Winner of NCWC’s 2014-15 Ten-Minute Play Competition
“Tough Love” By David Robinson
Alphie is in his living room, watching TV. Knock on the door. Gets up, turns TV off and opens door.
Ralphie: Hey dude, got something in the fridge?
Alphie: Sure, Help yourself. It’s good to see you. How are your Mom and Dad?
Ralphie: Well, since we are both sourced from the same parental conjugate, our parents are at this moment a bit peeved. But otherwise okay.
Alphie: Oh no! What’s wrong? You plan on staying long?
Ralphie: Just a day or two, maybe a week.
Alphie: NO man, I am not your home away from home! Go back to your own place!
Ralphie: I can’t. I’ve been uprooted, cast aside, disowned. I’ve been thrown to the wolves, I am desolate and homeless. I must lay claim to that vow we took as children to always be there for each other.
Alphie: I might be there for you, but I can’t be here for you. There is a difference between here and there. There is off somewhere. Here is too close for comfort. You will have to show extraordinary need to lay claim on me. What did you do to merit such treatment by our parental unit?
Ralphie: Nothing. I’m just working on my great American Novel, and suddenly it’s “get a job, get a job.” I can’t get a job and work on my novel at the same time. It’s unseemly and counterintuitive. Nothing has changed. I’ve………..
Phone rings. Alphie goes over and picks it up.
Alphie: Hello (beat) Oh hi, Mom. (beat) Oh hi, Dad. (beat) Yes, strangely enough, he is here. Would you like to talk to him? Ow! (jerks phone away from his ear) Okay, okay, don’t shout, and just one of you talk at a time please. What’s this about packing? (beat) Oh, I see. You want me to send him packing. (beat) So what has he done to deserve being thrown out? (beat) Aha. I see. Okay, I’ll give him the message. (beat) Love you too, ‘bye.
Ralphie: So what did they want, besides telling you to throw me out? Why have I come upon such dreadful days, and from whence is this awful treatment emanating? I am getting distraughter by the moment.
Alphie: Whoa. You can’t say distraughter and write a novel, much less the great American one. Apologize at once!
Ralphie: Now what! You were always Mom’s favorite. Dad’s too, now that I think about it, and you’re just looking for some fake reason to drive me away.
Alphie: I don’t need a fake reason, I’ve got a real one.
Ralphie: Please, big brother, I don’t have any money and I’ve only got a quarter tank of gas. Let me hang here for a while. Mom and Dad have cut off my allowance. I need a place to crash until they come to their senses.
Alphie: Well, maybe for a night, but no longer.
Ralphie: Oh thank you thank you thank you. I’ll go get my suitcase. (turns and reaches around the door jamb, retrieves a suitcase.) Now step aside, I need to get to the fridge.
Alphie: At least you were uncertain enough to leave your suitcase at the door.
Ralphie: But confident enough not to leave it in the car. I knew I could count on you. (under his breath): you always were a sucker.
Ralphie: Sorry. I said “I couldn’t get luckier.”
Alphie: Yeah, right. Nor could I.
Head hanging and shoulders slumped, Alphie walks back to his couch, sits down
Ralphie: Hey, where’s the sandwich meat and mayo? All I see in here is veggie patties and salad stuff. I can’t survive on rodent rubbish. It takes animal fat and meat to make my mind work. Are you trying to kill me?
Alphie (brightening): Hey that’s right. I am what I eat, and I’m fast becoming a bean curd. You will have to try some, like that fake burger. It’s tofu disguised as Herbie the bull with a little jalapeno. It will make you strong and maybe wiser.
Ralphie: Disgusting! I can’t eat this stuff. If you want me to hang with you, you’ll have to do better than this.
Alphie: Stop it. You’re breaking my heart. I’ll be bereft if you leave me.
Ralphie: You are getting tough. So how do I fix it?
Alphie: Just nuke it, put it on a bun and chow down. I’m not doing it for you. Everything’s there, just do it.
Ralphie: But I might mess up your kitchen.
Alphie: Then you’d have to clean it up!
Ralphie: Okay, I can do this. But life just got a little harder.
Alphie: I think it’s going to go in that direction. So tell me, how far have you gotten on your book?
Ralphie (proudly): I’ve got twenty pages done.
Alphie: Twenty pages! You’ve got twenty pages. Let’s see, you’ve had an advanced degree from UNC for 6 months, why, that’s almost a page a week. How do you ever do it? And what is you plot?
Ralphie: Well, Uh, well, it’s about a nerdy inventor who goes around getting big bucks figuring out solutions to problems for kings and wizards and such.
Alphie: Like what?
