How to Lose Friends and Gain an Ulcer – A Play in Two Acts

Characters:
A small family – Bob, Barb, Billy, and Bubba Brown
A family friend – Cruella
Out of town friends of that friend – Dave, Deb, and Darlin’ Drinkwine
A local family member of those out of town friends of that friend – Sissy

Mom – Mom

Introduction:
Cruella introduces Bob and Barb to Dave and Deb, who seem very nice and they appear to a lot in common with each other. They are around the same age, married, and both have families.

Whenever Dave, Deb, and Darlin’ are visiting Cruella and/or Sissy, they make a point of getting together with Bob and Barb and the kids, and as time passes, these two families become friends in their own right.


Act I: The Plan

Setting the Scene:
The Drinkwines, living in the northeast, are finding it difficult to make ends meet what with the cost of living so high up there, even though they both have jobs. So, they contemplate making a move to the more economically friendly south to raise their quality of life as well as their child. They talk about this with Cruella, Sissy, and their new southern friends, the Browns.

All think it a good idea, provided the out of town family can find jobs and housing.

Enter the main protagonists:
MR and MRS IMPATIENCE (
a.k.a. The Drinkwines)
Upon hearing the positive responses for their idea, our protagonists decide to put this plan into motion immediately because, hey, there’s no time like the present, right?


Dave – “Honey, let’s do this! Let’s do this now. We don’t need to wait, we’re drowning up here.”
Deb – “Oh I wish we could. We could give Darlin’ so much more down there than we can up here. But Dave, we don’t have jobs. We don’t have a place to live. We don’t have money to make a move like this.”
Dave – “I know, but God will provide, I’m sure of it. We can quit our jobs, and just do it!”
Deb – “Maybe we can ask Cruella if we can stay with her?”
Dave – “Great idea honey. Let’s call and find out.”

We hear a telephone ringing in the background

Cruella – “Hello?”
Deb – “Cruella? Hi, it’s me Deb. Listen, you know what Dave and I were talking to you all about? Moving down there so it would be easier to make a living?”

Deb listens as Cruella responds.

Deb – “Thanks, we think so too. Well, Dave and I were talking, and we don’t want to wait. We want to just take the bull by the horns and do it! But the thing is…um, hang on, I’m gonna put Dave on the phone. Okay? Don’t hang up, be right back.”

Meanwhile, we see Deb motioning to Dave to take the phone, but he shakes his head violently and waves his hands mouthing “no no no”

Deb – “Oh well, I can’t find him. Anyway, what we wanted to ask is if you can manage it, could we stay with you while we look for work and a place to live? What? Oh, well, Dave said we’d just quit our jobs up here and that way we’d have more time to look for work there. Huh? Yes, I know, but we really don’t want to take all that time. I mean, what if it goes into winter and then we’re stuck here until after the snow melts?”
Cruella – “Listen hun, I know what you’re saying, and if I could I would; in a heartbeat!  But I don’t think I’d have the room (lie #1). What with you and Dave needing a room, and baby Darlin’ being so young and needing so much attention at this age, you’d need someone to care for her too and I just don’t have the time (lie #2) or energy (lie #3…she takes pills for that) to be able to help.”
Deb – “Un huh, yeah, I guess that’s true. Well, if I said I’d wait to look for work so I could stay with Darlin’ while Dave looks? Would that make a difference? I know we wouldn’t have much money to help, but I could help in other ways.”
Cruella – “Oh sweetie, I wish I could, but I just can’t. What about Sissy? She’s your sister, can she help?”
Deb – “I thought of that, but she’s in a one bedroom apartment and can’t afford to have us there anyway. She’s single and doesn’t make that much money. Do you think if we asked Bob and Barb they could help?”
Cruella – “I don’t see why not! They are good church going, God fearing people…how could they say no? I mean, I have to, but they are so much nicer than me. I don’t mean that I’m not nice (which she is…not nice), it’s just that I have to say no and they don’t really have a reason to [and I’ve taken advantage of them on numerous occaissions, so I know], so I don’t think they would. Their house is bigger than mine (lie #4), they make more money than me ’cause they get (‘extra’) ya know, what with work plus government money for his disability. You want me to ask them for you?”
Deb – “Oh would you? If you ask them first, or maybe just tell them we’re going to call them to ask a favor even? That way, they won’t be surprised when we call. (Deb listens) Okay, good. Thanks. Just let me know when you do, then we will. Thanks Cruella. Bye.”

