SIX HUNDRED AND ONE SECONDS

A Play

by Riley Kate Robinson 

 

Cast of Characters

 

ALLYSON FORD Twenty-two. English major. Sweater lover and poet. Often drinks chocolate milk for breakfast. Has a very large stack of books to read yet can’t stop buying more.

 

JESSE PORTER Twenty-three. Always smiling. Premature teller of dad jokes. Has to get out of bed on the literal right side every day. Smells of rose and sandalwood.

 

JIM CARSON   Age unknown. Announces speed-dating at the bar on Friday nights and bingo at the senior center on Sunday afternoons. Wears sweater vests. Sweats more than the average human being.

 

Scene 

 

Max’s Taphouse in Baltimore, Maryland. 

 

A wintry street in downtown Baltimore.

 

Time

 

The present.

Scene One

 

AT RISE: A noisy bar in Baltimore, Maryland.

 

A soundtrack of incoherent chatter plays in the background.

 

ALLYSON is sitting alone at a two person table parallel to the audience with her head resting in her hand.

 

A bell rings over top of the chatter.

 

JESSE walks on stage from the left. He approaches ALLYSON’s table and places a hand on the back of the empty chair across from her.

 

JIM CARSON is standing behind a microphone in the corner of the room.

 

JIM

THIS IS IT, LADIES AND GENTS, THE LAST MATCH OF THE NIGHT! Get your cards out and make sure to get their ticket number… and their phone number of course, in case you want a round two! Your last ten minutes of the night beginnnn… NOW!  

 

JESSE

So I guess this is me? I’m Jesse. 

 

(ALLYSON smiles as JESSE sits down. She holds out her hand and he shakes it. JIM CARSON steps up to the microphone.) 

 

ALLYSON

Allyson. What brings you here tonight? We have what? Ten minutes? That’s a short amount of time don’t you think? Ten minutes to find out everything about a complete stranger. 

 

JESSE 

We aren’t complete strangers, first name basis is the foundation of a new relation—— friendship. You know, whatever you’re looking for. I’m kind of new to the speed dating scene. My roommate, Corey, dragged me here. He’s over there.

 

(Points his finger over his shoulder stage right.) 

 

And if the first name thing doesn’t convince you, I’m twenty-three, a hard core fan of 80s hair bands, and I love watching Jeopardy. See? Now you know me. 

 

ALLYSON 

Alright then, Scorpions or Bon Jovi?

 

JESSE 

C’mon, that easy! Scorpions all the way! “No One Like You,” “Still Loving You,” “Big City Nights,” ”Rock You Like a Hurricane”? Those are masterpieces. 

 

ALLYSON

Who doesn’t pick Bon Jovi? What about “Bed of Roses”? Or “Wanted Dead or Alive”? Have you ever even seen Deadliest Catch? My dad would totally be shaking his head right now. 

 

(Both chuckle.) 

 

JESSE

They’re not too bad I guess. What’s your favorite type of ice cream? Choose wisely and I might be able to forgive you for your last answer. 

 

ALLYSON

Hear me out on this one, its vanill—

 

JESSE 

(Raising his voice dramatically.) 

VANILLA? 

 

ALLYSON 

I said hold on! Its vanilla with chocolate sauce mixed into it. It’s the perfect chocolate ice cream, not too boring but not too chocolatey.  Now that’s a true masterpiece. You’ll have to try it sometime. Absolutely heaven. I’m guessing you’re more of a mint chocolate chip? 

 

JESSE 

Butter pecan actually.  

 

ALLYSON 

Huh, you and my Great-Aunt Gladys would get along nicely. 

 

JESSE

She sounds remarkable. 

ALLYSON

I’m just pulling your leg, I don’t actually have a Great-Aunt Gladys. However, that does sound eighty-year-old womanish.

 

JESSE

I’ll wear that title, I have no shame. Hey, if we are going to be friends, I just thought I would tell you right off the bat: I have kleptomania. But don’t worry, when it gets really bad, I take something for it. 

 

(ALLYSON’s face lights up and she smiles as she lets out a hearty laugh.)

ALLYSON

That was probably one of the most cheesiest things I have ever heard. 

 

JESSE 

I like to practice my standup comedy, whenever I can. I was a little nervous to crack it out tonight though, after all we are sitting down. 

 

ALLYSON

Oh my gosh. Ha ha ha, what a punny guy. 

 

JESSE

Obviously I have quite a bit of work to do. Cheesy jokes are kinda my thing, instead of People Magazine I use joke books as my bathroom reading. 

 

ALLYSON 

That’s awesome. I read, but definitely not those kinds of books. I’ll have to look into them more. Maybe we can have a “joke-off” sometime. 

 

JESSE 

For sure, I’m always willing to outwit an unsuspecting victim. I would throw in a construction joke, buuut I’m still working on them. And I can’t give away all my best materials out on the first erm, date. 

