Bella Bravo was born 1987 in San Diego, California, and now lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

1 scene by Bella Bravo

AS BAD AS THEY

SCENE 4

CHARACTERS

JORDAN – Early 30s. Type A. Life is smaller than she expected. 

 

CALEB – Jordan’s baby brother. Early 20s. Addicted to opiates.

 

ROGER – Older. Homeless. Sober.

 

RUTH – Jordan’s best friend. Security engineer. Blunt.

 

MIKEY – Young. Dumb. In love with drugs.

 

THE GUARD – Government employee. Candy Crush savant.

 

THE JUDGE – Public servant. 

 

THE SQUARE – Deputy prosecutor. New and eager.

 

 

ACT I 

 

Scene 4 – INSIDE THE NEXT AFTERNOON

 

The lights at the back of the stage come up. 

 

CALEB is lying down on a bench in an orange jumpsuit and orange crocs. CALEB is drug sick, sweating. CALEB feels sensitive to sound, tries to keep his sickness under control: nausea, joint stiffness, rolling aches, muscle tingling, anxiety.

 

The lights at the front of the stage come up.

 

JORDAN is sitting at the desk in her office, facing the audience. JORDAN has her laptop out to Facetime with her friend RUTH. A coffee mug sits next to JORDAN.

 

RUTH appears projected onto a backdrop. RUTH is reading something in another open window. RUTH glances quickly at JORDAN before her gaze returns to the other window.

 

RUTH

You look horrible.

 

JORDAN

That’s not helpful.

 

RUTH

Sorry, you are majestic, but you need sleep.

 

JORDAN

It’s every night. . . for almost six months. 

That bird won’t stop. 

 

RUTH

Trust me, it’s sleep or Adderall. 

 

JORDAN

Actually I’m doing really well, now that I only drink caffeinated beverages.

 

RUTH

 “Actually,” “really,” and “only” are TOTALLY common adverbs used to describe states of wellness. 

 

JORDAN

Cool. So, let’s talk about you. 

 

RUTH

Well, before we dig into my favorite topic, 

real quick: Have you heard from Caleb?

 

 

The GUARD enters and wakes up CALEB.

 

JORDAN

Not yet.

 

The GUARD escorts CALEB off stage, and the lights in the back fade out.

 

RUTH 

Do you think there is any correlation. . .or causality. . . between the bird sounds and . . .

 

JORDAN

You have heard that bird!

 

RUTH

Have I?

 

JORDAN

I’m going to fly to California and murder you.

 

RUTH

That’d be great. We’ll get dumplings first. 

You should fly into Oakland. It’s cheaper.

 

JORDAN

It’s not in my head.

 

RUTH

You’re right. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that you’re crazy. I believe you: 

The bird is real.

It’s annoying.

In fact, it’s so annoying it’s worth reneging on your lease. 

And I’ve heard the bird. . . 

Well, I’ve most likely heard the bird. 

 

JORDAN drinks from her mug.

 

RUTH

But I was trying to ask if you thought your sleeplessness might be related to all this stuff with your brother. . . 

 

Ruth receives a Notification Chime.

 

JORDAN

And that’s time. 

 

RUTH directs her focus away from JORDAN to a different window on her computer screen:

 

RUTH

Fuck you! That code was fucking poetry.

 

JORDAN

Oh yes, tell ‘em.

 

RUTH

Sorry, one sec—

 

RUTH disappaers from the backdrop, bloop. 

 

JORDAN picks up the mug and sets it down without drinking. JORDAN rests her head on the desk instead.

MIKEY and ROGER enter with chairs. They unfold their chairs and take a seat, facing the audience.

 

The GUARD enters with CALEB and a chair in tow. The GUARD places the chair between MIKEY and ROGER. The GUARD deposits CALEB in the courtroom. 

 

When CALEB enters, ROGER turns and nods at CALEB.

 

The GUARD goes to stand behind the inmates. MIKEY leans over to chat with him. 

 

ROGER turns to CALEB:

 

ROGER

You look bad.

 

CALEB

Nice to see you too.

 

CALEB eases the crook of his neck onto the seat back.

 

CALEB

At least the seats are comfortable.

 

The GUARD takes out his phone. MIKEY continues to chat.

 

ROGER

Where else could general admission get you front row seats?

 

CALEB

Church.

 

CALEB points a finger gun under his chin and pulls the trigger.

 

ROGER

Glad detox isn’t cowing ya, kid.

 

The JUDGE pushes her bench onto the stage.

 

GUARD

Quiet down.

 

THE JUDGE positions herself behind the bench and opens her computer. The GUARD resumes to playing on his phone. 

