the death card

Originally developed from a writing exercise in P. Seth Bauer’s Playwrighting Workshop, this play premiered at the 2011 Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Produced by  Zacherlee Presents... as part of a collection of short plays (also featuring work by Wally Zialcita, Greg Romero, Joy Cutler and the music of Up Your Cherry) titled The Undead.  It was directed by Jessica Ciarmella, and starred Sarah Schol and Tom Tansey. 


SARAH If you don’t sign a contract don’t get your affairs in order-

JERRY People actually say that? You-

SARAH You’ll be going to the city morgue first. Do you really want Mom and Dad to go through that? And worse, make all the funeral arrangements for their own child? Imagine: their. Own. Child. “You’re not supposed to outlive your-”

JERRY Fine. The little pink one. With the white silk and all the doily things. That one.

SARAH That’s a little girl’s casket. A little girl’s. That’s not even funny.

JERRY C’mon, they can fit me in there. Just fold me in half and kind of wedge or-


JERRY Okay... How about that powder blue one? The one with gold everything... Picture of the virgin of Guadalupe on it? I’m O.G. homes. Go out lowrider / style?

SARAH Are you finished?

JERRY I saw one in the pamphlets: a KISS kasket. A KISS kasket! “I wanna rock-n-roll all nite an’ be buried ev-er-ee day!” Or... I don’t know. How about one that has “See you at the zombie+ apocalypse” stamped on it? That sound good to you?

SARAH You think this is a joke. Some little game you can win by being the snarkiest person / in the room.

JERRY I think... This is a chance for you to do a wedding in all black. Without it looking morbid or tacky. Or Goth.

SARAH What’s that supposed to mean?

JERRY It means my funeral would look stunning on your website. And really diversify your client base. After all, the divorce rate may be up, but second weddings never get the dollars that the first one do, am I right? Now funerals? Funeral planning instead of -hell, in addition to- wedding planning? Untapped market. Why should funeral directors get that whole wheel of cheese? They’re just morticians in nice suits. But you provide service. You do your homework, / you-

SARAH You think I’m doing this for my job. To make money? You’re dying. And you think I’m / worried about-

JERRY I think it’s not a coincidence that you bullied your way into Caitlyn’s wedding and she’s still a featured event on your site.

SARAH I was doing her a favor. Because she’s my sister. And yes, got some nice shots. So sue me. Did you know I practically did that at cost? Cost. Do you have any idea what she would’ve paid- I don’t have to justify myself / to-

JERRY To who? A cadaver-to-be? A corpseman? A bride’s-ghoul?


JERRY And enough, enough. With the dying bit, okay? I don’t know what possessed you to come up with it, but it’s really bad timing for something like-

    (a wave of nausea hits him.)

Oh. ... Oh God. Off toilet.


JERRY Off toilet now.

    She dives out of the way. He throws his head in and starts heaving.

SARAH That’s God. That’s the Creator punishing you for being a jerk about this when-

JERRY (Head still in bowl) Shut up.

SARAH I’m just trying to ease the transition for you.

JERRY (Head still in bowl) Said-

    He heaves more.

SARAH You’ve always been like this. You’ve always been too arrogant to see the truth staring you smack in the face.

    Jerry finishes and slumps against the wall again.

JERRY Uggghhh. Oh God.

SARAH You look terrible.

JERRY Yeah, don’t think I’ll make it into court tomorrow. God I hate throwing up. I just. Hate it. Rather... I’d rather get punched in the face. I’d rather just keel over and die. I+ would. I really would. I really wish / I-

SARAH You don’t mean that. Really? Don’t say that, okay?

JERRY Why not? You’re so sure it’s gonna happen anyway. You want me to accept it so bad.Why not look at the good side of it: No more vomit. No more vomit, forever. No more taxes, forever. No more spousal entanglements or hospital trips or. Regrets, forever.


JERRY You know, let’s just pretend like I said something funny there. Let’s just- No more prostate exams, forever.

    (He fakes a weak laugh)

What makes you so sure anyway? So sure I’m headed to the great beyond?


JERRY C’mon, I’ve indulged you enough, haven’t I? I should get to-

SARAH You had a very bad reading.

JERRY A bad reading. I had a bad... Reading.


JERRY As in a bad -what?- Tarot. Card reading?


JERRY A Tarot card reading?

SARAH You are not allowed to make fun of me for this.

JERRY I’m... Just trying to comprehend it. I mean, let’s ignore the fact that you -you of all people, Sarah- are secretly into that

    (He makes a vague gesture)

mumbo-jumbo. And let’s- No let’s ignore that too. Let’s just talk about the logistics, the facts for a second. Don’t I+ kinda have to -you know- be there for my own reading? Isn’t that sorta how it -I don’t know- how it works?

SARAH I asked on your behalf.

JERRY You proxy-ed me into a Tarot reading?

SARAH Don’t make it into some criminal case.

JERRY There’s an occult version of pinch hitting?

SARAH I told you that you can’t make fun of this.

JERRY You said I can’t make fun of you. Word choice.

SARAH Lawyer talk.

JERRY Fine, then what exactly did this mystic of yours say? What did Madame Tahtahba say about my fate?

SARAH Oh don’t be absurd, Jerry. I do them myself.

JERRY Wait-wait-wait. You check each week to see what family members are going to drop dead?

SARAH You make it sound so...

JERRY Oh... God. God.

SARAH Toilet again?

JERRY No. Just you.