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GHOST OF A CHANCE

A Play in One Act

by William C. Seward

Performance Rights
It is an infringement of federal copyright law to copy or reproduce this script in any manner or to
perform this play without royalty payment. The author controls all rights. Call for additional scripts
and further licensing information. The author’s name must appear on all programs and promotional
material.

October 9, 2009

Copyright (c) 1998 by Bill Seward


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GHOST OF A CHANCE

CHARACTERS:
ADAM CHANCE: Son (Ghost)
GLADYS CHANCE: Mother
RUSSELL CHANCE: Father.
AUNT ESMERELDA: Russell's older sister.
TODD CHANCE: Adam’s older brother.
APRIL McCLAREN: Girl next door.
DOCTOR JENKINS Hospital doctor.

TIME: Current, late night, Christmas Eve.

Scene 1

SETTING: Stage is divided, portion to one side represents


hospital emergency room. Visible is white cloth screen.
Portion of gurney or table visible. The audience sees only
shadows of backlit actors against screen. The rest is Chance
kitchen. Areas are clearly divided by lighting and possibly
broken walls.

AT RISE: Lights are up behind emergency room screen.


Shadows of several people are seen working on patient,
whose reclining shadow is visible behind screen. Also behind
screen, GLADYS' is sitting to one side, sobbing into hands,
TODD is seen standing beside her, comforting her. Sounds
of medical team are heard as well as electronic sounds of
instruments. Rhythmic beep of heart monitor. Occasional, but
unobtrusive sound of p.a. system.)

DOCTOR
(Straightening from bed.)
Just as I told you on the phone, he's no longer responding.
(He turns to GLADYS)
We're doing everything we can, but . . .

GLADYS
Where’s Doctor Wade?

DOCTOR
We’ve tried to reach him, no luck so far.

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3

TODD
Can I speak to you doctor?

DOCTOR
Of course.
(TODD and DOCTOR step around screen to the audience
side. During their conversation, figures behind screen are
seen moving around and leaving through another door.
GLADYS approaches the patient and takes his hand. All in
silhouette.)

TODD
What happens now?

DOCTOR
The respirator is all that’s keeping him alive. I'm afraid that's the best we can do for now.

TODD
Doctor, I have money. I’ll spend whatever it takes.

DOCTOR
It’s not a matter of money. He’s getting the best care he can possibly get.

TODD
There's no chance he'll recover?

DOCTOR
Virtually none. There is no brain activity. I have other specialists to call. If they say what I fear they
will, there are some decisions you need to be ready for.
(GLADYS slowly comes around the screen, distraught. She
overhears the following but isn't noticed.)

TODD
Are you talking about . . . termination?

DOCTOR
Well . . . that wasn't specifically what I meant, but, yes, it is one of the options. With no chance of
recovery . . . that would be a decision the family would have to consider. For the moment all
indications are that Adam will not recover. I'm sorry, but that's the way it is.

TODD
I understand, doctor.

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4

DOCTOR
I don't want to dash your hopes. Others will be consulted and we can keep him like this indefinitely,
but it's better for everyone if . . .

GLADYS
(Firmly)
Christmas.
(DOCTOR and TODD are startled)

TODD
What, Mother?

GLADYS
It's Christmas Eve. Adam loved Christmas so.

TODD
Yes, mother.

GLADYS
We can't do anything before Christmas. Let it wait until after.

TODD
There won't be a miracle, mother.

GLADYS
No, no miracles. It's just . . . Christmas. Let him . . let us have Christmas.

DOCTOR
That's okay, Mrs. Chance. There's no rush.

(Heard on P.A. system: "Dr. Jenkins to O/R 1, Dr. Jenkins to O/R 1.")

DOCTOR
I need to go. Call me anytime.

GLADYS
Thank you doctor.
(To TODD)
Let's go home, son. There's nothing more we can do now.

TODD
Are you sure, mother?

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5

GLADYS
(A bit distantly)
It's okay, Adam is sleeping now, just sleeping, we'll come back when he wakes up. I want to go
home.

TODD
Okay.
(They exit, there is a pause of several beats, nothing moving on stage.)

ADAM
(Sitting in audience.)
What is going on here?
(He rises from his seat. Goes onto stage, looks behind the
screen, stands there a moment, then returns to the audience
side of the screen. A look of shock on his face. He speaks
directly to the audience, wonderingly.)

