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Tiny Play #1/100. (Orange Peels)

January 7, 2010

SETTING: 2 kitchens.  Each has one table and one chair.  On the stage right table, there is a large bowl of fresh fruit.  On the stage left table, there is an overwhelming breakfast tray loaded with eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, coffee, juice.  Each kitchen also contains a telephone of some description.

AT RISE: OSCAR is seated at the stage left table, the breakfast spread out in front of him for acres.  He looks intimidated, perhaps even beleaguered by the situation.  MELINDA stumbles into the stage right kitchen.  She does not sit down.  As OSCAR speaks, she methodically picks up each piece of fruit in her bowl, holding it up to the light as if it might make her feel better and (presumably realising that it will not) putting it back down — not in the bowl, but in a tidy circle around it.

OSCAR: You believe that somebody else has foisted this breakfast upon me.  That just out of frame there is an insistent maternal or wifely figure in a floral print apron who insists on making breakfast a big deal, and refuses to hear my insistence that I’m just not a breakfast kind of guy.  Or maybe that this is just not my kind of breakfast.  Possibly you suppose that I am a strict vegan and this plate of pig and proto-chicken already killed and fried up on my behalf presents me with something of a moral dilemma, never mind the offense to my personal sensibilities.  The toast is buttered, the coffee is caffeinated, and the orange juice is no doubt chock full of pesticides, preservatives and artificial colouring agents of one kind or another.  In short: none of what lies before me resembles my own personalized definition of the word ‘food’, and yet to treat it as anything else would be supremely wasteful.

I must say, I kind of like that idea.

But you’re wrong.  There is nobody just out of the proscenium view, and my belief that there ever was has come unsuspended.  I live alone.  I have done this to myself.

In a moment, however, I will pick up that telephone.  I will dial a sequence of numbers which you may not know, but with which I am intimately, shamefully familiar.  My intimate, shameful familiar on the other end of the line will pick up, and I will say the following, without an ounce of hesitation or ado:

“We should get back together.”

OSCAR’s hand hovers for a moment before he picks up his telephone and begins to dial.  He recites his intended opening line under his breath.

Down to the last piece of fruit in the bowl, MELINDA closes her eyes and plunges her hand down as if selecting by chance.  She comes up with an orange, which she bites into the skin of without opening her eyes.

MELINDA’s telephone rings and she answers it.  The regrettable taste on her tongue can be heard in her voice.

MELINDA: I believe I just ate spray paint.

OSCAR: Oh yeah?

MELINDA: Yeah.  I had this book when I was a kid that was called like — I don’t know what it was called, but I remember it as the ‘Children’s Encyclopedia Of Everything Is Such Bullshit’.  Anyway, there was this page about how like, oranges come off of the tree and they’re not even orange! most of the time.  Did you even know that? like, they’re green.  And they had a picture, like an actual photograph of this guy SPRAYING this orange crap on oranges after they’d been picked.  So anyways; I don’t know what the crap is, but I just bit into an orange peel / so it’s in my mouth now.

OSCAR: By accident?

MELINDA: No.  On purpose.  Sort of.  I didn’t mean for it to be on purpose.  God.

Beat.

Is this Oscar?

Beat.

OSCAR: Yes.

MELINDA has stuck her thumbnail into the orange to peel it properly.  This hurts.  A lot.

MELINDA: Shit!

OSCAR: Don’t be angry with me.

MELINDA: Shit fucking shit fucking shit shit shit fuck!!

She sucks her thumb.

My life is ruined.

OSCAR: Well then at least let me apologise.

MELINDA: I stuck my thumb into that fucking orange.

OSCAR: That doesn’t sound like my fault, actually.

MELINDA: At work yesterday I got a monster paper cut.  Right under my right thumbnail.

OSCAR: Okay…

MELINDA: No, it’s not okay!  It’s an important thumbnail, and the left one is really not qualified as an understudy.  So this is my leading lady, the centre of my universe, and she has been split wide open and now jammed full of citric acid and whatever kind of poison orange spray stuff I just ate; not to mention, I’m sure, countless wonderful strains of bacteria her magnificent gash has acquired since its glorious opening ceremony yesterday.  I am going to die slowly in shame and agony.

Sucks again.

Why did you call me?

OSCAR: I got up this morning and I leapt out of bed and I pranced around the kitchen and I made bacon, sausage, two eggs sunny side up, coffee, orange juice, and hot buttered toast.

MELINDA: You hate me more than anyone has ever hated me / in my whole entire life.

OSCAR: I’m sorry.  If that was too graphic.

MELINDA: You had the option available never to speak to me again.  Instead you choose to call me up on the telephone and say revolting things in my ear.

OSCAR: Is it all right for me to take heart in the fact that you haven’t hung up yet?

