A Regular Lunch

A REGULAR LUNCH

Three Act Play

Characters

Ernie Hendrickson            Late thirties to early forties, package delivery worker. 

Greg                                A fellow worker of the same age.

Arless                                 A fellow worker in his sixties

Mr. Jensen                         The CEO of this company

Louie                                 A worker in his fifies

Sherrie                                 Ernie’s teenage daughter not seen, but heard.

The setting

The time is the present. Act One is in Ernie’s kitchen.  It is bright, modern.and even expensive. Along the back wall is the sink, counters with cupboards above and below, built in gas burners and oven, and at the end is the refrigerator.  There is a window above the kitchen sink. On the counter is  coffee maker, toaster and a paper town roller. Also, on the counter, important to the story, is  a closed lunch bucket, a bowl with a spoon in it, a empty can of tuna fish, an wrapped loaf of bread, other sandwich fixings and a box of rat poison.  On the wall to audience’s right side is a door which leads to the dinning room which is unseen, and up toward the audience is the hallway door and the stairs to the second floor which is not seen. The kitchen table is along the wall on the audience’s left. In this wall are two doors, a closet  and the door going outside.

Except for Sherries voice, the first act is a monologue.

Act Two is an area outside the company lunchroom. The lighting is dim here. The lunchroom door is in the back wall. Beside it and at a distance of six or seven feet is a waste container which is overflowing with paper cups and the like. On the other side of the door is a bulletin board.  To the audiences right the light is bright as it comes from the open large garage door. From that opening comes the constant sound of automobiles and trucks whizzing by. The time office, where the workers punch in their time cars isn’t seen, but it is in that direction.  The other side is dark with pile of wooden skits and a floor jack. The locker, toilets and washroom are this way but they are not seen.

Act Three is the same as Act Two. Two dead rats lay beside the waste container.

I – 1                                        

ACT I

              (THE KITCHEN IS UNOCCUPIED. MORNING LIGHT COMES THROUGH THE WHITE CURTAIN ON THE WINDOW AND DOOR. A CLOSED LUNCH BUCKET SITS ON THE COUNTER. ON THE LEFT OF IT IS A BOWL WITH A SPOON IN IT, A LOAF OF BREAD IN THE WRAPPER,, A BUTTER DISH, A JAR OF SALAD DRESSING, AN EMPTY CAN OF TUNA FISH, A BUTTER KNIFE AND A BOX OF RAT POISON.)

              (ERNIE’S FOOT STEPS ON THE STAIRWAY ARE HEARD AND THEN HE ENTERS. HE IS DRESSED AS THOUGH HE WORKS IN A CASUAL OFFICE; A CLEAN, PRESSED SHORT SLEEVE SHIRT AND SLACKS. HE HAS A FRESH LOOK HAVING JUST SHOWERED, SHAVED AND GROOMED. HIS HAIR IS STILL A LITTLE WET. )

                                                ERNIE

              You know Ellen, I was just thinking. I was just thinking while I was in the shower there. (ERNIE ENTERS) Bet if I went back to Ilers, I could pick up that business degree in just a couple months. I’d have a masters; a masters degree Ellen.  Couple months, I wouldn’t even have to see Jessen. I could go anywhere with a degree like …. Ellen?

              (ERNIE LOOKS AROUND THE ROOM. HE WALKS TO THE DINNING ROOM DOOR, CALLS HER NAME AGAIN AND  RETURNS TO THE DOOR OF THE STAIRWAY. HE LOOKS UP THERE AND CALLS.)

              Sherrie, Sher?

                                                SHERRIE

              (JUST HER VOICE CALLING DOWN FROM UPSTAIRS.)  What? What do you want dad?

                                                ERNIE

              Where’s your mother?

I – 2

SHERRIE

              I don’t know. Isn’t she home?

                                                ERNIE

              No, she’s not here.

                                                SHERRIE

              (A PAUSE.) She never said anything to me. I don’t know where she went. I just got up. I got to get ready for school.

                                                ERNIE

              Okay, yeah. Okay Sher.

              (UPSTAIRS A DOOR CLOSES. ERNIE TURNS AND WALKS INTO THE KITCHEN. HE SEES HIS LUNCH BUCKET ON THE COUNTER AND SLAPS IT SO IT MAKES HALF A TURN.)

