By Kelli Lynn Woodend
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Gayle, Female, 50s-60s
Gator, Male, 65+
At the KFC buffet, Gator is pleasantly surprised by a complete stranger’s generosity. What he doesn’t realize is that her gift isn’t at all what it seems.
GAYLE, a rugged, biker chic type stands at a KFC buffet table with a paper plate and plastic knife and spork.
GAYLE: (yells over her shoulder) Can we get some more mashed potatoes over here? And the cole slaw is looking a little low, too. (To herself) Goodness gracious almighty, I swear.
GATOR, a frumpy, disheveled man walks up to the KFC buffet with his plate and drink. He struggles to hold his cup as he scoops his food. Gayle grabs his drink.
GAYLE: Well, gimme that.
GATOR: Oh, thank you, ma’am.
GAYLE: I’m not helpin’ ya out due to the kindness in my heart. It was just painful watching you struggle. Haven’t you ever been to a damn buffet before? You put your drink down first. THEN you fix your plate, you silly goose.
GATOR: Oh, yes. That’s a smart idea. I usually do that. I was just anxious about getting the last few Extra Crispy thighs before they run out. KFC is my favorite restaurant.
GAYLE: Oh, I told them we needed refills. The Extra Crispy thighs go fast.
GATOR: Well, you can have that last one there.
GAYLE: No. You take it. I’m gonna wait for the fresh batch.
GATOR: Thanks. Much appreciated. You know, a lot of KFCs don’t have the buffet. I went down to one in Florida. The cashier had no idea what I was talking about.
GAYLE: Well, we’re lucky then. Living in a town that has one. They could spruce it up a bit, if you ask me.
GATOR: Yep. I reckon so. Welp. That ’bout does it for me. Nice chatting with you. You have a nice day, now.
GAYLE: Well, that’s a measly plate you got there. You on a diet or something?
GATOR: Oh no. I should be, I guess.
GAYLE: I’m not saying you’re a chub tub. Just looks like a tiny helping if you ask me. If that’s all you’re gonna eat, then you shouldn’t be getting the buffet. You’re only flushing your cash down the commode.
GATOR: Well, I like the feel of a buffet. Makes me think I’m at a real restaurant. Not a fast food place. I’ve never seen you here before.
GAYLE: I’m here every single Friday for lunch. I work just around the corner.
GATOR: I try not to eat too much meat on Fridays.
GAYLE: You Catholic or something?
GATOR: Yeah, but, I’m flexible with other things.
GAYLE: Cafeteria Catholic. I see. That explains your love of buffets.
GATOR: Well, I just don’t like their stance on some things, you know. They’ve relaxed a little bit. But they can be harsh.
GAYLE: Well, I’ve got nothing against Christians or anything. But, if they think heaven’s so great, why they dragging their feet to get there? If I believed in something like that, I’d be back to smoking two packs a day. Drinking a hell of a lot more whiskey. And might even double my fried chicken intake. And I definitely wouldn’t wear a helmet when I’m out cruising on my Harley.
GATOR: What do you believe in, then?
GAYLE: Honey. We’re standing here at a buffet. You really going to ask me a question like that and expect a quick answer?
GATOR: Well, you could join me. Booth okay with you?
GAYLE: Damn. Took you long enough to ask me.
GATOR: Well, don’t get any ideas. This isn’t like a date or anything. I’m a married man.
GAYLE: Shit. If you think KFC buffet is a date and you’re not even paying, then your wife is probably the one messing around.
GATOR: Oh, come on now. Don’t say things like that. My wife isn’t doing too hot, lady. I don’t even know you. You shouldn’t go around saying hurtful things to strangers.
Gator and Gayle take a seat at a booth.
GAYLE: Don’t go and get all sensitive on me. Jeez. Look. I’m not gonna apologize for my sense of humor. And I don’t go hanging ’round fast food joints to pick up men, okay?
That’s what the bowling league is for, honey. I will say, I’m mighty sorry to hear about your wife. What’s her deal? Cancer?
GATOR: Anyone ever tell you that you can be a little forward?
GAYLE: Hell, cancer is as common as the cold these days. You need to relax a little, darlin’.
