last glass...dusty buckets...parched e-lips...sponge...drip...drop

2001-12-07 - 9:31 p.m.: the play


Cast of Characters:





SCENE: A fancy restaurant lit by candles or chandeliers, richly decorated.

TIME: Early evening.

AT RISE: Bruce and Fiona are sitting at a small table for two, facing each other, arms resting on the table. Fiona is engrossed in her menu, Bruce is watching her. Cecil is sitting at the next table over, by himself, surrounded by plates piled high with food. He eats noisily as Bruce and Fiona attempt to carry on a conversation.

BRUCE: (clears throat) Find anything?

FIONA: Hmmm..? Yes. No. There's so much to choose from!

BRUCE: Yes. I knew you'd be pleased. (pause) I hear they make an exquisite veal parmisian.

FIONA: Mmm. Yes. Well... I'm not quite in the mood for baby cow tonight, darling.

BRUCE: Yes. Of course, love. I meant eggplant.

FIONA: (pause) I need something... something... I don't know. What are you having?

BRUCE: Spaghetti.

FIONA: (laughing) How delightfully boring of you, Bruce! To come to a place like this, with a ten page menu, and order... Ooh! Now this sounds delicious!

BRUCE: What?

FIONA: (reading) "Exotic herbs and spices tossed with exuberantly fresh, sensually ripe tomatoes in a delectable stew, simmered over vibrant orange coils and lovingly poured over a large, steaming nest of tender, hand-crafted linguine noodles." (pause) What do you suppose they mean by "hand crafted noodles," Bruce?

BRUCE: I assume it means they were individually designed and fashioned. Why?

FIONA: I just want to be sure they weren't... you know... hand-carved by crippled children or impoverished musicians or aging ex-game show hosts....

BRUCE: Understandable... I'll ask our waiter to make sure. (waving a hand) Oh, waiter!

FRANCOIS: (coming over) Oui, Monsieur. Mademoiselle. How may I help you?

BRUCE: Please, we'd like to verify before we order that the hand-crafting of your linguine noodles did not involve the exploitation of crippled children or any other afflicted members of society.

FRANCOIS: Certainly not! La Maison Blanche noodles are hand-carved by a firm of physicians and legal consultants in Springfield, Massachusetts. And, Monsieur, it might also please you to know that all of our tomatoes are 100 percent dolphin safe!

BRUCE: Perfect... perfect! Then I believe we're finally ready to order!

FRANCOIS: Bravo! What fine culinary masterpieces will I be delivering to you this evening?

FIONA: I'll have --

BRUCE: Two spaghettis. And, eh... no meatballs.

FRANCOIS: Very good, Monsieur. And to drink? I would like to recommend the --

BRUCE: Wine, please. Something fine and sweet -- your very best.

FRANCOIS: Oui, but of course! Something red? Something white, this evening? Or something sparkling and overpriced, Monsieur?

BRUCE: Why, sparkling and overpriced would be just perfect! And sir, could you take this crystal back and just... shine it up a little? It's not catching the light quite right...

FRANCOIS: Oui, Monsieur. I'll see what I can do. (leaves)

FIONA: What is with you tonight, Bruce? You're acting so strange!

BRUCE: (unconsciously straightens tie, smooths hair, shakes out cuffs, etc.) What.... strange? In what way? Is something wrong?

FIONA: Oh, no... just... ordering for me? Ordering wine? You hate alcohol! It spoils your inhibitions!

BRUCE: So... what? I have more where they came from. Besides, I like to unwind every now and then. Doesn't everyone?

FIONA: Come on. Don't play with me. Something's on your mind... it's been eating at you for the last forty-five minutes. Out with it!

BRUCE: Really, Fiona... I don't see why you're -- oh dear. You have something hanging from your nose.

FIONA: I do? (swipes at it) Is it gone?

BRUCE: No. Still there. A no... Maybe you'd better look in the mirror....

FIONA: Right. Thanks! (hurries off, slowing down as she passes Cecil's table, then speeding up again.)

