“The basic fact about human existence is not that it is a tragedy, but that it is a bore. It is not so much a war as an endless standing in line. The objection to it is not that it is predominantly painful, but that it is lacking in sense.” —H.L. Mencken

CAST.

ALAN
BETH
CHARLIE
DEBBIE
ELLIOT
FRANCINE
GUS
HELEN
YARG
WOLLEY

SETTING. A bare stage.

[At Rise: A line of people stretches across the stage and off stage on each side. The actors with speaking parts are across the center. Fill the remainder of the line and into the wings with extras or mannequins or figures painted on screens. Actors should be dressed alike, for example, in white shirts and khaki pants or skirts. Every actor (and any mannequin] has some kind of electronic device: smart phone, tablet computer, book reader, music player, etc. At the beginning, each actor is fully engaged with his or her device and must make an effort to break away to listen to another character; there can be random delays between lines. Actors can deliver many lines without removing attention from their electronic devices. Actors who do speak directly to others should return their attention to their devices immediately afterwards.]

ALAN:
This line doesn’t seem to be moving.

BETH:
Were you talking to me?

CHARLIE:
I’ve been moving.

BETH:
Is someone talking to me?

ALAN:
I really don’t think this line is moving at all.

CHARLIE:
I’ve been moving. I think.

BETH:
Who are you talking to?

DEBBIE:
Is anybody listening?

ALAN:
As if anyone will listen.

ELLIOT:
Can you see the end?

DEBBIE:
Which end?

BETH:
Is anybody listening?

ELLIOT:
Either end.

FRANCINE:
No.

ELLIOT:
No what?

FRANCINE:
No, I can’t see either end.

GUS:
Either end of what?

ALAN:
I suspect that this is a non-moving line.

HELEN:
The line, I guess. Is that what you mean?

BETH:
Are you asking me?

GUS:
No, I can’t see it either.

ALAN:
But I don’t see any other lines.

HELEN:
Good. I was afraid it was just me.

CHARLIE:
I’m pretty sure I have moved forward a little bit since I got in this line.

FRANCINE:
I don’t think I have moved at all.

ALAN:
To me, we don’t seem to be moving.

DEBBIE:
Personally, I don’t think I have either.

GUS:
Have either what?

ELLIOT:
Does she have a disease? A condition?

CHARLIE:
Now you’ve made me mess up my Angry Birds.

FRANCINE:
Movement.

GUS:
She moved?

ELLIOT:
A remedy? An antidote?

HELEN:
I moved here from Bolton, Mississippi.

GUS:
I don’t want to hear about your bowel movement.

HELEN:
We were talking about the line movement.

BETH:
How long has anyone been in this line?

FRANCINE:
Movement is important. Keeps you limber.

[Enter YARG and WOLLEY from opposite sides, on Segways, wearing uniforms of vague affiliation, one downstage of the line and the other upstage. They wave at each other, but they ignore the people in line as they cross the stage and exit.]

HELEN:
Hey!

GUS:
Did somebody just run past us?

FRANCINE:
I’m tired of this song list.

ELLIOT:
Hay is for horses.

FRANCINE:
Two people just rode by on Segways.

ELLIOT:
That thing will hold, like, a thousand songs.

BETH:
Did they talk to anybody?

ALAN:
It’s going to be a long day if this line isn’t going to move.

DEBBIE:
You want to trade music players for a while?

GUS:
Segways are cool.

ALAN:
If this line is moving, I haven’t noticed.

FRANCINE:
I’ve listened to all of them.

BETH:
I moved here from Connecticut.

HELEN:
I’d love to ride one some day.

CHARLIE:
Nebraska’s where I’m from.

DEBBIE:
What’s it like in Mississippi?

ELLIOT:
Is someone missing?

FRANCINE:
How could anyone be missing if they are in this line?

GUS:
How much has the line moved?

BETH:
Maybe this is the line for filing a missing persons report?

HELEN:
You mean today?

ALAN:
Of course he means today.

FRANCINE:
Tomorrow is another day.

HELEN:
He could mean any day.

GUS:
I need a recharge.

CHARLIE:
Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is yet to come.

GUS:
Today is the first day of...the rest of...something.

FRANCINE:
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow...something.

ELLIOT:
The same yesterday, today, and tomorrow...somebody.

