Twelve And A Half Short Stories

TWELVE AND A HALF SHORT STORIES

A ONE ACT PLAY

The Set

          is a used bookstore. It is dark, cluttered and quaint.  The door to the outside is on the left wall. Small bells are attached to the door such that they jingle when it is pushed open. Upstage of  the door is a window.  “Ralph’s Used Books” it reads from the outside.  The counter is downstage of the door.  Tom, the clerk sits on a stool.  Rows of bookshelves make dark narrow aisles into the back of the stage. Signs tell what is in each aisle. “The Gourmet”, “Plato and Company”, “See the World”, “The Giants”, “Poet’s Alley”, “The Masters” etc. A couple shorter bookcases in front block the audience’s vision into some aisles.. “Rare books”one says. Another bookcase has the title “The Bard”. There is a table of paperback books.  A sign says they are a dollar.

          It is a rainy, dreary day.  The window has streaks with rain. Otherwise, it is gray with random lights making circles on the pane from other stores across the street. Lightning flashes from time to time.  By the door is an umbrella, top resting on the floor and a puddle of water under it. The aisles are dark. A light switch is at the end of each aisle. 

The Characters:

Tom                               The clerk, a young man

Conrad Griswald             The author. He is at least 50. He could be as old as 80

Bill                                  The customer: forty or so.

Evelyn                            Bill’s wife of about the same age. They are both nicely dressed like they may have just been at a dinner party.

* Tom or and Conrad could be women. Conrads name would be Bernice Altrotch and Tom’s would be Jane. She would be reading a romance.

Page 1

ACT I

          [Tom is sitting on a stool behind the counter and he is reading a paperback book.  It is a cowboy which is worn from being read by many people. Tom is enjoying the adventure, He frowns with concern, pulls the book closer and smiles as he follows the narration.]

          [The door opens and the bell jingles.  Tom continues reading getting that last paragraph  in – and then looks up in time to greet the customers. He puts his down his book open; the pages against the counter, so that the cover is up.]

          [Bill and Evelyn enter. Their umbrella pokes in first and Evelyn comes in under it.  Bill after her closing the umbrella and then the door. He stamps his feet. Evelyn shuffles hers. Bill looks about, sees the other umbrella and puts his beside it. ]

BILL

          This really is the proverbial hole-in-the-wall isn’t it?

EVELYN

          Yes, it certainly is

          [SHE SEES TOM AND SMILES]

Are you open?

TOM

          Yeah, yeah, sure we’re open.

Page 2

BILL

          Looks like you need some lights.

TOM

          Oh. I don’t think there is any.

BILL

          No lights.

TOM

          Oh. You don’t mean the window. You mean for the books. No. Yeah. There’s a switch the end of each row.

[TOM SLIPS OFF HIS STOOL, GOES AROUND THE COUNTER AND POINT TO SHOW THEM WHERE THE LIGHT SWITCH IS]

You just have to turn it on. They’re good and bright too.  Ralph just says I should keep them off if nobody is using them. 

BILL

          Saves on the lectric bill, huh?

[TOM GOES BEHIND HIS COUNTER AGAIN SATISFIED TO HAVE BEEN OF SERVICE]

BILL

[HE LOOKS UP AND AROUND THE PLACE. TURNS TO EVELYN AND MOTIONS WITH HIS HAND]

Page 3

Look at this, Evie.  Looks like we  just made a real “find”.

EVELYN

You think Ronnie knows about this book store? He never said anything.

BILL

Ronnie? No, he didn’t did he? He would have said something knowing how I like my books.  But he’s not settled in yet:  hasn’t had a chance to get out and explore.

EVELYN

I guess we’re going have to tell him. [She laughs a little]

  We’ll know Achmore before he gets out of his dorm. But, oh he’d just love this place. It’s like it is him.  Look at all the books. 

TOM

          Yes, this is a real find.

EVELYN

          “Poet’s Alley” says there. Oh Ronnie has to know about this.  He does.

BILL

          “Poet’s Alley”, Get him in there and he’ll never come out.  As far as that goes, I might never come out.  “See The World”;  Must be travel.  What’s that one: “The Gourmet’s bookshelf”; guess we know what’s down that aisle.

Page 4

EVELYN

          “The Giants” there.

TOM

          That’s not the football team.  It’s writers.

BILL

          [HE CHUCKLES]

That’s a good one, not the football team.  No, I don’t suppose it would be, would it?

