Pearls Before Swine/Thanks A Latte


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I wrote this play this fall for a campus competition. People really enjoyed it, and really want me to submit it. I've decided to post it here for two reasons: 1.) To swing my massive creative writing balls around. 2.) I expect honest feedback from you folks. Read it, rip it apart, tell me what you think. It's not short. :P


Pearls Before Swine

by Preston Nelson

4 actors:

2 Male, 2 Female

Five Copies, plus light and sound

Sound Cue: Whatever Generic Prepackaged Faux-Indy Rock Starbucks and the like are peddling this week. This starts loudish, but fades to gentle background noise, before entirely dying out before a minute or so passes.

Lighting Cue: Dark.

Then less dark.

Then even less dark, allowing the Audience to see the stage.

The stage is a fairly simple, a counter, stocked to look like a coffee shop is upstage and a table or two downstage. (Add or subtract furniture as needed, but it's a corporate run coffee shop.)

As the lights come up, they open upon Seth and Marcie, who appear to be the sort of listless twenty-somethings that have managed to condemn themselves to selling lattes until they can come up with something better. Seth is lounging, his feet up on a table. Marcie is wiping down the counter, looking back at her compatriot, disapprovingly.

Seth: Okay, okay, how about this one? We enlist in the Marines, and go over to Iraq, right? Then, we both go AWOL, and sneak over to Jordan or Qatar or something.

Marcie: My head hurts already.

Seth: No, no, listen. From there, you can seduce a Sheik or Oil Baron or king or something, you marry him, or join his harem, or whatever it is that gets done over there, then, we wait for him to kick off, and boom, you're rich, Anna Nicole Smith-style. And of course, you share the profits with your good friend and companion who trailblazed this plan for you.

Marcie pauses in her work, almost considering the idiocy laid before her.

Marcie: Well, where would you be for the months, possibly years it would take for this plan to take fruition?

Seth places a hand to his jaw, thinking hard for a moment.

Seth: Well, for the first few weeks, I'd hide among the sand dunes, surviving on a steady diet of lizards and camel milk. Once the army stopped looking for me, I'd wander into town and masquerade as “Marco” the dim witted Shepard boy. Then I'd just be a Shepard until our plan paid off.

Marcie: Do you even know anything about sheep?

Seth: Of course, I chill with my sheeps all the time. I love sheep. I love sheep more than any man shou--. (He catches himself.) You know, sheep are overrated anyway. I'd probably just, like wander the earth.

Marcie: So, you'd be a hobo? In a country that doesn't speak much English, you'd just... be a hobo?

Seth nods.

Marcie: You could just do that here, and best of all, you wouldn't have to work in this dump. As a matter of fact, if you don't get off your duff and do something, I see it in your very near future.

Seth slowly stands, hands on his hips, mocking.

Seth: You know, I can say things in that tone of voice, and make you look bad, too. 'Look at me, I'm Marcie, I forgot what fun is like! I have boobs and I yell all the time!'

Marcie stares at Seth, past the point of words.

Seth: See? I'm a genius.

Marcie merely continues cleaning glasses or the counter or whatnot. Seth sees this, and silently begins wiping down the table that held his feet moments ago. A few moments pass in silence, and Seth finally speaks. The frantic, empty-headed playful nature of his speech from moments ago is gone.

Seth: Listen, I'm sorry, Marse. You know how I get. I just feel like you're never willing to just laugh, at least not for a long--

(cutting Seth off)

Marcie: It's fine, Seth. You're not going to grow up, ever. That's how you deal with the world. Granted, you're essentially covering your eyes and yelling “Nah, nah, I can't see you,” but it works for you.

I...- I can't do that. I mean, it was all well and good, but honestly, look where we are.

Seth frowns.

Seth: I like it here.

Marcie: Why?

Seth: I get to do pretty much whatever I want. The pay isn't great, but I can afford to buy comic books and beer, and I'm not even late on my rent that often. I mean, isn't that good enough for you?

