What’s For Dinner
THIS DINNER THEATER HAS BEEN STAGED FOR SEVERAL YEARS RUNNING AND RECENTLY ADDED A NEW CAST MEMBER.
by Oscar Cásares
Photograph by Casey Chapman Ross
Scene opens with Dad (played by Oscar) in the kitchen preparing dinner. Mama (Becky) and the kids (Adrian, 9, and Elena, 7) are in the living room with the family’s new rescue dog, which the vet has identified as a Basenji mix.
Adrian: What’s for dinner?
Dad: Bacon & eggs.
Elena: Breakfast for dinner! Wait, didn’t we have breakfast for dinner when the foster lady brought the dog? Remember how the whole place smelled like bacon?
Adrian: That’s probably why she keeps wagging her tail. She thinks she came to live in the bacon house.
Elena: I’d be wagging my tail, too, if I had one. Silly dog, did you think this was the doggy bacon house?
(Dad brings plates to the dinner table.)
Mama: Who needs to wash hands?
Adrian: I did it when I got home from school.
Elena: No he didn’t, and anyway, I just saw him touching the dog’s tail.
Adrian: No I wasn’t, that was Elena. She was trying to dress her up in that ridiculous cheetah vest. You’re lucky the foster lady isn’t here to see you dress up her dog like that.
Elena: She’s our dog now and the vest might be her Halloween costume. And no offense, but the word is pronounced ri-dog-u-lous.
Mama: Both of you wash your hands.
Elena: But I just washed mine.
Mama: But then you came in here and petted the dog again. Next time just wave at her.
Dad: Waving doesn’t mean anything to a dog. It’s not like she can wave back.
(Adrian waves, which brings dog to the table.)
Dad: Out! Out! Out!
(Dog exits, tail tucked, back to its pillow.)
Adrian: I thought you said to wave.
Dad: Not when we’re at the table. No dogs at the table.
Elena: You say it like there’s more than one dog in the house.
Dad: So far yes, there’s only one dog.
Mama: Don’t get any ideas. Whose turn is it?
Elena: I always do it.
Adrian: No you don’t, you never do it. You’re always complaining about not wanting to do it.
Elena: Last time I did. Plus I already set the table.
Dad: Check the list.
(Both kids race to the china cabinet to find the Helping Hands Chart.)
Elena: Wait, Daddy said I was the list checker, not you! You always think you’re the one, but it says it here on the last line, right under emptying the clothes hamper. See, “Elena, List Checker.” He picked me to be the official list checker. You’re just jealous because all you get to do is empty out the stinky recycling boxes.
Adrian: That’s so not fair. She gets to check it every day, all week.
Mama: Was this your idea?
Dad: I didn’t think they’d fight about it.
Mama: You made the chart.
Elena: It says Adrian.
Adrian: Again? How many times a week do I have to do it?
(Adrian snags another bite of his bacon, then puts down the strip so he can hold hands with the rest of the family.)
Adrian: Thank you, God, for this food and… for our new dog, Wilma!
Mama: Amen. Who wants a tortilla?
Dad: Out! Out! Out! And by the way, that’s not her name.
Elena: What do we call her, then?
Dad: I was thinking Luna might be a good name.
Adrian: Why Luna?
Dad: Why not? I like the sound of it. Luna! Here, Luna Petuna!
(No reaction from dog.)
Adrian: But she already has a name. Wilma!
Dad: Out! Out! Out! And stop saying it, you’re confusing her.
Adrian: You mean stop saying WILMA!
(Family watches as dog circles the table and returns to her pillow.)
Dad: Yes, that one. Stop it already.
Elena: But why can’t we just keep her original name?
Dad: She needs a permanent name, not just her adoption name. Keeping the old one would be like buying a picture frame and not taking out the paper photo that came with it.
Mama: Should we put her outside until we’re done eating?
Dad: She needs to learn to not come to the table when we’re eating. Nobody look at her.
Adrian: How can we not look at her? She’s staring right at us, with her tongue hanging out.
Dad: Only because we’re eating.
Elena: We’re not just eating, we’re eating bacon.
Dad: Everybody just ignore her. Pretend it’s last week and we still don’t have a dog.
Elena: If we give her a real name will you stop saying Out! Out! Out! Every time she gets near the table?
Dad: Her name’s Luna. Call her Luna.
Adrian: I know, let’s call her Boris!
Elena: Boris, for a girl dog?
Mama: Eat your eggs.
Dad: I guess it’s better than a boy named Sue.
Elena: Who’s that?
Mama: It’s one of daddy’s dumb jokes. Eat your eggs.
Elena: But isn’t it going to confuse her more, to get a new name?
Adrian: I know, let’s call her different names until she responds and that’ll be her name.
Elena: Yeah, I want to do that! Let’s call her Moo Moo.
Adrian: She’s a dog, Elena, not a cow.
Elena: I know, I know, let’s call her Little Missy.
Dad: Yeah, and if she gets lost I’ll be the one running down the street yelling, “Little Missy! Come, Little Missy.”
Dad: Her name’s Luna. Out, Luna, out!
Mama: Why don’t we change the subject? Tell us something different that happened at school today?
Adrian: _____ farted when we were at P.E.
Dad: What’s new about that, doesn’t _____ always fart at P.E.?
Adrian: Everybody heard it this time.
Elena: That’s different.
Mama: Maybe we should talk about more dog names.
Oscar Cásares is a novelist and associate professor at UT Austin; Becky is an Assistant Attorney General in the Opinions Division for the State of Texas; Adrian is a gamer extraordinaire; Elena is perfecting her headstand; and Luna is adjusting to her new name.