Salinger & Caulfield: Together at Last (short play)
Updated: Mar 30
Location on the steps of the Windsor, VT Post Office, a gray day in November, 1988
A man enters, stage left, 54 years old, but youthful, dressed preppily, but sloppily. Waits.
Then coming down the steps of the Post Office is JD Salinger, 69, the reclusive, cantankerous, “famous” writer, he is dressed in his pajamas, covered over with a large wool coat, large Sorel boots, and a VT woodchuck hat puled down low, he carries a pile of mail.
Man: Mr. Salinger? Mr. Salinger?
Salinger stops and turns around slowly.
Man: It’s me sir, Holden…Holden Caulfield.
JDS: Of course it is, How are you today?
Man: Fine, thanks for asking sir.
JDS: What can I do for you, son?
Man: Oh, well, that’s sure swell of you, I guess…I was sure it wouldn’t be this easy, so I never
considered what I would say after getting through the hard part.
JDS: The hard part?
Man: You know, just getting you to stop and talk.
JDS: Well here we are. What do you want?
Man: Can we talk?
JDS: What do you call this?
Man: I mean, somewhere private?
Man: OK, well you see sir, it ’s kind of personal. It’s just this: I want you to let me go.
JDS: OK, you’re gone. (He turns to leave)
Man: No, I mean, not like that, I mean, you know (he looks about conspiratorially) publish the
JDS: No idea, what you’re talking about.
Man: The sequel to Catcher in the Rye, sir. You don’t have to pretend with me.
JDS: You’re right. (turns other way to leave and Man confronts him again)
Man: Wait, please I’ve been waiting my entire life to tell you this.
JDS: I’m calling the authorities.
Man: I know about the sequel. I know what happens, and why you haven’t published it and I can help you.
JDS: And I can help you. HELP! Somebody help me. Call the cops!
Man: Wait, It’s really me. I know it’s been a long time but look closely, ask me anything. It’s me
Holden. I’m your…creation.
JDS: You’re nuts. This is the part of the play where I blow you off.
Man: Don’t call me nuts.(beat)
JDS: Do you have a cellular telephone?
Man: Sure, yeah good idea. (He takes it out and take a selfie, then gives phone to Salinger who dials. waits )
JDS: It’s not ringing. How can they not pick up at 911?
Man: You have to press send. (shows him where and Salinger presses send).
JDS: Thank you.
JDS: (beat) It’s ringing.
Man: Sure tell the authorities that you are JD Salinger, the famous reclusive author and that you’ve been speaking to a character from your book, Holden Caulfield. See which one of us ends the night in the looney bin.
JDS: (beat, hangs up the phone) Have you actually read it?
Man: Read it? I’ve lived it. Now you must publish it.
JDS: Why’s that?
Man: I know you think you could never live up to Catcher after all these years, but I’m telling you for my sake you’ve got to publish it. If you don’t publish I’ll live my whole life at Pency Prep or the train or wandering the streets of New York or in some goddamn looney bin in California - that’s where I’ve been all these years. You’ve got to let me go Mr. Salinger. You’ve got to let me live, grow up, move on.
JDS: I’ve had it with you people, always coming up here, always wanting something from me. Something I can’t give you. You’ve got to get a life, your own life, not the one you think I wrote for you. Grow up man. I’ve had it with writing and especially with publishing. I just want my privacy. I want to be left alone.
Man: Look, I didn’t come up here just to ask you for something. I came here to give you something. It’s just this. (He presents his open palm)
JDS: That’s it? (looks) What am I supposed to do? Give you five man… on the flip side?
Man: No, this is just… love, love in the open palm. We are both stuck, alone, afraid. You in your farmhouse, me in my skin. Despite all the silence, all the unspoken rage of the past years. I need to move on. Say goodbye. And so do you. If you let go of me by publishing I can get on with my life and so can you.
JDS: They’ll attack with me with all the ferocity of the Nazis. And Goddmanit I couldn’t stand another frontal assault. They hound me from inside and out. I hate this machine of personality. “Why did you do it this way? Why do you write?” I’m a fucking writer. Why is not important. I’m not important.
Man: You are to me.
JDS: I’m sorry. I was never much of a writer for you. You would have been better off with Updike as your writer.
Man: Hearing that makes me so sad. You’re the only author I‘ve got.
(He turns to leave, beat) Man: Mr. Salinger? Can I have my phone back?
JDS: Sure. (gives it to him, turns to go, beat) And Holden? (pause) Call me Dad?
Man: Sure thing, Mr. Salinger.