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Penelope Waits

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Penelope Waits

A short film

CHARACTERS

Penelope: beautiful woman in her late 20s

Newscaster: disembodied announcer voice

Young Telemachus: four-year-old boy

Telemachus: eight-year-old boy

Antinous: man in 20s

Suitor 2: man in 20s or 30s

Suitor 3: man in 30s

Suitor 4: man in 30s

Odysseus: athletic man in early 30s

SCENE 1: in an expensive looking living room

PENELOPE

*flipping through channels watching TV* Boring…seen it…reality show…seen it…boring…

*stops on news channel*

NEWSCASTER

This just in, Troy has fallen to the Greeks. In a clever ploy led by Captain Odysseus, the Trojans let a giant wooden horse filled with Greek soldiers into their camp. Troy is in ruins and it looks like our brave soldiers will be home soon.

PENELOPE

*jumps up and shrieks with joy, pumping her fists and dancing around* Yes! Oh, I knew it! I knew they could do it!

 YOUNG TELEMACHUS

*stumbles into room clutching blanket and rubbing eyes* Mommy?

PENELOPE

*seizes YOUNG TELEMACUS  in a hug and spins him around, making him laugh* He’s coming home, baby. Your daddy’s coming home!

YOUNG TELEMACHUS

*looks around, unsure* Daddy’s coming home?

PENELOPE

Yes baby, he’s coming home. He’ll get to see how big you are in person! Won’t it be nice to finally be able to see him?

YOUNG TELEMACHUS

*warming up to the idea* Then Mommy won’t be sad anymore?

PENELOPE

*getting on her knees and putting a hand on YOUNG TELEMACHUS’ shoulder* Mommy isn’t sad, sweetheart. Mommy was just worried about Daddy. He hasn’t been home since right before you were born. But he’ll be home soon and we can be a family again.

YOUNG TELEMACHUS

*satisfied* Okay, Mommy. Can we have pizza?

PENELOPE

*smiles indulgently* Always thinking with your stomach, just like your father. Oh, I can’t wait for you to meet him! Of course we can celebrate with pizza. Do you want olives on yours from our tree?

YOUNG TELEMACHUS

*makes disgusted face* No olives! Olives are yucky!

PENELOPE

Alright, no olives on your half. You’ll learn to like them eventually. *hums happily to herself as she takes YOUNG TELEMACHUS’  hand and swings it walking to the kitchen to pull out pizza ingredients*

SCENE 2: in the living room

PENELOPE

*pacing with phone in her hand*

ODYSSEUS

*voice only, coming from phone* You’ve reached Odysseus. I can’t answer the phone right now because I’m trying to win a war but I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. *beeping noise*

PENELOPE

*nervously* Hey honey. I saw the news a few weeks ago but I still haven’t heard from you. Is General Agamemnon debriefing you guys still? I would’ve thought you’d be home by now…We’re starting to get worried. Telemachus really wants to see you…he keeps asking when you’re going to be home…Anyway, call me back when you get this. Love you. Bye.

*hangs up and paces some more, talking to herself* What is taking him so long? Is this how wars work? Do the men stay deployed even after it’s supposed to be over? You’d think they’d at least be able to contact their families so they wouldn’t have to worry! I haven’t heard from him in over a month…He can’t be dead though. They would have said something, sent a letter or men to my door. No, he can’t be dead. I guess I’ll just keep trying.

*weeks pass and she is on the phone again, listening to ODYSSEUS’ voicemail again, followed by a beep*

*obviously frustrated* Odysseus, this is getting ridiculous. The war ended two months ago and I still haven’t heard anything from you. Telemachus can’t stop crying—he thinks you’re dead! I know you aren’t, I can feel it, but I’d appreciate at least a text message if you can’t call. All the neighbors are starting to wonder if you went AWOL. Call me, okay?

YOUNG TELEMACHUS

*pops his head into the room* Was that Daddy?

PENELOPE

*trying and failing to be cheerful* It was his voicemail, anyway. How about we go play Legos?

