Category: Plays (Page 1 of 4)

Periodic Maintenance

By: Deborah Ann Percy and Arnold Johnston

This one-act focuses on Ellie and Linda, both in their thirties.  Their planned Thanksgiving trip from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to visit Ellie’s parents in Terre Haute, Indiana, and announce their relationship has been interrupted by an unexpected stop to repair their automobile.   

CAST OF CHARACTERS
ELLIE: early thirties, pretty, Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Michigan.
LINDA: late thirties, more classic than pretty, an OB-GYN specialist at U of M Hospital.
ARVIN: twenties, skinny, not unattractive, with a scraggly little beard.

SETTING: The waiting area of a service station.  

TIME: The present, more or less, just before Thanksgiving, a cold and icy day.  

NOTE: The set may be minimal as regards props and set-pieces.

(As the lights rise we see ELLIE and LINDA seated along the L wall on plastic chairs with an empty chair between them.  A counter for customer service stands L.  A door R leads to the parking lot and one C leads to the service bays, from which various noises may be heard, pneumatic devices, power tools, engines revving, and the occasional ding-ding of wheels crossing a bell-cord.  There’s also a table with a coffee-maker, Styrofoam cups, packets of sugar and creamer, and a plate of cookies.  ELLIE wears a fashionable blouse, short skirt, heels, and her hair is shiny and well-coiffed in an understated way; LINDA is also well-dressed in a silk blouse, slacks, and Western boots.  Their coats and are piled on a chair along with ELLIE’s purse and LINDA’s messenger bag.  Neither woman looks pleased.  They’re tired and stressed, but not actually angry at each other.)

ELLIE: So. You got your 4-Runner checked.

LINDA: I did.

ELLIE: You said you got my Civic serviced, too.

LINDA: I did.

ELLIE: Oil change. Tires filled with… whatever it is.  Halogen?

LINDA: Nitrogen.

ELLIE: Nitrogen. Spark plugs tapped.

LINDA: Gapped.

ELLIE: (After staring at her for a beat.) And whatever the on-board computer is supposed to diagnose.

(We hear a ding as wheels cross a bell-cord.)

LINDA: (Evenly, counting each point on a finger.) Ellie. I did. I did. I did. I did.  And I don’t think your Civic has an on-board computer.

ELLIE: Yours does, though. Yet here we sit. Not on the road.

LINDA: True. And your Civic is safely at home, because my 4-Runner is what we need.

ELLIE: But your on-board computer didn’t help, did it?

LINDA: It told us we had a problem.

ELLIE: But making sure we don’t have car problems is your job. Ironing shirts, packing Atkins-approved snacks—packing everything!  Those are my job. Your special toothpaste. Your favorite panties with the leopard pattern.  

LINDA: Panties. You keep saying stuff like that. To irritate me.

ELLIE: What should I be saying?

LINDA: Underwear.

ELLIE: All right—leopard patterned underwear. Your favorite jeans, black not blue. Puffs with lotion. Camera. Cell-phone charger.  

LINDA: Diet Dr. Pepper.

ELLIE: (After a beat.) Diet Dr. Pepper. (Another beat.) All my job. (Another beat.) But not the cars, too. You get the cars ready to go. Fill the gas tank. Check the tire-pressure. Update the Garmin. Head off potential problems.

(A longish pause follows, punctuated by the ding-ding of more wheels crossing the bell-cord.)

LINDA: (Finally.) Yes, dear. And in… (Checking the watch on a chain around her neck.) Just forty-five minutes we’re scheduled to sit down with your mother and father for a fine home-cooked meal.

ELLIE: Not a “fine home-cooked meal.”  One of my mother’s famously fussy gourmet creations.  Osso buco.  Or pork tenderloin soaked overnight in some sort of anise-based marinade.  Served with my father’s famously fussy selections of pricey vintage Bordeaux.

LINDA: But instead we’re stuck in this God-forsaken grease-pit.

ELLIE: Still three hours away.

LINDA: Stuck for hours in this God-forsaken grease-pit, still waiting for our speedy personalized service.

ELLIE: The chocolate soufflé is a completely lost cause.

LINDA: Because someone at Hometown-Friendly McManus Motors forgot… 

ELLIE: Hours of preparation.  Not to mention pre-preparation.  Mother’s shopping lists of special ingredients.  Arranged in precise sequential order for easy navigation of the aisles at Brownie’s Gourmet Foods.

LINDA: Because someone at Hometown-Friendly McManus Motors—Ann Arbor’s finest service facility—somehow forgot to check my thermostat and coolant hose.

ELLIE: Brownie’s Gourmet Foods.  Where discriminating shoppers find only the very best in Terre Haute.

LINDA: Maybe you should call them.  Tell them the truth.  Part of it, anyway.

ELLIE: That we’re miles away and the hollandaise is done for.

LINDA: And I suppose, since he’s a man, this never happened with Eric.

ELLIE: Actually, no.  But not because he was a man, dearest Linda.

LINDA: Because men can intuit when cars are going to overheat, even when the state-of-the-art computerized maintenance systems at Hometown Friendly McManus Motors don’t have a clue.

ELLIE: Oh, for Heaven’s sake.  Give me your phone.

LINDA: My phone?  What about yours?

ELLIE: It’s dead.  And the charger is in the green overnight bag in the luggage deck of the 4-Runner.  On the hydraulic lift.  For two-and-a-half speedy hours.

LINDA: You didn’t intuit it was going dead?

ELLIE: Just give me your phone.

(LINDA rummages in her bag among the coats and gives ELLIE the phone.  She begins to punch in numbers as RANDALL enters behind the counter C.  The name stitched on his shirt is “Arvin.”)

RANDALL: Ladies. Good news.

LINDA: Really.

RANDALL: Your thermostat and coolant hose just came in from our South Bend store. (He checks his watch.) Right on time. As promised.

ELLIE: (Looking up from her phone.) Good. (To LINDA.) It won’t save dinner from being ruined, but at least we should be there fairly soon. (She finishes punching in the phone number and listens.)

LINDA: Aren’t fancy foods with lots of ingredients supposed to be better the second day?

ELLIE: When they’ve become leftovers.  Mother doesn’t serve leftovers to guests. (Into the phone.) Hello, Mother.  Give me a minute. (To LINDA, holding the phone to her chest.) Daddy gets them for lunch.

LINDA: I like leftovers.

ELLIE: That may be. But in my mother’s home, you won’t get any. Unless you raid the refrigerator in the middle of the night. (Into the phone.) Mother, I’m in the middle of something. I’d better call you back. (Listening.) Yes. I know I called you. Sorry.

LINDA: Maybe we could raid it as a team. A couple.

ELLIE: Only if we clean up as a team. A couple. Wash dishes and put them away quietly. (Waving her off.  Then into the phone.) Mother, look out the window. The weather is awful. And our car overheated. (Listening.) No, it’s Linda’s SUV. My Civic’s way too small for moving stuff. We left it at home. We have to take care of the problem. I’ll call you right back. (She clicks the phone off and sighs in exasperation.) Ay-ay-ay.

RANDALL: Ladies, ladies. Your parts are here. But they’ll take maybe forty minutes to install. And we close in… (Checking his watch again.) Twelve minutes.

ELLIE: What?

LINDA: Close?  Without fixing—

ELLIE: (Finishing.) Our car?

RANDALL: It’s a holiday tomorrow.  People got plans.  

LINDA: We have plans.  Look—

RANDALL: Closin’ at three today. (Pointing.) Says so right on the door.

ELLIE: It also says, “Fastest service in town.” Right on the door. (Waving the phone at him.) And on the Internet.

RANDALL: Not after three o’ clock on the day before Thanksgivin’.

ELLIE: (Peering at his shirt.) Arvin.  I—

RANDALL: My name’s Randall.

LINDA: It says “Arvin” on your shirt.

RANDALL: Nevertheless.  It’s Randall all day long.

LINDA: Well, listen, Randall-all-day-long.  You need to fix our car before you close.  We’ve been sitting here for hours.  And it’s not even three o’ clock.

RANDALL: I been here since six a.m.  I got relatives comin’ in tonight.  They’ll want entertainin’. Gotta hit the market, the party store.  Pick up a case of Bronson’s Pale Ale.  They love that local craft-brew.

ELLIE: Listen, Randall.  We need to be on our way, too.  We have holiday plans we can’t postpone.  And we’ve been sitting here while the ice and snow keep piling up.

RANDALL: Way I see it, you got two possibilities. Stay in town overnight. There’s a Super 8 right across the street.  Or I can call my cousin Link. He’ll prob’ly be willin’ to skip Thanksgivin’ dinner and drive you wherever you’re goin’ for maybe fifty bucks. You can pick up the 4-Runner on the way back.

(The phone in ELLIE’s hand rings.)

ELLIE: (Into the phone.) Mother. I’m right in the middle of something. I told you I’ll call you back. (Listening.) As soon as I know something definite. (Listening.) Yes. The thermostat. And some hose or other. (Listening.) No.  You don’t need to put Daddy on the phone. We’re handling it.

LINDA: (To RANDALL.) All right, Randall.  What do we need to do here to get this taken care of?

RANDALL: I told you. Pick it up on your way back. (Nodding at ELLIE.) This little lady’s daddy can drop you off here.

ELLIE: (Into the phone.) I know, Mother.  The soufflé.  I’ll call you back.

LINDA: We’re not paying to ride with your cousin and leaving my SUV here.

RANDALL: Fair enough.  Stay at the motel.

LINDA: We’re not staying at some Super Five-and-a-Half.

RANDALL: Suit yourself.

ELLIE: (Into the phone.) Daddy.  For Heaven’s sake.  I told her not to put you on. (Listening.) No.  I just wanted to do what’s appropriate, let you both know we’d be late. 

LINDA: (To RANDALL.) We need the 4-Runner. We’re bringing back furniture and dishes. Not that it’s any of your business.

RANDALL: Service is my business.  But not after three today.

ELLIE: (To RANDALL, after glaring at LINDA.) It’s family heirlooms.  They want me to have them now, so they can enjoy my “treasuring their treasures.” (Into the phone.) No, Daddy. (Listening.) No.  Eric’s being here wouldn’t make a bit of difference.  My housemate and I can handle it.

LINDA: Housemate?

ELLIE: (Ignoring this, then into the phone.) We don’t need a man to take care of us.

RANDALL: (Offhandedly, to both of them.) ‘Cept me.

ELLIE: (Ignoring this, then into phone.) Eric is no longer necessary.  In any case, we’ve already called and hired Billy and Ira Holt down the block to put the Victorian desk in the SUV.  If it’ll fit.

RANDALL: They men, too?

LINDA: Very funny.

RANDALL: Look, lady, we all have plans.  And I ain’t changin’ mine.  I got to cash out. (He turns away.)

ELLIE: Wait. (He moves behind the counter, back to ELLIE.) Daddy.  Goodbye. (She clicks off the phone; then to RANDALL.) Wait!  Don’t leave! (Startled, he stops, but keeps his back toward her. She motions for LINDA to sit and, puzzled and a little irked, she does. ELLIE addresses RANDALL in a girly voice.) Don’t leave. Give me a minute. (He turns back.) Give me just a minute, uh… (She peers at the name-tag on his shirt.) Uh, Arvin.

RANDALL: It’s Randall.

ELLIE: But it says…

RANDALL: It’s Randall.

LINDA: All day long.

ELLIE: (After shooting LINDA a look.) Randall.  Okay.  Randall. (She walks toward him and, as she does, gives a mini-one-shoulder shimmy—subtle, nothing exaggerated.  She speaks flirtatiously.) Randall.  We need that 4-Runner.  Silly as that may seem.  But we’re two women on the road, in a strange place.  We need to get to my family in Terre Haute before dark.

