A Short Play: “Unfinished Business”

Following is a short play, the final one of mine selected for a public reading by the Baltimore Playwrights Festival…

Unfinished Business

Characters:
LEE–a man in his fifties
SHARON–a woman in her fifties

AT RISE:

(We open on a spartan bachelor’s apartment. Things are neat, tidy. A laptop computer sits on a desk center stage. LEE enters, wearing a dirty, sweat-stained shirt and carrying a dirty shovel. He takes off his shoes by the door and throws the shovel on the floor at the same place. He moves to the desk and sits down, putting his head in his hands. He sighs deeply.)

LEE
Peace at last.

(He opens the laptop and turns it on. Behind him, SHARON enters. She has wild hair accented with leaves. Her clothes are dirtier than LEE’s, and there are noticeable bloodstains on the shirt. She walks up behind him, watching him closely. He stares at the computer screen. She leans down behind him.)

SHARON
Boo!

(LEE nearly falls out of his chair.)

LEE
What the–?

SHARON
Miss me, Lee?

(beat)

Not like that. You couldn’t miss from that distance, could you? No, I mean did you miss having the pleasure of my company?

LEE
But…

SHARON
I am glad you didn’t shoot me in the face. Beauty like mine should never be disfigured. But did you have to shoot me four times? One would have done. You seemed a touch spiteful.

LEE
You’re not…?

SHARON
Oh, I certainly am. My body is In that shallow grave near the reservoir, just where you left it.

LEE
How…?

SHARON
You dipshit! I always told you there were ghosts. “No,” you said. “There’s no such thing…” Let’s add that to the list of things where you were wrong and I was right.

LEE
Sharon, I’m sorry.

SHARON
About the ghosts? Forget it.

LEE
About the other thing.

SHARON
Oh, my murder? That’s a different story, sweetie. We’re not just laughing that off.

LEE
I know. Just stay cool.

SHARON
Getting cooler every minute.

LEE
I can’t believe this.

(He turns back to his laptop.)

SHARON
I thought the same thing when you pulled that pistol. “Nah, not Lee. Where would he get balls big enough to shoot me?”

(A beat. She looks at the screen.)

You’re googling “Jewish exorcism”?

LEE
Zip it.

SHARON
And you’re going to Wikipedia? Jesus, that’s rich.

LEE
Hush, please.

SHARON (pointing at the screen)
Look, you need a shofar. Are you going to call Rabbi Goldstein and ask her help organize a minyan to free you from the dybbuk of your murdered girlfriend? And this is all kaballah stuff. I don’t see any red string on your wrist.

LEE
Sharon, SHUT THE FUCK UP! All I want is to have some space so I can write my goddamned plays without your constant unwanted input! I’ve been writing the same ten minute play for a month now! You nag and interrupt and pester and hen-peck me to the point where I can’t even hear my own thoughts over the drone of your incessant yapping!

(There is a long pause. SHARON backs away, sits on a chair upstage. LEE is on the brink of tears.)

SHARON
That’s it, isn’t it? That’s why you killed me.

LEE
Yes.

SHARON
You could have just asked me to be quiet.

LEE
I did, every day. You never heard me.

(SHARON considers this.)

SHARON
You know, that’s probably true.

(beat)

But I think you overreacted a bit. And you were extremely short-sighted. This is so typical for you.

LEE
Huh?

SHARON​
At least before, I had to sleep. I had to go to the bank, feed the cats, see my daughter. Now I’m with you, talking, all the time.

LEE
Oh, fuck me.

SHARON
That’s another thing you lost when you pulled the trigger. As I said, short-sighted.

(She gets up and moves back to the computer. She points again.)

There’s your answer. “A dybbuk will leave when it has completed its unfinished work and is free to leave the earth and return to Sheol.”

LEE
So what’s your unfinished business? Let’s get to it. I have things to do.

SHARON
I have no idea. You think I got some checklist when I left my body?

(beat)

What play are you working on?

LEE
“Skin in the Game.”

SHARON
The one where the nice Jewish girl…

LEE
…is repulsed by her uncircumcised Gentile boyfriend.

SHARON
Pull it up.

LEE
What?

SHARON
I want to see what you have for an ending.

LEE
This is always the problem. You think you can write plays, but you can’t. You’re just a set designer.

(Grudgingly, he hits some buttons, then he gets up do she can sit. She begins to read. He paces.)

I don’t know what you hope to accomplish. I’ve been puzzling this one out for weeks. It all flowed so nicely until–

SHARON
This is shit.

LEE
I know.

SHARON
She can’t leave him.

LEE
Why?

SHARON
If she does, the whole play’s a waste of time. We like them, we’re rooting for them, she leaves. Curtain falls, the audience boos.

LEE
It’s that bad?

SHARON
Just the end. It needs a button. Something with punch.

LEE
Tell me something I didn’t know. I’ve painted myself into a corner. I mean, they say the easy part is the first bit, where you set up the situation. It’s actually solving the problem that’s so fucking hard–

SHARON
A-ha!

(She changes her voice, deepening it for narration.)

“Suddenly a pinpoint spotlight hits his crotch, and the voice of Yahweh booms: ‘Behold! The sign of Abraham’s Covenant is upon you!’ There is a lightning flash and he doubles over, squealing. She rushes to him, comforting him. He says, ‘I feel different.’ He stands, turns his back to the audience, and opens his robe. She smiles and says, ‘It’s beautiful!’ They kiss. Lights out!”
(LEE looks at her. She smiles.)

​​SHARON
Well, Mr. Playwright? It’s good, isn’t it? It’s good!

LEE
It…has potential.

SHARON
Bullshit. Admit that you like it. Admit that I’m right.

LEE
You’re right, Sharon. I’m going to use it. It’s a good ending.

(There is a loud crack followed by a flash of light and a brief blackout. When the lights come up, SHARON is gone. LEE is surprised, befuddled, and then jubilant. He laughs happily and sits down to write the ending to his play. He begins to whistle a happy tune as he types. We hear the sound of an approaching police siren. LEE looks out the window, groans, and begins typing furiously.)

​​LEE
Great, Sharon. Perfect ending.

​​(FADE TO BLACK)

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About semiblind

Bringing you stark existentialism since 1981.
This entry was posted in best-laid plans, entertainment and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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