YOUNG TELEMACHUS

*saddened* No, that’s okay. I’ll go watch a movie. *leaves room*

PENELOPE

*angry* Odysseus, where are you?

SCENE 3: 2 years later, in a grocery store

PENELOPE

*pushing shopping cart with disinterested TELEMACHUS riding on the back of the cart*

ANTINOUS

*jogs up to PENELOPE* Heyyyy. Your husband was that big military guy, right? The one with the fancy house on the hill?

PENELOPE

*annoyed* Is. He is that big military guy. So?

ANTINOUS

So I figure since he’s missing in action that you could use a night on the town. How about it? You, me, dinner?

PENELOPE

Thank you, but I’m married. I don’t go on dates with other men.

ANTINOUS

Come on, he’s been gone what, two years now? If he was going to come back, he already would have. You need to live a little.

PENELOPE

*cool anger* I said I’m not interested. If you’ll excuse me, I have to finish my grocery shopping.

*hurries out of the aisle leaving ANTINOUS dumbstruck*

TELEMACHUS

*fiddling with some candy he pulled from the shelf at checkout* Mom, who was that guy?

PENELOPE

Honestly, I have no clue. A gold-digger, most likely.

TELEMACHUS

What’s a gold-digger?

PENELOPE

Someone who’s only interested in your daddy’s money.

TELEMACHUS

*looks troubled, fidgeting increases* Is Daddy really not coming back?

PENELOPE

*strained smile* Don’t you listen to what anyone else says. He’s coming back. He’s been delayed somehow but he is coming back. I know he is.

SCENE 4: One year later, in the living room

TELEMACHUS

*peering through blinds in front window* They’re all camped out on the lawn. One has flowers and another has a fancy blue bag.

*blinds snap back into place as he turns around* I think one of them is going to ring the doorbell.

PENELOPE

*grabs knitting supplies and spreads things out to make it look like she’s been working for hours* I’m ready for him when he does.

*doorbell rings* Telemachus, would you get the door?

TELEMACHUS

Sure, Mom. *opens door to reveal SUITOR 2; TELEMACHUS takes an aggressive stance* My mom’s busy right now. Come back later.

SUITOR 2

*arrogantly* I’m sure she’s not too busy to see me. *muscles his way past TELEMACHUS, who sulks* Penelope! You look…busy.

PENELOPE

*sitting amid gigantic knitting supplies mess* I’ve been working on this for hours and have hardly gotten anywhere.

SUITOR 2

What exactly are you working on?

PENELOPE

I’m knitting baby blankets for children in third world countries. Isn’t that great? I haven’t even finished the first one and I promised I would make fifty.

SUITOR 2

Well it looks exhausting. How about you take a break and join me for dinner? I know a great place by the river, very romantic.

PENELOPE

*insincere sweetness* Oh, you know I’d love to but this project has taken over my life. I still have so much work to do. I won’t be able to do anything fun until it’s finished. Maybe another time?

SUITOR 2

*crestfallen* Alright, if you’re sure. But as soon as you’re done we need to have dinner. *snatches a package of Oreos from TELEMACHUS on his way out*

TELEMACHUS

*complaining* Mom, he took my Oreos! Every time they come over they take my food like it’s theirs.

PENELOPE

*weary sigh as she disentangles herself from yarn* I know, sweetheart and I’m sorry. But at least they do always leave.

TELEMACHUS

*flops onto the couch* What if they figure out it’s a trick and refuse to leave?

PENELOPE

*looks out window at ANTINOUS, SUITOR 3, SUITOR, and SUITOR 4* Then I’ll have to figure something else out. I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it. For now, do you want to sneak out the back and go to the park?

TELEMACHUS

Okay. *belligerently* But we shouldn’t have to sneak out of our own house.

SCENE 5: in the living room

PENELOPE

*walks into room and sees TELEMACHUS holding a book* What have you got there?

TELEMACHUS

*embarrassed* I was just looking at pictures of Dad.

PENELOPE

*gets emotional and kneels by son on the floor, looking at wedding pictures* I really miss him. I wish you could get to know him. He’s so smart and brave and everything I ever wanted in a husband. He would be a great father if he had the chance.

