The Here & Now Project

Deal

Every Friday this summer, The Here and Now Project will post a new short play, written by one of four playwrights selected from across the US. These plays focus on dramatizing where these playwrights are and what’s happening there now. This play is by playwright Eric Pfeffinger of Toledo, Ohio.

THE TIME: Now

THE PLACE: Pam and Russ's kitchen, Toledo, Ohio.

RUSS at the kitchen table dealing out cards, practicing.  Running patter in his head, lips moving.  PAM enters, watches.

PAM

Still?

RUSS

Hey.  It's not easy.

PAM

No.  No it is not.  Especially if you're not, y'know, a professional uh cards guy.  Dealer.

RUSS

It's a big place.  Someone has to get the jobs.

PAM

Someone does, yeah.  Someone definitely does.

 Silence.

RUSS

Don't watch.

PAM

I can't help it.

RUSS

Don't watch me.

PAM

If you got this job y'know people would be watching you.

RUSS

If you keep watching me I won't get this job!

PAM

Yeah, that's why you won't get this job.

(beat)

You see traffic's been backed up?  All down 75 to the exit, people trying to get to the parking garage, to get in.

(beat)

They're open twenty-four hours, maybe they'd hire you for three a.m.  Third shift.  Three a.m., you could have a shot.

RUSS

--I don't want to deal blackjack at three a.m.!

PAM

Why not?

RUSS

'Cause it's three a.m.!

PAM

If you wanna chase your dream...

RUSS

It's not my dream, doing this is so not my dream!

PAM

Just a thought: don't say that in the interview.

RUSS

My dream?  Is "When can you start?"  Nothing crazy.  It’s "Welcome aboard."  It's filling out those forms with the nines and the tax stuff, it’s taking a drug test.  My dream is to stop having to go to the library to use the computer to file for those extensions.  That's my shiny golden dream on the, y'know, on the hill.  That's as big as it gets.  Whoa, settle down, Russ, your dream's too big!

PAM

--How can I help?

RUSS

You can't.

PAM

C'mon, I'll help.

RUSS

I'm, I don't know what a dealer does, besides just dealing, I'm at a kitchen table and the conditions aren't even...

PAM

Here, I'll be the what.  The customer.  The y'know.  Gambler.

RUSS

Still, it's too quiet, this isn't gonna--

PAM
(as gambler:)

Heyyy, what is this?  Blackjack?  I love blackjack.

RUSS

Pam, c'mon...

PAM
 (as gambler:)

Deal me in, professional dealer man.

(as announcer:)

Welcome to the three hundred million dollar state-of-the-art Hollywood Casino.  Next floor show is in ten minutes, showgirl extravaganza in ten minutes, don’t be late.

(as gambler:)

What are ya waiting for?

(as slot machine:)

Ding ding ding clanga clanga jingle jingle!

(as wife:)

Whoa, that machine just paid out big!

RUSS

Cute.  Look, I--

PAM
(as wife:)

Whatcha doin', hon?

(as gambler:)

Gonna play a little twenty-one, if fancy-pants dealer guy here will let me.

(as wife:)

Where'd you get the money?  You didn't get into my rainy day fund!

(as gambler:)

--What you waiting for, hurry up and deal!

RUSS

All right, sir, here come your... cards, in a... just shuffling... so what do you uh do...?

PAM (as gambler:)

Between things right now.  Got laid off from the Ford plant, looking for something else.

RUSS

Really.  That sounds... familiar.

PAM
(as gambler:)

Yeah, there’s a lot of us.

RUSS

That place closed a while ago.  You haven’t found anything yet?

PAM
 (as gambler:)

Don't judge me.  It's not my fault what happened.

RUSS

I didn't say it w--

PAM
(as gambler:)

I saw the look in your eyes.  Saw what you think.  Of people in my circumstance.  And you’re being too hard.  On us.

(as wife:)

I'm gonna check my hiding bowl and if that money's gone...!

(as gambler:)

C'mon fella, you're killing me here.  You dealing or what?