GATOR: Well, it’s not cancer. She’s got dementia.
GAYLE: Oh, that’s no good. I’d prefer cancer myself.
GATOR: You have a funny way of putting things.
GAYLE: Hey. I’m just a say-it-like-it-is kinda broad. You know what I mean? I got no shame in telling it straight.
GATOR: Well, you could be a little kinder when doing so. I don’t even know your name.
GAYLE: I don’t believe in pussyfooting around delicate issues, sugar. Well, now, unless I have to. Name is Gayle. And what’s yours?
They both wipe their greasy fingers on a pile of napkins and shake.
GAYLE: Come again?
GATOR: My name is Gator.
GAYLE: Gator? Like Crocodile Dundee or something? I tell you whut. I’ve heard a lot of crazy-ass names, but I ain’t ever heard of no Gator.
GATOR: Can we change the subject?
GAYLE: You kidding me? You gotta tell me how in the hell you got a name like Gator.
GATOR: I don’t know. You’d have to ask my parents. They just liked that name, I reckon.
GAYLE: Well, shit. Wait until I tell the girls about my date with Gator.
GATOR: This isn’t a date. I really don’t want no funny business.
GAYLE: Oh, now you are just too easy to get a rise out of, my friend.
GATOR: I think it might be best if you go sit in your own booth over there.
GAYLE: Are you flirting with me?
GATOR: (stands) All right. Look. I’ll move.
GAYLE: Oh, sit your britches back down. I’m just roughin’ your muffin. I got myself a boyfriend already. I’m not so bad looking that I need to be begging for attention, ya know.
GATOR: Judy, my wife, won’t appreciate you flirting with me.
GAYLE: Well, where is she then? You don’t have the poor thing out in the hot car, do ya?
GATOR: She’s back at the house. A home nurse is watching her.
GAYLE: I see. Well, you oughta make her a plate to go.
GATOR: KFC is her favorite.
GAYLE: Sounds like my kinda woman.
GATOR: Her dream is to see Rock City. She always wanted to go. We just never made the time for it.
GAYLE: Well, what are you waiting for? Get that girl to Rock City.
GATOR: Well, now, it’s just not feasible. The medical bills have really sunk us. And I can’t afford to miss any more work.
GAYLE: And what is it that you do for work?
GATOR: I work down at the dye plant. Have been there for thirty-five years.
GAYLE: Mmm. Hmmm. I see. Hey, look. I’m gonna run up there and get a few more scoops of gravy. I’ll get you some as well.
GATOR: Go ahead.
GAYLE: (shouting from the buffet)
This gravy is nothing like the one I make at home. I like a little coffee in mine.
GATOR: Coffee in your gravy?
GAYLE: Well, sure. Redeye gravy. Haven’t you had it?
GATOR: I guess I have. Maybe.
GAYLE: You want me to grab ya a few of these chicken legs? They just put out some fresh ones.
GATOR: No thanks.
GAYLE: You gotta get your damn money’s worth, honey. I’ll grab you a couple hot ones. Oooweeee. Burnin’ my fingers.
Hope you don’t mind. I don’t like using those damn tongs.
Gayle makes her way back to the booth. She slides some of her food onto Gator’s plate, then licks her fingers.
GAYLE: Mmmm. Mmmm. Mmmm.
GATOR: I’m not sure I can eat all that.
GAYLE: Fine. More for me. And my little puppers, Tootie. I always wrap up some chicken in a napkin for her. And she loves just digging around in my purse when I get home. Oh, she knows where Momma’s been. Gimme that chicken, Momma.
Gimme that chicken. (Chuckles) Ah, mercy me.
GATOR: We don’t have any pets. We have a birdbath out in the backyard. My wife and I like to sit and watch the birds in the morning with our coffee. We’ll talk to ’em, you know. If you don’t mind, I should probably call and check in.
GAYLE: Oh, you go right ahead. I’m gonna hit the big white telephone, if you know what I mean?
GATOR: (on phone) Hello. Hello? Is this thing on? Can you hear me? Hello? This is Gator. Hello. Well, darn thing. How do I turn this on?
Gayle sits back down.
GAYLE: Long line at the loo. I’m not waiting for that shit.
