The Grandfather Clock

by Duncan Wells



Marlene, Jennifer and Robert are all in their early to late 60's

The Grandfather Clock was inspired by the song of the same name,
written in 1876 by Henry Clay Work (1832 - 1884)


A single spot lights a comfortable chair, a rocking chair and a small table. On the table is a book and a cup of tea. Behind the furniture stands a grandfather clock.

A clock tick tocks in the darkness. Lights rise to the song The Grandfather Clock. During the song, an old man walks across the floor with a newspaper. He sits, takes a sip of his tea and begins to read his paper. The song finishes and the ticking of the clock continues for approximately 20 seconds and then suddenly stops. When it does, the old man slumps forward dead in his chair. Soon, he raises his head and in noticing that the clock is no longer ticking he gets up to repair it. At first he hits it with a fist and gives it a bit of shake. He exits just as Robert, Mar and Jen enter the room. During the dialogue of the three, we hear the old man moving things about and slamming cupboard doors while searching for his toolbox. The three (Mar, Jen and Robert) have just returned from the old man's funeral. Mar is quite upset and in need of comforting. Jen offers her Kleenex.

Mar: Oh daddy!

Jen: C'mon Mar. Here hon, wipe your tears. It's gonna be alright.

The old man is heard rummaging for his tools.

Mar: Oh daddy! Why did you have to die on your birthday?

Jen: There, there…

Mar: Of all days. Your birthday. It's just not fair.

Jen: C'mon hon, now, you have to pull yourself together.

Mar: I don't…I don't know what I'm going to do without him.

Jen: It's gonna be difficult for a while sweetheart, but don't you worry, we'll be here.

Mar: I miss him so much already.

Jen: You'll get used to it. We'll all get used to it.

Mar: But it's different for me.

Jen: I know, dear. I know.

Mar: I'm so used to having him around. He was all I had - Robert, don't touch that!

Robert: I was going to clean up.

Mar: That's daddy's. Leave it alone.

Robert: But -

Jen: Robert?

Robert: What?

Jen: Leave-it-alone!

Robert: But there's a half a cup of tea here.

Jen: Robert?

Robert: It's been here for a week. It's got stuff growin' on it for Christsake!

Jen: Will you just leave it there?

Robert: Sigh! Alright. If you say so.

The old man is heard rummaging for his tools

Jen: Take Mar's coat and hang it up for her.

Robert takes Mar's coat to put away.

Mar: Poor daddy!

Robert: Yes, yes, poor daddy.

Jen: And here take mine too while you're at it.

He does

Robert: I'll put the kettle on and make some tea.

Mar: Daddy used to put the kettle on.

Robert: Oh for God's sake!

Mar: 'Member that? It was one of those things he liked to do. He used to get up early, put the kettle on and make the tea.

Jen: Robert?

Mar: Poor daddy.

Jen: Robert don't bother with the kettle ok?

Robert: Whatta ya mean don't bother with the kettle?

Jen: Don't put on the kettle.

Robert: But I want a cup of…

Jen: Don't put on the kettle!

Robert: Oh for the love of Christ!

The old man slams closed his tool box

Robert: This is crazy! The man's dead so this means I can't have a cup of tea?

Jen: Just hang up the coats will you?

Robert: Aww, man! You guys are out of your mind!

Robert exits. The old man enters with a screwdriver, pair of pliers and an oil can and begins some serious work on the clock. He continues working on the clock throughout all of the dialogue.

Mar: Poor daddy!

Jen: Mar…

Mar: This was his favorite chair.

Jen: Mar, why don't you sit down dear. Relax.

Mar: What? In daddy's chair? Oh, I don't think so. I…I'd feel funny.

Jen: Don't be silly. Sit.

Mar: But…

Jen: Mar, just sit would you please?

Jen sits in the rocking chair and picks up the book while Mar cautiously sits in daddy's chair.

Mar: He would sit here for hours….reading his paper….drinking his tea….this is his favorite cup.

Jen: Yes, I know.

Mar: Poor daddy!

Jen: Daddy must have been planning some home repairs, was he?

Mar: Why do you say that?

Jen: This is a book on home repairs.

