This is one of two one-act plays written for a workshop in L.A.
AT THE PSYCHIC'S
SCENE: A waiting room. The room is small and generic, it could be the waiting room of a chiropractor, a dentist or a theatrical agent. The chairs are cheap but clean, the reception desk is unattended. A window looks out onto the tops of some palm trees, and there are doors at stage right and stage left. Both doors are closed. ALLY, early thirties, tastefully dressed in a Laura Ashley sort of outfit, is sitting in one of the chairs. She is paging nervously through a magazine. The stage left door opens and LYDIA:enters. Lydia is maybe just a few years older than Ally, and dressed in noticeably more expensive fashion.
LYDIA: Are you the three o’clock?
ALLY: Yes. Is she—?
LYDIA: Miss Zachery’s on the phone, but she said to tell you to go on in.
ALLY: (Standing up, looking nervous) Thanks. I… (She starts for the door, then stops and looks imploringly at LYDIA) I was just wondering… , is there anything I should… . Well… , I mean, should I be prepared for anything that… . Well, that might be—
LYDIA: (Smiling) First time, right?
ALLY: It is. I’m…, I’m a little nervous.
LYDIA: (Consoling) Afraid she’ll be some old hag: a Weird Sister who’ll look you in the eye and speak your doom.
ALLY: (Sort of laughing) Something like that.
LYDIA: Well don’t worry. Miss Zachery is perfectly charming and usually considerate in what she says. I’ve been seeing her for over a year now, and I can’t tell you how much better I feel about my life. How much more in control. Believe me.
ALLY: Thanks. I was just… , well… , you know—
LYDIA: Of course. Mysterious powers probing your innermost thoughts… . I felt the same myself the first time. But it’s really a comfort, you’ll see. Now go on. don’t be afraid.
ALLY: (Still hesitant) I won’t. Thanks.
(ALLY:exits the stage left door and closes it behind herself. LYDIA:is just starting for the stage right door when it opens and Gwyn enters. Gwyn is exactly the same age as Lydia, and from the way she is dressed it would appear that they shop in the same stores.)
GWYN: (Shocked) Lydia!
LYDIA: Gwyn! What on earth… !
GWYN: My God! Of all the people to— Why, I didn’t think you went in for this kind of thing.
LYDIA: (A little embarrassed) Well, I don’t really. I mean, not altogether. But I—
GWYN: Well, I didn’t think so.
(They move together back into the waiting room)
LYDIA: But I try to keep an open mind, you know? A different opinion. It can be helpful, don’t you think?
GWYN: Amazing. Absolutely amazing. I mean, here we are, best friends, and we’re both seeing the same psychic and we don’t even know it. Amazing.
LYDIA: It is strange, isn’t it? And you know, I didn’t think you went in for this sort of thing either.
GWYN: Well, not in a big way or anything. I mean, it’s not like I really believe in it, you know? But it’s cheaper than the shrink. And so much less anxiety involved. You know? It’s like you can take it or leave it, depending how you feel. Are you still seeing Doctor Bellaped.
LYDIA: Oh, of course. But you’re right about Miss Zachery—an occasional word of caution is a refreshing change from all that agonizing self-investigation. God! And if I don’t like what she says, like today, I just figure she’s not quite tuned in. I mean, she can’t be on the beam all the time, can she?
(They sit down and pull the chairs close together)
GWYN: No. But she does come up with some pretty amazing stuff, You have to admit. Even if her predictions aren’t always on the mark. The things she’s able to tell me about myself.
LYDIA: There’s no denying that. It’s like sometimes I think she must have a direct line to—
(LYDIA:stops short, and the two friends look at each other for a moment)
LYDIA: You know, doesn’t it strike you as odd that she’s never mentioned to either of us that she’s seeing the other?
GWYN: Yes, that does seem a little peculiar.
LYDIA: I mean, we are best friends. And it’s not like I haven’t mentioned you enough times.
GWYN: Me too. In fact, I talk about you quite a lot. Nothing bad, you know, but…. But, you’re not suggesting—? I mean—
LYDIA: That our Miss Zachery has been finding out things? Getting information about me from you?
GWYN: And me from you?
LYDIA: And deliberately not telling us?
GWYN: No! I mean, that would be… , well… , sort of… .
LYDIA: It would.
GWYN: Kind of like a sideshow stunt.
LYDIA: And to imagine, I thought she had such remarkable insight.
GWYN: While all the time she was running a cheap swindle on us. Well, you can be sure I’m going to have a few things to say about this!
LYDIA: And wait till I tell Robert. Look, maybe we should both go in there together so we can be witnesses for each other, that way… .
