Best One-Act Play [finalist] @ Kennedy Center ACTF
a play in one act, and a short film
A basement apartment. Milo is playing with a single playing card, making it appear and disappear in his hand and so forth. He is full of energy but board, waiting for something to happen. Sam enters, slamming the door in a hurry. Milo jumps up excited to talk to Sam, but Sam is focused on other things.
Sam: Oh. Hey.
Milo: Another one?
Sam: Yeah. Just talked to Sean.
Sam: Next week.
Sam: Yeah. And all new stuff. I want it to be all new stuff.
Hey, come here. Tell me about it.
Sam: Yes. Busy. Go… do whatever it is you do.
(Sits down. Flips the card. Stands up.)
This guy came by.
He was selling something.
(no response from SAM)
He gave a demonstration. It worked.
(still no response)
So there was this knock on the door and I answered it and it was this guy. I was like, “What?” and he said, “I want to sell you something.” I said, “Ok” like what was he talking about? And he just came right in. Like that. Right in here. No hesitation. Nothing. And I thought, you know, what the hell. So I listened to his thing and watched his demonstration. And well… It worked.
Sam: Oh yeah? What was it?
Milo: What was what?
Sam: What was he selling?
Milo: What does it matter? Just this Thing, You know. Make our lives easier. Take away the pain. Take out the stains. Instant something-or-other. The point is, he wanted to sell it to me and it worked. No hesitation.
Sam: You buy it?
Milo: What? Oh. No. But it was like this moment. Like just me and him and his thing and whatever. Like that.
Sam: A moment, huh? And you can’t remember what it was about?
Milo: It wasn’t “about” anything. He just wanted me to listen and I just wanted him to talk. And we each got what we wanted. And then it was over. He left. I didn’t buy it. Like that. A spiritual moment.
Sam: Oh. What about work?
Milo: It’s Wednesday. I don’t work Wednesday.
(MILO returns to the couch)
Sam: No moment.
Milo: Well, yeah, but…
Sam: Meetings with Sean, meetings with people. I work, remember? Like now: I’ve got to get this stuff done. Please?
Milo: Well, how’d it go? With Sean and all. You got a show.
Sam: All right. Here’s my day. I met with Sean who said he couldn’t get me a show. Everyone is putting stuff out right now, it’s spring, he said. Can’t do it. And besides, I don’t have a name yet, nobody wants to risk it when they can get someone they know. So there I was, until I begged him and swore it would all be new material, etc. He finally gave me this slot next week with another startup, some potter from out of town, and I get like half the studio. Shitty gig, but it’s something. So then I’m out buying canvas and stuff and asking for time off from work at the museum when I get this call from Sean saying this other guy has pulled out due to some fire or something. So they’re gonna cancel the whole show, use that week to renovate, and screw me. That’s it. The end. So I go back over to talk to Sean again, maybe I can get some other show later, argue with him for a couple hours, and end up keeping my half of the studio next week. So yeah, I got a show. Now I have to get stuff ready for it.
Milo: Great. Did you do anything else? Like, I mean, how was your day? Good day?
Sam: I got done what had to get done.
Sam: And, well, and that’s a good day.
Milo: Good…. You need a break? C’mon, take a break.
Milo: Just for a bit.
Sam: Milo I –
Milo: I’ve been waiting all day.
Sam: Well if you…
(MILO moves over to make room on the couch)
(SAM sits beside him)
Just for a bit. But then…
Milo: Yeah. Here. Have a drink.
Milo: That’s why I love you.
Sam: For kissing?
Milo: And the whole slinky thing.
Sam: That’s why you… I wasn’t even… And you never -
Sam: I wasn’t playing with the slinky. That was –
Milo: Yeah. Your cousin.
Milo: Well. Comes and goes. Love you anyway.
Sam: She was my niece and I was trying to stop her.
Milo: I never could figure that out.
Sam: I was supposed to watch her. Keep her out of trouble.
Milo: Yeah, but -
Sam: Playing with a slinky on the escalators at the mall is not staying out of trouble.
Sam: Security didn’t think so. They were -
Milo: Anyway. I thought it was pretty cool, you and your niece playing with a slinky at the mall.
Sam: I wasn’t…
Milo: Well, by association. Anyway, I still love you.
Sam: That’s your own problem.
Milo: Now you just paint.
Sam: What do you mean ‘just’? I love it. It’s my job.
Milo: Speaking of your job.
Milo: You’re never around.
Sam: I’m always around.
Sam: Yeah, sure.
Sam: What about you?
(MILO begins to roll his own cigarette)
Milo: I’ll roll my own.
(SAM watches him for a minute. sarcastic.)
Sam: What dedication.
Milo: They taste better.
Sam: Since when?
Milo: I just like rolling them. I always roll them.
