A divorced, middle-aged receptionist. She is lonely and depressed, and has long lost faith in the idea of a better life.
A middle-aged deliveryman. He is friendly and very attractive.
A secretary, and a friend of Joanne’s.
Office break room. A water cooler with a stack of plastic cups stands in the middle by a wastebasket and a counter, which holds a sink, a coffeemaker, some mugs, a basket of assorted snacks, and a roll of paper towels. A small square table stands in the center of the room, surrounded by a few wooden chairs. A clock hangs on the wall over the counter.
Mid-afternoon, the last five minutes of Joanne’s 15-minute break.
Scene 1 – Office break room. Now.
(Two women in professional attire are chatting in an office break room. Joanne stands next to the water cooler in the middle. Mary stands closer to the door on the stage right. Joanne is drinking coffee from one of the mugs.)
So then he tries to tell me that his mother’s only staying with him until she finds her own place, but by then the mood is already DOA, you know?
(looks at wall clock)
So what did you do last night?
Oh, you know, just stayed in. Ordered Chinese, went through my mail. By the way, I got my first check today.
Your first alimony check? That must have been exciting.
You would think.
Oh, come on! The guy was a jerk; you said so yourself! If you ask me, he should be paying double for putting you through hell all those years.
He was my husband, Mary. And yeah, he was a jerk, but it’s not like it was hell the whole time we were together.
Just enough at the end for you to leave him.
Exactly: I left him. I don’t want him in my life anymore. That’s why I moved away. I thought I was done with him, but then I got the check in the mail and, I don’t know… it was like he suddenly came back. And now I keep thinking that every month, I’ll be getting a personal reminder in the mail that he’s still around, hanging over my head.
Don’t stress about it, Joanne. That feeling goes away. You’ll be fine.
(glances at wall clock)
Hey, I gotta get back to work. Mr. Clark wants those papers filed and on his desk before he gets back from his meeting.
All right. I should get back to the front desk too.
You’ve still got five minutes of break left.
I know, but the temp is new, and if he screws something up, it’ll be my head.
Suit yourself. See you later.
(Exit Mary. Joanne places her mug in the sink. A knock sounds at the door on the stage left. Joanne turns around as a good-looking man enters, wearing a brown uniform and holding a medium-sized cardboard box in his arms. Sandwiched between his left arm and the box is a clipboard.)
Excuse me? I have a package here for Clark & Walker Importers.
(Joanne doesn’t react, staring at the man. Henry hesitates, then clears his throat.)
This is the right floor, right? I can’t seem to find the front desk.
(snapping out of her “trance”)
Oh, yes! Yes, this is Clark & Walker. Um, I can sign for that. I’m the receptionist.
Oh, good. Thank you.
(looks Henry up and down)
Would you like some water? I know the elevator’s out of order. It must have been a long walk up the stairs.
OK, yes, thank you.
(Henry walks to the middle of the room to place the box and clipboard on the table. Joanne turns around to fill a plastic cup with water from the water cooler. She turns back and bumps into Henry, spilling the water onto his shirt and the box.)
Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry!
(wiping at his shirt with his hands)
No, no, it’s all right, really!
(Joanne puts the cup on the counter, then takes the roll of paper towels and places it on the table. She and Henry start ripping off sheets and using them to dry Henry’s shirt and the box.)
I’m really sorry…
(pauses to read the name tag on the front of his shirt)
It’s OK! Really, it’s fine.
(Henry pulls up his sleeves and reaches for the paper towels again. Joanne stops to stare at his tattooed arms. Henry notices and pauses.)
You like ‘em? This cross here…
(points at his left wrist)
…I’ve had since I was 21. Always been a newborn Christian. Jesus helped me through a lot of bad times. And this…
(holds up his right arm so Joanne can read the two words tattooed there)
…”Carpe Diem”. Means “Seize the day” in Latin. Got that one the week after running into an ex-girlfriend who told me she was engaged. Kept thinking I should have proposed when I had the chance. After that, I told myself I’d never make that mistake again. Seize the day, you know?
(Joanne smiles as Henry reaches for the paper towels again. The two finish drying the box and Henry’s shirt.)
You still want that water?
Sure, long as it comes in the cup this time.
(Joanne chuckles and picks up the cup again to refill it at the water cooler. She gives the cup to Henry, who hands her the clipboard to sign, along with a pen from his front pocket. While Joanne reaches out to take it, Henry stares at her fingers.)
On your finger. Is that a tan line?
(glances at her left ring finger)
Oh! Yes, it is. I’m recently divorced. Just signed the final papers last month.
I’m sorry to hear that.
Don’t be; it’s fine.
(signs the paper on the clipboard)
He wasn’t so bad at first. He just… wasn’t the guy I thought he was. Didn’t respect me, put me down, made me feel like my dreams were pointless. You know how it is: one day, you wake up and think, “I’m done with this.” So I left. Moved to a new town, got a job as a receptionist, and that was that.
(looks up at Henry, suddenly embarrassed)
I’m sorry! I’m rambling. You don’t care about any of this stuff.
No, no! I admire that, honest!
(Joanne offers the pen back to Henry. He pauses as his fingers close around it and touch her fingers.)
I think I’d like to see you again. You wanna get coffee sometime?
That would be lovely.
(Joanne takes the pen back and scribbles on the bottom of the clipboard. Henry drinks the rest of his water and tosses the cup in the wastebasket. Joanne hands the pen and clipboard back to Henry. He turns the clipboard right-side up to read the writing on the bottom.)
(looks up at Joanne with a smile)
All right, I’ll give you a call later this week.
Sounds great! I look forward to it.
It was nice meeting you, Joanne. Take care now.
Thanks. You too, Henry.
(With a friendly wave, Henry walks back to the door on the stage left, clipboard under his arm. Exit Henry. Joanne picks up the box and walks to the door on the stage right with a smile. Exit Joanne.)
This script is the second half of a two-part writing exercise I gave myself a few years ago. The exercise is to write the same story twice: once as a narrative with no direct dialogue, and once as a script for a stage play. The idea is to explore the differences between narrative and pure dialogue, in order to get a feel of how writing in one format differs from writing in the other. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!
Be sure to check out last Friday’s post to read this story again as a narrative!
(Note: I apologize for the flawed script formatting in this post. The piece was actually formatted correctly in my word processor, but for some reason, I couldn’t adjust it properly in the WordPress editor. Oh well, I hope you enjoy it anyway! Thank you!)