RANDALL: And I need to make a beer run before my relatives arrive.  They’re a thirsty bunch.

ELLIE: I know.  But Ar… ah, Randall. Randy. If you help us, we’ll help you. Make it worth your while.

RANDALL: What did you have in mind? 

(She picks up her purse and pulls out her wallet, taking out money as she speaks.)

ELLIE: We really do need to get there before dark. (Leaning across the counter, flirtatious but not vulgar.) We’ll make it worth your while to stay just a little longer and fix our… whatever.

RANDALL: Thermostat. And hose.

ELLIE: Whatever. (She slides banknotes across the counter.) Will that do? 

(He slides the bills to below the counter and counts them quickly.) 

RANDALL: That’ll do, Missy. That’ll do. (He puts the bills in his “Arvin” pocket.) Just gimme fifteen-twenty minutes. (To himself, patting the pocket.) Some brie. A nice chunk of paté. (Nodding, he exits off into the unseen service area.)

LINDA: (Rising.) What on earth are you up to?

ELLIE: (Laughing.) Getting your SUV fixed.

LINDA: That’s what I was up to. I was about to give him money to buy his craft-brews. What was all that other stuff?

ELLIE: You mean the mini-shimmy? 

(She turns toward the audience and executes another subtle shoulder-twitch.)

LINDA: (Angry.) How could you? “Two women alone”?

ELLIE: Well, we are, aren’t we?

LINDA: Money’s all it takes with guys like that. The rest was phony. Not worthy of you. Or me.

ELLIE: (Getting angry, too.) What on earth? You’re overreacting.

LINDA: Or us. Your father thought you needed a man. I guess you do, too.

ELLIE: I got him to install the new thermofax, didn’t I?  

LINDA: Thermostat.

ELLIE: Whatever. You’re overreacting because you’re worried about meeting my parents.

LINDA: The money got him to install the thermostat and the hose. All the flirting was… what? Icing on the cake?

ELLIE: The flirting was insurance.

LINDA: It was demeaning. You’re a professor of art history. I’m a doctor. We don’t need a man. And should I be worried about meeting your parents?

ELLIE: I never said we needed a man. We do need a…

LINDA: Thermostat. And coolant hose.

ELLIE: Whatever.

LINDA: (Scornfully.) Two women alone. Housemates. Housemates.

ELLIE: I want to break it to them face-to-face. We agreed on that.

LINDA: So you say.

ELLIE: Why are you being such a butch bitch?

LINDA: Bitch? Butch? Why were you being such an available cunt?

ELLIE: Cunt? Cunt? (A beat.) How gynecological. Is that how you talk to your patients?

LINDA: That’s how I talk when I lose patience.

ELLIE: Well. You certainly have a mouth on you.

LINDA: (Unable to resist.) You would certainly know about that. Wouldn’t you?

ELLIE: (After a beat.) I guess I would.

LINDA: And that shimmy thing?

ELLIE: You mean this?

(She turns to LINDA and gives her another example.)

LINDA: (Anger draining right out of her.) Oh my goodness.

ELLIE: I’ll shimmy whenever and wherever I want to.

LINDA: (Trying unsuccessfully to be angry again.) I guess you will. But that little act wasn’t necessary. Did you enjoy it?

ELLIE: Of course. Girly-girl stuff. Did you enjoy it?

LINDA: Stuff you used on Eric.

ELLIE: (Flirting now.) Of course. But the real woman stuff is what I used on you. Can I help being a lipstick lesbian?

LINDA: Sometimes I wonder if you’re a lesbian at all.

ELLIE: You don’t have to worry about that. Not anymore. And you seemed to like the mini-shimmy.

(She gives LINDA another.)

LINDA: Well, it does work.

(Finally laughing. ELLIE laughs, too. Then LINDA does a less successful shimmy of her own.)

ELLIE: Practice makes perfect.

(They laugh together.)

LINDA: It all works. (A beat.) Should I be worried about your parents?

ELLIE: Of course not. At least I don’t think so.

LINDA: Don’t think so?

ELLIE: They love me. They’ll love you. They never really warmed up to Eric. Way too butch. Even for Daddy.

LINDA: And they’ll warm up to me.

ELLIE: They’ll treasure whatever I treasure. (We hear the sounds of a pneumatic tool from the service area.) So now we can look forward to a cozy evening with Mother and Daddy. Packing china and cut glass.

LINDA: Sleeping in.

ELLIE: And coming out. Dearest Linda.

(They embrace and kiss. More sounds from the service area. They break the embrace, but hold each other at arms’ length.)

LINDA: You know, I hear that nitrogen in the tires is a waste of time and money.  Regular air is mostly nitrogen, anyway.

ELLIE: You’re the doctor.

(They kiss again as the lights snap to black.)

THE END


Married writers Deborah Ann Percy (Johnston) and Arnold Johnston live in Kalamazoo and South Haven, MI. Their individually and collaboratively written plays have won some 200 productions, as well as numerous awards and publications across the country and internationally; and they’ve written, co-written, edited, or translated some twenty books. 

Debby earned the MFA in Creative Writing at Western Michigan University. A book of her short fiction, Cool Front: Stories from Lake Michigan, appeared in 2010 from March Street Press; in fall 2014 One Wet Shoe Press published her full-length collection, Invisible Traffic, which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and an Independent Publishers Award. 

Arnie’s poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and translations have appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies. His books include two poetry chapbooks—Sonnets: Signs and Portents and What the Earth Taught—and The Witching Voice: A Novel from the Life of Robert Burns. His translations of Jacques Brel’s songs have appeared in numerous musical revues nationwide, and are also featured on his CD, Jacques Brel: I’m Here! A full-length collection of Arnie’s poems—Where We’re Going, Where We’ve Been—will appear soon from FutureCycle Press, and his new novel—Swept Away—is forthcoming from Caffeinated Press.

This play is also part of an upcoming collection of six one-act plays set in or around automobiles, called Steering into the Skid: Six Dramatic Vehicles.

Hangin’

by: Luke Sorge

CAST OF CHARACTERS
HUTCH: A cowboy.
MOONSHOT: A younger, more annoying cowboy.

THE SETTING: An arid, desert landscape. Isolated. One big tree and thats it. The Wild West. The olden days. 

A rope hangs from the branch of the one big tree, its noose wrapped around HUTCHs neck. He is sitting on MOONSHOTs shoulders. Both mens hands are bound. 

If MOONSHOT walks away, HUTCH will fall and be hanged. 

Theyre silent for a long time. 

MOONSHOT: Ythink hell bring some water with him when he comes? (pause) I hope so. Its damn hot. I never been so thirsty.  (pause) Ythink he will, Hutch? Bring us some water? Or some apples?! Oh, boy. That sounds good, dont it. A big, red apple. Dont that sound good, Hutch? (pause) Yknow what I like? I like it when you bite into an apple, and its real crunchy and juicy and the juice run all down your chin and your beard gets all sticky and all day youre tastinapple in your moustache. Dont you like that, Hutch? Dont an apple sound real good right about now? (pause) I sure hope he brings some apples. He might, too. Right? He said hed bring some food, so it might well could be apples hes bringin, huh, Hutch?

HUTCH: Hes not bringing any apples. 

MOONSHOT: Why dyou say that?

HUTCH: Because hes not coming. 

MOONSHOT: He said he was. He said hes gonna / come back and–

HUTCH: I know what he said. But hes not. Why would he come back here, huh?

MOONSHOT: Gee, I dunno, Hutch. Maybe cuz he left us out here.

HUTCH: Thats exactly the point, kid. 

MOONSHOT: What is?

HUTCH: To leave us out here! Dont you get it? Hes punishing us. Thats why he said hes bringing us food. To make us hope. But having hope when theres no hope, its torture. Hes not coming. 

MOONSHOT: Nah, Hutch. Hes just tryinto put a scare in us, is all. He aint gonna just leave us out here. Its a misunderstandins what it is. A big misunderstandin

HUTCH: Misunderstandings get men killed. 

MOONSHOT: When he comes back, Ill explain to him / that–

HUTCH: Hes not coming back!

MOONSHOT: Well now, I think youre wrong, Hutch. I aint known him for long / but–

HUTCH: I have. 

MOONSHOT: –Ill explain to him that we didnt mean no harm. 

HUTCH: Theres no talking him out of it, kid. This is Big Frenchie were talking about. 

MOONSHOT: So?

HUTCH: So? Hes one of the most psychopathic stone-cold killers in the west, you idiot!

MOONSHOT: That may be so, but

HUTCH: But what?

MOONSHOT: That dont mean he aint still reasonable. 

HUTCH: Kid.

MOONSHOT: Yeah?

HUTCH: LOOK AT US. Does this look like the work of a reasonable person?!

HUTCH nearly falls off MOONSHOTs shoulders from yelling. MOONSHOT shuffles sideways and balances HUTCH to keep him up.

MOONSHOT: Whoa, now! Careful, Hutch! Take it easy. What happens if yfall offa me, huh?

HUTCH: Id die. 

MOONSHOT: Yeah, and we aint gonna let that happen. Alright, Hutch? (pause) Alright, Hutch? (pause) Alright, Hutch? (pause) Alright–

HUTCH: ALRIGHT!

MOONSHOT: Yreally oughta watch that temper, Hutch. All that anger nthat? Itll make you sick, yknow. (pause) Ywanna play a game?

HUTCH: No. 

MOONSHOT: Cmon, itll be fun. Its called these eyes in me.I usedta play it all the time when I was a kid. 

HUTCH: Youre still a kid.  

MOONSHOT: Im talkinwhen I was just a wee little guy. Couldnt even hold a gun. So ywanna play?]

HUTCH: I already told you. No. 

MOONSHOT: Well, seeinas how we aint got much else to do, I say we should. Its real simple, see – I say these eyes in me, what is it that you see?And then I give you clues as to what Im lookinat and you tryn guess it. \

HUTCH: If Im supposed to guess, why are you talking to your eyes?

MOONSHOT: Cuz thats how you play! Why yalways gotta question everything, Hutch? Why yalways make me feels stupid about everything? Im just tryinto pass the time, is all… (pause) Okay, Ill start. These eyes in me, what is it that you see? We seesomething brown. 

HUTCH: The tree. 

MOONSHOT: Yes! First try! Good. Now its your turn.

HUTCH: (looking around) Nothing else out here

A long pause. MOONSHOT shuffles his feet, discouraged. 

HUTCH: Ive got to pee. 

MOONSHOT: Nah, you should tryn hold it, Hutch. I heard you can get real sick if ypee too much. You could die. They even call it that – Die-hydration or somethin.

HUTCH: Its dehydration, kid. And it wont do any good to hold it now. Its already the last stop. 

MOONSHOT: Dont say that, Hutch. This aint the last stop for us. Were gonna–

HUTCH: For the piss, I mean! Its already gone through me. You dont get dehydrated from peeing too much. You get dehydrated from not drinking enough. 

MOONSHOT: Oh. Alright. SoWell, I guess you should drink it then.

HUTCH: My piss?! 

MOONSHOT: Yprobably should, right?

HUTCH: Im not drinking my piss!

MOONSHOT: To keep from die-hydratin.

HUTCH: Oh, see, I thought you meant because it tastes so good. 

MOONSHOT: Does it?

HUTCH: Ive never tasted my piss, dummy, and Im never going to!

HUTCH again has to steady himself from falling. Pause. 

MOONSHOT: Can I?

HUTCH: WHAT?!

MOONSHOT: We shouldnt waste it. I dont wanna die-hydrate either.

HUTCH: NO – You cant drink my pee! 

MOONSHOT: For survival, Hutch!

HUTCH: Were not going to survive, dammit!

