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THE GATHERING
Scene 1
May, 2020. New England. 
A Zoom placeholder, which is a family photo of a man, a woman, and their two young kids, is in place, with MUSIC playing over it. The song is very pleasant--the kind of song one would play to accompany a Zoom family meeting, which this is about to be.
As the meeting progresses, the tone and delivery is casual, sounding like dinner table conversation. Until the plot informs otherwise.
Momentarily, a black box appears identified with the name “Christine Conlon.” Before we see a face, we hear CHRISTINE’s voice.
CHRISTINE
Bren? 
(we hear some clicking)
Brenden, are you coming?
BRENDEN
(off, yelling, through Christine’s audio)
That’s what she said!
CHRISTINE
(not jovial)
Ha ha. Come on. It’s 7:30. I need you here. I can’t see me.
BRENDEN
(still off)
Did you turn on video?
CHRISTINE
I thought I did. Maybe I turned me off.
BRENDEN
(with her now, still unseen; more clicking)
I’m the only one who gets to turn you off.
A couple more clicks and the video appears. BRENDEN and Christine are seated at the computer. They’re a couple in their fifties. They are the mom and dad from the placeholder photo, which had been taken probably 15-20 years earlier.
BRENDEN (CONT'D)
There we are.
CHRISTINE
I thought I had this down.
BRENDEN
That’s what she said.
CHRISTINE
Okay, that’s the last one, okay?
BRENDEN
(short beat)
That’s what she said. Okay, there. That’s the last one.
CHRISTINE
It better be. Now... How will we know when the others are...
BRENDEN
Their names’ll show up here. You see? Ah! There’s Kristin.
CHRISTINE
Where?
BRENDEN
You’ll see.
(clicks something)
KRISTIN appears. She’s in her later twenties.
KRISTIN
Hope I’m not late.
BRENDEN
That’s what...
CHRISTINE
I will kill you!
KRISTIN
Is he still doing that?
CHRISTINE
Constantly.
BRENDEN
Works 95% of the time. It’s amazing.
KRISTIN
That’s what she said.
BRENDEN
See?
CHRISTINE
Okay. Moratorium. Please. 
BRENDEN
Oh, okay.
KRISTIN
Wait...
CHRISTINE
What?
KRISTIN
I thought I heard something.
CHRISTINE
Like what?
Kristin says nothing, just looks off to the side.
BRENDEN
Are you okay, honey?
(no response)
Krissy?
KRISTIN
No, I’m fine, Dad. I just... thought I heard something in the hallway.
BRENDEN
Something like what?
KRISTIN
I don’t know. A noise. Something.
CHRISTINE
The hallway in the apartment or out in the corridor?
KRISTIN
Nowhere. Really. I’m fine.
CHRISTINE
Do we need to have the talk again?
KRISTIN
No, we don’t need to have the talk again.
BRENDEN
Anytime, kid, you wanna get out of that building...
KRISTIN
No.
BRENDEN
My truck’s there in forty minutes.
CHRISTINE
You drive too fast.
BRENDEN
Okay. Forty-five.
KRISTIN
No. I’m not moving. 
CHRISTINE
The COVID numbers are scary down there.
BRENDEN
They exaggerate.
CHRISTINE
Whatdya mean, they exaggerate?
KRISTIN
Who else is coming?
BRENDEN
They just... you know... if you die of a heart attack and you test positive for Covid, they put you down for dying of Covid.
CHRISTINE
Oh, they don’t do that.
KRISTIN
Yes, they do. Who else?
CHRISTINE
Mark. 
KRISTIN
You invited Mark?
CHRISTINE
Of course I invited Mark. Why?
KRISTIN
No reason.
CHRISTINE
You didn’t have another fight, did you?
KRISTIN
No. Who else did you invite?
CHRISTINE
Grampa.
KRISTIN
At the home? He can do this from there?
CHRISTINE
Yes, and when he gets here, don’t call it the home. It’s assisted living.
KRISTIN
It’s more than assisted living, Ma.
CHRISTINE
Just don’t say home.
BRENDEN
Oh... look... He’s in the Zoom waiting room.
(clicks)
KRISTIN
Grampa?
BRENDEN
Mark.
MARK appears. He’s a few years younger than Kristin.
MARK
I can’t believe you guys figured out how to do this.
CHRISTINE
It’s not that hard.
MARK
That’s what she said.
CHRISTINE
STOP!
BRENDEN
How’re you guys doing?
KRISTIN
I was doing okay until they called off school for the rest of the year.
CHRISTINE
You don’t think they should have?
KRISTIN
I don’t know, I guess. But teaching middle schoolers over the internet is the new definition of futility.
CHRISTINE
I bet.
KRISTIN
And the parents don’t help. Always asking annoying questions.
BRENDEN
Such as?
KRISTIN
Such as “When is this going to be over so little Brittany can have a snack.
CHRISTINE
They’ll appreciate teachers when this is over.
KRISTIN
Don’t bet on it.
MARK
I’m goin’ back on Monday. Part time.
CHRISTINE
They’re opening?
MARK
Outside service only. But they need the extra cook. 
CHRISTINE
Wear a mask.
MARK
I just hope whatever hours I get pay better than my Unemployment. My Unemployment is pretty sweet.
KRISTIN
It really isn’t fair. 
MARK
I don’t make the rules.
KRISTIN
That’s fortunate.
Mark lets that sit a second, then speaks.
MARK
So, Kristin, did you tell them?
CHRISTINE
Tell us what?
KRISTIN
Oh, for Christ’s sake...
CHRISTINE
What?
MARK
So you didn’t.
