‘Maddy’ is a short story intended as an adaptation of the Greek tragedy ‘Medea’ by Euripides. The primary characters and plot line have been preserved while translating the setting and time period into modern terms. The household is now an early 1990’s-era Midwestern American trailer park. The main character, Maddy, is a part-time biology student and lab assistant while working to take care of the sons left to her by her divorced husband, Jason. He, in turn, is a recently promoted employee of a local injection-molding plastics concern, Creon Plastics, where he is engaged to the owner’s daughter. The Nurse and Tutor from the original play have also been represented as a Babysitter and Handyman.
Maddy- Ex Wife of Jason, mother of two sons
Jason– Divorced from Maddy, engaged to Mr. Creon’s daughter
Dianne– Babysitter, friend of Maddy’s
Gary– Trailer park handyman
Mr. Creon– Owner of plastics company where Jason works, owner of trailer park where Maddy lives.
Boys– Maddy’s two sons
The middle-aged woman sat awkwardly at the table, bent over a single piece of notebook paper on which she was scrawling a letter. She glanced repeatedly at the doorway located at the far end of the room, the single bedroom of the mobile home she was occupying while waiting for the owner to awake. Hearing no such sign, she reread what she had just written.
‘Mom, I don’t even know what to tell you about how things are going here these days. I wonder why I ever moved to this town sometimes, I think maybe I should have stayed back home with you and Dad instead of moving to Corinth. Everyone’s got a drama out here.
I’m making money babysitting on the side, same as before. My friend Maddy’s family, I told you about her last time. They just get worse every time I sit for them. Poor thing came out here with her husband and two kids so they could move into a trailer, because Jason, that’s his name, got some big time job at the plastics factory. A few months later, and he’s left poor Maddy to fend for herself and the boys so he can get hitched to the owner’s daughter. She left everything she had back home to follow him here, and this is how he thanks her.
She’s in school now, too, for biology, and making pretty good money working as a lab assistant. At least good enough to pay me to watch the boys. But I try to talk to her, and she just stares off into space like she doesn’t hear me, same with all her friends. I got a feeling she’s going to do something stupid here soon, and I’m just worried about her kids-“
A knock sounded on the door of the mobile home. The woman left off writing and opened it to reveal the park handyman accompanied by two small boys. These were Maddy’s sons, the same boys the woman had watched yesterday. Waiting for their mother to wake, they had spent part of the day with him doing maintenance.
“Gary! Did these two help you fix that gutter like they promised?”
“That they did, Dianne, and a big help they were. Say, what are you doing hanging around Maddy’s trailer all alone? She home, or am I leaving them with you?”
“Both, I’m afraid. She’s in her room asleep, and I’m just waiting on her to wake up to get paid for yesterday. But I’ll watch these two in the meanwhile. I was just finishing a letter to my folks, gotta keep them up to date on all the going’s on around here.”
“And hasn’t there been some to talk about! How is she, by the way? Any better? I think she was crying to herself in her room when I came for the boys earlier.”
“Maddy’s just Maddy, never been a happy person as long as I’ve known her. But with her situation with Jason and all, well, I’d probably spend some time crying alone, too.”
He leaned closer and lowered his voice so as not be overheard by the woman in the bedroom.
“You know what I heard from the guys down at the bar? Old Creon recently bought the deed to this here trailer park, along with everything else he owns. I guess it ain’t enough that everyone in town works for him at that goddamn plastics plant, he’s gotta have the title to their homes, too. Some of them was thinking that it might just be convenient for him to revoke Maddy’s lease if her bein’ here was awkward for him or his little girl-”
“One more thing for that poor woman to deal with. And these two, as well!” Dianne pointed at the two boys as she said it. “You think Jason’ll let them get thrown out along with her? It’s not like he couldn’t take them in, what with all this money he’s supposed to be making now.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t count on that. I’ve known that weasel long enough to know he only cares about himself. He’s be just as happy to see them all disappear forever as long as he gets a promotion out of it. No, it’s safe to say Maddy’s on her own with them now, whatever becomes of this trailer here.”
