Cornered Magnetism

Cover Image

[Setting] Midday, inside a nearly empty coffee shop, it is raining lightly outside. Two figures are sitting across from each other by the window. One is wearing a fedora, tilted slightly to the side, while the other is wearing glasses, with a pen tucked behind his ear. Outside, a woman runs by wearing a bright red jacket, trying to get out of the rain, splashing water behind her as she goes.

JASON: [snorts, securing the pen behind his ear] I suspect that she’s going to fall.

FRANCIS: [nods, looking around coffee shop] And break her neck.

JASON: [raises an eyebrow] How cynical. (cont. ->)

FRANCIS:  Just playing off the vibe.

[Silence, Francis’ still looking around the coffee shop and Jason’s staring at him. With a sigh, Jason leans forward and snaps his fingers in front of Francis’ face. Francis’ blinks.]


JASON: Why am I here?

FRANCIS: [waves his arm towards the coffee] Why else?

JASON: It’s empty.

FRANCIS: And it’s ours to enjoy.

JASON: So you made me walk here to—

FRANCIS: [cuts Jason off] Why are you living, Jason?

JASON: [frowns] Because I breathe and want to keep doing so?

FRANCIS: [nods rapidly] And? What do you live for? Work? Play?

JASON: Money, partners and a luxurious lifestyle of my choosing.

FRANCIS: [rolls his eyes, sarcastic] How posh of you.

JASON: [shrugs and smirks] Every prejudice needs one.

[They laugh, tight and forced before stopping, almost in sync. Then, Jason stares at Francis.]

JASON: Seriously, why am I here?

[Francis reaches into his bag and takes out a miniature box. He carefully unfolds it. It is a miniature chess set with magnetic pieces. The few pieces left are placed all over as if in a middle of a game. He moves it so the black side is in front of him, the white side across.]

FRANCIS: [tilts his fedora slightly downwards] You tell me.

[Jason looks down at the board. The black rook, knight and bishop corner the white king at end game.]

JASON: I thought we forgot about this.

FRANCIS: [simply shakes his head, staring at Jason]

JASON: [grabs the pen that is tucked behind his ear and starts tapping it on the table] Uh…

FRANCIS: [presses a finger on top of the black rook on the board] Stagnancy.

JASON: Cornered.

FRANCIS: [stares at him silently]

JASON: [fidgets] I—I’m—We finished this game. There’s no point. No need to continue.

FRANCIS: [nods calmly] Is that what you think?

[Jason looks up, frowning. He is tapping the pen vigorously against the table, before Francis’ hand shoot across the table and grabs the pen in his hand. He grips it tight and Jason refuses to let go.]

FRANCIS: Jason, look at it. Is that what you really think?

JASON: [pulls at the pen] What are you talking about? Why are you using this game? I’m cornered.

FRANCIS: You mean the king is cornered.

JASON: [looks away from him] Yes.

FRANCIS: [waits a beat then whispers] Why are you living Jason?

JASON: [frowns, still trying to pull at the pen] I already told you—


[Jason gulps, his hand slacking slightly, giving Francis the chance to take the pen. Jason stares down at the chessboard, shoulders slumping considerably. Francis sets the pen on the table.]

JASON: Why am I here?

FRANCIS: Because you need to understand.

JASON: A life lesson? In an empty coffee shop—

FRANCIS: It’s peaceful.

JASON: Lonely.

FRANCIS: [shakes his head] You’re with company.

JASON: [looks up] Fine, misery. This game.

FRANCIS: Stop it.

JASON: [clenches his fist and pounds on the table] I don’t understand. Why this game?

FRANCIS: So that you can understand.

JASON: Understand what? Is this another one of your segments? Life lessons by Frank O’Hara—stay tuned. Up next, we have ‘How to be self-righteous and annoying 101.’

[Francis just stares and Jason stands up, his chair toppling behind him. He does not walk away and just glares down at Francis whose face is stoic, his posture straight and steady.]

FRANCIS: I know what you’ve been planning.

JASON: [grips the table, still glaring] I don’t know what you’re talking about.

FRANCIS: [adjusts his fedora, sighing] We’ve been friends for twelve years.

JASON: [quietly, bending down to grab his chair from the floor] Thirteen.

FRANCIS: Yes, exactly. You can’t hide from me.

JASON: [stills, before sitting down on his chair] You’ve lost it.

FRANCIS: [shakes his head silently]

JASON: You honestly think—

FRANCIS: I know.

[Jason stops, then looks down at the chess board once again. He presses his finger on top of the white king, his hand shaking.]

JASON: Why this game?

FRANCIS: It had to be this one.

JASON: [whispers] Must you remind m—why did it have to happen?

FRANCIS: [bows his head slightly] Because that’s how it works.

JASON: It was so unfair.

FRANCIS: That’s life.

[Silence, Jason presses his finger harder against the white king, tilting it slightly.]

JASON: This game ended then, it remains the same way now. It doesn’t matter.

FRANCIS: I know. But it doesn’t have to be. Not now. Not for you.

JASON: It’s right in front of you. I’m cornered. Just like the first time. No way out.

FRANCIS: [shakes his head] That wasn’t for you. There’s always a way out, especially now.

JASON: Not this game. The king is cornered and must admit defeat.

FRANCIS: And what happens at the end of every game?

JASON: [frowns] Nothing, you admit defeat, that’s why the game ends?


JASON: [looks out the window] It’s just done. Everything ends. Just leave it be.

[Francis shakes his head and looks down at the chess board. He flicks Jason’s finger that is still pushing at the white king and makes the piece tumble down as he does.]

JASON: [turns and stares at the board] It’s done. I’m done.

FRANCIS: Nothing’s over.

JASON: [frowns] It is over.

FRANCIS: Yes, because you need to know how to lose to know how to win.

JASON: [looks away again, frowning at the window] Stop quoting things.

FRANCIS: You lose. You restart. You don’t stop. You can restart a game. You can.

[Pause. Francis starts picking up the pieces. Jason is still looking outside the window when Francis begins to re-arrange the board. When he finishes, he looks up and Jason’s looking at him, a small smile on his face. Francis smirks.]

JASON: Whatever you say.

FRANCIS: You’ll get it one day. White or black?

[Jason shrugs]



*** When I wrote this, it was untitled. Now it has a title, and I'm pretty sure I have this place to thank for it.


Created: Mar 23, 2011

Tags: plays

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