The Volunteers – play

THE VOLUNTEERS

by Ron Hagg

 

Dark set – couch, a lamp on an end table.

Two people are sitting on the couch.

The lamp is slowly lit.

 

Katherine – older woman

Edward – older man

 

Katherine: Kinda cold in here.

Edward: Yes it is

K: Wish we had some heat. I think I’ll get a sweater.

 

She gets up from the couch and leaves.

Edward pulls up his socks and sits on his hands.

Katherine returns wearing an old sweater. She has another one in her hand.

 

K: Want this?

E: Yes, that’d be nice.

 

He gets up and puts on the sweater.

 

E: I remember when we had heat, sure be nice if we had it again.

K: No way that’s going to happen.

E: Yeah, you’re right. Where has it all gone?

K: Everything’s gone to hell.

E: And here we sit.

K: Well, not everything. We’ve got a light that works.

E: On batteries – soon we’ll be out of batteries.

K: I don’t even want to think about that.

E: Yeah, doesn’t do any good – just enjoy what we have for now.

K: It still confounds me – how did we get this way? I mean, we’ve had hard times before. It’s just that now … I don’t have any hope.

E: You’re right Katherine – we sit here for hours – can’t go out – too dangerous.

K: Especially for old folks like us. Do you remember when old people were … I don’t know … looked up to?

E: Kind of, but that was a long time ago. Now we’re just vulnerable. That reminds me – I’m going outside to make sure this weak light isn’t visible from the outside. We can’t have that.

K: Yes, Edward, please do.

 

Edward gets up and leaves the room for the outside. He returns.

 

E: Damn it’s visible.

 

Edward turns off the light. We hear them fumbling around.

 

K: I’m trying to find something to keep the light from shinning on the outside. Where is the light leak coming from?

E: From the window – here in the living room. Did you find anything?

 

More fumbling. A crashing sound.

 

E: What happened?

K: Damn Edward – I knocked over the lamp. What if I broke it?

 

She is crying.

 

K: Now we won’t even have a light – just sit in the dark.

E: Maybe it isn’t broken. Did you get me something to fix the light leak?

K: I got a towel. Will that do?

E: Hope so. Bring it over here.

 

Katherine brings him the towel. We hear more fumbling.

 

E: Yes – I think this will work, but of course, if the lamp is broken we won’t have to worry about the leak. Can you see if the light still works?

K: I’m afraid. I don’t know what we’ll do if it’s broken. I’m so scared.

 

Katherine crawls over to the fallen lamp – hesitates then pushes the on button – the light comes on.

 

K: Thank God.

E: I’m going outside again to look. Can you turn off the light when I open the door – then turn it on again?

K: OK.

 

Edward goes to the door – turns looks – at Katherine – she turns off the light. We hear the door open and shut. Just a moment later the door opens again. Edward re-enters their house.

 

E: Yes, that took care of the leak.

K: Thank God, Edward. I don’t know what I’d do without you. Thanks for taking care of this.

E: You’re welcome.

K: See, we still have our manners.

E: Yes we do.

 

They hear the roar of motorcycles – there seems to be many of them. Katherine and Edward snuggle on the couch. Fear strikes their faces. The roar of the motorcycles gets fainter – then disappears.

 

K: Oh, Edward what if they had driven by just moments ago and had seen our light?

E: Well, they didn’t.

K: We’ll have to be more careful.

E: Yes we will. You know, Katherine – I’m thankful that when this all started you had the wherewithal to make sure we had plenty of food. I’m sure there are others without. I mean, those roving bands of people – without food – just hoping to find some. And many of them will kill to get food. Never in a million years would I have thought this is how our lives would end up.

K: Yes, Edward – we do have food.

E: I’m also thankful we have water. That reminds me have you checked the bathtub to see if there’s plenty of water in it?

K: Yes I did, but you know, Edward – we could lose water any day now. I’m surprised we still have it. What will we do if we have no water? Yes, we can save up water, but if it ends – it will end for us.

E: Oh, Katherine – let’s just hope.

K: Yes, Edward – that’s all we can do.

E: There’s one other thing I’m very thankful for.

 

He stops and rubs his eyes.

 

K: And?

E: That you’re here with me. You’re my rock. How long have we known each other? Years and years and years. I do not know what I’d do if you weren’t here – I love you so much.

