A Play in One Act
Note: The story originally appeared at How We Lost the Moon, which is now defunct.
DANIEL, his friend and host
STEPHANI, DANIEL’s girlfriend
The living room of DANIEL’s home. Two doors to the room are located at stage left and stage right, respectively. DANIEL tidies up the room when a knock comes from the door stage left.
DANIEL: Just a minute!
He finishes straightening a stack of books on the coffee table, then opens door revealing LEO, who enters.
DANIEL: Leo! You’re early.
LEO: Oh? Is that a problem?
DANIEL: Eh…. No, I guess not. What time is it?
LEO: Four thirty.
DANIEL: Wow, really? A half hour early.
LEO: Sorry…. You said to come at five, and I didn’t want to be late. You’re always giving me crap for being late, so here I am on time for once.
DANIEL: Right. Well, thank you, Mr. Fox.
MAXIMUS enters through the door stage right, carrying a box.
LEO: Max? What’re you doing here?
MAXIMUS: [Startled and nervously looking back and forth from LEO to DANIEL] Hey, man…. How’re you doing?
LEO: [Confused] I’m fine…. I didn’t know you’d be here too though. What’s in the box, board games?
DANIEL: It’s nothing. Um, he’s just helping me rearrange the apartment.
MAXIMUS: Yeah, yeah. Hey, Dan, did you want this box out here or…?
DANIEL: No, no. The dining room is fine. That’d be fine.
MAXIMUS: Right. I’ll … put it in there.
MAXIMUS exits through the door stage right.
LEO: Dan, what’s going on?
DANIEL: What? Oh, nothing.
LEO: Dude, there’s clearly something going on.
DANIEL: He’s helping me clean up around here, that’s all.
LEO: Okay, I guess. Is that why you asked me to come over? Are we cleaning? I thought we were going to hang out, play Xbox or whatever.
DANIEL: We are. Actually, why don’t you have a seat, and I’ll get us some beer.
LEO: [Shrugs] Alright, man. Cool.
LEO sits down in an armchair, and DANIEL exits through the door stage right. DANIEL and MAXIMUS can be heard indistinguishably murmuring in the dining room. LEO tries to listen when PETER startles him, entering through the door stage left with a parcel under his arm.
PETER: Hey, Dan. I got the lights you asked— Leo! What’re you doing here? I mean, hi.
LEO: [Standing back up] Hi Pete…. I didn’t know you’d be coming tonight.
PETER: [Wide-eyed, swallowing] Hi Leo. How’s— how’s it going?
DANIEL halfway opens the door stage right and peers into the room.
DANIEL: Pete! … [Under breath] Shit! [Out loud, hurriedly] Um, come ‘ere. Come ‘ere.
PETER shoots a glance toward LEO then hurries through the door stage right, which closes behind him. The door reopens, and DANIEL enters with two beers.
DANIEL: [Handing LEO a beer] Sorry about that. Have a seat. Sit down. Really.
LEO returns to the armchair, and DANIEL sits on the couch opposite him. LEO stares at DANIEL as the latter nervously downs half his beer while avoiding eye contact.
DANIEL: [To the ceiling] It’s a nice day today, right?
DANIEL finally looks over to LEO, who remains frozen, holding his beer and staring at DANIEL.
DANIEL: [Starting] Whoa, dude. Hey, uh—
LEO: Dan, what is going on?
DANIEL: Nothing. I swear. Nothing’s going on.
LEO reclines back in the chair and takes a drink of his beer. His eyes remain fixed on DANIEL.
LEO: Well, listen: Something is going on.
DANIEL: No, no.
LEO: You guys are all acting strange and secretive.
DANIEL: You’re paranoid, man. [With a laugh] Did you light up before coming over?
LEO: Don’t deflect, man. I know something’s happening here. You’re not being straight with me. And Max and Peter—
LEO: I don’t trust ‘em. Never have.
DANIEL: Oh come on. You know Max and Pete. They’re—Max and Pete, man.
LEO: I know Max’s mom works for the government. And I know— [Quietly] I know their always watching.
DANIEL: Leo. Max’s mom works for the DMV. Get a grip. No one would spy on you.
LEO: How do you know? What about Snowden, man? Snowden.
