MAN: Seven months?
STRANGER: I’m afraid so.
MAN: You’re afraid so. (Pause.) Well that’s just not gonna work. No. That’s not gonna work.
STRANGER: It’s going to have to.
MAN: It’s not going to.
STRANGER: You don’t have a choice.
MAN: What about my kids? What about their choice?
STRANGER: Your kids.
MAN: Yeah, my kids! My wife! What about them?
STRANGER: Your family.
MAN: That’s right.
STRANGER: What about them?
MAN: What do you mean, what about them? What are they gonna do? Am I going out on like a work related —
MAN: Right! So what about them?
STRANGER: That’s what you’re upset about?
MAN: Of course I’m upset about it. We were getting somewhere. Finally getting somewhere, me and them.
STRANGER: Yes. And now —
MAN: Yeah, and now. This.
STRANGER: And you expected —
MAN: At least to get the house paid off after — ! Some kind of something set up for them.
MAN: Yeah. A house somewhere or — .
STRANGER: Make sure they were —
MAN: I wanted to set them up right! I wanted to give them something! Jackson, been telling him since he was a little guy about giving him his first car. Just like my old man and me. We had a thing where he took me to the lot and I drove him to Bloomington and he said he’d cover any tickets twenty-four hours. Three, I gave the old bastard. Three. (Pause.) Jackson. I got to at least give him that. (Pause.) I am going to give him that, dammit. This will not happen.
STRANGER: It will.
MAN: It will not. You. You gotta give me at least till his sixteenth birthday. Just till after that ride, then I’ll go. (Pause.) Just till after that ride! (STRANGER stands.) No, dammit, you ain’t going nowhere! (STRANGER remains impassive, gathers his things to leave.) YOU’RE STAYING RIGHT HERE! YOU WILL NOT LEAVE. I CAN’T — YOU CAN’T — (MAN reaches for STRANGER but for some reason snaps his hand back whenever he touches STRANGER. STRANGER heads for the exit.) Look, I can do whatever you want, okay? I can do whatever you want. We can make some kind of deal, right? Like in the stories. You are not leaving. You cannot leave. NO! (Pause.) DON’T YOU SEE THIS CAN’T HAPPEN RIGHT NOW? FINALLY SOMETHING GOOD HAS HAPPENED TO ME! SOMETHING GOOD’S HAPPENED AND NOW YOU’RE GOING TO TAKE IT AWAY! I — I MET SOMEONE! (STRANGER pauses, looking back.) I met someone, alright?
STRANGER: Go on.
MAN: (Desperate.) Name’s Cheryl. Met her on a trip to L.A. (STRANGER turns, begins to walk back.) And — dammit this kind of thing doesn’t happen to me. I —. This girl —. It’s like —. Oh I don’t even know but it’s like it’s finally happened for me, you understand? It’s happened.
STRANGER: What about Carla?
MAN: You — don’t —. It’s not like that. I love my family.
MAN: Yes, I do.
STRANGER: Yes. And that’s why you want to stay.
MAN: That’s right.
STRANGER: The car ride.
MAN: Damn right the car ride. (STRANGER rises. MAN panics.) For them — but yes — for her too. Okay! Yes! It’s about her too.
STRANGER: (Sits.) Cheryl.
MAN: Yeah, Cheryl. I just feel like whatever my life’s been so far it’s nothing compared to what’s coming next, you know? She’s flying out in a week. I got this place downtown all lined up to surprise. We were gonna talk about setting up a new life. Together.
STRANGER: A new life.
MAN: Just me and her.
STRANGER: Just you and her.
MAN: It’s love is what it is. Love.
STRANGER: And the car ride with Jackson —
MAN: So you can give me that, right? Hey. Love. Hey, you can give me that? Come on.
STRANGER: (Slowly. Rising.) I can give you seven months.
MAN: Dammit, no! Wait! Wait just a damn minute! Just tell me this, okay. Just tell me. I gotta know. Is it — Is it, you know, this? (Grabs belly.) Is this what does it? (Pause.) Tell me. (Pause.) It is, isn’t it? (Smiles.) I knew it. I knew it!
STRANGER: You don’t know a thing.
MAN: I know this, you stopped when I said it. You stopped. You don’t want me to start thinking about how I’m gonna go and that tells me I think the right thing you’re in trouble.