ADAM
It's me, lying there. At first I wasn't sure. I don't know how I got here, I was just . . suddenly here,
looking on . . . and now I see someone . . . it's lying there, me. . . Is this it? . . . Am I . . dead? . . . Are
you . . . am I supposed to go with you?
(He pauses as if waiting for an answer. When none comes he
continues, turning partially away.)
I don't even know what happened. The last thing I remember is, . . I don't remember.
(He turns back toward audience.)
What happens now?
(Blackout)
(End Scene 1)

Scene 2
(SETTING: The Chance kitchen, decorated for Christmas.
There is a counter, table with chairs. Festive tablecloth, etc. It
looks warm, homey.

AT RISE: It is about one hour later. GLADYS is seated at


table dressed as before, peeling apples for a pie, very focused
on what she is doing. ESME is at counter in house dress or
duster, mixing cookie dough. Both have tea or coffee cups
nearby. RUSSEL enters in robe and slippers.)

RUSSEL
Come to bed Gladys. It's late.

GLADYS
I just want to get the pies ready.

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6

RUSSEL
Can't it wait?

GLADYS
Everyone will be here tomorrow. Except. . .

RUSSEL
(Hurriedly)
I know. . . I know. Here, let me help.
(Picks up another knife, sits down near GLADYS and starts to peel apples.)

ESME
(Gruffly, not turning around)
You didn't wash your hands.

RUSSEL
(Holding hands up for inspection.)
Sure did. Look, even the fingernails.

ESME
(Not looking)
When was the last time you cut them?
(He takes hands down quickly, starts peeling again. After a
short pause, ESME asks in a kinder voice.)
Tea?

RUSSEL
What's in it?

ESME
Chamomile, peppermint, some other things.

RUSSEL
One of your special blends?

ESME
Of course.

RUSSEL
Sounds good, thank you.

GLADYS
Esme thinks I need calming down.

RUSSEL
It has been a rough week.

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ESME
The holidays are hard enough, and with Adam. . .
(ADAM enters, they don't notice him. He sits gingerly on a
chair, as if he is afraid it won't hold him. He listens to
everything. When he speaks they don't hear.)

GLADYS
I just wish there was something we could do.

RUSSEL
The doctors are doing all they can, the police are looking into it. They think that maybe . . .

ESME
It's the most ridiculous thing I ever heard. Adam wasn't suicidal. He wasn't!

GLADYS
No.

ADAM
I'm not.

RUSSEL
I agree, but the police say . . .

ESME
They don't know him, we do.

RUSSEL
He was sick so long. Maybe he just . . .

ADAM
Sick?

GLADYS
His will is strong.

ESME
That's obvious. The doctors gave him a year when . . . four years ago?

GLADYS
Five.

ADAM
Dying?

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RUSSEL
It seems odd that this would happen now, with Todd . . .

ESME
Balance. Everything balances.

GLADYS
We've teased Todd so often about it, throwing away his money.

RUSSEL
At least he hasn't said "I told you so."

ESME
Give him time.

GLADYS
Did anyone call April yet, about Adam?

ADAM
Yes, where's April?

ESME
Todd said he'd tell her.
(ESME brings tea cups to the table, pours more for
GLADYS, leaves cups in front of RUSSEL, and ADAM.
ADAM and RUSSEL both notice with surprise.)

RUSSEL
Are you having a cup too?

ESME
No, I've had enough, besides, I need to finish these cookies.

(RUSSEL glances again at ADAM's cup, shrugs and looks


away. ADAM reaches as if to drink, then stops.)

RUSSEL
When did April go home?

GLADYS
Poor girl. She was with him all day. She wanted to go back to the hospital with us, Todd said no.
She didn't look like she'd slept at all.

ESME
She was here. I sent her back home. She still loves him, you know.

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ADAM
April loves me?

GLADYS
If only . . .

ESME
(turning and looking directly at ADAM)
Adam did it, he shut her out. He shut us all out.

GLADYS
He tried to spare us.

RUSSEL
Yes.

GLADYS
All the pain, all the treatments.

ADAM
It must have been hard.

ESME
It can't have been any easier to do it alone.

ADAM
I guess not.

RUSSELL
He never did anything halfway.

GLADYS
It's so hard to think of . . . of Adam . . . oh, Russ!
(GLADYS starts to weep, RUSSELL takes her in his arms,
they remain for a beat, then . . .)

ESME
You two go on to bed, it's late.

GLADYS
(Sobbing)
The baking!

ESME
(Getting the bowl from them)
Everything's ready. I'll just get the pie on and go to bed myself.

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GLADYS
We'll help . .

ESME
No! You need to get to sleep.

GLADYS
I can’t . . .

ESME
You will. The tea will help, give it a chance.

RUSSELL
Come along Gladys, Esme’s right. Thank you Esme.