We hear Deb recall the conversation to Dave, and Dave gives her a big thumb’s up.


As Act I ends and II begins, we see that Cruella has ‘mentioned in passing’ to Barb at church the next Sunday, that Deb told her she was gonna call Barb soon because she said she had something her and Dave wanted to talk with her and Bob about.  Naturally, Barb was curious and asked what it was about, but true to her (deceitful) nature, Cruella just shrugged and said she didn’t know but she thinks maybe Deb and Dave just miss them so much maybe they want to plan a get together?

Very little time passes and Deb does in fact call Barb.  From Cruella’s!  Seems the Drinkwines felt their chances of success were greater if they spoke with the Browns in person rather than over the phone.  We all know it’s much harder to say no face to face after all.  And they were right…Bob and Barb could no more have said no to their new friends in their time of need, than they could have said no to one of their own.  It’s just not in their nature.

The Drinkwines presented their case to the Browns just as Deb had presented it to Cruella.  They emphasized the points that they would help cover the added expense by contributing towards the extra food, utilities, water, etc. and that once Dave found a new job, they’d be in a great position to find a home and they could all live happily ever after.  Happily ever after.  Family get-togethers, cookouts, holidays, watching the kids grow up together…you know…happily ever after!


Act II:  The Invasion of Normalcy

Setting the Scene:
We begin the second act after the Drinkwines have quit their jobs, said goodbye to their northern family, packed all they own into their vehicles (and subsequently into the Brown’s garage), and moved in with the Browns…

In the two months since the invasion, the Brown’s happy home has become a battlefield of bitter silence. Bob has had a set back and is on short term disability from work.  He is staring at what could be a life changing surgery, while trying to manage the added stress and financial strain of carrying living costs for 3 extra people on a percentage of his normal pay, with medical issues that never go away.

Barb is taking care of 100% of Bob’s needs, cooking more, cleaning more, struggling more with trying to stretch one dollar into five without taking away from her family to give to another’s. She’s Trying to make it all work with what she has, but is having a hard time of it.  A buck is a buck is a buck.  No way around that fact.  And the Browns are outta bucks.  How is this possible?  The inconvenient truth is…our protagonists have not quite lived up to their end of the bargain. This is where we continue…

Bob – “Babe, I’m sorry my being out of work is making this so much harder.  The last thing you need too, is taking care of me 24/7. I really don’t know what to do.  I’ve sold the last of my collection.  There’s nothing else to sell. I didn’t think it would be this hard.”
Barb – “I know honey. We need to talk to them. They said they’d help with the extra costs, but we’ve gotten nothing! They said they were going to look for work, but how do you do that when you sleep until 1:00 in the afternoon? Sometimes, it’s 3:00 for God’s sake!”
Bob – “I know. I see it too. But what are we supposed to do? We know they aren’t making any money. We know they’ve applied for assistance, but in the meantime, we are drowning!”
Barb – “Tell me about it. I’m the one doing the bills. I know what we don’t have. I also know I can’t buy groceries again on a CREDIT CARD! I just can’t. We need to talk to them.”
Bob – “Okay. I will. I’ll talk to them.”
Barb – “Thanks, but don’t wait too long. We really do need some help.”

Two weeks go by

Barb – “Hey Mom. Sorry, but I just need to vent. You know all about the situation here, and I just don’t know who to talk to anymore. Bob was supposed to talk to them, but he hasn’t and I know it’s hard to do, but we’re drowning here. I don’t know what to do.”
Mom – “Listen, what you two have done is a very nice thing. You’ve opened your hearts and home to people who needed help. But honestly? Did they have to quit their jobs BEFORE they had new ones? Did they think they could move in and live with you for months on end until they could save money enough, provided they DO find jobs, to move into their own place? What were you guys thinking?”
Barb – “We didn’t think long term. I mean, they said they’d help and we believed they would. They are so nice. But Mom, it’s a disaster. And the stress is coming between me and Bob and even little Billy is feeling it.”
Mom – “All I can tell you is you both need to talk to them. It’s hard, I know, but you have to. You need to explain that you need them to help financially and you also need to have a time limit for how long this can go on. And…if it were me, I’d invite little miss Cruella into the conversation, since I suspect it was HER idea to begin with!”
Barb – “Mom, Cruella said she doesn’t have the room.”

