(The following is from a one-man show called "The Planemaker," written in the mid-seventies by Guy Randle and me. It's the scene in which the old man who'd always dreamed of flying is reunited with the wife he loved and lost in his youth, the lady with yellow hair and the magic of yellow in her eyes. He had, on death's doorstep, made a marvelous plane for his grandson, who, upon receiving it, gives it back and miraculously shows his grandpa how to fly it. But now the plane has been wrenched from the old man's control by some higher power, and after blasting off through space he finds himself hurtling into the sun. The story was actually written backwards, with this scene being the first to be created. It really is a love story.)

    Slowly the broad wings and the tall tailpiece bend out behind, and the stricken dream-plane explodes into a trillion tiny drips and pieces and sweeps away behind the doomed old man, who's screaming head over heels into...
...into Yellow. Bright, fat, Yellow!


    So this is the place! Why didn't he see it coming? The place he once knew in his mind and forgot, where the black space dissolves into warm rolling waves. He laughs out loud as he feels them crashing over his tumbling body, giving him strength, washing away his fear and trembling. He spreads his arms, points his toes, and tears like an arrow on into the heart of the sun, his long white beard trailing behind him.
    In all that rich warm yellow he remembers his Amy, and he almost expects her to reach out from nowhere and take his hand­but then the yellow begins to thin, like he's moving too fast and the yellow itself is on fire and flaming into white. And easily into white passes Lucas.
    And the white passes fiercely into him, tearing the years from behind his eyes. And now he sees a million colors in the white, and each one sings a deep song of its own. And Lucas flashes a million colors back, then bashes out the other side of the sun and blazes through heaven like a bright new star. Double bright, because the brightness of Lucas Lightbrow and the brightness of Amy Fletcher are now one fiercely everlasting brightness.
    Like a comet they sail, hand in hand, through heavens measured in millions of light-years, and they frighten dogs and delight children and excite lovers across a thousand galaxies, until at last they come to rest in deep, deep space above a dark and empty world, a world where life has never been. And there they stay.

The morning comes so slowly.
It rises soft inside.
It eases up into our eyes.

The light is pale and lowly,
the light we hush and hide,
the light that reaches out for skies.

And then the dark begins to clear.
And like a storm, the morning's here.
Then we are fierce and holy.
Then we are wild and wise.
Then we are sunshine on the rise.

And then the dark begins to clear.
And like a storm, the morning's here.
Then we are fierce and holy.
Then we are wild and wise.
Then we are sunshine on the rise.

    How did it feel at the center of the sun? What was it really like to blaze like a new star through space? How does it feel even now to live and dream and love at the heart of all that pulsing rainbow strength, in fact to be the broad yellow giver of warmth and light to that distant planet? These are the feelings of suns and stars. They take the shape of whatever soul they fill. And a star, of course, is what Lucas and Amy became, a bright new sun, faithfully echoing the old, scattering light and lives out over the darkness.

(This is a scene from the musical comedy "Wedlocked," which I wrote with Steven Kapp Perry. With the introduction to the website of the foregoing piece, I had thought to retire this to a "From Plays Archive," but felt inclined to leave it here in connection with the Valentine's Day season.)

THE SETTING: Grasping for some emotional release, Elizabeth Utley has written an article for a "How Is Your Marriage?" article-writing contest in a national magazine. In it she vents about having her serious feelings ignored by a husband who would rather life were all about romance and play. To her chagrin, the article, not yet published, wins. The prize is publication, and a romantic getaway. Her goal on the getaway was to achieve an "intimacy miracle" that would make it safe to read the damning article to Valjean before he reads it in the magazine. The miracle has not occured. But the getaway, and the play, is drawing to a close.

BETH
(gathering luggage)
There are things I wanted to do here.

VAL
(also moving toward packing)
Didn't we do it all?

BETH
(abandons packing, pulls out the article, sits on the bed)
No.

VAL
What then?

BETH
I'm going to read you my article.

VAL
Wait, aren't you the one with certain pronounced feelings about bad timing?

BETH
Whether we've had a miracle or not.

VAL
What?

BETH
An intimacy miracle.

VAL
What on earth is...

BETH
(reads)
"Staying Afloat On The Sea Of Bliss."

VAL
Beth! We have to leave!

BETH
"Staying Afloat In The Sea Of Bliss."

VAL
Beth!

BETH
"By Elizabeth Utley."

VAL
(resigned)
Oh boy.

BETH
"First of all, beware of sharks..."

VAL
I'm not a shark!

BETH
You're not a shark.

VAL
(consulting his watch)
It's check-out time. I can't believe I am now paying to hear this!

BETH
"First of all beware of sharks. And razor-toothed barracudas and sting-rays and even sea-serpents bent on destroying your marriage. These might represent pornography, unfaithfulness, criticism, and crushing debt. But these are not the most serious threat to the floating homemaker; not even the piranha of lust, seeking to shred the occasional dangling leg."

VAL
Gross! My scouts would like this!

BETH
"These are not the creatures most likely to wreck the pleasure of treading water 'til death do you part."

