CHARACTERS:

MOTHER: Tender and Supportive. Mid-thirties. Her eyes are full of love for her son.

SON: A blank slate. Five-years-old. Captivated by his mother’s voice.

HERA: The Greek Goddess of Marriage. Adorned in the traditional attire of Ancient Greece. Devoted to her husband Zeus.

ZEUS: The Greek God of the Sky. Adorned in the traditional attire of Ancient Greece. Aware of his chiseled beauty.

WORSHIPERS: Humans of any age who pay their respect to the gods and goddesses. Innocent, not unlike young children.

NOTE: MOTHER and SON sit downstage-right in a wicker rocking chair for the entirety of the production. A warm spotlight should illuminate them during their performed scene. In the scenes featuring the Greek deities, a cool blue light should keep them visible to the audience, but not detract attention from the vibrantly lit setting of the Greek amphitheater. MOTHER will occasionally flip through the pages of the storybook as the deities perform their scenes.

.

SCENE 1

(Modern Day. Early Evening. A warm light bathes MOTHER and SON as they enter the stage from darkness. A weathered wicker chair with psychedelic cushions stands prominently at the center of the spotlight. A void of darkness surrounds the performers.)

(MOTHER enters with a comically large storybook, followed by SON.)

MOTHER: (Gently) Come sit with me, Sweetheart.

SON: I’m coming!

(MOTHER sits on the chair, pats her leg, and invites SON onto her lap. She opens the book for the two to see.) 

MOTHER: Have you decided which story you’d like to read?

SON: (Emphatically) All of them!

MOTHER: (Dryly) Mommy values her sleep, Dear. 

SON: But I love all the stories. You’re the best storyteller ever. I like it when you do that funny Zeus voice!

MOTHER: (With a brawny, bellowing tone) I don’t know what you’re talking about. This is my regular voice.

SON: (In sudden hysterics) No it’s not! You sound like Dad!

MOTHER: (Subtly recoils; it goes unnoticed. She returns to her natural tone.)  Do you want to hear one of the Zeus and Hera stories, then?

SON: Yes! Zeus and Hera are amazing.

MOTHER: (Begins flipping through the pages of the storybook) Ah. This one is great. Are you ready?

SON: (Nuzzles his head against her) Duh!

(MOTHER chuckles softly, then clears her throat for dramatic effect. The warm spotlight shining upon them fades briefly into darkness)

.

SCENE 2

(Ancient Greece. Early evening. A cool blue spotlight shines on MOTHER and SON. A fantastical warm light washes over the rest of the performance space, revealing the stage of an Ancient Greek amphitheater. The surface of the amphitheater should be plastered in newspaper headlines similar to “BELOVED PRESIDENT F.D.R. APPROVES INTERNMENT CAMPS AFTER BOMBING OF HIROSHIMA,” “NETFLIX CAPITALIZES ON TED BUNDY APPEAL WITH FIFTH DOCUMENTARY,” and “JOKER IS NOMINATED FOR 11 OSCARS.” At the center of the amphitheater are a modern sofa, coffee table, and an area rug that triggers a sense of domesticity. HERA sits on the sofa and stares off with a blank expression.)

MOTHER: (Reading from storybook) Hera, the goddess of marriage, sat toiling at the thought of her husband Zeus’s absence.

ZEUS: (From offstage, a la “Honey, I’m home”) Hera, I’m home.

(ZEUS enters with an over-theatrical sense of confidence, toeing the line of ridiculousness. He prances over to HERA and plants a kiss on her head.)

HERA: (Unamused) You’re home late. Did you have a good time with your brothers?

ZEUS: Poseidon had too much to drink and got us kicked out, so Hades unleashed hell on him. You know, the usual. (He sits beside his wife.) Did you miss me? (He leans his cheek in for a kiss)

HERA: (Ignores him) This seems to happen every week. Why do you still tolerate that behavior?

ZEUS: Someone has to babysit the two of them.

HERA: How very noble of you. (Beat.) Tell me, is it Poseidon or Hades who decided to experiment with rose-scented perfume.

ZEUS: (His playful attitude suddenly disappears) Hades.