BRUCE: (gestures at FRANCOIS) Excuse me! You there!

FRANCOIS: Oui, Monsieur? Please... call me Francois.

BRUCE: Right, Francois. I just wanted to make sure everything's...?

FRANCOIS: Ahhh... yes, yes. The ravishing ring is inside the scrumptious eclair -- c'est tres magnifique! -- and the eclair is inside the oven, like a little baby in her mother's womb. It will be all ready in time for your dessert. All you have to do is woo the lovely lady, Monsieur. The rest is in our hands.

BRUCE: Thank you, thank you. I'm just very.... this has to be just right. Nothing must happen to ruin this evening. (tucks a bill into FRANCOIS's hand)

FRANCOIS: Of course, Monsieur. (leaves)

FIONA: (returning) I didn't see it. It must have fallen off along the way -- Oh my god, Bruce, you will NEVER, ever believe... (gestures toward Cecil's table) Don't look, but there is a man over there with SEVEN STEAKS and THIRTEEN BUTTERED ROLLS in front of him, and there's only ONE place setting!

BRUCE: (swivels his head to look around) Where?

FIONA: (hushed) Right there. No... yes. See him?

BRUCE: Holy shit!

FIONA: Shhh! Can you BELIEVE that? I wonder if he's going to eat all of it!

BRUCE: I can't see how he could possibly...

FIONA: And listen to him! I didn't notice it before... but do you hear it? The little grunts and slobbers? Unnngggt... unngggt... shhloopch... Now that I notice... it's absolutely deafening!

BRUCE: Yes, I hear it. What do you suppose the fellow's up to?

FIONA: I couldn't even begin to imagine... Oh look! No.. don't look. They're bringing more!

BRUCE: That's sickening.

FIONA: Amazing! (they stare at Cecil's table) I don't know if I can eat, now. No. Yes, I'm quite certain I've lost my appetite.

BRUCE: (looking panicked) Oh, but Fiona! We'll stay anyway, won't we? I've been planning this -- I mean, we've been looking forward to a night out for such a long time! I even plucked my nose hairs specifically for this occasion. And, boy, was that painful...!

FIONA: Oh, that was quite silly of you! But really... don't worry! I can spend more time admiring your nostrils at my place, over heaps of linguine... and for dessert... (a beat) Brucie, it'll be wonderful. We can eat out some other night.

BRUCE: But... well, dearest, aren't you just a little curious to see what happens? With the gentleman, I mean?

FIONA: Maybe from further away. But seriously, Bruce, it's making me sick.

BRUCE: Please just let me try one thing, first... I don't want to let something like this ruin our night. (waves hand at FRANCOIS, who comes over)

FRANCOIS: Oui, Monsieur?

BRUCE: Yes, er, we seem to have a bit of a problem with the view.

FRANCOIS: The view, Monsieur?

BRUCE: Yes. And the sound.

FRANCOIS: The sound?

BRUCE: We'd like to move to another table, if you have one available.

FRANCOIS: I'm sorry, Monsieur. We have no other tables available. Perhaps I can help in some other way? Would you like some lemon wedges?

BRUCE: Umm... I'm not certain that would --

FIONA: You see, sir, the problem is that there is a very loud, ravenous man over there, obviously a capitalist, making us feel quite nauseated by the very idea of food. Are you certain there's no other place for us to sit?

FRANCOIS: I'm sorry, Mademoiselle. Believe me, I would move you if I could. Perhaps I could interest you in a complimentary appetizer? Or dessert, perhaps? Our chocolate "dream filled" eclairs are quite the thing...

BRUCE: Why, that would be --

FIONA: No, thank you. I'm sorry, you've been very... charming this evening, but I really can't feel hungry with such a flagrant display of gustatory excess going on so nearby, when there are children starving in Ethiopia.

FRANCOIS: I see. Well, then if there's nothing more that I can do -- (catches Bruce's panicked glance) Perhaps, Monsieur, something sweet to take home with you? That is, something besides your lovely lady friend?

