The Rescuer

by dpreyde

This is the first play I wrote for The Storefront Theatre’s monthly Sing For Your Supper event. I’d written it a few weeks beforehand as part of a writing portfolio. It was the first play I’d written since high school, and- while I liked it very much- I assumed it wouldn’t be accepted at The Storefront.

The Rescuer was inspired by a blisteringly negative review I read about the short-lived Rainn Wilson T.V. show Backstrom in which he plays an asshole who’s amazing at his job. The reviewer’s main critique was that variations of that premise had been done to death. I realized I’d never seen a T.V. show or novel or anything else about a genuinely nice person who is terrible at their job.

Scene 1

SETTING:       The waiting room of a therapist’s office. An inspirational poster hangs on the wall. Beside the desk is a door leading to the therapist’s office. Gregor Phillips sits behind the desk. He is on his laptop reading e-mails. Dory Southern enters with an enormous dog.

DORY

Hi, Gregor! Sorry I’m late. I couldn’t get in touch with you. My phone died.

GREGOR

Why do you have a dog?

DORY

I didn’t miss any appointments, did I?

GREGOR

No, Dory. But-

DORY

I found this dog wandering around the street by my house. He got lost, I think. Ran away from home. It’s a good thing he didn’t get hit by a car- would’ve done more damage than a deer. Look at him! What breed is he, do you figure? Some kind of mastiff?

GREGOR

I don’t know much about dogs.

DORY

We went looking for his home. That’s why I’m late. Must’ve covered the whole neighbourhood. Every house. Nobody knew who his owner was. I mean, it’s not like he’s a golden retriever, right? He’s pretty identifiable. I’m not sure how a dog like this could have gotten lost anyway. It’s not like he could hide behind a bush. How’d he even get out of the house? It’s not like he’d fit through a pet door.

GREGOR

Maybe he was a guard dog.

DORY

Him? No! He’s so sweet!

GREGOR

Why didn’t you phone animal control?

DORY

Well, who knows what they’d do? You hear stories. If he went to an animal shelter, he might get euthanized. That’s what they do. And I figured it would be easier, anyway, if I just tracked down his owner myself. Every house I went to, I thought that must be the one. Finally I realized I’d just have to bring him into work. I didn’t have any appointments scheduled this morning? What about Mark Pearson? Did he cancel?

GREGOR

Mark’s wife called about an hour ago. He passed away.

DORY

Oh my God, what happened?

GREGOR

Pills.

DORY

Was it an accident?

(Gregor shakes his head)

GREGOR

There was a note.

(Dory sits in the chair closest to Gregor)

DORY

But… we’d been making such good progress. He really seemed to be turning things around.

GREGOR

I’m sorry.

(He stands up, walks around the desk, and sits next to Dory. The dog lies at her feet)

DORY

You know that Mark’s the sixth client I’ve had in the last year who’s killed himself.

GREGOR

Yeah.

DORY

I should call his wife.

GREGOR

I don’t think that’s a good idea, Dory.

DORY

Why not? I’m a therapist. I’m probably the best person-

GREGOR

She’s pretty angry. At you. Don’t call her.

DORY

It wasn’t my fault. He had clinical depression. There wasn’t anything more I could have done.

GREGOR

Still. Maybe wait a little while.

DORY

Okay. Should I go to his funeral? I went to some of the others.

GREGOR

I remember that didn’t go so well.

DORY

They were mad at me, too.

GREGOR

You have an appointment in fifteen minutes. Amy Fleming. Maybe you should go into your office and do some prep work.

DORY

Yeah. Yeah, that’s a good idea.

GREGOR

She’s scared of dogs.

DORY

Oh. I guess we should keep him out here then.

GREGOR

We can’t keep him. I’ll phone the humane society.

DORY

Don’t do that, Gregor. I don’t want to see him get hurt. Just keep him behind your desk. If he’ll fit.

(Dory stands and walks into her office)

Scene 2

SETTING: Therapist’s office. Another motivational poster on the wall. A file cabinet, a desk, and two chairs. There are a bunch of papers on the desk, as well as a laptop and a phone. The chairs are set up across from each other. Dory sits in the chair next to the desk. Amy sits in the other chair. Dory has a large black binder in her lap. She is making notes.

