Driveway Theater had its world premiere in the Midwestern suburbs on May 21, 2013 under the direction of absolutely no one. Soundtrack by Sheryl Crow, for no particular reason except that no one bothered to change the music and it happened to be playing.
Morning. A driveway somewhere in the Midwestern suburbs where a woman and two teenagers, a boy of about 18 years and a girl, who is 15, are approaching a small black sedan, which is parked slightly askew. The woman's hair and clothes are also slightly askew and she has the air of someone who is trying to remember something. It is the very last time the three of them will ever be in the car together on the way to school. But she doesn't realize this until later. In fact, until just this second, as she is typing this sentence.
Girl: Can I drive?
Boy: No. You'd just have to switch drivers a mile away. It makes no sense
Girl: How come you let him make all the decisions?
Woman: (starts to speak)
Boy: Who parks like this? When are you going to learn to park?
Woman: (starts to answer)
Boy: Why are we leaving so early? School doesn't even start for 40 minutes. Why do you always let her decide when to leave?
ACT I, Scene Two
Interior of car. Woman behind the wheel. Boy in the passenger seat. Girl in back.
Woman: (addresses boy) So what would you like to eat at your graduation party?
Boy: I don't know. Food.
Girl: Spell his name out in pancakes.
Woman: Oh. Remember when I did that? Do you want me to spell your name out in pancakes?
Boy: You did that for her. That wasn't for me.
Girl: You never spelled my name out in pancakes. How come you never spelled my name out in pancakes?
Driveway of suburban high school, five minutes later. The girl has just exited the car, but the boy is still seated in the passenger seat, flipping through a copy of Wired magazine and making no move to get out. It is the last day of his senior year.
Boy: Why are we here so early? The doors aren't even open yet.
Woman: Someone just went in.
Boy: (looks up briefly before returning to his magazine.) They were buzzed in.
Woman: (reading over his shoulder from the driver's seat) Zombies are getting faster. I knew it.
Boy: I hate when they do stories like that. It's just silly.
Woman: I read that magazine for stories like that. (Pulls her wallet from her purse and pauses to choose from between denominations of currency.) Is $10 enough?
Boy: Maybe. (He takes the money but still does not get out of the car.)
Woman: Don't forget to pick up your graduation tickets.
Woman: (sighs.) Here. At the school. They sent out an e-mail, which I printed and taped to the refrigerator door three days ago.
Boy: Can you just text it to me?
Woman: Why would I text it to you? You are already here. At the school. Where the tickets actually are. Why don't you just ask someone inside? You know, where the tickets are.
Boy: (looks at her as if she has just suggested something ridiculous.) Where are you going right now? Just go home, read the note on the refrigerator and then text it to me.
Woman: (Opens mouth to speak, but then changes her mind. Boy exits.)
Later that same morning, same suburban driveway, same car, same woman behind the wheel. A man dressed for work and carrying a briefcase gets into the passenger seat with the air of someone who is trying to remember something. No one speaks. The woman fumbles briefly with the iPod connected to the car's speakers, trying to figure out what song was playing earlier during the conversation about pancakes, zombies and graduation tickets. Some song she hasn't heard in forever. Not that you could call it a conversation. She backs out of the driveway, listening, which she knows is a mistake. A half mile away, the man exits. He does not notice she is crying, or maybe she just has something in her eye?
She returns to the house, walks into the kitchen and pulls a note from the refrigerator door. Picks up her phone and begins to text:
"Seniors will pick up caps, gowns, honor tassels and commencement ceremony tickets in the Commons at Door A."
Call me a crank, but I'm skeptical when people tell me I'm going to miss stuff like this when the boy goes off to college in the fall.
It would be like getting sentimental about diaper changes or melted crayons in the back seat of the car or that time when he bit you because you wouldn't let go of his hand in the store or how he used to insist on carrying around that giant stuffed panda he could barely get his arms around and then he'd expect you to carry him and the panda and you would of course, because it was kind of adorable even though you could barely see where you were going over the top of that stupid smelly bear, which he called "pamba" in that little voice and oh god, I wonder what became of that bear?
Still, this is really annoying.
from the Boy, Esq. archives: Can you tell me how to get back to Sesame Street?
You know what's even more adorable than teenage boys? Pretty much anything.
Also, the teenage girls who insist on cooking for them. As a role model for these young women, I can't really say that I approve.
As the mother running Camp Eat-Around-the-Clock for Teenage Boys, it is going to the top of my list of Things to Love About 17-Year-Old Boys.
Best Chocolate Chip Pancake Recipe Ever:
1 17-year-old girl from across the street
1 bag of chocolate chips
Send bag of chocolate chips across the street with teenage boy. Wait approximately half an hour.
Open door to teenage girl bearing giant plate of chocolate chip pancakes, which you will not even have to wash.
from the archives:
I walk into the kitchen to find Boy, Esq., 17, standing in front of the refrigerator drinking directly from the milk jug. Again.
"Sorry," he says. "I forgot. That you were there."
from the archives of insincere apologies: We have ways of making you talk
1. Ask "did you buy any food-food?" when your mother comes home with $250 worth of groceries.
2. Refuse to define what is meant by the term "food-food." You know it when you see it.
3. Start every other conversation by asking "what are we having for dinner?"
4. Open every cabinet in the kitchen while sighing between meals.
5. Stare at pantry contents in disapproval. This is no way to live.
6. Insist that you have not eaten all day no matter how many plates you have used.
7. Be uncharacteristically nice to your little sister, then ask her if she wants to make cookies.
8. Drink from milk jug while staring at refrigerator contents until temperature drops 20 degrees.
9. Later, complain that the temperature in the refrigerator has dropped 20 degrees.
10. Be the plate. Time spent on dishes, napkins or silverware is time spent still hungry.
from the care and feeding of boys archives: The Virtual Food Critic
It's the same look he gave me when I got stuck helping him with his algebra homework back in fifth or sixth grade - a span of time described in parenting terms as seems like yesterday.
