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Nell's Aneurysm Bursts After an Evening With Seneca
February 1976

(Nell and Seneca are eating dinner at Lem's.)

NELL: Seneca?

SENECA: (not looking up from his chopsticks) Hmm?

NELL: I have fallen in love with you all over again.

SENECA: (looking up, waving his finger) Now you told me not so long ago that you had never been out of love with me.

NELL: I hadn't. Not the same thing. (He doesn't know what to say, so she laughs.) What's the matter.

SENECA: No, I understand what you're saying. I just don't know which to react to: The idea that you were out of love with me...

NELL: ...and you with me...

SENECA: ...or that we're past all that - and a lot of other things - and here we are.

NELL: React to that.

They kiss

NELL: When was the last time you kissed me in a restaurant?

SENECA: Five seconds ago?

NELL: (laughs) Before that!

SENECA: Hmm... (thinks) Five years?

NELL: Longer than that. I think it's closer to six. I think it was in the clam bar.

SENECA: Ah, so make it seven (grimaces) if we were still in St. Bernard's.

NELL: That's sad.

(They kiss again.)

NELL: Oh, there, that's better.

SENECA: Let's go home.

NELL: What about the Peking Duck?

SENECA: Forget about the Peking Duck.

NELL: (laughs) Oh, Seneca, we can't! Mrs. Lem would never forgive us. Worse than that, she'd never let us order it again.

SENECA: (nods) Oh.

NELL: Let's have the duck and then go home.

SENECA: Ah, the best of all possible worlds.

NELL: You know what you have to do to a Peking Duck?

SENECA: In what sense? I mean, if you're posing that question to me as a male Peking Duck...

NELL: Ah! Cut that out, I mean to cook it.

SENECA: Ah. Well, after it's roasted, I know you take the skin off very carefully, you carve it, you bone it, and you put it all back together.

NELL: Before that.

SENECA: No.

NELL: Well, you clean it and dress it and slather it with sauce, and then you hang it up to dry for twenty-four hours in front of an electric fan.

(He looks with disbelief, she nods.)

SENECA: That is not a natural state for a duck.

NELL: I know.

SENECA: (throwing his hands up) I don't want to think about it!

(Nell laughs.)

SENECA: (changing the subject) I wasn't out of love with you for very long, was I?

NELL: A couple of years.

SENECA: I'm sorry about that.

NELL: It's alright. But, you know, I don't think it's just us.

SENECA: How do you mean?

NELL: I don't think anyone stays romantically in love all the way through the marriage - in and out and then back in again, if they're lucky.

SENECA: We're lucky.

NELL: Yes, actually, I think we are. (laughs) I mean, who do you know that's been married more than three years that's still romantically in love?

SENECA: (pause) I'm thinking. (she laughs) The Ryans?

NELL: Ah, maybe, in a mellow sort of way. I wonder if that marriage has ever had any serious problems?

SENECA: What marriage hasn't, where people are healthy and asserting themselves? And one thing you can say about the Ryan's: They do assert themselves. (she laughs) No, I can only think of one couple romantically in love at the moment.

NELL: Who?

SENECA: The Beaulacs.

NELL: Oh, well, of course that's obvious. I mean, they are both so attractive they can't possibly resist one another.

SENECA: She's a little vain...

NELL: And he's only slightly arrogant...

SENECA: But they have this incredible sexual relationship...

NELL: Oh!

SENECA: ...that gets them through almost anything. (She laughs.) Yeah, I know, I know, don't say it. Wait until the duck.

(She laughs.)

NELL: (looking off) Oh, Seneca!

SENECA: Are you alright?

NELL: It's a young Saint Kevin.

SENECA: (looks, sees a boy selling flowers) Oh, the boy?

NELL: Oh, I was telling Pat Ryan about a figurine of St. Kevin - who prayed with such concentration that the birds came and built a nest with his folded hands - and my St. Kevin looked just like that, only older.

(The boy comes over to their table.)

BOY: Mister, you want to buy a flower? Just a dollar.

SENECA: Gardenias, hah?

NELL: Oh, gardenias! I haven't had one since high school!

SENECA: How many gardenias do you have there, my friend?

BOY: Twenty-three.

SENECA: (taking out his wallet and nodding) I'll take them all.

NELL: (laughing hysterically) Seneca!

BOY: Are you kidding?

SENECA: (hands him money) This ought to cover it.

BOY: (excited) Yes sir! Thank you!

SENECA: It's alright.

BOY: (to Nell) Is it your birthday?

NELL: No. (laughs)

BOY: Well, whatever it is, I'm glad it's nice. Good night.

SENECA: Good night, son.

(He leaves as Nell sniffs a gardenia and laughs.)

NELL: Oh, thank you, that was a spectacular thing to do! I love them.

SENECA: Answer a question: If we had a blonde-haired, blue-eyed son, who was earning money for a ten-speed bike, what would his name be?

NELL: Ah, his name would be Kevin!

(They laugh as Seneca looks at her with some regret. In the next scene, Nell is at home, filling containers with gardenias.)

NELL: Well, I am running out of things to put them in!

SENECA: Well, put 'em in your bathtub.

NELL: (laughs) That's a marvelous idea, and get in with them. Oh, no, it won't work.

SENECA: Why not?

NELL: I'd boil them. I can't bare cold baths in winter.

SENECA: Ah. Alright. Well then, on the first day of summer, I will present you with 23 gardenias for your bath. How's that?

NELL: (laughs) Where's it been all these years, darling?

SENECA: What?

NELL: Oh, this...this vein of extravagance and romantic abandon. Oh, I'm not complaining, understand. I love it!

SENECA: Yeah, well, the problem is, you see, that this "extravagant abandon" costs money, and we didn't have any the first time around, if you recall.

