[MATT sits in the driver's chair. JANINE is asleep in the passenger chair. MATT is not driving, but holding his wallet. It is empty. JANINE slowly wakes up. He pockets his wallet.]

JANINE: What time is it?

MATT: About eleven-fifteen.

JANINE: Why aren't we moving?

MATT: We ran out of gas.

[She gathers steam.]

JANINE: I thought you filled up the tank. I thought we were getting a hundred and fifty miles to the gallon. What happened? Do we need another oil change? [He is silent.] Christ. Is there a gas station anywhere near here?

MATT: We're about thirty miles either way to a town.

JANINE: You didn't bother to stop when we were getting low? Too lazy to pull over, get out and fill up the tank? [No response.] So, what's your plan? We're just going to sit here until someone drives by to rescue us?

MATT: I figured you didn't want me to leave you here while I tried to find a gas station. Or a phone. [She sighs heavily.] There's a road that joins right up there. Someone's bound to come along one of these two roads and we'll flag them down. [He pulls out his wallet and opens it.] Here.

[He reaches into his wallet and pulls out a couple of dollar bills. JANINE takes the money and is bewildered.]

JANINE: Did you rob that convenience store back there?

MATT: No. But thanks for asking.

JANINE: Did you?

MATT: Don't worry about it. Just take the money.

JANINE: Where did you get this?

MATT: It just shows up in my wallet.

JANINE: It just shows up in your wallet.

MATT: It just shows up in my wallet.

JANINE: How stupid do you think I am?

MATT: Fine. Give me back the money.

JANINE: [Withholding it from him] Where did you get this?

MATT: I told you. Every now and then it appears. Until I close my wallet. Then the money disappears. And I don't understand, so don't ask me. It just happens.

JANINE: Show me.

MATT: It's not a magic trick. Okay? Take the money and put it away.

JANINE: Show me.

[MATT takes a bill out of his shirt pocket and puts it into the wallet.]

MATT: It only appears sometimes. But it always disappears when I put it back. [He folds the wallet and puts it in his hip pocket. He waits for a moment and then pulls the wallet back out. He shows the empty wallet to JANINE.] I was thinking. Maybe when we reach Kingman, if we have enough, you can buy a decent car to drive back and I can take a bus or something on into Vegas.

JANINE: [Inspecting the wallet] Do it again.

MATT: I just lost five dollars.

JANINE: Okay. Make it come back.

MATT: I don't know how. It doesn't always work the way you want it to.

[He pockets the wallet.]

JANINE: Slip right through your fingers, does it?

MATT: Look. When it happens again, I'll let you know.

[Pause.]

JANINE: I swear, if you robbed that convenience store, I will turn you in.

MATT: I robbed a convenience store for twenty-nine dollars?

JANINE: Well, I don't know. [She holds out one hand and then the other.] You robbed a store for twenty-nine bucks…You now have a magic wallet. [She weighs her two hands like a scale.] Let's see…

[MATT digs out his wallet and opens it. Nothing. He pockets the wallet, then pulls it out and opens it. Nothing. JANINE loses interest. MATT tries one last time. Success. He hands the money to JANINE.]

MATT: Okay?

[Pause.]

JANINE: Do it again. Make some more.

[With a sigh, MATT tries the wallet again and pulls out more money.]

MATT: Okay, we got lucky. Two in a row. Now just…

[He pockets the wallet and stares ahead.]

JANINE: Well, keep going. Are you crazy? This is only fifty-four dollars.

MATT: Don't push it.

JANINE: What do you mean? You're stopping there?

MATT: I'm not going to let us be overly greedy about this.

JANINE: Greedy? What if there's another five thousand dollars just waiting for us in there?

MATT: I think we need to respect the wallet.

JANINE: Respect it? For what?

MATT: It's not our money and I shouldn't have told you about it in the first place—

JANINE: If it shows up in your wallet then it is our money.

MATT: We didn't earn it. Nobody worked for it.

JANINE: But it's in your wallet. That makes it ours!

MATT: But we don't have to take advantage of it.

JANINE: Why not?

MATT: Because the same thing happened with the car! We took advantage of a full tank of gas and now look at us. We're parked on the side of the road in front of a "merge" sign—middle of nowhere—dead of night—and not a drop of gas in the tank. That's what happens when you abuse your gifts.

JANINE: Oh, what a bunch of chicken shit you are. The wallet can take care of itself. If the wallet didn't want you to have the money, then it wouldn't give it to you in the first place. And I'll bet you returning the gift really hurts the wallet's feelings.

