a dark comedy in one act

by: Walter Wykes

Copyright © 2006 by Walter Wykes

CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that The Worker 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.

Inquiries concerning all rights should be addressed to the author at



[A nondescript apartment. There is nothing to differentiate this apartment from any other apartment in any other building in any other city. A young WOMAN, also nondescript, sits in a rocking chair, cradling an infant tenderly in her arms. Lost in thought, she is slow to notice the scuffling of feet just outside the apartment door. Suddenly her eyes grow wide—she lunges out of the chair, looks about the room in a panic, stuffs the baby into a bureau drawer, and disappears into the hallway. A few moments later, a young MAN enters carrying an enormous stack of files and papers. He places this stack carefully in the middle of the room—then exits and returns with another stack. Again, he exits, this time returning with a briefcase and a computer. He repeats these steps, stumbling in and out of the apartment, until he has fashioned a gigantic mound in the middle of the room which includes a fax machine, two printers, a garbage can, a paper shredder, several trays of office supplies, a filing cabinet, an entire desk—perhaps even a whole cubicle, complete with wall-dividers, potted plants, and a fish tank. Finally, he closes the door behind him.]

MAN: [His usual greeting.] I'm home.

[He loosens his tie and waits for a response, but none is forthcoming. He hesitates.]

MAN: I'm ... I'm home.

[Still no response. He scratches his head, puzzled.]

MAN: Hello?

WOMAN: [Offstage.] In here!

MAN: I said I was—

WOMAN: In the kitchen!

MAN: Aren't you going to—

[The WOMAN scurries into the room wearing an apron and oven mitts. She kisses her husband dutifully on the cheek and scurries back towards the kitchen.]

MAN: Wait. [The WOMAN stops.] What are you doing?

WOMAN: I'm just finishing up dinner.

MAN: It's ... it's not ready? [Pause.] I don't understand. It's always ready. When I walk in the door, it's— [Pause.] Am I early?

[He checks his watch.]

WOMAN: No, you're right on time.

MAN: Was there some sort of natural disaster? An earthquake? Is there something you're not telling me? Are you injured?!

WOMAN: No, I just— [Noticing the gigantic mound of work-related items in the center of her living-room] What's all this?

MAN: Oh ... nothing. Just a few things from work.

WOMAN: A few things? Why, it's practically you're whole— [A sudden realization.] Oh my god! You’ve been fired!

MAN: No!


MAN: No, nothing like that.

WOMAN: Oh, thank heavens! [Pause.] I don't understand. You haven't been fired ... but you're entire office is sitting in the middle of our living room.

MAN: It's not the entire office. Just my cubicle. And ... you know, my desk. And a few other little things.

WOMAN: [At a loss.] Do you want me to wash it?

MAN: No, I ... [Pause.] All right, look ... I didn’t want to tell you, but I’ve fallen behind.

WOMAN: What do you mean?

MAN: At work. I’ve fallen behind. I can't keep up.

WOMAN: Why not? You spend practically every waking moment there.

MAN: Well... recently, they’ve ... ahh ... they’ve let a few people go.

WOMAN: That's awful! How can they treat people like that? Just lay them off! It's heartless! Don't they have any sense of social responsibility?

MAN: Well, they didn’t lay them off exactly ... not in the traditional sense.

WOMAN: What then?

MAN: Let's just say they’ve been encouraged to move on.

WOMAN: Isn’t that the same thing?


MAN: I really shouldn’t talk about it.

WOMAN: All right.

MAN: Anyway, the point is that every day there are fewer and fewer people doing the same amount of work. They have me running the accounting department entirely by myself!

WOMAN: You’ve been promoted to management?!

MAN: No, it's just me—there's no one to manage! I do everything! The whole department!

WOMAN: The whole department? By yourself?

MAN: That's not all! I'm also expected to take incoming calls because there's no receptionist, fix the computers because there's no tech department, field customer complaints because there's no customer service! I'm in charge of the mail room, the cafeteria, janitorial services, research and development! Last week, human resources was let go, the whole department, and I received a memo—which I’d actually typed myself because there's no secretary—instructing me to familiarize myself with all applicable state and federal guidelines! Tomorrow, I'm supposed to start mediating all employee disputes! I have no idea what I'm doing! I'd ask the legal department for advice, but I’ve never studied law so I wouldn’t know what to tell myself! And to top it all off, I have to take the CEO's dog out to poop four times a day! At regular intervals! He has stomach problems and he's on a very strict schedule!

WOMAN: Well, you’ll just have to tell them it's too much.

MAN: I can’t.

WOMAN: Why not? Maybe they’ll hire some of those poor people back.

MAN: You don't understand. It's too late for that.

WOMAN: Why is it too late?


