Categories
stage & screen

Dakota County by Craig Moeckly

Dakota County | Craig Moeckly

Cast

Roy – Male 
Eleanor – Female 
Tom – Male 

Setting 

A room/porch in Roy’s house 

Suggested Props 

Chairs (3) 
A book 
Cans of beer (2) 

Play opens to a dark stage 
Roy sits in a chair with a book 
Eleanor sits in a chair somewhere behind Roy 
Light/spotlight on Roy only, rest of stage remains dark 
Roy quietly reads the book 
Light/spotlight on Eleanor (so now lights on both Roy and Eleanor while rest of stage remains dark) 

Eleanor

You’re actually reading my book?

Roy is surprised

Roy

Oh, Ellie! Didn’t know you was there.

Roy chuckles

Roy

Yeah, guess you caught me. Seems like half the country’s read it, so figured maybe I should, too.

Eleanor

Half the country, Roy? I’m not sure half this country can even read, let alone read my book.

Roy looks at the front cover of the book 

Roy

Over a million copies sold. 

Eleanor 

That’s hardly half the nation. 

Roy

Guess I rounded up a bit.  

Eleanor laughs 

Eleanor 

Oh, Roy.  You could always make me laugh. 

Roy

That so? 

Eleanor 

Well, maybe not always.  But sometimes. 

Roy

I’ll take that. 

Eleanor 

So what do you think? 

Roy

About what? 

Eleanor 

My book! 

Roy

Oh.  It’s pretty good so far.  But, uh… 

Pause 

Eleanor 

But, uh, what? 

Roy

It’s pretty much about life in Dakota County. 

Eleanor 

Well, that is the name of the book. 

Roy looks at the front cover of the book again 

Roy

Yeah, that is true.  But some of this stuff actually happened. 

Eleanor 

It’s called subject matter and inspiration, Roy. 

Roy

Well who the hell would want to read about all that? 

Eleanor 

Apparently over a million folks. 

Roy and Eleanor both laugh 

Roy

Ah shoot. 

Eleanor 

Yeah.  Say, Roy. 

Roy

Huh? 

Eleanor 

I need to tell you something. 

Roy

What’s that? 

Eleanor 

It’s kind of important.  

Roy

Ok 

Eleanor 

Hon, you should be with whoever you want to be with, and you should love whoever you want to love.   

Pause 

Eleanor 

Did you hear me? 

Roy

Yeah 

Eleanor 

It’s alright, Roy. 

Roy

Ok then.  

The light on Eleanor goes out.  Only the light on Roy remains while the rest of the stage is dark.   

Eleanor exits while Roy goes back to reading the book. 

A knock is heard 

Stage lights come up 

Roy keeps reading 

Another knock is heard 

Roy puts down the book 

Roy

Hello?! 

Tom from off stage 

Tom

Hello!  Roy? 

Roy

Yeah, come on in. 

Tom enters 

Tom

Hey there, Roy. 

Roy

Well, I’ll be.  Tom.  Come on in here, grab ya’ a seat.   

Tom 

Thank ya’. 

Tom sits down in a chair 

Roy

Why, I ain’t seen you in a month of Sundays.  

Tom

Yeah, I know.  How you been, Roy? 

Roy

Can’t complain, I guess.  How ‘bout you? 

Tom

Good, yeah, good. 

Roy

Alright then.  What brings you by? 

Tom

Well, actually your son asked me to come by. 

Roy

My son? 

Tom

Yeah, Jacob. 

Roy

I know his damn name. 

Tom

Sorry, course you do.  He just said that you, uh, sometimes, well…

Roy

Well what?  Forget stuff? 

Tom

Yeah, somethin’ like that.  But, you know, we all… 

Roy

Ah, hell, Tom.  I don’t need your sugar coatin’.  He’s right.   

Tom

So, he didn’t say nothing about me stopping by? 

Roy

I don’t know, he might have.  Can’t recall.  See? 

Roy chuckles and then Tom chuckles 

Roy

So why did Jake ask you to come over anyway?  You gonna pay me the twenty bucks he owes me? 

Tom

He didn’t say nothing about no twenty bucks. 

Roy

Course not.  He’s probably hoping I forget about it.   

Roy laughs and then Tom laughs 

Roy

Just like he’s hoping I forget how to play cribbage.   

Tom

You taught that boy how to play. 

Roy

Damn straight I did.  He ain’t taking advantage of my handicap, and I got twenty bucks coming that proves it.  

Tom

Ah, shoot, Roy.  You’re too damn stubborn to let that happen. No, I think he’s feeling guilty he can’t get over here as much as he thinks he should. Probably doesn’t want you getting lonely.   

Roy

Lonely? 

Tom

Yeah, he thinks the world of you, you know.   

Roy

I ain’t lonely. 

Tom

Ok, that’s good. 

Roy

Hell, I was just talking with Ellie. 

Tom looks confused 

Tom

You were just talking to Eleanor? 

Roy

Yeah, just a minute or so ago. 

Tom

Alright 

Roy looks around  

Roy  

Guess she must’ve gone off to somewhere.  Anyhow, why did Jake come bother you with all this? 

Tom

I don’t know. Guess he figured us retired farmers got nothing else to do.  It ain’t  no bother. I’ve been wanting to come over anyhow, just wasn’t sure when would be a good time. So, he didn’t have to ask me twice.  

Roy

Yeah, ok. It’s awful nice of you, I’m glad you’re here. 

Tom

Me, too. 

Roy

I don’t recall the last time we spoke. 

Tom

Uh, would have been at the funeral. 

Roy 

The funeral, huh?  

Tom 

Think so. 

Roy 

Hmm, ok.  Was that Earl’s funeral? 

Tom 

You mean Earl Fenn’s funeral? 

Roy 

Yeah, Earl Fenn. 

Tom 

Roy, Earl died about 5 years ago now. 

Roy 

Been that long already? 

Tom 

Yeah  

Roy 

Hmm, ok. 

Tom 

I meant Eleanor’s funeral, Roy.  

Pause while Roy thinks 

Roy

Ok then.  

Pause 

Roy 

You know, she caught me reading one of her books. 

Tom

Eleanor did? 

Roy chuckles  

Roy

Yeah 

Tom

Ok, which one?  

Roy holds up the book 

Roy 

This one. 

Tom 

Oh, that was her bestseller.  

Roy 

Yeah, I guess it was. 

Tom 

Is that one your favorite? 

Roy 

Favorite?  I don’t know.  

Tom 

She was such a good writer, I s’pose it’s hard to choose which one you like best.  I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t read them all myself yet. 

Roy 

Well, you’re ahead of me. 

Tom 

How’s that? 

Roy 

This is the first one I’ve tried to read.  

Tom 

Really? 

Roy 

Yeah  

Tom 

I guess that surprises me. 

Roy 

Well, I never wanted to read any of them before.  I ain’t proud of that now.  I  dunno, I guess I was jealous, or envious.  Maybe both. 

Tom 

Jealous and envious of what? 

Roy 

Of her success. 

Tom 

Her success? 

Roy 

Yeah, I ain’t never had anything like that. 

Tom 

What are you talking about?  You were the best farmer in the county.  You and Earl.  Hell, you two was the best in the entire tri-county area.  

Roy 

I dunno about all of that. 

Tom 

You don’t? Every year all the other farmers wanted to know what you and Earl was planting. All I’d hear at the diner come March/April, “what crops are Roy and Earl putting in this season?”  

Roy

Hmm, that so?

Tom

Why do you think all those folks brought you over their best cornbread every spring? And brought Earl their best apple dessert?

Roy

Guess I never really thought about it. Figured they was just being neighborly.

Tom

They was being nosy is what they was doing. What’d you all talk about when they came over? If you don’t mind me asking now.

Roy

Guess I don’t really remember. Guess maybe crops mostly, yeah.


Tom

There you go.

Roy

Hmm, guess I never really thought about it.

Tom

Well there you go.

Roy

You know what?

Tom

What’s that?

Roy

I think Earl got the better end of the stick on that one.

Tom

How’s that?

Roy

I never really cared that much for cornbread.

Tom laughs

Tom

You kidding me?

Roy

Nah, I liked Ellie’s. Hers was always nice and moist. Most folk’s cornbread is far too dry.

Tom

That’s why you put that fresh sweet butter on it.

Roy

Hell, there ain’t enough sweet butter in Dakota county for most folk’s cornbread.

Tom chuckles

Tom

So then what’d you do with all that cornbread.

Roy

Fed it to the dogs and chickens mostly.

Tom and Roy both laugh  

Tom 

That’s funny, Roy.  That’s funny. 

Roy

So how’s Dale doing these days? 

Tom

Dale? 

Roy

Yeah. Kinda surprised he didn’t come over with you. Seems like I used to never see one of you without the other. 

Tom

Right. Uh, Dale died, Roy. 

Roy

No 

Tom

Umm, yeah. 

Roy

No one tells me nothin’.  When did all that happen? 

Tom

Over two years ago now. 

Roy

Two years?  My gosh already.  And here I sit not knowing nothing about it. 

Tom

You and Ellie was at the funeral, Roy. 

Roy

Is that right? 

Tom

It is.  You all bought a beautiful bouquet for the service.   

Roy

Hmm, ok then. 

Tom

It was all much appreciated.  

Roy

Ok then.  So how you doing? 

Tom

Oh, I’m getting along.  Get a little bored sometimes.  You know me and some of the other old guys got a weekly poker game going down at the Legion. You should join us. 

Roy

Don’t know nothing about poker.  Ellie never let me play. 

Tom

Oh yeah?  Well, it’s pretty fun.  I can teach you.  See, the fun thing is you can   win a hand even when you got nothin’ yourself.  Just last week… 

Roy

I meant, how you doing with Dale being gone? 

Tom

Oh 

Roy

I know you two was pretty close.  You lived just ‘cross the road from each other. 

Tom nods his head 

Roy

Now, after his Renee died you two farmed together, didn’t you? 

Tom

That’s right, we did.  You remember that. 

Roy

You two done pretty good, too, if I recall.   

Tom

Yeah, we did alright.  We did alright. 

Roy

So sad. 

Tom

What’s that? 

Roy

His Renee.  Too soon.   

