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Bury the Book

By
Daniel Welser Carroll

The son and daughter of a famous author debate the ethics


and emotions of publishing a posthumous book about his
publicly unseen aggression.

Approx run-time: 25 Min. dwelsercarroll@gmail.com


(Available for expansion) 518-810-3053
1.

An office. Joshua, 30’s, sits in an


armchair. He is looking at a
loosely bound manuscript sitting on
the small coffee table in front of
him. Martha, late 20’s, walks
behind the desk and pours two
drinks at a small bar set. She
returns with the drinks and pauses
before handing one to Joshua.
MARTHA
Okay, before you tell me anything about it: I tried to
activate the story with a lot of present-moment
point-of-view type stuff so I hope you don’t think the
innate opinions made it too subjective. Do you think that?
Because I wanted it to be really emotionally charged but
still refrain from commiserating with the reader. To back
off from the memoir model without loosing it’s weight. Do
you know what I mean? So tell me, what do you think?
JOSHUA
(Laughing slightly)
Well, I’m not sure I know what you mean by all that
but...well, it’s certainly factual.
MARTHA
Factual. Factual is...good.
JOSHUA
(Conceding)
It’s incredible, Martha, it really is-
MARTHA
You think so?

JOSHUA
But kind of scary seeing another point of view on those
memories - it makes them very real again. Sharper, ya know?
It’s...it’s uh...it’s intense.

MARTHA
Well you can’t make that shit up...writing it down and
staring at it made me realize how insane it all really was,
I mean the fact that he used to set fires -
JOSHUA
Right, right. Yeah... Well...I can tell you it’s amazing
writing. It’s really something.
MARTHA
Yeah? You think it’s that good? Okay, Great. Okay. Because
Mona let the word out this morning to a few publishing
groups, HarperCollins especially since they worked with Dad
(MORE)
2.

MARTHA (cont’d)
on his last novels, so...we should start to get word very
soon on a deal.

JOSHUA
Wait.
(Pause)
What? I thought...wait, I thought we were going to talk
about this.

MARTHA
What do you mean?
JOSHUA
This book, I thought...I thought we were just going to talk
about it, I mean this book. This book...you-
(Pause)
Martha, Dad’s less than a year in the ground...you, you
can’t-
MARTHA
What are you talking about?
(Snatches the drink from him)
Give me this. What?
JOSHUA
It’s- I mean, it’s kinda...defamatory- it’s-

MARTHA
Jesus, Josh. What are you talking about?? It’s true! It’s
not defamatory. Are you serious about this? What, are you
telling me I shouldn’t publish it?

JOSHUA
I didn’t even think this was a final draft, I-
MARTHA
What does that mean?

The door to the office bursts open.


Martha’s secretary, Liz, and
another prim looking suit, Rob,
come in quickly. A flurry of
excited motion.

ROB
Random House wants a sample.
LIZ
(Speed of sound)
Mona just got off the phone with them.
(Starts putting pages on the desk)
And this is Vantage, this is HarperCollins, S&S, and
Tyndale-
3.

ROB
-Random House-
LIZ
-and I took down all the numbers you asked for and bought
you a caramel latte but you don’t have to drink it if you
don’t want to because I think I saw them pour 2% in and
that’s not how you make a latte.
ROB
It almost feels like they were waiting for this, right? And
I so told you that like, four months ago. They’re all on the
prowl for this story. I so told you that.
LIZ
This is all so exciting.

ROB
Did I not predict this?
JOSHUA
Can we please discuss this first. You didn’t tell me you
were in publishing talks already.

The two freeze. Seeing him for the


first time.
ROB
Martha? Who is this?

MARTHA
Rob, this is my brother. Joshua.
Joshua extends a hand. Rob accepts
it.

ROB
Oh my god. Best supporting role, right here. Doctor Joshua.
A pleasure to meet you.
(Pause)
So. Have you...read...Martha’s book?
JOSHUA
Just finished.
ROB
Great, right?
JOSHUA
It’s...quite something. Remarkable, really.
4.

ROB
I know.
MARTHA
However, my brother seems to think there’s an issue with
publishing the book.

ROB
What?
JOSHUA
I’m sorry, I don’t mean to cause a stir.
ROB
Liz, get Mona.
Liz exits quickly.

JOSHUA
I just think this is a family matter right now, none of us
knew about the book, my other sister hasn’t even read it-
ROB
Oh you mean that six, now probably seven figure book deal
we’re all throwing our entire work-day at right now? Is that
a family matter? What exactly is your objection here, Mr.
Joshua?
MARTHA
Rob, cool it.
JOSHUA
I just read this book. I’m his son and I just read this book
and now you’re all already in publishing talks? I need to
think about this, and I don’t think the time is right.