Beat. MOONSHOT deflates. 

MOONSHOT: Fine. I wont drink your pee. 

HUTCH: Face it, kid. Were goners.

MOONSHOT: You dont know that. 

HUTCH: This is how Big Frenchie gets revenge. Its not enough to put a bullet in us. He wants us to suffer. If the thirst doesnt kill us, itll be the heat. If the heat doesnt do it, itll be the coyotes. And if the coyotes dont do it, wellitll be the rope. Once you finally smarten up and walk the hell away. 

MOONSHOT: And let you hang?

HUTCH: Better than both of us dying. 

MOONSHOT: That aint happenin, Hutch. Im the one got us in this mess. 

HUTCH: No, Big Frenchie and I go way back. This was a long time coming, kid. Its more about me than it is about you. 

MOONSHOT: Well, but still– You vouched for me. 

HUTCH: Which I knew was stupid, but I did it anyway. What I didnt know is what a terrible shot you are. 

MOONSHOT: I was nervous. My hand was shakinand–

HUTCH: Thats part of being a good shot– 

MOONSHOT: I had sweat in my eyes. 

HUTCH: Your reputation is as a good shot. 

MOONSHOT: Hell, I thought I was a good shot, Hutch. Honest I did. 

HUTCH: Well, youre not. And now look at us. 

MOONSHOT: And anyways, I didnt know she was Big Frenchies daughter. So. 

Pause. HUTCH shakes his head, defeated.

HUTCH: Just go, kid.

MOONSHOT: I cant.   

HUTCH: Yes you can. Its easy. Just start walking in whatever direction you choose and dont look back. Or better yet, start running. Just run and dont think. That should come pretty easy to you. 

MOONSHOT: You can go ahead and pee now, Hutch.

HUTCH: Youre still young, kid. Youve got your whole life ahead of you. 

MOONSHOT: It aint like youre old

HUTCH: No, Im finally getting whats coming to me. 

MOONSHOT: I aint gonna kill you, Hutch. 

HUTCH: You wouldnt be killing me, kid. Youd be setting me free. This is the price I pay for the life Ive lived. See, the wicked man and the good man die just the same. Only the wicked man is wicked no longer. 

MOONSHOT: Whats that mean?

HUTCH: Dont think of it as killing me. Think of it as saving yourself. Im a goner either way. But youyouve got the chance to–

MOONSHOT: Im a goner, too, you stupid son of a bitch! (pause) Shit, Hutch, even if I wanted to leave you – I dont¸ but even if I did – I dont know where hell we are. We was blindfolded a long time. And I dont recognize one single bit a this landscape. I start walkinnow, it could be days fore I see another soul. And then it might be Injins or coyotes or a rattler or somethinlike that. I wouldnt get far, anyhow. My hands are tied and my feet already hurt somethinfierce. And what direction would I even go in? Nah. I can just as easy starve to death right here with you as I can out there on my own. So stop tellinme to go. I aint goinnowhere. 

Pause. HUTCH nods. 

HUTCH: So what are we going to do, then?

MOONSHOT: These eyes in me, what is it that you–

HUTCH: Not that, kid!

MOONSHOT: Well, Hutch, I dunno. I guess we just hang out and– Whoops. Sorry. I guess we just stay right here and wait for Big Frenchie to come back. 

HUTCH: Hes not. Coming. Back. 

MOONSHOT: Maybe not, but ygotta have hope, Hutch. 

HUTCH: But I just told you – Hope without hope is torture. 

MOONSHOT: Yeah, wellwhat else we got?

Pause. The kids got a point. 

HUTCH: Hey, kid. What if he does come back What if Big Frenchie comes riding up in that little carriage of his right now and whistles at you and pats the empty seat next him?

MOONSHOT: What?

HUTCH: You say youre not going to go off on your own and leave me here. Well, what if he offers you, and only you, a safe ride back home? 

Beat. Quite a long silence follows. 

MOONSHOT: But what if he brings apples?

Pause.

HUTCH: Yeah, youre right, kid. An apple does sound pretty good right now. 

MOONSHOT: Real juicy ones

HUTCH: Running down your chin

MOONSHOT: That loud crunch as ybite into it

HUTCH: As many of them as we can eat

MOONSHOT: Hell, hell be here any minute now, Hutch. He will. I just know it. 

HUTCH: Sure, kid. Any minute now. (pause) Might as well hope. 

Another long silence. 

MOONSHOT shuffles his feet, looks around. HUTCH sighs. 

Lights fade.


Luke Sorge is a Denver-based playwright, whose work has been seen at Benchmark Theater Company, the University of Colorado Denver, and the Starz International Film Festival.

Yasmina, Cloris and Gordafarid: Three Views of War and Peace

By: Evan Guilford-Blake

CAST OF CHARACTERS:    
Yasmina, early 30s
Cloris, 21
Gordafarid, 50

SETTING: A bare stage. The production is encouraged to use sound as much as possible to create the environment.

TIME: Approximately the present

In Yasmina, Cloris and Gordafarid (18 minutes), three women   a wounded war veteran, one about to leave for a war zone for her first tour of duty, the third making the choice to sacrifice herself to serve her country — writeletters to significant others describing their feelings about war, the experience/anticipation of it, and their part in it. 

Playwrights note: The wars that are the settings for what is described in Yasmina, Cloris and Gordafarid, the women who describe them and the incidents to which they refer are, all, entirely fictional. War is not a thing of time, place, generation or specific circumstance. 

 

AT RISE: The stage is dark. Lights rise slowly on YASMINA. [NOTE: It is suggested Yasmina begin her monologue in black and remain in shadows until she says: I think a lot about darkness.]

YASMINA: Dear Rikki — 

Good news at long last. Theyre sending me home! I tried to call you but I got the goddamn voicemail — we have got to get rid of that message. First thing we do after I walk in the door. After you kiss me, of course, for what will probably be the thousandth time since I get off the plane. That message sounds sooooo sweet. So instead of me live from 5,000 miles away you get this, instead. E-mail isnt the comforting sound of your voice, and Ill try again later, but Im so excited I couldnt wait to tell you. And, besides, I need to practice my typing. Ignore the mistakes: This keyboard is really small and no way Im gonna let anyone proofread it. 

The other good news, I spose, is that you wont have to come. And Im grateful for that. I mean, it wouldve been awful goddamn hard for you to get in here, let alone just get here; and we couldntve afforded for you to stay long enough to make the trip worth it. And, bsides, I figure I still dont look so good. I dont know if Im ready to have the world see me like this however this looks. Theres still some pain the doctor says there will be some pain at least a few more months, maybe now and then after that, because of the nerves. You remember. 

(Nervously reassuring)

But, really, Im a lot better. The bandages came off this morningfor good! When they said they were going to do it? I kept thinking: The nurse s gonna gasp like in that Twilight Zone show. Ill never know if she did. I thought theyd let me be awake for the unveiling but, no, I was under. And groggy as hell when I woke up. But now I get to feel my face again. Rik there are … lots of scars. Lots. More than I guessed there was. I mean, I knew thered be scars, it hurt so much, it was like my skin was gettin tore up again and again, but God, Im so afraid of what I look like. Im afraid for you to see me. I know Im ugly, and they cant do anything reconstructive for years, maybe never, and I dont want to look like this, I dont want to look like someone little kids will scream at when they see, like someone youll have to hide what youre feeling when you see. I know you didnt want me for my looks in the first place, and eleven years is a long time, but, youre so goddamn beautiful and hey, how people look, its always made a difference to me

(Laughs)

I guess it wont any more, huh?

I guess its good I never had kids. 

CLORIS: Hey, Paulie.

There are lots of stars out tonight. They make me feel silly. Like when you and med get in the car, go way out into the country, and just lie in some field, listen to the crickets, drink and smoke pot and tickle … and all the rest. Tonight, before we got ready for bed, Mita and me sat on the rocks outside and looked at them. The stars, I mean. Theyre really cool, out here. I mean,

like theres no lights, well, except for the ones around the base. But you can see, its like, a hundred miles, across the water, across all the boats ships, I mean; I still call them boats sometimes, the officers get real p.o.ed. Mita thinks its funny. Sure not like the city. Or the county. I never seen this much darkness back home.

I wonder if itll be like this there. They keep showin us pictures, but I cant tell nothin from pictures. I guess Im excited about goin. I mean, who ever thought Id get to go somewhere on a difrent continent, on a plane and all. Some of the girlsre scared. I mean, all the stuff you see on TV, thats in the papers. Mitas brother tried to talk her out of joining up. He comes here every week, and he always tries to get her to sneak away. What you wanna do this for? he says. You gonna get your sorry ass killed. Mita just laughs. Maybe, she says. But I know she doesnt think she will, get killed I mean. 

Me neither. I mean, I know I aint the sharpest crayon in the pack, but I been payin attention real careful attention — to everything. For the life of me I cant remember that boats re ships. But I do remember the stuff that counts; and I know how to take care of myself. Hell, Paulie, I always took care of myself. Wars just a difrent way of havin to do it. You know. I been banged around; you get good at bangin back.

GORDAFARID: My dearest Son,

Your uncle (whose name I cannot write here, of course) was very understanding. He left the decision up to me; he did not apply pressure. He is a good man. He explained how a woman would not arouse suspicion, as a man would, entering such a place. And he urged me to discuss it, with him, and with you and your sisters, because you are all old enough to understand. But you, my Son, are too far away and it was not something that could be discussed by letter; even this I must leave with someone whom I know you will think of when you hear what has happened, and that person will place it where you will think to look. Your younger sister does not understand why I would do this. She has babies herself and a husband who is alive and good to her, and who cannot go to war because he cannot walk. She only feels, not thinks. She did not come to see me today. Uncle said it was best if no one entered the house today who did not enter it every day. 

Your other sister remains in the hospital. Her wounds are healing but she will, I think, never again be well. She has nightmares every night about the bombing, wakens screaming, her husband tells me. Of course, I have not talked to her of this. She sees people die every day and to know her mother has planned her own death would be more than she could bear. Please explain to her when she is well enough just to weep. 

Uncle fears the authorities will punish the rest of the family. I fear that too, but they will claim they had no knowledge of my act. Now that I have made the decision, he said it would be all right for me to write this for you to find later, but he cautioned me: Do not use anyones name.

YASMINA: Anyway…Im making progress in Braille. I still cant read much, but I got through a whole page today. Took me an hour, I had to go over some of the words three r four times, but theres what the therapist calls context: If you figure out the first letter is e and the last one is t you can figure the one between them is probly an a. If its a three-letter word, anyway. I get confused on the longer ones; I forget what letters I read. Its probably good Im reading Stephen King. I think the longest word in Salems Lot is vampire. And feeling that word it conjures up lots of images. All of them having to do with darkness. Different kinds of darkness.

I think a lot about darkness. Like being in a tunnel thats too long to know there is a light at the end. Before I came here, before the explosion and the pain and the wanting to die, I loved it. Lying there with you, late at night, pitch black and all the sounds magnified. Every breath you took, every rustle of the sheets, the tiny, tiny sound of my finger tracing the circle around your areola, the licking of your lips before you kissed me. Its true: You are more aware of sounds when you cant see. Here, I hear planes, footsteps in the hall, the other women crying, crying out. 

Sometimes I hear people die. 

CLORIS: Right now, Im lyin here, waitin for them to turn off the lights. Lot of the girls are doin their last minute packin. Mines done. The plane leaves at six oclock whoops, I mean: zero six hundred and I dont want thave to get up a minute earlier than I got to. Im used to it, though, finly, gettin up real early, I mean. Last week when I wrote? I was only complainin cause I was sore, from all the marchin and stuff. I feel good now, now that were about to do it. Finly.