RUSS

I'm dealing.  Dealing best I can.  All right, the game is blackjack and... usually there are, though, probably more than just one uh player...

PAM
(as self:)

Deal me in, I want to play.  Am I too late?  Deal me in.

RUSS

Well, hello.  You don't seem like a, y’know, regular...

PAM

Wanted to see what all the traffic was about.  My husband's at his new job, so.

RUSS

Is he now.  Well then.  He must be really cool.

PAM
 (as wife:)

I don't like this dealer, he seems all slick and professional.

(as gambler:)

He’s fine, don't distract me, woman.

RUSS

Here we go.  Cards.  Who's feeling lucky?

PAM
 (as self:)

I feel lucky every day.

RUSS

You don't say.  You must be from out of town, ho-ho.  There's a king showing for Mr. Rainy Day...

PAM
 (as gambler:)

I like it!

RUSS

And a seven for Lucky.  I... you know, it's probably, there would just be so much more, distractions...

PAM
 (as slot machine:)

Chinga chinga chinga chinga!

(as wife:)

I think I'm going to play that machine.

(as gambler:)

Hit me.

RUSS

And a jack.

PAM
 (as gambler:)

Aw, shitballs.

(as server:)

Can I get anyone a drink?  Drinks, anybody?

(as slot machine:)

Chinga chinga!

(as announcer:)

The tables are open.  Play some slots.  Enjoy some sea bass or lobster tail at our upscale Final Cut Steakhouse.  I'm television star and 1952 Woodward high school graduate Jamie Farr and it's my pleasure to welcome you to the grand opening of the Hollywood Casino Toledo, the second casino in the great state of Ohio!

RUSS

You look different in person.

PAM

(as announcer:)

Enjoy our expanse and polished surfaces.  We have no windows but many pictures of famous actors.

(as wife:)

I like it, it's like we're inside a giant Us Magazine.

(as announcer:)

There are enjoyable images on our many large screens.

RUSS

And the parking is cheap.

PAM
(as gambler:)

We don't pay for parking around here.

RUSS

And the parking is free.

PAM
(as gambler:)

Who pays for parking?  I'm not gonna.  It's... space.  C’mon.

(as announcer:)

Take a moment to admire our exhibits of clothes once worn by actual Hollywood stars.

RUSS

You know a lot about this...

PAM

Hey, I read the Blade.

(as announcer:)

Gary Oldman's suit.  Halle Berry's dress.  They'd have some of my dresses but they're in the Smithsonian, heh-heh-heh.  I used to be on a show where I wore dresses until I stopped and dressed normal.  Point being, those dresses are in the Smithsonian.  They're kind of a big deal.

RUSS

Okay uh, uh, dial it uh down now, Jamie Farr...

PAM

(as gambler:)

They couldn't get Danny Thomas?

RUSS

Isn't he dead?

PAM

(as gambler:)

Still.

RUSS

Sir, the way you’re--.  Your talking is kind of all over the place, are you...?

PAM

(as gambler:)

You referring to my dialect?

RUSS

Yeah, your dialect, it kind of changes a lot...

PAM

(as gambler:)

I had a stroke.  Happy?

RUSS

Fair enough.  Dealer has a four and he's sticking.  Lucky?

PAM

(as self:)

Hit me.

RUSS

There's a nine for Lucky.

PAM

(as self:)

Hit me.

RUSS

Ooh, another nine, that's a shame.

PAM

(as self:)

Hit me.

RUSS

You've already, showing, got way more than--

PAM

(as self:)

I said I was feeling lucky, hit me.

RUSS

You can't--.  Fine.  And there's a three.

PAM

(as self:)

Hit me.

RUSS

An ace.

PAM

(as self:)

Hit me.

RUSS

There's an eight.  You're like into the forties...

PAM

(as self:)

Hit me.

RUSS

There's no point.

PAM

(as self:)

I'm still going, there must be a point.  Hit me.

RUSS

It's a six.

PAM

(beat)

Okay, that’s enough.