Mar: Oh, yes. He was going to put a toilet in the basement.

Jen: A toilet in the basement? What the hell for?

Mar: I don't know. Something to do, I guess.

Jen: Ninety years old and he was going to install a toilet?

Mar: Well, you know daddy. He was always working on something.

Jen: Geez Mar, look at this! Daddy was using a twenty dollar bill as a bookmark.

Mar: Leave it there. Don't touch it. It's daddy's.

Jen: God, I don't understand you. By the way you're going on, you'd think he was coming back or something.

Enter Robert eating chicken

Robert: Who's coming back?

Jen: Daddy.

Robert: Ha! Yeah, right! Fat chance of that!

Mar: I hope that's not daddy's chicken you're eating.

Robert: What?

Mar: If it is, you better put it back.

Robert: But it was in the fridge.

Mar: Put it back. It's daddy's.

Robert: But he's dead!

She gets up, takes it from him and returns it to the kitchen

Mar: I said, put it back!

Robert: But he's….

To Jen

…holy geez, there's somethin' wrong with her.

Jen: She's just upset.

He picks up the book

Robert: She's baked that's what she is. Daddy's chicken! Daddy's tea! What kind of craziness is that?

Jen: That book belongs to daddy. Put it back.

Robert: Oh go to hell.

He flips through the book as Mar returns from the kitchen

Ya know, she's gonna need a phyciatrist before this is all over.

Jen: Well, we'll just have to deal with that when the time comes. If the time comes.

Robert: Hey, look twenty bucks! Thanks dad.

Mar: Put it back where you found it.

Robert: Oh for the love of…

He does

Mar: Robert, I just don't want anyone disturbing anything ok?

Robert: What are you gonna do Mar, turn the room into a shrine? Daddy's chair, his sacred table, home repair bible and his half a cup of tea with scum and mold growing on it?

Mar: Look this is my house and I just want things left as they are.

Robert: Your house? Ha! This isn't your house.

Mar: It certainly is.

Robert: Oh no Marlene my dear it certainly is not.

Jen: Robert?

Robert: This is our house.

Jen: Robert?

Robert: This house belongs to all of us.

Jen: Robert, this isn't the time to talk about that kind of stuff.

Robert: Alright. That's fine. We don't have to talk about it now. We can talk about it later but just for the record, this house belongs to all three of us.

Mar: It does not! I've been the one maintaining it these past 42 years. I've been the one taking care of daddy while you two were off making a life for yourselves.

Robert: No Marlene, you were the one who was living rent free for 42 years while we had to pay a mortgage and utility bills.

Mar: I had bills to pay too.

Robert: Yes, and you also had daddy's pension cheque to pay those bills.

Mar: Yes, but…

Jen: Look you two, we'll talk about it later, ok?

Mar: No, we won't talk about it later.

Robert: That's right Jen. What are you, the boss? The one who decides what we talk about and when we talk about it?

Jen: It's only gonna turn into an argument.

Robert: There's no argument, Jen. This is the family home, therefore, it belongs to the family. That's us. All three of us.

Mar: The house is mine!

Robert: The house along with all of it's contents Mar.

Mar: The house is mine!

Jen: Robert!

Robert: What Jen? Are you saying you disagree?

Jen: I'm not saying anything.

Robert: Are you saying that we should just hand the house over to Mar because of, what, squatter's rights?

Jen: All I'm saying is that this is not the time to discuss it.

Mar: You can discuss it all you want. This is my house and so is everything in it.

Robert: There's not a judge in the world who would agree with you.

Jen: Robert, will you stop it?

Robert: How much do you think this clock is worth?

Mar: Don't even think about it.

Robert: Well, how the hell else are we going to divide it up? Saw it into three pieces? One for you one for me and one for Jen?

Jen: Robert?

Mar: You're not getting the clock.

Robert: Ok then you keep the clock. I'll take the china cabinet in the parlour.

Mar: And your not getting the china cabinet either.

Robert: I propose we just sell it all, lock stock and barrel and divide up the money.

Jen: Ok, Robert, that's enough. Now shut up!

Robert: Jen, the house belongs to all three of us and you know it.

Jen: I'm not saying it doesn't belong to all three of us.

