Marbles by James Rodger

A Play Script by James Rodgers






CHUCK enters an empty room. There are two unoccupied chairs in the centre of the room back-to-back. There is a dossier on one of the chairs. CHUCK is wearing a cheap-looking suit with his shirt hastily tucked in and looks unkempt. He is flustered, seemingly harassed, looking at his surroundings as if he doesn’t want to be there.


CHUCK:        (To audience) This is my life. (Points at a man entering the room wearing white overalls and a six-digit number on his right breast pocket. He is holding some marbles in his right hand and is brushing them against each other whilst he gnaws the fingers on his left hand with his mouth)


CHUCK:        He is my life. (Points at each wall of the room)


CHUCK:        My life consists of these four walls.


(The second man sits down in the chair, which does not have the dossier on it and continues playing with the marbles.)


CHUCK:        I shouldn’t complain really, should I? I get a decent wage, don’t I? Is money enough, though? I don’t mean to get deep here, folks. I don’t want to fill your heads by talking about the philosophy of life, existentiality, the ever-expanding growth between the rich and the poor, the War on Terror, the Tea Party movement, the Occupy movement, Edward Snowden or even twerking. I just want to get by. (checks his wristwatch and sighs)


CHUCK:        I haven’t got long to talk. By all intents and purposes I should be working right now. But, between you and me, I don’t take pleasure in what I do. I hate it. I hate the long hours. I hate the dark nights. I hate the journeys on the interstate and I definitely… (Points at the man in the chair who is still playing with the marbles)


CHUCK:        …definitely hate my patients. Do me a favour and just look at him for a minute, would you?


(The man in the chair looks at the audience like a rabbit caught in the headlights and briefly pauses playing with the marbles. He places one of them into his mouth and looks back at his feet.)


CHUCK:        Look at that poor guy. What’s he got going for him? Nothing. He’s just a number to the government. Another man in cuckoo land.


(The man in the chair spits out one of the marbles back into his hand.)


CHUCK:        At least he’s free. Free from everything. He dreams like every other man. He gets up in the morning, has people dress him, has people like me analyse him…and then what? He does the same thing the next day. There’s no worrying about gas money. There’s no trips to Wal-Mart to pick up the groceries. There’s no worrying about his kids being involved in some high-school shooting.


(CHUCK crosses the room and picks up the dossier but doesn’t open it. He merely addresses the audience again.)


CHUCK:        (Slapping his hand on his forehead dramatically) Oh God, what am I doing? I should have introduced myself to you. I’m Chuck. Doctor Chuck Berkeley. I’ve worked here for… (Checks wristwatch)


CHUCK:        …God, I can’t even remember how long. One thing is for sure, though: it’s been too long. One day is long enough in a place like this. I hate the difference I fail to make. Nobody is curing these people. They are being kept like pets. This man here (Points at the man in the chair who has started to rub the marbles on his thighs.)


CHUCK:        …is no more than a dog in the eyes of society. Who would care if he died tomorrow? His family don’t visit him. The only Christmas cards he gets are probably from Taco Bell, offering him discount on his next visit. Man, I sure love those tacos.


(CHUCK opens the dossier and skips a few pages)


CHUCK:        Paranoid schizophrenic with violent tendencies, blah blah blah. It’s all the same thing, isn’t it? (Snaps the dossier shut)


CHUCK:        Does anybody actually know what these terms mean? It doesn’t get to the root of the problem, it just sorts out which meds you need to shove down their throat or grate into their meals. Oh God, don’t get me started on the food in this place. I swear to you…Betty the cook deserves to be one of the patients. She is always fiddling about with my stew before she brings it to me. I go in there expecting a nice warm meal but all I get is this thin stew which, by the time she’s fiddled around with it, is damn near ice cold. I don’t know why she does it…maybe she wants to impress me? Well, I’m far from impressed old Betty! (Shouting through the wall) FAR FROM IMPRESSED. You hear me?


