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The Box


by Rich Smolen


Man Young Man Old Man

(Stage is bare, except for a bus stop sign downstage right. Upstage wall has a few black and white framed photos; a tripod is lying on the ground next to the wall. YOUNG MAN and MAN enter from upstage left and cross to the bus stop. There is a camera around YOUNG MAN'S neck.)

YOUNG MAN Well, here we are.

MAN Here we are.

YOUNG MAN I'll see you later....

MAN Same time and place....

(His voice trails off as he looks for the bus)

YOUNG MAN As usual.

MAN (MAN nods in absentminded agreement, still looking for bus. He stops suddenly and looks into audience.)


YOUNG MAN What is it?

MAN Uh-oh.

YOUNG MAN Did you forget something?

MAN Uh-huh.

YOUNG MAN Forget your fare?


YOUNG MAN What, then?

MAN My box! I forgot my box. Wait here?

(MAN runs off stage)

YOUNG MAN Your what?

(MAN returns with a large cardboard box)

MAN I didn't miss the bus did I?

YOUNG MAN You were hardly gone ten seconds. What's--

MAN Good. I'll see you later.


(YOUNG MAN is obviously curious as to contents of box. He bends to look inside as MAN pulls box away. This action becomes more exaggerated through the next couple of lines)

MAN Good morning.

YOUNG MAN Yes, good morning....

MAN Have a good day.

YOUNG MAN Yes, thank you, you too....

MAN (pause) Is there something else?

YOUNG MAN Oh, no, not really, I was just....

MAN Don't you have to go soon?

YOUNG MAN Well, yes...soon--

MAN Didn't the studio call you in early today?

YOUNG MAN Yes, but--

MAN Yes?

YOUNG MAN I was just wondering...(pause, clears throat)...just wondering what's in the box?

MAN You want to know what's in my box?

YOUNG MAN Umm, yes...if you don't mind telling me...?

MAN (pause) You want to know what's in here?

(MAN gestures to box. YOUNG MAN starts to nod.)

Or what's in here? Eh?

(MAN gestures to his head. MAN nods, laughs at his own joke)

YOUNG MAN I mean what's in here.

(YOUNG MAN points to cardboard box)

MAN You don't find my joke very funny.

YOUNG MAN Oh. No, I just wanted to know....

MAN You want to know why? Because it wasn't a joke!

(MAN is serious for a moment, his eyes widen; then breaks out into laugh.)

It's the same thing!


MAN (very slowly) The same thing. Here

(MAN gestures to box)

and here.

(MAN gestures to head)

YOUNG MAN (pause, look of confusion) I don't understand. (pause) What's in the box?

MAN Nothing.

YOUNG MAN Nothing?

MAN (MAN who has been half-joking until now becomes serious, almost threatening)


YOUNG MAN (pause) Why do you have a box...of nothing?

MAN Well, I have a box....


MAN And it sure looks like something...doesn't it?


MAN But, in fact...

(MAN turns box upside down)

it's nothing!!!

YOUNG MAN What do you do with a box of nothing?

MAN You find something to put in it.

YOUNG MAN Like what? I could give you something.

MAN I've had this box for a long time. Don't you think if it were that easy I'd have something by now?

YOUNG MAN What sort of thing are you looking for? Do you want my camera? I could give you my camera!

MAN What is the use of a camera?

YOUNG MAN Excuse me? THIS is a Nikon 35 millimeter, automatic focus, automatic flash, auto load, auto rewind, it's got a telephoto lens, rapid rewind for action shots--

MAN What would I do with a camera?

YOUNG MAN Take a picture?

MAN Of what? My box?? Then I'd have two empty boxes to fill.

(MAN looks for bus. YOUNG MAN walks upstage, sets up tripod. OLD MAN enters, downstage left. MAN sees OLD MAN and looks around in panic for a place to hide box. He finally ³hides² it in plain view, center stage, and returns to bus stop. OLD MAN sees MAN and crosses to him, also waiting for bus.)

MAN I got a box.

(FRIEND, apparently not in scene, sets up camera on tripod, upstage)


MAN I got a box.

