Killjoy’s, an art house coffee shop. Throughout the play, only the characters at the main table can be heard by the audience. Anywhere else in the café, characters mime their conversations.
PAYDEN, a grungy twenty something.
ALEX, male, twenty something.
JULIA, Payden’s girlfriend.
DENISE, Alex’s girlfriend.
COURTNEY, Denise’s cousin
JOEY, male, twenty something, metrosexual.
MIKE, SARAH, MACEY, JEFF, other patrons at the coffee house.
LIZ, female, twenty something, funky with an attitude.
(Inside Killjoy’s Coffee House. JEFF and MACEY are sitting at a table, drinking large cappuccinos. There are books, two bags, and a stack of DVDs on the table. SARAH enters with some books under her arm.)
SARAH: Hey guys.
MACEY: Hey. What’s up?
SARAH: Not much. I’m waiting for some friends. We’re going to hear a band play, though. You guys are welcome to come.
JEFF: We’ve rented a whole stack of movies. I think it’s going to be an all night marathon. Thanks, though.
SARAH: No problem. What movies did you get?
JEFF: Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, and Return of the Living Dead.
SARAH: Wow. I bet I can guess who picked those.
MACEY: Yeah, he’s a little bit of a zombie fanatic. I think it’s cool though. Besides, last weekend, I made him go with me to see ice skating, so this is only fair.
SARAH: You’re braver than I am. Monster flicks always give me nightmares.
JEFF: I know how you feel. I’m the same way with ice skating. All those people in tights sliding around… (shivers)
SARAH: Well, you guys have fun. I’ll see you. (heads to a smaller open table)
MACEY: Bye. (to JEFF) Do you want to head out?
JEFF: Yeah, let’s go. (They start gathering their stuff to leave. PAYDEN enters and crosses to their table.)
PAYDEN: Hey guys.
MACEY: Hey Payden. How’s it going?
PAYDEN: Fine – you leaving?
PAYDEN: Good. I’m claiming your table. (He sets his bag and a coffee cup down and exits without another word.)
MACEY: Is he upset or something?
JEFF: Nah. Payden’s always like that. He’s not trying to be rude. He just doesn’t believe in being polite. Think of Han Solo in Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back – except without the space ship, the wookie sidekick, and the rugged good looks.
MACEY: Rugged good looks?
JEFF: I’m just trying to help you relate.
(MACEY and JEFF exit)
(Outside of Killjoy’s Coffee House. PAYDEN is waiting for JULIA.)
PAYDEN: Come on. Where is she?
PAYDEN: (relieved) Hey!
JULIA: (distant) Hey.
PAYDEN: I’m glad that you finally got here. I need to talk to you about something.
JULIA: Yeah. I need to talk to you about something, too.
PAYDEN: Let’s go grab a table inside.
JULIA: (not moving) I can’t stay. Listen, Payden –
PAYDEN: Suck! You’re not staying? Okay, well let me –
JULIA: Payden, I’ve got to –
PAYDEN: Remember that speeding ticket I got on the way to your parent’s house? You said that you’d pay for it because it was your fault, and it’s due on Monday –
JULIA: (Raising her voice to cut him off) Payden! (he stops speaking) I came here to break up with you.
JULIA: This isn’t working out.
PAYDEN: What do you mean?
JULIA: Come on. We’re supposed to be a couple, but we can barely stand to be around each other.
PAYDEN: I didn’t realize it required so much effort for you to be in my presence.
JULIA: Yeah, you did. We’ve had three arguments just in the past week.
PAYDEN: Those weren’t arguments. They were disagreements.
JULIA: Whatever. I’m not gonna get into an argument about whether or not we’ve been arguing. It’s clear that we’re not happy together.
PAYDEN: I disagree with that! It’s not clear that we’re not happy.
JULIA: Aaghh! I’m not getting drawn into this. I hate messy, angry breakups. Let’s just go our separate ways. Don’t try to call me. I’m going out of town for the weekend with my parents, and I’m turning my cell phone off. Goodbye Payden. (exits.)