Tom

Yes, yes it was. 

Roy

You know, that never sat right with me. 

Tom

What didn’t sit with you? 

Roy

Way she died.  Just didn’t make sense to me.  Falling off a windmill? 

Tom

You remember that too, huh? 

Roy

I do, like it just happened last week or something. You ever known any other farmer’s wife, or any woman for that matter, climb up top a windmill for something? 

Tom

No, can’t say that I have. 

Roy

Me, neither. So why the hell was she up there in the first place? 

Tom

No idea.   

Roy

Never seemed right to me. 

Tom

So what are you saying? 

Roy

I’m saying it don’t seem like it was some accident.   

Tom

Hmm. You said you’ve been reading Dakota County for the first time, right?    

Roy

Huh? 

Tom

Eleanor’s book, you’ve been reading that?  

Roy

Oh, yeah. That’s right. Why? 

Tom

Wondering if maybe you just read that part in the book so it’s fresh in your mind.  

Roy

What part? 

Tom

Part where the wife is found on the ground next to the windmill. 

Roy

I ain’t read that part, where’s that? 

Tom

Oh, I don’t recall, I read that book long time ago now.  Maybe halfway through?

Roy

Nah, I’m only a few chapters in.  She put that in this book, huh? 

Tom

Yep, it’s a big point in the story. Guess I just ruined it for you.  Actually, caused quite a stir in the area when that book come out.  Several folks were none too happy about it. Especially Dale. You don’t remember all that? 

Roy

Seems like there was something with one of her books. I don’t know. I don’t remember none of that, plus as I said I never paid much mind to any of her writing anyhow. 

Tom

Hmm, that’s interesting. 

Roy

How’s that? 

Tom

How that’s all still fresh in your mind after all this time. 

Roy

Yeah, I remember stuff from way back pretty good still. But other stuff… 

Roy shakes his head   

Tom

Did you ever tell anyone how you felt about all of that? 

Roy

Nah, just Ellie. 

Tom

Oh yeah? 

Roy  

Yeah, she and I talked about it quite a bit after I told her it all just didn’t seem right to  me. 

Tom

Hmm 

Roy

What? 

Tom

I’m curious now for you to read the rest of that book.   

Roy

Why’s that? 

Tom

You might have written a lot of that without even knowing it.   

Roy

Ah, hell, Tom, don’t know about all that. 

Tom

We’ll see. 

Roy

Such a pretty little thing, though. 

Tom

Who’s that?  Your Eleanor? 

Roy

Nah, Renee. And boy, could she cook.  

Tom

Is that right? 

Roy

Well, yes. I remember one Thanksgiving they had us over ‘cause they didn’t have no family coming. And, my gosh, the spread. You could smell it as soon as we drove up and stepped out the truck. And I tell you what, you talk about Earl’s wife’s apple dessert? Renee’s cobbler was the best I’ve ever had. 

Tom

That so? 

Roy

I mean the best! But don’t tell that to Ellie. 

They both laugh 

Roy

I never could figure out why she never took it to the fair. She would have won a blue ribbon easy, every time.  Guess it wasn’t in her nature. 

Tom

You know, Roy, I should tell you something. 

Roy

What’s that? 

Tom

That cobbler?  It wasn’t Renee’s. 

Roy

How’s that? 

Tom

Dale made the cobbler.  It was his recipe.   

Roy

You don’t say. 

Tom

Yeah, he was a wonderful cook. In fact, I imagine he made most of that Thanksgiving feast you enjoyed.     

Roy

You don’t say?  I had no idea. 

Tom

Nobody did.  Dale didn’t want nobody to know. 

Roy

Except you. 

Tom

Yeah, right. Except me.   

Pause 

Tom

Dale was a very special friend. I really miss him. 

Roy

I bet. So, do you go look in on his widow? 

Tom

Who’s widow? 

Roy

Dale’s 

Tom

Dale didn’t have a wife, Roy.   

Roy

He didn’t? 

Tom

No 

Roy

But, I thought… 

Tom

Not after Renee. 

Roy looks confused 

Roy

Ok then. 

Tom

You know, I think that’s plenty of talk about the past. I’m here to see how  you’re getting along and if there’s anything I can do for you.  Maybe you got  some chores need to be done, or you want to try your luck with me in cribbage… 

Roy

Did you ever feel fenced in?   

Tom

Fenced in? 

Roy

Growing up and living ‘round here?  Living the way other folks wanted you to live? 

Tom

Where’d that question come from? 

Roy shrugs 

Roy

Don’t know. Just wondering. 

Tom

Well, since you asked, actually yeah. For a long time, I did.   

Roy

That so? 

Tom nods 

Roy 

But not anymore? 

Tom

I guess Dale helped me a lot with that.  

Roy

That’s good. 

Tom

Yeah, helped me to understand that it was alright to be what I wanted to be, or to be who I really was, I guess.   

Roy nods 

Tom

Happiest times of my life. But you know about that, I s’pose. That’s why it’s so hard when they’re gone.  

Roy

When who’s gone? 

Tom

Eleanor and Dale, Roy.   

Roy

Hmm, ok. 

Roy gets out of his chair  

Roy

You know, I always done what Eleanor wants. Married her because that’s what she wanted. Figured it was the right thing to do. Built her this house, as she wanted. Spent my money on what she wanted.  Served on town council and  was a lay leader at church ‘cause she wanted to be proud when she was out. Always correcting my talking.  Made me wear a damned girdle when I went to town! No one’s gonna think I’m married to a fat ignorant man, she’d say. If a man ain’t got self-respect, how can anyone else respect him, she’d say.  

Tom is stunned 

Roy

I tell you one thing, Tom. I ain’t wearing that damned girdle no more!   

Tom

Ok… 

Roy  

Only good thing ever really come out of that woman was Jake.  Certainly wasn’t no book. 

Roy picks up the book and throws it to the rear of the stage  

Roy

And sometimes, sometimes I just had to get out. I had to get out or else I would have burst! So sometimes I went to the city. 

Tom

You went to the city?! 

Roy

I had to. I had to get out! 

Tom

When did you ever go to the city? 

Roy

Once a year, when I said I was going to the farm convention.   

Tom

Really? And Eleanor never found out? 

Roy

No, but I think she might’ve known. Yeah, think she probably did. 

Tom

What the hell did you do there? If you don’t mind me asking. 

Roy

Oh, I went to places I shouldn’t have gone. Did things I shouldn’t have done. But, you see, I was gonna burst if I didn’t. 

Tom

I know the city. Dale and I would go. What kind of places?  

Roy

Back-alley places.   

Tom

You mean the casinos? 

Roy

No, no. If I’d have lost a bunch of money Eleanor would have known for sure and probably shot me dead. Ah hell, I shouldn’t be talking to you about all this… 

Tom

Do you mean the ones on Castro Street?   

Pause 

Roy

You know about those? 

Tom nods  

Tom

Dale and I would stay at the Fairoaks there. Did you ever stay at the Fairoaks, Roy? 

Roy

You see, I was just gonna burst. But I always made it up to Ellie after I come home. I’d bring her back something nice and I’d tell her to make a list while I was gone. To make a list of extra things she wanted done around the house.  I always made it up to her.   

Tom

You know, Roy… 

Tom stands up and starts to walk towards Roy as Roy continues to talk 

Roy

I did, I always made it up to her. 

Tom

Roy, it’s ok. You can be who you want to be now. And… 

Roy

I just, I just would have burst. 

Tom

I can be a very special friend to you.   

Roy

Just would have burst. 

Tom

Would you like that Roy? 

Roy

Like what? 

Tom

A special friend.  

Roy

I, I don’t know. 

Tom suddenly kisses Roy.     

Tom ends the kiss and Roy steps away from him. 

Tom waits for Roy’s reaction 

Tom

Roy? Roy, say something. 

Pause 

Roy

Ok then. 

Tom

Ok then? 

Roy

Yeah, ok then.  

Tom chuckles 

Tom

Well ok then.  

Roy laughs, then Tom laughs 

Tom

Say, I could use something to drink. You want a beer? 

Roy

Yeah, that actually sounds pretty good.   

Tom exits stage as Roy sits back down 

Eleanor enters stage behind Roy.  She picks up the book that Roy threw and walks over to him. 

Eleanor 

You dropped this. 

Eleanor hands the book to Roy 

Roy

Oh, Ellie. I didn’t know you was there. Say, I’m gonna make it up to you. Just like I always done, I’m gonna make it up to you. 

Eleanor 

Roy… 

Roy

Now you make a list and I’ll get to it. I will now… 

Eleanor takes Roy’s hand 

Eleanor 

Roy. You don’t have to do that anymore. 

Eleanor holds Roy’s face and kisses him tenderly. After the kiss Eleanor starts to walk away, then stops and turns back to Roy. 

Eleanor 

You never did. 

Eleanor exits stage 

Roy opens the book and starts reading 

Tom enters stage carrying two beers 

Tom

Alright, cold beer coming right up for you. 

Roy is startled   

Tom

Decided to give that book another try, huh? 

Roy

Geez, Tom!  I ain’t heard you come in.   

Tom

Oh sorry, Roy.  Didn’t mean to give you a start. 

Tom hands Roy a beer 

Roy

It’s alright. Thanks for the beer.   

Tom 

Sure thing. 

Roy

Hell, I ain’t seen you in a month of Sundays. What brings you by? 

END  

 

About the Author:

Craig was born in Iowa. He now lives in Minnesota with his wife and two daughters. Occasionally, during the long winter nights, he writes.

Categories
stage & screen

Sell Bots by Joe Cappello

Sell Bots | Joe Cappello

CHARACTERS

Samantha Hollis : Female, Age 35-45. Star salesperson for the Worthington Robotics Company. Aggressive, over the top, Sam quickly fills any room she enters. She’s learned the game and knows how to play it well.

Lonnie: Female, age 20-25. A recent hire fresh out of college. She is eager to make her mark and become a successful businesswoman, despite her lack of experience and naiveté. 

Ms. Whitman: Female, age 35-45. Human Resource Director for the Worthington Robotics Company. She is a dedicated employee, imbued with a sense of fairness and accountability. She does her best to enforce the rules and policies established by the company.

SETTING

A conference room at the Worthington Robotics Company. 

