No Extension (translated from the French work, "Huis Pujols")


SCENE: A bare room, unfurnished save for a hard, faded-looking couch and a shabby, hardbacked chair at stage left. At stage right, in the rear, a long, shabby, bare hallway runs to the rear of the stage, where a solid, windowless brown door faces the audience. At stage right near the audience, a small table sits against the right wall. On the table sits an old dot-matrix printer, taking up almost the whole table surface. Beneath the table sits an enormous box. A continuous trail of paper - of the sort seen in printers ca. 1985, with each page connected to the next at a perforation, and spooling on strips at either edge riddled with holes - rises into the printer from the box.

 

There are no other doors and no windows.

 

JENNY enters with a bit of a jerk, as if shoved from behind, but not shoved hard. The door closes quickly behind her. She is in her mid-30's and sensibly dressed, as if she had just come from the office, with short dark hair. She glances behind her with a grimace of annoyance.

 

Jenny: (to the closed door) Hmmph!

 

JENNY begins to walk around the small room, as if exploring. She looks the walls up and down, examines the chair and sofa with evident distaste, and then spots the printer. She examines it with curiosity for a few moments, then turns away to sit on the couch. She pulls her cell phone from her purse, stabs at a few keys with impatience, and then throws it down by her side.

 

Jenny: Goddamn dropped signals. $95 a month with the data plan and I can't get a signal.

 

JENNY fidgets, idly looking around with obvious annoyance. Just as the silence becomes uncomfortable, the door opens suddenly.

 

ROBERT enters from the door upstage, a hand from an unseen person pushing his shoulder. Robert stumbles into the room, almost falls. He stands up straight and glares back toward the door.

 

Robert: Asshole!

 

ROBERT is in his mid-twenties, wearing clunky glasses and fraying jeans. He brushes himself off, then surveys the room, startling when he sees Jenny, then blushing with embarrassment. JENNY is both surprised to see ROBERT and a little embarrassed to have seen his entrance. She quickly looks away.

After a moment:

 

Robert: (awkwardly, tentatively) Hi.

 

Jenny: Hello.

 

Robert: Are you supposed to wait here too?

 

Jenny: Um, I . . . I guess.

 

Robert: Okay. Me too.

 

Robert: Who are you waiting for?

 

Jenny: I'm not really sure. Who are you here for?

 

Robert: I don't know . . . . I mean I didn't . . . Do you remember how you got here?

 

Jenny: I was . . . . Someone shoved me.

 

Robert: I mean before that. I was riding my bike back to my mom's house and a bus stopped in front of me suddenly. That's all I remember.

 

Jenny: I don't remember anything.

 

Robert: Still, I . . . .

 

Jenny: No.

 

The printer whirrs. A sheet of paper spools off. Jenny retrieves the paper.

 

Jenny: (reading) "The Albert Pujols talks are going nowhere. The club shows interest only in offers of six years. The Pujols camp has demanded an "A-Rod-plus" deal." It's a Jon Heyman tweet.

 

Robert: Why are we getting these tweets here? Who's printing them out? And why would you only offer Albert six years?

 

Jenny: Yes, I would have thought eight years would be about right.

 

Robert: Oh, so you're a Cardinals fan?

 

Jenny: Yes.

 

Robert: Are you from St. Louis?

 

Jenny: No, Des Moines.

 

Robert: Oh. I live in Creve Coeur. With my m.... I live in Creve Coeur. It's a suburb of St. Louis.

 

Jenny: Oh, I . . . .

 

JENNY is interrupted by the printer as it whirrs again, and another page comes off. ROBERT tears the sheet off.

 

Robert: (reads) "Sources inside major league baseball say that Pujols and the Cardinals are 'miles apart' as the deadline comes closer.'" This one is a tweet from Buster Olney.

 

Jenny: Who are these sources? Is this actually authentic?

 

Robert: I feel the same way. Is this just all an elaborate game where the two parties feed innuendo to chosen news outlets to boost their negotiating positions? Or just journalists exaggerating the importance of scraps of information to gain prestige in the sports world?

 

Jenny: And if I had an enormous secret and I could tell one person in the world, why would I tell Buster Olney?

 

ROBERT re-reads the tweet to himself, screwing up his face with the effort to make sense of it. As he does, he absent-mindedly pulls the feeder strips off the edges of the paper.

 

JENNY checks her phone again, punching buttons with increasing frustration, then throws it down again.

 

Robert: No service?

 

Jenny: No, it's so annoying. I really need to check in at work. Don't you think someone would be along by now?

 

Robert: Well, we really don't know what we're doing here. Or whether someone will come help us.

