Sunday, December 29, 2019

Package Deal--Partial Draft

Package Deal
A Short Play
By Alan Haehnel

Production note:  “Package Deal” was originally performed with two actors playing all of the roles.  They worked on a bare stage with two folding chairs, no costume changes. The following version breaks all of the characters out so they can be played by multiple actors.  Preferably, the ensemble should small enough so that we see the same actor playing multiple roles. Regardless, the set should be simple, costuming minimal, and the pace quick.

(Aurey and Jillian enter, stand side-by-side.)

Jillian:  We’re gonna get real…

Aurey:  This is our spiel…

Both:  We are a package deal!

Jillian:  I’m Jillian.

Aurey:  I’m Aurey.

The following italicized, optional stage directions and dialogue are for productions using more than two actors. 

(Suddenly, the members of the ensemble jump out from the wings.)     

Ensemble:  And we’re the ensemble!

Ensemble Member 1:  A group of Jillian and Aurey’s friends who love their story so much we just have to help tell it.

Ensemble Member 2:  We will play various roles because, in case you didn’t hear us the first time…

Ensemble:  We are the ensemble!

(The Ensemble jumps back into the wings.  Aurey and Jillian look at one another.)

Jillian:  Did you put them up to that?

Aurey:  Entirely their invention.

Jillian and Aurey:  Heavy sigh.  

Aurey:  As we were saying…

Jillian:  We’re gonna get real…

Aurey:  This is our spiel…

Both:  We are a package deal!

Jillian:  I’m Jillian.

Aurey:  I’m Aurey.

Jillian:  And we have been saying that little rhyme since…

Aurey:  6th grade?

Jillian:  5th grade, January, the infamous mitochondria project.

Aurey:  Oh, yes.  Ms. Fludderquat.

(Ms. Fludderquat enters.  She is played by a member of the ensemble, as are all characters other than Aurey and Jillian.)

Ms. Fludderquat:  Aurey, Jillian, you will not be working together on this presentation.

Aurey:  But…

Ms. F:  Absolutely not!

Jillian:  What if we…

Ms. F:  If you two don’t learn to branch out, expand your horizons and detach once in a while, well…

Aurey:  She always did this—the big build-up to…

Ms. F:  Well, I don’t know what.

Jillian:  Total dud.  

Both (to Ms. F):  Please, please, please!

Ms. F:  You can keep on pleasing until the cows come home, but mark my words, if the two of you don’t learn to work independently, autonomously, on your own at least now and then, well…

Aurey:  Here it comes.

Ms. F:  I don’t know what. 

Jillian:  She was very consistent.

Ms. F:  Bottom line: Nien!  For the mitochondria project, you will find other partners!  And that is final!

(Ms. F exits.)

Aurey:  So, we did what any industrious middle-schoolers would do.

Jillian:  We ran to our over-indulgent parents--first to my house, then to Aurey’s--and whined.

(Jillian’s parents and Aurey’s parents enter to listen to the whining girls.)

Both (ad libbed whining):  Mom, it’s not fair! We have to work together!  Please! Ms. Fludderquat is so mean!

Aurey:  Then we upped our game and crawled--first to my house, then to Jillian’s--to our helicoptering parents and cried.

Both (ad libbed crying):  We can’t do it without each other!  We’ll just die! Waa!

Jillian:  Then, in both our houses, we listened to our child-centric parents conferring behind closed doors.

Aurey’s Parents, Jillian’s Parents:  Mumble, mumble…damaging self esteem…mumble, mumble…threaten a lawsuit…mumble, mumble…have a talk with that Fludderquat…mumble, mumble…doesn’t recognize how talented they are…mumble, mumble…have to kick some butt…mumble, mumble. 

(The Parents exit while mumbling.)

Aurey:  And…

Jillian:  As is usually the case with middle schoolers like us with parents like them… 

Both:  We got our way!

