The Great Plan of Happiness by Mindy Curtis
This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent
An airplane descending into Salt Lake City International Airport, daytime. CASSIE WARREN is sitting next to the window. She holds a small notebook, a pen, and Harper Lee's book, “Go Set a Watchman.”
PILOT (V.O.): Ladies and gentleman, we are now beginning our final descent into Salt Lake City where the local time is 10:18 AM and the temperature is a toasty ninety-five degrees. We will be landing in about ten minutes. Please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Make sure your seat belt is securely fastened and all carry-on luggage is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins. Flight attendants are currently passing around the cabin to make a final compliance check and pick up any remaining cups and garbage. If you need connecting flight information, please see the gate agent in the airport terminal. If Salt Lake City is your final destination, welcome home.
CASSIE alternates between looking out the window at the landscape below her and writing. As she writes we hear her newly-penned poem in the voice of her father, DARRIN WARREN. As DARRIN reads CASSIE's writing, maybe we see him, maybe we do not. He may be as present or as distant as desired.
The Grid. A perfect plan.
Predictable and safe.
The mountains hug in.
The routes are clear.
The roads are straight.
The path is apparent.
If you choose to get lost,
let the grid guide you home. To safety.
CASSIE finishes her poem and continues to look out the window at the suburban sprawl of the Salt Lake Valley below her.
PILOT (V.O.): Flight attendants, please prepare for landing.
Lights up on the kitchen of the The Warren family's home in Draper, Utah. The kitchen is spotless and in perfect fashion for a Mormon home. Pictures of CASSIE's family adorn the walls along with adorable crafts that display inspirational and spiritual catch phrases. Pictures of Jesus, Joseph Smith, and LDS temples are prominent. A scented candle burns on the kitchen table. Next to the candle a tray of small sandwiches, fruit, veggies and cookies is set along with bottles of water and cans of soda. We hear CASSIE and HEBER arguing outside the backdoor as they unlock it and enter the kitchen.
CASSIE: (Offstage) It truly blows my mind that you don't know who Sir Ian McKellan is.
HEBER: (Offstage) He's an old, stuffy, British actor. Got it.
CASSIE and HEBER enter through the backdoor. He is carrying her suitcase. She is carrying an oversized purse.
CASSIE: He's a phenomenal and incredibly famous British actor. He's Gandalf and Magneto and the guy from the Da Vinci Code and he's not Dumbledore. Your lack of basic cultural knowledge makes my right brain sad.
HEBER: Hey now, I just spent an hour and a half driving to save you from being stranded at the airport.
They set down the luggage.
CASSIE: You’re right. What I meant to say was "thank you."
HEBER: You're welcome. (They finally settle in and start to eat the food left on the table.) One of the few perks of owning the company you work for is the somewhat flexible schedule. And I figured Mom would have some awesome Mom food here. I freaking love these tiny chicken sandwiches she makes. Again, Brandilynn is really sorry that she had to bail on you.
CASSIE: Heber, your wife is the kindest and hardest-working person I've met. I'm sure she had the very best reason for abandoning me at the airport.
HEBER: She did. I guess Taeleigh tried to kill Traedun.
CASSIE: What? Your daughter tried to kill your baby?
HEBER: It sounds like it. (He pulls out his phone.) The text just says "Tay almost killed Traedun. Seriously, he almost died. I'm freaking out. Can you get Cassie?" and I replied "Yes."
CASSIE: And you didn't follow up on that? That is horrifying!
HEBER: That? Oh, that's mild.
CASSIE: Huh. How old is Tayleigh now? Four?
HEBER: Four? Is she four?
CASSIE: Um, as soon as she was born I moved to Chicago for grad school, so yeah. She just turned four.
HEBER: Four it is. She's four.
CASSIE: So glad you are keeping count. Anyway, thanks for picking me up.
HEBER: And . . . Cass . . . I . . . (His upbeat tone subdues.) Well, it's really nice you could come, Cass. This week is going to be tough for everyone, but I know it's going to be really hard on Mom. It will be nice for her to have you here.
CASSIE: Yeah. Yeah. It's good for me to be here too. This time of year is always . . . painful. It will be good for us all to be together.