K: You’re such a kind man, Edward. I too don’t know what I’d do without you.

 

They hear more motorcycles and cars go by.

 

K: We’ve been inside for so long I wonder what it is like. Maybe there are some places that are calm – places where people live without constant fear. Where children play outside – laugh, giggle, and run around.

 

Katherine starts to cry. Edward moves closer and puts his arm around her. They both cry.

 

K: I want a life – want to hear children – want to be outside and feel the breeze – shade my eyes from the sun. All of these things – GONE!

E: Maybe we will again.

K: Edward, don’t be foolish – there is no hope – only memories. That’s what I hold on to.

Wait, What’s that?

E: What do you mean?

K: Be quiet – I hear something.

K whispers: I hear footsteps by our door.

E: Oh my God – I do too.

 

They hold on in fear.

 

K: I think they’ve left

E: We don’t know that – they could be just be on our porch – waiting.

 

Edward gets up and leaves. He soon returns holding a large knife.

They sit close … and wait. Edward gets up and tiptoes to the front door and puts his ear to the door. Katherine joins him – her ear to the door as well. After minutes of this.

 

K whispers: I don’t think anyone is there.

E: I hope so.

 

Quietly they go back to their couch and sit.

 

K: What do you suppose that was all about?

E: No idea. Got my heart pumping though.

K: Me too. I do not like that someone from the outside was so close.

E: I’m going to open the front door and take a look.

K: Edward, do you think that’s a good idea. What if they’re still there?

E: OK, but in a little while I do want to check. I don’t think that someone is out there – just waiting to get in. If they were trying to get in – we’d know that by now.

K: You’re probably right, but can you wait just a little longer?

E: Yes I can.

 

After a few minutes.

 

E: Do you think I can go now?

K: Yes, but please be careful.

 

Katherine turns off the lamp. Edward gets up and goes to the door. He hesitates then unlocks the door and opens it. On the ground is a piece of paper – he picks it up and quickly shuts the door and goes back to Katherine.

 

K: What’s that?

 

Katherine turns the light back on.

 

E: Don’t know.

 

He hands the paper to Katherine.

Katherine reads the hand written letter it to him.

 

“We are the Volunteers. The whole world is in chaos. People are starving and what is so shameful – children are starving. There is no sense to what is going on. There does not appear to be any solutions. We have taken it upon ourselves to do something. At night we skulk around leaving these notes. We do not even know if someone is at the houses we leave them. We can only hope.

Here is what we are proposing. We actually have a place where we are storing food. We get this food from the Volunteers. If you’re interested in finding out about this – leave a sign for us. We know this takes lots of trust, because after all this could be a guise to find out if someone is in your house and we could invade, kill you, and take your food. But PLEASE – this will not happen so, please leave us a sign. Put two rocks by your front door and we will contact you. Bless you and bless our children. The Volunteers.”

E: Holy cow, Katherine. I don’t know what to make of this?

K: Me neither.

 

Katherine hands the note to Edward and he reads it.

 

E: Do you think this is for real?

K: Don’t know. What I do know is that eventually we will run out of food and when we do we’ll have to go outside and fend for ourselves, but Edward – we’re old. What chance would we really have?

E: Katherine, I do not even want to think about it.

K: But we have to think about it.

E: I suppose you’re right. I just keep hoping that all of this will somehow change back to how it was. Remember going to the beach. You were so beautiful. I recall the men looking at you and me, feeling so proud. I felt so blessed by your love for me.

K: Oh, Edward that is so sweet, but I think you are exaggerating.

E: No I am not.

K: Can we just keep living in the past – sitting on this couch day after day after day?

E: It’s what we’ve been doing. What else is there?

K: The Volunteers – maybe we can join them.

E: You think so?

K: Don’t really know, But what I do know is that we are either going to respond to the note or not.

E: You know what is really sad? Is that when we die – no one will know – no one will care. Just two dead old people – no more – no less. And if you die first … I don’t know … it will be the saddest day of my life – no sense on going on. I’ll follow you. God, I don’t want this to happen. I hope I go first.

K: Edward – we’ve got each other. Let’s just live with this. So, please don’t talk like this.

E: OK sweetheart. You hungry?

K: Of course.

