Two character drive, talk, and find an old memory.
| Old Friends
A play in one act
WILLIAMS: Short ,5’4, with a pointed face and delicate hands. He is clean shaven and wearing black horn rimmed glasses with a black evening suit and brown wingtips.
JACOB: A Heavy set man, tall, 6’0, with solid features, a round face and thick arms. He has day old stubble and is wearing faded blue jeans, a red t-shirt and a black blazer with white tennis shoes.
[A moving car. Looking through the front window JACOB is driving while WILLIAMS is in the passenger seat.]
WILLIAMS: Bad turn-out this year.
JACOB: We’ve been spoiled. We can’t expect the big numbers every year. [Pause] What am I saying! We still got thirty people. Thirty people! That’s a damn lot for one opening.
WILLIAMS: There used to be crowds. We had fifty last year, over one-hundred five years ago – [cut off by JACOB.]
JACOB: Do you think I don’t remember? [Bitterly] Of course you bring up five years ago. There’s no need to waste time on five years ago.
JACOB: Well what?
WILLIAMS: Do you think we’re losing our edge? I mean, there’s fewer every year.
JACOB: Do you know how many Berns got this year? Do you have any idea? [Quickly answers own question before WILLIAMS has time to respond] He got five - five! And you sit here complaining about getting thirty. That’s just crazy my friend, just plain crazy.
WILLIAMS: I think we’re in a slump.
JACOB: Spare me all this, really.
WILLIAMS: Fine, fine, you will not hear another word from me.
JACOB: You’re always so dramatic.
WILLIAMS: [Mumbles under breath.]
JACOB: What was that?
WILLIAMS: [Trying to keep calm] Let’s just not talk for awhile. Do you think you can handle that?
JACOB: Anything you say.
[They drive in silence. After about 30 seconds, JACOB turns on the radio. He adjusts the volume, scans different stations, going back and forth between two.]
WILLIAMS: Keep your eyes on the road!
JACOB [mimicking WILLIAMS]: Ten and two. [Turns off radio and puts hands into ten and two position on wheel.]
[WILLIAMS sighs and there is a short pause]
JACOB: Well... who did you like?
WILLIAMS [Takes out a larger folder full of papers]: Well, let’s see... David seemed promising. He has good experience, and he seemed pretty eager to get the job.
JACOB: He was sweating the whole time, I remember. He’s too nervous. He'd drop the coffee, fumble the papers. The place would be a mess.
WILLIAMS [continues through folder]: Well, what about Charlotte? She was the second last one, red hair.
JACOB: She was all right. She seemed a bit uptight. She brought up her private school of three times. I didn't care for that
WILLIAMS: Fine, fine. [Shifts through more papers, stopping on one] Ah, now here's a promising one. Here’s Brian’s resume. You must remember him? He was very well prepared; he had quick answers for everything we could throw at him. And we both know he certainly has more experience than anyone else we saw.
JACOB: How could I forget him? I know his type. [Pause] Brian. Brian. I hate that name; Brian. I had an uncle named Brian. He was an alcoholic; he used to beat his wife. He was a show-off, too. This Brian is just showing off.
WILLIAMS: Be reasonable.
JACOB: He had six references! I couldn’t believe my eyes! We ask for three he gives us six. He’s laying it on us. It’s all he’s come for. He’s hunting us down; he wants to add us to his trophy shelf.
JACOB: He’s a big game hunter. You saw his resume, hell you have all eight pages of it in front of you. It’s stacked. The first two pages are the only ones that meant anything, and if he had a shade of modesty he would have put them into one instead of stretching everything out. The other six pages are all tripe. Junior Achievers, 4H, endless volunteering jobs, the fundraising; it’s all meaningless to him. He doesn’t care about any of these groups and you know he doesn’t care a damn about their cause. It’s all for him and his glorious resume. I know his type. He waltzes in, takes the high profile job, spends the bare minimum of required time, gets them to sign his precious Letter of Recommendation and then flies off to the next spot. He’d smile the empty smile of his; fill them with his lines and move on to the next. No rest for the weary, you know? [Pause] Ah, look through the pages Williams, look at all the victims, all his prey. There is no way in hell I’m ending up in his trophy cabinet. [Pause] No, we’re certainly not hiring Brian.
