My Son John

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Posted Aug 24, 2011 - 11:58 AM:

CHAPPELL: Quiet, please. (PAUSE) Quiet, please.


ANNOUNCER: The American Broadcasting Company presents "Quiet, Please!" which is written and directed by Wyllis Cooper and which features Ernest Chappell. "Quiet, Please!" for today is called "My Son, John."


FATHER: (NARRATES) Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Part One, Act Three, Scene One. Owen Glendower, the Welsh warrior, says, "I can call spirits from the vasty deep." And Hotspur replies to him, "Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call?"


FATHER: (NARRATES) They come when I call.

I've tried it only once, though. I don't think I shall try it again.

Oh, there's nothing to be afraid. It's still light outside. Sunset was only two minutes ago at four thirty-one. There's nothing to be afraid while there's still light. But later-- Ah, we'll come to that.

It was a year ago last Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, that my son John -- died.


FATHER: (NARRATES) I'm a very lonely man. Some of my contemporaries insist that I'm a very hard man. Perhaps I am. But, in my own defense, let me say that my hardness is possibly engendered by the fact that I've been so embittered and lonely for so very long.

My wife, whom I love very greatly, died three months after my son John was born. For a long time I lived with my son John -- alone, except for the necessary servants, medical attendants and the like.

I saw none of my friends; I allowed my business affairs to drift into the hands of my associates; I refused to see my friends. And gradually my friends fell away from me. I lived for all those years - almost a recluse.

But my son John was a joy to me. I denied him nothing. He had friends, he loved life, and he lived it to the utmost.

When the war came, my son John was much too young for service, a fact that irked him tremendously. And he exacted a promise from me that should the war still be going on, he would enter the service on his eighteenth birthday. His eighteenth birthday was two years ago. And though my heart was wrung at the thought, I allowed him to enlist in the army, gave him my blessing. I could deny him nothing, not even this.

And I hoped hard that he would not be sent overseas. But my hopes came to nothing for, within eight months, he was sent to Austria.

And a scant four months later -- my son John was dead.


FATHER: (NARRATES) I shall not try to describe to you my grief. It was overpowering. Let me simply say I was inconsolable. I had never forgotten my wife -- my beautiful, beloved wife -- who had died and left me with a taste of ashes in my mouth. But she had left me my son John as a consolation.

Now my son John was dead. And there was nothing left to console me.

It's not surprising, I think, that I turned to the occult for relief. There was a woman-- Let her be nameless; she, too, is dead now. She was a very wise woman, skilled in things beyond the comprehension of the material world. I sat with her many nights in this very room, speaking to her of my love for my son John, and of my unutterable loneliness.

And the night came when I said to her, "Listen-- Listen," I said, "Can my son John--? Is there a way to call him back to me?"

WOMAN: (MATTER-OF-FACT) There may be.

FATHER: I have been treated very unfairly by life, I think. I've been robbed of the only two treasures that life gave to me; first my wife, now my son.

WOMAN: I have tried to reach into the other world to have your son speak to you through me.

FATHER: Why haven't you succeeded?

WOMAN: Perhaps you do not believe in me.

FATHER: Yes, I think I believe.

WOMAN: You must believe completely -- or I cannot succeed.

FATHER: I tell you, I do believe.

WOMAN: (BEAT) Yes. Yes, I think you do.

FATHER: Well, then--?

WOMAN: What?

FATHER: Then what other reason can there be -- for not reaching him?

WOMAN: You say you don't know how he died?


WOMAN: That's very strange.

FATHER: That's not so strange. I don't want to know how he died.

WOMAN: I don't understand. Didn't the government--?

FATHER: I had a letter. It told me that my son died, that they would send me details of his death. When that letter came, I tore it up without opening. I didn't want to know the details.

WOMAN: But you can write and ask them to send the details again. I mean, you can explain--

FATHER: No. I don't want to know how he died.

WOMAN: There's not much I can do, then. Do you know where he's buried?


WOMAN: I would have to know that, I'm afraid. That can be the only explanation of why I have not been able to reach him.

FATHER: Isn't there any other way?

WOMAN: It would be easier if you write and find out.

FATHER: No. No, I will not do that.

WOMAN: Then--

FATHER: (BEAT) No other way?

WOMAN: There's a way to do anything.

FATHER: Then--? [...]

FATHER: It's dangerous for one who is not an adept.

FATHER: But you're an adept, aren't you?

WOMAN: I am. But you're not.

FATHER: What do you mean by that? I don't--

WOMAN: You are the only one who can do it.

FATHER: I? I can do it?


FATHER: How? (NO ANSWER) How then?