HERA: Tell him it smells great. When do you plan on seeing him again?

ZEUS: We haven’t decided yet.

HERA: Well you know where I’ll be.

ZEUS: (Anger building) Do you have a problem with me seeing my brothers?

HERA: You know how I feel.

ZEUS: Do you have something you want to say, Dear?

HERA: (With a clipped tone) Do I satisfy you, Dear?

ZEUS: I don’t have time for you to beat around the bush like this, Hera. I had a long day, and, quite frankly, I would like to bathe and lie down.

HERA: You don’t have time for me. Don’t start turning this around on me again.

(HERA gets to her feet in frustration and paces behind the sofa. She looks anywhere but in ZEUS’s direction.)

ZEUS: What do you want me to say? That she was terrible? She was hideous and I never finished. The sight of her made me shrivel up and faint. She was a dog, but not in any of the ways that mattered.

HERA: I’m so terribly sorry that Hades doesn’t do it for you like before.

ZEUS: (Getting to his feet) I don’t deserve this. Not after all I’ve done for you. You have absolutely no right to criticize me and what I do in my spare time.

HERA: (Correcting him) Who you do.

ZEUS: Is it too much to ask for me to have a relaxing night at home for a change?

HERA: Is it too much to ask for me to have a faithful husband? You don’t hear what they say about me. I mean, come on, the Goddess of Marriage can’t even have a healthy relationship herself? And you wonder why the divorce rate is so high. I don’t ask for much, Zeus, just respect and loyalty. Is it really that difficult for you?

(ZEUS advances toward her swiftly and laces his fingers around her neck. He lifts her up by her throat and watches as his wife squirms in his grasp, gasping for air. She claws at his arm and begs to be released.)

ZEUS: I come home every night, Hera. I come home to you. I expect an apology for your ungrateful accusations.

(HERA struggles to let out a word.)

ZEUS: I’m having problems understanding you. (He releases his grip on her neck, sending her falling to the ground behind the sofa.)

HERA: (Obscured from sight and coughing) I’m sorry.

ZEUS: That’s better. Now, why don’t we clean up and lie down for a bit? Maybe you can make it up to me.

(ZEUS scoops HERA up off the ground, her hand still around her neck, and hoists her into his arms. He carries her offstage-left as the lights fade to black. MOTHER and SON remain visible as they turn the page together.)

.

SCENE 3

(Ancient Greece. Later in the evening. The vibrant light returns to the amphitheater.) 

(HERA stumbles in from stage-right. Her hair is mangled and disheveled. She has a slight limp on her left leg. Her body collapses onto the sofa, her face buried in a pillow, and she lets out a groan.)

HERA: (Turning her head to face the audience) Do I deserve this? Sometimes I think so for even mentioning his infidelity. I should just let him do whatever and whoever he wants. Who am I to stop the King of the Gods from having a good time? He did save me from my abusive father. I guess he’s not as bad as I make him out to be. He was right when he said that he always comes home to me; I should be grateful for that. 

(HERA pauses for a moment and a wave of clarity washes over her face. She sits up.)

HERA: What the hell am I saying? I’m tired of being treated like dirt. I’m tired of being the faithful wife who smiles ignorantly and brushes past his affairs. I’m tired of his anger, his abuse, his sense of entitlement. I’m just so damn tired. He needs to learn that I don’t belong to him. He doesn’t get to throw me aside and walk all over me whenever he very well pleases. This ends now. Enough of the cheating, of the assault, of the rape. Enough.

(HERA gets to her feet with bloodlust in her eyes. MOTHER reaches behind the rocking chair and grabs a radio. She presses a few buttons and turns a dial until the music starts to play. The song should be “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child, “We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift, “Hit ‘Em Up Style” by Blue Cantrell, “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, or another pop break-up, female-empowerment song. The following scene should be upbeat and celebrational. HERA should instill the audience with vibrance and energy and feed off of it.)

HERA: (With passion fueling her actions) I am my own person; not some accessory to Zeus. I will make sure that he knows this.

