What’s In a Promise?
WHAT’S IN A PROMISE?
Synopsis: Ben Goode, owner of Goode Enterprises that makes the Goody Good Candy Bar casually promises his daughter he will be home from work in time to attend a Christmas Eve service. But when his best customer demands that an order be filled by the end of the day, things begin to go wrong. In spite of his best efforts, he’s forced to make a difficult decision. And along the way, he and his wacky co-workers provide laughter in this entertaining story that takes a light-hearted look at what’s important in life.
Running Time: Approximately 35 minutes
Staging: Is divided into 2 areas. The main office area takes up most of the space and is centered and a break room that is smaller, is positioned stage right. Scenes alternate between the two areas. Lights alternate illuminating the areas for each scene.
Chuck & Eddie—Two goofy custodians that feature slapstick, physical humor
Del—Stereotypical IT professional
Ben Goode—Owner of the company
Gloria—Efficient, administrative assistant
Roger—Company salesman, a little short on work ethic
Eugene—Well-meaning but annoying Christmas Caroler
UPS man—Delivery man
Hank—Head of security and power control freak
SCENE ONE: MAIN OFFICE AREA
The corporate office of Goode Enterprises on the 7th floor of an office building. The main office area consists of the desk of Ben Goode, the desk of Gloria, his administrative assistant and the cubicles of Del and Roger. The cubicles are positioned so the audience can see Roger, but not Del. A window behind Ben’s desk reveals other office buildings in the background. Another window somewhere shows industrial buildings with smoke stacks. On the wall is the company name, Goode Enterprises. There is also the company motto: We’re Goode at Always Giving Our Best Effort.
LIGHTS ON FULL and MUSIC UP. Dance of the Toy Flutes.
CHUCK & EDDIE, two custodians ENTER. Chuck, a slob, vacuums in a careless manner, moving things around and leaving them in haphazard disarray. Eddie, very meticulous, dusts and follows after Chuck, to carefully return everything to precise order. Exasperated by Chuck’s disorganized methods, Eddie demonstrates how to make neat, orderly passes with the vacuum cleaner. Under Eddie’s watchful gaze, Chuck follows Eddie’s instruction, but roguishly, and surreptitiously rebels when Eddie isn’t watching. Eddie points to a spot Chuck missed and Chuck goes over the spot, but the cleaner doesn’t seem to work. He picks it up, shakes it, and looks underneath to see what’s wrong. Eddie points to the bag so Chuck opens up the cleaner and tries to remove the bag but can’t figure out how. Annoyed, Eddie takes charge and opens the compartment to remove the bag. As Eddie frees it and peers in the end, Chuck leans in for a better look. His hand squeezes the bag and a cloud of dust spews in Eddie’s face. Chuck laughs, but stops when he sees Eddie’s angry face. He EXITS running and Eddie chases after him as the song ends.
Waltz of the Flowers begins as DONNA, the plant lady, ENTERS. She’s dressed in khaki pants, wears a green apron, and carries a water pitcher and container of flowers. She waters the office plants and places new flowers in a vase on Ben’s desk and a new rose into the vase on Gloria’s desk. She examines a floor plant, decides it doesn’t look right, picks it up, and carries it away.
GLORIA ENTERS carrying a cup of coffee, dressed casually in Christmas attire. She sits at her desk and begins working.
DEL, a stereotypical computer nerd and IT expert ENTERS hugging his laptop in an important, protective manner. He glances around suspiciously and disappears in his cubicle.
A UPS MAN ENTERS. He carries in a box, sets it down and has Gloria sign his manifest. He begs a piece of chewing gum from her, and EXITS. The MUSIC FADES.
ROGER, shuffles in sleepily. He yawns, falls into his cubicle and drops his head with a THUMP on his messy desk. Del pops up and frowns at Roger.
Del: Do you mind?
Roger gazes at him sleepily.
Roger: Not at all.
Del sits and Roger goadingly SLAPS the desktop with his hand. Del pops back up with a scowl. He watches Roger warily and sinks slowly behind the partition. Roger fakes hitting the desk top, but stops short. Del pops up, realizes he’s been had, and sits with an angry HUFF as Roger chuckles to himself.
Del pops up.
Del: Yes, Gloria.
Gloria: My computer is acting loopy again.