Aurey:  And…

Jillian:  To ensure that we never had to face such disappointment in school again…

Both:  We got an IEP!

Aurey:  IEP—individualized education plan. 

Jillian:  State-mandated individualized education plan.

(Lawyer enters.)

Lawyer:  The state hereby decrees that Aurey and Jillian, having been officially diagnosed with an overdependence disorder that is entirely beyond their control, shall never be compelled to work independent of one another.  Ergo ipso facto e pluribus unum.

(Lawyer exits.  Ms. F enters.)

Ms. Fludderquat:  It appears, Jillian and Aurey, after further consideration and having heard from both of your parents, and your parents’ attorneys,  and the school board, that you will, in fact, be working together on the mitochondria project.

Both:  Yay! Thank-you, Ms. Fludderquat.

Ms. F:  But you mark my words, you two, the day is coming when reality is going to come crashing down, when you learn that not everything is going to go your way, and then...

Aurey:  Yes, Mrs. Fludderquat?

Ms. F:  Well…

Jillian:  You were saying, Ms. Fludderquat?

Ms. F:  Well, I don’t know what.  But something!

(Ms. F exits.)

Aurey and Jillian:  Thank-you again, Ms. Fludderquat. 

Aurey:  Thus legally armed, our friendship infused virtually every activity throughout our school days.

Jillian:   Tests, quizzes, papers…

Aurey:  Oral reports, recitations...

Jillian:  Labs, even rope climbing.

Aurey:  I climbed half way…

Jillian:  I climbed half way…

Both:  And we both got full credit!

Aurey:  Ergo ipso facto…

Jillian:  E pluribus unum.

Aurey:  That may be Greek to you…

Jillian:  But whatever you interpret or think or feel…

Both:  We are a package deal!

Aurey:  Remember that day, near the end of our junior year, when we skipped class…

Jillian:  Also part of our IEP—we could skip one class a week, as long as we did it together.

Aurey:  And we laid out on the pole vault mats and just dreamed.

Jillian:  We had it all figured out that day.

(They lie down, leaning against one another.  Members of the ensemble could act as the mats.)

Aurey:  Feel that sun.

Jillian:  Look at that sky.

Aurey:  We’re gonna be seniors next year!

Jillian:  Senior year! 

Aurey:  You know what’s going to happen?  We are going to co-write the most magnificent college essay ever sent to an Ivy League College.

Jillian:   We are going to be accepted to every school on our list.

Aurey:  We are going to send disappointing letters to several highly-ranked institutions…

Jillian:  Sorry, Dartmouth.  We will not be attending.

Aurey:  Regrets, Princeton.  You didn’t get us.

Jillian:  Somebody’s going to give us a full ride, a full ride plus perks.

Aurey:  And a partridge in a pear tree, right next to our dorm room window.

Jillian:  Dorm? Nay.

Both:  Suite! 

Jillian:  Sweet suitemates at the most prestigious school in the world.

(Aurey stands up.)

Aurey:  And then, do you know what’s going to happen?  Oo, these mats are squishy.

Jillian:  What’s going to happen?

Aurey:  We are going to get noticed by two very good friends.

Jillian:  Of the male persuasion.

Aurey:  Two ridiculously close friends.

Jillian:  One will be Bradley.

Aurey:  One will be Biff.

Both (dreamy):  Bradley and Biff!

(Bradley and Biff enter.)

Biff:  Say, Bradley.

Bradley:  Yo, Biff.

Biff:  What say you to a game of tennis, old chum?

Bradley:  I say, absotively, posilutely.

(They begin to pantomime playing tennis.  A member of the ensemble makes the sounds of them hitting the ball.)

Sound effects person:  Tock, tock, tock, tock.  

Biff:  I say, Bradley. 

Sound effects person:  Tock.

Bradley:  What’s that, Biff?  

Sound effects person:  Tock.

Biff:  Did you happen to notice…

Sound effects person:  Tock.