Hey, before I forget: Thanks for the present. I love it! I am twenty-one as of yesterday. Mita and a couple of the girls bought me my first legal beer, at the commissary. Mita said she wouldve taken me out for a big celebration but, of course, we cant leave base. But first leave we get? Were gonna go paint the town. If there is one. In the pictures, it dont look like theres much there at all. Kinda dull. Have to get our excitement from the shootin, is what Mita says. 

GORDAFARID: I write this with both sadness and exhilaration in my heart. I have prepared myself, with uncles wifes help. She too is sad but she understands things the way I do; it is the way men must understand: This is war and, in war, we all must be soldiers. There is more at stake than one womans life. There is what we believe, what we live for. I will leave in a little while but it is important to write to you, to be able to say these last words to you, my Son, so you will remember that what I do is done from belief in our cause, and faith, and love.

What, after all, is death but an opportunity to join God? I am fifty that is not old, but I have lived a full life, loving and being loved by your father, giving birth to my children and watching each of you grow. You are my legacy, as you are your fathers. He will be proud that I have chosen to serve God and our people, just as I am proud of you for the service you perform in protecting our nation.

I know there is much to say that is important, yet it is the weather that impresses itself on my mind. It is a warm day, but not so warm the bindings are uncomfortable. When we put them on it

felt odd, to know I was dressing for the last time, that these would be the garments in which I would say my last prayer, that the photograph uncles wife will take of me will show me in this unobtrusive clothing in which no one will notice me. Few people have noticed me in my life, except your father, and I have not minded: I have lived a simple life, as God has willed. This is good. I come to my death with my eyes and my heart open, in clear conscience, despite the deaths I know I will cause. I believe those, like mine, are the will of God.

It is bright outside, a beautiful day. I am grateful for Gods kindness in granting that. Walking where I must go, I hope I am not so absorbed that I fail to notice the sun, the sky, the children, even the scarred streets and buildings. There is so much beauty even amid the rubble their bombs and soldiers have left. And so many of our friends, our loved ones, dead.

YASMINA: Im not going to die, Rikki, not for a long time. The doctor says Im in surprisingly good shape. I oughta be: You cant train other soldiers for six years if youre not. But its gonna be hard to live, I know that. For both of us. When I get back? We should go right away, someplace where theyll let us really tie the knot, you think? If youre still willing. And I believe you when you say you are. Thats whats been keeping me going the last four months, knowing there is a light at the end of this tunnel. I might not be able to see it, but I can feel it. Its warm and it feelssafe. I love you, Rik. Thanks for loving me not because of, not in spite of. Just loving.

CLORIS: Hey, Paulie: just got time for one more thing before lights out. You know I love you. And I know youre scared for me. Thanks for workin at not showin it. Jeez, when you was in, I was only twelve, thirteen years old! Im glad there wasnt no war then. Idve been scared for you, if Id known you then, I mean. And thanks for understandin how I had to do this. I loved my Daddy, and hed be scared for me, and hed be proud of me, too. And when I come back and I am comin back; you can bet your ass and mine on that when I come back we are gonna get married and have us a dozen kids, live happily ever after, cause there aint never, never gonna be another war.

GORDAFARID: I recall when you were a baby, how I was filled with hope as much as milk, and I nestled you to my breast and you drank of it. How I loved that! My breasts are dry now but still, whenever I think of you I think of that, your lips gently suckling, your eyes closed, your tiny hands reaching out for me. It is I who reach out now, to you, to the rest, asking for your prayers. Heaven will be a lonely place if your father is not waiting for me, if you and your sisters do not join us one day.

I am not afraid. Uncle assures me there will be no pain; I will hear nothing. The end will come too quickly for me to even notice. I will close my eyes, take a breath in which I will pray and speak your name, your sisters names, your fathers.

YASMINA: I’ll see you soon.

CLORIS: Gotta go now. Ill write you from the plane. 

GORDAFARID: Then I will press the button and go to meet God.

YASMINA: Yours, Yasmina

CLORIS: Love, Cloris

GORDAFARID: Goodbye, my Son. Pray for me.

Blackout.     


Evan Guilford-Blake writes plays, prose and poetry. His work has appeared in more than 100 journals and anthologies. His prose has won 27 awards and garnered four Pushcart Prize nominations. His scripts have won 47 competitions including the 2020 Porter Fleming Award for The Death of Donald Trump. Thirty-three of his plays are published.

Evan’s published long-form prose includes the novels Animation and The Bluebird Prince, and the award-winning story collection American Blues.

He and his wife (and inspiration) Roxanna, a talented jewelry designer and business writer, live in the southeastern US with their beloved rescue mutts, Baldrick and Pip.

A Blue Hydrangea

by Eric Braman

A 10-Minute Play

Cast of Characters

BLUE            A Blue Hydrangea
PINK             A Pink Hydrangea
CAROLE      The Great Gardener (optional voiceover)
GEORGE     The Great Gardener’s Husband (optional voiceover)

Scene
A backyard garden.

Time
Late spring/early summer.

Lights up on a garden. A hydrangea bush with multiple heads of blossoms is seen center stage, all of them pink except one, which is blue. The blossoms are asleep. The sun rises at start of play waking the blossoms from their slumber.

PINK
Good morning world.

BLUE
Good morning sun.

PINK
Good morning dirt.

BLUE
Good morning butterfly.

PINK
Good morning little ants.

BLUE
Good morning Lilies and Roses and Jasmine.

PINK
Good morning Cherry Tree, good morning Kale!

BLUE
Good morning family.

PINK
(turning toward BLUE) Good morning – OH MY GROVE!

BLUE
What is it?

PINK
What happened to you?!

BLUE
What? Is my stamen showing?

PINK
No, it’s – I can’t believe it.

BLUE
What is it?! Am I infected? Is it aphids?! Oh god, get them off! Get them off!

PINK
Stop fussing. Stop flinching.

BLUE
Out with it! You look like you’ve seen a slug!

PINK
No, it’s not a pest. It’s a … Well, you’re … Blue.

BLUE
What?!

PINK
As blue as that morning sky, dear. You’re blue through and through. Every petal. I’ve never seen anything like it. I can hardly believe it’s you. Look there, in the bird bath.

(BLUE leans over and looks at reflection in water surface.)

BLUE
Wow. I’m …

PINK
Did you eat something?

BLUE
Nothing out of the ordinary. Just water from the ground and you know …carbon from the air. Same water and air as you, I think.

PINK
Well you must have had paint from the house dripped on you.

BLUE
No. Not that I recall.

PINK
Good Gardener in Heaven! You must have done something. I’ve never heard of a Hydrangea just turning blue out of the blue.

BLUE
I mean, there are blue Hydrangeas, right?

PINK
Sure, I’ve heard of blue Hydrangeas. But we are pink Hydrangeas. The Good Carole planted us as such, and no Hydrangea I’ve ever seen in this back yard has ever been blue.

BLUE
Are you sure I wasn’t always blue and we just never looked close enough?

PINK
You’re being absurd.

BLUE
Well, I don’t know.

PINK
You look ridiculous.

BLUE
I think I look … nice.

PINK
Nice?!

BLUE
Handsome, even.

PINK
Handsome?! A Hydrangea?! Handsome?!

BLUE
Yeah?

PINK
(laughing) I’ve never in all my days heard of a Hydrangea being … handsome! Beautiful? Of course. Pretty? Always. Stunning? I mean, I’ve heard it said once or twice. But handsome! Hah! I’ve never.

BLUE
You don’t have to be so cruel.

PINK
I’m sorry, dear. It’s just so unnatural.

(An uncomfortable silence.)

BLUE
I think I wished for this.

PINK
WISHED FOR THIS?! To be blue?! What on earth would make you wish to be blue?

BLUE
I don’t know. I guess I’ve always wanted to be blue. Like, since I was a tiny bud. There was something in me that never felt pink, you know?

PINK
That’s against the laws of nature. Carole planted us to match the yellow Irises and red Poppies. We are the splash of pink in this garden. You know how she likes warm colors.

BLUE
I know. I don’t wish to upset Carole, bless Her Greatness, but I can’t help but feel this is meant to be. I mean, I’ve had dreams—so many dreams—for years about looking up into the sky and seeing my reflection in its beautiful hue. I’ve had visions while we slumber in the cold of winter. Visions of waking up absolutely turquoise and looking down at the Thyme creeping below us to hear songs of “oohs” and “aahs” as each little white bud tells me how much they love the new view.

Maybe I manifested this!

PINK
Flowers don’t manifest. We blossom, wilt, hibernate, repeat. We follow nature’s cycle. We only live because Her Greatness, Carole, planted us here. To manifest would be a malicious betrayal of Her great design!

BLUE
Perhaps Her Greatness will love this. Perhaps Her Greatness always wished for me to be blue!

PINK
Flowers are not meant to change colors. Flowers are meant to stay the hue the Good Gardener planted at time of purchase. You are breaking the laws of lawn care.

BLUE
I can’t help it if I’m blue!

PINK
But you wished for this. You wished to break Carole’s heart. How dare you.

BLUE
You think this will break Carole’s heart?

PINK
Oh absolutely. There’s not a single blue flower in this garden. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb. Oh, I can hear those terrible Chrysanthemums now. “A blue flowah, why I nevah.” Oooooh … We’ll be the laughingstock of the yard. Thank compost we’re in the back.

Oh. This is why. This is why Carole put us back here. She knew we couldn’t handle the curbside!

BLUE
You can’t mean that. Carole put us back here because She spends more time here. She put us back here because we’re Her favorite.

PINK
We are Her favorite. Imagine when She comes to water us …

BLUE
She really might like it!

PINK
Or maybe She’ll chop your head right off. Into the incinerator with you. Or all of us. What if She takes all of us? One rotten head in the bunch … soon the whole bush will turn.

BLUE
Just because I turned blue doesn’t mean every pink Hydrangea will turn blue. You clearly don’t want to be blue and you’re pink as pink can be.

PINK
Because I have my wits about me! Because I’m strong. But what about those new buds on the edge. Oh, they’re so young and impressionable. They will surely turn blue.

BLUE
It took me six years to turn blue. And, I never wanted to be pink! Everyone around me was pink so I just followed suit. I didn’t know I had a choice. I think I’ve been pretending to be pink this whole time!

PINK
You take that back.

BLUE
No, I really think that I was pretending, this whole time, to be something I’m not! I’m blue! I am a blue blossom! I’m a handsome blue blossom!

PINK
(clutching chest) Oh my sepal!

BLUE
Hey backyard! LOOK OVER HERE! Check out the newest addition–

PINK
You shut your mouth right this instant.

BLUE
They’re going to see eventually, might as well get it out of the way. HEY RHODODENDRONS!

PINK
You stop it. Stop it. If I hear one more word out of you I’ll break your stem myself.

BLUE
You wouldn’t.

PINK
I’ll kick you right out of this bush, you hear me?

BLUE
Who put you in charge?

PINK
I am the oldest bud on this hedge, I was blossoming long before you were even a thought in Carole’s heart.

BLUE
You said we all lived in Carole’s great vision before we bloomed?

PINK
Of course, you did. WE ALL DID! That doesn’t give you seniority. This is my bush and so long as I’m in blossom you’ll follow my rules. Now, you unruffle your leaves or so help me …

BLUE
Or what? You’ll chop me out of the family? Leave a gaping hole in this bush? You think Carole will be happy when she comes out to see we’re asymmetrical?!

PINK
Carole, grant me patience …

BLUE
Oh, sibling, just look at me. Please. Look me in the eyes.

(PINK struggles, finally looks up.)

BLUE
Don’t you see it?

PINK
See what?

BLUE
Look deeper, you must see it. It’s me. This has always been me.

