This is a short play I wrote for some of my high school theatre students to preform for class. We had a lot of fun with it!
The TIME: Modern/present in any large city.
The SETTING:A one bedroom apartment (in any typical apartment complex) of Margret Melon. Who is in her early twenties, appreciative and is one of many secretaries in a large office. Bill Gopher is an electrician in his late twenties and lives in an efficiency apartment in the same building. The only other character in the play is Daisy, a widow who manages the apartment building.
BACKGROUND: Fantastic heat. This was the third summer that the thermometer had gone so high or remained thusly for so long. People refused to discuss the weather, even the television ran only one weather forecast per week. Air conditioners moaned everywhere. Cars, apartments, offices, even the subways had installed huge edifices that roared cooling winds all through the rabbit warren tunnels, if you timed it right you could keep your race through the searing heat outdoors to eight or ten seconds. Backyard and public pools stagnated and evaporated. Trees cowed and grass brittle-snapped died. Baseball bats and baby carriages rotted in steaming garages.
The door to the apartment opens and you can see the lit hallway outside. Margaret rushes into the dim room, flicks on the air conditioner (D.R.) and runs back to stand in the hallway for a moment; waiting for the room to start cooling. Re-enters and flicks the light switch, Stands C. of living room, throws purse, papers, etc, on chair L.
MARG: Come on baby, cool, cool! You spartch along another year and I’ll reward you with a decent funeral. *(Pantomimes looking out center front windows at the sun and searing heat below and closing drapes; sits on floor by air conditioner, enjoying breeze.) Love, you are a purring kitten compared with your roaring, belching tiger-mama in the office, *(Rises and exits kitchen, returning with a glass of wine just as the machine hiccups, coughs, freezes, the machine starts up again, hums along.… Marg. Relaxes… and the air conditioner quits. Marg runs over and flicks the switch, one gurgle…and nothing.) Oh my God, you can’t do this. Kitten? Puss? Shit. It is one hundred and twenty—five degrees out there. *(Replugs plug and runs over and flicks light switch.) Nothing. *(Goes over kicks machine.) You dirty moving coward, you’re no kind of friend. *(Takes wine, kicks off shoes and sits in chair.) I’ll compose myself, sedately drink the wine…then I’ll slit my wrists. That’s the only reasonable thing to do in a crisis. *(Picks up phone.)
Operator would you please dial an electrician for me. I’d do it myself but I would probably yank the cord out of the wall. Thank you so much. Hello? Yes, I would very much like an electrician to fix my air conditioner. *(murmured) Oh..not till next week… Yes, I can hear you, I sound muffled to you because my slit wrists are bleeding all over the mouth-piece. Yes, thank you, Margaret Melon, 13 Alexis Rd. West, apartment 27. If I’m deceased, the landlady will let him in.
If I’m to roast to death, at least I should be we’ll basted.
*(Gets bottle from kitchen, pours and dials phone.)
Hello Daisy, this is Margaret. No. 27…yes. I sound sad?? Rather suicidal, my air conditioner died. Daisy, for a remark like that I’ll make damn sure I bleed all over the carpet, the drapes and the stove! Thanks, if it sets too bad I will come down…but the paper predicted a cool one hundred degrees tonight. No, I’m already reheating last night’s stroganoff…how about a rain check? Yes, thanks, if you don’t see me at the bus stop tomorrow morning, call my mother and tell her to write a nice obituary. Goodbye. What? No, I mailed the rent yesterday. *(Hangs up) You rat. (Carrying glass, exits to kitchen…a few minutes later the doorbell rings. Margaret opens the door slightly, but the audience cannot see who is there until he enters.)
Bill: Hi, I’m. Bill Gopher, your fantastic electrician, you will never get this kind of service again…unless we always live in the same building…say, haven’t I seen you somewhere before?
Marg: Yes, we passed in the basement laundry room last week.