Sam: You always roll them? I’ve never seen you roll them.
Milo: Well. Always, the last couple days.
Milo: The last couple of days.
Sam: When I’m out?
Milo: Sure. Yeah.
Milo: Or when you’re here. Painting. You don’t pay attention.
Sam: I guess not.
Milo: Where are you going?
Sam: Back to work.
Sam: We talked. Now I’ve gotta work.
Milo: But we just…
Sam: And now I have to work.
Milo: We haven’t even lit up. Where’s your…?
Sam: Oh. Yeah. Here.
(SAM tosses MILO a lighter. He doesn’t use it, but holds it out for SAM to use.)
What about you?
Milo: What about me?
Sam: You haven’t lit up yet.
Milo: I don’t feel like it.
Sam: You rolled one.
Sam: Never mind.
So what’s the point of rolling if you aren’t going to smoke it?
Milo: I don’t want to smoke it. Sometimes. Not now.
Sam: So why’d you roll one?
Milo: I like to.
I wanted to. I like it. I like chewing it. Like a cigar or something, a toothpick. It’s comforting. Having something in your mouth. Like a piece of gum or something – your paint brush, my cigarette - just add nicotine. A regular… tobacco lollypop. You can still taste it.
Milo: It makes me feel like - like I should be sitting in a rocking chair smoking up with my grandma who doesn’t smoke. And it should be raining outside but it doesn’t matter because I’m inside with grandma. “And anyway,” Says grandma, “The flowers need it.” They just eat it up.
Sam: You? Your grandma? What?
Milo: And I just eat it up too. Everything. I mean, the rain and the fact that I’m sitting there smoking up with my grandma. Only we’re not smoking cause she doesn’t smoke.
Sam: Have you?
Milo: With grandma?
Milo: No. But I would.
Sam: Your grandma?
Milo: She used to. According to dad. Mom never understood it.
Sam: Your grandma?
Milo: I always imagined her with a cigar.
Sam: Wait. Did she smoke or didn’t she?
Milo: She just didn’t light up. A good idea, I think. Safer too.
Sam: You’re crazy.
(Sam goes back to work. Long pause.)
Sam: Oh. Thanks.
Why did you ask for it in the first place?
Milo: I used it.
Sam: No you didn’t.
Milo: I –
Sam: You asked for my lighter…
Milo: I gave you a light.
Sam: Why do I put up with you?
Milo: Maybe you’re in it for the sex.
Milo: Wait. Sit down. We’re still smoking.
Sam: I’m painting.
Milo: Back to that -
Sam: It’s what I do. I work, you… sit. It’s what I do.
Milo: I work.
I was there all afternoon yesterday. Making money. Is that what you want?
Sam: It’s not money, Milo.
Sam: Well. You work, but -
Milo: I give people twinkies and they give me money.
Sam: But you don’t care.
Milo: Care? Who would care? It’s a Quickie-Mart.
Sam: It’s not a life.
Milo: It’s a life. I like it. I get to watch people in their natural habitat, doing the things that they do. I tell them to have a nice day and maybe they just will. Just like that. I make good money, and still have plenty of time to sit around and smoke a cigarette and listen to the man with the vacuum cleaner tell me his thing and -
Milo: Cleaner. The guy. I told you about him.
Sam: And he was selling vacuum cleaners?
Milo: Um, Yeah.
Sam: what have you been smoking?
Milo: I haven’t.
What do you mean?
Sam: Vacuum cleaners. Everyone sells vacuum cleaners. You wouldn’t tell me.
Milo: It wasn’t important. It was a moment.
Sam: Right. The moment. You mentioned that. There was this guy and you had a spiritual moment together. Very Zen of you.
Sam: It’s just that… No. Ok, Look.
Sam: I paint.
Milo: I noticed.
Milo: I noticed. You paint. You paint all the time. It’s what you do. It’s your thing. I noticed.
Sam: I paint because…! Milo. I paint. It’s part of me. You… What do you do? Nothing. You don’t do anything but sit there and smoke, and… And now you don’t even do that.
Milo: What? I –
Sam: And your work at that gas station; I never told you to take a meaningless slave job pumping gas to support me. I want you to go somewhere. Do something you like!
Milo (excited): Exactly. You do understand. Sam (skeptical): Understand what?
Milo: Why I quit.
Sam: quit what?
Milo: So I can go somewhere, do something I like.
Sam: What? You can’t just –
Milo: So I quit. I already found another job!
Milo: Found another job. I told you about that guy. He got me thinking.
Milo: It wouldn’t have to be vacuums.
Sam: The salesman? The door to door –
Milo: I could sell anything. Anything you want. It wouldn’t matter.
Sam: You can’t just… Milo.
Milo: And it would give my life some more meaning.
