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The Nature of the Beast
By Chris McKerracher
The setting is a doctor’s office with four chairs and a small table with magazines.
Fran: middle aged-woman
Pat: middle aged-woman
Karen: middle aged-woman
Alexa: middle aged-woman
(Lights up to Fran sitting alone reading a magazine.)
Pat: Fran, darling! (Fran rises to hug Pat.) Fancy meeting you here at the doctor’s office. Is everything okay?
Fran: My arthritis is acting up is all. I think there will be a change in the weather. My poor joints always know. They’re so accurate, I should rent them out to the Weather Network. What about you? Are you all right?
Pat: I am here about my osteoporosis. Apparently my bones make peanut brittle seem flexible in comparison. Is it hot in here? Oh my gosh I’m burning up.
Fran: It’s not the temperature, sweetie. It’s not too bad in here. It’s probably just a hot flash. Oh my, last night I was having one so bad I wanted to cover my body with bags of frozen peas. Bill suggested I use Cool Whip instead but, of course, he is a pig.
Pat: (Giggle) That sounds like Bill. Also sounds like my Norman. He suggested I should keep cool the same way the car does, with lots of antifreeze.
Pat: Yeah. Alcohol makes a good antifreeze, don’t you know? He says a bottle of merlot would fix me right up. He says that in winter, too, when I’m chilly. He’s just trying to get me tipsy so he can break down my defences and launch a frontal assault, if you know what I mean. Men really are pigs.
Fran: Why look at that. Here comes Karen.
Karen: Pat! Fran! What a surprise to run into you. (She hugs Fran and Pat.) You’re both looking so lovely what brings you here? Nothing serious, I hope.
Pat: Apparently I have bones as porous as some of Norman’s lame excuses for not tidying the garage. Fran here has joints that creak worse than an outhouse door. Nothing too life-threatening. What about you dear? Are you just here for a checkup?
Karen: Actually I’m glad you asked, I have to talk to the doctor about my fibromyalgia. It’s been acting up lately. I ache all the time so badly, I can hardly drag myself down to the bingo hall. Plus I get a migraine every time Charlie comes near me. The poor guy. Mind you, he only comes near me for one thing. Charlie is such a pig.
Fran: I think we can safely assume they are all pigs. Lucky for us we got three fairly cute ones.
Pat: True, and they can be pretty useful sometimes. Without our little piggies, who would kill the mice that come in the house?
Karen: If I lived alone and had a mouse in the house, I think I would have to move out. (They all laugh.) By the way, Fran, your hair look fabulous today. What did you do different?
Fran: Thanks! Nothing special, really. I just blow dried it. I love that blouse, by the way. Where did you get it?
Karen: Thanks. I got it online. I paid way too much but just fell in love with it. I had to hide it for months from Charlie until the time was right to bring it out. He was miffed until I told him I’ve had it for ages and even had the receipt to prove it.
Pat: I use that strategy all the time. That’s how I got these shoes.
Fran: I was going to mention them. They are so stylish!
Pat: I love them. They hardly hurt my feet at all. I wouldn’t want to wear them all day or anything but for an hour or so, they are awesome. Oh, it looks like I’m being paged. (She leaves.)
Fran: Wait a minute. I was here before her.
Karen: Yeah but they always run late so if you show up for your appointment earlier than someone scheduled ahead of you, they still go in order of appointment. I’ve been in the medical loop a while now as you know so I know what I’m talking about.
Fran: I think once you hit 50, the guarantee expires on our bodies and the chassis begins to slowly fall apart. You can get an extended warranty like Blue Cross but either way, things start going sideways.
Karen: I don’t know about you, honey, but gravity is sure as hell not making things go sideways. They’re going straight down.
Fran: I hear you! I do feel terrible about Pat’s osteoporosis though. They say you get that from drinking too much. I don’t think Norman has to twist her arm very hard to get her to drink wine.
Karen: Oh I know. Awful shame but she did kind of bring it on herself. And oh my gosh, did you see those hideous shoes she was wearing?
