A Play in One Act
© copyright 2013 by Sara Jacobelli
TITLE: Think Big
MOM: 30 year old female Irish Catholic, blue collar, wearing casual slacks and top
TORI: 11 year old female child, short hair, tomboy-type
TIME: Mid 1960s
SETTING: A very small, cluttered 1960s kitchen: stove, sink, refrigerator, ironing board that folds down from the wall, iron, a rotary wall telephone, chrome kitchen table and chairs. There is a percolator type coffee pot, cream and sugar and coffee cups on the table. There is a radio on the table, an ashtray and a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes and a Zippo lighter. The only attempt at decoration is a free hardware store calendar. A 1960s radio show plays softly. The mother is standing up and ironing a stack of clothes from a plastic hamper. The clothes are men’s, women’s, boy’s and girl’s. The girl is sitting at the kitchen table drawing pictures on scratch paper.
The telephone rings. The daughter clambers over to answer the phone. There is a large hand-lettered sign taped next to the phone that says, “Thing Big!”
TORI: In a very loud eager voice Think Big! Then, very excited. MOM! We won! WE WON! It’s Big Wilson on the radio! He says we won a million dollars! A MILLION DOLLARS! Mom! She jumps up and down.
MOM: Shaking her head, puts down the iron and turns down the radio. Gimme the phone. It’s probably just Uncle Leo. She grabs the phone. Her daughter sits down at the kitchen table, head in her hands. She pouts.
MOM: Leo? I KNEW that was you! Tori’s upset. She thought you REALLY were Big Wilson. She thought all our troubles were over. She thought we were millionaires. She sits at the kitchen table, sighs, and lights a Lucky Strike cigarette with a silver Zippo lighter. She’s already spending the money, on yachts and race cars and a big, fancy mansion down in sunny Florida and a jet plane and a private zoo. She laughs. The prize is five hundred dollars, by the way, not a million bucks. You’re a riot, Leo, a regular riot. You should be on Johnny Carson. To her daughter. It’s JUST your Uncle Leo!
Tori makes faces while sitting at the kitchen table and listening to her mother on the phone. After a while, she gets bored with making faces and goes back to drawing pictures.
Her mother puts the cigarette in the ashtray and resumes ironing while talking on the phone. As she gets more upset with her brother on the phone, she irons more and more furiously.
MOM: Leo, you need to go home. She’s your wife, I don’t care. You need to go home to your family. I really don’t want to hear all that shit. Getting louder and madder. CHRISTINE my ass! I don’t want to hear about your skinny whore. She smacks down harder and harder with the ironing. Leo, do the Right Thing. GO HOME! Hanging up the phone, she fusses with folding some of the previously ironed clothes.
She puts down the clothes and discovers her cigarette has gone out. She relights it, sits down at the kitchen table. Tori walks in and out of the kitchen a few times. She sits down at the kitchen table and fidgets with the radio dial.
TORI: Mom! I’m bored!
MOM: Go outside! Go play in traffic!
TORI: But I just came back in!
She grabs the girl and tries pushing her out the door. The girl wriggles away and goes back to the table and resumes playing with the radio dial.
MOM: sitting at the kitchen table, pours another cup of coffee and stirs in milk and sugar. Now GO OUTSIDE!
The phone rings again. Tori tries to grab it but her mother gets it first.
MOM: Think Big! She makes a face at Tori and points toward the door. Yeah Leo, I know. I know.
TORI: OK, I’m going! I’m going out! She runs out the door but lingers in the hallway, eavesdropping.
MOM: Leo, listen to me. You need to go home to Felicia. She needs you. Sober up and go home. She resumes ironing again. Yeah, sure. The kids can stay here when she goes to the hospital to have the baby. Sure. Why not?
Tori pops back in the doorway. But Mom, where’re they gonna sleep? In OUR room? Mom?
Her mother waves her away and sits smoking and listening to the radio. She pours a cup of coffee and sighs.
MOM: Didn’t I tell you to go outside and play, and to go to the store on the way back?
NEIGHBORHOOD KIDS: yelling up the stairs. Hey Tori! Wanna come out and play kickball?
TORI: Gotta go play kickball! Bye!
MOM: Leo, I gotta go. I gotta clean this house, thaw out some hamburg for dinner. All right. All right. Let me know. Bye.
She screams down the stairs to her daughter. Come home when the streetlights come on! And don’t forget to charge milk and cigarettes at the corner! In a few minutes, Tori is back.
TORI: Breathless from running up the stairs. Mom! Can we have some Kool-Aid? And some snacks?
MOM: Who’s “We”?
TORI: Me and the Benedetto kids!
MOM: Yelling. NO! I’m not feeding nine Benedettos! Tell the Pope to buy them Kool-Aid and Devil Dogs! I don’t have enough money to feed my own, the way your father plays poker. She sighs and puffs on her cigarette.
TORI: Can I show them the “Think Big!” Sign? I told em how we got to say “Think Big!” every time we answer the phone, cuz—
MOM: NO!!! Don’t let those Benedettos in here, there’s too many of em. They’ll eat us outta house and home. House and home! Just go, go outside, sweetie—and don’t forget, I need milk and two packs of Lucky Strikes. Put it on our account. Tell Bruno, the old man. Don’t ask his wife, that bitch’ll say no!
TORI: I know! I know! As she runs down the stairs.
MOM: She puts her cigarette out in the ashtray, sits at the kitchen table and fiddles with the radio. Shit. Three more kids in this house. That’s all we need. The phone rings. She picks it up.
MOM: Think Big!
1960s music—such as Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee—plays softly on the radio as the curtain closes.
Sound Clip of Big Wilson Radio Personality:
“Vintage rotary dial phone,” by RightBrain Photography. License CC NonCommercial NoDerivs. Flickr.
“Early 50s AC/DC tabletop radio,” by Wikipedia. GNU Free Documentation License.