              Couldn’t even wait until I got out of the shower. Had to go some place.

              Yeah well….

              She wouldn’t have listened anyway….

              Never does.

              Thinks it’s just talk: “I’m tired of hearing it, Ernie” Tired of hearing it.

              Doesn’t think it’ll ever happen.

              Oh yeah, sure. Won’t happen.

II – 3

              (ERNIE THINKS  FOR A MOMENT, THEN PRETENDING TO BE STRAIGHTING HIS TIE:)

              “Guess I’ll be….” Just casual like that. “Guess I’ll be taking Malmberg’s job next week.” No big deal, like I had it in the works and the while. Just had to wait to make my move. Too bad you didn’t want to listen.

              “Malmberg, isn’t he….”

              “ Forget it, Ellen. Forget it;  And you don’t have to tell anybody about it either, Cathy, your brother. Just forget it. You didn’t want to talk about it before; remember?

              (AGAIN HE THINKS FOR A MOMENT.)

              I could just say: off handed like:  “Guess, I’ll have to buy a couple more suits now”,  like that. Won’t say why. That’s how I should tell her.

              Or, or when she’s just getting up, I’d be all dressed up in my suit and looking to see what tie I ought to wear. “What’s going on?”  Oh no, no. You don’t want  to know Ellen. You don’t want to hear it; remember?  Remember?

              (HE LOOKS AT HIS LUNCH BOX, PUT HIS HAND ON IT AND UNCLIPS THE TWO CLIPS THAT KEEP IT SHUT. HE DOESN’T OPEN IT.  HE LOOKS AROUND THE KITCHEN.)

              I better put something in here. Orange, something, make it look a little more like it come from home.

              (HE GOES TO THE REFRIGERTOR, OPENS IT, PULLS OPEN THE BOTTOM TRAY AND TAKES OUT AN ORANGE. HE LOOKS AT IT, PUTS IT BACK AND TAKES ANOTHER. HE STEPS BACK AND PUTS IT BESIDE HIS LUNCH BUCKET.)

              I should check the sandwich too, make sure she put something in it this time. Two slices of bread, nothing between. Boy or boy, I just….Sitting

I – 4

there at the lunch table, all the guys there, unwrap the wax paper and I got just two slices of bread. I have to sit there and act like it’s a regular lunch.

              Boy oh boy. Ellen, that was really great, Really great. You try to sit there hiding your sandwich behind the lunch bucket.

              Won’t matter any more: wearing a nice suit, white shirt, tie. Never mind Ellen, I won’t be taking the lunch bucket anymore. You don’t have to bother. I know how much trouble it was for you.  I’ll just go in and see Jessen: “Just thought I’d drop in” Like that, sort of friendly: “just thought I’d drop in.”

               “Ern, I was thinking about you.”

              Yeah. Oh yeah.

              What time is it? (HE LOOKS A THE WALL CLOCK) Stop at Super America. Those sandwiches look home made. Once you get them out of the cellophane, nobody can tell. I wouldn’t be able to tell…get some cookies too.

              That’s right, that’s what I have to do:. get a sandwich at the Super America. What guys have to do that, huh Ellen?  You tell me. Huh, huh? How about it?

              (HE SETS THE ORANGE NEXT TO TO THE LUNCH BUCKET AND STARTS TO THE REFRIGERATOR.  HE STOPS WITH SEEING THE BOWL WITH THE SPOON IN IT AND THEN THE BOX OF RAT POISON..)

              What? (HE PICKS UP THE BOX AND READS THE LABEL.) Rat Poison. Deadly poison, keep away from….

              Oh yeah, yeah sure. Rats all over the place. In the garage; she’s afraid to go out in the garage. Oh yeah. Now they’re in the house. Right in the house.  This is a real dump. Oh yeah, a dump. Look around. We’re living in a tenement, rats and rotting pipes. No heat. Pick the garbage off the floor.

              And she has to wear the tan coat. It’s all she’s got. All she’s got.. “Can’t go anywhere in this old coat. Oh no. I don’t know she’s got the fur coat. I don’t know the eight hundred dollars it cost.

I – 5

              Oh look! (HE POINTS) One just walked across the counter there. Rats all over the place. Another one over there, ran under the frig. Rats and rats and rats.

              I ought to

              I just should

              No, they don’t  pay me. I just go there for fun. Boy do I like hauling boxes around.

