This is the 2nd of my two InspiraTO Festival plays. This one was performed on the main stage of the Alumnae Theatre. (please contact me at kevintcraig @ hotmail dot com if you wish to use this play. Thank you)
TITLE: PERFECT TIMING
©Kevin Craig 2013
ONE LINE SYNOPSIS: Melissa needs to cool off while Carl just wants love.
MELISSA: 40-something. Wearing workout clothes, hair in a bun…looking a bit perspired.
CARL: 40-something. Wearing incongruous dress shoes. Lonely.
DESCRIPTION: Melissa, the new neighbour, comes over to borrow an egg-timer. With Carl, she may not get what she’s looking for…but maybe she didn’t know what she was looking for.
SETTING: CARL’s apartment.
[Carl has a noose in his hands and he’s looking between it and the ceiling.]
[from offstage, knock at the door]
CARL [starts. looks at the noose and then at the door.]: [to self] Shit. This better be good news. [tosses the noose behind the couch. beat] Coming.
MELISSA: Hi. Melissa. From next door. I just moved in. Can I come in?
CARL: Um. Sure… I guess. Carl. [they shake hands]
MELISSA: [barges in. looks around] Hmmm…interesting décor.
CARL: What can I do for you?
MELISSA: So, I was hoping I could borrow your—oh! Argh! Oh God. Not again.
CARL: I’m sorry, what? Not again, what?
MELISSA: Don’t listen to me when I’m talking to myself. That’s personal.
CARL: Don’t talk when I’m listening. I can’t exactly turn these off [gestures towards ears].
MELISSA: Sorry. It’s just so goddamned hot in here. I can’t take this heat another second.
CARL: It’s March. We’re in the middle of a cold snap and the heat’s not working properly. It’s so cold, the landlord’s probably in violation of the Human Rights Code.
MELISSA: Your point?
CARL: Never mind. Soooo, you workout?
MELISSA: What does that have to do with anything?
CARL: Sweatpants. Hair in a bun. I recognize the uniform.
MELISSA: Not even close. Kick-boxer. Give me a reason. [darts forward, causes CARL to flinch] Two for flinching.
CARL: Hey! Settle down. Just making conversation. I don’t have a beef with you…yet.
MELISSA: You want conversation? Ask me what I do for a living. Don’t point out my sweatpants.
CARL: Sorry. I’m a little rusty. Don’t usually talk to adults. I’m a high school English teacher. Or, at least I was. What do you do?
MELISSA: I’m also in-between careers right now. Left my husband. Trying to reinvent myself. Thought I would start over here. You know… near the bottom.
CARL: And here I was depressed about my lot in life. I thought this was the absolute bottom. But today… you give me hope.
MELISSA: I’m sure this is a nice place. Ack. It’s this damn heat…makes me crazy.
CARL: Right. Maybe you’re having hot flashes? You should see your doctor. You know. “Men-o-pause” [air quotes the word].
MELISSA: You’re about six words away from a kick in the face.
Jennifer Gillespie as Melissa
CARL: Feisty. I’d try a different pick-up line, though. That one’s not really doing it for me.
MELISSA [wipes brow]: Can we start over?
MELISSA [makes a big show of taking a deep breath, pulls folded hand down in front of her face in a show of centering self]: My name’s Melissa. I’m a personal life coach. And I’m not the least bit hostile.
CARL: Life coach, eh?
MELISSA: Yeah. I thought I would get the kick-boxing down pat before I started working on the supportive personality. Once that’s done, I’ll be ready to coach the best of them.
CARL: Maybe I’ll be your first client. Since my life has recently taken a dive into the toilet. [beat] My name is Carl. How can I help you, Melissa?
MELISSA: I came to ask if I could borrow your egg-timer. [he looks at her, somewhat surprised and she reacts] Try not to look at my gross and sweaty self, though. I was just jumping rope.
CARL: So that’s what I was hearing. I thought somebody was getting killed over there.
MELISSA: Oops. Sorry ‘bout that. I was hot.
CARL: You were hot [thinking through it], so you decided to…
MELISSA: Jump rope, yes. It was either jump it or hang myself with it. I couldn’t decide.
CARL: [looks incredulously at her mention of hanging] Well, I guess you made the right choice. [looks toward the place where he hid the noose].
MELISSA: I thought so. A little less painful on the neck. Egg-timer?
CARL [hands unconsciously go to his throat]: Hmmm?
MELISSA: Look, if you could just grab it for me I would be forever grateful. I’ll return it when I’m finished. If we don’t all melt first. Any chance I accidentally stumbled into the fourth circle of hell? I am a strong woman.