WILLIAMS [face tight]: I don’t even know what to say to you anymore. I mean, do you ever think about what you’re saying? This young man is a model of humanity. He helps the less fortunate, he has the determination to follow though any task he sets himself, he doesn’t give up, and you shoot him down for it? Jacob, I thought I knew your worst, but this is really a new low.
JACOB: Oh please, let’s not get into a whole mess over this.
WILLIAMS: Fine. [Pause] You have had the pleasure of shooting down all my picks, so, who did you like?
JACOB: All right, that’s fair. [Pause as JACOB thinks] How about Lisa? She was calm, a bit funny, and she seemed pretty well meaning. She wasn’t trying to pull the wool over my eyes. I think she would make a good addition to the staff.
[WILLIAMS flips through sheet in a folder, takes out a sheet]
WILLIAMS: Are you serious? Her resume is crinkled, and she only has two references. She hardly has any experience. She’s not even working right now and her last job was at [a pause, then with disgust] Burger King.
JACOB: Someone has to do it. It shows she has character.
WILLIAM: You know, now that I think of it, her shirt was dirty when she came in and it wasn't even ironed. It’s all in the small things, Jacob. If she doesn’t care about looking professional, how is she going to care about the work?
JACOB: Now who’s being petty?
WILLIAM: I suppose, but we can do better. [Pause] But what about Brian? Despite your ranting he is still the most qualified. It would not be fair to not hire him.
JACOB: He’s a spoiled brat.
WILLIAM: You’re not giving him a chance.
JACOB: Have you been listening to anything I’ve been saying? Any of it?
WILLIAM: What if – Ahh!
[JACOB slams on brakes. As the vehicle come to a screeching stop, the car shifts as it rolls over something.]
WILLIAMS: Oh God! We hit something.
JACOB: Just keep calm.
WILLIAMS: We should go see what it is. It could be animal. It could be hurt.
[JACOB pulls the car over on the side of the road. Both he and WILLIAMS step out to see what has happened.]
WILLIAMS [wailing as he sees a raccoon on the ground]: Oh no! It’s a raccoon, we hit a raccoon!
JACOB: Oh please, get it together. [Examines the car bumper] Didn’t even do any damage; just a bit of blood.
WILLIAMS [bends down to examine the raccoon, it is motionless, crushed by the car, and clearly dead]: We have to hurry; we need to get it to a hospital!
JACOB: It’s dead.
WILLIAMS: Look, it’s still moving [raccoon remains motionless]. We have to help it!
JACOB: It’s dead.
WILLIAMS [pleadingly]: Come on, have a heart, give it a chance!
JACOB: Williams, it’s dead, and we simply can’t waste any more time on this. We have to get back to the office. We have work to do, remember?
WILLIAMS: I’m not leaving it here.
JACOB: Be reasonable! What can we do? It’s dead. We can’t help it.
WILLIAMS: We should bury it. I mean, it’s the least we could do. [Takes a lower tone] It’s the least you could do.
JACOB: Am I hearing you right? You want to bury it? Where? This isn’t a pet cemetery; we’re on the damn highway! I’m surprised we haven’t been hit already.
WILLIAMS [sternly]: Well, I’m not leaving him like this. [Walks back to the car] We still have the shovel and some bags from the yard work, remember? We can give him a proper farewell.
JACOB [follows WILLIAMS]: If this will get us out of here any faster. But, we really don’t have time for this, you know.
[WILLIAMS opens the front door, pops opens the car trunk, then walks to the trunk and removes a spade with a wooden handle and a rusted blade. JACOB takes out a large paper bag with a print of autumn leaves on its brown sides. They both walk to the raccoon, with WILLIAMS several paces in front of JACOB.]
JACOB [holding open the bag]: All right then, pick it up and drop it in.
WILLIAMS: Have care! This isn’t a sack of potatoes; just a moment ago this was a living creature - it deserves respect.
JACOB: Just hurry up.
[WILLIAMS rolls his eyes at JACOB and then gently places the spade under the body of the raccoon, motioning it back and forth. Eventually he lifts of the spade with the raccoon’s body and softly places it in the bag. JACOB pulls his head away as far as possible from the bag while this happens.]
