By Russell Hammond
DAVIS: Young lawyer that has something to prove. Dealing with a rough break up and burnt out from serving as a prosecuting lawyer, he is in desperate need of a change. He channels his frustrations into ping pong.
ALBERT: Elderly man who’s seen it all and done it all. Wizened by his many years practicing law, he attempts to impart life lessons on a rather headstrong Davis. Irreverent and frank, he says what’s on his mind.
Setting: Present day at the YMCA in NYC. Davis and Albert meet up for a game of ping pong like they always do on a Saturday.
Lights open on the ping-pong table with ALBERT calling from off-stage.
ALBERT (calling out to him): Hey Davis! You ready to get your ass beat again?
Remaining lights come up and stay up for the rest of the show as ALBERT enters, followed by DAVIS.
DAVIS: Shut it old man, just pick up that paddle and prepare yourself.
ALBERT (mockingly): Jesus. What crawled up your butt and died?
DAVIS: Nothing, alright. I don’t want to talk about it. Let’s just get this game going huh?
They pick up their paddles. Davis has the ping pong ball.
ALBERT: Volley for serve?
DAVIS (tossing ball to him): No just serve it, Al.
ALBERT (serving): You got it kiddo.
DAVIS promptly returns the ball to the opposite corner, scoring a point.
ALBERT: Wow you aren’t fooling around.
DAVIS: Like I said, Al, I don’t want to talk.
ALBERT (calming him down): Alright, alright.
ALBERT serves a trick ball, Davis counters and scores.
DAVIS: Don’t pull that nonsense with me you old bastard.
ALBERT (smirking): Don’t call me a bastard you scrawny punk.
DAVIS(jokingly): Who you calling scrawny? You geriatric prick!
ALBERT: We gonna name call, or we gonna play? (Beat) Ya, jerk.
DAVIS: Serve it, grandpa. Make my day.
ALBERT: Zero serving two.
ALBERT promptly serves the ball, this time an Ace.
ALBERT: You see? This old dog still has a few tricks!
DAVIS (dejectedly): There’s nothing new under the sun, old timer.
ALBERT (concerned): One serving two. (Beat) Seriously though, what’s been eating you?
DAVIS: (Pause) It’s Jennie.
ALBERT: She not putting out?
ALBERT: You put it in the wrong hole?
DAVIS (disgusted): No! You dirty old perv! (Beat) She and I broke up.
ALBERT: Ah, I say forget about her kid, there ain’t nothing you can do about it now. I say live and let live. Live without regrets. Carpe Diem and all that bullshit. That’s what I’ve been doing and look how well I’ve turned out.
ALBERT and DAVIS continue volleying the ping pong ball between them.
DAVIS: I know Al, it’s just she was something special you know?
ALBERT: Seriously kid? You’re a lawyer for God’s sake! Ladies line up for miles just to blow you.
DAVIS (ignoring his statement): Jennie said that I’m not emotionally available, that my career came between us.
ALBERT (matter-of-factly): But you’re supposed to be the provider. I say a woman that don’t appreciate a man for taking care of her ain’t a woman worth the time.
DAVIS: No but she’s right. (Spikes the ball) My serve. Four serving one.
DAVIS serves, ALBERT returns the ball. The volley begins once again.
ALBERT: Look kid, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. Don’t waste it on some broad that don’t support you and your career.
DAVIS: I hear ya. (Pause) But maybe I should be looking into another job.
ALBERT: What like professional ping pong champion? (Chuckles) I mean you’re good, but you’re not that good.
DAVIS: I was thinking of quitting law altogether. I’m sick of screwing people to the wall as the prosecution. (Beat) Destroying the other side is destroying me.
ALBERT (mockingly): That’s strange, you always make it a point to destroy your opponents at pong.
DAVIS: I don’t know anymore. Jennie walking out on me is weighing on my conscience.
ALBERT: Now don’t get all sappy on me you wussbag.
ALBERT scores with a spiking of the ball.
DAVIS (cracking a smile): Oh it’s on!
Game continues with bits of dialog mixed in.
ALBERT: Nice Ace.
ALBERT: I just missed that one.
DAVIS: Better watch those angles.
