Top O’ The Morning! – A 10 Minute Play

(This is a play I wrote for a short play festival about a year ago, it’s based on an actual cafe in Santa Cruz that has since closed but had about five or six regular customers who went there every morning to discuss the issues of the day, trade stories, and add atmosphere to the place. Play was rejected, so I gave it a rewrite and posted it here. For a couple of the non-gender specific roles I used both pronouns in the text.)

CHARACTERS

PAT………………………………………………………………………………………A regular at a local cafe

ACE…………………………………………………………………………………….A regular at a local cafe

TURNER……………………………………………………………………………..A regular at a local cafe

LAUREN……………………………………………………………………………..A barista

TECH WORKER…………………………………………………………………..A customer

ARGUING MAN…………………………………………………………………..A customer

ARGUING WOMAN………………………………………………………………A customer

TOURIST…………………………………………………………………………….A customer

DISTRAUGHT MAN………………………………………………………………A customer

Other cafe customers sitting at various tables

PLACE: A downtown cafe

TIME: Present, morning

(Morning at a neighborhood coffee house, PAT is standing at the front counter buying a coffee while ACE, and TURNER are sitting at a table by the entrance. LAUREN is behind the front counter. Other customers are seated elsewhere.)

LAUREN: (places coffee on counter) That’ll be two twenty five.

PAT: (pays) You know, when I first started coming here a coffee was only a buck.

LAUREN: Inflation. And when was coffee only a dollar?

PAT: Probably when you were in grade school, but this is still the best deal in town.

LAUREN: Is that why you’ve been coming here for so long?

PAT: That and this fine company.

ACE: Aw, I bet you say that to all the barflies.

PAT: Seriously. (sits back down at table with ACE and TURNER) You folks are the only reason why I get up in the morning.

LAUREN: Well just try not to heckle all the other customers.

PAT: We don’t heckle all the customers.

TURNER: Yeah, just the ones that deserve it.

ACE: And mostly we come here for the enlightening conversation.

TURNER: Yes, the morning uplift!

PAT: Hey, have you heard the latest about the new COVID strain?

ACE: The omicron variant? That’s old news.

PAT: No, it’s an even newer mutation. I think it’s called sigma or phi or whatever the next Greek letter is.

ACE: (TV commercial voice) Introducing the new 2023 COVID variant! Now with deadlier symptoms, increased vaccine resistance, and a seven year bumper to bumper warranty!

LAUREN: This virus is no laughing matter! Some of my friends have suffered through it, and it’s killed a lot of people.

ACE: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean any disrespect.

PAT: Yeah, we’re just trying to lighten the mood. Got to find some humor in these dark times.

LAUREN: But all the three of you do is sit there every morning and gab about nothing and you bother everyone who walks in here. I should throw you all out.

PAT: But we do so much more than that, we’re building a culture.

ACE: We also provide entertainment value.

TURNER: Yeah, and it’s not like we heckle everyone who walks in here.

(TECH WORKER enters and goes to front counter.)

TURNER: Look out, gentrification alert!

ACE: Get the U-Haul ready, we’re about to be priced out our beloved city!

TECH WORKER: Jealous?

TURNER: Jealous? Of being parked at a desk and staring at a screen all day?

TECH WORKER: No, of being as rich as you imagine me to be.

PAT: From where we are you might as well be Elon Musk.

TECH WORKER: So rich and weird?

ACE: He may not be as rich as he used to be. Ever since he bought Twitter his Tesla stock is losing value.

TURNER: That’s right. At the rate he’s hemorrhaging money he’ll be as poor as us in a couple hundred years.

PAT: Something to look forward to.

TECH WORKER: Before you get too consumed by class envy, just be thankful that you don’t have a mountain of college debts to pay off that require you to pursue an ever higher paycheck so as to not end up in bankruptcy.

ACE: What makes you think we never went to college?

TECH WORKER: I don’t know, wild guess.

TURNER: Well don’t let bankruptcy scare you, it’s just money.

PAT: Yeah, and our last president had six bankruptcies but that didn’t stop him.

TECH WORKER: And that’s too bad. (pays for coffee) Good day, time to head back to work and park myself at my desk. Feel free to scorn me in my absence as I make a decent living while you all fritter your aimless lives away. (exits)

LAUREN: You’re going to scare away customers if you keep that up.

PAT: But (s)he’s a regular.

TURNER: Yeah, (s)he’s used to our light ribbing.

ACE: And people come here to be entertained by our wry, witty commentary and banter.

PAT: Yeah, you should pay us to be here.

LAUREN: I’d rather pay for a root canal.

(An arguing couple enters.)

MAN: How was I supposed to know that it’s your mother’s birthday? I’m dating you, not her!

WOMAN: If you would just listen to me once in a while you would’ve known that!

MAN: I listen plenty, but I can’t be expected to remember every little trivial detail! (to LAUREN) Medium dark roast.

WOMAN: And a macchiato!

MAN: Better make it a decaf.

WOMAN: (to MAN) So, my mom is trivial?

PAT: (to ACE and TURNER) What do you think, seven year itch?

ACE: Not sure, but it’s reminding me why I never got married.

WOMAN: (to ACE) Oh, you think we’re married? No, we’re not married. All we do is endlessly discuss what to have for dinner, bicker over the remote control, and argue over toilet seat placement.

PAT: Yep, that sounds like marriage.

MAN: (to PAT, ACE, and TURNER) She doesn’t think I earn enough, but my ship is about to come in! (to WOMAN) All I’m asking for is a little more patience.

WOMAN: Just another get rich scheme from one of your sketchy friends. (to PAT, ACE, and TURNER) His crooked friend wants to sell cheap knockoff purses and handbags with expensive designer brands.

TURNER: Sounds lucrative to me.

