THE PORTER'S CHOICE
CAST OF CHARACTERS
ALEX, a Type A schizophrenic who loves having multiple planners with corresponding pens.
KIKI, a big-church-hat wearing, warm-hearted Southern Mama. Gatekeeper between one reality and the next. Loves grits with cheese.
HARPER, an indecisive young professional who jumped when the Stock Market crashed. Loves a good tie.
A derelict shipping yard with various boxes and crates littered with debris. No place to hide, at least not for very long.
The sound of the ocean in the background.
Either almost dawn or almost dusk but it's hard to tell exactly which one.
(Lights up on HARPER sitting on a box trying out a new knot with his tie and ALEX lying facedown on the ground.)
HARPER. You alright there, sport? That was a pretty nasty fall. Must have been high tide.
(ALEX groans awake, sits up slowly, and looks around.)
ALEX. I’m not dead?
HARPER. Do you feel dead?
ALEX. No. But... I feel different. Is this purgatory?
HARPER. If it is, I should be out by now. So no, no it’s not.
ALEX. If this isn’t purgatory, then where are we?
HARPER. Well, what’s it smell like?
ALEX. (sniffing around) Fish. Ocean. Rust, metal. Trash.
HARPER. Can’t ask for much more from a shipping yard, can you?
ALEX. Wait, that’s not where I was told to go. I was told—
HARPER. Who told you to come here?
ALEX. The ones who...the ones who, you know, tell me things.
HARPER. What do you mean? You hear voices or somethin’?
ALEX. Well, sometimes, sure, but....They’re so quiet!
HARPER. They’re quiet? There’s no one here but us. What are you crazy?
ALEX. Schizophrenic, diagnosed just last week. NOT dangerous and... not medicated. At least, not yet! Not until next week.
HARPER. So you are crazy.
ALEX. I didn’t ask for your opinion.
HARPER. Well, I was only saying—
(KIKI enters SR, interrupting HARPER before he can finish.)
KIKI. Who are you picking fights with now, Harper?
HARPER. No one, ma’am. Just this new fella.
ALEX. Hi, I’m Alex. It’s not short for anything, just Alex. (They reach out to shake KIKI’s hand. She takes it and pulls them into a big hug.)
KIKI. Well, it’s good to meet you, Alex, but I wish it was under better circumstances. I’m Kiki. Some folks call me ma’am, or Mama Kiki, or just plain ole KiKi. Whatever you like.
ALEX. Better circumstances? You mean outside of a shipping yard?
KIKI. No sir, I mean outside of this place. Somewhere a little livelier than this dimension.
ALEX. So…we are dead?
HARPER. Do you feel dead?
KIKI. You hush now.
ALEX. I felt dead when I was at the top. I don’t know why it’d be any different at the bottom.
KIKI. Now, honey, you know they didn’t build that bridge just to jump off of. People gotta use it to cross from one place to the next. Go side to side, not up and down.
ALEX. I mean, yes but—
KIKI. That’s what that ocean over there is for. It’s a bridge between my reality and yours and the one after. When you jumped, you crossed from your place into mine. Just like old Harper here. How long ago was that, Harper?
HARPER. What year is it supposed to be now?
ALEX. Uhm, 2018.
HARPER. That means it was...(using his fingers to do the math) Hold on now...(and he’s got it?) A long time ago. It was 1929 when I jumped.
ALEX. When the stock market crashed?
HARPER. Yes, indeed.
ALEX. And you just stayed here?
HARPER. It’s not so bad when you get used to the smells.
KIKI. It’s not so bad, period! Plus, I’ve grown so used to having Harper around that I don’t know what I’d do without him.
HARPER. Oh, you’d be fine.
KIKI. Just because I’d be fine doesn’t mean I’d like it.
ALEX. So you just stayed? That’s an option?
KIKI. If you like. I make cheese grits every now and then, and you meet all kinds of interesting people out here.
ALEX. Interesting like how?
KIKI. Interesting like—Harper, you remember that one young man that fell that we just knew didn’t belong?
HARPER. The construction worker?
KIKI. The very same. He was one of the few that went back that year.
