Scene: a dingy office. Two desks side by side, facing the audience. Each desk has two stacks of manila folders, of varying colors, at opposite sides of the desk. In between, there is a standard office blotter. Each desk also has four revolving racks holding rubber stamps, with about fifteen stamps per rack. There are also five stamp pads open on each desk: black, blue, green, red, purple.
Seated at the desks are, to the right, Maristella, a somewhat worn woman in her late 40s, once highly attractive in a dark, Mediterranean way, now faded, her dark hair streaked with gray, her jawline beginning to sag, her body a bit thicker than it was. At the left, Leon, a man in his early 50s, his graying hair thinning, developing a double chin, perhaps forty pounds heavier than he should be. He wears a wedding ring. She does not.
Throughout the action of the play, both Maristella and Leon continue to work. Their work is to take a folder from the stack of files to their immediate left, place it on the blotter, scrutinize each piece of paper in the folder, select the appropriate stamp from the appropriate rack, stamp it on the appropriate ink pad, then on the paper. After each piece of paper is stamped, it is turned over to the left, and the process continues with the next piece of paper. Once the last piece of paper is stamped, the entire folder is closed and placed on top of the stack of folders to their immediate right. At intervals throughout the action, Angela, a thin, graying woman in her fifties dressed entirely in gray, will enter from the right carrying a fresh stack of folders. She will place the folders on Maristella’s left side, pick up Maristella’s right stack, place it on Leon’s left side, then remove Leon’s right stack and exit to the left. She never speaks. And her presence is never acknowledged.
At start: we hear the sound of stamping in darkness. Lights slowly fade up. Silence for several beats. Then:
MARISTELLA: Do you think they’re buying a cheaper brand of ink these days?
MARISTELLA: The ink. Does it seem cheaper to you?
MARISTELLA: It doesn’t last as long.
MARISTELLA: No. I need to re-ink the black every day now.
MARISTELLA: Yes. Definitely cheaper. Turns gray by four o’clock.
MARISTELLA: I don’t. But then I have to in the morning.
MARISTELLA: Yes. Much lower quality than it was when I started. You have to be careful to stamp lighter than you used to.
MARISTELLA: Still, you’re right. We used to be to pound the stamps as hard as we wanted.
MARISTELLA: Yes. Angry at the supervisor for being a creep—
MARISTELLA: Practically breathing in your face. Stank of Sen-Sen.
MARISTELLA: Don’t remind me. He was creepy.
MARISTELLA: I wanted to. And you’re right. He was a creepy bastard. Got what he deserved.
MARISTELLA: They shoulda promoted you, Leon. You had seniority.
MARISTELLA: But you’re great at what you do. The best.
MARISTELLA: Everybody says so. All the girls in the pool tell me, “Maristella, you’re so lucky to be working right next to
MARISTELLA: “You’re right,” I say. “He’s a real virtuoso. A regular Liberace with the stamps. It’s a joy to watch him.”
(They stamp in silence for a couple of beats.)
MARISTELLA: Sure. You know you can always ask me anything. How long have we worked together?
MARISTELLA: It’s twenty-seven. And four months.
MARISTELLA: Well, it was my first job out of business school. And you weren’t very helpful.
MARISTELLA: Don’t you remember? You were worried that there wouldn’t be enough work for two people. You even said so. You said you were scared they’d fire you. Since you earned more money than me. And you'd just gotten married.
MARISTELLA: Yes. But you were wrong.
MARISTELLA: And four months.
MARISTELLA: So what did you want to ask me,
MARISTELLA: Did you fill out the requisition form?
MARISTELLA: Well, she’s not going to do anything about it without the right form.
MARISTELLA: Only if you’ll leave where I can reach it if I need it.
MARISTELLA: Happy to share. Always. All you have to do is ask. (smiles to herself)
They stamp in silence for a beat or two. Leon uses the A-68 twice more, putting it on one of his own racks absentmindedly.
MARISTELLA: Just think. Twenty seven years.
MARISTELLA: How many stamps do you think we’ve worn out in that time?
Angela comes through.
MARISTELLA: Gallons of ink.
MARISTELLA: Working here is really a challenge. What did you have in mind?
MARISTELLA (admiringly): Like I said, you’re a true artist.
MARISTELLA: Yeah. But still, there are other things in life.
MARISTELLA: Some things are more important.
MARISTELLA: Happiness. Fulfillment. Companionship. Love.
MARISTELLA: Mostly. But I don’t have a Francie.
MARISTELLA: You mean ‘gay.’ And no, I’m not. But I’m alone.
MARISTELLA: At work, yeah. A great work team. Great. That’s sure fulfilling. (reaches for A-28 stamp. It’s not there.) Where the fuck is my stamp?
MARISTELLA: You bet your ass I said “fuck,” putz. Where the fuck is my stamp?
MARISTELLA: My A-28, you prick. You borrowed it. Give it back. I need it!
End of play.