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In This Life

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JACK is in the staff lounge, getting coffee. It has been a few days since he had to spend the night in the hospital. He has recovered from the pneumonia and is feeling a little stronger, but today is finally the day when he will be meeting with DR. PATRICK to get the results of his latest round of chemo. He is anxious about finding out and is not really sure anymore whether to expect good news or bad news.

A nurse walks in and sees JACK drinking coffee. She gives him a strange look for being in the staff lounge.

JACK: (laughing nervously) Good morning.

NURSE: (eyeing him with suspicion) Do you work here?

JACK: (fiddling with his tie) Uh... no.

NURSE: Then you can't be in here-

JACK: Look, I was once on the board right here at University Hospital... I believe that gives me lifetime privileges to the coffee here?

He smiles, but she does not laugh at his joke and just leaves. As she goes out the door, JACK raises his cup to her in annoyance.

JACK: And you have a nice day too.

He picks up a newspaper that someone left on the counter, but sees it is THE CHRONICLE and rolls his eyes and puts it back. He hears the door behind him open and assumes it's a doctor or another nurse.

JACK: (without turning around) All right, all right, I know I'm not supposed to be in here, but-

ALICE: (laughs) Oh, Jack... You are a wonder!

JACK turns around when he hears her voice.

JACK: Mrs. Horton!

ALICE: Don't worry, if they try to kick you out of here, I'll just tell them you're with me--how's that?

JACK smiles.

ALICE: So, how are you feeling these days? You gave us all a scare last week.

JACK: To tell you the truth, I gave myself quite a scare last week. But I'm up and about again, good as new. Well... not quite good as new, but... (weak smile) sufficient enough, I suppose.

He grows quiet, once again remembering his appointment later with DR. PATRICK. ALICE notes his silence and guesses why.

ALICE: Today's the day you find out your results, isn't it?

JACK nods without saying anything.

ALICE: What time is your appointment?

JACK: It's not for another hour and a half. (laughs) You know me, never late for anything. Well, except my own wedding, but I had an excuse-

ALICE: (smiling) Jack, darling, it's all right. You don't have to put up a brave front for me. I know how anxious you must be.

JACK: (pretends to wave it off) Oh, on the contrary, Mrs. Horton. This is all just routine to me now. I've been through the whole process many times before. It's really second nature at this point.

ALICE: (knowing he's lying, but not wanting to put him on the spot) Is Jennifer here?

JACK: (clears throat) No, she's coming later. She had volunteered a few weeks ago to chaperone a field trip at Abigail's school, and unfortunately she couldn't get out of it. She'll meet me here before my appointment.

Nervously, he squeezes the empty coffee cup in his hand and tosses it in the garbage. He is avoiding ALICE'S eyes because he knows she will be able to tell how scared he is.

JACK: (begins to ramble) You know something? This room could use a bit of a facelift. This color is really... well, it's right out of the 80's, it's-

ALICE: Jack...

JACK: I mean it looks exactly the same as the last time I was in here--stealing the staff coffee, of course, just as I always do (laughs). I'm really surprised they haven't tried to kick me out of here before-

ALICE: Jack!

She touches his arm, and he finally stops babbling. He slowly looks at her, and she gives him a smile.

ALICE: Darling, I can tell you need someone to talk to right now. Why don't you talk to me?

OUT on JACK'S discomfort.



ALICE knows JACK needs someone to talk to right now, but JACK is uncomfortable talking about any of this.

JACK: (nervous laugh) Uh... You really shouldn't feel obligated to humor me, Mrs. Horton-

ALICE: I'm not humoring you-

JACK: Really, it's fine, I mean, I already talked to my mother this morning and she gave me the requisite pep talk, and-

ALICE: Jack!

JACK: Y-Yes... Yes?

ALICE: I know how difficult it is for you to open up to people. But I'd like to think I'm not just anyone, Jack. We're family. You're like a grandson to me, and... I love you.

JACK is touched to hear this, but also embarrassed.

ALICE: I'd like to help you if I can. If you'll let me. (beat) Will you let me?

JACK: That's... really very kind of you, Mrs. Horton.

ALICE: I'd do the same for any one of my grandchildren if they needed me.

JACK turns away from her and begins to fiddle with the tower of coffee cups.

