November 30, 2004



by Grubby © 2004


Cast of Characters

Isabel: early 40s

Setting: A large room.

Time: The present.


(At Rise: Isabel alone in front of an audience.)
When I was twelve years old
Going on thirteen,
Thirteen rising,
My parents told me I was adopted.
This was to help me because my mother,
My birth mother,
Had come looking for me
And my parents wanted to return me
Like an overdue book from the library.

They needed the money.

You know when people,
I don't know, just people,
Say their lives are worth more than the family dog?
Don't people say that?
It's a saying.
Sparky was the family dog.
Sparky the wonder dog,
Whose humping the green sofa cushion
Was rewarded by a friendly whack on the ass
And a soggy dog biscuit
That smelled like mint leaves and vomit.
His multicolored doggie treats,
I ate all of them
To get even.

My parents kept Sparky and got rid of me.
I never liked that dog.

But I was glad to be out of that house.
It was a full house.

My new mom was great.
We went horseracing.
We ate cheese fries.
We gossiped about boys.
We bonded.

I had the feeling,
Women's intuition, let's say,
That my new mom just wanted a friend
Her age.
Someone to talk to.
Someone to shop with.
She didn't want to deal
With all that poopy baby stuff.
At twelve years old I could at least change my own

That was a joke.

When my son was twelve...

No, when Gregory,
My son,
Was six,
He thought everyone had a specific number of heartbeats
To play with
Before you died.
You jump up and down,
You scream,
You win a thousand dollars,
You use up more heartbeats.
The Type A people,
The road ragers in traffic,
The blue-haired old women
Straddling three slot machines
At once --
They die sooner.
And men,
They always die sooner
Because they get too excited
Because of us women.

The first Gam-Anon meeting I went to...
That's Gamblers Anonymous,
Of course.
Gam-Anon or GA.
The first Gam-Anon meeting I went to
I walk in.
I speak to the head guy
Who wants me,
I can tell.
His tag says his name is Dick.
Make your own assumption.
Dick is trying to avoid eye contact
And asks questions from a Xeroxed booklet.
Personal questions
Have I ever lost more than I can afford from gambling.
Like when can you afford to lose anything?
He ticks them off one by one
And ticks me off
And I get in.
I make it.
I'm a winner.
I'm a member.
I belong.
The first circle of hell is a roundtable of losers.

These men,
All men,
Looking me up and down,
Trying to sit next to me,
Trying to score
Without betting.

I don't know.
These programs.
They're all the same,
You know?
I forget what I'm not supposed to do.
It's a haze.
They slowly creep together into something
Like overeating alcoholics who gamble for cigarettes.

Is there a twelve-step for twelve-step programs?
I'll bet
There's an Anonymous Anonymous.
Or for sex addicts,
Is there a Fucking Anonymous?
And then would they be called
Fuckin' A?
I want to be part of that group.
Fuckin' A.

They push God on you
Even if you don't believe.
God grant me this,
God grant me that.
We're human.
We've got problems.
God created us with problems
So He could feel superior.
God as the pitboss
And the House has the advantage.
Thank you, God.

Man can make mistakes.
Women, too.
But more men.
It is okay, so sayeth the Good Book.
After all, we're only human.
Jesus died for your sins.
Well, Christ,
I was born in 1960.
He sure didn't die for my sins.

In the meetings.
In the meetings
You form a circle
At the end
You hold hands.
Clammy, sweaty, dead fish hands,
Hands of strangers,
Hands of new best friends,
And you read out loud from that stupid little book.
That book.
Their Bible.
You hug people you wouldn't hire to mow your lawn
Or babysit your son.

I've been to enough of these things
That I can recite the virtues by heart.
"God grant me the strength to --"
There's God again.
But they're just words,
They don't mean anything.
They never did.
If I said anything enough times,
I'd get it.
I think.

But don't let me talk you new people
Out of joining.

It's all about believing.
To feel
You're a part of something,
A community.
I guess.

My husband and I --
My ex-husband and I --
We came back from one of these sessions.
Not a step program,
But it might as well have been.

There was hugging.
There's always hugging
And crying
And jelly doughnuts.
Whatever anyone did,
It was okay.
It's okay.
You're human, you're coping, it's natural.

