Written by Joe Janes
9 of 365
(Lights up on a dive bar. Louis, a little stocky, is restocking bottles of beer into a cooler. The Buscemi-like Mannie sits at the end of the bar nursing a beer. A bar stool or two down from him is Tobey, who wears her graying hair up in a beehive. It’s present day, but if you went by the way they were dressed you might think they were a few decades behind.)
LOUISSure are nursing the hell out of that beer, Mannie.
MANNIEYep. Yep. I guess I am.
TOBEYWants to make sure he tastes every drop, right, Mannie?
MANNIEHa. That’s a funny one, Tobey.
TOBEYWho can blame him since you raised your prices a buck?
LOUISHey, times are tough. And I ain’t raised my prices in ten years. I was due.
MANNIESure. Sure. You was due. No one can blame you. My wife is blaming you. She’s pissed.
LOUISI raise my prices and Estelle is pissed. Estelle never steps foot in here.
MANNIEI know. I know. Women, right?
TOBEYEstelle controls the purse strings.
MANNIEI have a weekly beer budget.
LOUISThe old lady put you on a monthly beer budget? Ain’t that something? I feel honored that my bar is a budget item.
MANNIEYeah, that’s something. It is. Thing is, your prices went up at exactly the same time my beer budget went down.
TOBEYEstelle cut your beer bucks? No way.
MANNIE20% budget cut all across the board. We have to pay less on everything. Groceries, movies, cable, prescription medicine. Everything.
LOUISPains me to hear that, Mannie. You didn’t hear it from me, but you drinking less, probably a good thing.
MANNIEI getcha. I getcha. (Finishes beer) How much do I owe you?
MANNIEOkay. Okay. Um, here.
(Mannie lays down three one-dollar bills and a coupon-looking piece of paper)
TOBEYWhat the hell is that?
LOUISNo, it ain’t.
MANNIEIt’s as good as money.
LOUIS“Good for one hug.” This a joke?
MANNIEI’m good for it, Louis. (Pause) Just hear me out.
LOUISI listen better with money in my hand.
MANNIEIf I pay you another dollar, a real dollar, I won’t be able to tip or pay for another beer.
LOUISYou’re really making me cry, here, Mannie.
MANNIEIf I can’t pay for another beer, then I have to go home. Don’t make me go home, Louis. To Estelle. To the TV. To the…talking.
LOUISAnd you think a hug from you is worth a dollar? The bank don’t take hugs.
MANNIEWell, if you don’t want a hug. I have other things. (Flips through coupons) 10-Minute back rub, foot massage, a big smooch-
LOUIS (snatching stack)What the hell are these?
LOUISIt ain’t money. (Reads one) They’re “love” coupons.
MANNIEI bought ‘em for Estelle a few years ago on A Valentine’s Day. To spice up our marriage. Didn’t work, but I thought they might make for good barter.
LOUISThis is what you bring to barter?
MANNIEHad to be something Estelle wouldn’t miss. She won’t miss these.
TOBEYThey’re sweet. Estelle didn’t use any?
MANNIEShe used one. “Romantic Dinner for Two.” She made me take her to Olive Garden.
TOBEY (sincerely)The gal’s got class.
LOUISA relaxing bubble bath?
MANNIESure, why not? You come over and I’ll make you a bubble bath. Nice one. Hot, but not too hot. Estelle’s got these things called bath bombs. They’re fizzy.
LOUISIf I wanted to take a bubble bath, I’d do it at home.
LOUISWell, you know, I’d have to clean the tub first. Maybe use laundry detergent for the bubbles.
TOBEYLet me see that one…(Louis hands Tobey one). Louis, I would like to buy this one from you for one dollar.
LOUISMake it a buck fifty.
TOBEY (rolling eyes)Fine.
(She pays him)
TOBEYShut up and give me a hug, Mannie. (Mannie walks over to Tobey. She hands him the coupon and he hugs her in a very tender, non-sexual way. Both are moved by this.) That was worth a buck fifty, Louis. You should try one.
MANNIEWhen was the last time anyone gave you a hug, Louis?
LOUISNever you mind.
MANNIECan I get another beer?
LOUISOnly if you pay first. (Mannie counts out four dollars on the bar. Louis pushes one of the dollars back and picks up one of the coupons. He pours Mannie a beer) Been a long time since I had a hug. Been even longer since I had a foot massage.