ALICE: Jack? Are you scared?

JACK: No, not really... (decides to give up the pretense, sighs) All right yes, a little. A lot. A whole lot.

He slowly turns around to face her.

JACK: But I'm not really scared for myself. I mean, surprisingly, I've come to terms with the possibility of dying, I have. (laughs) I mean we all have to die sometime, right?

ALICE is hurting for him as she listens to him speak.

JACK: That's not really what bothers me. But what I do spend nights thinking about is... the people I leave behind... That's my M.O., isn't it? I leave when the going gets tough, and the poor, unfortunate souls I leave in my wake are the ones cursed to pick up the pieces. Clean up my mess. (beat) I always leave behind a mess...

ALICE: What you will leave behind--when the time comes, and I do believe that time isn't for a long time from now--is a legacy, Jack. You will leave behind people who love you and will miss you always. Not a mess to clean up-

JACK: Oh come now, Mrs. Horton, let's be perfectly honest. Let's review my track record, shall we? What happened the first time I left? The newspaper I loved got run into the ground and my wife had to use up her trust fund to keep it from sinking. I almost lost her too, but somehow I was lucky enough that she forgave me and took me back. Then there was the next time, when I left her and our daughter--just when they needed me the most. I drove my mother to go live with my sister because I wasn't there for her. And still, I was somehow given another chance to get my act together and what did I do? I blew it again. I kept my wi--Jennifer in the dark for months. Months. I just couldn't let her know what was going on with me and once again I hurt her when I've promised her over and over I wouldn't.

ALICE: Jennifer understood each time, Jack. She loves you, and she's given you those chances willingly-

JACK: Even though I didn't deserve them.

ALICE: (touches his arm) No, Jack, that's where you're wrong. You did deserve them. It's always been hard for you to see it, but you are a good person. Someone who deserves happiness.

JACK: So do they, Mrs. Horton. Jennifer. Abigail. My mother, my sister. So do they. And once again, I may have to leave them-

ALICE: Darling, listen to me. (takes his hands in hers) This is not your fault. None of this is your fault, and none of this is in your hands. All we can do is pray.

JACK: (smiles) Well, I don't think I'm someone the man upstairs is going to want to hear from-

ALICE: I'm going to pray, Jennifer is going to pray--we're all going to pray, do you understand? Miracles happen all the time, Jack. And if there's anyone who deserves one, it's you.

JACK starts to say something, but she interrupts him.

ALICE: Now, I've got some patients to visit... So I want you to promise me something.

JACK: What's that?

ALICE: That you'll think positively. And you'll come find me as soon as you talk to Dr. Patrick. Will you do that for me?

JACK: How can I resist such a request?

ALICE: (laughs) Good. (kisses him on the cheek) I'll see you later, then.

JACK watches her leave, then he takes a deep breath and pours himself another cup of coffee.

JACK: Nothing like caffeine to calm one's nerves...

He is startled to hear voices behind him.

DUKE: Hey, what are you still doing in here?

HARPER: Yeah, haven't you learned by now that this is a restricted area?

JACK: (not recognizing the voices at first) All right, I'll leave-

He turns around and is shocked to see his two dads standing in front of him, almost spilling his coffee as a result.

JACK: Oh no... Not again...



DUKE and HARPER have materialized again, and JACK is not happy to see them.

JACK: (closing his eyes, muttering to himself) I'm not seeing them, I'm not seeing them... They're just a figment of my twisted imagination...

DUKE: (to HARPER) What's he saying? Why's he acting like we don't exist?

HARPER: I don't know, you'd think a son would be happy to see his fathers. He always was an ingrate...

JACK opens his eyes, and is disappointed that he is still seeing them.

JACK: Oh come on now, I didn't throw thousands of dollars into therapy to get my head sorted out, my karma cleaned just to see you two kooks again!

HARPER: Hey, just who are you calling a kook?

DUKE: Well, we are a little off kilter-

HARPER: Says who? Speak for yourself, you low-life, I am a U.S. Senator-

DUKE: Who are you calling a low-life, you serial killer!

HARPER: Wife-beater!

DUKE: Sterile old-

JACK: Both of you just shut up and leave me alone!