              Gezz, rats. That’s the way she is. Couldn’t be a mouse.

              Son of a…. no

              I”d like to just….(ERNIE WALKS ABOUT WITH THE BOX OF POISON IN HIS HAND. HE GOES TO THE CUPBOARD AND OPENS IT. HERE IS DISPLAYED FINE CHINA AND SPARLKING CRYSTAL GLASSWARE. HE PUTS DOWN THE BOX OF RAT POISON AND GOES TO THE MOTIONS OF DOING WHAT HE IS SAYING  AND HIS VOICE GETS LOUDER.)

              Smash them. Like, like, that. Smash them, Eight dollars a glass, eight dollars. She didn’t want “jelly glasses.” Take one, yeah, like that. Smash it right there on the floor. Look,what we got now. What we got now? That couch, didn’t want anything cheap, drag it, throw it out the door. Like that. Push it, yank it, get it out. What we got now? What we got now? Huh Ellen?  The carpet, plush, ply all that, rip it out. Just get a pry bar, get under it and rip it out. Like that. There. Nothing like your brother’s got now is it? Or the Marions. Oh, no you can’t invite them for lunch. “She’ll see the house” She’s see the house, the dump your have to live in. Tile floor here. I wonder what a chisel would do. Yeah  let’s do a little ice fishing,  Want to see…

              (FROM UPSTAIRS SHERRIE CALLS OUT.)

I – 6

SHERRIE

              You say something dad? What?

              (ERNIE STOPS AS HE IS ALMOST CAUGHT  NOT BEING THE CALM, CONTROLED  PERSON HE PRESENTS HIMSELF TO BE,  STRAIGHENS HIMSELF, HURRIES TO THE STAIRWAY.)

                                                ERNIE

              No, I didn’t call you. It’s okay. I just…

                                                SHERRIE

              (DOESN’T LET HIM FINISH.) I’m taking my shower.

                                                ERNIE

              Okay, honey.

              (HE WALKS BACK TO THE COUNTER. HE PICKS UP THE BOX OF POISON AND MOVES TO PUT IT IN THE CUPBOARD UNDER THE SINK. HE STOPS TO LOOK AT THE LABEL.)

              Quick acting:  No smell of dead rat in your walls. No, she wouldn’t want that. Can’t have dead rats in the walls.

              What’s this?

               “If ingested, do not induce vomiting. Seek immed ….” And she sets it right on the counter, next to the food; just sets it there. Sure Ellen, Sure. That’s smart. You sure told me something, didn’t you? Sherrie’d come down, have some breakfast, tips it, spills right the bowl. Oh yeah. Smart. Have to take her to hospital pump her stomach. Like that.

              Wonder what people would think then? Huh?. Huh? Sirens, flashing lights, ambulance parked outside the house;  all the neighbors out to

1 – 7

see, what, what happened. “Woman leaves rat poison right on the kitchen counter, poisons her own kid.” Front page, ten o’clock news. Oh yeah, that’s class, sure compliments the new carpet.

              (ERNIE OPENS THE CUPBOARD UNDER THE SINK AND PUTS THE POISON IN THERE. HE CLOSES THE DOOR.)

              Rat poison.

              (HE TURNS ON THE WATER AND WASHES HIS HANDS, SHAKES THEM AND TURNS OUT A PAPER TOWEL FROM A ROLLER ON THE COUNTER TOP.)

              Coffee, no she didn’t’ make any coffee. Too late anyway. I better get going; buy some cookies, something for morning break, won’t have to pick something from the vending machine. Arles is always unwrapping good stuff his wife packs him.  Cake, the frosting sticking to the wax paper, wipes it up with his finger. Greg tells him “What don’t you get one of those plastic jobbies?”

              Maybe I should put some wax paper in there, make it look like they came from home.

              (ERNIE PICKS UP THE ORANGE AND FLIPS OPEN THE LUCH BUCKET. HE IS SURPRIZED, ACTUALLY JERKS HIS HEAD BACK BECAUSE THE BUCKET IS FULL. HE STARES, HIS MOUTH OPEN WITH THIS SURPRIZE AND  THEN HE SMILES. HE SPEAKS AS  LIFTS OUT THE WAX PAPER WRAPPED SANDWICH, THE PLASTIC BAGGIE WITH A PICKLE INSIDE, A WRAPPED WEDGE OF CAKE AND SOME COOKIES.. IT IS LIKE HE IS OPENING A PRESENT. HE TAKES THE THERMOS CLIPPED IN THE TOP OF THE LUNCH BUCKET, LIFTS IT TO JUDGE WHETHER IT IS FULL OR EMPTY AND SMILES BECAUSE IT IS FULL. HE PUTS IT BACK.

