Undernight (A Short Play)

31 Plays in 31 Days #23

(A diner. A waitress, middle-aged, sits at a table, smoking a cigarette and staring into space; her nametag reads DAISY. Classic rock music comes from a tinny-sounding speaker through the kitchen, unseen.)

(Enter FRANNIE, a middle-aged woman dressed in a rumpled men’s suit. She looks like someone who could be the caretaker for three toddlers.)

FRANNIE
Oh. I’m sorry.

(FRANNIE turns to leave.)

FRANNIE
Sorry. Hey, sorry.

DAISY
What?

FRANNIE
I didn’t realize.

DAISY
No, we’re open.

FRANNIE
Oh. But no one is here.
Oh, I didn’t mean it like that.

(DAISY gets up and gets a menu, then goes to a random table and starts setting it up.)

FRANNIE
Oh-
No-
I-

(DAISY looks up at Frannie.)

DAISY
You want to sit at the bar?

FRANNIE
Oh-
No-
I-

(DAISY waits.)

FRANNIE
Oh-
No-
I-

DAISY
Go on. I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about.

FRANNIE
Sorry.

(DAISY stares at her.)

FRANNIE
You think I’m a crazy bitch.

DAISY
No ma’am. Just want to know what you’d like.

FRANNIE
You’re not my servant.

DAISY
Okay, ma’am.

FRANNIE
You don’t have to call me ma’am.

DAISY
Whatever.

(DAISY goes and sits down.)

FRANNIE
I’m wasting your time.

DAISY
Yep.

FRANNIE
I *am* hungry…

DAISY
Cup of coffee?

FRANNIE
Oh god no.
Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply-

DAISY
Lady, if you’d just quit apologizing to me, you’d just about bestow me in the holy light of God over here, glory be.

FRANNIE
Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were praying.

(DAISY smokes.)

DAISY
Nope.

FRANNIE
I don’t understand.

(DAISY continues smoking and stares into space.)

FRANNIE
It’s hard to explain.

(DAISY ignores her.)

FRANNIE
I’ve got my car running…

(DAISY ignores her.)

FRANNIE
I’m trying to keep an eye on it through the window.
It’s got the electronic keys… I’ve got a spare one right here, and it’s ready…

(FRANNIE shows her keys with an electronic fob on it. DAISY ignores her.)

FRANNIE
…It’s three A.M.

(DAISY ignores her.)

FRANNIE
I am hungry, but I feel bad. I’m not doing a good job of explaining myself here.

(DAISY ignores her.)

FRANNIE
I’m sorry for being so bad at this.
I’m not from around here.

(DAISY laughs one short laugh, then goes back to ignoring her.)

(FRANNIE suddenly grins from ear to ear.)

FRANNIE
You’re nice. I can tell.

(DAISY ignores her.)

FRANNIE
I’ll take a cup of coffee.

(DAISY gets up and starts to head to get a cup of coffee, but briefly pauses.)

DAISY
(regretting saying it as soon as it comes out of her mouth)
Thought you said you didn’t drink coffee.

FRANNIE
I’ll try it for once.

(FRANNIE beams.)

DAISY
Alright.

FRANNIE
It’s been years. Dismissed it. Thought it was some awful stuff that only children drink when they’re trying to look hip. Cafes in Paris!
I used to drink a lot but I quit at the same time I quit cigarettes, I’m saying.

DAISY
Mm-hm.

(DAISY goes to put her cigarette out.)

FRANNIE
No no! Keep smoking. It helps.

DAISY
Helps who?

FRANNIE
You. Me. Everybody. Who’s in the kitchen?

(DAISY stares at Frannie for a while. DAISY makes the decision to be interested in this strange woman instead of ignoring her.)

DAISY
Who’s in the kitchen? The rats.

FRANNIE
You have rats?

DAISY
And cats.

FRANNIE
To catch the rats.

DAISY
And dogs to catch them. Yup you’ve got it.

FRANNIE
You’re fooling with me.

(DAISY takes out a new cigarette, lights it with the old one, and puts out the old one.)

DAISY
We’ve got Pedro in the kitchen. And Walter. That’s their music.

FRANNIE
Pedro the busboy?

DAISY
Walter’s the busboy, plus dishes. Pedro cooks.

FRANNIE
You’re fooling with me again.

DAISY
No.

FRANNIE
Stop it, it’s not very nice.