Biff:...those two lovelies…

Sound effects person:  Tock. our Intro. to Bigwigery class?  

Sounds Effects Person:  Tock.

Bradley:  Nice shot, old boy.

Biff:  Thank-you, old boy.

Bradley:  Do you happen to be talking about those two hot commodities, Jillian and Aurey, perchance? 

Biff:  Precisely the ones, Bradley.  Service!  

Sound Effects Person:  Tock.

Bradley:  Hard not to notice those two.  

Sound Effects Person:  Tock.

Biff:  Joined at the lovely hips, those two.  

Sound Effects Person:  Tock.

Bradley:  Kind of like us.  

Sound Effects Person:  Tock.

Biff:  Say!

Sound Effects Person:  Tock.

Bradley:  I’m picking up what you’re putting down, Biff.  

Sound Effects Person:  Tock.

Biff and Bradley:  How about doubles?

Sound Effects Person:  Tock.  

Biff:  Aha! Game!

Bradley:  Set!

Biff and Bradley:  A perfect match!

(Biff and Bradley exit.)

Jillian:  Biff. 

Aurey:  Bradley.

Jillian:  The most gorgeous double wedding…

Aurey:  The most spectacular double honeymoon…

Jillian:  Side-by-side houses.

Aurey:  Bradley and Biff:  partners in the same law firm.

Jillian:  You and I:  partners in the same amazingly-successful mail-order business selling our custom-made…

Aurey:  Cupcakes!

Jillian:  Q-tip dispensers!

Aurey:  Bug zappers!

Both:  All of the above and more!

Jillian:  Rich.

Aurey:  Beautiful.

Both:  Completely and utterly successful!

Jillian:  But not quite fulfilled.

Aurey:  Oh, no!   What more will we possibly need?

Both:  Our babies.

(They pantomime cradling children.  Two ensemble members come out and assume the roles of the babies, lying on the floor and reacting as if being adored.)

Jillian:  My beautiful boy, Bradley the fifth.

Aurey:  My spectacular girl, Aurelia Dawn Scottsdale Hyperia Agnus Dingle, the first. 

(During the following dialogue, the ensemble members pantomime the action Jillian and Aurey are describing.)

Jillian:  And we’ll watch our friendship embodied in our children as they learn to crawl…

Aurey:  To stand…

Jillian:  To take their first steps…

Aurey:  To say their first word:

The Ensemble Members Playing the Babies: Scin-till-a-ting. 

Aurey:  On through pre-school, middle school, high school, their teachers will be amazed.

Several Ensemble Members (as teachers):  What amazing students they are!

Aurey:  Until finally…

Jillian:  After earning their doctorates and establishing themselves professionally…

Aurey:  Our children will become the ultimate testament to our iron-clad bond as friends.  Our offspring will unite in holy matrimony.

(Reverend enters, stands in front of the all-grown-up babies.)

Reverend: Marriage.  Do you, Bradley the 5th, and you, Aurelia Dawn Scottsdale Hyperia Agnus Dingle the first, take one another to be lawfully wedded husband and wife and ultimate testaments to your mothers’ iron-clad bond as friends?

Ensemble Members Playing the Babies:  We suuuure do!

(Reverend and Babies exit.)

Aurey:  Yes, that day, lying on those mats, we dreamt of ourselves as cosmic vaulters, flying up, up and over a bar set amongst the very stars! 

Both:  We are going to be--da, da, da, dum--awesome!

Aurey:  And then…

Jillian:  In the summer before our senior year, we came hurtling down from our bar in the stars to land, not on any comforting cushion.

Aurey:  But with a splat on the bare pavement of reality.

Both:  The conference!

Jillian:  That fateful summer, our parents attended a conference together.

Aurey:  A conference entitled:  “Entitled—How Modern Parenting Has Cursed Our Children.”

Jillian:  We suspect there must have been some very convincing speakers.

(Two charismatic speakers enter.)