Mar: What?

Jen: I'm just saying that this is neither the time nor place to….

Robert: So you agree with me?

Jen: Robert, you know I agree with you. We already had this discussion.

Mar: What? You two already talked about selling the house.

Jen: No, Mar we didn't talk about selling the house. Robert and I simply had a conversation about….about….

Mar: About what, Jen? Kicking me out into the street?

Robert: Oh lovely! And now a word from the "victim".

Jen: Nobody said anything about kicking you out. All we did was talk about you maybe buying out our share of the house. That's all.

Mar: But you have no share.

Robert: Ha!

Mar: This is my house.

Robert: Does it state that in the will?

Mar: Daddy didn't have a will and you know that.

Robert: He didn't have a will? Well, then I guess that answers our question. Right Jen?

Jen: You're not going to drag me into this Robert. We only buried daddy today and we shouldn't be talking like this.

Robert: You know this thing was appraised a few years before mom died and I think back then they said it was worth somewhere in the area of eight thousand dollars.

Mar: I don't care how much it was appraised for. No one is selling daddy's clock.

Robert: That was more than forty years ago. Just imagine what it's worth today. Ha! Imagine Marlene! I bet it's probably worth twice as much now, maybe even three times as much.

Jen: Robert, if you think you're being funny, you're not.

Robert: Imagine! Twenty four thousand dollars.

Mar: I don't care if it's worth a million dollars. The clock belongs to daddy.

Robert: But daddy's dead Mar. Time doesn't mean anything to him now.

Jen: Robert?

Robert: What?

Jen: You know what you need?

Robert: Yes, Jen I do know what I need. I need a drink. Excuse me.

Mar: Don't you touch daddy's rum.

Robert: Oh for God's sake will you shut up about daddy. I'll drink whatever the hell's there.

Mar: You just keep your paws off of daddy's rum.

He exits

Robert? Did you hear me? Leave daddy's rum alone.

Jen: Mar?

Mar: (Disgusted) What?

Jen: I think you're over reacting.

Mar: The house is mine, Jen.

Jen: Look, I know you're the one whose been living here and taking care of the place but you can't just write us off as if we didn't exist.

Mar: I'm not writing you off.

Jen: Well, it sounds like it.

Mar: You and Robert have a home and at least you and Robert were always able to have a normal life. Because of daddy I wasn't even able to have a relationship. You got married. Me? Ha! I didn't even have that opportunity because my life didn't afford me that luxury.

Jen: Luxury? Ha! Some luxury.

Mar: Alright, so your marriage wasn't all that great.

Jen: Wasn't all that great? It was hell. I was in prison for thirty two years. I had to wait until the bastard died before I was able to escape.

Mar: Well, at least you escaped and with a home you could call your own. I invested my entire life into this place and suddenly I turn around and find out that you two want two thirds of it. That's two thirds of my life.

Jen: Mar, please don't put it like that.

Mar: I'm just trying to put it into perspective for you.

Jen: Yes, but….

Jen sighs resignation

Mar: Yes?

Jen: Nothing.

Mar: Humph!


Jen: Robert?

He responds from off stage

Robert: What?

Jen: I hope your making me a drink in there.

Robert: (mumbles) Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jen: Robert?

Robert: Yes Jen. I'm making you a drink!

Mar: You better not be using daddy's rum.

Robert: (mumbles) Aw shut the hell up for God's sake!

Jen: Mar, look, I think the three of us need some time to get over all this. We're just a little stressed out right now.

Mar: Jen, you're not getting the house.

Jen: Look as far as the house is concerned…

Mar: You're not getting the house!

Jen: Will you let me talk?

Mar: You can talk all you want. You're still not getting the house.

Jen: Look Mar, Robert and I have no intention of asking you to go to the bank Monday morning to take out a loan or anything like that.

Robert enters with a tray, three poured drinks and a bottle of rum.

Robert: So Mar, do you think you can get to the bank on Monday and have this cleared up.

Jen: Robert?

Robert: No, well, I'm just saying. I have to leave on Tuesday and I'd like to at least have some idea of what's goin' on…I mean, as far as the house and stuff is concerned.

Mar: This is my house!