TELEMACHUS

*closes book, looks serious* Why do you think he hasn’t come home?

PENELOPE

*sighs* He could be stranded on a desert island with no way to contact us for all I know but he’s the most clever man I’ve ever met. No matter how lost he is, he’ll find his way back to us.

SUITOR 3

*voice heard through door after repetitive pounding* Penelope! I know you’re in there, and you need out of that house!

PENELOPE

*momentary panic* Oh, why won’t they leave me alone! Quick, hide the scrapbook. I’ll get the knitting.

*spreads knitting things out to make it look like she’s been at it for hours*

TELEMACHUS

*answers door* Go away. My mom’s working.

SUITOR 3

Your mom works too much. *muscles his way in* Penelope, darling, I’ve come to whisk you away to the movies. You need a night off; you’ve been knitting nonstop for months!

PENELOPE

I’m still not finished.

SUITOR 3

*demanding, annoyed posture* How much do you have left to do? If you were any kind of knitter you would have finished ages ago.

PENELOPE

My progress has been slow, I’m afraid. Knitting isn’t my specialty but how could I refuse for such a good cause? These blankets are going to children who don’t have a way to stay warm. Would you really deprive these children from warmth by taking me from my work?

SUITOR 3

I suppose not, but you can’t knit forever. You need some fun in your life! I know all kinds of fun things we could do together.

PENELOPE

Whatever you’re planning will have to wait until I’ve finished these blankets.

SUITOR 3

How many do you have left?

PENELOPE

*realizing she’s already made most of them with defeat* Three. *quickly* But who knows how long those will take? Let’s not set anything up until I’m done for sure.

SUITOR 3

*weary* Alright, Penelope. I’ll be back to check on your progress later.

*grabs package of Skittles from TELEMACHUS on his way out*

TELEMACHUS

*whines* Moooooooom.

PENELOPE

I know, I know, he stole your food. Why these pigs think it’s okay to steal food from a kid every time they come over, I’ll never understand. I’ll get you some more candy at the store.

SCENE 6: at a park

*SUITOR 4 is coming onto PENELOPE, who tries to stall him. TELEMACHUS is sitting on the swings when approached by ODYSSEUS in disguise*

ODYSSEUS

Hey kid, mind if I join you?

TELEMACHUS

*shrugs and pulls lollipop from his mouth* I guess not. You’re not one of them, are you?

ODYSSEUS

*confused* One of who?

TELEMACHUS

Those guys who always bother my mom. They all want to marry her but she thinks they’re dumb.

ODYSSEUS

*frowns* Where is your mom?

TELEMACHUS

*points to PENELOPE and SUITOR 4; PENELOPE looks distinctly uncomfortable* Over there with one of the dumb guys. They always steal my snacks when they come over. *suddenly worried* You don’t think he’ll steal my lollipop, do you?

ODYSSEUS

*suppressing anger* I don’t think he’d take it since you’ve already licked it. You say your mom doesn’t like any of those guys?

TELEMACHUS

*shakes head* No, she misses my dad too much. She says nobody will ever be as smart or as brave as him. She’s waiting for him to come back from the war. *scrutinizes ODYSSEUS* You kind of look like him. I’ve seen pictures.

ODYSSEUS

*moment of internal conflict* Do you want to get rid of those guys?

TELEMACHUS

Yeah! They’re all loud and mean and take my food. They don’t seem to like me much. They camp out in the yard and never really leave. Mom always looks worried after they come over. She wants them to go away too.

ODYSSEUS

*conspiratorial* Can I tell you a secret, Telemachus?

TELEMACHUS

*suspicious* How do you know my name?

ODYSSEUS

Because I am your dad. I want those guys to stop bothering your mom too. Dear Penelope, she’s been so patient.

TELEMACHUS

How do I know you’re really him? You look like him but…

ODYSSEUS

I know a secret that only our family knows. There’s an olive tree growing in the master bedroom. Your mom probably puts olives on pizza from that tree all the time. We did that a lot when she was pregnant with you. She was always craving olives.

