Scene 5 (Freddy J)
by Trey Nosrac
The setting is a room in an Alzheimer’s ward. A young couple, Mandy and Ryan, continue to visit Martin Kilbane, an elderly horse trainer. In his lucid periods, Martin describes events in his life with remarkable clarity. In earlier sessions, he has talked about serving in the US cavalry, the death of his young wife, and his life-long struggle with alcohol
(ambient hospital sounds in the background, sound of a door closing)
MANDY: Sorry I’m late, work stuff. I picked up egg rolls (paper bag rustling).
RYAN: No problem, he’s dozing. He’s not going anywhere.
MANDY: How was he yesterday?
RYAN: Not good; he just sat in his wheelchair. I couldn’t get him to talk. I honestly think he responds better to a female voice, especially yours.
MANDY: I’m glad someone listens to me, even if it’s a poor old guy who has a mind that comes and goes. Hey, did you ever find out who Freddy was?
MANDY: Freddy J. Just before he nodded off Monday, Martin said Freddy J helped him stop drinking?
RYAN: Oh, yeah, I forgot the name… No, yesterday was radio silence in here (insert sounds, yawning, coughing). Well, looks like he’s joining us. Maybe you and your sugary voice can get some action.
MANDY: Hello, Martin, it’s me, Mandy. How about we raise you up a little more (sound of motor on hospital bed). There, that’s better. How are you feeling? Need anything?
MARTIN: (Raspy, sleepy) I’m fine. Thanks for coming, but don’t you have better things to do?
MANDY: (sound of patting pillow, etc.) Here, take a sip of juice (slurping sound). How about a bit of egg roll?
MARTIN: No, I’m not hungry.
MANDY: Last time, you were talking about your trouble with alcohol. Do you remember?
MARTIN: (tired) No. Sorry. I can’t remember.
MANDY: You told us about waking up in a hospital, going to a fellowship meeting, and about the rich owner, Mister Dobbs, who helped you, and….
MARTIN: (interrupts, brightens) Euley…Euley K Dobbs?
MANDY: Yes, yes. That’s him. You were also telling us about someone named Freddy.
MARTIN: (stronger) Freddy J, who worked with horses.
MANDY: Yes, yes, that’s him, where did you meet?
MARTIN: (pause) At a meeting (chuckles). He wasn’t more than five feet tall. When he stood to make his pledge, he didn’t have far to go. He was the first to talk that night. Freddy said he’d been in the program for four years and hadn’t stumbled. So we clapped our hands.
MANDY: What made Freddy special?
MARTIN: When Freddy began his talk, it seemed aimed at me. He said, days at a racetrack are up early and hard work, but lots of days we put the last horse away around lunchtime. That leaves a long afternoon with a lot of time for drinking. There’s booze in front of you from morning to night. Then, if you race and your horse wins the race, you celebrate. Hell, owners think they are doing us a favor after a win by sending back a case of beer or a fifth, but those celebrations were a big problem for some of us. But on the backstretch he said that if folks did the work and didn’t make too big a mess, they could live their lives working with the horses and get by. He said he did it for a long time.
MANDY: Did Freddy become your sponsor?
MARTIN: No, no, he was just in town to race, but he told me something I never forgot. We were standing by the coffeepot and I asked him how he did it, how many times till he got it right? Freddy said he slipped back plenty of times. It was hot that night, and he said we should go outside and sit at the picnic bench behind the church. When we sat, I asked him what made it stick. He surprised me by saying that it was a horse.
RYAN: A horse? Does everything in your life circle back to horses?
MARTIN: Pretty much. Freddy said that it was a horse and a change he had to make in his way of living. He said change ain’t easy on the backstretch.
MANDY: How did a horse help?
MARTIN: (Martin sighs) Freddy said the bottom for him came on the floor of the church down the street from Maywood racetrack. One night he stumbled to the steps of the church, so drunk he could hardly stand. The pastor found him in the morning, got him up, and took him inside for coffee.
MANDY: (Smugly) He found religion and bingo…a miracle.
RYAN (scolding) Come on Mandy.
MARTIN: Freddy said he broke down like a baby and poured out to the pastor how the night before he let drink hurt his work. He said he almost got a horse and driver killed because he didn’t fasten the gear on the way he should have. He didn’t check to see if the horse was rigged right before they went out on the track. There was an accident. Freddy said that he had let people down all his life, but that was the first time he ever let a horse down. He said horses grow to trust people like him and me; they don’t ask much. He knew his being drunk could have killed that mare. When that horse went down on the track, it bothered him more than if he had let a person down. When they led her back to the stall, he took off her tack and spent an hour just looking into her big brown eyes. Then he went drinking, bad drinking. He said that accident and that horse put him on the steps of that church the next morning.
MANDY: That night was Freddy’s last straw, rock bottom, tipping point, whatever you call it?
MARTIN: He claims it was. He looked me in the eye and said that it took that horse to lead him to the bottom. When the pastor got him up, they talked a bit and agreed that he had to live outside the racetrack. He scraped together enough to rent a room in town. From then on, after he put the last horse away, he walked out of the racetrack gate every day, right away. Doing wrong to that horse and finding a new place to live changed things for him.
MANDY: I have a few friends who are addicts. I wish kicking it was that easy.
MARTIN: (sharply) It wasn’t that easy for Freddy, it ain’t easy for nobody in that rut. Freddy said it was the hardest thing he ever did. Not so much kicking the booze, like all of us he was sick and tired of being sick and tired, it was the people he missed, the horses, the talk, the life. He said his shabby little room got real small and real quiet. He went to meetings three, four, five times a week. Slowly, he started getting a little more confidence and met a few nice people who did not drink. Every day was a little better. The horses, the racing, it was still in his blood. He loved the horses, the people, and the game. He loved them more than ever. He said he would never leave the smell of morning coffee and liniment, the sounds, the excitement, the sweat, and hard work. He couldn’t see himself doing anything else. He said he would always have them, but now he had more. Then he said that I could get off that floor, too. The way Freddy said it, I could almost believe it.
MARTIN: (Yawns) Now how is that for a story Miss Mandy?
MANDY: Interesting. But that was HIM, that was Freddy’s story. What about YOU Martin, how did YOU get sober?
MARTIN: It’s hard to believe, but it was another horse. A horse did it for me too. I can still see that horse in my dreams.