Bill: I thought you looked familiar. (Pause) Would you like to bring the air conditioner out here…or do you want me to come in and fix it?
Marg: Oh I’m sorry, come in. (He does and heads for A.C) I’m Margaret Melon. These past ten minutes of both heat and silence have retarded me. Excuse me. (Exits to K.)
Bill: (Taking out tools and crooning back of A.C., calls) You want to hear a sad pun?
Marg: Yes, what?
Bill: I’m a Gopher in a melon patch.
Marg: Ah… yes. That’s very funny. Would you like a glass of wine?
Bill: No, it’s sick and yes I would. I’ve been working too much overtime. (Marg gives him a glass of wine and sits in chair L.) You know what you said about the silence paralyzing you? I’ve noticed a strange reaction too. If you can stand the heat, a couple of hours of the quiet are really shattering. Warm in here isn’t it?
Marg: Sweltering. Shall I open the hall for awhile?
Bill: No I hate the heat but I hate the God-damn mechanical drone of the air conditioners more.
Marg: Now that’s funny…that’s all you work on isn’t it?
Bill: Just these past three summers, with the wild heat wave an all. I do other things in the winter, say Margaret, what’s this, do you know? (Holds up a small jelly like blob, Marg inspects it and shakes her head.) That’s funny. I’ve found hundreds of them and can’t figure out what they’re for or why they are in the machines. Say, that’s some great smell!
Marg: (Exits room but calls) It’s only leftovers, but would you care to join me?
Bill: Great, let’s do it. (Drops all tools, large screwdriver lands on foot) Argggh! Bitch, shit, damn, fort, kiss..
Marg: (Re-enters, sets table) What did you say, I didn’t hear you.
Bill: Just some electrical terms.
Marg: Help yourself to the wine, it’s the only cool thing in here.
Bill: (Does so and sits L. arm of couch) Funny blob, it’s almost translucent.
Marg: Have you investigated this before?
Bill: Yep, but the head office thinks I’m looney…they know nothing about it. It’s not just new models either, I’ve found them in old tanks like yours.
Marg: I resent that. Mine is a family heirloom.
Bill: When was the last time you had it serviced?
Marg: Not in the four years I’ve had it. That is queer, the hardware looks brand new.
Bill: (Rummages in case and pulls out mason jar with larger blob) look at this one. (About 3 inches long and as thick as a thumb) I took that out of a huge industrial complex last week. You know, I think I’m either blowing my cool with overtime or I’ve boon reading too Much Bradbury.
Marg: Why, what’s the matter?
Bill: (Refills glass and sits L.) The shifts were changing when I work and the men that were leaving seemed unfocused and vague in both speech and actions.
Marg: Maybe they were just besotted with the heat.
Bill: No, No. the machine had never-completely broken down. The first thing I spotted was this wire…when I pointed it out to the maintenance man assisting me he, I think unconsciously, started to push away, and then just wandered off. Later he helped me to clean up and seemed much more alert….doesn’t make any sense does it.
Mark: No, but not a hell of a lot does! How would you like some chow? (exits)
Bill: Sounds like an excellent idea.
Marg: What did the conditioner sound like at first?
Bill: I’m not sure… if it isn’t working right in the first place, it’s hard to determine pother the sound is due to a parts failure or the addition of something else. Margaret, does anyone have a key to the apartment besides yourself?
Marg: (Entering with food) No one except Daisy, And she’s so particular I had to give her written permission last winter to let the maintenance man regulate the heat outlets.
Bill: When was that?
Marg: Late November.
Bill: That’s funny. I don’t think they did anything, in my apartment… maybe the efficiencies didn’t matter.
Marg: Do you have your own air-conditioner or use the central unit?
Bill: The central unit, but I leave it on all day and turn it off when I get home. Usually after 7 in the summer.
Marg: Why, the noise?
Bill: Yes, I read a bit and concentration is nil with all that snarling over my shoulder. By the way, excellent dinner.
Part 2 coming next week!