Speaker 1:  Do we love them? 

Speaker 2:  Unquestionably! 

Speaker 1:  Out of love, though, we have bubble wrapped and coddled these young people to such a degree that they simply cannot survive adversity! 

Speaker 2:  We have created blown-glass children primed for shattering! 

Speaker 1:  Out of love, parents, we must do the hardest thing, what may even feel like cruelty. 

Speaker 2:  We must thrust them from the nest! 

Speaker 1:  Rip them from the cocoon! 

Speaker 2:  Let life teach them they can be tough. They can be resilient.

Speaker 1:  Will it be hard to watch?

Speaker 2:  Unquestionably!

Speaker 1:  But, in the end, will they thank you?

Both Speakers:  Of course, of course, of course they will. 

Aurey:  When both sets of parents returned from their conference…

Jillian:  Their cultish weekend where they transformed from reasonable people into childhood-sucking vampires…

Aurey:  We heard them behind closed doors again. 

(Aurey and Jillian’s Parents enter, huddled.)

Aurey’s parents, Jillian’s Parents:  Mumble, mumble, mumble…being too indulgent…mumble, mumble…got to cut the cord…mumble, mumble…have to grow up sometime…mumble, mumble…

Aurey:  This was dangerous!  If we weren’t careful, these conference-addled parents were going to turn around and tell us…

Parents (getting increasingly louder):  Mumble, mumble, mumble, mumble, mumble…
Get a job, you two!

Jillian and Aurey:  But, but, but…

Aurey:  We’re your little kumquats.

Jillian:  Your precious tomatoes.

Aurey:  Your hothouse vegetables in need of warmth and protection and nurturing.

Jillian:  Despite our desperate pleadings…

Aurey:  Despite our cleverest analogies…

Jillian:  Despite, even our widest eyes and most quivering lips…

(They demonstrate.)

Aurey:  Both sets of parents remained resolute. 

Jillian’s Father:  Hit the road, kids! 

Aurey’s Mother:  You’re tough—go get ‘em!

Both Sets of Parents:  And don’t come back ‘til you’re gainfully employed.

(Parents exit.)

Jillian:  Remember that Sunday night in late August after they told us the conditions of our new life?

Aurey:  It was warm, but we both felt the chill breeze of disillusionment blowing down our backs.

(They shiver.)

Jillian:  No cars until we can pay for the gas.

Aurey:  And the insurance.

Jillian:  No brand-name, high-priced colleges unless we get scholarships for our stellar grades or outstanding achievements.

Aurey and Jillian:  Neither of which we have.

Jillian:  And don’t forget the worst thing of all.

Aurey:  How can I forget the cruelest thing of all?

(They both take a deep intake of breath.)

Both:  No phones!

Aurey:  Until we can afford them!

Both:  No phones!

Jillian:  Bereft and abandoned, left to wallow in the dust, lacking even the most basic survival tool with which to stay connected to our friends, our tribe, our very existence!

Aurey:  That was dramatic.

Jillian:  Too much?

Aurey:  Given the circumstances, not at all.

Both:  No phones!

(They collapse into one another’s arms, weeping and wailing in despair.  After a few seconds, they break from each other.)

Aurey:  After several tearful hours sitting on the curb…

Jillian:  Under a lone streetlamp…

Aurey:  At the half-way point between both of our houses…

Jillian:  At the intersection of Lonely Street and Desolation Avenue…

Both:  We made a decision.

Aurey:  We would do what any self-respecting adolescent best friends whose parents had suddenly become monsters would do! 

Jillian:  We found our convictions.  We converted our grief into self-righteous indignation.  We marched straight down to…

Both:  The police station!

Aurey:  Right through the doors, right up to the desk of the first policeman we saw, we marched in and we said…

Jillian:  Officer, we need to report a crime.

(Officer enters.)

Officer:  What is the nature of the crime?