MELINDA: You confused me with the orange thing.  I’m in great pain.  That’s the only reason.

OSCAR: I think I began all wrong.  Or you did.

MELINDA: Well then begin again.

OSCAR: I can’t remember the beginning.  All I can think of is breakfast.

MELINDA: Fine.  I’m full of poison anyhow.  Begin again with breakfast.

OSCAR: Sausage, bacon, two eggs sunny side up, coffee, orange juice, toast.

MELINDA: It sounds like brunch.

OSCAR: No waffles.

MELINDA: Is brunch defined by waffles?

OSCAR: In part.  Waffles and time.  And hash browns.  And no toast.  This is breakfast.  It’s a lot of breakfast.

MELINDA: Is this some kind of radical phobia exposure by proxy thing?  If my therapist put you up to this I’ll kill you both.

OSCAR: I don’t talk to your therapist.

MELINDA: Well that makes two of us.

OSCAR: What do you mean?

MELINDA: She’s all of a sudden into this whole silence treatment thing.  I mean it’s not called that, but it’s probably called something.  She thinks I conflate problems by verbalizing them.  So I go in and I don’t say a word and supposedly it’s one hour a week when nothing I’m freaking out about gets any bigger.

OSCAR: Does it work?

MELINDA: I thought it might.  But then I had a session with her yesterday afternoon and my papercut got so big that we both drowned in the blood gushing out of my thumb which was full of a million diseases.  I thought I had AIDS.

OSCAR: Don’t joke about that.

MELINDA: I’m not joking!  I mean I don’t have AIDS, but I really thought I did.  Just sitting there.

OSCAR: I would go with you to get tested.

MELINDA: People would think we were a couple.  It would be emotionally confusing.  And then you would try to hold my hand and my thumbnail would slice you open and all the little dried up blood flakes would get sprinkled into your hot red liquid underskin and you would have it too and it would be totally implausible and everyone would assume that we’d been fucking again.  Or sharing needles or something.

OSCAR: We could do that too.

MELINDA: What about your breakfast.

OSCAR: I don’t know why I did it.  I can’t eat it.

MELINDA: Don’t blame me.

OSCAR: I want you back.

MELINDA: I want a job without any paper.  Maybe I could be a shark catcher.  I would like that.  In a slick rubber swim suit with a big space bubble head.  Do people eat sharks?

OSCAR: Some people.  I hear that they’re delicious and very high in mercury.

MELINDA: From being so high up on the food chain.  I guess at least with pigs — well actually, you know what the problem with pigs is?

OSCAR: No.

MELINDA: It’s the same as the problem with me.

OSCAR: Imaginary AIDS?

MELINDA: They eat orange peels.

OSCAR: Do they?

MELINDA: Among other things.  Scraps.  And they didn’t grow up with that freaky-ass photo of the man spraying….I mean they don’t even think of the insides of oranges.  An orange, to a pig, is a corkscrew-shaped fruit that’s orange and scaley on one side and white and spongey on the other side that grows in slop buckets among the apple cores and banana skins and tuna fish sandwich crusts and gets dumped into their troughs by somebody in mucky coveralls and gumboots.

OSCAR: I guess so.

MELINDA: So you’re eating orange peels for breakfast too.  By proxy.

OSCAR: I was thinking maybe I wouldn’t.

MELINDA: I know.  That’s why you called me.  I was going to scream at you and then the course of human history would be drastically altered or / something.

OSCAR: We’d be together again.

Silence as MELINDA appears to consider this proposition.  She lies down on the floor, still holding the phone to her ear.

Are you still there?

More silence.  MELINDA still holds the phone in her hand, but it drifts away from her ear and mouth as she rolls her face flat onto the floor, breathing into it like an oxygen mask.

Melinda?

Slowly, reluctantly, OSCAR hangs up his telephone, looks at it for a moment as though he might make another call, resolves not to.  He picks up his fork, stares it down.  Licks it.  Drops it into his glass of orange juice handle side down, so that the tines point to the ceiling.  He picks up a sausage with his fingers, breaks it in two.  Nibbles one of the broken off ends, then sucks his fingertips.  At some point, MELINDA brings the phone back to her ear and rolls her face towards the audience

MELINDA: Everybody is so toxic, Oscar.  Everything is just so….That’s the whole problem with having my problem in the twenty first century.  Nobody can tell you that you’re wrong, that there isn’t contamination everywhere.

OSCAR: It’s true that Melinda knows things I don’t know.

MELINDA: It’s just so crowded.  Things that might be fine brush up against things that definitely aren’t…

OSCAR: Some of them are even true.  Like that silverware has a flavour.  I never thought of that before.  Now I eat french fries with a fork instead of ketchup.