VAL
We don't even believe in "'til death do you part."

BETH
No. For us it would be "the pleasure of treading water for time and all eternity." Imagine the aerobic benefits!

VAL
That's sacrilegious, dear.

BETH
"These demons of the deep may not molest you at all. But beware the flounder!"

VAL
Flounder?

BETH
Flounder.

VAL
(walking away, muttering)
Flounder.

BETH
"His name may be Bill, or Bob, or simply, "Dear." If he was spawned in the remote waters of small-town Utah, his name might even be Vonell, or LaVirl, LaVirl the Flounder, or other permutations of parental names."

VAL
That's a direct attack!

BETH
What? Valjean. I thought your parents were Les Miz fans.

VAL
My father the farmer?

BETH
Val, senior.

VAL
And my mother the farmer's wife?

BETH
Jean.

VAL
That's a direct attack.

BETH
"This is the Spousus Flounderus. Once it has singled you out from among all other creatures, its lethal tactic is to ignore you to death." (Or, as mentioned, ignore you to time and all eternity).

VAL
(glancing upward)
I'm looking for lightning bolts here.

BETH
"Spousus Flounderus is not like the flattened halibut, who is born with an eye on either side of its face..."

VAL
Well, where else would you find a fish's...

BETH
"...on either side of its face."
I have illustrations.
(holding it up)
Illustration number one.
"As the halibut matures and swims on its side along the ocean floor, its left eye will travel to the right, or upward-facing, side of its face.

VAL
(disbelieving)
They don't!

BETH
I looked it up.
Illustration number two: (She holds it up.) The mature halibut.
"But unlike the Halibut, the right eye of the Spousus Flounderus will travel to the left, or downward-facing side, enabling him to ignore you more efficiently."

VAL
Come on!

BETH
(holding it up)
Illustration number three: Spousus Flounderus

VAL
That looks nothing like me!

BETH
"Such are the dark wonders of evolution! I believe the Sea of Marital Bliss can be survived by any woman who is sufficiently brave and imaginative to develop coping techniques to..."

VAL
This won a prize?

BETH
"...coping techniques..."

VAL
No offense, but I'm not exactly dazzled with insights here.

BETH
I wasn't trying...

VAL
I mean, Shakespeare this is not. What kind of a contest...

BETH
I won because it's funny!

(This is a complete surprise to Val.)

VAL
It's not funny.

BETH
It's funny!

VAL
Hey, I know funny...

BETH
And it's good.

VAL
(to TV)
Funny is like Laurel and Hardy, and W.C....

BETH
And it's true!!

(Big beat. There is an emotional intensity here that Val can't deny.)

VAL
Well, okay. Literarily it's good. It's a clever metaphor.

BETH
You knew the word.

VAL
Right. You've always been good at that. I mean, the magazine thought it was good enough to win! People will read your words all over the...
(It hits him.)
...United States of America.

BETH
It wasn't supposed to win!

VAL
Why not? Writing was your dream, once! I'm glad to see you pick it up again! Your success is worth some...sacrifice.

BETH
Even now you're ignoring me.

VAL
Beth, I am listening my tympanic membrane to a pulp! I am hearing every single word!

BETH
You are oblivious to the feelings behind my words!

VAL
I am paying strict attention! You're talking, I'm listening!

BETH
No! You're not paying attention at all!

VAL
Name a husband who pays more attention than I do!

BETH
Alright, you pay plenty of attention.

VAL
Thanks.

BETH
But not to me!

VAL
To whom, then, am I paying all this attention?

BETH
To somebody you made up in your head and insist on calling "Beth"!

VAL
Who?

BETH
Some woman who doesn't feel unhappy and alone!

VAL
(losing it)
I will not have a wife who feels unhappy and alone!

BETH
Bulls-eye! That's what I'm afraid of.

VAL
(scrambling)
I...I didn't mean...

BETH
Val, I try to get this feeling out in some words, something I used to be kind of good at, and you jump right into some kind of song-and-dance of evasion. As though the ending of all my sentences is "five, six, seven, eight." If you do sense a scary feeling about to be expressed, you try to eclipse it or smother it with a bigger, safer feeling.

VAL
What bigger feeling?

BETH
Laughter.

VAL
I don't!

BETH
Val, when Ted was just little, he'd get bullied by his friends, or disappointed, or angry about something that wasn't fair. You wanna know what your standard response was?

VAL
I remember perfectly well what my response was. I'd tickle him and make him laugh until his mind was on something positive.

BETH
Then you'd go back to work or back to the TV, feeling like an effective dad.

VAL
Well, yeah.

BETH
And I'd find Ted alone in his room, red-faced and twisting the wings off his toy airplane because his father had just told him, with a tickle and a joke and a pat on the head, that his feelings weren't real.

VAL
Wait a minute, that wasn't the idea at...

BETH
Well, they're real! And so are mine! And they count!

VAL
(a moment considering her words deeply)
Can I have some, too?

BETH
Feelings?

VAL
Yeah.

