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[Age of Mouldwarp]

American Postal
<a one-act play>


Owen Howard: A postal worker of unspecified age and appearance.
Jacob: husband of Susan, late twenties and of medium build
Susan: wife of Jacob, late twenties and of medium build


The suburbs of an average city during summertime and in the afternoon, at the house of Jacob and Susan.

Scene One

(Owen Howard is alone on stage, standing in the center and talking directly to the audience.  He is dressed in the regular postman garb.)

Owen: The first rule of life is that it will never be uninteresting.  Even if it seems as if it is not, life is a constant adventure.  Every moment brings with it a possibility that you may never have conceived imaginable, a wondrous gift or a tagic indemnity.  The beauty of it is that you will not know until it happens, and even when it does and you are pleased or pained with the outcome, there's always the chance that it may in turn become just the opposite of what it initially seemed to be.  Not long ago, I happened upon a couple on my mail route who were on the verge of a moment that could prove to be either the best thing that ever happened to them or their darkest hour.  As it happens, in this particular moment I was to play a key role because the outcome was poised on the delivery of a small, white envelope.  What the contents of the envelope were is not important.  This couple reached out to a complete stranger in hopes of fidning the strength to go through with their decision, one that would dramatically affect the rest of their lives.  Talk about faith in the human race.

(Fade to black.  Owen exits.)

Scene Two

(In the sparsely decorated den of an average American home, Jacob and Susan, both dressed casually, are seated on a sofa.  Susan holds a small, white envelope pensively.)

Jacob: You know, I have often wondered about the fate of regualr mail.  How long is it going to be until it is phased out of everyday life?

Susan: (stroking her hair) That was a strange thought.

Jacob: No seriously, how much longer can it compete.  I have been praised for my skill in writing e-mails on numerous occassions by numerous friends, but whenever I sit down to write a letter, an honest-to-God letter, I find that I don't know what to say.  What is the right thing to say?

Susan: You know, letters aren't exactly the kind of mail people think about when they think of what the mailman brings.

Jacob: (fidgeting) That's my point.  What's the use of mail if nothing you receive is personal?

Susan: Perhaps people are afraid that their mail will be stolen and private matters will be made public?

Jacob: (standing up and walking around) Isn't that the complaint with e-mail as well?

Susan: (getting up and following him) Then it isn't a perfect world.  Can we at least agree on that?

Jacob: That fact was never in question.

(Susan looks at the envelope in her hand. A beat.)

Susan: I suppose that you are still not sure if what we are doing is right.  I have the same doubts.  If the world is not perfect, then what chance do we have of being happy?

Jacob: (looking into her eyes) Happiness is relative.  (He reaches for the envelope.) I don't really need this if you're here...

(Susan looks at a clock on the mantle above the fireplace.  A doorbell sounds and the two depart the stage.  Fade to black.)

Scene Three

(Jacob is now standing in the dining room, which consists of a table large enough for only two settings and adorned with a single candle and two chairs.  Susan is walking towards a door that is situated to the left of the stage and connected directly to the dining room.  She still holds the envelope as she opens the door.)

Owen: Good afternoon!  (seeing the envelope in Susan's hand) What a pleasant surprise.  I have something for you and you have something for me.  It's always in the small things that I obtain pleasure on my run.  (He hands her a small bundle of mail, but she holds onto the envelope.)

Susan: We're not sure that we're going to go through with it.  Send it in the mail.

Jacob: (walking over) Not that we want to disappoint you.  That envelope represents a lot more than just another mindless use of a dead tree.

Owen: I understand.  (he turns to leave)

Susan: You're familiar with the kinds of things people send in the mail, right?

Owen: If you're asking if I open and read what I deliver, then you can rest assured that I don't.  That's one of the things that doesn't sit well with my principles.  That, and the service really frowns upon it.

Susan: I wasn't asking if you were naughty, just inquiring the sort of mail you handle.  Being a postman, you must have a good idea of people's habits.

Owen: Certainly.  What are you getting at?

Jacob: (somewhat butting in) I think that what my wife wants to know is if you think that we are doing the right thing.

Owen: The right thing?  I'm afraid that I'm lost.

Susan: I'm not asking you to become involved personally with our lives, just to help us with a decision.

Owen: I'm afraid that I'm still lost.  What is it that you really want?  Advise?  A recommendation?  A stamp?

Susan: (looking at Jacob but still facing Owen) Do you have a minute?

Owen: (placing his mailbag, which looks about empty, just inside the door as he walks in) A minute.  (looking around) You know, I don't believe that I've ever been inside your home before.  Inside the Joyners next door and the Petermans down the other end of the street, but never yours.  The Petermans have a nice little dog, by the way.  It's one I wouldn't mind encountering outside.

(Jacob motions to Owen to have a seat at the table.  Susan, noticing that they are short a chair, exits the stage in search of another.  Both men sit.)

Jacob: Quite a day out there, huh?  Makes me want to unpack the old canoe and go fishing.  

Owen: A fisherman, huh?  My dad taught me long ago how to cast a line.  Long ago.  No, I'd rather shoot a few hoops, but this job doesn't get itself done.  Thankfully, you two are among the last on my route.  It's fortunate that the Joyners are on vacation!

(The two grow quiet as a bird chirps in the background.  Fade to black.)

Scene Four

(Susan has returned with a chair, which does not match the other two.  She sits next to Jacob at the table as the three engage in coversation, which has started before the lights return.)  

Susan: Howard, huh?  I knew a Howard back in grade school.  Are you sure you aren't him?

Owen: Trust me, you don't go around with a name like Owen Howard without being remembered for it.  Besides, I don't think that I was quite in your age group at the time.  What about you, Jacob?  I don't suppose you knew a Howard.