(CHUCK returns to the centre of the room and reopens the dossier)


CHUCK:        Let’s see… what’s your name, buddy?


(The man in the chair is silent)


CHUCK:        Ah, you’re Al Michaels. The infamous Al ‘Five Ways’ Michaels. They call him five ways because… (He mimes cutting his body into five parts and then dismisses the audience with his hand) well, I’m sure you already know the story.


(AL scratches his genitals with his left hand as CHUCK looks at him)


CHUCK:        Whoa, Al boy! Slow down. I don’t want to be writing in your file here that you’ve exposed yourself to me. You’ve already got a pretty significant rap sheet, haven’t you? Is attempted murder and rape not enough for you? You got to try it on with your psychiatrist, too?


(AL sniffs and sneezes)


CHUCK:        You cold, Al boy? Want me to fetch you a blanket, a flask of coffee, maybe a little girl for you to touch?


(CHUCK kneels to AL’s eye level)


CHUCK:        Can you hear me? I said (emphasising each syllable) CAN – YOU – HEAR – ME – YOU – RE – TARD?


(CHUCK drops the dossier and slaps AL who doesn’t react)


CHUCK:        (Turning back to the audience) He’s in his own little world, isn’t he? They got them so doped up on meds in this place that I bet he can’t even remember his mothers’ name! (Shakes head and sighs) Who would want to work here? (Pointing at the audience) Would you?


(A female orderly enters, wearing a nurse’s outfit and places a cup of water onto the floor by CHUCK’s feet. She exits)


CHUCK:        (Pointing at the cup on the floor by his feet) That’s the only good thing about this place. Refreshment. They don’t bring me coffee anymore, though. We scratched off Nescafe from the grocery list when we got our funding cut. (Mimes scratching something from a notepad with his hands)


(CHUCK takes the cup and sips it)


CHUCK:        (Grimacing) Lukewarm. Betty must have made this.


(CHUCK pours the water onto the floor, returns to the dossier and picks it up)


CHUCK:        What’s the point in these things? (Showing the dossier to the audience) These files. Everybody has a file on them somewhere, don’t they? (Leaning towards the audience conspiratorially) I remember I snuck into my superintendent’s office at elementary school back when I lived in Boston. My buddy Mack and I thought it would be a good idea to break in in the middle of the night and liberate the files on all the students. We were sort of like WikiLeaks without the rape charge and the international controversy. So, anyways, we ride round there in the dead of night on our bikes and Mack bumps me up through the window of the janitor’s office.


(AL drops one of his marbles and CHUCK briefly pauses)


(AL drops another marble and CHUCK sighs.)


CHUCK:        (Raising his voice) Al, do you mind here buddy, I’m telling a story for Christ’s sake! Anyway, me and Mack make our way through the mess hall to the superintendent’s office and we liberate our files ready to begin a new era where students become as powerful and crucial to society as any snot-nosed teacher. Mack thinks it’s a good idea to read what they have to say about us, so naturally, I take a look. You know what they wrote?


(AL drops a third marble and CHUCK is looking increasingly disgruntled. He pauses before exhaling, as if attempting to calm himself down.)


CHUCK:        They wrote “Chuck Berkeley: his clothes look sad, washed on too low a temperature”. Can you believe that? No mention of my grades or personality…it was (waving hand in front of his face) all superficial.


(CHUCK averts his eyes back to the dossier as AL drops another marble.)


CHUCK:        (Shouting) Al, I swear to God! (CHUCK picks up the four individual marbles and holds them in his hand)


CHUCK:        Says in your dossier you are on Chlorpromazine, Haloperidol, Perphenazine and Fluphenazine. Jesus Christ, Al buddy, you got more narcotics in you than Jim Morrison. You got enough gear to supply the entire Betty Ford clinic, (shouting) you hear me?


(AL stands up and stretches. He throws a marble into the air and catches it.)


