Louis “bought” Lacey a salad. By breaking the cash register. In his old childhood neighborhood.
He smiles. “She’s had a terrible day and they’ll be fine.”
“I’m not convinced Lacey doesn’t need him.” says Lem’s father.
“But she loves Lem!” protests Scott.
“Yes, but…Michael.” says Scott Joplin.
“Michael?” asks a Millennial.
Lem is in a fight…
Michael is smaller. But Michael knocks Lem to the ground. Lem Billings is in shock.
“It’ll all be fine!” decides Louis.
Mary Pickford and Lacey are unimpressed. Silent. Confused.
“Well, it’ll all work out. Right?” Lacey says.
“Yes! And there’s always an Englishman.” says an Englishwoman, reassuringly.
In a warm church, an Englishman reassures Lacey he’s fine.
“What a cold life you’ve had!” he says to Lacey.
“Bros before hoes!” says Bobby comically to Mary Pickford and Lacey.
“Am I the hoe?” asks Lem.
“Well I’m quite sure Lacey and I, even as women, were the bros. In this case.” Mary says to Lem.
And in an instant all the lamplit hours…of faux-sex, drugs, and lies come to in Lem’s mind. His dead mind.
“None of it makes any sense to you. At all.” he says to Lacey.
“Because it’s so phoney. It’s such nonsense. Such rot.” says Lacey.
“You were longing for real sex?! And poor Jack had to both dull himself and pep himself up…to get an erection?!” she adds. “And then we based our entire culture and country on that…nauseating-“
“Vapid.” says Scott, interrupting.
“Yes. Vapid. That vapid, misogynistic lie.” says Lacey.
“I am confused. I think. Is it vain to think that? That I’m confused?” Lacey wonders to the Englishman.
Jack cries in physical pain. But it feels good to truly cry.
“I’m glad you had your kids.” Lacey says to him.
He cries again. Breathes deep.
“Well he also got to be President!” says a gay man cheerfully.
“And he saved people’s lives during war.” says Lacey.
“He did, didn’t he.” says the gay man.
“Yeah, but being President likely meant he saved even more people’s lives.” says another gay man.
“Not necessarily.” says Lacey.
Jack rolls his eyes in agreement with Lacey.
“But you still think it was cool he was President. Right?” asks the second gay man.
“No!” yells Lacey.
“Why?” he asks.
She looks out her window. They’re all sitting in the driveway of a wealthy house in Saint Paul, Minnesota. In a Jeep.
“I’m not sure he wanted to be President. …But first of all he was shot. Second of all, he was in excruciating pain, third of all he…was gifted and very hardworking but…I wonder if Bobby or Joe Jr. would have been better.” says Lacey.
The second gay man cries. Leaves the car.
“It’s ironic. As a black man I know how bad things are in this fallen world. Or I did, anyway.” he says on a hot summer day in the same driveway in the 1970’s.
“White people don’t know as well.” says Lacey.
She gets in next to him in the front of the car.
“You love Michael.” he says.
Lacey looks at him, laughs and then gets out of the car, but Mary Pickford shoves her back in. Shuts the door.
“Alright.” says Lacey. She sighs. “What do you want from me?”
The Englishman laughs.
“Just-Lem loves you too.” he says.
“Why is he using you to tell me that?” she asks.
“Did we ruin the entire 20th Century by letting Joe die?!” asks John Knowles. “No. We ruined far more than that.”
“Is this a play on the joke that white people think black people all know each other?” asks Lacey of the driver. “Or is it a riff on Driving Miss Daisy or both?!”
“They stole your life. But they couldn’t steal your soul. Or your spirit. Who cares what this is. I’m over it.”
“I’m not. What is it?!”
“I might have been Louis’ driver.” he says.
“It all seems so odd and overdone from the vantage point of sitting here in Saint Paul. Doesn’t it?” asks Lacey.
“Or promising.” he says.
“Alluring, even, at times.” she adds.
“You really don’t understand. Do you?” he asks.
She closes her eyes, lays down in the backseat and calms down. Looks out the window.
“You don’t want to be First Lady?” he asks her in the summer.
“Sure! Why not?” she says unimpressed.
He laughs. He agrees. Keeps laughing.
“It’s a fun job, I’m sure, in some ways.” she offers.
“Exhausting!” says FDR.
“Yes.” Lacey sits up.
“Does it seem like a lot to ask of you?” the driver asks.
Lacey thinks. If my father is Tom…and he loves me…or if he could have been…and he loves me…it’s not too much to ask. It’s to be expected. It’s just the way things work.
“But if he didn’t love me or etc. then yes. I’m sorry, but I’m entirely too put off.” she says, resting back.
“Wise choice. Jack tried being President and got it so badly messed-up he got shot.” says an observer.
“What did he do?!” asks Lacey, concerned.
“Could you be President?” asks a dead advisor of Lacey.
“Being First Lady would be exhausting. Being President looks doable.” says Lacey, honestly.
“Why exhausting?” asks Jack.
“Because I’m not loved. That I know of. Although, if my father is Tom…I’d be capable of it.” She thinks. “My kids love me, but that’s different. They’re my kids.”
He swallows hard. Looks shocked.