AMY

-so then he bursts out of his office and starts screaming at me, and I was like, “I didn’t do it! How would I even get the keys to your car?” And he was like, “I know it was you! You’re the only one who knows I’m allergic to paprika!” But what he doesn’t know is that- What are you writing down?

DORY

Just notes.

AMY

About what? Are you judging me? Are you making judgments?

DORY

Amy, this is a judgment-free zone.

AMY

You think I’m crazy. Or do you think I’m lying? I swear, I didn’t break into my boss’ car. He’s the one who’s crazy.

DORY

I’m just making notes, I swear. I wrote down that you work in the accounting department and that your boss’ name is Lou. That’s new information.

AMY

Why is that relevant?

DORY

I don’t know. Anything might be relevant. I have a terrible memory, so I have to write everything down.

AMY

I’ve been seeing you for the past eight months.

DORY

Yes, but still, I have a lot of clients. Before we met today I couldn’t for the life of me remember if you were the one whose parents died in a car crash when you were a teenager.

AMY

My parents are alive.

DORY

Oh, I know that now.

(She flips through the binder)

Your mother’s an orthodontist and your father’s in prison. You’re the one whose aunt hung herself on Christmas when you were five.

AMY

Yes. I still have nightmares.

DORY

You do?

(She flips quickly through the binder)

I don’t think I have that down here. Could you describe the nightmares? In as much detail as possible, please.

AMY

I’m talking about something completely different.

DORY

Well, we can’t know that for sure, can we?

Scene 3

SETTING:       The waiting room. Gregor is on the phone with Dr. Ruth Macaulay.

GREGOR

Dr. Macaulay, I feel really bad lying to her, after all she’s done for me. She saved my life.

RUTH

You’re not lying. You’re just not giving Dory all the information. What did the client’s wife say to you specifically?

GREGOR

She was mostly just swearing. She blamed Dory for the suicide, which- I don’t know.

RUTH

This isn’t the first one. Far from it. There have been, what, five suicides so far this year?

GREGOR

Six. And there were others before that, of course. But this is the first time that a client has mentioned Dory in his suicide note! He quoted her! Now, granted, from what the wife said to me, it was taken out of context, but still! My God!

RUTH

I’m glad you called me.

GREGOR

I know she thinks of you as a mentor. She’s probably going to talk to you about this. I just wanted to make sure you had all the information.

RUTH

Are you still reviewing her notes?

GREGOR

Yes. If she ever found out, it would probably end our friendship. And I still feel like I’m breaking the law. I know you said that technically I wasn’t…

RUTH

When she gives her clients incorrect information, somebody has to set them straight. That’s where you come in.

GREGOR

I guess so. And if it means that the clients get taken care of, that’s the bottom line, isn’t it.

RUTH

Yes, it is. I imagine we’ll be talking again soon.

GREGOR

Thanks again, Dr. Macaulay.

(He hangs up, runs his hands through his hair, and puts his head in his hands. The dog lays his head on Gregor’s lap and stares dolefully at him)

GREGOR

What do you want?

(The dog thumps his tail. Amy exits the office)

GREGOR

Have a good day.

(Amy ignores him, crosses the waiting room quickly, and leaves, slamming the door behind her. Dory exits her office and sits down in the chair closest to Gregor)

DORY

That didn’t go well.

GREGOR

It didn’t look like it.

DORY

Were you on the phone?

GREGOR

Yeah, with Ruth. She was just checking to see if you were free for lunch some time this week.

DORY

Am I?

GREGOR

Thursday’s free.

DORY

What about today?

GREGOR

That’s awfully short notice, it’s already 1.

DORY

No, I meant you and me. The dynamic duo. We need to catch up.

GREGOR

You have Gary Moreno booked at 2.

DORY

He’s not going to come. He spent last week’s session crying, telling me how this wasn’t working, and how he should see another therapist. Then I started crying, because I felt so ineffectual and, well, I hated seeing him like that. In pain. You know?