              A regular lunch. She made me a regular lunch. What the….Gezz. How do you like that? Lettuce even. I can take my lunch right out, unwrap it. What, what : cake. Cake. A piece of cake. She made cake.

I – 8       

(GRINNING, HE LOOKS THIS WAY AND THAT  AS HE WANTS TO SPEAK TO SOMEBODY.  THE WALKS TO THE HALLWAY AND CALLS UP.”

              When’d mom make the cake?

              (HE LISTENS AND THERE IS NO ANSWER. HE WALKS BACK TO THE COUNTER.)

              The frosting will be sticking. We’ll have to get those plastic containers; Jobbies, yeah.

              (HE PICKS UP THE EMPTY CAN OF TUNA FISH AND  PUTS IT DOWN.

              Tuna fish, sure. Tuna fish salad sandwich. With pickles too, like Arles gets.

Sure good lunch you made. Great lunch, Ellen.

              (ERNIE TIDIES THE LUNCH BUCKET, SEES SHE GAVE HIM AN ORANGE SO HE PUTS THE OTHER ONE BACK IN THE REFRIGERATOR. HE GOES TO THE CLOSET, TAKES OUT A LIGHT TAN SPRING JACKET AND HAT. HE SPEAKS AND HE PUTS THEM ON.)

              “Just thought I’d drop by”  like that.

              “I see Malmberg’s retiring…” No, Dale. Dale would be better. Shows I’m right in there with them. I’ve always been kind of with them. And, I’ve always called him Dale. “I see Dale’s retiring.” Like that.

              (ERNIE PICKS UP HIS LUNCH BUCKET. HE IS GRINNING AND HAPPY, BUT HE STILL NEEDS SOMEBODY TO TELL, AND HE GOES TO THE HALLWAY DOOR, LOOKED UP,  LISTENS AND TURNS AWAY.

I – 9       

              Still in the shower; wish she could have been down here. “Dad was sure in a good mood this morning.”

              (ERNIE GOES TO THE OUTSIDE DOOR. THE BRIGHT LIGHT OF THE MORNING SUN IS ON HIM AS HE EXITS. OFF STAGE,  A MAN’S VOICE CALLS OUT. “HOW YOU DOING ERN.” “DOING GREAT.  IT’S BEAUTIFUL DAY,” ERNIE ANSWERS “SURE IS”  SAYS THE NEIGHBOR.        

                                                END OF ACT I  

II – 1

                                                ACT 11

              (ERNIE STANDS BY THE BULLETIN BOARD. HE HAS HIS LUNCH BUCKET UNDER HIS ARM AS READS THE NOTICE THAT DALE MALMBURG IS RETIRING. HE WEARS. WHITE BLUE PINSTRIPED BIB OVERALLS WITH THE STRAPS OVER A LIGHT YELLOW SHORT SLEEVED SHIRT. THEY ARE CLEAN AND SOMEWHAT STIFF LOOKING.)

              (CARRYING HIS LUNCH BUCKET,GREG ENTERS FROM ERNIE’S LEFT AS HE IS COMING FROM THE LOCKER ROOM, HE STEPS BESIDE ERNIE HE  WEARS FADED, AND A BIT DIRTY  BLUE JEANS AND A SHORT SLEEVE SHIRT THAT HANGS OUT AND HIDES HIS FAT BELLY. HIS DRESS CONTRASTS WITH THE NEATNESS OF ERNIES.)

              (ARLES IS SEVERAL STEPS BEHIND GREG. LIKE  ERNIE HE WEARS BIB OVERALLS. THE STRAPS ARE OVER A LONG SLEEVED BLUE  WORK SHIRT. AS GREG SPEAKS, ARLES STEPS TO THE OTHER SIDE OF ERNIE AS HE ALSO LOOKS AT THE NOTICES.)

