A: I lost a day.
A: You mean, “Hello.”
Catch up, ketchup, caught –
A single line of thought.
So easily squished, so easily dead.
Are you sure I can’t just read instead?
IC: What is that even about? Ketchup?
SC: Don’t judge!
[The stage is completely dark.]
HAEL: I don’t see why it always has to be about them.
SOL: You’re one to talk.
HAEL: Oh, everybody quiet! Mr. Sensitive has something to say.
SOL: Says the wimp who practically explodes at the slightest pressure!
SOL: Explodes. Turns bright red, swells up, and eventually bursts-
HAEL: At least I don’t scream and whimper at the slightest bit of h-
AN: -Hush. Or they’ll hear you! [In the silence, Hael and Sol’s glares could almost be felt.]… Hael, you called the meeting.
HAEL: My point was that they get first dibs. Always. If they’re the slightest bit unhappy, we all lose out. Cal, remember the cushy one? The one you said you could fall asleep sitting in?
CAL: Do I remember! Ohhh, it was so nice. Like Heaven on Earth!
HAEL: You’d’ve liked to stay there, wouldn’t you? But what happened?
CAL: They picked the hard one. The one that poked me if I moved wrong.
HAEL: Right. And what about the soft, fuzzy one that you liked so much, SOL?
SOL: They nixed it. Said it didn’t give them enough head room.
HAEL: And the one that wrapped around you so nicely An?
AN: Vetoed. It wasn’t wide enough.
HAEL: And we all know what happened to me last time. They left me out in the cold. [Murmurs of agreement] So what are we waiting for?
CAL: But what can we do? No one listens to us!
HAEL: They’ll have to if we all speak up. They can’t keep ignoring us!
HAEL: Can’t keep treating us like-
[An uncomfortable silence falls.]
BIG T: Hello. Quite a crowd you have here.
HAEL: We’re just talking here.
BIG T: And you didn’t invite us? Hael, I’m hurt.
HAEL: [under his breath] I wish.
JUNIOR: You got something to say?
HAEL: Yeah. Yeah, I got something to say.
SOL: Hael, don’t.
HAEL: Don’t what? Don’t tell him what we’ve all been thinking? Why shouldn’t I?
HAEL: No, really. What can he do to me that he hasn’t already done?
JUNIOR: You watch your mouth-
BIG T: No, no, Junior. That is no way to speak to a friend. Please, Hael, continue. Tell me how I have wronged you.
SOL, CAL, & AN: Hael, don’t-
HAEL: You cut us out! You shoot down our decisions at the least inconvenience to you but leave us to suffer!
JUNIOR: You- [He cuts out abruptly, leaving only silence.]
BIG T: It saddens me to hear you speak like this, Hael. And to see you others here. It hurts me that you could forget all that we do for you.
HAEL: All that you- [He cuts off abruptly with a muffled grunt although we can’t see the cause.]
BIG T: Have we not stood in front of you and protected you? Have we not shielded you when we were thrown into that chair? Or the wall? And did you thank us? No. Instead, you begrudge us what little comfort and protection we ask for in return-
AN: -Oh, no Mr. T. That’s not what-
LT: -You do not interrupt Big T when he is talking. [Silence.]
BIG T: Thank you, LT. Now,… where was I?
BIG T: Oh, of course. We ask so little in return. And you begrudge us this. It really hurts me. I feel it here in my heart that my friends could be so cold. It makes me very sad. I wish I could forget these hard words between us. I wish there was a way for that to happen.
LT: Perhaps, if they apologized, Big T. Perhaps, that would heal this pain.
BIG T: LT, again you show why you are my right hand man. Yes. An apology. And, I think, a promise never to bring such harsh words between us again. What do you think?
CAL: Oh, absolutely, we all apologize, don’t we, Hael? Hael.
HAEL: I’m sorry.
BIG T: So nice and kind. I feel better for having had this talk with you, Hael.
SOL: Umm… Mr. T- I mean, Big. I was thinking. See… well, first off, what you said is absolutely true. I don’t want you to think we disagree about that. But… um… the thing is that what you said before works for us, too.
SOL: No, it’s important. Who takes the weight of everyone, including them? Who stands in front of them and protects them with every single step placed? I do. You rely on me as much as we rely on you.
LT: I suggest you think very carefully about what you are saying.
SOL: I have. And you know what? Hael does the same job as you every time we go in the other direction. He protects us, and last time, you even took away the same little protection that you claim we begrudge you.
JUNIOR: That little sniveler! The same as- [He cuts off for no audible reason.]
SOL: Yes, exactly the same. Except it’s much harder to cut him off and leave him to fend for himself, isn’t it?
JUNIOR: You! Why I oughta-
BIG T: -You-you dare suggest-
SOL: -yes, I do. It would be simple enough. Your position isn’t the most secure here, after all.