CHRISTINE
Didn’t what? Tell us what?
MARK
You remember that guy from Christmas?
CHRISTINE
What guy?
BRENDEN
What about him?
MARK
So you remember him...
BRENDEN
Yes.
CHRISTINE
Who’s he talking about?
KRISTIN
It’s nothing.
MARK
It’s not nothing. And you know it.
BRENDEN
(to Christine)
You remember the man Kristin brought to Christmas dinner?
MARK
The boyfriend from Hell?
KRISTIN
Oh, please... His name is Patrick. Jesus.
CHRISTINE
Patrick? With the... ?
(indicates her cheek)
BRENDEN
Yes.
KRISTIN
Thanks a lot, Mark.
CHRISTINE
That... thing on his face?
BRENDEN
What about him?
CHRISTINE
You broke up, I thought.
KRISTIN
We did. 
MARK
He’s back.
KRISTIN
He’s not back.
CHRISTINE
I really didn’t like him.
MARK
Nobody liked him.
CHRISTINE
Or that thing on his face.
KRISTIN
I never really went out with him. 
MARK
You brought him to Christmas dinner!
CHRISTINE
He had that scar...
MARK
That is dating.
KRISTIN
We know about the scar, Mom. Jesus.
MARK
Friggin’ lowlife...
BRENDEN
What was his name?
MARK
He’s stalking her.
CHRISTINE
Oh, Kristin...
BRENDEN
Whatdya mean, stalking?
CHRISTINE
(to Brenden)
She just told you.
KRISTIN
He’s not... stalking...
CHRISTINE
(also to Brenden)
Patrick!
BRENDEN
Right. Whatdya mean, stalking?
MARK
I mean he’s stalking her. Calls her cell twenty times a day. Emails. Texts. Follows her to the school on the subway.
BRENDEN
Doesn’t he have a job?
MARK
Does anybody have a job?
CHRISTINE
Krissy, what’s going on?
KRISTIN
I can handle it.
CHRISTINE
Handle what, exactly?
MARK
I get a call at, like, two o’clock in the morning. She thought she heard something.
CHRISTINE
Like tonight.
MARK
What happened tonight?
CHRISTINE
When she got on the... the Zoom, she said she thought she heard something.
KRISTIN
Hey, this is supposed to be a friendly family fun pandemic call.
BRENDEN
(looking to bottom of screen)
Oh, Jesus...
CHRISTINE
What?
BRENDEN
My father. He’s in the waiting room. Hold on...
(clicks)
DAN, Brenden’s father, pops into view. Tough as nails. Standing behind him is LEE, a caregiver, guiding his Zoom steps. She is wearing a clinical mask.
LEE
(barely in view, but there)
You got it, Dan?
DAN
Can they see me?
BRENDEN
We can see you, Dad.
CHRISTINE
Who’s that with you?
DAN
I don’t know.
(to Lee)
Who are you?
LEE
(laughing, sticks her face into the camera)
Hi! I’m Lee. I’m on the staff. Started yesterday. I peeked in here and saw Dan struggling with the computer...
DAN
I woulda had it...
LEE
Thought I’d help him out. 
BRENDEN
Well, thanks.
DAN
Yeah. Thanks. Go away.
LEE
(still cheery)
I’ll go away. You give me a holler if you need anything.
DAN
I won’t.
LEE
(into camera)
I’m just across the hall at the desk. I can see in here from where I sit.
CHRISTINE
Thank you.
DAN
(to Lee)
Leave.
LEE
(to all)
‘Bye!
Lee disappears from view. 
DAN
(yelling off)
And don’t be lookin’ at me!
(look at screen)
Okay, lemme see what’s goin’ on here...
BRENDEN
You know what you’re doin’, there, Dad?
DAN
Do you?
CHRISTINE
Hi, Dan. You be nice to Lee. She may not get your sense of humor.
DAN
What sense of humor?
CHRISTINE
Exactly.
DAN
Well, the hell with her.
LEE
(yelling, from off)
I heard that!
CHRISTINE
See? Stuff like that...
DAN
So tell me why we’re doin’ this again?
BRENDEN
We’re in lockdown. The State is in lockdown. We can’t visit the... you know, the...
CHRISTINE
Assisted Living.
BRENDEN
We can’t visit the assisted living in person...
MARK
Hi, Gramp.
DAN
(glares at screen)
Who’s that?
MARK
It’s Mark, Gramp.
DAN
Oh, I see you there! Hi, kid...
MARK
Hey.
DAN
(pointing at screen)
And is that the other one?
KRISTIN
Yes, Grampa. It’s the other one.
DAN
The gang’s all here!
CHRISTINE
Are you taking care of yourself over there?
MARK
(somewhat under his breath)
Don’t forget what we were talkin’ about...
DAN
What’d he say?
BRENDEN
Nothing, Dad. Is everything okay with you? Getting to all your meals?
DAN
I get them to me. They bring ‘em.
BRENDEN
Dad...
DAN
Hey, it’s assisted living. I’m living. Let ‘em assist me.
CHRISTINE
You’re still not going to the dining room?
DAN
No. Why the hell would I go to the dining room with all those wrinkly widows?
BRENDEN
How about the new TV? Is it okay?
DAN
It’s okay. It’s fine. I’ll be going home anyway, so don’t worry about it.
There is a significant pause. Christine and Brenden look at each other.
CHRISTINE
We can talk about this another time.
DAN
Talk about what?
KRISTIN
(deflecting)
What shows are you watching, Grampa?
DAN
What, on the TV?
KRISTIN
Yeah.
DAN
I don’t know...
Dan starts to look around. He stands, checks his pockets.