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Too Good to be True cover artwork features a mother bird bringing food to two baby birds sitting in a cardboard box.

Read an excerpt from Too Good to be True

By Jessica Lewis Date: February 08, 2022 Tags: Excerpts

Cliff Cardinal, the acclaimed author of Huff & Stitch, is back with a new dark comedy about the lies we tell each other in order to make the best of a desperate situation. 

In Too Good to be True, Maria and her kids—Lisa, a pregnant teenager, and Jude, an excitable preteen—are on the run following the murder of Lisa’s rapist. As the police close in, Maria is determined to give her kids a last supper that prepares them for everything they’re going to need to survive in the world without her.

This excerpt is the first scene of the play, in which the family arrives at a new home and are discussing what’s next.

***

Maria is holding a “For Sale” sign.

MARIA: Come on in, kids.

Beat.

Welcome home.

JUDE: Whoa.
This house is awesome.

Beat.

LISA: Sure is.

Beat.

JUDE: If there’s a top bunk, can I have dibs?

Beat.

LISA: Mom, who lives here?

Beat.

MARIA: We do.

Beat.

LISA: We do.

MARIA: We do.

LISA: Whoa, no way.

Beat.

Maria is carrying as much baggage as she can, and then a little bit more.

MARIA: This is your house, honey.

LISA: Wow.
Mom . . . seriously.

MARIA: Seriously.

Beat.

LISA: Well . . . whose furniture is this?

Beat.

MARIA: Ours.

Beat.

JUDE: Awesome.

Beat. 

MARIA: The house is staged.
The realtor brings in sparse bits of furniture so families can project their own hopes and dreams.

Can you feel the warmth?

LISA: Yeah.
I can.

JUDE: We’re like those families on Home Makeover.

Beat.

MARIA: Yeah.

Beat.

JUDE: Where their house is broken, but the production company shows up and gives them an amazing new house that they didn’t really earn, but you feel like they deserve anyway.

Beat.

MARIA: Our house is not broken.

JUDE: Our house is a van.

Beat.

LISA: Mom, we really live here.

MARIA: Yes.

Beat.

I mean the paperwork isn’t finished yet.

Beat. 

But we live here now.

Beat. 

JUDE: The fridge has a built-in icemaker.

LISA: When till the paperwork is done?

JUDE: The coffee maker has a frothing wand.

LISA: When till the mortgage is paid?

JUDE: There’s a bathroom. 

Beat.

LISA: When— There is?

Beat.

MARIA: Nothing too good for my kids.

Beat.

LISA: But how can we afford this?

Beat.

MARIA: I didn’t want you to find out like this.

Maria rolls her shoulders.
Thunder and lightning.

But houses are inexpensive if a horrific tragedy occurs inside.

Beat.

Like if an entire family is stabbed to death as they sleep.

Beat.

Or if they commit mass suicide by imbibing a mixture of cyanide, tranquilizers and Kool-Aid.

Beat.

Or even if somebody leaves the gas stove on and everybody asphyxiates face down in steaming bowls of oatmeal. 

LISA: But hmm . . .

Beat.

MARIA: It’s terrible when that happens.

Beat.

But the upside is: these houses become very affordable.

LISA: But hmm . . .

Jude touches his penis.

MARIA: Do you have to pee? 

Beat.

JUDE: No.

MARIA: Then stop touching your penis.

JUDE: I’m not touching my penis.

Beat. 

Oh, yeah. 

Beat.

LISA: So, if we live here, is he going back to school?

MARIA: Yes.

Beat.

Eventually.

Beat.

LISA: If he doesn’t go to school, everyone will think we’re inbred.

Beat.

JUDE: How come only I have to go to school?
How come she doesn’t have to go back to school?

Beat. 

MARIA: Your sister’s gonna have a full-time job as a mom.

Beat.

And also she must take time to find healing.

Beat.

Honey, after what you’ve been through, you can’t expect to—

LISA: So you’re going to home-school him.

MARIA: Yes.

Beat.

Home-school.
Home-school on the fly.

Beat.

LISA: Is there an official paper you’re supposed to get?

MARIA: We don’t need some paper that shows how smart we are.

JUDE: Colleges might.

Beat.

MARIA: Haven’t you been learning a lot. 

Beat.

All that history, at those national monuments.
All that math, calculating the miles to the next hotel.

Beat.

I’ve taught you both how to drive.

Beat.

You wouldn’t have learned that in fourth grade.

Beat.

Now, for the first lesson in the great Maria Grace home-school experiment: living every day like it’s the last episode of the season.

Beat.

JUDE: Whoa, awesome.
The last episode of the season is where the whole world almost falls apart but then the hero risks it all to save what he cares about most.

Beat.

MARIA: That’s right.

Beat.

MARIA: I’ve still got a few more tricks to show you.
Then we’ll go back to school.

Beat.

JUDE: I have a question I’ve been meaning to ask you.

Beat.

MARIA: Let the home-schooling begin.

Beat.

JUDE: What’s a fugitive?

Beat.

Beat.

Beat.

MARIA: A fugitive is someone who wants to clear their name.

Beat.

JUDE: That’s not what she said.
She said a fugitive is someone who everyone is chasing because they want to know all about you. 

Beat.

LISA: That’s celebrities . . . not fugitives.

Beat.

JUDE: What’s the difference between fugitives and celebrities? 

Beat.

MARIA: Public opinion.

Beat.

JUDE: Hmm . . .

Beat.

LISA: Mom, I need to know, no kidding: is this our—

MARIA: Yes.

Why do you keep asking me that?

LISA: It just seems . . .
Doesn’t it?

JUDE: What?

Beat.

LISA: A little too good to be true.

Beat.

JUDE: Nope.

Beat.

MARIA: Honey, nothing is too good for you.

Beat.

Now grab the rest of your stuff.

Rock music.

Jude exits.

Lisa exits.

Maria exits.

Beat.

Lisa moves a suitcase into the bedroom, off.

Jude moves a suitcase into the bedroom, off.

Jude enters smoking a joint.

Beat.

Lisa enters with a box.

Jude gives the joint to Lisa, takes a box and exits. 

Lisa smokes the joint.

Maria enters.

Lisa gives the joint to Maria and exits.

Maria smokes the joint.

Jude enters with a frilly valise.

Maria takes the frilly valise, hands Jude the joint and exits. 

Jude smokes the joint.

The lights fade out.

***

Want to know what happens next? Get your copy of Too Good to be True now!

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