?
ANGELA (with the barest hint of pleading): Please. I’d appreciate it.
ROGER (nodding, and seeming to take his defeat in good spirits): All right. Give me a moment to find my copy. It has my notes.
(He turns and disappears down the hallway. A few seconds later, he reappears holding a few sheets of typewritten paper. Upon entering the room in which Angela is seated, he crosses to a large easy chair positioned opposite her. Once there, he moves behind the chair, gripping its back as though it were a lectern, and then gazes in her direction. It is his preferred professorial stance, one that Angela has seen many times.)
ANGELA (smoothes her skirt, folds her hands in her lap and looks up at him expectantly, smiling faintly): Thank you.
ROGER (glances quickly at the papers before putting them aside, then proceeds somewhat haltingly, as though concerned for her feelings): I’m sorry to say it … but I … I’m afraid your story has problems.
ANGELA (mildly curious): Problems?
ROGER (now matter of fact and modestly upbeat; a tone he routinely uses when on the familiar turf of holding forth on a subject with which is he well acquainted): I’ll try to explain. As I recall, a man and a woman are in bed together. It wasn’t clear whether they were married, but anyway, sometime during the night while he’s asleep, she slits his throat. Afterward, she doesn’t attempt to hide what she did, or to escape. Instead, she goes outside and sits on the front steps until daybreak, blood all over her. A passerby notices, and calls the police. When they arrive, she admits what she did, and when asked why, she shrugs and says only that his number came up. That’s basically it.
ANGELA (seeming pleased with his summary): You remember it well.
ROGER (encouraged by her response): The problem is, readers will want to know why she killed him. But you don’t give them anything to go on. You refer to him as narrow-minded and judgmental, even arrogant. Granted he’s not terribly likeable, but is this reason enough to kill him?
ANGELA (seeming to be stumped by the question): Hmmm.
ROGER: (trying to help her see the problem): If she stood to gain financially, or if there had been abuse or infidelity on his part, I could understand, but nothing like this was mentioned.
ANGELA: (nodding, as though conceding a point): True.
ROGER (adopting a tone of feigned exasperation): It doesn’t make sense. How could any sane person do what she did, and then shrug it off?
ANGELA (nodding, still seeming stumped): Hmmm. Well, that’s ….
ROGER (cuts her off and proceeds with confidence): To be fair, I suppose there are people who would appreciate the gruesome details you provided, like the part where she nudged him so that he rolled over and exposed his throat, or the part where she positioned the tip of the knife just below one of his ear lobes before driving it in and slashing him from ear to ear, as you put it. But even people who like this sort of stuff would expect more than just blood and gore.
ANGELA (nodding, smiling pleasantly): Yes, I suppose.
ROGER: What you’ve written is simply a description of a woman who’s lost her mind. If there’s a story here, I couldn’t find it.
ANGELA (seeming skeptical): Are you saying you can tell whether she’s sane or not just from what she did?
ROGER (in complete command): Of course. Anyone can, as long as they consider the context. Here the context is simple. She intentionally killed this man for no reason, at least no reason that I could see. She was obviously delusional.
ANGELA (seeming uncertain): Delusional? But how do you know….
ROGER (interrupting, going strong): Look, just think about the words you had her speak, about his number coming up. Basically, she’s saying that we’ve all been assigned a number, right? Then, when some kind of a number generator somewhere comes up with this man’s number, she thinks she’s supposed to kill him. Do you see how crazy this is?
ANGELA (thoughtfully): Yes … yes…. I think I do.
ROGER: This sort of thing has been studied. It’s a sign of madness. Or insanity, to use a better term. In any event, that’s about all I could get out of your story. I hope I haven’t been too….
ANGELA (quickly interrupting, reassuring): Oh no, no, no. Everything’s fine. I wanted your thoughts, remember?
ROGER (strokes his goatee, then adopts a thoughtful tone, his right index finger pointed upward, as though making an important point): Let me make a suggestion. Take a course on creative writing. Study the subject, learn the fundamentals.
ANGELA (nodding, apparently taking him seriously): That’s an idea.
ROGER (somewhat gingerly): It’s possible, of course, that writing isn’t the best creative outlet for you. Have you considered anything else?
ANGELA (stumbling a bit, as though at a loss for words): I don’t know… I’m not sure….
ROGER (helpfully): What about watercolors?
