Rye–male, older than Pastrami but not by much
Dill–male, Pastrami’s age or slightly younger
1940s, interior of an office building. Office made up of a reception area and then a separate room that is the main office. Two wooden desks sit at an angle facing each other and the audience at the same time. Each desk has a non-electric typewriter, some filing baskets (an ‘In’ basket and an ‘Out’ basket). One desk is definitely tidier than the other. There is a telephone partially buried under papers on the messier desk. Wooden swivel chair behind each desk, additional chair available for visitors/clients. Upstage center there is a door, wooden with the frosted/pebbled glass of the era.
At rise of lights/curtain figures seated behind each desk. One is typing away, loudly using a hunt and peck method to attack the keyboard, Rye. The second is reading over a file on the desk in front of her occasionally taking notes, Pastrami.
Silence except for the turning of pages and the clatter of the typewriter.
Pastrami: Rye, did you know that popular fiction has the completely wrong idea about this job?
Rye: (absent-mindedly, continuing to focus on the typewriter) What are you talking about, Dollface?
Pastrami: Knock it off with the Dollface and Babycakes business. We talked about that, Wise Guy. Just because I have a great set of gams does not mean you get to treat me like some floozy or moll in some gin joint. You hear me? Next time you might earn yourself a shot in the kisser.
Rye: Sure thing, Toots. No need to snap your cap. I speak only in jest.
Pastrami: You better.
Rye: If I don’t bust your chops now and then, I’ll get out of practice. Besides, you’ve got a mean right hook.
Pastrami: You should know. Just watch it in front of polite company; they’ll think you are a doll-dizzy lech instead of a professional, serious-minded detective.
Rye: Well we wouldn’t want that now, would we? And you are off topic. I was cooking along on my typing when you so rudely interrupted. Proceed.
Pastrami: Pardon me. I don’t know what distracted me. I was saying that if you asked any Joe on the street to name how they think we spend our time, paperwork would not be their answer.
Rye: Well, it is nicer to have an air of mystery about oneself. Plus that misapprehension makes it easier to talk folks into working with you. Got you, didn’t it?
Pastrami: Wrong. I knew what I was getting into. I was your first girl Friday.
Rye: Fair enough, but how do you think Dill talked himself into being our guy Friday? Dreams of endless days of filing? Or dreams of chasing the bad guys down a back alley to protect the honor of some classy dame?
Pastrami: I concede the point.
Rye: –And this dame probably has great gams too–
Pastrami: Watch it.
Rye: And you are just sore because you are itching for a case. Something you deem meatier than the domestic follow-the-spouse cases currently filling our desks.
Pastrami: Can you honestly tell me that you find them a fulfilling use of your time and talents?
Rye: Why not? Something wrong with easy money?
Rye: (falsely affronted) Language! (wryly) My dear, Pastrami, mind my virgin ears.
Pastrami: (lightly) Applesauce! Hard-boiled shamus such as yourself has certainly heard worse.
Rye: My hearing is not the issue, young lady. Such language. Your sense of decorum is the question. Need I remind you this is a serious place of business?
Pastrami: (Lightly sarcastic) No fooling?
Rye: And we should conduct ourselves accordingly. (Ends with a grin, swivelling back and forth in his chair.)
Pastrami: I’ll keep that in mind. I really want to know if you are content with these cases? (Rising from behind desk and pacing.) Following a husband out into the boondocks only to find he is meeting poker buddies. And they play cards and drink hooch instead of meeting the call girl his wife suspects. Or tailing another guy’s best girl into a swanky gin joint to assure him that she is only meeting her gal pals for some giggle water and not some other dreamboat. And don’t give me another line about pennies from heaven. I know these cases bring in the lettuce, but they are beginning to bore me silly.
(Pastrami settles herself on the corner of his desk.)
Rye: On occasion I’ve a yearning for more challenging material, but a small operation like ours can’t afford to be choosy. Giving the run-of-the-mill jobs the high hat is a good way to say we are ready to hang it up for good. Besides, you never know when a lulu is around the corner. And some case you think is two-bit and a pointless exercise in humanity could lead to bigger things.
Pastrami: You’re the boss. Wouldn’t mind if a lulu walked in the door today instead of another chrome-dome sugar daddy worried about his able grable.
Rye: Granted, our latest cases sure have been a warning against getting hitched. Or even thinking about getting hitched. (Settles himself back at the typewriter) Speaking of which, back to the matter at hand.
Pastrami: (Rising from Rye’s desk and returning to her own) Fair enough.
(The two fall back into the silence and working rhythms of the start of the play. Rye finishes his typing and is clearly satisfied with the results. He pulls the finished sheet from his typewriter and hands it to Pastrami. A telephone is heard ringing off-stage.)
(To be continued…)
Dana Rabe is young enough to admit her age and old enough to know better. She is a Nebraska native who has lost a good portion of her heart to Ireland, specifically Galway. A graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota and Uversity’s Creative Process MA class of 2016, she has not yet been published anywhere but here.