GATOR: I’m trying to call home, but my phone is broken.
GAYLE: Well, gimme that. Oh, they gave you one of these phones. That explains it.
GATOR: My phone is always acting up. I can hardly get it to turn on.
GAYLE: Look. I know you don’t know me very well. But I want to do a little something for you. I just stopped by the ATM.
GATOR: What do you mean…ATM?
GAYLE: You know…the ol’ dinero dispenser? An ATM, you silly goose. Now, I just ran into a little bit of money.
Inheritance, if you will. So… here ya go.
Gayle hands Gator a wad of cash.
GATOR: What is this? I can’t take your money. What are you trying to do, lady?
GAYLE: Hey. Calm down now. This is your vacation money. I want you to take a few days off work and finally get you and your wife over to Rock City.
GATOR: I can’t accept this. I don’t even know you.
GAYLE: Look. I got more money than I know what to do with. I already have all I need. I got my pup and my motorcycle. Who else can I share it with but a stranger here and there?
GATOR: Maybe you should save it for retirement or something.
GAYLE: Shit. I got a great pension coming up. Take it. I’m serious. It would make my day.
GATOR: Well, that’s mighty nice of ya. How can I repay you?
GAYLE: Hey, just think of it as a gift.
GATOR: I’m just a little overwhelmed that a stranger would do that for me.
GAYLE: Hey…don’t think nothing of it. Now, I need to get myself back to work. But you have a good trip out there.
GATOR: This is the best day of my life.
GAYLE: Now, that’s what I like to hear. Glad I could help ya out a little bit. It was nice to meet ya, Gator. Real nice.
Gayle exits. “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” by Willie Nelson plays. Gator sits at the booth drinking coffee a moment and then exits. After he exits, Gayle returns to the buffet. Time passes. They may continue to take turns coming and going but never seeing the other. Gayle always stands at the buffet and Gator always sits at the booth. The song fades.
A FEW MONTHS LATER
Gayle is up at the buffet. In walks Gator. He approaches the buffet.
GATOR: Excuse me, ma’am. I’m not sure you remember me, but…
GAYLE: Gator? Is that you? Of course, I remember you, honey. Well don’t just stand there. Give me a hug.
GATOR: How long has it been? Feels like a long time.
GAYLE: It’s been a while, I guess.
GATOR: I’ve been looking around for you. Been coming to the KFC buffet whenever I can. Especially Fridays.
GAYLE: Well, I was hoping to run into you, too.
GATOR: Care to join me?
GAYLE: Well, does a donkey shit? Of course, I’ll join you, you silly goose.
They both laugh and sit at the booth.
GATOR: I must say. That money sure came in handy.
GAYLE: Oh, don’t even mention it, sugar. That was nothing.
GATOR: But that was a lot of money you gave me. Close to two thousand dollars.
GAYLE: Ohhhhh, now. That money isn’t important. It’s just paper.
GATOR: Well, I took Judy to Rock City. Just like she always wanted.
GAYLE: Oh you did, did ya? Well, okay, then.
GATOR: She really loved it.
Gayle places her hand over Gator’s.
GAYLE: How’s your meal today, Gator? Can I get you another helping?
GATOR: (pulls hand away) Hey, now. I’m happy to see you, sure, but I’m still a married man.
GAYLE: I’m not getting fresh with you, you silly goose.
GATOR: I mean, if I were single or something, then maybe I’d think about it. But Judy won’t be having any of this.
GAYLE: Gator. Judy isn’t with us anymore. She’s been gone for almost ten years now, honey.
GATOR: Well, that can’t be. I just saw her. When was that? The other day, I reckon.
GAYLE: All right. Shit. Maybe you did, honey. Maybe you did. Who am I to say you didn’t?
GATOR: Judy and I have been saving up so we can pay you back.
Gator pulls out a wad of cash and gives it to Gayle.
GAYLE: You don’t need to pay me back, Gator. That wasn’t REAL money I gave you, ya ol’ goofball. The money I gave you can only be used at the gift shop in the hospital lobby.
GATOR: But you told me to go to Rock City. And I did.
GAYLE: Well, alrighty then. I’m glad it all worked out for ya. Hope you had a real nice time. Looks like you could use a little more sweet and sour sauce, sugar.