          [TOM LAUGHS ALTHOUGH HE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT WAS FUNNY]

EVELYN

          You say there is a switch here. [SEACHES] Oh, here it is.

          [SHE TURNS ON THE LIGHT AND WALKS DOWN THE AISLE “SEE THE WORLD” LOOKING AT THE BOOKS. EVELYN EXITS IN THIS MANNER]

BILL

          Our son, Ron, got himself a scholarship here. Four years, lit major. Atchmore’s one of the best in the country when it comes to the Arts.

          [A SHORT PAUSE AS BILL LOOKS AROUND AGAIN]

page 5

BILL

          But….What a job. What a job  this would be for him. Evvy, how about that. This is just the job for…..

          [HE TURNS TO LOOK AT HER AND SEES SHE’S GONE. HE SPEAKS TO TOM]

Perfect for a college student. How did you luck out? I mean look at what you got here. Philosophy, Poetry, the World, and ah, yes, the Giants, and and there you’ve got the Bard. Shakespeare himself right up front. Hmm, and what classic did you borrow for yourself there? Hmm.

TOM

          This?

BILL

          What is that?  “Riders of the Horseshoe Ranch”?

TOM

          Yeah, it’s….

          [TOM FOLLOWS BILLS EYES AND DRAWS BACK THE BOOK AND LOOKS AT IT LIKE THERE IS SOMETHING HE DIDN’T SEE BEFORE]

BILL

          [HE TURNS AND IS SPEAKING TO EVIE FORGETTING SHE HAS JUST WALKED THE AISLE]        

“Riders of the Horseshoe..” and five feet away from Shakespeare here and he’s got a hooting, hollering cowboy.

Page 6

TOM

          Just got it off the table there. They’re only a buck. Ralph picks them up at the sales.

BILL

          Oh,no thank you.  Think I want something a little more, what should I say, a little more enlightening?

TOM

          Oh. Yeah. I guess. Ralph said something like that too.

BILL

          [HE TURNS AWAY AND TALKS TO HIMSELF, BUT OVERHEARD BY TOM]

All this, Shakespeare, Griswald, Toutour, Conrad, Tostoy, DeSlavich, Walt… I could go on and it’s “Riders of the Horseshoe Ranch”? [THROWS HIS HAND UP AND GIVES A QUICK LOOK UPWARD] Oh well.  I think I’ll turn a light on here and see if I can find some of my dear old friends. 

          [HE FLICKS ON THE LIGHT AND WALKS DOWN THE AISLE CALLED “POET’S ALLEY” AND BROWSES, AND BILL EXITS THIS WAY AS WELL]

          [TOM LOOKS OVER HIS BOOK, THE FRONT AND THE BACK NOW LIKE SOMETHING MIGHT BE WRONG WITH IT. HE PUSHES IT ASIDE AND SLIPS DOWN OFF HIS STOOL, LOOKS AROUND, AND GOES TO THE SHELF MARKED “THE BARD” AND REMOVES A THICK BOOK OF SHAKESPEARE. HE RETURNS TO THE COUNTER, OPENS IT, PAGES THIS WAY AND

Page 7

THAT AND WITH HIS FINGER UNDER THE LINES, BEGINS READING. “METHINKS” HE QUESTIONS  AND LOOKS UP. HE STARES AHEAD FOR A MOMENT AND TRIES AGAIN. AGAIN  HE USES HIS FINGER TO POINT THE WORDS AND MOVES HIS LIPS IN AN EFFORT TO UNDERSTAND THE ANCIENT ENGLISH.]

[A MOMENT OR TWOPASSES AND THE DOOR OPENS ABRUPTLY, THE BELLS JINGLE. TOM LOOKS UP.]

          [CONRAD GRISWALD ENTERS. HIS HAT IS WET AS ARE HIS SHOULDERS. HE TAKES OFF HIS HAT AND LOOKS HERE AND THERE ABOUT THE STORE]

CONRAD

          What is this? 

TOM

          A book store?

CONRAD

          I know that.  I can see.  But how did it get here?

TOM

          How’d it get here?

CONRAD

          You don’t advertise?  Nothing in the phone book? Why?  Why, nothing? How is a person supposed to find you?

Page 8

TOM

          I don’t know. 

CONRAD

          Don’t know? Don’t know.  Don’t you have to be listed somewhere?

TOM

          I don’t know. I Just started here a couple weeks ago.

CONRAD

A couple weeks ago? Looks like its been here for years.

TOM

No, me.

CONRAD

          What?

