[[SFX: Driving in a car. Music fades in.]
TOMAS: We’re almost to the house, we set up the couch for you. The spare bedroom got turned into a part storage room part workshop. Sorry about that. [beat] Peri?
[[SFX: The piano music cues. She’s asleep. The phone buzzes. Tomas picks up.]]
TOMAS: Hello my love… Yep, picked her up safe and sound. She’s sleeping… I haven’t asked, figured she’d get to that in her own time… Don’t know if it’s even our business to know, Monica… I had a feeling, I’ll leave the porch light on for you… Oh. Okay. I’ll let her know in the morning then. We’re just pulling up now, love you, see you when you get home.
[[SFX: He parks, pulling the parking break.]]
[[SFX: Two children’s voices fade in, echoey. They play a handclap game.]]
YOUNG ACE: Please let me show how fast I can run. How fast I can run. How fast I can run. Wait until the count five and run to the fence. Run to the fence. Run to the fence. If you’re last to run back you become --
YOUNG PERI: Please let me show how fast I can run. How fast I can run. How fast I can run. Wait until the count five and run to the fence. Run to the fence. Run to the fence. If you’re last to run back you become --
TATTERED WOMAN: The ghost.
[[SFX: Peri gasps and wakes up, sitting up on a couch with creaky springs. Tomas makes breakfast in the kitchen nearby.]]
TOMAS: There she is. Hope you slept okay. Your mother already left to open up the shop. How about you and I eat breakfast and I’ll show you around town. There’s a farmers market I try to make every Saturday then maybe we can swing by the shop and mom can show you around?
PERI: [yawning] Um, okay.
TOMAS: What do you want on your eggs?
[[SFX: He opens a fridge.]]
TOMAS: We have salsa, salsa verde, ketchup, hot sauce, barbecue sauce, mustard- was it you or your brother who liked barbecue sauce on everything?
PERI: Um, I’m going to the bathroom.
[[SFX: She gets up from the couch.]]
[[SFX: A carnival fades in. the creak of a ferris wheel.]]
RUTH: Heyhey, it’s okay. I’ll hold your hand. Just sit back, try to count the stars in Andromeda and maybe sing-
TATTERED WOMAN: Oh my darlin’ Oh my darlin’ Oh my darlin’ Clementine
[[SFX: Peri washes her hands and splashes water on her face. Clears her throat. Lets out a breath.]]
PERI: [singing but an unpleasant ringing spikes] Oh my--
[[SFX: She clears her throat again. More ringing, like feedback.]]
PERI: Oh-- mmmm…..
[[SFX: She turns on the faucet again. Splashes more water on her face. Takes some deep breaths. Pats her face dry.]]
[[SFX: Peri and her father walk amidst the stalls of a farmers market, people chat in the background.]]
TOMAS: Festival’s in a couple weeks. Your mom’s been doing overtime getting in adjustments on people’s costumes. I keep trying to lighten the load but she chases me out of the shop with scissors every time. [Peri laughs] As if I wasn’t the one who started the business but what do I know?
[[SFX: He stops walking in front of a fruit stall.]]
TOMAS: Hey, Sara! How’s it going?
SARA: So good, we got more chickens and they’re giving us a run for our money.
TOMAS: I told you, ya gotta stop letting them watch that claymation movie. Next thing you know, they’ll be flying the coop in an airplane!
SARA: [chuckles] I never have any idea what you're talking about. So! Who’s this?
TOMAS: My daughter, Hesperia. Hesperia, this is Sara, finest supplier of eggs and sweet potatoes in town.
SARA: More like county unless you have a superior vender I don’t know about over in Felicity.
TOMAS: Never, your chickens are unmatched.
PERI: [laughing] More like unhatched!
PERI: More like unhatched because... they’re eggs?
SARA: We don’t sell fertilized eggs so… there’s nothing to be unhatched.
PERI: Oh, yeah, right, um, sorry, I thought, mm, nevermind.
SARA: Right. Well it’s nice to meet you, Hesperia. [to TOMAS] Do you want the usual?
TOMAS: Don’t know what else I’m gonna put in these bags I brought.
[[SFX: Sara laughs.]]
SARA: $8.17 please.
[[SFX: He hands over a bill.]]
TOMAS: Here you are, exact change as per usual.
PERI: That’s a ten, dad.
TOMAS: Like I said, exact change.
SARA: Thank you!
TOMAS: See you next week Sara! And tell your sister my joke about the chicken movie, she’ll know what I’m talking about!
[[SFX: They continue walking.]]
TOMAS: I know, this place must be small compared to where you’ve been but your mom and I like it. Happy to see you’re doing okay walking about though I’m sure you’ve been okay for a while considering where you flew in from. What’s that saying? Little bird flying the coop?