ROB
For what?
The door bursts open again.

LIZ
Mona’s coming.
ROB
Good.

JOSHUA
Look, I didn’t mean to make a fuss here. That wasn’t my
intention. I just think-
5.

LIZ
I loved the book. I just have to say that. And I know who
you are Joshua. To care for him at his bedside. I think
you’re very brave.

JOSHUA
Uh...thank you. Has everyone here read the book?
MARTHA
Liz. Can you make sure we’re not disturbed again?

LIZ
Yes. Of course. Sorry, Martha.
Rushes to exit nearly bumping into
Mona, 40’s, coming through the
door.

LIZ
Sorry Mona.
Liz exits quickly.

MONA
Alright, what’s up.
ROB
Thank god, Mona-

MONA
Rob, get outta here. Family and family employees only.
ROB
This is defcon one here - code blue.

MONA
Go to lunch.
ROB
Cute, Mona, but you’re no Mamet.
(Beginning to exit)
Don’t act like you haven’t seen every memo. You know where
we are in this. I forged that release in ink and blood. And
they are biting at the chum bucket, so call me if you need
back-up against the Kennedy kids here.

Rob exits.
MONA
Josh, it’s good to see you again.
6.

JOSHUA
I really didn’t mean to cause anything here, I’m sorry.

MONA
Don’t worry about it. I’ve worked for your family long
enough to cause my own share of disturbances so forget about
it. But...what’s the problem today, exactly?
JOSHUA
We can’t publish this book. That’s...that’s it. That’s all I
think. We just can’t do it.
MARTHA
It isn’t a "we" situation. I take responsibility. It was my
choice.

MONA
(Pause)
Well...to tell the truth, Josh, I agree with you.
MARTHA
What do you mean you agree?
MONA
(Rubbing her temples)
It’s a mess kids it really is. Could I have a drink? I could
really use one today. Sit, Josh, please.

Mona sits.
MARTHA
Mona!

MONA
We can’t look like pricks.
(Shrugs, throws up her hands a bit)
That’s the thing of it. I’ve been on the phone with Michael
Cohen over at HarperCollins all morning and they’re pushing
to move in big way on that excerpt we distributed...but even
he’s a little worried about the backlash, though his
superiors don’t seem to give a fuck. He just passed away-
JOSHUA
Exactly!

MARTHA
What are you saying?
MONA
I think we should cool the deal. Stop generating buzz and
then look to option it privately with someone we trust. At
least then it has a chance to generate revenue, and will
give us a lot of time to stall in legal dealings.
7.

JOSHUA
That’s still too much. Optioning. It can’t be anything
public. God forbid it ends up as a Lifetime movie. I want it
put in a bottom drawer.
MARTHA
I haven’t worked day and night for months for the sake of a
bottom drawer, Josh. It makes no money in a drawer.

JOSHUA
Well, this isn’t about money for you, Martha. That much is
clear.
MARTHA
What? Don’t you dare-

MONA
Wait.
MARTHA
(Suddenly losing her composure)
I don’t understand you. You hated that man. You hated our
father- and you were never there. You rejected that whole
world he created and yet now, once we put him in the ground
you decide to embody the story of the prodigal son? How
exquisite for you.

JOSHUA
(Calm)
It’s different now. Now that he’s gone. That shouldn’t take
much to understand.

MONA
Could I back up and explain what I mean by pricks
exactly...? Maybe that would help.
MARTHA
We know exactly what you mean-

JOSHUA
It’s more than just the image, it’s the principle.
MARTHA
Oh my god-

MONA
We were all rocked by the will reading - all of us. For him
to have facilitated that large of a donation to CRI-
MARTHA
It was all of it! Every royalty funneled to charity. I wish
everyone would stop sugar coating the fact that he left us
nothing! After expenses and paying out associates that was
it - we didn’t get any of it.
8.

MONA
I know that.
JOSHUA
What, were you expecting some sort of a dynastic passing of-

MARTHA
No I wasn’t. But some sort of financial...I don’t know- hug
would have sent the right signal. It was an insult, a
deliberate one.

JOSHUA
I don’t need the money; I have my practice. And you have the
magazine-
MARTHA
(Laughing)
I have the magazine...Josh, Dad was the magazine. It was
practically a graduation gift. It never had it’s own
buoyancy and now that he’s out of the foundation...It’s all
part of the plan to dissolve. So I resent whatever else you
think this is.