TIME

Present day.

ACT I

Scene 1

A conference room at the Worthington Robotics Company. A table is set center stage with three chairs around it.

AT RISE: MS. WHITMAN and LONNIE are sitting next to each other at the table. They are working on their laptops. Files and manuals are visible on the table along with a landline phone. SAM knocks on the door and bursts into the room.

MS. WHITMAN

Oh, Sam, good. You’re here. I—

SAM

(Animated and bigger than life)

Quick, who’s the best boss? Honk! Too late. I’m the best boss….My people tell me that all the time. Of course, they’re reading it off my coffee mug.

(Claps her hands)

Ho, I’m on a roll. I interviewed this older guy for a sales  position and he told me he dates a lot. I asked him what he uses for protection. He said “diapers.”

(Holds out her arms)

Yikes, don’t try to stop me.

MRS WHITMAN

Samantha…

SAM

(Ignores her)

Salespeople are turned on by cash. Did you know their dreams are in green?…Those are their happiest…and wettest!

MS. WHITMAN

That’s enough, Sam…

SAM

A salesman was having trouble closing an account. He asked his boss to write out what he should do in bold, colorful language. He gave him a pink slip written in caps.

MS. WHITMAN

Can we get down to business now?

SAM

Ms. Whitman, I am always down to business. That’s what makes me the super-charged salesman I am.

LONNIE

You mean sales…person, don’t you?

SAM

Oh, so we’re being PC, are we? Okay, then how about something more gender neutral like Sales Mx…or why stop there? Let’s change “he” to “sie” and “her” to “zim.” I know, how about when we introduce ourselves; we settle the issue then. Hi, I’m Samantha Hollis and my pronoun is…FU! I’m not into the idiot-ology of it. I just sell. Which makes me more important than any one who doesn’t sell.

MS. WHITMAN

Sam, please. I need you to get in an HR mode.

SAM

HR…that’s…Human Rah-Rah. I’m all for the soft, touchy-feely side of things. I am at your service, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the bare knuckles, tough stuff  that happens on my side of the fence. 

LONNIE

Which is…?

SAM

Sell bots.

(Looks at LONNIE for a moment)

My, my. Who is this young person? 

(To MS. WHITMAN)

Is she your daughter? Is this a bring your Child to Work day?

MS. WHITMAN

Stop it, Sam.

LONNIE

What are “bots?’

SAM

The answer to your first question is, no I will not, and to the young lady’s question, it’s what we sell. Some say robotics. We sell Worthington robotics, but I like to cut out the nonsense, get right to what we do in my department. So, I just shorten it to…

(Leaning close to LONNIES face)

…bots.

LONNIE

And let me answer your question. My name is Lonnie and I am Ms. Whitman’s new assistant personnel manager.

SAM

(Pause)

And let me pose another question to you if I may. Why am  I here and not where I should be doing what I do best? Selling bots. What do you think, Connie?

LONNIE

That’s Lonnie.

MS. WHITMAN

This won’t take long, Sam. We just want to go over some issues.

SAM

(Ignoring her, to LONNIE)

Wanna’ know the secret to good salesmanship?

(She attempts to answer. She cuts her off)

Bagels. Impossible for a client to say no to you after taking a big bite out of a bagel they just buttered or smeared, compliments of you. Oh. And sensitivity. A client of mine lost his wife. I sent him a condolence card with a paid subscription to eHarmony.

LONNIE

That’s so…crass.

SAM

Not at all. Met his second wife. They’re getting married next week. I’m the best man….sorry…I mean person.

LONNIE

I didn’t know sales worked that way.

SAM

Let me explain something to you, Donnie…

LONNIE

That’s Lonnie…

SAM

(Ignoring her)

Salespeople drive this economy. The profit motive is our fuel, the invisible hand our guide. The how matters little…only…the…result.

(He finishes standing next to her and looking down at her)

A young person like you should consider sales.

MS. WHITMAN

 Sam…

SAM

… That’s where the action is. Hittin’ the road, makin’ calls…dinners in expensive restaurants…late nights with clients for some no-holes-barred fun. Why would you want pass on that for two fifteen minute breaks and a forty-five minute lunch a day? You should stop by my department, I’ll show  you around.

(Hands her a business card)

Here, call me anytime. 

(Leaning closer to her)

I bet I could turn you…

MS. WHITMAN

That’s enough, Sam.

SAM

…Into a salesman…salesperson…zie, sie whatever pronoun. 

MS. WHITMAN

Can we please get down to issues?

SAM

Issues, right. I’ve got a few myself. One very sensitive one, in fact, so sensitive I dare not speak it too loudly.

(Speaking softly as though not to be heard)

Milk.

MS. WHITMAN

Milk?

LONNIE

The kind you drink?

SAM

No, the kind you pour over a new employee’s head for asking such a dumb question. Of course, the kind you drink. I have observed a few employees in my department consuming way too much milk.

MS. WHITMAN

What is…too much?

SAM

Pouring it wantonly and greedily over heaping bowls of cereal, sloshing it carelessly over packets of oatmeal, filling glasses to the rim with it to dunk their cookies.

LONNIE

But it’s only milk.

SAM

Ms. Whitman, would you please tell your employee that despite her extensive experiences with milk in and out of day care, what we serve here is company property and should only be used as an additive to one’s coffee.  

MS. WHITMAN

So what exactly do you want to do about it?

SAM

Isn’t it obvious? Take the coffee machine away, then there would be no need of milk. They can get their coffee on their own time and their own dime on their way to work in the morning. Problem solved.

LONNIE

You’d be taking way an employee benefit.

SAM

Exactly, I don’t want to give them anything. I want them hungry and on the phones, searching the internet, raiding social media for leads, leads they can turn into sales. Am I getting through to you, Bonnie?

LONNIE

That’s Lonnie, I—

SAM

You see, you won’t find this stuff in one of your college textbooks. I assume you graduated college…recently, right? It’s street smarts, something we could all use a lot more of.

MS. WHITMAN

Still, that seems extreme.

SAM

So is interrupting a sales hustler at the beginning of her busy day. Oh…before I forget…another issue. Too many people coming late. Gotta’ stop.

MS. WHITMAN

How big of a problem?

SAM

Big enough. I’m telling you, it’s affecting productivity.

MS. WHITMAN

Okay. I suggest pulling an attendance report for your department for the last month. You can ID the offenders from there and speak to them about the importance of starting on time.

SAM

Nope. Got a better idea. I’m gonna’ have the doorknob wired so it’s activated at 9:01 every morning. If anyone touches it after that time, he or she gets a shock.

MS. WHITMAN

C’mon, you can’t do that.

SAM

Why not? Just a little zorch. It won’t hurt…much. It’s a way to make sure they get their asses to 

work on time…or else.

MS. WHITMAN

We’ll get sued…

LONNIE

It’s cruel, downright barbaric…

MS. WHITMAN

You can’t—

SAM

Alright, alright, stop…stop! I’m joshin’ you. okay? Having some fun, goin’ for a few laughs. I mean, you dragged me down here, so, okay, I don’t mind  clowning around a bit with folks from Human Rah-Rah.. I mean, I got better things to do, but, hey…so be it. 

(Goes to leave)

I’m not gonna’ wire the doorknob and that whole milk thing? Who cares how much milk they drink?

MS. WHITMAN

Sam…

SAM

I mean, I don’t. I don’t  care if they guzzle it out of the carton…

MS.WHITMAN

You need to stop.

SAM

Hey, it’s been real, but, I gotta go, I’m—

MS. WHITMAN

(She stands.)

Sam…

(Her tone stops Sam.)

I’m the one who called this meeting. This is my meeting. And you’re going to listen to what I have to say.

(Points to chair)

Now sit down.

(SAM hesitates at the door, staring at MS. WHITMAN. She slowly comes back into the room and sits down. MS. WHITMAN also sits down, then looks at LONNIE.)

Why don’t you begin?

LONNIE

Yes.

(Refers to her laptop)

It seems there have been several complaints from people in your department.

SAM

Uh…who are you, again…exactly?

MS. WHITMAN

Like she told you, she’s my assistant.

SAM

Right. Fresh out of school. What did you study?

LONNIE

My undergraduate degree was in Psychology and my masters is in Human Resource Management.

SAM

Right, which means you don’t know shit.

MS. WHITMAN

Sam…

SAM

C’mon, it’s the truth. First job out of school. How old are you, 22, 23?

LONNIE

That’s an inappropriate question.

SAM

That’s an immature answer. And who the hell are you to question me?

MS WHITMAN

We’re getting off track here. Like she said, we received complaints.

SAM

Oh, yeah? What kind of complaints?

MS. WHITMAN

Sexual harassment, abuse, questionable business practices. It’s a long list.

SAM

Bull. Give me one example.

LONNIE

You offered two women in your department time off if they had sex in front of you.

SAM

Uh…Elaine and Desiree, right? Everybody knows they’re lesbians.

MS. WHTIMAN

You can’t refer to their sexual orientation in the workplace. That’s harassment.

SAM

You’re readin’ way too much into this. It was all in fun. We all had a good laugh. They laughed, I saw them, they thought it was funny.

MS. WHITMAN

Then why did they file a complaint?

SAM

Who knows? I mean., I was teasin’ that’s all. I wouldn’t have forced them to do it…unless they wanted to.

LONNIE

You also called one of your older employees…

(Reading from her laptop)

‘a dead ass who should have retired years ago.’

MS.WHITMAN

Clearly age discrimination.

SAM

It was not. It was about his job performance. He missed his sales quota two quarters in a row. I should let him go.

LONNIE

But you referred to his age. You can’t fire him based on his age.

SAM

I’m sorry, who are you again?

MS. WHITMAN

Cut it out, Sam, this is serious. You fire him after what you said to him and the company could be looking at a full-blown age discrimination lawsuit. 

SAM

Oh, that’s ridiculous. I’m not gonna’ fire him, I was just tryin’ to motivate him…light a fire on his very wide….and old….and dead…ass.

MS. WHITMAN

Let’s move on.

(Consults her laptop)

Tell me about the confrontation between Jerry Romero and Jim Bennettt.

SAM

Oh, that? It was nothing. They got into a beef over a client.

