Patrick J. O'Brien, West Chazy NY
The Writing Contest for Young and Adult Writers 2004
Runner-up in Category: One Act Plays, Age 21+
Fly on the Wall
A One Act Play
A diner/coffee shop There is a counter, tables, a smoke detector on the wall. A door to the rest room.
- GOD VOICE: Male or female. A voice from offstage, never seen.
- JOSIE (or JOE): Could be the same person as the GOD VOICE.
- THE FLY: Male or female. A voice. (a mike would work) Seen as a shadow (projected on a scrim screen or a dark figure behind a graphic) also seen as a spot of light from a laser pointer moving across the stage. Sound effects could be too satanic.
LAZER POINTER LIGHT The LAZER LIGHT indicates the location and movement of THE FLY. Speed and rhythm indicate state of emotion. The swarm around BIG BO is indicated by a number of LAZER LIGHTS moving together.
- NICK: The owner. He spends a lot of time with his back to everything looking out the window. He turns to speak.
- LITTLE NICK: Nick's son. (If possible he is first seen as a baby, then as an eight year old and finally as a young adult.)
- TIM and ALICE: Newlyweds.
- BIG BO: A biker. Dresses in leather, chains, sunglasses, etc. (Here the stereotype would work.)
- GOSSIPS: two young girls.
- JOSIE'S FRIEND: A customer
In the DARK a BLUE LIGHT comes up on the smoke detector. Throughout, NIGHT is indicated by the lights down and the blue light on the smoke detector.
GOD VOICE: It started in the smoke detector. There's a radioactive element in it. No kidding. When you get home check it out. It's right on the label. Go look. There are restrictions on how you can dispose of it. Federal restrictions. So who knows?
The LAZER POINTER LIGHT flits around the smoke detector.
THE FLY: We are the memory. Our ancestors nested in the smoke detector. After that first nesting one and only one in each generation had the complete memory of the one who came before. We are the one who remembers.
The LIGHTS come up.
THE FLY: It might have been the radioactive heat. Or the steam from the kitchen.
GOD VOICE: Or the chicken soup that splashed up there.
The LAZER LIGHT flits around and back to the detector where it stops.
THE FLY: This memory thing. It was interesting but there was no awareness. We had no feeling of being part of it.
GOD VOICE: When he says we, he means singular. The one who remembers.
THE FLY: Things happened.
GOD VOICE: I've heard that before.
ACTION onstage follows the narrative. The LAZER LIGHT flits around the action.
THE FLY: Nick, the owner, would open up to start each day.
NICK ENTERS and fusses with the shop.
THE FLY: The waitress would arrive.
THE FLY: Then the customers.
PEOPLE arrive and settle into position. The coffee shop goes to black, the actors stay on-stage throughout.
Light comes up on THE FLY. (A light projected on a scrim screen or a dark figure or light behind a graphic)
THE FLY: Generation after generation. Only one of us. Never forgetting anything. Some quirk in the genes, we suppose. No them, no me, no I. All the same, continuous. Time. Time to learn.
GOD VOICE: He never forgot anything.
THE FLY: One of us will start this and many others will continue and finish. Seamless. To us it's all the same. There is only one. The one who remembers. It was lonesome sometimes.
GOD VOICE: A bit fly-brained sometimes.
THE FLY: The day wore on till closing. We would see, hear... We understood the words. But didn't understand what it all meant.
GOD VOICE: What'd I tell you, fly-brained.
THE FLY: But we never had to start over.
GOD VOICE: He never forgot. Anything.
THE FLY: Once we learned something it stuck to us like... well like... you know. (shudders)
GOD VOICE: He means flypaper. What were you thinking?
THE FLY: We had been aware less then a hundred generations when Nick told the waitress he was getting married.
WAITRESS: Nick, you're getting married?
NICK: Hey, I got a right.
WAITRESS: You also got a lousy disposition, Nick.
NICK: What can I say?
THE FLY: Nick's wife would visit with a baby.
Nick's wife rapidly enters and exits with the baby.
GOD VOICE: Time flies by.
THE FLY: It amazed us. Little Nick, the baby, didn't know anything. Little Nick couldn't even feed himself.. Nick had to teach him everything.
LITTLE NICK is working behind the counter. He spills soda, drops things. The LAZER LIGHT follows the food.