DANIEL: Yeah, well, I guess maybe the government’s watching sometimes. Big deal. Max’s cool, man. You know that.
LEO: Maybe he just wants me to think he’s cool. [Abruptly] Wait a minute.
LEO removes his cell phone from his pocket and takes out the battery.
LEO: There. Now they’re not listening.
DANIEL: Okay. Well, we’re safe then.
LEO stares with brow furrowed, takes a drink and points to the door stage right.
LEO: I don’t trust Peter either.
DANIEL: C’mon man. What’s not to trust about Peter?
LEO: I mean, you know about Peter.
DANIEL: Uh … no, I don’t.
LEO: You know who he’s … involved with: the hugest, most convoluted hierarchy in the world … more gold than Fort Knox….
DANIEL: [Dumbfounded] I have no idea, man.
LEO: What I’m looking for you to say is: The Roman. Catholic. Church.
DANIEL: So what? So he goes to mass, plays bingo, and eats fish on Fridays? Big deal.
LEO: [Eyes narrowed, taking another drink] Alright. Fine, I guess—
The door stage left opens. STEPHANI enters, wearing a backpack. She and DANIEL exchange looks. LEO stands up and turns to face her.
STEPHANI: [Cheery] Hey guys!
LEO: Hi Stephani.
STEPHANI: I just stopped by to drop off those books I borrowed. Didn’t think maybe you’d have company—sorry to interrupt. I’ll just bring these to your room.
STEPHANI walks to the door stage right, giving LEO a friendly touch on the shoulder and DANIEL a quick kiss on her way. She exits.
DANIEL: Sit back down, man. It’s just Steph. Everything’s fine.
They both sit back down. DANIEL downs the rest of his beer. A low, muffled, pulsing tone can be heard. The door stage right opens halfway, revealing ROBERT, who peers into the room. The sound becomes clearer when the door opens. Lights of varying colors can be seen shining from within the room, which is otherwise dark.
ROBERT: [Concerned] Hey, Dan. [Friendly, waving] Hi Leo! [Concerned, to DANIEL] We could use a hand in here….
DANIEL: [Red-faced, sighing deeply, to the floor] Damn it. [To LEO] Excuse me just a minute, Leo.
LEO: [Suspicious] Uh-huh.
DANIEL exits through the door stage right. Voices can be heard arguing over the muffled tones. The tones stop, and DANIEL returns through the door, closing it behind him, smiling awkwardly.
LEO: Dude, it is so obvious that something’s up.
DANIEL: [Returning to the couch] You’re imagining things.
LEO: So I just imagined that Steph and Rob are here too?
DANIEL: Steph’s just dropping off some books. You heard her. She was her usual self.
LEO: And Rob?
DANIEL: What about Rob?
LEO: What do you mean, “What about Rob?” I didn’t know any of these people would be here!
DANIEL: Sorry I didn’t tell you that a few more people were going to be here.
LEO: Not good enough. Something’s up.
DANIEL: What do you mean?
LEO: Well, you know about Steph.
DANIEL: [Defensive] No, I don’t “know” about Steph. What’re you talking about?
LEO: Yes, you do. Her dad?
DANIEL: What about her dad?
LEO: He owns his own business.
LEO: [Raises eyebrows, hoping for more from DANIEL. Then, rolling his eyes:] Come on, man. He’s a capitalist. He gets richer while his workers get poorer.
DANIEL: He owns a pizza place. Besides, I thought the problem was the government … or the Catholic Church.
LEO: They’re in it together.
DANIEL: [A bit overconfident] So what about Rob? How does he fit in?
LEO: Uh … you know, dude.
DANIEL: No, I don’t.
LEO: Well, first of all he lives at that commune. He’s a communist.
DANIEL: You lived there too.
LEO: [Defensive] I don’t anymore. And anyway, the whole time I was on guard. No one ever gave me a straight answer about who was in charge there.
DANIEL: It’s a commune. No one’s in charge. That’s the point.
LEO: Yeah, well….
DANIEL: “Well” what?
LEO: I mean, you know Rob’s Jewish, right?
DANIEL: I cannot believe you just said that.
LEO: Well, he is. [Pause] And he’s gay.
DANIEL: Dear Lord! I don’t even—
DANIEL is interrupted when DANA and THOMAS enter through the door stage left, both carrying paper grocery bags.