LONNIE

Right. It was Jerry Romero’s client, but Jim Bennett was calling on him behind his back.

SAM

Jim’s aggressive, that’s all. Not a bad trait for a sales…you know…person.

MS. WHITMAN

According to Jerry, it was you who put Jim up to calling on his client.

LONNIE

That’s what Jim said when Jerry confronted him.

SAM

Jerry was getting nowhere with that account. I decided to wake him up a little. Besides, Jim’s a better salesman, he’s got the best chance of closing it.

MS. WHITMAN

But you’ve got to respect Jerry’s territory.

SAM

The only thing I got to respect…Ms. Whitman… is sales. And I don’t care who closes an account, as long as it gets closed.

LONNIE

But you can’t just arbitrarily assign—-

SAM

Hey, Ronnie…?

LONNIE

That’s Lonnie.

SAM

Don’t tell me what I can or can’t do.

(Pause. Tries to lighten the mood).

Look, I think you’re not getting what it is I do. I’m responsible for profitability in my department. So I gotta’ make it happen. Sometimes I gotta’ kick some butt, other times I’m the class clown, you know, the one who lightens things up, gets a laugh out of people when they need it the most. And, yeah, sometimes I gotta’ pit one guy against another, a divide and conquer thing.

LONNIE

That sounds so fifth century.

SAM

Well, Connie, Bonnie, Ronnie or whoever the hell you are, I don’t care what century it comes from as long as it works.

MS. WHITMAN

There is one other issue we need to talk about. You are in the process of pursuing a new client, a…

(Consults her notes)

Brower Industries.

SAM

Yeah, a potential huge account. What’s that got to do…?

MS. WHITMAN

It seems you’ve handed out some interesting perks to the Brower staff .

SAM

Cost of doin’ business. So…?

MS. WHITMAN

Let’s examine some of those costs.

(Points to LONNIE)

LONNIE

(Consulting her laptop)

In the last months you turned in receipts for several strip clubs, bought the Brower CEO a set of golf clubs, and flew him and his entire staff to Las Vegas for a weekend of gambling, shows, eating at the best restaurants, staying in expensive hotel rooms, all at company expense.

SAM

Like I said, cost of doin’ business. All on the up and up.

MS. WHITMAN

Does that include the prostitutes you had sent to their rooms? Was that on the …up and up…?

SAM

I don’t think you understand, you—

MS. WHITMAN

Oh, I understand all right. Your sales, and sales can do no wrong. Well, you’ve gone too far this time. You can’t slick your way out of this or give your typical “no problem” response to every accusation.You screwed up, Sam, plain and simple and you’re not getting away with it this time. This time, you’re going to answer for this.

SAM

(Puase)

Okay. Let’s cut the crap. What exactly’s going on here? What are you tryin’ to pull?

MS. WHITMAN

I’m not trying to pull anything. A few weeks ago, the HR department received a priority communication from CEO Lester Worthington. I’m sure you heard of him. It seems he’s on a campaign to show employees how much they are valued in the company. So he wants all  complaints from employees against managers or other company officials followed up on and resolved as soon as possible. How’s that for cuttin’ the crap?

SAM

So this is Les Worthington’s doing.

MS. WHITMAN

That’s right. And that’s Mr. Worthington to you.

SAM

I see. And does ole’ Les know you’re talking to me right now?

MS. WHITMAN

No, I don’t suppose…I don’t see what that has….

(SAM picks up the landline and dials)

What are you…who are you calling?

SAM

Hello, Rita? Hi, it’s Sam. Is Les in?

MS. WHITMAN

You can’t just call the CEO, you—

SAM

Hey, Les. Hi, it’s Samantha. Good. good. I’m good. Look. I’m over at HR and…Brower?…Oh, yeah we are definitely on track. They got their board meeting the end of the month, we’ll know for sure then. Yep. They’re gonna’ buy 150 robots for the factory their moving from China, then 300 more once they open the second one. We’re a shoe in, boss. I tell ya’, it was a stroke of genius you had giving the Brower CEO those golf clubs…and the girls in Vegas…now that was a nice touch in the right spot, if you get my drift. I’ll let you know the minute I hear. Back to why I called, I’m sitting here in HR with Ms. Whitman and some 5th grader she just hired, and they’re giving me a rash of shit about complaints from my department, and they’re bitching about the money you authorized me to spend for Brower  Yeah, well, they said they’re doing it because you told them to. Ms. Whitman? Yeah, she’s here. Just a minute.

(Hands the phone to MS. WHITMAN)

He wants to talk to you.

MS. WHITMAN

Hello? This is Ms…Yes, yes I did call the meeting. In response to your directive, Mr. Worthington. But…But I assumed it meant all complaints against any…yes…yes…I know what she does, still…Yes…yes, Mr. Worthington. I will. Right away.

(Hands phone back to SAM)

SAM

Hello, Les. Yeah, that’s fine. Thanks. No, I wouldn’t be so harsh on her, just doing her job, I guess. Or what she thinks is her job. I’d be more inclined to blame overzealous newbies…

(Glances at LONNIE)

…if you get my drift. Lunch? Why, sure, I’m free. See you at 12. Right. Thanks, Les. Bye.

(Still standing. There is an uncomfortable silence. He looks at MS. WHITMAN)

Well? Don’t you have an announcement?

MS. WHITMAN

The meeting…the meeting is over.

LONNIE

But we can’t just—

SAM

Shut up.

(To MS. WHITMAN)

And you. I expected a little more support from you. I mean, as a woman and all, I—

MS. WHITMAN

Save it, Sam. You don’t care about my support, you’re doing what’s best for you, period.

SAM

What’s best for me turns out to be what’s best for everybody in this company. When I shake a client’s hand and seal a deal, sure, I get my cut, but the rest of the cash goes to support all the pretend jobs that would amount to nothing without the sales me and my guys bring in every day.

MS. WHITMAN

Guys. That’s right, you’re just one of the guys, aren’t you?

SAM

Hey, that’s what we wanted, right? Equal treatment, equal pay, fat perks.

MS. WHITMAN

No, Sam. That’s what you wanted. “We” didn’t want you to become one of them. “We” wanted a 

MS. WHITMAN (Continued)

fair workplace for everybody. Not just for Mr. Sam Hollis.

SAM

Careful what you say, Ms. Whitman.

MS. WHITMAN

Or what? You’re gonna’ show me how you can make this all my fault? Save your breath. We all know how it ends. Management uses people like me for lightning rods. I’m used to it. No way I’m risking my 401 K or my salary that supports me and my two kids. So do your worst. I’ll get over it. I’ll  have two drinks tonight instead of my usual one.

SAM

(Pause. Stands uncomfortably close to her)

Because of me you get to play with your stupid rules and procedures, your handbooks and policies, and actually believe you’re doing something important. So for once in your tiny little life, at least accept you chose the wrong profession. Think about that the next time you dare to call me on your meaningless little carpet.

(Laughs as she walks toward the door)

I’m outta’ here. Wouldn’t want to keep my buddy, Les, waiting.

(Exits)

LONNIE

Are we going to let her get away with that?

MS. WHITMAN

I said the meeting is over.

LONNIE

I know, but…wait a minute., wait  a minute. We can build a case against her. For what she just said to you. I’m…I’m a witness. The employee handbook. We should start with the employee handbook…

(Begins leafing through the hard copy handbook in front of her)

..Let’s see…

(The phone on the conference room table begins ringing. Ms. Whitman answers it)

MS. WHITMAN

Hello, Ms. Whitman…Mr. Worthington…yes, yes I did, she just left. I know, but…

LONNIE

(Speaks her next lines more to herself)

If we can find the sections she violated…

MS. WHITMAN

…I just thought…well, yes, someone has to be held responsible….

LONNIE

…We can sum them up in a huge complaint, you sign…

MS. WHITMAN

…I don’t know what to say, I guess that’s me, it’s my responsibility…

LONNIE

…then  I sign as a witness…

MS. WHITMAN

…I know the director is retiring and it would look bad for me…

LONNIE

…Then confront Sam with the evidence…

MS. WHITMAN

….What? No, no…I couldn’t do that, she didn’t have anything to do…

LONNIE

…Even the CEO couldn’t protect her then.

MS, WHITMAN

…Yes, Mr. Worthington, yes….I understand…it seems like the best solution. I’ll do it. Immediately. I will. And thank you, thank you for finding a solution and, well…for everything. I’m grateful. Goodbye.

(She hangs up the phone)

LONNIE

I think we got her…

(MS. WHITMAN gets up and walks to the exit)

All we have to do is—

MS. WHITMAN

You’re fired.

LONNIE

What?…You can’t—

MS. WHITMAN

I can and I just did. 

(During the rest of her lines, she stalks LONNIE backing her around the table. LONNIE winds up leaning back on one side of the table, clutching it tightly as MS. WHITMAN delivers the last of her lines close to her face)

In fact, I just did you a favor. Showed you what your career will look like from here on out. What does Sam call it? A pretend job. How’s that sound? How’s it feel to join the ranks of the expendables, the wage slaves who get screamed at and bullied as we rush around gluing things together when they fall apart. But in the end that’s all we are. Useless glue, here to prop up the Sam Hollises of the world. All those meaningless courses you took with their fancy text books and slick photos of high-level meetings, people all smiles from different backgrounds, working together. As irrelevant as a Byron poem. Like you and…me…and…

(Pause. Turns away from her and begins to exit. Stops at the door without looking back at LONNIE)

Clear out your desk. Security will be by in 15 minutes to escort you out of the building.

(She exits. LONNIE is still leaning on the edge of the table, motionless. Lights fade out)
CURTAIN

About the Author:

Joe Cappello lives and writes in the picturesque desert country of Galisteo, New Mexico. His full length play, The Stars of Orion, was a quarterfinalist in the 2020 ScreenCraft Stage Play Contest and received an honorable mention in the 2020 Bridge Award contest sponsored by Arts in the Armed Forces (AIAF). His short story, “The Secret of the Smiling Rock Man,” was a finalist in the Southwest Writer’s 2021 Writing Contest and has been published in the group’s annual anthology released in October 2021. A memoir, Chain Link Memories, appeared in the November 2021 issue of Shorts Magazine.