BRUCE: (quickly) Yes! Yes... we'll take two eclairs, please. To go.

FRANCOIS: Oui... very good! I will bring it out to you as soon as it is finished! In the meantime you can sip on your wine, and enjoy the sights and sounds of elegance! Please, sir, hand me your credit card so that I can more efficiently serve you. (He winks, and Bruce quickly hands over his credit card. FRANCOIS hurries away.)

FIONA: What a character! Anyway... I hope it won't take too long. I'm anxious to get home and examine those nostrils of yours. (a beat) You do look very handsome tonight, Bruce, all dressed up.

BRUCE: (Distracted by Francois waving frantically to him behind Fiona) Yes, thank you. Uh... you too! Except, Fiona darling, your mascara is smudged, just a little.

FIONA: But I don't wear mascara...

BRUCE: Oh... my god! You must have broken a blood vessel in your eyelid!

FIONA: What?! Where? How...

BRUCE: It's your left eye... there... does it hurt? Oh god, it looks terribly painful!

FIONA: It is a little tender... Oh, perfect! I'll be right back! (hurries off to the ladies room)

FRANCOIS: (hurries over) Emmmm, Monsieur... There is a slight problem, Monsieur.

BRUCE: You need more money? Fine! Blood? Fine! Whatever the cost... this is SO important to me. You have no idea...

FRANCOIS: No, no, you misunderstand, Monsieur. This is a different problem. You see, the gentleman at the next table -- as you've noticed -- has quite an appetite. He's ordered 50 eclairs, and we -- of course -- didn't plan on filling such a large order this evening. The entire staff was crazy for dough and filling! Apparently, somewhere in the jumble, yours were mixed up with the others, and... well...served up.


FRANCOIS: Don't worry! Please, Monsieur. Everything is under control. There just may be... a slight delay.

BRUCE: Under control?! A quarter of my bank account is about to be swallowed by that... machine... and everything is under control? How!?!

FRANCOIS: It's quite simple. The gentleman has been here already for several hours, and has eaten nearly everything in our stock. Sooner or later, he will either give up, or his stomach will explode, sending him into cardiac arrest. I'm fairly certain he won�t get to your particular eclair before that happens.

BRUCE: This is insane!

FRANCOIS: But it's expensive! Please, don't worry, Monsieur. Everything will turn out perfectly, just like you planned.

BRUCE: Just like I... Wonderful. How very courteous of you. My compliments to the chef. Thanks a whole hell of alot! A fine mess you've helped me into!

FRANCOIS: Of course, Monsieur. Please, let me know if I can be of further assistance. Lemon wedges, breathmints, headphones... Your wish is my commission. (he remains standing, motionless. Bruce looks up, frowns, then reaches into his pocket and folds another bill into FRANCOIS's hand. He smiles, then leaves.)

FIONA: You heel. You are having a really good time with this, aren't you?

BRUCE: What?

FIONA: There was nothing on my eye.... not even a shadow. What gives? (a beat) And what were you talking to our waiter about just now? You looked upset. Are they out of eclairs? I wouldn't be surprised... it looked like that guy had about fifty of them piled up on his table... What's wrong, Bruce? You look pale...


FIONA: You're sick! Now I'm determined... we have to get out of here right now.

BRUCE: No! I mean... we can't leave now, Fiona!

FIONA: Of course we can... Don't be silly! (pause) But, gee... I guess if you really want to stay that badly...

BRUCE: Oh, I do!

FIONA: ...just to eat...

BRUCE: It's for a... humanitarian reason.

FIONA: (interested) Humanitarian? What are you talking about, Bruce?

BRUCE: Yes.�if we leave right now, that man is going to die.

FIONA: Huh? What man?

BRUCE: (whispering) He's trying to kill himself by exploding his stomach. That's what he told the waitstaff when he came in. He said, "I am going to kill myself by exploding my stomach." That's what I was talking about with Francois.