CARL: O Canada and forty Mississippis. Although, Hail Marys may also work in place of the anthem? If you’re more religious than patriotic, that is.
MELISSA: I beg your pardon? Are you on crack?
CARL: It’s easy. It works every time. Family secret. And no, I’m not on crack.
MELISSA: What works every time?! What are you even talking about? I think we got off track somewhere. I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about.
CARL: Sing O Canada and count out forty Mississippis.
MELISSA: You’ve totally lost me now. Believe me, you do NOT want to get between me and my morning eggs. Look, I know we just met, but I need you right now. An egg-timer could literally save my life. All my stuff is in boxes. I don’t own a watch and I’m going crazy without my cell phone, which I lost it in the move. I’m lucky I found a pot and my egg poacher… I need your timer.
CARL: To time eggs.
MELISSA: An egg-timer. Yes. That’s what I’m here for. Pretty sure we’ve established that.
CARL: You. Don’t. Need. One. If you were listening, you would know that by now.
MELISSA: Eggs cannot time themselves. Though if my heat is any indication, my eggs are doing a damn fine job at it.
CARL: Pay attention. This ‘heat’ [air-quotes the word] you speak of appears to be melting your brain cells.
MELISSA: Please. I’m at the end of my rope. I need—
CARL: The perfectly boiled egg comes out of the water after one sings O Canada once and counts out forty Mississippis. Works every time.
MELISSA: Well, I’m not really in the mood to trash your apartment in a hunt for your egg-timer. I may just have to try your whacked-out theory.
CARL: My work here is done.
MELISSA [looks skeptical]: Perhaps. I haven’t tried it yet, though, so don’t go getting all euphoric or anything. How does your family cook a roast? Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall?
CARL: Cute. Speaking of euphoria, how would you like to go across the street with me for a Starbucks? After your breakfast? We could talk…
MELISSA: I should have known you were a hipster. It was the shoes that threw me off the scent.
CARL: I’m not a hips—hey, what’s wrong with my shoes?
MELISSA: Far too 1940s tap for Starbucks. They’re not exactly hipster M.O.
CARL: So is this how you repay all your knights in shining armour? Insults to their sense of fashion? Maybe you should just give me back my egg-timing secret and be gone.
MELISSA: Sense of fashion? That’s what you call it? I thought you fell into the Goodwill bin and came out with those things accidentally on your feet.
CARL: Says the dripping she-man kick-boxer in sweats.
MELISSA: A she-man who could have you tasting floor in about five seconds flat.
CARL: Whoa. How did this go so quickly from me sharing an ancestral egg-timing secret to you wanting to deck me?
MELISSA: For starters, a man should never mention the M word to a lady. That’s your first fail right there.
CARL: Yeah, sorry about the hot flash comment. Probably went a little too far.
MELISSA: You think? Look. Thanks for the egg-timing advice. I think I’ll be going now. Hey, we’re neighbours. I might need to borrow an ancient family duct tape secret from you one day. No need to burn bridges.
CARL: Sure. Okay. [Looks dejected] Nice meeting you.
MELISSA: I’ll try to keep it down over there, okay. Can’t promise anything, though. What, with the dying of the light and all. [cradles her womb] I may just be in for more of those hot flashes you speak of. You know what that means.
CARL: No. What?
MELISSA: More rope jumping.
CARL: You may want to research the opposite of rope jumping, and try that out.
MELISSA: As long as it’s not [mimics hanging from a noose] you know. Thanks for the…help.
CARL : Hey, are you sure I can’t interest you in that latte? Maybe a biscotti? Anything? My treat.
MELISSA: Listen, you seem like a nice guy. I just don’t do Starbucks. Nothing personal. Really.
CARL: It’s just…I don’t get a lot of people knocking on my door around here. You know, what with it being the fourth circle of hell and all.
MELISSA [Clues in to CARL’s advances]: Um. Oh. I’m not usually this crabby. Honest. Maybe I can I interest you in a plate of eggs?
CARL [lights up]: Sure. I can help you time them. You know, everyone sings at a different pace. It’s all about timing—
MELISSA: Let’s just take it one step at a time, shall we. I’ll go get things started. Could you maybe bring over a couple plates? I haven’t found the dishes yet.
CARL: Sure. See you over there.
MELISSA exits stage left. CARL goes off stage right, comes right back with two plates in his hand. Goes to noose, picks it up, shakes his head and throws the noose. Smiles. Goes to stage left. Before he exits, he pauses, looks down at his shoes. Slips out of them and goes barefoot. Exits stage left.
[a couple beats]
MELISSA/CARL [from offstage, in unison]: O Canada, our home and native land. True patriot love, in all our sons’ command [the singing fades out]