Fruit Bat


A tragicomedy in two acts

Act One, Scene One

Upstage right, Jude Wintermilk sits hunched over a desk lit by a small lamp in an otherwise dark bedroom. While threading a blank sheet of paper into his thrift store typewriter—a barely functioning antique acquired for its twee appeal—he begins thinking out loud about the play he’s poised to write.

Jude: (Talking in an eager voice.) Okay, so this’ll be a play within a play that starts with me sitting at a desk similar to the one I’m currently at, and it’ll be lit by a small lamp in an otherwise dark bedroom, upstage right. After typing a steady stream of words onto a sheet of paper, like so. (He types slowly and deliberately with his index fingers.) I’ll clear my throat like this. (Clears throat in a self-important manner.) And then I’ll read what I’ve just written. (In a meticulously enunciated voice, he recites the following:) Leaves in the breeze, waves on the beach, little birds chirping, pretty girls demurring, old people telling poignant stories and, of course, worried mothers with worried voices; they don’t interest me, in fact, they bore me because trite sentimentality has no place in my sovereign nation of one. Things have gotten to the point where I’ve been forced to close my borders, as it were, so I can dedicate myself entirely to my craf—

Jude’s cellphone lies on the desk, beside the typewriter. It starts ringing and when it does a light opens upstage left, illuminating an older woman sitting on her living room couch. The receiver of a touchtone phone is pressed to her ear and a box of tissues is balanced on her lap. On the eighth ring, Jude deigns to answer, visibly and audibly annoyed by another interruption in a day full of them.

Jude: Hello.

Mother of Unknown Girl: Hello, can I speak with Bristol?

Jude: Ma’am, this is the fifth time you’ve called today… Please listen to me when I say I don’t have a clue who she is.

The mother of the unknown girl breaks into tears, blowing her nose loudly into the tissue she’s clutching in her left hand.

Mother of Unknown Girl: She—she’s my daughter, my only daughter.

Jude: Yes, I know, ma’am, because you said as much the last time you called but it doesn’t change the fact that I don’t know who she is. Like I told you before, I just got this phone, which probably means your daughter’s number’s been recycled. In other words, it’s mine now… I’m sorry.

Mother of Unknown Girl: But are you actually sorry, though?

Jude: Um, well, no. I mean, I don’t wanna sound mean or anything but it’s just sorta something we say around here.

Mother of Unknown Girl: Exactly. So, now that we know you’re in the habit of saying things you don’t mean, how do I know for sure you’re telling me the truth about my daughter? Maybe you’re some kind of sick pervert who’s got her tied up in your basement.

The mother of the unknown girl mutters indecipherably before losing her composure in a series of hitched sobs. Jude waits on the other end of the line. When there’s enough silence for an edgewise word, he proceeds to defend himself despite knowing, by the previously arch tone of her voice, that her insinuation wasn’t meant to be taken seriously.  

Jude: With all due respect, ma’am, you’ll just have to take my word for it that I’m not a sicko. Besides, there’s no basement in my loft apartment, and right now I happen to be busy writing my first… Nevermind, I’m just busy at the moment, so I don’t have time for this.

Mother of Unknown Girl: (In a deeper, more unhinged sounding voice.) Well whaddya know? I’ve found another selfish man who doesn’t have time for this or for anything else but himself! She’s my ONLY child, for God’s sake. You’re worse than a sick pervert, you’re a cold-hearted bastard.

Jude: Excuse me, ma’am, but I’m not a sick pervert or a cold-hearted bastard, I’m just trying to—

Mother of Unknown Girl: (Interrupting in a sneering voice.) Just trying to what? Get on with your little life? Is that it, huh? All you men are the same. You only ever care about your stomachs and your—your… (Unable to utter the word on her lips, she changes the subject and launches into a rant about lobster ice cream, hissing loudly when calling it insufferable.)

Jude pulls the phone away, glares at it quizzically, then brings it back to his ear while slowly shaking his head in disbelief.

Mother of Unknown Girl: Lobster. Fucking. Ice cream… I haven’t heard from Bristol in three days and every second’s been a living hell… I haven’t slept at all… Have you ever been through hell? I bet you have and you probably enjoyed it you, you, you despicable man.

Jude: (In an impatient voice.) I don’t know what lobster ice cream is but I’ve got a good idea what hell is and it’s probably served there. As for your daughter, I’m sure she’s fine wherever she is.

