THE COOL ROOM
/ morbid (morgue) love / short /
written by jack richardson
CLARA, a lonely mortuary owner
TOM, a lonely young mortician
LISBETH, a jealous dead girl
CLARA in her office. LISBETH on a slab. TOM somewhere between them.
CLARA Tomas was a quiet man. I loved him between his words.
LISBETH Tom was alone, but never lonely. We had each other. Time spread out before us when we lay together, side by side. We
held our hands in a perfect moment, in a world away from hers, two degrees above zero.
CLARA He worked beneath my feet, down in the basement, embalming like my husband had before him. I moved through the old
house above and I felt him move below, another heart that shared my roof. Beating out of time.
LISBETH I felt him through the walls, felt him pulsing through my bloodstream. His touch brought the spark alive and set us both on
fire. He was made for me, and I was made for him, my / Tomas…
CLARA (From the top of the basement stairs) Tomas love?
TOM Yes, Mrs. Welt?
CLARA Be a dear and clear the fridge? We’ve a van come from the hospital. Pile-up on the freeway.
TOM Right away, Mrs. Welt.
CLARA Clara, please, Tom. Are you done with Mr. Lionel?
TOM Sculpting eyebrows, just now.
CLARA Thank-you love, his viewing’s at two… I’ll send his son along to help you…
TOM (Pulling open the freezer) Mist escapes in a wave, low and slow across the floor. Overweight man, thick with emphysema.
Red-haired lady, skinny hips and hypertension. Kid on his bicycle, collided with a semi truck. Shuffle them aside. Moving
deeper. Deepest now. Undiscovered country. Vinyl bags hang across in an inky shroud. My hand touches her wrist and
fire, like a /
LISBETH Excuse me?
TOM I’m so sorry, I was /
LISBETH No, it’s all right /
TOM Just reaching past you, and I /
LISBETH I know you, don’t I?
TOM I brushed you, with my hand and /
LISBETH We’ve met before, haven’t we? We have. When I arrived. You helped me down the stairs…
TOM The lift was broken /
LISBETH I remember. You gave me a look.
TOM You looked so peaceful. Like you were sleeping.
LISBETH I liked it. It was secret and naughty. Do you work here?
TOM I assist. I do my work.
LISBETH Do you talk to them? Your workers?
TOM Sometimes. They play tricks. They don’t speak the same as you do. They need more work.
LISBETH Is there a trick for me? Do I need work?
TOM You’re beautiful the way you are.
LISBETH I’m so cold Tom.
TOM I can warm you.
LISBETH Warm me now. Show me how.
TOM The night moves around us like a velvet blanket, tucking us beneath its edges and warming us in its folds. Lisbeth, cool
against me, my skin hot and alive. For one clear moment, everything shines under the glow of a halogen bulb, which to us
looks like the moon /
CLARA (Coming down the basement stairs) Good morning there, Tom. I didn’t hear you come in.
TOM Sorry, Mrs. Welt. I let myself in. The service door. My key.
CLARA Working early? We’ve only two on this morning, and we set the Sun Room last night…
TOM Waiting on a shipment. Formaldehyde. Ours expired.
CLARA You sure look after me, don’t you, Tom?
TOM We manage, Mrs. Welt.
CLARA Clara, Tom, please. I was wondering, if you’re free later, perhaps /
TOM I’ve left a man out. Defrosting.
CLARA Of course. Of course, I didn’t think so. I’ll send something down. A ham sandwich, or something sweet. Something /
LISBETH Sweet Tom, to fill me up. Fill me up and make it run in me, make me whole, give me life…
TOM Nine parts sodium sulphate and three parts liquid acetone…
LISBETH Oh yes, Tom, please, push it harder, make me whole…
TOM Formaldehyde for freshness and corn-syrup to keep your colour…
LISBETH And all of you, Tom, all the other parts of you, in you…
TOM Take them from me, Lisbeth, drink them deep inside…
LISBETH I need them, Tom, I need all of you, to make me live forever…
TOM I love you.
LISBETH Then make me whole Tom /
CLARA Tom dear, are you down there, are you --- Tom?
TOM Mrs. Welt?
CLARA Are you all right?
TOM You just… surprised me.
CLARA Is that the McCormack girl? I thought we laid her last Tuesday?
