(All scenes are present day and take place in, or just outside the diner. Scene opens, Pauly comes out to wipe off a table/take down a chair/prepare for the day. She realizes there is an audience, and turns to address them.)
Pauly: Oh, hello! Welcome to Pauly’s. This is it…the place where
coffee’s always hot and the smiles are always warm. The local hot
or hang out, or whatever you want to call it. It’s where people
this town. Folks on their way to work and on their way home. Kids
parents for a meal, young women meet for lunch, old men gossip,
and drink coffee. Older women gossip about old men. If it’s
town, somebody will be talking about it here at Pauly’s. By the
Pauly. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. My name is Freda Winkin,
Polly, or Pauline or anything like that. But when I bought the
years back, people just started calling me Pauly because of it.
before me was called Pauly, and that wasn’t his name either.
years back, there was a guy named Paul, built this place and ran
owner since then has always been called Pauly. Go figure!
It’s time to get ready for the day. Our special this morning is corn beef hash with a couple of eggs. Not so good for the old waist line, but pretty good for my pocketbook, if you know what I mean. People love corn beef hash - and they love to hash, as well. My, the talk that goes on here! But, I’ve learned how to keep quiet. Discretion is important when you’re in a position like mine.
Mornings are pretty hectic around here, usually the busiest part of the day. (checks her watch) Tree and Stump should be here in a few minutes to start work. What a pair they are! Some days, I think I spend more time playing referee than running this place! I inherited them when I bought the diner. You’ll see in a minute how they got their nicknames. I’ve been told that Tree and Stump have been bickering since the first time they laid eyes on each other. I suspect they really do like each other, though neither one would ever admit it. And after working together all these years, I think they need each other, too. But that’s one subject I won’t bring up with either of them. The Lord above made us all unique, that’s for sure! I see all kinds of characters in the course of a day.
Well, listen to me, going on and on when I need to be getting a few things done. We’ll talk later.
(People, crowds enter along with Tree, Stump and Ed..Ashley enters and sits alone)
(Good place for a big song here by your choir)
Tree: Okay, Stump, listen up. I need three specials - one with eggs over easy, two sunny side up, two orders of French toast – easy on the butter. I need two #1’s, a #4, and a #6 with extra gravy on the side. Is the decaf ready? And by the way, where’s MY coffee? You know I need MY coffee first thing.
Stump: (Angry) Get the orders on the clip in the order you took ‘em. You know how I feel about you shouting first thing in the morning, Tree.
Tree: Maybe you didn’t hear me, STUMP. Where’s my coffee?
Stump: The second pot is brewing right now and you can check on it just as easy as I can. Who nominated YOU “Princess of Cedar Grove”?
Customer: (Calling out to Tree) Miss, could I please have juice instead of mil-
Tree: (Cuts her off) PRINCESS??? Don’t start with me this early in the morning, Stump! My alarm didn’t go off again and I –
Stump: How long can you use that excuse? Don’t you think it’s about time you got a new alarm?
Customer: Excuse me, but about that juice that I…
Tree: (shouts at the customer) What?? (realizes she’s snapped at the customer, becomes very sweet) I’m so sorry, ma’am. Of course, juice is just fine. We’ll switch that. (Turns and stalks towards Stump) Now, you listen to me, you little runt-
Pauly: (Interceding, steps in her path) Tree, I’ve been meaning to ask you about the new scent you’re wearing. That’s not your usual “Vanilla Fields”. You’ve changed something.
Tree: (Suddenly off the warpath) Oh, you like it? Yeah, I thought I’d try something different. It’s called “Apricot Flaming Fruit Glaze”. This is one of those fragrances Jasmine sold me.
Pauly: Very nice, very light. Well, we’re gonna have a full house this morning. (Nods toward the door) Incoming. I’ll put them at Table 2 and take their order. Why don’t you get those orders on the clip for Stump and get refills to Table 4? (Pauly stops on her way to greet newcomers and pats Ed on the shoulder) It’s gonna be one of those days, Ed, I can see it already.
