Heart of the Company by Wendell Edward Carter

This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent

SCENE
New York City, summer

Set #1. A shabby little office in the basement of Schlumberger,
Limited, a large Midtown Manhattan Madison Avenue office
building. Sparsely furnished in the foreground with two old
metal desks, apart but perpendicular to one another, three
chairs of the old heavy office sort, a free-standing coatrack,
and an old metal filing cabinet. One desk (COSMO’s) sports a
small radio/cassette player atop a desk mat. There are one or
two other office odds and ends, a yellow pages phone book, a pen
holder, but otherwise the desk top is fairly vacant. Cozied up
to the desk is a much smaller desk—a typing stand, really—with a
personal computer on it. The other desk is cluttered with
personal knickknacks of PONY’s, including a framed photograph of
his dog, and his own transistor radio. There is a large,
standard issue clock on the wall. The upper half of the upstage
wall is glass or an open space, through which, in the
background, we can see piping connected to a huge furnace, or
the suggestion of a furnace. A large, red gauge is barely
discernible attached in proximity to the furnace.

Set #2. Inside a New York City subway, then on the street in Manhattan.

Act One

Scene One

Morning. Around 10:30. The office of the boiler room. It is
empty, though there are signs that both desks are in use already
today. We can hear the low hum of the big engines in the back.

ENTER VALROSE, dressed a little too smartly for regular office work.
She pauses at the threshold. She carries an informal briefcase, and
holds a small slip of paper in her other hand.

VALROSE: (Calls out) Hello? Hello, Mr. DiFabio?

She takes a few steps further into the office, looking about for its
occupants.

VALROSE: (Cont.) Anybody here? Hello? I’m here from the…from the
agency…

COSMO comes into view in the glass window. He stops, peers at her
distrustfully.

VALROSE sees him, reacts to his silence.

VALROSE: Are you…excuse me. Mr. DiFabio? Are you Mr. DiFabio?

COSMO is silent, unwilling to answer.

VALROSE: I’m the one they sent. From the agency. They didn’t
call me until 9 this morning. That’s the reason I didn’t get here
earlier.

COSMO finally enters, reluctantly.

COSMO: From the temp agency, huh?

COSMO sits behind his desk. Must’ve been a mistake somewhere. Hold on a minute.
(Yells) PONY!

VALROSE: (Somewhat startled) This is…351 Madison Avenue, isn’t it?
They said I should…wait…just a second… (Reads the piece of
paper) That’s right. Take the door to the right of the
elevator…go down one flight. That’s what I did. So I assume this
is the right place.

COSMO: That’s right. But there’s a mistake somewhere. My
assistant’ll straighten everything out. (Yells again) PONY BOY!
WHERE THE HELL ARE YA?

ENTER PONY, unaware of the visitor.

PONY: What are ya yellin’ for, Mo? What the hell are ya--?
(Sees VALROSE) Oh, uh…can I help you with something?

VALROSE: (Doubtful) You can if you’re Mr. DiFabio.

PONY: Sorry. That’s him right there. Mo, why didn’t ya tell
‘er you’re him?

COSMO does not answer

VALROSE: (Careful) All…right…I’m Valrose. I’ve been trying to
tell him…uh, Mr. DiFabio, I’ve been trying to tell you the agency
sent me over this morning for the temp assignment? Isn’t this the
right place? The basement of the Schlumberger Building?

PONY: This is it, all right. But I guess they made some sorta
mistake.

VALROSE: That’s what he keeps saying. Mr. DiFabio. That it’s a
mistake. I’m sorry, but I don’t understand. Coud you…uh…?

PONY: Oh, uh…listen. Miss, uh…

VALROSE: Valrose.

PONY: Yeah, yeah, uh, why don’t you sit down. I’ll straighten all
this out. Don’t you worry. We’ll get you where you’re supposed
to be.

VALROSE: But this is where I’m supposed to be.

PONY: (Uncomfortable, but he can’t explain it to her) I know.