TOM I did. I mean, we did. This is the Kingston girl. An aneurism.
CLARA Such a shame, so / young.
LISBETH Young and so willing…
CLARA You’ve a real gift you do, Tom.
LISBETH A gift for giving / life…
CLARA So life-like.
LISBETH Fuck me Tom.
TOM I can’t.
CLARA What’s that dear?
LISBETH Fuck me.
TOM I’ll fuck you later.
CLARA Excuse me, Tom?
TOM Later, Mrs. Welt.
CLARA Later you’ll what Tom?
LISBETH Fuck me.
TOM Later please, I told you. I’m busy. I’m sorry.
LISBETH What’s the matter, Tom? You’ve changed.
TOM Nothing. It’s nothing. I just /
LISBETH Who’s that woman? That hag?
TOM She’s no one, she’s nothing.
LISBETH You’re scared of her.
TOM I’m scared of you. I’m scared because I look at you and think this can’t be real. That your beauty shouldn’t live and that I
can’t sustain it.
LISBETH Then fear me, Tom, please. Fear me first and love me after.
TOM I /
CLARA (In Clara’s office) I made honey joys. Tom. Please? Come in, sit with me, just for a while. Feels like ages, hasn’t it? Weeks at
least? Since we had a tea and talked. How are tricks? Are you keeping?
TOM I’m… busy. Lots to do.
CLARA Not too hard I hope. You’ve been… quiet. I’ve noticed. Busy with your… girlfriend?
TOM No. Down in the cool room.
CLARA It’s just the way you talk sometimes, I hardly see you, like you have… You have someone else on your mind. You have…
everything you need down there? Not wanting for anything?
TOM Orders are fine.
CLARE And there’s nothing else you /
TOM I’ve got work. I should go.
CLARA Never anywhere without them, are you?
CLARA Those rubber gloves. Seems I see you all around with them these days. Like they’re stuck to you. Sewn on.
TOM I never noticed.
CLARA I hardly ever order them anymore. They’re never used. Boxes and boxes of them stacked up in the storeroom. My husband
obsessed about them, the neatness of them. Said he felt the smell of all those people on him, those dead souls on his
hands. Walking round down there was like wading through curls of shed skin. You wear the same pair though. You keep
them with you, don’t you, Tom? The souls?
TOM I have work.
CLARA In the cool room. Of course.
TOM I’d stay, but I /
LISBETH Where were you?
TOM I was nowhere, on my way to you.
LISBETH I can smell her, she’s on your hands /
TOM She’s no one.
LISBETH You used to touch me. I thought you loved me. Why won’t you touch me?
TOM I touch you and you’re cold.
LISBETH Then make me warm again. Make me live.
TOM I hardly feel you, through this fake skin…
LISBETH My heart breaks, Tom. It bleeds for you. I cut myself open and watch it pool all around me. Do you see it, Tom? Can I
TOM You’re not alive.
LISBETH Then neither are you. Show me. Bleed for me.
CLARA At night I stay late. Listen to the sounds of the house around me. A dead house, full of dead people. My heart beats for no
one, and in the silence I hear voices, a man’s voice, moving through the walls, from the floor beneath my feet. The house
talks to me and it speaks to me, it speaks in Tom’s voice, it says,
TOM (Speaking for Lisbeth) Bleed for me like I bleed for you, filling you with my life, loving you through my death, loving me when
you’re lonely and alone,
CLARA And it’s like a dream I might’ve had, when I’ve wanted arms around me. When the house I live in is a tomb and the only
heart that beats there is the one embalming the one that’s still.
TOM In my dream I lie with Lisbeth, her arms around me, her skin cold and smooth beneath my hands, under the glow of the
halogen moon. I share my heart with her, I bring her back to life.
CLARA He lies beside her on the gurney, her heart caged in her open chest. Each drop of blood he’s shed fills its open pipes,
flooding her empty chambers. The blood pumps from his heart in a stream and it seems his blood is speaking, his mouth
unable to form the words,
TOM I love you, Clara, all alone you in your graveyard house,
LISBETH Although he can hardly speak at all, because the blood never lies, and / he was dead, and so was I.
CLARA He was dead, and so was I. All of us in the basement, two degrees above zero.