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What are you waiting for, p.1
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       What Are You Waiting For?, p.1

           Pete Stephenson
 
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What Are You Waiting For?
What Are You Waiting For?

  Pete Stephenson

  Copyright 2006, 2012 Pete Stephenson

  Thank you for downloading this free ebook of plays.

  If you produce this play, and that production makes a profit, please consider making a small donation to either of the following charities:

  Plan UK

  Cavell Nurses' Trust

  Thank you.

  This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

  *****

  What Are You Waiting For?

  Cast Of Characters

  Jen

  Late 30s. Waitress. Single mum.

  Phil

  Mid 40s. Café customer.

  Scene

  A town-centre café.

  Time

  Present day.

  Setting

  Eve's Café. Decorated in orange and black. A table, two chairs, menu, condiments, cutlery and a faux rose in a small vase.

  At Rise

  JEN enters, wearing overalls and name-badge, carrying cleaning materials in a plastic trug.

  (Jen squirts cleaning fluid onto the table, begins cleaning it. The table is quite mucky, as:)

  JEN

  (re: two customers who have just left)

  What a pair of animals. It should be so easy: big plates, big mouths, combine the qualities of both..? But they still manage to get food all over the place.

  (still cleaning)

  How come this sauce solidifies so quickly? When they spill it it must be in liquid form - I know, 'cause I'm always refilling them, but by the time they leave it's as permanent as a cave painting.

  (beat)

  Grunt, grunt. Shove the food in. Belch, belch. Spill the food?

  (mocking voice)

  "It don't matter."

  (normal voice)

  Miss the target with the condiments?

  (mocking voice)

  "It don't matter."

  (sighs)

  There's no hope, is there. None at all. That's probably why they changed the name of this place from "Pandora's."

  (beat)

  It could still be be trapped somewhere. But then again...

  (­cleaning is complete, Jen sniffs table top, wipes brow, packs up her trug)

  JEN (CONT'D)

  (sarcastically)

  Do come back to Eve's again.

  (Jen exits. PHIL enters smiling, sits at table, picks up menu, not really concentrating on it. Several seconds Jen returns with notepad and pen. Jen stands by the table, Phil looks up)

  PHIL

  Hello...

  (looks at Jen's name-badge)

  Jen.

  JEN

  You read my name-badge.

  PHIL

  I did.

  JEN

  Yet you look at me as if you know me/

  PHIL

  I'm sorry I gave that impression.

  JEN

  That smile.

  PHIL

  I save it for special occasions/

  JEN

  Like this café?/

  PHIL

  Or special people.

  JEN

  You don't know me.

  PHIL

  (pause)

  Although I have been in before, I'll admit that I didn't memorise all of your names, for which I apologise again.

  JEN

  It's too soon/

  PHIL

  To apologise?

  JEN

  To smile.

  PHIL

  Right. They don't do that on your shift.

  (offers hand to JEN, who does not respond)

  My name's Phil.

  JEN

  Great.

  (Jen gets notepad out)

  PHIL

  That's P. H. I. L

  (Jen has no intention of writing Phil's name down, and shows it)

  PHIL

  You didn't say good morning. When you approached me.

  JEN

  Say "good morning" as I approached you? You wanted a Doppler effect with your greeting?

  PHIL

  Any greeting would have been nice.

  JEN

  I normally wait until I've reached the table.

  (beat)

  I don't know what came over me. I apologise.

  PHIL

  Fine.

  JEN

  Make the most of it. Phil.

  PHIL

  OK.

  JEN

  If you want, I can call the manager.

  PHIL

  That won't be necessary. We're even. One apology each.

  JEN

  (like British 1940s film star)

  I could say "good morning" now, but we both know how utterly pointless that would be.

  (beat, normal voice)

  There is a suggestion box.

  PHIL

  Huh?

  JEN

  Can't you say the word "pardon"?

  PHIL

  Not sure. I'll give it a go next time you mumble something.

  JEN

  I don't mumble.

  PHIL

  Pardon?

  JEN

  Your humour knows no mercy.

  PHIL

  Thanks.

  JEN

  There is a suggestion-slash-complaints box. Over there by the till.

  PHIL

  How nice.

  (looks across the room)

  The box with the sea shells stuck on it.

  JEN

  Yes. That wasn't my idea.

  PHIL

  But it's so "you."

  JEN

  How would you know?

  PHIL

  Male intuition.

  JEN

  That's a contradiction in terms.

  PHIL

  You did have a hand in the decoration, though.

  JEN

  I was asked to glue some shells, yes/

  PHIL

  Knew it.