Jacob: A Howard?  No, not exactly.  Unlike you, I was in Sue's age group.  Everywhere she went, there I was too.

Susan: (jokingly) Don't I know it.

Owen: Grade school.  Now that was a time to live.

Jacob: Back then, yes!  But now, I don't really miss it.

Susan: Oh, now you like responsibities!  Where were you when the dishes were being done last night?

Jacob: What I mean is the perspective of the world that you have now versus what you had when all you needed was a good roughhousing to have a day be productive.

Susan: Roughhousing?  That was never high on my agenda!

Owen: I'm hearing you.  Where would you be now if a good traffic jam now and then didn't remind you that there are other people out there that have just as much to do everyday as you do?

Jacob: Or the comic strip in the newspaper that reminds you that life doesn't have to be taken so seriously all of the time?

Susan: How about the fact that when toast pops up, you have to spread butter on it so that it will taste good?  Didn't that always make you wonder?  I mean, you put a piece of bread in the toaster to make it a breakfast-worthy component, but that doesn't actually prepare it to be eaten.  You have to add a condiment to it in order to enjoy it.  Conspiracy?

Owen: (jokingly) And this would be why I don't do this more often.

Jacob: I'll admit that she is...nuanced, but I wouldn't have her any other way.

Susan: You bet.  If you'd said anything else, I wouldn't be doing the dishes tonight.  You would.

Jacob: A mailman, huh?  How does a man who loves to shoot hoops become a mailman?  Is that the other thing your taught you after he found that you didn't like fishing?

Owen: How does anything happen?  I just did.  I don't know, really.  I just remember waking up one morning and saying to myself, "The mail won't deliver itself."  

Susan: So you wonder about the fate of regular mail as well?  Jake was just thinking about that earlier.  Weren't you?

Jacob: It wasn't a big thought, just something that seemed pertinent at the time.  (He looks toward the envelope, which sits on the table.)

Susan: Right.  The envelope.  ( The phone rings.)  Another of life's many pleasures, no doubt.  The great American sales pitch.

(Fade to black.  They exit the stage.)

Scene Five

(Susan and Jacob are back in the den and seated on the sofa once more.)

Jacob: Funny thing about life.  One minute you're questioning the integrity of strangers, the next you're entrusting them with the most important decision of your life.

Susan: Where did he come from?  I know he's the mailman, but who would have expected him to really be at the right place and the right time?  It's almost unbelievable.  

Jacob: Life works that way, maybe not all the time, but when you least expect and most need it.  Perhaps there's still hope for mail after all.

Susan: That's a bit of a stretch.

Jacob: Is it?  The world may not be perfect, but there is enough purity in it to ensure that hope survives.  And what is mail other than little pockets of hope?  You drop it in a mailbox or hand it to a postman with the plan to make something out of nothing.  It arrives at its destination and in a short time you know if you've been successful.  It doesn't matter what it is you've done, just the end result.  Hope survives and the world continues its haul around the sun.

Susan: If that's true, then why the concern that the mail won't continue on?  Is that being hopeful?

Jacob: Why not?  What if it doesn't?  Then life will continue, just in another way.  Owen's visit helped me with that.  A stranger who brought hope with him.

Susan: Then it doesn't matter if the change comes and he loses his job because of it?

Jacob: There's always hope.  Change is not always a bad thing, you know.

Susan: (resting her head on a hand) Again, where were you earlier?

Jacob: Perhaps far from here.  Perhaps nowhere at all.  In any case, hope came and found me.  In the form of our mailman.

Susan: A stranger in a strange land, if you ask me.

Jacob: Hope --

Susan: Yes, hope.  But then there's fortune.  Did we do the right thing?

Jacob: What's the difference between right and wrong other than your side of perception?

Susan: Right and wrong are the two things that happen when you do anything.

Jacob: The right thing can only be the chance we took.  What's the use of doubt?  That's what Owen would say.

Susan: I envy you when you are conflicted, and envy you when you are committed.  I always love you.

Jacob: Is it the love or envy that drives you more?

Susan: What a silly question to ask.

Jacob: Then we'll be silly together.  What do you want to do for dinner?

Susan: Dinner?  I hadn't planned anything.  What do you suggest?

Jacob: There's that restaurant downtown that I've been meaning to visit.  For the past twelve years.

Susan: Twelve years?  What's been stopping you?

Jacob: Fear of the unknown?

Susan: Now that was a very silly thing to say...

(They embrace as the stage fades to black and exit.)

Scene Six

(Owen is once more alone onstage as the lights return.  He holds the envelope in his hand.)

Owen: The first rule of life is that it will never be uninteresting.  The second is that even if it is at times, it is still worth enjoying.  A myth has been circulating for a long time now that says life is too short.  The fact is, if you live every moment of it, you will never notice.  Possibilities exist at every turn, some that, when grabbed hold of, turn out to be right, and some that turn out to be wrong.  A good place to start would be right now.  Do you choose to ignore that flock of birds overhead or look at them and marvel at their elegance of flight chirping sounds again)?  To choose to ignore the person you see next or acknowledge them, even if you don't know them?  Everything has a story, even if it is not at the surface.  The patch of dirt on the sidewalk found its way there for a reason, so you can either fail to notice it, grumble about its existence, or think of why it's there.  You can also kick it off the walkway.  Susan and Jacob were a couple on my mail route just the other day.  Now they are people I call friends, and because a fluke of an encounter over a small, white envelope.  This one.  (He holds it up as the stage fades to black.)

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© copyright 2001-2003 Sean "Waterloo" McKenna