Characters:
Coleman: A boy in his mid-teens
Mother:
Father:

(COLEMAN is revealed center stage hanging by his feet from a pole in his closet. There is a video camera down stage left on a tripod facing back towards COLEMAN. His image is projected behind him on a larger screen. Some loud obnoxious contemporary music is heard. He lowers the volume with a remote. *For safety and effect, Coleman should be rightside up and the camera image should show him upside down*)

COLEMAN: To Guinness Book of World Records committee. Today is Sunday, January 19, 2003. I, Coleman Anderson, will attempt to break Martin Jones's record of 32 minutes for hanging upside down. I present to the committee the video of my progress through the entirety of 33 minutes hanging upside down. (Knock at door.) What?

MOTHER: Can I come in?

COLEMAN: What do you want?

MOTHER: (Enters.) Are you still at it?

COLEMAN: How did you get in here? I thought I locked the door.

MOTHER: It was open. Son, why are you doing this?

COLEMAN: (Shakes head.) Don’t even start . . .

MOTHER: Don’t talk to me like that.

COLEMAN: I’m not. You came in here, in my room and started in on me.

MOTHER: No one is starting anything. I just came to see if you were hungry. (Pause.) Are you hungry?

COLEMAN: (Pause) No.

MOTHER: You should really knock that off. I don’t think it's good for you . . .

COLEMAN: I knew it . . .

MOTHER: All that blood going to your head can’t be healthy.

COLEMAN: I’m fine.

MOTHER: Ok, but when you go crazy don’t try and blame me for it. I know you kids these days blame everything on your parents. I don’t want you someday in therapy saying that I drove you to hang upside down for 33 hours.

COLEMAN: 33 minutes--

MOTHER: Whatever it is. I had nothing to do with this. (Silence.) Son, why are you doing this? Did I do something?

COLEMAN: You wouldn’t understand. (COLEMAN turns up his stereo with the remote.)

MOTHER: I don't understand anything. (MOTHER turns to walk out.)

COLEMAN: Mom? (Turns stereo off.)

MOTHER: Yes.

COLEMAN: Can I miss school tomorrow?

MOTHER: For what?

COLEMAN: What do you mean, for what? For the record.

MOTHER: The record? No, you are not going to miss school.

COLEMAN: But-- I will need to re-recuperate from this. I don't think I will have the energy to--

MOTHER: No.

COLEMAN: It’s just one day.

MOTHER: I don’t care. School is school.

COLEMAN: One day? That doesn’t even make sense. One day. I don't learn anything in school anyway.

MOTHER: I told you, no. I am not going to have any part of this.

COLEMAN: It’s only one day.

MOTHER: I said, No. You should have done it on Saturday instead of fooling around with your friends. (Pause.) Have you done your homework?

COLEMAN: No.

MOTHER: When are you going to do it?

COLEMAN: Don’t try and change the subject.

MOTHER: I’m not. Sorry son. When you have your own house you can hang upside down in your closet as long as you like.

COLEMAN: Don’t worry, I will. Maybe it won’t be from my feet either.

MOTHER: Don't joke.

COLEMAN: Wasn’t trying to be funny.

MOTHER: Your uncle Frank used to talk like that. Look what happened to him.

COLEMAN: Uncle Frank was Uncle Frank. I'm me.

MOTHER: Well, if you're hungry -- food's in the fridge. (She exits. COLEMAN is silent.)

COLEMAN: I don't get any support in this house. (Speaking into the camera.) As you can see, my family is not very supportive. (Sighs.) We go through this all the time. It only makes me want to break this record more. She can’t stop me. (Pause.) It’s not her fault. When her brother, my uncle, died she lost all her ambition. It’s not her fault really, she’s happy to have made it to middle class. She grew up very poor. Must’ve been hard, but she still pisses me off. I hate her sometimes. I hate having to be the more mature one. She’s so crazy all the time . . . Woah, I feel a little dizzy. (COLEMAN takes a deep breath and then tries to drink from a cup of water he has left nearby. He, of course, spills it all over himself and chokes.)

MOTHER: (Voice from below.) Are you all right?

COLEMAN: Leave me alone.

MOTHER: I told you not to drink upside down.

COLEMAN: When? When did you tell me that? God, I hate it here. (Knock at the door.)

FATHER: Can I come in?

COLEMAN: Leave me alone. (Knock again.) Please.

FATHER: I want to talk to you for a minute. (Father enters.) Your mother told me what you were up to.

COLEMAN: Yeah.

FATHER: I'm a little concerned.

COLEMAN: Surprise, surprise.