 

ALLYSON

Now that’s what I’m talking about! Anything else you want to know? 

 

JESSE

Favorite Christmas movie?

 

ALLYSON

Easy, Elf. If you could go to any place in the world where would you go? 

 

JESSE

Real? Greece. Fictional—

 

BOTH

Hogwarts! Wait seriously? No way! Twins!  

 

JESSE

Ravenclaw?

 

ALLYSON 

Holy cow! I guess we have more in common than we thought! 

 

JESSE

Yeah maybe you aren’t too bad after all. 

 

(Both smile.) 

 

However, you actually never answered why you are here in the first place? 

 

ALLYSON 

Would you believe me if I told you that it was my grandma that convinced to come? She goes to bingo every Sunday and I guess this guy is the caller. He must have told the seniors about it because one day she is bugging me about “not putting myself out there enough” and the next thing I know she is telling me she signed me up for this gig. It’s not too bad actually. The first guy was a little creepy. During the whole ten minutes he probably blinked six times. Then the second guy must have not realized that there would be appetizers at this thing because his breath smelt like he had eaten multiple tuna sandwiches before coming. We are at a bar for Pete’s sake! 

 

JESSE

Dang, your grandma is really looking out for ya huh? Everyone should have someone like her to get the ball rolling. So, what about guys three through six? Got any leads? 

 

ALLYSON

Eh, each one is just as “interesting” as the last I guess. Jury’s still out on #6 though. I still have a few more questions, the answers to which could make or break it. Favorite pizza topping? 

 

JESSE

Mushrooms and spinach, and seriously Al, if the next word that comes out of your mouth has anything to do with pine and apple, I’m walking out. 

 

ALLYSON

Don’t worry, I would never that goes against my own personal ten commandments. However, I am slightly judging your decisions as well. Mushroom, eh, I could live with, but spinach? It just gets shriveled and I just don’t really vibe with that. I’m more of a traditional pepperoni gal. Why change what has always worked? Honestly, you know what? Let’s leave, like right now. Why not? We have nothing to waste. Let’s go get pizza or tuna sandwiches? We’ve already gotten to know each other so the breath can’t be too off putting anymore. Besides, we would just be sitting here for five more minutes. There are much better things we could be doing. 

 

JESSE

What about Corey? He was kind of my ride and I don’t know if I could just leave him, how would I get home? 

 

ALLYSON

I can drive you home, and I think Corey will be fine. He seems pretty preoccupied with the chick with the pink hair anyway. Plus, what am I going to do, kidnap you? I told you my Hogwarts house, and that is something I only share with my closest of friends. C’mon #6, the world’s awaiting.


(End Scene.)

 

Scene Two

 

AT RISE: JESSE and ALLYSON can be seen walking down a snowy street downtown. The windows are decorated for Christmas and snowflakes are gently falling down around them. 

 

JESSE

Did you see their faces when we walked out? Some of them looked like they needed to be rescued from the antichrist. 

 

(JESSE sighs and runs a hand through his hair.)

 

In how many circumstances do you think speed dating actually works out? I mean, like you said before, you are only given ten minutes to learn years’ worth of information. 

 

ALLYSON 

I’m not sure, but think about all the people that audition for shows like The Bachelor, are those marriages real? The guy dates like thirty women for a couple of months and then is supposed to confess his true love to one of them? It must take a special person to put themselves in either position.

 

JESSE 

Actually, it’s more like 25 women, but uh…I don’t watch it so I mean I don’t know. 

 

(ALLYSON laughs.) 

 

Do you believe in love at first sight? Like real, true love? 

 

ALLYSON

I’m not really sure about that either, is it love at first sight? Or lust? I honestly don’t know. I definitely believe in interest at first sight and love over time? But right away? If it was love at first sight then I think the proposal comes at about the six and a half minute mark according to speed dating etiquette. What about fate? Do you believe in that? 

 

(JESSE is quiet for a moment.) 

 

JESSE 

Yeah, I think I do. Maybe just not in like this whole, “your life has been planned out from the moment you were born type thing.” I just don’t know how else do you explain those feelings where you can’t really explain why you need to go somewhere or do something other than the fact that you just need to? Like what are the odds your grandma signed you up for the same night my bird-brained roommate dragged me along, and that we just so happened to be sitting exactly in the position that we would meet for the last ten minutes. I mean we have quite literally known each other for all of five minutes, and it’s not like I am confessing my love for you just yet, I’m not one to jump the gun, but I just feel as though we were meant to sit across from each other for ten minutes. I quite literally feel as though I could tell you anything, and you wouldn’t judge me for a second. Well, minus the whole butter pecan situation but I can get over that one.  