E: I’ll get us a can of spaghetti.

 

Edward gets up and soon returns with an opened can and two forks. They share the food.

 

E: You know – we do have lots of food.

K: I know – we’re fortunate.

E: Yes, fortunate. Fortunate to be stuck in here – prisoners in our own house.

K: So, what do you think about the Volunteers?

E: Intrigued.

K: As I see it, we can stay here as long as we have food and water. We can continue to live as we are now – that’s if you call this living.

E: And our alternative?

K: The Volunteers.   Or we can stay here and be safe … as long as we aren’t discovered. How long will our food last – do you know that?

E: Not really, but I’d guess we have two years of food. No telling how long the water will last though. Maybe in two years all this will get sorted out and we can go back to how we were.

K: I wouldn’t count on that. How long has it been going on already?

E: Hard to say. Wish we had been keeping a calendar – I’d say for over a year now.

K: Sounds about right. So, two more years like this.

E: Yes.

K: I don’t know if I can, or want to, live two more years like this – hiding out – always afraid. When those motorcycles drove by tonight my heart almost stopped. God, Edward – I’m always so afraid. This is NOT how life is supposed to be. I want to be like we were, out and about – holding hands – having a grand time.

 

Katherine cries. Edward puts his head in his hands – sadness dripping from his eyes as well.

 

E: Damn it, Katherine. I’m going to get two rocks. You think so?

K: Yes, Edward – get those rocks.

 

Edward gets up and soon returns with two rocks.

 

K: You’d better do while it’s still dark out – don’t want anyone to see you.

 

Edward goes to the door.

 

E: Got the lamp?

K: Yes.

E: OK – here goes.

 

Katherine turns off the lamp. Edward opens the door and places the rocks on the porch. He returns. Katherine turns the lamp back on.

 

E: That was easy. Not exactly – I feel like I’ve jumped off a high bridge into the water below. Remember when we first met how I’d jump off the rocks at the Mad River. It’s like that – only more so. I can go out and bring them in if you want.

K: No – let them stay. I also remember you high up on that rocky ledge. I thought – how brave you were. I also remember thinking that I would never do it.

E: Do you know what I was thinking?

K: No.

E: I was thinking, this is nuts. I was very scared, but then I looked down at you and thought, well, here goes.

K: Do you know what else I remember?

 

Katherine doesn’t wait for an answer.

 

K: I remember our first kiss. It was twilight and we’d come back from the river. Your eyes were so clear – sparkling – you put your hands on my face – it was slow – gentle, and it profoundly moved me.

E: I remember too. I knew at that instant that I loved you deeply.

 

They wrap their arms around each other in this glorious remembrance.

 

STAGE TURNS BLACK

LIGHT COMES ON SLOWLY

The next day, Katherine and Edward are sitting on the couch.

 

K: Well, no one’s come back.

E: Maybe we dreamt this. Maybe it didn’t really happen at all.

K: Edward – don’t be silly – of course it happened. We’re not that far out of it … yet.

E: I know. I’m just disappointed – I had my hopes up – about what I don’t know – just something different than this – on this damn couch day after day, night after night.

K: We do have each other – and after all you have always been the most important person in my life.

E: Katherine – you’re so sweet. I love you with all my heart.

 

Edward reaches over and kisses Katherine. They embrace.

 

K: Edward – do you hear anything.

E: No. Do you.

K: I think so. Quiet.

 

In the silence they both are intent – listening.

After some moments of this, Katherine continues.

 

K: Edward, can you check our porch?

E: Yes

 

The routine – she turns off the lamp and he goes to the front door.

Returning.

 

E: Nothing – the rocks are still there.

K: I was so hoping.

E: Me too.

 

They lean against each other and fall asleep. Katherine wakes up. She thinks she’s heard something and gently wakes Edward up.

 

K: I think I heard something. Can you check?

 

Edward gets up and returns with another note and reads it to Katherine.

 

“Thank you for responding. We have to be very careful. We have one important question to ask. How old are you and do you have any young children? Please leave a small note under one of the rocks. Once again, thanks for responding. The Volunteers.”

K: Wow – this is something. I wonder what it’s all about. But I have to say I like this contact. We’ve been all alone for so long it’s satisfying to know someone is out there that doesn’t want to kill and steal from us.

