(Placed second in Hibiscus Coast writers scriptwriting competition.)
On A Cloud explores the impact on family members following an unexpected death. Raw emotions, anger and regrets are laid bare. The story confronts the questions: do any of us who have been loved unreservedly, as only a mother can love, ever die.
Laura, a single mother of two teenage boys, one now deceased.
Joseph, Laura’s youngest son, twelve years old. The son who does everything right.
Aaron, Laura’s deceased son, a sixteen-year-old school drop-out. The son who did everything wrong.
Gretta Winstable, funeral celebrant, a kindly, older woman not known by the family.
Red-haired youth – an associate of Aaron.
Extras: Four pall-bearers and Mr Price, the school principal.
(A one-act, two-scene play, best suited to a proscenium theatre)
Stage set-up: A kitchen. A kitchen table placed in the acting area. Joseph and Laura sit at right-angles to each other, facing the audience. A large clock hangs on the wall behind them. Both mother and son are dressed in funeral attire. Above the table and slightly to the side, a fluffy cloud hovers. Aaron lies stretched out on the cloud, his head resting in his cupped hand.
Laura: (reaches across the corner of the table and holds her son’s hand) Joseph, Aaron’s death was not your fault. You mustn’t blame yourself for what happened that day at the beach. Aaron certainly wouldn’t want that.
Joseph: (jerks his hand away from his mothers’ clasp) What would Aaron want, mum? Would he want to be dead because of me?
Laura: (sighing heavily) Aaron was a strong swimmer but the surf on that day…
Joseph: Yeah, the surf was strong that day and, Aaron told me not to go in, that there was a powerful rip, but I didn’t listen. If I had, he wouldn’t be dead.
Aaron: (leaning over the side of the cloud) You’re right, little bro, I don’t want to be dead, I’m not ready for death, it’s not my time. For once, why couldn’t you listen to me?
Joseph: (rubbing his ear) Aargh!
Laura: What’s wrong with your ear? Let me take a look.
Laura stands, moves to Joseph’s side and attempts to look in Joseph’s ear. Joseph clamps his palm over his ear.
Joseph: It’s nothing, just a weird whooshing sound.
Aaron: A weird whooshing, hah? You get a weird whooshing in your ear while I get a forever weird stuck on this stupid fluffy cloud. Totally bored out of my brain, nothing to do, no-one to speak to, only you.
Joseph: (clamps his hands over both ears) Aargh.
Laura: Are both your ear’s troubling you? Maybe you have an infection.
Joseph: It feels like water swishing around, like when I got tossed over and over before Aaron pulled me from the surf.
Aaron: Yeah, you were tossed over and over. I struggled to get a hold of you, kept going under myself. When I finally did get a grip, you thrashed out with your legs, kicking like a spooked horse. At one point, I thought about letting you go, letting you drown and saving myself.
Laura: (pushing back her chair, stands) I think there is a bottle of ear drops in the bathroom cabinet.
Laura leaves the stage, off-left.
Joseph: Why didn’t you? Why didn’t you let me go and save yourself?
Aaron: Hah, let the number one son drown? That was never an option, and you know it.
Joseph: I’m sorry, I’m really sorry. I was just so mad at you. You promised mum you’d finished with drugs, that you’d stop hanging out with all those losers and that you’d go back to school. When I saw you with the red-haired guy behind the dairy, I knew you’d lied to mum. You shouted at that guy that if he didn’t deliver on time, he’d get the bash.
Aaron: Yeah, and I tried to explain, but you didn’t want to know.
Joseph: Right, that it wasn’t what it looked like, it was something else. Only you couldn’t tell me what the something else was, could you?
Aaron: That’s right, I couldn’t.
Joseph: You do remember it’s mum’s birthday tomorrow, don’t you? What sort of a day do you think she’s going to have?
Laura: (returning with the ear drops.) Hold still.
Laura: (squeezing drops of the liquid into each ear.) Better?
Joseph: (rubbing his ears) Hmm, yes, I think so.
Laura: (remaining standing, glances at the wall clock.) It’s time, Joseph. It’s time to farewell Aaron. The taxi is due at any moment.
Laura gathers her handbag from the table and cups a hand under her son’s elbow. Joseph doesn’t move.
Joseph: (sniffling) Mum, I can’t do this.
Laura: (slumps back into her chair, rubs her son’s arm.) I know this is the most challenging situation you’ve ever had to face, but…
Joseph: It’s more than challenging, mum, it’s impossible. It’s impossible to say goodbye, goodbye to my brother, goodbye forever …
Laura: (looking earnestly at her son) Aaron needs you there, I need you there. Do this for both of us.