MATT: Don't be stupid. The wallet doesn't have feelings.

JANINE: Then it won't know if you're abusing it or not! [Pause.] Kingman, my ass. We ought to pull out as much money as we can and really hit Vegas. You know? Wouldn't that be great? A honeymoon for once. We could stay at one of the big casinos and don't tell me that wouldn't make you happy—

MATT: I thought you were leaving me in Vegas.

JANINE: Well, not if you've got a wallet stocked up with money. What do you think I am?

MATT: The money's not always—It's not a guarantee, Janine. Sometimes I come up empty. I've got maybe two hundred in my shirt right now, and I've been doing this for half an hour while you were asleep.

JANINE: That's not overly greedy? [No response.] Here. Let me drive, and you can keep doing it all the way to Vegas.

MATT: Janine!

JANINE: What?

MATT: This is no way to get divorced!

[Beat.]

JANINE: You are a nightmare, you know that? Four years of marriage and you're a…Get out of the car.

MATT: You're kicking me out because I gave you fifty-four dollars? That's not enough? You want more?

[He digs his wallet out and opens it again.]

JANINE: It's my turn to drive.

MATT: There's no gas!

JANINE: Shut up and trade me places. [As JANINE gets out of the passenger seat and crosses around to the driver's side, MATT pulls out a man's wedding ring from his wallet.] Move over. [Completely stunned, MATT rises from the driver's chair and puts the ring on his finger. JANINE sits down and turns the key. MATT pulls the ring off his finger and the car starts up.] Hah! [MATT is more than a little amazed.] How is it that you can look at a full tank of gas and say it's empty? [No response.] Let's go. I don't want to look at this sign all night.

[MATT throws the ring high and far into the surrounding desert. The audience never hears it hit the ground. MATT turns away from the car.]

MATT: What are you doing to me?

[MATT crosses into the desert on stage.]

JANINE: Matt?! What are you doing? Get in the car!

[Lights fade on JANINE as MATT crosses further away from the car.]

MATT: Okay, I'm listening. You've got something to tell me? [Long silence as MATT waits impatiently for something to happen.] It's real frustrating when you pull this shit. I mean, my life is bad enough without having you screw it up all the time. [Pause.] It would really help if you stopped trying to get my attention for no apparent reason. [Pause.] So is there anything? [MATT walks around aimlessly. Waiting. Nothing happens. Frustrated, MATT starts to cross toward the car. Then he stops and explodes.] Either help me win a jackpot or land a decent-paying job! All right?! That's what you can do to help! But stop throwing my poverty back in my face! I don't need your pity. I have value! And none of that other stuff is gonna—It's all junk! But I'm valuable and I know it! So just keep that—that—that shit away from me! [Beat.] I'M GOING TO SLEEP IN A VEGAS HOTEL IF IT KILLS ME! [Pause.] Fuck this. Fuck this whole day. [MATT crosses toward the car again.] Leave me alone.

[Lights fade up on JANINE who is curled up very tightly on the driver's chair, looking around anxiously. MATT crosses toward her.]

JANINE: What is your problem? Every time I turn around, you are throwing some tantrum. [MATT reaches behind the driver's chair and pulls out his suitcase.] And you just run off, expecting me to come find you and say, "Bless your little heart, you poor thing." What are you doing now? [MATT places the suitcase on the ground and opens it.] Matt? Hey?

[MATT dumps his clothes out onto the ground in a pile. He closes the suitcase and throws it back behind the chairs.]

MATT: You want the suitcase? It's yours. Don't say I never gave you nothing.

JANINE: What is wrong with you?

[MATT pulls out his wallet and tosses it to her.]

MATT: Oh, and here's the wallet. Go burn a hole through it. [He crosses to the passenger chair and throws himself into it.] I'm tired. Let's go. [Beat.] Pretty please with sugar on top.

[Pause. JANINE doesn't move.]

JANINE: All right—First: I'm not getting in the car with a psychotic…psycho. And second: What the fuck? Everything is starting to go right so you dump your laundry in the middle of the desert? This is helping us in some way?

MATT: Let's go.

JANINE: No—let's figure out why your brain suddenly collapsed. [No response.] I mean, it scares me to think I let you drive for so long.

MATT: I'm fine. Let's keep going. You can drive.

JANINE: You throw your clothes all over out here. And you wandered off like nature was calling you, but you didn't think to say jack shit to me. So I'm here—by myself, in the dark, all alone, wondering what kind of scorpions and spiders they keep in this part of the country—

MATT: I'm cutting it away.