BETH:
Who’s talking to me?

DEBBIE:
Recharge? Me too.

HELEN:
I asked everyone how long we’ve been in this line.

DEBBIE:
I asked what it’s like in Mississippi.

ALAN:
I don’t think this line has moved very much at all.

FRANCINE:
Hot. And nobody seems to know how long they’ve been in this line.

DEBBIE:
I’m talking to you.

CHARLIE:
Odds are we must have moved a little bit.

BETH:
Thank you.

ELLIOT:
I’m not leaving the line to look for anyone.

CHARLIE:
Surely someone is getting something done up there.

FRANCINE:
Who asked you to look for someone?

DEBBIE:
What do you want to talk about?

GUS:
Is someone missing again?

HELEN:
Seems like today is gone even as we live it.

BETH:
I don’t know. Politics?

CHARLIE:
Every second disappears when you think of it.

DEBBIE:
Anything but politics.

HELEN:
I was really hoping to renew my drivers license today.

ALAN:
I’m here to see my banker about my mortgage.

BETH:
Isn’t this the unemployment line?

CHARLIE:
I’m buying concert tickets.

DEBBIE:
I need to get a prescription refilled.

ELLIOT:
The newspaper had an ad for a job fair. That’s why I’m here.

FRANCINE:
I’m registering for stuff for my wedding. I just love my china pattern!

GUS:
Stamps. This is the post office, isn’t it?

DEBBIE:
How can one line be all these lines?

CHARLIE:
A line passes through at least two points. Minimum.

FRANCINE:
You can buy concert tickets online.

BETH:
Why are you bringing geometry into it?

ALAN:
I really don’t think this line is moving.

HELEN:
There must be some way to get it moving.

CHARLIE:
Each of us is a point the line passes through.

GUS:
It needs a swift kick in the butt.

ELLIOT:
I’m gonna kick some butt if I don’t get a job pretty soon!

HELEN:
Now I agree. It’s not moving.

CHARLIE:
A life is a line between two points.

GUS:
Geometry. I haven’t thought about geometry since high school.

FRANCINE:
You can’t kick a whole line.

CHARLIE:
Point A birth, Point B death.

GUS:
Not in geometry class.

HELEN:
It was in my tenth grade geometry class that I first fell in love.

ELLIOT:
Well it’s time to start kicking something! We’re just standing here!

[Enter YARG and WOLLEY on Segways. They swoop in beside ELLIOT.]

YARG:
You know the rules!

ELLIOT:
What rules?

WOLLEY:
No griping in line!

YARG:
No kicking up a fuss!

HELEN:
Says who?

YARG:
The rules!

BETH:
Are the rules posted somewhere?

ALAN:
There must be some rule that says a line has to move.

WOLLEY:
No such thing!

DEBBIE:
Can you confirm that our line has moved?

YARG:
We neither confirm nor deny movement of any kind!

GUS:
Your Segways are interfering with my reception.

WOLLEY:
Unimportant!

BETH:
How far to the end of the line?

YARG:
Which end?

GUS:
The end we’re looking toward, you idiot.

WOLLEY:
No insults!

FRANCINE:
My batteries are dying.

YARG:
Equidistant to each end!

GUS:
I need a restroom as well as a recharge.

WOLLEY:
Restrooms are at the end of the line!

YARG:
Batteries are for sale at the end of the line!

WOLLEY:
Pay by the hour for a charging station!

HELEN:
Do you have a weather report?

YARG:
No change!

ELLIOT:
I don’t care about batteries or restrooms or weather or rules. Get this line moving!

WOLLEY:
Come with us!

ELLIOT:
Where will you take me?

CHARLIE:
Does it matter?

ELLIOT:
Yes!

YARG:
No saying!

ELLIOT:
You don’t know?

WOLLEY:
We aren’t saying!

HELEN:
Don’t go with them.

ALAN:
If he goes, at least some people will get to move up.

YARG:
Let’s go!

ELLIOT:
Wait a minute.

WOLLEY:
Let’s go! Now!

ELLIOT:
[As YARG and WOLLEY push him off, upstage.] Wait a minute, please!

CHARLIE:
Well, one person is out of line.

BETH:
Is someone watching us?

ELLIOT:
[From offstage.] I said wait a minute! Please!

