The evening light streams through the kitchen window. A 5-year-old boy, Charlie, sits at the counter, eating cheese and crackers. His mother, Melissa, a slightly built woman in her late twenties, is folding laundry. She is fidgeting with an already folded pair of men’s slacks, taking an object from the pocket, staring at it in disbelief, and putting it back in the pocket.
The door opens, and Ed, a man in his mid-thirties, wearing a suit and tie, walks in.
CHARLIE: Daddy! (Jumps down and gives his father a hug. Ed picks him up, swings him around, and plunks him back on the stool). Did you go by the vet’s to see Riley? Is Riley better yet?
Ed catches Melissa’s eye and shakes his head almost imperceptibly. However, he turns to his son with a big smile.
ED: Well, my boy, you will be very happy to learn that the vet found a cure for Riley!
Charlie starts to whoop with joy, but his father gestures for him to calm down.
ED: The cure for Riley is to go live on a farm in the country, where he can chase rabbits and run around all day, without any fence. The vet said that is the only way the dog will get better.
Melissa stares at Ed in disbelief.
CHARLIE: But… we don’t live in a farm or have bunnies.
ED: That’s right, son. That’s right. (Leans in toward his son confidentially). Now, Charlie, you know Riley would do anything for you, right? And I know you would do anything for Riley. (Charlie nods. Ed smiles approvingly). I know you would, son. I know you would. Well, now I need you to be unselfish for Riley. Can I ask you to be unselfish for Riley? (Charlie slowly nods, apprehensively). I told the vet the same thing. “We don’t have a farm in the country,” I said. It looked like Riley was gonna be a goner.
Ed pauses dramatically, clearly relishing the tension. Melissa continues to stare at him incredulously, her expression tinged with contempt. Charlie looks up at him, anguish in his eyes.
CHARLIE: Daddy, what happened? Is Riley okay?
ED: Yes! Yes! I am happy to tell you, Riley IS okay, because at that moment, that blessed instant, a farmer walked into the vet’s office, looking for a good dog to come live with him on his farm and keep him company. He saw Riley and took a shine to him, and Riley jumped into his truck next to him, and they drove away to the farm. Riley is probably chasing rabbits right now!
CHARLIE: Riley isn’t coming back? (His lower lip starts trembling).
ED: Now, son, I had to do what was best for Riley. The city is no place for a dog, and this was his only hope of getting better. How could I say “no” to the nice farmer who wanted him? Hey–(chucking his son under the chin) in a few weeks we’ll get you another dog, a smaller one who won’t get sad and sick from living in the city. Do you think you would like that?
Charlie starts to cry silently. Melissa puts a motherly arm around him.
MELISSA: It’s okay to feel sad, Charlie. I know you loved that dog a lot. (Takes a deep breath). Why don’t you finish your snack in your room. I’ll come in in a few minutes and we can talk about this some more.
She drops a kiss on the boy’s forehead. He walks down the hall to his room, looking heartbroken and dazed. A moment later, the muffled sound of his crying is heard.
ED: Imagine how much more upset he’d be if he knew the dog had just been put down. What are you looking at me like that for? Don’t you think the truth would hurt him more?
Melissa has turned away from him to the pile of clothes she had been folding, and is holding the men’s slacks in her hands. An expression of rage flashes across her face, but she composes herself and turns toward him, coolly.
MELISSA: That was quite a story you told him. You have a real knack for coming up with stories on the spur of the moment.
ED (chuckling modestly): It sure comes in handy when you’re a lawyer.
Melissa removes the contents of the pants’ pocket and holds them out to him. Ed turns pale at the sight.
MELISSA: What kind of story can you tell me about this strange house key and condom I found in your pocket?