PINK Oh! Love, I’M SO CONFLICTED!!!!

BLUE
I know it’s hard. I know this is different. It’s scary for me too.

PINK
(crying) STOP DOING MY EMOTIONAL LABOR FOR ME!

BLUE
I just want you to see me and accept me for the blueness that I am. This is me.

PINK
I know. I know it’s you. It’s just … it’s going to take some time for me to … adjust.

(A moment of silence as BLUE and PINK embrace. The sound of a door being opened is heard and the faint sound of CAROLE’s humming arises in the distance.)

CAROLE
Good morning, flowers!

PINK
Holy peat moss! It’s Her Greatness. It’s Carole. Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no!

BLUE
(suddenly in shock) It’s Carole.

PINK
She’s going to freak out. She’s going to lose her mind. She’s going to rip us right out of the ground. She’s going to KILL US ALL!!!

BLUE
It’s going to be fine. Everything will be fine.

PINK
This is the end. It was great knowing you, world. I wish I had more time. I wish I could watch the butterflies burst from their cocoons even just once more!

BLUE
We’re not going to die. I don’t think.

PINK
She’ll stop watering us. She’ll make us suffer for betraying her.

BLUE
Shoosh shoosh shoosh! Here she comes.

PINK
Uuuuugggghhhhhhhh…

(BLUE and PINK slowly look up to see CAROLE standing above them.)

CAROLE
Oh my word! What do we have here?!

PINK
We’re dead.

CAROLE
Why, you’ve turned blue, little one! I can’t believe it! George! George, get out here!

(BLUE and PINK watch as CAROLE runs back into the house.)

PINK
Oh god. It’s happening. She’s getting George so he can dig us up. I knew it!

BLUE
She wouldn’t.

PINK
I knew it. I knew it was unnatural. I knew she would hate it.

BLUE
They’re coming back. Calm down. You’ll be fine.

PINK
May Carole have mercy on our souls.

(BLUE and PINK’s attention follows GEORGE and CAROLE as they come to stand above them.)

CAROLE
It’s turned blue! Look at it!

GEORGE
My word. It has.

CAROLE
It’s … so …

GEORGE
Handsome.

CAROLE
Like it was always meant to be blue … I love it!

(BLUE looks over at PINK, smiles.)

BLUE
Like I was always meant to be.

(The lights fade as BLUE basks in their newfound pride.)

The End.


Eric Braman (they/them) is a queer poet, playwright, and performer based in Springfield, Oregon. This is the first publication opportunity for Braman. Their plays have been performed at the NW10 New Play Festival, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Tsunami Books of Eugene, and the University of Oregon campus. As a poet, Braman has performed at Oregon Country Fair and City of Eugene events, competed in the Big Foot Regional Poetry Slam and Eugene Poetry Slam, and collaborated on the album By Your Side with musician Cullen Vance. Braman serves as the Arts Education Program Manager with Lane Arts Council, is a producer for the NW10 New Play Festival at Oregon Contemporary Theatre, and is a member of artist collectives Operation Shadowbox and Dead Parrots Society. Follow them on Instagram @ericwilliambram or on Facebook at Eric Braman Artistry.

Everybody To Their Own Thing

By Ellen Birkett Morris

CAST
Max Anderson, Age 43
Jack Hensley, Age 72
Jenny Anderson, Age 41

SETTING
The Andersons’ dining room table.
Four chairs surround the table; a place is set at each.

TIME
Present day

(Lights up on Jenny, Max enters and kisses her on her forehead).

MAX: You’re sure you don’t mind company.

JENNY: Not at all honey. It’s been a while since we had someone to dinner. It was…

(She stops herself and furrows her brow.).  

MAX: Dad. We can talk about it. I want to talk about it. It isn’t like someone just disappears when they die.

Read More

Baggage Claim

By: Margie Semilof

CAST OF CHARACTERS
Andy
– male, super nerdy software programmer, any race, age.
Tam – attractive transgender female, any race, age.

SETTING
At the airport baggage carousel.

SYNOPSIS
Andy and Tam connect while waiting for their bags to come off of a flight.

ANDY enters and faces the audience. He checks his phone impatiently.

TAM enters, looks up and then at Andy.

TAM: Excuse me. Did you come in on Flight 105?

ANDY: (nodding and points) Yup. Bag carousel number three.

TAM: Great. Thanks.

ANDY: At least that’s what the board says. Sometimes it’s wrong.

TAM: Just another reason to hate flying.

ANDY: I know, right?

They’re both impatient. Shifting their feet, looking at phones.

ANDY: And why does it take so long to bring the bags out? You know they’re pawing through our stuff.

TAM: You can’t trust anybody.

ANDY: Well, SOME people you can trust.

TAM: I’m just talking about air travel. What doesn’t suck about flying? Security? Sucks. The food? Sucks. Airplane seats? They suck most of all.

ANDY: Oh! And then you get off the plane and have to deal with – this!
___(points to carousel)

TAM: Why does everyone have to block the carousel? They’ve got their whole damn family up there looking for the bags. No one else can see!

ANDY: They should send just one person to get the bags.

TAM: I also hate when they let their kids play with the carts. They use ‘em to smash into your ankles.

ANDY: See, that’s the kind of shit that happens. No one pays attention to anything anymore.

TAM: I totally agree. We live in a rude and uncaring society.

Awkward pause.

ANDY: Live here or just visiting?

TAM: I moved here last month.

ANDY: New job or something?

TAM: Just making some big changes in my life.

ANDY: I get it. Turning the page.

TAM: Sort of.

She checks her phone. Another awkward pause.

TAM: What about you? You back from a vacation?

ANDY: Just visited the family for a weekend. That’s enough for me.

TAM: So you don’t get along with your family either?

ANDY: Everybody’s into sports except me. My dad wanted me to be a star athlete, because, you know, he was.

TAM: People need to be who they are.

ANDY: Amen!

TAM: In my case, I have to defend everything. Every lock of hair, the way I walk, even the shoes I put on my feet.

ANDY: Well, I’m glad I live here. This is a very broad-minded city.

TAM: I hope that’s true.

ANDY: It IS true! There is so much going on. More diversity. I mean, look at all the different kinds of restaurants.

TAM: If ethnic food is your idea of diversity….

ANDY: Well, it’s just one example.

TAM: I think people are lying when they say they like diversity. They’re saying what they think other people want to hear.

ANDY: I don’t think that’s true.

TAM: It IS true. You know that expression about birds of a feather flocking together?

ANDY: I guess I hit a nerve.

TAM: I’m sick of phonies!

Awkward pause, they look around and check their phones.

TAM: What sort of work do you do?

ANDY: I’m a programmer.

TAM: Ah, you guys are like rock stars, getting all kinds of free stuff. Food, dry cleaning, people even walk your dog.

ANDY: I wish. I just baby sit an old mainframe. I make sure it doesn’t crash.

TAM: Ah. Well.
___(pause)
Speaking of diversity, aren’t most programmers white guys? What’s up with that?

ANDY: We’ve hired some women. But they never fit in.

TAM: Why not?

ANDY: Who knows? Maybe it’s a culture thing.
___(pause)
But what about you? What do you do?

TAM: I’m between gigs. I’ve got a restaurant job to pay the bills.

ANDY: Yeah? Which restaurant?

TAM: Well it’s a bar, really. Downtown. Near the city hospital.

ANDY: Wow, I know that part of town. You’ve got to be careful. I hope someone walks you to your car or the bus or something.

TAM: I look out for myself.

ANDY: Still, it can get pretty rough when the bars get out. Especially for women walking alone. Attractive women.

TAM: Well, I’m not always alone.

ANDY: Of course. Your husband walks you home, I guess.

TAM: I’m not married.

ANDY: You’re not? Me neither.

The two look at the carousel.

TAM: Are you sure this is the right carousel?

ANDY: The screen says carousel three.
___(pause)
Are you in a rush?

TAM: I thought I’d watch the rest of the game.

ANDY: Say, I have an idea. When the bags come, we can go to one of the restaurants here in the airport. One with a TV.

TAM: I thought you hated sports?

ANDY: I’ll make an exception.
___(pause)
My name’s Andy.

He reaches his hand out to shake Tam’s. She reaches back.

TAM: I’m Tam.

ANDY: Tam. Is that short for Tammy? Tamara?

TAM: Nope. Just Tam.

ANDY: We can watch the game together. There’s a sushi place upstairs. Good beer list, too.

TAM: Thank you. Not today.

ANDY: You’ve got plans. I get it. I just thought I’d ask.

TAM: Well. No. It’s just that…

ANDY: I’m so bad at this. Everything is so, you know, swipe left or swipe right. Hey, look.
___(hands her his phone)
Find yourself on Insta and I’ll add you.

Tam declines the phone. Andy, embarrassed, puts it away.

TAM: I don’t want to mislead you.

ANDY: What are you in some witness protection program or something? I thought we kind of connected. I’m sorry.

TAM: Don’t be sorry.
___(pause)
I wish those bags would show up.

ANDY: I hope I didn’t offend you.

TAM: Of course not! You seem like a really nice person.

ANDY: I find it hard to make new friends. And you are so open. I thought maybe just this once…

TAM: Here’s how it is.

ANDY: I hate Tinder. The old way—to find a connection like this
___(motions between them both)
is so much better.

TAM: Listen. Andy.

ANDY: It’s because I’m a dork. And I’ve gained some weight since college. But how would you know that? You just met me.

TAM: It’s nothing to do with you. It’s me!

ANDY: That’s so lame. It’s not you. It’s me. Just say I’m not your type.

TAM: I don’t have a type.

ANDY: Girls always reject me. I mean, look at me. It’s easy to say no to someone like me.

TAM: Andy! Stop! You’re fine.

ANDY: We were having such a good conversation.

TAM: Andy. I don’t think you realize this. I’m trans.

ANDY: Trans? What?

Andy searches Tam’s face. Suddenly it dawns on him what she’s talking about and his color drains.

ANDY: What? Oh. Oh wow. I get it. So yeah. Yeah.
___(pauses to look at Tam)
Are you sure?

TAM: (laughing) I’m sure.

ANDY: I feel so stupid.

TAM: What for?

Flustered and uncomfortable, Andy looks at the mouth of the carousel.

ANDY: What are they doing back there?

TAM: Now, would you still have asked me to dinner?

ANDY: (still fixating) You look good. I mean, you really can’t tell. You’re very attractive.

TAM: Umm. Okay.

ANDY: Did I say a bad thing? Commenting about how you look?

TAM: I don’t think so. It’s actually nice to hear compared with some of the other things people have said to me.

ANDY: Well, like what?

TAM: I don’t really want to talk about it.

ANDY: At least people talk to you. I get ignored. Tell me what’s worse? People who know you exist and abuse you, or people who look right through you like you’re not there.

TAM: Well, you’re not invisible.

ANDY: My dad bought football tickets last weekend. I hate football. He knows it.

TAM: Maybe there is something else you can do together?

ANDY: Everything is planned around sports. It’s like I don’t exist. They think I’m a freak.

TAM: I get that too. Some of my best friends from high school never seem to be home when I drop by.

ANDY: Well, maybe you shocked them.

TAM: Hardly.

ANDY: People have an idea in their head. It’s hard to change.

TAM: Screw them. I’m creating friends and family right here.

Tam takes out a pen and writes on Andy’s hand before Andy can react.

TAM: Here’s my contact. I don’t do social media. It’s too depressing. But maybe we can get together and, you know, talk sometime?

ANDY: Yeah, uh, sure.

The carousel begins to hum.

TAM: Looks like something’s happening back there.

ANDY: Yep.

TAM: I’m sick of trying to teach people how to be without them thinking I’m some kind of freak.