(RUSSELL and GLADYS exit. ADAM remains sitting, lost


in thought for a moment. After a bit ESME walks directly to
the table and sits. ADAM looks at her, she never looks
directly at him when she speaks, always to one side as if
focusing on something far away, but she obviously knows
where he is.)

ESME
Aren't you going to drink your tea?

ADAM
I . . . don't think I can.

ESME
I think it depends on how strong you are.

ADAM
Maybe so. . . . . Aunt Esme, you can see me, can't you?

ESME
Not at first. I . . . felt you. Even now you're sort of like those trick pictures, the ones where you stare
at a pattern and unfocus your eyes until the picture comes out at you. It gets easier with practice.
You kind of blend in with the wallpaper, but I see you.

ADAM
Have you seen . . . others?

ESME
Your Uncle Carl came around to see me several days before the government notified me he was
missing in action.

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ADAM
Was he . . . dead?

ESME
Not then. Neither are you.

ADAM
I'm not? Then why am I . . .

ESME
You're just kind of wandering, part of you is. You have things to take care of, so . . . here you are.

ADAM
What things?

ESME
That's what you have to decide. What was bothering you?

ADAM
I don't know. I don't even remember being sick.

ESME
You were . . . very sick.

ADAM
So I gather. What was that about suicide?

ESME
Poppycock.

ADAM
Poppycock?

ESME
Poppycock. Todd found you. You were unconscious. He called nine-one-one. You were under a lot
of medication. I think it all just caught up with you.

ADAM
The police?

ESME
They think what they think. It’s their job. They try to consider everything. Once they discuss it with
the doctors . . .

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ADAM
And me? There’s no chance?

ESME
Barring a miracle. This family’s already had one.

ADAM
What?

ESME
Todd, he won the lottery. Half of twenty seven million, I think.

ADAM
(a pause, then)
I gave it to him.

ESME
What do you mean you gave it to him?

ADAM
I just remembered. I gave him an early Christmas gift. Some of those scratch-off tickets. He won
three dollars. We laughed about it. He was going to go buy three draws on the big lottery. I wished
him luck.

ESME
It must have worked.

ADAM
I guess two miracles would be stretching it.

ESME
Probably.

ADAM
So, what now?

ESME
Stay here and haunt the kitchen if you want. Drink your tea, anyway. I’m going to bed.
(ESME gets up to leave.)

ADAM
Aunt Esmerelda?

ESME
Yes?

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ADAM
I . . . don’t want to be alone.

ESME
It’s okay, Adam. Everyone here loves you. We’re not far away. You need to work some things out
on your own, I believe. Just one thing.

ADAM
What?

ESME
Stay out of my bedroom. There are some sights even a discorporate entity can’t handle.

ADAM
Thanks Aunt Esme.

ESME
You’re welcome, Adam. Now, you get some rest too.
(ESME exits. ADAM stays near the table a bit, finally he
reaches for his tea cup but is unable to pick it up. He holds
both hands in his lap and looks at it, lights fade. Behind the
hospital room curtain a night light is lit. APRIL’s shadow is
seen standing beside the bed, then sitting there. Blackout.)

SCENE 3

SETTING: Same as previous scene. Christmas morning.

AT RISE: ADAM is still sitting at the table, relaxed. He


looks up, sees the audience and addresses them.

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ADAM
Still there? Are you really there or am I dreaming you? Maybe you’re dreaming me. Maybe we’re
all the dream of some mad wino . . . with heartburn.
(he rises to continue.)
Not a pretty thought, is it? I’ve had all night to think thoughts like those. . . . I remember now,
anyway. I remember being sick. Remember feeling more and more rotten every day. You know the
disease itself hardly bothers you. Pancreatic cancer, at least that’s where it started. It hardly matters
where it started, I guess. In no time it was all over me. Still, I hardly noticed. “You won’t have
much pain”, they said. Of course, they were talking about the disease, not the medication. Those
treatments, oh God, those treatments. Endless, painful, some days I felt so bad it felt great just to
vomit, to get some of that rottenness out of me, or pass out, so I wouldn’t feel so bad for a while.
Well, you don’t want to hear about that, do you? Why are you here anyway? Why am I here? I
guess we’ve all asked that question a time or two. I’ve asked it a lot since I got sick, almost as much
as “Why me?”. Questions that never get answered, unless HE does it when it’s all over. “God, yes,
you . . . God, why me?” HE’ll probably say, “Why not?” That’ll put me in my place. Nothing like a
healthy dose of insignificance. I’ll take the radiation behind door number two, thank you! . . . If any
of you can answer any of these, speak up. Share it with the class. Oh, wait, maybe this is the slo-o-
ow class, what did they call it, remedial class? We have to repeat it again, like reincarnation maybe
but not really reincarnation? There’s an idea! What if each and every one of us is doomed to repeat
the exact same existence again and again until all of us get it right? Explains deja vu, somebody
screwed up. On the other hand, maybe life is a cosmic joke, and God forgot the punch line. Kind of
feels like it sometimes, doesn’t it?
(ADAM seats himself again, looks away)
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even
discorporate entities.
(He looks back at audience, pointedly)
Present company excepted of course. There ain’t no life like the afterlife!
(He deliberately reaches for the cup, raises it in a toast and
drinks, lowers it.)
Good coffee, I guess. Ghosts like us have no taste . . . or class. How can we move on when there are
so many we have to leave behind. How will they cope with it all? More questions . . . will they ever
be answered?
(He carefully places the cup on the table and faces the outside door.
After a moment TODD enters from the other room, goes directly to
the coffee maker, starts to fill it, sees it’s already on, seems
surprised.)