HEBER: Yeah. It will. (A beat.) It may sound corny, or whatever, but having you here makes the family feel complete again . . . as complete as possible.
CASSIE: (Sincere yet light) Aw! Thanks. I do actually miss you guys.
HEBER: (Resuming their playful tone) When I notice you are gone I miss you too.
CASSIE: Thanks. It’s okay you forget about me. McKayee has been texting me all week making plans for when I'm here. So I still have one sibling that cares.
HEBER: I'm glad you two stay close.
CASSIE: Well, she is my only sister and my only sibling who gives me the time of day, so . . .
HEBER: Believe it or not I do actually enjoy seeing you. It's just whenever you visit I am working, or with the kids, or at the church. And you are always busy visiting friends.
CASSIE: Yeah, well, this time will be pretty chill. I'll see Haylee at some point. She is still my best friend despite never seeing or talking to her and having practically nothing in common anymore. And I'm having lunch tomorrow with Uncle Daniel. But other than that I don't have plans. Just hang out here, write a bit, be around for Mom on . . . the day. Celebrate the twenty-fourth with you guys. Then fly back.
HEBER: Oh. (A beat.) Where are you going with Uncle Daniel?
CASSIE: I don’t know. Probably just Cafe Rio. I try to eat there each time I visit. Or multiple times. Or every day. You are more than welcome to come to lunch with us.
HEBER: That's okay. I mean, I wish I could, but I'll be at work.
CASSIE: What about your flexible schedule? It's lunch. You have to eat. When was the last time you saw him? Dad's funeral?
HEBER: No, I saw him at. . . (He thinks hard for a bit.)
CASSIE: . . . Uh huh.
HEBER: He was here when you left for Chicago.
CASSIE: And we just established that that was four years ago.
HEBER: You're better at keeping in touch with people than I am.
CASSIE: Yes, that is true.
HEBER: Because I have two kids!
CASSIE: You had one kid until three months ago. And I live halfway across the country.
HEBER: And I'm a jerk who hates everyone.
CASSIE: Also true. I should feel lucky this conversation is even happening.
HEBER: You should.
CASSIE: And I do.
HEBER: Welcome home!
CASSIE: Thanks! I may not be here for the happiest of reasons, but I am happy to be here. (She opens a soda.)
HEBER: I'll take one of those.
CASSIE passes him her soda and opens a new one for her. They drink.
CASSIE: You are probably always at church now huh? How is being the Second Counselor in the bishopric? Does it feel powerful?
HEBER: I'm the First Counselor.
CASSIE: Oh! So sorry for demoting you.
HEBER: And mostly it's just tiring. Maybe if I were able to sleep at night I would be able to enjoy it more.
CASSIE: That's fair.
HEBER: No, it's great though. You get to know the people in the ward really well, and you get to help people strengthen their testimonies and come closer to God.
CASSIE: That's cool.
HEBER: It is. And it has really strengthened my testimony of the truthfulness of the Church and how it works for and helps people find happiness and brings them closer to The Lord.
CASSIE: That's really great. And deep. Very deep.
HEBER: It is. I'm becoming a deeper man. What is your calling in your ward?
CASSIE: When I go?
HEBER: You don't go to church?
CASSIE: No, I go . . . like . . . eighty percent of the time. . . . And I stay for all the meetings like . . . sixty percent of the time.
HEBER: And what is your excuse for not going to church?
CASSIE: I just told you, I do go to church! Definitely more than half the time.
HEBER: I didn't realize that the new commandment was "Thou shalt keep the Sabbath Day holy definitely more than half the time."
CASSIE: Don't judge me. It's different than going to church here where you can't walk out your front door without falling into a church building. It's really far away. I have to take the “L” and change trains and then walk for ten minutes, and I go to the singles ward where everyone is old and weird and single and on a mad manhunt for their "eternal companion."
HEBER: So they are like you.
CASSIE: Yeah. And I'm awful. Would you travel an hour each way to spend three hours at church with a room full of people just like me?
HEBER: Oh come on, it's not like going to church for three hours with two screaming kids right in the middle of nap time is cake either. But it's a commandment. And it makes me a better — deeper — person. So I do it. Every Sunday.
CASSIE: Well, you clearly win “The Better Mormon Award."