THE FLY: Soon, Little Nick was working at the counter. Lots of good meals there.
NICK: Watch it, watch it.
LITTLE NICK: Okay, Pop. (spills stuff on himself) Oops.
The LAZER LIGHT swarms around the spill.
THE FLY: Had some great meals with Little Nick.
GOD VOICE: Need I say it? Dinner was on him.
NICK: Kids! (throws down a towel and walks to the window to stare out)
THE FLY: We tried to figure it all out but couldn't make doodley out of it.
GOD VOICE: Doodley? Doodley? He spends too much time listening to Nick. Doodley, indeed.
THE FLY: Nick had turned bitter. He used to be sweet.
NICK: Doodley squat! That bastard don't know doodley squat.
WAITRESS: Who, Nick? Who?
NICK: Who what?
WAITRESS: Who don't know doodley?
NICK: Everybody. Everybody don't know doodley squat.
NICK and the WAITRESS change positions.
THE FLY: Nick was getting old.
NICK: This place is the pits.
WAITRESS: C'mon Nick, it ain't so bad.
NICK throws down a towel and walks away.
THE FLY: We buzzed around our universe. Still remembering everything. Time passed. There were more babies.
There is a rapid parade of different babies entering and exiting with Nick's wife. Like a revolving door.
THE FLY: Nick got older.
Nick stands looking out the window.
NICK: I was a kid, this used to be fun, now it's the pits.
WAITRESS: Aw, Nick. Place just needs a little fix up.
NICK: Fix up, fix up. What'ya gonna fix?
WAITRESS: You could fix that light in the rest room.
NICK: It'll get fixed when I fix it.
WAITRESS: It goes dark in there, Nicky. And the lock jams all the time. I don't like being locked in, Nick.
LITTLE NICK Stands next to the rest room door flicking the switch, the light is on and off at random, but mostly dark.
LITTLE NICK: Why don't I fix this, Pop?
NICK: Little Nick, I told you I'll fix it.
LITTLE NICK: Pop, you used to really take care of the place.
NICK: The light don't need no fixing. You try it till it comes on is all. It works.
LITTLE NICK: You never know if it'll stay on.
NICK: Try it, try it! On! Off! On! Off! It'll work.
LITTLE NICK: It's the starter on the fluorescent. Let me change it, pop.
NICK waves NO with the towel.
WAITRESS: Let the kid do it, he'll do it right.
NICK: When was he ever right.
WAITRESS: The lock, at least let him fix the lock.
NICK throws down a towel and turns away from them.
The LAZER LIGHT moves from customer to customer in a random pattern.
THE FLY: The customers didn't help us to understand. We would buzz over and have lunch with some of the more interesting ones. In our universe they came and went like comets or minor moons. A bit of excitement, a bit of light, then into eclipse.
GOD VOICE: Focus! He lacked focus.
THE FLY: People talked, took their time getting to the point.
The LAZER LIGHT stops at a table with two girls.
GIRL 1: He asked me to go to the club.
THE FLY: We would listen and blab, blab, blab.
GIRL 2: And?
GIRL 1: And of course.
GIRL 2: Of course?
GIRL 1: Of course, of course. He picked me up and we decided before we hooked up with the crowd we'd make a detour.
GIRL 2: Oh?
GIRL 1: Oh is right. He's some...
The LAZER LIGHT flits madly around the stage.
THE FLY: (loud, interrupting Girl 1) BUZZ, BUZZ, BUZZ! Just when we might have learned something. Buzz, buzz, buzz. We'd be off.
GOD VOICE: It was his nature. Poor thing.
THE FLY: During our lunches with some very interesting people at the most critical times we would just fly off.
GOD VOICE: It flew right over his head. Or flew over their heads, or... well no matter, you get the idea.
THE FLY: Bits and pieces, pieces and bits. What did it all mean? Where did we come from?
GOD VOICE: Nick came from Albany.
NIGHT. The LAZER LIGHT stays on the smoke detector.
THE FLY: At night, in the nest, we had time to think. Suppose the nest changed? Badda bang badda bing. It's over.
GOD VOICE: Nick. Again.
THE FLY: Would we revert back to... to nature. A place we started from. Would we be like the rest of our species?
GOD VOICE: These nights are too long.
THE FLY: (agitated, loud, rapid) What if time ran out. With the time we had left what could we do to make a difference?