Dianne addressed them both directly. “See, you boys, listen to what kind of a man your father is! Leaves you and your poor mother to fend for yourselves, doesn’t even care if you have a place to live or not! Oh, I think we woke her up…”
Maddy emerged from her room. “What’s all this noise? Can’t a woman get some sleep?”
“Sorry, Maddy, didn’t mean to wake you up. The boys just got back from helping out, like you sent ‘em out to do, and I stopped by to get some cash from you.”
“That’s right, I still owe you for yesterday, don’t I? Twenty good enough, Dianne?”
“More than. Thanks.” Speaking to the boys again, she said, “Why don’t you two go out and play some more? I think your Mom needs some study time if she’s going to catch up for school.”
“Okay, let’s go!” said the younger boy to the older one. “Thanks for letting us help, Gary!” he said to the handyman as they bolted out the door.
Maddy said, “Thanks for watching the boys yesterday, Dianne. Had my midterms to catch up for, and I couldn’t have done it without you. Will you be around next few days? I might need you again.”
“That’s just fine, Maddy, I can be here tomorrow if you want.” After a pause, she said, “Look, we’re friends, right?”
Maddy looked up at her, caught off guard by her question. “Yeah, of course. What do you mean?”
“I mean you don’t look well, Not at all. I realize what a toll all this has taken on you, I realize it probably a lot better than you know. There’s too many men like Jason in the world. I just don’t want you to take it out on the boys, that’s all.”
“What makes you think that, Dianne? You think I’m not a good mom, is that it?”
“No, no, not at all, Maddy. It’s just, well, I was kinda where you are now a few years back with Steve. We had a nice house, our daughter was doing well, really healthy, and then things just fell apart. I don’t even know why. I realized then, if I just had an apartment to myself where I could raise her, with nothing fancy, I’d be as happy as I could ask for.”
“That’s easy for you to say, Dianne. You still have somewhere to go back to when you leave here. Jason took me away from where I grew up. I gave up everything back there, I can’t even go home now, my family thinks I’m some sort of traitor for leaving my job with the family business. And it’s not like I can just put those two boys back where they came from. Men never do get that one, do they?”
Dianne laughed. “No, they never seem to. They just go out and drink with their buddies and leave us at home. Anyway, if you’re feeling better, I guess I’ll go home now.”
“Thanks, Dianne.” Once she had left, Maddy laid her head on the table.
The following day, a knock came to the trailer door just before eight in the morning. Maddy arose to answer it. There in the doorway stood the father of Jason’s new bride, Mr. Creon himself.
“Mr. Creon!” Maddy exclaimed. “I – I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“No, I’m sure you didn’t. Can I come in, or is this a bad time?”
“No, no, not at all! Please, have a seat! Can I get you anything?”
He walked in and sat at the table. “I’m fine, thank you. Look, Maddy… that’s your name, right? I’m afraid I’ve only come to know you through your ex-husband, and he doesn’t speak of you much, actually.” On hearing this, Maddy took on a brief expression of rage, and Creon shrank back into his chair on seeing this. But she quickly regained her composure.
“Can I ask what brings you here, Mr. Creon? I would think a man like you would be busy running your factory and all. And with your daughter about to be married-”
“Yes, I’m quite a busy man these days, you’re right about that. But I had a pressing reason to pay you a visit today, you and your sons. How are your boys, by the way?”
“Oh, just fine. In school at the moment.”
“Of course, what was I thinking. At any rate, I have something to give you.” He handed her an envelope. Maddy opened it slowly and read the letter it contained.
“Notice is hereby given on Lot 12 A of Corinth Gardens Park of eviction effective at the end of the current month. Lease on said property is not available for renewal, and tenants residing there are ordered to vacate the premises by the first of the following month.” Maddy looked up at Mr. Creon.
