by Kayla Kennett
JOSEPH, a middle-aged man of rural upbringing
ALLEGRA, his daughter, early twenties
A garden at peak harvest
[Lights up on JOSEPH and ALLEGRA, each seated on individual benches, facing the audience. JOSEPH wears a plaid flannel, blue denim jeans, and work boots. ALLEGRA wears a denim jacket, in a matching shade, over a simple A-line dress. They speak past each other, unaware that they occupy the same space; no eye contact.]
JOSEPH: (arms folded into a cradle, singing)
The other night dear
as I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you
in my arms
But when I awoke, dear,
I was mistaken,
so I bowed my head and I cried.
ALLEGRA: (stoic, staring ahead) I was only eight years old when he ascended the stairs to my bedroom, brushed the heartbreak from my eyes, and cooed “Sorry, love, this night will be our last.”
JOSEPH: (confident, charismatic) I didn’t give a fuck about Y2K. What could be more terrifying than a daughter’s eighth birthday?
ALLEGRA: When it came time to blow the candles, I stole three wishes; two for roller skates,
(pauses to smile) and one for more good-night kisses. But, he said “No, they are too dangerous.”
JOSEPH: That year, she hosted her first sleepover party (laughs, and becomes more animated)
. . . and I thought one bottle of nail polish was something to choke on. Six little hens, giggling and carrying on, playing round after round after round of “truth-or-dare.” For the first time, it hit me – I’m growing a woman. (nodding, directing his eyes offstage) And I thought, Joe, what the hell have you gotten yourself into?
ALLEGRA: (in a younger voice) Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be just like you – but taller! (returns to natural pitch) After sprouting six inches in three years, I had no reason to believe that I was made of anything but magic beans.
JOSEPH: First, she grew up (ALLEGRA stands) and, then, she grew out (ALLEGRA puts hands on hips) but I saved “the talk” for the professionals.
ALLEGRA: (dropping hands, planting feet) He planted an acorn in the center of his garden, right between the bell peppers and sugar-snap peas, without considering that, some day, it would become a tree (sits and crosses legs).
JOSEPH: Even if I had stopped watering her, I couldn’t have slowed that girl down; she branched out quicker than I could prune her back.
ALLEGRA: We used to drive down to Lake Warren every Saturday, armed with boxes of bait and tackle. (almost chanting) Cast-Snag-Reel. Cast-Snag-Reel. He taught me well, but I could never match his skill. (in JOSEPH’S voice, agitated) “I didn’t know we were fishing for rocks!”
JOSEPH: The Homecoming Dance fell on a Saturday night; I guess it was my mistake to assume that she had her priorities right.
ALLEGRA: My first corsage was made from carnations – not roses, or even chrysanthemums – but I loved it all the same. We were over a mile from my house before Ethan did so much as hold my hand.
JOSEPH: (sneering) That fool called me on the telephone to prove himself a man, flaunting all of these fancy words, as if he were asking for her hand! (imitating ETHAN, speech is confident but slightly stuttered) “Hello, sir, this is what’s-his-name, may I please escort Miss Allegra to the semi-formal, it’s happening one fortnight from now?” (shaking his head) To me, she could only ever be my Ally-cat.
ALLEGRA: (blushing) Ethan taught me the difference between loving a man, and being in love with a man.
JOSEPH: (choking up) She was only eight years old, when I ascended the stairs to her bedroom, wiped the heartbreak from her eyes, and bowed my head to say, “I’ll tuck you in tonight, but not tomorrow – you’re a big girl now.”
ALLEGRA: It is said that you cannot pick your family but, at least, you can pick your friends. Someday I will become a tree, but our love will never end; Daddy, I choose you for my friend.
JOSEPH: As a father, you want to give your daughter the key to the city, you want her to never want for more. Some days, I kick myself, “Why did you have to do such a damn good job . . . (trailing off)
ALLEGRA: I left him in Kentucky, but with plenty of company: twenty chickens, forty acres, and one-hundred baby blueberry bushes. For some men, it’s a second wife and, for others, it’s a shiny sports car, but not my dad. Instead, he bought the farm.
JOSEPH: She was born with a green thumb, and flowers in her hair.
(ALLEGRA chooses a flower from the arrangement beside her, and tucks it behind her ear)
“I guess she takes after her mother,” they said, and I just shook my head.
(JOSEPH laughs, slaps his knee)
That woman couldn’t keep a cactus alive in Arizona!
ALLEGRA: (almost chanting) If I should die before I wake, I pray they lay me beneath a tree and tuck me into a bed of scruffy moss – to remind me of the first beard I knew and loved.
JOSEPH: We haven’t grown apart. We have rooted new traditions. I mail her homegrown sunflower seeds, summer squash, and sweet potatoes; it costs me forty dollars a pop, but my Ally-cat will always remember where she came from.
ALLEGRA: In 1992, when autumn first descended upon our sleepy town, Daddy put me on his shoulders and we spun around and ‘round.
(ALLEGRA stands, spins until dizzy and, then, sits down)
(ALLEGRA reclines on the bench, holding her head in hands)
(JOSEPH, with apprehension, begins to stand, but remains seated)
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy, when skies are gray …
JOSEPH and ALLEGRA:
You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you.
Please, don’t take my sunshine away.