A small, cramped studio apartment with pristine white walls. An open kitchen area with a fridge and stove moved to the centre of the room. A bathroom with door closed, a bedroom/living room, and a window.
Boxes and piles of random furniture and junk are stacked nearly to the ceiling. A box of kitty litter upstage. A door downstage.
If there were people in here, there’d hardly be room to move.
Water is running in the bathroom at high pressure; probably a shower.
There’s a buzz at the door.
Somewhere amongst all the junk, a cat meows mournfully.
The cat meows again, and another cat interjects with another meow, also slow and mournful. Okay, so there are at least two sad cats in here.
Water runs in the bathroom.
The door buzzes again.
The water in the bathroom stops.
A scruffy but attractive man in his mid-30s, Ryan, walks slowly out of the bathroom wearing just a towel around his waist and closes the door behind him. He puts on a pair of foggy glasses and navigates the room of boxes.
A cell phone rings and vibrates across the kitchen counter.
Ryan goes over and answers it.
Ryan:Hello? … Oh, shit, sorry.
He hangs up the phone and disappears behind some boxes. When he comes back out, he’s wearing a pair of shorts and is pulling on a t-shirt.
He goes to the door and opens it to reveal Keri, 25, trim and polished, in the tiniest white camisole and white mini-shorts in the world. She holds a cell phone and a large glass jar of homemade cookies in her hands. She smiles at him brightly.
Keri: Sorry, am I early?
Ryan looks at his watch.
Ryan: Uhh, nope.
She shoves the jar of cookies out at him proudly.
Keri: Housewarming. They’re not very good.
Ryan: Thanks. I’m sure they’re good.
Keri: I promise you, they’re not.
Ryan: I’m sure they’re fine.
Keri smiles and shrugs. They stand there awkwardly for a moment. She pushes the cookies at him further. He takes them and turns and enters the apartment. Keri follows behind him.
Keri: Wow, it’s really nice.
Ryan: Well, it’ll be nice when it’s ready.
Keri: It is nice.
Keri moves over to the window and looks out.
Ryan: So, we have to paint the kitchen and the bathroom.
Keri turns back to him, eager.
Keri: Okay. Let’s do it.
Ryan places the jar of cookies on top of a pile of boxes.
Ryan: So let’s start with the kitchen and bathroom. Which one do you want?
Ryan: The fan in the bathroom isn’t working, but the kitchen has all the cabinets and whatnot.
Keri: Umm. I’ll take the kitchen.
Ryan: Okay. So, sand the walls first till there’s a surface, and then wash them, and then tape the edges, and then paint.
Keri hesitates, and then nods.
Ryan: Sandpaper’s there. Sponge. We can share the bucket of soapy water. And then tape there… And here’s the paint.
Ryan crouches down and opens up a can of paint. The paint on the bottom of the lid is very dark.
Keri: Is that… dark brown?
Keri: I guess I thought we’d be painting white but…
She looks at the beautiful white paint job.
Ryan: I was wondering why you were wearing that. I said to bring old clothes…
Keri: These are old.
No they’re not.
Keri: Why is the can only half-full?
Ryan: It’s the same colour we had in our old kitchen. We used half the can and kept the rest. I figure it’s more economical this way. Instead of buying a whole new can.
Ryan: Plus we found that it was good at hiding the grease. Makes the cabinets look white even if they’re grimy.
Keri: Okay, well…
Ryan: Okay. Cool.
After a beat, Ryan takes some painting equipment and walks into the bathroom and turns the light on. He begins work in there.
Keri stands for a moment, confused. Then she looks at the kitchen wall. She looks around the piles of boxes and finds a step ladder. She places the step ladder in front of the wall.
Ryan begins to sand the wall loudly in the next room.
Keri grabs a piece of sand paper and climbs up the ladder and begins to sand down the small portion of wall above the oven hood.
She does this for a very long time.
She climbs down from the ladder and moves it aside. Then she crouches down and begins to sand the small wall below the oven hood and above the small kitchen counter.
She does this for a long time.
Ryan comes into the room with a large sponge and dips it into a bucket of soapy water behind Keri. Wrings it out. Keri can’t hear him over the sound of her sanding. He disappears again into the bathroom and starts wiping down the walls.
Keri turns and looks over her shoulder, thinking she heard something. Then turns back to sanding.
She stands upright and takes a sponge. She dips it into the sudsy water and begins to wipe down the area she just sanded.
After a while:
Keri (shouting): Just so you know –
Ryan sticks his head out the bathroom door.
Keri: I said, just so you know, I’m not going to ask you what happened with you and Laura.
Ryan steps out of the bathroom, sponge in hand.
Ryan: And… why’s that?
Keri: It’s not my style.
Keri: I’m just saying. If you want to talk about it, that’s cool. But I’m not going to ask you about it.
Ryan disappears into the bathroom.
Keri waits for a moment. Then shrugs, and moves the step ladder in front of the cabinets again.
Ryan comes back out of the bathroom.
Ryan: I’m not avoiding talking about it. It’s just, when this kind of thing happens, everyone wants to know what happened, and you get tired of telling the story.
Keri: No, totally, I get it.
Ryan goes back into the bathroom. He picks up a roll of green masking tape and breaks off a long strip of it. Begins taping the trim in the bathroom.