FIONA: Bruce, this isn't funny!

BRUCE: Fiona, have I ever had a sense of humor? Ever?

FIONA: No, of course not. But you've been acting very strange tonight. I think this is another one of your little tricks, like the booger and the mascara.

BRUCE: I swear upon the holy bible... I'm not lying.

FIONA: Okay. But we're atheists. Try again.

BRUCE: I swear upon my $30,000 lawn that I'm not lying.

FIONA: Oh my god! What are we going to do?

BRUCE: Okay... here's the plan: I'll sneak up to the table, grab as many eclairs as I can and run. You can meet me out front with the car. If I'm not there in approximately thirty seconds... drive around the corner and call the cops.

FIONA: Oh, but what good would that do? He could raid a convenience store and accomplish the same thing in less time and for less money. We need to find out what's making him feel so terrible, and cure it!

BRUCE: I really don't think that's necessary....

FIONA: (stands up and tugs on Bruce's sleeve) Come on. We can do this. It's important. Think of him as a baby cow! And Bruce... I'm very proud of you. You usually laugh at my little crusades.

BRUCE: (stifling a laugh) Like the time you organized a can drive for homeless vegetarians? Or the time you sponsored a film festival for the blind... (stops when he sees Fiona's face) Of course I admire your passion, darling. You have an over-sized heart.

FIONA: It has to be, to fit all the people nobody else remembers to care about. (she looks over at Cecil) Come, Bruce... quickly! We might not have much time! (She half-drags Bruce over to Cecil's table, where they wait, standing, until he looks up from his food.)

CECIL: Can I help you?

FIONA: Well, to be honest... the question is... can we help you?

CECIL: I beg your pardon?

FIONA: You see... at first we were quite startled by the amount of food you're managing to consume. But then we wondered if such extravagance might be rooted in acute depression, since you're not a very stylish or attractive-looking man. No offense.

CECIL: Yeah. Sure. Whatever. If you don't mind... I'm a little busy. A crucial matter. Digestion.

FIONA: (distressed) Oh! A crucial matter!

BRUCE: (starting to methodically examine the eclairs for irregularities)

A crucial matter. To swallow, or not to swallow. Are you really going to eat all of these eclairs before you go? I'll buy them off you.

FIONA: Bruce!! (looks at Cecil) He didn't mean that. We really want to help you overcome your poor self image.

CECIL: Oh yeah? That's hysterical. Whatever for?

FIONA: Because we're humanitarians! And you... you're a very special person, Mr.... uh....

CECIL: Philsburg. Cecil Philsburg. And I'm not a "very special person." I'm just hungry. Everybody gets hungry sometimes... and they eat until they get full. I'm not full yet.

FIONA: Oh, Bruce! Do you hear? He says he's hungry... unfulfilled! He's sacrificing his own body to demonstrate the futility of our vacuous materialistic existences! What an eloquent metaphor for the tragic state of humankind!

BRUCE: (poking and prodding at the eclairs) Mmm hmmm.

FIONA: Mr. Philsburg... How can I -- we -- help you to fill the empty void of your existence?

CECIL: What the hell are you talking about? I really think I have everything pretty much taken care of, here. But thanks anyway.

FIONA: But that's no way to take care of things! You can't expect us to just... sit here, and watch you do this?! (looks over at Bruce and hisses) Bruce! What are you doing? Stop that!

CECIL: If you really want to help, you could check under those desserts your boyfriend's molesting to see if you can find any more meat. They really skimp on the meat around here!

FIONA: Oh, that's so true, Mr. Philsburg! It's so hard to find anything of substance in the world -- it's buried in sugary, flaky superficiality! Take Bruce here, for instance... (Bruce looks up from the eclairs) He's SO concerned about petty little details, like spots on the wine glasses or whether or not his eyebrows are combed or his pants are creased. And yet, right in front of his eyes a man is exposing the most tender parts of his tormented soul and he can't do anything by poke at the damn eclairs!