We don’t need to hear it to know what Mom is thinking

Mom – “Can you and Bob talk to them today? Get it out in the open at least? They need to know what’s happening in your family so they can do whatever they can to help.”
Barb – “Um, no. Not today. Not ’til next week.”
Mom– “What? Why the hell not? And why wait another week?”
Barb – “Well, they have gone back up north for a week.”
Mom – “Are you joking? They don’t have money to help you but have money to travel back up there? For a week? And didn’t you tell me they just had a party? At YOUR house? Without asking your permission first? Really honey…what more is it going to take for you and Bob to see that you are being taken advantage of?”
Barb – “I don’t know. I don’t think they are doing it to be mean or anything. I just think they don’t think about what it looks like to us or what we feel about it.”
Mom – “Well why the hell should they? They are doing all of this and you guys aren’t saying a word! You said she had a sister there…why can’t they stay with her? Oh wait, don’t tell me…no money and no room. Right. Just like little miss Cruella. Okay…well, I think when they get back, you need to have this out. Don’t wait.”
Barb – “I know. And we will.”

Another Two weeks go by

Barb – “Hey Mom. How’s it going?”
Mom – “Good. You? Have you talked to them yet? Are things easier? Getting help? Sorry for all the questions.”
Barb – “No, it’s okay. No, we haven’t yet. Dave has had an interview and tested for a job and it looks like it may be a go, but it’s a process. We won’t know for a bit.”
Mom – “Okaaaay…so what does that mean exactly? A process? Does he have the job or not? Are they helping you financially at least? Are they down to one shower a day each or is it still two? What?”
Barb – Okay look, this is the thing. They are still sleeping ’til the afternoon. They still take two showers each, a day. They are getting food stamps, so have given me a little for food. And yes and no on the job. I don’t know, I think he has it, but he has to wait for the process. That’s all I know. It’s a municipal job, so there’s a process. And, in the meantime, he goes back up north sometimes, to work a week here and there for money. They are leaving again today, she’s going with him, for the week. I don’t know..it’s a mess.”
Mom – “Good grief. Are you kidding me with the going back and forth? Answer me this…if he can go from here to there to work, assuming they stay with family up there…why the hell can’t he do that from there then? Use the INTERNET to find work down here like a lot of people do?  Work up there, stay with family, and save enough to move the way normal people move? I do NOT understand why they quit and moved to live off strangers instead of doing exactly what he is ALREADY doing! I just don’t get it. And I don’t get the two of you. Can you not SEE they are taking advantage of you?”

We don’t see it, but can see the steam coming out of Mom’s ears!

Barb – “I know. I know. It’s just so hard to say that to them. I just want my house back. My family back. My sanity back.”
Mom – “Well? Get it back!!! Talk to them. BEFORE they leave, so they can take their shit with them. You’ve done more than most, but this was not supposed to be forever! What about he holiday season that’s coming? You supposed to host their families? Or are you just supposed to be their base camp while they travel around visiting their own?”

We can hear Barb’s frustrated sigh’s and obvious distress in the background.

Barb – “I don’t know what to do.”
Mom – “What does Bob say?”
Barb – “Not much.”
Mom – “Great. Well honey, I didn’t mean to put more stress on you, but you both know what you have to do. My suggestion is for you to take those giant cajones I know you have and put them to use! Speak up for yourselves. You can do it nicely, just as you opened your home that way, or you can let it fester until nice is a thing of the past. Do it now before it’s too late.”


Obviously, no one would end a play there…and I’m not, because it’s an on-going saga with people I know.  The reason I put it out there, in this way and to this point is…I’d like to know

What Would You Do?

It’s hard (but not) to put myself in these people’s shoes.  As an outsider, a venting friend to their vented Mom, I agree with Mom’s view here.  They need to speak up and speak now or forever hold their peace, because people do what we allow them to do!

However, I also feel for the Browns  because I’m the same when it comes to uncomfortable confrontations.  So, I can offer no advice if I’m using myself as an example.

Someone, somewhere, out there, may have some advice on how to approach this for people who, like the Browns, cannot bring themselves to be hurtful  (as perceived by them, not by anyone else I imagine) to a family in need, but also a family that is taking advantage of the very thing that makes the the Browns who they are.

2 thoughts on “How to Lose Friends and Gain an Ulcer – A Play in Two Acts

Nice-n-Easy...but tell it like it is

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