Ed: I don’t know how ya manage those two, Pauly. (Pauly goes to greet and seat the newcomers. Ed turns to Stump) Hey, Stump, is my special about ready? I’m on a deadline this morning.
Stump: Comin’ right up! I’ll even bring it out to you myself. (As he brings the order) Where ya headed today, big guy?
Ed: Gotta be in Detroit by 3 today – hauling parts for some submersible motors that are waiting on a production line.
Stump: Well, you take it easy out there. None of that lead foot stuff in the kind of weather we’ve been having. (Stump turns and nearly runs into Tree)
Tree: How many times do I have to tell you? I do the waitin’ on tables. All you have to do is stay back in your little cubbyhole and pump out the food.
Stump: Get outta my way, you long, tall telephone pole. (To himself) I don’t know why I have to put up with that woman – try to do a good thing and help out a little and see where it gets you!
(Tree turns to Ed with hands on hips)
Ed: Lighten up, Tree. Stump is just trying to help you out.
Tree: Help, my foot! He’s jealous of the big tips you always leave me. (Stump chuckles)
Ed: Now, you know I won’t forget my favorite waitress, don’t ya?
Tree: (Pats him on the shoulder) Oh, Ed, sometimes I think you should ride on a white horse instead of in that big old truck.
Ed: So…you want me to swoop you up and ride off into the sunset?
Tree: HA! (She loves this) Sunrise, maybe. Considering the hour that my day starts, I usually can’t stay awake for sunset.
Pauly: (She’s been taking it all in and now she goes to greet a young man who has just entered) Morning! Table for one?
Caleb: (Looking around) No, thank you. I’m joining someone. (He goes to sit down with Ashley) Hi. (Takes Ashley’s hand)
Ashley: I was beginning to think you weren’t going to make it.
Caleb: Had some trouble getting away so early. Sorry.
Ashley: It’s okay. I’m not used to getting up quite so early myself.
Tree: What can I bring ya this morning. Coffee?
Caleb: Yes, please. Coffee would be good. And I’ll just have some sausage and scrambled eggs.
Ashley: I’ll have the same.
Tree: You got it! (To Ashley) I’ll bring you back a refill too. Listen up, Stump…(she swaggers in his direction as she talks) I need two #3’s on the double. (She then clips the order on the wheel)
Ashley: (looking around) Caleb, what are we doing in this place?
Caleb: Last time we met, you know at Clover’s, I thought I saw someone… I just don’t want to take any chances. And I want to be able to relax when I’m with you.
Ashley: I had to drive 45 minutes to get here. It’s the middle of nowhere.
Caleb: That’s kind of the point. The middle of nowhere is a good thing.
Ashley: Well, how did you find this place? Have you brought other girlfriends here?
Caleb: Whoa….where did that come from? You know there haven’t been any other girlfriends.
Ashley: So you tell me.
Pauly: How’s everybody doin’ this morning? (They nod and smile) Tree, is that coffee coming?
Tree: Comin’ right up! Breakfast will be just a shake too.
Pauly: (After an awkward silence) Sorry if I interrupted. Welcome to Pauly’s. Door’s always open.
Ashley: Thank you. (pause) I tried to talk to you about this last time. I just have trouble with the fact that… I guess I’m having a few doubts.
Caleb: What do you mean, doubts? About us? About me? Aw, honey, I know this has been hard for you, but it’s hard for me too.
Ashley: I’m just getting very tired and impatient. When this all began, it seemed pretty simple.
Caleb: All relationships get a little complicated.
Ashley: (Angry) Most relationships aren’t complicated by one party being married to someone else! (A few people look around)
Caleb: Sh-h-h-h... Not so loud.
Tree: (returns to the their table) I forgot to ask, white or wheat?
Caleb: Wheat, for both of us.
Tree: And just so you know, the grape jelly’s my favorite. It tastes just like homemade! (she walks away)
Caleb: Look, we’ve been through this several times.
Ashley: I know we’ve been through this, but I have yet to see any action to back up all your words. And in the meantime, I’ve started feeling… the only way to describe it is guilty.
