I am a playwright. So this is how I am filtering the news of the massacre in Newtown, Conn.
“28 Dead”, Part 3 (A short play) By James E. Garcia
(SCENE: A diner in Newtown, Conn. It’s 8:30 a.m. The normally bustling restaurant is quiet. It’s been more than a week since 20 children and six employees at Sandy Hook Elementary were massacred by 20-year-old Adam Lanza. PETER is seated at his usual spot at the end of the counter. He sips a cup of black coffee and stares out of the large plate glass window that looks out onto the city’s main street. The diner’s owner, Mary, approaches and tops off his coffee.)
MARY (after a long pause) What’re you looking at?
PETER (another pause) Don’t know. It’s a different place, Mary.
PETER It doesn’t even look the same. I mean, it looks the same… but—
MARY Yeah, I hear you. (a long beat) You gonna eat anything?
PETER They said I can have his body today.
MARY That’s good, isn’t it?
PETER Not sure what to do. I suppose I’ll take him home.
MARY Makes sense.
PETER Funny how it took— I guess it’s not funny…
PETER Just thinking how it took him …10… maybe 15 minutes to…do what he did, but it took more than a week to bury them all.
PETER I know what you’re thinking.
MARY ….You shouldn’t be here.
PETER Where should I…be, Mary?
MARY This isn’t really the best place—
PETER (an agonizing scream) Why?! Where is…?!
(A couple and their two children seated at a booth across the room and an elderly couple turn shuffle and eye Peter nervously.)
MARY That’s what I’m talking about. You’re scaring me, Peter—
PETER I know…I’m sorry…I’m—
MARY It’s alright. I’m just worried. You really outta be talking to someone.
PETER (urgent) I’ve been talking to someone. I guess he just can’t hear me, but I’m talking and talking and hoping he’ll give me—
MARY You mean, God?
PETER No, I’m done talking to God for a while, at least. I’ve been talking mostly to Adam—
MARY (exasperated) He can’t..! (now lowering her voice and leaning in) You can’t talk to him…He’s gone, you’re not. (off his look) I know you know all of this…but you gotta get control of yourself, Peter.
PETER (almost a murmur) The thing is I’m in complete control. (a pause) Having your son murder 20 innocent kids, his mother …and all the others has way of focusing the mind.
(Mary’s right hand starts to shake. She doesn’t notice the coffee spilling from the pot she’s been holding.)
PETER cont. You’re getting it on the floor. Let me help you —
(MARY practically tosses the coffee pot onto the counter. Then, collecting herself, she notices the couple and their children nervously gathering their coats to leave.)
MARY cont. People don’t know you like I do.
PETER You want me to go.
MARY I want you to be… okay. (calling to the couple, trying to keep her voice from cracking) Thank you for coming. No…No, don’t worry about the check. It’s on the house. You have a good day.
(As the family exits, the elderly man and woman at the counter rise and start to follow. The man tosses a $10 bill on the counter.)
MAN Is he going to be alright?
MARY Yes…He’ll be fine. He’s just a little upset about everything… that’s happened.
MAN Understandable. Anything we can do?
MARY No, sir…No…but thank you. You two enjoy your day.
WOMAN Take care, honey. It was good food.
MARY Thank you.
(As the couple exit, Mary crosses quickly and locks the door behind them.)
PETER (a nervous laugh) Looks like I’m the one causing trouble now.
MARY Peter, Adam wasn’t well. That’s not your fault.
PETER I knew Adam was sick. We all knew. We just didn’t know how bad. We…I mean, how could anyone know? How could we imagine—
MARY Right…So why beat yourself up?
PETER (exploding) BECAUSE WE DID KNOW! WE KNEW, MARY! I knew! I knew and I couldn’t stop him. I knew the guns were in the house. I knew his mother couldn’t control him. I knew…and I couldn’t bear to see him that way. (falling to his knees and weeping uncontrollably) I couldn’t bear to know! I couldn’t bear to know.
(Mary crosses to PETER and as he places her hands on his head.)
MARY It’s alright, Peter. It’s gonna be alright…
(As Mary pats his head gently, she gazes through the plate-glass storefront window and watches a passing school bus. Heeding a red light, the bus stops for a moment in front of the diner and Mary’s eyes catch the frightened stare of a small girl looking in her direction. After a few seconds, the light changes, the bus lurches forward, but neither Mary nor the girl avert their gaze.)
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Bio: James E. Garcia is a playwright, journalist, university lecturer, and Phoenix-based media communications consultant. As a journalist, he has been a reporter, columnist, magazine and newspaper editor, foreign correspondent, and television, radio and online commentator. He is the owner of Creative Vistas Media, co-founder of The Real Arizona Coalition (therealarizona.org), immediate past chair of the Arizona Latino Research Enterprise, and the author of more than 20 plays.