WOMAN: Listen to me. I can teach you. I can teach you to call up your son in a way that will bring him to you.

FATHER: Teach me, then. (HOPEFUL) Now?

WOMAN: You may live to regret it.

FATHER: No, no, no. Teach me how to bring my son back. I'll pay you-- I - I'll make you rich for life. I--

WOMAN: There's no need for pay. I have my own ways of becoming as rich as I desire.

FATHER: Then tell me how.

WOMAN: (BEAT) You may bring about your own destruction.

FATHER: I don't care. Let me have just a little time with my son again and-- Anything can happen.


WOMAN: I have warned you. Now give me your hands. And listen.


FATHER: (NARRATES) And she began to speak. Here, in this very room, as we sat -- there, at that table. She spoke and her eyes burned into mine. And she told me how to bring my son John - back from the grave.

It was a very simple thing to do. So simple that-- No, I shall not tell you what it was I must do. It's very dangerous for one who is not adept, she said, and that's the reason why I shall not tell you.

I must be alone, she said. I must be alone in a darkened room at midnight. And then I must do certain things and say certain words, place my hands in a certain manner. And wait.

I turned out the lights at five minutes before midnight. I set my luminous dial watch on the table before me. The room was not completely dark; I hastened to pull down the windowshade.

And, as the hands of the watch met at midnight, I did the thing I was to do, and I said the words she had taught me, and I placed my hands in the position she'd shown me.

And I waited.

Then I heard a sound at the door.


FATHER: (NARRATES) And after a moment, I spoke. (BEAT, CALLS) Come in.


FATHER: Come in.

JOHN: (OFF, UNHAPPY) Hello, father.


FATHER: (NARRATES, IN AWE) In the dark -- in that bless├Ęd darkness -- my son John's voice. I could not find my own voice for a long time. But John spoke again.

JOHN: I could prevent her calling me, father, but -- when you called there was no other way.

FATHER: John--?

JOHN: Yes, father. I have come home.

FATHER: (PLEASED, EXCITED) I did do it then.

JOHN: Yes.

FATHER: And nothing happened. She said it was dangerous.

JOHN: You haven't seen me yet, father.

FATHER: Turn on the light.

JOHN: No. We'll talk first.

FATHER: Talk? Oh, John -- it's a joy to hear your voice.

JOHN: I'm not happy about this, father. You should have left me where I was.

FATHER: No. John, if you could imagine the loneliness, the terrible--

JOHN: Yes, I can imagine.

FATHER: And -- you're not glad I called you?

JOHN: No, father.

FATHER: I'll see that you're made happy, John. You'll have everything your heart can desire.

JOHN: How do you know I didn't have everything I wanted before you called me?

FATHER: (PUZZLED) What--? Oh, I mean-- Were you happy ?

JOHN: No. No, not happy , but-- I did have-- (BEAT) Now -- I don't know.

FATHER: (HESITANT) John -- where were you? (NO ANSWER) Where were you, John?

JOHN: Father, I - deserted from the army.

FATHER: You deserted?

JOHN: Yes.

FATHER: (BEAT) Well, if you deserted, it was for a very good reason-- [...] But I want to see you.

JOHN: We'll talk first.

FATHER: Well, but--

JOHN: I really had no intention of deserting at first, father. I had two days' leave and I went exploring.

FATHER: Did--? Were you--? I mean, did the guards--?

JOHN: No. No, I was in a part of the country where I wasn't supposed to be, of course, but -- everyone was very kind to me.

FATHER: Well, what happ--?

JOHN: I was walking along a mountain road early in the evening. I didn't know exactly where I was, and then I saw the lights of a big house a mile or so ahead of me. And I decided to stop there and see if they could put me up for the night.

FATHER: (BEAT) Did they?

JOHN: No. Just as I turned into the driveway that led up to the house, a - a dog came running out from the shrubbery. Before I knew what was happening, I'd been knocked down and the dog was at my throat.

FATHER: Oh, John, how horrible.

JOHN: In the morning, I woke up lying by the side of the road. I was pretty weak. And I tried to call out, hoping somebody in the house would come out and help me, but I couldn't see the house.

FATHER: The thing had dragged you away?

JOHN: After a while, I felt strong enough to stand up, and I staggered down the road, and a couple of Russian soldiers in a jeep picked me up and, somehow or other, I got back to where I was stationed.

FATHER: My poor boy. But now, John--

JOHN: And I died two days later.


JOHN: And then I woke up in the house -- the big house I'd seen when the dog attacked me. And I was lying on a couch and the dog-- It wasn't a dog, father. It was a wolf. The wolf was sitting alongside me, talking to me.


JOHN: So I stayed there -- all the time -- except at night, until you called me.