Fran: I know! I didn’t realize the circus was in town because they sure looked like clown shoes to me. I think she must get hopped up on her merlot and goes drunk shopping.
Karen: I can’t really say anything because I did that once, too. At Sally’s wedding, remember? A bunch of us got into some Sambuca and got so snapped, when I got home I ordered a $350 dress off Amazon. It was my own secret version of spousal assault on Charlie.
Fran: At least you’re not hitting the Sambuca bottle every day.
Karen: Are you kidding? I won’t go near the stuff ever again. I can’t smell black liquorice without it triggering my gag reflex. I don’t know how Pat can get blitzed every night as she does, especially with Norman losing his job like that.
Fran: Oh I know! And I don’t buy that whole “laid off” story. The mill was hiring last week. Maybe they found out about his gambling addiction. Oh dear, I was t supposed to mention that. Swear you won’t tell anyone.
Karen: Oh you know me. My lips are sealed. You can tell me anything.
Fran: Me too. I certainly would never engage in idle gossip.
Karen. Me neither.
Fran: Not like Pat. She loves to gab and by gab, I mean blab. Why just last week she told me Carol and Vince were having an affair after swearing to Kelly she wouldn’t breathe a word. I was shocked she would spread such a story.
Karen: Carol and Vince?! I knew it! I’d heard Kelly and Vince had a huge fight at work. I never believed it was over a missing wrench like they said later.
Fran: Oh, I hadn’t heard that! Shhhh... here comes Pat. I wonder how she did. Hey Pat, how did it go?
Pat: Well he gave me a needle right in my hot, sweaty butt and now I have to wait a few minutes to see if I will have a reaction. I knew I should have tidied up down there. I’m so embarrassed.
Karen: I let it grow wild as nature intended. It’s not like anyone will see it besides my husband and my doctor and I doubt either care all that much either way. You’re lucky I do my legs and underarms.
Pat: I like to keep it trim for when I dream I am back at School Assembly in High School and I am reciting a poem butt naked. I want to look my best.
Fran: Don’t worry, Pat. It’s not as bad as the time I was doing laundry in the porch and had stripped down to put on clean clothes before going to the doctors and Bill had slapped my butt. Little did I know he had been painting and left a perfect hand print on my butt for the doctor to see. I was dying of embarrassment as the doctor was dying of laughter.
Karen: That’s hilarious! Oh, I think they’re calling you, Fran.
Fran: So they are. Wish me luck!
Karen: Be brave, Fran!
Pat: I’ll wait here feeling uncomfortably warm with this pain in my butt.(Fran leaves.)
Karen: I hope you’re talking about your injection site and not me!
Pat: Oh no, Karen. You’re a breeze compared to Fran. She can be funny sometimes and by funny, I don’t mean the ha ha type funny but more like the “What the puff are you doing?” type funny.
Karen: I know what you mean. Fran can be such a pill sometimes. And did you see her hair? It looks like she teased it with a salad fork.
Pat: I just about choked on my mental edit button when I saw her. The poor dear. She really lets herself go sometimes. I am wondering if she has early onset Alzheimer’s or something.
Karen: I wondered the same, too. Out of concern, of course. I would never judge her appearance but my gosh she has begun to dress so frumpily.
Pat: Yes. Frumpily. That’s the word exactly. I bet she has a terry bathrobe she schleps around the house in. What are you going to say to her, though? She never would take anyone’s advice.
Karen: Don’t I know it. I made a comment about her grandson being a bit slow at learning to go potty and she wouldn’t talk to me for a week. Maybe I shouldn’t have used the term “special needs” but her hostility was immediate.
Pat: She can be so touchy. My gosh it is so hot in here. I am seriously melting.
Karen: Don’t worry, dear. This too shall pass. Did you talk to the doctor about it? There are some therapies to help fight the symptoms. They may increase your risk of certain cancers, though.