 

Jenny: Yeah. But we have to be here for a reason. Not just to read tweets all day.

 

JENNY goes to the door, tries the handle, then shakes it.

 

Jenny: It's locked! (pounding on the door) Hey! Hey! Let us out!

 

Robert: It's okay, I'm sure someone will be along. The door's probably just locked for security or something.

 

Jenny: Well, geez, what if there was a fire? That can't be up to code.

 

The printer whirrs. ROBERT pulls the new sheet off and reads.

 

Robert: "Gary from Cahokia - hey chatmeister, love riding the wave, what's up with Pujols? I thought he would have taken that hometown discount by now. Joe Strauss: Hey, numbnuts, where do you get off asking such a dumb question? The greatest baseball player in history will not sign for a bag of peanuts. He will demand one of John Mozeliak's kidneys and the right to pick which one. He will demand naming rights to Busch Stadium. He will demand his own executive washroom where BDJ himself will offer him hundred dollar bills to use as toilet paper. Sources in the club tell me the two sides haven't spoken to each other in a month and that Pujols is hiking in Nepal outside cell phone range. Next time, bring your A game to the chat and try not to drool on yourself while the attendants clean you up." God, that sounds awful. It doesn't sound like negotiations are going anywhere.

 

Jenny: Ugh, I feel sick to my stomach.

 

Robert: Nausea. The most intense feeling a human being can have.

 

Jenny: What?

 

Robert: Never mind.

 

Jenny: I really thought he'd take the discount. I thought he would want to be a Cardinal for life.

 

Robert: The only people who want to be Cardinals for life are busy trying to figure out which Archdiocese they can get into. Baseball players are about money. Anybody who knows anything wants to trade Albert right now, so we don't have to pay him when he's 40.

 

Jenny: And what would we trade him for?

 

Robert: I don't know. Pitching prospects or something.

 

Jenny: What? Some kid in A ball is a good substitute for Albert?

 

Jenny: David who?

Robert: God!

Jenny: Well, you don't have to be so condescending.

Robert: (runs to the door) Hey! Hey! (hammers on door with fist) Open the door! Open up! Come on! (backs up, charges forward, slams his shoulder into the door) Ow! Ow! (collapses in pain)

Jenny: (watches him for a minute) Well, that was stupid.

Robert: (through gritted teeth) Shut . . . Up!

Jenny: I don't think you know half as much as you think you do.

ROBERT moans in pain, remains on the floor.

JENNY sits on the couch, thinking.

Jenny: You don't remember how you got here, do you?

Robert: (gingerly lifts himself onto his elbows, faces Jenny) I told you, I was riding my bike. I must have fallen. Maybe I hit my head so I don't remember. Maybe this is a hospital.

Maybe they'll be here to fix me up in a minute.

Jenny: But you don't have any bruises. (ROBERT moans) Well, you didn't when you came in.

Robert: (slowly raising himself so he's sitting on the floor) So?

Jenny: I think you're dead.

Robert: What?

Jenny: You're dead. I guess I must be too. This . . . Well, all the waiting means this must be purgatory or something. Limbo. Right?

Robert: I'm dead?

Jenny: Yes. Yes, I think that's it.

Robert: Huh. Well, what's with all the baseball updates?

Jenny: I guess since we're fans, they want to keep us informed or something. Something to pass the time.

Robert: How many prayers do I have to say to upgrade that ancient printer to a flat screen tuned to SportsCenter?

Jenny: I was kind of hoping for a bathroom instead. Though I don't know - do we need . . . ? Never mind that. I guess we're going to be stuck in here for a while?

Robert: Yes.

The printer whirrs. JENNY grabs the new update.

Jenny: It's a Jeff Gordon article. He says the Royals are prime candidates for getting Albert if we don't sign him.

Robert: That . . . I don't even know what to say about that. How could anyone ever say . . . ?

Jenny: I don't think this is purgatory.

Robert: This . . . This is hell.

Jenny: Yes.

ROBERT walks over to the printer and unplugs it.

Robert: That ought to do it.

The printer whirrs and another piece of paper comes out. Both look at the paper for a minute. JENNY steps forward, and tears the paper off as it emerges from the box.

Jenny: Okay, let's see if that fixes it.

The printer whirrs again, spitting out a long string of papers, more than a dozen sheets. JENNY picks them up.

Jenny: What is this? MLBtraderumors.com? Posts from the Post-Dispatch forums? Articles from ESPN.com? All of them negative!

Robert: Who would do this to another person?

Jenny: There is no escape.

Robert: This is it. Hell is other morans.*

* Hat-tip to yadi2second.

 

 

 

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