FATHER: John? Weren't you--? I mean, didn't you--?

JOHN: Didn't they tell you in the letter, father, that my body disappeared?


FATHER: I didn't read the letter.

JOHN: You should have. Perhaps you wouldn't have done this, then. Because now - now I can't be dead. Unless--

FATHER: (BEAT) Unless?

JOHN: Well, there's a way. But you wouldn't--

FATHER: Something I can do, you mean?

JOHN: Yes.

FATHER: Tell me, John. Tell me so that I-- I mean, if it's something that I might do inadvertantly -- something I might do without thinking -- I - I'd want to know, so I wouldn 't do it.

JOHN: No, father, this is something you can't do inadvertantly.

FATHER: Are you sure?

JOHN: Yes. Yes, I'm sure.

FATHER: (BEAT, AWKWARD) Do you want to tell me more so we can--? It's been so long, John. We can do so many things together. Shall I turn on the light now? Have you got used to - being back?

JOHN: We'll have to turn them on eventually, won't we?

FATHER: Why, of course, I can't see you in the dark.

JOHN: I can see you.

FATHER: You can?

JOHN: You haven't changed much.

FATHER: I'm - thinner.

JOHN: (WRY) I've changed.

FATHER: I suppose you have, but-- Will you turn on the light, John? I can't get up, you see. The shock of your death, you know. I - I had a little stroke.

JOHN: I'm sorry about that.

FATHER: But now you're back, maybe it'll be better. (DEEPLY) Oh, John, it's so good you're back again. Turn on the light. Please.

JOHN: Well-- Shut your eyes. You can open them after I've turned on the light. When I tell you.

FATHER: All right.

JOHN: Keep them closed. (BEAT) Now -- open them.


FATHER: (NARRATES, SLOWLY, SHAKEN EMOTIONALLY) I opened my eyes. And I didn't believe what I saw. For my son John was not in the room with me. But a great, lank grey wolf stood beside my chair --- stared at me curiously --- with the eyes of my son John.


FATHER: (NARRATES, SHOCKED) "I can call spirits from the vasty deep," I said to myself over and over again. "I can call spirits--"

She warned me against it, I said to myself; she warned me and I did it.

But my son John, I thought. My son John--

And I spoke the words aloud--

(VOICE BREAKING, SLOWLY) "My - son - John."

(NARRATES) And the wolf came over to me and laid a paw on my knee and spoke to me.

JOHN: (COOL) I'm sorry, father. I told you I wished you hadn't done it.

FATHER: (INCREDULOUS) Are you--? Are you John ?

JOHN: Of course I am.

FATHER: Won't I ever see you as you were?

JOHN: No. Never.


JOHN: You see, father, she told you how to do it. I had pity on you. I wouldn't come when she called me -- because I was afraid of just this. I heard her talking to me, but I didn't answer -- because I wanted to spare you this , father.

FATHER: (TRYING TO CONVINCE HIMSELF) I'm - I'm glad I did it. (EMOTIONAL) Oh, John, welcome home, no matter what shape you're in.

JOHN: (COMPOSED, QUIET) You see, father, there's a catch in everything. Most of the things you've heard about -- superstitions, old beliefs, all that -- most of them are true. But what people don't know is that there's - there's always a catch. It's much better not to meddle, father.

FATHER: I'm not sorry, John.

JOHN: It would be much better if you hadn't done it, father.


JOHN: (UNMOVED) I loved you a great deal, father. I loved you enough to make myself stay where I was. Until you made me come here.

FATHER: (BEAT, EXHALES) What can I do for you, John?

JOHN: Nothing, father.

FATHER: There must be something. You - you are alive, aren't you?

JOHN: Well--

FATHER: I mean, would you like something to eat perhaps?

JOHN: (AMUSED) No. Not anything.

FATHER: Well--

JOHN: I came as a wolf because I was more used to being a wolf than anything else.

FATHER: You mean, you can--?

JOHN: Yes. I can change myself into almost anything. That's one of the things he taught me. A bird, or a bat, or a cat, or--

FATHER: He? Who is he?

JOHN: Well, you've heard of him.


JOHN: Most people think that Bram Stoker invented him. That he's fiction. But he isn't.

FATHER: Bram Stoker? That name is familiar. I--

JOHN: Of course. He wrote a book once. A book called -- "Dracula."


JOHN: You see, father -- we exist. There are thousands of us on the Earth. More than anybody has any idea. And we're all alike. We're not alive, and we're not dead. And there are more and more of us every year. Because when someone dies-- I mean, when one of us finally kills a person, that person becomes one of us, too.


