Author’s Note: Our Ghosts was inspired by the true story of the mysterious disappearance of my father during a routine flight from the Comox Air Base on March 22, 1956, and its impact on my family. I wrote the play for my Mom, Claire Stubbs. She passed away December 23, 2017, at the age of 91. She never stopped fighting and never gave up hope that my father would be found. The play is dedicated to Mom; Flying Officer Gerald Stephen Stubbs, the father I never knew; and Jerry Stephen Stubbs, the brother I lost.
A couple of production notes which may help with reading: ‘/’ is used to indicate when the next speaker begins talking. ‘…’ standing on its own indicates the character is engaged, responding non-verbally.
October 23rd, 2017, afternoon, Victoria, BC. KATE is alone in MOIRA’S near-empty home. She discovers an old business card among papers, looks out the window and—
It’s 3 am, October 2016, Victoria BC. Shrieking WIND, branches scrape against the window. Ninety-year-old MOIRA appears leaning into WIND. She’s barefoot, wearing a nightgown. A parachute harness, bearing the weight of a man, swings from a groaning tree branch.
MOIRA: I’m coming, Sweetheart!
KATE: Oh no.
MOIRA: (calling to ‘others’) Over here! /You’re never going to find him on the ground. Look up. Look up. Look up!
KATE: No. No. No. No. No. No. No.
MOIRA: Hurry! We’ve got to get him down!
Flashlight beam. KATE is with MOIRA
MOIRA: Get that light out of my eyes.
KATE: /Mum, please.
MOIRA: Where are the rest of your bloody searchers? He’s up there.
KATE: It’ll be the wind or a raccoon. Those buggers are everywhere. Let’s get you inside before you freeze to death.
And they’re in MOIRA’S house.
KATE: Home. See? Your living room. (using flashlight) Grampa’s old armchair, your TV, boxes, boxes, more boxes, me.
MOIRA: Turn on the damn light.
KATE: I’d love to, but I can’t find the damn switch. /(light on) Hallelujah.
MOIRA: Oh lord, I forgot… I forgot you were here, I thought… I’m sorry.
KATE: Nah. Don’t do that. Come here.
MOIRA: Oh it feels good to be held. I’d forgotten how good, /how good.
KATE: We had a big, old hug before I went up to bed.
MOIRA: Vic was here, Katie.
MOIRA: He’s here now.
KATE: You were sleep walking.
MOIRA: I was awake. I heard the wind in the trees. I was young and not young.
KATE: Time for bed. Big day tomorrow.
MOIRA: Yes. (Remembering) That Lieutenant fella…
KATE: Lieutenant Lorraine.
MOIRA: Yes, that’s it. He’s bringing news.
KATE: And so you’ve wound yourself up like the Tasmanian Devil.
MOIRA: I don’t know any Tasmanian Devil.
KATE: The Bugs Bunny Show. You used to say the Tasmanian Devil was Stevie’s mentor.
KATE: My brother. Your son.
MOIRA: I know who Stevie is.
KATE: Yeah, well, sometimes you forget things.
MOIRA: Not my son.
KATE: Fine, good, I’m sorry. All I was trying to say is, you wind yourself up too tight, you break.
MOIRA: I know what I know.
KATE: Let’s get you back to your bed.
MOIRA: I can’t sleep up there.
KATE: You can try.
MOIRA: I can’t breathe up there. Let go of me!
MOIRA: (On a mission) Papers.
KATE: Not now.
MOIRA: The Lieutenant fella will want to see these.
KATE: I don’t think so.
MOIRA: Have they found Vic?
KATE: How the hell would I know?
MOIRA: Oh god, what if…? Deal with that when it comes, /Moira.
KATE: Slow down. You’re going to fall.
MOIRA: Might put me out of my misery. Give you a little peace.
MOIRA: I beg your pardon?
KATE: Just kidding. /I think.
MOIRA: You can be some bitch when you set your mind to it, Katie Swanson.
KATE: It’s in my genes. Gonna be just like my Mum when I grow up.
MOIRA: Hurry up then.
KATE: (Exiting) I’ll get your robe and slippers. Then we’ll sort out a bed for you down here. God, the blood on your nightgown.
MOIRA: All night, scratch, scratch, scratch.
KATE: (Returning with robe, slippers, bedding) Blood on your robe, too.
MOIRA: Feel this. Feel.
KATE: Stop scratching.
MOIRA: Skin like paper. Tears at the slightest touch. Soon I’ll slide out of it. Like an old snake.
KATE: You’re making it worse. (Exiting) Where are the bandages?
MOIRA: Kitchen. Or bathroom.
KATE: (Entering) There must be thirty empty pill bottles on that counter. Arm please. Holy crap. You got a licence for these fingernails? You could decapitate somebody.
MOIRA: Better mind your manners then, Kid. (Searching) Cigarette. (Lights up) My closest and most constant life companions.
KATE: Thanks a heap. Put this stuff on.
MOIRA: Take these papers, keep them safe.
