Number 21: A Story

Standard

The stage is set with three separate locations. Downstage left houses two small office desks sitting side by side, both littered with paper and other typical office items: this represents the publishing house office where the characters work . Downstage right has a high table and stools, representing the coffee shop. Upstage center has a solitary park bench.

 

SCENE 1:

The lights come up on downstage left: a drab office at a publishing house. CAROL and ANGELA enter stage left. Angela sits at her desk. Carol is carrying a black leather portfolio. She addresses the audience.

 

CAROL

There are some wonderful stories that start with the sentence “once upon a time.” Or “there once was a,” or even “our story begins at—” you fill in the blank.

 

JACK enters stage left, moving towards his desk.

 

But anyone who’s ever lived could tell you that the best stories begin with a single word:

 

JACK

(Taking his seat at the desk next to Angela’s and addressing her.)

Hello.

 

ANGELA

Oh, good morning, Jack.

 

JACK

Are you doing alright? You look tired.

 

ANGELA

(Laughs emptily.)

When do I not look tired? We all look tired—especially with those deadlines.

 

JACK

I suppose you’re right. Still, you seem a little—

 

ANGELA

Thanks, but I’m alright, Jack.

 

Jack and Angela work at their desks, deaf to Carol’s monologue. Angela looks tired and bored with her work. Jack works diligently, but casts darting glances over at Angela every time she sighs—which she does often.

CAROL

(Addressing the audience.)

Meet my coworker Angela Gerolstine. She’s been working at this little publishing firm since she dropped off the apple cart after college. Angie had grand schemes of writing her novel and making it big, but her dreams got put on a back burner when she discovered that there was rent to pay and student loans to satisfy—not to mention her complicated relationships with Jerks numbers 1, 2 and 3. Angela, like so many other brilliant and adorable women experiencing emotional burnout, has given up on love. Or at least that’s what she’d like to think.

 

Carol steps into the scene and addresses Angela in an excessively cheerful tone of voice.

 

Good morning, Angela! How’s things?

 

ANGELA

Hey, Carol. Things are okay.

 

CAROL

Just ‘okay?’ That won’t do, honey—that won’t do at all.

 

ANGELA

I’m fine. I just have a lot to do…and no time to do it in. Same old, same old.

 

CAROL

Understood, understood. G’morning, Jack.

 

JACK

(Looking up from his desk for the first time in a while.)

Carol. How’s that proposal coming?

 

CAROL

Just swell. Give it a few months and it’ll be all set.

 

JACK

Wonderful.

(He checks his watch.)

Oops. Meeting. Gotta run. Later, ladies.

 

Jack leaves.

 

CAROL

Ciao, Jack.

(To Angela.)

How are things with whats-his-name?

 

ANGELA

(Darkly.)

Horace.

 

CAROL

Oooh…not so good?

 

ANGELA

Dumped me last month and ran off with the Ringling Brothers. He blathered something about “getting in touch with his inner child.”

 

CAROL

Bizarre. Any other excuse? Explanation?

 

ANGELA

Nothing I haven’t heard before. You know, the usual ‘It’s not me, it’s you; it’s not you, it’s me’ routine. Blah, blah, blah.

 

CAROL

Good riddance, then?

 

ANGELA

And he said he found my height intimidating. Go figure.

 

CAROL

Honey, I’m so sorry. At least now you know he’s not ‘the one,’ right? After all, you know what they say: ‘You gotta kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince.’

 

ANGELA

(Begins to furiously shuffle papers on her desk, punctuating her sentences with busyness.)

Carol, I’ve had it. I’ve kissed enough frogs by now to know that the princes just aren’t out there. They’re all FROGS. Every last slimy one of them.

 

CAROL

Don’t give up, girlie. You don’t need ‘princes,’ you just have to find one prince. Just one.

 

ANGELA

I don’t want one anymore. No one. Look, Carol, I’ve dated a lot of guys—

 

CAROL

Haven’t we all?

 

ANGELA

—and all I have to show for it is a bunch of painful memories. I’m done Carol. Done.

 

Angela puts her head on her desk, overwhelmed by the exhaustion of the past few weeks. Carol sidles over to the desk and sits on Angela’s desktop, pulling the black portfolio out from under her arm.

 

CAROL

You’re going to hate me for this, Angie, but I’ve got a project for you.

 

ANGELA

What is it? Another manuscript?

 

CAROL

Just read.

 

ANGELA

Carol, this is just a list of names.

 

CAROL

Uh-huh.

 

ANGELA

Guys’ names…Carol, what are you getting at?

 

CAROL

Twenty-one names. A name for every year you’ve been alive. Names of friends, names of colleagues, names of acquaintances—names of one or two of my ex’s—

 

ANGELA

Carol—

 

CAROL

—men that I know. But most importantly, men that you know.

 

ANGELA

(She gets increasingly flustered as she begins to realize what Carol is putting her up to.)

Carol—no, I—I don’t want to be set up—I—I can’t take this anymore—

 

CAROL

Cool your jets, Angie. I’m not asking you to marry these guys. I’m not even asking you to pick one of them. I’m asking you to get to know them. You’ve had scummy experiences with scummy guys. I’m giving you a chance to see that there are plenty of wonderful guys out there that are worth getting acquainted with—even if nothing ever happens.

 

ANGELA

But—wait—all of them at once?

 

CAROL

(Laughs.)

No, silly girl! Of course not all at once! Just two a week.

 

ANGELA

WHAT?!?

 

CAROL

Coffee at Starbucks every Friday and Saturday night for ten weeks. One date per guy. That’s all you’ve got to do.

 

ANGELA

But—Carol—er—WHY?

 

CAROL

Because, my dear sweet little lovelorn munchkin, you have far too low an opinion of your fellow men. Perhaps what’s worse, you have far too low an opinion of yourself. Yes, you’ve been hurt; and, yes, you’ve been disappointed by guys; and, yes, you’ve disappointed yourself. But don’t put your happiness on hold just because you’re afraid of disappointment. Besides, sugar lump, it’s just ten weeks.

 

ANGELA

But—

 

CAROL

No ‘buts.’ Your first appointment is this Friday at 6:30.

 

ANGELA

CAROL!

 

CAROL

They start selling pumpkin spice lattes this week.

(Angela considers.)

He’s buying.

ANGELA

(Hesitates. She scans the list, putting her finger on the first item. Then she says, resignedly:)

John Jacobs. Starbucks. Friday. 6:30. Got it.

 

TO BE CONTINUED….

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