PAYDEN: Hey! What about my speeding ticket? Shit.
(Inside Killjoy’s. PAYDEN is seated at a table. Various other patrons are hanging out at the other tables. ALEX enters, looking upset.)
PAYDEN: Hey, man, I’m glad to see you. I need a favor. Does Denise’s mom still work at the court house?
PAYDEN: Perfect. I’ve got this speeding ticket, but I don’t have the money to pay for it. Do you think she could get it dismissed?
ALEX: We broke up.
ALEX: Denise just broke up with me a few minutes ago.
PAYDEN: Fuck. That’s just great. Oh, sorry Alex.
ALEX: It’s okay.
PAYDEN: I was gonna ask you why you looked so down just as soon as we’d solved my ticket problem.
ALEX: I thought Julia was going to pay it for you.
PAYDEN: She broke up with me as soon as I mentioned it.
ALEX: You’re kidding. She broke up with you over a speeding ticket?
PAYDEN: Yep. She tried to say it was because we argued too much, but I told her she was wrong, and then we kind of got into an argument over it. This thing with Denise seals it, though.
ALEX: How do you figure?
PAYDEN: Denise, the only person I know with a contact in the court house, breaks up with you, my best friend, on the same night that Julia dumps me? It was obviously a coordinated attack.
ALEX: Can’t you take traffic school or something?
PAYDEN: I already have.
ALEX: I’d help, but I’m broke.
PAYDEN: (determined) I’ll think of something. So what did Denise say, anyway?
ALEX: She said that things didn’t seem to be working out.
PAYDEN: They always start with that line. It’s even mandatory in some states now.
PAYDEN: I am serious. They passed a ballot measure in Vermont that requires women to begin a breakup with a variation of that sentence – otherwise the breakup isn’t recognized by the state.
ALEX: Do you want me to keep telling this story?
PAYDEN: I’m listening. Go on.
ALEX: She also said that she didn’t feel close to me.
PAYDEN: The two of you have been together for six months. How can she not feel close to you?
ALEX: I don’t know.
PAYDEN: You didn’t ask her?
ALEX: I didn’t want to bother her anymore.
(MIKE enters but does not immediately see them.)
PAYDEN: Bother her? After she had just broken up with you? Alex, you are too nice. The girl has broken up with you. Do you know what that means?
ALEX: It means I’m miserable.
PAYDEN: It means, you now owe her nothing. You can do or say whatever you want without having to worry about how it might affect her. Isn’t that liberating?
ALEX: What are you talking about?
PAYDEN: I’ll show you. Hey Mike!
(MIKE crosses to them.)
MIKE: Hey, what’s up, Payden. Alex.
ALEX: Hey, Mike.
MIKE: You guys hanging out without the girls tonight? Where are Julia and Denise?
PAYDEN: That’s why I called you over here. I wanted to tell you something before you heard it from somewhere else…Julia is dead.
PAYDEN: She’s not with us anymore, Mike. She passed away.
MIKE: Whoa. Dude, seriously?
PAYDEN: Yeah, man.
MIKE: Aw, I’m really sorry.
PAYDEN: Thanks Mike.
MIKE: (hesitant) Like, how did it happen?
PAYDEN: Car accident. I can’t give out all of the details yet. The police are still investigating.
MIKE: That sucks, man. (to Alex) Is Denise okay?
ALEX: (still in shock from Payden’s blatent lie) Uh, yeah. She’s fine. I mean, we uh, we broke up, though.
MIKE: Oh. Sorry dude. Hey, at least she’s still alive, though. Right?
ALEX: Yeah. There’s…there’s that.
PAYDEN: Listen Mike, we’re gonna have a memorial service here tomorrow night. I’d really appreciate it if you would come.
MIKE: Of course, man. I’ll be here.