TOM

          [SPEAKS LOUDER] Me, I just started a couple weeks ago. I said.  I just started a couple weeks ago. The stores’ been here for years.

CONRAD

          Oh. Well, yes. It looks like its been here for centuries.  I felt the floor give when I walked in. 

Page 9

TOM

          I know, it kind of creaks. [HE RAISES HIS VOICE] I know, it kind of creaks.

CONRAD

          Greek? No. No thank you. I know what I come for.  Just show me where your Literature is. Where. Lets see. What’s this. “See The World” See the world? I’ve seen too much of it already, big city, little city, towns and nooks and crannies. See the world? I’m tired, tracking that book down. See the world. Oh no, I’ve only got a few copies left and I can go home. Well?

TOM

          Well what?

CONRAD

          What? Your literature, the G’s.  Where?

TOM

          You mean like just stories.

CONRAD

          Stories? I said Literature.. Never mind. Never mind. I’ll find it. I’ll find it. There’s always one maybe even two, three, four..yes. and I’ll have all of them… All.

          [CONRAD WALKS INTO THE AISLE WITHOUT TURNING ON THE LIGHT.  A MOMENT LATER HE STRIKES A MATCH,

Page 10

HOLDS IT CLOSE TO THE BOOKS AND LOOKS AT THE TITLES AS WOULD A SHORT SIGHTED MAN]

TOM

          Sir, Sir, There’s a light switch there at the end.  Sir.

          [CONRAD DOESN’T HEAR HIM.  TOM GETS OFF HIS STOOL, WALKS TO THE AISLE AND TURNS ON THE LIGHT.]

          [SEEMING NOT TO NOTICE, CONRAD CONTINUES TO LOOK WITH HIS MATCH BESIDE HIS FACE.  IT BURNS DOWN TO HIS FINGERS AND BURNS. HE JUMPS AND SHAKES HIS HAND]

CONRAD

          Wow.  Burned my finger. You’d think he’d have some light here.

 [HE STRIKES ANOTHER MATCH ]

TOM

          The light is on now, sir.  Sir?

          [TOM LEANS DOWN AND PICKS UP THE MATCH]

          The lights on, you don’t need matches. Sir?

CONRAD

          [WITH THE MATCH CLOSE TO HIS FACE AS HE LEANS IN TO LOOK AT THE TITLES, HE MOVES DOWN THE AISLE]

Page 11

Tee, Tee, Toutour – like he should be here – ugh, U, no W’s. Has be up the other way. Gee would be that way. Yes, this way. Oh, you have lights. [HE BLOWS OUT HIS MATCH] That’s much better.  Much better.

          [CONRAD WALKS DEEP INTO THE AISLE AND SEARCHES THE BOOKS. TOM WATCHES  ANED WHEN HE MOVES TO THE END AND TURNS TO THE NEXT AISLE TOM TURNS ON THAT LIGHT]

          [TOM GOES BACK BEHIND THE COUNTER AGAIN. HE LOOKS ABOUT AND STARES DOWN INTO THE OPEN BOOK. HE HAS TO PUT HIS FINGER ON THE LINE TO READ AND HIS LIPS MOVE.]

          [BILL COMES OUT OF HIS AISLE WITH A COUPLE OF BOOKS AND HE SETS THEM ON THE COUNTER]

BILL

          Mind if I set them here.  I like both hands free when I look.

TOM

          Sure, go ahead. Just set them anywhere.

BILL

          There’s some real gems on those shelves.  I can’t wait to tell my son, Ronnie, about this place. He’s going to love it.  One of those guys who can’t get enough of the good literature.  Read everything I got in my library.  Speaking of..I see you decided to get a little culture. You’re reading what is this Shakespeare, the bard himself. “A Mid Summer’s Night Dream.”

Page 12

TOM

          Um, yeah. how’d you know?

BILL

          The title there.

TOM

          Oh, oh yeah.  That was stupid of me. It’s right there. It’s kind of hard to understand though.

BILL

          Hard to understand?

TOM

          Yeah, it’s like its old words we don’t use anymore. Hard to know what they’re saying.

BILL

          Hard to know what they’re saying? Hard to know… I’ll tell you young man. I’ve been to a number of plays by the Bard, a number of them, “Mid Summers Night Dream” up at the Shakespeare Festival just last week, Evie and I. And I’ll tell you, I didn’t see anybody walk in with a dictionary.

          [HE CHUCKLES]

TOM

          Oh?