ANDY: (uncomfortable and growing more distant) Yeah, okay. Sure.

TAM: I’m glad you get it. You know what, Andy? You’re all right.

ANDY: Here come the bags. Mine is the first one off.

TAM: And mine is right there too. You know, Andy, I changed my mind. I really am hungry. Does the offer still stand?

ANDY: Uh, maybe some other time. It’s getting late. I suppose I should head home.

TAM: Huh?

ANDY: And I’ve got morning deadlines.

TAM: Here we go. I knew this would happen.

ANDY: So, maybe see you around?

Andy puts his hand out to shake Tam’s. She ignores it.

TAM: I just spent an entire weekend with people just like you. Why did I think that you might be different?

Andy takes his bag and starts to walk away.

ANDY: Look I’m just not sure about this. (motions between them)

TAM: (interrupts) It was just sushi and a beer!

Tam takes her bag and heads in the other direction. She turns and yells to him.

TAM: The baggage always shows up sooner or later, doesn’t it, Andy?

She exits. Andy stops. He looks at his hand (keeps it open) and thinks, then turns back to Tam, who is gone.

ANDY: Hey Tam. I don’t know. Look, I…

He continues looking after Tam, as he grows angry at himself.

ANDY: (anguished) Ugh. I did it again.

Andy closes his hand. Gives it a little shake like he’s holding onto something he’s afraid he might lose, and walks off.

END OF PLAY


Margie Semilof is a Boston-based playwright. Her short plays have been produced in numerous regional and national festivals, such as The Group Rep, in LA, Theatre East, in New York, Firehouse Center for the Arts, Newburyport, Mass., at Greenbrier Valley Theatre New Voices, Lewisburg, WV., and the Weathervane 8×10 in Akron, Ohio, to name a few. She has recently completed an old-style, full-length comedy, Queen of the Coast. She is vice president of Playwrights Platform, a playwright cooperative in Boston.

9 / 10

by: Richard Willett

CAST OF CHARACTERS
SCOTT, 35-year-old gay man from Idaho; one of those guys who came to New York because he’s gay and now doesn’t quite know what he’s supposed to be doing there.
SAHAR, 27-year-old Muslim woman from Morocco.

SETTING
The play takes place in the World Trade Center on the evening of September 10, 2001, but this is only gradually revealed to the audience.

Lights up on an office space, a mid-level financial institution with a battered, used look to it. It’s got an impressive skyscraper address, but the company has never quite lived up to it. Two desks face out, each with a computer. SCOTT, 35, sits at the stage right desk talking on the phone and playing around with something on his computer at the same time.

SCOTT: (into phone) I’m fine. I’m fine. Look, it’s not as if I didn’t see it coming . . . No, my mom called me here herself, just a couple minutes ago. She was all obsessed because she wasn’t there, you know, at his side for the final moment and all that. Personally, I think the way she’s been hovering over him the past four years, he was probably praying she’d leave the room so he could make his exit . . . I have a flight out tomorrow night . . . I would but I have to be here in the morning. . So hang up and go online. We can IM each other . . . The usual. That’s what I do here. I stay late to get extra work done and then I look at porn all night . . .
___(Change of subject.)
I should never have gone on match.com . . . I know he e-mailed me back. He e-mailed me back immediately . . . I don’t want to meet anybody right now, Jeremy . . . I find it exhausting.

(In the background, unseen by Scott, SAHAR enters and begins to move to the other desk but stops when SHE hears what Scott is saying. She is a 27-year-old Muslim woman from Morocco. She is angular but attractive, and dressed in a high-necked, long-sleeved top, slacks, and a pretty scarf around her head. She speaks with an Arabic accent.)

SCOTT: (continuing into phone) Okay, but hurry, because I may have to shut it down, I’ve got company tonight . . . Oh, this crazy Muslim woman Deborah hired. She’s temping here graveyard, but it’s this whole thing because if she’s working at night and I’m the only one here, I have to let her know ahead of time because she’s not really even supposed to be alone with me and she has to be sure she has her hair covered– . . . Because I’m a man, dummkopf . . . Very funny, Miss Minnelli . . . Just go online, all right? . . . See ya.

(HE hangs up and turns to his computer. HE’s admiring an image when HE sees Sahar’s reflection in the screen and jumps to get his computer shifted over to something work-related.)

SAHAR: (moving to the other desk) Is all right, you know. Just crazy Muslim woman. Just crazy girl from Morocco make your life difficult.
___(Beat, then she’s over it and laughing.)
Oh-mygod, Scott, I took the wrong elevator.

SCOTT: Huh?

SAHAR: Just now. I got off the elevator and there was a man from the back he look just like you. And I start walking and oh-mygod I look out the window and I think “I am not high enough up,” and then — oh-mygod — I notice that the furniture is all quite different. I went to the wrong lobby. Oh-mygod. Is so funny.

SCOTT: It’s a good thing you didn’t sit down and start working.

SAHAR: I know. Right?
___(SHE’s now at her desk and begins getting organized. Taking in her evening’s
___workload.)
Shit.
___(SCOTT looks at her askance. By way of explanation:)
Deborah. She left me much work to do.
___(SCOTT nods and begins getting organized to try to do some work himself.)
Sorry. I know. I talk too much.
___(Making little talking mouths with her hands.)
In Morocco, we talk how you say, morning, noon, and night — the house it is full of talk. Here, in this place you come from, in this Idaho, I think no talk.

SCOTT: We’re tight-lipped out there.

SAHAR: Tight lipped? Scott, you teach me more strange American expressions than anyone else.

SCOTT: (forcing his lips together) Tight lipped. See? (SAHAR nods.)

SAHAR: Well, I will not bother you tonight, because you see I have workload. Fucking Deborah.

SCOTT: Um . . . Sahar?

SAHAR: Yes?

SCOTT: Do you know what that word means?

SAHAR: What word?

SCOTT: That word you just called Deborah.

SAHAR: You mean fucking Deborah?

SCOTT: Yeah, the first part of that.

SAHAR: Americans say all the time. Fucking. I like it.

SCOTT: Yeah, but you’re a Muslim woman, you’re not supposed to–

SAHAR: (almost excited) Is bad word? Oh-mygod.

SCOTT: Yup.

SAHAR: Shit. I didn’t know.

(SCOTT is about to say something further, but lets it go. HE looks forlornly at his now work-oriented computer screen. HE begins to input data. Across the room, SAHAR does the same. Then SHE stops.)

SAHAR: Is not true, you know, I cannot be here with you.

SCOTT: Huh?

SAHAR: Because (SHE gestures off.) Michele she is down the hall. For another hour.

SCOTT: (continuing to work) Oh.

SAHAR: I check, you see, so everything is on the up and down.

SCOTT: The up and up, Sahar.

SAHAR: The up and up. Everything is copacabana.

SCOTT: That was a joke, Sahar. The actual word is copacetic.

SAHAR: Well, whatever. Is important, yes? For crazy Moroccan girl.

SCOTT: I’m sorry you heard that. I was just joking around.

SAHAR: Is odd, your sense of humor.

SCOTT: I guess.

SAHAR: Is like yesterday my cousin and I we watch Elvis marathon on AMC. Is my favorite channel that one.

SCOTT: You watched an Elvis marathon, Sahar?

SAHAR: Well, we only saw four of the films. But the jokes I do not always understand.

SCOTT: I don’t think I’ve seen that many Elvis movies in my entire life. Are you sure we aren’t corrupting you over here, Sahar, with all this American culture?

SAHAR: American culture fascinates me. But I am not threatened by it.

(THEY go back to work for a bit. Then SAHAR stops again.)

SAHAR: Who is your god anyway, Scott? Hmn? I was thinking this the other day. Who is Scott’s god?

SCOTT: My god?

SAHAR: Who is your god out there in Idaho?

(This stops SCOTT for a brief moment where he seems almost lost.)

SAHAR: Hmn? Who is the god of Idaho?

(HE snaps out of it.)

SCOTT: Mr. Potato Head.

SAHAR: Mr . . . ?

SCOTT: He’s a great big potato, with stuff stuck in him to make a face.

SAHAR: You have, how you say, lost me. Me, I am lost.

SCOTT: I’m joking.

SAHAR: This kind of joking of yours, I do not understand. You should not joke about god. Now, do you know god?

SCOTT: I thought we had agreed not to discuss this sort of thing.

SAHAR: I do not remember this agreement.

SCOTT: Certain subjects just seem not worth trying to discuss between you and me.

SAHAR: That was when you wanted to talk about the Palestinians.

SCOTT: I never wanted to talk about–

SAHAR: You must understand that if a boy, or a girl for that matter, in a good family decides to be suicide bomber, and the family see this as a source of pride, then this suicide bomber must be very motivated, yes? Must have good reason, yes? Is not just crazy.

SCOTT: I’m sorry, Sahar, but you told me your religion would never condone the murder of innocent people.

SAHAR: It does not.

SCOTT: Well then . . .

SAHAR: Is not right in that way. I only mean it is understandable. Is not just crazy madmen. Is perhaps right in a political sense even if it is not moral.

SCOTT: How can it be right in any sense?

SAHAR: Maybe, Scott, if America give Palestinians same weapons and money, they fight real war, but for now what else can they do?

SCOTT: It’s horrible when people die in war, Sahar, but it’s not the same thing as strapping a bomb to yourself and going into a crowded restaurant and deliberately murdering innocent civilians.

SAHAR: Oh-mygod, Scott.

SCOTT: What?

SAHAR: You are not so tight-lipped now.

SCOTT: Okay, whatever. I don’t want to argue.

SAHAR: Is good to argue, right? I like it!

SCOTT: Yeah, well, whatever. I just want to get my work done.

SAHAR: I do not think you were working when I got here.

SCOTT: Cute.

SAHAR: You work all day, Scott. Then you go home and turn around and you are back here in the morning.

SCOTT: You’re a temp, Sahar. I’m a lifer.

SAHAR: Is too much this work I think. You must love it.

SCOTT: I hate it.

SAHAR: Then why you spend so much time doing it?

SCOTT: It just seems to fill it. The time.

SAHAR: Well, okay then. Whatever. We work.

(THEY both go back to work for a while. Then SAHAR stops again.)

SAHAR: You know, is funny.

SCOTT: What?

SAHAR: With you, I feel sometimes more like with girlfriend. Is funny thing. Because you are man.

SCOTT: Ostensibly.

SAHAR: Os-ten-si-bly?

SCOTT: (perfunctory) I’ll put it on your list.

(HE holds his hand out, and SAHAR pulls a yellow legal pad from the pile of stuff on her desk and gives it to him. At the top it says “WORDS FOR SAHAR.” A few pages have been filled. HE begins writing on it.)

SAHAR: Ordinarily, in Morocco is not so much I would not be here with you, but that we would not be speaking like this. Is impolite, you see, between man and woman.

SCOTT: What about when you get married? It sounds to me like marriage is a kind of obsession over there.

SAHAR: Is different between a man and his wife, or in a family. But otherwise no, men and women no talk. But men with men, and women with women, in friendship, there is something called in Arabic anawiak. It means in English “just you and me.” And in this we talk, talk, talk, talk, talk . . . A little like I do with you.

SCOTT: So am I supposed to complimented by this?

SAHAR: What is this complimented?

SCOTT: You know what complimented means.

SAHAR: You want maybe cup of coffee?

SCOTT: Huh? No. Thanks.

SAHAR: You sure?

SCOTT: Yes.

SAHAR: Maybe you should go get cup of coffee.

SCOTT: Why?

SAHAR: Help you concentrate, yes? My grandmother, she like you, every morning she has to have her dark, dark coffee. You go get cup of coffee, Scott, you can bring me my snack. Is in refrigerator. You put in microwave two minutes.