ALEX. Back? Back where?
KIKI. Back up there to where you started. You see, you’ve got three options. You can stay here with me and Harper, you can go on up that crane right there and see what’s next, or you can jump back into where you were.
ALEX. Back into the ocean?
KIKI. Mhhmm. You’ll pop right back up like you had just fallen in.
HARPER. Only thing is the ocean’s pretty cold. I was tired of being cold.
KIKI. I gotta warn you, though, if you don’t go back then no one is going to finish making your bullet journal.
ALEX. How do you know—?
KIKI. I know a lot of things. Like how you don’t need to be perfect and the world doesn’t need to be perfect for you to live in it.
ALEX. (shared line with HARPER) Well, then—
HARPER. (shared line with ALEX) Who said—
KIKI. Hush! It’s not as hopeless as y’all think it is. Never was, never has been. You may not see all the good that’s coming your way and all the good you get to do while you’re there, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone. Sun’s still there when it’s cloudy, isn’t it?
HARPER. (beginning of a bad joke) Well, I can’t see it, Kiki, and—
ALEX. (interrupting) So does that...what does that mean for me?
KIKI. It means you’ve got a choice. Same one Harper faced a while back. But he couldn’t make that choice in time so time made that choice for him.
HARPER. And now I’m here.
ALEX. (beat) I can choose not to be dead?
HARPER. (exploding) Do you feel dead?!
KIKI. Hush! They’ve gotta chose quick!
KIKI. (checking the sky, which hasn’t changed) You’ve got about five minutes.
ALEX. Five minutes?! Why didn’t anybody tell me sooner?
HARPER. Cause Kiki likes to talk.
KIKI. And Harper likes to be a lazy lookout.
HARPER. You got here in plenty of time to tell him!
KIKI. But now he’s only got four minutes to pick!
ALEX. How do I pick?!
KIKI. (indicating the different areas of the stage as she speaks) You gotta think real hard about what it is you want. If you want, you can go back to the cloudy, soon-to-be-sunny sky. Or you can go on forward and figure out what that silver lining is like. Or you can stay here, right underneath that same hazy sky that Harper enjoys so much. (Beat) I know what you’re thinking. The cloudy ain’t worth it. But that real sunshine up there is. I promise you. Those voices ain’t going away just because you’re here. You’re frozen for a moment.
HARPER. But it’s not always sunny, sport. It gets hard and cold. And it rains and snows up there. Compared to here, where it’s just nice and mild the whole time. No winter coat. No fur-lined gloves. No hat you have to remember. Just a nice tie every once in a while.
ALEX. (gesturing up SL) And up that way?
KIKI. We don’t really know about that way. No one ever comes back down, but I expect that it’s a grand adventure. (Beat) Honey, you can make it until next Thursday.
KIKI. When your insurance goes through for your new medication. You can make it.
ALEX. You really think so?
KIKI. I know so. These symptoms don’t define you. And they won’t hold you down forever. Your sun is gonna shine again.
ALEX. How can you be so sure?
HARPER. You can’t be.
KIKI. Maybe not. But it’s not worth giving up just because the light is hard to find.
ALEX. I think—I think I need a minute alone. To think.
HARPER. Well, that’s good because you’ve only got one to decide.
KIKI. Not to rush you, but he’s right. Go on, now!
(KIKI and HARPER exit offstage together, KIKI ushering HARPER off BACKSTAGE and through the curtains, if possible).
ALEX. One minute.
(ALEX slowly takes in each direction. Giving full weight and consideration to each choice. They approach one choice, perhaps the more attractive one, and stops to really think. They turn around. Long beat. ALEX makes their choice.)
Ms. Embry s a senior BFA performance major with a minor in psychology. She is an active member in the Southern Miss Honors College and Alpha Psi Omega fraternity. She is also a founding member of the Writers @ Play student playwright group. Her previous performances include You Can’t Take it With You (Gay Wellington),The Groundling (Karen Malone), Macbeth (First Witch), The Crucible (Abigail Williams) and Sleepy Hollow (Hilda Weintraub). She will graduate this May summa cum laude.