Page 13               

[“AH HA.  AH HA,” COMES CONRAD’S VOICE.]

          [THE TWO LOOK TO THE SOUND]

BILL

          Sounds like he found something. Do you have rare editions, collector?

TOM

          Yeah, Ralph he doesn’t keep them with the other books.  He’s got a special place for them. Over there. Told me I should always keep an eye on them. You should see the prices. He put it real light in pencil inside the cover. You wouldn’t believe what he wants.

BILL

           [CHUCKLES] I’d believe it all right. I have a few first editions in my library.  I know what they’re worth.

TOM

          Sort of like those baseball trading cards.  I knew a guy who found a Roger Maris in an old comic book. Took it to one of those trading card buffs…

 [EVELYN COMES TO THE END OF HER AISLE]  

EVELYN

Page 14

        Bill, come and help me pick one out. They have a whole section on Ireland.  I just don’t know which one. 

BILL

          [HE FOLLOWS HER INTO THE AISLE AND THEY EXIT] You found some? Good. You know, we should get some of the history too.

[CONRAD GRISWALD COMES OUT HIS AISLE WITH A THICK BOOK IN HIS HAND]

CONRAD

          How many more of these do you have? There was only one on the shelf. Where do you keep the others?

TOM

          No, there wouldn’t be any others. Just the one if that’s all you saw.

CONRAD

          Just the one? You don’t have any under the counter there, do you? It’s only a few more now. You sure?

TOM

[HE LOOKS] No, just the broom and dust pan here. There’s no books.  Ralph [TALKS LOUDER]  Ralph keeps all his books on the shelves.

CONRAD

          Then this is the only one here?

Page 15

TOM

          Far as I know.

CONRAD

          [HE OPENS THE BOOK AND PAGES TO THE BACK. HE PAGES BACKWARDS ABOUT HALF A DOZEN PAGES AND TAKES A GRIP ON THEM AS IF TO RIP THEM OUT]

          Oh, but I should pay for it first. I should. How much is it?

TOM

          Should be right on the inside cover here.

CONRAD

          I can’t see anything here. How much do you want for this book. Can you tell me? Or is that another thing you keep in the dark?

TOM

          [HE TAKES THE BOOK FROM CONRAD]

                   It’s right here. Ralph always puts it real light in pencil, so he can change it I think. Here it is. Seven dollars and fifty cents.

          [AS CONRAD PAYS COUNTING OUT THE EXACT CHANGE, BILL COMES OUT OF THE AISLE. HE SEES CONRAD AND STOPS. HE RECOGNIZES THE GREAT AUTHOR AND SHOWS HIS SURPRISE.

Page 16

BILL

          Conrad Griswald.  It’s Conrad Griswald. Oh my, oh my. I read every one of his books. I should go talk to him.  No, I’ll get Evie first. She has to see.

[BILL TURNS BACK TO THE AISLE TO FETCH EVELYN]  

BILL

Evie, Evie.

[BILL IS GONE]

          [CONRAD TAKES THE BOOK NOW, TURNS TO THE LAST PAGES AND RIPS THEM OUT. TOM PUTS HIS HAND OUT TO STOP HIM AND PULLS IT BACK]

TOM

          You just ripped out all those pages.

CONRAD

          Of course.

[CONRAD STUFFS THE RIPPED OUT PAGES IN HIS POCKET AND PUTS THE BOOK BACK ON THE COUNTER]

TOM

          Of course?

CONRAD

          Can’t you see the title?

Page 17

TOM

                  “Twelve And A Half Short Stories” say..by, by Conrad Griswald.

CONRAD

          Exactly.       “Twelve And A Half Short Stories”

          [CONRAD LEAVES THE BOOK ON THE COUNTER, PULLS AT THE COLLAR OF THIS COAT TO MAKE READ TO GO AND TURNS]

          [TOM TOUCHES THE BOOK, FLIPS THE PAGES AND STARES AT IT FOR A MOMENT AND IT DAWNS ON HIM.]

TOM

           You mean it’s a half a story now? Oh. Oh, I suppose it is.  Did you, did you want a bag or something? We got bags here.

CONRAD

          What?

TOM

          [SPEAKS LOUDER] A bag, did you want a bag.

CONRAD

          I’ve got a hat. I don’t need a bag.

[CONRAD WALKS TO THE DOOR]

Page 18     

TOM

          Your book. Your book sir. You forgot your book.