Keri climbs up the ladder and cleans the wall above the oven hood. When she’s done, she starts to climb down and is alarmed when an unseen cat whines loudly.
Keri: Wha –
Keri hits her elbow really, really hard on the oven hood.
Keri winces in pain and stumbles off the ladder, letting out a silent scream, and stepping right into the kitty litter.
Keri: Oh my God, I can’t see. I’m blind.
Keri stumbles around the kitchen, eyes wide and blinking, holding her arm.
Ryan (shouting): What?
Keri doesn’t say anything. She retches into the kitty litter.
Ryan steps out of the bathroom.
Keri stands upright, eyes blinking blindly into space, and clenches and unclenches her fist a couple of times nonchalantly.
Keri (at the space beside Ryan): Oh I just hit my elbow.
Ryan: Ah, the funny bone. Not humorous.
Keri steps over to the sink and runs some water. She dabs some onto her face and neck.
Ryan: You okay?
Keri leans forward over the sink and rests her head on her forearm. She breathes heavily into the sink. Ryan watches.
Ryan: You can take a break if you want.
Keri doesn’t move for a moment. The cat whines again.
Keri: What IS that?
Ryan: It’s my cat… Well… not my cat…
The other cat moans; serious over-the-top cat grief.
Ryan: That one’s mine.
Keri suddenly hurries into the bathroom and slams the door.
Ryan stands there for a moment. Then takes the jar of cookies and sits down on a box. He opens the jar and eats a cookie slowly, looking up at Keri’s work. He gets up, jar in arm, and approaches the wall. He inspects it closely. He nods, partially satisfied.
A cat meows.
He sits back down and takes another cookie.
The toilet flushes in the bathroom. Water runs.
Ryan eats his cookie.
The water is turned off in the bathroom.
The door opens and Keri steps out, head drenched in water. Her mascara is caked under her eyes a bit.
Keri sits down on a box across from him.
Keri: It’s the ulnar nerve. If you hit it hard enough, it’s not uncommon to pass out or vomit.
Ryan: How do you know that?
Keri: I’m smart. (Beat). I didn’t vomit. Just so you know.
Ryan: Are you okay now?
Keri nods and reaches over to the jar in his hands and grabs a cookie. She eats it.
Ryan: Not bad.
Keri: I tried to do something different. They were supposed to be amazing. (Silence.) I gave it a shot.
Keri gets up and walks back over to the window.
Keri: Every time I look out there they’re doing something cute. Earlier they were barbequing together. Now they’re toasting to something.
Ryan gets up and stands beside her, looking out.
Keri: Are they real?
Ryan: They’re extras.
Keri glances at Ryan and smiles. She turns very close to him, her chest nearly touching his arm. She looks up at him as he looks out the window.
Ryan sighs and takes another bite of his cookie and heads back into the bathroom.
Ryan (mouth full): That masking tape probably won’t stick to the melamine cabinets anyway so you can just skip right to painting.
Ryan disappears into the bathroom and starts painting.
Keri goes to the paint can and pours some into a paint tray. She takes a roller brush, rolls it in the paint, and hesitates for a long time before painting a long dark streak across the wall. And then she rolls over it, filling the white wall with dark paint.
After a long time:
Ryan (shouting): So… are the guys at work still bothering you?
Keri stops painting and looks in the direction of the bathroom, hopeful.
Keri: Sort of. Yeah.
Ryan (shouting): And… you’re not interested in any of these guys?
Keri: It makes me wonder, though, you know… if I’m doing or saying something to them that betrays that I’m looking for something…
Ryan (shouting): I dunno… You definitely don’t seem like you’re out to seduce anyone.
Keri looks down at her outfit. The paint-roller in her hand. The jar of cookies sitting on top of a box. She makes a face.
Keri goes to the wall and quickly keeps painting, leaving one small blank box below the oven hood where the stove will go.
She grabs a pencil off the counter and crouches down and writes something in the white box. Not just a few words. A note. Then she signs it.
She stands up and pushes the stove in front of it. And then keeps painting the wall around it.
She paints for a long time.
She grabs the ladder and puts it back in place. Climbs up, paints the small wall above the oven hood and cabinets. She fills all the white space with dark brown paint.
Ryan steps out of the bathroom and watches her finish.
She climbs down the latter and places the roller in the tray. She faces Ryan and steps in close, looking up at him. He looks down at her.
Silence. Ryan lowers his gaze to the floor.
Ryan: So how did you get here?
Keri: I took a bus. Two buses.
Ryan: Did it take a long time?
Keri: Nope. It was really fast, actually.
Ryan: I… could drive you home if you want.
Keri looks at him for a long time. Then she looks at the kitchen wall.
Keri: Gonna put another coat on that?
Céleste Parr is a published, produced, and four-time award-winning screenwriter and playwright. She holds a BA (with distinction) in Honours English Literature and Creative Writing from Concordia University and is currently completing her M.A. at McGill. She has studied screenwriting at both Concordia University and UCLA. Céleste also currently works as a script consultant.
Volunteers for Issue 7
For sub-editing this issue MTLS thanks:
- Lequanne Collins-Bacchus
- Amanda Tripp
- Bianca Spence
- Rosel Kim
MTLS is grateful to Ian Loiselle for his hard work on web management.
PEN Canada Presents: TAXI Stand Jam!"