Thursday, September 13, 2012

All Those Times I Bought You Fireworks

(A one-act play.)


The Man: A man in his late twenties. He wears a Yarmulke and speaks with a strong Brooklyn accent.
Julie: A woman in her late twenties.


The present. Early Friday evening.


The emergency room of a Manhattan hospital, ringed by long banquettes and end tables piled with magazines. A few framed posters for Impressionist art exhibits hang on the walls. The receptionist's head is just visible above a tall counter at the far wall. A large clock hangs on the wall behind her, reading 6:17 when the curtain rises. A closed door, leading to the examining rooms, is to the right of the reception counter. The Man is sitting a bit hunched over, speaking on his phone. His girlfriend, Julie, sits beside him. They are angled toward each other so that their knees touch. She occasionally fondly caresses his knees and thighs. Around them other patients sit and wait silently, doing the things people do in waiting rooms: leafing through magazines, checking their phones, urging restless children to keep quiet and behave.

The Man: I’m still in the city.

No, I’m still in the city. I need to ask you a favor. Big favor. You going by a liquor store?

A liquor store.


I need a bottle of wine.

[A few seconds pass.]

What about your uncle?

He’s not home? Where is he?

[A few more seconds pass.]

You think he’ll pass by a liquor store on his way home?

Why? I need him to buy me a bottle of wine is why. Like I told you so.

[A few more seconds pass.]


[The Man hangs up and dials another number.]

Jonah! Where are you?

You’re not home? You heading home?

Are you by any chance driving by a liquor store?

LIQUOR. Liquor, liquor, liquor. Wine.

Not now. On your way. On your way home, Jonah. Do you think you will be driving by a liquor store on your way home? If it’s on the way.

Why? I would like a bottle of wine.

What do you think I’m going to do with it? I’m going to drink it, that’s what I’m going to do. I like to have a nice bottle of wine for shabbas.

The Carmel. I like the Carmel.

Well are you going to pass one?

You don’t know. [To Julie, mockingly, not making an effort to cover the receiver: He doesn’t know.] Where’s Morty? You think he’s at work still?

I’m still in the city.

His train is two stops shorter. He’ll get home before me. Maybe he can go pick me up a bottle of wine at the liquor store.

OK. Alright.

[The Man hangs up the phone. Julie gazes at him quizzically. She no longer caresses him but her hands still rest on his knees.]

The Man: Why you looking at me like that? The look.

Julie: I’m not! It’s just...

The Man: It’s just what? It’s what?

Julie: It’s just... Nothing.

The Man: It’s what? It’s what? It’s what?

Julie [loudly]: The wine!

The Man: The wine?

Julie: The wine! You and your bottle of wine.

The Man [defensively]: What, I like to have a nice bottle of wine. What’s wrong with that? For shabbas.

Julie: I know...

The Man: We’re stuck in this verkochte waiting room. I would like to have a bottle of wine when I get home.

Julie: It’s just...

The Man: What, it’s just?

Julie: It’s just that you’re being so weird about it.

The Man [shaking his head and rolling his eyes]: I gotta call Morty.

[The Man dials another number.]

The Man: Morty! Where are you?

I’m in the city still. I’m still in the city. Listen—

No, no. I know. What?

[A few seconds pass.]

Really? She what?

She said that to him directly?

She said that to him on the phone? She said those words to him on the telephone?

What’s he going to do?



Ruthie warned him about that! She warned him about exactly that! She warned him about that exact thing.


I cannot believe she said those words to him by telephone. Morty, you are pulling my leg. Listen!—



Well tell them shabbat shalom from me, OK?

[Julie nudges the Man on the knee and gives him a pointed look.]

Tell them from me and Julie. From Julie too. Hey! I’m forgetting what I called you for with your crazy story.

Hmm? I need to ask you a favor. A simple favor. Will you pass a liquor store on your way home?

For what? A bottle of wine. A bottle of red wine.

Get me the Carmel. I like the Carmel.

What do you mean, you don’t know? A man doesn’t know if he passes a liquor store on his way home from the train? Day after day after day? You don’t know.

Morty, you get home fifteen minutes before me. Even if I leave now.

In the city. I’m still in the city.

[Away from the receiver, to Julie]: Honey, find out if we’re next. Please. Find out if we’re next.

[Julie releases his knee brusquely, with a trace of contempt (but only a trace), and walks up to the counter to find out if they are next. She and the receptionist can be seen speaking to each other but their words are inaudible.]

[In the meantime]: Yeah, so, Morty. I need you to do me this favor.

Well go out of your way a little. Not too far. A little. As a favor to me. For all those times I, you know.

[Julie returns. The Man looks up and inquires with his eyes. She shakes her head and sits back down. The Man shakes his head slightly as he returns to his conversation.]

All those times, I don’t know. All those times I bought you fireworks.

[A few seconds pass.]

[Dejectedly]: Alright. Yeah. Alright, bye-bye.

[The Man hangs up with a sigh and notes the time.]

[To Julie]: What, are you saying we should get out of here?

[Julie gives him a funny-reproachful grimace.]

[About 10 seconds pass.]

The Man: Alright, let’s go.

Julie: You sure?

The Man: Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go. Come on. Up.

Julie: But what about—

The Man [interrupting]: We have to go. The time.

Julie: OK.

The Man: We’re running out of time.

Julie: OK.

[They both get up but the Man does so with extreme difficulty. He can barely put any weight on his left leg. He winces and makes some half-suppressed exclamations of pain.]

Julie: You OK?

The Man: Yep.

Julie: Take it easy, honey. Easy.

The Man: Yep.

[They walk slowly, laboriously out of the office, Julie supporting the Man from under his shoulder, and helping to direct him until they are finally out the door.]