Curtains open to a living room – an old woman and two children are sitting there. One of the children is holding a photo.
Child 1: Grandma, what's this?
Grandma: Oh! That's a picture of me when I was a little girl, at my family farm. That's my mother, father and little brother.
Child 2: I didn't know you had a brother. Where is he? What's his name?
Child 1: Where's the farm? Why don't you live there anymore?
Grandma: Lots of questions, I hear. Well, you see, when I was a very little girl, something awful happened and we had to leave the farm. As for my brother, his name was Henry. He was very young when the awful thing happened and he was hurt badly.
Child 1&2: What was the awful thing?
Grandma: It was terrible and I don't know if you are old enough to understand. I don't know if your parents would want me to tell you a story that scary either.
Child 1: I'm eleven years old – pretty much a grown-up.
Child 2: I'm ten! And I don't get scared.
Grandma: Well, alright but just because you deserve to know your family history. This story takes place about sixty years ago, when I was eight years old.
Father, Henry and Melissa are out in the farm yard. Father is working, children are playing.
Father: Be careful you two! Especially you, Melissa, you have to watch Henry.
Melissa: I'm watching him, Daddy, I promise.
Henry: Help with pony! (runs toward father) Help! Help! Pony!
Melissa: Get back here! You're not allowed around the farm equipment!
Melissa: That's a grasshopper.
Henry: Grasshopper! Grasshopper! Grasshopper!
Melissa: Wow! Three grasshoppers! Daddy, look at all the grasshoppers.
Father: They've been pretty thick this year; I just hope they don't eat all the crops. Can't afford that.
Henry: Big grasshopper! Big! Big!
Melissa: Yes, Henry, big.
Mother (from offstage): Lunchtime!
Melissa: Put the bug down, Henry! It's lunch time!
Children run off.
Father: Grasshoppers. Hmm. Things are gettin' bigger than I thought.
Mother, Father, Henry, Melissa onstage. Melissa is looking out the window.
Mother: Wow what, dear?
Melissa: Look at all the grasshoppers.
Henry: Grasshopper! Grasshopper! Big grasshopper!
Melissa: Well yeah, you're right Henry. They're really big too.
Mother: They're bugs, Melissa. How big can they be?
Melissa: They're huge! Like, the size of Henry.
Mother: Henry is a two year old boy. Don't compare him to a grasshopper.
Melissa: Why don't you believe me?
Mother: Because grasshoppers just aren't that large.
Father: Stop bothering Mel. If she wants to believe the grasshoppers are that big, let her believe. She's a kid. Besides, the grasshoppers are rather large this year.
Melissa: If you don't believe me just come look! They're big and they're everywhere.
Melissa: At least Henry believes me.
Mother: All right, I'll have a look out the window.
Melissa: Look! They're all over the front porch.
Mother: My god … Those … those can't be grasshoppers.
Melissa: But they are!
Mother: But they're huge for grasshoppers.
Melissa: I told you!
Henry: Told you, told you, told –
Father: Quiet Henry.
Mother: Those are not grasshoppers!
Father: Surely you're both pulling my leg now. (goes to the window). Oh …
Mother: There's no words for it! It's the end of the world!
Father: Come now, let's not panic. It's just a few grasshoppers on the large side.
Mother: On the large side?! On the large side!? They are bigger than Henry. They could hurt my baby!
Melissa: Oh, don't worry about me. I'll just be an eight year old grasshopper warrior princess … Hey! Actually, Mother, do I still have my green dress?
Mother: Check your closet.
Melissa leaves. Henry follows.
Mother: We're seeing things right? Grasshoppers that large don't exist. I've never seen them.
Father: Perhaps they've been altered by pollution from the city.
Mother: Pollution from the city? Are you out of your mind? This is a sign of the apocalypse.
Father: That's a ridiculous idea, and don't let the children hear you. You'll scare them.
Mother: I'm scared.