 

MIKEY turns to face forward. ROGER and CALEB stop talking. ROGER kind of reclines in his seat.

The lights in the courtroom dim.

 

RUTH reappears on the backdrop, bloop. JORDAN shoots awake.

 

RUTH

Sorry, I hate this cloud guy.

 

JORDAN

Huh? 

 

RUTH

This cloud guy keep picking, picking, picking.


JORDAN

What’s his deal?

 

RUTH

He’s used to writing his own encryption, so he keeps finding something “wrong” with mine.

 

JORDAN

Are you still doing the food app thing?

 

RUTH

Yes, I am still doing the food app thing.

 

JORDAN

Sorry, I just remember it’s like for finding food.

 

RUTH 

Kind of. It’s automated software that saves dietary settings and recommends nearby restaurants based on the reviews from other users with similar dietary restrictions. 

 

JORDAN

To help people find food!

 

RUTH

(Sigh.) Yeah.

 

JORDAN 

So, is this cloud guy the same guy who said 

you need to “level up your people skills”?

 

RUTH

Oh, gawd, yes! I forgot about that. 

But right now tech is like 3 to 1 sales, 

so that could have been anyone.

 

JORDAN

Um, but isn’t he another engineer?

 

RUTH

Yeah, but right now engineers have convinced themselves that they’re “poor” because they’re socially inept, so they overcompensate by diagnosing their own faults in others.

   

JORDAN

C’mon, you really think the fact that he perceives you to be woman doesn’t have anything to do with this? 

 

RUTH

Um. . . no. I think he was just projecting.

 

JORDAN

C’mon, he was calling you a bitch.

 

RUTH

Well, also I freelance.

 

JORDAN

What does that have to do with it?

 

RUTH

I don’t have a job. There’s some stigma.

 

JORDAN

Last week, you were the one yelling about how 

(mocking Ruth’s voice) 

“Pinterest lowered its hiring rate of women and increased its hiring of all other minorities underrepresented in tech.” 

 

RUTH

I’m just saying there may be multiple factors affecting this given encounter.

 

RUTH turns to search something in another window.

 

JORDAN

You’re impossible.

 

RUTH

I remembered Hot Pockets yesterday. 

 

JORDAN

You’ve lived in the Bay too long.

 

RUTH

Impossible. I’m gonna get one for lunch today.

 

JORDAN

What kind?

 

RUTH

The ham and cheese one. 

 

JORDAN

Gross. How will silently eating a Hot Pocket at your desk reflect on your ”people skills”? 

 

RUTH looks up from the computer.

 

RUTH

Sick. There’s a “fusion” food truck with vegan Pot Sticker Burritos around the corner.

 

JORDAN

Oh, yeah, that’s the same thing as a Hot Pocket.

 

RUTH

I’m hungry. You nap, now. 

 

JORDAN

Okay, talk soon, love you.

 

RUTH

Love you, too.

 

JORDAN waves, lays down her head, and naps. The light over her fades.

 

As the lights over the courtroom come up, the SQUARE, a prosecutor with a square face, rushes in, pushing her podium in front of her. The SQUARE positions herself behind it. 

 

MIKEY turns to CALEB:

 

MIKEY

What’s your plan, kid? 

 

CALEB

I don’t know, beg for mercy?

 

MIKEY

Hey, that’s the fastest way outta here today.

 

ROGER

You seem kind of young to be a jailhouse lawyer.

 

MIKEY

The guard was saying that the jail’s full.

 

ROGER

So, the judge’s looking to turn people out. . .

 

MIKEY

Plead guilty today, and ya might get time served.

 

CALEB

Is that your plan?

 

MIKEY

Oh, I’m not here for an initial. 

 

MIKEY points his finger at the SQUARE.

 

MIKEY

She’s asking the judge to test my blood.

 

CALEB

Are you dying or something?

 

ROGER 

That’s not really their concern, is it?

 

MIKEY

No way! I was fighting with this guy and the cop who pulled me off had a big cut on his eyebrow. I guess the cut happened—

 

ROGER

They think you got some blood in his cut.

 

MIKEY holds out his arm to show CALEB the interior hinge of his elbow. MIKEY gives his veins a tap.

 

MIKEY

—But I’ve only been using for a year.

 

MIKEY flexes so Caleb can get a good look.

 

MIKEY

I’m clean, kid. I went in to get my heart checked four months ago. I don’t have any problem with a blood draw. I’m clean.

 

THE JUDGE

Is Mr. Michael Adcock here?

 

MIKEY

I’m up. (Pause.) It’s Mikey, ma’am. 

 

MIKEY starts talking in his seat and talks as he walks up the bench. MIKEY stops in the middle of the courtroom, enjoying everyone’s attention. MIKEY waves his arms as he talks.

