The Barrel (stageplay excerpt)

Act 1

An old brick warehouse with large arched windows leans over the boxing club, The Barrel. Everything is peeling and worn, dusty and musty like a basement. In the center, there is a sagging boxing ring with short stairs leading to the corners. Behind the ring, to the right, there is a small office with a desk full of papers, a file cabinet, some chairs and a fan. Behind, to the left, there is a cluster of metal lockers. Behind the ring, against the wall, a ladder leans just below the windows. In front of the ring and to the right, there is a wooden bench and a speedbag attached to the wall. To the left, there is another bench and a heavybag hanging from the ceiling. The entrance to the gym, a door with a light and a sign, is stage left front. The entrance to the toilets and water fountain is stage right.

[BEN leans against the ring with a pen in his mouth and a racing form in his hand. GHISLAIN sweeps the floor.]

BEN:
Jesus, how ya supposed to pick a winning horse from a lot like this?
(beat)
Zig, what’s your favourite number?

GHISLAIN:
Eight.

BEN:
Hmmm, Peeping Tom eh?
(laughing)
You’re a sicko Zig, you know that? Nah, what’s your favourite number between four, uh, seven and, uhhh, twelve?

[GHISLAIN continues to sweep.]

BEN:
C’mon, this is serious.

GHISLAIN:
Twelve.

BEN:
Hmmm, Pisces Pixie, nah, my ex-wife always called me a pisces, a pisces of shit. Bitch. Try again.

GHISLAIN:
Four.

BEN:
Hmmm, Practically Over. What the hell’s that even mean? If it ain’t over, it ain’t over. And it ain’t over ’til the bell rings. That’s no good neither.

[GHISLAIN continues to sweep.]

BEN:
C’mon.

[GHISLAIN stops sweeping, stands upright and glares at BEN. BEN stops leaning and folds the form.]

BEN:
Jesus, what am I looking to you for? You ain’t never been lucky a day in your life.

[GHISLAIN goes back to sweeping. BEN walks to the right of the ring and sits on the worn chair in his office.]

BEN:
I’m the fucking champ around here.

GHISLAIN:
(sarcastically, under his breath)
You’re the champ alright.

BEN:
What’s that?

GHISLAIN:
Nothing, Ben.

[BEN picks up the crowbar leaning against the filing cabinet and bangs it twice on the door of the safe embedded in the floor.]

BEN:
When are we gonna get this goddamn safe fixed?

GHISLAIN:
(under his breath)
When you get some goddamn money to put in there.

[BEN opens the safe and looks inside.]

BEN:
What? Take that broom handle out of your ass and speak up.

GHISLAIN:
Soon Ben, Soon.

BEN:
(shaking his head about the contents of the safe)
Jesus christ.

[PETRA enters stage left with a small backpack wearing very relaxed clothing. She stands in the doorway looking around. GHISLAIN stands the broom against the wall and comes over to her.]

GHISLAIN:
(to PETRA)
Hello. Can I help you?

PETRA:
Um. I’m not sure.

GHISLAIN:
Are you looking for someone?

PETRA:
I don’t know. The manager I guess?

GHISLAIN:
Hey Ben!

BEN:
What? I’m busy.

GHISLAIN:
Someone here to see you.

BEN:
Christ almighty.

[BEN comes out of the office with the crowbar in his hands and walks towards them. When he sees PETRA, he smiles.]

BEN:
Well, hello there sweetheart. What brings you to see the bullet?
(making a gun with his hand and firing)

PETRA:
(very uncomfortable)
Well, I want to, uh, learn.

BEN:
Learn what?

PETRA:
Learn to fight…
(under her breath and looking away)
…back.

BEN:
Fight? And mess up that pretty little face of yours?

[PETRA looks away.]

BEN:
Listen sister, this ain’t no aerobics class.

PETRA:
I know that. I just…

BEN:
Just what?

