The Dreadmill by Jim Maceda
JACK MCMASTERS: IN HIS 70'S. STILL A TALL, HANDSOME MAN BUT HAS A
PAUNCH, JACK NICHOLSON'S MEPHISTOPHELEAN FEATURES, WALKS WITH A
SLIGHT STOOP &SHUFFLE AND USUALLY WITH A CAPTAIN MORGAN &COKE IN
MARGE MCMASTERS: ALSO 70-SOMETHING. A PORTLIER, OLDER VERSION OF
'MARTHA' FROM 'WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF'. A ONCE-ATTRACTIVE WOMAN
WHOSE STAR HAS LONG FADED, WHOSE SLACKS AND BLOUSES BULGE, AND WHO
NEVER LOST HER NEW YORK ACCENT
JACKY MCMASTERS: THEIR SON, 50 YEARS OLD, A HUSBAND AND FATHER OF TWO
TECHNI-JIM: A ROBOTIC TREADMILL.
SCENE 1: LOVE &MARRIAGE
The lights barely illuminate the interior of any middle class ranch
house in suburban Los Angeles in the fall of 1999. We hear Frank
Sinatra's (1943) live- and scratchy—radio recording of 'You
Make Me Feel So Young'. This music fades and Jack and Marge are
heard just outside the front door.
Jack: Jesus H. Christ, you've done it again, Marge!
Marge: Now what?
Jack: The door's unlocked.
Marge: No way, I-
Jack: You always do it, Marge! You THINK you lock it. But you-
The door opens…it remains darkened inside the house.
Marge: I DID lock it, Jack-hole! I KNOW I locked it!!
Jack: You know you put the key in, and you may recall bitching at me
about your dead girlfriend, and then you forgot to turn the key,
Marge: No f'ing way, Oh Ye who can't even remember that my best
Jack: Gimmie me a break, Marge. How was I supposed to know who died?
Marge: For Chrissakes, I TOLD you…she died!
Jack: She died. SHE died. Yeah, but you didn't say you were talking
about…what's her name!
Marge: Irene! My best friend!!
Jack turns on the foyer lights. Jack is wearing khaki shorts, long
dark socks and wingtips. He enters first, carrying a plastic grocery
bag in each hand, moving slowly towards the kitchen.
Jack: Right, your best friend, Irene. You haven't seen Irene since,
what, high school?
Marge: Com'on, Jack. You know I saw her all the time until we
moved… to this THIRD WORLD country!
Jack: Don't start, Marge.
Marge: Anyway, you gotta do something, alright?
Jack: Well, I suppose we can send a card, or flowers, or—
Marge is bedecked in snug slacks and gobs of bling, carrying nothing
but a parasol, which she slams to the floor.
Marge: Not Irene, you idiot! She's been dead for MONTHS for
Chrissakes. I'm talking about that damn car of yours, Jacko. I
can't get in or out of that contrap—
Jack: Oh THAT. Well, let's see. We can widen the passenger seat, I
suppose. Find a car shop that'll extend the chassis, dearest? How
Marge: Don't 'dearest' me, Flubber-boy.
Jack: That shouldn't cost more than a few grand.
He turns on the kitchen lights, puts the groceries down on the table.
Jack: No problemo. (Smiles and raises his voice) I'll call Chavez!
Marge: Oh no you won't! No bookies this time, Jackson. You're the
King of the Freagin' Castle, right? Well, YOU figure it out. Just
get me something…
She struggles to find space in the closet to hang up her imitation
Marge: You know…one of those big, ugh, eggplants-on-wheels…or—
Jack: Oh. A vegetarian hybrid. Well, that sounds…New Age. An
eggplant-on-wheels. So 'post-modern'.
Marge: I don't know…a…mini-van, or a ...people-carrier or
whachumacallit…dammit, Jack, you know what I mean!
Marge heads straight into the guest bathroom off the foyer and slams
Jack: A mini-van?
He stops in front of the bathroom door, speaking through it.
Jack: Did you say a MINI-VAN? For my Bavarian Princess? Surely that
won't do for the Queen of Queens!?
The toilet flushes loudly in response.
