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Coffee Shop Blues
Coffee Shop Blues
Props: tables, chairs, shopping cart, coins, books, coffee cups, briefcase, reading glasses, counter, paper bag, tip jar, newspaper, mop
Setting: A franchised coffee shop in San Francisco. PEGGY, a barista, is hard at work serving customers. BETHANY, a homeless woman, counts her coins in an attempt to afford a croissant for lunch. BEN, an elderly man, is watching.
BETHANY (counting coins frustratedly): Twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one, thirty-two, thirty-three. There you go, one dollar and thirty-three cents.
PEGGY (responding to BETHANY in a sympathetic tone, looking down to the coins in confusion): Oh… well thank you, I guess? But your croissant was only $1.32. Here’s your penny. Your food will be another minute.
BETHANY (looking ashamed as she scoops the coin up, just stuffing it into her pocket and looking to the tip jar in guilt): Thank you.
Setting: Minutes later. BETHANY is sitting alone at her table, shopping cart at her side DEREK, the cafe owner, strides in, carrying his briefcase. BEN is still watching.
DEREK (giving a dirty look to the shopping cart, and then to BETHANY. He looks to PEGGY, whispering): I didn’t know loitering was allowed in my shop.
PEGGY (looking annoyed at DEREK, and sympathetic towards the woman): Well, Mr Haunstein, would you like me to kick her out? I don't see that getting us many good Yelp reviews.
JARRED (holding out a paper bag with the name 'Bethany' printed on it in black marker): I have a plain croissant for Bethany!
BETHANY (accepting the bag, quietly and timid): Thanks.
DEREK (rolling his eyes): Well, I suppose she is a paying customer.
(BEN continues to read his book)
BETHANY (obviously hears the owner’s mean words, as her face clearly shows, but just continues to eat her croissant): Sigh.
JARRED (walking away, before hearing the sigh, his head perking up and spinning on his heel): Hey… something got you down?
BETHANY (putting her head down, shaking it): No, thanks though.
JARRED (looking to the woman, and then to his boss, seemingly not knowing what to do. He sighs in frustration, just walking off): Oh, alright…
Setting: An hour later in the breakroom of the cafe. JARRED and PEGGY are standing around, having a conversation to waste some time on their break. DEREK is working the floor with another BARISTA. BETHANY continues to loiter, sitting at the table for nearly two hours since finishing her croissant. BEN continues to read, transitioning from a novel to a newspaper.
JARRED (arms folded, angry): I don’t get why he has to be so rude. That girl did absolutely nothing to him, she didn’t deserve that treatment.
PEGGY (loitering about, not seeming too invested in the conversation): I guess it’s just whatever, right? I mean, he is the boss. This is his company. There’s not much we could do.
JARRED (shaking his head, growing a bit angry): It’s just not fair! He gets all the money, we do all the work, and he gets to waltz in here and judge his paying customers! Frick him! Frick this place! I’m out!
JARRED (storms out, shoving the doors open dramatically): I'll see you later, Bethany. Text me when you're out of this crap hole, Peg!
DEREK (walking in front of the distraught employee, holding his hands out in front of him): Woah! What’s the rush, kid?
JARRED (shoves DEREK out of the way, storming ahead through the threshold of the shop and the streets beyond): Get out of the way, numbskull!
DEREK (shocked, his eyes widening, standing there frozen): Was that assault?! You’ll hear from my lawyer! Don't dare step foot on my property ever again! You’re fired!
BEN (in response to the chaos going on around him, sets down his newspaper in alarm): Oh my word!
DEREK (settling down): I'm out of here. This place is getting nuts. Let's not forget this is my cafe! I'll see you tomorrow, Peggy. Make sure these counters are spotless for when the overnight shift gets here!
BEN (clearly overwhelmed by the chaos, refolds his newspaper and begins exiting the shop, turns to PEGGY): You have a good night now, dear.
Setting: Eleven in the evening. The maintenance closet of the cafe. PEGGY is preparing for the end of her shift by completing her mandatory cleaning tasks. She pulls the mop out of the closet and begins to clean the floor. Outside of the closet, BETHANY continues to enjoy the warmth of the cafe.
PEGGY (to herself): Ugh! This has been the longest day ever.
BETHANY (in response): You heading out soon?
PEGGY (to BETHANY): Yeah. My shift is over at midnight. The night shift arrives then, too.
BETHANY (clearly disappointed): Oh, okay.
PEGGY (confused): Why? Do you need me to make you something to eat before I leave? If you're not hungry yet, I'm sure someone coming in would make you something later on. They're all very nice.
BETHANY (seemingly relieved): Oh, that's great, but-... nevermind.