  JEN

  Anyway - if you wanted to - you could write something down and pop it in there. The suggestion box.

  PHIL

  Thanks for the advice.

  JEN

  Only I have to tell you, that if we ignore the pieces of paper that ask us what colour knickers we're wearing - and we do/

  PHIL

  Wear knickers?

  JEN

  Ignore the pieces of paper.

  (beat)

  Then, typically, all we have left are barely legible scraps saying "more chips love."

  PHIL

  "Love"? They say the word "love?"

  JEN

  Some of them.

  (mocking / like porn tart)

  They're the best.

  (quickly back to normal voice)

  Or "sauce ran out."

  PHIL

  No "love."

  JEN

  Not as a rule.

  PHIL

  Oh dear.

  JEN

  It never happens. It's an urban myth.

  PHIL

  What is? Love?

  JEN

  The sauce running out.

  PHIL

  I'm beginning to get a flavour of things in here now.

  JEN

  I'll put the fan on in a minute, then.

  (beat)

  So - do you know what you want?

  PHIL

  Do any of us?

  JEN

  (sighs)

  If you want to be left alone with your philosophy for a bit, then fine - I'll come back when you're both ready to order.

  (b
eat)

  The essence of my belief is that "everyone needs to eat."

  PHIL

  That is profound.

  JEN

  (points)

  And that is a menu.

  PHIL

  In a wipe-clean portfolio.

  JEN

  It's safer that way.

  PHIL

  Is everything on the menu?

  JEN

  "Is everything on the menu" what?

  PHIL

  Please?

  JEN

  No. Do you mean - for example - is everything on the menu fresh? Yes. Edible? Yes.

  PHIL

  I'll clarify/

  JEN

  Good.

  PHIL

  Is everything that's on here available.

  (Jen has quick look at the menu)

  JEN

  Yes. So do you know what you want?

  PHIL

  I'm not sure.

  JEN

  (points)

  There are pictures there to help you.

  PHIL

  Actually, I find the descriptions more to my liking. Quite inventive, some of them.

  (reading from menu)

  The "uneasy burger."

  JEN

  Where?

  (Jen takes menu, reads, wipes off some muck, hands it back to Phil)

  PHIL

  Ah. "Ungreasy burger."

  (pointing to menu)

  There was a bit of /

  JEN

  Yes, I know. The irony.

  PHIL

  "Ungreasy," though. Not very good grammar, is it.

  JEN

  We did carry out a survey of one hundred truckers, to ensure that the wording of our menu is both authentic and straight-forward.

  PHIL

  (pause)

  Really?

  JEN

  No.

  (beat)

  Decided yet?

  PHIL

  I think there's too much food on the menu for me. Literally.

  JEN

  I'll give it another wipe.

  (Jen goes to take menu, Phil withholds it)

  JEN (CONT'D)

  Shall I come back?

  PHIL

  Would you?

  JEN

  Of course. This is one of my tables.

  PHIL

  Your table? I can't see any shells on it.

  JEN

  I'll tell you how it is /

  PHIL

  Please do. /

  JEN

  You order, you eat, you pay, you leave.

  PHIL

  Sounds complicated.

  JEN

  (like a recorded-message)

  I'm sorry, but we don't have any photographs to help you with that one.

  (normal voice)

  Let your gut be your guide.

  PHIL

  I'm sure I'll get the hang of it.

  (looking at menu)

  Now, let me see.

  JEN

  Perhaps you'd prefer a young waitress to be in attendance?/

  PHIL

  That'd put me right off. /

  JEN

  Only it's not going to happen, because this is my table.

  PHIL

  So you said. It's territorial. I understand.

  JEN

  And those

  (points across stage)

  ­are my tables.

  PHIL

  Wow. Quite an empire.

  JEN

  I started with one table.

  PHIL

  Well, you would. Wouldn't you.

  JEN

  Then with age and experience comes /

  PHIL

  Tables. Yes, I get it.

  JEN

  There are no young waitresses here today.

  PHIL

  You seem obsessed by that. I don't want a younger waitress.

  JEN

  If you'd care to come in on Saturday, /

  PHIL

  I'll have died of starvation by then. /

  JEN

  If you'd care to come in on Saturday then there should be a shoe-gazing Goth /

  PHIL

  Already got one of those. My eldest. /

  JEN

  sweeping the floor /

  PHIL

  Hasn't done that since she was nine /

  JEN

  counting the biscuits /

  PHIL

  That's all she eats /

  JEN

  and, occasionally, attending table.

