Six Feet Under Isn’t Close Enough To Hell

by Nathanial Barnes

CHARACTERS

Priest    Elderly man.
Alec    Nancy’s youngest son.
Penny    Alec’s wife.
Jennifer    Grant’s wife.
Grant    Nancy’s oldest son.
Laurie    Nancy’s daughter.
Eric    Laurie’s son.
Mrs. Tillman    Nancy’s neighbor, elderly woman.

The pews on either side of the room create an aisle down the center leading to an open casket containing an elderly woman named NANCY. Behind the casket sits a pulpit at which the PRIEST is having a conversation with ALEC. There’s also a tall cabinet sitting further back beyond the pulpit. The other characters are milling around the room in shallow conversations with each other expressing either boredom or frustration, or both.

ALEC: You don’t understand. She needs to be buried deeper than six feet.
PRIEST: (Visibly uncomfortable with the strange request.) But that’s regulation.
ALEC: But it isn’t close enough to hell. And if my mother decides hell is too far away, then her spirit is going to stay here and haunt us forever. Her haunting us while she was alive was bad enough.

PRIEST: I’ll see what I can do.
ALEC: If you knew her, you wouldn’t even think twice about it.
(ALEC joins PENNY at the casket.)
PENNY: She looks so peaceful.
ALEC: You’d never know she’s burning in hell right now.
PENNY: That bitch! (She looks around to see if anyone heard her.)
ALEC: Pretty sure everyone here knows that.
PENNY: Yeah, but look. She’s wearing my necklace. How does she always manage to steal my shit when I haven’t seen her in years? Like hell she’s taking that with her to… well… hell. (PENNY reaches into the casket and fiddles with the necklace.) I can barely reach the clasp, lift me up a bit.

(ALEC lifts her up as she leans further into the casket.)
PENNY: Got it!
(ALEC’S grip slips and PENNY falls into the casket, feet flailing about. ALEC struggles to pull her out, but finally manages.)

ALEC: What a way to say your final goodbye.
PENNY: More like good riddance.
ALEC: What’s that? On her arm.
PENNY: It looks like a tattoo.
ALEC: Mom has a tattoo?
PENNY: It looks like a man’s name. Let me see. (She leans into the casket again pulling up NANCY’S sleeve.) Whoa.

ALEC: What?
PENNY: It’s a list.
ALEC: Of men?
PENNY: Yeah, starting with Poppy. They’re all crossed out, except this last one… whoa.
ALEC: Whoa again?
PENNY: The last name on the list is Janet.
ALEC: She was with a woman?
PENNY: I guess so.
ALEC: Whoa.
PENNY: Yeah, (short pause) whoa.
(They stare at the casket for a moment, in silence, in disbelief.)
ALEC: I can’t wait to tell everyone mom was a lesbian.

PENNY: I wonder why Janet isn’t here, then.

ALEC: Maybe she is. Does anyone know her? (Points to MRS. TILLMAN)

PENNY: That was her neighbor, Mrs. Tillman.

ALEC: First name?

PENNY: Good question… Let’s see if anyone else knows.

(ALEC and PENNY walk towards the pews as JENNIFER and GRANT replace them at the casket.)

JENNIFER: I can’t believe I let you talk me into coming to this.
GRANT: Misery loves company.
JENNIFER: (JENNIFER glances down at the casket and appears shocked.) Oh my god she’s wearing my diamond ring. How did she even get that?

GRANT: Take it back.
JENNIFER: I will. She won’t need diamonds in hell.
GRANT: And for once she won’t fight back.
JENNIFER: Thank god. I’ve had enough bruises from her for one lifetime.
GRANT: I think everyone here can personally agree with that.
(JENNIFER reaches into the casket and tries removing the ring.)
JENNIFER: It’s really stuck on tight.
(She gives it one final tug and then her face changes from anger to horror.)
GRANT: Honey, what’s wrong?
(JENNIFER holds up the ring with a finger still attached. GRANT’S jaw drops.)
JENNIFER: What do I do now? (She flails her arms around panicking.)
(LAURIE and her son ERIC approach the casket.)
LAURIE: Hey bro. Hello Jennifer, I wasn’t sure if you guys would even come.
JENNIFER: (JENNIFER is startled and accidentally tosses the finger across the room. Her voice shakes as she responds.) Hi Laurie, hello Eric.

LAURIE: (Laughing) Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.
JENNIFER: You didn’t, your mom did. Even dead she still scares the shit out of me.
GRANT: (Laughing) How are you dealing with things, sis?
LAURIE: Great, how ‘bout you?
GRANT: Wonderful, just wondering about the will situation.
LAURE: Pretty sure that’s what everyone is trying to figure out.
JENNIFER: Grant, honey, I need you for a second. (JENNIFER hurries away pulling GRANT behind her. She whispers to him as they walk in the direction of the flung finger. They begin crawling around the floor in search of the ring and finger.) Quick, help me find it before someone notices.

