E
Oct/Nov 2007 Fiction

Five More Minutes, a play in one act

by Steven Schutzman


Characters:

LauraŚmid 20's
GregoryŚmid 20's

 

(A front porch with swing or glider. Early evening. LAURA inert on porch swing, starting toward Audience. GREGORY enters home from work.)

GREGORY
Laura? (Beat) Laura? (Beat) You okay? (Beat)

LAURA
Oh, hi, Gregory.

GREGORY
I...

LAURA
You want to sit down?

GREGORY
No thanks. Are you all right?

LAURA
I don't have the energy to make this swing swing.

GREGORY
You want a push or something?

LAURA
I kept thinking I'll stay here five more minutes. Just five more minutes. Five more minutes. And now the whole day's gone.

GREGORY
Yeah, I saw you out here when I left for work this morning.

LAURA
Nine straight hours.

GREGORY
In your bathrobe with the flowers.

LAURA
I got up to change because the stupid window guy was supposed to come but he didn't show up. And to go to the bathroom.

GREGORY
I'm sorry you're feeling bad.

LAURA
I don't have the energy to feel bad.

GREGORY
Anyway, I hate to add to your problems, but I'm moving out. I'm giving notice. End of the month. Okay?

LAURA
Fine. (Beat. Beat.) So that's it after three years?

GREGORY
He slashed my tires.

LAURA
I understand.

GREGORY
I had to take the bus to work.

LAURA
I'm sorry.

GREGORY
I know he's your boyfriend, but the guy's a lowlife with the foulest mouth in the world. You heard what he said about me.

LAURA
Fucking Nigger-loving bookworm Jewish pansy.

GREGORY
Real loud. In a mixed neighborhood.

LAURA
You're not Jewish.

GREGORY
That's not the point. In his primitive mind, he sees me with a book, he tries to run me over.

LAURA
Because you left a note on his truck.

GREGORY
To ask him not to park it so it blocks my car.

LAURA
He doesn't like being left notes.

GREGORY
Obviously.

LAURA
He likes to talk man to man.

GREGORY
So you're taking his side?

LAURA
No. Just saying.

GREGORY
The guy's a total maniac.

LAURA
In case you want to reconsider, I kicked him out last night.

GREGORY
Oh. Really?

LAURA
And I really don't have enough energy to find a new tenant.

GREGORY
Gee, thanks a lot.

LAURA
No, I'll miss you. (Beat) You know what I'm going to do? Just sit here and let my cats have litter after litter. Soon the house will be crumbling and overrun by cats and I'll be a very strange lady.

GREGORY
Maybe you're depressed.

LAURA
I don't have enough energy to be depressed.

(Scene grows inert. Pause.)

GREGORY
Anyway, he'll be back.

LAURA
Yeah. Maybe. I'm not real good at the alone thing like you are.

GREGORY
That's not something a person's good at. It's something that happens to him.

LAURA
So you're not good at it?

GREGORY
No.

LAURA
Too bad. Because I was going to ask you your secret.

GREGORY
Well, maybe, I have gotten a little good at it.

LAURA
It's all right. What's the point?

(Scene inert. Pause.)

GREGORY
So that's it? Because you're not good at being alone, you're going to take him back?

LAURA
I'm a vegetable. I feel like a vegetable. Like I don't want to move ever again. And so it was five more minutes, five more minutes. Five minutes put a limit on it, but then I changed my mind each time and wound up not moving all day.

GREGORY
I think you're depressed.

LAURA
And I'm not a vegetable that's growing either. I don't have enough energy to actually grow. Maybe if I sit here long enough some stranger will see me and have me taken away. Because there's no one who cares enough to actually call anyone.

GREGORY
You want me to call someone?

LAURA
There's no one to call.

GREGORY
Oh.

LAURA
If a person does any one thing long enough, even the most normal thing, like sitting on the porch swing or saying hello or sharpening pencils, if it just goes on and on, hello, hello, hello, hello, or non-stop sharpening, it becomes abnormal.

GREGORY
Well, yeah, sure. Like the guy sitting on the bench at the bus stop this morning, just sitting, just staring. He seemed okay, regular, because staring is what guys do on benches early before work in the morning, but he didn't get on the bus, and then he was there like that when I got off this afternoon.

LAURA
All day like me.

GREGORY
Yeah, and he was dressed perfectly regular, but then you figure he doesn't have a job or maybe anywhere to go to.

LAURA
I don't have a job, either.

GREGORY
That's probably the guy's regular bench.

LAURA
I quit the flower shop. Remember it? You came in once?

GREGORY
I didn't have anyone to buy flowers for. I just spotted you in there. I remember you told me how much you loved flowers.