JUNIOR: And whose is? Yours?
SOL: No. An’s is. [Silence.] An could cut us all off and leave us on our own. [He and An exchange a meaningful glance.]
AN: I would rather not. If I were given an alternative.
JUNIOR: Oh, you go right ahead. We’ll show you- [He cuts off abruptly with a muffled grunt although we can’t see the cause. There is a pause.]
BIG T: And you have an alternative in mind, I think.
AN: Yes. An equal say.
SOL: Only equal. We don’t want to take away your protection either. All we want is the same protection for ourselves. [Silence.]
BIG T: You have given me much to think about. We will speak again tomorrow.
[The Ts exit.]
AN: Oh my God, Sol, you did it!
CAL: Did you hear that, Hael! Sol got him to think about it! Way to go, Sol!
HAEL: Yeah, I admit that was pretty brave, Sol. Maybe, you’re not Mr. Sensitive after all. … Sol?
CAL: I think he fainted!
HAEL: Ha! I told you he couldn’t take the heat.
The following is heard from a dark stage.
RED: Hold on, Chip!
AL: Yeah, you can do it! Just another thirty seconds!
CHIP: [gasping] No way! I can’t do it!
RED: Yes, you can! Show us those muscles!
CHIP: God, it hurts!
T: Push through the burn! You’re almost there!
AL: 15 seconds!
CHIP: And then what? Start all over again? Hold up someone heavier?
T: No negative thoughts!
RED: That’s right, Chip! You can do it! You’ll get stronger and-
CHIP: -And they’ll finally getting around to fixing me? You really think so?
AL: 10 seconds!
T: Focus on your balance, you’ve got to-
CHIP: Shut up! What do you have to hold up, huh? Dishes! The second someone leans on you, they get yelled at!
RED: Chip, calm down. You’re almost-
CHIP: [Screaming] -Almost where, Red? Almost where? Almost fixed? Do you really think they’ll fix me if I hold out? They won’t replace me?
AL: [quietly] 5 seconds
CHIP: [Tired] Forget it.
There’s a horrible crash and then silence.
The following conversation occurs in absolute darkness.
TC: And then, she poured boiling water directly into my mouth!
[Gasping in unison]
DC: She didn’t!
TC: She did.
B: They all do. They’ll drown you in water so hot, it’ll peel the enamel off.
TC: [To PC] Or melt you. [To DC] Or leave you to slowly fall apart.
PC: No, no, they can’t!
TC: They will.
DC: Not to us! We’ll run away.
B: [With a mocking laugh] How? We’re trapped here.
DC: They have to open the door sometime. We’ll make a run for it!
PC: But where will we go? We-
TC: Hush! They’re coming.
A sliver of light appears and then widens as the door opens. The camera angle changes, showing a hand reaching into a cabinet of dishes. From the top shelf, a plastic cup and a dixie cup topple over the edge. The human looks startled, shakes her head, and tosses them in the trash. Then, she takes out a plate and closes the cabinet, returning the screen to darkness.
TC: [Laughing] Works every time.
SHARON: Dad! Is something burning?
DAD: Dinner’s ready!
SUBCONSCIOUS MIND: “Silence is rest the. Thee follow I-”
CONSCIOUS MIND: -What the…? You ok?
SM: “I have not been well. I am confused by shadows.”
CM: Hamlet backwards… and is that from Man of la Mancha?
SM: “It is possible I knew you once. I do not remember.”
CM: You can stop now. I’m-
SM: “-a lumberjack, and I’m ok-”
SM: “No, no, no – no. I’m Jane.”
CM: No more quoting! I mean it!
SM: “Anybody want a peanut?”
RORY: It’s great! It’s like deep, you know! But funny too!
TIM: Yeah, sure.
RORY: No, really! It’s about mor…mori… morality!
RORY: Yeah! And about how it makes us equal. Like we’re the same as kings and stuff!
TIM: Try telling the boss we’re equal when he sees how slow you’re going.
RORY: Oh, c’mon, Tim. I wanted to see what it was like back then!
TIM: Then, put some back into it. Do you think a real one would’ve gotten to lollygag and chatter like that?
RORY: But in the play-
TIM: -Exactly. The play. Do me a favor and remember that. A play set at least 500 years ago. When people were buried on top of each other. Didn’t you say he had to dig people up to bury someone new?
RORY: Yeah, but-
TIM: -And when they didn’t have machines. Do you think that clown would’ve been using a shovel if he had a digger like this one?
RORY: No. But-
TIM: -But nothing. Now, stop fooling around and get this dug. Unless you want to tell Mr. Cotter’s family his interment is canceled because you were making a house to last ’til doomsday.
RORY: Oh. Sorry, Tim. I just really- wait. You did read it!
[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.
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.