A disarrayed bedroom and kitchen. Malcolm Kendricks is draped across the bed (which is off to the right of the stage near to a door which leads to the bathroom), not completely covered by the jumble of blankets and sheets. He is snoring. Loudly.
On the floor next to the bed is an overturned ice-bucket, an overturned tumbler, a legal pad, and several balled-up sheets of yellow paper. On the bedside table is a bottle rum (three-fourths empty), a digital clock-radio (the time is ), an ashtray, and a half-empty pack of Salems.
Centerstage in the foreground is a u-shaped desk unit with a personal computer on the left side (the screen is still on), a battered manual typewriter on the right side, and in the middle, a pair of glasses, a lamp, an ashtray, and a telephone connected to an answering machine (the "message waiting" light in blinking.) Just beyond the desk is an unpainted wooden cabinet with a stereo system and several dozen compact discs and cassettes haphazardly "filed". On top of the cabinet are a half-dozen stuffed animals of various sizes. Next to that is another unpainted cabinet jammed from top to bottom with books and magazines.
To the left is a small kitchen with a small stove, a microwave oven, and a refrigerator. The sink is filled to overflowing with glasses and dishes. Between the desk and the kitchen is a door with a mailslot in the middle. Today's mail is piled up on the floor (it includes several large manilla envelopes, bills, and a smaller, bulging envelope with no postage or return address.)
The clock changes to ; it is and the room is suddenly filled with the tinny sounds of a nondescript rock song. Kendricks groans and pulls the sheet up over his head.
KENDRICKS: ...uh...Jesus...shut the hell up!...
(Kendricks rolls over and slams down the mute button on the clock. It falls silent. He sits up looking with sleepy disinterest at the mess on the floor.)
KENDRICKS: Malcolm, I do believe that you are hungover...
(Kendricks rises and wobbles against the edge of the bed.)
KENDRICKS: Yep. You are definitely hungover this morning, son...
(He laughs and stumbles into the bathroom. The phone rings twice and Kendricks' recorded voice can be heard.)
KENDRICKS (from the tape): This is Malcolm. I'm not home...or maybe I am and I'm just being anti-social. In any case, you haven't reached the party to whom you wish to speak. Leave your name and number (you know when) and I'll talk back at ya sometime later. Bye.
(A short, sharp beep sounds and then the pitched, insistent voice of Elizabeth Morris can be heard as Kendricks walks unsteadily back into the room wearing a robe.)
MORRIS (from the phone): Malcolm, it's Liz, are you there?...damn...look, Mal, the publisher is on my ass about those revisions! They need them yesterday! I'm this close to getting the deal closed, Mal, so please, don't pull that temperamental artiste bullshit right now, okay? We need this article to show them what we can do so they'll green light us on the book. Call me as soon as you get in, 'kay?
KENDRICKS: Fuck you, Liz. "We" ain't gonna do anything, I'm the one who has to write the goddamn thing...
(He crosses the room to the kitchen and extracts a mug from the pile of dirty dishes in the sink. He fills it with coffee from the pot on the stove and places it in the microwave. He crosses the room again pausing to place a disc in the CD player. The room fills with Bach's "Air on the G String". Kendricks shakes a cigarette from the pack on the bedtable and lights it. The microwave beeps and he trudges back across the room humming absently, and decidedly offkey, with the music. He takes the now-steaming cup of coffee out of the oven and gingerly sips at it.)
KENDRICKS (looking over at his desk for the first time): And now, dear friends, to work.
(He glances at the pile of mail by the door.)
KENDRICKS: But first, a word from our sponsor...
(He scoops up the mail and drops it onto the desk. Seating himself, he rewinds the answering machine tape while he sips the coffee and takes long drags on his
RICK (from the tape): Mal, ol' pal, why'd you leave so early, dude? It's still a happenin' party...and that hot little Mexican babe has been lookin' for you...
RICK (laughing lecherously): I guess she wants to find out if what they say about you nig...black guys...is true! C'mon back, man, this party's gonna be going on all night and it needs some "soul"! Check you later, dude!
