Too Late


Character List 

Chao, 30, older sister to Wu and also Lin’s daughter. She is estranged from her younger brother, Wu.

Wu, 26, younger brother to Chao and Lin’s son. He is estranged from his older sister, Chao. 

Lin, 56, mother to Chao and Wu. 

Li Liu, 57, Chao and Wu’s godmother, close friend of Lin.

Scene 1   

(LIN is at her husband’s funeral with her daughter CHAO. The coffin is in the middle of the hall. Chairs are placed in rows in front of the coffin. There are some tables behind the chairs. LIN is at a table with relatives and close friends. CHAO is standing near the entrance of the hall, waiting for guests to arrive. LI LIU enters and CHAO goes up to her.)

Li Liu   Chao! Wah I haven’t seen you for so long already. Last time I saw you hor, you so small one. Now taller than me already!

Chao (laughs awkwardly) Thank you, Aunty Li.

Li Liu   You okay anot?

Chao   Yeah…I’m okay lah. 

Li Liu   Where’s that brother of yours ah?

Chao   (looks at ground) Huh? Oh he…isn’t coming.

Li Liu   Oh.

Chao   I mean he didn’t tell me anything about (pause) coming to the funeral.

Li Liu   Your father was a very (short pause) very memorable man. So sad. If only he didn’t smoke so much. But he was very helpful lah. Always going around helping neighbours, taking care of animals. I got technical problem always help me one.

Chao   (starts tearing up, tries to hide it) (inhales sharply, between tears) Yea-yeah.

Li Liu   Aiyo… come here.

LI LIU embraces CHAO and wipes her tears.

Chao   I want pa to still be here. I miss him so much.

Li Liu   No one wanted him to go so soon. It’s okay. Don’t cry.

Chao   (stops crying, moves away from LI LIU)

Short silence

Li Liu   How’s everything? What school are you in now ah? Are you still in school? Do you have a job?

Chow   I finish school already. I’m an assistant just one of those (pause) businesses. Near town there.

Li Liu   What about your mother? How is she? Okay anot?

Chao   Oh, she’s over there.

CHAO points at LIN who’s at a table talking to other relatives

Li Liu   (starts walking towards coffin) 

Chao   Uh, ma is there.

LIN notices LI LIU. Walks over to her.

Lin   Li how are you? How long never see you ah?

Li Liu   I’m good. Nowadays ah (pause) very boring got nothing to do. Everyday I sit at home do nothing. You leh?

Lin   Everything is okay I guess. Don’t worry about me lah.


Li Liu   I heard he wasn’t ready to go yet.

Lin   If only he had stayed a while longer. Maybe then could see the family back together again. 

Li Liu   Huh? What happened? Why family not together anymore ah?

Lin   Huh? Eh got people come already. I catch up with you later can?

Li Liu   (pause) Okay.

LI LIU and CHAO go to a table and sit down

Li Liu   Remember when we always go swimming together at ahma’s house? All of us. You, Wu, your parents and me.

Chao   Aiyo you think my memory so bad one ah? Of course I remember lah. We would always have competitions one.

Li Liu   (chuckles) You and your brother always having races. Swim here swim there then eventually one cheering then the other one whining.

Chao   I always win one lah. At least when I lose, which is very rarely one hor, I never throw tantrum.

Li Liu   Haiya. 

Chao   I miss pa’s food so much.

Li Liu   Really meh? Oh wait, it’s Wu that’s the picky one right?

Chao   He’s the fussy eater, not me. I always ate all of pa’s cooking. It was good.

Li Liu   Wu would never eat anything your parents made. Haiyo.

Chao   He was never grateful.

Li Liu   (glances at CHAO and tries to quickly change the subject) Oh yeah! Remember that time you and your father tried to bake your mother a cake and then ended up forgetting to set the timer!

Chao   The cake got burnt in the end and we accidentally set off the fire alarm. Then-

Li Liu   Then the whole apartment building had to be evacuated!

CHAO and LI LIU chuckle at the memory.

Chao   Ma was so mad she scolded and banned us from baking without her supervision.

Li Liu   You and your father were really like that…that phrase like ah ‘father like daughter’ lah. Always fooling around together.

LI LIU notices that the group of relatives and friends that LIN was talking to began to leave. LI LIU goes up to her, with CHAO behind her.

Li Liu   Eh, has everything been sorted out?

Lin   Yeah, especially with the help of Chao. I old already, don’t know how to use all these…these what is it called ah? AH yah it’s the I.T.