Gloria gives the terminal a few hand smacks, trying to straighten it out.
Gloria: Yes, loopy.
She graduates to shaking it, then picks up a large, decorative candy cane next to her desk and winds up for a swing. Del stops her just in time.
Del: I’ll go check the servers.
He EXITS, the phone RINGS once, and Gloria transforms back into professional mode.
Gloria: Good morning, Goode Enterprises, home of the Goody Goode bar. Merry Christmas Eve, this is Gloria, may I help you?
She holds the phone away as she listens to protect her ear from the yelling of an irate customer.
Miz Baker: (Over the phone) This is Miz Baker from Baker and Associates. I’d like to speak with Roger right now, because I want to know why the sales material he was supposed to send us a week ago isn’t here yet!
Gloria: One moment please. Roger, are you in yet?
Roger: (face still on the desk) Who wants to know?
Gloria: Miz Baker from Baker and Associates. She’s asking about the sales material you promised her last week.
Roger lifts his head. Stuck to the side of his face is a brochure. He looks at it, realization dawning on his face. He leaps to his feet and rushes toward the door.
Roger: Gloria, you know I’m never in till after my third cup of coffee.
As he EXITS, Gloria dutifully covers for him.
Gloria: I’m sorry Miz Baker, Roger just left in a big hurry. I think he has a meeting with Mr. Coffee.
She listens again, holding the phone away as she writes on a piece of paper.
Miz Baker: (Over the phone) This is absolutely ridiculous! And you can tell that lazy, no good–
Gloria: Do you mind if I paraphrase that? Okay, I’ll give him the message.
Roger ENTERS again quickly, passing by Gloria and snatching the message from her hand. He EXITS again as BEN GOODE ENTERS right behind him. Ben carries a briefcase and crosses to his desk.
Ben: Good morning, Gloria, and Merry Christmas.
Gloria: Good morning, Ben. Can I get you some coffee?
Ben: Gloria, you’re not a dog who fetches for me, you’re my Administrative Assistant. I’ll get my own coffee in a couple of minutes. Was Roger sleeping on his desk again?
Gloria: Only briefly. But I’m sure he’ll return for another nap after lunch.
Ben: Would you mind handling whatever problem he’s dodging this time?
Gloria: Okay. Are you sure you don’t want–
Ben: Gloria, you’re my Administrative Assistant.
Gloria: (smiles with satisfaction) I know. I just like to hear you say it.
LIGHTS FADE OUT:
SCENE TWO– WORKROOM
The WORKROOM has a counter workspace, automatic drip coffee machine, office supply storage, small refrigerator, and a small table. On the wall is the logo of the Goody Goode Bar.
LIGHTS ON FULL:
Roger sits at the table cradling a cup of coffee with his head down, sleeping as Gloria ENTERS. She gathers material from the cupboard and SLAMS it on the counter which wakes him.
Roger: I see you’re efficiently on the job as usual, Gloria.
Gloria: Someone has to do your work, Roger.
Roger: I’m not a morning person. And who works on Christmas Eve anyway?
She gives him an annoyed look.
Roger: Oh, come on. Nothing really important happens at Christmas.
She smirks and he becomes defensive.
Roger: You know what I mean. Besides, they won’t need any of that material until the first of the year. So what’s the big deal?
Gloria: Roger, most people are too focused on what’s urgent to see the things they really need. And what’s important…they usually miss.
Roger: And of course, sales material tops the list of what’s important in life.
Gloria: (shrugs) It’s not my job to decide the value of a promise. Only whether I’m going to keep the ones I make.
She finishes and pauses on the way out.
Gloria: And clean your face, you look ridiculous.
She EXITS and Roger turns so that “Goody Goode” is visible on his face. He looks in a mirror and starts rubbing it off. As he does, he doesn’t see HANK, a security officer, ENTER. Hank grins mischievously, and imitates an arresting officer.
Hank: Freeze! Get those hands in the air!
Startled, Roger raises his hands and starts to turn, but Hank presses his finger against the back of Roger’s head.
Hank: I wouldn’t. The last person who tried something ended up an air head.
Hank frisks Roger and backs away.
Hank: Okay. You’re clean.
Roger adjusts his pants.
Roger: I was a few minutes ago.