JOSHUA
I didn’t realize that...
MONA
She’s right, Josh. The Cancer Research Institute has our
bail-out money. The mag is crippled, and we were banking on
a cash flow from some of your father’s post-mortem releases
but...he sealed those up and threw away the key. Legally.
MARTHA
I can fix that, you know this will generate a lot of
interest.
MONA
We just have to find a way to do this gracefully.
JOSHUA
Gracefully? This is not graceful. The man funnels the
royalties from entire estate into charity and now his kids
are going to publish his demonization? We’ll look petty.
Spoiled.
MONA
That’s what I meant by pricks.
JOSHUA
Then we’re pricks.
9.

MARTHA
We are not.
There’s a buzzing sound.
MONA
They’re all clamoring for something. HarperCollins had
advances on your father for two different projects and then
he died on them. The will may have taken care of the
advanced money but...I mean he was at the peak of his career
and they were banking on a lot, lot more income off of your
father. Now, there’s going to be a lot of resistance in the
literary world against this book, Martha. The man was a god.
But good controversial buzz is like currency. Michael Cohen
over at HarperCollins said it himself. When faith fails to
bank, there’s always crucifixion.

MARTHA
What? That’s NOT what I’m-
Another loud buzz.
MONA
(Hitting the button)
WHAT, Rob?
ROB
(On intercom)
I’m coming in. Should I send Liz in first? You’re not going
to throw anything, will you? I’ll send in Liz.
Liz enters.
LIZ
Please don’t throw anything.

ROB
(On intercom)
Did you throw anything?

MARTHA
I don’t have time for this right now, Rob!
ROB
I’ve got Robert Moore from the big RH on the line, Martha.
You’re going to want to hear what they have to say. Now.

MARTHA
Give me a second.
(Shuts off the intercom)
10.

MONA
If Bob Moore is calling, then they’re pulling hard. You
should take the call.
LIZ
You really should.
MARTHA
Can’t he wait half an hour??
ROB
(Entering)
Maximum. I told him you were with family. It’s nice to tell
the truth. But you really shouldn’t take long and you really
should see this.
He offers her a post-it.

MARTHA
What. What is it.
ROB
Liz, give Martha the note.

Liz does so.


LIZ
(Breathily)
Here.

Martha looks at it.


MARTHA
Oh jesus.

Martha clutches her head.


MONA
Let me see.

ROB
This is a strategic move - someone leaked the HarperCollins
bid and so Random House has decided to send us their final
offer which, as you can see is, much, much larger.
MONA
They’re putting us on a clock.
ROB
The end of the day. Or it’s gone.
11.

MARTHA
What??
ROB
Someone leaked, now we’re trapped! That’s business. And
apparently we have a shitty poker face.

MONA
(To Josh)
Look.

She hands the note to him.


JOSHUA
What is this?
MONA
The offer.
JOSHUA
Wait, this number is a price.
ROB
I’m prepping a release statement. I’m thinking something
really incendiary. Pull on the familiar. Mommy Dearest meets
Oedipus at Colonus. Thoughts?
MONA
Redundant. And this isn’t the time, Rob.

JOSHUA
Ah jeeze this isn’t Mommy Dearest. He never hit us! Never
beat us with hangers!
LIZ
He hit you once. Chapter Two. Before the Jazz at Lincoln
Center benefit when you were eight.
JOSHUA
That was hair pulling. And I was being a brat anyway. You
read it.
MONA
Either way. This is what happens. We saw this coming. We get
forced into a situation where we have to jump and well...now
we have jump. We have to decide. Today. And it needs to be
you.
MARTHA
Well what choice-
12.

JOSHUA
(Rising)
Mona, uh Rob - I’d like it if we could be left alone for a
moment.

MONA
Of course.
(Rising)
ROB
What do you mean of course-

MONA
Jesus, Rob - go!
JOSHUA
Please. I’m sorry.

ROB
Martha?
MARTHA
(Pause)
It’s fine. Leave us.
ROB
My god, it’s amateur hour today.
MONA
We’ll be down the hall.
MARTHA
Fine.

The three, except for the siblings


exit. There is a pause.
JOSHUA
It’s not essential.

MARTHA
It is.
JOSHUA
We can’t do it.

MARTHA
I can’t do it. You mean. Understand that there isn’t a
single thing you can do, legally, to bar this deal from
happening.
13.

JOSHUA
I...I know that.
MARTHA
Do you.

