Anna Tatelman

from Life On the Moon

Scene 1

(AT RISE: PIPER sits in the middle of an elaborate play scheme in the living room. Toys are scattered over the floor and furniture, but in a deliberate manner.)

(SPENCER enters in a winter coat. He stays in the doorway.)

SPENCER: Hey, Piper.

(Piper does not look up as she continues arranging toys.)

PIPER: Spencer will come home at five fifteen on Saturday, December 21st.

SPENCER: Yeah, I know — I'm home a little earlier than scheduled.

PIPER: Twelve minutes early.

SPENCER: Yeah. Well, hey, I saved you a peanut packet from the airline.

(He holds it out. Piper does not look up. Spencer returns the packet to his pocket.)

SPENCER: That's okay. It'll keep, if you want it later. I've got to unpack now, but I'll see you at dinner.

PIPER: Dinner's at fifteen minutes after six, seventy-two minutes away.

SPENCER: I haven't been gone that long, Piper. I still know all our routines. But thanks for the reminder.

(He half-turns but then stops and looks back at Piper. Piper continues arranging her toys.)

SPENCER: Can I have a hug?

(Piper tenses her body. Spencer edges into the room, careful not to bump into any toys, and embraces the stiff Piper.)

PIPER: All done.

SPENCER: (releases her) Yeah. Okay. See you in seventy-two minutes.

PIPER: (resuming play) Seventy-one minutes.

SPENCER: Right. Seventy-one. Silly Spencer.

PIPER: Silly Spencer.

(Spencer stands and picks his way back through the play scheme, but accidentally knocks over one of the toys. Piper still does not look up, but she immediately snaps at him.)

PIPER: (mimicking George Bailey) What is it you want, Mary?

SPENCER: It's okay — you're okay — see? It looks just like it did before.

PIPER: (getting louder) What do you want? You want the moon?

SPENCER: (with practiced calm) Lower your voice, everything's fine —

PIPER: (flapping hands) Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.

SPENCER: Hey, Piper — let's tell a story.

(Piper stops yelling, but her hands keep flapping. The crisis has not yet hit, but they are teetering on the edge. Both Piper and Spencer are aware of this, and neither of them desire to hit breaking point.)


SPENCER: Once upon a time, Spencer came home from the army for Christmas and wanted to say hello to Piper. But Spencer is a silly guy and he knocked over one of Piper's toys. He didn't mean to, but accidents just happen sometimes — like when Alice made the Queen of Hearts angry, right? Remember how the Queen's face got red and she started yelling? She was angry like you are now. But Alice didn't mean to upset the queen, just like Spencer didn't mean to upset Piper — and everything worked out fine in the end. So then Spencer fixed the toy and Piper was all better. The end?

(Piper is flapping less now. She continues to recite It's a Wonderful Life, but more quietly.)

PIPER: Hey. That's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Mary.

(Spencer stands. The strain only shows upon his face now, after the crisis is averted.)

SPENCER: Yeah. I'd like that, Piper. I'd like it if you gave me the moon. Gravity just weighs us both down. I'll see you in seventy-nine — five — whatever minutes.

PIPER: Sixty-nine.

* * *

Scene 5

(It is the middle of the night. The house is dark. Spencer, in his pajamas, is busy trying to occupy himself with various distractions, such as hopping channels or flipping through magazines. He periodically cups and rubs at his nose, as though it hurts.)

(Piper enters in her pajamas with a blue tub of toys. When she sees Spencer, she halts and fiddles with her tracking bracelet.)

PIPER: (looking at ceiling) Do you want Spencer to go?

SPENCER: Oh — hey, Piper.

PIPER: Do you want Spencer to go PLEASE?

SPENCER: You can sit in here, too. I won't bother you.

PIPER: (louder) Are you getting tired, Peter Pan? You look like you need a nap!

SPENCER: How about we make a deal? If you let me stay in here, I'll let you look at my swim team medals.

PIPER: (mimicking Spencer's voice) Piper, how many times do I have to tell you NOT to go in my room and touch all of my shit?

SPENCER: You don't paint a very nice picture of me, do you? Well, tonight, I'm giving you permission to look at some of my stuff, if you let me stay in here. Okay?

(Piper turns on the lights, then sets her toys upon the floor and begins to arrange them.)

SPENCER: I'll take that as a yes.

(Spencer exits. Piper continues to arrange her possessions. Spencer returns and sets a box beside Piper.)

SPENCER: There you go. Swim team and soccer medals from middle school through high school.

(Piper systematically takes one medal at a time from the box, rubs it against her mouth, and arranges the medal among her other possessions.)

PIPER: Do you want Spencer's military awards?

SPENCER: You don't want — I haven't done anything deserving a military award.

(The following sequence of dialogue overlaps.)

