ACT I, Scene I
A spot light comes up on HAROLD. He speaks to the audience.
HAROLD: I’ve always liked numbers. All through school, I was good at math, so it was no surprise I decided to take engineering. I studied hard, got my degree, and have been practicing ever since. I don’t mind saying I’m good at it. However, when it comes to being a parent, I have no formal education. I see parenthood as the ultimate on-the-job training experience, although as jobs go, being a parent doesn’t have much going for it. I mean, the hours are lousy, there are no holidays, and there’s no pay. And if all that’s not bad enough, it’s hard. After twenty-five years on the job, I’d say math is a whole lot simpler.
The spot light on HAROLD goes out. A spot light comes up on JESSIE.
JESSIE: Question: what do you get when you put an engineer and a lawyer together? It sounds like the first line of a joke, doesn’t it? Well, the punch line to this joke is me; the only daughter of Harold and Katherine Hawthorne. Talk around our dinner table addressed intricate highway designs and complex matters of law – the stuff of sharp minds. What baffles me is how these same sharp minds can come up with such banal advice as “be careful”, or “watch your step”, or my favourite “if you break your leg, don’t come running to me.” Parents! …But what can you do? They’re family. All things considered, I’m amazed at how great I turned out.
The spot light on JESSIE goes out.
The lights come up to an empty stage. HAROLD enters from the kitchen carrying a glass of iced tea. He picks up the phone and speed dials.
HAROLD: Hi… I just got in, too… TGIF is right. Man, what a week. So, are we still on for tonight?
The doorbell rings.
HAROLD: Hang on, someone’s at the door. Give some thought to that new place I told you about. I’ll call you back.
HAROLD hangs up. He goes to the door and opens it. He stares in disbelief.
JESSIE: Hi Dad.
HAROLD: Jessie? I don’t believe it. Oh, honey!
HAROLD sticks out his arms. They hug.
HAROLD: I can’t believe it’s you. I didn’t even know you were in the country.
JESSIE: I just got in.
HAROLD: This is fantastic. Wow. Come in, come in. Sit down.
JESSIE enters wearing a back pack, which she drops.
HAROLD: Are you going to be here a while?
JESSIE: If that’s okay.
HAROLD: You can stay as long as you like, you know that. I can’t believe you’re actually standing right in front of me. How did you get here?
JESSIE: I spent the last two days on a bus. I walked from the station.
HAROLD: Why didn’t you call?
JESSIE: I wanted to surprise you.
HAROLD: Well, you succeeded. And you’re timing is perfect. A few more minutes and I wouldn’t have been here.
JESSIE: Oh well, it wouldn’t have been the first time. (beat) Sorry. I didn’t mean that.
HAROLD: So why are you here? You’re not in any trouble, are you?
HAROLD: Are you pregnant?
HAROLD: I can handle being a grandfather.
JESSIE: I’m not pregnant.
HAROLD: Are you sick? You know, the water in some of those countries –
JESSIE: I’m fine.
HAROLD: You must need something.
JESSIE: I don’t need anything. I just wanted to be home.
HAROLD: After three and a half years?
JESSIE: I know, it’s been a long time; too long. I just figured it was time we were together.
HAROLD: No argument here. So what are you going to do? Have you made any plans?
JESSIE: You know, I’m really dry after two days on a bus. Have you got anything cold?
HAROLD: There, see? I was right. You do need something.