FIVE PINKIES a one-page play by Tim West
LIGHTS UP. SHE sits next to a cardboard box, holding a washcloth and an eyedropper.
HE enters carrying a brown grocery bag. His pinky finger has a conspicuous bandage on it.
SHE: There you are! I thought you just walked out to the trash-cans. What took you so long?
HE: I went for a walk. Up to the 7-11. To get baby formula. And the other stuff that web-site said.
SHE: Oh. That was… That was nice of you. Did you, um… Did you dispose of the mother?
HE: I didn’t know what else to do with it. Her. So I just set her in the trash-can, rat-trap and all.
I didn’t know how to… you know, undo it. Anyway, I don’t suppose we’ll ever be using that again.
SHE: I’m not blaming you, you know. There’s no way you could have known that she had babies.
HE: (removes items from grocery bag) I know. And I can see, that’s probably why she bit me. She was a mother protecting her nest. Protecting her… her young. How many of them have you fed since I left?
SHE: Two. This is the second. He’s okay now, but he wouldn’t take the milk at first. He squirmed. I think this is the one I call Squirmy.
HE: I thought Squirmy was the runty one.
SHE: The runty one, I call Runty.
HE: Well… They’re all pretty runty, Hon.
SHE: Two of them are even runtier than the others. Squirmy is lively, but he doesn’t take the milk. Runty doesn’t move much, but he puts his paw on the dropper. To balance it so he can take the milk. He was really hungry, too. He took almost a whole eye-dropper full of milk. What’s Climber doing?
HE: (looking in box) Climbing. He almost got out again. Maybe I should wrap them in another towel.
SHE: We need to keep them warm, the website said. That’s what their mother does, in the nest. And three haven’t eaten since you went out. The web-site said pinkies nurse in series, almost constantly. If they don’t, they’ll die. Even if they do, without their mother they may die, but… At least we can try.
SHE: (nodding) Pinkies. It’s what you call baby rats. Before their eyes open, when they’re the size of…
HE: Size of your pinky. And they are pink. Makes sense. Okay, let’s see what we can do for her pinkies.
(taking a washcloth from the box) Wow, they are tiny. Okay! Here we go, little dude. Come on… that’s it.
She watches as HE takes an eyedropper full of milk and joins her in nursing the babies in the washcloths.
SHE: Do you think they’ll live? The web site said the odds are against it when they’re orphaned. Maybe this is just stupid. I mean, you set the trap because you got bit by a rat. Does it really make sense for us to…
HE: Snap their mother’s back in a trap, then bend over backwards trying to save her babies from starving?
SHE: I never wanted to set a trap.
HE: Well, you didn’t get bit by a rat.
SHE: Would it make more sense to let them starve to death now? Or flush them down the toilet? Or what?
HE doesn’t reply, but applies himself to the task of feeding the one he’s been holding. After a pause…
HE: Am I doing this right?
SHE: You’re doing fine.
SHE looks at him and smiles. HE remains engrossed in the nursing. After a moment, HE smiles, too.
HE: It’s kinda neat how you can see the milk in their tummies right through their little pink skin. I got it now. You have to kind of figure out the best way to go at it. This one likes to lick it off my finger.
SHE: I think this one has had enough, finally. Okay, milk-belly. Back to the nest you go. And… Next!
SHE exchanges the washcloth she’s been holding for another from the box. HE clears his throat.
HE: Uh, this one… This one has stopped taking the milk, at all. And he’s not moving very much. Is he…?
SHE: (looking in his washcloth) Maybe he’s just had enough milk already, and he’s fallen asleep.
HE: Hey, Little Dude, wake up! Okay! There we go! He’s taking the milk again. No, come on now! You were doing so good. He’s… he’s twitching. His color’s changing. He was warm and pink, now he’s… He’s… he’s dead, isn’t he? (gently folds the washcloth and sets it aside) What did I do wrong?
SHE: Nothing. You… We did the best we could. And we might still be able to save the other four.
HE: Let’s see how they’re doing. (looks in box) Hon, they’re not moving. They’re not moving at all.
SHE: This one’s still alive. And he’s taking the milk. Here. I’ll get Climber. Maybe we can save these two.
HE takes her washcloth, SHE takes one from the box. They are intense but silent for a moment, working.
HE: I’m trying, but it’s… it’s not working. He’s not taking any milk at all. He’s just… laying there.
SHE: Climber too. He’s… he’s turned blue. It’s no use. Oh god. They’re… they’re not going to make it.
First SHE, then HE set aside their eyedroppers and washcloths. HE appears to be fighting back tears.
HE: We never even named this one.
SHE takes his hand in hers, raises it to her face, kisses his bandaged finger as LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK.
END OF PLAY