Marcie: No... It's not...

I mean, don't get me wrong, part of me appreciates the fact that you are utterly and totally devoid of ambition.

Seth: Thank you.

Marcie: But all the same, I can't believe it doesn't bother you for a second that you're twenty-six years old, and you hock Carmel Macchiatos for a living.

Seth: I like making macchia--

(She cuts Seth off, again.)

Marcie: It's not about the macchiatos!

Seth: I disagree, why would you bring them up if you thought they were innocent?!

Marcie silently shkes her head, before walking over to Seth and kissing him, once on the forehead.

Marcie: I'm glad that... you just don't get it, but all the same, I wish you had a dream or a goal, or anything.

She turns and EXITS Upstage, giving the appearance that she left for a back room.

Seth: (resigned, almost whining)...

I have dreams... The only problem is that my dream thinks I'm never going to grow up.

...And gives me the forehead kiss.

...And calls me “her best friend.”

Seth rises, before meandering back to the cash register. He stands there, staring up at the ceiling for a moment, when a :

SOUND CUE: Bell Rings:

:Signifying someone's entrance into the shop. Enter Tom and Diane, they're roughly the same age as Seth and Marcie, but are both very well dressed, the picture of success. They're holding hands and making small talk.

Tom: I'll get you your usual, yeah?

Diane: Of course, I just need to use the restroom, I'll be out in a few minutes.

She EXITS. Tom walks to the counter and Seth greets him. The utter contempt for the words he is saying is readily apparent.

Seth: Welcome to “Thanks-a-Latte,” how can I help you?

Tom: Can I get a caramel macchiato, large? Is it large or do you do the “Venti” thing?

Seth: Oh, it's large alright...

...But seriously, no, we don't do the “Venti” thing. I'd have to harm myself if I had to say “Venti” every five minutes.

Tom: Then a large caramel macchiato, and a medium half-caff soy latte, with lactose free whipped cream, and a shot of black licorice syrup.

Seth: ...That's the single worst thing I've ever heard.

Tom: Yeah, well, I'm not paying for you to drink it, just mix it up.

Seth: Sure thing.

Seth busies himself behind the counter, as Tom leans against it, making small talk.

Tom: So, you must go to school around here, huh?

Seth never turns to face him, just continues working diligently.

Seth: Nah, I never finished school. Just wasn't my bag, you know?

Tom: Ah, fair enough.

Seth: How about you? You look like you pay the bills with a little to spare.

Tom: I do alright, I'm a pharmacist, not nearly as exciting as “Thanks-A-Latte,” but fulfilling in it's own right.

Seth turns back toward Tom, setting a pair of cups on the counter.

Seth: That's gonna be nine-forty.

Tom looks aghast.

Seth: I don't set the prices, I just mix the drinks.

Tom pays him.

Seth: So, the girl in the bathroom, that's your girlfriend?

Tom: (leery) Fiancée...

Seth: Yeah, whatever. Anyway, how did you manage to pull down a slammin' hottie like that? I mean, not that you're a bad looking guy, but, come on. There's got to be some art to it, right?

Tom: Well, there's plenty of “art to it”, but I don't understand why you're asking me.

Marcie returns from the back room, with a box in her hand. Her voice is dripping with sarcasm.

Marcie: Yes, Seth, whatever you do, don't help. This is extremely light and I'd love to carry it by myself.

Seth stumbles over himself to help her, together they place it under the counter, as Tom looks on. They stand.

Marcie: I'm going to go back and keep working on the inventory, alright, Seth?

Seth: Yeah, have fun with that. Don't drink the Amaretto syrup again, it makes you giggly.

Marcie: Seth?

Seth: Yeah?

Marcie: Shut up.

She leaves, returning to the back room from whence she came. Tom eyes Seth knowingly.

Tom: I get it, now.

Seth: What?