Father: Don't be. They're just insects. Now, give me a kiss. I'll go get the animals settled for the night while you dress the children for bed.
Mother: Don't take too long. And beware of the grasshoppers. I don't trust them.
Father: Insects, darling! There's nothing to them.
Mother: Still, be careful.
Father: Anything you say darling.
Father walks off stage.
Mother (walking): Children! Time for bed!
Melissa: Are the grasshoppers still outside?
Mother: Yes, dear. They are.
Melissa: Are they going to get in the house?
Mother: No. They aren't.
Melissa: But I have a grasshopper fighting kit prepared.
Mother: There will be no need for fighting them.
Melissa: But, Mom, it would be so much fun!
Mother: Stop it, right now. Fighting is not a good thing, or a ladylike thing. Where is your brother?
Melissa: Fighting grasshoppers.
Mother: What did I just say?
Melissa: Mom, you just said it.
Father (offstage): MARY! MARY!
Mother: Go get Henry. Stay in your room.
Melissa: What's wrong with Daddy?
Mother: I don't know! Go to your room!
Father is lying on the ground. Mother comes in.
Mother: What's going on?
Father: They clawed –
Mother: Holy Mother of – what happened to you?
Father: They attacked. There's one bigger than the ones on the porch. Mary, they're everywhere!
Mother: Here, let me help you to the kitchen.
Father: I don't know if I can stand.
Mother: I'll bring the first aid to you then.
Mother: I'm trying. What exactly did they do to you?
Father: I was in the barn feeding the horses and they came in, attracted to the light, I think. And before I knew it, they were climbing over the stall doors, toward the animals. They were eating the animals! Grasshoppers were eating … There's not a single one left.
Mother: We have to leave. I knew I wasn't overreacting.
Father: There's nowhere for us to go. We can't even leave the house – they'll be on us in a second.
Mother: Your leg …
Father: What are we going to do? I mean, the children can't suffer from this.
Mother: We're already suffering from this! And this afternoon there was no sign of this!
Father: I know. I don't know what we're going to do.
Mother: We're going to go to be and hope those demons are gone in the morning.
Children's bedroom. Henry's bed is empty. Melissa is waking up.
Melissa: Henry, are you awake?
Henry? I heard you having nightmares earlier?
Looks in the bed.
Melissa: MOMMY! DADDY!
Mother rushes onstage.
Melissa: Henry is missing!
Mother: Where did he go?
Melissa: I don't know! He went to bed when I did.
Father(offstage): What's happening?
Mother: Henry's not in bed!
Father: Did he get outside?!
Mother: Oh my god.
Melissa: His grasshopper fighting stuff isn't here.
Mother: He can't be outside!
Melissa: Why not? You said they're just bugs.
Mother runs for the window. Melissa follows.
Mother: I can't see anything.
Melissa: I can! He's right there on the porch! Grab him!
Mother runs for door.
Mother: Henry! Henry, come here … OH MY GOD!
Henry is devoured by grasshoppers.
Melissa: Henry! HENRY!
Father (hobbles onstage): Where's Henry?
Melissa (crying): The grasshoppers got him!
Father: Mary, get away from the door and close it.
Mother: My baby.
Father: Close the damn door, Mary.
Mother: MY BABY!
Melissa: Daddy, the grasshoppers are getting in!
Father: Melissa, go hide in the basement. Make sure you lock the doors.
Melissa: But what about you and Mom?
Father: Melissa! I said go!
Goes back to the Grandmother and two children.
Child 1: So your family was …
Grandma: Destroyed by grasshoppers, yes.
Child 2: Grasshoppers like that really exist?
Grandma: Not anymore. They were all destroyed after that summer – they were all over the countryside.
Child 2: So you were hiding in the basement while your Mom and Dad died?
Grandma: Yes … The neighbors found me a few days later and …
Child 1: I'm so sorry about your family Grandma.
Grandma (more to herself): Me too, child. Me too.
©The Last Letter