KATE: (Helping Moira) Put this on. You’re trembling.
MOIRA: This is our evidence, ammunition. You’re going to need this when I’m gone. It’ll be up to you then.
KATE: Not now. I’m so tired I’m dizzy.
MOIRA: They may have found your father. Does that mean anything to you?
KATE: Of course it does, but Mum, please, it’s after 3 o’clock in the fucking morning.
KATE: You remember I was in Vancouver when you called, right? That Alec and I actually live there.
MOIRA: Is Alec home?
KATE: Until next week. Then he’s back working in Brussels.
MOIRA: Your lovely man never stays still. But you, you’re on… Sab… damn my memory… /Sab
KATE: Sabbatical. And just because I’m not teaching right now doesn’t mean I’m not working.
MOIRA: You can write your little stories anywhere.
KATE: Good to know.
MOIRA: (about photo) Your Dad and me in Gimli.
KATE: I’m going to make up a bed for you right here on the couch.
MOIRA: Vic’s starting to get plump around the edges here. My biscuits and gravy man. We met in Winnipeg after the war. At the train station. I’d been home on leave from Camp Shilo, that’s east of Brandon, Manitoba. When you work in payroll during a war you’re the last to get discharged. Your Uncle Gerry came to see me off and brought Vic along.
Sound of train station. MOIRA watches VIC enter.
MOIRA: They met overseas. Gerry was a gunner.
KATE: Uh huh.
MOIRA: They lost touch when the war ended then ran into each other in a beer parlour in the Winnipeg Exchange District. Glorious coincidence. Your Uncle made an ass of himself on booze in those days. Most of them did. Vic not so much. Your father was a pilot.
KATE: Bed’s made up.
MOIRA: He stayed on with the Air Force. Took it seriously. All of it. One of the best. They all said so. (watching VIC) Vic sits down beside me on a bench in the Station and the three of us share the chicken salad sandwiches Mum packed for my journey. He seems nice enough, but I guess you could say his effect on me is a slow, steady burn, not a sudden jolt to the heart. I notice things though. He listens, not everyone does that. He’s really hearing me, seeing me, not just Gerry’s little sister. And his lips. Dear lord, Vic has the most beautiful, full lips I’ve ever seen on a man, on anyone.
KATE: Why don’t you get under these covers?
MOIRA: There’s a tiny crumb of bread on his bottom lip. I can’t stop myself. I’ve never done anything like this before, I mean I’ve just met the man, but I reach out with one finger and (as if to brush crumb off Vic’s lip) Gerry makes some asinine comment, the train arrives and soon I’m waving to them from the window. Vic writes me, just friendly ‘How are you? This is what I did today’ letters. /And when I finally finish up at Camp Shilo and head home, there he is. Waiting for me at the Station. He takes my bag and my hand.
KATE: And when I finally finish up at Camp Shilo and head home, there he is. Waiting for me at the Station. He takes my bag and my hand. And the rest is history. Let me tuck you in.
MOIRA lights another cigarette.
KATE: Give me that smoke and get into bed.
MOIRA: I will not.
KATE: If you’re planning to be awake for your meeting tomorrow, you’ll put that damn cigarette out right now and get to sleep. (exiting) Good night.
MOIRA: Take that mountain of files.
KATE: I thought Lieutenant Lorraine needed to see this stuff.
MOIRA: I have copies.
KATE: Copies? No wonder there’s so much crap in here. Why the hell do you need fucking copies?
MOIRA: So you can have the fucking originals.
KATE: I don’t want them, /thank you.
MOIRA: Tough. Keep them safe. And read them.
KATE: I’ve read—
MOIRA: Every, single page.
KATE: I’m not talking about this now.
MOIRA: You’re welcome to that box of photos, too.
KATE: Good night.
MOIRA: There are some nice ones of Stevie in there.
KATE stops, pulls a photo.
KATE: Oh god. Who knew he ever looked like this?
Five-year-old STEVIE appears. Looks like he’s dressed for Sunday School.
KATE: You must want to keep these.
MOIRA: Look around you. And a lifetime of boxes upstairs.
KATE: But Stevie—
MOIRA: I prefer the images playing in my head. They keep me marching.
KATE: Is Stevie playing in your head now?
MOIRA looks at another photograph of life with VIC.
MOIRA: The bottles on this table. Like a distillery. Rye, rum, scotch, /beer, mixer.
KATE: Do I ever play in there?
MOIRA: Vic was the only sober man at that table. Where the hell do you think you’re going?
KATE snaps light off, exits with photographs.
MOIRA: Turn that light on!
And KATE’s looking through the box of photos of STEVIE. She hears a mischievous little chant
STEVIE’S VOICE: Uh e̅h uh uh e̅h uh e̅h, Uh e̅h uh uh e̅h uh.
KATE: Little bugger.
Seven-year-old STEVIE rides in on bike. Laughing, he circles KATE, gets closer, closer, closer and whoosh! He’s gone.