  (­two seconds silence)

  PHIL

  So. It's just you out front today, then.

  JEN

  Yes.

  PHIL

  OK. I'm ready to order.

  JEN

  Great. Go ahead.

  (notepad poised)

  PHIL

  I'd like a big mug of strong tea. Do you serve mugs?

  (Jen gives a "don't tempt me" look)

  JEN

  You can have a pot of tea, and I'll substitute a mug for the cup and saucer.

  PHIL

  Very dynamic.

  (beat)

  I'd also like the all-day breakfast /

  JEN

  I knew you'd say that /

  PHIL

  Female intuition, no doubt. And two rounds of toast.

  JEN

  (pause)

  That it?

  PHIL

  Yep.

  (Jen puts notepad deep down in her apron pocket, Phil watches)

  PHIL (CONT'D)

  How many eggs come with the meal?

  JEN

  It's egg. Singular.

  PHIL

  May I have two?

  (Jen, fumbling, delves down into her pocket to get the notepad, while:)

  PHIL (CONT'D)

  You keep eggs in there?

  (Jen gets pad out)

  JEN

  Two eggs? Was it.

  PHIL

  Yes please.

  (Jen writes something down)

  JEN

  I'll ask. I can't promise.

  PHIL

  Fair enough. I don't want to put the hen under any undue pressure.

  JEN

  The battery-farm-environment will have done that already.

  (Jen writes something, Phil looks around the café)

  PHIL

  I remember - when I was a boy - going into a transport café with my Dad /

  JEN

  (trying to write stuff down)

  Yes, yes. We're not actually offering a time-warp support service today.

  PHIL

  Oh. Pity.

  JEN

  Lack of demand.

  PHIL

  I see.

  (beat)

  Now. The loaf of bread. From which my toast will be hewn.

  JEN

  Yes?

  PHIL

  It won't have passed its sell-by date, will it.

  JEN

  Probably.

  (beat)

  But you'd be surprised how quickly manky-old-bread perks up once it's in the toaster.

  PHIL

  You're joking.

  JEN

  Wouldn't you? How about... if I bring the loaf to the table then you can choose the slices you want grilled /

  PHIL

  Toasted /

  JEN

  Whatever,

  (beat)

  you can initial them, and verify that they were the ones you selected when I bring them back.

  PHIL

  Like a magic trick.

  JEN

  (like a magician)

  "Now we haven't met before, have we sir."

  PHIL

  I could autograph them.

  (mimes signing a book)

  "To Jen. All my love, Phil."

  JEN

  That would be presumptuous, insincere and unrequited /

  PHIL

  Aha /
/>
  JEN

  Plus the slices are quite diddy.

  PHIL

  Better make it three rounds, then.

  JEN

  (writing stuff down)

  All of this unnecessary talking is keeping you and your food apart for longer.

  PHIL

  That isn't good.

  JEN

  (looks at Phil's stomach)

  And while I can see that that shouldn't really be a problem /

  PHIL

  I can't afford to go to the gym these days /

  JEN

  you did say that you were hungry.

  PHIL

  I did.

  (pause)

  Would you like to join me?

  JEN

  I'm not hungry. Nor do I need the gym.

  (Jen tears off page from her notepad, staring at Phil)

  PHIL

  Just sit down, I mean.

  (Jen takes the order across to the counter, returns to table)

  PHIL (CONT'D)

  Here. At this table.

  (beat)

  You don't have any other customers.

  JEN

  That's your best chat-up line, is it. That's you at the height of your persuasive powers.

  (mocking / impersonating)

  "You don't have any other customers."

  PHIL

  Well /

  JEN

  You'll be aware of that "if you were the last man left on earth" speech, or one of its variants?

  (beat)

  In any case, if I have any free time I should spend it cleaning tables.

  PHIL

  Don't you want to talk?

  JEN

  No.

  PHIL

  Then why are you here? Standing here. The tables appear to be clean /

  JEN

  They are clean /

  PHIL

  and - as I've already observed - it seems there's no one here who needs you.

  JEN

  You might steal the cutlery.

  PHIL

  I might.

  (pause)

  Will it take long?

  JEN

  Depends how long you've been a thief, I suppose.

  PHIL

  The food, I mean.

  JEN

  Not long.

  PHIL

  Sit for a chat?

  (Jen thinks for a second)

  PHIL (CONT'D)

  You said no to a talk, so...

  JEN

  "A chat" is different.

  PHIL

  I think so.

  (Jen sits down)

  JEN

  What do you think of the curtains?

  PHIL

  They're orange. Like everything else in here.