“What does this mean?”
“I would think the letter explained itself. As you probably know by now, I’ve recently acquired the title to this trailer park and all the mobile homes belonging to it. That includes yours. That means I’m your landlord now, Maddy.”
“Well, not for long, it seems, if you’re ordering me to move.”
“No, you’re right, I didn’t come here to try and get rent money out of you. I guess we both know why I’m here.”
“Because of Jason?”
“I would have said because of my daughter, but it comes down to the same thing. I know the two of you didn’t part on the best of terms, and it’s not hard to see why. Their wedding is set for early next month. It’s been brought to my attention that you might complicate the matter for us.”
“Mr. Creon, what are you trying to say here? That you think I’m a threat to your little girl? I have two sons of my own, remember that.”
“Oh, I haven’t forgotten. In fact, that’s exactly why I’m worried. I’ve been in business a long time, Maddy, that plant where Jason works is only my latest venture. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that people do the unexpected when family gets put at risk. I think your present situation with your boys counts, don’t you?”
“I don’t know what you mean. My quarrel is with my husband, not with your daughter.”
“Again, it comes down to the same thing. I have a future to think about, for my business as well as my family. Those things you say down at the bar don’t stay there, I hope you realize that. I know exactly where you stand regarding myself and my family.”
“Mr. Creon, I get a little drunk and angry sometimes just like the rest of us. That doesn’t mean you can throw me and my boys out in the street.”
“Oh, that’s not my intention. You’ll get your deposit back on this unit, at least, plus I think Jason has something for you to help you get out of town. I might even float you and your sons a bus ticket if I can. You can all go back to Colchis City and the boys can grow up with your family.”
“I can’t go back home. Bringing my sons there would be the worst thing I could do to them.”
Creon looked at her blankly for a second. “Wait, I think I remember now. Jason told me something about that. Well, you can go somewhere else, then. But I want you gone by the end of the month.”
“But that’s only a week away! You can’t expect me to pick up and move by then! Can’t I have one more week?”
“It goes against my better judgment, but I guess I can’t really say no to you, given the kids. But I’m warning you, stay away from my family. You can wrap up your business here in Corinth in that time, and I won’t do anything to stop you. But if you try and rent anywhere in this town again, I’ll get you evicted before you even move in. And believe me, I can do it.”
“Well, I guess that’s all I can ask for.”
Maddy sat cross legged in her driveway, an open toolbox in front of her as she worked on her motorcycle. A shadow fell across the bike’s frame and she glanced over her shoulder, only to see Jason standing behind her.
“Well, what brings you here on an afternoon like this? Wanted to take one last look at your family before they skip town?”
“I guess the Boss came by yesterday, at least that’s what he told me.”
“Yeah, old Creon paid me a visit. Gave me notice to get out of Dodge, too. I guess he owns this park now, nobody told me about that. So it looks like me and your sons are going on a bus ride to somewhere, courtesy of Creon Plastics.”
“Cut the shit, Maddy. This is your own fault, and you know it. If you hadn’t spent so much time stirring up trouble down at the bar every night, he wouldn’t have gone out of his way to get rid of you.”
“And what’s your excuse, Jason? Seems you found good reason to get rid of me and your two sons without the benefit of that. I left home and our family business because I believed in you, and this is what I have to show for it. A free trip out of town and a smack on the ass with two grade-schoolers in tow. That’s what I have to show for our marriage, I guess.”
“Our marriage wasn’t working for a long time before that, we both know that’s the truth.”
“You might be right, sweetheart, but I wasn’t the one that gave up. I stayed for the boys, at least. I believed in our family.”
“So did I, and I still do, at least as far as the boys go. I just got tired of living in a trailer, whether with you or not. They deserve better. If I make it here with Creon Plastics I can help take care of them, even if it’s from far away. They can go to school somewhere better than this, and you can move into a better place than what you have here.”
