Spring 2014

Volume 9, Issue 1



The Check-Up


Cast of Characters




A doctor’s waiting room. The walls are a faded aqua blue, with a few old public health posters hung loosely upon them. A dirty aquarium rests in one corner.



Present day


(Two men sit on cheap metal chairs in opposite sides of the room. The chairs are bolted to the ground. PAUL sits in a manner that would suggest an introverted nature, reading a newspaper. SAMMY'S left leg shakes slightly as he looks around the room, his gaze lingering occasionally on the posters.)

Sammy: (still looking at walls) So...what are you here for?

(PAUL briefly glances up from his newspaper, sees the other looking away and returns to reading.)

Sammy: What...what are you here for?

Paul: (looking up again) Just a check-up.

(PAUL returns to his paper. SAMMY'S gaze is fixed upon him. PAUL realizes the man is waiting for him to speak.)

Paul: Hi, I’m Paul.

(SAMMY nods then looks away again, this time focusing his attention on the small, dirty aquarium that sits in the corner of the room. PAUL waits a few moments then returns to his paper with a slight shrug of his shoulders.)

Sammy: I’m Sammy.

Paul: Short for Samuel?

(SAMMY stares at him uncomprehendingly for a moment then PAUL resumes reading.)

Sammy: You were wrong. That is you said the were wrong.

(PAUL looks up, evidently perplexed.)

Sammy: (scratching his head) You’re supposed to ask what they’re in for. At the doctor’s. Not tell names.

(SAMMY then returns his attentions to the aquarium.)

Paul: Why are you supposed --

Sammy: (interrupting) Because they might be dying. You don’t want to know their names if they’re dying. (looking back at PAUL) Just thought you should know. If you want to learn names you should at least ask what they’re in for, then decide. I could be dying and then when you ask and I tell you you’ll think “Sammy’s dying, oh no.” Now you have to ask what I’m here for, even though I might be dying. You’ll be upset and you have nobody to blame but yourself.

Paul: Pardon?

Sammy: (assertively) Go on, ask.

Paul: What are you in for?

Sammy: Check-up.   

(PAUL sighs and looks back at the newspaper. SAMMY directs his attention to a poster of a heavily pregnant man.)

Sammy: (reading) “Would you be more careful if it was you that got pregnant?”


Sammy: Do you like cars?

Paul: (not looking up from paper) I guess.

Sammy: That’s another thing we have in common then, Paul, both like cars, both here for check-ups. Did you know that, when asked by a stranger their reason for being at a doctor’s seventy-four percent men will say it’s just a check-up?

(PAUL doesn’t look up, but his paper shakes momentarily.)

Paul: Why’s that?

Sammy: Do you want to know why I like cars? (smiling, waiting for PAUL to give some response) When a car goes in for a check up, and it can’t be fixed they can just sell its parts and crush the rest. That’s pretty clever, but when a person is broken they just get put onto a machine and their time is...strung out until they finally die. A broken car makes money, a broken person costs.

(PAUL closes his newspaper and looks at SAMMY.)

Paul: What are you talking about?

Sammy: Did you know that seventy-four percent of men say they would rather have a car than a family?

Paul: (impatient) What are you going on about?

Sammy: I can’t remember my father’s face...he came in for a check-up once. Never came out again. (pauses and laughs) I can remember his car though. Can you remember your father’s car?

Paul: What?

(SAMMY idly scratches at the grey paint on the seat beside him.)

Sammy: I shouldn’t be so surprised of course, studies show the average human will forget seventy-four percent of the faces it sees in its lifetime. No wonder we do such bad things. If we’re not smart enough to remember faces, how can we be smart enough to know right from wrong?

Paul: Are you even listening to me?

(SAMMY has gathered the flakes of paint he scratched off into a neat little pile in the palm of his hand, which now seems his sole focus.)

Sammy: We’re still a good deal smarter than anything else though. And we could be smarter. People say we only use a tenth of our brain capacity. It’s actually closer to --

Paul: (interrupting) Seventy-four percent?

Sammy: (looking up, impressed) Are you a scientist?

Paul: What’s wrong with you?

Sammy: We’re at a doctor’s office, aren’t we? What’s wrong with you?

Paul: (defensive) There’s nothing wrong with me. You’re just mad.

Sammy: Am I? And I suppose you’re just in for a check-up? No need to lie to me, I can see right through you.

(SAMMY blows the paint scrapings off his hand and yawns.)

Paul: What are you really in for?

Sammy: Why do you like cars?

Paul: What are you talking about?

Sammy: Are you depressed?

Paul: What do you mean? Who are you?

Sammy: That’s two questions, that’s cheating. Now you’re a liar and a cheat.

Paul: What do you mean liar?

Sammy: You’re not here for a check-up. You don’t get check-ups at a shrink’s office. So what is it, depressed, schizo, too embarrassed to tell?

Paul: (enraged) Stop it! Just stop...talking!

(PAUL crumples the newspaper and throws it to the floor.)

Sammy: Did you know that seventy-four percent of doctors say the first stage to recovering from a mental condition is admitting you have one? No point in lying. Lying won’t help you. I have a problem. I’m not scared to admit it. I come here, and it helps. Just tell me you have a problem, I won’t laugh.

Paul: (holding his head in his hands, weary) Ok...I...I have a problem.

Sammy: What is it, manic depression?

Paul: It’s just the couldn’t cope. It’s the stress.

Sammy: (nodding his head, seemingly sympathetic) It always is.

Paul: It’s just...look, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have gotten so angry. I’m not meant to let myself get angry. It’s just with work and just feels like my life has been melting away, and I can’t stop it.

Sammy: But what about family? Surely they can support you.

Paul: I...there’s no one.

(PAUL begins to weep.)

Sammy: So it’s pretty much rock bottom?

Paul: (through tears) Yes.

Sammy: The worst it could possibly be?

(PAUL nods.)

Sammy: Literally no way it could be any worse?

(PAUL nods. SAMMY takes a deep breath and rises, slapping his legs as he does so.)

Sammy: Well, that helps. Thank you.

(SAMMY walks away. PAUL looks up in despair.)

Paul:’re...not here to see the doctor?

(SAMMY stops, doesn’t turn around.)

Sammy: No.

Paul: But, you said you were having a check-up.

Sammy: So did you.

(SAMMY exits. PAUL weeps in his seat.)





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