Chao   Ma, you didn’t know how to copy and paste something. That one everyone also know one lah. It’s not like I very smart lah.

Scene 2

A large groups of guests arrive. CHAO goes up to greet them while LI LIU and LIN continue talking after CHAO is out of earshot. 

Li Liu   Eh, is Wu coming or not? He should at least come and pay his respects lah. Is Chao still mad at him?

Lin   I think so. (sighs) 

CHAO serves the guests some drinks, that is until she sees her brother, WU. CHAO does a double take. Visibly annoyed, she approaches WU.

Chao   What are you doing here? How dare you even show your face here.

Wu   What do you think I came here to do? Sit down and shake leg ah. Move. 

WU gestures at CHAO to get out of his way.

Wu   Hi ma. Hi Aunty Li.

Li Liu   Oh! We were just talking about you! How have you been?

Wu   I’ve been so-so. How have you been, Aunty Li? Thanks for-

Li Liu   Huh? I’ve been alright. Still forgetting things and becoming older.

Lin   You never told us you were coming. When did you come? 

Wu   I just arrived yesterday. Didn’t Aunty Li-

Li Liu   (in a serious tone) Wu, is that alcohol I smell?

Lin   I thought you quit drinking years ago.

Chao   Yeah. You said you did.


Chao   (Notices more guests arrive. Walks away from LIN, LI LIU and WU to greet guests.)

Lin  I’m going to go greet the guests with Chao ah. Later then I talk with you guys can?

Li Liu   (Waits for LIN to walk out of earshot) Haiyo. You still haven’t apologise to Chao ah? (makes tsk tsk tsk sound with mouth) Your mother so sad already then you still…still so liddat. 

Wu   Eh walao, Aunty Li I thought you on my side leh. Also not my fault one lah. I want to talk to Chao she don’t even want to look at me. You tell me lah– how I supposed to apologise? 

Li Liu   So rude eh you. You know Chao not like that one lah. She is very er…what’s the word ah? Ah yah! Very uh reasonable one lah. You don’t anyhow anyhow say one ah.

Wu   Reasonable? Sure. I was always the one that was punished you know anot. Ma and pa were always talking to me about Chao as if she was the perfect child. I was always compared to her one. Not say she so perfect one lah. Just because she knew how to do well and stay out of trouble doesn’t mean…

Li Liu   Doesn’t mean what? And it’s not like that. Chao was very sweet and helpful.

Wu   Aiya nevermind lah! I’m wrong. I’m always wrong. 

Li Liu   Wait. Why didn’t you go to the hospital ah? I managed to see your father before he- he you know lah… passed away. He really wanted to see you before he passed away, you know.

Wu   Even if I wanted to go, Chao wouldn’t want me there lah!

Li Liu   You know since your father died, Chao has been taking care of your mother! Do you know how hard it has been on both your sister and your mother ah?  Do you? You were god knows where but ah confirm not there.

Wu   Well I’m here now.

Li Liu   (sighs)

Scene 3

Chao   You know, Wu, you really don’t need to be here.

Wu   I’m here to pay respects to my father. You have a problem with that ah?

Chao   Don’t you think you’re a bit late…

Wu   Well I’m here now. Isn’t that what you always wanted?

Chao   What I wanted? (scoffs) Father had been asking where you were non-stop when he was in the hospital. And of course, as usual lah you weren’t there. Late. Again.

Lin   Both of you stop! 

Li Liu   You’re at your father’s funeral, for heaven’s sake lah!

Chao   You were the one who stole ma and pa’s money to go and buy alcohol and- and you didn’t even bother to apologise to either ma or pa. You didn’t even show up at the hospital when pa wanted to see you the most! You-

Wu   Will you stop bringing that up!

Chao   Those three years clearly wasn’t enough time for you to repent was it huh? You’re still as dumb and greedy as you were before.

Lin   Chao!

More guests begin to arrive LI LIU and LIN leave the conversation to greet them.

Chao   You’re never going to admit huh? You’re just too conceited and- and proud to admit that you didn’t do anything wrong, aren’t you?

Wu   I have changed so much since then. Maybe if you had bothered to drop me a text or call me to see how I was doing maybe-

Chao   Why would I want to call you? After everything you did. You think I would want to… you know what? Nevermind.

Wu   What do you want from me? 

Chao   I thought you were smarter. I guess I was wrong. Why do you lie to us so much? Why did you say you were on your way to the hospital when you were in fact, halfway across the city partying? Why do you only come back now when pa’s gone? You tell me lah!