(Gregor nods)

DORY

When I started crying, he really started crying, and that’s when things got out of hand.

GREGOR

I remember hearing that. It was pretty loud. I wondered what was going on in there. I thought it might be cathartic, you know, maybe a breakthrough.

DORY

More like a breakdown. Let’s get Chinese.

Scene 4

SETTING:       Interior of Dory’s car. Dory is in the driver’s seat. Gregor is seated next to her. They are both eating from cardboard take-out buckets with chopsticks.

DORY

God, I forgot to ask! How’s Josh?

GREGOR

No change. He can’t keep anything down. It’s making me crazy.

DORY

When do you get the test results?

GREGOR

We were supposed to get them last week. It’ll be any day now. We’ve been living in stasis for so long, just waiting to see what comes next. When we get those results, no matter what they say, all of a sudden we’ll have to move really quick. Make a lot of decisions.

DORY

You need to take time off work. I keep telling you-

GREGOR

No.

DORY

I’ll pay your full salary. Hell, I’ll take time off work too. I can afford it. You and Josh are like family to me. Just tell me what you need.

GREGOR

I need- we need to keep doing exactly what we’re doing. You need me to keep working for you, Dory.

DORY

If the results come back and it’s cancer, you’re taking a leave of absence.

GREGOR

His sister flew in from Halifax yesterday. She’s keeping an eye on him while I’m at the office.

DORY

What about Brenda? Did she go back west?

GREGOR

Yesterday, yeah.

DORY

How’s her kid doing? The one with Crohn’s.

GREGOR

Better, now that he’s seeing a new doctor.

DORY

Sometimes that’s all it takes. A new doctor.

(Pause)

DORY

Your husband’s seriously sick, Gregor. You’re the most John and Yoko couple I’ve ever met. What’s the real reason you don’t want to take time off work?

GREGOR

You need me.

DORY

More than he does?

GREGOR

I can take care of both of you.

DORY

Why do I need taking care of?

(Gregor shrugs)

DORY

No, I want you to say it. I want you to tell me the truth.

GREGOR

It’s been six clients, Dory.

DORY

They weren’t just clients, they were people. Mark Pearson. Paul Norton. Tammy Walters. Tim Wade. Amanda Keller. Karen Guzman. Do you want me to name the others, too?

GREGOR

Mark quoted you in his suicide note.

DORY

Did he.

(Gregor nods)

DORY

Was it anything good?

GREGOR

It was out of context, if that’s what you mean.

DORY

Jesus Christ.

GREGOR

You’re not a bad person. I don’t want you thinking you are. You’re not a failure. Other than Josh, you’re the best friend I’ve ever had, and you’re one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.

DORY

Kind, ha! Sweet. Nurturing. Well-meaning. Anything else? I want to be seen as capable, Gregor. I want people to think I’m competent. Goddammit, I’m a professional. But people just think I’m kind. And open-hearted, that’s another one. I’ve been a therapist for ten years. It was so hard to get into this field. Undergrad. Postgrad. Nobody took me seriously. Do you remember my second year of Masters? Everybody thought I was blowing the department head. “Why else would she be in the program?” “How else could she have gotten in?” Gregor, do you have any idea how long these whispers been following me around? How long people have looked at me and just seen kindness? I’m a seasoned professional. Why can’t they see that?

GREGOR

I’ve dealt with the same shit. You know I have. People keep asking me to speak on behalf of my people. Every time one of the states legalizes same-sex marriage, someone in my church or at the gym or at my book club asks for my opinion. And do you know how many times I’ve heard “oh, you’re not like the others” or “but you don’t sound gay”? And I get shit from my gay friends for sounding too straight. They think I’m trying to pass. Forgive me for not hiring a, uh, mariachi band to follow me around.

DORY

Do your people really like mariachi bands?

GREGOR

See, I don’t even know what the stereotypes are.

DORY

You’re the worst gay person I know. And I must be the worst therapist you know.

GREGOR

You’re not. Trust me, you’re not.

DORY

Because I’m kind?

