“A Friendship in Ten Minutes”

Mallory Miller


(This play should be set in the early twentieth century. Lights up on two water fountains. Both are standard and silver, but one is clean and well managed while the other is rusted and broken. Over the clean fountain there is a sign labeled “WHITE.” Over the broken fountain, one labeled “BLACK.”)

(A young white boy runs in looking behind him anxiously. He is carrying a bookbag; his hair and clothes are clean, but messy. Unconsciously, he props himself up against the “WHITE” water fountain. We don’t know why the boy has ended up here at this place in this moment; perhaps he is hiding from something and is seeking peace and quiet. He pulls out a set of jacks and begins to play with them.)

(A young black boy of about the same age enters from the opposite direction. His clothes are cheap, and threadbare, he is dirty, sweaty and tired. His head faces the ground, his shoulders are slumped, and his hands are in his pockets. He automatically walks over to the “BLACK” water fountain and tries to take a drink, but no water comes out. This boy desperately needs a drink of water, and no one else is around but the white boy. He wants to go to the other fountain and take a drink, but he doesn’t want to get in trouble. Instead, he props himself up against the “BLACK” water fountain and busies himself with some imaginary dust on the floor. The white boy is preoccupied with his jacks and doesn’t seem to notice the black boy.)

(Beat.)

(Suddenly, the white boy misses the marble, and it rolls toward the black boy. He notices the marble, and pushes it back toward the white boy. The white boy rolls it back to the black boy, and they begin to make a game out of it. This shouldn’t be automatic. Both boys are uncomfortable with each other, and should take some time deciding whether or not to roll it to the other. It becomes increasingly more comfortable, perhaps producing a laugh or some noise from either boy. When the game becomes casual, the conversation starts.)

 

WHITE: You go to school?

BLACK: (Shyly.) Uh, no sir.

WHITE: Lucky! I have to go to school, my ma makes me. I hate it though. It’s boring.

BLACK: I wouldn’t know sir. I uh, work in a factory. We make yarn and cloth. I ain’t never been to school.

WHITE: Oh, well, I wish I was you. The teacher always gets mad at me when I ain’t done nuthin’. She says I ain’t payin’ attention, but I just choose not to listen ‘cause what she’s sayin is boring.

(They continue to roll the marble back and forth during this conversation. Allow the marble to roll away from both boys. The black boy stands up to retrieve it, but..)

I’ll get it, hold on.

(He runs after the marble. The black boy sees this as his chance and runs to the “WHITE” water fountain and takes a long drink. When the white boy comes back, the black boy jumps away, embarrassed.)

BLACK: Um, sorry sir, I was… well I was thirsty sir, and the other one… well it’s broken sir.

WHITE: (shrugs) Ok. I’m Cooper by the way. Not “sir.” That’s my dad’s name.

BLACK: Oh, well, um, it’s nice to meet you sir… I mean, Co-o… Cooper. My name is Todd.

COOPER: Alright-y, TODD. You wanna play tag?

TODD: If you want to…

Laughing, Cooper runs up to Todd, taps him on the shoulder, and runs off. Hesitantly, Todd runs after Cooper.)

(The boys run on and off stage, playing different games and doing different things. The lights should follow these activities, indicating each “play time” as days passing. We are watching the boys grow up, watching them become friends, watching their innocence. Both boys become oblivious to any racial differences.)

(Lights up. Both boys run in, take a sip from the “WHITE” water fountain and collapse on the floor. Their heads are together with their feet sticking straight out.)

COOPER: Todd?

TODD: (His eyes are closed.) Hmmm?

COOPER: What do you wanna be when you grow up?

(Silence.)

Todd? You awake?

TODD: Yeah.

COOPER: Well? What do you wanna be?

TODD: I dunno. I haven’t thought about it all that much. (Beat.) I guess I’ll just keep working in the factory.

COOPER: Forever?

TODD: I guess.

COOPER: That’s your dream?

TODD: I… (Silence.) What do you wanna be?

COOPER: Well, my dad wants me to be a lawyer like him, but I want to be a monster hunter!

TODD: A monster hunter! Cool! What would you hunt?

COOPER: EVERYTHING, Todd. Vampires and ghosts and demons and zombies! But you know what I’d love to kill?

TODD: What?

COOPER: I’d love to kill me a big hairy werewolf! He’d come at me with his claws, and he’d be growlin’ at me, and I’d take him down with my big shiny gun and silver bullet, and everyone would worship me and I’d be a hero!

(The whole time Cooper is telling his story, he’s acting out his adventure like any little boy would do. He’s proud of his future accomplishment.)

TODD: You wouldn’t be scared at all?

COOPER: No! I’d be the bravest monster hunter in the whole country! Just you wait Todd, I’ll be on the front page of the newspaper for killin’ a WEREWOLF!

TODD: (Admiringly.) I bet you will be, Coop. You’ll be the greatest monster hunter in the whole country,  in the whole WORLD.

COOPER: You can be one too, Todd! We can go huntin’ all the big bad things together. We’ll be monster huntin’ brothers! We’ll go on big adventures and hunt, and bring back vampire heads and werewolf claws and anything else we kill!

TODD: Yeah! We can get outta this town and go somewhere else, anywhere else! (Beat.) That’s my dream, Coop. To be a monster hunter with you.

