// MYRTLE’S RANCH //
When KEVIN reaches the porch, the door has been left ajar. He rustles his keys into his right-hand pocket.
COME IN, KEV.
KEVIN steps into the modest ranch. Dark colors, ornate paislies predominate the small room. A couch with blue fabric and carved feet sits in the center of the room facing a medium-sized CRT television. A hand-me-down.
KEVIN closes the door behind him. CEDRIC is standing off to one side of the room, to the left of the entrance.
I’M MAKING TEA. CREAM AND SUGAR?
In KEVIN’s mind, the seat of his memory, he hears the authoritative voice of his father.
You're always making tea.
But it’s just a voice.
JUST… UH. A DASH OF SUGAR.
MYRTLE looks KEVIN in the eyes. She has a sad, quiet look about her. A woman old before her time, unsure what to make of her greying hair.
Fine; milk's probably old anyway.
The TV is on, albeit quietly. It looks to be some kind of crime television show. A monster-of-the-week mystery wrapped up by the end of the hour. Its flashing is fairly easily ignored.
SO WHAT BAD NEWS DO YOU BOYS HAVE TO DELIVER TO ME THIS WEEK?
CEDRIC looks at KEVIN, who looks back at CEDRIC. CEDRIC lowers his head and looks at the floor.
MINERVA HAS PASSED ON.
MYRTLE looks at CEDRIC for a moment, then averts her eyes.
IT WAS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE YOU WOULD BE COMING IN HERE TO SAY THAT.
OH - MINERVA.
WHY LIKE THIS.
MISSUS MARSCAPONE… I’M SO SORRY.
OH THERE WAS NOTHING THAT YOU COULD HAVE DONE.
CEDRIC tries not to take the words personally.
I LOVED HER BUT… WAS SHE GOING TO BE ABLE TO STAND AGAINST GAGARIN? THE NSR?
SHE WAS A WONDERFUL HEALER BUT NOT MUCH OF A POLITICIAN.
SHE STOOD AGAINST THE EAST IN THE OLD DAYS BUT SHE GOT SO TIRED AFTER RETURNING HOME.
I ALWAYS KNEW THAT IT WAS JUST A MATTER OF TIME…
HAD SHE FOUND THE SECRET?
(ponderously) HAD SHE?
I DO NOT KNOW.
SHE NEVER TOLD ME.
MYRTLE turns around to shut off the tea water before it whistles. She opens the lid to place a chunk of tea leaves in the pot.
I don't think so.
I'd guess not.
After a moment, KEVIN tries to break into the conversation.
Please don't call her that.
KEVIN sits down to feign interest in television. Shortly after, CEDRIC’s cellphone buzzes.
(chuckling mournfully) I NEVER DID LIKE WHAT SHE DID WITH HER HAIR.
CEDRIC seems irritated at whatever he reads. He pitter patters a text response back into his phone.
IT COULD HAVE BEEN SO BEAUTIFUL. THE BRAIDS WERE FINE, BUT WHY THE BLUE?
AND SHE NEVER KEPT UP WITH IT SO IT WAS MORE GREEN THAN BLUE.
I DON’T THINK SHE WAS BLEACHING IT EITHER, SO THE PAINT-ON COLOR NEVER REALLY TOOK.
NOT THAT I THINK SHE SHOULD HAVE BLEACHED HER HAIR, BUT IF YOU’RE GOING TO COMMIT TO A COLOR, COMMIT TO IT!
CEDRIC looks absently toward MYRTLE and she goes silent.
SORRY ABOUT THAT.
NO NEED TO APOLOGIZE.
KEVIN had zoned into semi-consciousness staring at the television. His father’s voice brings him back.
(thinking) Yes, probably.
Wasn't he supposed to be here?
He's particularly fond of your mother.
MYRTLE pours the tea kettle into a sieve over three teacups. The leftover leaves are knocked over a plate. She runs the mesh underneath the running sink water.
TEA’S DONE BUT IT’S SCALDING HOT.
MYRTLE pushes the ancillary cups toward the men, across her counter, leaving the center cup for herself. She brings it to her mouth and blows on it without sipping.
(thinking) See, she’s listening.
I miss tea.
Again MYRTLE blows on the tea, rippling the surface. KEVIN, CEDRIC are allowing theirs to come to room temperature.
KEVIN realizes that MYRTLE has omitted the sugar from his tea, either intentionally or accidentally. But it’s not a point worth raising.
MINERVA WAS A FINE WOMAN.
AS I AM SURE YOU KNOW, I MET HER IN THE WAR.
SHE TAUGHT ME A NUMBER OF POULTICES I HAD NEVER IMAGINED BEFORE.
SOME OF THEM LAUGHABLY SIMPLE, RICE FLOUR, SOURED MANDRAKE…
(laughing) WE USED TO ARGUE, I PREFERRED INCANTATIONS, DESPITE MANY OF THE SOLDIERS’ PROTESTATIONS ABOUT WITCHERY AND THAT NONSENSE.
MYRTLE laughs again, quietly, reliving simpler times.
YOU MIGHT THINK A MAN ON HIS DEATH BED WOULD ACCEPT ANY MEDICINE OFFERED, BUT THAT WAS NOT THE CASE.
NO, A NUMBER OF THEM PREFERRED HER STINKING FLOWERS. AS IF THEY WERE ANY LESS MAGICAL.
I REMEMBER ONCE, SHE TOLD ME ABOUT HER MOTHER.
TERRIBLE COOK, APPARENTLY. ‘MY MOTHER THE TERRIBLE COOK’ OR SOME NONSENSE SHE USED TO SPOUT.
I WAS ALWAYS ENVIOUS BUT I TRIED TO LISTEN BEST I –
𝄞 east of savannah, from tampa to… 𝅘𝅥
- beep -
CEDRIC silences the cellphone.
LISTEN, I’M SORRY, I GOTTA TAKE THIS.
CEDRIC leaves the room through the front door.