Categories
stage & screen

6-scripts

Issue #6 ~Winter 2022
Stage & Screen

Sell Bots | Joe Cappello

ACT I
Scene 1

A conference room at the Worthington Robotics Company. A table is set center stage with three chairs around it.

AT RISE: MS. WHITMAN and LONNIE are sitting next to each other at the table. They are working on their laptops. Files and manuals are visible on the table along with a landline phone. SAM knocks on the door and bursts into the room.

MS. WHITMAN

Oh, Sam, good. You’re here. I—

SAM

(Animated and bigger than life)

Quick, who’s the best boss? Honk! Too late. I’m the best boss….My people tell me that all the time. Of course, they’re reading it off my coffee mug.

(Claps her hands)

Ho, I’m on a roll. I interviewed this older guy for a sales  position and he told me he dates a lot. I asked him what he uses for protection. He said “diapers.”

(Holds out her arms)

Yikes, don’t try to stop me.

MRS WHITMAN

Samantha…

-Read More-

Other Good Stuff…

Categories
stage & screen

The Farewell Burn by Kara Davidson

The 2021 Prize Winner in Stage & Screen selected by Michael Oatman

The Farewell Burn | Kara Davidson

CHARACTERS 
PIPER A woman in her late 30s. 
CHET Her father, mid-60s.  

SETTING 
The Alaskan wilderness. 

At rise: PIPER sits by a campfire at night in the Alaskan wilderness. She’s heavily bundled in winter gear, with a blanket wrapped around her. Her breath comes out in puffs. She huddles herself into a tiny ball to keep warm. Nearby, dogs bark. 

PIPER 

Hey! Hey! Quiet down now! Get some sleep. 

The dogs quiet. PIPER rummages in her pack. She finds a granola bar. She has difficulty opening the wrapping with her gloves on. She quickly takes her gloves off, rips open the package, and the granola flies everywhere. She picks up the pieces quickly, shoves them into her mouth, and rushes to get her gloves back on. 

CHET enters. He is bundled in a heavy coat and wears ski goggles. He carries firewood and kindling. PIPER takes the blanket from around her shoulders and spreads it out. 
CHET lays the wood on the blanket. 

CHET 

You get something to eat? 

PIPER 

(still chewing) 

Yeah. 

CHET 

It’s too wet here.

PIPER 

I know. 

CHET 

I dunno if this’ll light. 

PIPER 

I know. 

CHET 

That’s going to become a problem. 

PIPER 

Dad. I know. 

CHET 

Alright alright alright. Just wanna make sure you’re thinking about these things. Next month when you do the whole trail all together in one swoop, you’re gonna have to think about these things all on your own. 

PIPER 

I know what I signed up for. 

CHET 

Do you? 

Silence. 

CHET 

It used to be so much easier to find kindling in this spot. 

PIPER 

I’m sure it was. 

CHET 

Right after the fire, everything was charred. All the wood caught so easily. I didn’t have any problem with fires when I was on this trail.

PIPER 

Yeah well, the Farewell Burn isn’t as dry as it used to be. Obviously. 

CHET 

Don’t take that tone with me, Piper. I don’t like it when you talk to me like that. 

PIPER 

Sorry. I’m just…cold. 

CHET 

I remember my first Iditarod like it was yesterday. I must have peed myself with nervecitement every day. 

PIPER 

Nervecitement? 

CHET 

Nervous. Excitement. 

PIPER 

Ah. 

CHET 

It’s an exciting thing you’re doing, Pip. Hold on to the excitement. Because that’s what’s gonna get you through. 

PIPER 

I’m thinking about dropping out. 

CHET 

What? You can’t do that! Hannson’s never quit! 

PIPER 

I am. I’m going to drop out. 

CHET 

But why? Because your toesies got a little frozies today?

PIPER 

I’m worried about frostbite, Dad. 

CHET 

Yeah? 

PIPER 

FROSTBITE is a real thing. I could LOSE my TOES. 

CHET 

And when you signed up you thought that maybe, just maybe, it’d be 50 degrees and sunny come race day? 

PIPER 

No, of course/ I knew it would be cold 

CHET 

/Because if you didn’t think it would be COLD in ALASKA in FEBRUARY then little girl you are dumber than I raised/ you to be — 

PIPER 

I knew it would be cold/ 

CHET 

/so then yeah I guess you should quit. Take your name off the list. 

PIPER 

I only signed up because of you! I’m here because of you! 

Silence. 

CHET 

I told you I don’t like it when you/ talk to me like that — 

PIPER 

/Dad, I’m sorry I’m just—

CHET 

I didn’t sign your name to no paper or pay no registration fees. You did that on your own. 

PIPER 

You sure pushed all the pens into my hands. 

CHET 

What do you mean by that? 

PIPER 

You were 10 years younger than I am now when you completed your first Iditarod. 

CHET 

So? 

PIPER 

How? 

CHET 

I wanted to? 

PIPER 

Libby Riddles won the thing a week before her 29th birthday. 

CHET 

I remember that. She made history. 

PIPER 

And Susan Butcher had won her fourth by the time she was 36. 

CHET 

Honey, I don’t mean to burst your bubble here, but you’re a first timer. You’re not going to win. Not with all the training in the world. 

PIPER 

I don’t know why I thought I could do this.

Silence. 

CHET 

I can’t answer that for you. I did it because I wanted to. Just because I wanted this for me doesn’t mean you had to go on and sign up for this. This is not an easy course! 

PIPER 

I know. 

CHET 

And it’s not like signing up for some marathon that you can quit and hail a cab to take you home at mile 12. You quit between checkpoints out in the middle of nowhere/ 

PIPER 

/I want to know how you did it. 

CHET 

Shit, Piper, you can’t just sign your name to somethin’ that you don’t intend to PREPARE yourself for/ 

PIPER 

/I did/prepare. 

CHET 

/without knowing the dangers and consequences of a lack of forethought. 

PIPER 

I have been training. I have been preparing. I’ve read all the books. I take care of my dogs – they are all fitted with the best gear. But that stretch we just did today – – it got me, dad, it really did. 

CHET 

Why do you say that? 

PIPER 

I’m sitting here freezing my ass off, I can’t even take off my shoes to look to see if my toes are black, can’t get the fire to keep heat, I feel nauseous when I think about eating any more damned granola bars, and can’t close my eyes to sleep cuz on top of it all that pack of wolves we disturbed 5 miles ago is surely hunting our dying bodies right now. And most of all, I don’t want to get up tomorrow, with 20 more miles ahead of me, to do it all again. 

CHET 

Huh. 

PIPER 

What. 

CHET 

You got to love what you’re doin’, Pip. In this race, but also in this life. 

PIPER 

Yeah, well I don’t know what I love in life either so I guess I’m zero for two. 

CHET 

Then get out of here. 

PIPER 

Wish I could. 

CHET 

Because you’re not proven nuthin’ to me and nuthin’ to nobody sittin’ here whinin’ next to your lame-ass fire. 

PIPER 

Ever since Owen and I were little, you’ve been pitting us against each other. I’m trying really hard to think of one decision I made for myself – the college I went to, the career I chose, the men I dated — that wasn’t to impress you. To get your attention. 

CHET 

Owen’s grades were much better than yours, Pip. 

PIPER 

And now you haunt everything I do — every choice I make!

CHET 

You won’t quit. I know you Piper. 

PIPER 

Don’t be so fucking sure of yourself, dad. Don’t be so fucking sure. 

CHET 

Your mom would hate to hear you talking this way. 

PIPER 

I know it. 

CHET 

I am sorry you felt that way. 

PIPER 

I don’t want you to be sorry for how I felt. I want you to be just sorry, period. 

CHET 

But I’m not. I’m not “just sorry period”. Because I’m proud of the person you’ve become. I won’t ever say sorry for that. You can’t make me say sorry for that. 

Silence. Then CHET throws some wood onto the fire. It doesn’t catch.

CHET 

So if you were expecting a “just sorry period” when you said your goodbye to me, then that’s regretful that I couldn’t give you what you needed in that moment. Because I am. I am proud of you. So very proud of you, Piper. I know you can do this difficult thing. Shoot, it ain’t that difficult. You’re going to have a great time. It’s exhilarating! It’s empowering! It’s human and beast and nature together! So start getting yourself excited! THAT’s what will get you through! THAT and hearing my voice in your head challenging you to be better. Always want to be better, Piper. At everything. That’s what I hope I left you with: the desire for growth and a great capacity for change. 

CHET hands PIPER the rest of the wood.

CHET 

You know how to go out and find the dry shit. So go out and do that. Then, your fire will be warmer. 2+2=4. Don’t be dumber than dumb, Piper. 

They smile at each other. CHET disappears into thin air and PIPER is left standing, holding the wood. She throws it on the fire and it catches. 

PIPER 

Thanks, Dad. This race is for you. 

End of play.

About the Author:

Kara Davidson is an actor, playwright, and teaching artist currently pursuing her MFA in Writing for Stage and Screen at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Previously, she has worked with Manual Cinema, The House Theatre of Chicago, Lookingglass Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, ABLE Ensemble, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Nebraska Repertory Theatre, and Flatwater Shakespeare, among others. She is a co-founder and director of a monthly virtual workshop called The Lab which aids in developing new works-in-progress by artists from all across the country (www.thelab.blog).

Categories
stage & screen

Caged by Steve Loiaconi

Caged | Steve Loiaconi

ED: A 20-something struggling actor and hopeless romantic. 

MARY: Ed’s ex-girlfriend and current roommate. It’s awkward. 

ROY: A 30-year-old cryptozoologist who is either very good or very bad at his job and it’s not entirely clear which. 

KAPPA: A Spokes-creature for a fast food chain. Heard, but never seen on stage. 

SET: A cramped New York apartment divided into three sections: a bedroom, a living room, and a fire escape. The bedroom has a closet door and a woman’s bed covered with stuffed animals. The living room has a couch, the front door, a coat rack, a doorway to an unseen kitchen, and a window leading to the fire escape covered by a security grate. 

A cage rattles in the darkness. Lights come up on the bedroom.

ED sits on the bed wearing a military uniform and holding an automatic rifle, staring pensively at the closet where more rattling and scratching can be heard. The door between the bedroom and the living room is open.