GOD VOICE: Tem-per, tem-per.
THE FLY: DAMN DOODLEY, BADDA BING.
GOD VOICE: Get it right, will you.
THE FLY: We couldn't understand anything. What if the nest changed and we ran out of time?
GOD VOICE: Those what-ifs will kill ya.
THE FLY: Awareness could go instantly. (shudder) or worse, a little at a time, one memory, one insight, gone. We have no way of knowing how it might happen. I wish there was a way to understand just one thing.
GOD VOICE: Be careful what you wish for.
THE FLY: Then it happened. Our wish came true.
JOSIE ENTERS and sits at a table, the WAITRESS takes her order.
JOSIE: I'll have a tuna salad sandwich. On whole wheat toast. Not toasted too dark. And not too light. Not too much mayonnaise in the tuna. How is it today?
WAITRESS: The tuna? How's the tuna?
JOSIE: Yes, how is the tuna?
WAITRESS: Nick did a nice job on it today.
JOSIE: Could you speak to him dear. Yesterday the egg salad was too... too.
WAITRESS: Too? Too?
Continuing the WAITRESS mimes taking the order.
THE FLY: Eggie! Wasn't it wonderful. We were attracted to her sweet disposition. The way she could sum up a situation was wonderful. Eggie. Eggie. Wasn't it grand?
The WAITRESS at the counter giving her order slip to Nick. Nick studies it.
NICK: (reading to himself as the WAITRESS waits smiling) Tuna. Not too wet. Whole wheat toast. Not too dark (to waitress) That nut job, right?
NICK: Not too dark, but not too light. Lettuce, Romaine...
WAITRESS: If it's in season.
NICK: (Nick mutters to himself) Badda bing, baddabang..
THE FLY: Others were attracted by Josie's sweetness. They would share their problems with Josie.
Another Customer joins Josie at the table. JOSIE alternates looking left and right as she responds, without a pause, to THE FLY. The LAZER LIGHT also moves from side to side.
THE FLY: But the best stories were when someone she knew sat at another table.
JOSIE: (smiling sweetly, looking straight ahead) She's a whore.
THE FLY: Secrets served up ala-carte.
JOSIE: (left) His wife just left him.
THE FLY: Josie devoured romance.
JOSIE: (right) Sleeping with her boss.
THE FLY: Love.
JOSIE: (left) Gay.
THE FLY: Tragedy.
JOSIE: (right) When the milk carton goes on the table the honeymoon's over.
THE FLY: Unrequited love.
JOSIE: (left) She won't return the ring.
THE FLY: Quiet romances.
JOSIE: (right) That one is a tramp.
THE FLY: Silly crushes.
JOSIE: (left) That one will break her heart.
THE FLY: Mad flings.
JOSIE: (right) That one. That one. And. Those two
THE FLY: Puppy love.
JOSIE: (left) Isn't that little Nick a devil.
THE FLY: Secret love.
JOSIE: (right) I'd like to be a fly on the wall when she finds out about him.
THE FLY: There it was. The answer. With Josie coaching us we could learn about love. Our life would have meaning.
The LAZER LIGHT moves in big, slow circles as THE FLY hums a sweet tune.
THE FLY: We yearned to be part of a great romance.
GOD VOICE: Wishing again. He never learns.
THE FLY: They arrived on a Thursday afternoon. They took a table that was isolated. We dropped in on their table, routinely, not expecting much.
TIM: I love you, Alice.
ALICE: Oh, Tim, I love you.
The LAZER LIGHT explodes across the stage and does a mad dance before going back to the table.
THE FLY: This was it! This was it!
TIM: Will it work?
ALICE: Oh, Tim, I just know it will.
THE FLY: We fought to restrain ourselves.
TIM: Alice, I want you to know...
The LAZER LIGHT dashes away and back.
THE FLY: We couldn't help it.
TIM: Let's hurry home.
ALICE: Do you have that on your mind again.
The LAZER LIGHT dashes all over.
NIGHT the blue light and the LAZER LIGHT are on the smoke detector.
THE FLY: They did return. It was intense. A delight. Over the next weeks we found that they were buying a house.
GOD VOICE: Maybe you could drop in.
THE FLY: They were having a baby. We were finally part of something. I had found love. Life was perfect. Perfect.