DAISY
No ma’am, I’m not fooling you. Pedro Martinez, that’s our chef. Me and him are the all-night shift.

FRANNIE
How old is Walter?

DAISY
Sixteen, his Daddy owns the place.

FRANNIE
And lets him work the overnight?

DAISY
Split shift, only till three thirty A.M., after everything is cleaned.

FRANNIE
“Only” till then? Gosh, that is awful! Letting a kid work the overnight. Terrible! Robberies happen overnight.

(Pause.)

DAISY
Mm-hm.
Uh well I guess… he figures Walter-boy can take of himself.

FRANNIE
Is that like “altar boy,” Walter-boy? That’s funny.

DAISY
Sure.

FRANNIE
Pedro is Hispanic? Latino?

DAISY
Yeah, one of ‘em.

FRANNIE
You should know which one.

DAISY
I don’t ask.
Still-

FRANNIE
Just one-
What?

DAISY
Still-
Just asking, still want that coffee?

FRANNIE
Oh no, I never drink the stuff. But pour some anyways. It was a bad idea.

(DAISY pours coffee.)

FRANNIE
You think I’m crazy.

DAISY
Ma’am, long as they pay for the coffee, ain’t no one crazy to me.

(FRANNIE breaks out into uncontrollable giggles, which she fights over the next few lines.)

FRANNIE
Oh I’ll pay for it. I’m sorry. I will pay for it.

DAISY
Only eighty-five cents.

FRANNIE
I love places like this. Eighty-five cents for coffee! Do you have steak for two dollars?

DAISY
We have steak and eggs for nine ninety-nine, and we have steak dinner with-

FRANNIE
No thank you. I’m not hungry.

DAISY
You s-

(DAISY stops.)

FRANNIE
Oh that’s right. I said I was hungry.
What is there I can eat right now? I want to pay for something right now.

DAISY
Um-

FRANNIE
Now.

DAISY
The pie doesn’t take five seconds in the microwave-

FRANNIE
No microwave, I’ll eat it cold. Is it good? Is it rhubarb?

DAISY
Apple, cherry, key li-

FRANNIE
Forget it, just grab the closest one.

(DAISY heads towards the kitchen.)

FRANNIE
No wait, it’s in the kitchen? Don’t go in the kitchen. I want something that’s out here. Besides KETCHUP!

(FRANNIE laughs at ketchup, then quiets down suddenly.)

DAISY
…Where you want me to go?

FRANNIE
Don’t go anywhere, please.

(DAISY sits down. She stubs out her cigarette.)

FRANNIE
Keep smoking, please.

(DAISY relights the mashed cigarette and keeps smoking.)

FRANNIE
I’m really sorry.

DAISY
No worries.

FRANNIE
My name’s… call me Frannie.

DAISY
I’m Daisy.

FRANNIE
That’s not your real name either.

(DAISY doesn’t answer.)

FRANNIE
I wonder what you real name would have been…

DAISY
Your car going to be all right? The battery?

FRANNIE
Sure of course. I’ve got my eye on it.

(FRANNIE pulls out the keys and jingles them, then goes to where Daisy is sitting and sits next to her, putting the keys down between them.)

FRANNIE
I didn’t leave my house knowing where I would end up today.
I have a car.
I never really realized that having a car and some money in your pocket…

(FRANNIE pulls out a wad of bills and coins and picks through it.)

FRANNIE
Eighty-five cents. Four dollars probably covers the pie.

DAISY
There’s a salad I wrapped up for myself right here behind the counter you can have.

FRANNIE
That’s all right. Don’t bother.
Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that salad isn’t as good as pie. That’s not what I meant to imply. That’s never what I mean to imply.
What I meant to say a moment ago was I never really realized that having a car and some money in your pocket means you can go anywhere. There a thousand places to go. A thousand places even at three A.M. with people in them like you, Daisy. I’m so old and seen so little. I could have driven out every night in the middle of the night when everyone else was asleep and visited a different diner or… anyplace… and by the time I was twenty-six I might have maybe exhausted this city, and by the time I was thirty-six maybe the next couple cities, and in my whole damn lifetime I would never have even finished the state. It’s so sad to me.
I’m so sad…

(DAISY stares at her for a second. DAISY offers a cigarette. FRANNIE takes it and smokes it.)

FRANNIE
Life was different this morning.

DAISY
Ain’t it always.