Aurey:   Well, it’s, um, it’s a sort of, it’s a very bad thing, what has happened to us, what has been done to us.

Officer:  You don’t say?

Jillian:  I do say, actually, or, I’m going to say, or I’m nearly saying.

Officer:  Listen, girls, we’re pretty busy here. 

Aurey:  Robbery!  Robbery! We have been robbed!

Officer:  Who robbed you?

Jillian:  Our parents.  

Aurey:  We mean, we don’t have the same parents, but both pairs of parents robbed us.  

Jillian:  Both.

Officer:  Uh-huh. 

Aurey:  Do you want to write down what they robbed from us?

Officer:  It’s what I live for.

Jillian:  They took our cars.

Aurey:   They took our college education

Jillian:  They took—forgive me; this is so hard to say—our phones.  

Aurey:  And our dignity.  And our futures.  

Jillian:  And our phones.  

Aurey:  And our self esteem.  Self esteems. Selves esteem.  I’m not sure how to make that plural. 

Officer:  You know, some days there’s not enough coffee in the world.  

Jillian:  Please arrest our parents.

Officer:  Give me their numbers.

Aurey:  Are you going to call them down here to the station so you can rough them up, get them to confess?

Officer:  Not quite.  In my free time, I’m going to ring them up and tell them to stick to their guns.

Jillian:  Wait a minute…

Officer:  And unless you want me to arrest you for unlawful seizure of my sanity, I have three words for you:

Aurey:  But…

Officer:  Get a job!

(Officer exits.)

Jillian:  Thus did we march into the police station.

Aurey:  And slog out of the police station.

Jillian:  We marched into the State House.

Both:  We need a law against our parents!

Aurey:  We slogged out of the State House.

Jillian:  We marched into the psychiatric wing of our local hospital.

Both:  Our parents are insane and need to be committed!

Aurey:  We slogged out of the psychiatric wing of our local hospital.

Jillian:  Escorted to the door by two overly-cheerful nurses who told us to…

(Nurses enter.)

Two Overly-Cheerful Nurses:  Have a better day!

(Nurses exit.)

Aurey:  Thus exhausted from all of our marching and slogging, we returned to our personal wailing wall, our cursing curb…

Jillian:  At the intersection of Bleak Street and Hellacious Avenue.

Aurey:  There, we sighed.

(They sigh heavily.)

Jillian:  There, we decided.

Both:  Well…(they look at one another, then out front) Guess we gotta get a job.

Aurey (getting up, pacing):  So, I did what I normally do when faced with a problem.  I commenced spitballing, brainstorming, spouting off random ideas.  A job, a job. I’ve heard of jobs. I understand they are sources of income.  Those without them end up on street corners holding up signs that say, “Down on my luck.  Any help appreciated.” But words like “appreciated” are often misspelled. Maybe we could make money editing signs for jobless people. (out to audience)  And the whole time I was trying to make some progress with our problem, Jillian was just sitting there.  

Jillian:  I want my phone.  I want my car. 

Aurey:  Jillian, this is not productive.

Jillian:  I want my Ivy League colleges.  I want my cocoon. 

Aurey:  Jillian…

Jillian:  I want my life back!

Aurey:  Jillian, snap out of it!  We have a life! It’s just not nearly as nice as the one we had before our parents were brainwashed into thinking we are supposed to be responsible people. 

Jillian:  I’m going to sit here and whine for five years.

Aurey:  No, you are not.  You have me. And I have you.  No matter what happens, there’s one thing that is real…say it with me.

Jillian:  I’m beginning my five-year whining career.

Aurey:  No matter what happens, there’s one thing that is real…come on!  

Jillian:  Give me the intro one more time.

Aurey:  No matter what happens, there’s one thing that is real…

Both:  We are a package deal. 

Aurey:  Again! 

Both:  We are a package deal!

Aurey:  Sing it!

Both:  We are a package deal!

Aurey:  Are you back? 

Jillian:  I’m back. You know what?