GOD VOICE: (laughs) Then along came Big Bo.
THE FLY: I'm so ashamed.
GOD VOICE: It is what it is.
THE FLY: Nick was alone in the coffee shop, our universe. Little Nick was gone, working in computers. He, excuse the expression, did a lot of debugging. We were flitting around.
GOD VOICE: Above it all.
THE FLY: It was a bright sunny afternoon. The door swung open and he stood there in his leather outfit, the light reflecting off the chains looped on his shoulders and belt.
BIG BO ENTERS
BIG BO: Have no fear, Big Bo is here.
THE FLY: He was irresistible. We flew to him, fighting for position with others of our kind.
BIG BO walks to the counter and sits. A number of LAZER LIGHTS follow BIG BO wherever he goes and continue to swarm around him.
NICK: What's this big boob stuff?
BIG BO: Big Bo, just call me Big Bo. What's the special, Cookie?
NICK: You talkin' to me?
BIG BO: (laughs) That's pretty good, Cookie. (a take off ) You talking to me? You talking to me? You talking to me? (mad laugh)
BIG BO: Yeah, Cookie, what's cooking?
NICK: The names Nick. You want something to go, I hope.
BIG BO: To stay, Nicky, to stay.
NICK: The names Nick. Whatya want?
BIG BO: Okay, Nicky baby, gimme four hot dogs with mayo and catsup.
THE FLY: We could see that he was a true gourmet.
NICK: The names Nick. Put on your own garbage.
BIG BO: Okay, Nicky, an a chocolate malt.
NICK: To go maybe?
BIG BO: To stay, Nicky baby, to stay.
THE FLY: Big Bo always dined alone.
GOD VOICE: Except of course for you and your bunch.
THE FLY: We could only give in, blinded by the miasma that surrounded him. Like Josie, he attracted us.
GOD VOICE: Love is blind. Even with those eyes.
THE FLY: Nick seemed angry when Big Bo was here. He never treated him kindly. And poor Bo had allergies.
WAITRESS: Phew, what's with him?
NICK: The knucklehead's allergic to water.
WAITRESS: Phew! Turn on the fan.
It is NIGHT. The lights go down, the blue light comes up on the smoke detector.
THE FLY: We had our teachers who inspired us. Josie and Big Bo. We had become...
GOD VOICE: A speck on the fabric of the world.
THE FLY: We had changed. We had become real people.
It is day. NICK stands at the window looking out.
THE FLY: We learned more about the newlyweds. Their new house was only a block from here. Everything was perfect, except for Nick, he never changed.
NICK: A bubble head.
WAITRESS: Who's that, Nick? Who's a bubblehead?
NICK: Him. And her too. A pair of bubbleheads.
WAITRESS: (looking out window) Oh, them, the newlyweds. Aw, no, Nick, they're in love.
NICK: Love, huh!. Saps! Lookit that, walking in the rain. Saps.
WAITRESS: Aw, Nick, you're jealous.
NICK: I'd like to see those two in a year. Coupleokids, a mortgage. (laughs) Won't be splish splashing through life then.
WAITRESS: You're a natural born crud, Nick.
NICK: Here's that tuna an cheese on rye toast?
NIGHT. The Blue light is on the smoke detector.
THE FLY: Nick, Josie, the newlyweds and Big Bo, we all were what we were. We had control of our life.
GOD VOICE: Remember how you got here?
THE FLY: Control, ha! It happened on a Saturday afternoon. The lovers dropped in. Then Josie. We couldn't have been happier.
GOD VOICE: Fate, don't forget fate.
THE FLY: Then along came Big Bo.
BIG BO: Hiya Nicky, howsitgoing?
NICK: Was good till you got here.
THE FLY: In our universe as in yours the signs should have foretold disaster.
BIG BO: That coffee fresh, Nicky?
NICK: No it ain't. Why don't you go down the street and try their coffee.
BIG BO: Naw, Nicky I told you I'm gonna keep trying your coffee till you get it right. I'll let you know. I'll let you know. I only want to help you out, Nicky.
NICK: Shove it.
BIG BO: How bout a bacon an onion sandwich on white toast.
NICK: How about it?
BIG BO: Make one up for me willya, Nicky. An a cuppa that coffee.
NICK: Anything else, stinkbomb?