Tom: You're looking for a little office romance, aren't you? Make some steam that isn't from the espresso machine, perhaps.

Seth: Marcie and I? That's sick! We've been friends since the first grade, when she got Clyde Frog back from that Fourth Grade bully. You wouldn't know it to look at her, but she was a sasquatch back in elementary school. I'd hide in her shadow from larger predators.

Tom: That doesn't change how you were looking at her.

Seth: So I'm sick, what of it?

Tom: You're not very good with women. You're not very good with people, are you?

Seth: I have my friends...

...On the Internet.

Tom: Here's piece of free advice, buddy: there's no one way to win a woman.

Seth begins scribbling notes on a napkin.

Tom: They're all completely different, and unique people. If you're looking to do what I did with Diane, you're going to be wrong. Some women like to be flattered, some like to play games, some just flat out need to be seduced. Hell, I couldn't tell you why, but some chicks seem to like being treated like crap. I don't understand it, I just know that going into this with some strategy is lying to her, and it's lying to yourself.

Seth: Of course I'm going to lie to her! I'm a terrible person!

Diane returns from the restroom and she takes a seat at the table. Diane's back should be to Seth/The counter. Tom looks at Seth and shakes his head.

Tom: Good luck, you're going to need it.

Tom has a seat, across from Diane, they sit, making doe-eyes back and forth, with some modest chit-chat as Seth begins to read off his notes.

Seth: Okay, the man in the nice suit gave me four strategies: Flattery, games, seduction, and treating her like crap. Hurm...

He pontificates for a moment, staring at the napkin with a pen in hand.

Seth: Well, knowing Marcie's ego, flattery is bound to be the most effective method. I just need to compliment her on something I know she's tremendously insecure about. Something that's haunted her since we were children...

Her mom's alcoholism? Nah, that's too hard to compliment.

Oh, come on, she's been your best friend since you stopped eating notebook paper and glue sandwiches, I have to know the thing that would speak to her heart.

Of course!

Her formerly freakishly massive calves!

Seth folds up the napkin and hides it in a pocket.

Seth: Hey, Marse! Come in here, for a minute, if you would.

Seth shoots Tom an incredibly cheesy thumbs-up over Diane's back. Tom grimaces, causing Diane to turn around, searching for what he's grimacing at. She sees nothing out of the ordinary, and is confused. Marcie enters, wiping her hands on her apron.

Marcie: What's up, Seth?

Seth stutters, out his next sentence, clearly nervous.

Seth: I just wanted to ask you if you've been working out.

Marcie (confused, and a bit leery): Noooo... Why do you ask?

Seth makes several attempts to speak, cutting himself off each time. He finally succeeds in an explosion of verbal diarrhea. Tom has been observing, and noticeably winces again.

Seth: I've-just-noticed-that-your-once-freakishly-large-calves-are-much-more-in-proportion-with-the-rest-of-your-legs-which-fit-with-your-body-unlike-what-they-used-to-which-tormented-you-through-junior-high-and-high-school.

Marcie sizes Seth up for a moment. A CRUCIAL moment of silence.

Marcie: Seth... you're an asshole.

Marcie walks off, back to the backroom. Tom has put his head in his hands. Over Diane's back, Seth gesticulates wildly, mouthing things like, “It didn't work!” and “She's pissed!” Tom frowns, trying to give the message that Seth should not have taken him at face value, without letting Diane in on Seth's master plan. Seth shakes his head, and walks back to the counter, pulling his “plan napkin” out of his pocket.

Seth: Games. Games? How in the heck am I gonna play games with her... my X-Box is at ho---oh, gaaaaAaaames.

Seth straightens his hair back, and calls for her again. Tom is mortified.

Seth: Marcie, can you please come back in here?

She appears in the doorway, miffed.

Marcie: What?

In the next sequence, Marcie begrudgingly follows Seth's commands.

Seth: No, forget it. Go away.

No, wait. Come back.