(The stage left door opens and ALLY:enters. She seems to be in a state of shock.)
ALLY: (Mumbling to herself) Dear God…
(ALLY:moves in a daze and stumbles over one of the chairs. LYDIA:and Gwyn get up and help her to her feet.)
ALLY: (Still mumbling) What am I going to do… ?
GWYN: Are you alright?
LYDIA: What is it?
ALLY: (Staring blankly at them) She told me I’m going to die.
GWYN: What! When?
ALLY: (Barely coherent) Today. Now. She said I’m going to die. Miss Zachery, she said—
GWYN: Well, that’s the limit!
GWYN: Here, now you just have a seat.
(They help her into a chair. LYDIA: and Gwyn kneel down on either side of her.)
ALLY: Dear God…
LYDIA: The bitch!
ALLY: (Still dazed) No. She was perfectly nice about it. She was.
LYDIA: Now listen. This doesn’t really mean that you’re really going to die. You see, destiny is, well, it’s like a series of options. See? Sometimes, if we follow our own inclinations, our choices will lead to a predictable end. But there are options. Nothing is inevitable. Didn’t Miss Zachery explain this to you?
ALLY: No. She didn’t explain anything. She just looked in my eyes and said I was going to die. Today. Now. And there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.
LYDIA: (Standing up) Well, maybe it’s a metaphor or something. How, exactly how, did she word it?
ALLY: Let me see…. She said, ah… , “I’m sorry, I see death. You’re time has come.” “When?” I asked. “In the hour,” she said.
LYDIA: Oh. Well…
GWYN: Well don’t you believe it! If you go around thinking bad things are going to happen, they will. Self-fulfilling prophesy, that’s what it is. You believe it’s going to happen, so you make it happen. You step in front of a bus or something.
LYDIA: Besides, we have reason to suspect that Miss Zachery may not be quite all that she claims.
GWYN: That’s right. And she might have just said that because she’s in a shitty mood today.
LYDIA: She told me I was going to loose the person I’m closest to. I mean, that wasn’t very nice, was it? But I’m not that upset about it because I don’t take it all that seriously, and you shouldn’t either. like a fortune cookie
ALLY: Then, you don’t think she can really see the future?
LYDIA: Not that accurately.
GWYN: If she can see it at all.
LYDIA: Look, I think what you should do is go home, have a drink or two, relax and try to forget all about this.
ALLY: How can I forget that I’m going to die? Oh god! What am I going to do?
GWYN: (Standing up) You’re not going to die. That woman is a fraud.
ALLY: That’s not what you said when…
(LYDIA:has opened her purse and taken out a pen and paper)
LYDIA: (Writing) Now listen, here’s my name and phone number. Now you go home, and if this keeps bothering you I want you to call me. Understand? (ALLY nods) My husband Robert is a lawyer, right? A good one. And If you’ve been caused undue stress by this incident, you can have recourse. Okay? (ALLY nods) And you’re not going to die, got it?
(ALLY tries to smile as she get to her feet. LYDIA:hands her the piece of paper.)
ALLY: Thanks. I’m… , I’m sure I’ll be alright. It was just… , you know?
GWYN: You’re not going to die.
ALLY: No…, no. I’m sure I wont. (Still in a daze she picks up LYDIA’S PURSE, puts the slip of paper into it and steps to the stage right door) And thank you.
LYDIA: And you’ll call me if there’s any problem?
ALLY: Yes… , I will. Thanks. (ALLY exits. LYDIA looks at the paper.)
GWYN: God! The nerve of that woman! Telling her something like that. I feel like going right in there and letting her know just what I—!
LYDIA: Now wait. We have to be careful about this. If we do it wrong we’ll spoil any chances in a court action. We have to figure out exactly what we’re going to say, and not say too much. Leave her in suspense about what we’re going to do.
GWYN: Then maybe we shouldn’t do anything. Maybe we should talk to Robert first and tell him what we suspect.
LYDIA: (Thinking) Hemmm… . No, I think we need to confront her. She should at least know that we’re on to her: that we know she’s a fake. Here, we’ll just jot down some ideas and… (She looks for her purse) Oh shit!
LYDIA: That woman! She took my purse!
GWYN: What? Then who’s is this? (she picks up a purse)
LYDIA: Oh Christ! She must have gotten them confused.
GWYN: Well maybe you can stop her. Look out the window, see if she’s—
(LYDIA:starts for the window. Suddenly there is a flash of lightning and a simultaneous crash of thunder. Gwyn runs over and they both look out.)
LYDIA: That was odd. There’s not a cloud in the sky.
