A One-Act Play
Cast of Characters
Sheila Warmbuck, RN: In her thirties, "hard-core" ER nurse; been around the ER "block" so to speak.
Ben Catalano, MD, FACEP: In his mid-forties, somewhat cynical and jaded with a soupc?n of "burn-out".
Cyndi Bushwood, RN: A twenty-something, attractive ER "newbie."
Man behind The Voice: Elderly, small, compact gentleman with pince-nez eyeglasses, tie, and vest and a voice that is half British and have Truman Capote
Technical notes: The stage is divided in two. Stage right is the nurses' station of an ER. There's a work station, long-legged stools and a wall where charts are hanging. Lighting is bright and obviously artificial. Stage left is an antique living room with old prints hanging on the walls, a couch with plastic coverings, and an antique-looking phone on a Duncan Phyfe armoire. Until the "voice" speaks to the doctor, stage left is pitch black. Then its lighting becomes muted, in contrast to the harsh lighting of stage right. Upstage left is a door slightly ajar and bright light is streaming from it. It's the bathroom.
Introduction: The action takes place on a warm September 4, 1991 night. It's 3 AM. Downstage of the ER, Sheila is at her workstation writing, a phone bank is by her side. Upstage, is another workstation where Ben and Cyndi are drinking coffee and cavorting. The chart board behind them is empty.
The phone rings. Sheila answers and talks for a time. Meanwhile, Ben and Cyndi are deeply engaged with each other.
Sheila Warwick, R.N.: Ben, I got someone here who really wants to speak with the doctor.
Ben Catalano, MD: So?
Sheila: You're the doctor.
Ben: Well, have them call 'Dial-A-Doc.' That's what the system is for, to answer questions.
Sheila: Look, Ben. I went through all that. He says he wants to talk to a real ER doctor. Someone with experience. Not, and I quote, 'some prepubescent intern.' Give me a break, huh? You're making the big bucks. Get him off my back. He's very persistent, in a nice sort of way. You can finish your lecture on "The Ups and Downs of Priapism" some other time. I'm sure Cyndi won't mind too much.
Ben: OK, OK. Tell him I'll talk to him in a minute. (To Cyndi) Throw this out and get me a fresh cup, will ya? (Exit Cyndi)
Sheila (hand over mouthpiece): He wants to know how many years you've been an ER doc.
Ben: Sir, this is Dr. Catalano, M.D., F.A.C.E.P. Board-certified in Emergency Medicine, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, and Hyperbaric Medicine. ACLS certified. ATLS certified. PALS certified. Practicing over 25 years. Now…how can I be of service to you? (Enter Cyndi with a cup of coffee)
Lights rise on Stage Left.
Voice on the other end of the telephone: Doctor, I am so sorry to disturb you. I know how busy you must be and how I am taking up your time, but I really, really must speak to someone of your caliber to assist me. I know this will seem trivial to you, but I trust that only you will have the knowledge and the experience….and the discretion…to assist me with my…shall we say, situation.
Ben: Oh…well…that's alright. It's quiet now. What seems to be the problem?
Voice: Thank you, Doctor. Oh, thank you so much.
Voice: Yes…well…could you please tell me how I may extricate my wife's toe from the faucet in the bath tub?
Voice: Yes, Doctor. Her toe. Her big toe. The first one. I am not certain if there is a particular medical term for it, but it is the big one. How do I remove it from the faucet?
Ben: You mean it's stuck?
Voice: In a manner of speaking, it is, as you say…stuck. It is the big one on her left foot. How do I remove it?
Ben: What happened?
Voice: I really think that is rather self-evident, Doctor. Don't you? She was taking her customary ablutions and her toe, inadvertently, became trapped. I am certain that this occurrence is not the first, nor will it be the last in the annals of man. I believe I need not elaborate further. Do you not agree, Doctor?
Ben: Yeah. You're right. I'm sorry. But I'm not sure I can help you. Why don't you call the plumber? They must do this all the time.
Voice: I cannot do as you suggest, Doctor.
Ben: Why not?
Voice: Embarrassment. You must agree with me that it would be exorbitantly embarrassing for her.
Ben: Well…why not call 911? They're very professional. I work with them all the time. They've seen everything. More embarrassing than this. I'd call them.
Voice: No…no. I mustn't do that. It would still be discomfiting to her, I am certain.
Ben: Sir. They have the tools and whatever else to do the job.
Voice: Doctor, I understand what you are expressing and I appreciate that you are attempting to assist me the best way you know how, but she will have none of that.
You see, Doctor…my wife is a rather rotund woman.
Ben: I understand what you mean. So…cover her up…with a towel when they come in.
Voice: No, I do not think you do understand. My wife is a very rotund woman. A towel would not be sufficient.
Ben: Well…then drape a bed sheet over her.
Voice: Doctor, I am very grateful that you are beginning to comprehend the gravity of my predicament, but my dear wife will not be in agreement. Picture, if you will, a whale stranded upon a beach. All those people working upon her, attempting not to smile, not to smirk, but only partially succeeding. That, Doctor, would not be a pretty sight.
Ben: At least she'll be free. It's only for a little bit.
Voice: But, and I must ask you not to judge me too harshly, what about me?
Ben: What do you mean 'what about me'?
Voice: She would never forgive me for not being able to aid her by myself. I fear I am being indelicate, but my wife can be rather…difficult….when matters are not going precisely the way she desires. If this situation is not managed very discreetly, I fear my harmony would be severely disrupted.
Ben: Look, Mr.….Mr.….What is you name, by the way?
Voice: Again, I must apologize. What you must think of me? But for reasons to which I have just alluded, it would be better if I remain anonymous.
Ben: OK. OK. Understood. Large people can be difficult sometimes. But I can square it. Just put the phone next to her right now. I've been known to be both charming and persuasive. After all, I'm a doctor!
Voice: The phone will not reach. I had hopes that you understood my plight. I must accomplish this by myself. It is the only to way to salvage her and protect me! Will you please, please assist me within these parameters? Please?
Ben: Alright, alright. Let's see where we are with this. What've you done so far?
Voice: Thank you, Doctor. Thank you. I have been attempting to pull down on it.
Ben: How long?
Voice: It's 3:20 now…about two and one-half hours…no, two hours and forty-five minutes. Yes, almost three hours now.
Ben: Jeesh! That's got to be hurting.
Voice: No…no…she's not really complaining. She can be a dear at times. But, alas, it will not stir one wit.
Ben: One thing you can do is to put ice packs around the faucet so that the cold will be transmitted to the toe and keep it from swelling further. It might even help shrink it.
Voice: Marvelous! I'll attempt that right now. Anything else?
Ben: Now… and this is a real stretch, but it might work…go to the drugstore and get some insulin syringes.
Voice: Insulin syringes. (Writing on a notepad by the phone) Please proceed. Insulin syringes and then?
Ben: Also K-Y.
Voice: Why Kay?
Ben: No, no, no. K-Y. Buy some K-Y.
Voice: Kay why? Why buy kay? Who's Kay?
Ben: No, wait. Uno momento. You're not understanding me. K-Y as in K-Y jelly. The letter, K and the letter, Y. K-Y. It's a lubricating jelly.
Voice: Oh, I am so sorry. K…Y… j-e-l-l-y. Are the letters K and Y capitalized?
Ben: Yes. K-Y jelly.
Voice: My gratitude, Doctor. Please forgive my ignorance. You are so very patient with me. And so what do I do with the syringe and this jelly?
Ben: You squeeze the K-Y into the syringe and inject it between your wife's toe and the inside of the faucet. Once it gets all greasy it should be easy to pull it out. It's a long shot, though.
Voice: Yes…yes…that might work. No one could ever piece together the motive behind my purchases, true? However, all that may expend a considerable amount of time. Is there nothing a wee bit faster, Doctor?
Voice: Excuse me?
Ben: Get a hacksaw. It's a kind of saw that cuts through metal. Just saw the faucet off above where you think her toe extends and then you can both push and pull the toe out. Be careful. She can help. She'll like that. It's…
Voice: Oh no, Doctor, that won't do. Won't do at all. Oh no, dear me. Someone will suspect something amiss as I purchase this hacksaw contraption.
Ben: How could anyone connect your purchase of a saw with trying to salvage your wife's fat foot?
Voice: Doctor, I do not think your descriptive sarcasm is very helpful.
Ben: You're right. I'm sor…
Voice: No, no, it won't do at all. You see…whether they can deduce the problem or not, I just cannot damage the faucet. The bathtub, you understand is an antique, an objet d'art. It comes from Florence. 18th Century. Marble with gold handles and faucet. Besides, I am a slight man with a heart condition. I have little strength on the best of days. And my wife… No, no, not at all.
Ben: Sir, it's obvious to me that what I have to offer you is falling on deaf ears. I understand the need for secrecy and privacy, but it's impeding you from getting the help you need for your wife. (Cyndi and Sheila each has a patient chart and is hanging them on the chart board) Look, the ER is starting to pick up again and I gotta see some patients. My only other sugges…
Ben: No 'buts'. There is no time for interruptions. Like I was trying to say, in the morning, go to the library and get a book on bathroom repairs…
Voice: Doctor, please wait…
Ben: Nope. Sorry. Can't wait anymore. Get a book, find what tools you need. Then go to the hardware store. Buy those tools, whatever they are, and then you can remove the faucet yourself. You'll be a hero.
Voice: But I cannot.
Ben: Sure you can. Gotta run now. Do it. Go on. You're smart. No one will know. Just keep her warm. And get that toe out this morning ASAP. If it loses blood supply, it'll die, get gangrene and then it'll have to be amputated off faucet and all. So whatever you decide to do, do it quickly. It'll start to smell. S'long and good …
Voice: There is an odor.
Ben: Odor? It's smelling?
Voice: Yes, Doctor. I thought you understood.
Ben: It stinks?! What kind of stink?
Voice: Rather cloying and putrid, at the same time, Doctor.
Ben: Christ! How long has she been stuck?
Voice: Two days.
Ben: Two days? I thought you said a couple of hours.
Voice: I was a bit disingenuous. I'm sorry to say.
Ben: My God! It may be already too late. We've got to get help to your wife now! Give me your name, address and number. I'll call 911 myself. Jesus! How is your wife? Is she OK? How can she be stuck there for two days?! Holy Christ! Why did you wait so long? Come on, man. We can't waste any more time. We may have to cut off her toe to save her life.
Voice: It's already 'cut off', as you say.
Ben: It's already…what?!
Voice: Cut off. After I stabbed her, I dismembered her body. Now, all I am left with is this cursed toe.