MAN: Look ... there’s really nothing to worry about. I shouldn’t have said anything. I'm just going to have to do some work from home if I want to catch up, that's all.

WOMAN: Work from home? [He nods.] But ... that's our time! If you work from home, I’ll never see you! We’ll never have time to—

MAN: I don't really have much choice.


WOMAN: All right. Fine. [Pause.] I’ll just finish dinner.

[She goes. The MAN sighs and rubs his eyes. He looks around the room, pushes the couch out of the way, and begins setting up his cubicle. He takes a pile of papers and looks for a place to put them—opens the bureau drawer. His face turns dark as he pulls the “baby” from the drawer.]

MAN: What is this?!

WOMAN: [Offstage.] What is what?

MAN: THIS! What is THIS?!!!

[She enters—finds him holding the “baby.”]

MAN: How many times have I told you?!

WOMAN: You didn’t say—

MAN: There will be no children in this house!

WOMAN: It's not—

MAN: No talk of children! No representations of children! No dolls, no drawings, no finger puppets!

WOMAN: But it's only—

MAN: I don't care! Get rid of it!

[He throws the doll at her.]

WOMAN: What?

MAN: You heard me.

WOMAN: You ... you want me to—

MAN: Destroy it! Burn it! Crush it into little pieces! Leave it in an alley somewhere! I don’t care! But it can’t stay here! I won't allow it! Not in this house!

[She glares at him, then turns and exits with the doll. She returns a moment later with the doll stuffed under her dress. Perhaps she has added a pillow or blanket as well to help disguise the doll. It gives her the appearance of being pregnant. After a few moments, the MAN senses her presence but does not look at her.]

MAN: Please try to understand. I don't mean to be cruel. It's for your own good. I'm only trying to protect you.

WOMAN: Protect me?

MAN: Yes.

WOMAN: From what?


MAN: You ... you wouldn’t understand.

WOMAN: You don't think I'd make a good mother! That's what this is all about! You don't think I'm prepared! But how would you know? You’ve never given me the chance!

MAN: No. It's not— [He notices her belly for the first time.] What's this?

WOMAN: What does it look like?

MAN: What do you think you’re doing? Give it to me.


MAN: Have you lost your mind?

WOMAN: I'm going to keep this baby. I won't let you hurt her. If you touch one hair on her head, I will never forgive you!

MAN: You don't mean that.

WOMAN: Never!

MAN: Listen to me ... it's not a baby.

WOMAN: I don't care! It's mine! She's mine! She's all I have!

MAN: It's just an object. It has no feelings.

WOMAN: She does! She does have feelings! More than you!

MAN: That's enough.

WOMAN: Who do you think I talk to when you leave me all alone in this house?! Who do you think listens to me and keeps me from going completely insane?! Who do you think I share my dreams with?! Not you! You’re never here! Who do you think comforts me and holds my finger when you call to say you’re going to miss dinner again?! She’s more real to me than you ever were!

MAN: I’m not going to argue with you.

WOMAN: Get away from me!

[He grabs her and sticks his hand up her dress.]

WOMAN: Help! Help! Someone— [She struggles, but he removes the doll.] Give her back!

MAN: No.

[He grabs his coat and moves toward the door. She tries to hold him back.]

WOMAN: Where are you going with my baby?! What are you going to do?!

MAN: Let go.

WOMAN: [Blocking the door.] No! I won't let you!

MAN: Get out of my way.

WOMAN: Please! Don't do this! Don't—

[He drags her, screaming, from the door. Realizing that she cannot stop him, she collapses on the floor and begins to sob uncontrollably.]

MAN: When I return, I expect dinner to be waiting.

[In the midst of her sobbing, she begins to laugh, softly at first, but it grows louder and overpowers the tears.]

MAN: What's so funny?

WOMAN: Do you really expect me to cook for you after this?

MAN: Of course.

WOMAN: If I do, it’ll only be to poison you and end your miserable life!

MAN: You say that now—you're angry. It’s to be expected. But in time you’ll forgive me. You may even realize I was right. And if not, well ... I'm capable of feeding myself. I didn’t starve before I met you.

WOMAN: There are other things I can withhold.

MAN: What?

WOMAN: Other things I do for you ... in the dark ... secret things ... places I go ... services I perform ... words that I say ... certain indignities that I allow ... what if I were to ... forget? Forget how to do these things? Forget how to find these ... places?

MAN: Are you serious?

[She folds her arms, defiant.]

MAN: Fine. You can keep it.

WOMAN: Do you mean it?! Really?!

MAN: On one condition.

WOMAN: [Taking the doll from him and cradling it gently.] Anything! Anything!

MAN: No one must ever see it. No one. Not even me. I mustn’t know it's here. If I find it, I will destroy it.