BRUCE: But darling, I --

FIONA: No, Bruce! Just go back to... whatever it was that you were doing. Searching for the "perfect" eclair, I suppose. To go with your "perfect" wine and your "perfect" smile. I'll save this man all by myself.

BRUCE: Fiona! Listen! I'm --

FIONA: You know... you laughed about the can drive. You laughed about the film festival. You even made me laugh! But this.... this is a matter of life and death, Bruce! How can you be so heartless?

BRUCE: Heartless?! But I --

FIONA: Yes. Heartless! You're so preoccupied with being perfect that you can't see past the end of your hair-free nose! This has to be this way and that has to be that way and your lawn has to be watered three times a day and your crease has to be sharp enough to cut flesh! How do you think it feels to be me? How can I ever live up to your superhuman standards, Bruce? I feel like a pink flamingo in the manicured lawn of your life! Freakish and out-of-place!

BRUCE: How do you think I feel? You fawn over crippled kids and endangered animals... compassion oozes out of you for anyone with even the slightest defect... take Mr. Philsburg, here!� But everything I do is wrong! If I wear Nikes, buy imported toothpaste or mention the word "veal," you jump down my throat! You complain about my standards? Mother Theresa wouldn't be good enough for you!

FIONA: Oh, really? Well you --

CECIL: (clears throat) Sorry to interrupt. Well, actually... I'm not, really. You're not bad to look at, but unfortunately your arguing is robbing me of my appetite... and I'm not ready to be full. Would you mind taking your little "spat" somewhere else so I can finish my meal? (starts to reach for an eclair that Bruce hasn't touched, yet)

BRUCE: Not that one! (grabs the eclair and squeezes the filling out onto the table. Groans when he doesn't see the ring.)

FIONA: Bruce? What the hell are you doing? This is disgusting. I'm leaving. Mr. Philsburg, I'm very sorry. I'm afraid I won't be able to prevent you from killing yourself this evening after all. I'm much too upset to do the job properly.

CECIL: Kill myself? Why the hell would I do a thing like that? I mean, I'll try it if that means you'll accompany me to my apartment, Miss....

FIONA: Fiona. Fiona Worthington -- But I thought... didn't you....?

CECIL: No...I'm afraid I had no intention of killing myself this evening. I love my life.

BRUCE: That's what I wanted to tell you! I lied to you about the guy...

CECIL: It's Cecil. And, you lied to her? Oh.... that's disgraceful. Unforgivable, if you ask me. Fiona... if you need a shoulder to cry on... (pats his lap)

FIONA: You...but... Oh my god. How embarrassing. I'm so sorry, Mr. Philsburg. I had no -- Bruce! Why did you lie to me?!!

BRUCE: Oh god. I lied to you because.... I wanted this to be a surprise, but... Fiona?

FIONA: (pause) What is it, Bruce?

BRUCE: Fiona, I love you. I want to marry you.

FIONA: Oh, Bruce! Before tonight I would have been so happy... But this evening... it's changed everything! I don't see how I could possibly marry you! How could you ask me such a thing at a time like this?

BRUCE: Just wait... wait... (starts squeezing the filling out of the eclairs, searching for the ring.) If only I could find that....

FIONA: Bruce! What are you doing?! Stop that!!

BRUCE: I bought a ring! A beautiful ring! It cost more than my lawn! I swear... Fiona, you'll love it! It's in one of these eclairs... somewhere. Just wait!

CECIL: Just give it up, sonny. Heh heh. She doesn't want to marry you. She's made up her mind. You're out of luck. Maybe you'll want to consider --

BRUCE: You just� shut up, you bastard!! I'll kill you!

FIONA: Stop it!!! Just... stop it! Why can't we all just get along?

FRANCOIS: (approaching the table) Excusez-moi! Monsieurs. Mademoiselle... Is there anything I can do for anyone?