ADAM
I made coffee Todd, have some.

(TODD looks again at the coffee maker, pours himself some,


stands looking out the kitchen window while he sips it.
APRIL enters from outside door. She is pretty, but tired.)

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TODD
(unenthusiastically)
Merry Christmas!

APRIL
Merry Christmas, Todd. How are your folks?

TODD
Still sleeping, they were up pretty late.

APRIL
Your mother asked me over. I didn’t know if it would still be on, with Adam . . .

TODD
(a bit harshly.)
Nothing stops Christmas at the Chance house, not even . . .
(he turns away from her and looks out the window again,
fighting tears. APRIL puts an arm around him. She doesn’t
speak.)
His presents are in there, under the tree. We used to sneak down early. Adam would shake his, one
by one, and tell me what they were. He was usually right. We just couldn’t wait. Later we’d fight
over every toy, every game, a couple of times we fought over the clothes, just to be fighting. Lord,
what fights. By the next day we’d forgotten whose gifts were whose. We even argued last
Christmas, just like always except we got drunk together later. It’s tradition. I’ve never spent a
Christmas without him, I’m not sure I want to.

ADAM
You won’t.

APRIL
You won’t. He’ll always be in your heart, and mine.

TODD
I don’t want it to be Christmas, not without Adam. I don’t know how we can celebrate anything.

APRIL
He’d want you to. It was very special to him too.

(ESME enters from other room)

ESME
Christmas gift!

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TODD,APRIL, and ADAM


(together
Christmas gift!

ESME
You made coffee? Good. Russ and Gladys are up, they should be down any minute. Want
breakfast?

TODD
No Aunt Esme.

APRIL
No thank you.
(GLADYS and RUSSELL enter )
I was just telling Todd how much I appreciate being here today.

GLADYS
You’re family, April, or might as well be. You and Todd and . . . Adam have been like brothers and
sister forever.

APRIL
It’s good to have someone to be with today.

RUSSEL
You’re always welcome here. Now, Esme, what’s for breakfast?

ESME
For you, bran muffins. Anybody else?

GLADYS
I don’t think I could eat anything Esme.

ESME
Tea and bran muffins for you also, Todd . . . April?

APRIL (and)
TODD
Sounds fine Aunt Esme.

ADAM
Let’s take them into the living room and open the presents.

RUSSEL
Let’s take them in to the living room while we open our presents.

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GLADYS
Russ, you’re as bad as the kids. Oh, I wish Adam were here!

ESME
He is, Gladys. He wouldn’t miss this for anything.

RUSSEL
Like Carl was here?
(after a fierce look from GLADYS)
Never mind. Forget I asked. Let’s go to the living room.

ESME
Yes, go on in, I’ll bring the tea and things.

TODD
(resignedly)
Sure, let’s.
(all except ESME and ADAM exit through the inner door.)

ESME
(looking almost at ADAM)
You’re stronger. I can almost see you clear. Do you know why you’re here?

ADAM
No, I do remember more though.

ESME
Go on into the living room, be with them. Don’t let them see you shake the packages, though.

ADAM
Okay, I want to see them all around the tree. You come too.

ESME
I’ll be there, you go on. By the way, thanks for making the coffee, you’re hired.

(ADAM laughs and exits to follow the others excitedly.)

ESME
(looking around the room and turning the wedding band on her finger)
Christmas is the time to be with the ones you love, or to wish you were.
(lights fade to black)

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SCENE 4

(At rise, TODD is washing dishes, APRIL is drying. ADAM


is nearby, watching.)