RUSS

I think it is.  House wins.  This table's closed.

PAM

(as self:)

I want to play another hand.

RUSS

I'm sorry, ma'am, you're out of money.

PAM

(as self:)

Well.  What do you take at this place?

RUSS

--We take money.

PAM

(as self:)

There must be other things I can gamble with here.

RUSS

Pretty much just the money thing.

PAM

(as self:)

How about my self-worth?

RUSS

Big spender.  Whatcha gonna gamble that on?

PAM

(as self:)

This guy I knew in high school, I started seeing him in high school, could I gamble on that?

RUSS

--Sounds like a bad bet, frankly.

PAM

(as self:)

Could I bet my body?  Getting pregnant three months before graduation, what are the odds on a play like that?

RUSS

Doesn't sound like it'll go well.

PAM

(as self:)

It won't.  But I want to double down anyway.  I got lots to play with -- optimism, opportunities, future happiness.  I could be here all night.

RUSS

You sure?  Okay, Lucky.  I'm just the dealer.

PAM

(as self:)

You're just doing your job.

RUSS

Just doing my job.  Let's see what we got.  Marriage.

PAM

Hit me.

RUSS

Dropping out.

PAM

Hit me.

RUSS

Laid off.

PAM

Hit me.

RUSS

Eviction.

PAM

Hit me.

RUSS

That thing with your sister.

PAM

Hit me.

RUSS

New job, shitty boss.

PAM

Hit me.

RUSS

This isn't how the game goes, you can’t just keep--, you won't win.

PAM

Keep hitting, we'll see.

RUSS

And Lucky’s showing -- ooh.  Long downward spiral.

PAM
(beat)

Hit me.

RUSS

I'm all out of cards.

PAM

That's okay, I gotta go to work anyway.

RUSS

And where as it happens does an attractive woman like you work, anyway, ma'am, if I may a--?

PAM

It's just really me now, sweetie, and you know where I work but thank you.

RUSS

...Pam, I'm not gonna get this job.  I'm sorry I'm not going to get it but I'm not but I'll apply anyway, I'm applying anyway.

PAM

You should apply anyway.

RUSS

Yeah I know I'm gonna.  So.

PAM

So.  Keep practicing.

RUSS

Not much point.

PAM

You’re still doing it, there’s a point.

(as announcer:)

Attention Hollywood Casino customers.  There's a Ford Focus in the garage with its lights on.  Silver Focus, lights on, if that's your vehicle please report to TV star Jamie Farr for further details.  Also: there's osso bucco at the buffet.  Osso bucco, people.  This has been Jamie Farr, I was on TV.

RUSS

I’ll probably make something for dinner after.

PAM

I’ll probably eat it.

RUSS

You are coming back, then.

PAM

Hit me.

She exits.                                                                                   

RUSS

Place your bets, here come the cards.  Here they come, no stopping ‘em, place your bets.  And there's an ace showing for you, sir, that's not a bad thing.

Curtain.

Note from the Playwright:
Over the past couple of weeks it’s been hard to escape gushy local media coverage of Toledo’s first casino opening, the consequence of a successful ballot initiative a few years ago allowing casinos in Ohio -- a referendum mounted, not surprisingly, by the companies that now own the new casinos.  The softball news reports dwell on the comforting luxuriousness of the place -- it’s spread-out and spacious, like a mall; hometown hero Jamie Farr really did preside over the grand opening; there are four restaurants where you can get pho, spaetzel, or a bone-in tomahawk rib-eye for sixty-two dollars.  It’s a particularly counter-intuitive performance of distraction in a town where so many people don’t have money to gamble in the first place, but you seize your civic pride wherever you can find it.

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Comments

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Great play. So poignant. This was posted on Friday, and now it's Monday. I find myself wondering if Russ got the job...

Also, I'd like to play Pam in a production sometime.

Great piece! Quick, feel for the characters, lots of subtext, poignant. Not being from Toledo, I get the message of the piece loud and clear and was thankful for the writers note.