E: We don’t know that for sure.

K: Edward, come on – if they wanted to do that they would have already done so.

E: I suppose you’re right. It is intriguing. I wonder why they want to know how old we are and if we have young children.

K: Do you think we should respond?

E: No clue. What do you think?

E: Well, we’ve come this far.

K: It’s getting late – maybe we should go to bed.

E: Late? Really it’s all relative. Remember Alice in Wonderland?

 

Edward gets up and returns with a book.

 

E: Remember when we read this to Sara?

He opens the book and reads:

 

“I’m late!

I’m late!

For a very important date!

No time to say “Hello”, goodbye!

I’m late!

I’m late!

I’m late!

I run and then I hop hop hop

I wish that I could fly

There’s danger if I dare to stop and here’s the reason why

You see I’m overdue

I’m in a rabbit stew

Can’t even say “Good-bye”, hello

I’m late, I’m late, I’m late

No, no, no, no, no, no, no!

I’m overdue!

I’m really in a stew!

No time to say “Goodbye”, hello!

I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!

K: Those were such fun times. I wish …

E: Yes they were.

 

Edward hands the book to Katherine and she turns it over and over again in her hands.

 

E: Yes, wonderful times. I’m going to go to bed. Do you think we should leave the note tonight?

K: Yes I do.

 

Edward gets up and returns with a small piece of paper.

 

E: I remember your birthday – September 19, 1940.

K: And I, yours: July 16, 1938.

 

Writing this and that they have no young children – the lamp out – front door open – Edward puts the note under a rock. Katherine gets up and leaves. Edward still sits on the couch.

 

E: Just maybe, just maybe.

 

And he too gets up and leaves the couch.

 

STAGE DARK.

Lamp slowly lights up and Edward and Katherine are on the couch.

 

E: Another day’s gone by. Oh boy!

K: Do you think we’ll get another response?

E: I hope so. Kind of looking forward to all of this. Something different than just sitting here all day re-reading the books we have.

 

There is a slight knock on their door – this jolts them.

 

K: Edward, they’ve responded – open the door so they can come in. Hurry!

 

Edward does so – Katherine turns off the lamp. But no one is at the door, but Edward sees a note sticking out from under one of the rocks. He returns to Katherine and reads it.

 

“Now that you’ve responded we need to tell you our mission. We are Volunteers – what does that mean. It means we are old and know that the world is in chaos and that children are starving. Our mission is to get food to the children. So we volunteer. If you are interested in knowing more take one of the rocks away and we will leave you another note.”

K: Wow – this is something.

E: Yes, I agree. What is this all about? Wanting to know our ages and if we have young children. Volunteer to do what? Should we take a rock away?

K: Yes I think so.

E: Me too.

K: I want to take the rock away.

 

Katherine gets up and goes to the door. Edward turns off the lamp and Katherine opens the door and brings in a rock.

 

K: OK, that’s done. When do you think they’ll leave us another note.

E: I’m guessing tomorrow night – at least I hope so.

 

They leave for bed.

 

LIGHTS OUT ON STAGE

LIGHTS SLOWLY COME ON.

Edward and Katherine are on the couch.

 

K: Tonight’s the night.

E: I hope so, my curiosity is … amped.

K: Mine too. You know, I am so glad this is happening. I feel alive for the first time in a long time.

E: Me too

 

Katherine gets up and returns with two books and they read.

Another small knock on the door. Though they were expecting it, it startles them. Quickly going to the door Katherine waits for Edward to turn off the lamp – then she opens it and reaches down, lifts up the rock and gets the note. Wrapped in the note are two small pills. Very curious, Katherine reads the note.

 

“We realize that after reading what we do as Volunteers you may not want to participate. We understand this. Volunteering is not for everyone. We just want you to think it over. To know we are serious we’ve given you two pills. We, as old people, have decided to end our lives so that the children can live. We donate all of our food and other resources to them. We have our ways to get your resources out of your home and to a safe place. We have saved thousands of children and your contribution will help many more. The two pills will end your life peacefully – no pain – just fall asleep to never wake up. (At least here on earth). If you decide not to do this – we’ll understand. It is not an easy thing we are asking of you. If you decide to do it – put a note under the rock telling us your decision and when you will leave us so we can get your resources. Whatever decision you make – God bless you. If you decide to be a Volunteer shortly after you leave us we will rescue your resources. And again, God bless you whatever decision you make. The Volunteers.”