(Beat)

DORY (continued)

C’mon, let’s get back to the office.

Scene 5

SETTING:       The hallway outside Dory’s office. Linda Pearson is standing outside the door, arms crossed. Gregor and Dory exit the elevator and stop when they see Linda.

DORY

Can I help you?

LINDA

Like you helped my husband?

DORY

Mark Pearson’s wife. Am I right? I don’t remember your name.

LINDA

Linda. Can we talk?

DORY

Come in.

(Dory holds the door open for Linda and then Gregor. Dory closes the door, and walks past Linda toward the office. The dog is lying in the middle of the floor)

LINDA

No, we don’t have to go into your office. This isn’t going to take long.

DORY

What exactly can I do for you?

LINDA

How about your bring Mark back?

DORY

I can’t.

LINDA

No, because you fucking killed him.

(Dory bows her head)

LINDA

It’s your fault. He said so himself.

GREGOR

Look, I think that-

LINDA

I think this isn’t any of your business. You didn’t want me to talk to her this morning. I know she was in the office.

DORY

Actually, I wasn’t. I was trying to return a lost dog.

LINDA

What kind of bullshit excuse-

DORY

He’s lying right there!

LINDA

Mark was getting better before he met you. He was improving. I told him he didn’t need therapy. He said he wanted to make sure he didn’t backslide. That’s what he said. I can- I can remember everything he ever said to me. I keep hearing his voice. Things he said over the years. I see things we did together. Things we won’t do again, things we won’t get a chance to do. And it’s all because of you.

DORY

I think you should leave. When you’re in a better frame of mind, you can call me and I’ll get you a referral to a grief therapist.

LINDA

You won’t be around long enough to see me reach a better frame of mind. I’m going to fucking sue you for negligence. I won’t stop coming after you until I know for sure your career is over.

(Linda leaves)

GREGOR

My friend Tony’s a lawyer.

DORY

Hey, maybe you should call him. Sounds like I might need one.

(She walks into her office)

Scene 6

SETTING:       Dory enters her office, sits in her chair, stares into space. After a moment, she reaches over to her phone, and dials a number.

RUTH

Dr. Macaulay speaking.

DORY

Hi, it’s me.

RUTH

Hello, Dory. How are you?

DORY

Not too good. I’ve been having one of those days, you know?

RUTH

I know.

DORY

Gregor mentioned you phoned. Said you wanted to do lunch. How’s Thursday?

RUTH

I’m booked pretty solid this week. How about Saturday? We could do brunch.

DORY

That’ll work.

RUTH

Good.

DORY

One of my clients died.

RUTH

I’m sorry to hear that.

DORY

It was a suicide.

RUTH

I know. Gregor told me.

DORY

What else did he tell you?

RUTH

Plenty. He and I talk.

DORY

You talk?

RUTH

We do.

DORY

I have no idea what you mean by that. I guess I’ll add it to the list of things to worry about.

RUTH

It’s not malicious, Dory. He cares about you.

DORY

And you care about me, too. You’re my mentor. I get it, I guess.

RUTH

I wish you’d stop calling me your mentor. You never take my advice.

DORY

What? Of course I do.

RUTH

I told you when you were in grad school that pursuing this career was a mistake.

DORY

Then I bet you remember what I said to you. This is my calling. I have this need to rescue people. To save them. It’s what I was meant to do. It’s what I did with my sister and most of my boyfriends. And Gregor, of course. That’s how I know it’s real. It’s not just a career thing, it’s who I am.

RUTH

It’s wonderful you feel that way. A lot of therapists don’t. But you don’t have the knack, and you’ve never had it.

DORY

The knack. Is that a professional term?

RUTH

I’m a doctor. Everything I say is professional.

DORY

I can’t give up.

RUTH

I’m gravely concerned that your clients aren’t receiving adequate care.

DORY

What are you going to do about it? I’m already being sued.

RUTH

You’re being sued?

DORY

Yeah, the widow of my latest client is threatening to sue me.

RUTH

That’s serious, Dory.