COSMO lifts up the phone receiver for PONY to dial.

COSMO: Pony.

PONY takes the receiver, checks a notepad on his desk, and dials. He
turns his back to VALROSE as he speaks.

PONY: Yeah, I wanna talk to Miss Palmieri.

VALROSE: (To COSMO) Is this a check-in point for the building? Like
building security or something?

COSMO: (Grunts) It’s the boiler room.

VALROSE: Oh. Of course. The boiler room. Of course, right.

PONY: Miss Palmieri? This is Pierrepont. I work with Mr. DiFabio.
Over at Schlumberger, Limited? Yeah, right. Pony.
ASIDE TO VALROSE: My name’s Pierrepont. But Mo can’t pronounce
that so good. So since I’m from Jersey, he just calls me Pony. You
know, like Jersey Tony?

Valrose mouths the words “Jersey Pony” to herself.

PONY: (Into the phone): Yeah, yeah, I’m here. Pony, yeah. In the
boiler room. Yeah, that’s right. (Listens) No, she’s here. I
think. (To VALROSE) Is your name Valrose?

VALROSE: Yes. Yes it’s Valrose.

PONY: (Into the phone) Yeah. It’s her all right.

COSMO: Tell her it’s a—(Grabs the receiver form PONY impatiently)
The woman’s, well, you know…over qualified. I don’t think we
can use her. Send somebody else, okay?

COSMO hands the receiver back to PONY.

PONY: Gee, Cosmo, you don’t have to—

COSMO: Talk.

PONY takes the receiver from him.

PONY: (Into the receiver) You heard the man, Miss Palmieri.
(Listens) Well, no. It’s not that. Not exactly. She’s only been
here a few minutes, so we don’t know if she can…(Listens)
You say she can? We did ask for somebody who…(Listens) 70 words a
minute, huh? Word Perfection. Yeah. That’s very good, yeah.
Definitely. But Mr. DiFabio, he says—(Listens) Really? One of the
best, huh. Sure. If you say so, Miss Palmieri. If you say so.
Sure, uh huh. I’ll tell Mr. DiFabio. Right.

PONY hangs up.

COSMO: (Realizes PONY has screwed up) Pony.

PONY: Whaddaya want me to say, Mo? Huh? You want me to say you
don’t want her just because she’s a…(Notices VALROSE looking at
him)…a better typist than we need?

VALROSE: (Misunderstanding) Well, thank you for straightening that out
for me. So if you’ll just send me up to the office I’ll be
working in…

COSMO motions PONY over to him.

COSMO: You better tell ‘er this is the office.

PONY moves back. COSMO presses the ‘PLAY’ button on his cassette
player. A taped baseball game from the 1972 World Series plays.

PONY: To VALROSE) Did you hear that? This is it.

VALROSE: I see. They didn’t say I’d be working in the…cellar.
Well…what will I be doing, if you don’t mind me asking?

COSMO: You might as well show her the computer.

PONY: (Without moving) See that computer over there?

VALROSE: You mean that one? Yes, I see it.

PONY: Know how to run it?

VALROSE moves to it.

VALROSE: Probably. Which program is it? Majorhand? Alitus? Wing?
Word Perfection?

PONY: Beats me. I don’t know how to use it.

VALROSE: You don’t know what programs you have?

PONY: Nope. The computer guy stuck it in here an’ just left it. We
never used it.

VALROSE: So you’d like me to…show you how to use your own computer?

COSMO: (Out of patience) Look. Are you smart enough to figure this
out or not? That’s all we need to know. If you’re not, we can
get on the horn an’ send you back.

VALROSE: (slightly huffy, her professionalism has been questioned)
I’m sure I can. Word processing is one of my specialties.

COSMO: Pony. Why don’t you show her around the place. Since we got
to keep her. Then you might as well set her up to get started.

All the time PONY shows VALROSE around, COSMO glares at VALROSE with
undisguised hostility, like he’s just met the dumbest ‘nigger’
yet.

PONY rises.

