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by F. J. Hartland



Geronimo!



CHARACTERS

BUDDY, a boy of 9 (but played by an adult)

CAL, his older brother, 12 (but also played by an adult)



SETTING

Autumn. The roof of a two-story house.



AT RISE: BUDDY, a boy of 9 (but played by an adult) and his older brother CAL, 12, (also played by an adult) are on the roof of their two-story home. It is autumn. BUDDY is standing on the edge of the roof and is holding an open umbrella.


CAL

(Impatiently)

Go ahead and jump already!


(No response from BUDDY)


What’s wrong?


BUDDY

It’s so far down.


CAL

Only two stories. What? Maybe twenty feet?


(BUDDY starts to go but then hesitates)


BUDDY

Are you sure this is going to work, Cal?


CAL

Of course. The umbrella will repel the force of gravity, and you will float gently down to earth.


BUDDY

Like a parachute.


CAL

Exactly! Like when the astronauts splash down in the ocean?


BUDDY

I want to be an astronaut!


CAL

Buddy, if you don’t have the courage to jump off the roof, you’ll never be an astronaut.


BUDDY

Really?


CAL

I’m your older brother. Would I lie to you?


BUDDY

Yes.


CAL

Wasn’t I the one who told you how babies are made?


BUDDY

Yes. But I don’t believe you.


CAL

Why not?


BUDDY

Because it’s gross. Our parents would NEVER do that!


CAL

They must have done it.


BUDDY

Yuck!


CAL

At least twice.


BUDDY

How do you know that?


CAL

‘Cause there’s two of us, dummy!


BUDDY

Hey!


(A beat)


Cal, can I ask you a question?


CAL

That’s all you do.


BUDDY

Why do Mom and Dad fight so much?


CAL

Is it “so much”?


BUDDY

It’s every day.


CAL

I don’t even notice anymore. I tune them out.


BUDDY

Oh.


CAL

So jump already!


(BUDDY starts, then hesitates again)


BUDDY

I don’t know . . .


CAL

It will be like flying, Buddy.


BUDDY

Really?


CAL

Yes. Like that poem says. You will “slip the surly bonds of earth.”


BUDDY

What does that even mean?


CAL

You will escape gravity . . . and fly.


BUDDY

Wow!


CAL

That’s right. Wow!


(Determined BUDDY tries again to take the plunge but stops. A beat)


What now?


BUDDY

It’s just . . . that . . . well . . . I . . .


CAL

You’re scared!


BUDDY

Am not!


CAL

Chicken!


(CAL starts to cluck like a chicken)


BUDDY

Stop it, Cal! Stop it.


(CAL continues to cluck)


If you’re so brave, then why don’t you jump off the roof?


CAL

I have explained this to you. I am heavier than you. For the umbrella to work for me, our house would have to be four or five stories high.


BUDDY

(Remembering)


Oh, yeah.


CAL

I learned about it in science class. You know. Velocity. Acceleration. E=mc squared.


BUDDY

(Not a clue)


Right. In my science class we’re growing lima beans in paper cups.


CAL

I know. I went to fourth grade, remember? I’m surprised you’re still allowed to do that.


BUDDY

Why?


CAL

In my class some kid shoved one of the lima beans up his nose . . . and it grew into his brain!


BUDDY

Wow! That’s cool.


CAL

What’s cool about having a lima bean grow into your brain? Listen, Buddy. Never, ever shove anything up your nose, okay?


BUDDY

Okay.


CAL

Now jump!


BUDDY

You’re right. I’m scared.


CAL

You know what? If you do this, Buddy, you will be the envy of every kid in the fourth grade!


BUDDY

You think?


CAL

I know. A lot cooler than the kid with a lima bean plant in his brain anyway.


BUDDY

I want to, Cal, but . . .


CAL

Hey, you know what paratroopers say if they’re scared to jump out of an airplane?


BUDDY

What?


CAL

They say, “Geronimo!”


BUDDY

Geronimo? What does that mean?


CAL

Geronimo was a great leader of the Apache. Very brave.


BUDDY

So they say, “Geronimo”?


CAL

Yes. It gives them courage. And don’t forget what else the paratroopers do . . .


BUDDY

What’s that Cal?


CAL

When you hit the ground, tuck-and-roll.


BUDDY

Tuck-and-roll.