ALBERT: You’ve improved since we’ve played last.
Davis has dominated the match.
DAVIS: Ten to two, you’re getting soft, Al.
ALBERT: It’s game point for you, Davis.
DAVIS: Sucker’s serve, old man. (Tosses ALBERT the ball)
ALBERT: Respect your elders, boy.
DAVIS: Just serve it, geezer.
ALBERT serves, DAVIS counters, and they fall into a steady volley.
DAVIS: You know, I remember my first major case at the DA’s office.
ALBERT: Oh we’re on this again?
DAVIS (ignoring him): It was against a man who’d made himself a pariah, trouble in paradise and a dead body on his doorstep; the state was out for blood.
ALBERT: Yeah, I remember that case. It was all over the news, heavy stuff.
DAVIS: No. The reporters couldn’t even begin to relate the drama that unfolded in that courtroom. The evidence had placed him at the scene but everything else was circumstantial. We knew nothing short of a miracle would make the charges stick.
ALBERT: Didn’t your firm win that case? Landslide victory for the state they said.
DAVIS: Lead prosecutor was a son of a bitch. Played to the emotions of the jury, walked them through each gruesome detail of the murder. By the end, the outcome was clear: that man was guilty of murder in the second degree.
ALBERT: And the firm cut you a fat check, made you junior partner…
ALBERT spikes the ball, ending the volley. There’s a pause.
DAVIS: But here’s the thing. A guy standing over a bloodied corpse doesn’t make him a murderer if he didn’t pull the trigger. Gang violence was prevalent in the area, but that never came up during the trial. After several appeals to the pardon board, the poor bastard lie dead in his cell only a few days later and I played a part in his fate. That’s why I’m giving this all up.
ALBERT: Hey it’s your life.
DAVIS: Yes. What of it?
ALBERT: I’m just saying you’re a shark, kid. Don’t throw your life away as a clown fish.
DAVIS: You saying I can’t find respectable work?
ALBERT: Davis, listen to a guy who’s been around the block more than once. Do what you’re good at and what you’re good at is prosecution.
DAVIS: Forget it. I sell my soul enough and there won’t be any soul to salvage. Look at me, Al. (gestures) I’m a mess.
ALBERT: Score’s ten, three. You see, you’re already turning soft.
DAVIS: To hell with the game, Al! This is my life.
ALBERT: It’s all about the game kid. Don’t you see? That’s all life is, a twisted little game. (Beat) And I lost a long time ago.
ALBERT starts to break down, visibly distressed, as DAVIS crosses and attempts to console him. They walk over to the side of the stage and sit down.
DAVIS: And you call me a wuss. What’s gotten over you?
ALBERT: I lied to you before about living without regrets.
DAVIS: How do you mean?
ALBERT: Shut up for a second and I’ll tell you. (Pause) Sorry, I didn’t mean to go off on you like that. (Another pause) My old lady used to wonder what kind of cloud loomed over me from time to time, but I’d usually dismiss her concern. We fought a lot. (Pause) I tended to tune her out the rest of the time.
ALBERT gets up and paces back to the ping pong table, DAVIS follows him.
ALBERT: Anyway, the short and the long of it was that I never gave her the love she deserved and I lost sight of what was important. In my defense, I had to provide for her and my daughter the best way I knew how. But that’s just me making excuses. Truth be told, I became a stranger to my own family. My wife died not knowing how much she meant to me and my daughter…My daughter won’t even speak to me.
ALBERT chokes up with emotions as DAVIS stands by not knowing what to do but put a consoling hand on his shoulder. ALBERT after a bit shrugs it off.
ALBERT (pulling himself together): It’s too late for me now, but it’s not too late for you, kid. Get out while you still can.
DAVIS: It’s never too late to start over. Come on old man, score’s one for one.
DAVIS serves the ball and ALBERT returns.
ALBERT: Ten, three, wise ass. I can still rally to win.
DAVIS (laughs): ‘Course you can, old timer, ‘course you can.
Lights fade on the two of them playing through another volley.
END OF ACT
© Copyright 2016 Russ Hammond. All rights reserved.
Book / Literary Fiction
Book / Mystery and Crime
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