ANGELA (genuinely puzzled): Watercolors?
ROGER (warming to the subject): Why not? Do you remember when Rob was what, five or six, and we gave him that watercolor set? You showed him what to do, and I remember how well you could paint, how easily it came to you.
ANGELA (eyes suddenly flashing with barely controlled fury, her voice rising, menacing): You’re bringing up Rob now? The son I haven’t seen in four years, the son who avoids us like the plague?
ROGER (sees his mistake, tries to prevent escalation): Let’s not start, okay? It’s late, and besides, how many times do I have to say I was wrong? It was a poor choice of words, and I’ve already told you that I’d apologize to Rob if I knew how to contact him.
ANGELA (furious, deeply sarcastic): A poor choice of words, you say? Calling him a fairy, a little faggot, a fucking queer, that’s what you’re calling a poor choice of words?
ROGER (trying to restore calm): Please. Please. You’re acting like you’ll never see him again, but you know he’ll come home sooner or later, if only to see you.
ANGELA (not to be calmed): No, he won’t. When he walked out, he said I was no better than you, otherwise, I’d leave with him. Remember that?
ROGER (almost begging): Sweet Jesus, can’t we drop it, at least for now? I have an early faculty meeting.
ANGELA (her voice heavy with irony): Ah yes, a faculty meeting. Ever wonder what your colleagues would think if they knew the truth about why Rob has been away so long? What would they think if they knew you were lying when you gave them that story about him going off on some kind of quest? You, the intellectual, the great progressive!
ROGER (glaring at her, now angry): That’s too much!
ANGELA (undaunted, returning his glare): I’ve never told anyone what you did, you know. I’m too ashamed.
ROGER’s eyes lock on hers, now breathing deeply, as though preparing for the next onslaught
ANGELA (after returning his glare for several long moments, her face abruptly softens, as does her voice): You’re right, this isn’t the time. Let’s drop it, shall we?
ROGER (visibly relieved): Yes. Yes. Thank you.
ANGELA (brightly): Any more thoughts about my story?
ROGER (conciliatory): No, that’s all. I’m sorry I had to be so negative.
ANGELA (reassuring, smiling faintly once again): Don’t apologize. You’ve been very helpful, I mean it. Go on to bed, get some sleep.
ROGER nods, then departs through the hallway and enters a bedroom whose entrance can be seen from the family room
Lights dim, signifying the end of the first scene.
ANGELA is still sitting in her chair in the family room, reading her book. Roger is nowhere to be seen. The clock on the wall softly chimes the hour of midnight.
ANGELA (waits until the 12th chime fades before looking up, then takes a deep breath and speaks softly to herself): That was your number.
Angela now marks her place and sets the book on an end table next to her chair, then removes her shoes. She walks slowly to the bedroom doorway though which Roger disappeared two hours earlier, and pushes it partly open. The light from the hallway provides just enough illumination to show Roger in bed, lying on his side, facing away from the doorway.
Angela stands quietly at the doorway, peering in and listening. Aside from the muted sounds of the wall clock in the family room, all that can be heard is Roger’s deep breathing, interspersed with moments of light wheezing. After a minute or so, Angela returns to the family room and retrieves Roger’s copy of her story. She slowly and deliberately tears the sheets of paper into small pieces, then returns to the hallway and disappears. The sound of a toilet being flushed can soon be heard, followed by the reappearance of Angela, no longer holding the torn bits of paper.
She next walks into the kitchen and stands before the wood block holding their kitchen knives. Without hesitation, she chooses what appears to a six-inch chef’s knife, and returns with it to the family room. There she surveys the room carefully, as though assuring that everything is in order. She then holds up the knife and tests its blade against her thumb. Apparently satisfied with its edge, she repositions the knife in her right hand, as one would hold it for slashing or stabbing with a downward motion. She now raises the knife high over her head, then swings it downward in front of her, making a slashing movement from right to left. She repeats this motion several times, starting from different heights, before appearing to settle on shoulder height as her preferred starting point.
Holding the knife at her side, its tip pointed downward, she then walks slowly and quietly to the bedroom and carefully pushes the door open. After watching and listening to Roger sleep for a minute or so, she takes a deep breath and moves toward the bed. In her right hand she grips the knife, its gleaming blade now raised and poised for a downward thrust. She extends her other hand toward Roger, ready to give him a little nudge, just enough to make him roll over and expose his throat.