Mary Caroline Rogers is a native of Princeton, NJ. She is a playwright and actress. Mary’s plays have been produced and read by many theaters including: Actors Theatre of Santa Cruz, PKE in Los Angeles, Playwrights Circle of Palm Springs, The Vortex Theatre of Albuquerque, FUSION Theatre in Albuquerque, The EstroGenius Festival in New York City, Arizona Women’s Theatre Company in Phoenix, and Itinerant Theatre in Lake Charles, LA. Mary’s play The Memory of Us will be produced by Actors Theatre of Santa Cruz’s 8 tens @8 festival in January 2020. Her play A Shared View was selected as a winner in The Raven Theatre’s Short Play Festival, in Sonoma County, in February 2020. Mary lives in Tucson, Arizona, where she teaches middle school.

Counting Dogs Like Sheep

Mary Caroline Rogers

CHARACTERS

AMELIA (20's-30's)

SAM (20's-30's)

Ages Flexible

TIME: Now

PLACE: Anywhere, USA

In the deep east, dun and blind,

And the blue noon is over us, 

And the multitudinous 

Billows murmur at our feet

Where the earth and ocean meet,

And all things seem only one

In the universal sun

-Percy Bysshe Shelley, "The Invitation"

A cluttered, messy room. Amelia lies face down on the couch, dozing. The sunlight filters through the drawn shades. Suddenly there is a crash outside and many dogs begin to growl and bark incessantly. Shouting from outside and pounding on the door. Amelia flops over and opens her eyes, staring up at the ceiling.

SAM

(Yelling) 

Amelia! Open the door!

(The dogs continue to bark in a frenzy.)

Hey, come on. I'm being attacked out here!  

AMELIA

(She sits up groggily, and holds her head.)

Hold on!

(She is fully dressed, in jeans and a shirt. She stands up and shuffles to the door,  opening it. Sam barges in, his face flushed.)

SAM

Jesus! Those damn dogs are crazy!

AMELIA

(Sweetly, to the dogs) 

It's okay, babies. Just my brother.

(She shuts the door.)

They're good watchdogs.

(The barking subsides.)

SAM

Good watchdogs? They lack the recognition factor. They need to know who to bark at, who to weed out...and who to submit to. Who to trust.

AMELIA

You want them to trust people?

SAM

The right people. The ones who mean no harm.

AMELIA

Good luck with that. Sam, these dogs are all rescues...strays, abandoned, abused...trust is not on their immediate radar.

SAM

They have no business biting me.

AMELIA

They bit you?

(She grabs his hand.)

Where?

SAM

There-- see?

AMELIA

What a wimp.

(She drops his wrist.)

 

SAM

Nice. Your concern is overwhelming.

AMELIA

It's just a little nip. Big deal.

SAM

A little nip today, tomorrow, a definite lockdown of the jaw. Get a grip on me, and they'll take me down. Then where will you be?

(pause)

AMELIA

What do you mean?

SAM

I'm the only one who'll come over here. Mom and Dad, they can't...they're afraid they'll get knocked over. They're too old, Amelia.

AMELIA

They're not so old.

 

SAM

Seventy is old. None of us is getting any younger.

AMELIA

(She walks over and plugs in some coffee.) 

I'm making coffee. You want a cup?

SAM

Sure.

(He walks over and opens a pizza box. Takes out a slice and sniffs it, and puts it back.)

So, how many?

AMELIA

What?

SAM

Dogs?

AMELIA

Oh. Seven. 

(beat)

Wait, no, because Freddy showed up about four days ago, and then Munroe was dumped...so that makes...

SAM

Nine? You have nine, now?

AMELIA

Yeah. Today I have nine.

SAM

So...that's it, right? I mean, you can't save them all.

(Amelia hands him a cup of coffee.)

AMELIA

Black okay?

SAM

Did you hear me?

AMELIA

I don't have any cream.

SAM

No more dogs. Nada. Got it?

AMELIA

If you came over to lecture me, I'm not in the mood.

SAM

(He waits a moment.)

I came over...because no one else will.

AMELIA

Yeah well, I don't give a shit, okay?

(She walks over and sits down on the couch, and picks up a magazine. Sam stands there awkwardly.)

SAM

And it's not because they aren't worried about you...it's because they can't get past the fucking dogs....and if they happen to make it up to the front door, you can't be bothered to answer.

AMELIA

I don't like people just dropping by.

SAM

Then answer your phone. Your elderly mother is concerned.

AMELIA

Since when? I mean, since when did she start worrying about me? When she became...elderly? Suddenly she has some maternal instincts?

SAM

Okay--

AMELIA

She doesn't even like me.

SAM

That's ridiculous. 

AMELIA

It started in middle school....I was being punished for not being someone else. For not being like her. Do you know she took my kittens to the pound when I was at school...I came home and they were gone...they were making a mess. Making a mess! They were my only friends...and she killed them!