CASSIE: But to answer your question, when I do go, I am the sacrament greeter. And I am amazing at it.
HEBER: Ah, the ol' greeter calling. The one they give you when you don't show up most of the time.
CASSIE: Seriously? You just can't ...
A car pulls up outside. CASSIE looks out the window.
CASSIE: (Happy to change the subject and also with genuine excitement.) Ah! Mom is home with McKayee! Man, it's so hard to believe she just graduated high school. . .
HEBER: Yep. And now she's a Coug!
CASSIE: Ugh! don't remind me.
HEBER: You will officially be the only member of our family who didn't graduate from BYU.
CASSIE: Don't worry. I got plenty of flack about it from Dad. "Tuition is a large portion of my benefits as a BYU professor. Why am I working so hard there if you aren't going to use it?" I gotta say Utah State has done me well though. Go Aggies!
HEBER: (Louder and prouder than CASSIE) Go Cougs! (He sings and claps.) Rise and shout the Cougars are out. . .
CASSIE: Ew! Stop!
HEBER: . . . along the trail to fame and glory. Rise and shout our cheers will ring out as you unfold your victory story...
CASSIE: (Through his singing) Thank you. Very impressive. . .
MCKAYEE and MARILEE enter through the backdoor as HEBER sings and cheers. MARILEE is carrying a large bag of binders, books, and papers as well as several bags from Michaels craft store. They join HEBER in finishing his song.
HEBER: (Joined by MARILEE and MCKAYEE) . . . On you go to vanquish the foe for Alma Mater's sons and daughters. As we join in song, in praise of you our faith is strong. We raise our
colors high in the blue and cheer our Cougars of BYU.
They raise their right fists in the air as they cheer.
HEBER, MARILEE, and MCKAYEE: Rah rah, rah rah rah! Rah rah, rah rah rah! Rah rah, rah rah rah. (Rolling their hands.) Go Cougars!
They cheer and shout.
CASSIE: Very nice. You made your point. I will never be part of your Cougar Club.
MARILEE: Oh, sweetie. We don't mean to exclude you. It's just that you have to sing the whole thing once it's started.
MCKAYEE: Or it's just not right.
CASSIE: I've heard you actually need to see your Bishop to repent for it.
HEBER: How would you know, you don't even go to church?
MARILEE: What? Cassie? You don't go to church?
CASSIE: Yes! I go to church! (She glares at HEBER in frustration.) Why would you say that? I haven't even said Hello to her yet! (To MARILEE) I just told him I don't always make it to all the meetings all the time because it's so far away. But I still go to church!
MARILEE: You need to go to church.
CASSIE: I know! I do go to church!
MCKAYEE: Hello Cass!
CASSIE affectionately hugs MCKAYEE and MARILEE.
MARILEE: Welcome home!
CASSIE: Hi McKayee! Thanks Mom! It's really good to be home.
MCKAYEE: I'm so glad you are here! And sorry I'm in a rush, but I have to head to work soon, so I'm gonna run upstairs to change and I'll be right back.
CASSIE: It's fine. I'm not company (Glancing at HEBER). I don't need to be entertained.
MCKAYEE: Good thing, since I don't have any time to entertain you.
CASSIE: Good thing!
MCKAYEE: I'll be down in a bit.
MCKAYEE exits into the house.
CASSIE: Oh! (Yelling after MCKAYEE) McKayee! Don't let me forget that I have something for you!
MCKAYEE: (Offstage) Okay! Thanks!
CASSIE: You are home earlier than I thought. We were just hanging out, eating your sandwiches, smelling your candle, and talking about you.
MARILEE: Well, I have been talking about you too . . . pretty much all day, Sweetheart!
MARILEE sits down at the table next to her bags. As she talks she takes out her binders, books, and papers. She pulls crafty scrapbook paper out of the Michaels bag and organizes her things.
CASSIE: Well, that seems highly unnecessary. Who wants to hear about me all day?
MARILEE: Oh, I've been to a few different meetings today planning Stake Youth Conference and everyone is very proud of you honey! Immediately landing a professor position in Chicago after completing your master's degree is a big accomplishment whether you think it is or not. So, I'm going to brag about it, whether you want me to or not.
CASSIE: Brag away! I live in a different state and rarely see these people anymore.