(As the lyrics begin, the volume of the music should climb into a crescendo. HERA will not be singing along to the words, instead, she will laugh, celebrate, and cheer as she dances around the stage. At different moments, she will extend her arm and a flash of red light will explode on stage followed by a thunderous crash that cuts through the music. Subtle cries of human suffering can be heard after each crash as she continues her murderous rampage. Eventually, WORSHIPERS, dressed entirely in white, will join her on stage, filtering in one-by-one at first. They will rush to her side and dance with her. HERA will be friendly at first with each of them, then, at sudden points, she will shove them to the ground, slit their throat, stab them in the stomach or chest, choke them, hang them, and mercilessly slaughter them. As the music climaxes, groups of WORSHIPERS surround her until she massacres them all. As the song fades to its end, the dead bodies will have fallen in a circle around her. HERA laughs and retrieves a gun that has been hidden in her robes. She points it to the audience and rests her finger on the trigger.)

ZEUS: (From offstage) Hera! What are you doing?

HERA: (Swivels and points the gun at ZEUS) Whatever I want.

ZEUS: (Enters stage-left) These people are suffering!

HERA: So am I.

(Beat.)

ZEUS: Put down the weapon.

HERA: No.

ZEUS: Don’t do it for me. (He advances toward her slowly, extending his hand in her direction.) These people don’t deserve to be punished like this.

HERA: But I do? I deserve to be tossed around, held up by my throat, trapped underneath the weight of your body against my will? What do you think I deserve?

ZEUS: You deserve me. I’m not perfect, but I was never meant to be. I’m sorry about that. But this is all you get and it’s wrong of you to expect me to change who I am for you.

HERA: You want me to submit to all of your wants and needs with no expectation for you to respect me for who I am?

ZEUS: All right. (HERA remains transfixed on his face. ZEUS’s hand touches the barrel of the gun and lowers it to the ground.) All right. I’ll give you the respect you want if you stop killing these people.

HERA: (Looking at the carnage encircling her) Fine. (She drops the gun to the floor.) Let’s go to bed.

(ZEUS takes HERA in his arms and leads her offstage-left. WORSHIPERS rise from their fallen positions and follow them offstage in a zombie-like manner. The lights fade to black on the amphitheater.)

.

SCENE 4

(Modern Day. Later in the evening. A warm, inviting light returns to MOTHER and SON as they rock in the chair. MOTHER’s appearance is disheveled and weary, obviously physically and emotionally damaged by the recent events.)

(MOTHER closes the storybook and SON slides gracefully off her lap. He begins prancing around, similar to HERA’s choreography.)

SON: (Chanting as he is running about) Murder! Rape! Massacre! Kill! Kill! Kill! (He laughs.)

MOTHER: (Empty) So you enjoyed it?

SON: It was the funniest and excitingest story ever. You are the best at telling them, Mom! 

MOTHER: Oh, you flatter me, Sweetheart.

SON: I want to hear another one!

MOTHER: Maybe another time. It’s getting late and we should get you ready for bed.

(The doorbells rings twice, followed by the sound of the front door opening and closing)

SON: (Overcome with excitement) Dad’s home!

MOTHER: (Suddenly apprehensive) Hurry on up to your room. We’ll be up in just a minute.

SON: Okie-Dokie!

(MOTHER mutters under her breath all of the things she wishes to say.)

(SON exits. Moments later, ZEUS strides in behind MOTHER sitting in the rocking chair. He is wearing a button-down shirt, khakis, and loafers.)

MOTHER: (Unamused) You’re home late. Did you have a good time with your brothers?

(Fade to black.)

END.

Oh, My Word! Jacob would love to hear from you after reading this story. It is inspired by the masterful craft and themes of British playwright Caryl Churchill. Leave a comment if you are familiar with any of her work; otherwise, get to know her!

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Oh, My Word! is a weekly updated blog featuring fiction, poetry, drama, and essays for the world. #OhMyWordWednesdays

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I am an aspiring writer looking to expand and improve my craft by working alongside other writers in an interactive community​ focused on symbiotic growth with a dedication to our work.

One Comment on “The Stories We Tell Ourselves

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