Wu   But- I’m here now so that doesn’t matter-

Chao   Doesn’t matter? Pa was lying on his deathbed and wondering where on earth you were so that he could say goodbye to you before he went and you couldn’t be bothered to answer your phone because- You’re too late.

Wu   What’s wrong with you. When I don’t show up, you get mad at me. When I show up, you’re still mad at me. I can’t do anything right in your eyes can I huh?

Chao   And your birthday? Pa bought you a present which he never or rarely does. He spent so long you know? Picking out the perfect gift for you, decorating the house, baking you a cake and he waited all day you know? All day. For you to come home and you never came. You didn’t bother calling, or dropping a text or- You should’ve seen the look on his face when he realised that his son would rather spend time drinking away with his friends than spend time with his own father.

Wu   But I sent him a text the next day-

Chao   A text. Barely two sentences long. You know I thought that pa getting diagnosed with cancer would be a wake up call to you but I was so, so wrong. Just go. Go home! What’s the point of being here if you don’t even care.

Wu   Will you just shut up for god’s sake lah!

Lin   Are you guys still fighting? It’s your father’s funeral for goodness sake please can the both of you stop it already ah!

Chao   I wouldn’t be standing here arguing if Wu would just go home like how I asked him to.

Lin   Chao- it’s his father too.

Chao   Are you really siding with him now, ma? After everything he did to you, you still forgive him ah?

Both WU and CHAO‘s speech are overlapping with each other.

Wu   Why am I always in the wrong-

Chao   Because everything you do is wrong-

Wu   Chao, can you shut up!

Chao   Why did you bother to come back? Is it to rob ma of more money for your alcohol again? You know I’m not going to just sit back and watch you suck all the money out of ma like you did with pa.

Wu   It’s not even your money- and no, I’m not here to do that.

Lin   Wu! Chao! Stop it already. There are guests asking to see you. Will you guys stop it lah!

Chao   (gesturing towards WU) Go! Stop wasting your precious time which you couldn’t afford to waste by visiting pa!

Wu   No! You don’t get to tell me what I can and cannot do! I’m here to attend my father’s funeral and I will! What’s your problem?

LIN looks at both CHAO and WU exasperatedly.

Lin   You are at your father’s funeral. Have some respect for god’s sake!

Wu   Respect? Chao is clearly the one who has no respect. She started it. 

Lin   Wu!

Wu   Why am I always the one who is in trouble? You and pa clearly liked Chao more!

Lin   Do not speak of your father like that. You better watch your mouth.

Short silence. LIN glares at CHAO and WU.

Chao   I was the one who started it? (scoffs) Who asked you to come here? 

Wu   Aunty Li did. You don’t know meh?

Both CHAO and LIN speak at the same time.

Chao   What?

Lin   What?

Wu   I guess she didn’t tell you.


Chao   Just go already. Ma, tell the guests I’m coming soon. Let me deal with Wu first.

Wu   Deal with? Just-

Lin   Both of you stop it! I know both of you are mad at each other but must you really do it now? I’m so sick and tired of the two of you bickering over small things from young you know anot? Please. Just this once can the two of you stop it already.

LIN exits.

Chao   Go! Stop wasting your time and everyone else’s time. I’m sick and tired of arguing with you already!

Wu   (muttering) Sorry.

Chao   You should have been there for pa.

Wu   Yeah, I should’ve. But you were wrong too you know.

Chao   Yeah, we both were.

Both CHAO and WU walk in an awkward silence to greet the guests.

Lin   You two finally made up ah?

CHAO and WU look at each other, they are both silent.

Lin   (sighs) At least you guys aren’t shouting at each other anymore.

Both CHAO and WU talk at the same time.

Chao   No.

Wu   No.

Lin   (sighs)  The two of you ah…(makes tsktsktsk sound with mouth while shaking her head)

Li Liu   Eh! The two of you got hands right? Come help me carry this over there. Very heavy one! Wait nevermind Chao you take this. (passes CHAO plates and utensils) Wu carry this over there ah. (points at small table and then at the other side of the room)

Wu   (sighs)

Li Liu    What was that sigh ah? (makes tsk sound with mouth) (mumbling) Complain and complain. Just ask you to carry table only one. Cannot meh?

CHAO and WU look at each other.

Chao   (chuckles and shakes her head)



Ava Tan Kai Lynn (Class of 2026) is not the most avid reader. However, she views literary arts as her modus operandi to express her innermost thoughts and feelings about everyday interactions and objects.