January 1, 2007

A Play A Day #263

The Knock


Setting: Sandy's front entryway.

(A doorbell, lights up, Sandy comes to the door, opens it, we see a very awkward man, preferably small, geeky, timid, and very poorly dressed. He has a clipboard, papers falling every which way)

Sandy: Hello?

Pin: Hi.

S: Yes?

P: Hi. (consults clipboard) Cassandra... Mar... Mar... jee... arr?

S: It's Mar-zhair, and no one calls me Cassandra. Sandy.

P: Oh... (takes a while to fumble with papers and pen, starts marking up a sheet) I... I'm sorry... there's a lot of... uhhh... paperwork.

S: I see that... but, ummm... you maybe can tell me what you're here for?

P: (still fumbling with papers) Uhhh... yes.... uhhh... I just need to make... uhh... Sandy with an "S"?

S: Ummm... yes... what else...

P: Okay... so... ummm.... (very slowly, as he spells it out phonetically) Mar.... zhair...

S: Listen... if you're trying to sell me something...

P: No.

S: ...I have friends coming over in about thirty minutes, and I haven't even...

P: No.

S: ... I have this rather complicated souffle that I make and...

P: No.

S: ... it really needs to be watched and then I have to...

P: No.

S: ... get changed and get cash at the bank...

P: No.

S: ... so... ummm.... so you're not selling anything?

P: No.

S: And...

P: I'm not selling anything.

S: Right. So...

P: I'm sorry.

S: Hey... no, no... it's okay. I just...

P: I'm not very good at this.

S: No! Nooo! You're doing a great... hey, you know what, why don't you just, you know, tell me who you are. We'll start there.

P: Ah... yes... sorry. My name is Pin.

S: (beat) Okay. Pin?

P: Pin.

S: Okay.

P: Pin. Like safety, or nak.

S: Nak?

P: (little chuckle) Just my little joke. (chuckles again) Nak? Nak-pin? I switch the "k" and "p"...

S: Right. (forces a little laugh to comfort him) Yes! Very... clever.

P: Thanks.

S: And I'm Sandy, like I said... before.

P: Yes. (consults clipboard) Starts with "s".

S: Guilty as charged.

P: You are?

S: Just an expression.

P: Okay.

S: Pin, what brings you here? Step two in the process. You're not selling.

P: Yes. I mean no. No. I'm not selling.

S: Got it.

P: I hate this part.

S: Hmmm?

P: I have to tell you something, and you're not going to like it.

S: Oh. Really?

P: No. But I like it even less. It's a horrible thing to say, and I'm the one who has to say it.

S: Pin?

P: All the time. It hurts so much to be the one who has to do this over and over again...

S: Please.

P: I thought I'd get used to it, but it just gets more and more horrible and...

S: Pin! (he stops) Please. You'll do fine.

P: Oh... I don't know... it's not...

S: You'll be great. Let it out.

P: Okay. As of (looks at watch) seven.... no... maybe it was eight.... no... I think it might still only be seven... uhhh.... no, wait...

S: Pin.

P: ... now it's eight. (pause)

S: Pin, you can do it, okay? You can tell me.

P: Yes... as of (starts to look at watch again, she clasps her hand over it, he is startled for a little bit, she releases his wrist) ... eight minutes ago, you were dead.

S: (positive, upbeat) There, see that wasn't that difficult, and you really came through quite well, I thought.

P: Thank you. It was nice to have your help, most people just scream or something. You were so supportive.

S: Well... so, who saved me?

P: Saved?

S: Eight minutes ago?

P: Eight... (looks at watch) nine now.

S: Nine minutes ago. Who saved me?

P: What?

S: You said I was dead, right?

P: Yes.

S: So, who brought me back to life?

P: Ummm... no one.

S: Why are you coming to my door and telling me I was dead eight or nine minutes ago, and then... wait... why am I not in the hospital?

P: Uhhh...

S: This... this... wow! This is one of those near-death experiences? They're saving my life right now?

P: Sandy... uhhh...

S: What happened? It was my basement stairs, right... those things are treacherous! I keep meaning to fix them, but... I fell down, bashed my head on the concrete floor, right?

P: Yes.

S: I knew it!

P: Ummm... Sandy, I...

S: I always thought... wait a minute... how did they find me? I live alone.

P: Lived alone.

S: What? Wait. You said, I was dead.

P: Like I said, I'm not very good at this. I never know what verb tense to use when I say that sentence.

S: Verb tense?

P: I meant, as of nine... (looks at watch)... whoa... almost eleven minutes ago, you are dead.

S: What?

P: See, that doesn't sound right either... "were", "are"... I just don't know...

S: I died eleven minutes ago?

P: (checks watch yet again, indicating that it has now been exactly eleven minutes) Yep, dead on.

S: I'm dead?

P: That's it! That's how they taught us in class....

S: I'm dead?

P: Simple, declarative sentence...

S: I'm dead?

P: No confusing tenses...

S: I'm dead?

P: Just, bam, "You are dead."...

S: I'm dead?

P: Makes sense now...

S: I'm...

P: Dead. Yes.

S: Dead? No.

P: Sorry. Like I said, I really don't like this part of....

S: So, you're...

P: Pin.

S: Death.

P: Well, a trainee... (checks his shirt, digs into his pants pocket) Sorry. I forgot... (pins a large name tag on his shirt which says:)

S: (reading the button) "Thank you for your patience, it's my first century. Pin, Death-Associate-In-Training"

P: Ironic. My name's Pin, but I always forget to wear my pin.