PIPER: Spencer won an Army Service Ribbon in December 2011 —

SPENCER: Well, they award that to basically any idiot who can get through boot camp without blowing his foot off —

PIPER: (starts to rock) — a Physical Fitness Badge in December 2011 —

SPENCER: — that's not even a medal, just a patch on my training uniform —

PIPER: (louder) — a Sharpshooter Army Marksmanship Qualification Badge for Pistol in April 2012 —

SPENCER: — okay, that one is a medal, but not a great one, didn't get the highest score —

PIPER: — an Expert Army Marksmanship Qualification Badge for Rifle in September 2012 —

SPENCER: (cups nose) — yeah. Okay, you're right, you don't need to recite them all —

PIPER: — an Excellence in Rifle Competition Bronze Badge in April 2013 —


PIPER: (dropping a medal) WHY DO YOUR EARS HURT, LOST BOY?

SPENCER: (quieter) Okay. You were right and I was wrong. Silly Spencer.

PIPER: Silly Spencer.

(Piper resumes rubbing medals against her mouth, but her body is still rocking.)

PIPER: Tomorrow, Spencer will bring you the military awards.

SPENCER: That wasn't part of our deal. Be happy with the medals I gave you.

PIPER: Today, you will be happy with the medals I gave you. Tomorrow, you will look at the military awards.


SPENCER: We're not negotiating this.

PIPER: Do you want to tell a story, Wendy?

SPENCER: Once upon a time, Spencer made a deal with Piper that, if he let her look at his medals, she'd let him stay in the living room. But Piper got greedy and wanted more medals — like how Peter Pan got greedy and tried to drag Wendy to Neverland, even though at first she didn't want to go. Peter Pan wanted Wendy to tell him and the lost boys lots of stories, more stories than they could ever need … So Spencer told Piper she had enough medals, and then Piper was happy. The end.

PIPER: Do you want a different story?

SPENCER: There's nothing wrong with that story.

PIPER: (imitating George Bailey) Well, in my book, my father died a much richer man than you'll ever be!

SPENCER: Okay, hey, why don't you tell me a story?

PIPER: Like what, Captain Hook?

SPENCER: Like — what's up with your new bracelet?

PIPER: (recites a commercial) When a loved one with a medical condition — such as autism or Alzheimer's — wanders away from home, families go sick with worry: will their loved one encounter an unkind stranger? Or lose their way and not return home for days?

(Piper hums the commercial music, an overly jaunty tune.)

PIPER: Conquer these worries with Wander Responder, voted the number one tracking system by police and caretakers across the nation. Worry no longer: order your Wander Responder bracelet today.

SPENCER: Okay. Weird commercial. But cool device. Nice that Mom and Dad get to sleep more without having to worry.

PIPER: Mom and Dad get up at 5:45 a.m. every weekday and 7:15 a.m. every weekend.

SPENCER: Well — a bit more.

PIPER: Spencer gets up between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. when home on vacation.

SPENCER: Yeah . . . he used to. Before he, like Piper, became a night owl.

PIPER: You don't want Spencer and Piper to be owls.

SPENCER: No — sorry — I just meant that we're bad at sleeping.

(Piper cheerfully recites dialogue from A Farewell to Arms as she continues to peruse the medals.)

PIPER: (Italian accent) But I am — I am very moved to see you so badly wounded. How did it happen?

SPENCER: Snoozing until 2 p.m. isn't as much fun as it used to be.

PIPER: (Italian accent) I will see you are decorated for bravery. Did you carry someone on your back?

(Spencer becomes determinedly happy. Piper starts to rock. )

SPENCER: But no point getting caught up in all that.

PIPER: (Lieutenant Henry's voice) I didn't carry anybody. I couldn't move.

SPENCER: Somehow you've survived all these years without much sleep — I'm still learning how to do the same, but —

PIPER: Do you want Spencer to go?

SPENCER: Oh, come on.

PIPER: (getting louder) Do I want Spencer to go PLEASE.

SPENCER: We made a deal —

(Piper hurls one of Spencer's medals across the room.)

PIPER: (Italian accent) Surely there was something heroic. Tell me what you did.

SPENCER: Keep it down — don't need to wake the whole house —

PIPER: (Lieutenant Henry's voice) I WAS BLOWN UP EATING CHEESE.

SPENCER: You don't like to stay in your bedroom either when you can't sleep — if you could just once try to relate —

(Piper throws a medal at Spencer.)


(Spencer storms off-stage. Piper's rocking slows, but she remains agitated. Mimicking Spencer's tic, she rubs and/or cups her nose.)

PIPER: (Italian accent) You will see! Every day I learn to do things smoother and quicker. Soon, very soon, you will be walking again.


Anna Tatelman's Life on the Moon is the 2017 winner of the Triad Shakes Theatre's New Play Competition and of Southeastern Louisiana University's Inkslinger Playwriting Competition. This play has been produced at both Southeastern Louisiana University and New York University. When not posing as the female reincarnation of Tennessee Williams, Anna can usually be found playing with her cat, shopping on Etsy, and/or eating ice cream.