A monologue from the play by Sharr White
Arnie has gone over his deceased father’s books and has learned that he has squandered the family fortune.
He is explaining to the family what has happened to them, and how it has all been some sort of elaborate ruse to pamper his older brother Duncan, his parents’ favorite.
Arnie (Late teens)
The real story is that from the get-go he’s betting his principle on stocks. The bank panic of ‘90. All zeroes. And then bang: here’s the big one, ought-seven. Pretty much cleans him out.
Which is when he brings in the accountant, who gobbles all the crumbs. For the last two years he was borrowing against this place to keep us in cash. But it’s tapped out, spigot’s turned off.
And we haven’t made a bank payment in . . . I don’t know. Months. I always wondered why they didn’t send me to join you at school. But now I realize they probably never had enough for both of us, even before the panic.
What’s funny is that I think in spite of father’s reputation we were probably living pretty modestly; with mother, father, O’Neil and just a cook or so, usually.
But about a week before you would come home on break, all these maids would appear. And they’d open the spare rooms, and the dust-covers would come off . . .
I mean I suppose it might’ve been fun for them to pull out all the stops a few times a year. They didn’t have to entertain. Just the spring and autumn shooting parties.
Much easier to keep this . . . little world alive for you. And when you’d leave? So would most of the staff. I honestly never thought anything of it, that’s just what happened.
The world . . . opened up . . . when you came home.
I remember one year, you arrive and everybody’s all lined up, and you step out of the car like you always do, like royalty, you know, and you . . . have this . . . new smile.
It’s true, you look up and give everyone this grin, and all these . . . teeth. Just . . . pop out of your face. And sort of light up the afternoon—speaking of the world opening up.
I mean you must’ve just learned that smile, because it wasn’t there when we’d seen you at Thanksgiving, you must’ve developed it for some new friend—or it was a girl,
I guess—but all I knew was, they sure weren’t teaching that smile to me at Syracuse Academy. And we went to some Christmas gala that night, and I, I . . . just . . . trailed behind you, watching you try that new smile out.
Teaching yourself how to cut a swath through the crowds with it, like some . . . glowing sword. And every head seemed to turn to you as you walked past.
And people put their faces together and admired you. But then a few days later? You left back to school, and the staff went away, and the world closed up again.
I remember thinking well wait a minute, did everybody just . . . forget about me? When do I get to learn that? I’d stand in front of the mirror at night and practice how to smile like that.
Try to make my muscles do what yours do. Say to myself . . . I can make the world open up. I can make love come to me. I can make the future . . . fall at my feet.
I really pretty much hate you. (Beat) Look, that’s not true, Dunc, I actually for the most part . . . this sounds odd, but . . . I mean I’m kind of in awe of you.
Of what you are. And that’s what I hate.