The Social Worker

THE SOCIAL WORKER

By Peter Obourn

A ten-minute play

 

 

 

Players:

MORRIS GALLOWAY: Husband

ETHEL GALLOWAY: His wife

MISS GUNTHER: Social services worker

DAVID GALLOWAY: grandson of husband and wife

Scene: Upper Middle class – front entry and living room – books, framed prints of classic drawings and paintings on wall – neat, clean, contemporary decor, subtle, earth colors, beiges, muted colors – at least four suitcases are near front door. Morris enters and looks around room.

MORRIS

Have you got the passports? Let’s not forget the passports.

ETHEL

(entering, with her purse) Yes, dear.

MORRIS

The cab should be here. (pulls curtain—looks out the window)

ETHEL

The cab won’t be here for a half-hour. I’m going to have a cup of coffee. (she starts toward kitchen)

MORRIS

Have you got the passports? Where are they?

ETHEL

In my purse right here in my hand. Now, will you please sit and relax. You’re driving me crazy. We have a half-hour yet.

MORRIS

Do you think it’s okay to leave John and David? It’s such a hard time for them.

ETHEL

We need to get away. David seems to understand his mother may not be around for a long time. He and his father seem really close. It’ll be good for John and good for David. Besides, I can’t deal with any more problems right now.

MORRIS

You’re right, dear. I just feel uneasy.

ETHEL

You’re always uneasy. They’ll manage.

MORRIS

You’re sure you have everything?

ETHEL

I have everything. Stop asking. My God.

MORRIS

I just don’t want to forget anything, Ethel. That’s all. (doorbell rings) There’s the cab. We need to go, Ethel.

ETHEL

(looks at her watch) It can’t be. (goes to front door and opens it.) May I help you? (Miss Gunther enters)

MORRIS

Okay, young lady, I’ll help you carry the suitcases. (picks one up)

ETHEL

Morris, I don’t think this is a cab driver.

MISS GUNTHER

You are Mrs. Galloway?

ETHEL

Yes.

MISS GUNTHER

I am Delores Gunther, from the Department of Social Services. (shows her badge)

ETHEL

Please come in Miss Gunther.

MORRIS

I’m sorry, Miss Gunther, but my wife and I are about to leave on a trip to Europe. This is not a good time.

ETHEL

What is it that we can do for you, Miss Gunther?

MORRIS

We don’t have time for this, Ethel.

ETHEL

Is something wrong, Miss Gunther?

MORRIS

Sorry I got confused there, Miss Gunther, but I think you do see a few woman cab drivers nowadays. I know it’s hard to believe. The gals down at the office couldn’t drive around the block without getting lost, if you know what I mean.

MISS GUNTHER

May we sit? (the Galloways sit together on the couch and Miss Gunther on a chair facing them) You have a son named John.

ETHEL

Yes, of course. Has something happened to John?

MISS GUNTHER

And his son, your grandson, is David.

ETHEL

Yes, yes, of course. What is it, Miss Gunther?

MISS GUNTHER

Your son has been arrested.(the Galloways react with alarm)

MORRIS

Arrested! What on earth for? And why are you here? What the hell is going on? I don’t understand.

MISS GUNTHER

He has been arrested and charged with child abuse.

MORRIS

What? Who? Who made such a charge?

MISS GUNTHER

I understand he turned himself in. But that is not why I am here. (the Galloways look at each other and draw close together) I am here because of the child, your grandson–David. As you know, your son’s wife, your daughter-in-law, is in the Perkins Rehabilitation Center.

MORRIS

Yes, of course we know. It’s been over a year now.

MISS GUNTHER

As of today, David is a ward of the state and it is my responsibility to see to his welfare.

MORRIS

You say he turned himself in. It doesn’t make sense. Just what exactly is he charged with? I mean, you can’t just put someone in jail. He’ll be released, of course.

ETHEL

Just listen, Morris. Let Miss Gunther talk.

MISS GUNTHER

He may or may not be released. But in any event, for now, David is my responsibility.

MORRIS

You mean, he’s only charged with child abuse. That means nothing. These days, anybody can accuse anybody of anything. It can’t be. I don’t believe it.

MISS GUNTHER

What I am here to discuss is David, not his father. He must be placed.

MORRIS

Placed?

ETHEL

Morris. Be quiet.