(Kendricks grunts and sips his coffee thoughtfully. The machine beeps again.)
CLAUDIA KENDRICKS (from the tape): I hate these machines! Uh, this is your mother, big guy. I just, um, wanted to remind you that we're all getting together at Aunt Sadie's tomorrow at 3 and that everybody's expecting that you're going to be there. Call me in the morning, okay? I love you.
KENDRICKS (softly): Shit...
(He starts sifting idly through the stack of mail as the beep sounds once more.)
LAUREL PAULSON (from the tape): Hi, baby, it's me.
(There is a moment of anxious silence.)
KENDRICKS (frowning): Do tell.
KENDRICKS (nodding): Do tell.
(The machine beeps again.)
MORRIS (from the tape): Malcolm, it's Liz...
(He shuts the machine off.)
(He removes the message tape from the machine and tosses it into a desk drawer; he rifles through a number of tapes and puts another one in the machine. He glances over at the computer screen and shrugs. He picks up and opens one of the manilla envelopes.)
KENDRICKS (reading): "Dear writer...thank you for submitting your poem to us. Unfortunately, it does not meet our current editorial needs..." Yadda, yadda, yadda...
(The phone rings again.)
KENDRICKS (from the tape): Gracious good evening or afternoon, y'all, this here be Malcolm talkin' at ya. Ain't here right now. Holler at me when you hear that tone-thang and I'll hook ya up later. Peace!
(The beep sounds.)
MORRIS (from the machine): That's a very...um..."ethnic" message, Malcolm. And since you've changed the message, I presume that you're home so pick up the phone please...
(Kendricks sighs and presses the speaker button.)
KENDRICKS: Mornin', Liz.
MORRIS: It's afternoon, sport. Where the hell have you been?
MORRIS: Christalmighty, Mal! What're you trying to do to us? You've got to get that article done so that I can get it to the publishers. They're very interested in the subject and I'm almost positive that we can get a contract and an advance for the book...maybe a series of books...out of them!
KENDRICKS (yawning): Uh-huh.
MORRIS: This is what we've been working for! A book about one African-American's learned outlook on the future of his race...the destiny...the pitfalls. Your essays will stir a fire in literary circles unlike anything since James Baldwin and Richard Wright were alive!
KENDRICKS (ruefully): Little Negro in Slumberland...
MORRIS: I'm sorry? I didn't quite get that...
KENDRICKS: Nothing, Liz. Look, I'm almost done with it, I'll bring it down to you tomorrow morning.
MORRIS: Great! I'll call the publisher and arrange to see them tomorrow afternoon.
KENDRICKS: Have you had time to look at my poems yet?
MORRIS: ...uh, not really. Listen, Mal, I know you like writing this stuff but, as your agent, I keep telling you that there's no market for it...stick to what sells, kiddo, and we'll be going gangbusters!
KENDRICKS: Yeah, yeah, yeah...
MORRIS: Keep your energies focused towards that article now. Don't let me down, kiddo.
KENDRICKS: Have I ever?
MORRIS (laughing warmly): No, you're an angel. And I'm going to turn you into the hottest African-American writer on the face of the planet, just you wait and see!
KENDRICKS (wryly): My heroine.
MORRIS: That's the spirit, tiger!
KENDRICKS: But let's make that "black writer", okay? I'll wait awhile before adding all those other politically correct syllables...
MORRIS: ...uh...we'll talk. Now get to work! Call me later, 'kay? Ciao.
KENDRICKS: Yeah, live long and prosper.
(He presses the speaker button again. He turns and faces the computer screen again.)
KENDRICKS: Jesus, I'm too hungover for this...
(He stops and rubs his eyes. Then he laughs a low, sardonic laugh.)
KENDRICKS: C'mon, boy, what would James Baldwin and Richard Wright do?
(He starts to type, slowly at first but picking up speed as he goes. He shakes his head and chuckles again.)
(He types on, picking up his glasses and getting more and more involved in what he's doing.)