What My First Drafts Look Like, or Never Speak Ill

Below is a first draft of a sketch I wrote.  I want to let it season and find itself.  It needs editing.  It needs a lot of editing.  It’s a little cliched. It has potential. 

I thought it would be fun to post this (and other pieces, be they scripts or not) and then post the follow up drafts so (a) you all can witness my frantic writing process (I will post drafts and my thought process on the changes and (b) I am forced to edit rather than let this die.  I will try to post a sketch every so often and follow this procedure.


Never Speak Ill – Draft #1

Jackie Pick


Ruth:   70s

Mary: 70s

Dottie: 40s

Chuck: (non-speaking) 40s

Frankie: 40s

Lights up at Barneby’s Funeral Parlor.  A few rows of chairs are set up with an aisle down the middle.  We hear wandering organ music, variations of Amazing Grace.  The casket is pantomimed downstage center.  The guestbook is upstage, and all guests sign in before taking a seat.


Ruth and Mary are already seated in the front row, towards SL.  They are best friends of the decedent, Alice.  Both have large purses with them. 

They are quiet for a moment.  Both are shaking their heads slightly.

MARY: It’s a shame, really, that more people haven’t come to pay their respects.

RUTH:   Shame?  Yes.  Surprise?  No.  (Indicating the coffin) If Alice didn’t have us, she’d have been all alone.

MARY: Yes, well, she could be difficult…

RUTH:  She could be a bitch.  God rest her soul, no disrespect intended.

MARY: Understood. (Beat) Poor thing, where is her family?

RUTH:  Oh, they’re around.  Her son, the doctor, took his family to the Admiral Diner.

MARY: They have the most wonderful lemongrass soup!

RUTH:  They do!  Not too salty

MARY: Not too salty.  Just right.

RUTH:  Just right.

Mary pulls her knitting out of her bag. 

RUTH:  What is today, Tuesday?

MARY: Wednesday.  CSI night.

RUTH:   CSI or CSI: Miami?

MARY: Regular.  I think it’s a rerun tonight.

RUTH:  That’s too bad. 

Ruth takes a Tupperware container out of her purse.

RUTH:  Egg salad?

MARY: Oh, no thank you.  I think I’ll get soup at the Admiral Diner when we leave here.

RUTH:  Suit yourself.

MARY: Their lemongrass soup is delicious.  I should have asked Alice’s son to bring me some back.

RUTH:  Ha. 

MARY: What?

RUTH:  You think that ungrateful bastard would have done that for you?  Fifteen years his mother, God rest her soul, was at Graceful Maples, and how many times did he bother to visit?  Five?  Ten?

MARY: He called every Sunday.

RUTH:   Called?  Yes.  Visited?  No.  Two very different things.

MARY: He always sent pictures of the grandchildren.  Alice was so proud of them.

RUTH:   Did those children once ever write a thank you note for any of the sweaters Alice knit for them?  No.

MARY: They wore the sweaters in the pictures.

RUTH:  How hard is it to write a thank you note.  Two words: Thank you.  Done.  Put a stamp on it.  Send it out. Done.  (Holds Tupperware up) Does this smell fishy to you?

MARY: A little.  Knitting is a gift, and gifts shouldn’t be sent with the expectation of a thank you.

RUTH:  Who’s that for?

MARY: (a little embarrassed) Well, I was going to make a blanket for Alice for her birthday.  She’s always cold.

RUTH:  She’s not going to be cold where she’s going.  No disrespect intended.  And you think she would have thanked you?
MARY: Probably not.  I was just trying to do something nice.  She was always so angry, I thought maybe if she were a little warmer, had a blanket of love, she’d be a little happier.

RUTH:  Oh my.  Sweet?  Yes.  Stupid?  Also, yes.

MARY: Ruthie, you have no faith in people.

RUTH:  I know people too well to have faith in them. 

MARY: So, I guess I’ll just keep it for myself.  Or maybe give it to Ellen.

(Dotty enters with her husband, Chuck.  They sign the book and then head over to the “casket.”)


RUTH:   (continues) How are you feeling?

MARY: Oh, ok.  Good days and bad days.

RUTH:  Have you seen the doctor?  You look like you’re having a bad day.