MISS GUNTHER

David has been with me since last night. He was with the police for several hours before that. He has been examined by a physician.

ETHEL

Where is the boy now, Miss Gunther?

MISS GUNTHER

He is in my car.

MORRIS

Alone? You can’t leave the boy alone in a car.

MISS GUNTHER

There is a nurse with him.

MORRIS

Well, surely the boy can clear all this up. He is eight years old and he knows what happened. I don’t understand all this ridiculous intrigue.

ETHEL

How is he? How is David? May we see him?

MISS GUNTHER

Yes, of course, but before we do that, there is something we must discuss.

MORRIS

I demand to see him now! This is absurd.

ETHEL

Oh, Morris, please shut up, for heaven’s sake.

MISS GUNTHER

There are different options I must consider. The boy may be placed in the hospital or in the psychiatric center. I have ruled out foster care at this time. There seems to be no physical damage and I am not sure the psychiatric center is the place for him at this juncture. What I came to discuss and to consider is whether it may be possible to place him here with you. However, if you decline or if after our discussion I am not satisfied that this home is the right place for him, I shall make other arrangements. We must discuss it. You must understand it is my decision to make.

MORRIS

Just a minute. David is our grandson. I demand you bring him in here right now. Let’s hear what he has to say. We have rights.

MISS GUNTHER

Mr. Galloway, I have my responsibilities. There is something you should know. David seems fine physically, but he needs help. David has not spoken a word or made a sound since his father was arrested. He has been totally mute. (the Galloways look at each other)

MORRIS

He doesn’t talk at all? Nothing at all?

ETHEL

Of course we will take him.

MORRIS

Just a minute, Ethel. What do you mean, he hasn’t made a sound? The boy can talk. He talks a mile a minute. He won’t shut up. What have they done to him?

MISS GUNTHER

Mr. Galloway, there is not much I can tell you. There is not much I am allowed to tell you. I have the boys file and I will tell you this. The boy has been examined and there is clear evidence of abuse.

MORRIS

Abuse? What kind of abuse? Physical? Sexual?

MISS GUNTHER

Yes.

MORRIS

Yes, what?

ETHEL

Morris, hush.

MORRIS

I want to see the boy. Now. Enough is enough. I’m going out to the car right now. You can’t push us around like this.

MISS GUNTHER

Please, Mr. Galloway, (Stands) I will go out to the car and check on your grandson.

MORRIS

I want the name of your supervisor.

MISS GUNTHER

Very well. I’ll go check on the boy. I’m sorry to say, I am afraid we will have to conclude this interview. It is just not working. Mr. Galloway, I am sorry you think I am being unfair, but my entire responsibility is to the boy, and I am not comfortable with this situation. (exits by front door)

MORRIS

What the hell is that supposed to mean: ‘I am not comfortable with this situation’? What a bitch.

ETHEL

For heaven’s sake Morris, the woman is just trying to do her job. I assume it means that she is not coming back. She is taking David. He is gone.

MORRIS

She didn’t say that. She didn’t say she was leaving. She didn’t say she was taking him. She said we could see him. I don’t like this, Ethel.

ETHEL

Don’t you see what has happened? Morris?

MORRIS

See what?(She stares at him. It begins to sink in. He slumps. He sits) I was a good father. Wasn’t I a good father, Ethel? We were good parents. We never hit him. Never in my life did I raise a hand even. We would make models–model cars, model airplanes, model battleships, spaceships. What else? I can’t even remember They’re all still in his room. Remember, we took him to Washington and the Smithsonian and the dinosaur skeleton. And to the beach and we made that huge castle at Dennis Beach and remember, people stopped and took pictures of it, and at the movies he always wanted to sit between us. He could name all the presidents and all the state capitols. Phi Beta Kappa. And then he married that woman who is so fragile. You were afraid she would blow away on a windy day in Chicago, and the drinking made her crazy, and then David. He was such a beautiful child.

ETHEL

I remember, Morris. I remember. She did blow away, but David still is. David is.

MORRIS

What? What do you mean? Of course David is.

ETHEL

David needs us.

MORRIS

Of course he needs us. We are going to stay here and get a lawyer and clear this all up. We are not going on a cruise, Ethel.

ETHEL

No. (pauses) What are we going to do without David?

MORRIS

What?

