The Global Economy

A Short Play


Theodore Shank

© Theodore Shank 2004




Vendor . . . . . . . A winsome entrepreneur

(Eddie Murphy would be ideal casting)

Lump . . . . . . . A homeless woman


A street most anywhere


Traffic sounds. A homeless woman, a LUMP in rags, is asleep, wrapped in a blanket. Beside her is a plastic cup with a few coins. A VENDOR of dark glasses enters. He is full of energy, a budding entrepreneur. He is in good spirits and his boombox is playing until he sees LUMP. As he sets up his folding table and his display he speaks to the audience.

VENDOR: Don't you just hate it. You get up in the morning. The day looks pretty good. It's not raining. It's a good day for business. You go to work, and somebody's in your space. You know what I mean? This time it's this homeless lump. (To LUMP.) Come on, lump, wake up. It's morning. Time to go to work. Ha ha.

        LUMP does not respond.

The problem is she scares away customers. And nothin happens til you sell somethin. Time is still. The clock don't run. The hands don't move. When somebody sells something, the world wakes up. You can take your most magnificent timepiece, a platinum, ruby encrusted, 17th century, Swiss movement, nineteen jewel, one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Don't make no difference. It won't run til somebody sells something. You see you got your big gears like General Motors and Microsoft, and your middle-sized gears like Zenith and Amazon, and your little gears like me. We're all connected. One moves, the others move. But until somebody sells and somebody buys, nothin moves. Nothin. But somebody sells something-say I sell a pair a these coolers-everything starts movin. The guy in Korea that made them gets to keep his job and make some more. I'm keepin the guy employed so he can buy some chow mein. It's a global economy. And with the money I get for the coolers I can go to Jack-in-the-Box and buy a hamburger and Jack has money to hire the guy that sells me the hamburger. He pays the guy and the guy buys something else. Maybe he saves up and buys a used Chevy off another guy and that guy puts the money with some more money that he's earned and he buys a new Pontiac Firebird and the General Motors gear starts turnin. You see how it works? But if I can't sell nothin, nothin happens. You see? That's my responsibility. Keep the gears movin and the clock tickin and the hands movin and make my contribution to the economic growth of the USA. Everythin's connected. It's like that butterfly flitting around in China and causin the weather to change in Florida.

Now this lump here she don't flit and she don't tick. She just clunks. She just sits there on her hemorrhoids, scratchin her lice, and she scares away business. Customers don't want to come near. You don't want somebody beggin you for money. You don't want to feel guilty for not givin em any. You don't like the smell, you don't want to step in the piss tricklin down the sidewalk. Whatever. So you cross the street. You avoid her-and me. You don't buy. Nobody buys. And I just stand here, a little gear not movin. I'm helpless. This little piece of trash has got in the gears and they're jammed. Stopped dead. How can we get rid of this clunk and get the world tickin away again? Well, you can try to get her movin along to somewhere she won't get stuck in the gears, where nobody's tryin to sell nothin.

        He gives LUMP a kick. A groan. Another harder kick. Louder groan.

Then there's another approach. Maybe you can get em to work with you instead of agin you. Get em on their feet. Make em look alive like a customer maybe. Give em a job attracting other customers. (To LUMP) You want a pair a coolers. It's pretty hot out here, they'll cool your eyes and look real cool too. Come on, let's get you up and look alive.

        Gradually, with coaxing and pulling and pushing he gets her on her feet. It's not easy.

O K, here. (He puts a pair of dark glasses on her.) That makes a big difference. You look almost like a movie star or a pop singer. Now straighten up. Try to look like you just bought em and you like em. Smile. Stand up straight. Get the buckle outa your knees. Lets get these buttons buttoned.

Like a sculptor he tries to mold her into an erect position, straightens her legs, tidies up her clothes, tries to get her to smile, kicks the blanket she was sitting on out of the way, etc. She doesn't resist, but doesn't help much either. He's done his best and steps back to take a look at his creation

OK now. I guess that's as good as it's gonna get. Let me give you some advice. Help you get into the system. Why don't you get a job?

No answer.

It's because you can't. You don't take care of yourself. Your clothes are a mess. You smell. OK, I know, it's because you don't have any money. And you don't have any money because you don't have a job. Not talkin, that's another problem. You have any skills?

No answer.

Unemployment in this country is way down, everybody's looking for skilled workers. Do you have any computer skills? Of course you don't. Well what can you do?

No answer.

Can you do anything? You don't talk so can't sing. Can you dance? Everybody can dance. If you can stand up you can dance. Let's see what you can do. Dance for me.

He turns on his boom box and music plays.

Come on, do it!

LUMP doesn't move. Vendor demonstrates how to dance and encourages her, claps his hands to the beat. He tries everything he can think of to get her to dance. She makes some feeble efforts, but he gets no where with the lesson. The result is grotesquely funny.

You're not even tryin. I can't help you any more. You're hopeless. Homeless and hopeless. Just a clunk in in the machine. I'm through with you. I need to sell some coolers. Get out of here, go down the block. I mean it. Scram! Scat! Shoo! Take a hike! Disappear! Get outa my space!

He has become really angry and LUMP shuffles away. The music continues. He is relieved and begins straightening up his display. Then he notices a pair of glasses are missing-the ones LUMP is wearing.

Hey, you, come back here. Those are my coolers. You want em, you pay. They're not free you know. I'll call the cops.

LUMP shuffles back. He tries to take the glasses, but she won't let him.

OK, then. Pay for them. How much money you got? Come on, how much?

LUMP pours the cup with a few coins into his hand.

Forty-seven cents! Where's that going to get you? It sure won't buy my real imitation Raybans. They'll cost you at least two ninety-eight. Come on. Give em back.

LUMP gives him the glasses, but continues to stand looking at him.. He relents and gives her the glasses.

O K you can keep em. Now get outa here.

LUMP smiles, but doesn't move, then holds out her cup. He puts the forty-seven cents back in the cup

What are you going to eat for forty-seven cents? I know you're gonna buy a candy bar or something else like that. It's not good for you. You should get a hamburger. It's got meat, that's protein. It's got bread, that's carbohydrate. It's got vegetables-lettuce and ketchup. It's a balanced meal.

LUMP continues to look at him.

O K here's another buck. Go get yourself a hamburger.

LUMP is immediately energized and begins a lively dance. She's pretty good.

Hey what happened? You can dance!

LUMP dances faster and faster becoming more and more frenetic. Finally she collapses. VENDOR is disappointed.

Ah, come on you can do it. Get up. I gave you some money, now I want something in return. Dance. Come on, get up.

He gives her a kick, but LUMP's only response is a groan. He kicks her again and again. Finally he gives up and looks at the audience with a shrug that seems to mean "That's always the way with these people."

The End