Steve Schutzman



Tree Man

a play in one act

by Steve Schutzman


Time:  The present. 

Setting:  A kitchen looking out on a backyard.

Characters
Helen – late 30’s
Charlotte – a bit younger and a good deal taller

Scene 1

​(HELEN looking out window to backyard.  CHARLOTTE sitting at the kitchen table.) 

CHARLOTTE: They okay out there?
​HELEN: Still okay.  (Beat)  Oooh! 
(CHARLOTTE stands quickly.)  
CHARLOTTE: What?! 
HELEN: It’s okay.  It’s nothing. 
CHARLOTTE: You sure? 
HELEN: It’s just that your son’s stick went flying. 
CHARLOTTE: Damn it! (CHARLOTTE rushes to window.)  I told him absolutely no weapons. 
(CHARLOTTE at window with HELEN, both looking out.) 
HELEN: No.  No.  It’s fine.  See? 
CHARLOTTE: Yeah? 
HELEN: They’re looking for a new stick together.
CHARLOTTE: I better go talk to him.  Sticks are not a good situation…I mean playing with sticks is not a good situation for him. 
HELEN: They each had a stick they were beating the weeds with and then your son’s went flying over the back fence. 
CHARLOTTE: He could get carried away.  I’ll just go… 
HELEN: Please sit down and let them be for five minutes. 
(CHARLOTTE sits again.)  
CHARLOTTE: At least he’s not hopping the fence to get it.  I told him, remember?, to absolutely stay put in the yard and he is. 
HELEN: There are plenty of other sticks to find back there.
CHARLOTTE: Right. 
HELEN: I didn’t mean it that way.  It’s good he’s not hopping the fence Charlotte, really. 
CHARLOTTE: Yeah.  Sorry.  Okay.  I’m a little defensive.  The last kid Larry had a play date with, his mother asked me if he ever tortured small animals. 
HELEN: That’s awful. 
CHARLOTTE: Larry loves animals.  If he ever hurt an animal it would be from loving it too hard.  I know he doesn’t observe the regular physical boundaries sometimes but he’s a sweet kid.  Larry would be totally miserable if he ever hurt an animal. 
HELEN: Do you have any pets? 
CHARLOTTE: We never have much luck with pets in that apartment.  The goldfish, the painted turtle, the two hamsters, all died. 
HELEN: Ah ha. (They laugh a little.)  Sorry.  That was bad. 
CHARLOTTE: No Helen, it’s fine.  He’s had a rough time because of the way he is, because of things he can’t help.  So I really appreciate this after the last time.  I’m so worn out. You can’t believe how hard it is. 
HELEN: Ricky my oldest had ADD, ADHD, whatever they’re calling it now, the alphabet soup.  We had quite a time with him so I know how rough it can be, especially alone.
CHARLOTTE: I’m just so tired.  My face doesn’t usually look like this. 
HELEN: You’re a beautiful woman. 
CHARLOTTE: Yeah right.  Thanks.  
HELEN: Well you are. (Beat  Beat)  God, our back yard’s a mess.  It’s like the wilderness area of this neighborhood.
CHARLOTTE: What are they doing? 
HELEN: Still okay.  You wouldn’t believe the dirty looks we’ve gotten from the bourgeois lawn police, even had our lawn reported to the city once by some anonymous citizen.
CHARLOTTE: T hat sucks. 
HELEN: When we first moved in here it was like we were immigrants who had to be indoctrinated into the lawn cult of the neighborhood.  Every once in a while our next door neighbor Ken, this really sweet widower, would patiently explain to my husband about weed killers and power mowers as if English was David’s second language. 
CHARLOTTE: Your husband’s a teacher you said? 
HELEN: High school History.  Still David mowed the weeds with our hand mower when they grew too high but then Ken got really sick and David would mow his lawn for him with his power mower and then Ken gave it to us before he died and that’s how we got it. 
CHARLOTTE: Oh. 
HELEN: Noisy thing. 
CHARLOTTE: That was really nice what your husband did. 
​HELEN: Oh David’s a sweetheart.  Someone’s in trouble he’s there for them. 
CHARLOTTE: He sounds really nice. 
HELEN: Uh huh.  Ken was happy doing yard work in his overalls and hat and gloves with all his tools.  I had this thought once that he started doing yard work to get away from his wife but that,  after she died, he did it to feel close to her again.  Like she was still in the house to escape from and come home to.  Like the house wasn’t empty.  To forget and to remember.  It was sad. 
CHARLOTTE: Really sad.
HELEN: We never knew her.  Or him for all that long.  Maybe he died of sadness. 
(Pause) 
CHARLOTTE: Our apartment building doesn’t have much of a yard. 
HELEN: What’s wrong with a little wildness?  Weeds and vines and briars and snakes. 
(Pause) 
CHARLOTTE: Anything going on? 
HELEN: I’m on it here.   Just relax. 
CHARLOTTE: Relax?  What’s that? 
HELEN: Hey, would you like to take a nice bubble bath upstairs? 
CHARLOTTE: That’s weird.  That’s nice.  Offering me a bubble bath. 
HELEN: Old Japanese custom.  Why the heck not? 
CHARLOTTE: It’s sweet.  I mean it.  I must be making quite an impression. 
HELEN: Don’t worry about it.  How about some chamomile tea? 
CHARLOTTE: Calming right?   Just kidding.  Sure.  Thanks.  (Beat)  Larry and Nicholas do get along great. They’re starting to be good friends in class and... (Beat)  They’re good? 
HELEN: Maybe you’re worn out from guarding your young so hard. 
CHARLOTTE: I’m not guarding mine. I’m protecting yours. 
HELEN: Leave that to me okay?  How about a glass of wine? 
CHARLOTTE: Wine?  Now? 
(HELEN fetches two bottles.) 
HELEN): Red or red? 