“Oh, I see. This was all just a selfless attempt to make child support payments. The hot young thing with the rich daddy was just a minor detail, obviously. Of course, why didn’t that occur to me?”
“You just can’t stop comparing yourself to her, can you? Might be things like that that drive a husband away, maybe you should think about that one while you’re crying in your beer next time. But that’s not important right now. I want to help you three on your move outta here. If you need some money to leave with, or maybe a place to shack up with the boys in the short term, I think I can call a couple of friends out of town. I can probably arrange something, anyway.”
“No, I don’t want your help, sweetheart. You’ve done enough already. Oh, you’ll get what we both know you really want. Your old family out of the way, that is.”
“Well, I tried, Maddy. You’ve only got yourself to blame now, remember that.” He turned and walked off, leaving her with her motorcycle.
“And we’ll see what kind of a marriage you get for your trouble, Jason.”
“Is Mr. Aegus there?”
“Who should I say is calling?”
“It’s an old friend, my name’s Maddy. Yeah, I’ll wait.” A new voice suddenly blared from the phone receiver.
“Did I hear right? Is this my old girl Madeline? Tell me it’s you, babe!”
“Danny! Is that you? Yeah, damn right it’s Maddy! Good to hear your voice again, sweetheart. I know it’s been a long time.”
“Seven years, if I’m not mistaken. So what brings you to calling my way? Looking to dance again?”
“Well, sort of. Or maybe just wait tables, I don’t know. Look, when I was working for you last, you were just getting that club going in Mexico City. Did that ever get off the ground?”
“Yeah, it did, and in a big way. And I gotta say that a lot of those local girls hardly cut it. Talent like yours is exactly what that joint could use, assuming you still got those legs you were so famous for back then. But if that’s what you’re asking about, I gotta ask you, you in trouble up there where you’re at? Sounds like you’re anxious to work far away instead of at my club here.”
“Well, there is stuff I’m trying to put behind me here in Corinth, I won’t deny that. I guess you never met my husband, Jason, did you?”
“What? You got married?!”
“Was married. He’s left me for his boss’s little girl. And I’m getting kicked out of my trailer for good measure.”
“Well, that is quite a handful to deal with, I’m sure. I see why you want to get away. Tell you what, why don’t you make your way down to my club here in the city, and I’ll see what I can do about getting you working across the border. I might need you to cover a few shifts here first, but I’m sure we can swing it one way or another.”
“Look, I’m really gonna be counting on you when I do show up, so don’t let me down, right?”
“Starting to sound more and more like you’re in trouble, Maddy. Sure I’m not gonna have the cops knocking on my door asking about you?”
“Oh, I’m sure. Its just that this divorce has really taken a toll on me, and I need a new start pretty bad. I’m sure you understand.”
“I do. And I promise I’ll have something waiting for you, even if it’s just waiting tables.”
“Great. Thanks, Danny, I owe you one.”
“No problem. See you soon, Maddy”
Maddy sat in her front room, fidgeting nervously and pulling aside the curtain to check the window repeatedly. Her two sons sat at the kitchen table, staring at their mother and at each other. Finally seeing what she was waiting for, she jumped up and opened the door in haste. Her ex-husband stood in the doorway.
“Jason! I guess you got my message, then.”
“I guess I did. I was really glad to hear you say what you said, darling. I can’t tell you how much it means to us.”
“Well, it was the least I could say, after the way I’ve been acting with all of you. I’m really sorry, Jason. This has just got me all broken up, I hope you understand.”
“Believe me, I do. This hasn’t been any easier on me. Look, Maddy, I know there’s something more you want out of me here. Is it the money? Are you going to be OK traveling with the boys?”