              (THROUGHOUT THIS ACT THERE IS THE CONSTANT SOUND OF CARS AND TRUCKS PASSING BY THE OPEN GARAGE DOOR.)

II -2

GREG

              What you looking at there? Oh yeah there it is. They finally got the notice up. How about it Ernie, there’s the job for you. You got the business school and all that. It’s a chance to move up, get out of this hole here.

                                                ERNIE

              Yeah I was thinking about it.

                                                ARLES

              What’s that?  Malmberg, yeah I heard he was going.

                                                GREG

              I was saying that’s the job for Ernie, here.

                                                ARLES

              Right. There you go. You ought to see Jessen.  What do they call it? logistics, routing and all that. They’ll want to fill that job right away.        

                                                GREG

              Oh yeah,  just so Nylund doesn’t have another kid.

ARLES

              (HE CHUCKLES.)  You could see that one coming.

                                                GREG

              I sure did.  Oh yeah, he worked his way up all right. He sure did. Two weeks and he’s in the office there shuffling papers. He didn’t’ know East from West, a skid from a floor jack. Now he’s that pretty boy who walks in with the suit and tie.

                                                ARLES

              Well,  Dale earned it. I worked with him out on the dock there. Smart guy; you could tell by the way he talked. (HE LOOKS OFF WITH THE THOUGHT) Come to think of it, that was quite a few years ago. Quite a few. You know:  it won’t be long the notice up there will be mine.

II – 3

GREG

              Come on now, Arles. This place can’t run without you.

                                                ERNIE

              ( HE CHUCKLES)  What would we do with out you? You can’t retire.

                                                ARLES

              No, chance. I want my gold watch.

                                                GREG

              Ha! Gold watch? You’re a dreamer. Maybe Malmberg gets one, but stiffs like us, we get a ham. That’s what they gave Foshay.

                                                ARLES

              A ham?

                                                GREG

              A ham; it was one of those that was rolling around here a couple years ago. You remember that. Those boxes broke open; hams bouncing off the belts, rolling around picking up dust and dirt. Those things keep you know. They keep for years. Go over to Jessen’s house, they still have ham for Sunday dinner.

                                                ERNIE

              (HE PATS GREG ON THE BACK AND LAUGHS A LITTLE.) You sure like to tell em, Greg. No, we sent all those ham back; all accounted for.

GREG

              (HE STEPS TO THE LUNCH ROOM DOOR.)  All accounted for, sure Ern. You saw who did the counting, didn’t you?  (ABOUT TO OPEN THE DOOR, GREG LOOKS TO THE GARAGE DOOR. ) Arles, look, there’s your buddy waiting to cross the street.

              (THEY LOOK AT ART BENDER WHO IS AT THE GARAGE DOOR WAITING FOR A BREAK IN THE TRAFFIC. ACROSS THE STREET IS THE BAR HE VISITS TO NUTURE HIS DRINKING HABIT.)

II – 4

ARLES

              My buddy? I’ll say one thing for him. He’s a hard worker. But I don’t know how he ever makes it across.

GREG

              Oh he does that alright. Harley, over there, looks up at the clock, sees its noon and pours out three shots, draws a beer and has it all set out for him. Look old Bender, he’s going to step out there now. Arles, maybe you ought to get over there and help him out. (HE PUTS HIS ARM OUT LIKE A TRAFFIC COP.) Just put your arm.

                                                ERNIE

              Coming back he’ll need somebody to do that.

                                                GREG

              Are you kidding; coming back he’s got radar. All the booze in him, he doesn’t even look. Ever see him. Zoom, zoom they whistling by, this way, that way and there he goes, walks straight across.

                                                ARLES

              Never mind him, Lets get in their before the card players start stretching out and take up the tables.

                                                ERNIE

              There you are. Good idea. I’m hungry; can’t wait to dig in.

              (THE THREE MEN WALK INTO THE LUNCH ROOM AND WITH THE DOOR OPEN THERE IS THE SOUND OF MEN’S VOICES. BEFORE THE DOOR CLOSES, GREG AND ANOTHER MAN ARE HEARD.)

                                                GREG

              Hey, move down a little will yeh. You’re taking up the whole table with your stupid card game.

II – 5

A VOICE

              Hey, Greg wouldn’t be a problem if you didn’t have such a fat ass.

GREG

              Yeah, you would be looking at my fat ass, wouldn’t you. Come on move over.