PONY: Sure. Come on, Miss--?

VALROSE: Valrose. Valrose is fine.

PONY: Okay. Valrose. That’s right. (Begins the tour) Well, we’re
standing in the office. Guess you know that. (Points)
That’s Mo’s desk, right there. Over here’s mine. There’s a
water dispenser out next to the elevator you came down on…you took
the elevator, right?

VALROSE: I walked down. It was one flight.

PONY: Yeah, well, there’s an elevator out in the hall there. When
you come down the steps, on your…let’s see… (Positions himself
to get his bearings) …on your…left. Yeah, that’s right. On
your left. Up on the second floor, there’s a water dispenser out
next to the elevator. In this building, if you can find the elevator,
you can find anything else. Not the ground floor—on the street
level—but the one up above that. That’s where the bathrooms are,
too. Sometimes that’s a pain but you get used to it. There’s a
coffee maker over there. Everything you’ll need’s in those
cabinets up top.

VALROSE:
You’re not going to show me the floors upstairs?

PONY: Uh, you won’t have any problems.

VALROSE: (Fakes admiration) Nice space, here. It’s all pretty
straightforward.

PONY moves to the doorway, VALROSE follows.

PONY: Back here’s the boilers, the furnaces and the big engines.
You won’t never have to do anything with them, so we’ll skip that
part.

VALROSE: What are they for?

COSMO: What are they—what are they FOR? Listen to that, Pony.
Whadda ya think? HEAT. AIR. ENERGY. Geez, what are they for. Some
people got so much education they don’t know what to do with it.

VALROSE: (A bit flustered by the criticism) I’m sorry I’m so
ignorant. This is my first…boiler room…experience…

PONY: That’s all right. I never seen one, either, ‘til I started
working here. Cosmo taught me everything, didn’t you, Mo?

COSMO: I been here ever since there was a here. Came when the
building opened in 1956. Even helped dig the first foundation. The
Ole Man—he owns the place, Ole Man Schlumberger—he liked the work
I done on the building so much, he hired me, nobody else. And by God,
it’ll take the Ole Man to fire me! I know more about this basement
than anybody. Boilers an’ everything. I helped lay the pipes an’
everything. And what I mean is, I know the location of each and every
pipe an’ switch an’ cable an’ wire an’ everything else—both
in the floors AN’ in the walls. And what’s more, I got it in my
head so good I can trace it out on paper down to the last nut an’
bolt, and ain’t never been to nobody’s engineering school,
neither. Not even passed by one, as far as I know. Now what you
think of that?

VALROSE: (Lying) I think that’s remarkable. Just remarkable.

COSMO: Oh, I wouldn’t call it that. It’s just that I been around
so long, that’s all. Like a rock, I am. Just sittin’ around.
But you can’t move me. Them boys upstairs, them college boys, they
tryin’ move me out, but they can’t do it. They’re jealous of
me, you see. ‘Cause I can do everything with nothing but what the
good Lord gave me. And they can’t. Yes sir, they’re jealous as
hell.

PONY: (To VALROSE) So, ready to get started?

VALROSE: Sure. Where do I sit?

PONY grips the back of the chair beside COSMO’s desk)

PONY: Right here. In front of the computer.

VALROSE: (Points) You mean, there? Right there?

PONY: Yep.

VALROSE: (Goes a little goofy) You’re sure? I mean, it’s okay if
you’re not sure.

PONY: Why? What’s wrong with it?

VALROSE: (A bit tremulous) Oh, well…it’s just…that’s a little
TIGHT, isn’t it? I mean, right next to Mr. DiFabio’s desk and
everything.

PONY: I know what you mean. But…there’s no place else to put it.
When they did the wiring, that’s where they stuck it. So
you’re…stuck.

VALROSE strolls about the room in a pointedly offhand and
unintentionally goofy manner, looking around, accentuating her next
words with quirky hand and body movements.

VALROSE: Can’t you…move it? You know, to another spot?