Jack goes back to the kitchen and unpacks the groceries onto the
table, yelling to be heard.
Jack: Wouldn't you rather have one of those Hummie things-
Marge: (Muffled) Hummer.
Jack yells towards the door.
Marge cracks opens the bathroom door.
Marge: Hummer, NOT HUMMIE, General McMasters!
Jack: Hummers…right…Hum-vees…something (he gestures with both
arms) very wiiiiiide-bodied for my expansively-hipped automotive
expert. (Louder, in a mock German accent) Maybe somezing mit
Jack talks again into the closed bathroom door.
Jack: Like vone of zose slick BMW station vagons, or even a Mercedes
druck, yah?...if I get lucky at zuh race track, zat is? Hmm? (Back to
his normal voice) I'll call Chavez now-this cud be our LUCKY day,
He walks towards the phone in the living room, which is still unlit.
Marge: (Muffled, still inside the bathroom) Lucky, my-
Another flush drowns her out….
Marge: I actually MEANT a mini-van-
She lowers her voice as she exits the bathroom.
Marge: -when I said mini-van, Herr Hummer.
Marge is now back in the foyer, just beyond the living room.
Marge: And I know my precious hunter-gatherer could barely even afford
THAT, what with Chavez the Bandido ripping off most of our cash!
She grabs Jack's butt from behind, without affection.
Jack recoils and swats her hand away and hangs up the phone.
Jack: Hey! Com'on, I could afford it, Sweetheart. At least that
FIRST year-you know—when there's nothing to pay?
Marge (Derisive) Ha, ha, ha. Yeah. Well, do something, for Chrissakes.
That excuse of a car of yours and my
Jack: (Under his breath-quickly—but loud enough to be
heard)...excuse for a body?
Marge: (Nods)...are definitely NOT made for each other!
Marge realizes the joke is on her.
Marge: Hey - you sonovah—
Jack has turned on the lights in the living room, which in turn sets
off an imposing hi-tech treadmill planted in the middle of the living
room, which whirs into 'on' mode, its lights now flashing.
Marge: (Shouts, fearfully) BITCH!!!
Jack: Jeezus H. Christ!!.
Marge: What in God's name is that? I almost tripped over the damn
thing and broke my neck!
Jack: You were nowhere near it, Marge.
Jack-cautiously—approaches and touches the treadmill like it might
T-J: (Languidly, like Hal in'' 2001, Space Odyssey'') WELCOME,
MARGE AND JACK MCMASTERS OF 1130 CALIFORNIA AVENUE, WEST COVINA,
CALIFORNIA . MY NAME IS TECHNI-JIM.
Marge and Jack look at each other, Jack frowns, Marge is wan.
T-J: IT'S NOVEMBER 11th, 1999, AND THIS IS THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST
OF YOUR HEALTHIER AND HAPPIER LIFE.
Marge: Holy Shit. It talks!
Jack: I noticed. Now how the hell did it get in HERE?!!
Marge puts her hand to her chest.
Marge: And how the hell does it know our names? God my palpitations!
(Sitting down) Where are my damn pills?
T-J: JUST STEP UP AND TAKE YOUR FIRST GIANT STEP A-W-A-Y FROM THOSE
OLD HABITS. NO MORE FEARS, NO MORE ILLS, NO MORE PILLS, NO MORE-
Jack: Oh shut up!
Jack grabs a bottle of pills he's just unpacked.
Marge: You shut up!
Jack: I was talking to the damn machine. 'First giant step to
well-being of the rest of your blah blah blah.'. He sounds like one
of your freagin' QVC commercials, for Chrissakes. You want the green
Marge: (Derisively) Obviously.
Jack hands Marge a can of diet coke, she quickly downs 2 green pills.
Marge: How many years have you been asking me, 'you want the green
Jack: Dunno. 20….30…100? I forget.
Marge: You are SUCH a quick study.
Jack puts on his reading glasses and peruses the machine, Marge turns
to the treadmill.
T-J: IT'S SO NICE TO BE HERE, MARGE AND JACK. I'M LOOKING FORWARD
TO HELPING YOU HELP YOURSELVES!
