Closed-Captioned Book Clubs


Nancy Ford Dugan

(sounds of squealing)

It’s so good to see you after all this time! 

(floorboards creaking on makeshift dining structure jammed onto sidewalk outside Spanish restaurant)

Oh my God, your hair! It’s so long! And so gray! And in pigtails!

(group gasping, sound of Fosamax jaws crackling open in shock)

Great to see you all too! How are you? You all look wonderful!

(sounds of social exhaustion creeping in at first encounter in over a year)

Well, we can’t even see you. Are you going to take that damn mask off? For God’s sake, we’re outdoors. We’re all vaccinated. 

(indistinct yet specific chatter: “She looks awful. It’s the hair. It’s so aging. She’s too pale to pull off gray hair.”)

When we eat, I’ll take the mask off.

(sounds of chairs scooting closer to table, accompanied by effortful grunts; cellulite-ridden thighs encased in snug capris slapping together as they settle into the uncomfortable chairs)

I could snip those pigtails off for you. 

(mumbling to self: “Wow, that seems aggressive, even for a dog groomer. And who is she to judge anyone’s hair? She’s had Ruth Buzzi’s center part for decades.”) 

Why? I actually like my pigtails. 

  So do I (waitress approaches). And I like the ombre coloring.

Thank you! See, ladies. I get surprisingly kind reviews from the younger demographic. 

(group muttering: “Sure she does. The waitress wants a tip.”)

They’ve already ordered. What can I get you?

Do you have any mocktails? No alcohol. Anything festive is fine. And to eat? Anything with vegetables and without shellfish would be great. Thanks. 

Coming right up.

A mocktail? That’s a departure for you. You usually just sip water. 

Well, we are celebrating getting the gang back together. Although I know the rest of you have had your monthly meetings for a while now.

(personal muttering: “In violation of all that is sacred and holy; and the mocktail is a new defensive strategy after all these years of splitting the check and covering your multiple glasses of wine.”)

Isn’t eating outside great? 

Yes. But if I lean over just a smidge, I’ll be in the street and may get clipped by a moving vehicle. 

(sounds of sirens, cars honking)

True. And there are so many! Scooters now, and bikes. 

How many more bike lanes do we need, for heaven’s sake?

(sound of creaky older necks nodding in agreement)

They can promote bikes till the cows come home, but it’s just not realistic. 

At least we don’t have cows!

That might be sort of nice actually.


Yeah, when the progressives get a little older, let’s see how eager they are to bike everywhere. Try hopping on one after your colonoscopy. See how that feels!


And wait till they get vertigo! Oh, thanks. Here’s my mocktail. To your health, everybody! We are incredibly lucky, and I’m grateful we are all okay. 

(sounds of slurping through a biodegradable straw wedged between greenery and unidentifiable fruit)

So, who’d you all vote for today? In the primary.

I am the face of the democratic party.

(sounds of laughter and sighs)

Most of us voted for the sanitation lady.

You know she’s not Hispanic, right? 

She’s not? Oh. 

Yeah, it’s her married, now divorced, name.

Thanks to ranked voting, we won’t know the results for a week. Let’s see if there are any updates.

(sounds of colorful drugstore reading glasses being whipped out of cases, sounds of swiping and punching on cellphones)

Why, after the last four years, am I still surprised when people vote for TV personalities? 

I know! (hums of agreement) It’s all brand recognition. (sounds of tsk)

Did anyone read the book?

(indistinct conversation)

What was it again?

The Furies. I thought it was fascinating. It’s about…

(sounds of abrupt cutting off, cacophony of multiple people talking at once, indecipherable) 

Oh, here’s our food. Whoops. We all ordered mussels. Will that trigger your allergies?

(sounds of bowls placed on table and requests for extra napkins)

Just my nose and eyes. And skin, with the hives. 

(sounds of resignation, sniffling behind a mask, yearning for social distancing)

Stop leaning away from us. We’re all vaccinated. We follow the science.

Maybe she’s leaning because she’s allergic to shellfish.

Oh, that’s true. Sorry. Here comes your vegan platter.

(sounds of gentle mask removal and placement in zippered section of oversized purse; sounds of chewing, swallowing, roughage entering delicate intestinal system, unaccustomed in past year to food prepared by others)

Why is your bag so big? Isn’t it heavy?

(personal muttering: “What’s it to her? Is this how conversation works? It’s been so long.”)

I’m just beginning to venture into stores after months of overpriced online shopping. I wanted to zip into one spot I like in this neighborhood.

What did you get? 

(mumbles to self: “Again, so intrusive!”)

Oh, you know. Sundries. (singing) “I want a Sundries kind of love.(laughs) Remember that song?

No. (scoffs)

(sounds of plucked shells tossed into gruesome, life-threatening bowl)

Did you finally get to visit any members of your family outside the city? 

Yup. At last! The train upstate was great. They mandate masks. It wasn’t crowded. I felt more comfortable than I expected.

I don’t think anyone who’s vaccinated should have to wear a mask.

(sounds of sighs and exasperation)

How far is that trip again? Where do you go?

Under two hours to Brewster. Then it’s another thirty-minute ride.

Brewster! Makes me think of Marlo Thomas in That Girl!

Or in my case That Crone!

(giggling, followed by group at nearby table singing “Happy Birthday” as non-lit, candled cake arrives)

Oh, they’re so loud!

It’s nice to see a happy family gathering. Despite their aerosols spraying on us. 

(joins singing)

Did you catch the birthday girl’s name? It went on and on. How many syllables do you need?

Oh, come on. 

Seriously. Two is perfect. Three or more is just showing off.

Or just making it hard for you to pronounce?

Well, there’s that.

What book are we not reading for next month?

Oh, this doesn’t look good. That bike is going awfully fast, and it’s awfully close. It may make that car swerve…

(sounds of chairs scraping, screams)


(sounds of splat)

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