Washed Up On The Potomac

Available in Library

Order is the name of the game in this D.C. proofreading office, but things are all off today. It's ninety degrees in October, an error has been made on the iPod account, and someone will be fired.

As three proofreaders ponder their futures, they become haunted and inspired by memories of a coworker whose body may have washed up on the Potomac today.

Who is the next to go? Or are they already gone?

A dark comedy.

Read Sample

A dive bar.

KATE finishes playing her set. She's different outside of the proofreading office. Less confident. Her sexy is more forced.

SMATTERING OF APPLAUSE and MIC FEEDBACK.

LIGHTS UP.

MARK runs up to Kate spastically. There's a PRICE TAG hanging from his new shirt.

Kate is distracted - she's looking for someone.

MARK
Oh my god! You - awesome! Me - small!

KATE
Thanks.

MARK
It was so (Punches air) Uh! I'm just (Exploding sound) Pchoooo!

DJ VOICE
Big hand for (Kate's name garbled in mic)!

"Magic Carpet Ride" plays in BG.

MARK
Sail Away! Awesome. I felt like I knew it. The ending was kind of avantee guardee. But I like that. Edgy. Downtown. Bali masks.

KATE
It's a work in progress, Mark.

MARK
Totally! Your skin's so sparkly. (Touches her cheek) Sorry.

KATE
(To people O.S.) Hey! Thanks for coming, guys!

MARK
It's my birthday!

KATE
Yeah! Did you see-

MARK
The record guy? Not sure. Where's Phil?

KATE
He didn't make it, but it's cool. (To someone O.S.) Stay for a drink? No?

MARK
Hella no! Want me to tell him off?

KATE
It's fine. He's sick, and he's got a baby-

MARK
No, I will! I feel like Luke Skywalker tonight! I will tell him off for you. I will lift a hovercraft with just my mind for you, just say the word-

KATE
Did you see Sherri?

MARK
Sherri?

KATE
I thought I saw Sherri. She was staring at me.

MARK
Sherri wouldn't come to this. But if she had, oh man, her head would explode and little post-its would come out cuz you rocked. (Sings) Sail away.

KATE
Did you like the other songs?

MARK
Totally! But those were old. I mean they're great but Sail Away. (Grabs his heart) Uh. Now I want to, like, grasp life. No regrets, Kate. Like your song says.

KATE
For realz, yo.

MARK
For real. (Serious now) Cuz it's good to get real sometimes. Right, Kate?

KATE
Yeah, totally. (Sensing something's up) As long as you don't get clobbered when you do.

MARK
Will I get clobbered if I do, Kate? If I do get real with you?

KATE
Uh, you might. Hit on the nose with a rubbuh hose.

He goes toward her. She pulls away.

KATE (CONT’D)
So I've gotta find this lamo record guy.

MARK
Kate.

KATE
Thanks for coming, Sugar Bear.

She hugs him. He hugs back in a less platonic way.

KATE (CONT’D)
Mark.

MARK
Sorry.

He let's go. She starts to walk away but he grabs her hand.

MARK (CONT’D)
You look pretty tonight, Kate.

KATE
You too. I like the bow in your hair.

MARK
You're so pretty, Kate.

KATE
I'm post-show, man. Come on.

MARK
You are pretty and brave and you inspire me. You inspire me to say you inspire me.

KATE
Ok.

MARK
And outside our office, together in the clamor of the world, I have to tell you something-

KATE
(Sings Fleetwood Mac) "Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies-"

MARK
Kate. Just let me say this to you-

KATE
(Sings Meatloaf) "Let me sleep on it. Baby, baby-"

MARK
Kate. Don't-

KATE
(Sings Police) "Don't stand. Don't stand so-"

MARK
Can we have a serious moment?

KATE
Can we do this later? Seriously?

MARK
Like ten years from now when we don't even remember each others' names?

KATE
You're weird outside the office-

MARK
Or one of us washes up on a river? Or starts a new life living free like the birds?