DEBBIE:
What do you think they’ll do to him?

BETH:
Are we on camera?

GUS:
That does it. My batteries are dead.

HELEN:
They’ll put him at the end of the line, don’t you think?

DEBBIE:
I only have one bar left.

CHARLIE:
Did he leave to go to a bar?

FRANCINE:
Of course we’re on camera. Cameras are everywhere.

ALAN:
We still aren’t moving.

BETH:
Do you see any cameras?

CHARLIE:
If we are alive, we are moving.

FRANCINE:
They’re too small to detect.

DEBBIE:
You guys are just kidding yourselves.

HELEN:
I’m worried about him.

GUS:
What can I do now that my batteries are dead?

BETH:
Who are you worried about?

HELEN:
The one they took away.

BETH:
Someone got taken away?

ALAN:
At least the weather is nice.

[Lights out. During the darkness, the line reverses. Lights up.]

ALAN:
This line doesn’t seem to be moving.

BETH:
Why did we come back here?

CHARLIE:
Did we ever leave?

DEBBIE:
It seems different from yesterday.

FRANCINE:
Yesterday is only a dream.

GUS:
I have bars.

HELEN:
Sometimes I wonder about the one they took.

GUS:
Was that yesterday? It seems so long ago.

HELEN:
Today is all we have to work with.

DEBBIE:
The weather seems to be holding.

BETH:
Are we inside or outside?

CHARLIE:
The weather will be what the weather will be.

ALAN:
It’s hard to tell, since we clearly are not moving.

GUS:
Each day is a gift from God.

DEBBIE:
I hope my cat is okay.

ALAN:
What is it with this line? Doesn’t it ever move?

HELEN:
Patience is a virtue.

BETH:
I wish I had a cat.

GUS:
Where did you leave it?

FRANCINE:
Some gifts are returned. Even from God.

CHARLIE:
I never listen to the weather forecast.

HELEN:
I don’t remember now.

CHARLIE:
Not that it matters where it is.

FRANCINE:
Did God know we’d be standing in lines when he created the universe?

HELEN:
Weather forecasts are hardly ever accurate.

GUS:
We should allow a margin of error.

BETH:
For God?

DEBBIE:
For weather forecasts.

ALAN:
I don’t want to think that God is to blame for this line.

GUS:
We are to blame for this line because we keep standing here.

HELEN:
Have you ever been anywhere else?

DEBBIE:
I don’t remember.

FRANCINE:
Hey, check out this YouTube video of people standing in line somewhere.

HELEN:
They look kind of dorky.

CHARLIE:
All lines, one line. It hardly makes a difference.

BETH:
Isn’t that us?

ALAN:
[Pointing toward the audience.] The camera is over there someplace.

[All look.]

DEBBIE:
So we’ve been on camera all along.

GUS:
I suppose they change the angle from time to time.

ALAN:
Whatever. It’s not moving the line.

FRANCINE:
Maybe if we all point in the direction we want to go.

ALAN:
Why?

BETH:
Why not?

GUS:
It’s worth a try.

HELEN:
It’s something to do.

FRANCINE:
Okay, everybody. Let’s point.

[Actors point toward the distant head of the line.]

DEBBIE:
I wonder if they see us.

HELEN:
Who are “they”?

ALAN:
Even if they see us, what can they do?

HELEN:
I said, Who are “they”?

GUS:
It doesn’t matter.

DEBBIE:
Whoever’s at the end of the line.

FRANCINE:
Maybe if we move our pointing back and forth.

[Following FRANCINE’s lead, actors point forward, pull hands back, point forward, etc. Pause. Nothing changes. Most return attention to their devices. Those with dead batteries look over a shoulder or stare away vacantly.]

CHARLIE:
Pointing or not pointing. Each is a choice, made eternally.

BETH:
Are you talking to me?

ALAN:
There’s nothing eternal about either one.

DEBBIE:
Everybody is talking to everybody. Or to whoever’s listening.

CHARLIE:
The choice is eternal. The choice.

FRANCINE:
Or anybody.

GUS:
Of course the choice to do anything is the choice not to do something else.

HELEN:
It’s just ourselves.

[Enter YARG and WOLLEY on Segways as before. They come to DEBBIE.]

YARG:
You! Come with us!

DEBBIE:
Why me?