APRIL
That was great.

TODD
That was weird!

APRIL
Why?

TODD
First the tree, with his presents lying there unopened, then Christmas dinner, the whole spread,
turkey and all and Mother sets a place for Adam, and Esme helps her.

APRIL
I thought it was sweet.

TODD
It was morbid.

APRIL
I don’t think so. It made me feel like he was really here, you know?

TODD
I always thought you two would get together, for real I mean.

APRIL
So did everyone. We’ve been best friends forever, all three of us. Your folks, my folks, all of them
assumed we’d marry someday.

TODD
Why didn’t you?

APRIL
You never asked me.

TODD
Be serious. Why didn’t you and Adam get married?

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APRIL
Well, kids, you know. Kids love their folks but want to go their own way. We were best friends, that
was enough, then. Besides, when you’re young you think you’ve got all the time in the world.

ADAM
(moving closer to APRIL. )
Hardly any time at all.

APRIL
I love Adam. I love both of you. Marrying one of you would be almost like marrying my brother.
And you’re certainly not supposed to be friends with your spouse, are you?
(ADAM puts his hands on her shoulders, she doesn’t notice.)
At least. that’s what I thought. Now I think that’s the way it should be, married and best friends.

TODD
And now it’s too late.

APRIL
No, it’s not.

TODD
But Adam . . .

APRIL
I’m not talking about Adam.

(ADAM and TODD back up a step and look at her, TODD


surprised, ADAM thoughtful)

TODD and ADAM


(Together)
You’re not?

APRIL
I love Adam. I care very deeply for him. You are the one I want to spend the rest of my life with.

TODD
I can’t believe this. Why didn’t you say anything before.

APRIL
I told you why. Lately, well, I kept hoping you would speak up. With all that’s happened with
Adam now, well, I think we may not have any more time. How about you? You’ve never married.

TODD
I . . . never found anyone. Not like you, but . . . Adam.

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APRIL
I think he would understand.

ADAM
I do.
(ADAM kisses APRIL on the cheek, lightly.)

TODD
This isn’t because of the lottery, is it?

APRIL
(Calmly)
Is that what you think?

ADAM
Don’t be an idiot!

TODD
(Considering)
No. No, not you. Sorry I mentioned it. You know, I’d trade it all for . . . if Adam could . . .

ADAM and APRIL


(together)
I know.

(All are silent for a beat, then APRIL and TODD embrace.
ADAM looks happy. APRIL and TODD turn away shyly and
resume shakily doing the dishes. ESME, RUSSELL, and
GLADYS enter, dressed for outdoors.)

ESME
Aren’t you two finished with the dishes? Leave them, we’re going to the hospital to see Adam.

(TODD and APRIL look at each other)

TODD
Has there been any change?

RUSSELL
No, but it’s Christmas. Maybe we can take him some Christmas cheer.
(TODD and APRIL grab their coats and get ready to go.)

GLADYS
Adam will be so happy to see us all together. He loves Christmas so.

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ESME
I think he knows, and he is happy.
(ESME looks directly at ADAM)

ADAM
Very happy.

GLADYS
You’re right, I think so too. I’m so glad.
(all exit except ADAM)

ADAM
Merry Christmas everyone.
(ESME enters again talking to those outside)

ESME
. . . I just want to check the oven.
(she approaches ADAM)
Did you get any answers?

ADAM
Yes I did. Thanks, Aunt Esme. I think it’s all going to be all right . . . for them, all of them.
(he kisses her on the cheek, she reacts.)
And you too.

ESME
If you see Carl . . .

ADAM
I don’t know if . . . something’s wrong. Tell them to hurry!
(He backs away from her, into the darkened hospital part of
the stage. ESME starts to speak, then turns and exits quickly.
Lights down on kitchen, all dark, then fade up on hospital
room with equipment noises, etc. Silhouette behind curtain of
family around ADAM’s bed. ADAM walks around curtain to
audience side.)

ADAM
(Speaking off to family)
Goodbye Mom, all of you. Everything’s okay. They’re here for me.
(To AUDIENCE)
Thank you for your patience, for allowing me to finish that. I guess it's time. I'll go with you now, if
you still want me to.
(He takes his seat with the audience. Faces stage expectantly.
Lights go to extreme white all around slowly as beep of heart

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monitor rises in volume, flatlines, warning lights flash behind


hospital curtain.)

P.A.
(Immediately.)
Doctor Jenkins to 217 West. Code Blue! Doctor Jenk . .)
(Lights at maximum white, blackout interrupts the P.A.)

End

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