Aurey:  What?

Jillian:  Other people go looking for jobs.  Other people try to make themselves fit the employment, right?

Aurey:  That’s the word on the street.

Jillian:  We are not other people, Aurey.

Aurey:  Now you’re cooking, Sister!

Jillian:  The jobs are going to come to us!  All we have to do is let the world know what we have to offer.  I mean, who are we?

Aurey:  We are Aurey and Jillian!

Jillian:  The Power Pair!

Aurey:  The Bogo’s Logo!

Jillian:  The Double the Trouble Couple, the Chop Suey Duet who will never quit, who will do it to it every single time.

Both:  Mmmm-hmmm.

Jillian:  Do not bother coming to us with an offer of employment unless you can answer yes to the following questions.

Aurey:  Are you willing to simultaneously hire both of us and grant us identical shifts?

Jillian:  Will your schedule accommodate our binge-watching needs?

Aurey:  Can you afford to pay us a minimum of…

(They huddle for a few seconds, calculating, then turn out.)

Both:  18.50 per hour?

Jillian:  Can you ensure that the time spent at your establishment will honor our needs for creativity and respectability?

Aurey:  Will your uniform be flattering?

Jillian:  And finally, if we should feel fatigued, do you have a comfortable space where we might take a brief, recuperative nap?

Aurey:  If you answer any of the above questions in the negative, don’t bother calling.

Jillian:  If, on the other hand, you are the type of progressive organization that answers yes every time, then…

Both:  You have a job for us!

Aurey:  Call now, don’t delay.  Supplies are limited!

Jillian:  Once we’re gone, we’re gone, and you’ll be left holding a great big pile of damn-they-got-away!

Aurey:  We posted our ad on Facebook and Twitter…

Jillian:  On Youtube and Snapchat…

Aurey:  Everywhere and anywhere civilized people would look. 

Jillian:  We went to bed that night wondering how we were going to sort through the hundreds of offers we were sure to get.

Aurey:  We woke up that morning, checked our computers…

Jillian:  Not our phones.  We didn’t have our phones.

Aurey:  And saw…

Both:  Nothing.

Jillian:  And heard…

Both:  Crickets.

Aurey:  And felt…

Both:  Utterly unloved. 

Jillian:  I mean, what did these people want?  Here we were, nuggets of gold waiting to be panned.

Aurey:  Uncut diamonds, waiting to be dug out of the mud.

Jillian:  Where were the panners?

Aurey:  Where were the diggers?

Jillian:   One night during this dark period, I was sitting on my bed contemplating a Kickstarter campaign called “Fund the Greatest Duo in the World Because We’re Super Cute” when I heard a creepy whisper coming from beneath me.

(The ensemble members become Jillian’s bed.  One of them becomes Jillian’s dad under the bed.)

Jillian’s Dad:  Psst, Jillian!

Jillian:  If you’re a rapist, you should know I have a loaded machine gun under my pillow.  I can whip it out and shoot you to ribbons in a matter of seconds. 

Jillian’s Dad:  Pookie, I’m not a rapist.  I’m your dad.

Jillian:  Daddy? What are you doing under there?

Jillian’s Dad:  I wanted to talk to you, but I don’t want your mother to know.

Jillian:  Why not?

Jillian’s Dad:  Pookie, it’s a little complicated.

Jillian:  Don’t call me Pookie.

Jillian’s Dad:  But, as my pet name for you, it reinforces our bond of affection.

Jillian:  Our bond of affection was severely damaged when you and Mom got brainwashed at that conference.  You lost your rights to Pookie.  

Jillian’s Dad:  Listen, Poo…Jillian, about the conference.  Your mother is a bit more…committed to the whole concept than I ever was.  

Jillian:  Daddy, I want things back like they were.

Jillian’s Dad:  That is, while I agree in principle with the conceptual framework presented at the conference…

Jillian:  Daddy, if you want your Pookie back, Pookie needs her stuff back.  Capiche?