BETH
Besides mirth?

VAL
Come on!

BETH
Sorry.

(Val hesitates.)
Well?

VAL
This might hurt you.

BETH
Just say it.

VAL
Beth, last week when I was driving home I began playing in my head this little movie where you die.

BETH
Die?!

VAL
Nothing painful.

BETH
Thank you.

VAL
But we're married forever so everything's really okay. And since I didn't leave you for somebody else, now I can have somebody else.

BETH
Does this somebody else have a name?

VAL
No.

BETH
No name?

VAL
Well, yeah, she does.

BETH
What, then?

VAL
"Beth." You were right. Some other woman named Beth.

BETH
Do I want to hear about her?

VAL
I had this picture of you, her, fixing waffles twenty years from now, and it takes her thirty minutes to mix the dumb batter because I keep kissing you, I mean, her. Nah, I mean you! And then the waffles all burn because you're kissing me, and so we go to Village Inn at ten in the morning and ask the waitress if we could please have a candle on our table.

BETH
Candle?

VAL
You know, those tall firey things that we used to have on the nightstand? And on the dinner table, and in the window for when I was coming home late? Those waxy things that we haven't seen since Sarah...ate one?

BETH
(embarrassed at the intrusion of warmth)
And Austin tried lighting one with the microwave.

VAL
Did they all disappear into diapers and appliances?

BETH
They're in a drawer, behind the bibs.

VAL
Do you remember when you put them there?

BETH
No.

VAL
Let me guess. We'd been honeymooning for a year. Pretending to like that dismal cream of mushroom soup because each of us thought the other liked it. Burning candles at night until the ceiling was black. Kissing at the front door every morning as though I were going off to war.

BETH
(subdued)
I remember.

VAL
Then Sarah came. Glorious, golden-haired, and horrifying.

BETH
She was a wonderful baby!

VAL
Candles kept her awake.

BETH
What?

VAL
You said a candle would keep her awake!

BETH
No...

VAL
Yes! Burglars, gang warfare, MTV, these might have kept her awake. But you said "a candle."

BETH
Well, it would have!

VAL
Kept you awake.

BETH
What?

VAL
It would have kept you awake.

BETH
I needed sleep!

VAL
More than a little magic, a little beauty, a little bonding?

BETH
Yeah.

VAL
I don't believe that.

BETH
Believe it! I was nursing half my strength away! Besides, I wasn't attractive!

VAL
Who's talking about attractive?

BETH
I thought you were.

VAL
You gave up on yourself.

BETH
I did not!

VAL
(strongly)
You gave up on yourself. Your writing, your health, your right to a little joy.

BETH
Not entirely.

VAL
Well, I didn't.

BETH
Didn't what?

VAL
Give up on my right to a little joy.

BETH
What joy?

VAL
The joy of feeling like what I had to give might mean something to you.

BETH
You gave up on that?

VAL
Not for a long time.

BETH
How long?

VAL
Five years. Four years after the honeymoon. Somewhere around midnight on February fourteenth. You'd nursed Ted for two hours, then Sarah threw up a couple of pounds of mac-n-cheese. I mopped up the crib while you rocked her to sleep. When you finally crawled into bed I thought you could use some cuddling.

BETH
Wait, I remember this.

VAL
Do you remember what you said?

BETH
Oh...

VAL
You said...

BETH
"Take a number."

VAL
That's what you said.

BETH
For one "Take a number," you decide it's too dangerous to listen to your wife's feelings anymore?

VAL
It wasn't the words. I listened to the feelings, feelings of months and months, every time I tried to get you to drive with me, walk with me, laugh at the ducks, quack at buses. And every time, in one way or another, you said "Take a number." Beth, I'm not all that sure I wanted to take anything. Except maybe take you away from the hassle. Why wouldn't you like that?

BETH
I live in the real world, where there's work to be done!

VAL
Yes, you work. Hard. So do I.

BETH
But mine is never done.

VAL
Surprise. Mine neither. But I leave it every night.

BETH
Lucky you! I can't! I live in it!

VAL
You could leave it! That's what I'm offering! To take you away from it!

BETH
Into Disneyland.

VAL
Don't you think the promise of a celestial marriage dangling out there ought to keep us even a little positive and cheerful?

BETH
Val, a celestial marriage should be happening on any day of the week or it never will!

VAL
What?

BETH
If it's not happening here and now, why should it happen in some distant heavenly there and then? Why are you putting it off?

VAL
That's what I'm asking you!

BETH
And I'm answering that you can't play your way to happiness.

VAL
You keep saying "play" like it's the holy grail of
my life!

BETH
You live for play!

VAL
I live for joy!

BETH
So you're waiting for some angel to blow a trumpet and blast away all the all the hard stuff?

VAL
No!

BETH
For some heavenly Nursery Leader to dance our kids off to eternal graham crackers?

VAL
Celestial marriage is all about JOY!

BETH
Celestial marriage is all about WORK!

(Then the big climactic song where he caves in. But she agrees to chill a little. Anyway, happy ending.)