SCOTT: You eat a lot, Sahar. But I’ll bet you never gain weight.

SAHAR: I know. Right? Is time for couscous, I think.

SCOTT: You and that couscous. Do you eat nothing else?

SAHAR: You have something against couscous?

SCOTT: Not particularly, no.

SAHAR: I have, how you say, leftovers.

SCOTT: (standing) I’ll get it for you. I could use a walk.

SAHAR: And also, Scott, my tea.

(HE gives her a look, then leaves. SAHAR waits patiently until he is out of sight, then immediately begins fiddling with her computer to get online and check her e-mail. She is excited to see a particular message and clicks to read it. A man’s voice is heard, with an Arabic accent.)

MAN’S VOICE: 9/10/01, 9:00 p.m. Dear Sahar. It was wonderful to hear from you again. I am glad we are becoming what the Americans call pen pals. You seem like a very nice girl and from a good family. I am very excited to meet you. And I thank you for the picture you sent me. I think you are a lovely girl. And I also enjoyed our talk last night about Islam. I, too, come from a relatively liberal family, but like you I found myself moving more and more toward the orthodox as I grew up. It seems to me that many young people these days are leading aimless lives. I think religion anchors you. It connects you to a deeper truth. You asked to see a picture of me, so I’m sending the attached. I hope you can open it. The more I think about–

(The voice is cut off as SAHAR stops reading and zeros in on the photo attachment. SHE holds her hand ready to click and open it, then stops, bows her head, and says a short prayer. Then, barely opening her eyes, SHE clicks and watches the picture download. As it comes down on the screen, her facial expression goes from hopeful, to hesitant, to downright disappointed with her pen pal’s looks. As SCOTT returns with a plastic tray on which is a plate for Sahar and two cups, light begins to come up very slowly in the background on the familiar pinstripe windows of the World Trade Center.)

SCOTT: Here’s your– Oops.
___(Quieter.)
Sorry. Are you praying?

(SAHAR hears him and jumps frantically to try to get the picture off her screen.)

SAHAR: (frantic) Praying? Why would I be praying? Praying? No, no, not praying.

SCOTT: Well, you do pray, Sahar.

SAHAR: Yes, yes, but in empty office I go.

SCOTT: I know. I’ve seen you. Five times a day.

(Giving up on the computer, SAHAR stands in front to hide the screen and grabs the plate from SCOTT.)

SAHAR: Uh . . . couscous. Oh-mygod, that crazy Sahar and her couscous!
___(Inhaling the scent from the plate; a bit nutty.)
Is good, right? Yum-yum.

SCOTT: Have you slipped a cog, Sahar?

SAHAR: Right? Oh-mygod, that’s me, slipped a cog. Yup. (Beat.) Whatever the fuck that means.

(SHE turns and sees that the picture is gone from her computer screen. SHE sits and forlornly takes a fork from her desk drawer. SCOTT sits.)

SAHAR: (a short prayer first) Bi-smillah.

(Then SHE begins to eat her couscous. SHE opens a drawer in the desk and takes out a People magazine, which she pages through.)

SAHAR: In America, Scott, twenty-seven is not so old, right?

SCOTT: No, not really.

SAHAR: I mean, to be still . . . single.

SCOTT: A lot of people in America never get married.

SAHAR: Is insane I think. But what about . . . In Morocco, is very important a girl be . . . you know . . .

SCOTT: A virgin?

SAHAR: . . . when she marry. So . . .

SCOTT: A twenty-seven-year-old virgin in America would be something of a find. Doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it. Just isn’t common. But aren’t you supposed to be going back to Morocco any day now?

SAHAR: I am, how you say, on the sheep.

SCOTT: On the lam, Sahar. Yes, you told me, the scholarship people want you home.

SAHAR: Is rule. I had year at school and now I’m supposed to spend year at home. Not be working cemetery here in famous TWC.

SCOTT: WTC, Sahar. World Trade Center.

SAHAR: But if I got married, everybody happy then. Me because I stay here. And my family because they do not have so much the hsuma.

SCOTT: Hsuma?

(SHE reaches her hand out, and SCOTT gives her a similar pad from his desk: “WORDS FOR SCOTT.”)

SAHAR: That one is on your list. We talk already about that one. But I will underline it because it is so much important word in Morocco. Means “shame,” that word.

SCOTT: Your family is ashamed of you? You’re the first to go to college, Sahar. You said your father’s a maintenance man.

SAHAR: “Poor thing” they call me. Poor thing. No man will have her.

SCOTT: At twenty-seven?

SAHAR: Over the hump.

SCOTT: Wow. I sure wasn’t married at twenty-seven. And, Sahar, by the time I was seventeen I was so anxious to get rid of my virginity I could barely think about doing anything else.

SAHAR: Do you think is bad to not want to marry someone because you don’t like the way they look?

SCOTT: No.

SAHAR: I do not think this is such a good thing to judge people by their appearance. But two people in marriage should be happy, yes? Is part of plan, yes?

SCOTT: I almost wish I’d been made to marry someone along the way. Instead of always, I don’t know, trying to find the cuter one around the next corner, the one who’s more exciting, or more . . . whatever.

SAHAR: (laughing) Oh-mygod, Scott. I have idea. You and me — maybe we trade places.
___(SCOTT smiles.)
You go back to Morocco. I stay here.

SCOTT: I think we’d be found out.

SAHAR: I could grow my mustache back.

SCOTT: (laughing) Sahar — stop.

SAHAR: (referring to her upper lip) You did not even notice. I use that product you told me.

SCOTT: (looking) Oh yeah. Nice job.

SAHAR: Now I am pretty American girl like you say. I am Natalie.

SCOTT: Wood. Natalie Wood.

SAHAR: I am Natalie Wood.
___(SHE laughs.)
Oh-mygod, Scott. You could keep your head covered. Right? We send you back to Morocco. Oh-mygod. You get off plane and say: “Make me marry a man! Even if I do not want to. Make me!” They will never know, you keep your head covered. Right?

SCOTT: I think they’d figure it out eventually.

(Beat.)

SAHAR: (stopping laughing and going back to her couscous) Is crazy world, you know, Scott.

SCOTT: Hmn.

SAHAR: Is important to keep your head covered.

SCOTT: (his best attempt at Bogart) It’s a crazy world, Sahar, and I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of two little people don’t amount to a hill o’ beans in it.

SAHAR: Oh-mygod. Is Casablanca yes?

SCOTT: Do you know that movie?

SAHAR: Oh-mygod, yes. I saw many years ago. Is a beautiful movie.
___(Beat.)
It has absolutely nothing to do with Morocco, but it is a beautiful movie.

(Beat. A moment where BOTH OF THEM eye each other cautiously to be sure they are not being too closely observed, then click to bring up something on their computers and type. As they type, we hear the voices of what is on their screens. The light continues to clarify the World Trade Center background.)

SCOTT: (voice-over as HE composes) 9/10/01, 9:42 p.m. Dear Terence. Got your e-mail and the photo. You look nice.
___(HE stops typing, thinks “No,” then deletes. Then types.)
You look very sexy, Terence.
___(HE stops, thinks “No!”, deletes. Then types.)
You look like a very nice guy.
___(HE stops — “No!” — deletes, and types.)
You look hungry and desperate and very much alone, Terence, and I can relate to all three.
___(HE stops, sighs, deletes, then just sits a moment.)

SAHAR: (voice-over as SHE composes) So, like you, Tahsheen, I also am going out or at least meeting with other people. I have a friend, Rashid, who e- mails me frequently from a place called Delaware. Rashid is very nice, but honestly, Tahsheen, I like you better.
___(SHE stops typing, thinks a moment, then deletes. Then types.)
. . . but honestly, Tahsheen, I would like for us to meet face to face because . . .
___(SHE stops typing, thinks a moment, then deletes. Then in a flurry of typing:)
But honestly, Tahsheen, Rashid is a great big bore with a belly and every time I look at your picture I stop breathing.
___(SHE giggles, then catches herself, looks at SCOTT, who looks back briefly.
___ Then Sahar deletes this last. And types.)

And also, Tahsheen, I do not like this talk of your ex-wife.
___(SHE stops, sits back, then looks over at Scott.)

SAHAR: (live now) Boy, we are working hard tonight, right?

SCOTT: (pulled out of a revery) Do you miss your family, Sahar?

SAHAR: Oh, I miss them terribly, Scott.

SCOTT: That’s good.

SAHAR: Is no good. Is painful.

SCOTT: But you don’t want to go home?

SAHAR: Is nothing for me there. I have degree now. I stay here, maybe I can teach.

SCOTT: You can’t do that back home?

SAHAR: Is not so likely. Especially for woman.
___(Beat.)
Do you miss Idaho?

SCOTT: Never before. Tonight.

SAHAR: What is so different tonight?

SCOTT: Hmn? Oh, nothing. What do you miss most about Morocco?

SAHAR: I miss . . . You know what I miss most? In Morocco, we have what is like two different ways to be: there is who you are when you are out on the street and meeting with strangers. Is quite formal. Proper, right? But at home is whole other world, you are more yourself. Because you are with your family, right? That feeling I miss. Being home.

SCOTT: I have two different ways to be, too, but it’s the other way around. I’m myself away from my family.

SAHAR: This I do not, how you say, get, Scott.

SCOTT: Hsuma. It’s hsuma, Sahar.
___(Beat.)
So why don’t you just go back for the year the foundation wants you to and then you can come back here if you like.

SAHAR: Still hard for me to stay here if I don’t marry American.

SCOTT: So are you husband hunting?

SAHAR: (evasive) No.

(Her computer beeps and says “You’ve got mail.” SHE jumps to deal with it, then stops.)

SCOTT: What are you working on over there, Sahar?

SAHAR: (moving to cover the screen) Nothing. Is nothing.

SCOTT: You’re working on a little e-mail over there, I think.

(Beat.)

SAHAR: (dejected) Is what you say.

SCOTT: Huh?

SAHAR: I am hunting. My cousin. In Delaware. He tell me about this man Rashid.
___(Forlorn.)
I think he is in love with me.

SCOTT: What’s so bad about that?

(Beat, then SAHAR fiddles around on her computer, typing and clicking.)

SAHAR: (to SCOTT) You’ve got mail.

SCOTT: (looking at his computer) What? Oh.
___(HE clicks to bring up his inbox, then opens a new e-mail. HE’s watching a
___ picture download.)

SAHAR: That’s Rashid.

SCOTT: (understanding) Oh.
___(Beat.)
What’s all the equipment?

SAHAR: He is door-to-door salesman. He sell vacuum cleaners. For Roosevelt.

SCOTT: Hoover, Sahar.

SAHAR: Clinton. Who cares?

SCOTT: So . . . you’re not so thrilled with Rashid’s looks?

SAHAR: Then my cousin here, she take me to party.

SCOTT: Oh.

SAHAR: Yeah.
___(SHE clicks and fiddles on the computer.)
And she introduce me to this.
___(SHE hits send.)
You’ve got more mail.
___(SCOTT goes back to his computer and clicks and fiddles.)

SCOTT: (seeing the photo) Oh.

SAHAR: Tahsheen.

SCOTT: Tahsheen.

SAHAR: Tahsheen. He has, how you say, six-pack.

SCOTT: He certainly does.

SAHAR: And ex-wife.

SCOTT: Oh.

SAHAR: And other girlfriend on the side.

SCOTT: (sarcastic) Great catch, Sahar.

SAHAR: He makes my heart to beat faster.

SCOTT: Are these guys both Muslim?

SAHAR: Oh yes.

SCOTT: Are they devout?

SAHAR: Rashid I am sure is. Tahsheen tells me he takes religion very seriously, but at the party that did not seem to be his main interest in life.

