Tugs of Destiny
A short play by Bernard Weiner (copyright 2013 by the author)
Premiere 2013 by Pegasus Theatre Company, Guerneville, CA.
MAGGIE: An attractive, mid-30s African American (or white) woman.
TED: A handsome, late-30s white guy. Time is the present.
(A semi-quiet corner at a loud cocktail party.)
MAGGIE: (laughing) I don't usually like those kinds of jokes but that one was really funny! (beat) You have a good sense of comic timing. Do you do stand-up?
TED: I'm too lazy. I prefer doing lie-down or, at the least, sit-up.
MAGGIE: The first thing I noticed about you was your laugh. You obviously lean toward the off-beat side of life.
TED: Off-beat, on-beat, beaten-down, whatever.
MAGGIE: You know, this would be a fun party if it wasn't so dull.
TED: Hey, I've got an idea: Why don't we get out of here and go somewhere where we can have some of our own fun? Have a drink. Listen to some good music.
MAGGIE: And just a guess here: what you have in mind is your place.
TED: You got it on the first try!
MAGGIE: How do I know if you're just a typical boozed-up guy who sees women as little more than sexual meat?
TED: Takes two to tango. You seemed to like batting the verbal ball back and forth.
MAGGIE: It's called party behavior and mild flirting. Besides, you impressed me as an attractive, bright, quick-witted guy, so why not play some tennis, to use your metaphor?
TED: Thanks for the compliments. I was picking up that you might be interested.
MAGGIE: I was, I am, "interested." But the kind of games you seem to want to play are for two people who've been friends -- or at least have known each other -- for a long time.
TED: Beatrice and Benedick, so to speak.
MAGGIE: Hey, the man knows his Shakespeare. Much ado about something.
TED: My actual name is Theodore -- Ted -- Powell , and --
MAGGIE: Theodore -- a "teddy." How sweet. I like it. I'm…uh…"Angela."
TED: (beat) Who are you really, though?
MAGGIE: I'm definitely no angel. I'm more a Maggie kind of gal.
TED: An "Iron Lady" Maggie?
MAGGIE: What an interesting comparison, but I'm just a down-to-earth Maggie, a Maggie -- Margaret -- with Midwest roots. Good ol' Maggie. Maggie the salt of the earth. Don't mess with Maggie.
TED: I hear you. I won't be messin' with Miss Margaret.
MAGGIE: Messin' around OK. But really messin' with me? -- then it's back-away time. And what kind of guy are you, Ted: a cuddly teddy bear or a rough-rider?
TED: Wow, you are a go-for-it kind of gal.
MAGGIE: Why stand on the sidelines of life when you can be in the game?
TED: You make me nervous, I'm just flapping my lips here trying to interest you, trying to keep the flop-sweat at a minimum, but I'm lost.
MAGGIE: What I'm trying to say is that you don't have to try so hard, Ted, I'm interested. Just calm down and, as they used to say, pitch me some woo by just being you, no jokes, no aggression, just be you.
TED: (somewhat flustered) I, uh, like your style, Maggie. I've never met anyone like you before.
MAGGIE: (beat) Maybe because I'm not anyone. I'm me. What you see is… And you, Ted, who do I get if I follow through?
TED: I'm feeling very nervous again. I was just playing around, bantering, party mood -- and you seem to be very serious about all this….
TED: Yeah. How did we get here? We're way off the beaten track.
MAGGIE: Maybe we like taking risks if the potential payout is large enough.
TED: Is that what we are, some sort of prize for staying in the game?
MAGGIE You seem, or seemed, to feel the tidal pull. Am I wrong?
TED: Uh, yeah, I did feel that. (beat) I do feel that. But I thought we were just batting the little party ball around. You've made quite a leap, Maggie.
MAGGIE: You don't feel any tug of destiny?
TED: Whoa! (beat; takes a big breath, surprising himself with what he's about to say) I do.
MAGGIE: So how do we proceed now?
TED: How about we start from the start? Without the banter. Without the flirty stuff. Just Maggie and Ted, attracted to each other, not quite knowing how to make this work.
MAGGIE: OK. My name is Margaret Warren. Single. A lover of good fiction, jazz, my two cats, opera, my family, good food and wine, the natural world, politics, and good friends.
TED: And what do you do, Maggie? What's your line of work?
MAGGIE: I'm a political junkie. A professional political activist, so to speak.
TED: (excited: ) Me, too. Oh, I have a regular job -- I'm an accountant -- but my passion goes to political activism, trying to change the world, make life better for people so they can flower into who they can become. Despite all the problems, I still think we have a bit of time to to turn this ship around before it hits the iceberg. I firmly believe that it's possible for the country to change in the right direction.
