(Lights up on the mainstage. THERESA, NATE, and MEI, three roommates, are all sitting on a bench, looking around the stage. No one is looking up.)
THERESA: (Pause.) You guys ever hear the one about the guy and the talking snake in the desert?
THERESA: So this guy is stranded in the desert, and he’s dying. Of thirst. From being stranded in the desert.
NATE: Got it.
THERESA: And he ends up crawling - he’s crawling, because he’s dying in the desert, so he’s crawling - up over this dune, and he sees an oasis. So he crawls over to the oasis and starts drinking and a snake -
MEI: The talking snake?
THERESA: Yeah, the talking snake comes up beside him, but he doesn’t care, he just keeps drinking. And so the snake slithers up to his ear and says “Hey.” (Short beat.) And so the guy jumps up, really surprised -
MEI: Why’s he so surprised?
THERESA: Because a snake just said “Hey” to him.
MEI: But it’s a talking snake. (Beat.) They talk. It’s in the name.
THERESA: Well, he doesn’t know that!
THERESA: And so the guy looks over at the snake and says “Oh my god, a talking snake,” and -
NATE: Theresa, how long is this joke?
THERESA: It goes on for a while.
THERESA: (Longer pause. Giving up:) It wasn’t that funny anyway.
NATE: (Pause. NATE looks up to the sky.) I don’t like when the sky’s that color.
MEI: (Pause.) No.
THERESA: (Pause.) What about the one with the priest and the robot?
MEI: Yeah, I know that one.
THERESA: Oh. What about the one about the wibbly lumberjack?
THERESA: What about the one where the priest, rabbi, an atheist, an ocelot, the Biggest Loser, three hundred Spartan warriors, Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games, and a -
NATE: Theresa. What are you doing?
THERESA: I’m trying to distract you two.
NATE: Well, don’t.
THERESA: Come on. Take your mind off of it.
NATE: This isn’t the sort of thing you just take your mind off of.
THERESA: Sure it is. Come on, what do you want to do? (She does each of the actions as she describes them. NATE refuses to look at her.) We could dance. Hoo! Hah! (Seeing he isn’t amused.) Come on, try it! (Pulling MEI up as an unwilling dance partner.) Watch me go! Watch Theresa go! Or, uh, I don’t know. You ever try stepping before? Or - oh, I know! (Running behind the bench to him.) We could sing! Come on, try it. (In a ridiculous singing voice.) Everything’s better, down where it’s wetter, take it from me!
NATE: (Pointing at the sky.) What’s that color from?
MEI: That? That… That must be the house. (Beat.) That must be from the fire.
NATE: (Looking at Theresa. Pointedly:) Everything’s better, down where it’s wetter.
THERESA: (Slumping back onto the bench.) Fine. You win. Let’s just sit here and sulk. (Pause. Pointedly:) That was sarcasm.
NATE: Yeah, I know.
THERESA: (Pause.) So stop sitting there and sulking.
(MEI is pacing back and forth across the stage.)
THERESA: What’s gonna happen if you smile a little, right now? Is the world going to end if you stop frowning so hard? Would it just destroy your night if you were to lighten up a little?
NATE: No. The fire did that already.
THERESA: (Beat.) You really suck at this. What if we tried, I don’t know, writing poetry? Arm wrestling? Telling spooky stories?
MEI: (With her back to them.) Roasting marshmellows?
NATE: (Looks to THERESA. He’s almost laughing.) Arm wrestling? (NATE and THERESA set up to arm wrestle on top of the bench. THERESA counts off, and they start. NATE wins within three seconds. He laughs.) Now what?
NATE: You suggested it.
THERESA: Yeah? You broke my arm!
NATE: Yeah? You suggested it.
THERESA: I suggested arm wrestling. That right there was not wrestling.
NATE: You know, I’m pretty strong.
THERESA: You don’t look it.
NATE: That was fun. Let’s do that again.
MEI: (Scared angry.) No!
NATE: Nate? (Pause, then he arm-wrestles himself.) I win.
THERESA: (Pause.) Hey, Nate.
THERESA: Made you laugh.
MEI: (Pause.) So.
MEI: I don’t know. I just… Fire. There’s a fire. Our house is on fire.
MEI: But we’re not on fire.
NATE: (Confused.) No, we aren’t.
MEI: So, I mean, it could be worse.
THERESA: (Beat.) You suck at this whole “distraction” thing, too.
MEI: I know.
THERESA: (Beat.) But you’re right.
MEI: (Beat.) I know.
THERESA: Thank God, huh?
NATE: (Pause.) I don’t like when the sky’s this color.
THERESA: You said that.
NATE: All blacks and reds.
MEI: I wonder what that black there is from.
NATE: The fire.
MEI: No shit. I mean, is that the bathroom tiles? The hallway rug? (Pause. Soft:) My bed?
THERESA: (Beat.) We really suck at this distraction thing.
THERESA: It’s like a really depressing game of “I Spy”.
NATE: Maybe we shouldn’t be sitting this close to the fire.
NATE: If that’s the bathroom tiles burning, then maybe we should get a bit further away. Might not want to breathe that smoke.
MEI: I think we’re fine.
NATE: No, really, you know what they make those things with? It’s -
MEI: I want to breathe in the smoke. (Pause.) It’s like saying goodbye to everything.
THERESA: (Pause.) We have insurance.
MEI: I know.
THERESA: We can replace everything.
MEI: I know.
THERESA: It’ll be like a fresh start. It’s like getting rid of five years of baggage, all like that.
MEI: You’re saying this is a good thing?
THERESA: No, it sucks. This whole thing sucks. Tonight sucks, and -
MEI: Theresa, I know that this sucks -
THERESA: No. Tonight and tomorrow and probably the next few weeks or months are gonna suck, sure. But not forever. I’m just saying there’s a silver lining. It’s small, and it’s at the edge of a really big cloud, but it’s there.
MEI: (Pause.) I don’t see it.
THERESA: Look harder.
NATE: (Pause.) I hate it when the sky’s this color. All blacks and reds.
THERESA: I know. I do too. But... isn’t it pretty?
(The three sit on the bench, looking up at the sky. Sirens slowly rise in the background. Blackout.)