LAURA
Flowers.

GREGORY
Yeah and you told me why you loved them so much.

LAURA
Flowers have no use.

GREGORY
Uh, right.

LAURA
No practical use. They're useless. That's the beauty of flowers, just to sit there and be beautiful.

(LAURA chokes up.)

GREGORY
Is there anything I can do?

(LAURA shakes her head No. Scene inert. Pause.)

GREGORY (cont'd)
Or, or, get this, maybe the guy had a job to go to, or did, who knows? Because I never took the bus before. So what I saw this morning was the morning the guy decided to turn from a regular guy into an irregular guy.

LAURA
You don't decide that. It's another thing that happens to you.

GREGORY
Right. Right. But maybe just then was when he snapped. Because in this city you don't know what regular looking person might snap right where you are. Because people here are snapping all over the place.

LAURA
Like me.

GREGORY
Snap, snap, snap.

LAURA
I'm just another snapper.

GREGORY
Ha! Sorry. It just sounded funny.

LAURA
Heh.

(Scene inert. Pause.)

GREGORY
When I first moved in here you were real different, before you hooked up with him and he sapped your strength.

LAURA
Yeah?

GREGORY
Yeah. Like, you know, different. Special.

LAURA
But then my parents...

GREGORY
You're still real sad over it, huh?

LAURA
I don't know. Numb. But they left me the house so all I have to do is sit here and collect rent on the units.

GREGORY
And take care of the place.

LAURA
Well, he does that. Did that.

GREGORY
You're going to let him come back, aren't you?

LAURA
I don't know. It's the alone thing. How do you do it, Gregory, really? I wish I could. Maybe you could teach me like you almost taught me to juggle that time.

GREGORY.
Until the maniac threatened to beat the shit out of me for standing behind you and touching your wrists. What a lowlife.

LAURA
Yeah.

GREGORY
You liked that?

LAURA
Well, he was jealous. He's not really a very demonstrative person ever.

GREGORY
Try leaving him a note. Come on, smile, just a little.

LAURA
Heh. Heh.

(Scene inert. Pause.)

GREGORY
You really want to know how I do the alone thing?

LAURA
Yeah. Why not?

GREGORY
See, there was this Senator in ancient Rome...

LAURA
What?

GREGORY
Listen. There was this Senator in ancient Rome who knew that one day some enemy was sure to poison him in the Senate, where they were always having like libations with wine, so he took small doses of the poison to build up his resistance.

LAURA
So you're building up resistance to being alone by being alone.

GREGORY
Something like that. Yeah. Maybe.

LAURA
That's dumb, Gregory.

GREGORY
No, it's stoicism. Like the Romans. We're all ultimately alone.

LAURA
Hard to find anyone, isn't it?

GREGORY
Yeah, because the odds in this city are terrible. I hate this place. I don't know anybody, but I feel like I already know everybody.

LAURA
That sucks.

GREGORY
I move here after college, good job, nothing happens to me, and five minutes later three years have passed.

LAURA
That's a funny way to put it.

GREGORY
I didn't just make it up. I've said it a lot of times before.

LAURA
You didn't have to tell me that.

GREGORY
Yeah, well, right, but, in case I ever do meet anyone, the story about the Senator is a good story, besides me being overworked, wouldn't you say, as a woman, to explain my, you know, almost non-existent relationship history?

LAURA
No. Too whiny.

GREGORY
Whiny? It's stoicism.

LAURA
I don't care. It's whiny. Try telling her you were waiting for the right person to come along.

GREGORY
Stoicism is the opposite of whiny. Stoics believe that, since everything is the result of divine will, a person should calmly accept whatever happens to him without passion, joy, or pain.

LAURA
Calmly. Like a vegetable. We're two vegetables. We're two of a kind. You sure you don't want to sit down?

GREGORY
No. I better not.

(Scene inert. Pause.)

LAURA
Anyway, your story sounds like one of the excuses for not doing anything that losers are always coming up with.

GREGORY
Yeah? Really?

LAURA
Has it ever worked with a woman?

GREGORY
I only just read about it last night.

LAURA
You were reading about ancient Rome last night?

GREGORY
Yeah, after your maniac boyfriend tried to run me over.

LAURA
You were actually reading about ancient Rome, Gregory, like in your free time. I think that is so cool.

GREGORY
But you're more attracted to lowlifes who work on their trucks all day.

LAURA
Not really.

GREGORY
And mooch out on the rent.

LAURA
He wouldn't stay if he had to pay anything.

GREGORY
Now that must make you feel great.

LAURA
It makes me feel like a vegetable.

GREGORY
You're selling yourself short, Laura.