GRANT: Do you really think anyone is going to pay that close attention to her? I’m wondering why any of us even bothered to show up in the first place. It’s not like the will is being read here.

(ERIC and LAURIE approach the casket.)
ERIC: I can’t believe I’m missing the game for this. I barely even knew her.
LAURIE: I gave you fifty bucks just for coming, don’t complain. Besides, you knew her well enough to come to her funeral.

ERIC: Seeing as I didn’t even know she’s missing a finger on her right hand, I’d say I don’t know anything about her.

LAURIE: She’s not missing any fingers.
ERIC: Oh really?
LAURIE: (Shocked and confused) When the hell did that happen?
ERIC: I guess you didn’t know much about her either.
LAURIE: I knew all I needed to about her.
ERIC: Which was?
LAURIE: Where she was at all times, so I knew where not to go.
(MRS. TILLMAN now approaches the casket weeping. GRANT and JENNIFER crawl around the floor at the back right of the stage in search of the finger.)
GRANT: I found it! (He hoists a Cheeto into the air.) Oh wait, never mind. It’s just a Cheeto.

JENNIFER: Keep looking, I need that ring back.

LAURIE: (To MRS. TILLMAN) This might sound rude, but did you even know her? (She motions toward the casket.)

MRS. TILLMAN: Yes, she was my neighbor for many years.
LAURIE: And you knew her well?
MRS. TILLMAN: Why yes, of course.
LAURIE: And yet you’re crying over her death?
MRS. TILLMAN: (Laughing slightly) Oh, no. I lent her money, and now I’m never going to get it back. (She begins weeping again.)

LAURIE: That makes much more sense. (Sudden realization) Wait, are you Mrs. Tillman? The one who found her body?

MRS. TILLMAN: Yes, yes I am. I hadn’t heard from her for a while, so I thought she was trying to avoid paying me back. When I went to her house, I saw, through the front window, her body lying at the bottom of the stairs.

ERIC: We heard she had a heart attack.
LAURIE: Ironic really since it’s the one organ we all thought she lacked.
MRS. TILLMAN: It was the heart attack that got her, the plummet down the stairs was just added karma.

(GRANT runs over to JENNIFER.)

GRANT: I found it! For real this time! (He opens his hands slightly to show JENNIFER.)

JENNIFER: (Shocked) Where’s the ring?

GRANT: It must have fallen off when you chucked it across the room. We’ll find it, but first let’s put the finger back on her.

(GRANT and JENNIFER walk to the casket as everyone else sits down at the pews. GRANT places the finger in the casket.)

JENNIFER: Is it just me or… Oh my god, that’s not her finger.

GRANT: What? (GRANT pulls his hands away from the casket and yelps.)

JENNIFER: Look at it! It’s so manly and doesn’t look anything like her others.

GRANT: How could there be another finger just randomly lying around?

JENNIFER: More importantly, did that finger also have a diamond ring on it? Let’s keep looking.

(JENNIFER tugs GRANT back to the spot on stage they were looking previously. Everyone else not already seated takes a seat in the pews and waits for the funeral service to begin.)

LAURIE: (Whispering) You owe me $100 for the poll.
ALEC: (Whispering) Damn it. Why couldn’t she hold out for three more years?
PENNY: So who even found her body? I didn’t think people still visited her.
ERIC: Her neighbor did. She went to collect money from her.
PENNY: I wonder, if she didn’t owe the money, how long it would have been until she were found.

ERIC: Probably never. She’s been dead to all of us for years.
LAURIE: (Yelling to GRANT and JENNIFER.) What are you guys looking for? The service is about to begin.

JENNIFER: I dropped my diamond ring and I saw it roll over here somewhere. (She scoops something up off the ground.) Here it is!

(The PRIEST stands at the podium and everyone is silent. GRANT and JENNIFER take their seats.)

PRIEST: Before we start, would anyone like to share a story of their time with Nancy?
GRANT: (Standing quickly) When I was young, mother decided she wanted to divorce Poppy. Mother being mother, wouldn’t do it the easy way, of course, and instead pushed me down the stairs. She then called the police and blamed my father for it. When the police questioned me, I, of course, went with her story because… well she already pushed me down the stairs, so who knew what else she would have done to me if I ratted her out. (He then sits just as quickly.)

PRIEST: (Shocked) Oh my. You mustn’t hold onto your anger. Let her rest in peace.
GRANT: Why? She never gave me any peace.
PRIEST: (He nervously rubs his hands together.) I… I’m sorry, I misspoke.
LAURIE: (Standing at her seat.) When I was ten, she taught me how to ride a bike. Before showing me how to do it, she took me to the top of a hill and pushed me down it. After I crashed and broke my arm, she told me I better learn quickly so I could ride to the hospital. (She begins sitting down, but then stands again.) And then she told me to pick her up a carton of milk on my way home. (Then she sits.)

