Literature » Short Fiction

“Umbrella: A Play in One Act” — by Emilia Getzinger

 

“Umbrella:   A Play in One Act,” by Emilia Getzinger, was a finalist in our recently concluded 48th Short Fiction Contest.  It is published with the permission of the author.

 

 

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“Stony Hill Road,” by James C. Bongartz

 

Umbrella

A Play in One Act

by Emilia Getzinger

 

 

 

 __________

 

 

 

Baltimore, Maryland. 1960. DAVID, a white boy in his late teens, is standing in the rain under an umbrella, waiting for the morning school bus. There is a bench behind him. Enter CLARE, a black girl his age.

 

CLARE

It’s so cold.

 

Long pause. DAVID is uncomfortable.

 

CLARE

Would you mind sharing your umbrella?

 

DAVID doesn’t answer. After a while, he hands his umbrella to her.

 

CLARE

Oh no, I didn’t mean— we can share it.

 

DAVID

Just take it.

 

CLARE

Are you sure?

 

DAVID nods.

 

CLARE

Thanks. I’m Clare. (pause) You just moved here from Madison, right?

 

DAVID

(softly) Yeah.

 

CLARE

My cousin lives there. It’s such a nice city. What’s your name?

 

DAVID

Michael.

 

CLARE

Nice to finally meet you, Michael.

 

DAVID

When does the bus get here?

 

CLARE

(checking watch) Three minutes.

 

DAVID begins to walk away.

 

CLARE

Where are you going? Want your umbrella back?

 

DAVID

Keep it.

 

CLARE

(bringing him the umbrella) You can’t walk in this. Wait for the bus.

 

DAVID

(turning away from her) I’m good.

 

CLARE

School is five miles away.

 

DAVID

I can walk five miles.

 

CLARE

Just wait. You have to walk uphill to get to school.

 

DAVID

I’ll do that.

 

CLARE

But why not take the bus?

 

DAVID

Just—

 

The sound of a bus. DAVID hides behind the bench. After contemplating whether or not she should, CLARE joins him. The bus passes and they come out.

 

CLARE

Why’d you do that?

 

DAVID

I don’t know.

 

CLARE

You don’t wanna be seen with me.

 

DAVID

No! I just didn’t wanna get on that bus.

 

CLARE

You wanted to before I got here.

 

DAVID

I wanted—

 

CLARE

And now you’re stuck with me. Aren’t you? (begins walking)

 

DAVID

Where are you going?

 

CLARE

School.

 

DAVID

But it’s five miles!

 

CLARE

You were going to do it. (continues walking, almost offstage)

 

DAVID

Wait. (CLARE turns) Can I have my umbrella back?

 

CLARE

(going over to him) Take your stupid umbrella. (SHE hands it to him) Sorry it’s not sanitized.

 

DAVID

My umbrella isn’t stupid.

 

CLARE

It has a hole in it! Drops of water keep landing on my forehead. You could use it for Chinese water torture.

 

DAVID

If it’s so bad then why’d you use it?

 

CLARE

(indicates rain) Decoration.

 

Thunder sounds in the distance. CLARE turns away and starts walking to school. After a few steps, she faces DAVID again.

 

CLARE

Are you coming to school or not?

 

DAVID

Why do you care?

 

CLARE

I don’t. But if you get a cold from standing out in the rain, someone’ll find a way to blame me.

 

SHE begins to walk. DAVID runs up to her.

 

DAVID

I have an extra jacket in my backpack.

 

CLARE

And?

 

DAVID

It doesn’t have a hole in it. If you don’t want the umbrella that’s fine, but you can’t walk to school in just that.

 

CLARE

If you give me the jacket I’ll have to keep it. You wouldn’t want people knowing you shared it with a black girl.

 

DAVID

I…

 

CLARE

Thought so.

 

DAVID

I’m sorry.

 

CLARE

For what?

 

DAVID

Not wanting to be seen with you.

 

CLARE

A lot of people don’t. If they can help it, anyway.

 

DAVID

It’s not my fault. My dad’s the problem.

 

CLARE

Your dad?

 

DAVID

Yeah. He moved out of Madison since he thought the white schools, you know, were becoming too…

 

CLARE

Black? (DAVID nods) So he moved here? Baltimore, of all places? (laughing) Couldn’t’ve been more wrong.

 

DAVID

Yeah.