JANINE: What?

MATT: I'm getting rid of stuff.

JANINE: [Absolutely stunned] Now? You couldn't do this a couple of years ago?

MATT: Yes, now! I'm not going—Everything is—I'm starting again. I won't be a slave to all that back there. That's in my past. I'm someone completely different. From right now. I'm new and better and valuable. Now would you get in the car?

JANINE: How are you better? [She points to his clothes on the ground.] You had nothing. Now you have less.

[MATT scrambles out of his chair.]

MATT: I'm tired of having everything out of control. I'm tired of—of—of—

JANINE: What are you talking about?

MATT: Everything! All this out of control shit. I don't need it. That's why we're stranded in the middle of nowhere. It's all this shit.

JANINE: Okay—specifically, what out of control shit? Because I didn't notice your clothes being unruly—

MATT: The—the—the wallet. The car. The ring. The lottery ticket. The stars. You. [He gestures to his clothes.] This is part of all that and I'm not bringing it—or anything else I don't absolutely need—into my future. I'm going to be happy for once. For whole days at a time! And I'm sorry that you're scared and feel all alone out here, but I'm not going to be a victim of this worthless— [Words fail him so he waves his hands. And another thing:] And control is not a crime. So don't call me a psycho for executing a little self-control! [A deep breath.] Let's go.

JANINE: Self-control means not having a wardrobe?

MATT: It's not worth anything to me. I don't need it.

[MATT sits down in the passenger seat. Beat.]

JANINE: Well neither does the highway. [She walks over to the clothes and begins kicking them off the stage. The photo album comes sailing out of the clothes and lands several feet away.] Ow. [She walks over and inspects the album. Under the cover, she finds a wadded up photograph. JANINE presses it flat and slides it into the album. She crosses with the album back to the car. JANINE covertly places the album behind her chair and sits in the driver's chair.] Why don't you start working your wallet. [She tosses the wallet back to him.] I want to get a motel when we reach Kingman.

MATT: If you're tired, I can drive.

JANINE: Yeah—like hell.

MATT: I'm just saying. A Kingman motel isn't going to be like staying in Vegas.

JANINE: Let's not argue about this. [MATT pockets the wallet. She starts the car.] Go ahead and put on your seatbelt.

MATT: Why?

JANINE: I don't want you suddenly jumping out of a moving car.

MATT: I'm not going to jump out.

JANINE: Because I found the photo album. The one I threw—

MATT: You found what?

JANINE: Along with the picture of your father.

MATT: Where?

JANINE: In the pile of clothes that you dumped out of your suitcase.

[Pause.]

MATT: I'm going to throw up.

JANINE: Hold it for now. You should have barfed on your wilderness hike.

MATT: I wanted to.

JANINE: Is that why you went out there?

[Beat.]

MATT: Sometimes the universe talks to me when I'm alone.

[Beat.]

JANINE: Okay—you're scaring me again.

MATT: I'm sorry.

[Pause. She sees that he's not joking.]

JANINE: So what did you and the universe talk about?

MATT: Nothing. It didn't say anything this time.

JANINE: I wonder why.

MATT: Maybe because I was yelling at it.

[Beat.]

JANINE: Maybe. [She looks over at him and he stares blankly ahead.] You're being straight with me, aren't you. [He nods his head. She is quiet for a moment.] That creeps me out.

MATT: Well, I don't have anything to lose now. Do I? [JANINE slides a little closer to her door.] Are you glad you got your pictures back?

JANINE: Yeah. I guess.

MATT: I figured they meant more to you than just highway litter.

JANINE: Yeah. But it's weird. Mostly. [Silence.] I wonder.

MATT: What?

JANINE: Reach behind me and grab those Ding Dongs, would you?

[He does.]

MATT: Are you hungry?

JANINE: Yeah. [MATT hands them to her. She chucks the box out the window. He lets her.] Let's just see.

Continue...

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Copyright © 2001 by Douglas Hill

CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that Roulette is subject to a royalty. It is fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America, and of all countries covered by the International Copyright Union (including the Dominion of Canada and the rest of the British Commonwealth), and of all countries covered by the Pan-American Copyright convention and the Universal Copyright Convention, and of all countries with which the United States has reciprocal copyright relations. All rights, including professional and amateur stage performing, motion picture, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio broadcasting, television, video or sound taping, all other forms of mechanical or electronic reproduction, such as information storage and retrieval systems and photocopying, and the rights of translation into foreign languages, are strictly reserved.

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