PRIEST: P…please, it’s awful to speak ill of the dead.
ALEC: Speaking of ill, does anyone know anything about her will?
GRANT: I’d like to know the status on the will as well.
LAURIE: I actually have it with me. She mailed it to me not long ago, actually.
PRIEST: Doesn’t anyone here have any respect for the dead?
(There’s a long pause of complete silence.)
ERIC: No.
PENNY: Not really.
JENNIFER: Not this time.
PRIEST: I’ve never…
ALEC: So, the will?
LAURIE: Should I just read it now?
(Everyone happily agrees. LAURIE pulls a manila folder from her tote bag.)
PRIEST: I can’t allow this kind of talk here.
LAURIE: It won’t take long. It’s the only reason any of us are really here anyway. (She opens the envelope slowly pulling out a packet of papers. She quickly scans the first page. The PRIEST walks over to the cabinet and grabs a glass and a bottle of scotch. He fills the glass and gulps it down. Everyone is too distracted to notice his drinking.)

PENNY: Well?

JENNIFER: What did she give us? I can’t wait any longer.

(LAURIE sits there in silence, not moving.)

ERIC: Mom? What is it?

LAURIE: (Disbelief) Everything.

GRANT: What do you mean everything?
LAURIE: She split everything between us.

ALEC: How much is everything?

LAURIE: Millions.

(Everyone cries out in shocks of excitement and shock.)

LAURIE: Wait, who’s Janet? She’s getting more than any of us. What the hell?

MRS. TILLMAN: That would be me, honey.

(ALEC and PENNY look at each other in shock. ALEC jumps from his seat pointing at MRS. TILLMAN.)

ALEC: I knew it! You were in a lesbian relationship with mom!

MRS. TILLMAN: Yes, yes I was.

ALEC: Why? She was awful.

MRS. TILLMAN: Her purse was quite heavy, if you know what I mean.

(Everyone nods in agreement.)

PENNY: Speaking of money, does it say anything else? What about her possessions? Where do they go?

LAURIE: We’re free to split them however we want.

ERIC: I call the Porsche!

JENNIFER: Like hell you do!

(Everyone begins talking over each other calling dibs and fighting over items. The fighting grows louder and louder. The PRIEST refills his glass and gulps it down again.)

GRANT: Hey! (Everyone stops fighting.) With the amount we’re each getting, we can all get Porsches.

ALEC: What do all the other pages say?

(LAURIE flips through the packet. Her shoulders drop and she brings her hand up to her mouth.)

LAURIE: No!

PENNY: What? What does it say?

LAURIE: She didn’t get it notarized!

ERIC: Didn’t get it what?

(LAURIE throws the packet at the floor and brings her head to her knees. The PRIEST sits his glass down and drinks directly from the bottle spilling it on himself.)

GRANT: It means she didn’t get it signed in front of an attorney.

ERIC: Which means?

PENNY: Which means we don’t get shit. That’s what it means.

ERIC: (Shocked) Why?

GRANT: Because it’s not legally signed, which makes it a useless list.

ERIC: Where does all of her stuff go then?

GRANT: The government now owns it.

ERIC: And there’s nothing we can do?

GRANT: I don’t think so…

JENNIFER: I can’t believe, even dead, she still managed to destroy our lives. How can she…

ALEC: (Interrupting) Screw this, where’s the nearest bar? I’m done with this crap.
PRIEST: (Slurring) Next door. You cry about death here, then cry about life there.
PENNY: (Shocked) Are you drunk?
PRIEST: (He straightens his posture as he stands and walks towards the pulpit still holding his glass. He continues to slur his words.) Of course not! (He takes another drink and leans into the pulpit for support.) This is water!

PENNY: Then why is it brown?

PRIEST: I meant apple juice. It’s apple juice.

PENNY: I think you’re lying.

PRIEST: I’m not, see.

(He pushes off of the pulpit to stand up straight. The pulpit tips over and crashes into the casket. The casket topples onto the floor and Nancy’s body rolls out. Everyone screams as they watch it happen, but they don’t get up to help.)

ALEC: Is that her finger lying there?

JENNIFER: No, not exactly. It’s a long story.

PENNY: I don’t think I even want to know.

ALEC: Well I’m outta here. You can tell me all about it at the bar. No sense in pretending to mourn for someone I’m glad is finally gone. (To the PRIEST.) No sense in wasting your time either.

PRIEST: But I have to clean this up.

PENNY: She’s dead, she won’t know you stepped out for some air… and another drink or two.
(Everyone verbally agrees with ALEC and PENNY and follows them out the door. The PRIEST is visibly stunned while watching everyone leave. He looks back and forth between the casket and the group.)

PRIEST: (To himself) Eh, whatever. She’s not going anywhere. (He runs, stumbling, to catch up to the rest of the group.)

Nate is a senior professional writing major with minors in public relations and creative writing. His passions include writing, eating, sleeping, not exercising, and loving turtles. He dreams of writing indie films because writing blockbuster films terrifies him.