One day he is wide-eyed with disbelief at the discovery that I don't know everything.
The next, he is open-mouthed at the revelation that I know anything at all.
Good god, I think, does he believe all these books scattered across the house are here for decoration?
But I don't say it. I remember how dumb my parents were when I was 17.
Also, William Howard Taft was just a lucky guess.
"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." - The Great Gatsby, by William Howard Taft.
Photo: Boy, Esq. with Lego Richard Nixon, who I believe succeeded William Howard Taft as president of the United States.
from the Boy, Esq. archives: Payback is a mother
It was much ado about nothing, according to the boy. But of course, he would say that. He's the one who threw the penny, which may or may not have struck his sister in the eye.
At 14, the girl is a stage veteran who does not pass up an opportunity for ado, which included a tempest of tears and an impressive selection of 21st century oaths. In lieu of an apology, the boy offered his opinion that 1. The penny had struck nowhere near her eye. 2. He hadn't meant to hit her, and 3. it was all just theater anyway.
If Beatrice and Benedick could set aside their squabbling in the face of so much turmoil, surely we could get to the end of one Shakespearean comedy without another scene.
But you don't have to be a theater major to know what comes next. Because it's not truly Shakespearean until a second pair of combatants is drawn into the fray.
And so it went. My position was that 1. It was irrelevant where she was struck. 2. The boy's aim had produced four water polo goals from three times the distance an hour earlier, and 3. The girl was playing the scene for all it was worth, but that is what you get when you pick a fight with an actor.
I was for kicking the boy out of the room. He had zero interest in whether Benedick would renounce his commitment to lifelong bachelorhood or whether Keanu Reeves was going to take his shirt off again. The boy was there for no other reason than to try to foil our plans to find out. Which is why he was throwing coins in the first place. Duh.
Mr. Kamikaze was of the opinion that the girl's performance should go unrewarded even if that meant insisting that Boy, Esq. stay in the room watching a romantic farce in which he had already declared his complete lack of interest. This is what is known in parenting terms as "ruining the evening to make a point."
Also "family night."
from the Shakespearean archives:
But I do not remember any prom "proposals" that looked like this.
The only thing 80s guys did in advance of prom night was buy a corsage, wash the car and harbor wild hopes.
The "proposal" usually took place at your locker between classes. Or was delivered through intermediaries bearing notebook paper folded into little squares.
Not that it wasn't perfect.
Today's Romeos are expected to produce a spectacle of choreography and multimedia finesse. They are, after all, trying to impress a generation of girls who still know all the words to the songs from High School Musical and never miss an episode of Glee.
At a bare minimum, there must be balloons or flowers. But 150 of your closest friends spelling it out with light sticks is a better way to go, according to my sources.
Part of me really wants to applaud the teenage girls who made this happen, even if the inspiration is borrowed from television and movie scripts. Part of me is thinking: Yes, it's a huge step forward for romance, but what is it going to cost me?
Note to Boy, Esq.: When I was in high school, the boys had real jobs and prom tickets were $3. Also, my hair looked like that on purpose.
from the romance archives: Top 5 Ways Middle School Boys will get it wrong on Valentine's Day, Match.com Junior High, Flush with Romance
In the ruins of a place that was once a perfectly clean kitchen lies a frying pan glistening in butter and batter-coated bread. One boy and one girl, ages 14 and 17, will take up plates against one another. Only the batter-maker stands between them and breakfast.
At 17, he's slim, but strong. Three years of swimming and water polo have left him with muscles and reflexes his competitors do not share. Also, his competitors are still asleep.
The plate is already in his hands.
"How long?" he says.
His eyes never leave the spatula as it slips between the bread and butter. These are the first words of the day and I ignore them, knowing from experience that no answer will satisfy him.
There are only six slices of bread left; four in the pan and two heels in the bag. These go uneaten when bread is plentiful, in the first days after a grocery run. Not today. Especially not after they have been battered, browned and covered in imitation maple syrup. Today every piece is a prize to be fought over. The boy's eyes flicker across the nearly empty bread bag and he begins to calculate.
The stakes are higher than usual; we are running low on syrup too.
The girl's disadvantage looks insurmountable. She's younger, smaller and, being asleep, knows nothing of the bread shortage.
But the boy's face has lost none of its concentration. He takes nothing for granted. She could wake up at any minute. Also, he suspects the game is rigged. How else to explain that she seemed to know where the Girl Scout cookies were hidden? And why are her chores always so much easier?
He is right to be wary. Because I also have a strategy, honed over more than decade of carving, scooping and counting out treats for the beady-eyed little forensic accountants known as "children."
I will divide the pieces evenly, leaving each player with three pieces, including one heel.
But I miscalculated by not using the heels first. Now I've got four premium pieces coming out of the pan at the same time and only one competitor with a plate in the ring.
I slide two pieces on to his plate and move on to coating the heels in batter as if I do not notice his still-waiting posture.
"What?" I say finally. "Two for you, two for your sister. And one heel apiece." He sputters, objects, says something about her not even being awake.
"It's fair," I say, for the millionth time.
His face falls and for the first time, you can see that he had really allowed himself to believe.
"You pick now to start being fair," he says in disgust.
"You're welcome," I say. I turn off the stove.
from the archives: How to feed 4 teenagers for 2 weeks for under $1 million