(End of scene)


Scene 2

(Some wine later) 

CHARLOTTE: Now here’s something weird, really weird I did the other day.  Did you ever try to get yourself stuck in traffic?
HELEN: What do you mean?  
CHARLOTTE: I mean: Did you ever like try to get yourself stuck in traffic?  Last Monday I was going to pick Larry up from the sitter’s and I heard about this bad tie-up on the radio and I drove right into it on purpose so I’d have a legitimate excuse for a few more minutes alone.  It’s just been terrible lately.  Really bad.  I’m so worn out dealing with his teacher and the principal.  Everybody trying to get rid of me. 
HELEN: One more pain-in-the-neck parent blaming the school for her kid’s disruptive behavior. 
CHARLOTTE: Won’t sit still, fidgets, fidgets...
HELEN: Fidgets...
CHARLOTTE: Leaves his desk, touches other kids, fidgets, fidgets...
HELEN: Fidgets. 
CHARLOTTE: God, I know he fidgets.  You’re the experts:  Tell me something I don’t know.
HELEN: The alphabet soup. 
CHARLOTTE: Right.  And all these developmental things he’s got.  This whole mess of developmental things they say, the authorities who are supposed to know about this stuff but don’t know crap and are just hanging on a few years more so they can get their full retirement packages.  
HELEN: He’ll settle in eventually like Ricky when he’s ready. 
CHARLOTTE: If he’s not totally screwed up before that thinking he’s a bad person.  Whenever he gets in trouble, and it’s a lot, he says “I’m so stupid, I’m so stupid.  What’s wrong with me?”  I know he brings these things on himself.  I mean he did bite Nicholas but he didn’t break the skin and they were wrestling which is not a good situation for Larry because he can’t control his impulses…if he’s fighting…so we just have to make sure… 
HELEN: Charlotte… 
CHARLOTTE: I’m just hoping to get him through the next few years until he can catch up with everyone else. 
HELEN: Listen Charlotte, I have to say this: I know how rough it is.  I know all the doors that get slammed in your face. And I’m willing to see how things go but I’m not going to let it go too far for the sake of trying to do the right thing.
CHARLOTTE: Trying to do the right thing?  What right thing? 
HELEN: Let me just finish okay?  So we know where we are here.  
CHARLOTTE: I don’t want anyone’s pity.  What right thing do you mean?  
HELEN: I mean that I’m willing to hold the door open to see if something good can happen between our kids but I’m not going to sacrifice Nicholas for... 
CHARLOTTE: Sacrifice, Nicholas? 
HELEN: Don’t take the word wrong okay?  Let’s just see how it goes.  Fair enough? 
CHARLOTTE: Fair enough.  (Beat)  Larry’s not an easy kid to like I know that but he’s my kid and he can’t take any more losses... 
(CHARLOTTE almost breaks down.) 
HELEN: Listen Sweetie… 
CHARLOTTE: Sorry.  That was inappropriate.   A person’s nice to us and I just want to collapse.   That’s all I want really.  To collapse.  To completely collapse.  But I won’t.  Don’t worry about it.  
HELEN: I said what I had to say and it doesn’t need to be said again. 
CHARLOTTE: I’m just so exhausted from the effort to get other people to see what a wonderful, loving person he can be because I’m the only one who sees it.  
HELEN: I can tell he’s very intelligent.  And verbal.  Some of the sentences that come out of him really turn my head around. 
CHARLOTTE: And that makes it worse.   The way he can argue.  Mrs. Delaney has been trying to get him out of the class but I’ve been fighting it and fighting it and that’s why he has that young aide with him half the day.  Last week, he convinced the aide that he’d learn to spell better if he read his spelling words out to her and she wrote them down instead of the other way around.  
HELEN: Really?  
CHARLOTTE: Larry hates to write. 
HELEN: A con artist eh? 
CHARLOTTE: Oh, you know it.  He’s turning the aide into his personal slave.(Beat) Your other son how long did it take for him to settle in? 
HELEN: Ricky was around twelve. 
CHARLOTTE: Twelve?  I won’t make it.  
HELEN: Sure you will, Hon.  One day at a time.  
CHARLOTTE: One new drug at a time. 
HELEN: One meltdown at a time.
CHARLOTTE: One behavior report at a time. 
HELEN: One weird play date at a time.  You want more wine?
CHARLOTTE: Sure.  Why the heck not? 
(HELEN pours two glasses.) 
HELEN: Here’s to weird play dates. 
(They clink glasses.)  