PAYDEN: Thanks man. That means a lot. We’ll see you then.
ALEX: I can’t believe you just did that.
PAYDEN: That’s what I’m talking about – the freedom to quit being so nice.
ALEX: I like being nice. Besides, I still care about Denise, and even if I didn’t I would never tell someone she was dead unless she really was.
PAYDEN: I’m not getting through to you at all. This isn’t going to be easy. You’re all screwed up. (JOEY enters.) We need the help of a master. Joey!
(JOEY approaches them.)
JOEY: Payden. (Gives Payden a hug.) Hi Alex.
PAYDEN: Joey, the boy here is in desperate need of relationship advice. I tried to help, but my skills were no match for his affliction. We need the help of a member of your tribe.
ALEX: (confused) Is your family tribal?
JOEY: He means gay people. You know, that is such a stereotype that just because I’m gay I’m supposed to be an expert on relationships. I only put up with it because by coincidence I happen to be gifted in such matters. So what happened?
ALEX: Denise broke up with me.
JOEY: Oh, I’m sorry. Are you okay?
ALEX: Not really.
JOEY: What did she say?
PAYDEN: (butting in) She said that she didn’t feel close to him.
SARAH: Hey guys. Where are Julia and Denise?
PAYDEN: I have some bad news…Julia passed away.
SARAH: Oh my God! I’m so sorry.
(Payden nods, holding back fake tears)
SARAH: I can’t believe it.
ALEX: Me either.
SARAH: What happened? Was she in an accident or something?
PAYDEN: Yeah. I tried to tell her that she’d had too much to drink, but…she wouldn’t listen to me. I should have tried harder to stop her.
SARAH: Oh, Payden. Listen, you can’t blame yourself. Julia was really stubborn, you know? And sometimes she just wouldn’t listen to anyone else. But it’s not your fault.
PAYDEN: You’re right – I know, it’s just… What do I say to the parents of all of those kids?
SARAH: (shocked) Oh no. Oh my God. Did she hit someone with her car?
PAYDEN: The small bus…
SARAH: The special needs kids?
PAYDEN: They never saw it coming. Julia used to joke about running them over with her car. She’d say, “Retarded kids, ten points each!” I used to laugh, but it doesn’t seem funny anymore.
SARAH: God this is so terrible. It doesn’t seem real.
ALEX: You don’t know the half of it.
PAYDEN: There’s gonna be a memorial service here at Killjoy’s tomorrow night. Do you think you can make it?
SARAH: Of course. And if there’s anything I can do – if you need a shoulder to cry on…
PAYDEN: I’ll call you.
SARAH: Bye Payden. Bye guys.
JOEY: Payden, you’re floating…
JOEY: …in a sea of bullshit. Let me guess. Julia broke up with you as well?
PAYDEN: She left me high and dry with nothing but an unpaid speeding ticket. (gets up) I’m getting some more coffee.
(PAYDEN exits or walks to the coffee bar if it is on stage)
ALEX: I remember in high school, he used to be such a nice guy. I come back from college and he’s completely different. I wonder what really happened to him.
JOEY: You don’t know? I thought you two were best friends?
ALEX: Most of the time we talk about movies and comic books. All he ever told me was that he had a bad breakup with some girl named Patricia.
JOEY: It happened his freshman year in college. He was dating this girl named Patricia Jones – a real bitch. A couple of months into it, she decides she wants to break up with him. But instead of telling him, she brings another guy back to her place and lets Payden walk in on the two of them.
ALEX: What happened?
JOEY: Nothing. Payden walked in, turned on the light, and saw them naked on the couch. She looks up, sweat all over her face and says “Did you want something, Payden?”
ALEX: Jesus. What did he do?
JOEY: Nothing. The boy apologizes for walking in on them and then just turns around and walks out.