Pat: That’s like those commercials for these miracle drugs with worse side effects than the thing you want to cure. Why don’t beer commercials have to spend their advertising time warning about the dangers of alcohol?
Karen: Yeah. They should have a warning on tequila bottles. Caution. May cause pregnancy.
Pat: Speaking of pregnant, did you hear about young Leanne? She’s pregnant again. Her third in three years, all with different fathers. In my day, we didn’t do such things. When we got pregnant, we made sure they married us or else.
Karen: Don’t talk about it with Fran. She is touchy about that, too. She always bragged about Leanne being so intelligent and beautiful growing up and now she ends up with nothing to show for it but a bunch of brats and a nasty reputation.
Pat: Here comes Fran. (She rises.) So Fran, what are they going to do about your joint pain?
Fran: The doctor gave me a stronger painkiller and told me if it doesn’t work, he can increase the dosage. He says I can’t get addicted if I just take it for the pain but I don’t know. If they make me feel loopy, I’m liable to fall and break my hip.
Karen: I heard when you get to our age, getting a new hip is almost compulsory. I am sorry about your dilemma, though. Bill will have to help out more, obviously.
Pat: (Rising.) Remember we can help, too. Just say the word.
Fran: Aww you guys are the best. I just love you two. (She hugs them.)
Karen: I love you, too.
Pat: Me too. We’re like the three musketeerettes!
Fran: Well, I am off. Good luck ladies. Call me later.
Karen: Bye! Drive safe!
Pat: I hope she does. Have you ever seen her drive? Oh my gosh. She has so many radar tickets her rear end has been photographed more often than Kim Kardashian’s.
Karen: I heard she was stopped by the cops for speeding and tried to negotiate her way out of a ticket using her feminine wiles. As if she has any. Look, here comes Alexa.
Pat: Hello, Alexa. Long time no see.
Alexa: Well hello! How are things? You aren’t here for anything serious are you? (She sits.)
Karen: Oh no. I am just here for a follow up and Pat needs some kind of calcium supplement or something. What are you here for? You’re okay, right?
Alexa: Oh yes, I am just here to go over a couple routine blood tests. Nothing to be concerned about.
Pat: It’s too bad but you just missed Fran. She was here for her achy arthritic joints, the poor dear.
Alexa: Yes, I saw her in the parking lot. What happened to her hair?
Karen: What do you mean?
Alexa: Well it looked kind of, I don’t know... unusual.
Pat: It looked fine to me. I think it’s good to try new styles. I wish I had the nerve to try something wild.
Karen: I think it looked fine, too.
Alexa: Sorry, but I noticed she isn’t putting as much effort in her appearance as she used to. I am worried for her.
Karen: I try not to be too judgy, actually, Alexa. Fran has bad arthritis and it is getting harder for her to primp like she used to. Besides, I don’t see you on the cover of Vogue either.
Pat: You know, Alexa, I almost bought that same top you’re wearing but thought it was a bit old for me.
Alexa: I really like your blouse, too, Karen. It really suits you. Giant Tiger?
Karen: You’re kidding, right? I could almost buy out the women’s section of Giant Tiger for what I paid for this. No, I bought it from a very exclusive, upscale shop I know of. You’ve probably never heard of it.
Pat: I know where you bought it. I think Fran shops there, too.
Alexa:Yeah, speaking of Fran, I don’t care what you say, she has been acting kind of strange lately. Very ill-tempered.
Pat: Fran? Seriously? She’s as sweet as raisin pie.
Karen: Look, Alexa. Fran is our friend and neither of us would ever say a word against her. Understand? We are not the type to gossip about our friends. Oh, I’m being called to an examination room. Bye, Pat (They hug. Karen leaves.)
Pat: I don’t think I am reacting to the needle in the butt so I am going home and sit under the ceiling fan to cool off.
Alexa: That’s too bad. I was going to tell you about what happened with Karen and Charlie last night.
Pat: Oh really? Well... I guess I can spare a few minutes... (She sits.) Tell me everything!