          [TOM TAKES THE BOOK, SLIDS OFF HIS STOOL AND WALKS AFTER CONRAD]

[BILL AND EVELYN ENTER FROM THE AISLE AND THEY STOP AND WITH AWE WATCH CONRAD OPEN THE DOOR]

CONRAD

No, no. I don’t want that.

 [CONRAD EXITS.  THE BELLS JINGLE ABOVE. BILL AND EVELYN STAND AND STARE.]

 BILL

          That was him. That was Conrad Griswald, Evie. Conrad Griswald.

EVELYN

          Oh he’s leaving already. Bill, he’s leaving.  But, I did see him. I did and it was him. Conrad Griswald himself. I can hardly wait to tell Ronnie. 

BILL

          I should have said something. I could have talked to him.

TOM

          Is he famous or something?

Page 19

BILL

          I could have went up to him, I should have.. But I didn’t want you to miss him. I guess Ronnie and I will be having quite a conversation about this. I must have read Griswald’s “Twelve And A Half…” a dozen times. 

EVELYN

          You and Ronnie talk? Bill, I’m the college graduate here with Two semesters of  Lit…one whole Semester we spend the thirteenth story, all the implications, the art of it…we all had to write papers on it… If anybody knows the Twelve and A Half…….

BILL

          Of course.  I didn’t mean just Ronnie and I.

TOM

          Was that him then? the guy that wrote this book?

BILL

          You didn’t know?  My, my boy. Where have you been in this last century?

TOM

          Guess I should have known, huh?

Page 20

BILL

          I guess.

EVELYN

          This just made my day. I don’t know who I want to tell first.  Oh, here now. I’ll take these two books.

BILL

          And don’t forget my two here.

          [TOM GOES BEHIND THE COUNTER, SITS ON HIS STOOL AND OPENS THE BOOK COVERS TO SEE AND ADD UP THE PRICES.]

EVELYN

          [SHE TAKES OUT HER CHECK BOOK AND PEN, STARTS WRITING THE CHECK]

          I think we should go back to the dorm and tell him now.  Conrad Griswald could be on campus today, in the coffee shop or something.  Ronnie wouldn’t want to miss a chance like that.

BILL

          You’re right.  We should go back. Maybe we could just get a bite at the coffee shop then. 

EVELYN

          I can’t wait to tell him. Who do I write it out to.

Page 21

TOM

          Just “Ralph’s Books” is okay.  I got it here. Forty niue dollars and twelve cents. That’s with the state tax and all. Actually thats a half too. Seven and a half cents sales tax.  Like the book here. “Twelve and A Half Short Stories.” But  What….what is a half story anyway.

EVELYN

          Well, it’s a classic. He wrote it over 40 years ago. It’s recognized as one of the true masterpieces of literature.

TOM

A masterpiece? Half a story?

BILL

Yes, half a short story…It was genius. I don’t know how many times I’ve read that masterpiece and marveled over it. What is half a short story? Young man, read it, just read, read it good, and then ask yourself: How else would we know what he didn’t say? You see, it’s what he …oh never mind.  Come on Evie, lets go tell Ronnie.

          [EVELYN HANDS TOM THE CHECK WITH A SMILE.]

EVELYN

          Here you are.  [SHE SMILES AS SHE HANDS TOM THE CHECK.]

          [BILL AND EVELYN GO TO THE DOOR, PICK UP THEIR UMBRELLAS AND EXIT.]

          [THE BELLS JINGLE ABOVE]

Page 22

TOM

          Oh. I forgot to offer a bag. Oh. Oh well.

          [HE PUTS THE CHECK IN THE BOX. THEN HE SLIDES “TWELVE AND A HALF SHORT STORIES” IN FRONT OF HIM. HE OPENS IT. LOOKS WHERE THE PAGES WERE TORN OUT. HE SHRUGGES AND PUSHES IT ASIDE. NEXT HE LOOKS AT THE TOME OF SHAKESPEARE STILL OPEN WHERE HE LEFT OFF. HE LOOKS TO THE DOOR, THIS WAY AND THAT AND CLOSES THE BOOK. AGAIN HE LOOKS THIS WAY AND THAT.TAKES THE BOOK AND PUTS IT BACK IN THE SHELF. HE RETURNS BACK OF THE COUNTER, PICKS UP HIS COWBOY PAPERBACK, SETTLES HIMSELF ON THE STOOL, SMILES AND THEN FROWNS AS HE QUICKLY GET BACK INTO THE ADVENTURES AT THE HORSESHOE RANCH.]

END =’t