Ashley: YES! GUILTY! I don’t know why. I guess… I do know that in the beginning, it was easy. I was so enamored with you. I thought you were the perfect man – everything I wanted. When you told me that you were (looks around) married, I didn’t think it would make a real difference. You said all the right things – all the right words. But since then, I’ve seen her – you and her together. And I think about the two of you… And then I think, what kind of perfect man would be seeing me while he’s married to someone else?
Caleb: Ashley… Ash… (takes her hands) that’s just fatigue and anxiety talking. I didn’t plan to fall in love with you. We didn’t plan this. It happened. And I will follow through, I will. Just give me some time. Major changes don’t happen over night.
Ashley: I don’t know why I brought it up. I really don’t want to talk about this right now.
Caleb: Good. I don’t either. I want to enjoy the time we have together.
(Jasmine breezes in, making her presence known to everyone)
Jasmine: Good morning, Good morning, everyone! Whew, it’s bitter out there! Nice and warm in here though. How ya doin’, Sam? Hey, Ed. Pauly, I heard about your corned beef special. You know how I love corned beef. Hey, Tree, I’ve got your perfume order. Hello over there, Susan. How’s the hubby? I heard about the gout. Oooh, I know how that hurts! George, how you doin’ today? I’m so glad you didn’t have to stay in the hospital long with that pneumonia. You know, the Merle-Fay Cosmetics and Vitamin line I sell has a supplement that would help boost up that old immune system of yours. Think about it. Tree, where’s my –
Tree: (Sets coffee down for Jasmine) Coffee? It’s right here, Jasmine. Cream and lots of sugar, just like ya like it.
Jasmine: Thank you, Tree. You are a dear. Oh, here’s your perfume order, “Wild Cactus Dewdrops”. Did I tell you that with your next order of $20 or more from the Merle-Fay line of products, you’ll receive a free makeup bag – which is a $25 value. Here’s the catalog. (Stump steps out to get coffee) Hey, Stump, how’s my favorite short order cook? (Stump tries to ignore Jasmine) Don’t forget my offer for a free make-over anytime you like! (To Tree) Stump's neighbor told me that one of his girls was out till past 2 a.m. this past weekend and that the arguing went on for an hour after that when she finally did get home!
Tree: Really? Well, what was his neighbor doin' up at 2 a.m.?
Jasmine: Well, how would I know? I don’t pry into other people’s business, for goodness sakes! Probably all the commotion woke her up. Now, how bout some of that breakfast special? Pauly…come on over here when you get a minute.
Pauly: Jasmine, you’re out awful early spreading your cheer.
Jasmine: You know me, Pauly, I just want to be a blessing. (Big sigh) And, I’m doing business, as usual. I hate to brag, but I AM in the regional top 10% of sales “persons” for Merle-Fay’s health and beauty products. And, the top 2 sales persons get an all-expense paid trip to Dollywood at the end of the fiscal year. My director says I’ve got it in the bag. But, I have to continually fight to stay on top. It’s dawg eat dawg. But anyhow… Oh, I don’t know if you heard, but I guess there is a little trouble in paradise for one of our local preachers.
Pauly: Jasmine, is this gonna be on of your –
Jasmine: Now, now, now, now, listen….the reason I’m talking to you about it is because he’s a friend to you. Maybe you can help him, you know, give him advice or something. (Pauly just looks at Jasmine) It’s Hank. Hank and Sarah.
Jasmine: (Looks around) You heard me. Hank and Sarah are having problems with their marriage.
Tree: (Tree has come with Jasmine’s plate) Hank and Sarah are having marriage problems??? (A few heads turn)
Jasmine & Pauly: Shhhhhhhhhh!!!!
Tree: (whispers now) Hank and Sarah are having marriage problems?
Jasmine: Sarah’s sister told her cousin all about it. You know Eileen. Well, Eileen never could keep a secret. Sooo, she told the girl she works with, Betty Duncan. And I overheard Betty talking to a couple a ladies about it when I was getting a haircut over at the walk-in place on Walnut.
