The Toe Incident
by Katherine Gleason
Cast of Characters
SHE A lesbian, dressed in black.
HE A gay man, dressed in white and a red bathrobe
The apartment where SHE lives, somewhere in the eastern United States
A spring day in 2002
(In the black out, SHE enters. SHE crashes into something in the dark and cries out in
SHE: Ouch!!! Ouch! Ouch!!
(In the dark, she begins to play a music box. SHE plays in the dark for a few bars. Then lights up to center spot. SHE bandages her toe.)
(Using a book of spells and a box of magical implements, SHE casts a magic circle, walking the perimeter, traveling clockwise. SHE hums/sings to her-self.)
(HE enters, summoned by her spell.)
(SHE is not aware that he is present. HE jumps in and out of the magic circle, teasing her.)
(Finally SHE sees him. They make eye contact. HE holds out his arms for a hug. SHE turns away, walks downstage, and crosses her arms.)
SHE: You didn’t bring it.
HE: Now hold on.
SHE: Fuck you. Fuck you and fuck the rainbow-hued demon you rode in on.
HE: We haven’t seen each other for years and y—
SHE: Seven years. An eternity.
HE: And that’s what you say to me.
SHE: You’re the one who left.
HE: Not exactly.
SHE: Hand it over.
HE: It’s not so simple.
SHE: (showing her injured toe) Look.
HE: It’s your foot.
SHE: (unwrapping her bandaged toe) The toe.
HE: A little discoloration.
SHE: It’s purple. It’s swollen, it’s huge.
HE: It is purple. You stubbed your toe.
SHE: Maybe it’s broken. It’s broken, it won’t heal, gangrene will set in and they’ll have to amputate.
HE: You summoned me because you stubbed your toe.
SHE: It really hurt.
HE: You summoned me from peaceful rest—
SHE: It really hurt and there was no one to say, “Sorry, hon. Can I get you some ice?”
HE: You know it wasn’t my idea.
SHE: (showing him the book) It says right here: “Summon a loved one to grant a swift and painless death.” “Summon a loved one to grant a swift and painless death.” So, where is it?
SHE: My swift and painless death.
HE: Wait, wait. Let me see. Who wrote this?
HE: (examining the book) Some freelancer.
(HE reads the spell and nods and gestures in agreement.)
HE: It’s a good spell.
HE: I need you to do something for me.
SHE: This is not about you.
HE: Your book also says, “Most spirits will expect payment or a favor in return.”
SHE: Fuck you and fuck the demon—
HE: Actually I have.
SHE: Fucked a demon?
HE: Fucked a rainbow-hued demon.
SHE: For real?
HE: Let me tell you!
SHE: A demon?
HE: A religious experience.
SHE: A rainbow-hued demon?
HE: Toe curling! Hair kinking!
SHE: Tina took one of those tantra workshops. Cosmic wow.
HE: How is Tina?
SHE: She dumped me. Right before my birthday.
HE: She always did have good timing.
SHE and HE (in unison): Impeccable.
HE: Your birthday—
SHE: She dumped me right before my big—
HE: I missed your big one.
SHE: She dumped me right before my big one—five years ago.
HE: Five? Wait, I’ve lost track of time.
SHE: You promised.
HE: I didn’t think I would be…in this state.
SHE: The Eastern Shore, a little café, our award-winning B & B.
HE: I’d much rather be living on the Eastern Shore with you.
SHE: Bucolic, peaceful. But instead I slog—
HE: PCP. A systemic cryptococcal infection. Not my notion of fun.
SHE: I worked really hard on your memorial.
HE: I know.
SHE: Everyone was there. Even your sister.
HE: Even my sister.
SHE: And your little nephew in his seersucker suit. Oh, I’ve seen him. I was down the shore.
HE: He’s a homo?
SHE: Such a homo.
HE and SHE: (Together, chanting and jumping up and down with glee.) Homo! Homo! Homo!
HE: I need you to do something.
SHE: I can’t believe you’re asking a favor.
HE: Some things never change. Right?
(HE removes a small box from his robe pocket.)
SHE: Is that—
HE: A swift and painless death? No. Listen.
(a lub-dub heart-beat rhythm is heard.)
SHE: It’s ticking.
HE: Beating. People usually say “beating.”
(Cautiously SHE touches the box.)
SHE: It’s warm. It’s your—
HE: My gay, gay heart.
SHE: One “gay” will suffice.
HE: Oh, I beg to differ.
SHE: How have you kept it… alive.
HE: Magic. I don’t know. Maybe you are what makes it tick.
SHE: I’m not going to say how much I miss you.
(HE leans over and gives her a kiss.)
SHE: Your lips are freezing.
HE: What did you expect? (A pause.) Take it.
SHE: Your heart?
HE: For safekeeping.
SHE: I don’t know.
HE: That little house—the one flanked by perfect boxwood hedges.
SHE: It’s the same. Exactly the same.
HE: The scent of that shrub on a warm summer evening.
SHE: The swoosh of the river as it heads to the bay.
HE: Go, it’s your dream.
SHE: It was our dream.
HE: (offering the box) Keep it safe. And when he needs it—
SHE: Your nephew.
HE: —the little queer, because I think he will, you give it to him.
(SHE takes the box.)
SHE: Have I just been anointed fairy godmother?
HE: Are you implying that I am a fairy?
SHE: Does this mean I have to do my taxes?
HE: Yup, taxes. Then find yourself a librarian.
SHE: I like librarians.
HE: I know. A librarian who bakes and get yourself down the shore.
SHE: I’m imagining pie with lattice crust and stacks of books.
HE: Berry pie. Cook books. New ones and vintage ones….
SHE: We’ll serve coffee in glass mugs and pie on tiny plates. No matching, all different. (A beat) Now you’re looking a little pale.
HE: For someone who’s been dead seven years I look good. Real good. I’m fading, though. It’s time.
SHE: I need to do a banishing… thing.
HE: Do it properly. I don’t want to leak back into life.
(SHE plays the music box and works her spell.)
SHE: I’m not going to get gangrene?
HE: You’re not going to get gangrene. And I think you’ll keep the nail. Ice it. Take some aspirin and call me in the morning.
SHE: I can call you? We’ll talk?
HE: As usual. But no more of this summoning.
(HE kisses her on the forehead. HE waves like Elizabeth Taylor, then like Bette Davis, finally like Eva Perón.)
SHE: Goodbye, Elizabeth Taylor. Goodbye, Bette Davis. Eva, I will not cry.
(SHE takes a bell from the box of magical implements and rings it. SHE looks up as if SHE sees HIM flying through the air. HE has just earned his wings.)
Katherine Gleason’s short stories have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies. She has published a number of nonfiction books, including Anatomy of Steampunk: The Fashion of Victorian Futurism. The Toe Incident is her first play.