Maddy laughed. “Oh, I’ll be fine traveling, and I’ll be out of this trailer on time, don’t worry about that. But I do want something from you, and it does involve the boys. See, I don’t think they would be best off coming with me right away. I was thinking I might go work somewhere I’d rather not have them around, and maybe you and the new wife could look after them for a little while. You know, you guys could be a family of sorts here in Corinth while I find another place to raise them. Just for a while, of course.”
“I don’t know, Maddy, that’s quite a bit to throw on us right at the start. We’ve got to get our own ties settled, and then there’s Mr. Creon to deal with. I don’t think he’s all that partial to the boys himself.”
“Well, you did say you wanted to help me take care of them.”
“Yes, and I meant it.”
“So I guess it’s just a matter of winning over that new girl of yours to the boys. She could talk her daddy into it, I bet.”
“I’m sure of it, but I don’t know how you’d talk her into it in the first place.”
“I bet I know. What if I gave her that dress you bought me for my last birthday? You know, the one I’ve never worn? It’s still in the closet in my room. And what if one of the boys gave it to her? I bet she’d just love that. You can tell her it’s from me, too. Just to let her know how much happiness I wish for you both. I mean it.”
“Oh, now, wait, Maddy. That dress was for you. I mean, I think you’re getting a little carried away here…”
“Nonsense, sweetheart! This is just my way of saying I’m giving you up for her. Believe me, she’s a woman, she’ll understand, you’ll see it in her eyes.”
Jason shifted uneasily. “I suppose it’ll be alright. It’ll give her a chance to meet the boys, too. She hasn’t yet. Okay, get ‘em saddled up, and I’ll bring them by the house. The wedding rehearsal is tomorrow night. I guess that’ll make her a nice present to get things going.”
Maddy went into her room and returned with the dress in a plastic bag. She handed it to her older son.
“Here you go, babe, take this with you and follow Daddy. He’s gonna introduce you to your new mommy, and it’s very important that you give this present just to her. Nobody else, understand? And don’t open the bag, either, it’s just for her.” The boy nodded silently. “And when you come home again, you tell Mommy what a good job you did. I want to hear all about your new family.”
Maddy leaned forward in her lawn chair and ran her hands through her younger son’s hair. She looked carefully over him and the older one and said, “You two are so beautiful. The only good thing your dad ever gave me was you boys. Here I spent all this time raising the both of you, hoping you’d go to school here in Corinth, grow up, get married, and me and him could watch you grow up into young men. Maybe you could stay here without me now, I don’t know, but I don’t want to just give you to that little cheerleader your daddy dumped me for. Or else I can take you out of town with me, and you can grow up at truck stops. Maybe I can find you another daddy that’ll jilt me, too.”
The park handyman approached the three of them slowly. Maddy took notice of him and saw that he seemed nervous, appearing to want to speak yet unable to. She said, “Afternoon, Gary!”
He didn’t answer at first, and then finally said, “Maddy, you hear about what happened over at the Creon house yesterday?”
“No, tell me.”
“Well I guess they were doing the rehearsal for that wedding, and something happened to the bride. I guess she died.”
“Died? What do you mean?” Maddy responded impassively.
“I mean she’s dead. And no one’s exactly sure why yet, but there’s this story going around about how you had somethin’ to do with it. Not that I believe that, mind you.”
“Why? How’s anyone think I hurt her? What happened?”
“From what I hear, they was all finished with the rehearsal, and her and your Jason were dancing to some record they had saved for the wedding. She wanted to try on the dress your little boy gave her-”
“Stop, wait, don’t say anything more!” she shouted at him. Turning to her boys, she said, “Kids, go inside and wait for Mommy. We got some grownup stuff to discuss here.” Without a word, both the boys scurried into the trailer and closed the door. Maddy looked back at him again.
“Like I was sayin’, she puts on the dress, and they start whirling away, and then everybody sees her stumble and fall backwards and hit her head on the church floor. Went into some kinda seizure. Jason tried giving her CPR or something, but she just kept on flopping around on the floor. By the time the ambulance got to her she was dead. Just like that.”