FATHER: What’s this record all about? Something about hanging upside down? This wouldn’t happen to be a Guinness book record would it?

COLEMAN: What else?

FATHER: I used to love that book when I was your age. I remember wanting to break a record too.

COLEMAN: That's nice.

FATHER: I wanted to have the world's longest fingernails. I didn't get very far. I kept biting them when I got nervous. I hate starting over.

COLEMAN: Dad, how were you going to do anything with fingernails like that? That's not very practical. Have you seen what they look like when they get long? They look like curly fries. It's disgusting.

FATHER: (Laughs.) Yeah. Well, you see my dilemma. Just a question here, did you do research to find out if this is dangerous?

COLEMAN: Yes.

FATHER: Really?

COLEMAN: Dad, I’ll be fine.

FATHER: Did you get a new record book?

COLEMAN: What?

FATHER: (Laughs.) Are you using the Guinness book from the bathroom?

COLEMAN: Yes. Can’t you just let me do this? Am I bothering you in any way? No. Am I doing anything illegal? No. What is the big deal?

FATHER: Son, if you're gonna break a record, shouldn’t you . . .

COLEMAN: Don’t . . .

FATHER: Give me a chance . . .

COLEMAN: No, I don’t want you making fun of me just because you don’t think it’s important.

FATHER: No, listen. You're not hearing me . . .

COLEMAN: Because I already know what you are going to say.

MOTHER: (From below.) Stop arguing and listen to what your father has to say.

COLEMAN: Leave me alone, will you.

FATHER: Don’t talk to your mother like that. Ok? (Pause.) Just listen. (Silence.) All I was going to say is that if you are going to break a record shouldn’t you make sure it is a recent one? (Pause.)

COLEMAN: What?

FATHER: That book is from 1986. Didn’t you check the date?

COLEMAN: What?

FATHER: See. I'm always telling you. (FATHER shows him the book.)

COLEMAN: Oh, no. What if someone has already broken the record?

FATHER: Exactly.

COLEMAN: Dad, you have to get me the latest book. I have to have it.

FATHER: I am not going to get you the latest issue right now. You should have prepared better. It’s what I am always trying to tell you. Don’t do things half-ass, excuse me, half-way. Maybe tomorrow.

COLEMAN: No, today. How can I sleep tonight without knowing? Please. Dad? Please?

FATHER: Maybe.

COLEMAN: Thanks dad.

FATHER: I said maybe. (Exits.)

COLEMAN: (Speaking to the camera.) He’s all right. He just thinks that stupid things are important. You can never tell when you are going to offend him for doing something incorrectly. As you can probably see for yourself. He has no sense of humor. That’s why he married my mother, she doesn’t have one either. Actually, neither do I. We are a sad bunch really. (Laughs. Pause. COLEMAN throws the book across the room.) Stupid book. Uh, no offense. (He drinks from the cup. He spills it all over himself and begins to choke. He tries to hold it in so his mother won’t hear him. Silence for a moment while he listens.)

MOTHER: (From below.) Stop drinking upside down. You’re gonna choke.

COLEMAN: Mom, please. God! (Pause.) Only [actual amount of time that has passed] minutes to go. (COLEMAN takes a deep breath and begins to swing gently from his bar. He is beginning to enjoy himself. He turns the stereo back on full blast and sings along enthusiastically. Suddenly, he hears the tape on his video camera run out. The image on the screen goes dark.) What was that? Oh no. Oh crap. The tape. Ma'! Ma'? Ma'. Where is she? Ma'? Oh no. Dad? Dad. Is anyone home? He must’ve gone to get the book. Maybe she went with him. She never goes out in the evening anymore. (Pause.) Anyone home? Hello? Ma'? By the time they get back, there’ll be a big gap in the tape. They might think that I took a break. Every second is carrying the record away from me. I don’t even know what the record really is. (Pause.) I still have time to get down and change the tape. Why didn’t I plan this better? Shut up, Dad. I could get down just for a second . . . but then, I won’t have actually done it. I will have to tell everyone that I got down once to change the tape. That’ll ruin everything. It won’t be whole. Even if I lie, I’ll know that I haven’t really done it. It’ll be just like everything else--more lies. If I don’t change the tape they won’t believe I broke the record even if I really did. They’ll never believe me. This sucks, sucks, sucks, sucks, sucks, sucks . . . I don’t feel good. I think I am going to throw up. (Pause.) Anyone home? Mom? Dad? I feel really light headed. (The stage goes dark. The screen lights up. MOTHER and FATHER appear on the screen. They are singing to Frank Sinatra's "I've Got You".)
MOTHER: (Laughing.) Oh, my poor baby.