Robert: Yeah, right and this is daddy's rum. Here for the love of Christ, hurry up and drink. The sooner you get drunk the sooner you pass out so I don't have to listen to you.

Mar: I told you not to touch that.

Jen: Mar, lighten up!

Robert: Yeah, lighten up. Daddy's gone and I say we raise a glass in his honor. Come on! Here, take it! (Pause) I said in-his honor, Marlene, now take the God damned drink!

She does. Robert lays the bottle down and the old man picks it up.

Ok, ladies….sisters…Jennifer….Marlene…and daddy, wherever you are….glasses up!

All three raise their glasses and the old man raises the bottle in honor of himself.

To our daddy! The greatest man who ever lived. May his kindness, intelligence and his love of life live on within us all.

The old man drinks to himself, replaces the bottle on the table and continues work on the clock. The three empty their glasses and immediately hold them out toward Robert for a refill. It's obvious that there is a drinking problem in the family. Every time Robert fills and lays down the bottle, the old man picks it up and takes a few drinks himself directly from the bottle.

Mar: God bless daddy!

Jen: God bless daddy!

Robert: Here's to you daddy. Here's to you and…and….and here's to…here's to your clock.

Mar: You just never mind the clock.

Robert: I'm just toasting the damned thing.

Mar: I don't care what you're doing. You just never mind the clock. It's daddy's.

Jen: Of for Christ sake, stop it you two.

Mar: Well, tell him to stop talkin' about the clock.

Jen: Robert, stop talkin' about the clock. And here, fill me.

He refills their glasses and lays the bottle back down on the table for the old man to pick up and drink from.

Robert: What, now I'm not even allowed to talk about the clock?

Mar: The clock is daddy's.

Robert: (mocking her) The clock is daddy's.

Jen: Robert?

Robert: What?

Jen: Stop it!

Robert: This is insane. The man's gone and we're not even allowed to talk about the obvious because Mar here doesn't want us to. Christ!

Jen: We're supposed to be grieving.

Robert: What you think I'm not grieving? You think I'm not sad? Or is it you think I'm not sad enough.

Jen: Well it seems to me all that's on your mind is how we're going to divide up the house.

Mar: The house is mine!

Jen: Marlene?

Mar: The house is mine.

Jen: Shut the hell up will you? The house is mine! The house is mine! Can't you say anything else?

Mar: Nobody's getting the house!

Jen: Shut-Up!!!

Mar: Or the clock.

Jen: Oh for the love 'a - Robert, pour me another drink!

He pours for all three and returns the bottle to the table.

Robert: Hey Mar, what about all of daddy's stuff in the basement?

Mar: What stuff in the basement?

Robert: You know. His power tools and stuff.

Upon mention of his power tools the old man reacts and immediately exits to the basement.

Mar: You just never mind his power tools and stuff.

Robert: Well, what the hell are you gonna do with them?

Mar: You just never mind. They're not yours! They're daddy's.

Robert: Mar, daddy's dead! He's gone! He's kaput! He's with the angels!

Robert crosses to the clock and is admiring it's beauty

Jen: Will you two pull-eze shut up!

Mar: You know Robert, you're one rotten miserable bastard.

Robert: Yeah tell it to the judge.

Mar: You're like a buzzard hovering over a dying carcass in the desert, ready to swoop down and pick it's bones clean the first chance you get.

Robert: Yeah, right. That's what I am Marlene, a buzzard. Humph! Boy, you know this really is quite a piece of work. The old man did a good job taking care of it all these years. Don't you think?

Mar: Daddy took care of everything he owned.

Jen: He used a special blend of oil to keep the wood looking new.

Robert: Did he really.

Jen: Yes he did…really. I'm not sure what was in it but he would mix it in the basement and keep it in a tobacco can.

Robert: Oh my God, right! I remember that can. He had a special rag or something too didn't he?

Jen: Yellow!

Robert: Right! A yellow rag.

Jen: You had to apply it using a continuous circular motion.

Robert: What?

Jen: That's how the oil had to be rubbed into the wood…in a continuous circular motion. And you weren't allowed to stop either. Not too much oil on the rag either. You'd just rub it in, around and around and around.