“Why did you let Joe die?!” he asks his father.
“No, I actually did love her.” Joe Jr. admits to Jack about Lacey.
“I got used!!” Jack spits at his father.
FDR winks at Lacey and then empathetically chases Jack down.
“Go on Joe.” he says to Joe Jr..
“I wanted you to be First Lady. The minute I knew you existed.” he says to Lacey. “You would have been perfect.” He sighs. Puts his hands in his pockets. “I would have been perfect too. Thanks to you.” He thinks. “And if that’s true, all dead people know that.”
A ghost laughs.
Lacey nods in understanding.
He smiles. “And that’s you. Not just you as Tom’s daughter.”
“Would you have cared as much as I about the office itself?” asks Lacey.
“No.” he cries. Smiles. “You would have changed it. Irretrievably.”
“It would be very honorable, complex and terrifying office to hold beyond what it is today.” he says. He smiles. “Like climbing Mount Everest. Only for the most steely of intellectuals.”
“We would be like Nazi German. Without the hatred. And not evil in the same way.” says Scott.
“No Holocaust. Just…enormous efficiency.” says Zelda.
“Would there be jobs here in the US?” asks a southern man. Who just died?
“Gosh, this makes sense.” says a Christian.
“Yeah. It does.” laughs a perfume hater. She rolls her eyes.
“Would we have had a drug era?” the recently deceased asks.
Lem laughs profusely. He fumes.
“Lacey would let people find it distasteful.”
The dead man laughs, realizing who her father may have been.
“He didn’t dabble in drugs. But she would have understood a great deal.”
“Would there be a market?”
“We’d be in space. We’d be living in space.” says an angry man. “Already!” He calms himself. “Just for fun.”
“But you’d rather not have done it?” asks a woman.
“It’d have left me broken inside if I wasn’t loved.” says Lacey. “Worse than I am today.”
The woman cries. Smiles, sadly. Thoughtfully.
“Would she have known that you loved her?” someone asks Joe.
“No.” says Joe.
“Okay. Cool.” says a living woman calmly. “So who would have loved her? Fess-up! Now!!!”
“I do love her.” says Michael.
The woman smiles. She waits for more information.
“I would have.” says Elliott.
“You’re the golf instructor?” asks someone.
“No. That’s me.” says Lem. “Louis was married. With kids. I-“ he cuts off. “I was her one true love.” He rolls his eyes.
“But you loved her?” someone asks Joe.
“But I cheat.” he says.
“Okay. Yeah. But so did her father.”
“Her father loves people in a different way than Joe did. He’s probably more like Jack. Or Rose.” says a woman. She yawns, thinking.
“And that looks mysterious to us. But to Lacey it’s different.” the younger woman thinks.
“How does Elliott get through to her?” someone asks.
“Elliott just doesn’t care. He just…yells until she hears him.”
“Do most English people love like them?”
“Yes, to some degree. And a lot of other generations before the Great Depression, for whatever reason.” says someone.
“It’s books. Not the Great Depression.” says a woman.
“I just don’t have the patience to love like that.” says a living man in his 50’s.
Louis rolls his eyes.
“I’m not emotionally deaf. It’s just…a very different way of thinking.” says Lacey.
And Elliott falls more in love with Lacey. Accidentally.
“Lem is very insecure.” says Louis, but it’s said out of kindness. About his relationship with Lacey.
“Is it Elliott or Michael or you who make him feel that way? Or Joe?”
“Why Elliott?!” asks a woman.
“Because he’s handsome. And tall. And obviously straight. And experienced. And a great pilot. And a Roosevelt. With piercing blue eyes.” He thinks. “And he tells her he loves her.” Then Lem feels nauseated.
Louis rolls his eyes. The man claiming to be his driver laughs. Nods.
A dead Queen laughs. Smiles.
“Some things are deep, dear friend.” Louis says to Lem, kindly.
“Like who really cares. Like Christ.” says the Queen.
“When Ethel dies someday…Lacey will be shocked.” says Bobby.
Joe looks uneasy.
Elliott nods in agreement. He already knew that.
Louis looks prepared.
Jack smiles. “I’m counting on it.”
“They’re different, but Ethel will see through everything.” says a woman from Flint. A rich woman.
“Like Lacey would have.” says another woman.
“Was Jackie the one who didn’t understand what was going on?” asks a perfume collector.
“So Lacey makes-out with Elliott. On the weekends.” They see it in their heads. In shady rooms. “And Ethel had her faith.” They think. “But Jackie had what?”
“Paris.” says Jackie.
“So Lacey would have just…given-up and had a lover?” asks someone.
“I think Lacey wanted a husband and if Joe was busy – we’ll call it busy – then she isn’t giving-up. She’s staying married legally to preserve people’s sanity and her own. Given who Joe would have been. And I think…she’d be married in her heart to another man eventually.” says Red, sadly.
“Nobody can know everything.” says a Boomer woman. “The real question for Boomers would be this: Does Joe convince her he loves her and make her stay? Or does she find…us a second daddy?” She cries.
“We take it for granted now. But with you as mom…we might not want daddy two.” says another Boomer woman.
“Well, I’d sort it out with God.” Lacey says.