ED picks up a stuffed bear dressed like a soldier, looking at it for a moment and then tosses it back on the bed.

A screech comes from inside the closet and he tightens his grip on the rifle, raising it toward the closet door.

Lights come up on the living room as MARY enters. Spooked, ED swings toward the bedroom door, gun in hand, as MARY approaches.

MARY

I’m home. Oh! You’re in here…with a gun. Is this—Am I going to—Are you—

ED

Sorry, sorry, it’s not—I didn’t mean to—it’s not even real. I’m just edgy. There’s—never mind. Nothing. Edginess is all.

MARY

Okay. Good, because for a second there I thought you’d gone totally off the reservation and I was like, I knew he was—Wait. Why are you on my bed?

ED

Do I need a reason?

MARY

Yes. What’s going on? Why are you looking at the closet like—

She is interrupted by clattering and snorting from the closet. 

MARY

What was that?

ED

Nothing. (A loud crash..) Okay. Maybe something.

MARY

Open the closet door.

ED

If I do, you’re going to scream like a girl.

MARY

If you don’t, I’m going to whomp your ass like a girl. Let me into my closet. (Another sudden crash from the closet.) You’ve got like an eight-foot python in there or something, don’t you? I swear these frat boy pranks aren’t nearly as charming as they were when we were dating.

ED

Fine. All yours. Remember, I warned you.

ED whistles as he walks to the living room. Behind him, MARY cautiously opens the closet door, screams, slams it shut and runs after him, closing the bedroom door behind her. Lights down on the bedroom.

MARY

What the hell was that?

ED

Some manner of web-footed turtle-monkey.

MARY

It’s—But it—What the—Where—It’s—

ED

Plushy? Yeah. Kind of.

MARY

What is it doing in my closet?

ED

I don’t know. It was sleeping but I think it woke up just before you came in.

MARY

I mean, why is it in my closet?

ED

Well, I certainly wasn’t going to put it in mine. It’s cute, though, isn’t it?

MARY

It looks like the kind of thing you don’t feed after midnight. Why are you dressed like a GI Joe?

ED

I had a job today.

MARY

Oh, no. You’re stripping again.

ED

No! This is—I was supposed to be in a commercial.

MARY

Supposed to be?

ED

I got fired.

MARY

What did you do this time?

ED

So Ultra Burger has this new line of breakfast sandwiches coming out. The All-American Ultra Mega Muffin.

MARY

All-American?

ED

It’s a blueberry muffin with an egg white and a slab of rare steak. It’s…not pleasant, but that’s beside the point. I was cast as a soldier in the ad. The basic idea was: a French guy walks into the restaurant, asks for sausage, egg, and cheese on a croissant and the manager kicks him out. British guy walks in, asks for it on an English muffin, gets thrown out the drive-thru window. Then I come in, in my army uniform, and demand my breakfast on an American muffin. The manager salutes me and hands me this thing. “The real American breakfast sandwich!” Cue the national anthem, star-wipe to a flag waving in the wind, etcetera. Then they would shoot a close-up of me taking a bite of the muffin, swallowing and smiling. I kind of spit it out on the first take. And, you know, the next fifteen takes after that. So eventually the director got pissed off and sent me home.

MARY

I’m sorry. But what does that have to do with the thing in my closet? What is that?

ED

You know how their mascot used to be that penguin in the top hat before it killed all those people?

MARY

(solemn pause) Rest in peace.

ED

Anyway, I’m sulking off after I got canned and I hear this rustling in one of the dressing rooms. There’s nobody else around, so I peek in. There’s this small cage in the center of the room holding this brightly colored turtle shell. The color made it seem almost animated, you know? As I get close, this monkey-like head suddenly pops out and snarls at me. This pudgy, cartoonish animal waddles forward in the cage, big old cartoonish eyes watering. I realized this thing is their new mascot. They were keeping it in a cage to sell burgers. So I did the only thing I could do.

MARY

You stole it?

ED

If we must put a name on it, yes.

MARY

What the hell were you thinking, Ed?

ED

I couldn’t just leave it there.

MARY

Yes. Yes, of course you could have.

ED

They were keeping it in a cage.

MARY

So are you.

ED

Only temporarily. I was, I don’t know, going to set it free at some sort of magic wildlife sanctuary somewhere. Or sell it, maybe. Look, it’s not like it was real well thought-out plan.

MARY

Very far from it.

ED

It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

MARY

You’re paying to replace whatever it eats, shreds or soils in there, you know that, right? (A loud clanging and shrieking rings out from the bedroom.) What was that?

ED

There’s no way that was a good sound.

They creep back toward the bedroom silently. When they open the door and turn on the lights, the closet door is open and stuffed animals are scattered across the bed and the floor. When they hear shuffling and scratching, they quickly close the bedroom door again and the lights go down. In the living room, as crashing and thumping come from the bedroom, MARY takes out her phone.

ED

Who are you calling?

MARY

Animal control.

ED

That’s not an animal. It’s a…I don’t know what the fuck, but don’t worry. Put the phone down. I already called Roy, he’s on his way over and I’m sure he’ll have a whole file on the damn thing and like eighteen weapons that can kill it.

MARY

You called Roy? God, why?

ED

Because there’s something freaky-ass strange in this neighborhood right now and the Ghostbusters aren’t real. He’s a cryptozoologist. This is what he does. You need to calm down.

MARY

Calm down? You locked a fast food spokes-puppet in my bedroom.

ED

Emphasis on ‘locked.’ We’re totally safe. (They both look back at the door for a moment, waiting.) I kind of thought it was going to burst through the door there. But see? Fine. 

The doorbell buzzes and a muffled knocking comes from behind the front door. ED runs to the front door and MARY follows. ROY steps into the room and removes a fedora from his head. He drops a duffle bag to the floor. He unzips his leather jacket, weathered, torn, and stained with specks of black and red that were once either fresh dirt, blood, or paint.

ROY

Eddie-boy, you’re looking good. Mary, you’ve put on some weight.

ED

So how have you been?

ROY

Good, man. Good. I’m like this close— (Roy holds his thumb and index finger about an inch apart. He thinks for a second, then widens the distance to about six inches.) Okay, more like this close to tracking down the papal chronovisor. Oh yeah, the pope’s got himself a time machine. More like a time camera, I guess. It was invented in the mid-1950s by Father Pellegrino Ernetti, Werner von Braun, and a team of—

MARY

Is any of this story going to be even remotely believable?

ROY

Not to you, no.

MARY

Can we move on to catching the scary cartoon monster in my bedroom then?

ROY

If you wanted to get me alone in your bedroom, all you ever had to do was ask, honey.

MARY

Is he drunk?

ROY

Please! (Roy takes off his jacket and rolls up the sleeves of a white dress shirt.) Like I do any of this shit sober. Wait, did she say cartoon monster?

ED

Scary cartoon monster.

ROY

It’s just going to be one of those nights, isn’t it? 

ED

What do we do now?

Thumping, squawking, and crashing resumes from the bedroom.

ROY

We fight. Mayhaps we die gloriously. Let’s see how it goes.

MARY

Before you two charge in there and Butch and Sundance up my room, can I remind you that we’re all accessories to kidnapping that thing at this point? Maybe we should just call the police and give up before we violate any more laws?

ED

Come on. I don’t think there are any laws for situations like this.

ROY

Oh, there are. They’re secret, though.

MARY

Fine. Just do…whatever it is you do.

ROY

Alright, you two wait here. I’m going to do some recon. If I’m not back in ten minutes, set this place on fire and run.

MARY

I am not burning down my apartment.

ROY enters the bedroom, where lights remain down. ED and MARY sit on the couch.

ED

Want to see what’s on TV?

MARY

All of this is your fault.

ED

I didn’t expect this to happen. Not all of it, anyway.

MARY

What did you expect? Sometimes I wonder how I dated you for almost three years.

A beat of silence then a loud crash from the bedroom.

ROY

(off stage) It’s okay! I’m fine!

ROY limps back into the living room. They both stare at him. 

ROY

Well, that could have gone better.

ED

What do we do now?

ROY

You got any pie?

MARY

You two do whatever the hell you want. I’m going to go out on the fire escape, light a cigarette and pretend this isn’t my life. Excuse me.

MARY walks over to the security gate covering the window leading out to the fire escape and tries to unlock it. ED and ROY watch as she struggles to pry it open.

ED

Need any help?

MARY steps back and kicks the metal bars. ED unlocks the grate and pulls the bars along their rusty, screeching track. He raises the window for MARY. She takes his hand to maintain her balance while she steps out. Her eyes briefly meet his. 

ROY

That chick is totally bitch-hiking on my chi, dawg. This ain’t nothing but a thing. Think of it like you just got a big-ass, colorful, misshapen mouse up in here and I’m one of those guys who catches mice real good.

ED

You couldn’t have just said that to her?

ROY

Bitch is a bitch, man. Here’s how we’re playing this—it’s gonna take maybe five, ten minutes tops to wrangle that thing into its cage. When she ain’t looking, you lock up that window. Then you and me go out, get drunk and get some ladies. Know what I’m saying?

ED looks back to the window as ROY stumbles into the kitchen to rummage through drawers for weapons. MARY blows smoke into the night air. ROY steps out of the kitchen holding an ice cream spade. ED scratches his head. 

ED

What the hell is that? An ice cream scoop?

ROY

It’s an ice cream spade.

He tosses it up in the air, catches it, then spins it around in his hand like a baton, eventually fumbling and dropping it.

ED

Dude, there’s like twelve knives in that kitchen.

ROY

Eh, I’ll be good with this. (ROY picks the spade up, practices swinging it vertically and horizontally before tucking the handle into the waist of his pants.) I once stared down the ghost soldiers of Gettysburg armed with nothing but a spork and a can of bug spray.

ED

Nobody believes you when you say things like that, you know.

ROY

Yeah, well, half the time I’m making them up anyway.

ED pauses to look at MARY again. Behind him, ROY clears his throat. 

ROY

Remind me why you’re still living with an ex-girlfriend with a thoroughly unpleasant personality and, I have to say, rather small boobs.

ED

Never sign a two-year lease with a no-subletting clause.

ROY

It’s been almost six months, man. It’s well past time to crawl out of the wreckage.