  JEN

  What do you think of the tiles? They're /

  PHIL

  Black and white. Yes I know.

  (beat)

  Gosh, this is stimulating.

  JEN

  (sarcastic / mock enjoyment)

  Yes, but I'll simply have to stop if anyone comes in.

  PHIL

  I wouldn't want this to end.

  (pause, then seriously)

  I'd really like to talk.

  JEN

  You said "chat."

  PHIL

  I lied.

  JEN

  Not for the first time, I'll bet.

  PHIL

  A white lie. A misdirection.

  JEN

  You have your own brand of magic, then.

  PHIL

  Some say.

  (beat)

  Let's talk.

  JEN

  You're serious.

  PHIL

  I think that was a muscle spasm.

  JEN

  You're not as young as you were.

  PHIL

  Apparently.

  JEN

  Why did you come in here?

  PHIL

  I was hungry.

  (beat)

  Until I saw the menu.

  JEN

  I thought you wanted to be serious.

  PHIL

  My muscles did.

  JEN

  There are at least five other places in town you could have gone into. For something faster, perhaps.

  PHIL

  They're all too-crowded. Youngsters with acne and offspring. Breast-feeding and texting.

  JEN

  Out of your depth?

  PHIL

  That's why I came in here.

  JEN

  So, nothing to do with me.

  PHIL

  But I knew you'd be here.

  JEN

  Psychic?

  PHIL

  I don't have an inner eye, but - more convenient for me - you do have glass in your windows.

  JEN

  Fancy.

  PHIL

  When do you get a break?

  JEN

  I don't know. When do you intend to stop talking?

  (Phil is clearly unhappy)

  PHIL

  When do you get a tea break?

  JEN

  What time did you say you were leaving?

  PHIL

  I didn't

  (beat)

  Can I /

  JEN

  Buy me a meal somewhere?

  (­several seconds silence, neither seems to want to speak next)

  PHIL

  (looks across room)

  Is that a dolphin over there? On the wall. All those tiny little bits of tile.

  JEN

  (looks across room and back again)

  Yes. It is a dolphin. It's what we call a mosaic.

  PHIL

  I thought it was a bottle-nose.

  JEN

  It's a work of art /

  PHIL

  It's a matter of opinion /

  JEN

  Created by underprivileged children as part of an "expression in our environment" project.

  PHIL

  Community Punishment Order, you mean.

  JEN

  Yes.

  (NOISE of steam kettle)

  PHIL

  (jumps)

  What was that?

  JEN

  What?

  PHIL

  That noise.

  JEN

  What noise?

  PHIL

  Sounded like a dragon being strangled.

  JEN

  (as sickly-sweet, girlie TV presenter)

  Oh, - do you know - that is so spooky. A dragon was killed here. Exactly seven hundred years ago today.

  PHIL

  It was the boiling water for my tea, wasn't it.

  JEN

  Yes.

  (Jen stands up)

  PHIL

  And the food?

  JEN

  We tried boiling food for a while, but it was deemed unsuccessful. So we went back to using the oven.

  PHIL

  I'd like my tea with my food.

  JEN

  I can't promise, but if I do happen to spill it, well..

  PHIL

  I like hot tea. To drink with my meal. I don't like it arriving as an advance party. It goes cold.

  (Jen's attention is caught with something across the room. NOISE of a plate being out down on the counter)

  JEN

  You're in luck. Your order is ready.

  PHIL

  "All day breakfast." Does that mean I've got all day to eat it?

  JEN

  It's not that chewy.

  (under breath)

  Apart from the toast.

  (Jen crosses to collect the tray of food and the mug of tea. Phil watches her. Jen returns to the table)

  PHIL

  Smells good.

  (Jen puts tray down on table)

  PHIL (CONT'D)

  And fairly quick.

  JEN

  And not a pimply youth in sight.

  PHIL
>
  Two eggs.

  JEN

  You got what you asked for.

  (beat)

  You'll pay for it later.

  (Phil begins to eat)

  PHIL

  I'll take my chances.

  (Phil beckons Jen to sit down)

  JEN

  No thanks.

  PHIL

  You were there a minute ago.

  JEN

  You'll be eating.

  PHIL

  And?

  JEN

  I'm drawn to mouths, I admit, but I don't like them. I like my own mouth, in terms of speaking /

  PHIL

  So it would seem /

  JEN

  and eating. But I don't like strangers' mouths.

  PHIL

  Yet you're drawn to them.

  JEN

  Like my first washing machine.

  (Jen sits down)

  PHIL

  Wow. This is "chatting" at its best.