              (THE DOOR CLOSES)

              (THE STAGE IS EMPTY NOW OCCUPPIED ONLY BY THE SOUND OF THE TRAFFIC AND NOW AND THEN MUFFLED VOICES FROM THE LUNCH ROOM.  A MINUTE OR SO PASS BEFORE LOUIE ENTERS FROM THE RIGHT WHICH WOULD BE THE DIRECTION OF THE GARAGE DOOR AND THE TIME OFFICE. HE WEARS A FEDORA HAT, A CARIGAN SWEATER OVER A FADED PINK SHIRT OLD GREY DRESS PANTS. UNDER HIS ARM HE HAS A PAIR OF WORK GLOVES. THEY ARE THE KIND WITH THE  WIDE SHIELD TO PROTECT THE WRISTS. LOUIE IS ON HIS WAY TO THE LOCKER ROOM WHERE HE WILL SIT ON THE TOILET AND READ THE NEWSPAPER. THE GLOVES, HOWEVER, ARE WERE THE PAPER SHOULD BE. WITH HIS OTHER HAND, HE TOUCHES THE GLOVES AND HE STOPS.)

                                                LOUIE

              What’d  I take these? (NOW HE HAS THEM IN HIS HAND.) What the…how do you  like that; left the newspaper and picked these up instead. Can’t read these. I don’t even know why I wear them. They’re hot and they make my hands stink.(SMELLS HIS HANDS.) Yuh, there you are. Hey but I’m a working guy; got to wear them. Everybody, Bates, Jessen when he’s comes around, the guys they see I got the gloves on. Oh yeah.

              (LOUIE LOOKS BACK FROM WHERE HE CAME.)

              I hate to walk all the way back. I just walked that. (HE SIGHS HEAVILY.)   Oh well.

II – 6

              (LOUIE PUTS THE GLOVES UNDER HIS ARM, TOUCHES THE BRIMOF HIS HAND AND WALKS BACK. HE EXITS.)

              (THE STAGE IS EMPTY AND ONLY THE SOUND OF TRAFFIC AND THE OCCASIONAL LOUDER VOICE FROM THE LUNCH ROOM ARE HEARD. THE LUNCH ROOM SOUNDS GET LOUDER AS THE DOOR OPENS. ERNIE

PUSHES OPEN THE DOOR. WITH HIS SHOULDER.  HE HAS HIS LUNCH BUCKET CRADLED IN HIS LEFT ARM. IN HIS RIGHT HAND  HE HOLDS THE CORNER  OF  HIS SANDWICH. A PIECE OF LETTUCE HANGS OUT.  HE IS GRINNING AND RELAXED LOOKING BACK TALKING TO MEN AT THE LUNCH TABLE.)

                                                ERNIE

              Yeah, my stock broker. (HE LAUGHS.) Hope nobody’s on the phone.

              (THE DOOR CLOSES AND ERNIE GOES FROM CASUAL TO FRIGHTEND. HE PUTS HIS HAND TO HIS THROAT AND IS FROZE FOR A MOMENT, EYES WIDE, MOUTH OPEN. HE COMES OUT OF IT.)

                                                ERNIE

              No, I’m alright. Just puke. Puke, get it out. Out.. (HE STEPS TOWARD THE LOCKER ROOM WHERE THERE ARE TOILETS IN STALLS. HE STOPS)

              No, not in the toilet. Somebody will come in; See me. Over there, behind the skids. Nobody goes there. Just keep my feet apart, lean over good; puke nice and quiet. I won’t get any on me. Be okay, go back to the dock. Nothing happened. Just had to make phone call, that’s all.

               (HE TAKES A COUPLE STEPS AND STOPS AGAIN.)

              No, it said something. Do not induce. Seek immediate…yeah, get to the hospital. That’s the way. Pump my …..Oh yeah Ellen, you think I wouldn’t taste it?  I just I was going to just eat the whole thing. You think I wouldn’t just spit it out?  I should have. I should.  Not there, all the guys

II – 7

looking; had to make it look right. But, I knew how to get out of there. Got to make a phone call..

              (ERNIE LOOKS DOWN AT HIS HAND THE BIT OF SANDWICH HE IS HOLDING.)