PERI: Uh, leaving the nest.
TOMAS: Right, right. Anyway, how’d you, uh, find yourself way out there?
PERI: Why is there an entire booth dedicated to olive oil?
TOMAS: You should see the honey booth. Oh sure they act sweet, but they’ll smile while they shove samples down your throat.
[[SFX: They stroll. The sounds of a busker grow along with that ringing. Peri winces.]]
TOMAS: Anyway, you know you can, ah, you can talk to us, right? We’re so proud of you Peri, for… for getting out there but we know something happened and--
PERI: What is that?
TOMAS: What’s what?
PERI: There’s a weird noise.
[[SFX: They walk by the busker.]]
PERI: They’re not very good.
TOMAS: Really? I’ve always been fond of Gene’s playing. Maybe there’s some feedback that these old ears can’t pick up.
PERI: Can we go somewhere quieter?
[[SFX: The market din is quieter, birds chirp.]]
TOMAS: How’re you doing?
TOMAS: We’re right by the ice cream shop, I can get something for you. Maybe something for mom too since the shop’s just around the corner? We could stop by?
PERI: Ummm, well, okay.
[[SFX: She stands.]]
TOMAS: Nono, it’s okay, I’ll get it! I live to serve. Give that leg of yours a rest. Lemon sherbert, right?
TOMAS: I’ll be right back.
[[SFX: He leaves. Peri remains seated, immersing herself in the sounds of the market.]]
[[SFX: Hesperia paces, on an old spiral cord phone. A familiar memory.]]
PERI: I shouldn’t worry? What the heck is wrong with you Mom! Ace hasn’t come home for the past two weeks and you tell me not to worry? Something happened! He works on the water, maybe he fell in and drowned and it’s a cover up or someone took him at the gas station or he fell while on a hike and his body is rotting and covered in maggots as we speak and you won’t even be in the same state as your distressed daughter? Fine, fine go talk to dad, talk talk talk and do absolutely nothing.
[[SFX: She slams the phone down. Sits down and cries.]]
PER: I want… I want… I just want my mom…. I just want my mom and dad.
[[SFX: Her father approaches.]]
TOMAS: Alright, lemon sherbert for you and a rocky road for me and I got an extra spoon in case you wanted to try mine, it’s hands down the best ice cream I’ve ever had.
PERI: Um, can we go?
TOMAS: Oh, I was gonna have us drop off your mom’s cinnamon swirl.
PERI: Oh, um, y’know, mom actually stopped by, um, cause I saw her getting food… for her team.. um and she said that they were just, oof, reeeally busy and that we should probably stop by not today but… y’know, another…. another day.
TOMAS: I see. Okay, okay that’s fine. We’ll visit maybe after the festival next weekend, things should slow down by then. Uh, you wanna check out the library before heading back?
TOMAS: Just so you know, you are now obligated to share mom’s ice cream with me.
TOMAS: The library’s got a big no food policy and I’ll be damned if we let this sugar go to waste.
PERI: [laughing] Okay dad.
[[SFX: They trundle along in the car. Peri turns a page in a book.]]
TOMAS: Quite the stack you got.
[[SFX: She turns another page.]]
TOMAS: Be sure to return them on time. Or they’ll hunt you down at night and take them back by force! Librarians have incredible senses of smell for overdue library books. Your mother tried to get me cologne that smelled like old books and I said Monica, unless you want me to get kidnapped by those nefarious librarians, we’ve got to swap this out for something floral. And then she said… what did she say, hold on, it was funny.
[[SFX: She takes a breath and closes her book at her father’s attempt at humor.]]
TOMAS: Right. [sighs] Hesperia. I know it must be pretty obvious that… that your mother and I have questions. We love you and so, we’re…. concerned. About whatever happened. You made it pretty clear a few years ago that you wanted nothing to do with us beyond paying rent but then you turn up out of nowhere and I know you were hurt but…
[[SFX: He trails off. Continues driving. Turns on his turn signal. Peri doesn’t respond.]]
TOMAS: You’ve never been much of a talker but this takes the cake. I was hoping… I swear, these conversations are usually easier in the car for some reason. [beat]
Hes-- Peri. I don’t want to push, I just. I want you to know that you can talk to us. Me and your mom. We haven’t always gotten things right and I’m sorry for that.
[[SFX: He pulls over. Parks.
Give your brain as much time as it needs, and when you’re ready, we’re ready to listen.
[[SFX: They both get out of the car.]]
[[SFX: Soft jazz floats in from the kitchen as Peri reads in another room.]]
TOMAS: Peri! Dinner’s ready.
