By Johnny Culver
917 691 6884
Stella Knox’s room on the 6th Floor of the Retirement Home. Suitcases sit near the door. The room is pretty bare.
It is a recent cold grey afternoon in February
Stella Knox sits in front of a manual typewriter at a card table. A tasteful walking stick is by her side. Lois Henkel gazes out the window. Millie is in her wheelchair by the door almost ignored. She is loudly sipping from a bottle of Diet Vanilla Pepsi
Well, there it is Lois, My last column for the retirement home newsletter.
I remember your first column. Right on page one.
It’s a one page paper, Lois. The back has the comings and goings and the weekly menu, so of course I am on page one…
I usually pick my copy in the lobby, downstairs, right next to the ATM., or in the wheelchair storage room. In the recycling bin.
(Calls to Millie)
Well, Millie, do you want to hear it, before I take it down to the manager’s office?
(No response from Millie)
(Lois looks out the window)
Lois, if you would invest a few dollars and get a new pair of reading glasses, I wouldn’t have to read everything to you. The K Mart across the parking lot has a vision center! You’re looking right at it!
(Lois ignores her)
Why ask? You’re going to read it to us anyways. It’s not like we have anything else to do. We go across the hall to my windowless room…sit in the rec room and watch TV…look out your window? This retirement home was not such a good idea…why I ever listened to my daughter, Amber Lynn, why she needed to turn my bedroom into a sewing room is beyond me…what does a single woman want with a sewing room? When you’re gone; Stella, Knox, Millie here is going to be my only friend.
Get crackin’ with that soda pop, Mille. That’s a two for one bottle cap you got in your hand.
Lois, let Millie finish her Diet Vanilla Pepsi in peace. Who knows when she will have another one?
Well, I can’t predict the future, but I can tell you it’s gonna be pretty soon. I got a while case of that stuff back in my room, Twenty four bottles left for her to down before the end of the week, And a few others in this bag, for the road…
The contest, Stella!
(Points out window)
The sign at K Mart said that under the cap of one of the bottles of Diet Vanilla Pepsi they sold in the past month has a prize. A trip to California! I’ve never been to California. And Amber Lynne better not get any funny ideas about going with me. She can just stay in her sewing room…
Then why do you want the two for one cap -oh, to buy more Diet Vanilla Pepsi at that dreadful K Mart. Lois, all that soda can’t be good for Millie here. Why not just empty out all the bottles and look for the winning cap all at once?
Stella Knox, I may not be as rich as you are, I may be a bit thrifty, but I am not wasteful. And Millie likes the Diet Vanilla Pepsi, makes her feel young.
(Sings off key)
“You've got a Lot to Live; Pepsi's Got a Lot to Give…”
(Finishes bottle with a slurp and burps)
Done! Bring em on!
(Pulls another bottle from bag)
Here you go, Millie Arena, crack open a nice cold one.
(Hands bottle to Millie, who tries to unscrew it with her feeble hands)
Stella would you like a bottle? Remember, Be Sociable, Have a Pepsi!
None for me thank you. I just had my teeth cleaned. Which reminds me, I have to thank my son Barry for getting them shipped back to me so quickly too. Lois, why aren’t you drinking any? I can see you aren’t worried about staining your teeth…
That junk’ll burn holes in your stomach. Millie here doesn’t have many of her internal organs left, so it’s not gonna hurt her. Gimme that, Millie -
(Grabs bottle from Millie and opens it, looking under lid)
Rats, another two for one in 2008. Drink up, Millie. What a stupid rule, you have to return the bottle and cap together to get the two for one. Oh, well, this is the price I pay for that free trip! I’ll send you a postcard from sunny California, Stella. I’ll be there for two weeks, you know. When I win this contest.
Without Amber Lynne and her stupid sewing room!
Are you through? Let me put on my new reading glasses.
(Puts on glasses, which are hanging on chain around her neck)
Good. Now, if I may have your attention, my last column…ahem…
Good day faithful readers of the Retirement Home! This marks my final issue of writing the “Dear Stella” column and its entertaining, informative, and honest columns you residents deserve! I have always tried to fill my columns with hope, inspiration and insight. I have been a visible guest of this retirement home for many months now. My excellent taste in youthful clothing and my trim figure has turned many heads here.
Yea, they turn the other way.
I am so pleased you all enjoyed the helpful advice I have given to you through this column, as well. My broken leg has healed completely and this afternoon, my successful son Barry, will arrive to take me back to the newly constructed guest wing of his nearby home -
He replaced the garage door with a window and put in a bathroom.
…where I will enjoy my days with him, and his lively menagerie of cats and dogs, as he continues his career, selling for a well known sewing business.
Feed, em, walk, em, clean up after ‘em. That Barry’s got himself a free per sitter!
I have enjoyed my time being with you all, and was fortunate enough to have a room overlooking the well maintained K Mart parking lot -
Not that she’s ever set foot in there.
Where I passed my days reading articles from current magazines to my new friends-
She never reads us anything good; I bet she keeps all the good magazines for herself.
I was extremely thankful when the manager of this retirement home agreed to accomodate me on a temporary basis, as Barry’s sprawling home has far too many flights of stairs for me to navigate with a broken leg.
Two story tract house. No basement.
(Stops, puts down paper)
Lois Glick, will you just be quiet for a moment or two? You always wanted me to read my column to you, and now you make smart comments. I will be so glad to get out of this center and away from you, you miserable, unhappy woman!
(Pause. Millie stops drinking from bottle and screws on cap)
And I don’t want any of your Diet Vanilla Pepsi, my son Barry has an entire case waiting for me when I get back there! He needs me, which is more that I can say about you!
(Takes purse and looks through it)
Where are my old, broken reading glasses? Lois, you can have them. I am not reading to you ever again. If you want to be blind as a bat, go right ahead-
Then how did you read the-
(Takes bottle from Millie, unscrews cap and reads)
This doesn’t say two for One 2008, Lois, the bottle caps says “Expires 24-1-08”! That’s January 24th. Here it is the end of February! Lois!
What? You’re lying to me, Stella Knox. You want to go to California. You want to steal my free trip from me! Drink up, Millie! Drink up before this evil woman tries more of her tricks! I can’t wait for that silly son of yours to come and get you and Millie and me will have our lives back! Back to normal. No more you reading to us like little children. Here Millie, drink up!
(Gives her another bottle)
We’re going to California, just you and me. Even if I have to push your wheelchair across the Rockies, like Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda!
Lois, listen to me-
That must be my Barry, coming to pick me up.
(Picks up phone)
Hello? Oh Barry, I’m all packed and ready to go-what? You did? Well, that’s just wonderful! You are? Two weeks? I can be ready in no time! I’ve never been to California…
Oh, you’re taking someone…Yes; you can send me a postcard…
…care of the retirement home…goodbye, Barry.
That was my son, Barry. He won a contest. A trip to California. Two weeks. He’s taking his new friend…Amber Lynn...they met in a sewing class where he was selling…
(Sighs and stands up)
It seems you weren’t the only one playing the Diet Vanilla Pepsi contest at K Mart, Lois… I guess he doesn’t need me as much as I thought. No one really does…
I guess Amber Lynn doesn’t need me much either…Read us the rest of your column, Stella. We want to hear it. Millie and me. Please. I guess all we really got is each other.
(Takes page from table and goes to window, and reads aloud)
And now a letter from one of my many readers here at the retirement home…Dear Stella, I need your advice about my neighbor; she takes my mail from in front of my door and reads my letters and tells me about them during the TV hour. I miss my program, she talks so much…
LOIS and MILLIE sit and listen)