FATHER: (Laughing.) It's so sad. Look at him. If anyone saw him like this what would they say?

MOTHER: They'd say we were bad parents, that's what they'd say.

FATHER: Maybe we are.

MOTHER: Nature of the game.

FATHER: I guess. Where does he get these ideas from?

MOTHER: From us I guess. I saw it on Oprah.

FATHER: The old, "I learned it by watching you routine?" No, I'm not sure. Maybe he's just strange. It happens you know.

MOTHER: Don't say that. If he's strange it could still be our fault. Bad genes.

FATHER: I'm not so sure. People used to think it was bad stars, and bad vapors-- all kinds of crazy nonsense. No, he's just strange. (Beat.) Should we get him down?

MOTHER: This can't be good for him.

FATHER: No, probably not. (MOTHER and FATHER just sit and stare. Pause. COLEMAN starts to revive. MOTHER and FATHER continue to look at COLEMAN.)

COLEMAN: Man my head hurts. Where am I? I'm starving. Oh no, the record. Shit. What time is it? Damn it. God I have a headache. Why can't anything be easy? For Christ's sake. All I had to do was hang here, that's it. I can't even do that right. My parents are right about me. I can't do anything right. Forget it, it's too late now. I'll have to start all over again. I'm so tired. My mother won't even let me miss Monday nevermind Tuesday. I could start next week, but I was supposed to go skiing next week. And the week after I know I'll have something else to do. I don't even know what the damn record really is. I missed my chance, my one chance. (COLEMAN gets down and sits on the floor.) All over again. All over again. I can't do it all over again. (COLEMAN walks over to the camera and plays the tape. The image of the parents fades and the image of him hanging upside down begins. The play starts again on the screen; COLEMAN watches.)

COLEMAN: To Guinness Book of World Records committee. Today is Sunday, January 19, 2003. I, Coleman Anderson, will attempt to break Martin Jones's record of 32 minutes for hanging upside down. I present to the committee the video of my progress through the entirety of 33 minutes hanging upside down. (Knock at door.) What?

MOTHER: Can I come in?

COLEMAN: What do you want?

MOTHER: (Enters.) Are you still at it?

COLEMAN: How did you get in here? I thought I locked the door.

MOTHER: It was open. Son, why are you doing this?

COLEMAN: (Shakes head.) Don’t even start . . .

MOTHER: Don’t talk to me like that.

COLEMAN: I’m not. You came in here, in my room and started in on me.

MOTHER: No one is starting anything. I just came to see if you were hungry. (Pause.) Are you hungry?

COLEMAN: (Pause.) No.

MOTHER: You should really knock that off. I don’t think it's good for you--

COLEMAN: I knew it--

MOTHER: All that blood going to your head can’t be healthy. (COLEMAN continues to watch the tape. MOTHER and FATHER enter and address the audience.) Ladies and Gentlemen. We are sorry to inform you that our son Cole has taken ill.

FATHER: (To himself.) We never should have gotten him that damn camera. It's what he really wanted.

MOTHER: I'm sure you can imagine our embarrassment. It is so hard to believe. Our little Cole. We had no idea exactly what kind of home movie he was making.

FATHER: I blame myself.

MOTHER: We both do. But don't worry. We have gotten him the best help we can afford and someday we hope that he will be able to join society as a normal member.

FATHER: If only I had put a stop to it sooner. It looked harmless enough.

MOTHER: Quiet. What he means is, that had we known in time, we certainly would have done everything in our power to change these perverse notions of his. We really had no idea what was going on in his head. Children can be so strange, as all of us who have children know. Am I right? Am I right? (Silence.)

FATHER: He's a good boy, even if slightly unprepared for-- everything.

MOTHER: A very good boy even if he was hoping to show that ridiculous video to people outside the house. I mean how could he think to trade on our lives, make money on our privacy. What goes on in this house is sacred. (Beat.) A good boy.

FATHER: You see how we couldn't let that happen. Think how we feel.

MOTHER: We stopped him from breaking that record. Nor will he break any. He's just too fragile.

FATHER: He won't see that. We tell him and tell him. He won't listen.

MOTHER: He's always reminded me of his Uncle Frank. Frank was a wonderful person until he had his difficulties.

FATHER: God knows he was a great guy.

MOTHER: So, we apologize for you having come all this way.

FATHER: Yes, we are so sorry. Your money will be refunded at the door.

MOTHER: We'd appreciate it if you kept this between us. Ok?

MOTHER and FATHER: (Go to leave.) We do love him.

(They exit. Coleman continues to watch the tape. Sinatra's "My Way" comes on. Lights out.)

Music by Paul A. Toth
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