JOEY: I know. So the next day, he sees her and her friends on campus, and he smiles and waves like everything is fine. This was too much for Patricia and her friends. They took it as a direct challenge to their status as supreme evil bitches. So they got a little bet going to see how much shit he would take from them and still be nice. One by one, they started asking him out, using him for a night, and then humiliating him.
ALEX: How did you find this out?
JOEY: That’s where I met Payden – in college. I had crush on him when I first met him, so I asked around about him. Girls will usually tell someone like me a lot more than they would tell a straight guy like you.
(Payden comes back with fresh coffee)
PAYDEN: (to Alex) I thought of a story that you, my friend, need to hear. It was the end of my freshman year of college. (Alex and Joey exchange a quick look) This girl – Vanessa – took me back to her apartment for sex. Afterwards, I stepped outside for a cigarette, and she locked the door behind me. I wound up sitting on her doorstep for the rest of the night.
ALEX: Why didn’t you just leave?
PAYDEN: I was in my boxers and a t-shirt. My pants and shoes were still inside. But the point is, I was sitting on her doorstep, looking up at the sky, and I had what they call, “A Moment of Clarity.” My entire life, I had been going out of my way to be nice to people. It finally occurred to me to ask myself why. Why be nice? You see, up until then, I had presumed that people would be happier if they were nice to each other. But were the people around me any happier? My parents were in the middle of their divorce, yelling at each other like wrestlers from the WWF. All the girls I had been dating seemed to have some sort of deep seated cancer of the soul. Was I any happier? I was locked outside in my underwear. So I decided that night that I was through being nice. From that point on the world would get nothing but my complete, unedited, blatantly inappropriate self. And I’ve been an asshole ever since.
ALEX: Did you get your clothes back?
PAYDEN: She waited until I’d fallen asleep and then dropped them on me from an upstairs window.
ALEX: What happened to her?
PAYDEN: I spent a week finding road kill and hiding it right behind her back tires. She went mad with guilt thinking she’d killed half the pets in the neighborhood. Now she spends all of her free time volunteering at an animal shelter. And you know what? I think she’s happier for it.
MEAGAN: (angry but underneath that worried) Payden, what’s this crap you’ve been telling people about Julia?
PAYDEN: Look Meagan, I know we’ve had our differences in the past, but I feel like Julia wouldn’t want us to be fighting right now.
MEAGAN: Julia is not dead! I talked to her this morning on the phone when she was on her way out of town, and she told me she had broken up with you.
PAYDEN: Oh my God. What time did you talk to her?
MEAGAN: Around 10:30. Why?
PAYDEN: That’s right before… Oh no.
MEAGAN: What?... What?
PAYDEN: The witnesses said she was fiddling with a cell phone when she first lost control of the vehicle. She must have just gotten off the phone with you when… God, I’m sorry, Meagan. Look, it’s not your fault, okay? Remember that, no matter what the accident report says.
MEAGAN: Oh God! (exits in tears)
JOEY: You will burn in hell for that one, honey.
ALEX: I can’t believe you just did that.
PAYDEN: Nah! That girl is far too gullible. She’d never last in the wild. Better that she wizens up now before some conman takes her for all she’s worth. It’s like I was trying to tell you before. Being nice to people doesn’t help them. Hell, you were super nice to Denise and look where it got you.
ALEX: Yeah. I guess so. I wish she was here.
JOEY: Where is she?
ALEX: At her mom’s place. Her aunt and uncle and her cousin were coming for a visit.
COURTNEY: So what’s going on Denise? You seem depressed.
DENISE: I broke up with Alex this morning.
COURTNEY: Oh, I’m sorry. Are you alright?
DENISE: Yeah. I’m just still a little upset.
COURTNEY: What happened? Was he cheating on you?
DENISE: No. At least, I don’t think he was.
COURTNEY: Was he always forgetting about you and going out to strip clubs with his friends and then coming home drunk with the name Candy tattooed on his arm?
DENISE: No. He never did anything like that.
COURTNEY: Good. That didn’t happen to me either. So why’d you break up with him?
