Take a Number

[A spotlight comes up on a man sitting at a desk in the middle of an otherwise empty stage so that it appears to be the only real thing in a pool of blackness.]

DEATH: Number 51,672.

NUMBER 51,672: Here! [She walks into the light to face the desk.]

DEATH: Good morning, and welcome to the underworld. Please, place your number in the slot. Here are your new identity cards. Hold onto them. You will need them later. This is Than. [Than enters the light.] Follow him to Sorting.

NUMBER 51,672: I’m… where am I going?

DEATH: That will be determined in Sorting. Thank you, good luck, and have a nice day!

THAN: This way please. [Than and Number 51,672 exit.]

DEATH: 51,673. … 51,673.

BERNARD: I… that’s my number, but…

DEATH: Good morning, and welcome to the underworld. Please, place your number in the slot. Here are your new-

BERNARD: -No. I’m not – you don’t… I’m not supposed to be here.

DEATH: [Aside] Not another one. How do they get through Psych? [To Bernard] I’m sorry, Sir. It seems you jumped ahead or were not properly processed. Than will see that you get to Psych for a proper briefing. Please, place your number in the slot. You can get another from Haz after.

BERNARD: But… I… [He looks down at the number.] I didn’t get this from Haz… I don’t know any Haz. I got it at the deli counter.

DEATH: …the deli counter…?

BERNARD: Yes, I was going to get ham slices… you know, for sandwiches?… I picked a number, and then I was here.

THAN: [Aside] Sir, the time continuum.

DEATH: [Aside] They told me they fixed it!

THAN: [Aside] Sir, I know you love that movie, but do you really think that quoting it is appropriate at-

DEATH: [Aside] Than! They told me that it wouldn’t happen unless the deli had the same numbers… [To Bernard] You really picked number 51,673 at a deli?

BERNARD: Yes, sir. Frid’s Deli on Third.

THAN: I don’t see… Wait. There it is. I’ve pulled it up, sir, and… they have identical markers. It would seem they have never bothered to reset and sort.

BERNARD: The machine broke straight-off, but we don’t mind. Most people think it’s funny.

DEATH: Hilarious.

THAN: Sir, should we check with-

DEATH: -Why bother? Put him back on the waiting list. [Than leads Bernard into the shadows.] He’ll be back soon enough. [The lights begin to fade.] Number 51,674.

[The lights come up on a counter on the other side of the stage.]

DELI WORKER: Number 51,673.

BERNARD: Here. I’d like some of the Boar’s Head honeybaked ham, please. And some of that cake, too. We should celebrate.

DELI WORKER: But you… you… this morning…

BERNARD: [Grinning] What’s Frid’s favorite? I’d like to buy him a present.


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