Sam: Meaning? It would give your life meaning? Milo. You would be selling vacuum cleaners.
Milo: Not necessarily. I could sell table lamps or something. Fuller brushes or whatever.
Sam: I don’t care what you would be selling. I don’t… Meaning? Milo, salesmen are the opposite of meaning. It’s in the dictionary. Arthur Miller wrote an entire play about it.
Milo: We could move to New York.
Sam: Are you listening to me?
Milo: Would it help?
Sam: I don’t understand you!
Sam: No what?
Milo: No. No, you don’t. No, You don’t understand me. How could you? You spend all your time behind your canvas. You can’t see me from there. I live here, but all I have in this place is my couch and my tobacco, and the back of your easel.
Milo: I want to fulfill some sort of need for people. I want to sell them something, or just smile at them. Maybe they’ll love me, or maybe they’ll hate me. I’ll be their punching bag. Dr. Catharsis. We could move to New York.
Sam: What does New York have to do with it? What does New York have to do with anything?
Milo: People. New York has people. He said so.
Sam: He said so? He said new york had people? Did he say selling vacuums had meaning? Did he say you should just leave me for –
Milo: I’m not leaving you. No one is leaving anyone.
Sam: You can’t –- All I ever wanted was to live with you and have my own space to paint.
Milo: What are you talking about?
Milo: What the fuck are you talking about?
Milo: No what? You’re not making any sense.
Sam: I can’t move to New York. Go on your own.
Milo: I’m not going to -–
Sam: Go on your own. If you want to go nowhere in New York you can do it alone. You don’t need my help.
Milo: Listen to me!
Sam: I am listening! You’re leaving me. Again. And again –-
Milo: There is no again. There is no leaving. No one is leaving anyone.
Sam: And again without warning. You’re impossible.
Milo: What do you – Wait. No. Damn it Sam, you can’t just hide behind your canvas. I’m talking to you.
Sam: You’re not talking to me.
Sam: You’re not talking to me. You never do.
Milo: Never like since you walked in the door.
Sam: you just announce things. and now you’re leaving again.
Milo: I never left you. Why did I ever come back?
Sam: Good question.
Milo: No one left anyone.
(SAM exits into the bedroom)
Sam (off stage): Someone ended up in southern California without food or money, let alone a reason to be there.
Milo: Let alone a reason to be anywhere.
Sam (off): God forbid you have a reason to be anywhere.
Milo: That’s not what I meant.
Sam (off): And what about me?
Milo: You know what I meant.
Sam (off): You had to “find yourself,” whatever that is. Something you read in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Well, that was a great success wasn’t it?
Milo: You know I had to go. You know I have to now. Just because you have your highbrow “what the hell we could starve but at least I’m a fucking artist.”
(SAM reappears in the doorway)
Sam: Is that what this is about?
Milo: No. This is about me. Remember me?
Sam: Well then. I guess I don’t have to worry about it.
(SAM hands MILO a slinky)
Feel free to leave.
Milo: You don’t – What is that? You still…? Why did I ever…?
Sam: Good question.
Sam: why did you ever?
Milo: You can’t… No. You can’t just expect –
Sam: I don’t expect anything. Now are you going or aren’t you?
Milo: You have no idea.
(MILO exits into bedroom to get a bag of his clothes. SAM sits on the couch and plays with the slinky, then tangles it up and steps on it as MILO reenters.)
Milo: You still had that?
Sam: just go.
(MILO exits. SAM goes to paint, reconsiders and lies on the couch. The lights dim slowly till the stage is dark. (pause) After a time the door opens and MILO turns the lights on. SAM wakes up.)
Milo: Back. Shhhh.
Sam: What the?
Milo: 10:00. The last train left at eight.
Sam: And you think you can just…?
Milo: Will you be quiet?
Sam: I can’t talk to you any more. Why did you –
(MILO hands SAM a new slinky)
Sam: What the? You? Where did you? What for?
Milo: Yes. Wal-Mart. 24 hours. For you.
Milo: You kept that, right?
Sam: I, well, yes.
Milo: I got you a new one.
Sam: I’m never going to understand you.
Milo: There was this couple at the store today.
Sam: Like I said.
Milo: They kept arguing over what kind of butter to buy.
Sam: What does this…?
Milo: They were arguing about butter.
Sam: I can’t go to New York Milo. Not yet. Not now.
Milo: The one was ten cents cheaper, the other had nicer packaging. They couldn’t decide which to buy.
Sam: What are you talking about?
Milo: I’m going to bed. Do you want to come?
Sam: I – I can’t. I have to paint.
(Pause. MILO moves towards the bedroom.)
I’ll be there soon.
Milo: I know.
(He kisses SAM)
(MILO exits to the bedroom, SAM paints)