ACE: Yeah, all you have to do is find people who are stupid, vain, and have lots of money.

PAT: That sounds like most corporate boardrooms.

WOMAN: It’s a flooded market! Every street corner, flea market, and back alley has counterfeit merchandise!

MAN: But not of his quality!

WOMAN: Quality? Ha! A six year old’s craft project is of better quality!

MAN: That is an unfair characterization! (pays for coffees) You know, you should sell some of them to your coworkers.

WOMAN: Oh, and take part in your pyramid scheme?

(MAN and WOMAN start to exit.)

MAN: It’s something we can do together!

PAT: The couple that tricks together sticks together.

MAN: Exactly!

(MAN and WOMAN exit.)

ACE: I’m sure they’ll work it out.

TURNER: You kidding? They’re headed to splitsville.

ACE: Where’s your sense of romance?

TURNER: (humorously) Leave me to my bitterness.

LAUREN: At least you didn’t scare them away until after they ordered.

PAT: We’ve got this down to an art form.

p { line-height: 115%; margin-bottom: 0.1in; background: tran(TOURIST enters, walks up to front counter.)

LAUREN: What’ll you have?

TOURIST: (staring up at menu board) Wow, so many options.

PAT: (to ACE and TURNER) Must be new in town.

TURNER: How can you tell?

PAT: Everyone knows this joint has the widest selection of caffeinated beverages this side of the Mississippi, so now that he’s seeing the menu board for the first time he’s dumbstruck by all the choices.

ACE: An option for every person and every occasion.

TURNER: Maybe too many.

TOURIST: I heard this was the best place to get a coffee, and they sure weren’t kidding.

PAT: Decisions, decisions.

ACE: Better order while you’re still young.

TOURIST: (to PAT, ACE, and TURNER) Huh?

LAUREN: Ignore them.

TOURIST: Maybe they can recommend something.

LAUREN: Them? They order the same drip coffee everyday. They’re the kind of people that go into an ice cream parlor that has thirty six flavors, and order vanilla.

ACE: I like vanilla.

PAT: If this weary traveler wants to listen to the peanut gallery then let him/her.

TURNER: Yeah, we see people order fancy coffee drinks all the time so we have some idea of what you serve here.

TOURIST: Part of me want the orange zest and caramel drizzle over whipped cream but I’m also looking at the nitrogen infused cold brew Colombian roast, but there’s also the dark chocolate mocha sprinkled with fresh ground nutmeg-

PAT: (interrupts) You know what, skip all those fancy drinks and just go with a basic medium roast.

LAUREN: Ignore that coffee Philistine!

TOURIST: But maybe he has a point.

LAUREN: No, everything about him is pointless! Now let me tell you about the fresh ingredients we use to make all our specialty drinks.

TOURIST: Actually, I think that total stranger has a good idea, all those extra flavorings just mask the true taste of coffee. One twelve ounce medium roast please.

PAT: Now you’re talking!

LAUREN: (frustrated, pours coffee) Here’s your medium roast, one seventy five.

TOURIST: Thanks! (puts down two dollars) Keep the change.

(TOURIST exits happily.)

LAUREN: (angrily) Well thanks a lot! That customer was about to buy a seven or eight dollar drink and you downsold him/her!

PAT: But didn’t you see how confused (s)he was? All we did was make sure (s)he ordered something instead of leaving because of an inability to make a decision.

ACE: Yeah, Pat here helped you make a sale.

LAUREN: You sabotaged my business! I ought to throw you all out!

(DISTRAUGHT MAN enters.)

DISTRAUGHT MAN: (to entire cafe) Folks, you’re not going to believe what happened to me. First, my wife left me because as she put it, she’s “sick and tired of me.” Then the board of directors of the company that I started just voted to remove me and ban me from the premises because my ideas for the company are “outlandish and dangerous.” And on top of all that my car was stolen! Whatever will I do?

PAT: You have my sympathies, bud. That’s a trifecta of bad luck.

ACE: Yeah, bad fortune like that shouldn’t have to happen to a good person like you.

TURNER: Best thing you can do right now is try to find the positive.

PAT: Yeah, how long were you and your wife married?

DISTRAUGHT MAN: About ten months.

PAT: Is that all?

DISTRAUGHT MAN: She was a mail order bride from Uzbekistan, and now that she’s acclimated to America she decided to leave me.

TURNER: Well then you’re better off without her.

ACE: Yeah, obviously she was using you and has no love for you.

TURNER: That’s right, you deserve better.

PAT: But unfortunately most women don’t find unemployment attractive.

ACE: Sad but true, got something socked away until your working again?

DISTRAUGHT MAN: The board gave me a two million dollar golden parachute to make sure I never returned, and I still have stock options.

TURNER: Then you got nothing to worry about!

ACE: But there’s still the matter of the stolen car. Police have any leads on who stole it?

DISTRAUGHT MAN: Car has a low-jack, and if it’s never found, insurance will buy me a new car.

ACE: Oh my god! You’re on easy street!

PAT: That’s right! You’ve been freed from a loveless marriage, released from a corporate prison, and you’re about to actually receive money from the insurance people!

TURNER: And that’s as hard as walking on water.

DISTRAUGHT MAN: You know what, you’re right! I’m feeling better already!

PAT, ACE, TURNER: Yeah!…There you go!…Now you’re talking!…When life give you lemons, make lemonade!

DISTRAUGHT MAN: Drink all around! I’m buying!

(Cheers of appreciation as everyone rushes up to front counter.)

PAT: (to LAUREN) Does this make up for downselling that earlier customer?

LAUREN: It helps…but you’re still on probation.

(LAUREN begins taking orders from crowd of customers.)

(END OF PLAY)

©2022 Robert Kirkendall

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