During my initial playwriting course, I was given a brief in class assignment: In 30 minutes, write a scene in which two characters' objectives fundamentally clash. Here is what I came up with.
(At rise: the sidewalk of an English orphanage. Two people, a child and a middle-aged woman, sit on the furthest curb . The woman, MOIRA, smokes a cigarette while the child, JOEY, shuffles through finished pages of an old coloring book.)
MOIRA Doesn’t the sunset look pretty, love? (noticing his lack of interest) Joey... Joey, darling, don’t you think it’s high time you stop rummaging through those pages? You’ve all but finished the book by now.
JOEY I saw a dragon earlier.
MOIRA (indulging him) Now where would you see a thing like that?
JOEY In the sky.
MOIRA Aye, most dragons inhabit the sky. Least while they’re flying.
JOEY Not the real sky.
JOEY In the book, I saw a dragon earlier, but didn’t color it then. I wanted to get the Knight-captain first. Then I forgot, so I colored the other ones: the prince, the princess, the old hag, even the little people. But then I remembered about the dragon. Now I can’t find it.
MOIRA Maybe it’s a sign for you to stop. Besides, it’s almost past your bedtime.
JOEY The sun’s still up.
MOIRA Aye, but it’s going to sleep now, isn’t it. Which means you need to do the same.
JOEY I’m not tired.
MOIRA You will be soon.
JOEY I’ll be tired once I find the bloody dragon.
MOIRA You watch your fowl tongue lest I cleanse it with a bar of soap.
JOEY You’re not my mother.
MOIRA No, but me being an adult gives me every right to do such a deed. Now apologize and we’ll forget the whole business.
JOEY (begrudgingly) I’m sorry, Mrs. Roach.
MOIRA Best you be, little duckie. Now pop up and head onto bed.
JOEY Can’t I find the dragon first?
MOIRA Very well, I’ll give you a moment to finish your search.
(She takes another hit from her cigarette, then puts it out on the sidewalk. Joey is still looking through the pages. Frustratingly, he goes back to the beginning and starts over.)
JOEY (his anger rising) It’s not here!
MOIRA I’m sorry to hear that, child.
JOEY It might’ve been another one. Can you bring me the whole stack?
MOIRA Now, listen Joey, truly it is time for you to sleep. The sun’s under all the buildings now. Soon it’ll be darker than coal out here.
JOEY But, ma’am, I have to find the dragon!
MOIRA You’ll find it tomorrow.
JOEY I want to find it today!
MOIRA No, my dear child. You’ve had your supper, you’ve had your bath, and now it’s time for bed.
JOEY Please! Please, please, please, please!
MOIRA Now look who’s remembered their manners.
JOEY I just want the bloody fuckin' dragon!
MOIRA (scolding him) That’s it, mister. You stay right here while I go get the soap!
JOEY (desperate) I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
MOIRA I bet you are. Now listen, it’s been a long day for both of us, we’re both tired, so why don’t we end it here and the both of us go to sleep?
JOEY I’m not tired.
MOIRA Well I am. More than that, the rest of the bunch is tired also. You wouldn’t want to leave them waiting for bedtime, now would you?
JOEY I wouldn’t, but I need to find this dragon.
MOIRA (becoming frustrated) Don’t you remember what the good Lord said. “Patience is a virtue.” Aye, listen to the words: “Patience is a virtue.”
JOEY I’ve been patient.
MOIRA Stomping around, screaming profanities like “bloody” and “damn” is not the definition I had in mind.
JOEY I’ve been here all weekend, haven’t I. MOIRA You didn’t have much choice in the matter. Now it’s time for bed.
MOIRA (completely vexed) Listen here, child. I’m not one for physical punishment, but if you continue such nonsense, I’ll turn you ‘round and give you the spanking of a lifetime, you hear me!
JOEY You can’t do that!
MOIRA Oh really?
(Swiftly, she grabs his shoulder and prepares to turn him around.)
JOEY (at the top of his lungs, while crying) Stop it! Stop it! I want you to stop it!
MOIRA Then will you listen to me!
JOEY (now sobbing) I just want the dragon!
MOIRA (breaking) Why? Why is the dragon so bloody important?
JOEY (sobbing uncontrollably) It’s mummy’s favorite creature! In all the stories she used to read me, she’d have the most fun with the dragon. I just want to make mummy happy!
(With that, he buries his face in his lap and continues to cry. Moria, now calmer than ever, pats his back and provides comfort.)
MOIRA I didn’t realize it was for your mother.
JOEY Yes. And she’ll be back in the morning, so I have to do it tonight!
MOIRA (contemplating telling him) Joey..... (giving in) Does it have to be the dragon?
JOEY (seriously) Yes... Ma’am, please.
MOIRA (her heart breaking slightly) Oh Joey, what if it’s not in the other twenty coloring books? What will you do then?
JOEY (his mood improving) It will be in there, ma’am. I promise. And when I find it, I’m going to color it BRIGHT RED so that I can give it my mum when she comes in the morning.
MOIRA Alright, dear child. We’ll go find your dragon. (They start to go inside.)
JOEY And after the dragon, I’m going to find a troll and call that one “pops” so that mum can laugh real hard. Then I’ll look for a king and name him King Joey, and all of us will be happy.
MOIRA We won’t be sleeping tonight, will we?
JOEY I told you, I’m not tired.
MOIRA Then neither am I. I’ll go make a cuppa. Do you want one?
JOEY Maybe after the dragon.
MOIRA Very well, love. After the dragon.
(They exit. The lights fade out.)
An Excerpt from