MELINDA: It’s like, remember when I started therapy and she gave me the three little notebooks: black, red, green; anxiety, anger, happiness?  To untangle them.  Like I’m supposed to know the difference, like that’s the tiniest little baby step I could take.  Bullshit!  She got me so hopeful, and then it was impossible.

MELINDA is sitting up now.  OSCAR picks up one of the pieces of sausage, skewers it on his fork.

OSCAR: Melinda told me that

BOTH: All boundaries are psychological.

Over the course of this speech: OSCAR stands up, takes several steps downstage, opens an imaginary door, goes back to the table, picks up the breakfast tray, crosses the imaginary threshold of his apartment, leaves the door open behind him, presses an imaginary button, waits for an imaginary elevator, steps in, another button, descends, steps out, turns an imaginary corner upstage so that he stands facing MELINDA at a right angle, but unable to see her.  MELINDA gradually comes to a standing position and paces her floor.

MELINDA: Even walls — real walls — are just flimsy markers we set up to reinforce the barriers our minds beg us to establish.  We live in this great big building in the city.  A hundred-odd people right now are all around us IN OUR HOUSE hitting the snooze button, jolting awake in confusion and horror and relief from ridiculous nightmares and fantasies, puking up their guts for one reason or another, calling in sick from work — legitimately or otherwise, yelling at their lazy children, kissing last night’s lover’s exposed shoulder blade, eating terrible things for breakfast: Pop Tarts and leftover take out still in the waxy paper cartons drowning in its own grease and ugly ugly oatmeal and pig intestines and orange peels and…we can’t fathom it.  Or most of us can’t, and those of us that can’t help but fathom it want to bleach our brains ’til they shine like new, ’til we aren’t afraid of having bleach in the house any more.

She leans against her imaginary wall.  In this moment, OSCAR arrives.  He stands in trepidation just outside her imaginary door.  They are just inches apart.  MELINDA breaks the unknown connection, moving to look out her imaginary window downstage, pressing the fingertips of her hand which is not holding the phone against the glass and examining the imaginary marks they leave behind.

MELINDA: It’s not appropriate; it’s not modern or grown up enough for us to live with each other this way.  So we say there’s a difference between walls with doors and walls without doors.  Between what you hear from your own kitchen and what you hear from the kitchen above you, although you might be just waking up in your bed some morning and not know the difference.  Although, at times like that, you might feel better if there wasn’t one.

OSCAR rings MELINDA’s imaginary doorbell.  She moves the phone away from her ear.  Unable to decide on a parting salutation, she simply hangs up.  She opens the door.  OSCAR places the breakfast tray on the floor in the hallway and sits down on one side of it as though it is a picnic.  MELINDA sits on the other.  She picks the fork out of the orange juice glass, putting the handle in her mouth to catch the drops of juice.  OSCAR closes his mouth over the sausage fragment pinned to the tines.

BLACKOUT.

If you are interested in using this script, in whole or in part, for any reason, please a) credit me (Emmet Forsythe) as the author, and b) let me know about it, including links to any video or audio recordings you may make.

Contact emilythesecond (at) gmail (dot) com if you wanna tell me somethin’ too special for comments.

UPDATE: This video has nothing to do with this play, really, but my brother reminded me about it after he read this play, so maybe you ought to know:

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 7, 2010 8:37 pm

    yaaaaaay!

    mooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaar (positive peer pressure)

  2. Rabu permalink
    January 10, 2010 4:36 pm

    Yay productivity. I like. And I read it over breakfast, as advised.

  3. ELISHA permalink
    January 12, 2010 8:17 pm

    dearest emmet,
    you are better than everyone else.
    that was glorious.

    it is tuesday, and i am attempting to fill the three hours between my linguistics workshop and my linguistics lecture.
    your dear brother linked me to this project and i read this play, copying and pasting nearly every line to keith as i went due to it’s being overwhelmingly good and thus necessary to share, even though he has already read it.

    i love you, you incredible, brilliant, astounding woman.

    lovelovelove,
    elisha ❤

    • ohmynoti permalink*
      January 12, 2010 8:43 pm

      awww.

      best comment ever.

      speaking of writing and my brother as grapevine: i hear you are working on a new book? this sounds delicious.

      • ELISHA! permalink
        January 13, 2010 12:31 pm

        this is factual.

        it’s the sort of thing that would probably happen if adam and eve bumped into old will and le petit prince on the street one day.

  4. rubyben permalink
    June 8, 2010 3:12 pm

    Okay, I am definitely officially doing a thing with this. I’m only telling you so that if you are trying to decide which ones to do things with soon, you can know that this one is getting some serious love and attention already, in case that is a factor in your deciding process. You don’t get to know more than that yet.

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