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CHRIS: Sit down, Dad. I want to talk to you.

KELLER [looks at him searchingly a moment, and sitting . . .]: The trouble is the Goddam newspapers. Every month some boy turns up from nowhere, so the next one is going to be Larry, so ...

CHRIS: All right, all right, listen to me. (Slight pause. KELLER sits on settee.] You know why I asked Annie here, don't you?

KELLER [he knows, but ...): Why?

CHRIS: You know.

KELLER: Well, I got an idea, but... What's the story?

CHRIS: I'm going to ask her to marry me. (Slight pause.]

KELLER (nods]: Well, that's only your business, CHRIS.

CHRIS: You know it's not only my business.

KELLER: What do you want me to do? You're old enough to know your own mind.

CHRIS [asking, annoyed]: Then it's all right, I'll go ahead with it?

KELLER: Well, you want to be sure Mother isn't going to ...

CHRIS: Then it isn't just my business.

KELLER: I'm just sayin'....

CHRIS: Sometimes you infuriate me, you know that? Isn't it your business, too, if I tell this to Mother and she throws a fit about it? You have such a talent for ignoring things.

KELLER: I ignore what I gotta ignore. The girl is Larry's girl ...

CHRIS: She's not Larry's girl.

KELLER: From Mother's point of view he is not dead and you have no right to take his girl. (Slight pause) Now you can go on from there if you know where to go, but I'm tellin' you I don't know where to go. See? I don't know. Now what can I do for you?

CHRIS: I don't know why it is, but every time I reach out for something I want, I have to pull back because other people will suffer. My whole bloody life, time after time after time.

KELLER: You're a considerate fella, there's nothing wrong in that.

CHRIS: To hell with that.

KELLER: Did you ask Annie yet?

CHRIS: I wanted to get this settled first.

KELLER: How do you know she'll marry you? Maybe she feels the same way Mother does?

CHRIS: Well, if she does, then that's the end of it. From her letters I think she's forgotten him. I'll find out. And then we'll thrash it out with Mother? Right? Dad, don't avoid me.

KELLER: The trouble is, you don't see enough women. You never did.

CHRIS: So what? I'm not fast with women.

KELLER: I don't see why it has to be Annie. ...

CHRIS: Because it is.

KELLER. That's a good answer, but it don't answer anything. You haven't seen her since you went to war. It's five years.

CHRIS. I can't help it. I know her best. I was brought up next door to her. These years when I think of someone for my wife, I think of Annie. What do you want, a diagram?

KELLER. I don't want a diagram ...I... I'm ... She thinks he's coming back, CHRIS. You marry that girl and you're pronouncing him dead. Now what's going to happen to Mother? Do you know? I don't! (Pause.] .

CHRIS: All right, then, Dad.

KELLER [thinking CHRIS has retreated): Give it some more thought.

CHRIS: I've given it three years of thought. I'd hoped that if I waited, Mother would forget Larry and then we'd have a regular wedding and everything happy. But if that can't happen here, then I'll have to get out.

KELLER: What the hell is this?

CHRIS: I'll get out. I'll get married and live someplace else. Maybe in New York.

KELLER: Are you crazy?

CHRIS: I've been a good son too long, a good sucker. I'm through with it.

KELLER: You've got a business here, what the hell is this?

CHRIS: The business! The business doesn't inspire me.

KELLER: Must you be inspired?

CHRIS: Yes. I like it an hour a day. If I have to grub for money all day long at least at evening I want it beautiful. I want a family, I want some kids, I want to build something I can give myself to. Annie is in the middle of that. Now ... where do I find it?

KELLER: You mean ... [Goes to him] Tell me something, you mean you'd leave the business?

CHRIS: Yes. On this I would.

KELLER {pause]: Well ... you don't want to think like that.

CHRIS: Then help me stay here.

KELLER: All right, but ... but don't think like that. Because what the hell did I work for? That's only for you, CHRIS, the whole shootin'-match is for you!

CHRIS: I know that, Dad. Just you help me stay here.

KELLER [puts a fist up to CHRIS'S jaw]: But don't think that way, you hear me?

CHRIS: I am thinking that way.

KELLER (lowering his hand]: I don't understand you, do I?

CHRIS: No, you don't. I'm a pretty tough guy.

KELLER: Yeah. I can see that. (MOTHER appears on porch. She is in her early fifties, a woman of uncontrolled inspirations, and an overwhelm ing capacity for love.]


CHRIS [going toward porch]: Hello, Mom.

MOTHER [indicating house behind her. TO KELLER]: Did you take a bag from under the sink?

KELLER: Yeah, I put it in the pail.

MOTHER: Well, get it out of the pail. That's my potatoes. [CHRIS bursts out laughing-goes up into alley.]

KELLER [laughing]: I thought it was garbage.

MOTHER: Will you do me a favor, Joe? Don't be helpful.

KELLER: I can afford another bag of potatoes.

MOTHER: Minnie scoured that pail in boiling water last night. It's cleaner than your teeth.

KELLER: And I don't understand why, after I worked forty years and I got a maid, why I have to take out the garbage.

MOTHER: If you would make up your mind that every bag in the kitchen isn't full of garbage you wouldn't be throwing out my vegetables. Last time it was the onions. [CHRIS comes on, hands her bag.]

KELLER: I don't like garbage in the house.

MOTHER: Then don't eat. [She goes into the kitchen with bag.]

CHRIS: That settles you for today.

KELLER: Yeah, I'm in last place again. I don't know, once upon a time I used to think that when I got money again I would have a maid and my wife would take it easy. Now I got money, and I got a maid, and my wife is workin' for the maid. (He sits in one of the chairs. MOTHER comes out on last line. She carries a pot of string beans.]

MOTHER: It's her day off, what are you crabbing about?

CHRIS (to MOTHER]: Isn’t Annie finished eating?

MOTHER [looking around preoccupiedly at yard]: She'll be right out. [Moves] That wind did some job on this place. [Of the tree] So much for that, thank God.

KELLER (indicating chair beside him]: Sit down, take it easy.

MOTHER (she presses her hand to top of her head}: I've got such a funny pain on the top of my head.

CHRIS: Can I get you an aspirin?

MOTHER picks a few petals off ground, stands there smelling them in her hand, then sprinkles them over plants]: No more roses. It's so funny ... everything decides to happen at the same time. This month is his birthday; his tree blows down, Annie comes. Every thing that happened seems to be coming back. I was just down the cellar, and what do I stumble over? His baseball glove. I haven't seen it in a century.

CHRIS: Don't you think Annie looks well?

MOTHER: Fine. There's no question about it. She's a beauty ... I still don't know what brought her here. Not that I'm not glad to see her, but ...

CHRIS: I just thought we'd all like to see each other again, [MOTHER just looks at him, nodding ever so slightly-almost as though admitting something.] And I wanted to see her myself.

MOTHER [her nods halt. TO KELLER): The only thing is I think her nose got longer. But I'll always love that girl. She's one that didn't jump into bed with somebody else as soon as it happened with her fella.

KELLER (as though that were impossible for Annie): Oh, what're you ...?

MOTHER: Never mind. Most of them didn't wait till the telegrams were opened. I'm just glad she came, so you can see I'm not completely out of my mind. (Sits, and rapidly breaks stringbeans in the pot.]

CHRIS: Just because she isn't married doesn't mean she's been mourning Larry.

MOTHER (with an undercurrent of observation]: Why then isn't she?