Anish Aradhey

United States

Grandma Ruby

May 19, 2020

Scene 1

(A dim evening. The present. The Kratz’s living room. JONATHAN KRATZ, 20s, sits at the table, leaning onto his elbows. He puts his phone to his ear. He has been crying.)

JONATHAN
Hi, Nurse Laura. [beat] Yes, this is Jonothan Kratz calling for Ruby Kratz, my… 
(His voice breaks:) 
My mother. K-R-A-T-Z… Thanks.
(The phone is connected:)
It’s me, ma. I’m fine, how are… never mind. Ma, I wanted to say that I love you… No, ma, don’t say that… No, it’s not goodbye, it’s just — 
(He pauses. In tears:)
We got a call… from the doctor. No — we’ll see you tomorrow, ma, right? Tomorrow… 

(Enter YOUNG SEULGI KRATZ, 6, innocent and skipping.)

YOUNG SEULGI
Papa? Why’re you crying? 
(She notices the phone:)
Is it Gramma? Is it Gramma? 
(Pouting:)
Lemme talk!

JONATHAN
(To the phone:)
It’s Seulgi. [beat] Sure, ma…

(JONATHAN hands over the phone.)

YOUNG SEULGI
(To the phone, in one breath:)
Hi Gramma! Are you out of the hospital? Are you coming home?
(Somberly:)
Ok, Gramma… 

(JONATHAN holds out his hand. YOUNG SEULGI stares.)

JONATHAN
(Firmly, through tears:)
Give me the phone, dear.

(YOUNG SEULGI hands him the phone slowly. He sets it on the table. She stares at him again. He takes her hand, leading her offstage. She struggles, reaching back toward the phone.)

YOUNG SEULGI
(In tears:)
Gramma!

(YOUNG SEULGI runs offstage. JONATHAN returns to the table and puts the phone to his ear.)

JONATHAN
(Collected:)
G’night, ma. [beat] Thank you, Nurse Laura. Good night.

(JONATHAN hangs up. He collapses, sobbing.)

Scene 2

(A sunny afternoon. Ten years later. The Kratz’s living room. SEULGI KRATZ and her friend, JESS, 16, sit at the table doing their homework.)

JESS
How was Thanksgiving? I spent it at my grandma’s. She makes the best Southern food. Are… your grandparents still alive?

SEULGI
(Looking up from her homework:)
Thanksgiving was good… my dad always says it isn’t the same without Grandma Ruby’s challah stuffing. She’s my only grandparent alive. She’s really… nice.

JESS
Really? You’ve never mentioned her.

SEULGI
Well, she lives across the country and we don’t see her… at all, really. Dad talks all about her. She escaped the Holocaust and… she worked really hard for a better life…
(Nostalgically:)
When I was little, she was my favorite. Everyone saw me and Mom as different, but she loved us just the same… I don’t remember much now. That was before Mom died. Then… everything stopped.

JESS
When I was little, my grandma and I would talk on the phone every day… 

SEULGI
(Trying to remember:)
Wait, I remember something. One time, years ago… I was on the phone with Grandma and… that was the last time I was. 

JESS
The last time… ? When you were little? Isn’t that strange to you?

SEULGI
Yeah, I just… never thought about it that way. I even looked her up online once — nothing came up. I thought it might involve Mom, so I never brought it up with Dad… I can almost remember what she said that night —

(JESS’ phone rings, interrupting SEULGI’s thoughts. JESS answers it.)

JESS
Sorry… I lost track of time. [beat] I’m coming.
(She hangs up. To SEULGI:)
I gotta go.
(She stands up with her backpack.)

SEULGI
Bye.

JESS
See ya.

(JESS approaches the door. Enter JONATHAN.)

JESS
Bye, Mr. Kratz.

(JONATHAN waves. Exit JESS.)

JONATHAN
How’s the homework?

SEULGI
Fine. [beat] Dad? Why don’t we ever see Grandma Ruby?

(JONATHAN swallows.)

JONATHAN
Well, we’re busy, and she lives in California and —

SEULGI
But why don’t we ever call? You talk about her and Mom loved her, when Mom was alive, and…

JONATHAN
I have to get back.

(Silence. SEULGI reluctantly returns to her homework. JONATHAN turns away.)

SEULGI
(Hesitant:)
I just… Why? Does it have to do with Mom?

(JONATHAN turns back.)

JONATHAN
(Sitting down:)
Seulgi… You know it was hard when your mother died. Grandma’s older now and —

SEULGI
(Upset:)
You always say that! She’s your mom… don’t you want to see her? You can still see your mom.
(She stops, noticing JONATHAN crying.)

JONATHAN
Of course I do. It’s just… your grandmother… she’s… she’s… 

SEULGI
She’s what?

JONATHAN
(Shouting:)
She’s dead, Seulgi! 

SEULGI
(Disbelieving:)
Dead?

JONATHAN
(His face in his hands, increasingly loud:)
That night… Do you remember? That phone call… was the last time we heard her. She was so sick… it was so contagious, we couldn’t even visit the hospital. She died alone, just like your mom. Alone! She survived so much for our faith, and yet… 
(Quieter:)
That was… ten years ago.

SEULGI
(Through tears:)
Ten years… ?! All this time, I thought… without Mom, maybe someone… was still looking out for me.

JONATHAN
(Brokenly:)
It was… to protect you. You loved her, Seulgi. It would have… destroyed you… like Mom’s death destroyed me.

SEULGI
You… I imagined one day, just maybe, Grandma would show up, but —
(Sobbing:) 
She never will!

(SEULGI storms offstage.)

Scene 3

(The stage is exactly as it was near the end of Scene 1. JONATHAN takes YOUNG SEULGI’s hand, leading her offstage. She struggles.)

YOUNG SEULGI
(In tears:)
Gramma! 

(Both characters freeze. Enter SEULGI. She has been crying. She surveys the room, approaching YOUNG SEULGI.)

SEULGI
Must be nice… being young and… loved. I wonder… do you remember?

(SEULGI takes the hand of YOUNG SEULGI, unfreezing her. YOUNG SEULGI hugs her, sobbing quietly. The lights focus only on them.)

SEULGI
What… did Grandma Ruby say?

YOUNG SEULGI
(Stepping away:)
Grandma said… she’ll always be there. She said… never forget that.
(She takes SEULGI’s hand, staring into the audience. Smiling faintly:)
You know, Grandma’s here now.

SEULGI
(Playing along:)
Oh yeah?

YOUNG SEULGI
(Pointing beyond the audience, increasingly cheerful:)
Right there… That's when she read me stories every night. And… that’s when she taught me to bike… 
(Pointing to her heart:)
And right here… That’s where she stays… 

BOTH SEULGI’S
(Smiling, whispering:)
Forever.

(They embrace. Curtain.)

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