"A love story, a social commentary and a mystery wrapped in witty dialogue and vivid imagery " -- The Royal Gazette
Norm Foster and Patricia Vanstone in Theatre Orangeville's production of On A First Name Basis. 2013. Photo by Pete Paterson.
 

 

  David Kilbride is a successful novelist. Lucy Hopperstaad has been his housekeeper for 28 years. One evening, David engages Lucy in their first ever extended conversation. He pours her a drink and, for reasons which are revealed later, he begins questioning her about her life.
   
Lucy: Mr. Kilbride, it's getting late and I have a long drive ahead of me and I have to be back here at seven a.m. to cook your breakfast.
David: (He enters R. carrying a bottle of scotch and a glass.) Yes you do, but let's not worry about that now. We're bonding now.
Lucy: Bonding?
David: Yes. How long a drive? Where do you live? (He pours Lucy a drink.)
Lucy: I live on the other side of the city, sir. In West Hill.
David: West Hill? That's a ramshackle part of town. What are you living there for? You should move to this neighbourhood.
Lucy: Well, I thought of buying the mansion next door, sir, but the gardens need so much work.
David: ...Hah! That's a joke right? Yes. Very good. Very witty. There you go. (He hands her the glass of scotch.)
Lucy: Thank you.
David: Cheers.
Lucy: And cheers to you, sir.
  (David drinks. Lucy doesn't.)
David: What's wrong? Why aren't you drinking?
Lucy: I feel odd drinking alcohol in front of my employer.
David: You've never consumed alcohol in my presence before?
Lucy: No sir. I thought it would be frowned upon. Usually I swill it down in the laundry room while you're eating breakfast.
David: Well, for this evening it is allowed.
Lucy: If you say so, sir.
David: I say so.
  (Lucy puts the glass halfway to her lips.)
  Go on. You can do it.
  (Lucy drinks.)
  There. That wasn't so difficult, was it?
Lucy: I'm sure it will get easier with each tumbler full.
David: All right. Back to your story. Let's begin at the beginning. What's your first name?
Lucy: ...Why, Lucy, sir.
David: Lucy! Delightful. And it suits you to a tee.
Lucy: You didn't even know my first name?
David: How would I?
Lucy: Well, it would be on the checks you write every week.
David: I don't write those checks. I have a man who does that.
Lucy: But you sign them.
David: I have a man who does that too.
Lucy: So, you didn't know my first name until now? Twenty-eight years into my employment?
David: Startling isn't it? I know nothing about you. And that is precisely why we're having this conversation. Now what about your last name. Hopperstaad. What is the origin of that?
Lucy: It's Norwegian.
David: Ah, so you're from sturdy Nordic stock, are you? Yes, the child-bearing hips. That should have been the first clue. So, were your parents from Norway?
Lucy: They were, yes sir. From Oslo. My father was a cabinet maker who came over here to ply his trade. He had his own shop until he died prematurely and then the creditors took it from us and left my mother and myself penniless. I was fifteen and that's when I quit school and took a job to help bring money into the home. I was hoping to go back and continue my education at some point but I was never able to. My mother took sick and I had to care for her as well as put in the hours at my job. She died when I was twenty-five and I didn't really see the point in going back to school then. It was the following year that I came to work for you.
David: That's an odd phrase, isn't it? Died prematurely. That would seem to indicate that there was a set date upon which your father was meant to die but he never made it to that date. Died prematurely. I mean, what are the other options? Died right on schedule? Lived much longer than he should have? Very curious expression.
Lucy: You didn't hear anything I said after died prematurely, did you?
David: No, I didn't. You see, I'm a writer and language fascinates me. Sometimes I get fixated on words and phrases like 'died prematurely' or 'aperitif'. So, was there any important information after that?
Lucy: Some.
David: Well, give it to me again then. But just hit the high points.
Lucy: Oh, uh, well, father died, quit school, mother died, came here.
David: Good. Good. Now, that was very succinct and yet I got all the information required.
Lucy: I didn't tell you what my mother died of.
David: Not important! Superfluous. She died and that moved your story forward and that's all we need to know. So, you've worked here for twenty-eight years. Have there been any romances in that time?
Lucy: Romances?
David: Yes. Men. Or women. Either one. Doesn't matter.
Lucy: In my case it would be men, sir.
David: And have there been any?
Lucy: ....Yes.
David: Good. How many?
Lucy: Well, I don't know exactly.
David: Well, ballpark then. Five? Ten?
Lucy: Two.
David: Two?
Lucy: Yes.
David: Just two?
Lucy: Yes. Just two.
David: In twenty-eight years?
Lucy: I'm selective.
David: I should say you must be. Two men in twenty-eight years. Mensa isn't that selective.
copyright 2013 Norm Foster