PETRA:
I just…

BEN:
Just want to be the million dollar baby.

PETRA:
No, I…

BEN:
Just want to show your gloves off to your friends.

PETRA:
No…

BEN:
You want to be sore and tired all the time?

PETRA:
Well, I…

BEN:
You want bruises?

PETRA:
(getting flustered)
No…

BEN:
You want pain?

PETRA:
(shrinking)
No…

BEN:
You wanna go to work with a black eye?

PETRA:
(unconsciously)
Wouldn’t be the first time.

[Beat. BEN cocks his head.]

BEN:
What’s that supposed to mean?

PETRA:
It means I want to learn to fight. To fight back. Learn to defend myself.

GHISLAIN:
From who?

PETRA:
What does that matter?

GHISLAIN:
Someone hits you?

PETRA:
I didn’t come here to…

BEN:
Then what did you come here for?

PETRA:
I want you to teach me. I want to train.

BEN:
This is a boxing gym not a woman’s shelter.

PETRA:
Sorry, I shouldn’t have come…

[PETRA turns to leave. GHISLAIN looks at BEN and looks back towards his broom while BEN looks at the crowbar in his hands and sighs.]

BEN:
Alright darling, wait a second. What’s your name?

[PETRA turns back at the door.]

PETRA:
Petra.

BEN:
Petra. Alright Petra. First two weeks free, then you buy membership by the month, half-year or full year. You get a locker when you get a membership. There’s no women’s john, but there’s a stall with a toilet. This here’s Zig. He’ll be working with you. Any questions, ask him. I’ll leave you two to get, uh, acquainted.

[BEN walks back to his office and begins rifling through the mountain of papers on his desk.]

GHISLAIN:
Uhh…so…what, uh…

PETRA:
Maybe this was a mistake.

GHISLAIN:
No. I just…uh…

PETRA:
I’m not contagious.

GHISLAIN:
No, no. Uh…I guess I am wondering where you would like to start?

PETRA:
Where everyone else starts.

GHISLAIN:
Um, ok. Just put your things over by the lockers.

[PETRA walks to the lockers and drops her jacket and purse in a pile on the floor.]

BEN:
(throwing around the papers on his desk and yelling)
Where’s that goddamn invoice from those guys who fixed the floor of the ring? I want my money back from those bastards. It’s uneven in corner four.

[BEN gets frantic, picking up objects and throwing them around.]

BEN:
Zig! Where’d you put it? I seen you in here moving around my stuff.

GHISLAIN:
Last time I was in there was the last time I was helping you to find something. I think maybe, you check the file cabinet.

[PETRA stands next to the bench, stage left, and waits.]

BEN:
The file cabinet? Who put it in there?

[BEN opens the file cabinet and rummages inside. He pulls out an old sandwich, sniffs it, grimaces and throws it back in the cabinet. He looks again and finds the receipt.]

BEN:
Jesus, can’t keep nothing straight around here, gotta do everything myself. Christ almighty.

[BEN picks up the phone and slams the office door shut.]

PETRA:
Is he always like that?

GHISLAIN:
Only when he is awake.

PETRA:
Lucky you.

GHISLAIN:
Lucky us.

PETRA:
So where do we start?

GHISLAIN:
Footwork. You will not get anywhere if you are not quick on your feet. Know why?

[PETRA shakes her head.]

GHISLAIN:
Because you will be laying on your back with a bloody nose.

PETRA:
But I, uh, won’t actually get hit while I’m here training?

GHISLAIN:
Boxing is just as much about getting hit as it is about hitting.

PETRA:
Right. But I don’t have to get hit while we train?

GHISLAIN:
Do you want to fight?

PETRA:
I want to learn to fight.

GHISLAIN:
How can you learn to fight without getting hit?

PETRA:
I’ve learned enough about getting hit.

GHISLAIN:
How about not getting hit?

[PETRA looks to the ground. Beat.]

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