[[SFX: Peri closes her comic book, gets up and walks over. She pauses, retraces her steps, turns off the jazz music as the ringing sound lurks beneath it. Takes a seat as her father plates the food.]]
TOMAS: And there we go, piping hot and delicious, I decided to try something new with the spices, you’ll have to tell me how it pans out.
[[SFX: He places dishes on the table.]]
PERI: Is mom not joining us?
TOMAS: Ah, no, I don’t think so. She’s been working late.
PERI: Uh huh, right.
TOMAS: You should really see the costumes she’s making though, it’s like a thousand bright colors just flying about. Too bad we couldn’t go to the shop, it’s something to see it all come together.
PERI: Yeah, too bad… But I mean, I’ve already seen you and her doing that stuff, so you know, I kind of already get the gist.
TOMAS: That’s true, that’s true.
[[SFX: Silence. Only the sounds of eating.]]
PERI: Can you pass the salt please?
[[SFX: He passes her the salt and she shakes some onto her food.]]
TOMAS: You know, I was gonna wait for this until after dinner but what the heck.
[[SFX: He jumps up. Walks over and grabs a case, brings it back to the table.]]
TOMAS: Check it out, kiddo.
[[SFX: He sets it down and opens it.]]
PERI: Oh. Um, thank you.
TOMAS: We figured it might be nice to… I mean we weren’t sure if you’ve been practicing at all recently but it might be nice to hear a violin in the house again.
PERI: Thanks, dad.
TOMAS: Yeah, well, thank your mom when you see her. It was actually her idea.
PERI: A peace offering, huh.
TOMAS: … yes. I suppose so. She usually favors gestures over words.
PERI: Hey, dad?
PERI: I’m sorry it’s hard to talk about things.
TOMAS: It’s alright, Peri. You know the door is always open, whenever you’re ready. Dear old dad is a patient guy.
PERI: No, I mean. I don’t think… you're not the person that I need to talk things out with. And that’s okay. I like that you’re the person who will take me to the farmers market and get me lemon sherbert. I really like that and I think that’s what I need from you and I’m sorry if you were hoping to be needed in a different way but… that’s how it is. Right now at least.
TOMAS: Peri, you don’t need to apologize. Look, I’m your dad who wants to give you the world but if all you need right now is lemon sherbert, that’s okay too.
PERI: I love you, dad.
TOMAS: I love you too, Peri.
[[SFX: Evening in the neighborhood. A dog barks. Peri opens the front door. Walks down a couple steps and sits. She turns on the walkie talkie. Click.]]
PERI: Peri to Benny, over.
PERI: [more confidently] Peri to Benny, over.
[[SFX: She waits.]]
PERI: I know… I know you probably can’t hear me. After I radio’d you at the airport, I think I was afraid to try again. But I read your paper airplane. You’re trying so I will too.
I’m with my parents…. Huh, I thought I was going to have more to say than that.
Something happened… after. After the fall, after the hospital, after my phone call to my fam- to my parents. Benny, I can’t… I don’t want to say it directly because then it becomes more real than I want it to be but I know that I’ve changed after meeting that stranger. I don’t know what she did exactly, or rather I don’t know… the extent of what she did but I can feel… I can feel all these old feelings coming back.
Of course it may be because I’m with my parents. Maybe it’s because the last time I spoke to them, I was the worst version of myself that I’ve ever been.
Maybe I’ve done the same to them. Maybe they were happier without me to remind them of who they were when the world swallowed Ace. Maybe they can feel themselves sliding back too. Maybe that’s why… [deep breath] maybe that’s why I still haven’t spoken to my mom yet.
Anyway. I hope you’re okay. I hope Mo and the lighthouse are okay too. I’m scared of what will come next but I guess it’ll arrive no matter how I feel about it. I hope I hear your voice soon.
[[SFX: A truck pulls up, brake squeaking slightly as it settles into the driveway.]]
PERI: That’s my mom now. I should go. Anyway, see you soon, Benny.
[[SFX: Click. Piano music for the credits.]]
The Far Meridian
Created by Eli Barraza, produced by Eli Barraza & Mischa Stanton.
This episode was written by Eli Barraza, and directed by Eli Barraza & Danielle Shemaiah.
Performed by Eli Barraza as Peri, Danielle Shemaiah as Ruth, Lily Richards as The Tattered Woman, DG Watson as Tomas, Betty Xavier as Young Peri, Benjamin Xavier as Young Ace, and Natalie Wong as Sara. Editing by Erin Bark. Sound design by Mischa Stanton. Music by Masato Abe.
For more information and transcripts, visit TheFarMeridian.com, or find us on social media @TheFarMeridian. You can also help support us on Patreon, Patreon.com/TheFarMeridian.
Until next time, may you always find your way.