TELEMACHUS

Okay, so maybe you are my dad. Mom says that the tree is the family secret so you must be family to know it. Let’s go tell her! She’ll be so excited!

ODYSSEUS

Hang on, sport. We need to get rid of those pesky suitors first.

TELEMACHUS

*eyes light up mischievously* How?

ODYSSEUS

I have a few ideas. Come on, kid. Let’s show them who is boss around here.

PENELOPE

*finally shakes off SUITOR 4, approaches TELEMACHUS looking annoyed* Well now that that’s over, we should head home. You have homework to do.

TELEMACHUS

Aww Mom, we haven’t been here that long! I’m still talking to my new friend.

PENELOPE

*suspicious* New friend, huh? You’re a little old to be hanging out at parks, aren’t you?

ODYSSEUS

Just trying to be friendly, ma’am. I lost my only child years ago and never got to see him grow up.

PENELOPE

*still suspicious* Do you live around here? I haven’t seen you around and I know almost everyone in this neighborhood.

ODYSSEUS

I used to live here. I moved away for many years but decided to come back. “There’s no place like home” and all that.

PENELOPE

*progressively more suspicious* You know, you do remind me of someone. Maybe I have seen you before. *comes to conclusion that the stranger is ODYSSEUS* Say, why don’t you join us for dinner this week? I’m having a dinner party with a bunch of friends and we’re going to have a contest for fun.

ODYSSEUS

What kind of contest?

PENELOPE

Oh, you’ll see. But it would take someone extremely clever to win it. Will we see you there?

TELEMACHUS

*makes pleading eyes* Please please please? We could do that thing we talked about. *exaggerated winking, being extremely obvious*

ODYSSEUS

Alright, I’ll be there. When and where?

PENELOPE

*points* The big house on the hill at six on Saturday. We’ll see you then. *smiles mysteriously and reaches for TELEMACHUS’ hand* Come on, honey, you still have homework to do. You’ll see your new friend later.

TELEMACHUS

*drawn out* Okay. *turns to ODYSSEUS* Make sure to be there!

ODYSSEUS

Kid, I wouldn’t miss this for the world. *puts hands in pockets and walks off whistling*

SCENE 7: in a fancy dining room

*PENELOPE, TELEMACHUS, and all four suitors are seated at the table when the doorbell rings*

TELEMACHUS

*gets excited* I’ll get it!

ANTINOUS

*annoyed* Who else did you invite? I thought this was going to be a celebration that you finally finished that humanitarian project so we could spend some time with you

*mutters of agreement from other suitors*

PENELOPE

I’ve gathered you all here for a very special purpose, Antinous. You’ll see shortly.

TELEMACHUS

*grinning* Look Mom, he came! I told you he’d come.

PENELOPE

*mysterious smile* I didn’t doubt you, sweetheart. I figured he would. He has a stake in this contest.

SUITOR 4

What’s this about a contest? I thought we were just having dinner.

PENELOPE

I’ve decided that Odysseus has been gone long enough but I can’t date just anyone. Whoever wins the contest is at least as skilled as he was so I’ll date the winner. Simple as that.

SUITOR 3

*amidst more  murmuring, outrage* What? This is ridiculous! I bought you a Tiffany necklace!

SUITOR 2

And I brought flowers and chocolates!

PENELOPE

*calmly* All very nice gestures. But I need someone with skills, hobbies, and interests that align with mine so gifts won’t cut it. If you don’t want to participate in the contest, you can leave.

*more muttering but she continues* My husband was a skilled archer, you know. He was a runner up for the Olympic team ten years ago. Whoever manages to string his old bow and shoot an arrow through twelve axe heads will win.

SUITOR 4

That’s impossible!

SUITOR 3

I still say this is ridiculous.

ODYSSEUS

I think it’s a great idea. Whoever takes the place of such a great military hero should at least be able to fill his shoes.

SUITOR 2

*muttering* No one asked your opinion. Who invited him anyway?