 

CLARE

So that’s why you didn’t take the bus with me?

 

DAVID

That’s why.

 

CLARE

Your dad was the driver.

 

DAVID

No—

 

CLARE

That’s so sweet. A dad who cares so much about his son that he’ll drive his bus—even a bus with black kids on it—just so he can take care of him on the way to school.

 

DAVID

My dad’s not the bus driver.

 

CLARE

Oh?

 

DAVID

He’s a lawyer.

 

CLARE

Really?

 

DAVID

Yeah. Harvard Law, class of ‘41.

 

CLARE

What kind of lawyer is he?

 

DAVID

General practice. But he’s trying to become a judge.

 

CLARE

He must know a lot about the decisions of the court system.

 

DAVID

Oh yeah.

 

CLARE

Like Brown v. Board of Ed.

 

DAVID

Well…just because the Supreme Court makes a decision, it doesn’t mean someone has to support it.

 

CLARE

I completely agree. I feel the same way when I read about Plessy v. Ferguson and Korematsu v. United States

 

DAVID

Alright, I get it.

 

CLARE

Get what?

 

DAVID

You’re colored. You like laws that favor colored people.

 

CLARE

I like laws that favor people.

 

DAVID

Even at the expense of the country?

 

CLARE

If a law threatens national security, it doesn’t favor people. The people make up the country.

 

DAVID

Then why are you against the Korematsu v. United States decision?

 

CLARE

Your last name is Müller. Aren’t you German?

 

DAVID

How do you know my last name?

 

CLARE

They put German-Americans into internment camps during World War II. They were prohibited from certain areas. Some were deported. Discrimination in the name of “enemy ancestry.” But you knew that, didn’t you?

 

DAVID

No, actually.

 

CLARE

Well, now you do.

 

DAVID

(pause) Who told you what my last name was?

 

CLARE

My dad’s a lawyer. He works with your dad.

 

DAVID

So the bus driver thing…you were faking this whole time.

 

CLARE

No offense, but you’re pretty stupid for a lawyer’s son.

 

DAVID

I realized that awhile ago.

 

CLARE

Maybe you should open up a book once in a while instead of worrying what other people think.

 

DAVID

Why don’t you worry about what people think?

 

CLARE

I have too many other things to worry about.

 

DAVID

Like what?

 

Lightning strikes in the distance.

 

CLARE

Lightning.

 

DAVID

We should probably go to school then.

 

CLARE

Yeah. You need it, David.

 

DAVID

How did you know my name was David?

 

CLARE

Your dad talks about you at work.

 

DAVID

He does?

 

CLARE

Yup. And my dad tells me everything.

 

DAVID

So why’d you ask for my name?

 

CLARE

I forgot what it was. Didn’t remember until we were behind the bench. Then it hit me—and so did the water from the bus, by the way.

 

DAVID

(pause) I’m sorry for being embarrassed about you.

 

CLARE

I’m sorry for calling your umbrella stupid.

 

DAVID

It’s okay, it kinda is.

 

CLARE

And I’m sorry for calling you stupid, too.

 

DAVID

I’m used to it.

 

CLARE

Really? But you’re not stupid. You’re just a little ignorant, same as everyone else.

 

DAVID

You mean that?

 

CLARE

Why would I lie?

 

DAVID

You lied about the bus situation.

 

CLARE

So did you.

 

DAVID

That’s fair. (to himself) What am I doing? Oh! (taking out the jacket and handing it to her) It’s warm.

 

CLARE

Thanks. (puts it on) Have your umbrella?

 

DAVID

We can share it.

 

CLARE

Only if you take the Chinese water torture side.

 

THEY both stand under the umbrella and exit.

 

_____

 

Emilia Getzinger is a playwright, fiction author, and actor. “Umbrella” is her first publication. Acting credits include Grease (Dance Ensemble); Twelfth Night (Valentine); A Tale of Woe, the story of Juliet and Romeo(immersive production based on Sleep No More—Montague Dancer); The Merry Wives of Windsor (Beth, Friend of Anne Page); Fiddler on the Roof (featured ensemble); Hamlet (Gravedigger); Oklahoma!; and Julius Caesar (Ligarius). Backstage credits include Newsies (Assistant Stage Manager); Legally Blonde(Light Board Operator); A Christmas Carol (Assistant to the Director); Joseph… (scenic painter); and Willy Wonka (scenic carpenter).