Pauly: Now, listen, Jasmine. That’s a third or fourth hand story you’re repeating. It might not even be true!
Tree: (interested) So, what kind of trouble?
Jasmine: Finances are the root of it, the way I understand. Hank has been working so hard tryin to make a go of it down at Holy Trinity. You know that church has been struggling for years. Everybody thought that when Hank and Sarah came, they would be able to turn things around there. Lord knows they’ve tried. (During Jasmine’s little spiel, Tree picks up an order and nearly tosses it at a customer nearby so she can get right back to hear every word) But membership is down, giving is down, why four members died this year and three moved away! So, anyway, I guess Hank is pretty depressed over the whole thing. Now with the baby on the way, you know Sarah’s gonna have to take some time off and EVERYONE knows she’s always planned on being able to stay home with her little ones. So, she’s putting some pressure on him, of course, and the way they’re talking, I guess he’s having doubts.
Jasmine: He’s thinking of leaving the ministry.
Pauly and Tree: NO!!!!!
Jasmine: Yes. He’s thinking maybe he shouldn’t even be a preacher. He’s having “a faith issue”.
Pauly: Well now, Jasmine, for all we know, that could be idle gossip. You know how stories get blown out of proportion. You shouldn’t be spreading it any further! And even if there is some truth in it, you know all people struggle at different times. We should be praying for them - NOT talking about the details of their problems behind their back.
Jasmine: I know that, Pauly, I know… That’s why I’ve told you…so you and Tree can pray for them.
Pauly: I see. Well, I will be praying for them. You can count on it.
Tree: Me, too! I’ll pray too.
Jasmine: Okay. Well, I’m gonna take my breakfast over to Ruthie’s table. I’ve got some business to do. (As she crosses to another table) Hello, Ruthie! You’ll never guess what I found out about one of our local preachers.
(Tree and Pauly look at each other and shake their heads as the lights dim to black).
(Lights up outside the diner. Hank and Sarah enter together)
Hank: (peers into the dark diner windows) No sign of life yet. I forgot they don’t open till six. (looks at his watch)
Sarah: (sigh) Tell me again why we’re here so early?
Hank: Well, it was obvious that we weren’t going to be able to get back to sleep again. You said you were hungry. And I thought the brisk air might be a good thing – help us clear our heads.
Sarah: It’s certainly brisk. I’m freezing! (she rubs her hand together)
Hank: Here, (he attempts to put his arm around her) Let’s share a little body heat.
Sarah: (resisting) I really don’t feel much like snuggling.
Hank: Listen, Sarah. It’s obvious we have a serious disagreement going on. But we are going to find a solution - or a compromise. We will work this out.
Sarah: I just don’t see how we can agree. One of us might decide to give in, but I don’t see any possibility of a real solution. I’m usually the one who does the giving in, but I’m not doing it this time, Hank.
Hank: I don’t want you to just ‘give in’ to me, Sarah. We both need to believe the solution is the right one.
Sarah: It seems we just keep going over the same ground, again and again. Even if I take just a few weeks of maternity leave and go back to work part-time, it’s not enough. Extra expenses are coming, Hank, extra expenses. Our budget is stretched to the limit the way it is.
Hank: I know this isn’t working out the way that we planned.
Sarah: Now there’s the understatement of the year!
Hank: I know God has a plan. This pregnancy was not a surprise to God, even if it was to us.
Sarah: Well, I wish God would let me in on His plan – because sometimes I think you get the message mixed up!
Hank: Do you want me to quit, Sarah? Is that what you really want?
Sarah: Yes! (pause) No. (pause) I don’t know. I just want some assurance that this child is going to be taken care of – and I want to be the one to do it. I don’t want our baby spending 12 hours a day in a daycare somewhere.
Hank: I know how strongly you feel about this, and I agree with you. If things would just pick up a little at Holy Trinity, I know we could swing it. I know –
Sarah: Hank, you are not being realistic. Even if the giving suddenly picked up twenty percent, it would only mean that they could pay the electric bill on time. It wouldn’t mean they would have enough money to pay a regular pastor’s salary! We’re in an impossible situation. You’re on call 24/7. You spend fourteen hours a day away from home, caring for the needs of a sleepy congregation that is obviously dying out. You know what they say about dead horses.