(End of Scene)



Scene 3

(More wine later)

CHARLOTTE: We shouldn’t be eating the school fund raiser candy bars.
HELEN: Here goes the class trip to the planetarium. 
(They both bite their candy bars and laugh.) 
CHARLOTTE: You better keep your eye on them because Larry still might get it into his weird little head to climb the fence and chase aliens with his new stick.
HELEN: What is this thing kids have about aliens these days?  Why can’t they dig a hole to China like we used to do?  With all their aliens and monsters, I think they’re trying to tell us how weird and messed up life is. 
CHARLOTTE: And bandits.  And spies.  Larry will turn your neighbors into bad guys because you know what he says?: He says most people are only pretending to be regular people. 
HELEN: I know I am.  And not doing a very good job.
CHARLOTTE: All you have to do to get the pretending people to run, he says, is to start chasing ’em. 
HELEN: And Nicholas will trail right after.  He’s a follower.  Sweet but a definite follower. 
CHARLOTTE: He’s a beautiful kid.  Those eyes.  
HELEN: I wish Nicholas would’ve bitten Larry back.  Not really. But something.  Kicked him in the nuts.  Something. Some bit of aggressive behavior.  I swear he’s going to grow up to be a whipping post, a pussy whipping post.  Did I just say that?   
CHARLOTTE: You just said that. 
HELEN: My kid is such a wimp.  So sweet and reasonable.  Gets it from his father who’s like the nicest guy in the world. 
CHARLOTTE: Now why can’t I meet one like that?
HELEN: Well, they’re all taken for the long haul.  David the rock of Gibraltor.  Can’t budge him really.  Maybe because he has to deal with high school students all day he’s absolutely unshakeable, unflappable.
CHARLOTTE: You just can't make him flap.
(Uproarious laughter)
Helen: (Recovering) Right. He just won't flap. My husband David's like a turtle with his house on his back.  If you say something outrageous to him or do something you can see in his eyes that he’s going into his house to think about it and not get excited and not lose his cool. Sometimes I want to do something shocking just to get a rise out of him. 
CHARLOTTE: Like what?
HELEN: I don’t know: Stop recycling the newspapers or something. 
CHARLOTTE: I am shocked.  Shocked. 
HELEN: Or skip the blessing before dinner.  That’d really get him. Who are we thanking anyway.  Not god.  We don’t believe in god.  The life force?  It’s just so anonymous.  The life force.  Hard to have a relationship with the life force. People need something with a face to believe in.  
CHARLOTTE: The life face.  
HELEN: Right.  It’s all become so anonymous.
CHARLOTTE: What do you mean anonymous? 
HELEN: We’re supposed to think about everything, right?  Use our college educated brains to solve problems and do the right thing for our children and the planet.  So there’s no mystery in anything any more.  No mystery just problems to solve.  See what I mean? 
CHARLOTTE: I don’t think you mean anonymous exactly. 
HELENY: Yeah, yeah, anonymous.  David and I think we know each other so well we’ve become anonymous to each other.  I don’t want to be known like that. 
CHARLOTTE: I don’t want to be known either.  I want to be known. 
HELEN: Known? 
CHARLOTTE: (Deep and sexy) Known. 
HELEN: Yeah.  I wish. 
CHARLOTTE: My guy split when he found out I was pregnant so I wouldn’t complain if I were you.  I just wasn’t worth it anymore.   
HELEN: I’m not complaining really, not really.  Just a little maybe. It’s a trade off I guess.  We’re happy.  And you know in India and China…oh nevermind…Hey, what was that joke I heard the other day?   Oh yeah.  Do you know why single women like you stay slimmer than married ones like me?  
CHARLOTTE: No.  Why? 
HELEN: Because a single woman comes home, looks in the refrigerator, shakes her head and goes to bed.  And a married woman comes home, looks in the bed, shakes her head and goes to the refrigerator. (They crack up laughing.)  Trouble in Paradise huh? (Beat  Beat)  They’re back to beating the weeds with different sticks. 