DUKE and HARPER both stop talking at the same time, surprised at JACK'S outburst.

DUKE: Well, what do you know, our boy's finally grown a spine!

HARPER: (impressed) Yes, yes, I've noticed... Oh son, you've finally done it. You've finally made me proud of you!

JACK: (looking away in disgust) You'll excuse me if I don't jump for joy upon hearing that.

They reappear before him. JACK turns away again, but they keep appearing wherever he looks. Finally, JACK gives up and sighs.

JACK: All right, will you please tell me what the hell you're doing here?

DUKE: Jackie boy, I thought we told you never to use the "h" word. He (pointing downwards) doesn't like it.

JACK: I don't give a-

HARPER: Jack, Jack... Don't talk to your father that way.

DUKE: We came to see you because you need us right now.

JACK: (laughs in disbelief) What on earth would make you think that?

HARPER: Son, isn't it obvious? What with you so close to buying the farm, we thought we'd pop up and... reassure you.

JACK: (dryly) About what?

HARPER: About where you'll be going...

He exchanges broad grins with DUKE, then gestures downward. JACK looks down and shakes his head, then begins to back away.

JACK: Oh no... Oh no, no, no... I am not going anywhere where you two are-

DUKE: Oh, Jackie boy, don't be a wuss! It's not so bad down there! All you need is lots of sunscreen...

He and HARPER laugh hysterically.

JACK: Look--first of all, I am not ready to die. I mean, Mrs. Horton just told me that I can't give up hope! And second of all, there is no way that I am going to be rotting in hell-

HARPER: Uh, uh, uh... What did we tell you about using the "h" word? You can't be offending your future landlord, you know-

JACK: I am not about to leave Jennifer and Abigail again, do you understand me? Not if I can help it!

DUKE and HARPER just laugh at him.

JACK: I'm not! I'm not leaving them again!

HARPER: Whatever you say, son... Whatever you say...

DUKE and HARPER continue to laugh hysterically as they begin to fade.

JACK: I'm not...

He realizes they're gone. JENNIFER walks in as JACK continues to stare at the spot where DUKE and HARPER were standing.

JENNIFER: You're not... what, Jack?

JACK: Jennifer...

He reaches for her, and pulls her into a hug, which surprises her.

JENNIFER: Jack, what is it? What's wrong, did you already talk to Dr. Patrick?

JACK: (pulling away to talk to her) No... No, I...


JACK: I'm all right. (takes a deep breath to get his bearings) I'm just... glad you're here.

JENNIFER: Me too. (takes his hand) You ready?

JACK: Ready as I'll ever be.

They walk out the door to go see DR. PATRICK.



JACK and JENNIFER are sitting at DR. PATRICK'S desk, holding hands. They are anxiously waiting to hear the results. DR. PATRICK comes in, carrying a folder, and JACK and JENNIFER start to get up, but he gestures for them to stay seated.

DR. PATRICK: No, it's all right, please don't get up. (sits down opposite them and smiles) I know this has been very difficult for you to wait these last couple of weeks. And, not that there's ever an easy time for this, but I know it's been especially tough for you both with this coming during the holidays...

JACK: Yes, it's tough to really celebrate with this hanging over our heads, so to speak.

DR. PATRICK: I understand. And now with Christmas coming up-

JACK: Uh, Dr. Patrick, you'll forgive me if I ask you to cut to the chase, but I think we can skip the formalities now, don't you?

DR. PATRICK: (smiles) You know, you remind me a lot of my brother. He never could wait to hear good news either.

JENNIFER: Good news? Wait--did you just say good news?

DR. PATRICK: Yes, Mrs. Deveraux. Good news. (to JACK) The second round took. (beat) You're in remission.

JENNIFER lets out a small yelp of joy. JACK is just overwhelmed with profound relief and doesn't quite know whether he can believe it yet.

JENNIFER: Is it... I mean, are you absolutely sure...

DR. PATRICK: I can bore you with the exact medical lingo in a little bit, but yes, this is the news I know both of you have been waiting and hoping for. Congratulations, Jack. You've beaten it.

JACK still can not speak. He just looks at DR. PATRICK and smiles, but the emotions just wash over him and he finally starts to cry. He turns to JENNIFER and embraces her tightly, and they both cry.



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