Mother of Unknown Girl: I hate the stuff with every fibre of my being. I hate the smell and the taste and I absolutely despise all the disgusting tourists that eat it like it’s goin’ outta style, but trust me, it’ll never go outta style… Not around here, anyway… If I ever get my hands on the person who invented it, I’ll, I’ll kill them!

Jude: Woah, ma’am, it’s only ice cream, right?

Mother of Unknown Girl: No. it’s way more than that. It’s the reason… (She doubles up in a spasm of grief but manages to stifle it.) When I asked Bristol why she left she said… You—you know what she said to me? She said she couldn’t stand serving it to tourists anymore. She worked at an ice cream store down at the beach and I curse the day she ever got hired there. (After pulling out the last tissue, she throws the empty box onto the ground and sits there in brooding silence.)  

Jude: Um, just out of curiosity, where are you calling from?

Mother of Unknown Girl: Chatham, Massachusetts… Cape Cod.

Jude: I see. Never been.

Mother of Unknown Girl: Well, every other Canadian seems to have been, and let me tell you something, none of you are fooling anyone with your uptight smiles and your sorry this and your sorry that… Smiling and saying sorry all the time doesn’t mean you’re good people. Americans aren’t as dumb as you think. We know you’re the politest bunch of assholes in the world and one of you has kidnapped my daughter! She left over a year ago and she’s called me almost everyday since but there’s been nothing for three days, no text messages, no emails… Why was her phone number given to you! I—I just wanna hear her tell me she’s okay. (Using her sleeve, she dries another stream of tears.)

Jude: I agree with your opinion on Canadians, ma’am, and for the record, I don’t identify as one.

Mother of Unknown Girl: I don’t care if you identify as a fucking fruit bat. You’re living in the country that took my daughter from me and that makes you guilty by association.

Jude: (Shifting uncomfortably in his chair.) Whatever. Are we done?

Mother of Unknown Girl: You see, you are a cold-hearted bastard.  

Jude: Nope. You got me all wrong. I’m not a cold-hearted bastard, I’m simply an artist who’s sick of all the goddamn bullshit so I’ve decided to live authentically in my sovereign nation of one and if you can’t understand that then too bad for you. Goodbye.

Aggressively pressing the screen of his phone, he hangs up on the mother of the unknown girl, who starts sobbing again in a softer, more pitiful, more defeated way as the light illuminating her fades to black.

12 thoughts on “Fruit Bat

    1. Hi Jan, thank you and yes, this is an older piece reworked. It’s the opening to the play that Bash (protagonist I’m currently working with) writes, and as such it’ll be embedded in the new book. I’ve always wanted to write a play, so I’m doing the two birds with one pen thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi A.,

    There are somethings that stick with us forever. I don’t know if I will be thinking about any of those when I die, but maybe I will be in the days before I die. I digress: this is your story. You never told me the origins of it. There is a detective story where a man answers the phone in a club and he doesn’t know the woman on the other end of the line, but it leads to murder. Once I answered the phone and there was a girl on the other end of the line and she wanted to fuck and so I went along and told her she was late and that I missed her. This story is yours and I don’t know the origin. Thanks. Duke

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Why don’t I ever get calls like this? Oh, I know why. I never answer the phone when it rings.

    Time for a little Inception action? Is the daughter gonna be the actual narrator trying to tell her mother to get stuffed?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks. Yes, this phenomenon is not much noted these days due to the lack of voice to voice communication over land lines. A relationship growing from the first stranger call over line phones has been replaced by cat fishing and other predatory behavior on the internet, some of which obviously leads to real harm. I find it sad the romance that would sometimes spring from a wrong number is almost dead. Once I was at a history convention, as a grad student, and was sitting alone drinking in my advisor’s room when the phone rang and the woman had called the wrong room, but we started chatting, since I vaguely knew the guy she was looking for, and she came down to drink, and then we went up to her place and the next morning she drove me to Austin and by the time we got there we were both sick of each other and she told me don’t come looking for her in the Texas State Museum. She was about five foot four, pale white skin, short brown hair, nice body, and a supposed expert on Spanish land grants and original Texas settlements. No name. So there you go, without a wrong number I wouldn’t have this rather mixed memory in my mind. Duke

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That line “don’t come looking for me in the Texas State Museum” – now there’s a title for a CW song. Get busy Duque! “I shoulda left that phone a’ringing and stared into mah gin. Left the gong a dinging instead of searching for some sin.” Okay – Waylon I ain’t.

        Liked by 2 people

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