September 30, 2015
It was a Wednesday fall afternoon in 1989. A crowd cheered as I deplaned. The head cheerleader was Jack, a dapper, elderly gentleman whose condo overlooking the Ohio River would be my guest home. A local theater was producing my play, “Moonlight Daring Us to Go Insane,” and they brought me in to watch the final dress rehearsals and the Friday opening.
Jack whisked me to the condo where an even larger crowd was already ensconced and drinking “Jack’s Punch.” This was a killer concoction of bourbon and other ingredients. I nursed one Jack’s Punch, as the rehearsal was in a couple of hours, and I was acutely aware of my celebrity. A young couple from down the hall (“Craig” and “Nan”) would wine and dine me on Thursday.
A very inebriated Jack drove us to the rehearsal. The theater was housed in an old, columned courthouse high atop four flights of stately limestone steps. Instead of parking, Jack turned his old Buick sedan onto the steps and drove all the way to the top, the wheels going thumpity-thump. In theater, we call this “foreshadowing,”
The rehearsal went well. I was in bed by midnight. I woke up to pee (the guest bath was off the dining room), and I saw a fresh bottle of bourbon on the table. There was a note that read, in effect, my place is your place, feel free to bring home company. Oh boy.
The next night, after the final dress rehearsal, Craig and Nan took me to a nice restaurant. We went to back to their condo, and we got stoned and drank wine and listened to The Beatles on a stereo. Craig fell asleep by ten. He wished us a good night and went off to bed.
Nan lay on the wood floor and stared at the ceiling. And then she started to cry. I mean, she bawled. I didn’t even know her last name. All I could think was get back to Jack’s.
The floodgates opened. She and Craig were in a bad marriage; she was unloved. She began slowly crawling in my direction. If you know me, you know I was terrified. Then was straddling me on her couch and kissing me violently. When she started taking off her shirt, I took hold of her arms and suggested we take a walk along the river.
We walked down the hallway past Jack’s condo. Nan had to pee. I said she could use my guest bathroom. She saw the bourbon bottle on the table, unscrewed the lid and took several swigs, all the while putting a finger to her luscious lips and shushing herself. She put down the bottle, opened the bathroom door, pulled her jeans and panties down and crashed onto the toilet seat. She peed and smiled at me. And passed out, falling to one side and clunking her head on the tile floor.
Have you ever dressed a dead body? I have. It took me an eternity to pull her undies up on her corpse hips and then the jeans. I couldn’t button them, the zipper was caught, and my hands shook. In my panic, I forgot her name.
I fireman-carried her back to her condo and set her on the hall floor. Had the door been locked, I was not going to knock. But it opened. I deposited her on the living room floor, closed the front door and ran for it.
Nan didn’t make an appearance the next day or attend the opening. She bumped her head last night, Craig said, she wasn’t feeling well. If he knew anything, he sure didn’t show it. The play went on without a hitch, and I was Chicago-bound the next morning.
That night, my phone rang. It was Nan. She said she was going to confess to Craig that she and I had “done it;” she just knew she was pregnant. I told her we didn’t do it, and explained how her pants got unbuttoned. She thanked me for being a gentleman and asked if I had any advice for her.
Years later, I was artist-in-residence at a north side Chicago school. I overheard a teacher in the lounge talking about her hometown of Evansville, Indiana. I told her the story minus the names. Oh my god, you were the playwright, she said. I was a teenager then; I was at Jack’s party. I loved your play. Remember Craig and Nan? I used to babysit for them.
Advice to guest artists: Keep your pants up, your shirt on, flirt not; beware of Jack’s Punch.