COSMO: Jesus, lady, you been here all of five minutes, and now
you’re rearranging the furniture?

VALROSE: (Threatened and going a little weak) I’m sorry, Mr.
DiFabio, I don’t MEAN to cause trouble. It’s just that…well,
it’s going to be tough enough to work in a depressed environment
like this, in the cellar and everything. They didn’t tell me about
this, you see, and, well…

COSMO: Yeah. And?

VALROSE: (Tries to speak but overcome with emotion)
Well…you see…it’s…well...oh, I don’t know!

VALROSE begins to sob quietly, just a little.

PONY: Gee, Valrose, I didn’t mean to…make you…are you…crying?

VALROSE: No I’m not…well…Y-e-e-e-e-e-s…

She continues to sob softly for a moment as the men look on,
dumbfounded.

COSMO: Jesus, she’s crying.

PONY: Yeah, Cosmo. Look what you done. Valrose, here, sit down.

PONY helps VALROSE to sit in the chair designated for her. She
doesn’t seems to notice, but looks up once seated, sees the
proximity of her ‘desk’ to Cosmo’s, her face goes sour as she
bawls.

PONY: (Helpless) Come on, Cosmo. Can’t we do something?

COSMO: (Disgusted) All right, all right, geez. Anthing, if she’ll
just stop that damn bawling.

PONY: I know. She can use my desk.

VALROSE: (Perks up, tears reduced to sniffles) I…I…I can?

COSMO: No, she can’t.

PONY: Come on, Cosmo, why not?

VALROSE: Yes. Why not?

COSMO: ‘Cause I don’t wanna be starin’ at your mug that close,
that’s why not.

PONY: Well, I don’t wanna be starin’ at YOUR ugly mug so close,
either. But you don’t have to. We can move the computer table over
to my desk.

VALROSE takes out a tissue and dries her eyes.

VALROSE: You can?

PONY: Sure we can.

COSMO: You still can’t move it, ‘cause the cable’s too short.
She’ll just have to sit right where she is.

VALROSE starts sobbing again.

PONY: All right, now, Valrose. It’s going to be all right. We’ll
fix it, you just wait and see.

VALROSE stops crying, dabs at her eyes as she watches PONY move the
computer ‘desk’ then attempts to pick up the computer parts and
move them. He can’t. The cords are too short. He struggles and
struggles to pull it without dropping the computer or pulling too
hard, tries it from different angles with various ‘Norton’ twists
of the body, but it won’t work. He puts the computer down.

COSMO: What are you gonna do now?

PONY: I don’t know. Got any ideas?

VALROSE: (Through sniffles) I have an idea.

They wait to hear more, but she just looks at them, waiting for a
specific request. The moment becomes uncomfortably long.

COSMO: Well, what IS it?

VALROSE: (Takes a deep breath and exhales with relief as she blurts
the words out) You two could switch desks!

PONY: Well, you know, that wouldn’t work. You see, Cosmo and me, we
been sittin’ at the same desks since I been here. After two years, I
don’t know if I can just switch like that.

VALROSE: Sure you can. You just—(with a flourish of awkward
gestures) Do it!

COSMO: (With great misgivings) Well, I guess we COULD do that…

COSMO looks pointedly at PONY, and vice versa, perturbed.
Reluctantly, they proceed to change radios, and move other things from
one desk to the other. PONY moves the computer onto what was COSMO’s
desk, and places his things on the computer ‘desk’. Except for the
photo of his dog, which he holds onto reverently.

VALROSE: You see, that’s not so bad.

VALROSE smiles widely, tears forgotten, oblivious to their frowns and
obvious discomfort.

PONY reluctantly places the framed photo of his dog on the computer
‘desk’, but at an angle so VALROSE doesn’t get a good look at
it. She grabs it up.

VALROSE: Oh, is that a picture of your girlfriend?

PONY: No, that’s my dog.

VALROSE: (Gives the photo the once-over) Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t
mean…you know…

PONY
I know. That’s okay. She’s the closest thing I got.

[End of Extract]

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