CHARLOTTE: Crazy kids. 
HELEN: Here’s to the mystery that is our children. (They drink.  Beat  Beat)  That big tree out there is dying, I think.  The silver maple. Not leafing out places, dropping branches on the ground.   
CHARLOTTE: I like that.  Not leafing out places, dropping branches on the ground. 
HELEN: It’s why there are some many sticks in the yard. 
CHARLOTTE: Too bad.  A big tree like that. 
HELEN: I just hope it doesn’t fall on the house. 
CHARLOTTE: Or the kids.   
HELEN: Eeeeyoooow – crash.  Trouble over.  Can’t be helped.  
CHARLOTTE: Not our fault. 
HELEN: We had no actionable intelligence.   But all that’s going to change because I’m having the tree looked at.  Yesterday as a matter of fact I met a tree man in a parking lot. 
CHARLOTTE: I met a tree man in a parking lot.  Sounds like a song.  I used to write songs you know.  Sang them in these moldy clubs that smelled like pee.  She met a tree man in a parking lot. 
HELEN: And he was tall like a tree. 
(CHARLOTTE sings her echoes during this next section.) 
CHARLOTTE: And he was tall like a tree. 
HELEN: And he really helped me out.
CHARLOTTE: And he really helped her out. 
HELEN: It was so stupid.  
CHARLOTTE: It was so stupid. 
HELEN: Stop it will you?  
CHARLOTTE: Sorry, girl. 
HELEN: I couldn’t get the car key to work in either door and he sees me struggling with it and comes over to help and the first thing he says is, “Right key maybe but wrong car’.  
CHARLOTTE: Right key?  Wrong car? 
HELEN: ‘Right key maybe but wrong car’, he says in this deep slow voice like a giant talking.  Then he tells me he noticed a car just like mine, same exact space one row over and figured the problem.  I felt like such an idiot.  He tried to make me feel better by saying it was only because he was so much taller and could see all the rows of cars. 
CHARLOTTE: You are a short little thing. 
HELEN: He was extremely tall.  This tall, calm person.  Made me want to tear his shirt off.  Ha! 
CHARLOTTE: Ha!
HELEN: David’s tall too and slow and calm. 
CHARLOTTE: Right car, wrong key. 
HELEN: What?  Oh.  You’re a funny lady. 
CHARLOTTE: Or is it right key, wrong car?  He has the right key but you’re the wrong car or you’re the right car but he has the wrong key.  I don’t know.  I can’t think. 
HELEN: The tree man said being up in trees gives him a different look on things. 
CHARLOTTE: Sounds nice. 
HELEN: And that’s how I found out he was a tree man.  End of story. 
CHARLOTTE: Life looks different from up a tree/ Head in the clouds/ Roots in the ground/No need to rush/Just take your time 
HELEN: That’s pretty good.  You should have seen his truck.  A really old, well kept truck.  Like from the fifties or something. 
CHARLOTTE: Sounds really nice. 
HELEN: Girl sitting in the front seat.
CHARLOTTE: Another good one taken.
HELEN: No, a real girl. A young girl.  His daughter I think. 
CHARLOTTE: Oh. 
HELEN: No wedding ring though and I think he’s hitting on me. Or maybe I was hitting on him.  Charlotte? 
CHARLOTTE: What?
HELEN: I’m not leafing out places.    
CHARLOTTE: Oh. 
HELEN: Did I just say that? 
CHARLOTTE: You just said that. 
HELEN: Ha! 
CHARLOTTE: Ha! 
HELEN: No mystery, just problems to solve. 
CHARLOTTE: I ain’t got nothin’ but problems and no way to solve ‘em. 
HELEN: I know what I could do.  Become religious.  That’d blow David’s mind, if I became a religious fanatic.  No, no, I could become a religious fanatic terrorist.  Instead of problem solving and contentment, dread. 
CHARLOTTE: Give us this day our daily dread. 
HELEN: Instead of problems, bigger problems. 
CHARLOTTE: Instead of knowing, knowing. 
HELEN: Every household needs a terrorist.  
CHARLOTTE: Already got me one of those thank you very much. 
HELEN: I will become the terrorist of this household.  More wine? 
(HELEN pours.)  

