Fiction by Marc Erdrich
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Soul Mates

A Play in One Act

Scene 1. A dining room table. Four place mats. An ashtray. A cup and saucer. A glass of milk and a box of cookies. Mother and Son are seated opposite. She is in her 70s, frail and pale, but with the strength of a survivor. Her hand shakes as, alternately, she drinks tea and smokes a cigarette. He is in his 30s, uncomfortable in the role of comforter. SON: (to audience) When my father died I took the cinerary urn containing his ashes from the hall closet and put it in the glove compartment of the family car, a 1974 gold-colored Plymouth Valiant with a black vinyl roof. I did this without my mother’s knowledge. My father had loved his car almost as much as his other great love, the New York Mets. I knew he would be happier in the car, where we could listen to a game once in a while, instead of being stuffed away in the back of a closet with all those memories – so close to... her. (Pause) On the drive home from the funeral parlor she – my mother, that is – sat with the urn on her lap. At one point I turned to look at her and she was fondling the urn with her fingers and crying. When we got home she put the urn back in the box it came in and shoved it to the back of the closet. (Turning to MOTHER) You’re not going to keep his ashes in the closet are you? MOTHER: (Exhaling smoke) That’s where I want them. Why aren’t you drinking your milk? SON: That’s no place for them. Why don’t you let me put them somewhere else? MOTHER: No. SON: But why not? MOTHER: Because I don’t want you to. Isn’t that enough reason? I want them in the closet. (She begins to weep.) Why are you so stubborn? SON: That’s no place for them. MOTHER: (Wailing) Leave me alone. It’s where I want them.(MOTHER and SON fall silent. He looks at her stonily as she stares into space with tears in her eyes. Then, after a moment...) It would have been sixty years in September. Sixty years... SON: He had a good life. MOTHER: I only wish he could have lived to see all of you together one last time. That was what he wanted – more