Meet the dysfunctional family of Jacob McAllister; grump, novelist, loner, who have dropped in on him - unannounced - for a Christmas celebration in this excerpt from the play White Out: A Comedy in Three Acts.
JACOB & ZOE: (Singing to themselves)
There is a pause.
JACOB: You use full words, don’t you?
JACOB: When you type on your phone. You use full words, right? Not acronyms or replacement numbers or any of that.
ZOE: I don’t know.
JACOB: You don’t know?
ZOE: I just text whatever. It all autocorrects anyway.
JACOB: Well, that’s something at least. Does it fill in the full words? Acronyms are the death of the English language.
ZOE: You know you live in the U.S.A., right?
JACOB: Your Honour, the prosecution rests. Autocorrect. You know what I had to do in my day, when I made a mistake? Liquid paper. Blot it out and do it again. That was the best way. It taught you an appreciation for doing it right the first time. These days, you can just jam your fingers against the screen and a monkey types out the complete works of William Shakespeare.
ZOE: Owen likes Shakespeare.
JACOB: Good for Owen. He’s not a monkey, is he?
ZOE: Uncle Jake.
JACOB: Sorry. He’s evolved far beyond that, I’m sure.
ZOE: Far beyond.
JACOB: He’s no Philistine, lagging behind the cultural curve.
ZOE: No, he always has the latest iPhone.
JACOB: You’ll have my approval when he buys an Underwood.
ZOE: Don’t be jealous of technology, Uncle Jake.
JACOB: Jealous? Give me a typewriter over a smartphone any day.
ZOE: I mean, don’t be jealous of the monkey who can write like Shakespeare. I’m sure monkeys get writer’s block too.
JACOB: That isn’t exactly what that theorem means… Damn monkey. Probably took a writing course at a local college and went straight to the bestseller’s list. Maybe I should get a monkey?
ZOE: You’re insane.
JACOB: I’m an artist; it’s part of the gig. Still, I suppose I should be satisfied with my lot. I’m not sure I could afford the banana bill.
Zoe sits up suddenly and looks around the room.
ZOE: I’m just wondering what your walls would look like covered in feces.
JACOB: Mock me all you like; I’m not the one dependant on getting a signal to a soon-to-be obsolete device just to know anything.
ZOE: No, you just have to buy a new set of encyclopedias every few years. That’s much more practical.
JACOB: It works out my brain. I need the exercise.
ZOE: Maybe you should have been a mathlete. You really think that phones like this will seem old-fashioned when I’m your age?
JACOB: Sooner than that, I’d guess. Technology advances so quickly now. In no time at all you’ll be sitting right there on that couch staring at that screen while your children ask you why you don’t trade it in for a new holographic projection machine. And when that day comes… I’ll probably be wondering what you’re still doing in my house.
ZOE: At least that’s in the same arena. Typewriters are like a different species. They’re related more closely to the printing press than to the computer.
JACOB: So sue me, Gutenberg, I like the way the buttons snap when you press them.
ZOE: I can’t imagine my dad trying to work on one of those. All day he sits at his computer, tapping away. The sound of a typewriter would drive him crazy.
JACOB: Online businesses don’t lend themselves to aging, mechanical appliances. Is he still Mr. Mom?
ZOE: He does all my laundry and all the cooking too. It’s so annoying.
JACOB: Yes. Sounds rough.
ZOE: Ha ha. I mean, I can take care of myself. I’m fourteen.
JACOB: You want to do your own laundry?
ZOE: Maybe not. I just wish –
Doreen enters from the kitchen, talking on her phone.
DOREEN: … of course that’s how I would handle it. And that’s how I want you to handle it. The operative word being you. (Aside, calling upstairs) Mark! (On phone) I can’t deal with this right now, it’s Christmas here. (Pause) Well, we’re celebrating it a few days early.
Mark enters from upstairs.
I’m sure the Baby Jesus won’t mind.
MARK: Actually, being Jewish, wouldn’t Jesus celebrate Hanukkah?
Mark chuckles at his own joke. Doreen stares at him. Eventually he wilts.
I tidied up a little, Jacob, I hope that’s okay. And the upstairs bathroom is out of toilet paper.
DOREEN: I’m sure you do, Reg, but I have some family things to deal with.
Doreen notices that Jacob and Zoe both give her looks and she soothes them while still talking.
I’m making dinner. And my turkey is in the oven.
JACOB: (To Zoe) See? Your mom is cooking now. Your dad can take a break.
DOREEN: (To Mark) Can you check on the turkey? (To phone) Yes, we’re at my brother’s cabin, out in the middle of nowhere. Not many houses out here. Should make it easier for Santa to find us, right, sweetheart?
Doreen aims that last at Zoe, who rolls her eyes. Mark has gone into the kitchen.
No, not you, Reg. My daughter. Yes, of course I have a daughter! Oh, just get those files together and call the courier to pick them up in the morning.
Doreen hangs up.
JACOB: If you’re needed at work…
DOREEN: I’m not. I mean, I am, but I’m needed here more. After all, it’s Christmas!
ZOE: It’s the 22nd.
DOREEN: Close enough. And Christmas is a time to spend with loved ones.
ZOE: Then why am I not with Owen?
DOREEN: Owen wasn’t invited.
JACOB: Neither were any of you, that didn’t stop you from showing up.
DOREEN: It’s what people do, Jake. It’s called dropping in.
ZOE: Whether you like it or not.
JACOB: You could call first.
DOREEN: You never answer your phone.
JACOB: What’s the point of having an answering machine if I never get to use it?
ZOE: Imaginary company on lonely nights?
JACOB: Yet another use for the wifi signal.
DOREEN: Don’t encourage her, Jake. She’s in full-fledged angst-mode. It’s like she’ll die if she’s separated from her “boyfriend” for more than a few hours.
ZOE: It’s called Depth of Feeling, mother.
DOREEN: It’s called hormones, Zoe.
JACOB: Does this angst thing work? Does it get you what you want?
ZOE: Not usually.
DOREEN: Not that that stops her.
JACOB: Then why bother?
ZOE: (Shrugs) It gives me something to do.
Jacob pauses, then nods and gets up to turn off the record player.
DOREEN: You could help me with the turkey, if you need something to do.
Mark enters from the kitchen.
MARK: Turkey’s coming along just fine.
DOREEN: Thank you, Mark.
Zoe gets up.
ZOE: I’m going to the bathroom.
MARK: There’s no toilet paper, honey.
ZOE: Where’s the toilet paper, Uncle Jake?
JACOB: I think I’m out.
JACOB: I don’t like to shop.
DOREEN: Then why have you spent the whole evening clipping coupons?
JACOB: I’m feeling angsty. It gives me something to do.