(End of Scene)



Scene 4 

(More wine later) 

CHARLOTTE: We really should go out there with the kids. 
HELEN: Should. 
CHARLOTTE: Should. 
HELEN: You want to?
CHARLOTTE: Not really.  Brrr. 
HELEN: Cold as hell for April.  
CHARLOTTE: Freezing cold. 
HELEN: Larry’s down to his tee shirt.  Nicholas, of course, is following orders and has kept his jacket on.
CHARLOTTE: I sent Larry out in his hooded thing remember? 
HELEN: Hoodie on the ground.   
CHARLOTTE: His engine runs hot like mine used to. You know when that changed?  When I started to get cold all the time? After I was pregnant.  They always warn you about how your body will change but they never tell you about the other stuff like how your temperature will change and your taste buds… 
HELEN: Your taste buds changed? 
CHARLOTTE: Yeah.  Like I still can’t drink coffee after nine years.  
HELEN: Now that is serious. 
CHARLOTTE: And how your sleep isn’t as deep and how your dreams bother you, haunt you really, and like there’s always something you should’ve done that you haven’t done like get married.  And how your whole mind is tuned into this part of your body that isn’t part of your body and how you’re always like out there in space, super alert and alone and not relaxed and not married, and no chance to ever be married…so I wouldn’t complain.  You’ve got what I want. 
HELEN: You’re so beautiful I’m surprised men aren’t knocking your door down. 
CHARLOTTE: I haven’t dated a man in nine years. 
HELEN: That’s impossible. 
CHARLOTTE: There’s Larry.  And I put out these vibes.   Pacing, pacing against the bars.  Please stand back from the cage. 
HELEN: Tiger.  Tigress, I mean. 
CHARLOTTE: Not-married, tigress vibes.  I was a lesbian for a while you know.  
HELEN: Did she just say that?  Yes she just said that.
CHARLOTTE: Ha! 
HELEN: Ha! 
CHARLOTTE: Are you shocked?
HELEN: No, it’s kind of interesting really. 
CHARLOTTE: It was while I was pregnant and for a while after Larry was born.  It wasn’t me but this woman came on really strong and I really needed some companionship or else I might’ve killed myself I had the blues so bad.   I never had so many orgasms. 
HELEN: Yeah? 
CHARLOTTE: Yeah.   She lived to make me come.  It was her role in the relationship.  She was the adorer and I was the adored.  I broke her heart. 
HELEN: All I have to do have an orgasm is to look at David in his boxers. 
CHARLOTTE: Yeah? 
HELEN: Yeah. 
CHARLOTTE: That’s good. 
HELEN: I guess. 
CHARLOTTE: The relationship didn’t last long but it got me through and now I’m starting to feel the same way again: Overwhelmed by trouble.  I feel like the guy trying to sweep the ocean back with a broom.  Last time I put my finger in a dike…
HELEN: That is so bad. (They laugh. Beat)  I like you.  You are so fun. 
(It gets very quiet.  Pause) 
CHARLOTTE: And the way clothes feel against my skin, that changed too after I was pregnant. 
HELEN: Really? 
CHARLOTTE: I can’t stand anything too light against me.  Satin sheets. Nightgowns.  Lingerie.  Forget it.  Makes my skin crawl.  I suppose it’s a good thing I don’t have a man around.  