COOPER: Let’s swear on it, then. Promise that when we grow up, we’ll be monster huntin’ brothers.

TODD: I swear, Cooper!

COOPER: Can’t go back on it now! Let’s play monster hunters for practice, OK?

TODD: OK!

(They run off, laughing and mimicking werewolves and guns and acting out over-the-top pain and death.)

 

(Lights change, its October 31st, Halloween night. Todd is waiting for Cooper by the fountain. He is standing a little taller than before. He is wearing his regular clothes with a farmer’s hat on. Cooper walks in wearing a long white gown and a white, pointed hat/mask. Todd’s face falls, and he starts to back up.)

TODD: Wha… What are you wearin’ Cooper? Where’d you get that?

COOPER: It’s my Halloween costume, Todd! I told my ma I wanted to be a monster hunter for Halloween, so I could practice for the future! And my dad told her to make this costume for me and said that now I can hunt all the bad things! Do I look like a real hunter, Todd?

TODD: I… I don’t… you look like… Cooper, you… you don’t understand…my dad… I… I have to… (Backs up slowly during this line.)

COOPER: What’s the matter, Todd? You don’t like it? (Wounded.)

(Todd stares at Cooper for a moment without speaking, and then turns around and runs off.)

Todd? Todd! Where you goin’?

 

(The scene changes should represent days passing.)

(Lights fade out, and then come up on the water fountains. Cooper enters and looks around. He sits between the two water fountains and taps his foot, waiting. Perhaps he whistles while he waits, or pulls out a set of jacks and plays. After a while, he gets up and walks off.)

(Lights fade out, and then come up again. Cooper enters again, hangs around waiting, but not as long as before. He leaves.)

(Lights fade out, and then come up again. The stage is empty.)

*****

(Years pass. The stage remains the same. Only the actors’ ages show how much time has passed. Nothing else has changed.)

(Lights fade out, and then come up again. This time, Todd enters the stage. He is still sweaty and dirty and tired, but he is not a child anymore. His head faces the ground, his shoulders are slumped, and his hands are in his pockets. He tries the “BLACK” water fountain. It doesn’t work. He looks over at the “WHITE” water fountain, and then glances around. Quickly, he walks over and drinks.)

VOICE: FREEZE, NEGRO!

(Startled, Todd backs away from the water fountain, hands in the air. A man appears on stage. It is Cooper, but he is not a child anymore. He is a policeman now. The men do not recognize each other at first.)

TODD: I’m sorry sir, I was thirsty and the other one was broken, and this one was workin’ and no one was usin’ it, and I needed a drink. I’m awfully sorry sir.

COOPER: I didn’t ask you what you were doin’, or why you were doin’ it. I saw you drink from that fountain, and you’re a negro, and negroes aren’t allowed to drink from our water fountain.

TODD: The other one wasn’t working sir, and I needed some water. Please understand, sir, it won’t happen again.

COOPER: You’re damn right it won’t happen again. (He pulls out a wooden stick.) Come here.

TODD: Please sir, I promise it won’t happen again, please forgive me, sir… I—

COOPER: COME. HERE.

(Todd stiffly walks closer to Cooper. Cooper grabs Todd’s arm roughly and yanks him over.)

TODD: Cooper? Coop, is that you?

COOPER: Where did you learn my name, negro? (Beat.) Todd? What.. I don’t.. (Beat.) God I haven’t seen you since…. Since we were kids.

TODD: Since we were kids. Yeah. (Beat.) What’re you still doin’ here, Cooper? I thought you wanted to get outta here and explore and whatever. What is it you said you wanted to do again?

COOPER: (Smiles, remembering.) A monster hunter. Back when I thought that stuff was real. (Beat.) You wanted to be one too, remember?

TODD: Yeah, I did.

(Silence. The men look at each other. Cooper has released Todd’s arm, but he hasn’t put down the stick.)

TODD: Whatever happened to that dream, Cooper?

COOPER: I grew up. That was kid stuff. Nonsense. (Beat.) You?

TODD: (Half-hearted laughter.) Of course not. No. I still work at the factory.

COOPER: Right.

(They are silent for a moment. Todd and Cooper stare at each other, neither wanting to leave nor to stay. It is uncomfortable.)

TODD: (Finally speaking.) Are you going to let me go, Cooper?

COOPER: (Looks at the ground.) I gotta do my job, Todd. If I let one of you blacks go, I let them all go. That’s not right, Todd. We were friends when we were kids, but we’re men now, and you’re black and I’m white, and I gotta do my job.

BLACK: I see. You gotta do your job. (He kneels, his back facing the white man.) You gotta do your job. You white men and your jobs, your dream jobs.

WHITE: I’m sorry. I promise I’ll make it as quick as possible. It’s ten for drinkin’ out of our water fountain. It’s just ten.

BLACK: (Takes a deep breath.) You know what, sir? (Beat.) I think you’ve found your monster.

(The white man raises the wooden stick. Blackout.)

(Crack of the stick.)

(Crack of the stick.)

(Crack of the stick.)

(Crack of the stick.)

(Crack of the stick.)

(Crack of the stick.)

(Crack of the stick.)

(Crack of the stick.)

(Crack of the stick.)

(Crack of the stick.)

END OF PLAY

Fiction piece by Mallory Miller