KATE
Are you gonna cry, dude?

MARK
Maybe it's Joyce dying. Or Joyce maybe living. Maybe it's that one of us could be fired tomorrow, gone tomorrow. I don't know. But all the possibility, I feel it.

KATE
Heavy like a Chevy, Dude.

MARK
And I'm doing something about it. Cuz we've had this thing going for a while-

KATE
What thing?

MARK
What thing? That we like each other, Kate.

KATE
Of course! You're a cutie pie! I loves me some cutie pie!
She tucks his price tag in his shirt. He takes her hand.

MARK
Thank god you're in my life or I'd, I don't know what I'd-
We flirt. We touch. You touch me a lot.

KATE
Oh, Sugar Pops.

MARK
I'm not Sugar Pops! I'm Mark. Mark Aaron Colker named for the great grandfather I never met who perished in a terrible train derailment in South America while starting a mining business. And maybe that information is not sexy or pertinent, but it's real! And I want to get real cuz I've been at this job three years, Kate. In three years I got all my wisdom teeth out and no one came with me and I almost got hit by a car afterward cuz of the happy gas, oh the irony, and no one knew I almost died. And my favorite teacher - the only person who believed in my writing - had a stroke and can't talk now, trapped in his body. And your father, your father who worked three jobs to get you guitar lessons died, and you're an orphan now. And my mom started looking old. And we said "Such is life" and ate pizza again. And your hair smells like the tropics. And if it weren't for you I'd go days without talking to anyone. You're my only friend, Kate. And yet, except for Pizza Palace, this is the first time in our year together that I've seen you outside the office. And my god you're even more smashing in the world. I'm tired of games. Time is finite, Kate. We are not children.

KATE
Then why did I just stick a match up my nose?

MARK
Kate.

KATE
Mark! It would never work! Earth Fire Wind? Twenty-nine years old? What's the point?

MARK
You like me.

KATE
Uch! So earnest!

MARK
So let's just start, ok? And go from there. Don't be scared.

KATE
Scared? I sing in front of tens of tens of people who wish I were more famous. I wrote for Gladys Knight! I just I don't feel it, ok? I don't feel anything. For you. Sorry. I barely know you, if you think about it, I barely-

Mark kisses her. She gives in. It's hot. It gets hotter and hotter and more intense. But then she pulls away.

KATE (CONT’D)
Dude. I'm post-show, and I'm starving, and and I've got this match up my nose, so-

He realizes she isn't able to take this leap with him.

MARK
Yeah. That must burn.

KATE
But maybe later when things are more-

MARK
Later. Cool.

They stand together awkwardly at a loss for what to say.

KATE
I'll bring you some Hershey's kisses tomorrow.

MARK
And I'll bring you some pizza. Ack.

KATE
Yep, back to the grind. (Sings En Vogue) "Back to life. Back to reality."

MARK
Yeah.

KATE
And iPod. What up! What if Sherri made the error? What would she do if she got fired? She'd be like a toll booth troll or a phone sex operator. Crazy.

MARK
Crazy world.

KATE
So I should find this record guy.

MARK
Yeah, I don't want to keep you-

KATE
You're not, Little Button. Thanks for coming. Really-

MARK
No. Yeah. Go get 'em.

KATE
Lotsa hot girls here. Mingle it up, Mark.

MARK
I am the very model of a master modern mingler.

KATE
Let yourself succeed, Mark. No more self-sabotage. Foh realz.

She exits.

MARK
Foh realz.

DJ VOICE
Cream!

Cream's "Tales of Brave Ulysses" plays.

Suddenly, Mark is inspired. He jots his story ideas on POST-ITS.
SHERRI APPEARS dressed in THE CLOTHES OF THE MISSING PROOFREADERS. Her hair is styled like Kate's. She clutches her black bag. She sees Mark. She reaches out to touch him, desperate to connect, but Mark doesn't see her.