THOMAS: Oh, man. Oh, shit. Are we late?
LEO: Are they, Dan? Are they late?
DANIEL: [Slowly] Uh … what do you mean?
DANA: Tom! I told you that we were going to hang with Dan and Steph on Friday. [To LEO and DANIEL] I’m sorry guys. Hey, Dan, can we just store this salad we brought in your fridge? We can leave the wine here too.
DANIEL: [Noticeably relieved] Yes. No problem.
THOMAS: Great. Sorry for bursting in on you guys.
They exit through the door stage right. LEO stares at DANIEL who got up to close the door behind them.
DANIEL: [Turning around] What?
LEO: Things are adding up man. Things are really adding up.
DANIEL: “Adding up” to what? Come on…. They’re coming over this Friday. Stupid Tom just got his days mixed up.
LEO: Or maybe not. Maybe they’re part of it too.
DANIEL: Dude, you’ve got to drop this conspiracy theory bullshit. It’s so illogical.
DANIEL: Yeah. Illogical. Every conspiracy theory works the same way: “All the evidence points to X, but it could be Y. Therefore, Y.”
LEO: Pssht. You poor naïve chump, Dan.
DANIEL: [Half offended, half amused] Hey!
LEO: I suppose Watergate was just a couple of guys who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or maybe we actually put a man on the moon in 1969 instead of the Arizona desert and a Hollywood film stage?
LEO: All I’m saying is: Tom’s great uncle was a high level freemason, man.
DANIEL: Oh no.
LEO: They run everything. And they flaunt it, too. They got their symbols on the dollar bill and all over Washington and the rest of the world. Every US president was a mason, man.
DANIEL: Okay, whatever. Even if that were true, you have no evidence that Tom is involved with them.
LEO: Maybe not. But they’re a secret society man.
DANIEL: Wait, I thought you just said that they flaunt the fact that they own the world or whatever.
LEO: Really? I’m really surprised at you right now, man.
DANIEL: You’re surprised at me?
LEO: Plus, I count two women here now.
DANIEL: Oh no. Just shut up before you—
LEO: Feminism is real, man!
DANIEL: Uh … yeah. How dare they! Those women.
LEO: Finally, you’re reasonable about something!
DANIEL: Are you kidding me, man? Seriously, if one of these conspiracy theories is correct, it would be amazing. But all of them? There’s no way.
LEO: What are you saying man? Are you saying that there’s really some uber-conspiracy?
DANIEL: I am definitely not saying that.
LEO: And all the other conspiracies are just concocted by some mastermind who wants to distract us from the truth! Dan, this is huge, man!
DANIEL: No, it isn’t. You just made that up yourself. It’s not happening. Nothing is happening.
LEO: Nothing? [Standing up] What’s going on behind that door, Dan?
DANIEL: Like I said, nothing.
LEO: Then why haven’t Steph and Tom and Dana come back? What was that pulsing sound earlier? And what were those lights?
DANIEL: [Ominously] What sound? What lights?
LEO advances towards the door, but DAN blocks him. They dodge side to side then grapple. LEO wins and is just reaching for the knob of the door stage right when ALAN enters through the door stage left.
ALAN: Hi guys.
LEO: Hey, man.
DANIEL: ‘Sup Al?
ALAN: I don’t mean to get in the way of—whatever—you’re doing here, but I gotta get through that door.
LEO: [Backing away] Oh, yeah. No problem.
ALAN exits through the door stage right, shutting it behind him. DANIEL brushes himself off and stares at LEO.
LEO: “Well” what?
DANIEL: Aren’t you going to add black people to your Big-Gay-Feminist-Neoliberal-Communist-Jewish-Catholic-Masonic-Government-Uber-Conspiracy?
LEO: Dude. Don’t be racist.
DANIEL is exasperated, and LEO seizes his opportunity while DANIEL holds his face in bewilderment. LEO races by DANIEL and opens the door stage right.
ALL (except LEO): HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!
LEO backs against the door in shock, then relief, then laughter. Then:
LEO: [Suspicious] How do I know I can trust you…?
DANIEL: Get in there and eat some damn cake.
LEO smiles. Together, LEO and DANIEL exit through the door stage right, closing it behind them.