Gayle walks up to the buffet. It’s obvious now that she works there.
GAYLE: (yells over her shoulder) Can we get some more eggrolls over here? And the moo goo gai pan is looking a little low, too. (To herself) Goodness gracious almighty, I swear.
GATOR: Eggrolls? When did KFC start serving eggrolls?
GAYLE: Well, heaven help us, Gator. How many times do we have to go over this? The hospital cafeteria serves fried chicken on Fridays. Today is Wednesday. It’s the Chinese buffet, you knucklehead.
GATOR: Oh, Chinese is my favorite.
GAYLE: I know it is.
GATOR: Well, how do you know that?
GAYLE: Whaddya mean, you silly goose? I’ve only been working here for sixteen years.
GATOR: Oh. Right. I guess I did know that.
GAYLE: I knew it would start coming back to ya, you ol’ Gator Tator. Slowly but surely.
Gayle brings Gator another plate of food and sits down with him.
GATOR: Will Judy be joining us?
GAYLE: Well, now, Gator. What do you think?
GATOR: I think she will be here soon. So, you better move, or she’ll think I’m flirting.
GAYLE: Well, hells bells. You’re the one flirting with me, gosh darnit. Always getting fresh. I’m gonna have to get my boyfriend after you.
GATOR: Oh, I’m gonna have to move ma’am. Before Judy gets here. She’ll get real jealous.
GAYLE: (sighs) I see. That’s how you are going to be today, is it? Well, I guess we better make a plate for Judy then, huh?
GATOR: She’d like that. Chinese is her favorite. But, look, ma’am. I have to tell you something before she arrives. (Whispers) Judy has dementia.
GAYLE: Oh, does she now? And what does that mean, exactly?
GATOR: She gets confused sometimes. I have to keep her straight, you know.
GAYLE: Well, she’s lucky to have a smart fella like you. Shit. And I thought all the smart men were on the other side of town, over there at the community college.
GATOR: Judy always wanted to go to Rock City. I promised I’d take her. But, you know, money is tight. And we just never had the chance.
GAYLE: Well, cheer up, chicken little. Today is your lucky day, honey. Looky here. (Pulls out fake money.) I ran into a little extra cash. Inheritance, if you will. And I’ve got no one to share it with.
GATOR: Wow. I can’t take this. Don’t you need it?
GAYLE: Shit. I don’t need all of this money. I got all I need with my pup and my motorcycle. I’d rather you use it for a trip to Rock City.
GATOR: Maybe you should save it for retirement or something.
GAYLE: Shit. Don’t you worry about me. I’m all set. Take it. I’m serious.
GATOR: Well, how can I repay you?
GAYLE: Don’t think nothing of it, honey.
GATOR: I think this is the best day of my life.
GAYLE: That’s what I like to hear. Now I need to get myself back to work. But you have a good trip out there.
Gator stands to leave.
GATOR: I’ll pay you back real soon.
GAYLE: You know what you can do, you silly goose? You can pay me back by finally taking me on that damn date!
GATOR: I’m a married man, ma’am. I can’t do anything like that.
GAYLE: Well, you just come and visit me again, sometime, alrighty? Tomorrow we got hamburgers and milkshakes.
GATOR: Hamburgers and milkshakes? Well, that’s my favorite.
GAYLE: Oh, well, now you’re just flirting with me, old man. You go on now. Get out of here. Before I get my boyfriend after ya.
GATOR: I’m going. I’m going.
Gator leaves. Gayle cleans up the table as “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” by Willie Nelson plays.
Born and raised in Kentucky, Kelli Lynn Woodend received her undergraduate degree from Berea College and her MFA from Murray State. She has written scripts for Emmy Award-winning documentaries at History Channel and PBS. For the last decade she has worked with the Muppets and Sesame Studios.
Her plays have been produced in New York, Boston, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Bellingham, Spokane and other cities across the country. She is a two-time winner of Fusion Theatre’s Seven Festival, and her first full-length play Angel Food Cake won the national 2016 playwriting award held by Strange Sun Theater in New York. She recently moved to the Florida coast with her husband, cat, and baby on the way.