Too close, send yourself from my sight.

Marcie looks Seth over again, sizing him up.

Marcie: Seth... you're an asshole.

Marcie stalks off, heading to the back room. Tom is beside himself, as Seth shoots him a glare that would melt steel. Seth refers to the “plan napkin” once again, before mouthing the word “Seduction” excitedly. He scurries off, grabbing a mop from behind the counter. He unbuttons his shirt to his navel, before pulling it close to him. He fiddles around behind the counter, causing:

SOUND CUE: Habenera, the Ferris Bueller “BowWhowChick-Chicka” music, or anything that would be at home in Boogie Nights

Seth begins to dance, heatedly with mop. Tom is doing anything he can to avert Diane's gaze from this travesty. After a moment, Marcie comes out of the back, confused by the music. She sees Seth, and begins immediately places her face in her palm. He begins grinding on the mop, eyes locked on Marcie.

Seth: There's room for one more.

Marcie stares at Seth, narrowing her eyes. Tom is laughing into his latte. Marcie snaps.

Marcie: I don't care how funny you think you are, I'm trying to finish inventory so I can leave, Seth.

Seth grinds on the mop, more intensely.

Seth: You can't possibly resist this.

Marcie stares at him for a beat

Marcie: Seth... You're an asshole.

For the third time, Marcie stalks off. The second she is out of sight, Seth pulls out his “plan napkin”. He leans on the mop during the next monolouge.

Seth: I've tried compliments. I've tried games. Hell, I seduced her so much I'm pretty sure my inner thigh has a series of painful splinters. There's only one method left.

From the table, Tom realizes where this is going. He quickly gathers up his drink and grabs Diane's arm.

Tom: Honey, I think they're closing soon, why don't we finish these in the car ride home?

Diane is confused, but oblivious to the goings on.

Diane: If you say so, Tom. This restaurant is making you act strangely anyway.

Tom: You have no idea.

Exit Tom and Diane, hurriedly. Seth mentally prepares himself, stretching out.

Seth: To win the heart of the woman I've been hopelessly in love with since grade school, I'm going to have to grind her self esteem into a fine powder, light that powder on fire, and then pee on it to put it out.

(In the most Cheesey, Rocky V way possible.) It's not gonna be easy, but nothing worth having ever is.

He straightens himself out, ready to start screaming, but before he can get a word out, Marcie steps back into the main room.

Marcie: Hey Seth, I don't know what your deal is tonight, but just... be yourself tommorrow.

Seth: Tomorrow? Aren't you closing the store tonight? Y'know, staying here with me?

Marcie shakes her head.

Marcie: Nah, Ron said I could leave you to close and take off early if I finished his inventory. That is, if you can handle closing, all by yourself.

Seth: Of course I can, I'm an adult.

Marcie eyes the mop that Seth is still holding.

Marcie: Sometimes I wonder.

Seth hurriedly leans the mop against the counter, while Marcie straightens her clothes and applies lipstick.

Seth: Where are you going in such a big hurry anyway?

Marcie: I've got a date with this guy a met at a Humane Society benefit. You know, I asked you to go, but I think you were too busy playing God of War on your X-Box, and drinking peach schnapps.

Seth: It was 'Gears' of War and apple schnapps, but your point stands... I thought you and I were gonna hang out tonight...

Marcie looks him over and smiles.

Marcie: I'm sorry to cancel, buddy. But this date is a once in a lifetime thing, I mean, he could be the one.

Marcie kisses Seth on the forehead.

Marcie: I promise, we'll hang out sometime next week, after all, what are best friends for?

Marcie hurries out, purse over her shoulder. For a moment, Seth stands alone, utterly dejected. He silently turns around and takes the mop in his hands again, as:

LIGHT CUE: the lights fall leaving him the only thing illuminated on stage.

Seth: Of course. What else could friends ever be for?

He begins to mop the floor silently, as:

LIGHT CUE: the lights fade to black.


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