DORY

I doubt it’ll come to anything. I tried my best, I kept adequate records. And Gregor’s getting me a lawyer.

RUTH

What about the other clients? If this woman hires someone competent, they’ll quickly discover that half a dozen of your other clients also killed themselves. In the past year. Gregor won’t be able to protect you for much longer, and I’m reaching a point where I don’t want to. My credibility as a psychologist is at stake if I continue to associate myself with you.

DORY

Remember in The Sound of Music, when Maria talks to the head nun and the nun gives her advice?

RUTH

Dory, what the hell are you talking about?

DORY

She said that Maria needed a dream that will need all the love she can give. Every day of her life for as long as she lives.

RUTH

This isn’t a musical! This is real life!

DORY

But it’s true, isn’t it? We all need a dream like that. Well, this is mine. You do what you feel you have to do. And I’ll follow my dreams.

RUTH

Dory, please-

(Dory hangs up)

Scene 7

SETTING:       The waiting room. Gregor enters from outside with the dog- he has fashioned a makeshift leash with his own tie. Dory enters from the office.

DORY

Now you’ve got him wearing business casual. You’re a consummate professional, Gregor. That’s why I love you.

GREGOR

He had to go to the bathroom, and I didn’t want him to run away again.

DORY

I want you to be honest with me. Tell me everything you’ve been doing to protect me.

GREGOR

I talk to Ruth.

DORY

I know. I was just talking to her.

GREGOR

I guess she told you that I call your clients, too.

DORY

She did not.

GREGOR

Oh.

DORY

Gregor!

GREGOR

I look through your notes. There are mistakes, Dory. Sometimes they’re small, sometimes they’re big. Last month you misdiagnosed someone with O.C.D.

DORY

How do you know that?

GREGOR

Looking at his symptoms, I had a hunch that it might be P.T.S.D. instead. So I Googled it, and then I talked to Ruth. I called him up and referred him to a specialist. I did it all behind your back. I’m sorry.

DORY

I don’t even remember what client you’re talking about.

GREGOR

I’ve done it with almost all your clients. I check your notes just about every day.

DORY

What else?

GREGOR

I screen clients.

DORY

What do you mean?

GREGOR

When they phone the office and want to book their first appointment, I ask them a bunch of preliminary questions. The ones who seem too challenging get put on a wait list. And then I just never call them back.

DORY

Jesus. Do you keep their information?

GREGOR

I keep notes about all the phone calls in my logbook. For liability purposes. I kind of figured- I’m sorry, Dory- I figured that eventually you’d be sued.

DORY

So we could call some of these people back.

GREGOR

Hypothetically.

DORY

Who’s the most challenging person you’ve put on your wait list?

GREGOR

There have been so many of them… Well, just recently there was this guy who didn’t even have a fixed address to give me. He’s living in a shelter downtown. He’s floridly psychotic. While he was trying to talk to me, he was also talking to Jesus, Mickey Rooney, and Saddam Hussein.

DORY

That would be a fascinating dinner party. What’s his name?

GREGOR

You can’t call him. I won’t let you.

DORY

Don’t you dare try and stop me from doing my job! It’s so important to me, and you know that. Don’t make me choose between you and my career, because I honestly don’t know what would happen.

GREGOR

You know, this could get bad. It’s already bad, but I think it’s going to get a lot worse.

DORY

It’s my choice. And you can choose to stick around. If you want to leave, I won’t blame you. It won’t affect our friendship. I’ll write you a reference that’ll get you hired anywhere, I promise.

(Pause. Gregor crosses the office, walks behind his desk, and opens a drawer. He takes out a slim leather notebook and tosses it to Dory)

GREGOR

There are a few others in there who might interest you, too.

DORY

Thank you. Also, I was thinking about Josh.

GREGOR

Yeah?

DORY

I’m sure the test results will come back negative. I’ve got a feeling. When that happens, you and I are going out for karaoke.

GREGOR

And if everything’s not okay?

DORY

Whatever happens, I’ll be with you guys.

GREGOR

Thank you.

DORY

Hey, don’t worry about it. I know you’d do the same for me.

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