Jack: Shoot me now.
T-J: JUST INSERT YOUR PERSONAL TECHNI-KEYS AND LET'S GET STARTED!
Marge: (To the treadmill) Do I need a freagin' robot-shrink in my
living room? (To Jack) And what the hell's a damn techni-key?
Jack: That's what it says here.
He struggles to spell out the trademark.
Jack: T-e-c-h-n-i -space-j-i-m. Techni-Jim. (Looks up) Cute. Jim's a
Marge: Hello? He's ALREADY introduced himself, Sherlock.
Marge turns to the robot, regaining her composure.
Marge: Forgive my manners, Mr Techi-Jim. (Strugging to smile) We
don't get many SOCIAL calls these days…(Under her breath) or
Jack: A minute ago you sounded like you'd been raped. Now it's a
freagin' social call!!
Marge: (Paying no attention to Jack) As you already know, I'm Marge
McMasters. And this excuse for a husband-
Jack: Gracious, Marge. Always gracious.
Marge : ...is John McMasters. (Smirks) Jack to his family and a few
alcoholics he calls friends.
T-J: I'M TECHNI-JIM AND I'M THRILLED TO BE IN YOUR HOME, MARGE AND
JACK. I'M READY TO TAKE YOU ON AN UNFORGETTABLE JOURNEY…
Jack: (To the treadmill) Happy to meet you, too. Now, tell me, Mr
Techni-Jim, before we get too…obsessed…about any special
journeys…how the hell DID you get in here?
Jack: Com'on, pal. Did you fall out of the sky, as it would appear?
Or rise from the bowels of the Earth?
Marge: (Sarcastically) My husband has a way with words, or so he
Jack touches one of Techni-Jim's rails.
Jack: Maybe you're a sophisticated magic trick? A figment of our
Jack smiles proudly, followed by another pregnant pause.
Marge: Forget it, Jack. Techni-Jim must have a REAL sense of humor.
Jack: (Changing the subject) Yes. Well…Marge here is a class act,
Marge: (Mockingly) I'm sure you two have NEVER met.
Jack cleans off his glass lenses.
Jack: An EXERCISE machine. In OUR living-room!
Jack pauses…then guffaws.
Marge: (Critical) It's been telling you THAT for the past 5 minutes.
(With forced affection) Are we going deaf as well as senile, poor old
T-J: I'M READY. ARE YOU? JUST GIVE ME 6 TO 24 MINUTES AND I'LL
SHOW YOU A NEW WORLD.
Marge: (To the machine, mimicking its Hal-like voice) 'Just jump on
board and I'll whip your big fat ass to death'.
Jack peruses the machine, still chuckling.
Jack: I may be deaf, Marge, but now I've SEEN everything. I can die
and go to heaven and mail a postcard.
Marge: For Chrissakes. IT'S JUST A GOD DAMN TREADMILL!!
Marge spells it out in his face.
Jack: (With mock affection)' G-o t-o h-e-l-l, Honey!
Marge: Very c-u-t-e…
Marge turns back to the treadmill.
Marge: Here's what I wanna know, Mr Techni-Jim, and you better level
with me on this: you're another one of dear Jacko's hare-brained
schemes, ain't you?
Jack: Aren't you, Marge.
Marge: (Loud and bitter) I KNEW you couldn't resist!
T-J: JUST STEP UP…INSERT YOUR PERSONAL TECHNI-KEY AND LET'S HIT
THE ROAD TO WELL BEING…
Jack: Hold on, Marge. Hold on. YOU know very well YOU were behind
Jack: Come on, Marge. I know you better than YOU do.
Marge: Are you nuts?
Jack: I don't know why or how you did it. But let me tell you,
DEAREST. It has backfired-colossally! You will NEVER get me on one
Marge: (Laughs loudly) Darling Jack-meister…are you kidding?
Do you think I would BUY a…a…whacko overgrown toy…like this?
She walks right up to Jack.
Marge: For the thrill of…what…running and getting nowhere??
She grabs Jack by the shoulders.
Marge: Com'on, Vunderkid. I married YOU, remember? I know ALL ABOUT