Mongo is a stuffed animal—a monkey, to be precise. Were he to stand, he would be ten inches tall. He never stands. Instead he sits complacently wherever Gillian parks him. As stuffed animals go, Mongo is unique. Sewn together in the same mode as hundreds, probably thousands of other chocolate-brown, bean-filled monkeys, something special crept into Mongo's countenance—which combines a sweet simplicity with an easy-going charm. He represents, to Gillian, both a jester and a sage, a spirit-guide she looks upon as a clown... who sits upon her breastbone (as she lies in convalescence), fixing her with his cryptic button eyes.
"I blew it this time, Mongo; got the natives restless all over again. They're saying Ms. Gallipolis is a little off her rocker. They're saying just a tiny shove and over the edge she'll plunge. And, Mongo, I believe they may be right."
She holds him, by the crooks of his fuzzy arms, between her fingers, rocking him, like a puppet, side to side.
"I blacked out during the curtain call at Sunday's matinee. That's why I was tardy coming home; they took me to the hospital for observation. Oh, they observed me all right; you should have seen them. I wonder if people realize how far their whispers carry, especially in a room where one pretends to be asleep? Even heavily drugged, I heard every word. Consensus is, I need a stint of psychiatric care. Except our show is setting records at the box office, hence their impasse; for who's the main attraction, Mongo? Yup, you guessed it; me. It seems the way to pack 'em in is to hint that, any moment, someone might crack up, go bonkers, race right round the bend, and, oh, what fun to watch a lunatic rave."
Gillian makes the monkey shake its head.
"My thoughts precisely; wonder if the gossip-mongers ever see the play? I sometimes question whether I, alone, enjoy the writing. Paul and Janie—even Ben, for the most part—just speak lines; they're uninvolved; they keep themselves and their characters at a distance. Monica, though, and I... are not as sick as people think. The audience would dismiss us, if we were. Why can't Hurst see that? Argued myself blue in face, on that point. Man's so thick."
She tugs at Mongo's ears.
"Can't think. His brain is in his wallet. Whatever sells is good, whatever doesn't sell... gets notes. He's always criticizing me for being 'confrontational.' And he's artistic director? Ha! The man is an accountant."
She cocks the face in front of her at a meditative angle, continuing, in a confidential tone.
"You see, my friend, there's something rather grand about this script; it tells a truth. And it's for truth that people come; not me. I am merely prying up the corner of a character so the madding crowd can glimpse itself. That's theatre. At its best. House receipts and ego trips be damned."
"YOU ON THE PHONE? MAY I COME IN?"
Beyond the door (his bedroom door, as well as hers) stands Morgan. Gillian shifts her confidante to the night stand... "Mum's the word" ... then answers in a louder voice... "OF COURSE; I'M JUST REHEARSING" ... wary of his sudden stand on ceremony.
Morgan enters. His fat lip reinforces an already boyish visage, its pout at once resentful and attractively naive, reminding her of the youth she knew and lusted after, formerly, his artless inexperience then a turn-on. It still is, despite their years together, and, on her part, infidelities (mere distractions, to be truthful; it is Morgan's love she craves), while he remained (without doubt) wholly faithful.
"Does it hurt?"
"When you laugh; I know. Come over here and hug me. I need a hug so badly!" Morgan crosses to the bed, and, kneeling on its patchwork quilt, obliges. "Tighter... Squeeze! Force the meanies out; I fear they've come to roost forever... and needs must be expelled."
He rocks her, gently. Gillian clings, indulges in the contact like an orphan finding refuge, cuddles like an disadvantaged child.
"No... They doped me at that hospital, Morgan. Where were you?"
"You weren't. You're never there."
"I was. I saw the show; don't you remember? You fainted, started flailing, I got clobbered, you came to; I drove you to the ER, then, myself."
"In that order?"
"Pretty much. You don't recall; really?"
"Sort of. Not hitting you... I mean, I do, but not in the dressing room; it happened in the play. Unless I was hallucinating... Morgan, it was weird. All the time I lay in that revolting sanatorium I kept picturing this flashback—you were in it; you played Richard. Jacob was portrayed by Michael. Laura by some..."
"Yes. You know, your rival? The man with whom you think I'm having an affair? Michael took on Paul's part. It was Janie's I..."
"And aren't you?"
"Aren't I what?"
"Having an affair?"
"Here we go again."
"You never said with whom, before."
"It's over, Morgan. Drop it. What I want to talk about is..."
"Want to hear my latest? 'If urinals could only be like pinball games,' I call it."
"Another sleazy slice of life from that wretched place you work? Spare me, Morgan."
Gillian lifts her eyebrows. Morgan, disregarding her, recites:
"If urinals could
only be like pinball games
He waits for her reaction.
"Pathetic, Morgan. And why you chose to share it now, I fail to comprehend."
"Simply thought you'd like it."
"Well, I don't. And now, if you'll excuse me, I would like to get some rest."
"I only came to see how you were doing."
"Hunky-dory. Close the door behind you, eh?"
He bends to plant a kiss. Gillian averts her face. He exits.
Deserted, she lies supine, staring bleakly in his absence, recounting how their bond had lasted days, weeks, months, eight years... and how, in all that time, he had not unpacked his bag.