GWYN: (Excited) Look! It hit somebody!
LYDIA: Oh my God! It’s her! Gwyn, look. That’s the dress she was wearing. Oh my God!
GWYN: What’s left of it. She’s just a pile of cinders!
LYDIA: God, this is horrible! (They look at each other. From outside the window the sound of a siren can be heard.)
GWYN: Well, I don’t think you can quite chalk that one up to “self-fulfilling prophesy.”
(They step away from the window)
LYDIA: But…, but how else could—
GWYN: Oh, come on! You can’t will yourself to be struck by lightning. Can you?
LYDIA: Well, maybe it was, like, negative ions or something.
LYDIA: (Groping) Well, you know. I mean, like, it’s electricity, right? So maybe she was putting out all this negative energy, right? So that makes negative ions that attract—
GWYN: You can’t be serious?
LYDIA: Well, I…
(The siren gets closer until it’s right outside the window. There is a squeal of pneumatic breaks, then the siren stops and is replaced by the unintelligible squawk of voices speaking over two-way radios. Gwyn goes back to the window and looks out.)
GWYN: She called it. Right on the nose.
LYDIA: (Suddenly worried) She said I was going to loose the one person I’m closest to.
GWYN: Oh… . How well did you know her? (Gestures toward the street)
LYDIA: We’d just met before you came— Oh shit!
GWYN: :Now what?
LYDIA: My purse! (She dashes to the window) What’s going on down there?
GWYN: They’re just standing around in rain coats rubbing their chins.
LYDIA: (Leaning out the window and waving) Excuse me! … Hello! … Excuse me!
GWYN: (Pointing) There.
LYDIA: Hello! Officer! … Yes! Over here!
GWYN: Are firemen officers?
LYDIA: (To the fireman) Yes!
GWYN: I don’t think so.
LYDIA: (To Gwyn) What?
GWYN: I don’t think you call them officer.
LYDIA: Well what—? (Back out the window) Just a second! (To Gwyn) The purse. On the chair. Could you hand it to me. (Gwyn gives her Ally’s purse) Thanks.
GWYN: (Cogitating) But if it wasn’t her…
LYDIA: (Holding the purse out the window ) Excuse me. … Yes. … This is her’s. (Listens) Yes, her’s. (Listens) No, she left it here. (Listens) No I don’t. … Just a minute. (To Gwyn) They want to know who she is. (She opens the purse, takes out a wallet and looks at the credit cards) Hemm…
GWYN: Anything interesting?
LYDIA: (Out the window) Katherine Walinsky. … She lives in Nichol’s Canyon. (Listens) No, I’m Lydia Erikson. That’s my purse. She took it by mistake when she left. (Listens) Of course I’m sure! That’s my purse. I’d like it back please. (She holds Ally’s purse out the window again) Here, take this one. (She tosses it down to the fireman) Now get me mine, would you? (Listens) What do you mean?
GWYN: He won’t give it to you?
LYDIA: He says they can’t just go switching the identification on a dead body.
GWYN: But it’s not your body.
LYDIA: That’s right. (Out the window) Look, that’s the wrong body. This is my body here, not there. That’s my purse. Now could you please— (Listens) But that’s ridiculous! I’m here. This is me. That’s her. Look at the dress. It’s Laura Ashley. I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing that. (Listens) Alright, I’m sorry. … Yes it was in poor taste. (To Gwyn) Great, now he’s pissed off. God! (Out the window) Well look, could you at least give me my keys so I can get home. (Listens) The Mercedes, the SL, over there. (Listens) Yes it’s registered in my name. (Listens) No, it’s in my purse. (Listens) Impounded! (Listens) Evidence! Of what! She was struck by lightening for Christ’s sake! Do you need my car as evidence against God! (Listens) No! I didn’t see it happen!
GWYN: Why don’t you tell him your theory about the ions?
LYDIA: (To Gwyn) This is hopeless. (Out the window) Listen! You’re going to be hearing from my husband about this. He’s a lawyer, you know, and— (Listens) Really! Well I’m not going to forget that you said that!
GWYN: What did he say?
LYDIA: Never mind.
GWYN: Oh. Well anyway, I don’t see what Robert could do. He’s an entertainment lawyer, he handles property rights for independent producers. Not exactly Jack McCoy.
LYDIA: Jack McCoy! Wasn’t that Sam Waterston on some TV show?
GWYN: I suppose. But he was good. And if he was your husband those people down there would show you some respect. You’re not going to get it threatening them with some show biz shark. You should call him.
LYDIA: Jack McCoy?