PEGGY (in an attempt to receive clarity from BETHANY): What's the matter?
BETHANY (shamefully): Well... it's just-... it's pretty brisk out there. I was thinking about staying in the cafe overnight, but I don't really know those workers and I don't want to cause another scene.
PEGGY (seeming as though she has a solution): I know one of the guys coming in to work the night shift.
XAVIER (entering the shop with an energetic strut): Good evening, ladies! I have had the glitteriest day ever. How was your d-
PEGGY (cutting him off): Hey Xavier! I'm so glad you had a great day, but listen, this is Bethany. She's a very sweet woman, but she's currently out of a home. I need you to do me a favor. If she needs anything, like a snack or drink, just give it to her and let me know how much I owe to the register when we switch back in the morning. Oh, and... if Derek happens to come in to check on the shop during your shift, just tell him that she paid for a coffee within the last hour. She'll likely be here all night, so just treat her good. I owe you one, sis!
XAVIER (snapping his fingers, energetic): Fo’ sho’ girlfriend!
PEGGY (gathering her belongings and starting toward the door): Thanks again, Xavier. Have a great night, Bethany. I'll see you two at ten tomorrow.
Setting: The same coffee shop, now morning. BETHANY is sitting on a chair, now seeming content in her position, a smile on her face. She seems more awake, happy in her position. XAVIER is serving her a hot macchiato, both of them laughing about a shared joke. BEN has returned, and is reading the newspaper in the corner. We see DEREK is seen walking in from off stage, in a bit of a hurry, seemingly angry at what awaited him inside.
DEREK (walking to XAVIER, pointing his finger at him, jabbing it into his chest): Where is Peggy? Your shift ended two hours ago, Xavier! Don’t think I’m paying you any extra!
(turning to BETHANY, narrowing his eyes, seeming to be lost in thought for a moment)
You’re still here? You didn’t sleep here, did you?
BETHANY (looks up to him, then timidly to the ground, pushing down her sleeves, drawing back into her emotional shell): Well- well um-... yeah.
DEREK (looking shocked, his jaw dropping slightly): Excuse me?! Are you serious? Did you know about this, Xavie-
XAVIER (walking away, his hands in the air, shaking his head): Nope, nah ah. I’m just gonna’ mind my P’s and Q’s, sir.
DEREK (points to BETHANY, gritting his teeth, his face growing red): Out! Get out of here!
BETHANY (scared, retreating in her seat, shrinking slightly): But- but sir, I-
DEREK (waving his fingers more, getting aggressive): I said out!
BEN (stands up, laying a hand onto his shoulder): Excuse me sir, if you don’t mind… may I speak to you for a moment?
DEREK (turns on his heel, his arms fly, taking a step back, before coming to the realization that the man was a customer): What? What do you want?
BEN (taking a deep, collected breath, before going into his speech): Why do you hate this young woman? Why do you treat her like this? Why do you treat your employees like this? Do you understand that, as rich and powerful as you are, you wouldn't have anything without her?
DEREK (seeming offended, shaking his head): Excuse me? Without her, I wouldn't have anything? You're joking, right?
BEN (nodding, a soft smirk growing on his face): Who buys your food? Who works your counters? Who drives the economy, and is the working force of the entire world? The less fortunate, the poor, the people that struggle to make ends meet. Just as they need the producers, the rich men sitting in a high castle making these franchises that provide them with their daily needs… those same rich men need the poor to drive their revenue, to give them patronage. Do you understand?
DEREK (laughing, seeming to find the idea humourous): You're joking, right? I don't need any of these street rats.
BEN (taking a step back, rubbing his brow as he thought for a moment): Sir… how would you know happiness if you never felt sorrow? How would you feel joy, if you never felt pain? Would we appreciate the hot summer days if not for the long winter nights? Would we ever know they feeling of relaxation without breaking our backs with work? You see, nothing just exists, sir. To every yin, there is an equally important yang. Yes, you may be rich… but that doesn't make you any better than her. Rich and poor… it's a social contract, a contract where both parties need each other to survive. How could one be bad? How could one be better, when they can't exist without each other? As much as you'd like to deny it… you need her. And she needs you. That's just how the world works.
DEREK (seems flustered, looking between the woman and BEN): No-... but-...
(he shakes his head, walking towards the door, rushing out, throwing his hands up into the air)
Fine! Stay as long as you want! We'll just take in all the freeloaders!
BETHANY (obviously grateful, offering the old man a smile): Um… thank you.
BEN (patting her on the shoulder, gently nodding): Of course. It's going to get better, Bethany… it’s only going to get better.