WOMAN: But ... [Pause.] Shouldn’t you ...

MAN: Shouldn’t I what?

WOMAN: Shouldn’t there be some ... well, some shared responsibilities? I mean, I shouldn’t have to raise her alone.

MAN: You want to give me responsibilities?


MAN: For the—

WOMAN: The child. Our child.

MAN: Fine. If it misbehaves, I’ll punish it.

WOMAN: No. You'd be too harsh.

MAN: What do you want from me?

WOMAN: You could put her to sleep. And if she wakes during the night, you could hold her and pat her back.

MAN: It'd better not wake! I have to work in the morning!

WOMAN: You can't expect a baby to always sleep through the night. And if you're tired, you could take a day off every now and then. You have sick days.

MAN: I never take sick days!

WOMAN: That was before. Work was your only priority. Now there's a child to think of.

MAN: You see! This is how it starts!

WOMAN: How what starts?

MAN: There was a reason I wouldn’t allow you to have this child!

WOMAN: Because you're selfish and only think of yourself!

MAN: No, because suddenly you expect me to take sick days and buy diapers and leave early to see it perform in school plays! You’ll start calling me during work hours to tell me it's crawling or talking or taking its first poop! Word starts spreading that I'm not committed to my job anymore, and next thing you know, I end up like the others!

WOMAN: What others? The ones who were fired?

MAN: Yes! No! I told you, they weren’t fired!

WOMAN: Then what? [Pause.] What?

MAN: [Under his breath—almost a whisper.] They were killed.

WOMAN: What?

MAN: They were murdered! Executed!

WOMAN: Murdered?

MAN: Yes! Put to death!

WOMAN: Who murdered them?

MAN: The company! Who do you think?

WOMAN: But ... if the company wasn’t happy with their performance, why didn’t it just let them go? I mean, in the old fashioned sense?

MAN: I don't know. You can't expect me to understand the company's actions. It’s a giant corporation. It doesn’t think the way we do. Maybe it didn’t want them to share trade secrets with the other companies. Maybe it didn’t want to pay unemployment. Maybe it just wanted to avoid paperwork.

WOMAN: But ... they can't get away with that! Those poor people! We should call the authorities!

MAN: Shhh! Not so loud! Someone might hear! Besides, the authorities don't want to get involved. And, to be honest, these were not the best employees. I mean, they really did deserve some sort of punishment. Not death, you know, but they weren’t pulling their own weight, and it was all handled very nicely. They threw a party beforehand and—

WOMAN: A party?

MAN: Yes.

WOMAN: Before they ... [She motions slitting her throat. He nods.] It seems a little strange. To throw a party for someone and then ...

MAN: It was the company's way of thanking them for whatever small contribution they'd made over the years. Each of them had a cake. One candle for every year of service. It was really quite touching. Some of them cried.


MAN: I shouldn’t have told you any of this, but I want you to understand my position. They mustn’t question my dedication to the company. Not for one moment. [She nods.] Good. I'm glad you understand. If I’ve been harsh with you, it's only because I knew what the consequences of certain actions might be. You can see now that it wasn’t out of arrogance or selfishness. I was looking out for us ... for the two of us. For our family. Now, we won't speak of this again. Ever. To anyone. It isn’t safe. Agreed? [Pause.] Promise me.

WOMAN: I just think ... those poor people ... someone should—

MAN: Promise.


WOMAN: All right. I promise.

MAN: Good girl. [He kisses her.] We have to look out for ourselves. There's nothing more we can do. It’s not realistic. We go about our jobs—do the best we can—and try to be happy.

[There is a knock at the door.]

MAN: Who's that?

WOMAN: I don't know.

MAN: Did you invite someone for dinner?

WOMAN: No. [The MAN looks through the peephole.] Who is it?

MAN: I don't know. I can't tell.

WOMAN: Let me look.

[He steps out of the way. She looks through the peephole.]

MAN: Can you see anything?

WOMAN: No. [There is another knock at the door.] Should we answer?

MAN: I don't know.

WOMAN: Maybe they’ll go away.

MAN: What if it's something important?

WOMAN: Like what?

MAN: I don't know.

[Pause. Another knock—louder. The MAN opens the door. A MESSENGER stands in the doorway holding a clipboard.]

MAN: Hello?

THE MESSENGER: I have a message for employee nine-zero-zero-eight-five-six-one dash B dash H dash three-three-three.

MAN: That’s me.

THE MESSENGER: [Reading from his clipboard.] The company wishes to inform you that there will be a party held in your honor Monday morning.

MAN: A ... a party?

THE MESSENGER: [Still reading.] Cake will be served promptly at 8:00 AM.

MAN: There ... there must be some mistake.

THE MESSENGER: As always, tardiness is frowned upon.