MAGGIE: Exactly. And I feel blessed to be doing well economically, and I want others to have the opportunities our system provides.
TED: Are you like me, with a real job, engaged in activism on the side?
MAGGIE: (slight pause as she wonders if she should open up this way) I used to work for a bank…in the mortgage department at...Wells Fargo, and now I'm the outreach director for the Republican Party in California.
(TED's mouth falls open. HE is absolutely stunned.)
MAGGIE: Don't look so shocked. There are a few Republicans around -- even in San Francisco.
TED: Houston, we have a problem. Maggie, I'm an organizer for the Occupy movement. We picket goddamn Wells Fargo!
(pause as both MAGGIE and TED are non-plussed, shocked into silence. THEY don't know what to do or say.)
MAGGIE: So much for destiny.
TED: I can't believe that you, who seems so bright, could be working for the Know-Nothing ignoramuses -- the mean-spirited, greed-based, anti-reality Republicans.
MAGGIE: And you're an organizer for the crowd that panders to every minority and interest group, taxes the job-creators up the wazoo, and hands out money to every scrounger and moocher who calls himself a Democrat. (beat) I guess it's fair to say that we are not going to have a second date.
(pause. THEY seem ready to part and go their respective ways, but neither moves to do so.)
MAGGIE: Your reaction to my choice of political parties is not unique. A lot of guys I've met in San Francisco have reacted with the same look of horror on their faces, as if I've committed some unpardonable moral sin. They run away as fast as their little liberal legs can carry them.
TED: In case you haven't noticed, I'm not a lot of guys. Just me Ted.
MAGGIE: Just me Maggie.
MAGGIE: What do we do now?
TED: I'd say the answer is obvious: Your selfish, entitled political friends make my blood boil. Let's just call it a big mistake, laugh, and walk away. (beat) Wait, you don't think it's over?
MAGGIE: This whole situation is so weird, maybe we need to look at it carefully before just totally dismissing it.
TED: I can't believe this. I've called you names and trashed your ideology, and yet you're still here?
MAGGIE: Look, the idea of spending time with someone with such distasteful, radical political points of view doesn't fill me with joy either. Your side is so thoughtlessly, socialistically do-goody that i want to step on your cockroach spines and snap them. On the other hand, we were interested in each other at first, after more than first -- and then suddenly, we're not supposed to even be talking with each other?
TED: I hear what your'e saying, but I think the safest course of action is to admit that somehow we've walked into the wrong scene, and give each other a polite handshake and head off back to our safe, secure lives.
MAGGIE: Or we could, just for the hell of it, for the adventure of it, play out the scene and see where the cosmic playwright would have us go. You sense an attraction, I sense an attraction. A physics situation.
TED: I confess that even knowing what we now know, I do feel something like a magnetic tug. God, that sounds like romantic clap-trap.
MAGGIE: We could trust that if we're actually a good fit -- potentially -- that attraction will grow into something much larger.
TED: Or not. We're always free to walk away. Just see what happens.
(THEY drift together, their eyes lock, they are delighted, and terrified. Their foreheads meet. THEY stand that way, breathing heavily.)
TED: Maggie, if we cut through the pheromones, and erotic attraction, and -- how could this work, practically speaking?
MAGGIE: I know we have to think and talk about that, but right now, Ted, I just want to be together with you, holding hands and touching foreheads. God, more romantic cliches!
TED: I'd say we're far from being a cliche. How many relationships like this one can you imagine?
MAGGIE; I'm having trouble imagining my joining you and your friends for a social event at an Occupy encampment.
TED: "Hey, comrades, meet my date; this is Margaret Warren, a Wells Fargo banker who's an official of the Republican Party."
MAGGIE: Doesn't compute. "Hello, Mom and Dad, guess who's coming to dinner?" Cognitive dissonance on so many levels.
TED: You still want to do this thing?
MAGGIE: In addition to wanting to be with you, to explore who we might become, I'd say we're in the midst of one of the most interesting little dramas --
TED: Or comedies! Or tragedies! Or comical tragedies. Or tragical comedies.
MAGGIE: I don't know what it is, but curtain up!
TED: But one rule: We stay away from political topics, at least for a while. We're in for a wild ride. It might be a short one, but it'll be exhilarating, for sure. Hop on, Miss Mags!
(MAGGIE is confused at first, then goes behind TED and wraps her arms around him, as if on a motorcycle)
TED: (making motorcycle noise) "Vroom! Vroom!"
MAGGIE: (into his ear) "Vroom! Vroom!" (THEY ride offstage.)
End of play.