CECIL: Yes. Actually, I think I'm ready for the check. No doggy bags this time. The eclairs are quite unsalvageable.

FRANCOIS: Very good, Monsieur. (pulling the slip out of his pocket) And now, for your total: Seven steaks at $23.99 a piece, thirteen rolls -- complimentary, one diet coke, unlimited refills, for $2.50, and fifty eclairs at $6.79 each. Your total, with tax, comes to $540.52. Bravo! A new record! Would you like to put it on your account?

CECIL: That would be fine. Thank you. (looks at Bruce) You're welcome to the eclairs, by the way. I have a feeling you'll be needing them, later. Comfort food. Heh heh.

FRANCOIS: Mais Oui! A revoir, Monsieur Philsburg! Till next time! (dumps two handfuls of breath mints on the table, then leaves. Cecil takes three and pops them in his mouth.)

CECIL: So... Fiona. Would you care for a ride home?

FIONA: (dubious) I.... Umm....

BRUCE: Fiona... don't....please! He's probably a madman! He's rich! He probably sells baby cows for a living! He probably runs a sweatshop! He's still hungry! He'll eat you!

CECIL: That's absolutely not true! I never take post-breath mint nourishment!

FIONA: How do you make your money, Mr. Philsburg?

CECIL: I'm an artiste. In film.

FIONA: (uncertainly) He's an artiste, Bruce.

BRUCE: Oh yeah? What's your most recent film, Mr. Philsburg? And don't lie, because we can look it up.

CECIL: (proudly) "Menage a Seven"

FIONA: (gasps) Ohmygod! A pornographer!

BRUCE: Don�t be frightened, Fiona! I�ll protect you!

CECIL: Ha ha! Ho ho! You people are too -- (starts choking on the breathmint) Ack -- Ohk -- Ah--

FIONA: Oh my god! I think he's choking! On a breath mint!! (he collapses)

I think he's dead! Someone call an ambulance! (Francois rushes in, jumps, then rushes out again.)

Bruce! Give him the Heimlich!

BRUCE: I don't KNOW the Heimlich, Fiona! I flunked Health class three times in a row! Happy? You've discovered a weakness. Why don't YOU do mouth to mouth, Miss Humanitarian?

FIONA: That's disgusting, Bruce. Who knows where it's been? And he'd probably puke on me... all that steak. You'd love that, wouldn't you! (they stare at Cecil's unmoving body.)

BRUCE: Oh, Fiona. Why are we fighting? Life is too short to spend it arguing over silly little things. This night was supposed to be so perfect. And now...

FIONA: And now... (they look at the body.)

BRUCE: Do you think he's dead?

FIONA: I don't know. Probably. I guess I'm not such a great humanitarian, huh?

BRUCE: And I'm covered in chocolate cream filling. Not exactly Mr. GQ, Man of the Year.

FIONA: Darling?


FIONA: If you're still hungry.... I'll cook you a steak tonight....

BRUCE: And if you really don't like my lawn, I'll� do donuts on it when I get home.

FIONA: Oh, Bruce! I love you! Let's get married!

BRUCE: Fiona, this is the happiest day of my life! (they exit, hand in hand.)

FRANCOIS: (Enters with paramedics, who feel Cecil's wrist for a pulse, shake their heads, then hoist his body onto a stretcher and exit. Francois looks around at the empty restaurant.)

Monsieur? Mademoiselle? (pause) Hello? (looks around again, then walks over to Cecil's table and starts clearing things away, mopping up filling, and singing softly without his accent.)

"Don't tell my heart, my achy breaky heart, I just don't think it'd understand.. doot di doot doo... and if you tell my heart, my achy breaky heart, it just might -- What's this? (stops, sees the ring lying on a plate, covered in filling. Grins.) Well! Nashville, here I come! (picks up the ring, tears off his apron, and strides out of the restaurant, whistling.)


(Please keep in mind that I had no idea when I posted this what it would end up looking like on the screen... apologies for any grotesque, distorted views that hurt your eyes. :)