  JEN

  When I got my first washing machine I sat and watched the complete first cycle. I'd got myself a mug of tea /

  PHIL

  Some glossy magazines /

  JEN

  and just sat there. Watching - round and round - my colourful, watery, independent world.

  (beat)

  I was spellbound. But ultimately sick.

  PHIL

  Happy days.

  JEN

  Happy-go-lucky.

  PHIL

  I've been lucky /

  JEN

  Good for you /

  PHIL

  But I've also been unlucky. And foolish, too.

  (Jen stands)

  JEN

  Oh, no. This is going to turn into one of those "barmaid and punter" conversations, isn't it.

  PHIL

  Only if you want it to.

  JEN

  Me? Does it sound like I want it to?

  PHIL

  Will you sit down again?

  JEN

  At some point. My legs bend in the middle.

  PHIL

  Now? You're like a jack-in-the-box.

  JEN

  Enjoy your meal.

  (Jen goes to leave)

  PHIL

  I'll wait for you to come back to ask me if everything is satisfactory, shall I?

  JEN

  That's purely discretionary.

  (Jen crosses to counter)

  PHIL

  Please.

  JEN

  I'm getting myself a cup.

  (Phil carries on eating, Jen gets a cup and saucer and sits back down at the table)

  JEN (CONT'D)

  I'm taking my break early.

  (Jen pours herself a cup of tea)

  JEN (CONT'D)

  What did you want to talk about?

  (sees Phil staring at her)

  Or do you just want to look at my name-badge-slash-breasts in close-up?

  (Phil points to his mouth, it's full of food - he can't speak, Jen sips her tea while waiting for Phil to finish his mouthful)

  JEN (CONT'D)

  And your first subject is?

  PHIL

  I don't know what to say.

  JEN

  That's always hugely disappointing at the beginning of a conversation. Don't most men start by talking about their wives?

  PHIL

  My wife and I are separated.

  JEN

  Oh.

  PHIL

  And you?

  JEN

  The same.

  PHIL

  Tough being alone?

  JEN

  I'm tough. I've got used to it.

  (beat)

  You?

  PHIL

  Got used to it? No.

  (­couple of seconds silence)

  PHIL (CONT'D)

  You're an attractive lady.

  JEN

  (unimpressed)

  Don't start with that!

  PHIL

  You deserve to be treated well.

  JEN

  Do you know how patronising that sounds? I "deserve to be treated well." What does that tell me about you? You think - or you assume - that I haven't been treated well, and I'm so thick that I haven't realised it. I don't know my own worth. But not to worry, because Phil is here with his engaging advice.

  (mocking / faux American accent)

  "Waitresses are people too."

  PHIL

  That's not exactly what I meant.

  JEN

  Then you should think before you speak.

  PHIL

  I do try.

  JEN

  (still angry)

  Enjoying your tea?

  PHIL

  Your husband.

  JEN

  What about him? It's because of him that I work here.

  (beat)

  What about you? Your wife. Did you walk out on her, or was it the other way round.

  PHIL

  Hard to say.

  JEN

  Happen in the dark, did it?

  PHIL

  No. Although I've been in the dark ever since.

  JEN

  Boom, boom.

  (sarcastically)

  Must have been so hard for you, though. Walking out on a marriage and children, to end up in the arms of a consummate nymphomaniac.

  PHIL

  Now you're making assumptions.

  JEN

  Maybe.

  (Jen drinks her tea)

  PHIL

  My wife and I were equals. But in the end, I think I just needed to have the edge.

  JEN

  Really. All of a sudden you wanted submissiveness from someone who was your other half. Nothing to do with lust for a third party.

  PHIL

  It seemed right that I should be the one to go.

  JEN

  (mocking)

  Top-up in that, love?

  PHIL

  A fresh tea would be nice.

  (Jen gets up, crosses to counter, Phil finishes off his meal. Jen returns to table with a stainless steel pot of boiling water, tops up the teapot)

  PHIL (CONT'D)

  Can we start again?

  JEN

  New tea bags? Why not. Let's push the boat out.

  PHIL

  Forget I ever asked for "a talk." Please - let's chat about the décor again.

  JEN

  The way we were. A few minutes ago.

  (beat)

  I might tell you about our digital deep-fat fryer.

  PHIL

  Have you worked here long?

  (Jen looks at her watch)

  PHIL (CONT'D)

  And don't say eight-thirty.

  JEN

  I was going to say seven-forty-five.

  PHIL

  You implied that you "had" to work here.

  JEN

  I got washed-up here /

  PHIL

 
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