He turns and looks at Hank, suddenly exasperated.
Roger: Man, Hank. What’s the big idea?
Hank: Just a little holiday humor.
ROGER: Yeah? You see much good humor going around during the holidays?
Hank pours himself a cup of coffee and Roger returns to cleaning his face.
Hank: (nods his head in agreement) What I hear is joy to the world, peace on earth and goodwill toward men…and what I see is people clenching their teeth as they empty their wallets. Funny isn’t it? And lots of talk about giving. But did you know robbery and theft skyrocket during the Christmas season? So I got security locked up so tight in this building even the cock roaches have to check in.
He glances at the floor and stomps on a bug.
Hank: Sorry, buddy, you weren’t cleared. (examines Roger’s face) You missed a spot there. And you ought to do something about those crows feet.
Roger: I’m not old enough to have crows feet. I’m only… (mentally calculates) Two wrinkles short of a face lift.
Hank: You just need to facecercise.
Roger: If that has something to do with Richard Simmons I don’t want any part of it.
Hank: No, man. (proudly) You see this profile? It’s because I facercise faithfully.
He thrusts his chin out in a proud pose as Roger scrutinizes his face.
Roger: (With a hint of pity) Well, brother. If that’s the result of faith in action, you’d better change your religion.
Hank: Let me show you. First, you assume a relaxed, neutral position.
He demonstrates a relaxed face which resembles a gaping mouth and dumb stare.
Hank: Then you exercise your face muscles.
Roger watches as Hank demonstrates making absurd faces.
Roger: Like this?
Roger follows with a buffoonish imitation.
Hank: That’s a good start. Now stretch it out.
Hank manipulates Roger’s face and Roger speaks as his face is pinched between Hank’s hands.
Roger: I think I’m getting the feel for it.
Hank: Keep pushing. Push till you feel the burn.
Hank twists his face into exaggerated expressions and Roger joins him in ludicrous, facial contortions. Gloria ENTERS and watches, curiously amused, and clears her throat. They freeze and look at her with sheepish grins.
Gloria: I don’t even want to know.
She EXITS. Roger and Hank look at one another, shrug and resume facercising.
SCENE 3–MAIN OFFICE AREA
LIGHTS ON FULL & MUSIC UP. King’s Brass CD “Sleigh Ride”
Chuck and Eddie haul in a Christmas tree. Eddie releases his hold on the tree to move the box that Gloria left in the middle of the floor. Chuck, straining on his own, swings the tree around out of control. Eddie stoops a couple of times to move the box. Each time, Chuck just barely misses hitting him with the tree. On the third pass, Eddie grabs the tree and helps Chuck bring it under control and stand it on the floor. Then Eddie has Chuck move the tree several times as he decides where he thinks it looks the best. But then it’s too crooked and he keeps making Chuck lean it first one way and then the other. Finally, Chuck hands Eddie a level, Eddie uses it to position the tree and nods satisfied. As they EXIT, Chuck kicks the box out of his way and into the path of Eddie who is backing up, still looking at the tree. He trips backward over the box, but Chuck catches him in the nick of time.
They EXIT and MUSIC FADES.
Ben ENTERS with a cup of coffee and sits at his desk. The phone RINGS and he answers it.
Ben: Good morning, Goode Enterprises, home of the Goody Goode bar. Ben Goode speaking, how may I help you? (his face softens) Hi Sweetheart. Daddy’s working, that’s what he’s doing. I’m putting food on the table and Christmas presents under the tree. (realizes his oops) No, of course, Santa puts the presents there. That was just a figure of speech. Well, a figure of speech is–what’s your Mom doing anyway? Getting ready for tonight. No, I haven’t forgotten. The Christmas Eve service starts at six-thirty. And the family is coming over to our house after that. I’ll be home by six. Sweetheart, stop worrying. I said I’d be home by six and I’ll be home by six. Okay, okay…I promise.
He hangs up as Gloria ENTERS carrying a package.
Gloria: The material for Baker and Associates is ready. I called UPS for a pickup.
The phone RINGS twice and she answers.
Gloria: Good morning, Goode Enterprises, home of the Goody Goode Bar. Merry Christmas Eve, this is Gloria, may I help you? One moment, please. (she pushes hold button) Ben, it’s Mr. Carter from Tillson and Carter.