              Oh no, got to get rid of this It’s all green inside. All green. (HE GOES TO THE TRASH CAN AND THROWS IT IN,. THEN HE OPENS HIS LUNCH BUCKET AND TAKES OUT THE OTHER HALF  WHICH IS LOOSELY WRAPPED IN WAXPAPER. HE TOSSES THAT IN PUSHES IT DOWN TO UNDER THE TRASH.)

              (ERNIE LOOKS AROUND NOW. HE FEELS A PAIN IN HIS CHEST, GIVES OUT A GRUNT AND PUTS HIS HAND THERE. )

              No, not yet. No. Got to get to ….(HE HEARS FOOTSTEPS AND TURNS.)

              (LOUIE APPROACHES. HE HAS THE NEWSPAPER UNDER HIS ARM.  HE SMILES WITH SEEING ERNIE.)

                                                LOUIE

              Hiya kid.

                                                ERNIE

              Yeah,  hi Lou. (HE GRINS BRAVELY WITH HIS GREETING)

                                                LOUIE

              Forgot my newspaper, there. I had my gloves under my arm, thought it was the paper. How do you like that? Should have known too. I stopped to talk with Pat in the time office, then I waved bye with the gloves. Should have known then. All the way here and I look. Gloves. Can’t sit on the can and read them, can I?  This place can get to you, you know that?

ERNIE

              Yeah, I guess it can.

II – 8

LOUIE

              Walking back again got me to thinking. Half an hour isn’t enough. Should  be an hour for lunch. An hour. You know that, huh kid? That’s what

it should be. What can you do in half an hour? Half an hour. I hardly get off the can and it’s time to go back to work. Make sense to you?

                                                ERNIE

              Does go pretty quick at times.

                                                LOUIE

              Hour for lunch, that’s what I say. Gives you a little time that way. They’ve brought it up at the union meeting too. Two, three times they did. But every time it comes up, nobody wants to do it. They’d rather get out earlier. Half an hour, what sense does that make? Get out for what?  You ever think of that?

                                                ERNIE

              I guess..ah…ah. You could look at it that way.

                                                LOUIE

              You bet. Get the guys thinking about it. Get out for what? Hey, I got to get going here. Already lost ten minutes. I’ll have to skip the sports. (LOUIE STARTS TO GO, BUT GLANCES UP AT ERNIE AND HE STOPS.) You alright? You look a little pale Ern.

                                                ERNIE

              No, no I’m alright. Feel great.

                                                LOUIE

              Okay, Ern. Talk to you.

                                                ERNIE

              Yeah sure Lou, talk to you.

              (LOUIE WALKS TO THE LOCKER ROOM. ERNIE WATCHES, SWALLOWS, PUTS HIS HAND TO HIS CHEST AGAIN. LOUIE EXITS. ERNIE TAKES A STEP AND HIS LEGS BUCKLE AND HE STAGGERS.

11 – 9

HE GOES TO THE WALL BY THE BULLETINE BOARD NOW AND LEANS AGAINST IT. STOMACH PAINS BEND HIM OVER.. HIS FACE CONTORTS.

ERNIE

              Tell Pat I got to go home; “think I have a touch of the flu, Pat,” yeah, like that.

              ”Little under the weather, huh Ern?”

               Yeah, just come over me. Don’t know what it could be.

              (AGAIN ERNIE HEARS FOOTSTEPS. HE LOOKS. JESSEN ENTERS FROM THE LOCKER ROOM AND IS GOING TO THE TIME OFFICE. HE IS CARRYING A FOLDER.  ERNIEN QUICKLY STRAIGHTENS. BUT ASSUMES RELAXED  MATTER TO APPEAR AS THOUGHT HE IS JUST SEEING WHAT HAS BEEN POSTED. JESSEN GETS CLOSER. ERNIE LOOKS TOWARD HIM.)

                                                JESSEN

              (HE NODS.) Ern.

                                                ERNIE

              Good morning, Mr. Jessen.

              (JESSEN PASSES HIM. ERNIE LOOKS BACK AT THE BULLETIN BOARD. HE STRUGGLES TO STAND STRAIGHT AGAINST THE SHARPING PAIN IN HIS STOMACH. HE LOOKS AFTER JESEN UNTIL THE MAN EXITS.)