STRANGER: I’m in trouble.
MAN: And that, friend, that lets me know I got a chance.
MAN: A chance.
STRANGER: A chance for what? A chance for what?
MAN: A chance to get what I never had! Never had the chance to have. Now, what do I gotta do? (Pause.) WHAT DO I GOTTA DO? You’re gonna tell me. Okay? What do I gotta do? Come on, man, I already figured out that you ain’t got me yet.
STRANGER: You did.
MAN: Damn right I did. Aced you at your own game is what I did.
STRANGER: Okay fine, ace. Let’s say you did. Let’s say I’m all yours. Now what?
MAN: Good. Now you tell me what I gotta do here. Just tell me. Exercise, right?
MAN. Right? Joggin’ and all that? Membership at the club? I’ll do whatever. So, let’s say joggin’ to start. What do I need, half-hour a day?
MAN: Half-hour. It’s a long time. You ever jogged before?
STRANGER: Oh, you’re gonna need more than that.
MAN: What, forty-five minutes?
STRANGER: An hour at least.
MAN: An hour?
STRANGER: If you want to do less —
MAN: An hour joggin’? Fine. An hour. I’ll work up to it. I’ll start with an hour. Okay. What about eatin’? You want me to stop eating certain things, yes?
STRANGER: More than that.
MAN: What like a diet or something? Health food?
STRANGER: I want you to stop eating period.
MAN: Hey that’s not funny.
STRANGER: I do.
MAN: Yeah I know you do, but we we’re working out something here. We’re working on this.
MAN: So I give up, like, what? Burgers? Hot dogs?
STRANGER: Fries. Ketchup.
MAN: Oh God I love fries though.
STRANGER: Like I said —
MAN: Okay, no fries! No fries. No ketchup. No fried anything, small price to pay. And no more Sunday waffles neither. Dammit, Carla didn’t I tell you it’d catch up with me.
STRANGER: I’d say all fat is out.
MAN: Fine, all fat.
STRANGER: And sugar.
MAN: Yeah, I’ll go heathy a hunnerd percent.
STRANGER: Ice cream. Beer.
MAN: A hunnerd percent. Beer. This isn’t happening. No. It’s fine. You have my word.
MAN: Alright. Good! Okay. What else? The gym, I gotta hit that right?
STRANGER: The Gym. Definitely.
MAN: Gym’s no problem. No problem, did that plenty back in the day.
STRANGER: (Laughing.) You did.
MAN: Oh yeah. Hour or two a day in high school. Best I ever felt.
STRANGER: So that’s what, ten, twelve hours a week?
MAN: Yes sir.
STRANGER: Plus showers and drives back and forth maybe fifteen hours?
MAN: You bet.
STRANGER: Sixty hours a month?
MAN: I guess.
STRANGER: Seven-twenty a year?
MAN: Seems like a lot, but man, you feel great.
STRANGER: Wonderful, I’m sure. How long do you people live these days?
MAN: How long do we live. You oughta know.
STRANGER: What, seventy years?
MAN: Yeah, sounds about right.
STRANGER: And you gym people, if you’re serious, you do this, what, from eighteen to fifty?
MAN: Sixty if you’re smart. Fifty’s when you really need it.
STRANGER: Yes, sixty if you’re smart. You really need it for that long stretch at the end, don’t you?
MAN: You bet you do.
STRANGER: Makes all the difference in the world.
STRANGER: Changes everything.
MAN: Bet your ass. My old man, he was fit as a twenny year old till the day he died.
STRANGER: Which was?
MAN: (Pause.) You know when.
STRANGER: Yes. Yes I do. I do.
MAN: (Angry, but afraid to show it.) Alright, look, enough of this. Enough. We got a deal or what?
STRANGER: (Pause.) You know what? Yes. Yes, we have a deal.
MAN: Great! Fantastic. And look, when my time is up, I mean really up now, you just do your thing. You just go to it.
STRANGER: Oh, I don’t think you need to worry about that.
MAN: You just come and get me, and I’ll be all ready to go.
STRANGER. Count on it.
MAN: No complaints.
STRANGER: I’m sure.
MAN: No, really. I’ll be ready the next time. Promise.
STRANGER: Of course you do.
MAN: Until then?
STRANGER: See you soon.