JOSHUA
Which is why I’m asking you.
MARTHA
Why are you doing this to me? I...jesus Josh, I need your
support on this. I thought...I just thought- I mean Mom and
Mary aren’t going to be my allies in this-
JOSHUA
For good reason! It isn’t necessary to bankroll our crappy
childhood! No matter how good of a narrative it makes! We
don’t need the public to defend our past.
MARTHA
You of all people should want this book! Our father made
your life hell. That night at the Athletic Club when he
taunted you in front of the audience? The psychological
conditioning. He wronged us. Look where I am in life right
now! On a sinking ship of his device - a fake oasis so he
could keep tabs on me.
JOSHUA
And you reveled in it. Played right into the cult.

MARTHA
That doesn’t matter! That really doesn’t matter. What choice
did I have? You took the path of resistance and where look
it got you.

JOSHUA
Look where it got me.
MARTHA
What changed.

JOSHUA
In me? I should be asking that of you. You’re quoted through
the years defending him and everything he was. And now you
burn him in effigy.
MARTHA
Just explain it to me.
JOSHUA
He’s our father. We have to protect him. From himself.
14.

MARTHA
He doesn’t need protection.

JOSHUA
Then what about you?
(Pause)
Now that he’s gone...you’re dying for the approval he once
showered on you and that you now get...nowhere. Do you need
my approval, Martha? Is that what it is?

MARTHA
How dare you.
The door opens. Liz enters.

MARTHA
Excuse us.
LIZ
I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. The intercom was on.

MARTHA
What?
LIZ
You’re sitting on the intercom button.

Martha notices that she is.


LIZ
I couldn’t help but overhear, and I know it’s not my
business-

MARTHA
Liz, this isn’t-
LIZ
(Speed of light)
I’m so sorry but I have to say, I just have to say.
Everything in this book was...a relief to me. I mean that
scene where the argument at the dinner table escalated to
him burning the swing-set in the backyard. I mean the
potency of that image. And all because of F. Scott
Fitzgerald!

JOSHUA
In his defense he set fire to the soccer goal, it only
incidentally spread to the swing-set. An accidental
metaphor.

LIZ
(Beat)
You have to understand. My father he...he was...he used a
lot of guilt and, and intimidation and blaming and
(MORE)
15.

LIZ (cont’d)
manipulation to control me and my sisters my whole life and
I just never got it, you know? I could never understand why
but now...I’m a bit closer. Just a little bit and it’s so
worth it.
(Takes a breath)
Now I’m probably fired anyway if the deal doesn’t go through
because I know we’re out of money but just please let people
know this story. I got into this industry for this kind of
thing. And thinking about that, and thinking about a man who
would do and say all those terrible things and why he did
it-
MARTHA
That’s enough.
LIZ
I’m fired.
JOSHUA
Liz...thank you. But that’s exactly why I’m afraid to let
this book happen. You’re thinking about why...and everyone
else who will read that will too. But we...we’re still
grappling with that question ourselves. I think we should
have that time. Privately.
LIZ
I’m sorry.

JOSHUA
It’s alright.
LIZ
I’m sorry.

Liz exits.
JOSHUA
You’re not going to fire her...

MARTHA
No. I’m not dad.
JOSHUA
...no?

MARTHA
Don’t.
The buzzer sounds.
16.

MARTHA
(Hitting it)
We’re not done!

ROB
New developments. I’m sending Mona in again. And why is Liz
crying?
MARTHA
She was embarrassed about having an opinion.
ROB
Ah.
MARTHA
Tell her something reassuring.
ROB
On it. And brace yourself.
Exits.

MARTHA
This is about recovering my life after Dad, Josh, I need
this money for the magazine.
JOSHUA
You don’t need the magazine. You’re the writer daughter of a
nationally celebrated writer. Stop acting like this is a
matter of practicality!
Mona enters.

MARTHA
Just tell me.
MONA
HarperCollins backed.

MARTHA
Christ.
JOSHUA
What does that mean?

MARTHA
They pull the deal because they can’t match Random House.
Random House gives us a time limit to try and secure the
deal, but it’s a risk. HarperCollins is banking on the risk
hoping there’s some blockage in the tubes, which there is,
with you, and if we turn down Random House because of the
constraint, then we’ll have to go back to HarperCollins and
they can offer us less.
17.

JOSHUA
What? This is all happening very fast.
MONA
Welcome to publishing. You should see the parties.

JOSHUA
I have.
MONA
Oh. Right.

JOSHUA
This needs to stop. This can’t go through.
MARTHA
What do I do, Mona?

MONA
(Scrutinizes Martha for a moment, and
then shakes her head)
I have to throw up my hands on this one, Marty. I’m sorry.
I’m done. It’s like the fucking rapture.
MARTHA
You too?? Do I have no one suddenly? All you’ve been doing
is pushing this deal!