              Might be good, he saw me looking Malmberrrr…Malmber..ah. (HE GRABS HIS STOMACH)  I got get to the time office. Get in the car…No, can’t drive. I can hardly walk. Call a taxie. Yeah, call a taxie….wait outside there. Nobody will know. I need to just get my strength. (ERNIE TURNS AND LEANS AGAINST THE WALL.)

11 – 10

Ellen, you think I wouldn ‘t know. You think I, think I…oh the face I made I. But nobody could have seen it. No.

              They  didn’t

              They were looking the card game. And Arles Arles opening one of those plastic bags his wife uses. Asking she got pickles or olives in the

baggie; he never looked at me.. I was okay. I just need to get to the hospital. That’s all. Call a cab. “Feel a little down Pat, think maybe I’ll call a cab,” like that. Louie asked if I was okay.  That’s good. It’s  good they’ll see I’m not faking.

               “Little down, huh Ernie.”

               (ERNIE PUSHES OFF FROM THE WALK AND WALKS. HE BEGINS TO WOBBLE AND HE STOPS. HE LOOKS AROUND AND HE IS RELIEVED NOBODY IS AROUND.)

              Walls won’t stink of dead rats. How could she …everybody to see…. the siren, they’ll hear it, come to look. “Who is it?” “Who?’ Gawking looking, standing there over me. “It’s Ernie Hendrickson.” “Ernie, really.”  “Wife poisoned with rat poison.”

              No, just tell Pat, Little sick. Wait.

              (ERNIE LOOKS TO THE GARAGE DOOR AND THE SOUND OF THE TRAFFIC WHICH GETS LOUDER.)

                                                ERNIE

              Just a little accident. Could happen to anybody. Sure it could…nobody will know.

              (ERNIE WALKS TO THE GARAGE DOOR, STUMBLES. STOPS, GETS HIS STRENGHT BACK AND CONTINUES. AS THE CURTAIN CLOSES FOR THIS ACT, THE TRAFFIC GETS LOUDER STILL.)

                                                END OF ACT II

III – 1

                                                ACT III

              A DAY LATER. THE SETTING IS THE SAME AS THE LAST ACT. THERE ARE A COUPLE DEAD RATS ON THE FLOOR BESIDE THE TRASH CAN.

              ON THE BULLETIN BOARD  IS POSTED THE NOTICE OF ERNIES FATAL ACCIDENT. THERE IS THE CONTINUED SOUND OF TRAFFIC.

              LOUIE DRESSED AS HE WAS IN ACT II  AND WITH A NEWSPAPER TUCKED UNDER  HIS ARM ENTERS FROM THE LOCKER ROOM. HE STOPS AT THE BULLETIN BOARD, READS THE NOTICE AND WAGS HIS HEAD.

                                                LOUIE

              I still can’t believe it. He was standing right there.

               (LOUIE TURNS TO SHOW WHERE ERNIE WAS YESTERDAY, AND HE POINTS.)

              Hiya kid

              I could have been the last person he talked to. I’ll never forget that. Hiya Kid. Swell guy. You knew he was going places. Yeah, maybe Malberg’s job. Could have. Talked to him right here.             

              HE WAGS HIS HEAD AGAIN. THE SOUNDS OF TRAFFIC GET LOUDER WITH THE SOUND OF A HORN OR THE RATTLE OF A TRUCK. LOUIE LOOKS TO THE GARAGE DOOR AND THE SOUND. HE SEES – OFF STAGE – ART BENDER AND HARLEY, THE BARTENDER..)

                                                LOUIE

              Oh that’s good;  Harley helped Art Bender across; got him by the arm. Ol Art doesn’t like it. I can see that  but ….If a guy like Ernie…

111 – 3

              (HE LOOKS THAT WAY FOR A MOMENT THEN TURNS.)

              Yeah, well I better throw this away or they’ll think I’m reading on the job; go put the gloves on.

               (LOUIE TAKES THE NEWSPAPER FROM UNDER HIS ARM AND WALKS TO THE TRASH CAN TO THROW IT AWAY. HE LOOKS DOWN YELPS  AND JUMPS BACK AT THE SIGHT OF THE DEAD RATS.  THE NEWPAPER DROPS TO THE FLOOR. EARNIE TURNS AND HURRIED AWAY.

              HE EXITS.

              THERE IS A BARE STAGE AND THE SOUND OF THE TRAFFIC.)

                                                END