MARILEE: Thanks for the permission, Darling.
HEBER's phone rings. He looks at the number.
HEBER: Work calls. I'm gonna have to take this.
MARILEE: Of course, Honey.
HEBER: (Answering the phone) Hey Jared, What’s up? How’s it going there?
HEBER exits into the house.
CASSIE: It’s hard for me to remember that Heber is a business owner who owns a real estate office and hires and fires people. Just . . . wow.
MARILEE: He is. And he’s really good at it. Did you know McKayee has a new job now?
CASSIE: Oh yeah! She texted me. She is at Tucanos down in Provo. Right?
MARILEE: Yes, she is.
CASSIE: Nice! That's a huge step up. Oooh, I wonder if she gets a family discount? Maybe I can actually afford to eat there now.
MARILEE: I think she does. You'll have to ask her.
CASSIE: I will. Gee, it looks like the Stake Young Women are keeping you plenty busy. When are they going to release you from that calling?
MARILEE picks up her heaviest bag, sits, and starts pulling binders and books out of it.
MARILEE: Oh, I've only been the Stake Young Women's President for three years or so, so it will be a couple years I think. I love being with the youth. It's my secret to staying so young and hip.
CASSIE: Well, it's definitely working for you, so I say go with it. (MARILEE sifts through her paperwork.) You are planning Stake Youth Conference now?
MARILEE: In the final stages. It's the last few days of July, right after you leave.
CASSIE: That's right. I recall this conversation. What's the theme again?
MARILEE: Take a STAND. And STAND stands for Stay True And Never Deviate.
CASSIE: Ah yes. It’s clever. (She approaches the subject slowly.) Hey Mom, let me know if I can help you while I'm here. I know . . . I mean, I'm here so we can be together . . . because I know this week will be . . . tough . . . for all of us.
MARILEE: (Acknowledging her daughter's thoughtfulness while hoping to avoid a discussion about her husband's death.) Thanks Honey.
CASSIE: I don't have much planned for this week. So let me know what you need. Okay? If you want to talk, or go on a drive up the canyon like we used to, or even if you just need me to make some adorable crafts, or maybe write cute sayings on handouts. I used to be so good at that kind of crap.
MARILLEE: Do you have a second now?
CASSIE: I do.
MARILEE: Wonderful. (She pulls out supplies and demonstrates and shows CASSIE the materials as she explains.) Okay, I need these quotes cut out and then this paper cut into squares.
Then the quotes glued to this paper with these little bows right here.
CASSIE: I can do this!
MARILEE: There are forty of them.
CASSIE: That's nothing! I'm on it. I'm here to help you. That's why I'm here.
MARILEE: Thanks! There is definitely a lot to do.
CASSIE starts cutting and working on the project while MARILEE pulls out a book full of Mormon craft ideas. She flips through the book and tags ideas she likes while they speak.
CASSIE: You know, my favorite youth conference was when you were still the Ward Young Women's President and you set up the cultural hall with the Iron Rod going through it and the Tree of Life on the stage and The Great and Spacious Building in the corner. And you make us walk along holding to The Rod with all the adults in the ward dressed up and acting like wicked people in little vignettes tempting us to leave The Rod with prizes and treats and candy.
MARILEE: Yes. I was particularly proud of that one. I'm glad you remember it.
CASSIE: I totally left The Rod so Brother Worthington would give me a doughnut.
MARILEE: Oh Honey, you did not.
CASSIE: Yes I did. It was a bear claw filled with custard. And it was worth it. And then . . . was it . . . Sister Madsen gave me a poster of the Mona Lisa. It is currently hanging on the wall of my apartment.
MARILEE: My own daughter left The Rod!
CASSIE: But then I found out you guys were giving free movie tickets to the people who made it to the tree, so I snuck onto the stage into the tree group and got movie tickets anyway.
CASSIE: And Heber saw me sneak in and was so mad at me. He totally ripped into me for cheating and taking all of the prizes. Seriously, he was SO pissed!
MARILEE: Well he should have been. You cheated and then lied about it.
CASSIE: At a made up youth conference role-play activity.
MARILEE: Well, I hope you still learned the lesson we were trying to teach you.
CASSIE: I did if the lesson was next time I should be sneakier and not get caught.