BIG BO: Yeah, save me one of those apple leftovers for my dessert.
THE FLY: Nick made his special gesture with his finger.
BIG BO: Yeah, you too, Nicky. Hey, I'm gonna use the john. I'll be right back.
BIG BO walks to the rest room. He fools with the light before going in.
NICKY: Thanks for the warning. Now I can have it fumigated.
THE FLY: When Nick said things like that it gave us a shudder.
TIM: Hon, could you take care of this? (passing the check) I've got fried chicken all over my hands. I'll go and wash up.
ALICE: Okay, Timmy.
THE FLY: If only we could have warned Tim.
ALICE gathers her things and goes to the cash register.
THE FLY: Tim tried the light. And tried the door handle. The lock must have jammed.
TIM'S actions follow the description.
From inside the rest room BIG BO can be heard screaming.
BIG BO: Turn on the light. Turnonthelight.
TIM: (turning the switch on and off) Is it on now?
BIG BO: Turnonthelight.
BIG BO: Yeah. Yeah. (pounding on the door) Open the door. Open the door.
TIM tries the door.
TIM: It's jammed.
NICK comes over to the rest room door. TIM Joins ALICE at the register, they pay the WAITRESS and EXIT.
NICK: Hey you! Quit that pounding.
BIG BO: Open the door. Let me outta here.
NICK: Hey, he's scared.
Laughing NICK turns the light off.
BIG BO: PLEASE! Turn on the light.
Nick flips the light on and off.
NICK: (Laughing) Hey Big Boob, what's wrong? Huh? Something wrong in there?
Big Bo yells and breaks down the door.
BIG BO: I'll get you for this. I'll get you.
JOSIE has moved and has a broom which she uses as a baseball bat, swinging wildly.
JOSIE: You ruffian.
BIG BO: I'll get you.
NICK: You and who else.
JOSIE swings and hits Bo a glanceing blow. The WAITRESS has a chair upraised. Bo looks back and forth, realizes he is outnumbered and starts to edge his way out.
BIG BO: Hey lady, watch it with that there broom..
NICK: (laughs) She's no lady.
BIG BO: You're all in big trouble.
NICK: (has taken up a kitchen knife) Big Boob, Big boob.
BIG BO: I'll be back.
JOSIE swings at Bo as Bo runs out. She misses and smashes the smoke detector knocking it off the wall.
THE FLY: (as the lights go to black) NO! NO!
NIGHT It is quite. The LAZER LIGHT is near the exit. It moves in small slow movements.
As THE FLY speaks the lights slowly come up on the kitchen (located opposite the LAZER LIGHT) of the newlyweds home. There is sunlight coming through the window. Lace curtains flutter in the breeze. TIM and ALICE, dressed in bathrobe or pajamas, sit at the table. They freeze in position.
THE FLY: That was yesterday. We're waiting for Nick to open up. The nesting place is gone. There is no place for us. We must leave here. How could we have know? Bo, flawed by fear, who could have known. And Josie, she wasn't sweet at all. Those people are MONSTERS!
GOD VOICE: Poor baby.
The lights come up to full on the newlyweds.
THE FLY: If we start to regress we might not have enough sense to leave tomorrow. We must find Tim and Alice. We want to spend the time we have left with them.
TIM and ALICE start to move. They are having a Sunday morning breakfast. Seated reading the paper and sipping coffee.
THE FLY: They might have a smoke detector. Everything could be just like it's always been. We could be part of their lives. That's all we want.
GOD VOICE: I'm sure you will find them. Oh, your teacher Josie. She married a prison guard. He works the night shift, she works days. In twenty eight years they expect to retire to Colorado. Nick sold the shop and is a waiter in a Miami Beach hotel. He spends all his spare time at the dog track. Big Bo went to Staten Island to rescue a girlfriend who had joined a religious cult. He crossed the Gothels Bridge and was never seen again.
The LAZER LIGHT has joined TIM and ALICE in the kitchen. They are slow and lazy each absorbed in their section of the paper.
TIM: The sport section?
ALICE has become aware of the LAZER LIGHT. Alice follows it with her eyes.
ALICE: (picks up a section of the paper) Over here.
ALICE focusing on the LAZER LIGHT slams the light with a tremendous BANG! The lights go black.
TIM: (in the dark) Gee, hon, I haven't read that yet.