A new play in ten scenes. Our cast of characters: Annie Ellis, Garrett Molloy, Gibson Maguire; together in a Capra-corn for the millennial age.
The sound of a door opening and notice bell as GARRETT MOLLOY enters a small business office to hear the voice of ANNIE ELLIS as she speaks on the phone to a nameless Joe on the other end of the line…
ANNIE ELLIS: …one-hundred dollars. An hour.
ANNIE ELLIS: That’s right, on average. Uh huh–sir, could I put you on hold for a sec?
ANNIE ELLIS: Just take a seat.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Sure. No problem. Thanks.
…ANNIE returns to the phone guy…
ANNIE ELLIS: Consultations are free, no obligation.
ANNIE ELLIS: This here’s America. Nobody’s obligated to do anything.
ANNIE ELLIS: Right. Don’t mean to come off like a prom queen, but I really do have to go. Yeah. Thanks and we’ll take note of your response.
The sound of a phone hanging up.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Tough day?
ANNIE ELLIS: How can I help you?
GARRETT MOLLOY: Yeah. I’m here ’bout the ad. Saw it earlier today.
ANNIE ELLIS: The payphone ad?
GARRETT MOLLOY: Right. Had to make a call.
ANNIE ELLIS: A payphone is one solution.
GARRETT MOLLOY: That’s what I thought.
ANNIE ELLIS: Unless, like…you’re like a normal person with a smartphone.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Right. Anyway. I needed to call someone–
ANNIE ELLIS: Says a lot about someone who still uses the few payphones left standing.
GARRETT MOLLOY: It says a lot?
ANNIE ELLIS: Plenty to those who take notice.
GARRETT MOLLOY: And just who takes notice?
ANNIE ELLIS: Just us normal persons. But you were saying.
GARRETT MOLLOY: I was just setting some context as to why–
ANNIE ELLIS: To why you’re here. You know. Most people who open up conversations with a back-story are con-artists or back-alley players. Which mold do you fit?
GARRETT MOLLOY: Do you analyze everyone who comes through your door like this?
ANNIE ELLIS: I’m just the gate-keeper, but I’ll be your audience if you must…go ahead with your story.
GARRETT MOLLOY: After seeing your ad, I counted my change and I called you instead of my ride. ‘Bout an hour ago. Made an appointment.
ANNIE ELLIS: Name?
GARRETT MOLLOY: Molloy. Garrett Molloy.
ANNIE ELLIS: Right. Mr. Molloy. Are you thirsty? You look thirsty to me.
GARRETT MOLLOY: I walked.
ANNIE ELLIS: Gathered as much. There’s a water cooler near the john. Might be wise to freshen up before your interview.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Interview? Just called ’bout the ad and someone named Annie–
ANNIE ELLIS: Ahem.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Okay, you–made an appointment for me. But, this is not really about employment. The ad said–
ANNIE ELLIS: You’re not a customer. You’re not a client. So, you can either be an employee or a bum. Which mold do you fit?
GARRETT MOLLOY: I wasn’t quite prepared for an interview. Thought this was some sort of informal operation. From the ad.
ANNIE ELLIS: Well, you’ve passed the informal pre-screening. So, you’re doing just fine.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Pre-screening?
ANNIE ELLIS: You’re just the type of guy we’re looking for. Have a seat, pull up a chair, make yourself comfy, and think pleasant thoughts.
GARRETT MOLLOY: The interview is with you?
ANNIE ELLIS: That’s right. We’re a lean operation. So, you’ve actually read our advertisement. All of it?
GARRETT MOLLOY: The ad on the payphone?
ANNIE ELLIS: Yes. The ad. The ad we tape on the phones still scattered about the city.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Yes, I read it all.
ANNIE ELLIS: Excellent. It’s always a thrill to touch the masses.
GARRETT MOLLOY: The masses?
ANNIE ELLIS: Advertising! The masses…through advertising, marketing, 360 degree turns of the phrase! You buy things. I assume you buy some things, every now and again.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Yes. Yes, I buy–
ANNIE ELLIS: Words make you buy things. Sometimes pictures and models aid the effort. But, words!
GARRETT MOLLOY: Words.
ANNIE ELLIS: You buy things because words climb into your head and follow you to the store. The words you heard. Or read.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Okay.
ANNIE ELLIS: Even on a payphone.
ANNIE ELLIS: So. Tell me. Mr. Molloy.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Garrett’s fine, Annie.
ANNIE ELLIS: Garrett.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Annie.
ANNIE ELLIS: And what are names but trigger words, pushing for a reaction? You see what I’m saying? You understand?
GARRETT MOLLOY: I…think so. Yeah.
ANNIE ELLIS: Excellent. So, our ad caught your eye.
GARRETT MOLLOY: It shocked me, honestly.
ANNIE ELLIS: It made you pick up that phone and call.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Well. Wasn’t sure at first.
ANNIE ELLIS: Became sure soon enough, didn’t ya? You called and then you came right over.
GARRETT MOLLOY: I couldn’t just ignore it without at least getting some more information.
ANNIE ELLIS: That’s why you called.
GARRETT MOLLOY: That’s why I called.
ANNIE ELLIS: And that’s why you’re here.
GARRETT MOLLOY: That’s why–
ANNIE ELLIS: Seem eager to me.
GARRETT MOLLOY: If I had just torn off the number. Chances are. If I’d just taken it home with me in my pocket–
ANNIE ELLIS: You would have lost it in a cluster of old receipts and lint.
Garrett MOLLOY: Sure.
ANNIE ELLIS: You read the ad.
ANNIE ELLIS: I like you, Garrett. I do. Level-headed. Conscientious. Yes.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Thank you. Thanks.
ANNIE ELLIS: I’m sure you have questions about our work.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Well. Just the basic kick-the-tires kind of stuff.
ANNIE ELLIS: Go on.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Okay. Um. From the ad. From the way it sounded. You do business with big junk mail firms. That kind of thing?
ANNIE ELLIS: We wouldn’t categorize ourselves like that.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Right. Sorry. Didn’t mean to offend–
ANNIE ELLIS: We are the grassroots of mass media.
GARRETT MOLLOY: I…don’t know what that means.
ANNIE ELLIS: We are in the business of words. It’s a very honorable profession, leading mass thought. And you have a career offer that you could have lost in your pocket; yet you did the truly human thing instead. You came here for a face to face.
GARRETT MOLLOY: It seems like a good deal.
ANNIE ELLIS: Let me set your straight there. This is not a good deal. It’s a great deal. I’ll give you four American dollars for every name you supply. One-hundred pieces of copper with honest Abe’s grimacing face in exchange for thirty-odd letters in some recognizable pattern. In exchange for words–so long as they belong to flesh and blood. You don’t have time for “seems like”.
GARRETT MOLLOY: Annie, do you have any, um, literature I could look over–
ANNIE ELLIS: Let’s loose the respectable act for a minute. I humored you but now it’s just wearing. I know where you found the ad and what you have and what you don’t have. You are welcome to walk back to Nebraska Avenue and find yourself a friend. Are you interested or not?
GARRETT MOLLOY: I dunno. I don’t have much of a choice.
ANNIE ELLIS: Reservations aren’t choices and they don’t pay the rent.
ANNIE ELLIS: Collect all the names you can. Do it any way you wish. We pay in cash.
Read what happens next in Scene Two “Intervention”.
Spread the word about FOUR BUCKS A NAME to your amigos. Please & gracias.