ED

I don’t have anyplace better to be.

ROY

I’m just saying, I love you like I would my brother if he wasn’t a three-time convicted felon and a crack addict who lost my car in a back-alley dice game, but if I were her, I’d be totally wigged out by pretty much everything you’ve done since she shipwrecked your ass.

ED

You’re a good friend, you know that?

ROY

I’m just saying. You don’t seriously still have a plan to win her back, do you? Because I’m picturing you Wile-E.-Coyote-ing over some blueprints and maps in a room wallpapered with her picture and that’s some restraining order shit right there.

ED

It’s not a plan. It’s just, you know, wishful thinking.

ROY

You walk the line between creepy and sweet more deftly than any other man I’ve ever known. But sometimes you cross it, is what I’m getting at.

ED begins to follow ROY, but he keeps peering over his shoulder. They hear shrieking inside the room again. As ROY reaches for the doorknob, ED stops him.

ED

Can you handle this one solo? She looks cold.

ROY

So you gotta go get your chivalry on? Shit. When you finally snap and kill her, I just want you and me to be clear that I’m not helping you get rid of the body, so don’t come asking for a shovel.

ED

I’m going to go out there.

ROY

Where she is. Stalker!

ED heads to the fire escape where MARY is staring up at the sky. Without looking back at him, she moves a little to her left to make room for him next to her. He joins her and stares upward. 

ED

Ever look up at the sky and wonder if some exploding star somewhere light years away has already ended everything and we just don’t know it yet? Like a thousand years from now, some guy will wake up in the middle of the night and there’ll be this huge flash of star fire and then nothing. That’ll be it and it already happened.

MARY

No. Never thought about it.

ED

It’s that in-between kind of cold, like you never have the right jacket for it.

MARY

What?

ED

The weather. Not quite winter, not quite spring. In limbo. You never feel quite right, you know what I mean?

MARY

Not so much. Do you mind rubbing my shoulders a little? They’re really sore for some reason.

He stares at her for a beat, but she just turns her back to him and looks over her shoulder smiling. He moves closer and runs his hands over her shoulders. 

ED

Doesn’t it feel like this whole crisis has brought us closer together again?

MARY

Only in the very literal sense that it’s forced us onto a fire escape together.

ED

That’s what I’m saying. Same wavelength, you and me.

She suddenly moves away. 

MARY

Were you just trying to kiss me?

ED

No.

MARY

Because it felt like… never mind.

ED

I really wasn’t.

She bends over and looks into the apartment. Suddenly they hear a crash and a scream. 

ROY

(Off stage) It’s alright! I’m okay!

MARY takes a cigarette from her pocket and puts it in her mouth. She feels around in her pockets for a lighter. ED pulls one from his and lights the cigarette for her. 

ED

I thought you’d stopped smoking.

MARY

Some nights, it’s easy. Other nights are like this.

ED

I know what you mean.

MARY

We can’t get back together, you know.

ED

What—When did I even suggest—

MARY

You were going to. You were building to it.

ED

I was so not—I didn’t even say anything.

MARY

Is that what all of this was about?

ED

Yes, you’ve uncovered my diabolical scheme. I kidnapped Curious George in there so I could seduce you into taking me back. Curses! Foiled again! And I’d have gotten away with it if not for you pesky kids and your dog…Is that really what you think?

MARY

Honestly? No, but, well, yes, maybe. I think you might do that. You got kind of unhinged after—

ED

You dumped me.

MARY

I was going to say, after we broke up.

ED

But you meant, after you dumped me.

MARY

For the love of—it was six months ago! How is this still a thing?

ED

You brought it up.

A series of crashes and thuds inside their apartment.

MARY

What the hell is he doing in there?

ED

Do you really want to know?

A prolonged high-pitched meowing.

MARY

That sounded like a cat. We don’t have a cat.

ED

Again, I ask, do you really want to know?

A loud boom from the bedroom, followed by what sounds like a roar. MARY yelps and reaches for ED’s hand. With another explosion and a crash inside, she grips it tighter. The living room fills with smoke.

ROY

(Off stage) It’s alright! Totally under control in here! Nothing’s burning!

MARY lets go of ED’s hand. 

ED

See? What was that?

MARY

What was what?

ED

With the hand-holding. You were just holding my hand. You got scared and you grabbed my hand.

MARY

Why does this matter?

ED

You remember when you asked me to move in, you were all like, no, this won’t be weird at all, and I was like, no, really, it’s gonna be weird? This right here, this is how it’s weird.

MARY

My hand grazed yours. It’s not like I jumped your bones in the shower.

He looks over her body. She clears her throat.

MARY

Stop thinking about me jumping your bones in the shower.

ED

How did we end up here?

MARY

You stole a rabid corporate mascot. The rest was inevitable.

ED

I’m talking more big picture. Us and all.

MARY

That’s complicated.

ED

We had a really good thing.

MARY

Maybe we did. But then we didn’t.

ED

My friends think this is really strange. Us. Being together and yet, you know, not. And I’m saying, my friends—you’ve met Roy, so imagine where their threshold for strange has got to be.

MARY

Mine do too. But they never really liked you much anyway.

ED

I assumed that didn’t bother you.

MARY

It didn’t. I just wanted them to see the side of you I saw.

ED

Which you don’t see anymore.

MARY

No, I don’t. I’m sorry. I was just trying to live my life.

ED

You were my life.

MARY

Oh my God. Do you ever listen to the way you talk about us? It’s like you start channeling a bad teen soap opera.

ED

Come now. That’s just a low blow. 

MARY

I just look at you and I wonder when you’re going to move on. I want to know that you’re happy.

ED

But not happy with you?

MARY

Yes. Not with me.

ED

Sorry to disappoint you there. I’m starring in fast food commercials and direct-to-DVD erotic thrillers and I’m alone, except that I live with my ex-girlfriend who, oh yeah, doesn’t have any interest in me at all anymore. You want to see me happy? Seriously? Have you seen how bad of an actor I am?

MARY

And cue the weepy emo ballad, poignant montage and fade to black. Tonight’s episode featured music by—

ED

I’m going inside now, evil living puppet monkey or not.

MARY

There’s something we need to talk about.

ED

Is it about how you’re secretly still madly in love with me? Whatever it is, just say it.

MARY

I’m leaving.

He waits for her to say something more, but when she doesn’t, he shrugs. 

ED

Alright. Well, fine. I’ll see you later tonight, then, I guess.

MARY

No, I mean… I’m moving. A senior field producing job opened up in the Chicago bureau. I was going to tell you when I got home but, well, that happened. It pays well enough to cover my half of the rent here for the next few months. Consider this thirty days’ notice or whatever.

ROY

I think I got it!

MARY climbs into the apartment. ED thinks for a moment, then follows. ROY meets them in the living room, holding a cage with a sheet over it. 

ROY

It’s back in the cage.

ED

I can see that. You’re bleeding.

ROY

In a few places, yeah. Bugger’s got claws. You wouldn’t know it to look at it.

KAPPA

Ultra-size your combo for only forty-nine cents.

ED

It talks?

ROY

Unfortunately. Mostly just bits and pieces of fast food menus.

KAPPA

Try our new fish pancakes!

ROY

Are those what they sound like?

ED

Pancakes with bits of fish in them? Yep.

ROY

Can’t say that sounds entirely pleasant. 

ED

So what the hell is it?

ROY

I’m fairly certain what we’re dealing with here is a kappa. Never actually seen one before. It’s a river imp that lures small children back to its underwater lair and sucks out their life force. See, in Shinto folklore, the kappa—

MARY

How much of this am I going to care about?

ROY

Not much, likely. Honestly, the details get a bit disgusting.

MARY

Let’s just skip that part then.

ROY

Sorry about the mess in there. I swear almost all of those stains will come out. Don’t worry. I have insurance for these situations.

ED

What are you going to do with it now?

ROY

Take it down to the playground in the morning, let it out and see if it starts chasing little kids. Science, baby. Catch the magic!

KAPPA

Ask me about our new dessert salads!

ROY pulls the ice cream spade from his belt and slams the top of the cage. 

ED

Was that really necessary?

MARY

It’s a mythical river imp, Ed. I’m sure it can’t feel pain.

ROY

Oh, no, it can. I just like doing that.

MARY

Leave my apartment.

ROY shrugs, picks up the cage, and salutes ED.

ROY

My work here is done. Expect my bill before the next full moon. 

ROY walks out the door.

ED

Well, I have to be honest. That went better than I expected. Though mythological Japanese river imp would not have been my first guess.

MARY

I’m going to get some sleep. We can clean this mess up tomorrow. 

MARY heads into her darkened bedroom. ED sits alone on the couch. After a moment, he walks over to the window and closes the grate. MARY returns wearing pajamas. 

MARY

Uh, my bed is sort of ripped in half in there. Do you mind if I—

ED

Take mine. I’ll just, you know, out here on the couch.

ED drops to the couch. He struggles to kick off his shoes. 

MARY

Ed.

ED

Yeah?

MARY

Are you going to be okay?

ED adjusts his position on the couch to face away from her. MARY turns down the living room light and returns to her room, leaving him alone in the dark. 

About the Author:

Steve Loiaconi is a journalist in Washington, DC and a graduate of George Mason University’s MFA program. His fiction has previously been published in GRIFFEL and True Chili.

Categories
stage & screen

SLEEPLESS by Marian Cronin

SLEEPLESS | By Marian Cronin

INT. – TALK SHOW – NIGHT 

On an unfashionable LATE NIGHT set and covered in rabbit-ear fuzz, MEREDITH (34) smiles in painful anticipation. The  sparkles on her dress reflect the stage lights. A bit of pink  lipstick stains her teeth. 

Meredith sits across a broad desk from a generic Late Night  host probably named JIMMY SOMETHING (45). With a face of  stony resolve, he ignores both Meredith and the crowd that  chatters behind the camera. 

The band starts to play and Jimmy springs to life. He smiles  and graciously thanks the subdued crowd; he turns to Meredith  in practiced congeniality. 

JIMMY 

Welcome back to Late Night with Jimmy Something. We’re here with Meredith Handerson for the 11,343 night in a row. 

