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Columbia College Chicago
Hillsboro, Ohio
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Hillsboro, Ohio

By Stephens

Mark is 28, a Tufts graduate in English, working to get his Masters degree. He's always had an easy life and believes in the classic household structure his parents had. He is mostly level-headed and somewhat arrogant. He is a romantic.

Sylvia is 29. She dropped out of college and toured Europe as a photographer for two years. She is an atheist, an activist, and a realist. She's very passionate about her beliefs and is stubborn to accept other ideas. She does not believe in marriage and is still undecided about having children. She sometimes regrets not finishing college.

At Rise: Sylvia and Mark are in their kitchen, sitting at the table. They are staring at a gun. Mark looks satisfied. Sylvia's arms are crossed and she is scowling.

SYLVIA
A gun?

MARK
Well, yeah.

SYLVIA
A gun?

MARK
Yes, honey, a gun. (Defensively) You know, around 40 percent of households in America have one.

SYLVIA
But why do we need one? And—more importantly—why didn't you tell me?

MARK
Are you upset? You're upset. Shit. I just thought... I thought we should have some protection.

SYLVIA
Protection? This is Ohio, Mark, for Pete's sake.

MARK
(moving back in his chair slightly, arms up defensively against his chest) You never know, Syl. Anything could happen. (gesturing to gun) And now we're safe.

SYLVIA
(seeming to consider this statement and touching the gun tentatively) Sort of pretty... And I mean it's just a little thing, right? Not like a rifle you keep by the door. This could just be in that old drawer my mom gave us...

MARK
Of course! Though I was thinking we'd keep it on the nightstand. The closer the better, you know. I mean just in case.

SYLVIA
(She is still lightly tracing a finger over the gun, but then frowns and starts shaking her head. She pulls away from the gun quickly, repulsed) No. No! What does this imply Mark? That you'll shoot someone? Are you really ready for this responsibility? Have you even thought about what this means?

MARK
Oh, relax. It doesn't mean anything. (reaching across the table to take Sylvia's hand; she retracts it and he wavers in the empty space for a moment) Just because I have the gun doesn't mean I'm going to become a cold blooded murderer. (he smiles slightly at the thought) It just means that we've, well, got a gun. Like you're average Shmo.

SYLVIA
But if something were to happen, then you'd shoot a person?

MARK
(straightening) To protect you? Damn straight I would. I love you.

SYLVIA
(She lets out a harsh laugh) Did I miss my cue? Am I supposed to swoon now? Do you want me to see this... this weapon as a romantic gesture? You think this will make me want to marry you, Mark? Because it won't. It just makes me want to run. (She abruptly gets up from her seat and begins to walk away)

MARK
God Sylvia, you always make things about you, don't you!

SYLVIA
(Turning sharply toward Mark, hands at hips) Well isn't it? Didn't you just say that you bought this gun (gesturing widely at the gun) to protect me?

MARK
(fumbling) Well yes. It's just... (shaking his head slightly) Ugh! You always twist my words around, you know that? But let me make myself clear: this gun is not supposed to be some ploy to get you to marry me. You've made your stance on the issue quite clear already.

SYLVIA
Well good!

MARK
Good.

BEAT

SYLVIA
(slumping slightly, drained) How much did it cost?

MARK
Oh what do you care?

SYLVIA
Jesus Mark!

MARK
What? You are clearly unhappy with my decision—all of my decisions, it seems. Why the sudden interest in my actions, huh?

SYLVIA
(defiant) Because you bought a—

MARK
Oh yes, here we go. (rubbing his hands together) Come on, lay it all out on me. C'mon! Let me here it!

SYLVIA
Oh very mature Mark. I can really see that propriety your mother shoved down your throat.

MARK
Yes well I'll be sure to mention that next time I talk to her on the phone. (Sylvia humphs and again she begins to go) Oh come on babe, relax. I'm sorry. I'm sorry! (looks at her with pleading eyes)

SYLVIA
(looks up at the ceiling as if expecting something to be there. She looks back at Mark, disappointed.) I just... a gun, Mark? I hate violence, you know that.

MARK
And I hate the thought of someone hurting you!

SYLVIA
(sarcastically, putting her hands up as if she about to bow to him) Oh, well then, all hail Saint Mark! Always the best intentions!

MARK
(in a low, quiet voice, dead of humor) Drop it, Syl.

SYLVIA
Drop it? This is not going to fade away Mark. (walking toward the table) We need to figure this out. You bought a machine that can kill someone without even telling me! What does that mean for us?

MARK
(muttering, just barely audible) Well maybe if you'd finished college, you'd know that I just bought the damn thing to protect us.

SYLVIA
Excuse me?

MARK
(Mark looks scared and apologetic for a moment, but then the anger returns) Yeah. Maybe then you'd get it through that stubborn head of yours.

SYLVIA
Because it takes a degree to see that the only reason you want this gun is to have power? Please. And screw you for criticizing my choice on education!

MARK
You know damn well your decision affects me. Do you know how hard it is to afford this house, no thanks to your (sarcastically, with air quotes) job?

SYLVIA
Says the guy with the trust fund! Not all of us were blessed to have our mother's credit cards in our back pockets.

MARK
I've never heard you complain about the marble-tiled countertops and master bedroom before tonight. But sure, okay, if you don't like the house fine, let's sell it! Get ourselves a nice trailer and live off a photographer's salary.

SYLVIA
Great. I'll pack my bags! Don't forget your new toy (nodding toward the gun)

MARK
God would you just grow up! That's your problem, you know. You won't get out of this teenage mindset that your actions don't affect anyone. But they do Sylvia, they do!

SYLVIA
(Getting angrier and louder as the rant continues) Well thank you Mr. Psychology for that brilliant insight into my mind. At least I can joke around. Whereas you, you just worry about the future and how many kids to have and where to raise them and getting a promotion so we can be stuck in dead-end Ohio for the rest of our miserable lives! (Gesturing to the gun) And meanwhile, you buy some ridiculous handgun to prove to society that you're "Mr. American".

MARK
(shouting) Would you just drop the gun crap!

SYLVIA
No!

Mark jumps up from the table and picks up the gun with shaky hands, pointing it at Sylvia who immediately shrinks away from the weapon and looks scared.

MARK
Agh! Don't you realize I just lo—

Mark notices Sylvia's expression and position and drops the gun onto the table. He stares at her in disbelief. Sylvia jumps at the sound of the gun hitting the table.

MARK
(incredulously) Did you think I was going to shoot you? Do you think I'm some kind of monster?

SYLVIA
(hesitant and still on edge) Yes! I just... you were so angry and I don't know. (Short pause) Is it loaded?

MARK
(warily confused) Loaded? Jesus, no! I'm not the moron you seem to make me out to be.

Sylvia rubs one arm uncomfortably, looking down at the gun.

BEAT

MARK
(resigned) We used to work so great. What happened to us, Syl? Why are we even together anymore?

SYLVIA
I..I..

BEAT

SYLVIA
(Mark crosses his arms and stares at Sylvia, who lets out a deep breath.) You wanna know why we're together? We're together 'cause we know each other. And in some weird, messed up way, we love each other.

MARK
(Letting out a bitter laugh) I'm not sure I can believe that now.

SYLVIA
I'm not sure either.

Sylvia walks away from the table and exits, shaking her head slightly.

MARK
(calling out) So should I keep the gun?