 

ALLYSON 

No, I totally get that and I agree, I doubt that all of this was by pure accident. Truth be told, at first I just went because I wanted to make my grandmother happy but yet, I also had a feeling that something extraordinary would come out of this. I mean, if it wasn’t for you I could be stuck getting cornered by Tuna Breath by now. Yet here we are. If everything was pre-planned maybe we still would have left early, except with different people and we would be glued to lord knows who behind a bush, or in an alley. But we aren’t you know? Who knows what will happen in a week from now, or a month, or six months. All I’m saying is that I’m perfectly fine with this. I don’t want ten minutes to learn everything about someone, that’s not enough. I would certainly hope that most people are more complex than to be able to explain and express themselves in just ten minutes. 

 

JESSE

That’s a very good point, but what if everyone just had a ten minute story? Think about us. We have a ten minute story. Not even. Seven minutes and counting.

 

ALLYSON 

Who says our story is only ten minutes? 

 

JESSE 

The sweaty guy up on the stage at the bar. 

 

ALLYSON 

Well, he’s wrong. We have plenty of time. A whole lifetime of time. We just can’t waste it. People waste too much time doing things so unimportant to the grand scheme of things. But enough of the deep scary stuff, back to the essentials. What’s your favorite color? 

 

JESSE 

Purple. Favorite food?

 

ALLYSON

 

Macaroni. Favorite season? 

 

JESSE

Winter, there is something about the snowfall that just makes me feel so in love with the world. 

 

(ALLYSON and JESSE continue to walk along the sidewalk in silence. After a little while JESSE slips his hand into ALLYSON’s.) 

 

JESSE

Dogs or cats?

 

ALLYSON

It’s a very close race, but I think cats are a whisker ahead. What about you?

 

JESSE 

I don’t think I could pick, but my red lab, Bella, at home would definitely tell me to lean towards the former. 

 

ALLYSON 

Well, I guess I will have to meet her then to see what she has against cats.  

 

JESSE 

That would be quite the conversation.

 

(ALLYSON continues to walk but JESSE comes to a standstill.)

JESSE 

Hold up a minute. 

 

(Tugging on her hand, JESSE pulls ALLYSON back and softly places a kiss on her lips.)

 

ALLYSON

You know what? I think this is exactly where I was supposed to be tonight. Here, with you, and the snow, and just everything. It was meant to be exactly like this and something out there in the universe knew it too. Action movies or comedy? 

 

JESSE 

Both, but like not separately? The action movie has to be funny. I’m a deep philosophical guy when I need to be but I mean c’mon, if a superhero isn’t cracking jokes while he’s kicking some villain’s butt then what’s the point? Ketchup or ranch? 

 

(ALLYSON bursts out laughing)

ALLYSON 

Depends on what I’m eating it with. Chicken? Ketchup. Pizza? Ranch. How do you see yourself in ten years? That kinda just jumped off of the deep end but, if this is our first date I need to know what to expect. Ya know?

 

JESSE 

I usually just do what I feel is right in the moment. However, I’ve been thinking about it and really? I’m going to school for accounting so hopefully working at my own firm and I want to get married. But I don’t want just your typical white picket fence. I want something more out there. Maybe a yellow fence or blue. We would have three or four kids with their toys strewn in the backyard. And a large dining room where we can have big dinners on Sunday afternoons with both of our families. 

Something more than average. Something astonishing. Have you ever thought about it? 

 

ALLYSON 

I mean yeah, every girl has. But to be completely honest that sounds wonderful. 

 

JESSE 

It’s Jesse Porter by the way. I forgot to say that earlier. They should really give us nametags instead of these stupid huge numbers. 

(JESSE pulls off this large sticker with the number 16 on it.)

 

ALLYSON 

Ford, but not associated with the cars or anything, it’s just our small Midwestern family. I’m from Minnesota but I moved out here from school. I’ll probably stay out here. A yellow and blue fence is sounding pretty good right about now. 

 

JESSE 

If you were given three wishes right now, what would you wish for?

 

ALLYSON

First, I would wish to be able to speak every language possible, that way I could travel anywhere and still be able to speak to everyone without barriers. Secondly, I would wish for everyone to love and accept each other completely unselfishly. And finally, I would honestly save my third wish for later. Everything else is exactly the way I want it. 

(The snow picks up and the wind gets stronger.)

 

We should probably head back to our cars, it’s getting pretty unruly out here. 

 

(They walk back until they get to the end of the street.) 

 

JESSE 

You know what, maybe I don’t believe in love at first sight, but I do believe in love at the 601st second.

 

ALLYSON 

Why 601? 

 

JESSE 

Because that is officially ten minutes and one second. The exact time our story becomes unwritten. 

 

(JIM CARSON’s voice sounds through the auditorium, he is not seen onstage.) 

 

JIM

Well, I always knew these Friday night shindigs would work out for somebody. Crazy kids. 

 

END PLAY