HELEN: None of that stuff happened to me.  I’m like one of those peasants who squats in the field, drops the baby and keeps right on digging for roots with the kid suckling her breast. 
CHARLOTTE: Mountain woman.  Tree man. 
HELEN: That’s what having four will do to you.   The last one I hardly felt a thing.
CHARLOTTE: What about not wanting sex as much? 
HELEN: What? 
CHARLOTTE: Did that change?  They say it does for some people.
HELEN: I never wanted it that much anyway.  Did I just say that?  I did.  Yes, I just said that.  Charlotte, I really don’t feel like I’m talking behind my husband’s back because David would agree…
CHARLOTTE: He would?  Now that’s like totally depressing.  Even though I stopped having it I never stop wanting it. 
HELEN: Oh.  Yeah.  It’s just that we feel there are far more important things like raising a big family and doing it right, far more important than the sexual thing.  Like in India and China they have different ways of forming a lifetime connection based on mutual respect and not just having the hots for each other. 
CHARLOTTE: People say that. 
HELEN: But you don’t believe them.  
CHARLOTTE: Nope. 
HELEN: You think they’re rationalizing the loss of something. 
CHARLOTTE: Not leafing out places. 
HELEN: Dead branches on the ground. 
CHARLOTTE: Soon we’ll have a whole song. 
HELEN: A sad song. 
CHARLOTTE: A whole sad song we wrote together.  
(Pause  HELEN takes a few steps closer to CHARLOTTE.) 
CHARLOTTE (cont’d): What is it? 
HELEN: I don’t know. 
CHARLOTTE: Come on, what? 
HELEN: Since you were a lesbian, why don’t we kiss?
CHARLOTTE: Since I was a lesbian...
HELEN: Yeah. Let’s kiss.  Just once.  I want to and I’ve never kissed a woman before.  
CHARLOTTE: Never?  Not once? 
HELEN: Well no.  But we’d have to agree that no matter how much we liked it we could never do it again. 
CHARLOTTE: Can our kids still play? 
HELEN: Sure. 
CHARLOTTE: Okay. 
HELEN: Did she just say that? 
CHARLOTTE: She just said that.
HELEN: I am the terrorist of my household. (They go toward each other.)  God you’re tall. 
CHARLOTTE: God you’re short. (They kiss.)  You okay? 
HELEN: You watch them.  I need to sit down for a while. 
CHARLOTTE: More wine?
HELEN: Sure.  I guess. 
CHARLOTTE: You sure you’re okay with that? 
HELEN: Yeah.  Fine. 
(CHARLOTTE pours.  Now they have switched the positions they had at the beginning of the play: CHARLOTTE at window looking out; HELEN sitting.) 
CHARLOTTE: Hey there’s this guy, this big huge guy walking down your backyard with a ladder on his shoulder.
HELEN: Oh no, it’s the tree man.  He said he might come by today and look at the tree. 
CHARLOTTE: Shouldn’t you like go out and talk to him? 
HELEN: Yeah right, in this condition.  
CHARLOTTE: But… 
HELEN: We are terrible parents you know that, for drinking like this.  Terrible parents. 
CHARLOTTE: You okay? 
HELENI want to screw my husband.  I want to screw my husband.  I want to screw my husband.  I want to screw my husband. 