DENISE: It’s hard to explain. He was just…too nice. I guess.
COURTNEY: (sarcastic) Oh, yeah, I could see how that could get you down.
DENISE: It sounds stupid. I mean, I like Alex – it’s just… Have you ever gone out with a guy that refused to do the things you wanted to do? Like if you went to see a band play, it had to be the band he liked? He wouldn’t even consider going to listen to your music?
COURTNEY: Yeah, I hate that.
DENISE: Well, Alex was like the opposite of that. He would always insist that we went to see whatever I liked. At first it was fun, but it got, I don’t know – frustrating, I guess. Does that make sense?
COURTNEY: Sort of… But you also said you like him. Not “liked” in the past tense, but “like” in the present tense. Are you sure you don’t want to give him another chance?
DENISE: Well, maybe, but if I did, what would be different?
JOEY: Are you still thinking about Denise?
ALEX: Yeah. What do you think? Do I need to be meaner?
JOEY: Listen, Alex. The truth is if you really want to make things work with Denise or anyone else you don’t have to be super nice or an asshole. You just need to be you.
ALEX: But I was being myself with Denise.
JOEY: Really? What’s your favorite movie?
ALEX: Heat – the Michael Mann film with Deniro, Pacino, and Val Kilmer.
JOEY: Have you and Denise watched it together?
ALEX: No. She doesn’t like crime dramas.
JOEY: Did you ask her to watch it with you?
ALEX: Well, no. I don’t want her to have to watch something she doesn’t like.
JOEY: But you like it, and she likes you. That means there’s a pretty good chance that if you show it to her and point out why you love it so much, she might actually enjoy it.
ALEX: But why make her do that if I’m willing to watch her movies instead?
JOEY: Alex, people don’t just get into relationships to do the same old thing they’ve always done or even to be the same person they’ve always been. How do I explain this in a way that you’ll understand? We have to redefine serious relationships from the ground up. Okay, how about this. Ever had a Thai Chicken Pizza?
JOEY: How did they come up with that recipe?
ALEX: They mixed Thai food with pizza.
JOEY: Right. They took an Asian style of cooking and an Italian style of cooking and mixed them together to create something else – something new – something good. That’s what you should be doing in a relationship. Sort of…Except you wind up with a little bit of her and she winds up with a little bit of you. But if they two of you aren’t different afterwards, then you missed the whole point. You have to take her to see every movie, play her every album, and show her every book that’s important to you – especially the ones you don’t think she’ll like. Otherwise, you’re not her boyfriend – you’re her groupie.
ALEX: Jesus, Joey. You really are good.
JOEY: (pleased) I know. I’m like the gay Yoda.
(PAYDEN returns to table.)
PAYDEN: It’s all set for tomorrow night.
ALEX: What is?
PAYDEN: The memorial service.
JOEY: Payden, how long are you going to keep this going?
PAYDEN: To the bitter end.
(Lights up on the café. It is now Sunday. PAYDEN and ALEX stand in the center of the café. The chairs have been moved to the side. Both of them are wearing suit jackets over their clothes. There is a large bowl marked donations on a table to the side. One by one the café patrons enter and place envelopes or money in the bowl.)
PAYDEN: We’re here today to remember our dear friend Julia. I want to begin by thanking all of you for coming on such short notice. I’m sorry that we couldn’t have a more formal memorial, but the family felt that the circumstances around Julia’s passing were too shameful for a church service. But we’re not here to judge. And anyway, I think that Julia would have liked this. You, her friends, were the ones she loved. And I would ask each of you to remember that love in the weeks ahead no matter what evidence of a so-called “hit list” may come to light.
(Removes some notes from his suit pocket) I would like to read to you some of the notes I have put together about Julia’s life. Julia celebrated her birthday on September 10, although the exact date of her birth is unknown. She was found outside of a ruined castle in Romania by Mr. and Mrs. Davenport on their summer vacation in 1980. The Davenports, being a generous couple and not willing to judge the child based on looks alone, took her home with them to America and raised her as their own.