CAL

And, listen. If anybody asks, Buddy, this is all your idea, okay?


BUDDY

But it’s your idea.


CAL

I know, but you’re the one brave enough to do it, so you deserve all the credit.


BUDDY

Thanks, Cal.


CAL

You bet! Now . . . fly!


(BUDDY turns to face the edge of the roof. He pauses. Then—)


BUDDY

Geronimo!


(On a side of the house unseen by the audience, BUDDY jumps off the roof. CAL dashes across the roof and looks over that edge)


CAL

Tuck-and-roll, Buddy! Tuck-and-roll!


(To the audience)


I can’t believe he did it!


(A thud. A beat. CAL looks over the edge of the roof)


Are you okay?


(Nothing)


Buddy?


(Nothing)


Say something?


(Silence)


Buddy?


(BUDDY re-appears from around the house. He is now an adult and is wearing a necktie and/or sports coat. He is also carrying the open umbrella as if it is raining. CAL remains sitting on the roof. He, too, is also an adult now)


BUDDY

I am not okay. The umbrella doesn’t slow me down at all. I do NOT “slip the surly bonds of earth.” Instead, that non-elusive force of gravity causes me to plummet to earth so fast that I don’t have time to tuck-and-roll. I hit the ground so hard, it breaks both my legs.


CAL

I told you to tuck and roll.


BUDDY

I recover, but it takes months. On the bright side, I miss most of fourth grade. On the down side, I still can’t do fractions.


Also on the down side, the pain in my knees always tells me when rain is coming.


(BUDDY holds out his hand from under the umbrella)


Like today.


Whenever I complain about the pain, Cal says to me . . .


CAL

Now you have a great story to tell at my funeral.


BUDDY

And I do. So I just did.


Over the years, it turns out Cal is right about so many things. Like not shoving anything up my nose. Or like how babies are made. Which—if you really think about it—is really gross.

Don’t get me wrong. Cal and I do not always get along. I mean, he does talk me into jumping off the roof of a two-story house.


CAL

Allegedly.


BUDDY

You know you did.


CAL

See if that story stands up in court.


BUDDY

Why are you always busting my chops?


CAL

Because that’s what big brothers do.


BUDDY

It’s like that old quote about brothers:


CAL

“Not always eye-to-eye . . .


BUDDY

. . . but always heart-to-heart.”


CAL

Always!


BUDDY

After Dad leaves, Cal steps up and becomes a surrogate father to me. Anytime in life I face a challenge and am afraid, Cal takes me by the shoulders and says . . .


CAL

When you were nine, you had the courage to jump off the roof with nothing but an umbrella. Take the leap now.


BUDDY

And I do leap. Into college. Into marriage. Into starting my own business. Into so many things I thought I could not do. Into living the rest of my life without him.


But my brother knows better. He says I can.


When Cal is diagnosed with late stage IgA Nephropathy, a terrible kidney disease, the prognosis is . . . well . . . grim, to say the least.


CAL

Buddy, now I’m the one who’s scared.


BUDDY

I do for him, what he had done for me all my life.


I take him by the shoulders and say, “If I had the courage at nine to jump off the roof with nothing but an umbrella, you have the courage now to fight this.”


And he does fight. Good God, how he fights. Every day. Like a champion. Right up until his final breath on this earth. In fact, the last word Cal says is . . .


CAL

Geronimo!


(CAL exits or the lights fade on him.)


BUDDY

After this committal service, I ask you all to join me at his favorite place, Rocky’s Tavern to raise a glass to Cal, the best big brother a guy could have, and wish him a safe landing on the other side.


Remember to tuck-and-roll, Cal. Tuck-and-roll.


BLACKOUT.


 

F. J. Hartland started writing plays when Santa Claus brought him a typewriter for Christmas when he was 13. Since then F. J. has earned an MFA in Playwriting, won the Samuel French OOB Short Play Festival twice and made a record-setting eighteen appearances in the Pittsburgh New Works Festival, winning Best Play four times. He has been published by Concord Publishing, United Stages, Original Works Next Stage Press and The Louisville Review. In 2008, he was the recipient of a Playwriting Fellowship from the Pittsburgh Council on the Arts. Also, F. J. has been a member of Actors Equity Association since 1991. Thanks, Santa!


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