CHUCK:        Yeah that’s it, buddy, you stretch your legs. God knows that sitting on your ass all day gets tiring, huh? I get back to my condo at night and (slaps bottom) my ass feels like it’s been on an all-nighter with John Wayne Gacy. (Addressing the audience) That’s a joke for the oldies in here.


(AL sits back down and reverts to fiddling with the marbles in his hand.)


CHUCK:        Yeah you sit back down, Al. That’s all your day consists of, isn’t it? Sitting down and standing up, standing up and sitting down. Eating meds and causing no mischief.


CHUCK:        (Bending to AL’s eye level) You don’t want to go back to the hole, do you Al?


(CHUCK turns to the audience and addresses them whilst pointing at AL.)


CHUCK:        I heard two of the orderlies gassing in the parking lot the other day and they were saying you got shoved into solitary confinement trying to cop a feel of them. (Laughs maniacally) You dirty ol’ bastard. You don’t half try your luck pal, do you?


(AL puts a marble into his nostril and CHUCK turns to him, looking disgusted.)


CHUCK:        Oh for Christ’s sake, Al, you got to do that in here? I don’t want your germs all over this room. I got to see more patients after you. You think they want to come and sit down in your nose trash? You filthy animal.


(CHUCK turns back to the audience and addresses them once again.)


CHUCK:        Look, bear with me, would you? I got to ask old Al here a few questions before I can let him go. It won’t take that long, I promise. If you want to just sit around and wait I’d appreciate it. I’m enjoying this chat, aren’t you?


(CHUCK goes to the chair and sits down so he is back-to-back with AL. CHUCK begins playing with the marbles he earlier picked up.)


CHUCK:        So Al, what’s been going on over in A ward? You sleeping all right?




CHUCK:        (Sounding bored) Al buddy, you got to give me something here!


(More silence. CHUCK sighs looking exasperated. He flings his arms up in the air.)


CHUCK:        You know what? You don’t want to talk – that’s fine by me. I’m going to have to go back to your file and put a big red ‘X’ next to the part which says “free time allowed”. If you ain’t talking to me I ain’t gunna do you no favours.


(CHUCK stands up following more silence and walks around to face AL who is looking vacant and expressionless.)


CHUCK:        Can you even talk? I know you’re new here and we never met each other but I mean, come on, somebody should have told me if you can’t talk. This here seems like a big waste of time.


(CHUCK addresses the audience again.)


CHUCK:        See what I mean here, folks? You’d hate to be me, wouldn’t you? Why would you want to sit here, day in day out, looking after these morons who don’t even talk. Most of them just dribble. Old Al here, well…I thought he’d be interesting. His file and his history was one of…tremendous achievement. Just goes to show, though, doesn’t it? (Points at AL.)


CHUCK:        Sometimes the most messed up cats are the most boring.


(CHUCK returns to his chair and sits down.)


CHUCK:        Oh Al, buddy, you got to go in a sec. Is there anything you want to say before you go? Or shall we make an appointment for the same time next week? Unless you’re busy? (Mimes placing a skull cap on his head with his free hand.)


CHUCK:        You got a bar mitzvah to go to? (Does a robot dance.)


CHUCK:        Maybe a party? (Mimes stabbing somebody with his free hand.)


CHUCK:        You got more people to try and kill? (Reverts to looking at the marbles in his hand.)


CHUCK:        Well, let’s say I’ll see you again same place this time next week. That suit you, Al?


(AL stirs and looks confused.)


AL:                  (Groggily) Who’s Al?


CHUCK:        (Drops two of the marbles, clenches his fists in celebration and raises his arms in the air) Aha! He speaks ladies and gentlemen! The king of the psychos can actually use his tongue. Who’d have thought it though, eh?


(AL’s eyes close.)


CHUCK:        (Clicks fingers with his free hand) AL! (Clicks fingers with his free hand) AL! (Slaps AL) I know you are drugged up but you got to stay focused, Al. This ain’t bed time. (Places his hands underneath his head as if resting on a pillow) I ain’t gunna read you no story.