MAN: But—

THE MESSENGER: What kind of cake would you like?

MAN: You don't understand!

THE MESSENGER: Chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry?

MAN: I'm a model employee!

THE MESSENGER: Chocolate, vanilla, or—

MAN: I’ve never even taken one sick day! Not one!


MAN: I'm running more than a dozen departments all by myself! I’ve just memorized the entire human resources handbook! The entire thing! I can quote it for you! Verbatim! I can quote it backwards! I'm a useful employee! Ask anyone! I’ll ... I’ll … I’ll work for free! I’ll even forfeit my—

THE MESSENGER: CHOCOLATE, VANILLA, or STRAWBERRY?!!! [Pause.] Look ... I'm just trying to do my job. I have to look out for myself, you know. It’s nothing personal. [Pause.] Chocolate, vanilla, or—

MAN: It doesn’t matter.

THE MESSENGER: You have to choose.

MAN: I don't care.

THE MESSENGER: Chocolate then. [The MESSENGER makes a note on his clipboard.] How many years of service?

MAN: What?

THE MESSENGER: How many years have you been with the company? The candles. You get one for every—

MAN: I ... I don't remember. It's been—

THE MESSENGER: It’s all right. I can check your file. Just sign here.

[The MAN signs reluctantly. The MESSENGER exits. Silence.]

MAN: I don't understand. [Pause.] I did everything they asked. Everything. I followed every rule. I never spoke out of turn. I brought donuts once a week. How could they question my ... [Pause.] Wait ... you ... you didn’t tell anyone—did you?

WOMAN: Tell what?

MAN: About the child! The doll!

WOMAN: No. I ... I don't think so.

MAN: You don't think so?!

WOMAN: I ... I don't—

[A sudden realization. Horrified, she covers her mouth.]

MAN: Who?! Who did you tell?!

WOMAN: The other day, at the grocery store, I ... I ran into that woman, you know, from the company picnic ... the one with no bra ... with the cigarettes and the stringy hair—

MAN: My god! She hates me! How could you—

WOMAN: I only mentioned it to make her jealous!

MAN: You might as well have cut my head off yourself! That woman's had it out for me since day one! She wants my job! She’s been watching like a hawk—waiting for me to slip up! She must have told them.


WOMAN: What are we going to do?

MAN: Nothing.


MAN: There's nothing we can do. It’s over.

WOMAN: Maybe ... maybe you can tell them it was a mistake? Tell them she’s lying! She made the whole thing up! Out of jealousy!

MAN: They'd find out the truth.

WOMAN: I’ll deny it! I never said anything! She doesn’t have any proof!

[Pause. He considers this.]

MAN: We'd have to destroy all the evidence.

WOMAN: What do you mean? What evidence? [He looks at the doll. She clings to it protectively.] No. Please.

MAN: It’s the only way.

WOMAN: You don't know what you're asking.

MAN: I know what the … the child means to you. But it’s her or me. There’s really no choice. [Pause.] Is there? [Pause.] Surely you wouldn’t choose that thing over me.


WOMAN: Her … her name is Emma.

MAN: They’re going to kill me.


WOMAN: She discovered her feet the other day. I wish you could’ve seen it.

MAN: Do you understand what I’m telling you.

WOMAN: She can make animal sounds too. She can do lion, doggie, monkey, and duck.

MAN: I’m going to die. They’re going to chop off my head.

WOMAN: She whacked the cat on the head this morning, and I told her that wasn’t nice and she should say she was sorry. So she petted the cat on the head and said, “Sorry, Meow.” Then she got the cat brush and started brushing him and said, “There go, Meow.” It was so sweet.

MAN: She can’t do that. She’s an infant.

WOMAN: She’s very advanced.

MAN: What am I saying? She’s not even an infant—she’s a doll!

WOMAN: She can count to ten.

MAN: She cannot!

WOMAN: She can. Sometimes she skips “seven” because it’s harder than the others.

MAN: You’re making that up!


MAN: All right, then make her do it! C’mon! Right now!

WOMAN: She isn’t in the mood.

MAN: Not in the mood!

WOMAN: She’s not a trained monkey, you know.


MAN: You’re … you’re really going to let me die?


WOMAN: Maybe you’ve misunderstood. Maybe they’re really throwing you a party. Just a party. Maybe they want to thank you for all the extra hours you’ve put in. [Pause.] You should probably get your work done. Just in case. We’ll leave you alone now. I’m sure you don’t want any distractions. [Pause.] Emma and I will keep our fingers crossed for you. [To the doll.] Won’t we, Emma? [Pause.] Tell Daddy, “Bye-bye.” [Pause.] Bye-bye, Daddy.

[The WOMAN exits. The MAN remains standing, motionless.]


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