GWYN: Of course not. Robert. You should call him and see what he says.
LYDIA: My phone’s in my purse.
GWYN: Then use what’s-her-name’s. She won’t mind.
Lydia reaches into Ally’s purse and takes out a cell phone.
LYDIA: I can’t. It doesn’t feel right.
GWYN: You just don’t want to call him, do you, because you know there’s nothing he can do but get mad at you for having your car impounded.
LYDIA: It wasn’t my fault. And I don’t see why Miss Zachery couldn’t have said something about my purse. I would have kept a closer eye on it.
GWYN: Probably didn’t consider it that important.
LYDIA: I think I should be the judge of that.
GWYN: I mean, compared to, well…
LYDIA: What, loosing somebody I’m close to? Boy, this is shaping up to be a really swell day, isn’t it!
GWYN: Closest, you said.
LYDIA: Right. Closest to… . Whatever…
(Pause. They look at each other.)
Well, it could be one of my other friends.
GWYN: Lydia, you don’t have any other friends.
LYDIA: Of course I do.
GWYN: No you don’t. You’re not a likable person.
LYDIA: Well, you’re not exactly Miss Congeniality yourself, are you.
GWYN: You’re right. That’s why I’m not more popular.
LYDIA: But you are, I mean, what about Livey and Jessica and the Bolisses and…
GWYN: Those are acquaintances. Just knowing somebody doesn’t make them your friend. Face it, we’re pretty much it for each other, so if you’re going loose somebody close to you, then it’s going to be either Robert or me. And I know this sounds selfish, but, frankly, I would just as soon it was Robert. You would, too, if you thought about it.
LYDIA: What’s that supposed to mean?
GWYN: You know perfectly well what I mean.
LYDIA: You don’t like Robert.
GWYN: Never did. I hope he dies. Call me if he does.
LYDIA: It’s not your choice, you know?
GWYN: Oh it’s not. Well how’s this? From now on you and me are finished! I don’t want to see you again, I don’t want to talk to you, I don’t even want to hear about you, because I don’t care. Got that? I don’t give a flying shit about you. And if you have any regard for all we’ve meant to each other, you’ll feel the same way.
LYDIA: It won’t work, Gwyn. I can see what you’re doing.
GWYN: (Pleading) Lydia, please! I’m a horrible person. A rotten friend. I don’t even care if your husband dies.
LYDIA: Look, why don’t you just go and ask Miss Zachery?
(Gwyn looks over at the door to Miss Zachery’s office. She hesitates for a moment, then goes over to the window and looks out.)
GWYN: Forget it.
LYDIA: But what if she says it isn’t going to be you… ?
GWYN: And what if she says it is going to be me? And then I start putting out ions and end up being swept into a dustpan like your other friend out there.
LYDIA: She wasn’t my— Oh, they’re not! (She goes to the window)
GWYN: Well, I don’t know what you’d call it.
LYDIA: God! That’s horrible. But she wasn’t my friend.
GWYN: And neither am I. So you better go home and make sure Robert’s insurance is paid up.
LYDIA: I don’t understand how you can be so completely inconsiderate over something as uncertain as this, but if that’s the way you honestly feel…?
GWYN: It is.
LYDIA: Well, then… (She starts for the stage right door, then stops and turns back) I don’t suppose you could give me a lift?
GWYN: Forget it.
LYDIA: But how am I supposed to get home?
GWYN: Walk. Take the bus. What do I care?
LYDIA: Oh, come on! You can not like me. Fine. But you don’t have to be a total bitch about it.
GWYN: Don’t I? Well that’s too bad then. Go on, take the bus. Maybe you’ll meet somebody who wants to be your new best friend.
LYDIA: (Exasperated) God… !
(LYDIA:grabs the door, yanks it open and begins to stomp out. She stops and turns back.)
LYDIA: (Hesitant) Gwyn… ? We can be friends again? I mean, like if Robert dies?
GWYN: I don’t see why not.
LYDIA: Then I’ll call you if it happens.
GWYN: Okay. But no tricks. He’s got to be really dead, not just sick or something.
LYDIA: Alright. (Pause) We could go out maybe. Have dinner? After the funeral?
(LYDIA:exits. Gwyn waits a moment, then goes over to the stage left door. She reaches out to knock, hesitates, then pulls her hand back. For another moment she stands there, then she goes over to the window, leans her head out and looks around.)
GWYN: (Out the window) Okay! … Yes, I’ll give you a ride!
(Gwyn pulls her head back in and starts for the stage right door.)
GWYN: (To herself) But doesn’t mean we’re friends. It just means I’m a good person. (She exits)