Ralphie: Well, um, so, so, I haven’t exactly worked this out yet, but he, uh, he gets a call from a kingdom on planet Sorianopolofriliat, where there is a lot of flatulence going on…..
Ralphie: ….but no one knows who is doing it, it’s a silent killer, and the king wants to know who. So Bob, my hero, invents a pair of pants that will set methane on fire. So the king can tell by burned out britches who done it. Everyone has to wear them except for the king.
Alphie: Good grief.
Ralphie: Yeah. Like cool, huh? Sort of a way to tell the size of your carbon footprint. Then the king can fine the offenders. It becomes a source of revenue.
Alphie: This is not the great American novel.
Ralphie: I’m actually kidding, and I’m not going to tell you my plot.
Alphie: I think that might be a good thing.
Ralphie: Thanks for the bean burger. Now, I’m going to need some peace and quiet here, and a place with sun and light so I can work.
Alphie: You are only here one night! ONE NIGHT!
Ralphie: You can’t make your brother homeless. I know you. Besides, I’ll mention you in the introduction to my book.
Alphie: Argh! You are going to make this hard aren’t you?
Ralphie: You’ll love it. We’ll have a great time.
(knock on the door) Ralphie opens it then tries to shut it, but too late – Mom and Dad come in.
Alphie: (jumping up) Mom! Dad! What is going on here? You didn’t bring suitcases too did you? I’m full up right now.
Dad: Of course not. We knew you would need some help, so we came over to give a bit of assistance.
Mom: Plus we saw that Ralphie left some mail behind, so we brought that too.
Ralphie: I didn’t leave it. You changed the locks and put my stuff outside the door. I couldn’t even get in to get any mail. By the way, thanks for the luggage.
Mom: You are welcome. May it serve you long and well.
Dad: Besides, when we saw the return address on this one (holds up a business envelope), we knew it had to be delivered right away.
Ralphie: Why? What is it? I don’t get important mail. All my important stuff comes in email. Who even knows where I live, or, was living before I was thrust out onto the streets. It’s a good thing I have a caring brother or I’d be under some freeway bridge or in an abandoned warehouse, freezing and starving.
Alphie: You may yet.
Dad: Back to the business at hand. I took the liberty of sending your resume to my company personnel office. This is a response to that.
Ralphie: My resume? I don’t have a resume. You opened my mail? That’s a federal offense.
Mom: No, Ralphie, we only held it up to a strong light and we are glad to inform you that you do have a working usable resume. It’s the least we could do for you, plus it was fun putting it together. You are a highly qualified person.
Alphie: Well, open it up, let’s see what it says. Maybe it turns you down and you don’t have anything to worry about.
Dad: Our light was stronger than that. Turns out they need someone to clean the office after hours, and you’ve got the job. Isn’t that wonderful? You’ll be working for Orville, the security guy.
Ralphie: Cleaning? I’ve got a doctorate in English and you got me a job cleaning? I’d rather starve.
Alphie: Starving might be an option.
Mom: They want you to start tonight. Alphie will give you a key….
Mom: …and you can let yourself in about 2 a.m. when you finish. It’s even a little better than minimum wage. Just right for a starving artist like you.
Ralphie: I’m going to hold my breath and turn blue. I’m going to get down on the floor and bang my heels. I’ll cut you out of my Will. You’ll be sorry.
Ralphie goes to the floor.
Mom: Ralphie, stop that! An adult with a marketable degree and 27 years old should have stopped doing that 20 years ago. Alphie, did you tell your brother what we told you?
Alphie: Not yet.
Dad: I think we are done here. Ralphie, thank your brother for putting you up for a day or two, and we’ll leave the letter right here. Come, Mother, let’s leave these two to traumatize each other.
Mom: Just let me leave a little wisdom. Alphie, remember the old sailor’s aphorism “red sky at night, sailor’s delight, red sky at morning, sailor take warning.” In this case you have to be Weather-wise and decide whether it’s night or morning. Good luck, Sailors!
Mom and Dad make a quick exit.
Alphie: Ralphie, get up off the floor. You’re starting to remind me of my bathroom fan: loud, irritating and it doesn’t function well. We’re going to learn about tough love and introduce you to the world of work.
Ralphie starts to get up then collapses back on the floor, begins to drum his heels. Alphie contemplates him, then joins him, they both drum a moment, then start to laugh. Alphie gets up, gives Ralphie a hand up.
Alphie: Enough of that, Ralphie, life has just caught up to you. This whole thing is Mom and Dad’s gift to you on your birthday. They said for me to wish you a happy one. Congratulations on achieving this milestone. Let’s get you ready for work!