MARY: Doctors.  It’s their job to find something wrong.  (She puts her knitting down as Dotty and Chuck pay their respects at the casket.)  Is that the disappointment?

RUTH:  No, that’s the slut.  The disappointment isn’t even coming.  When I called her, she told me that she couldn’t get out of work and that Alice never wanted to see her when she was alive, so why would she want to see her when she’s dead.

MARY: tsk tsk.

Dotty and Chuck come over

RUTH and MARY: Hello. 

MARY: We are so sorry for your loss.

DOTTY: Thank you.  She looks beautiful, doesn’t she.  I told them I wanted her to look like she’d just come from a party.  Beautiful.

MARY and RUTH:   Beautiful. 

MARY: You know, I never realized that red lipstick could look so dignified.  And her hair…such a modern style. 

RUTH:  Come here, sweetie, sit with us.  We have so many wonderful stories about your mother that you’d love…

DOTTY: No, thank you, we’re going to sit with family.  (They go and sit on the opposite side of the parlor.  It’s now just the 4 of them.)

(Mary and Ruth exchange a look.) 

MARY: Bitch.

RUTH:  It’s bad enough she looks like she’s walking the streets after the funeral, but what she did to Alice.  If she weren’t already dead, she’d die.

MARY: I’m not one to speak ill of anyone…

RUTH:  No…

MARY: But that one (nods towards Dotty) certainly takes after her mother.  (She pauses, shocked by her own comment).  No disrespect intended.

RUTH:  Of course not.

MARY: (sniffs) What is that smell?
RUTH:  (sniffs) Pine?

MARY: Pine, yes.  Is there a pine tree in here?

RUTH:   No, I think it’s just air freshener.  I asked them to spray a little.  It smelled like death and desperation.

MARY: Air freshener?  That seems a little festive for air freshner.

RUTH:   It was that or lavender.  Alice hated lavender.  I thought it would have been disrespectful.

MARY: No, pine was the right choice.  (Beat).  Poor Alice.  What a time to be alone.

RUTH:   She’s not alone.  She has us.  And the slut.

(Frankie enters, signs the guest book, heads towards the casket.  He’s holding a large white bag.)

MARY: She has us.  (She looks worried…thoughtful.)  I haven’t heard from my Ellen in awhile.  I should call her.

RUTH:   (takes a compact out of her bag and starts fixing her makeup) You should call her?  She should call you.

MARY: I suppose.

RUTH:   So, you’ll call her.  No big whoop.

MARY: She’s so busy…I don’t want to bother her…

RUTH:   Call her. 

MARY: Call her.  (She resumes her knitting).  How’s Johnny?

RUTH:   Johnny?  He’s a good boy.  Sends an email every week.  Wants me to get some sort of camera for my computer so we can see each other and talk that way.  Crazy.

MARY: Such remarkable technology.  Such a good boy who wants to see his mother.

RUTH:   Yeah.  (Pats Mary on the hand.)  Call her.

MARY: I will.  (She looks around).  So empty.

RUTH:   Maybe people got confused because it smells like a Christmas tree in here.

(Mary looks thoughtful, sad, worried.)

RUTH:   Alice?  Yes.  You? No.  Full house, my dear.  Full house.  Many years from now.  Full house.

Mary smiles wanly.

MARY: Her kids are here.  That’s got to count for something.

RUTH:   Something.  Not everything.  You and me?  That’s something, too.

MARY: We’re not family.

Frankie approaches the women.  He nods to Mary and hands Ruth the bag.

RUTH:   Thank you, honey.  Was it good?  I told you, the Admiral is the best, cheapest meal in this whole town.

FRANKIE: Yes, it was fine.  Good recommendation.  Well, if you’ll excuse me, my wife has a headache and wants to go back to the hotel.  She’s in the car waiting.  We’ll see you tomorrow at the…service?

MARY: Yes, of course, dear.  Tell your wife we hope she feels better.

Frankie exits.

RUTH:   Headache my ass.  She’s probably ready to have a few cocktails and dance a jig to pay her respects to her dead mother-in-law.  See?  Kids are something…not everything

(Ruth pulls out a take-out container of soup from the bag.)

MARY: What’s that?

RUTH:   Lemongrass.  I thought you’d like it.

Mary takes the soup.  Ruth looks away, embarrassed. 

The music crescendos.

Lights out.


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