FRANNIE
No, it most certainly is not.
That’s my point.
Did you just give me this cigarette?

DAISY
Did you not want it?

FRANNIE
Oh-
No-
I-

DAISY
It’s okay. I’m here.
I don’t why but I’m here.

FRANNIE
You can’t go home, right? You can never go home, right?

DAISY
I uh…
I got a home… couple of parrots… a big snoring husband… waiting for me at six A.M.

FRANNIE
Sorry. I-
No, no, no. I don’t want to do this.

(DAISY eyes the car keys. FRANNIE sees her eye them and smacks them off the table.)

FRANNIE
Pick them up. …Please.

(DAISY hesitates, then goes and picks them up. FRANNIE takes them from her and puts them back in her pocket.)

FRANNIE
Sit down and wait. I’ll be ready to go soon.

(DAISY stares at her.)

FRANNIE
Am I the strangest woman you ever met?

(DAISY stares at her.)

DAISY
Does what I say in reply to that matter, lady?

FRANNIE
I think if you’ve seen a stranger woman, I’d want to have met her. I’d want you to introduce me to her. I’m so strange and I never realized it until today. I think women don’t get to see their strangeness. But I’ve seen it, like the holy light of God you weren’t really talking about before. I’ve seen it. How old do you think I am?

(Pause.)

DAISY
You’re forty-four. I have a talent for telling ages. And I *have* met a stranger woman.

FRANNIE
Who?

DAISY
Well, ma’am.
Me.
For instance.

FRANNIE
That’s not true..

DAISY
It’s true.
And you’ve met her. You’ve met a stranger woman than you.

FRANNIE
No!

DAISY
Yep.

(FRANNIE stares at her agape. She reaches out and grabs DAISY’s face, smooshes it around.)

FRANNIE
Well I’ll be.

DAISY
So.
What are you gonna do?

FRANNIE
Well I mean-
The car’s still running.

DAISY
I don’t know what you intend to do with a running car.

FRANNIE
I-
Well-
Uh-

(Pause.)

DAISY
(gently)
Go on.

FRANNIE
I’m really sorry.

(FRANNIE stands up.)

FRANNIE
It was nice to meet you Daisy.

DAISY
Frannie-

(FRANNIE walks towards the kitchen. DAISY stands up but doesn’t know what to do. FRANNIE pauses and looks at DAISY.)

DAISY
You sure you don’t-
Don’t-
Don’t want some of this coffee you bought-

(FRANNIE hesitates.)

FRANNIE
I like the music they’re playing.
I don’t like the way you’re looking at me.

(DAISY looks down.)

FRANNIE
You know what?
Leave.

(DAISY doesn’t move.)

FRANNIE
I said leave, Daisy. Leave leave leave.
LEAVE LEAVE LEAVE.
Not so loud.
Daisy, leave.
Daisy, please leave. Leave. Leave, you stupid cunt.
Sorry.
Sorry.
Sorry.
Are you leaving?

(DAISY looks up.)

DAISY
(her voice shaking)
Shift’s not over…
Folks might come in for coffee and conversation.

(DAISY sits down where she originally was and puts a cigarette in her mouth.)

(FRANNIE looks frantically back and forth between DAISY and the kitchen.)

FRANNIE
Oh-
I-

(Pause.)

FRANNIE
They have really nice music…

(DAISY does nothing.)

(FRANNIE walks over and looks at her car.)

FRANNIE
Someone could just up and steal my car, sitting there running with the real key in it.

(DAISY does nothing.)

FRANNIE
What time is your shift over, Daisy?
Dammit.
What time is your shift over, Daisy?
Sorry.
You said six.
Six A.M. So you get off at five.
Okay then.
Okay.
Here it is.

(FRANNIE takes the coffee and sits down next to DAISY. DAISY starts to move.)

FRANNIE
Stay.

(DAISY doesn’t move. FRANNIE tastes the coffee.)

FRANNIE
Coffee is better than I remember it. Sorry for insulting you and it before. This is really good.

(FRANNIE drinks some coffee. DAISY looks at the kitchen.)

FRANNIE
Just two hours, Daisy.
…Sit tight.

(They sit there.)

(End of play.)

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One comment

  1. […] the inanimate-objects-anthropomorphized subgenre, and to do something populist, cute and funny 23) Undernight – a strange woman comes into a diner Came from having NO IDEA what to write and just starting with […]

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