Aaron: (in an angry whisper) Yeah, who’s being selfish now? Accusing me of being selfish, of never thinking of anyone but myself, of hurting mum over and over. The wasted druggie, you called me.
Joseph: (burying his head in his hands) Aargh, stop!
Aaron: Man-up! Mum’s only got you now. You’re no longer the little golden kid, the can-do-no-wrong, kid. Mum needs you, and if you love her half as much as she loves you, you’ll get your arse out of that chair, and …
Joseph: (pushing back his chair and standing up) Okay, let’s go.
Stage set-up: A chapel at a funeral home. Two large vases of flowers sit at the front corners of the stage. At the back of the stage, a stain-glass window with light coming in. Sombre, piped music plays. A coffin is placed in the acting area, centre front. Above the coffin is the fluffy white cloud. Aaron is stretched-out on the cloud, head resting in his cupped hand. On the left side is a podium.
Twelve seats, six on each side and three in each row are arranged at an angle, in the downstage area. The front row of seats is empty. In the second row on the left side, sits a red-head youth, and on the right side sits bald-headed Mr Price, the school principal. From the back of the hall, Laura and Joseph enter. As Laura and Joseph pass, Mr Price turns, grimaces, and nods at Joseph.
Laura hastens her pace as she approaches the coffin. Reaching the raised coffin, she awkwardly spreads her arms, and her upper body over the polished wooden top, and rests her head. Shards of soft light, shine through the lead-light window beyond the coffin. The music ceases.
The celebrant enters from a side door, (off right) takes her place at the podium. Joseph guides his mother to the front row (their backs face the audience)
Gretta Winstable : (clears her throat, looks at the small gathering) My name is Gretta Winstable. We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of Aaron, and while I didn’t have the honour to know…
Aaron: (perched on the cloud, leans over) Nice day, isn’t it? The sun is shining, the birds are singing, all is well with the world, well nearly.
Joseph: How can you be so flippant at your own funeral?
Laura: (turning sideways)Joseph? Did you say something?
Aaron: Flippant? You think it’s easy for me to be here, huh? For starters, the turn-out is pitiful, and that celebrant woman doesn’t know shite about me. Goes to show, my life didn’t amount to much, eh?
Joseph rests his head on his mother’s shoulder, closing his eyes. Laura’s shoulders heave.
Gretta Winstable: … the day Aaron pulled his younger brother from the surf, he made the ultimate sacrifice. He gave his life.
Gretta Winstable: (spreads her arms) Would anyone care to share their thoughts about Aaron?
Joseph springs to his feet and steps towards the podium. He faces the audience.
Joseph: I want to speak about who my brother really was.
Aaron: Way to go, buddy. Be sure to mention how handsome I am/was, and my bravery, and …
Joseph: I got it, pipe down, I need to concentrate.
Aaron: Just one other thing, tell mum that although I didn’t always show it, I did love her, that I still do,
Joseph: My brother Aaron may not have been a model son, he may not have always made the best choices…
Aaron: Steady on, mate. That’s a bit harsh.
Joseph: Sssh. (pauses) But he had a wicked sense of humour. Aaron saw the funny side, even in the direst situation. I know for sure that right now he’ll be stretched-out on some fluffy cloud up above cracking smart-arse jokes about his own send-off, his own funeral.
Red-haired guy: (laughs) Too right!
Joseph: Aaron was intelligent, way smarter than what he portrayed. Aaron could figure things out, see alternative solutions and fix a problem. Best of all, Aaron was the kindest person I’ve known. He’d do anything for anybody even if it was detrimental to himself. (pauses) He and I argued the day he died. If I’d listened to him that day, he’d not have died saving me. (pauses, looks directly at his mum.) Mum, although he didn’t always show it, Aaron truly loved you. He always will.
Aaron: Wow! Pretty cool words, bro. Thank you.
Joseph returns to his seat. Sombre music plays. Four pall-bearer emerge from the back of the chapel, (off left) take their positions beside the coffin and carry the casket down the aisle. Joseph and Laura, arms linked, follow behind. The red-haired guy stands, slips between the seats and presses a small, shiny red box into Laura’s hand.
Red-haired guy: It’s from your son, Mrs Hunt. It’s from Aaron.
Josephglances over his shoulder towards the cloud, looking puzzled.
Aaron: Yep, that’s right, bro. A present for mum. I had intended giving it to her myself, but, the script got rewritten.
Laura opens the box and takes out a silver bracelet.
Aaron: Don’t worry, little brother.I’ll always be here for you, still whispering in your ear.
Laura holds the bracelet up to the light and reads the inscription.
Laura: To the best Mum ever, love never dies, Aaron.