Jillian’s Dad:  I got you and Aurey a job.  (pause) Don’t tell your mother.

Jillian:  You what?

Jillian’s Dad:  I know you’ve been trying.  I saw your posts on Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat and...

Jillian:  Daddy, why are you stalking me?

Jillian’s Dad:  It’s not stalking.  It’s modern parenting.  And a hobby, to a slight degree. Now…

Jillian:  What kind of a job?

Jillian’s Dad:  I know, according to the oath I took at the conference, that we need to let you struggle…

Jillian:  Does it pay well?

Jillian’s Dad:  And your mother, despite all the talk of maternal instincts...

Jillian:  Is it fun and fulfilling?

Jillian’s Dad:  She really surprises me, frankly, though you know I’d never speak poorly of…

Jillian:  Father! 

Jillian’s Dad:  Not so loud. Your mother thinks I’ve gone out to get some Cajun-spiced tofu. 

Jillian:  Stop babbling under my bed and tell me about this job!  Does it answer yes to all our crucial questions?

Jillian’s Dad:  Yes. 

Jillian:  Perfect! 

Jillian’s Dad:  To some degree.

Jillian:  To what degree, exactly, Father?

Jillian’s Dad:  You and Aurey are both hired and you get to work the same hours!  That’s the best I could do. (Jillian says nothing.) Pookie? Jillian?  Your silence is making me decidedly uncomfortable. Not to mention the floor.  Have you ever vacuumed under here? 

Jillian:  Father. Where.  Is. This. Job?

Jillian’s Dad:  Well, as you might be aware, I have a client named Jacob Smudgely.  He happens to own a chain of…

Jillian:  Smudgeburger?  Smudgeburger? You want us to work at Smudgeburger?

Jillian’s Dad:  Now, Pookie, it’s good, honest work, and…

(The bed ensemble and Jillian’s dad exit.)

Jillian:  And on and on the conversation went for well over an hour with my father under the bed convincing me that Smudgeburger, home of the world-famous Smudgestack Bacon Bomb, was a worthy place to work.  Then, after he finally left, I called Aurey.

Aurey:  Smudgeburger!?   That place does not encourage creativity!  That place does the opposite of encourage creativity!  It kills brain cells, Jillian. 

(Aurey continues with an ad-libbed diatribe against Smudgeburger as Jillian tries to talk over her.)

Jillian:  Sometimes, life can perpetrate as sort of… (Jillian moves her hand as if adjusting a volume level.  Aurey keeps going with her rant but is barely audible. Her gestures show she is vehement about her hatred of Smudgeburger.)  Sometimes, life can perpetrate a sort of perverse alchemy. Unlikely elements combine and you end up with something you never anticipated.  Despite all of our complaints and objections...

(Aurey comes to full volume for a moment.)

Aurey:   The uniforms!  The uniforms at Smudgeburger were designed by color-blind gargoyles intent on destroying any semblance of human dignity!

(Jillian “lowers the volume” again.)

Jillian:  Somehow, and I am still at a loss as to how, elements of that weekend combined in some mysterious way to produce this  impossibly-unlikely outcome on Monday afternoon:

(Aurey and Jillian face straight out and speak together.)

Aurey and Jillian:  Welcome to Smudgeburger.  Have you tried our world-famous Smudgestack Bacon Bomb?

Aurey:  On the very first day, within the very first hour of the very first day, even the one criterion Smudgeburger fulfilled—that Jillian and I would work together—was violated by our manager, the lovely Janice.

(Janice enters.)

Janice:  Yeah, listen, good, you got the uniforms on.  Good. They fit you like crap. Good. They fit us all like crap.  Listen, I need one of you on the register and one of you working the back line.

Aurey:  Oh, I’m sorry, but we have an IEP that says we do everything together.  

Jillian:  We’ll either both be on register or both be on the back line.  

