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  • Mary Ellen Swee

A Private Matter: A 10-Minute Play

A PRIVATE MATTER

A 10-Minute Play

By Mary Ellen Swee



Copyright © 2022 by Mary Ellen Swee.

All Rights Reserved.

All inquiries regarding rights should be addressed to: Mary Ellen Swee

325 Wimbledon Court

Lake Bluff, IL 60044

847-922-5242

  



CHARACTERS:

LUCY, wife of Max, 40s

MAX, husband of Lucy, 50s

HAILEY, wife of Ted, 30s

TED, husband of Hailey, 30s


TIME:

A recent winter.


PLACE:

A suburb north of Chicago.

 

  

We are on the first floor of an

open-plan suburban house. A tall 

table with two stools indicates a

kitchen island. Bottles of water 

are on the island, and a coatrack 

stands nearby. The kitchen flows 

into a den area signified by a 

comfortable arm chair with an 

ottoman. A side table is next to 

the chair. Atop the side table is 

a tv remote control.


Winter wind howls as MAX and LUCY

enter the kitchen area from an 

imagined door, stamping their feet 

to suggest the casting off of

snow. When LUCY tries to help her 

husband remove his cold weather 

gear, MAX pulls away and manages

the task himself. LUCY then begins 

taking off her own outerwear and 

hanging it on the rack. MAX

removes a phone from his coat

pocket.


LUCY

Are the results posted?


MAX

It’s too soon to check.


LUCY

The results might be posted. Why don’t you check your phone?


MAX

Lucy, for God’s sake, radiology said it will take twenty-four hours. It’s been exactly two.


LUCY

We need to make plans, Max. The remodel, the trip, whether you should take early retirement.


MAX

What’re you talking about — plans? Early retirement? You have no idea what the results will say.

 

 

LUCY

I have an idea alright – about doctors finding what they’re looking for. It’s to their advantage to find something.


MAX

A vote of confidence – for Max and his medical team, from a loyal wife. 


LUCY

What does loyalty have to do with a spot on your lung? You think I put it there? Somehow wished it there?


MAX

(distantly)

I never even smoked. . .ever.


LUCY

There was that year when –


MAX

I am not a smoker. I never was.


LUCY

And you run. Always, you’ve been running.


MAX

And I run.

(pause)

On weekends, I run with Ted. He’s still a young man, and I could beat him.


LUCY

Why are you bringing that up?


MAX

(acting dumb)

Bringing what up? 


LUCY

You know what I’m talking about – running with Ted, beating him.

MAX suddenly reaches for the 

island to steady himself.


LUCY

Max!

 

MAX

I’d better sit down. 

MAX heads to the chair in the den, 

sits, and takes a breath. He sets 

his phone on the side table. 

Meanwhile, LUCY gets a bottle of 

water from the kitchen island and 

hurries it over.


LUCY

They said drink plenty of water. We’re supposed to flush the bad stuff out.


LUCY sits on the ottoman. MAX

takes a sip and makes a disgusted

face but continues to sip.


MAX

Anything but water.


LUCY

Max. . .We should call Annie.


MAX

(choking on water)

Call Annie? Why the hell would we call Annie? We don’t have any results yet.


LUCY

She needs to know. Annie will lose it if she finds out her father’s hiding medical tests. She’ll say you always conceal whatever’s important.


MAX

Annie needs to grow up and learn that everybody’s business is not her business.


LUCY

But –


MAX

(suspiciously)

You didn’t tell her.


LUCY

I didn’t want to tell anyone.

 

MAX

We agreed that this was a private matter. A private matter.


LUCY

We agreed.


MAX

Between me and you – for the time being.


LUCY

Between us. Yes, until after we get the results.


MAX picks up the remote and turns

on a show. He stares at the 

screen. LUCY places a hand on his 

knee.


LUCY

Max, what was it like?


MAX

I don’t want to talk.


LUCY

Getting those pictures. Did they take good care of you?


MAX

Good care of me? I was at the hospital, Lucy, not a spa.

(sipping water)

And it’s ‘scans,’ not ‘pictures.’

(pause)

They tell you to drink some purple crap. Then two mortician-types slide you through the hole in a  doughnut the size of The Bean. It says Siemens on top.


LUCY

Siemens?


MAX

The company that makes the doughnut. It’s all you can see from the table when they put you down. One word. No windows, no art. Just a brand – while they’re hunting for a spot on your lung.

 

There is muffled pounding at the 

kitchen door.


MAX

What the —


LUCY

Who knows?


LUCY pushes the bottle toward her 

husband, but he will not drink.


LUCY

Plenty of water.


LUCY gives up and goes to the

kitchen door. She cracks it open.


LUCY

Max! Look who’s here!


TED

(through the crack in the door)

Are you going to let us in?