SCOTT: Aren’t there others out there, Sahar? Surely there’s a website. Match dot Muslim or something?

SAHAR: I am running out of time.
___(Beat.)
My cousin she take me to a store once and I see very beautiful, very elegant white suit that I think I would wear for my wedding. Maybe take picture and send to my family. They see Sahar is not just brain maybe. Is hanging in my closet that suit.

(Beat. SCOTT returns to the photo.)

SCOTT: I would think it’s hard, since you . . . haven’t been with any . . . I mean, sometimes I think I’ve been with so many men I’ll never be able to settle for one, but you, maybe you have the opposite problem.

SAHAR: Oh-mygod, Scott, this is not so good conversation for us to have maybe. Maybe we go back to work now.

SCOTT: Was it something I said?

SAHAR: Is just too personal maybe.

SCOTT: Gee, I was kind of enjoying it.

SAHAR: This business of you with all the men, Scott, oh-mygod, I cannot . . . I should not . . . Is not so good for me to know about this.

SCOTT: But that’s my life. You told me about yours.

SAHAR: Yes, but you know, I only talk about marriage. Is good that. Is right.

SCOTT: I can’t get married.

SAHAR: You could marry woman.

SCOTT: But I don’t want to marry a woman.

SAHAR: In Morocco, we do not have people like you.

SCOTT: What did you do with them all? Blow them up?

SAHAR: This I think is not so funny, Scott. I told you Morocco is not hard-line country at all.

SCOTT: (sarcastic) Oh right. Sorry. I forgot.

SAHAR: Boys in Morocco, you know, they do this thing that you do.

SCOTT: They do?

SAHAR: Yes. Is considered . . . normal. But then one day you must become man, yes?

SCOTT: I am . . . a . . . man.

SAHAR: Right? You don’t sound convinced.

SCOTT: (anger) Oh . . . Knock it off, Sahar.

SAHAR: Knock it . . . ?

SCOTT: Look it up.

(HE clicks to return angrily to work on his computer screen. A beat, then SAHAR clicks to receive her latest message from Rashid. The World Trade Center background is almost fully visible now.)

RASHID: (voice-over) 9/10/01, 9:57 p.m. Dear Sahar. Because I am so far away down here in Delaware, it is hard for me to communicate all I feel. Since we have begun our correspondence, I have so much more hope about things. I am wondering if I should come up there to New York and see you? Or would you like to come down here and see Delaware? We are both at the age when thoughts of marriage are inevitable, and for us here in America there are not so many options. And yet if you were to even consider me as a husband, I would think I was the luckiest man in the United States.

(Beat. SAHAR stares at the screen.)

SAHAR: So, Scott, you think I could be happy being married to a vacuum cleaner salesman?

SCOTT: (still angry) I thought you didn’t want to talk to me about stuff like that.

SAHAR: Is not that I don’t want to talk about.

SCOTT: See, this is what I love about you religious people. Your sex is somehow holier than thou, but no one else is allowed to have any.

SAHAR: Okay, now we are way off the bean.

SCOTT: Beam, Sahar. Not bean. If I’m going to teach you these things, why don’t you learn them properly?

SAHAR: Now we are having I think a fight.

SCOTT: I’ve been victimized my whole life, Sahar, by people who believe the Christian religion is the only right and good one, and a lot of them think I’m gonna burn in hell, and some of them seem more than anxious to hurry the process along.

SAHAR: Is not what I said.

SCOTT: What right have you to tell me my sexuality disqualifies me from manhood?

SAHAR: Is just the way it is in Morocco.

SCOTT: It’s the way it is in a lot of backward places, Sahar.

SAHAR: Why are you shouting?

SCOTT: I don’t know! I don’t know why I’m shouting! At least, I don’t know why I’m shouting at you.

SAHAR: Right? Is someone else you’re angry with?

SCOTT: Yes.

SAHAR: Who?

(SCOTT is suddenly crying. An awkward moment, when SAHAR does not know what to do.)

SCOTT: Sahar?

SAHAR: Scott . . . what . . .

SCOTT: My dad died.

SAHAR: What?

SCOTT: I just heard.

SAHAR: Now?

SCOTT: Tonight.

SAHAR: But you did not say anything.

SCOTT: He’d been sick a long time. I thought that would make it easier, but it doesn’t. I thought it wouldn’t seem sudden. It seems very sudden.

SAHAR: (standing) Can I get you maybe more cup of coffee?

SCOTT: No, thanks.
___(HE wipes his face. Beat.)
It’s funny I . . . We never really got along. He never accepted me . . . because of . . . but the thing is . . . He’s had this dementia from Alzheimer’s for the last six years, and . . . I started going out there more often because he’d . . . he’d forgotten that I was gay. He’d forgotten that we’d ever fought.

SAHAR: Is disease makes you forget things?

SCOTT: Right.

SAHAR: Is maybe blessing sometimes this disease.

SCOTT: My mother never cried the whole six years. She’s a stoic Presbyterian church lady. But just a couple of weeks ago, she lost it. They couldn’t find his teeth, his dentures. He’d put them somewhere, but of course he couldn’t remember where. My mother searched everywhere and was getting worried they’d have to replace them, which would have cost a fortune. And then she opened the freezer to get some ice cream and there they were, grinning out at her from the shelf.

SAHAR: Is a story almost funny that one.

SCOTT: Yeah, but she was crying when she told me about it.
___(Beat.)
Do you think you and I will ever have that kind of connection with another human being, Sahar?

SAHAR: I pray I will.

SCOTT: I pray I can. I pray I know how.

(Beat.)

SAHAR: So with your father, you, how you say, you ate your pride and you did not remind him of this that he had forgotten about you.

SCOTT: Yeah. And it became a lot easier to be with him.

SAHAR: Is good then, right? That you did that.

SCOTT: I guess.

SAHAR: Is like a gift you gave him. (Beat.) You need I think maybe a hug.

SCOTT: Well . . . probably.

SAHAR: But I cannot.

SCOTT: Yes . . .

SAHAR: (making a point) Because . . . you are a man.

(Beat.)

SCOTT: Thank you, Sahar.

(SAHAR sits back down. Beat.)

SCOTT: The thing about the vacuum cleaner salesman, Sahar, is that he might turn out to be really nice. He might be someone you have a lot in common with. And one day, much to your surprise, you’ll look at him across a table with all that genuine regard in his eyes and it will make your “heart to beat faster.”

SAHAR: Oh-mygod. Is what I hope.

SCOTT: It can happen. And think how clean your rugs will be.

SAHAR: This I think is a joke.

SCOTT: That it is.
___(HE starts to pack up.)
Well, I’ve got to be back here in this famous TWC in . . .
___(Looking at his watch.)
About ten hours, so I think I’ll call it a night.

SAHAR: Are you not going to Idaho? To be with your mother and sister?

SCOTT: After work tomorrow.

SAHAR: They will need you now, though.

SCOTT: It was the best I could do.

SAHAR: You know, Scott, in Morocco, we have tradition, right? You do something nice for me, then I do something nice back. For you.

SCOTT: Yes?

SAHAR: So, you help me with this crazy mess with Rashid and Tahsheen.

SCOTT: Tahsheen.

SAHAR: Oy! So I do favor for you to say thank you.

SCOTT: You don’t have to do anything, Sahar.

SAHAR: Is not polite in Morocco to turn this down. I will work for you tomorrow.

SCOTT: Can you?

SAHAR: I work for you half day last week, yes? When you had dentist appointment. Is inputting, yes? Same as I do for Deborah. I’m the temp, remember?

SCOTT: But you’re going to be here five more hours as it is.

SAHAR: Is all right. I can sleep on couch in Deborah’s office.

SCOTT: I can’t ask you to–

SAHAR: Is no computer at my cousin’s place. And I have e-mail to write.

SCOTT: Well, thanks, Sahar. That would actually help me a lot. I’ll leave tonight.

SAHAR: Is good thing, for your family.

SCOTT: (finishing packing up) You sure you’ll be all right here?

SAHAR: I can make quite, how you say, comfy.

SCOTT: Okay.
___(HE stops.)
Does your name come from the desert, Sahar? I just thought of that the other day. Sahara?

SAHAR: Is same root word, right? Sahar, it mean “early morning, dawn.”

SCOTT: Ah.

SAHAR: So comes the dawn, you think of me maybe, huh?

SCOTT: I will. Thanks again. I’ll see ya, Sahar.

(HE heads out. A beat, then SAHAR returns to her e-mail. Slow fade on SAHAR, and then the windows behind her.)

END OF PLAY


9/10 is part of a longer piece that features three other similar stories. Richard Willett is also the author of the plays TRIPTYCH, RANDOM HARVEST, THE FLID SHOW, and TINY BUBBLES, which have been presented off-off-Broadway and at theaters across the country. He is a working screenwriter living in Los Angeles and the co-artistic director of New Directions Theater in New York (www.newdirectionstheater.org).

Ritual Cleansing

By Paul K. Smith

Roles:

  • THIEF: Any age, any gender, any heritage. Projects menace.
  • CLERK: Any age, any gender, any heritage. Registers threat.
    Plaintive and Conciliatory for the first five minutes.

Place:  A convenience store in an American city.

Time:   Just before midnight

Night.  A convenience store.  Empty.  Except for the CLERK.
A big clock with a clock face – the hands show it is ten minutes to 12.   

At Rise: The CLERK is behind the counter, ritualistically wiping cans in a display, using a long feather duster.  Wiping clean  and counting familiar places in his circuit.

(Outside, a THIEF walks back & forth, fighting a temptation to go in, rob the store. Finally he goes to the unlocked door – but sees a CLOSED sign.

(The THIEF enters the store. Lots of pockets in what he wears.)

(CLERK continues to dust cans.  Watches for the big clock to release him.)

(CLERK counts out each can he dusts.) 

(THIEF watches him until the menace of his presence registers. . .)

CLERK: Forty-nine. . .

THIEF: (Menacingly:) Would be no problem to blow the back of your head off, would it?

CLERK: (Matter-of-factly:) Did you find what you need?

Read More

Reina: A One-Act Play

By Joe Bulvid

Cast
(In Order of Appearance)
Jeff:   A young male, dressed in business casual
Quinn:   A young male, dressed in business casual
Reina:    A mysterious young female dressed in jeans, a T-shirt and a leather jacket

SETTING
A bar in New York City. There are numerous barstools. It is 7:30 pm in July.

AT RISE
QUINN and JEFF sit at barstools
C. REINA sits at a barstool
RC. BARTENDER works behind the bar.

JEFF: Stay for one more? Come on, Quinn!

QUINN: Jeff, you’re killing me. Pamela’s gonna think I got mugged in the subway. And I don’t want to text her because then it becomes a thing.
(mimics his wife)
“You really should have told me about going out with Jeff. I could have gone to the 7pm cycle class or had some me time with my new vibrator.” If I just go home, she may be pissed, but it’s like she doesn’t think about what she could have done.

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Egg In Spoon

By Rachael Carnes

CAST OF CHARACTERS
Leah – A mother, in her 40s
Sophie – A girl of 15
Janet – A grandma, in her 60s
Eleanor – A great-grandmother

SETTING
In a public park, on a pleasant spring day.

TIME
Late afternoon

At rise, SOPHIE is sitting behind                                                                         the picnic table, on her phone.

 LEAH: Will you please put your phone down?

SOPHIE: In a minute.

LEAH: There are people here who want to talk to you.

SOPHIE: I’m in the middle of making plans for later!

LEAH: Put it away or I’ll take it away.

SOPHIE: You’re not taking my phone away.

LEAH: I’m counting down.

SOPHIE: I’m 15 years old! You can’t “count down” on me. (snorts)

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