NELL: Oh, we had mine, only you wouldn't touch it.

SENECA: No, no, no, you had yours, we had our combined salaries, and who was paying residents in those days?

NELL: (laughs) You know what I've never understood? If you'd had money when we were married - I mean, inherited money, like mine...

SENECA: Yeah?

NELL: ...- you wouldn't have hesitated to spend it on us, or to let me spend it any way I pleased, right? It would have been our money. (He nods.) Well then why couldn't my money have been our money?

SENECA: Well, I didn't want anyone to think I'd married you for it.

NELL: (laughs) Who would have thought that?

SENECA: Diana, Henry, Henry, Sr...

NELL: (laughs) That is too silly to even consider! Why else?

SENECA: (hesitant) For the very obvious explanation that, if we were living on your money, I couldn't control you, and don't ask stupid questions.

NELL: (grabbing his arm, pulling him to her) Oh, now, don't get huffy. I just wanted to make sure you knew the answer. (He sits next to her and puts his arm around her.) You're gonna inherit that money one day, you know, whether you like it or not.

SENECA: (puts his finger to her lip) Shhh...

NELL: Well you are! And I don't want you to pretend like it's not there. I want you to use it. I don't want someone like the bank getting ahold of it! (laughs)

(He jokingly gags her with a gardenia. She mumbles something.)

SENECA: What does it taste like?

(She mumbles something else, and they laugh. He takes it away from her face.)

NELL: (holding the gardenia as Seneca tears off a petal) It smells wonderful. Marigolds in the garden, roses in the house, and gardenias on the couch.

SENECA: (stroking her face with the petal) Very fragile.

NELL: Hmm...oh, that's nice. (Now he strokes her forehead.) My head ached, and that's making it go away. Do you suppose that gardenias have medicinal effect?

SENECA: Obviously. (taking the petal away) Do you know what I wish I had for you? (She mutters.) The Little Water of the Senecas.

NELL: That sounds like a lake.

SENECA: Oh, no, no, no. It's medicine, the most powerful medicine on earth. Once there was this hunter who was very respected by the animals of the forest because he was very kind to them. He never killed a deer who was swimming or a doe with a fawn, or an animal he came upon or one that was exhausted from the chase. Well, one day this hunter was separated from his...his tribe and he was killed by a hostile tribe and he was discovered by the wolf, who called all the animals together with his mournful howl, and they held a pow-wow and they decided how to bring their young friend back to life. They each gave him a part of them...their living selves - heart, bones, brain - and these things made an essence so concentrated they gathered it in an acorn shell, and they called this the Little Water.

NELL: And it brought the hunter back to life?

SENECA: Well, as he lay there, under the tree, they gave him a single drop and he felt his life return. All the animals formed a great circle around him and they sang a song. He understood their language, thanked them, and he asked them the secret of their medicine. Well, this hunter was very good, but he wasn't innocent, so he wasn't worthy of the knowledge, but they promised him that someday, someone would know the secret, and that person would know it was the time when he heard the animals' song.

NELL: (smiles half-heartedly) You haven't...you haven't heard the animals' song by any chance, have you?

SENECA: (pauses) No, no I haven't.

(He puts his arm around her.)

NELL: All that's been on your mind a lot lately, hasn't it? And your mother's stories and all the things the Senecas have meant to you?

SENECA: Yeah, it has.

NELL: (nodding) I understand why. I'd like to see your mother. Do you suppose she'd come down and see us?

SENECA: Sure (kissing her forehead), especially if you asked her.

(She kisses him.)

NELL: You know, I think I'd like to go out on the balcony, just get a little breath of fresh air.

SENECA: Is your head still bothering you?

NELL: Not really. Actually, I just want to look at the lights.

SENECA: (getting up) Okay, I'll get your sweater, then.

NELL: Oh, never mind, you can put your arms around me!

SENECA: Better yet.

(They go out onto the balcony and he stands behind her with his hands on her shoulders. He kisses her neck. After a while, Nell sighs.)

NELL: It feels like a March wind, doesn't it? Spring is waiting out there, somewhere.

SENECA: (points) Oh, yeah, just south of the World Trade Center.

NELL: (laughs) Oh, I love it.

SENECA: What?

NELL: All of it. This city. So many good things have happened to me here, in New York. I mean, Boston is home, but NY is where I'm alive. (She turns around and puts her arms around him.) I've written you a letter about that.

SENECA: Are you serious?

NELL: (nods) Uhmm-hmmm. It's in my jewelry box. Oh, you don't have to read it now.

SENECA: (reluctantly nods) Okay.

NELL: Thank you.

SENECA: What for?

NELL: Oh, for all your gifts to me. I don't mean the twenty-three gardenias. Thank you for loving me, for giving me something to grow against, for everything we've been through together - even the bad times. We haven't exactly had a serene marriage, have we?

SENECA: (laughs) No.

NELL: No. But we've been alive. (smiles)

SENECA: (smiles) Yeah, you bet.

NELL: Most of all, thank you...thank you for coming to New York after me.

(She kisses him, then hugs him tightly.)

SENECA: Hey, ah, you want to go in now?

NELL: (thoughtfully) No. (in dramatic jest, as if freezing to death) But I'd love my coat!

SENECA: (nods) You've got it.

(He goes in, she turns to look again. He looks back at her for a moment, then turns for the coat. She closes her eyes for a second, then opens them, clutches her head in terror.)

NELL: Oh God, now? Oh God!

(She turns and goes in, still clutching her head.)

NELL: Seneca!

(She puts her arm out and he comes into the room, just as she collapses. He goes over to her.)

SENECA: Oh, God!

NELL: (half-consciously mutters) Oh, love. (I think that's what she said, it was hard to make out.)

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