ETHEL

David. Your grandson, Morris. I know your son was a fine boy—phi beta kappa. I know that. But it is different now. He has done something. He turned himself in. He already has a lawyer. You know that. You know all that, or at least you heard it. Things have changed. Why can’t you stuff that into your head? Why does it take you so long? This is now, Morris, not yesterday. I love my son. I want to help him, but we can’t go back and build all the sand castles and the models again. We can’t undo what’s done. Lawyers can’t do that. No one can.

MORRIS

I don’t know. I don’t know. Stop telling me that. The psychiatric center. What kind of place is that for a little boy? (doorbell rings. Miss Gunther enters)

MISS GUNTHER

I have come to tell you I am taking David to the psychiatric center. I cannot leave him in the car any longer. This was a hard decision to make. I am sorry, Mrs. Galloway, I was hoping it would be otherwise, but I must decide what is best for the child.

ETHEL

I understand.

MORRIS

How is David?

MISS GUNTHER

He seems all right. This has been a very hard time for him.

MORRIS

If he is all right, then why are you taking him away?

MISS GUNTHER

Please do not make this more difficult, Mr. Galloway. I believe you understand the basis of my decision. I hope I have made it clear.

MORRIS

Because, because if you take him away from us we will go crazy.

MISS GUNTHER

Mr. Galloway, that is hardly-

MORRIS

(cutting her off) Wait. Please wait. Just wait. Don’t leave. Stay right there.(he leaves the room and quickly comes back with a model airplane, which he hands to Miss Gunther, and then he leaves and brings a bigger model and then another and another and tries to hand them all to her or place them around the room) This is an F-16. This is the Titanic. This is a 1936 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow—a classic. The chauffeur sits up here, all by himself. This one is, well, I don’t exactly remember. We made these. All these, my son and me-–not Ethel-–just my son and me–all by ourselves. Wait, wait. Don’t go. Stay there. (leaves again and comes back with small boxes) And these, these are models we didn’t ever make. The boxes have never been opened. The cellophane is still on them. David and I will build these together. (he takes the model from Miss Gunther and hands her the boxes. She does not look at them) And his books. I want to show you just some of his books. We’ll read every night. (leaves the room again. Miss Gunther sets the boxes on a table, takes Ethel’s hand in both of hers and then quietly exits by the front door. Ethel stands stoically. Morris returns with an armload of books and looks around, confuse d, then slowly sets the books on the table among the models. He and Ethel look at each other and then he comes to her and puts his arm around her shoulder. She leans into him. They sit together on the couch. The doorbell rings)

MORRIS

That’s the taxi. I’ll get rid of him. (Slowly, he goes to the door, opens it and there stands Miss Gunther holding David by the hand. They walk together into the room. David sits alone, still and small on couch)

ETHEL

(cheerfully) Hello, David. (David does not react)

MORRIS

Hi, David. (David does not react)

ETHEL

We are so glad to see you, David. Can I get you something? How about some hot cocoa? We know how you love cocoa, don’t we Morris? (David does not react.) I know! How about an Oreo? You love Oreos, don’t you David? I know I have some Oreos from last time. Maybe a little stale, but just a little. Okay? (David stares ahead–does not react)

MORRIS

(picks up one of the boxes.) I was just telling Miss Gunther here, David, how you and I might try this model. That is, if you are interested. No pressure, no obligation. Totally up to you. In fact, I could try to make it by myself and you could watch, that is, if I still remember how to do it. You might have to help a little, or not. It’s up to you. It’s a–let’s see, some kind of car, I think. (holds the box up to his eyes and tries to read it) Oh, damn, I can’t read this without my glasses, but anyway, we could try that tomorrow, if you like. (at first David does not react to this at all, then suddenly, he jumps off the couch and runs out of the room. The three look at each other, alarmed. Miss Gunther stands and starts in the direction David has run, then he comes running back, nearly colliding with her, or maybe runs right into her, bounces off, then runs to Morris and hands him his eyeglasses. Miss Gunther surveys the scene, maybe picks up a model and studies it, as if for the first time, then quietly exits the front door, as David takes the box from Morris, sits on the couch and studies it. He might take the cellophane wrapping off. Ethel and Morris look at each other) Well, I don’t know about you, Ethel, but I could use some cocoa and some Oreos. And don’t forget the marshmallows. (David is engrossed in his model)

 

– end –