JACOB: This is just awful.
WILLIAMS [ignoring JACOB]: All right, [motions to grassy area about ten meters from the highway] let’s dig. We can take turns. I’ll take the first one.
[JACOB and WILLIAMS walk the ten meters, and WILLIAMS begins to dig, forming a neat pile of black soil beside his ever growing hole. JACOB sets down the bag, and sits beside it, legs up with his hands on his knees, looking lost in thought. No one speaks as WILLIAMS continues digging.]
WILLIAMS [to JACOB, who is still looking forlornly into the distance]: All right, this should be big enough. Can you bring him over here?
JACOB [not facing WILLIAMS]: Oh... yeah. [Fumbling with the bag he delicately places it into the hole, while WILLIAMS begins to shovel the dirt from the pile he had started back over the raccoon. After JACOB returns to where he was sitting, he sits back down and covers his face with his hands.]
WILLIAMS [still focused on shovelling]: You’re certainly no help, Jacob. [Turns to face JACOB] What’s wrong with you? Are you crying? Are you actually crying? [Pause] I don’t think I’ve ever seen you cry...
JACOB [voice wavering]: It’s nothing.
WILLIAMS: Really, there is no reason to play the tough guy. [Walks over to JACOB] What is it, certainly can’t be the raccoon, can it? You didn’t seem like you cared about it. [Pause] We’re old friends, you can talk to me. Come on, tell me what’s wrong.
JACOB [speaks very slowly, often pausing and smiling, all the time looking away from the road towards the expanse of fields that line the highway]: I had a cat growing up. His name was Clyde. [Smiling]He was a big cat; probably weighted eighteen pounds [laughs]. He was gentle though, never bit or scratched.
We had a good time together, Clyde and me. I remember my mom used to make me salami sandwiches, just mustard, salami and butter. Ah... they were fantastic. I used to eat them on the deck, and Clyde would sit beside me, purring, and I’d give him some of the salami. He’d lick my fingers when I was done. His tongue was so raspy [laughs again]. He used to sleep with me, too. He’d curl up beside me and I’d scratch his neck until my arm got sore, then I’d fall asleep to the sound of his heavy purrs... I always felt safe when he was with me.
I remember the day so clearly, so... vividly. It was the height of summer; blue skies, no clouds. I was in shorts and sandals, in the backyard playing in the sandbox my dad made for me. Mom was inside and Clyde was prowling around the yard. I was trying to build a castle, but the sand was too dry...
That’s when I heard the squealing tires and Clyde’s terrible last cry. I ran to the road and Clyde was there, but... not. He was destroyed by the car. It was all blood and guts, you know? Well, my mom ran out when she heard the tires and the car sped off. She tried to get me away from Clyde’s remains, but she was having a hard time herself. I started to cry, and she cried, too. The two of us sat down in the road and cried [JACOB wipes his eyes with the tips of his fingers].
Mom called dad, and he came home right away. She just couldn’t deal with it. We buried him that afternoon. It was something like this [gestures around him], you know? The three of us stood there and everyone cried, even dad. We all loved that cat. I loved that cat. I had a hard time getting over it. [Voice trails off] I was only five... maybe six... it’s hard at that age...
[A long pause, while WILLIAMS is almost moved to tears]
JACOB [regaining composure]: Sorry. Sorry, I, I don’t know what came over me.
WILLIAMS [in a soothing voice]: It’s okay.
JACOB [now fully composed]: No... no, getting upset over such trifles, it’s, it’s unseemly. It’s not me.
WILLLIAMS: Really, it’s all right. Do you want to talk about it?
JACOB [firmly]: No, forget it, really. I’m fine. [Pause] Let’s get out of here. We have still have work to do, remember?
WILLIAMS: If that’s what you want.
JACOB [abruptly]: It is.
[A long pause.]
JACOB [softly, looking down]: I really didn’t mean to hit the raccoon.
WILLIAMS: I know you didn’t.
JACOB [barely audible]: I don’t want to hurt anything.
[WILLIAMS puts his hand on JACOB’s shoulder as the two walk back to the car with the shovel, which JACOB puts in the trunk. WILLIAMS get into driver’s seat, JACOB in passenger.]