SAM

Come on, you don't know that for sure.

AMELIA

Yes I do! And Dad just took it. Pussy whipped from the get go.

SAM

Okay, let's just stop. The point is, you have way too many animals.

AMELIA

(Suddenly)

I think I'm gonna lie down. My head is killing me.

SAM

You just woke up. Look, hon, let's just take a drive or something. Get out of the house.

(Amelia lies down on the couch and says nothing.)

When is the last time you got out? (beat) Amelia, you hear me?

AMELIA

Yes.

SAM

Do you good to get some fresh air.

AMELIA

(After a moment) 

Why do people say that?

SAM

What?

AMELIA

Fresh air?

SAM

(Wearily) 

It's just an expression.

AMELIA

It's like...is the air out there better for you...oxygen just pumping into your cells…releasing all the pain?  

(Sam shrugs, saying nothing.)

I think it's more toxic. It's too full of the...human race.

SAM

So you prefer to be holed up with your dogs?

AMELIA

Yes! I do! As a matter of fact, we understand each other. They've been abused and torn up too. And I look into their eyes and see---they remember. All of it. The trauma.

SAM

(Uneasily)

Good coffee.

(He turns to get some more.)

AMELIA

Those memories that stalk you...the air is stale and there's no hope left. Zero expectations. Just that feeling you have when you exhale too fast...you want to close your eyes and turn off the lights...so you don't remember.

SAM

(Pause. Sam looks around.) 

What if I call someone? One of your friends...we could meet up for some lunch?

AMELIA

If I go outside can I close my eyes? No, that won't work either.

SAM

What?

AMELIA

See, because even if I close my eyes, my brain--it's so sharp, intact...it constantly transmits these images, and you know, I try and sleep so I can stop. Seeing them. But it doesn't work....so my doctor gives me some Xanax but not too much because it might be risky and I could have an accident so I just take a half and then finally...I fall asleep. But then they start again.

SAM

The headaches?

AMELIA

My dreams.

(She stares at him.)

They hold me hostage.

SAM

(He takes out his phone.) 

I should call someone.

AMELIA

And I get swept back into that landscape. Like it was yesterday. I can see all their faces...carefree....laughing. Soft skin, tiny innocent smiles. Playing, their little backpacks lined up by the door. I stand there and I start to count....it's early morning and even though it's a Monday, I feel good. I didn't go out last night so no wine hangover...fresh and upbeat. Unusual for me. So I count. The backpacks. I love looking at them, something about them is so tender, you know? Abby with the green frog backpack sitting at table one, Jeremy has the Spider Man and he never stops talking even when I give him that look which means quiet... and then Lauren that little doll with the red hair and freckles--she has The Little Mermaid... she helps me with the daily calendar and then the clock...I notice it and for some reason it seems slow today. It says nine am but it's stopped moving...the second hand just hovers and then I hear it...that sound like distant firecrackers and the children laugh and think we're having a party, but then the sun...it's blacked out...pulled behind this mass of gray clouds so the room goes dark. Nothing but shadows. And Anthony tugs my jacket, and says Miss..I think it's going to rain. I can hear thunder. And he looks up at me and he's crying and I ask why are you crying sweetie, and he whispers...I'm afraid. I'm afraid of that noise.

(Beat)

And you know what I say? The fucking dumbest thing I could say....there's nothing to be frightened of. The last thing that little boy heard from his teacher was a lie!

(Pause)

Those little backpacks lined up in a row....that's what I see. In my dreams. I'm lying there...and it's silent...I can't move and I can taste the blood and I think I'm dead...but I can feel my heart...it's still beating....Anthony is curled up against my leg and I try and reach him with my arm and he must be asleep. But his eyes are open and I stare at him and I start to shake and I can't stop. And I wish that was my body! Why didn't he kill me!

SAM

(He moves to her and gently tries to touch her.) 

You don't know what you're saying.

AMELIA

When I wake up, I'm lying on the sofa. My dogs are all in here....and I start to count. I count the dogs, one by one, like counting sheep. To help me sleep, so I know I have all these dogs with me, in this room, and yes, I did save them. I saved their lives. I whisper their names, I hold them close, I feel their breath on my cheek...their hearts beating next to mine. I whisper to them. You're saved. You're saved...you're saved....nothing to be frightened of.....

(She exhales.)

(Sam kneels down next to Amelia, and takes her hand. He brushes her hair out of her face. Pause.) 

SAM

(Softly) 

Does it work?

(Amelia looks up at Sam. There is a long pause.)

AMELIA

(She holds on to him.)

I think I'm gonna need a whole lot more. Dogs.

(She buries her head into his shoulder and begins to weep. Sam holds her as the dogs begin to whine and bark. The lights slowly fade.)

THE END