Hank: Remember our vision, Sarah.
Sarah: Was it our vision? Was it? Or did I just believe in you?
Hank: I thought we shared the vision: a thriving church home, where people could be encouraged spiritually and grow closer to God.
Sarah: In this town? Hank, it’s time to come down out of the clouds. Your pregnant wife is supporting you while you chase the end of the rainbow.
Hank: I –
Sarah: I’m really not hungry. I’m going home. (she walks away)
(Hank starts to follow, stops, shuffles around for a minute or two. Sits if there’s a place to sit. Stump enters. He's here to open the diner.)
Stump: Hey, Pastor Hank.
Hank: Oh, hi Stump.
Stump: Out and about awfully early, aren’t ya?
Hank: Yeah. No rest for the weary, you know.
Stump: Everything OK? I mean, no crisis or anything going on in town, is there?
Hank: No, no crisis that I know of.
Stump: You want coffee? I just need to get a few things ready to open up in here, but I can put some coffee on first thing.
Hank: Coffee sounds good. Thanks. (he follows Stump inside, takes off coat, pulls up a chair or stool)
Stump: Sure some winter we’re having, huh? I can’t ever remember this much snow before Christmas.
Hank: Yeah, heating bill was really high – home and church.
Stump: Hey, guess who was here in Pauly’s yesterday? (Hank shakes his head) Jim Gardner. I think it was the first he’s gone out in public since… you know, since Marilyn passed away.
Hank: I’m glad. He needs some people contact. I called on him last week.
Stump: Poor guy. You can tell he’s still pretty tender. Those wounds are fresh. (Stump gets a cup for Hank)
Hank: It’s hard to lose someone you love. (pause) Funny, after all those years together, Jim and Marilyn seemed a little alike.
Stump: I know what you mean. Me and my Abby almost finish each others’ sentences half the time. (Hank nods) I don’t know what I’d do without her though. How’s Sarah doin’?
Hank: Well she’s… doing OK.
Stump: It’s exciting having a little one on the way – especially the first one! (slaps Hank on the shoulder)
Hank: yeah, exciting (big sigh) and a little scary.
Stump: You’ll be a great dad! If you go after fatherhood like you do being a preacher, and Sarah being a nurse, that little one will turn out just fine.
Hank: You think?
Stump: Sure! You and Sarah are one of the best things to ever hit this town.
Hank: I don’t know about that.
Stump: Well, I do! You’ve made a difference here, Hank. You and Sarah – you’re a good influence. Maybe you don’t see it as much – but I know what things were like before you came.
Hank: Funny you should mention it… because lately I’ve been questioning whether I’m really doing God’s work here. It’s pretty discouraging sometimes.
Stump: (Thinks for a moment) What do preachers do when they get discouraged?
Hank: Pray a lot, for starters.
Stump: Well I can count off at least a dozen people you have helped in just the past year or so: There’s Stella Goodman, Regis Smith and his wife, I remember Theresa Hoffer –
Hank: I appreciate what you’re trying to tell me, Stump. But I don’t want to just help people. I want to see people changed and transformed by God’s love. God called me to Cedar Grove to make a difference here, not just impress people with what a great guy I am.
Stump: (pauses) Is there anything I can do for you, Hank?
Hank: I don’t know. Just pray for me, Stump. Pray for God to direct me.
Stump: You got it, buddy.
(Lights fade to black Suggested song: I Have Been There, by Mark Schultz. At the appropriate time during the song, characters step into a lighted area of the stage as the words that pertain to their particular situations are sung. I slightly changed the lyrics pertaining to the pregnancy/baby)(To be continued)
Copyright Peggy Barnell, all rights reserved.
THIS IS NOT THE FULL SCRIPT. To obtain the full script, a royalty payment is required. Please contact the author, to discuss. She may be contacted through her website, www.peggybarnell.com