HAILEY

It’s freezing!


LUCY opens the door farther. The 

sound of winter wind is heard.


LUCY

Ted and Hailey!


TED and HAILEY enter, bundled in

cold weather gear and stamping 

their feet. Each carries a food

container. MAX gets up and heads

to the kitchen.


TED

Hello, neighbors! We come –


HAILEY

bearing gifts.

(setting her container on the island)

Baked garlic tofu. Low in fat and nutrient-rich.

 

TED

(setting his container on the island)

Egg white crisps. They’re keto-friendly.


HAILEY AND LUCY

(singsong-y, imitating an ad)

Improve your longevity!


TED

(overly-cheerful)

So, Max, how’d it go?


MAX

Go?


HAILEY

The pictures at the hospital. Did you get results yet?


MAX

(peeved)

Lucy?


LUCY

‘Scans,’ not ‘pictures.’ He wants us to say ‘scans.’


HAILEY

How did the ‘scans’ go?


MAX

(very peeved)

It’s a private matter. Isn’t it, Lucy?


LUCY

I didn’t tell them. 


HAILEY

That’s exactly what Annie said he would say – ‘a private matter.’


TED 

Exactly.


MAX

(sharply)

Then Annie was right – for once.


LUCY

Max, stop.

 

TED

Hey, Max. Let’s back off.


MAX

You back off, Teddy.


LUCY

He’s not himself today.


TED puts one arm around LUCY and 

the other around HAILEY, as if to 

shield them from MAX’s discontent.


TED

Annie told us about the scans – not Lucy.


LUCY

I didn’t know they knew.


MAX

(sarcastically)

Teddy’s twofer – one for each arm.


TED removes his arms. LUCY and 

HAILEY step away.


TED

Look here, Max. It was Annie who called us – to say you were going in for tests.


HAILEY

She asked us to keep it on the down-low. And we did.


MAX

So that’s why we’re all of us gathered here, standing around my kitchen island, talking about some lousy pictures. Because nobody told anybody anything. Right, Lucy?


HAILEY

Annie thought we should stop by with food.


TED

We said we could.

 

HAILEY

Of course, we could. We’re your neighbors, your friends.


Fed up, MAX returns to his chair. 

He changes channels, eyes fixed on

the screen. He takes sips of 

water. LUCY, HAILEY, and TED move 

toward the kitchen door, speaking 

in low voices.


LUCY

He doesn’t want to talk. Or check for results. He won’t even let me call Annie.


HAILEY

Maybe he’s –


LUCY

The results could be posted already. But we’re not allowed to look until tomorrow.


HAILEY

He’s probably scared to death.


TED

About what they’ll find. It’s their job – to find things.


LUCY

That’s what I said.


TED

A spot. On an actual lung. I’d be scared out of my mind.


HAILEY

(to Lucy)

It must be hard on you.


LUCY

You know what’s hard? Getting him down to St. Claire’s – in this weather! He asked would I drive. I told you, he’s not himself. Max hates it when I drive.


TED and HAILEY each take one of 

LUCY’s hands to comfort her.

 

LUCY

I could have killed him. We fishtailed all over the place. And here I am driving, with Max pretending like there’s nothing to discuss. 

(sniffling, as if about to cry)

The guy has never been sick. He used to brag about it. Brag. It was embarrassing. And there we are, on our way to the hospital, for God’s sake, ice and snow all  over the place.


HAILEY rubs LUCY’s back.


TED

Healthy people are the worst. They don’t know how to do sick.


HAILEY

They’re the worst.


LUCY

It’s just that he’s not his usual self. You heard him – insulting his own daughter.

(crying softly)

If he would just check the freakin’ phone. So we could move on – make plans, cancel plans… His pension is crazy big. He could retire tomorrow.


HAILEY

You’ve got the remodel in March.


TED

Palermo is set for May – all of us together.


HAILEY

We shouldn’t have booked a walking tour. What if he can’t breathe in May.


They all hug. LUCY opens the door.


HAILEY

Brr!


TED and HAILEY exit. TED gives

LUCY a thumbs-up and a wink on his 

way out. LUCY goes to the den. She 

sits on the ottoman.

 

MAX

Group session over?


LUCY

I’m sorry.


MAX

You spilled the beans.


LUCY

I’m really sorry.


MAX

We agreed. It was a private matter – until the results were posted.


LUCY

I only told Annie. I didn’t want to. I needed support.


MAX

Support? I’m the one with the damn spot. I’m the one stuck with a panicked wife who goes behind my back for her ‘support.’


MAX starts to cough. A ping sounds 

on his phone.


LUCY

(looking over at the phone)

Max, please, we need to know. Why won’t you check?


MAX slowly shakes his head.


MAX

Because, Lucy, I don’t want to know.


End of play.

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