By Greg A. Smith
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Roland – Male, Caucasian, Twenties
Freeman – Male, African-American, 50+
Griggs – Female, African-American, 25-40
A small, bare room. Modern day.
Staged Reading – Itinerant Theatre, LA; 2017
Staged Reading – City Theatre, FL; 2018
City Theatre National Award for Short Playwriting – 2018 Finalist
A small, bare room. A metal table in the center, a beaten-up briefcase laid flat on it. Two men sit either side – ROLAND (Caucasian) and FREEMAN (African-American). Both wear civilian clothes, FREEMAN open-carries a gun in a holster. ROLAND appears a little nervous, antsy.
A moment’s uneasy silence.
ROLAND: I’m sorry, what are we – ?
FREEMAN: Shh. Gotta wait for the clock to tick the hour. Bureaucracy.
ROLAND: Oh. Sorry, I didn’t –
FREEMAN: Wait. Tick… Tick… Tick… Alright. Do you think of yourself as a good man?
ROLAND: What? I mean, yeah, of course.
FREEMAN: Dumb question, right? Just if you said no we could skip the rest of this whole thing. But good. You got kids?
ROLAND: No. Not married.
FREEMAN: That still a prerequisite?
ROLAND: No, uh, I guess – sorry, why are we here? It’s a little…out of the way.
FREEMAN: ‘Cause of what’s about to happen.
ROLAND: Sure. Yeah. And that’s what, exactly?
FREEMAN: Exactly. You like this briefcase?
ROLAND: Uh. It’s…nice, I guess.
FREEMAN: You think it’s nice? It’s pretty beaten to shit. Right? I mean, you wouldn’t pay money for it.
ROLAND: No. Probably not. Yeah, you’re right, it’s shitty.
FREEMAN: It’s mine. Personally. What does that tell you about me?
ROLAND: Uh –
FREEMAN: No no, you can keep it to yourself. But do you know what’s in this beaten-up, shitty briefcase of mine?
FREEMAN removes his gun and slides it across the table to Roland, who hesitates.
ROLAND: Uh. Should I…should I pick it up?
FREEMAN: If you like. If you’d feel better.
ROLAND: Is it loaded?
FREEMAN: Of course.
ROLAND picks up the gun. FREEMAN slams his palm down on hard on the table, making ROLAND jump. GRIGGS (African-American) enters, in police uniform. Stands to the side.
ROLAND: Oh. Hey.
FREEMAN: Okay, so here we go. You don’t know what’s in this case. Could be a ridiculous number of things. Infinite almost. But one thing it could be, amongst infinite, is another weapon. A gun. Right here. Now, chances are it’s not, that it’s something else, but, I’ll be honest, there is still that chance. And given that chance I’m gonna spell something out. If I open this case, and if there is a gun within it, it’s safe to presume I will use it. On you. For real. Okay?
ROLAND: What? Oh, okay, so this is a training…right? Okay. So, um – but obviously there’s not really – I mean, obviously you can’t actually shoot me, so.
FREEMAN: Sure I can shoot you. If there’s a gun in here. Why do you think we’re here? Out of the way. With privacy.
ROLAND: No, sure, of course. Sorry. In the training, yeah, you can “shoot me.”
FREEMAN: Don’t make quotes. Listen, I’m not saying there’s a gun in here and I’m not saying I might shoot you.
ROLAND: Oh. Good.
FREEMAN: I’m saying that if there is a gun in here I will definitely shoot you. No…
(makes quotation marks with his fingers)
ROLAND: Okay, this is… This is part of the training, right? I mean you can’t actually shoot me, that would be bullshit. Right?
GRIGGS: You’ve not been doing so great on your training, Roland.
ROLAND: What? I mean, yeah, but –
GRIGGS: Been screwing up an awful lot. Not good. But the thing is we need people. So, in all likelihood, despite your best or worst efforts you’re probably gonna pass and get on the street. And somewhere down the road you’re gonna fuck things up for the rest of us, in some stupid and irrevocable way. And that’s really not good. So our thinking is if shooting you now will stop that…
ROLAND: What? No, come on. You’re kidding. You’re –
GRIGGS: Jesus, Roland, relax. Look at you, shaking there. You think we’d shoot you? Come on, think about it. Really, think about it. And if you think he might… Well, you got a gun yourself, right? So what you worried about?
FREEMAN: She makes good points. Okay. So, to recap. If there’s a gun in here, I will shoot you with it. That will happen. Do you believe me?
ROLAND: Okay, I don’t wanna do this.