JOHN: (WARMING TO THE SUBJECT) And it's not bad, father. It's not bad at all. Did you ever hunt? (NO ANSWER) Well, we hunt. We hunt the greatest game of all -- mankind . Ah, I could tell you--

FATHER: John--

JOHN: Yes, father?

FATHER: John, now that you're here -- here in New York, I mean -- will you--? I mean, will you hunt here, too?

JOHN: How else can I exist, father?

FATHER: Oh, John-- No.

JOHN: I'm sorry, father, but that's the way it is.

FATHER: (MOANS, IN DESPAIR) What have I done?

JOHN: You had plenty of warning.

FATHER: Then -- go back where you came from!

JOHN: No. I can't. I'll be with you forever, father, until you - die.


JOHN: She warned you. Remember?

FATHER: Well-- Won't you change yourself into your old shape then -- at least?

JOHN: That's the one shape I can't assume. It's one of the catches I told you about. No, I'm sorry, father, but even if I could, I - I don't think you'd want to see me. Before you put this spell on me, I could assume my own shape whenever I wanted to. And I remember -- people didn't like it.


JOHN: They screamed and ran. (CHUCKLES) But I always caught them.


JOHN: I'm sorry, father. You brought it on yourself. If you'd let well enough alone, I'd never have bothered you. I'd have stayed there with Dracula. Well, that's the way it is.

FATHER: But, John, I--

JOHN: I'm sorry, father. I've got to leave you for a while.

FATHER: Where are you going?

JOHN: Why, I'm going hunting.

FATHER: (PLEADS) John-- No. No!

JOHN: Sorry, father. I'll be back. I'll always come back, father, so -- don't worry about me.

FATHER: (NARRATES) And, before my eyes, the lean grey wolf vanished. And I heard a fluttering sound.


FATHER: (NARRATES) And a huge black bat was flying out the open door.


FATHER: (NARRATES) I endured my son John in numb horror for so long. I grew accustomed to finding a black dog snoring away all day long in that corner over there -- lazily waking up as darkness began to fall. I learned not to disturb the sparrow that slumbered through the daylight hours on the top of the bookcase there.

Sometimes he was that same grey wolf, lying there under the window from sunrise to sunset, growling a little in his sleep, yawning widely as he awoke, his red mouth and cruel, long fangs gleaming in the lamplight.

Oh, my son John was very discreet. It was a long time before I began to notice in the papers the stories of lonely people about the city and suburbs being attacked by a ferocious great grey dog or - or clawed by a huge tomcat.

But the stories appeared from time to time. And I knew.

My son John spent less and less time with me in the nighttime, although he was always there asleep during the day.

And slowly a - a conviction grew within me. A conviction that I-- I, the bereaved father; I, with the best intentions of a disordered mind; I was responsible for these murderous attacks. For had I not summoned back to my side this - this ravening horror that was my son John?!


FATHER: (NARRATES) I called on her. And the wise woman who had taught me the spell came to see me. The grey wolf was asleep beside the radiator, twitching and growling from time to time, when she came in.


WOMAN: I expected you to call me long before this.

FATHER: I was trying to decide; to prove something.

WOMAN: Well? Did you succeed?

FATHER: Yes, I succeeded.

WOMAN: Your son came back?


WOMAN: Where is he?

FATHER: There. On the floor, asleep.


FATHER: You warned me.

WOMAN: Yes, I warned you.

FATHER: Do you know what he is?

WOMAN: (MATTER-OF-FACT) Yes, of course; a vampire.

FATHER: He says he can't be killed.


FATHER: You've been reading about the attacks on defenseless people--?

WOMAN: I know about them, yes.

FATHER: What can I do?

WOMAN: He says he cannot die?

FATHER: He said that. Oh, he said there was a way, but -- I wouldn't do it.

WOMAN: Don't you know the way?

FATHER: Of course not.

WOMAN: Did you ever read "Dracula"?


WOMAN: I see. Well, probably you wouldn't do it--

FATHER: What is it?

WOMAN: --your own son, whom you loved.

FATHER: Tell me. No! You do it.

WOMAN: Not I, not I. I gave you the spell. I can protect myself against vampires; I have nothing to fear.

FATHER: But these other people. The ones that--

WOMAN: I'm not concerned with them. But you are.

FATHER: (WEARY SIGH) Oh, I've done a terrible thing. Tell me what to do.

WOMAN: Do you think you can do it?

FATHER: (BEAT) I will do it.

WOMAN: You will drive a wooden stake through his heart while he is asleep?


FATHER: (IN DESPAIR) Oh, John-- Oh, John, my son!