LAURA
I'm a string bean with low self-esteem.

GREGORY
That's funny. Maybe you're feeling a little better now, huh?

LAURA
My parents die, I'm miserable, I hook up with him, get used to him and dependent on him, get made miserable by him, and now I can't get rid of him. I'm like addicted to misery.

GREGORY
See? You're just like the Senator in the story, taking little doses of poison, and that maniac's the poison.

LAURA
Right.

GREGORY
But for what?

LAURA
I don't know.

GREGORY
Maybe you're taking all these little heartbreaks to protect yourself from a big heartbreak.

LAURA
What big heartbreak is that, Gregory?

GREGORY
I don't know. One of the big heartbreaks.

LAURA
He couldn't break my heart because it was already broken. All he can do is step on the pieces.

GREGORY
Well, don't let him.

LAURA
I can't help it.

GREGORY
You love him? Still?

LAURA
No. I hate myself.

GREGORY
Oh. Yeah.

LAURA
That's better?

GREGORY
Uh, no.

LAURA
So I snapped. Five more minutes. Five more minutes. Snapping's a good word for it because I can't connect with me, the me I used to know, who, who... I don't know... who used to like arranging flowers, who wanted to learn to juggle.

GREGORY
I could still teach you. Come on. Let's do it. Up we go.

LAURA
Forget it. I don't have the energy.

(Scene inert. Pause.)

GREGORY
There's a second part to the Roman Senator story I read. One day, he heard his enemies were coming to his house to kill him, which in ancient Rome meant getting your skin raked off with these razor sharp rakes and then being drawn and quartered with ropes pulled by horses, so he takes a massive dose of the poison to commit suicide, but guess what? His original plan works, the poison doesn't kill him, and he has to endure this horrible torture, raked and drawn and quartered before he dies.

LAURA
Wow.

GREGORY
Yeah. Great story, huh? He takes poison his whole life to protect himself and then winds up tortured because of it. His plan backfired big time. That's, you know, I learned it in college, literary term... ironic. That's irony.

LAURA
Right. I could never keep irony straight. Define irony, it'd say on the final, and I'd start to feel sick to my stomach.

GREGORY
Because that Senator thought he was protecting himself, but he was really endangering himself.

LAURA
Right. Like me with my boyfriend. Former boyfriend.

GREGORY
Because he thought he was avoiding pain, but he was really setting himself up for more pain.

LAURA
Right. Like me.

GREGORY
Because what you think is happening is not what's really happening. That's irony.

LAURA
I wish I had that test in front of me right now.

GREGORY
Define irony.

LAURA
Move in with me.

GREGORY
What?

LAURA
Move in with me. That's irony. Because you think you're moving out but you're really moving in.

GREGORY
"A" plus.

LAURA
No, I mean it.

GREGORY
You mean it?

LAURA
Yeah, I do. I want you to move in with me. I've always liked you. And see how we can talk. We've been talking longer now than I ever talked with him in my life. Somehow talking with you is very soothing to me. You're much better for me than he is, so why not?

GREGORY
But it's running away from pain again... from heartbreak ... on the rebound... and here I am... so you don't have to be alone... It's just probably the opposite of what you should do.

LAURA
Right. It's ironic, I think.

GREGORY
Okay, I'll do it. When?

LAURA
Right now.

GREGORY
What about him?

LAURA
I'll put his stuff out on the curb.

GREGORY
You will?

LAURA
I'll call the cops, if he shows up.

GREGORY
Okay, Sweetie. Move over.

(GREGORY sits and puts his arm around LAURA. She puts her head on his shoulder and they start swinging for the first time. Long pause.)

GREGORY
You want me to teach you to juggle now.

LAURA
No. I just want to sit here like this with you.

GREGORY
You want to talk?

LAURA
No. Let's be quiet.

(Pause. Slight swinging.)

GREGORY
I never heard of this before.

LAURA
What?

GREGORY
Of people hooking up the way we just did.

LAURA
So what?

GREGORY
I feel like a vegetable.

LAURA
I told you we're two of a kind. String bean.

GREGORY
Cabbage.

(They kiss. Scene inert.)

GREGORY (cont'd)
This is funny. (Beat) Wait a minute. He's going to kill me.

LAURA
No, he's gone for good.

GREGORY
But...

LAURA
I'll get the locks changed.

GREGORY
I'm like that Senator. I'm going to be drawn and quartered by a broken down truck.

LAURA
No you're not, silly.

GREGORY
Let's go in.

LAURA
Five more minutes, okay?

GREGORY
Okay.

(They swing slightly. Scene becomes inert. Fade to black. End of play.)

 

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