TELEMACHUS

I did!

ANTINOUS

*under his breath* I never liked that kid. *more loudly* Alright, Penelope, whatever you want. May the best man win!

*SUITOR 2’s arrow breaks a vase*

*SUITOR 4’s arrow goes through the window*

*SUITOR 3’s arrow almost hits TELEMACHUS, who dives for cover*

*ANTINOUS’ arrow narrowly misses ODYSSEUS*

*ODYSSEUS successfully pulls off the trick*

ANTINOUS

*whining* That isn’t fair! We’ve all wanted to date Penelope for years and this guy randomly shows up and beats us? He shouldn’t have been allowed to participate in the first place!

ODYSSEUS

*casually leans against wall, twirling bow* Why are you all so intent on Penelope when she has a husband out there somewhere? Surely there are unmarried women in this town worth your notice.

SUITOR 2

Yeah, but Penelope’s the richest.

SUITOR 3

Just look at this house! I live in a studio apartment. I’d kill for a house like this!

PENELOPE

*to TELEMACHUS, whom she is standing behind, hugging* I told you. Gold-diggers.

ODYSSEUS

So you hound this poor woman and steal her son’s snacks for money?

SUITOR 4

*shrugs* And because she’s hot.

ODYSSEUS

I’d say you’ve more than worn out your welcome here.

ANTINOUS

*angry* Who are you to tell us what to do? There is no master of this house. That pipsqueak can’t get rid of us any more than you can.

TELEMACHUS

*offended* Hey!

PENELOPE

*holds TELEMACHUS back* Shh. I want to see where this goes.

ODYSSEUS

*holding bow more menacingly* Just because the master of the house isn’t here doesn’t mean you should overrun it.

ANTINOUS

You can’t tell me to leave. This isn’t your house. I have just as much right to be here as you do.

*other suitors nod in agreement*

ODYSSEUS

Actually, this is my house. I’ll give you approximately ten seconds to get out before I demonstrate my archery skills on you.

*mutters of the name “Odysseus” and “it can’t be” from the suitors*

ANTINOUS

*laughs* Nice try, stranger. Odysseus is dead. He died in the war and never came back.

ODYSSEUS

On the way home my helicopter crashed, killing all of my men and leaving me marooned on an island. It’s taken me a while to get home, I’ll admit, but don’t think I won’t shoot. I did things in Troy that a pretty boy like you wouldn’t believe. I’ll say it once more. Get out.

*other suitors scramble out the door in fear of their lives*

ANTINOUS

I don’t think so. I’ve waited too long for Penelope to be foiled by some faux Odysseus. You get out. I’m taking this woman for drinks.

ODYSSEUS

*shrugs* Don’t say I didn’t warn you. *shoots Antinous in the shoulder* You might want to get to a hospital before you lose too much blood.

ANTINOUS

*clutching wounded arm and gasping* You’re insane!

ODYSSEUS

War does that to you. Have a nice trip.

ANTINOUS

*stumbles out the door where one of the other suitors calls him an ambulance*

PENELOPE

*runs to ODYSSEUS and crushes him in a hug with tears in her eyes* I knew it was you, I just knew it!

ODYSSEUS

*stroking her hair* How did you know I was alive?

PENELOPE

I’m not sure. I just knew. I knew you would figure something out and find a way back to us.

TELEMACHUS

He knew about the olive tree, Mom. That’s how I knew he was really Dad.

ODYSSEUS

*ruffles TELEMACHUS’ hair* That’s my boy. How about we have some olive pizza?

PENELOPE

*strangled happy laugh/cry noise* Oh, I’ve only dreamed of this. Making pizza with my whole family.

TELEMACHUS

I still don’t like olives.

ODYSSEUS

*laughs and claps a hand on TELEMACHUS’ shoulder as ambulance siren sounds outside* You’ll learn to, son.

*ODYSSEUS walks to kitchen with an arm around PENELOPE and an arm around TELEMACHUS*

*happy chatter becomes indistinguishable as they walk farther away and the camera fades*

THE END