JOE, a common laborer
ANDREA, a young, pretty bartender
Scene: The lights come up on a single bucket seat center stage. JOE runs in from stage right, plunks down in the seat.
JOE: Whew! ‘nother day and I’m running late. I don’t mind if we chat but (gestures to audience to come) you’ll have to tag along.
(JOE motions with his hands as if turning a steering wheel, hard left.)
JOE: This is my cocoon of quiet. Normally wouldn’t share these few minutes of calm before the storm of work with anyone. Some like to wake to racket, blast the hood with tunse, me? I bask in the silent web of my thoughts.
(As he says this, a glazed loo comes into his eyes. ANDREA ambles across upstage left to right ,a glass in her hand.)
ANDREA: Hey, Joe, how about a Pepsi?
(JOE glances over his shoulder, watches her hips gyrate offstage.)
JOE: Jeez, when did I get old? I use to be young like her…once.
(He faces forward, panic in his eyes, slams foot down hard, leans with sudden stop.)
CROSSING GUARD: Watch it, buster!
(She steps across his path down center, holding a small stop sign aloft, gestures to students to follow.)
JOE: (leans out to bark) Today yet.
(CROSSING GUARD gives hima hard stare s she disappears offstage left.)
JOE: As I was saying before the rude interruption, I use to be young. Had dreams ‘n everything, was gonna rock the world with my pen. Workin’ in a waffle house, saw myself as some oppressed white boy, Sandburg with a snarl, kept down, a Langston Hughes wannabe.
(ANDREA crosses back stage right to left.)
ANDREA: Sure you don’t want a Pepsi, Joe?
(Again, JOE watches her swaying hips out of sight.)
JOE: Concentrate, you fool… (as he taps his forehead) this is no place to daydream. Besides, you’re old enough to be her daddy, not sugar daddy, her b-i-o-l-o-g-i-c-a-l daddy.
(CROSSING GUARD emerges stage left, slowly wends right, raised stop sign in her hand.)
JOE: You again?
(She ignores him.)
JOE: Nights I’d come home, write poems, how I was this poor, angry white nigger, do anything for a buck. Got a few acceptances, including one from some commie, up with the proletariat mag. Thought I was all that, then the years ground by.
(ANDREA starts out from stage left, shakes her head, goes back.)
JOE: Pay your dues my father says, the original 20th century working stiff. So I put in my time. Eleven years later, not quite two weeks after my anniversary with the waffle house, they close.
(CROSSING GUARD holds out her hand in stop motion as she crosses JOE’s path.)
JOE: I mean, I understand we’re all doin’ time, trying to do our job, even her. (points at CROSSING GUARD) So next you know, I’m in a warehouse. Not just any logistics company though. A cheese company, just like my old man. Course, he put in 35 years in the vat room. And I’m only handling the finished wheels here at Rykopf Cheese.
(JOE adjusts his rearview mirror.)
JOE: Well, I never did give up on writing. Still work part time as a correspondent for my hometown paper, the Fairfax Observer.
(glances in rearview mirror)
JOE: …but every year the dream seems to slip farther away. You know, like a hitchhiker in your mirror. Sometimese the past isn’t a destination, any actual place as much as a promise to the future, one we don’t keep.
(ANDREA walks out, pauses upcenter, glass still in her hand.)
ANDREA: Are you absolutely certain I can’t get you something, Joe?
(She smiles ruefully. He glances back.)
JOE: Not right now. Mebbe later. There’ll be plenty of time for a soda at Scarpelli’s Supper Club then.
(He turns to audience.)
JOE: Now I gotta pay some dues. Back to the coal mine.
JOE: Sixteen tons, and what d’you get? (pause) Not much more than my father did.
(He rises from the bucket seat to his feet, starts stage right.)
JOE: You know what the funny part is, when did my collar get this blue?
(He holds out a forearm, stares at it.)
JOE: It’s part of me, down to the marrow in these ol’ bones. If my blood were any bluer…collar, you could tap a vein and fill a fountain pen.
(looks questioningly at audience)
JOE: But what would you write? A letter home, begging for money…or just a note wondering how, or when I became my old man?
(He shakes his head as he wanders off stage right.)
—G. A. Scheinoha, Eden, WI