He exits, unknowingly dropping his post-its in an act of self-sabotage.

Sherri puts his Post-Its in her bag.

Kate re-enters, beer in hand, waving bye to someone.

KATE
You sure you can't stay? Ok! Thanks so much for coming-

SHERRI
I don't get it.

KATE
Sherri!

SHERRI
I don't get it.

KATE
I thought I saw you.

SHERRI
You didn't want me to come. But I saw your nudie picture on Mark's desk, your porno picture-

KATE
I wasn't trying to exclude you. I just-

SHERRI
I don't get the bag song.

KATE
Well, it's a metaphor.

SHERRI
I have a black nylon bag. It's also part rayon.

KATE
Well. Yes.

SHERRI
There are no meatballs in it. Or fish. There's no little girl in it. That's sick.

KATE
I didn't say there's a girl in it. Listen to the lyrics, people.

SHERRI
I bet your bra is showing on purpose.

KATE
You know what, the confrontation tonight/ is too much.

SHERRI
There's nothing weird in my bag. It's not full of tampons.

KATE
Dude, what is with you?

SHERRI
Look in it if you want. I have nothing to hide.

Sherri unzips the bag. We hear WATER SLOSHING, MOTOR OF A CAN OPENER. But mainly we hear DANCE OF THE SUGAR PLUM FAIRIES - like the tinny sound from a little girl's jewelry box.

As Kate moves to the bag Sherri zips it.

KATE
It's just a silly song, Sherri.

SHERRI
Like me, right?

KATE
I don't think you're silly.

SHERRI
Yeah right. My foot.

KATE
You interest me.

SHERRI
Yeah right. Like leprosy.

KATE
Wow. Tough guy tonight, Tiger.

SHERRI
Don't laugh at me!

KATE
I'm not.

SHERRI
Baloney!

KATE
Keep it down!

SHERRI
Sick of it!

KATE
So anyway. Yay! You came!

SHERRI
Faker!

KATE
Shhh!

SHERRI
Why? Is it a library? I don't see any homeless people!

KATE
I'm actually glad to see you, Sherri.

SHERRI
Is this a whatever? A rave?

KATE
It's kind of comforting to have you here actually.

SHERRI
Why? Cuz you can feel more cooler than me and my baaaaag?

KATE
Ok look. I cannot apologize for my art.

SHERRI
Lot of freaks here. Lotta gangbangers.

KATE
Artists draw inspiration from their lives. And you're in my life-

SHERRI
I'm in your life?

KATE
Well, you're near it.

Sherri, crestfallen, turns away.

KATE (CONT’D)
If the song hurt you I'm really sorry. But I can't deny my muse, that would be off-the-charts wrong. Am I selfish? Maybe. Dishonest? Never. Now let me buy you a drink.

SHERRI
Nuh uh. You drink, you get gang-banged. Ma knows that for sure.

KATE
I won't let you get gang-banged, Sherri.

SHERRI
They don't have Diet Dr. Pepper here. What kind of place is this?

KATE
It's not a deli. (To unseen bartender) Scotch please! (He ignores her) Hey!

SHERRI
Look at the errors in their bar menu. "Our special hot wing's sauce" apostrophe S?

KATE
I thought you had a hair appointment tonight.

SHERRI
Ma, I said. Ma had a hair appointment. If I'm "near your life" shouldn't you hear me? Aren't arteests supposed to be "senseeteeve"?

KATE
Shouldn't you be at church then or something?

SHERRI
No. Things are, whatchamacallit...shifting.

Cast Requirements

3 F (one role has 5 lines), 3 M

Set Description

A proofreading office that can open up into a dive bar.

Honors

Twice produced in one-act form to enthusiastic reviews: The
Ensemble Studio Theatre Marathon of New Plays and Centerstage, Baltimore (an evening of three one-acts about the workplace which also included work by Rick Cleveland and Aaron Sorkin).