MONA
I managed your fathers first release. I accepted everything
he gave me because it was my livelihood. When he offered to
let me manage the book tours, and then this magazine, I
accepted. I now I’m executor to an estate that has been
donated. This book is technically all that’s left and if I
don’t take what this is going to provide then it’s going to
be a tedious road to retirement and personally I’d like to
turn sixty five in Barbados.
(Pause)
But I’ll tell you this...I’ve fully reconciled the fact that
I’m going to look like a weasel on this for cashing in on
his hanging and that’s my choice. But I’m just on the
books...not in them. My footnote to history will be brief
and that’s fine. But what about your footnote? Think about
that...
(Pause)
You can let it sit. That’s another option. Five years. Ten
years. Let them all forget about him. If I have to retire to
San Luis Obispo instead of Barbados well...at least I’ll
still have my conscience. What will you have?
There’s a pause. They look at
Martha, who is scrutinizing a spot
on the floor. Vacant.
18.

JOSHUA
Martha-

MARTHA
Tell them yes.
JOSHUA
Wait-

MONA
Are you sure.
JOSHUA
You haven’t-

MARTHA
If I balk at this then they’ll know they can fuck us. And I
don’t intend to be a footnote.
JOSHUA
Mona, give us the room for just one more moment. Please.

MONA
The clock-
MARTHA
Tell them yes.

JOSHUA
NO!
(Pause)
Two minutes. Please.

MARTHA
What else could you have to say?
MONA
Fine. But this is it. I’ll be right outside.

JOSHUA
Thank you.
Mona leaves.

MARTHA
Why are you so against this! What happened? Tell me. Tell me
what happened.
JOSHUA
This is counter intuitive, alright. To do this isn’t putting
him in his place, or putting him down, it’s perpetuating
him. Making him larger than what he really was. Things
changed for me when I was taking care of him, I saw things
differently, finally-
19.

MARTHA
How did things change? He was still the same man, still
hurling insults, morphine induced or not. He was still that
miserable, terrible man.
JOSHUA
That’s it exactly. He wasn’t, I avoided him our whole lives
because I thought he was as powerful as he was made out to
be, but in that bed, in that frail body, he was nothing. I
was taking care of him. I could feel how weak he was. In
body and spirit.
MARTHA
(Sudden. Ferocious.)
I didn’t get that.

JOSHUA
See? See what this is about for you?
MARTHA
Why are you doing this to me?

JOSHUA
Because we don’t need to destroy him to beat him. In
fact...he asked for destruction. Did you know that? He spent
the last months of his life demanding to be let go. But I
didn’t. I had the control. Doing this might even be what he
wanted - you can have what I had, without this book.
MARTHA
No. I can’t. I’m doing this, Josh.
JOSHUA
Martha-
MARTHA
I am.

JOSHUA
If you do this, you’ll lose us too.
A pause.
MARTHA
Don’t say-
JOSHUA
You think Mom is going to forgive you for this? Mary? I’ll
let it pass, but I’ll turn away from it. And you. And if it
doesn’t meet the "buzz" you all think it will...if the
public pans it. Hates it. Then...you will be alone, Martha,
you will be alone. And I think that’s what you’re most
afraid of anyway...so what is it? Career? Family?
Retribution? What’s most important to you?
20.

Martha hits the button. Hard.


MARTHA
Mona, the deal stands. Tell them yes.
JOSHUA
What?
MARTHA
You’re a hypocrite.

JOSHUA
Martha-
MARTHA
You may boast a sense of filial piety now that he’s buried,
but you buried him in anger. And you know that. I’m sure in
your heart you know that. You mask it with compassion, but
you were holding on to anger and now you’re asking me to do
the same!
JOSHUA
He wins if you do this. He wins!

MARTHA
He’s dead!
JOSHUA
Then why can’t we keep him buried.

MARTHA
This is burying him, Josh. This is the epitaph. And I’m
glad. I’m glad destruction is what he wanted. Good. I’ll
happily take my pound of flesh because I did not get
whatever satisfaction you got at his deathbed. And I don’t
think I ever will. But at least I can have this. This is
mine.
JOSHUA
You sound like him.

MARTHA
And you are him. Who’s manipulating now...who’s blinded by
some Christ complex now.
JOSHUA
I don’t want my name associated with this - change it. I
don’t want anyone thinking I had something to do with this.
If asked, I’m going to have to speak against it.
MARTHA
Fine. Should boost sales.
21.

JOSHUA
Martha!
Pause.
MARTHA
Go home, Josh. Take some time to locate your demons before
pretending like you’ve chased them away.
JOSHUA
And what about you?

MARTHA
My demons?
(Pause)
I’ll publish them.

She exits. End of play.