OLD MAN I got a headache.

MAN Do you hear me?

OLD MAN AND, I got a backache. (pause) A box? (short pause) Let me see.

MAN No. It's all I got. It's my box. It's all I got.

OLD MAN (patronizing) Well, what kind of box is it, then?

MAN It's a big box. Big enough.

OLD MAN Is it...a metal box?

MAN No, it's a cardboard box. It's mine.

OLD MAN (still patronizing, but slightly annoyed) Can you carry it?

MAN Of course I can--it's my box!

OLD MAN (long pause) I got somethin' too.

MAN Yeah?

OLD MAN (mocking) Yeah. Better than a box.

MAN Better?

OLD MAN Yeah. It's in my pocket.

(He pats his front pocket)

I'll trade it for your box.

MAN Trade what?

OLD MAN What's in my pocket.

MAN I don't know.

OLD MAN No, I'm telling you. What's in my pocket. I'll trade for your box.

MAN What's in your pocket?

OLD MAN What's in your box?

MAN Now I asked you first. What's in your pocket?

OLD MAN It doesn't matter...if you don't want to trade...if you want to trade, I'll tell you.

MAN No, I have to know....You do have something?

OLD MAN (sarcastic) No. Yes, I have something. (long pause) Well?

MAN (pause) All right.

OLD MAN We have an agreement, then?

MAN Yes.

YOUNG MAN (YOUNG MAN enters scene from upstage) No.

OLD MAN Excuse me?

YOUNG MAN (to MAN) There is no agreement yet.

OLD MAN Listen young man, I don't know who you are but I have made a deal here--

YOUNG MAN ( to OLD MAN) Apparently you DO know who I am. And I know you, old man.

OLD MAN Then we are on equal ground, but I have made a verbal agreement, and I intend to carry out--

YOUNG MAN (to MAN) Hey, man--I have something, too. Why don't you trade with ME?


OLD MAN It's too late, he has agreed to trade with me.

YOUNG MAN That was before he knew that I had something better than you.

MAN Look--I really don't care which one--

OLD MAN You made the agreement with me. Are you going reneg on your agreement? Are you going to break your word--

YOUNG MAN Are you going to listen to this clown? I have something better to trade. You will trade with me.

OLD MAN You will shut your mouth before I--

YOUNG MAN Before you what, old man?

MAN Listen, I think--

YOUNG MAN No one cares what you think.

OLD MAN Why don't you shut up and let him speak.

MAN (to YOUNG MAN) Look, I just want something, I already agreed--

YOUNG MAN You will trade with me, or you will not trade at all.

OLD MAN Don't be ridiculous.

YOUNG MAN Take one more step towards me, old man, take one more step.

MAN I don't want trouble--

YOUNG MAN I'll kill you, old man, come closer and I'll--

MAN Please--

OLD MAN Let's make the trade now. Where's your box?

YOUNG MAN Go get your box. But the trade will be with me.

(MAN hesitates, then moves towards box.)

Is that the box over there?

(YOUNG MAN points to box. OLD MAN looks. YOUNG MAN strikes OLD MAN from behind; OLD MAN falls to ground, motionless. YOUNG MAN looks around, visibly anxious and upset after assaulting OLD MAN. YOUNG MAN runs over to MAN who has just picked up box. YOUNG MAN grabs box and pushes MAN away to the side.)

This box is empty?!? This is worthless! All this for nothing!

(YOUNG MAN throws box to MAN who catches it. YOUNG MAN runs to camera and tripod, grabs them, and runs off stage.)

MAN (calling after YOUNG MAN) Wait! (silence)

(MAN looks into box)

(long pause) Nothing. (pause) Worthless.

(MAN looks around)

(pause) Alone. (pause) I hate alone!

(MAN crosses to OLD MAN, tries to revive him, but fails)

(pause) Nothing. (pause) I hate nothing!

(MAN throws box down. Sound of something shattering in box. MAN kneels in front of box. Lights fade except for red down light, illuminating only MAN's head and box. MAN looks down at box, then looks up at source of light. Light fades.)



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