WOLLEY:
No reason!

DEBBIE:
What did I do?

YARG:
It doesn’t matter!

DEBBIE:
I wasn’t griping!

WOLLEY:
It doesn’t matter!

ALAN:
I hope the line will move now.

YARG:
We have a dreamer!

BETH:
Are you listening to her?

DEBBIE:
I said, What did I do?

WOLLEY:
Nothing!

YARG:
Anything!

WOLLEY:
Whatever!

YARG:
Something!

CHARLIE:
The choice to do something is also the choice not to do something else.

FRANCINE:
That’s what he already said.

YARG:
Come along now!

DEBBIE:
No way!

WOLLEY:
That way!

GUS:
I said that already.

DEBBIE:
[As YARG and WOLLEY nudge her toward one wing.] Wait a minute!

CHARLIE:
You did? I thought I was making that up.

HELEN:
She’s going now.

FRANCINE:
So original I think I might puke.

CHARLIE:
Would you like to have dinner with me sometime?

DEBBIE:
Wait a minute!

BETH:
Are you talking to me?

YARG:
No more waiting!

GUS:
That’s what I should have said.

DEBBIE:
Let me say something!

WOLLEY:
Time’s up!

ALAN:
Good-bye! Now maybe the line will move.

DEBBIE:
[Offstage now.] Wait a second!

YARG:
[Offstage.] No delays!

BETH:
Were you asking me out?

CHARLIE:
[Pointing offstage.] Actually, I was asking her.

FRANCINE:
Isn’t that the way it always is?

GUS:
Isn’t what the way it always is?

HELEN:
Dating.

ALAN:
This line still doesn’t move, even when people are taken away.

CHARLIE:
Women always have some excuse for saying no.

GUS:
As long as I’m here, I think I might get a tattoo.

HELEN:
Men always pick a stupid time to ask.

BETH:
Like when being taken away by people in uniforms on Segways?

FRANCINE:
I’ll have to remember that one.

HELEN:
I don’t think I want a tattoo.

ALAN:
I thought this was the post office. I need stamps.

BETH:
I was going to renew my drivers license today.

CHARLIE:
I’m here to see my banker about a loan.

FRANCINE:
This is supposed to be the unemployment line.

GUS:
I’m buying tickets to the Elephant Boys concert.

HELEN:
I’m registering the china pattern for my wedding. I’m so excited!

CHARLIE:
A line passes through at least two points. Minimum. Or it’s not a line.

FRANCINE:
You can buy concert tickets online.

BETH:
Why are you bringing geometry into it?

ALAN:
I really don’t think this line is moving.

CHARLIE:
I don’t know. Geometry is something to talk about anyway.

HELEN:
My batteries are about dead.

GUS:
One bar.

[Enter YARG and WOLLEY on Segways, one upstage of the line and one downstage. As with their first entrance, they wave at each other, ignore the people in line, and continue off stage.]

CHARLIE:
Mine just went down to one bar.

FRANCINE:
They didn’t stop this time.

ALAN:
Why would they stop?

BETH:
Why wouldn’t they stop?

GUS:
To take someone away?

HELEN:
Did they take someone away?

FRANCINE:
Not this time.

BETH:
Few are chosen.

ALAN:
It doesn’t matter because the line doesn’t move.

GUS:
Oh well.

HELEN:
I seem to remember other people.

CHARLIE:
Surely there has been some movement since we’ve come here.

BETH:
Then they must exist in some form.

GUS:
Oh well.

FRANCINE:
At least, they existed.

HELEN:
Who existed?

ALAN:
No, we definitely are not moving in this line.

FRANCINE:
The ones that were taken away.

BETH:
Even if only in the imagination, don’t they exist?

CHARLIE:
Like points on a line.

GUS:
Oh well.

ALAN:
At least the weather is nice.

[Lights Out.]

ERIC WEIL is the author of two collections of poetry, A Horse at Hirshorn and Returning from Mars. Two other short plays, “Enter/Exit?” and “Hamlet, Act VI,” were produced in 2010. Recent poetry and criticism appears at The Hurricane Review, Main Street Rag, and Wild Goose Poetry Review. He teaches in the Department of English at Elizabeth City State University. For production permission or info about other plays, contact Eric at weilea [at] aol.com.