S: Pin. This isn't right. I'm not dead. I feel fine. I was just cooking a souffle for my friends, and I was heading to the pantry to get... some... more.... Oh. No. (she turns back into the house and walks off)

P: (quietly) You can check the basement stairs now.

S: (returning, feeling her neck) I... I... didn't know it could bend that far.

P: It can't. So, that's why I'm here.

S: This is too much.

P: I know. (lifts his left hand as serenely as possible, which means it's very clumsy, but a nice attempt)

S: (looking at his cupped hand) What? Am I supposed to tip you?

P: No... uhh... okay, wait... (changes his hand position to a more beckoning, sideways position, and strains to make his face seem insistent, but gentle) There.

S: (looking at his hand again, decides to shake it, since that's what it looks like Pin wants, she tries to do so, but poorly) Sorry... I'm not left-handed.

P: Uhhh.. this isn't working... oh, I remember! (turns around, grabs a boombox from offstage, puts it down beside him and fiddles with the controls for a while, then stands up, tries the face of gentle insistences and the slanted left hand just as the boombox blasts out a heavy metal guitar riff) Crap! Wrong track. Sorry. (he returns to the boombox, fiddles with controls, then turns back) There. (poses again as angelic harps and voices crescendo from the boombox)

S: Oh. You mean?

P: (tries a God voice, it is terrible) It's time to go, Sandy.

S: No.

P: Hold on. (turns back to the boombox, plugs in a small microphone then turns around, does the pose again and starts to speak, but feedback starts at the same time, he moves the microphone further from the boombox and says, successfully this time) It's time to go, Sandy.

S: Oh. Really?

P: (with microphone) Yes! (realizes that wasn't necessary, turns off mic and boombox) I mean, yes.

S: Can I leave a note for my friends?

P: Saying what?

S: Uhh... that I'm... oh... yeah, that...

P: It doesn't work that way. I'm sorry.

S: But, I really don't want to die. I'm only twenty-six. I have a job I love. My first house. I want to be a mother some day.

P: You best child-bearing years are far behind you.

S: No, no. I have a lot of friends who had kids in their thirties, even forties, and...

P: It's me again, sorry. I meant that your best child-bearing years are far behind you.

S: Oh, just... just...

P: Just you, specifically; because... because you're dead.

S: Okay... so what next.

P: Well... you leave with me... and... (consulting his papers again) you... you... what do we do... umm... says right... here... no, right here... that I knock, you answer, I tell you you're dead... sorry about that again, by the way...

S: Fine, fine. It wasn't your fault.

P: (back to papers) And then you take my hand and we leave, we go the central processing center first... a few forms, some of them are long-ish... then I bring you the...

S: (who has been thinking for the last bit) Wait. Wait. Wait! Hold on! What did you say?

P: What part?

S: At the start! The start!

P: Uhhh... let's see... oh yeah, here... I knock, you answer, did that.

S: Ha! You didn't!

P: Hmmm?

S: It says you "knock".

P: Right, then you answer.

S: I answered, but... You! Didn't! Knock!

P: What?

S: You rang the doorbell!

P: I... I...

S: You rang the doorbell!

P: But... well... I mean, the spirit of the law is...

S: The spirit? Ha!

P: Yes... the spirit of the law is... (searching his memory, then quoting) "When death knocks, all must obey."

S: Exactly! You're not helping your case. The letter and spirit of the law is knocking... knock, knock.

P: I think it's more metaphorical.

S: (overlapping) But you rang! You didn't knock! I win! I win! I beat Death!

P: No... I... your neck... (he starts getting pulled backward offstage by unseen forces, he tries to resist, desperately grabbing the mic and shouts into it as he struggles to stay at the door) It's time to go, Sandy! It's time to go! It's time to... (he doesn't get to finish, the door slams shut by itself, silence)

S: (Beat) Ha! I won! I beat Death! I kicked Death's ass! (lots of jumping around and celebratory ad-libs and dancing, maybve even making up a funny kicking-Death's-ass song)

(There's a knock on the door)

S: (still giddy, dances to the door, checking her watch) Weird, they're usually late... wait until they hear.... (throws open door, a very large Grim Reaper stands there, full regalia with the scythe, except he has a large, brightly-colored name tag with a smiley face on it, pause)

Grim Reaper: Sandy Marjaire?

S: (she gulps, small and squeaky) Yes?

GR: You're dead.

S: But... the other guy...

GR: Yes. Pin. The old doorbell escape technicality.

S: Yeah.

GR: We've been trying to get that clause broadened for years, but...

S: I beat him. I mean... I did.

GR: Yes, well, don't get too proud about it, he's only a trainee.

S: Why am I not alive though?

GR: The basement? The stairs? The Neck? Breaky-breaky.

S: (holding up hands) Okay, okay! I got it! I got it!

GR: I'm sorry if Pin's approach failed to satisfy your death needs. You can fill out a comment card at central processing.

S: Comment card?

GR: (flatly quoting a line he's had to utter far too often) "We value your input as we strive to supply our customers with 'Service To Die For'."

S: Oh.

GR: (doing the pose and voice perfectly) It's time to go, Sandy.

(Sandy extends her hand to his, and they move silently through the doorway, the door closing behind them)

GR: (mumbling, sound of him picking up the boombox) Damnit... that twit even forgot his stereo.

(lights out)


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