Photo Credit: Deborah Lowery

Jennifer O’Grady’s plays have been produced by theaters in the U.S. and U.K. and have won the Henley Rose Award and other honors. Her work is published or forthcoming in The Best Ten-Minute Plays, Thirty New Ten-Minute Plays, Best Women’s Stage Monologues, Best Contemporary Monologues for Women and Stage It 3. She is also an award-winning poet and author of the poetry books White (Mid-List First Series Award) and Exclusions & Limitations (2018). Her poems appear in numerous places including Harper’s, The New Republic, The Writers Almanac, Poetry and BBC Radio 4. She lives with her family near New York City. (www.jenniferogrady.net)

TOMORROW OR NEXT YEAR

Jennifer O'Grady

CHARACTERS

 

MACKENZIE

A high-school student. A doer.

 

CAROLINE

A classmate of MACKENZIE’s. 

PLACE and TIME

A high school in the U.S. The near future. 

SYNOPSIS:
Mackenzie wants to help. Caroline wants to forget. A play about growing up in today’s United States. 

(A classroom, after school. MACKENZIE and CAROLINE  are sitting at a table.

Boxes of postcards are on the table. 

MACKENZIE is counting postcards with writing on them.
In front of CAROLINE are blank postcards and a pen. She isn't moving.)

MACKENZIE

Okay I’ve got seventy-nine. With Anthony’s and Bailey’s it’s . . .a hundred and four. Did you finish yours?

CAROLINE

What?

MACKENZIE

Arkansas and Wyoming. Did you finish yours?

(CAROLINE looks away.)

I have a big Spanish test tomorrow.

CAROLINE

So?

MACKENZIE

So I kind of don’t wanna be here all afternoon.

 (Silence.)

Wanna go get something from the vending machine?

CAROLINE

The vending machine sucks.

MACKENZIE

At least they fixed it. And that window.

(Long pause.)

You know what? Why don’t I…?

(MACKENZIE reaches for CAROLINE’s postcards. CAROLINE shoves them away hard. They scatter.)

MACKENZIE

What’s wrong with you?

CAROLINE

What’s the point of this?

MACKENZIE

You know what the point is. It’s to show them we understand.

CAROLINE

By writing them stupid postcards?

MACKENZIE

They aren’t stupid and we all agreed.

CAROLINE

You mean Mackenzie agreed.

MACKENZIE

It wasn’t just me, we all—

CAROLINE

I didn’t even want to be here!

MACKENZIE

But -- you said…

CAROLINE

You trapped me. You cornered me in Geometry and I couldn’t get out until you made me say yes.

MACKENZIE

I thought you wanted to—

CAROLINE

I didn’t! You trapped me!

MACKENZIE

I didn’t—

CAROLINE

YOU TRAPPED ME YOU TRAPPER!

 

MACKENZIE

What’s wrong with you today?

CAROLINE

These are just really stupid!

MACKENZIE

They aren’t We got postcards like these.

CAROLINE

Well that’s stupid.

MACKENZIE

When I got notes likes this, I felt like I wasn’t…

 

CAROLINE

What? Dead?

 

MACKENZIE

Alone. I felt like I wasn’t alone and that’s the point.

 

CAROLINE

Those postcard-people don’t know us.

 

MACKENZIE

It doesn’t matter.

 

CAROLINE

They don’t know us and they don’t care.

MACKENZIE

But Caroline—

 

CAROLINE

They don’t care and you know why? Because they’re terrified, just like we are!

 

(A beat.)

 

 MACKNEZIE

Were.

 

(Pause.)

 

CAROLINE

What if there was someone else?

MACKENZIE

There wasn’t.

CAROLINE

How do you know?

 

MACKENZIE

My uncle’s a cop. They know these things.

 

CAROLINE

What if there’s someone else out there?

 

MACKENZIE

There isn’t.

 

CAROLINE

But how do you…?

 

MACKENZIE

The police are everywhere now. They’re on top of it.

 

CAROLINE

What about tomorrow, or next week or next year or…?

 

MACKENZIE

Caroline. You need to calm down.

 

CAROLINE

LIKE THAT’S EASY NOW?

 

MACKENZIE

I know it isn’t. Will it ever stop? I don’t know. Will Jackson ever stop wetting his bed? I don’t know that either.

 

CAROLINE

Your brother’s wetting the bed?

 

MACKENZIE

He wasn’t even here. Will Delia stop getting eczema? Will Anthony or Bailey stop needing therapy? Will Mason come back to school? Will Maddie get off her Zoloft, will—

 

CAROLINE

I don’t wanna be like them.

 

(Beat.)

 

MACKENZIE

I’m on Zoloft now too.

CAROLINE

I don’t mean them or you. I mean them.

 

MACKENZIE

I know. But my cousin’s cousin died of leukemia.

 

CAROLINE

That sucks. But it isn’t the same.

MACKENZIE

My grandpa died of a stroke, my aunt had ovarian cancer…

 

CAROLINE

They aren’t the same thing.

 

MACKENZIE

I know, I get that. But if we all just sit around, thinking all these (bad thoughts)…then it’s like we’re all stuck in this huge ugly cloud. I don’t want my life or what’s left of it to suck.

 

CAROLINE

Okay, but…

MACKENZIE

That isn’t all. Because we were here too. And if we don’t remember who will?

(Pause)

 

So could you please do Arkansas and Wyoming now?

 

CAROLINE

What do I tell them?

 

MACKENZIE

Just say that we understand. Tell them how many people here, that we were here too when it happened and we understand.

 

CAROLINE

“When it happened.” You mean when he did it?

 

MACKENZIE

When he did it, we were here. Just tell them that.

 

(Beat. Then CAROLINE takes a postcard and pen.)

 

MACKENZIE

Caroline…you don’t really think there was someone else, or will be?

 

(Beat.)

 

CAROLINE

Uh-uh.

 

(A beat. And then they write.)

 

(END OF PLAY)

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