MEREDITH 

Hi, thank you, Jimmy. Thank you for having me. 

A halfhearted cheer from the audience. 

JIMMY 

We’re just coming back after talking a bit about your new project– 

MEREDITH

The novel, yeah. I’m excited about it. 

The audience cheers. 

JIMMY 

The novel idea, that’s right. It sounds very promising. I’m sure this will be the one– 

MEREDITH 

That puts me on the map. That’s what I’m hoping but I’m not being delusional about it– 

JIMMY 

–the one that you finish. 

With the first hint of enthusiasm, the audience laughs.

JIMMY (CONT) 

Anyway, in this next segment, we’ll explore your deepest, darkest fears! 

The audience chatters approvingly. 

MEREDITH 

Are you sure? I thought it was the musical segment. 

Meredith hastily hides a bejeweled microphone behind a  decorative pillow. The audience laughs. 

JIMMY 

I’m sure. Let’s talk about the dread–it sounds like you’ve opened some of those boxes in the attic, so to speak. 

MEREDITH 

That’s a metaphoric device from the novel– 

The audience oohs. 

JIMMY 

It’s not good! 

They laugh; Jimmy laughs with them. 

JIMMY (CONT) 

I mean, seriously, you’re telling me there are things in your past, things you’ve done and felt, that you don’t know about? 

MEREDITH 

It’s not that I don’t know about them, Jimmy. I know they’re there. They’re just unexamined– 

JIMMY 

So you keep unexamined boxes in your attic? 

The audience roars. 

JIMMY (CONT) 

I’m joking, of course. I’m joking. Beautiful imagery.

MEREDITH 

Thank you, Jimmy. 

The audience offers a contrite round of applause. 

JIMMY 

OK, we’ll skip that one. 

Jimmy tosses a notecard out of frame. Meredith’s smile grows  in mileage but not in warmth. 

JIMMY (CONT) 

What is your biggest fear? 

MEREDITH 

Heights. 

JIMMY 

Oh, come on! We can go deeper than that! 

MEREDITH 

It’s heights, Jimmy. I’m most afraid of heights. 

JIMMY 

Have you considered: the things that hide in the dark? 

MEREDITH 

Have you read my novel, Jimmy? 

The audience laughs. 

JIMMY 

What lurks just beyond the shadows of your perception, Meredith? 

MEREDITH 

You asked for my biggest fear, not a ranked list of all of them. But, yeah, that’s scary too. 

The audience chuckles. 

JIMMY 

Oh, we haven’t even hit the top three yet! 

The audience laughs and a divine countdown begins.

EXT. CLIFF’S EDGE – NIGHT 

In a blink, Meredith stands ten feet back from the edge of a  cliff with a rapidly dissolving edge. The wind blows heavy,  bringing fog to hide what lies below. 

MEREDITH 

Jimmy, no! Please! 

JIMMY (OS) 

How about that thing about catastrophic failure? Oh wait–that was real life! 

The audience cackles. The edge races towards Meredith’s feet;  she backs up against a wall, half a meter of cliff remains in  front of her. 

MEREDITH 

My fear of the unknown keeps me from diving fully into anything. I am afraid that I’ll never get the courage to stray. 

With Meredith’s toes hanging over the edge, the cliffside  stops receding. 

INT. – TALK SHOW – NIGHT 

The countdown stops and Meredith is back on the couch across  from Jimmy. Her hair is windswept; was it like that before? 

JIMMY 

There’s number 3! 

MEREDITH 

Number 3? 

JIMMY 

We both know it doesn’t end there. Tell us number 2, Meredith. 

Meredith hesitates; she glares hard at Jimmy Something.

INT. FAMILY ROOM, CHILDHOOD HOME – NIGHT 

Meredith’s MOM (64) and DAD (65) sit side by side on a couch. 

MOM 

I don’t miss Meredith.

DAD 

Who would? 

MOM 

I don’t like her clothes. 

DAD 

I don’t like her face. 

They laugh uproariously and clink wine glasses; the audience  laughs along until it dies off in a natural taper. 

MOM 

I hope she dies. 

INT. – TALK SHOW – NIGHT 

Meredith’s face is red, half-hidden, sobbing into her hands. 

JIMMY 

(to the crowd) 

It looks like she’s ready–what do you think? 

The crowd boos and Jimmy Something chuckles good-naturedly. 

JIMMY (CONT) 

(to the crowd) 

Alright, you asked for it! 

INT. FAMILY ROOM, CHILDHOOD HOME – NIGHT 

Dad tops off Mom’s wine glass. 

DAD 

You know, if I cared about her at all I’d worry about her health. 

MOM 

How does someone so poor get so fat? 

DAD 

I don’t care! 

They laugh. 

INT. – TALK SHOW – NIGHT 

Jimmy straightens his tie, Meredith steadies her labored breathing.

MEREDITH 

I’m afraid that every person I love and respect hates me. 

JIMMY 

Is that it? 

MEREDITH 

I’m afraid they’re right. 

Jimmy swivels in his seat and holds Meredith in interrogative  scrutiny. 

JIMMY 

That’s interesting. Talk more about that. 

MEREDITH 

I’m afraid that I’m annoying and stupid, or a raging narcissist, and people are going to start noticing soon. 

JIMMY 

Here on the set of Narcissism Nightly? You don’t say! 

The crowd laughs. 

MEREDITH 

I’m afraid that I’ve hidden my true nature for as long as I can. 

JIMMY 

Your true nature being…? 

MEREDITH 

Terrible, Jimmy. Just awful. 

The audience laughs. 

JIMMY 

That’s what I thought. I gotta say, that’s not a very original number 2, Mere. 

MEREDITH 

Well. That’s on the list too. 

Jimmy mimes disgust, the audience laughs, Jimmy Something  chuckles.

JIMMY 

Right, but not at number 1. Which is what we’re here to talk about now, folks! 

The audience cheers and whoops. Jimmy tosses a card. The band  plays. Meredith sobs. 

MEREDITH 

Please, Jimmy. 

JIMMY 

What’s number 1, Meredith? 

MEREDITH 

Jimmy, I can’t. 

The audience hollers. 

INT. – INTERROGATION ROOM – NIGHT 

Meredith sits in a chair too large for her, surrounded by  impenetrable darkness. The only light comes from above and  illuminates her in cold, harsh light. She looks down at her  feet, which dangle a foot above the floor. 

From the darkness, AN AUTHORITY FIGURE (45) looms large into  view. He towers over Meredith and hovers just out of sight.  Meredith cowers from this specter. 

AN AUTHORITY FIGURE 

You failed the test, Meredith. Did you study? 

MEREDITH 

Yes– 

AN AUTHORITY FIGURE 

Don’t lie! 

Meredith looks down at her feet again. 

MEREDITH 

No. 

AN AUTHORITY FIGURE 

And you stole Harold’s candy bar in the lunchroom 

MEREDITH 

No! THat’s not true! We traded.

AN AUTHORITY FIGURE 

Don’t lie! Who would trade their Snickers, Meredith? Who would do that?! 

MEREDITH 

I had Skittles! We traded! Ask Har–

Mid-sentence, Meredith’s voice dilates and stretches. The final syllable of Meredith’s unfinished alibi hangs in a low,  grotesque din that traverses the lifespan of the universe. 

AN AUTHORITY FIGURE 

And Harold is dead. 

Meredith speaks but no sound comes out. Her movements grow slow and sticky. 

AN AUTHORITY FIGURE 

And you killed him. 

Meredith’s mouth hangs open, she fights to pound her fists in slow-mo protest. Time is the consistency of chocolate pudding. 

AN AUTHORITY FIGURE (CONT) 

Just tell me you didn’t do it. Tell me you did not murder Harold for his Snickers bar in the lunchroom and I’ll believe you. 

Meredith has successfully mouthed the word “NO” but still no sound escapes. 

AN AUTHORITY FIGURE 

Just tell me what happened. Your silence will be considered an admission of guilt. 

An Authority Figure stamps a large red GUILTY conclusion onto  some papers. 

INT. – TALK SHOW – NIGHT 

Time returns to its proper consistency, and all the words she couldn’t speak come tumbling out of Meredith’s mouth. 

MEREDITH 

It wasn’t me! I was in the bathroom when Harold was murdered!

The audience roars in mocking laughter, Jimmy Something grimaces and Meredith reddens. 

JIMMY 

Too much information, Meredith! 

The crowd howls in glee; they hoot and jeer at Meredith and  she shrinks into the couch, which is now too big for her.  Jimmy looms over her like An Authority Figure. 

JIMMY (CONT) 

What is it, Mere? Have you figured it out yet? 

MEREDITH 

I’m afraid of being ignored. 

JIMMY 

Or worse…? 

MEREDITH 

I’m afraid I’ll never get the chance to speak at all. 

JIMMY 

Or, worse yet…? 

MEREDITH 

I’m afraid I will get the chance to speak and the words will be worthless. 

JIMMY 

You’re getting there! 

MEREDITH 

I’m afraid that the words will be worthless because I am not special. 

JIMMY 

You are an empty room in a boring house. 

MEREDITH 

You have read the novel. 

JIMMY 

I have! Let’s just say you have a lot to worry about. 

The crowd howls, louder and rowdier than any reaction of the night.

JIMMY (CONT) 

And that is all we have time for. 

The crowd cheers. 

JIMMY (CONT) 

Good night, folks, thank you for joining us. And, remember: 

Led by Jimmy Something, the crowd chants in practiced  taunting: 

JIMMY + EVERYONE 

You! Can’t! Hide! Anything! 

JIMMY 

That’s right. Good night folks. Back to your regularly scheduled nightmares. 

The scene fades, a plywood sign lowers from the heavens. “THE  END” is painted in an imperfect hand and the edges are bordered by strobing lightbulbs. One of the lightbulbs is out. 

 THE END 

About the Author:

Marian Cronin wrote the dark comedy, SLEEPLESS, during her downtime at preschool. Marian, a teacher and writer from Chicago, enjoys baking, house plants, and repurposing her nightmares as entertainment. Marian has a BA in Cinema Art & Science from Columbia College Chicago and has been writing fiction since grade school. For new writing, photos of her dog, and opinions on grave-robbing, follow Marian on Instagram @marian.did.it.