 

Stunned, Katherine and Edward sit – Katherine holding the pills and the note.

 

K: I don’t know what to say. I would never have guessed this.

E: Me neither. I don’t know what to make of it.

K: It seems to me that we’re going to have to make a decision … one way or the other.

E: Yes we will. I do not even know how to go about this. Do you?

 

Katherine scoots up against Edward.

 

K: We’ll figure it out. I love you so much.

E: And I, you.

 

They kiss.

 

K: Let’s go to bed. You know, sleep on it.

 

They get up and leave for their bedroom.

 

LIGHTS GO OUT ON STAGE

It’s morning, but the house is still dark because of their efforts to keep their lamp light from showing on the outside. Always dark.

 

Katherine and Edward are on the couch under the glow of their lamp.

 

E: Well, we slept on it.

K: Yes we did. You have any ideas?

E: No, not exactly.

K: I do, but I want to know what you feel.

E: OK, put me on the spot. Please, tell me what you think.

K: No – please – I want to know what you think.

E: I’m just not sure – what if things go back to normal.

K: Edward. we’ve been like this for over a year. Do you see anything getting better?

E: No, but we haven’t left our house. All we know is it’s dangerous as hell out there. And for now – we’re safe in here.

K: This is true – for the time being. But we only have food for two more years and to be truthful I don’t want to go on living like this. If we do it – we will, at least, be contributing to all of those children in need.

E: How do we know this is on the up and up? Maybe it’s just a way for people to get our food. I mean, how can we be sure?

K: We cannot be sure. But my heart says the Volunteers are sincere. I mean if they weren’t – what was to stop them from just barging in and taking everything.

E: Katherine – taking our own lives. This is a huge decision. There will be no taking it back once we do it.   Do you want to die?

K: No – I do not, but are we living now? Yes, we’re breathing in and breathing out, but this isn’t living – it’s only existing and nothing more. I say we leave something for the children.

E: But what if it gets better?

K: That could be true, but do you really think it will get better?

E: Maybe.

K: I don’t think it will. Edward, we’ve led full lives. I’m married to my one and only true love. How many people have that. I cherish all of my memories.

 

Katherine slides up against Edward.

 

K: We won’t live forever and I want us to leave something … a legacy… Hope for the children.

 

Edward breaks down and cries deep tears.

 

E: I miss our Sara. We don’t even know if she is alive. I miss our times – her smile – her giggles – her sadness – I miss all of it. Katherine, I don’t know what to do.

K: Oh sweetheart.

E: I need a little more time to think this over. You’ve made some good points. I just need more time.

K: I can see this. We don’t have to rush into this.

 

Katherine cries. They both cry – on the couch in their darkened living room.

 

LIGHTS OUT ON STAGE

LAMP SLOWLY LIGHTS UP.

Katherine and Edward are on the couch.

 

K: We’ve sat here all day. I think we need to make our decision.

E: I know. I don’t suppose I can know for sure what to do, but I agree we do have to decide.

 

They sit in silence – Edward looks around – then puts his head in his hands.

 

E: OK, Katherine – I agree. I say we do this in our daughter’s memory. I miss her so.

K: Me too – terribly so.

 

They cry on the couch. Katherine scoots over as close as she can to Edward and lays her head on his shoulder – then she stands up and straddles Edward, kissing him, caressing him, giving him all of her love. She gets up and leaves – and soon returns with a pencil and a piece of paper.

 

K: Who should write this? And when do we want to do it?

E: You write it.

 

Edward cries

Katherine writes:

 

“In loving memory of our daughter, Sara, we agree to become Volunteers. We are doing it tonight.

Bless you for doing this.”

E: Oh, Katherine I love you so much. I am so proud of you.

K: And I’m proud of you too, Edward – the love of my life.

 

Katherine takes the note and puts it under one of the rocks.

When she returns, Edward is holding a glass and the two pills.

Edward takes a pill in his mouth – kisses Katherine and slips the pill into her mouth. He hands Katherine the glass and pill and she does the same to him. We see them holding on to each other – their eyes close.

 

LIGHTS OUT