“So she died in convulsions, that’s what your telling me? And I’m getting blamed?”
“Well, everyone knows how you felt towards the two of them with Jason leaving you. And there she was, dead and wearing your dress…I guess folks are gonna think what they want to. Look, I ain’t sayin’ nothing as far as all that, but if I was you, I’d split town in a hurry.” Maddy watched him disappear down the street and then entered the trailer herself.
“Now, boys, Mom’s gonna play a little game with you two, alright? You both want to play a fun game?” Maddy spoke in a deadpan voice to her sons as they sat at the kitchen table staring back apprehensively. They both knew something was wrong; they had never heard their mother speak like this.
“What’s the game, Mom?” asked the younger one.
“We’ll call it ‘escape,’ how’s that sound. It’s about getting free.”
“How do we play it?” asked the older boy.
“Real simple. I’ve got this clothesline here, see?” She pulled several severed lengths of thin rope from under the table as she said it. It was the same line that had been hanging in the backyard of their trailer the day before. “Now I want you to tie up your brother’s hands behind him on the chair, not so as to hurt him, just make sure it’s tight enough he can’t get out of it right away. And then I’m gonna do the same with you. Then, when I say ‘Go,’ you both try and get loose, and the first one that gets out of his chair gets ice cream for a whole week. How does that sound?”
Both the boys looked back at her nervously. The thought it sounded terrifying, actually, but neither one wanted to say so, given how their mother looked at them standing over the table.
Jason approached Maddy in the driveway of the trailer, staring silently at her, open-mouthed. She leaned over her bike, several tools lying about her on the driveway, wiping the motorcycle’s upper frame. She sneered at him as she put them back into her toolbox. The job was done now.
“I can’t believe you’re still here, Maddy. You know the cops are coming for you soon, don’t you?”
“What are you talking about, sweetheart? Oh, and how are things with the new family? I heard something happened to the girl yesterday.”
“Something happened alright. She’s dead. I know it was you, too. Probably something you cooked up in your school, I bet. She died as soon as she put on that dress of yours. I don’t know how, but I know it was you. We all do, and you can bet you’ll be in jail as soon as the autopsy goes through.”
“Oh, I’m not too worried there. I should be memory here in Corinth awhile before that.” She pulled a small revolver from the bottom drawer of the toolbox and pointed it at him.
“So that’s what it comes down to, Maddy? You gonna kill me too? I guess you just can’t get enough. And you wonder why I left you.”
“That’s the thing, Jason, I don’t wonder a bit. I know exactly why. You think women are here for you to use for whatever you want. You men think you can throw us away and make excuses after you’re finished with us. Well, it didn’t work this time. Everything you used me to get, I just took away from you. Everything, I mean.”
“You damned Harpy! How did you do it? I need to know. She just died there on the floor, foaming at the mouth…”
“Heart medication, that’s how. Any idea how much digitalis you gotta get in your skin before your ticker blows up? Less than you can get wearing a dress soaked in it, I can tell you that much!”
“You’re gonna burn for this, Maddy! I’m gonna see to it! I’m gonna take those boys back from you, and you’re going away for the rest of-”
“Funny you mention the boys, Jason, seeing as how that’s the next thing I was about to show you. They’re right there in the trailer, if you want to take ‘em home with you.”
“What’s that stink, Maddy? You leave the oven on? Oh, my god, the boys are-” He kicked open the door and rushed inside, pulling both of the limp bodies of his sons and the chairs they were tied to out onto the lawn while coughing.
“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!? YOU STUPID EVIL BITCH, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY BOYS!”
“Just what you wanted, husband. Got them out of your way. Don’t worry, your little cheerleader would never have taken to them anyway. Not that she matters anymore, either.” Maddy kickstarted her bike and stuffed the revolver in her coat pocket. “Hope you’re happy with the divorce settlement, Jason. I’ve got a trip to take.”