(End of Scene)


Scene 5
 

(A bit later, CHARLOTTE looking out window, HELEN sitting at table)

CHARLOTTE: The tree man has finished setting his ladder up in the tree and is kneeling now with our kids on the grass…
HELEN: Weeds. 
CHARLOTTE: …Is kneeling now on the weeds patiently explaining something about the tree to our kids who barely came up to his waist when he was standing.  
HELEN: I told you he was tall. 
CHARLOTTE: The tree man points up into the tree and the boys are looking where he’s pointing and now they’re  watching the tree man’s face as he talks as if he is some kind of giant magical being instructing them in his magical ways.  I have never seen my kid stay still this long.  He is like totally motionless and hypnotized by the tree man.  He’s just staring at the tree man’s face and watching his tremendously large hands as they indicate the shape of a trunk or limb. 
HELEN: What’s Nicholas doing? 
CHARLOTTE: Same thing as Larry.  
HELEN: Figures.   
CHARLOTTE: No it’s really hypnotizing. 
HELEN: Nicholas…He’s giving a piano a recital in a few weeks. 
CHARLOTTE: I didn’t know he played. 
HELEN: He’s very good.  Very, very good.  Maybe has a future in it.  Would you like to come hear him?  
CHARLOTTE: I'd love to. 
HELEN: He practices a lot.  And sometimes I sit there behind him and think who is this strange being sent into my care. 
CHARLOTTE: Yeah.  Me too.  I think that too. 
HELEN: My son’s a musical genius and I’m not really a terrorist. 
CHARLOTTE: I know.  I know that. 
HELEN: And I’m not sorry we kissed. 
CHARLOTTE: Me either. 
(Beat  Beat) 
HELEN: Go on.  Go on about the tree man. 
CHARLOTTE: The tree man is still hypnotizing our kids.  He is hypnotizing me too all the way from there.  His hands. His face. 
HELEN: He resembles a tree doesn’t he? 
CHARLOTTE: Yes.  The tree man resembles a tree; tall, sturdy, big-limbed. The tree man resembles Abraham Lincoln. 
HELEN: Abraham Lincoln was a scrawny stick. 
CHARLOTTE: He resembles Abraham Lincoln with his craggy face. 
HELEN: Craggy face?  I don’t remember he had a craggy face. 
CHARLOTTE: Check the five dollar bill. 
HELEN: No, I meant the tree man, silly. 
CHARLOTTE: Hard to tell from here.  But it’s a face with a lot of character, a deeply American face reflecting inner wisdom and patience with hyperactive nine year old boys and their tigress moms…How old do you think he is? 
HELEN: Who is? 
CHARLOTTE: The tree man, silly. 
HELEN: Forty, maybe… 
CHARLOTTE: No.  No.  He’s not.  The tree man is as old as the ages.  He is as old as the oldest tree.  The tree man’s wisdom comes out of the earth and travels slowly up his body like the oldest stories of man toward the sky, stories that are written into his craggy face.
HELEN: Wow, girl. 
CHARLOTTE: The tree man is kind to children.  Children live in his kindness like birds live in a tree. 
HELEN: Wow.  Where is this coming from?
CHARLOTTE: I don’t know.  He is just so big.  And my kid is sitting still for once and listening to somebody talk. 
HELEN: Well he’s not that big...I mean, he fits in a truck. 
CHARLOTTE: You wanted to rip his shirt off. 
​HELEN: Yeah well I…You know, in India or China there are stories about gentle giants who will pick you up and fold you into their arms like you are a baby again…like the giant you are to your babies …and there are very few of these giants around and a man giant and a woman giant must spend a long time wandering over the frozen wastes looking for each other… 
CHARLOTTE: The frozen wastes of India? 
HELEN: Shhh.  But this is not India or China; the parking lot yesterday was not Indian or Chinese.  The parking lot was here in a strip mall like everything else…and here in the strip mall there are no giants.  There’s only us, little you and littler me who want to be picked up like babies again and folded into a giant’s arms.  So I really didn’t want to rip his shirt off, not all that much anyway.  I wanted him to just hold me in his arms.  (Beat)  You can’t rip the shirt off a giant anyway.  You have to rip the shirt off a man who is here.  And that’s what I will do when my husband comes home. 