Aurey and Jillian:  We can’t be separated. 

Janice:  Yeah, well, listen, Gory…

Aurey:  Aurey. It’s short for Aurelia.

Janice:  Yeah, Gory, Gilligan, you two can take your STP or your STD…

Aurey: But you don’t seem to understand that…

Janice:  : Oh, I understand, all right!  I understand that you, Gory, are on register, and you, Gilligan, are on the back line.  So go!

Jillian:  But…

Janice:  Now!

Aurey: Our shock at encountering tyranny from a manager barely three years our senior forced us into submission.  After very brief training sessions on the register…

Janice (to Jillian):  The customer wants that, you push this button; the customer wants this, you push that button; this, you ring that bell; that, you reach behind the counter and hand her a ketchup packet.  Good. Your hat’s on backwards. 

Jillian:  And on the back line…

Janice (to Aurey):  So listen, pickles you have to pay attention to.  Close attention. Pickles go on lots of things, but they don’t go on everything.  Pickles will put you into a pickle. That’s a joke. You should laugh at that, especially if one of the managers  makes it. Your collar’s sticking up.

Aurey:  Somehow, after only five minutes of this goes here and that goes there and pickles will determine your life, we were supposed to be ready for flesh-and-blood Smudgeburger customers. 

Jillian:  The first fifteen minutes were great.  I munched a Hardy Lardy Smudgefry, leaned against the counter of my workspace and thought, “Hey, this isn’t so bad.”  I barely got that thought out when my co-worker, Theo, who was probably twelve and had more acne than face, told me…

(Theo enters.)

Theo:  Like, you might want to know that eating while you’re punched is, like, a major crime at Smudgeburger.  You could get docked, like, a dollar per Smudgefry. 

Jillian:  You’re not going to tell on me, are you?

Theo:  I might have to, if, like, Janice sees you and sees me, like, seeing you.  You will probably only get docked a dollar because you’re, like, pretty new, but I’ll get docked, like, two dollars because I didn’t, like, report you.  That’s the way it, like, goes here. 

Jillian:  So much for free food.

Theo:  Plus the food sucks.  Uh-oh.

Jillian:  What?

Theo:  Bus. Battle stations!

Jillian:  Trial by fire?  No. Trial by Fryolator.  Trial by grease. Trial by a bus full of hyped-up senior citizens wanting a quick meal before heading to the gambling casino. 

Aurey:  Hi, hello, greetings, welcome to Smudgeburger!  Have you tried our world-famous…I’m sorry, what was that?  A coffee, three creamers, two sugars, not too hot. All-righty, I can get that for you.  Just need to find the button for that. Coffee, coffee, cof…. And a Big Mac? I’m sorry, we don’t serve Big Macs.  That’s the other place. I can offer you the UltraSmudge. It’s like the Big Mac only…ours. No mayonnaise and extra onions?  Oh, no onions and extra mayonnaise. My mistake. I’m actually still looking for the coffee button. Ah, there it is! And you wanted three mayonnaise on that?  I mean, creamers, of course. Mayonnaise in the coffee—that would be a surprise, wouldn’t it?  

Jillian:  Okay, lay out the foil wrapper.  Check. Take a bottom bun from the bun toaster.  Check. Take a patty from the patty spot here. Always use the tongs.  Tongs for sanitation. Patty on the bun on the foil wrapper. Check and check and check.  I know. I will definitely get faster at this. I am working right now on assembling a Junior SmudgeTaster with... Whoa!  Okay! That is supposed to be my station, you know, so…Oh! Wow! You are like a machine. Jeez, that’s almost violent, the way you’re… All right, then, one Junior SmudgeTaster with embedded onion rings.  Did you embed the onion rings? I didn’t see where you…Okay, yes, I will go faster. Lay out the tin foil wrapper, check! Bottom bun, check! Faster than that? But I’m an aural learner. I like to speak things as I do them.  All right, all right, I’m going!  

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