AL:                  (Wearily) I don’t want you to read me a story. (Rubbing his eyes) I just want to know who Al is.


CHUCK:        (Pointing at AL and laughing) You are you sick sonuvabitch.


(AL shakes head)


CHUCK:        (Looking confused) What do you mean? (CHUCK addresses the audience once again and laughs) He doesn’t know his own name, folks! Can you believe that? I’ve seen it all now. (Shakes head)


AL:                  My name isn’t Al.


CHUCK:        (Turning back to AL) Oh you ain’t Al? Well this here dossier says you are. (Thrusting the dossier into AL’s face) Look at the cover. What does that spell? (Pointing at each letter as if addressing a child) A-L-L-E-N-M-I-C-H-A-E-L-S.


AL:                  (Jadedly) Allen Michaels? My name’s Flynn. Johnny Flynn. (Emphasising each letter as if addressing a child) F-L-Y-N-N. Flynn.


CHUCK:        (In mock panic) Oh we got another case of mistaken identity in here, then. (Shouting) CALL THE ORDERLY! CALL THE ORDERLY! (Lowering his voice again) We got a schizophrenic patient who doesn’t believe his own name! (Places his hand over his mouth as if in shock)


(FEMALE ORDERLY enters and places a tray with a bowl of stew onto the man in the chair’s lap. She then picks up the dossier on the floor and places it back on the empty chair.)


ORDERLY:   Oh for goodness sake, what’s going on in here? Dr Berkeley will be here any minute now. You really need to calm yourself down, Al.


CHUCK:        (Drops another marble and waves his arms as if to become noticed) Orderly, I’m here. (Addressing the audience) See what I mean about the workers in this place? They are as thick as anything.


ORDERLY:   (Rearranging the dossier so it is neat and tidy) Sit down, Al.


(CHUCK looks at AL and looks back at the ORDERLY confused.)


CHUCK:        (Pointing at AL) He issitting down, woman!


(ORDERLY looks at CHUCK testingly.)


ORDERLY:   (Sternly) Al, I won’t tell you again.


(CHUCK is silent.)


ORDERLY:   (Pointing at CHUCK and now looking furious) Michaels, I will not tell you again. We thought you were making progress, Allen. This really isn’t good enough. Dr Berkeley will have to be notified. (Picks up the dossier and makes a note inside the front page) You need to (through clenched teeth) sit down.


(CHUCK laughs as if in relief.)


CHUCK:        I see what this is. (Checking his wristwatch) Is it April 1st? (Pointing at himself) Let’s all make fun of the doctor? Well, orderly, that was real funny. (Lets out a brief laugh but then shifts into a menacing tone) But if you do that again I swear to God I will have your job.


ORDERLY:   You will need to calm yourself and sit down. (Raising each finger on her hand to display the number five) You have five seconds.


(CHUCK drops the remaining marble and crosses to the ORDERLY, grasping her by each shoulder.)


ORDERLY: Unhand me, Michaels! (Shouting) DOCTOR! DOCTOR!


(A doctor in white overalls enters hurriedly, wearing white gloves and a white face-mask. He crosses to CHUCK and sticks a syringe in his arm. CHUCK collapses to the floor and the DOCTOR carries him to the door.)


ORDERLY:   He’ll have to go back to solitary confinement, Doctor Berkeley. He has clearly made no progress. I’ll go and fetch Betty to cook up some stew.


DOCTOR:     Get her to grate a double dose of his tablets in there, won’t you?


ORDERLY:   Yes, sir. (Addressing the man in the chair) Patient Flynn, Doctor Berkeley will be back to assess you shortly.


(DOCTOR leads CHUCK out by the arm. ORDERLY shuts the door. FLYNN scrambles on the floor to retrieve the dropped marbles and places them into his stew.)