Robert: Wow! You got a great memory there Jen.

Jen: Yes, I certainly do, don't I. And, you know…that's not all I remember either. I remember daddy saying that his father brought the clock home on the day he was born.

Robert: The day who was born?

Mar: Daddy, stupid! Jesus he's stupid.

Robert: Well, how was I supposed to know?

Jen: So that would mean the clock is ninety years old.

Robert: Or even older if it was bought second hand.

Jen: It was bought new…brand new. Just like daddy was on the day he was born…brand…spanking…new. It was built by the Moorland Clock Company of San Diego, California….there were less than one hundred of them made and everyone of them were numbered….that one is number 14. The Moorland Clock factory burned to the ground in 1896 and was never rebuilt.

Robert: Are you serious? How the hell do you remember all this stuff.

Jen: Daddy told me.

Robert: Yeah but how do you remember it?

Mar: She got a brain you know. She's not stupid like you.

Jen: I just remember…that's all.

Robert: Hell, I'm lucky if I remember what happened last week.

Mar: Daddy died last week.

Robert: Oh for Christ sake, I know that Marlene.

Mar: Right here in this chair….I know, because I found him…poor daddy.


Robert: You know, ladies, I'm almost willing to forget about the house in exchange for this clock.

Mar: And I already told you, no one's getting the clock!

Robert: What do you think Jen?

Mar: I said no one's getting the clock!

Robert: No, really though. You two can have the house and everything else, fifty fifty. I'll take the clock.

Mar: God, I wish you two would just shut up about the clock.

Jen: I didn't say anything. It's him.

Robert: But listen…

Mar: The clock stays here.

Robert: Yeah, but…

Mar: And so does daddy's power tools.

Robert: But listen…

Mar: The house is mine….

Robert: But listen…

Mar: And there's no fifty fifty either.

Robert: Will you shut up and listen?

Mar: No, I won't listen.

Robert: But I'm offering you a deal here.

Jen: Oooh, well, aren't we lucky!

Mar: Robert, just get the hell away from daddy's clock will you?

Robert: I said, I'm offering you a deal!

Mar: Ha! Deal, smeal! Shove your deal up your arse. This isn't a used car lot. This is my home.

The old man returns from the basement. He has a long extension cord, a power drill and all necessary accessories. He opens the chuck, puts in a bit, takes a drink from the bottle and goes right back to working on the clock.

Robert: Do you have any idea how sick I am of listening to you squawkin' about this being your house.

Mar: Shut up.

Robert: Me, me, me, me, me!

Mar: You're the one who's squawkin' about the house….

Robert: Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine!

Mar: …and the clock….

Robert: Marlene owns it all.

Mar: …and the power tools.

Robert: Everything belongs to Marlene…daddy's little princess, daddy's little queen

Mar: And besides, I couldn't care less what you think.

Robert: You really think you're pretty special, don't you.

Mar: Oh shut the hell up!

Mar downs the remainder of her drink and pours another one for herself

Robert: No, you really do. You think that because you stayed here taking care of the old man that you earned it or something, that…that you deserve it and that me and Jen should just go away and let you have it all. Well, I'm here to tell you that that won't be happening.

Mar: Well, I'm here to tell you to kiss my arse, so how do you like that?

Jen: You know, if daddy was here now, I wonder what he would think of you two? I mean, just listen to yourselves.

Mar: If daddy was here now, you two wouldn't be here and that would suit me just fine. Hell, you never came to visit when he was alive and the only reason you're here now is out of guilt….and greed!

Before she can put the bottle back down on the table Robert takes it from her hand and pours himself and Jen another one

Jen: Whoa! Just hang on there! Who in the hell do you think you are talkin' to us like that?

Mar: It's true an' you two know it's true.

Robert: Greed? Ha! Us? We're talking about a share, Mar. A share of what rightfully belongs to us. You're the one who wants it all… the house, the clock, the power tools, the china cabinet. Ha! Callin' us greedy! You don't even know what the word greedy means. Stupid bitch!

Jen: Robert?

Mar: Who the hell you callin' a stupid bitch.

Robert: I'm callin' you a stupid bitch, you stupid bitch.