Ben: Merry Christmas, John. Oh, uh, yes…Happy Holidays to you too. What can I do for you this morning? (starts writing on paper) Uh, huh.That’s one hundred cartons of Goody Goode Bars shipped to your warehouse in Cincinnati. We’ll get right on it the day after Christmas. You want it by six o’clock tonight? But John, it’s Christmas Eve. Yes, you are my very best customer. But–yes, I know what happens to my company if you take your business elsewhere. But–yes, six o’clock tonight.
Ben: Last year Tillson and Carter pulled their account from plenty good candies and now they’re plenty gone. If I had any nerve I’d give that guy a piece of my mind.
Gloria: But you don’t. So you can’t.
Ben: And what’s left of my mind, I can’t afford to lose.
He pauses, frustrated and struggling for words to express rising emotions.
Ben: You know, we live in a dog eat dog world and I’m wearing Kibbles and Bits underwear. (hands her the paper) Key in the order. Christmas Eve is going to be just another day.
Gloria looks at the paper and types on her computer, giving her terminal a few smacks to help it along. Donna ENTERS carrying a new plant. She begins arranging and watering it. EUGENE ENTERS. He blows a note on his pitch pipe and starts singing.
Eugene: Hark the Herald, Angels sing Glory to the newborn King…
Eugene: Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinner reconciled.
Eugene: Joyful all ye nations rise—
Eugene: Merry Christmas, Ben. Isn’t this a wonderful time of year? A time to celebrate the fruits of God’s love.
Ben: (Sarcastically) Yes, it’s just peachy. Would you mind telling me what you’re doing?
Eugene: Christmas caroling. Spreading the message of joy and peace on earth, goodwill toward men. I’m singing to every office in this building, one floor at a time.
Ben: Don’t you have any work to do?
Eugene: Not really. (leans in like sharing a secret) It’s Christmas Eve. (blows a note) Hark the Herald Angels Sing–
Ben: Eugene! Do me a favor would you? (he indicates up) Take it to the next level.
Eugene: Sure, Ben (blows a higher pitch) Hark the Herald Angels sing–
Ben: Eugene! I mean the next floor, level.
Eugene (in realization) Oh. (he looks around the office) Christmas Caroling is moving up to the next level.
As he blows a note, Donna joins him and they sing as they leave.
Eugene & Donna: Hark the Herald Angels sing Glory to the newborn king…
Gloria shrugs at Ben’s obvious frustration.
GLORIA: At least he wasn’t singing the twelve days of Christmas.
LIGHTS SLOWLY RISE:
Hank ENTERS and pours himself a cup of coffee. Seeing no one else around, he tries a few quick draws and a Dirty Harry imitation.
Hank: Go ahead, Punk. Make my day.
Geri, the tough, no-nonsense, lady production manager, ENTERS.
Geri: Yo, Barney Fife! What’s happening?
Hank: Hey, Geri. Just practicing my piece keeping.
He blows imaginary smoke from the gun and sticks it in his holster.
Hank: How’s it going across the street in production?
Geri: Industrially. Man and machine, working in harmony to produce… (shows a candy bar) A cavity producer.
Hank: Is this a great country or what?
Geri: And there’s nothing like the melody of gears grinding.
Hank: The smooth feel of well-oiled hardware.
Geri: The spicy aroma of a greased axle.
Hank: Crowd control.
Geri: Raw sweat.
Hank & Geri: (With shared pride) Ar, ar, ar, ar…
Geri opens a soft drink and straddles a chair.
Geri: You know, I’m pretty much a here and now kind of person. But every so often I get this feeling there really is more to life. That maybe I’m missing something. And a gnawing sense of emptiness wells up inside like this ache in the very center of my being.
Hank: Yeah, then what?
She takes a swig and lets out a huge belch.
Geri: That usually takes care of it.
Ben ENTERS and pours himself coffee.
Ben: Geri. How’s that order coming?
Geri: What order is that, BG?
Ben: The one for Tillson and Carter.
Geri looks at him blankly.
Ben: I was standing there when Gloria keyed it in this morning.
Geri: It never came up on my production terminal. (reacts to Ben’s look of worry) We’ve got a problem don’t we?
Ben: We’ve got a problem is right.
LIGHTS BLACK OUT: