THE SCENE: The Valentine House. Maggie is in the kitchen. Mark comes through the kitchen in sweat pants and a t-shirt. He is headed for the basement stairs.|
MAGGIE: Going to work out?
MAGGIE: Hey, you’ve got a birthday coming up – do you need anything for your exercise room? Maybe one of those slant boards they use for doing sit-ups?
MARK: No, I’ve got one.
MARK: Yeah – it folds up. I store it behind the punching bag.
MAGGIE: Do you ever use it?
Mark heads downstairs, but stops halfway and turns back toward Maggie
MARK: Wait – are you trying to tell me something?
MAGGIE: No, why would you think that?
MARK: It sounds like you’re suggesting that maybe I need to do some sit-ups.
MAGGIE: Perish the thought. If you’re happy looking like that, that’s all that matters.
MARK: Looking like what?
MAGGIE: You know, the paunch. (Maggie nods in the direction of Mark’s stomach)
MARK: Paunch? I’ll have you know that a good beer gut is considered sexy in some cultures.
MAGGIE: Where would those be?
MARK: Milwaukee, Green Bay, Fon du Lac – pretty much all of Wisconsin. Don’t tell me you haven’t seen the way women look at me when we go to Miller Park.
MAGGIE: I thought that was because you tend to spill your nachos on your shirt when we’re up there.
MARK: No, no – they’re checking out Mr. Jolly. (Mark proudly rubs his belly)
MAGGIE: You have a name for it?
MARK: Yeah. And I’ve got one for my beer belly too -- ba-DUM-bum (Mark does a pretend rim shot with his hands) See what I did there?
MAGGIE: Maybe your next wife will be a Cheesehead and she’ll appreciate your sophisticated humor.
MARK: Could be. I speak Wisconsin you know?
MAGGIE: Is that right?
MARK: O you betcha. Comes from hangin’ out at dose supper clubs, doncha know. O dey fry up dose walleyes real nice dere. Ya, I could see myself living in Sheboygan.
MAGGIE: You’d have to become a Packer fan.
MARK: Good point. You know what? Maybe I’ll do a few sit-ups.
MAGGIE: That’s the ticket.
Mark goes downstairs – a moment passes and then Mark yells excitedly from the basement.
MARK: Maggie, come quick!
Maggie runs downstairs to see what’s the matter.
MARK: Look! (points at the staircase)
MAGGIE: (looks puzzled) Yeah, those stairs are really dirty. We should paint them.
MARK: First of all, why do you always say ‘we’ when you really mean ‘me’?
MAGGIE: Sounds less selfish.
MARK: Secondly, don’t you see that? (points more specifically at a dirt pattern on the riser).
MAGGIE: The dirt?
MARK: No, the image in the dirt.
MAGGIE: What image?
MARK: It’s JFK?
MARK: Right there. (puts his finger on different parts of the dirt as he explains) Those are his eyes. That’s his wavy hair. It’s uncanny!
MAGGIE: I sort of see two eyes, but it seems like a bit of a stretch to say it’s Kennedy.
MARK: It’s the spitting image of him!
MAGGIE: If you say so. (Maggie turns and starts to go upstairs)
MARK: Wait, where are you going?
MAGGIE: “Modern Family” is coming on.
MARK: You can just go back to your routine after this?
MAGGIE: After what?
MARK: What we just experienced.
MAGGIE: What are you saying?
MARK: Well don’t you think it’s…
MAGGIE: It’s what?
MARK: Not a coincidence.
MAGGIE: And when you say ‘not a coincidence’ you re implying what exactly?
MARK: I think you know.
MAGGIE: Oh, I think I know too, but I want to hear you say it. More importantly I want YOU to hear you say it, so you can hear what you sound like. In fact, I’m going to record it. Wait a sec. (Maggie pulls out her cell phone and opens the video camera. She points it at Mark) Now go.
MARK: OK, I’ll say it. I, being a person of faith, am open to the possibility that maybe God has chosen to reveal this to us, for reasons that I haven’t yet discerned. I don’t know why we were chosen, I only know that we are in the presence of a miracle. There – happy?
Maggie puts her cell phone back in her pocket.
MAGGIE: Oh, I’m more than happy. And I’ve finally got my evidence for the commitment hearing. So just to be clear, you’re saying that the Lord God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, has chosen, for reasons He has not yet revealed, to place some dirt on our basement stairs in such a way that it faintly resembles a dead president…
MARK: (interrupting) A dead, Catholic president.
MAGGIE: …a dead Catholic president who wasn’t exactly known for exemplary moral behavior. And He did this why?
MARK: I don’t know. Generally when He does stuff like this, it’s because He wants people to be His messengers.
MAGGIE: And what message, pray tell, would we be spreading? “Ich bin ein Berliner”?
MARK: I’m not sure. I’m awaiting further instruction.
MAGGIE: You think it’ll come soon?
MARK: Couldn’t say.
MAGGIE: So now we wait. I’ll make some coffee. Is your cell phone fully charged?
MARK: You scoff.
MAGGIE: Oh, I scoff alright.
MARK: Well, I may be wrong, but at least I have faith.
MAGGIE: Is this faith like the faith you had when you thought that God had chosen you to lead the Puerto Rican people from the bonds of oppression?
MARK: (Mark pretends to answer his cell phone. Speaking into the phone he says) Hello…yes, she’s right here…I’ll ask her... (turns to Maggie) Honey, it’s Satan. He wants to know if you prefer a king size bed for your room in hell, or will two twins suffice?
MAGGIE: Tell him as long as I have an idiot-free room, I’ll be fine.
MARK: Go ahead, make your jokes. You know the temperature in hell is like a million degrees and, unlike here, in hell you don’t get to be in charge of the thermostat.
MAGGIE: How do you know how the thermostat works in hell?
MARK: Because I go to mass. You should try it sometime.
MAGGIE: Sundays are my only day to sleep in.
MARK: Sleep is the devil’s workshop.
MAGGIE: I thought it was idle hands.
MARK: Those too, but mostly sleep.
MAGGIE: This is a new level of crazy – even for you.
MARK: You know, this sort of thing has happened before... Lourdes, Fatima, Tepeyac, Medjugorje…
MAGGIE: And now, 97th Street.
MARK: Why not?
MAGGIE: You know all those other places featured apparitions of the Blessed Virgin.
MARK: Well then, maybe she’s behind all this. And maybe she chooses to appear in a form that is meaningful to the person she’s chosen. I went to Kennedy High School, and now set before me, is a miraculous apparition of John F. Kennedy himself – do you think that’s a coincidence?
MAGGIE: Hmm... lemme see? Forty years ago you went to a Chicago Public High School named after John F Kennedy, and now there is some dirt on our basement step. Do I think that is a coincidence? … I’m gonna go with “yes”.
MARK: By the way, the image isn’t on the step, it’s on the riser. The risers are the vertical pieces. The steps are what you step on.
MAGGIE: Thank you for mansplaining how stairs work to me. I was a little fuzzy on that.
MARK: You know, we might be able to make some money off this?
MAGGIE: (rolling her eyes) Here we go.
MARK: I’m just saying, generally when these kinds of miraculous revelations occur, people want to take a look at them.
MAGGIE: So you’re going to charge people to come into our house – into our filthy basement, and look at the dirt on our step.
MAGGIE: Forgive me, the dirt on our riser.
MARK: Maybe they’d want a picture with us.
MAGGIE: And you’d charge them for that?
MARK: A couple of bucks.
MAGGIE: It’s looking like I’m gonna have some company in hell.
MARK: Or, maybe we don’t have to charge them to make money. Maybe they’ll make a movie about us – you know like “Song of Bernadette.” Ray Romano could play me.
MAGGIE: Really? (Maggie looks at Mark skeptically)
MARK: Well, he’d have to grow a beer gut. Amy Madigan could play you.
MAGGIE: You’ve already cast the movie? You just now saw the dirt spot, excuse me, I mean the beatific revelation, and already you have thought about turning this into a movie, and have cast the lead parts.
MARK: Well, I’ve thought about this before – in different contexts. I figured at some point they’d make a movie about us, what with our lives being so interesting and all, and so I wanted to be ready for that day, if and when it came.
Maggie sighs and hangs her head. Mark sees her distress and tries to assuage it.
MARK: It doesn’t have to be Amy Madigan – Meryl Streep is very versatile – I’m sure she’d do a great job. I just hope we can get her.
Maggie remains silent, her head hung down.
MARK: What? Too old?
MAGGIE: No, it’s not that.
MARK: What, then?
MAGGIE: (Looking off in the distance, Maggie speaks in a detached voice) Long ago, before we were married, I used to think that maybe I would meet a guy one day. We’d fall in love and get married, raise a family and, once the children were grown and out of the house, my husband and I would spend evenings having stimulating conversations about books and art. On warm evenings, we’d take walks, maybe go to the theater…
MARK: Marissa Tomei would work also. You liked her in “My Cousin Vinnie”, right?
Maggie continues to look off into the distance. Oblivious to Mark’s words, she continues her soliloquy
MAGGIE: …perhaps we’d travel. Learn another language. I’ve always wanted to learn Italian...
MARK: You OK?
MAGGIE: … or French. But I guess this is OK, too. I mean, I am talking with my husband about who will be cast as us in a remake of Song of Bernadette…
MARK: Well, it’s not technically a remake since this is a whole different miracle.
MAGGIE: …all because my husband saw some dirt on the step…
MAGGIE: …and is convinced it is a sign from God…
MARK: I’m sensing you’re having a hard time with this.
MAGGIE: …and that God, or possibly God’s Mom, we can’t be sure…
MARK: We could go watch “Modern Family” and talk about this later.
MAGGIE: …has chosen him, because he went to Kennedy High School, before going on to get a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Stupid…
MARK: There’s some ice cream in the fridge.
MAGGIE: …and now he wants to invite people to our basement to… (Maggie’s eyes orient to reality as if awakened from a dream) Did you say ice cream?
MARK: (Sotto voce) Works every time. (to Maggie) Yes – ice cream. Go sit down and put a warm towel on
your head while I get you a nice bowl.
MAGGIE: With chocolate syrup?
MARK: Yes, I’ll be sure to put plenty of chocolate syrup on it. You just sit there on the couch and rest.
MAGGIE: And no people will come to see our basement?
MARK: Not today.
MAGGIE: Not ever?
MARK: Tell you what, I’ll take a picture of it and do a little poll. If nobody else sees JFK, I’ll drop the whole thing.
MAGGIE: Who are you going to poll?
MARK: A sample of smart people.
MAGGIE: But you don’t know any smart people.
MARK: Oh, you’d be surprised.
Smart people (and you know who you are), please proceed to author's notes
The photo is of the image in question - I don't want anyone to go through any trouble on my account, but, if you plan on reviewing this anyway, would you mind just letting me know if you see an image of John F. Kennedy in the swirl of dirt? If most people do, I will share those results with Maggie. (on the other hand if nobody sees JFK, Maggie will never know about this poll)
"Cheesehead" is a playful dis name for residents of Wisconsin.
"Ich bin ein Berliner" is a famous quote from a speech Kennedy gave in West Berlin in which he emphasized America's solidarity with the West Germans.
Lourdes, Fatima, Tepeyac (Our Lady of Guadalupe), and Medjugorje are all places where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared.
"Song of Bernadette" is a 1943 movie starring Jennifer Jones and Vincent Price about the apparition at Lourdes.