FATHER: (NARRATES) And, in his sleep, the great gaunt wolf that was my son John stirred uneasily and muttered through his dreams, as she went away from there.

I wheeled myself over to the bookcase. Surely I remembered a copy of "Dracula" there. And after a while I found it, sat down to read it, to find out how to kill a vampire.

I found it. I read the details of what the good doctor and his friend did to the sleeping vampire in her coffin.

I sat a long time staring at my son John -- until he stirred, and I hastily put away the book and wheeled myself back to my desk as he woke.

He wagged his tail as he stretched and got up. He went to the door.

"Hunting again?" I said. And "Hunting again," he said, and he went away.

Then I got to the telephone and I called up a man I know, and after a while, he brought me, not without wonderment, a hatchet. And a heavy butcher knife. And a great sack of garlic. And I sent him away. And lay down to wait till dawn, till my son John should appear again -- and lie down to his last sleep.


FATHER: (NARRATES) But it was only three o'clock in the morning when I heard the patter of feet in the hallway and, in a moment, the door opened quietly, and a little white Sealyham romped in and jumped up on my bed.

My son John was home early.

JOHN: Well, father?

FATHER: Yes, son?

JOHN: I wasn't asleep this afternoon.


JOHN: I heard what she told you to do. I watched you go to the bookcase and get that book and read it.

FATHER: John--

JOHN: You were reading how to kill me.

FATHER: Well, John, I--

JOHN: Well, you remember she said she knew how to protect herself against vampires?


JOHN: She didn't.

FATHER: (BEAT) John, what--?

JOHN: She won't bother me any more.

FATHER: What did you?

JOHN: I killed her.

FATHER: Oh, no.

JOHN: (WITH RELISH) I was a lion and I clawed her and I bit her. Now she's one of us. And she's sorry she told you how to kill me. Aren't you, dear?

WOMAN: Of course, darling.

FATHER: (NARRATES) And I looked. And a tiny white cat sat on the foot of my bed, washing her face [...] with an elegant paw. And I reached for my son's throat and the little cat sprang at me with a wild yell.


FATHER: (NARRATES) But my son John pushed her away. He sat there for a moment, laughing at me. And then he settled down beside me. And he said--

JOHN: Father--

FATHER: (NARRATES) And I listened. And listened. And listened.

And, once in a while, she put in a word, too.

And, as the night wore on, with John's stories of the greatest of all hunts in my ears, and the thoughts of never dying unless--

And John seemed to read my thoughts -- for he jumped off the bed and trotted to the place where I'd hidden the knife and the hatchet and the other things.

Then, in a minute, a great tall gorilla came back in my room with the things and he laughed, opened the window with his great hands and threw them out.


FATHER: (NARRATES) And then he turned around to me and he did something and he was a little Sealyham again. He jumped up on the bed beside me. And he whispered in my ear.

JOHN: (WHISPERS) Come on, father. What about it?

FATHER: (NARRATES) And I said-- "Well, at least I'll be with my son -- forever and ever. And it sounds like a better life than sitting in a wheelchair and feeling guilty." And I said, "Do you feel guilty, son John?"

JOHN: Not at all.


WOMAN: Of course not.

FATHER: Well, then-- Will it hurt much?


FATHER: (NARRATES) It hurt for a moment when I felt those sharp little teeth in my throat, but it was over very quickly and I thought--

"I ought to be a dog, too."

And I felt something funny. She and John laughed and -- there I was, a-- (STRONGER) There I was, a big, slavering Great Dane. And I said--

"Why, this isn't bad at all, is it?"

(CHUCKLES) And we laughed and laughed and laughed.

Because now-- Now I've got my son John back!

And we'll be together -- forever.

Yeah, but really forever.

And I've discovered the hunting is really fine.

Maybe -- my son John and I'll come hunting you some night.


ANNOUNCER: The title of today's Quiet Please story was "My Son, John." It was written and directed by Wyllis Cooper. The man who spoke to you was Ernest Chappell.

CHAPPELL: And Warren Stevens played John. The woman was Cathleen Cordell. Music for "Quiet, Please," as usual, is played by Albert Buhrmann. Now for a word about next week, here is our writer-director Wyllis Cooper.

COOPER: Thank you for listening to "Quiet, Please!" For next week, I have a story for you called "Very Unimportant Person."

CHAPPELL: And so, until next week at this same time, I am quietly yours, Ernest Chappell.


ANNOUNCER: And now a listening reminder. Three signet rings are the clues left in the mysterious disappearance of three men. You can learn what happened when DAVID HARDING, COUNTERSPY investigates "The Case of the Three Ring Murder" this evening on your ABC station.

This is ABC, the American Broadcasting Company.
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