FREEMAN: Do you believe me, Roland?
ROLAND: Shit. Uh, yeah. Yeah, I believe you.
Throughout the next section, FREEMAN speaks calmly and honestly. GRIGGS performs with increasingly hysterical emotion.
FREEMAN: Good. And now I’m gonna tell you that there is not a gun in here. Do you believe me?
ROLAND: Uh –
FREEMAN: Do you believe me, sir?
ROLAND: Come on. I don’t know, okay?
GRIGGS: Please God, there’s not a gun in there – don’t shoot him.
ROLAND: What? Are you – ? There’s no gun?
GRIGGS: No sir. He don’t even own a gun. Please. Put your weapon away.
FREEMAN: I’m gonna open the first latch now. There is not a gun in here. – Keep your weapon in your hand. – Please don’t shoot.
GRIGGS: Don’t shoot him!
ROLAND: Okay, this is getting really –
GRIGGS: Please don’t shoot him. He’s never done nothing to no one.
ROLAND: Look, I don’t –
FREEMAN flips open the first latch, making ROLAND twitch.
ROLAND: I don’t wanna do this.
GRIGGS: Oh God, please don’t take him.
ROLAND: Come on, don’t do this to me.
FREEMAN: I am now gonna open the second latch. I repeat, there is not a gun in here.
ROLAND raises his gun.
ROLAND: Okay, please stop there.
FREEMAN: It’s fine, sir. You don’t have to panic. Please don’t point your gun at me. I’m just opening my briefcase.
ROLAND: Don’t. Okay? Stop opening it.
GRIGGS: Why are you pointing your gun at him? He ain’t gonna harm no one.
FREEMAN flips the second latch.
ROLAND: Goddamn it, get your hands away from the briefcase!
FREEMAN: Sir, I do not have a gun. I am just going to open and reach into my briefcase.
ROLAND: Stop it! I want out.
FREEMAN: Out of what, sir?
ROLAND: This! Whatever this is!
GRIGGS: Please don’t kill my boyfriend, sir. Just cause he’s black don’t mean he needs killing.
ROLAND: What? That’s not –
FREEMAN: I’m going to reach into my briefcase now, sir. I’m going to tell you one last time that I do not have a weapon.
ROLAND: Take your hands away from there.
FREEMAN slowly opens the briefcase.
ROLAND: Sir, close the fucking briefcase or I will shoot you.
FREEMAN: There’s no need to shoot me.
ROLAND: Close it!
FREEMAN reaches in and grips something.
FREEMAN: I am gonna take out whatever is in this briefcase. Now seeing as I have a gun pointed at me, my motion may be more nervous and sudden than normal. Please do not shoot.
ROLAND: Okay, listen. You win, okay? I’ll drop out. I won’t become a cop, won’t fuck up whatever it is you’re worried I’ll fuck up. Okay? Just don’t shoot me.
FREEMAN: You’ll quit?
ROLAND: Yeah. Yeah, I’ll quit. Okay?
FREEMAN: All right.
So here we go.
ROLAND: What? No, I said… No, fuck this, I am leaving.
GRIGGS: (pulling her gun)
Stay right where you are.
ROLAND: Sergeant, come on.
FREEMAN: On three. There is not a gun in here.
FREEMAN: One. Two. Three.
FREEMAN swiftly pulls out a small soft toy. At the same time, ROLAND pulls the trigger. Click. No bullets. Pause.
FREEMAN: Thank you. There’s a cab waiting outside. Sergeant Griggs will show you out.
ROLAND: You gotta… That’s it? You just wanted to see if I’d pull the trigger? No no, screw you, you can’t do things like this.
FREEMAN: Because the old ways have been working so well? Gun on the table please.
GRIGGS: Come on.
ROLAND: This is fucked.
FREEMAN: Yeah. It is.
Reluctantly, ROLAND exits.
GRIGGS: Told you.
FREEMAN: So you did.
GRIGGS exits. FREEMAN holsters his gun, puts the toy back in the briefcase and closes it. Waits.
Greg A. Smith is a Cleveland, Ohio-based playwright, originally from the UK. His debut full-length play Sheltered was produced at the Tabard Theatre, London in winter 2014 and nominated for Best New Play at the Off West End Theatre Awards. Short plays performed in the US and UK include: Fire in the Snow; Still Life; Just Right; Back Into the Wild; and Schrödinger’s Gun. Greg is the Literary Manager at Playwrights Local in Cleveland and works as a writer at American Greetings.