It made me feel abnormal,
Not human,
Not natural
For not fitting in with the crying freaks.

I'm not talking about you.

My husband said,
"See, Isabel?"
That's my name, Isabel.
"She ate...
That woman ate four pints of Chocolate Chip Cookie
Dough in one sitting
While watching back-to-back `Ally McBeal' reruns.
Just like you."
So it's okay.
Everything's okay.

Everything's not okay.
She has problems.
She's different.
Just because someone else is doing it
Doesn't give me the right to imitate
Or pig out
Twenty-four seven.
As Gregory,
My son,
Would say.

I'm like her.
So I'm like them.
So I'm not alone.

We kill criminals to teach them
Not to kill again.
Negative behavior

My son Gregory...
Gregory my son
Not Gregory my husband...
My Gregory,
When he was twelve,
Going on thirteen,
Thirteen rising,
He climbed up on the roof.

His version of running away from home
Was to hide in plain sight
Like Sherlock Holmes said.

We didn't know.
We didn't realize
He was gone.

And so
When it got dark,
When he got lonely,
And cold,
He came down on his own.
But his foot caught in the drainpipe
And he slipped
And fell
On the driveway
On his head.

He wasn't born with many heartbeats
To play with.

I have to think that.
That has to be true.
He was happy.
We were happy.
Why would he jump?

He was wearing Garanimals.
Remember those?
The clothes that matched
So you don't have to think,
You don't have to feel,
What goes with what.
But his clothes didn't match.
They never did.
He always wore black
With his Garanimals.

It's funny.
Is it eight, ten years now?
The things you think about
At the oddest times.
Time flies when you're...

When Gregory died,
The doctors gave my husband,
My then-husband,
One hundred capsules of Paxil, fifty capsules of Zyban,
twenty-five capsules of hypericum,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

"Just don't take more than one
More than one day in a row,"
They said.
Because they couldn't tell us
How to feel.

You lose a child
And you lose your world.
Dealer wins,
Dealer has twenty-one,
Game over.
They can't tell you
How that feels.
It's better to feel nothing.

My friends
Actually said:
"You can just get pregnant again."
"At least you have another son."

The doctors were right.
It's better to feel nothing.

I painted a smile,
Thanks for the casserole,
It was delicious.
Do you want the Tupperware back?
No, thanks.
I'm okay.
I appreciate it,
That's sweet of you,
But I'm fine.

That's what they'll tell you to say.
You're okay,
He's okay,
I'm a sack of withered flesh.
Pay no attention to the haggard woman
In the back corner
Whose face is drained of tears
Like a dried-out sponge.

She's going through a loss.

At the funeral
I couldn't stop laughing.
Thinking of Garanimals
What they're really thinking,
The people,
My friends.

What they're really thinking
Thank goodness it didn't happen to me.

And that night
And maybe the next night
I'm sure
They hugged their children a little tighter
And said a little prayer.
I hope.

So a little gambling
Or drinking
Or smoking
Here and there
To numb the pain,
To pass the time,
To take your mind off of
And you'll even win sometimes.
You will.
Playing the slots
Or the tables.
Or life.
It's okay.
It's not so bad.
You can afford it.
Better than the alternative,
Whatever that is.

But I.

I haven't done drugs,
Any kind of drugs,
Even prescribed by the doctors,
Even cold capsules,
In three months.
That's important.

I don't need to confess
Or say Hail Marys
Or pray to Saint John's Wort.

Three months.
Whatever you're here for.
It's longer than you think.
And it's a start.
I'm not sure why,
But it is.

(Isabel holds up a chip she's been clutching in
her hand. For the first time, she smiles --
fully and honestly.)

This chip is a symbol.
It's plastic.
Can't even gamble with it.

But you get more for doing nothing.

Three months.
It's worth it.

And I have to say,
It feels good.

This isn't for God
Or my family
Or Sparky the wonder dog.
It's for Gregory,
My son.
Thank you.
Thank you very much.
Fuckin' A!

(Isabel raises the chip into the air.)


Grubby is a degenerate gambler and writer from Poker Grub.

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