(JULIA enters quietly from the side, unnoticed)
Julia’s childhood was a troubled one, and her first brush with incarceration came when –
JULIA: Payden! What’s going on?
MACEY: (Screams) Aagh! The living dead!
(Everyone begins to move in slow motion. PAYDEN grabs the donation bowl and shoves it at ALEX.)
PAYDEN: Run for it!
(lights up on PAYDEN and ALEX sitting alone at a table. PAYDEN is holding an ice pack to one side of his face.)
ALEX: Well, that was an interesting weekend.
ALEX: What did Julia say when she caught up to you outside?
PAYDEN: I don’t know.
ALEX: What do you mean?
PAYDEN: Well, everything went kind of dark for a second when she hit me. When I opened my eyes again, I was laying on the ground with her standing over me, and all I could hear was this ringing noise. So I just lay there for awhile watching her face contort into a rage and listening to the ringing – like distant church bells. (looks off into the distance) It was the best break up I’ve ever had.
ALEX: Well, here’s the money from the bowl. (hands a fat envelope to PAYDEN) You realize of course that people may want it back.
PAYDEN: Maybe I’ll go non-profit. That way, it’s a tax deduction for them. You still haven’t heard from Denise, huh?
ALEX: No. I hope she’ll talk to me. I still really care about her.
PAYDEN: (sees her coming on from offstage) You know, I think you may just be about to get your second chance.
DENISE: Hi, Alex.
ALEX: Hi. (a pause) It’s good to see you.
DENISE: I’ve been thinking that maybe we should give this another shot.
ALEX: That would be great.
DENISE: There are some things that need to be different, though.
ALEX: I know. Why don’t we talk about it tonight? We could rent a movie and go to my place. There’s this one that I really love by Michael Mann. It’s not your usual type of movie, but it’s –
DENISE: (cutting him off) That sounds great.
(They link arms.)
ALEX: See you later, Payden.
(Payden waves in response. The couple exits. Liz, a girl in a funky outfit with a spiked collar (or motorcycle boots or something that makes her look a little bit edgy) enters and watches him.)
(They exchange flirtatious looks.)
LIZ: Did you really stage a fake funeral for your ex-girlfriend?
PAYDEN: She owed me money. (lifts up his bag of ice) I got a receipt.
LIZ: I had this boyfriend once, who tried to break up with me in a crowded restaurant so that I wouldn’t make a scene.
PAYDEN: What did you do?
LIZ: I stood on top of the table and shouted out all of the things that I didn’t like about him. It was very satisfying. My name’s Liz.
LIZ: Do you want to get out of here and go get some Chinese food?
PAYDEN: I hate Chinese food. How about Indian food?
LIZ: I hate Indian food. How about Thai food?
PAYDEN: Deal. (PAYDEN stands up and the two of them start walking off stage.) So what kind of things did you shout about this guy?
LIZ: Well, for starters, I questioned his manhood.
PAYDEN: Good. That’s always a sore spot with us. It’s a solid opening move. Then what?
LIZ: Well after that, I...
posted by D @ 10:20 PM
I love stories - especially speculative fiction, and I named this blog Brief Glimpses of Somewhere Else because I think of each story as a window into another world.
If this is your first time here, I recommend "Legacies" and "The Great Puzzle", both of which were nominated for a 2006 Parsec Award. You can also find "Timmy, Jimmy, and the Beast of Tagmart" as well as "Late Shift at the Souleater" in the podcast anthology Voices: New Media Fiction available at podiobooks.com.
Legacies Part III
Legacies Part II
Legacies Part I
[About The Spirit's Dream (Version 2)]
The Spirit's Dream (Version 2)
Timmy, Jimmy, and the Beast of Tagmart
The Great Puzzle Part III
The Great Puzzle Part II
The Great Puzzle Part I
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