CHARLOTTE: Good. 
HELEN: Because of our kiss… 
CHARLOTTE: Oh my God. 
HELEN: What? 
CHARLOTTE: Larry just pounced on the tree man. 
HELEN: What? 
CHARLOTTE: He just jumped on the guy’s back and is hanging for dear life onto his neck.  
HELEN: You’re kidding me. 
CHARLOTTE: No.  
HELEN: And you’re not rushing out there? 
CHARLOTTE: Because the tree man is just laughing it off like Larry’s nothing more than a little bug. 
HELEN: Oh. 
CHARLOTTE: Now the tree man stands up, still laughing, with Larry still hanging, and the tree man throws Larry’s wildly kicking little body over onto his shoulder and bends down and scoops Nicholas up over his other shoulder and starts spinning them around and around.  Wow.  Look at him spin.  Look at those boys laugh.  
HELEN: I have to see this. 
(HELEN stands and joins CHARLOTTE at window.  They stand very close.)
CHARLOTTE: Look at that. 
HELEN: Wow.  He’s a kid-whirling dervish. 
CHARLOTTE: Those kids are absolutely hysterical. 
HELEN: Yeah.  He better put them down soon.  There he goes.  He’s doing it.  Easy.  Easy, big guy.  That’s good.  Look at that.  Look at the three of them reel around dizzy, acting tipsier than we are.  Wow.  Flop.  Crash.  On their backs in the weeds watching the top of the tree spin.  Still laughing like crazy. 
(CHARLOTTE puts her arm around HELEN.) 
CHARLOTTE: I think this is the happiest moment of my kid’s life ever. Thanks.  (CHARLOTTE kisses HELEN on the cheek.) He’s so happy I can’t watch anymore. (CHARLOTTE separates from HELEN and walks toward chair weeping softly.)  I just need to sit down. 
HELEN: You okay?
CHARLOTTE: I’m not feeling okay or not okay, Helen.  I’m just feeling a lot. You know what?  I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing but I swear this: If the tree man were to propose to me right now, I would accept him.  I would; I swear.  If he came in here and his proposal of marriage was the first thing he ever said to me, I would say yes to him.  I swear it on my life. 
HELEN: So did I just watch you fall in love? 
CHARLOTTE: No.  But I would grow to love him.  I would grow to love the tree man.   And he would grow to love me.  Like in India or China.  Like you said.  
​HELEN: Guess what they’re doing now?  They’re climbing the ladder up into the tree, the three of them, Nicholas in the lead for a change.  Way to go, kiddo.  Way to go.  Up into the tree.  My genius son is disappearing into the leaves branch by branch, branch by branch, disappearing, hand over hand, quick little feet, into the leaves.  Bye Baby.  Can’t see him anymore.  And there goes Larry into the leaves.  Bye Larry.  And there goes the tree man but the tree can’t hide all of him.  I still see his big legs and big boots hanging down.
(CHARLOTTE stands.)
CHARLOTTE: I’m going up into the tree too. 
HELEN: You are? 
CHARLOTTE: Up the ladder into the branches and leaves with them. 
HELEN: Sure you can? 
CHARLOTTE: Absolutely.  I’m curious to see what'll happen. 
HELEN: Hey, hey, suppose right now…this…this…right now…is the story of how you met your husband.  Two tall people. Suppose this right now is the story of how you met your husband.  See?
CHARLOTTE: Yeah. 
HELEN: Suppose this is your meeting story, not in Indian or Chinese, but a story you will always be telling.  And I was part of it.  I was part of it. 
CHARLOTTE: Thanks.  I’ll remember that.  No matter what happens, I’ll always remember this. 
HELEN: And remember this isn’t India or China. 
CHARLOTTE: I’ll remember. 
​HELEN: Remember we’re just here, just us, little people just here. 
CHARLOTTEYeah.  Yeah.  I’m going out. 
(CHARLOTTE exits out back door.  Long pause. HELEN tidies up room.) 
HELENWe are here.  Here is all around.  Here we are.
​(Slow fade to black.  End of play.)