 

MIKEY

Ma’am, I’m clean. I’m homeless, and I’ve only been using intravenous drugs for about nine months, but I swear, ma’am, I’m clean. 

 

CALEB

(whispering) 

Mikey, you have the right to remain silent.

 

ROGER

You know, it’s hard to know what’s right.

 

MIKEY

I got a problem with my heart, and I went to the hospital a coupla months before I got picked up. They checked me out. I’m clean.

 

The JUDGE is unfazed, doesn’t look up from her computer. The JUDGE signs and passes a paper to GUARD. 

 

The GUARD puts away his phone and passes the paper to MIKEY. 

 

MIKEY returns to his seat. 

 

The JUDGE reads off her computer.

 

JUDGE

Mr. Caleb Ternin.

 

As CALEB stands, his sickness closes in on him.

 

The GUARD pushes some papers in CALEB’s hand.

 
At the bench, CALEB wavers in his crocs.

 

JUDGE

Do you have a nickname, too?

 

CALEB

No. . . Ma’am.

 

JUDGE

It’s Your Honor, please? 

 

CALEB nods.

 

JUDGE

Okay, Mr. Ternin, you’ve had time to review the charges against you. Do you understand them?

 

CALEB feels the papers in his hands. 

 

JUDGE

When asked how do you plead to the charges of resisting law enforcement as a class A misdemeanor, public intoxication as a class B misdemeanor, and possession of heroin, a schedule I controlled substance as a class A misdemeanor, how do you plead?

 

CALEB

Is that now?

 

JUDGE

Yes, Mr. Ternin.

 

CALEB

Um. . . not guilty. . . I didn’t resist anybody.

 

JUDGE

Well then before we go any further, 

let’s get you a lawyer and set bail. 

 

The JUDGE does something to indicate that what she has read gives her pause, like pulling down her glasses or tapping her pen.

 

JUDGE

It’s says here, that you’re homeless. Now, I don’t mean this as an insult. I just need to know. Do you have anywhere that you can stay if I were to release you? I don’t want you sleeping under a bush. The jail roof is better than no roof, right?

 

CALEB

Um, I could stay with my sister.

JUDGE

Great, what’s her address?

CALEB

1510 Clover Avenue.

 

The SQUARE perks up.

 

THE SQUARE

Your honor? Um, I would move to continue this hearing. And, I would like, uh, to object to lowering, uh, Mr. Ternin’s bail below the standard, if I could? And, um, I would promise to, uh, retract my objection, uh, if Mr. Ternin can produce, um, his sister—is it?—and she confirms that he can stay her with there, uh there with her.

 

The SQUARE rises awkwardly.

 

THE SQUARE

While participating in pretrial, uh, treatment for, um, obvious substance use, uh, and abuse.

 

The JUDGE indicates light frustration by rolling her eyes or scratching her head.

 

JUDGE

Alright, counselor. The jail is at maximum capacity, but I’m sorry, Mr. Ternin, the prosecutor makes a fair point. Let’s find you a place to stay and a plan for treatment. Is a week enough time to contact your sister?

 

CALEB

I just have to call her right?

JUDGE

Your attorney will call her, Mr. Ternin. Let me make a quick note in your file. We will release you directly to your sister, got it?

 

CALEB nods.

 

The JUDGE reaches over and taps a microphone on the bench between them.

 

JUDGE

Everything needs to be audible for the record.

 

CALEB leans forward and speaks directly into the microphone.

 

CALEB

Yes.

 

JUDGE

Great, we have a shot with you, Mr. Ternin. We’re not going to waste it. I’ll appoint you a public defender, so you can contact him or her with any questions. Good luck—

 

The JUDGE reads off the paper:

 

JUDGE

Okay, next, Mr. Ullman.

 

The lights fade out as the JUDGE, CALEB, the GUARD, and the SQUARE exit the stage.

 

The light above Jordan comes up. JORDAN’S phone rings.

 

JORDAN wakes up, shuffles around looking for her phone, and misses the call. She looks at the screen confused.

 

The phone rings again, JORDAN looks, rolls her eyes, and answers.  

 

JORDAN

Hello?

Yes.

Hello, again.

Okay. I mean, is he okay?

Did he go to the hospital?

Well, that’s not so bad then.

It’s been about eight months.

Yeah, he checked out as soon as they dropped his last case.

Yes, 1510 that’s my address. I’m surprised he remembered it.

Sure, I mean, yes, he can. If that’s what’s easiest for everyone.

Sure. When is it?

I’ll be there.

JORDAN writes a note on her hand.

 

As the lights fade out, a car alarm starts. 

 

. . .