First performed at First Annual 24 Hour Play Festival
Ethel Gittleman- is a fragile woman who hides her anger at herself and the world behind a brittle shell, which when broken reveals a fundamentally insecure and frightened self. She often takes out her anger on the easy target of her brother.
Fred Gittleman- is a timid man convinced he is content with his lot in life as the pining man who thinks and watches more than he acts. He will do anything for his sister and take any abuse from her.
Philatella- is mysterious.
Scene 1 - A bland living room with two people in their mid-40's dressed extremely nerdy, Fred and Ethel, brother and sister, sitting together on a couch. They are leaning over a table in front of them strewn with albums of postage stamps, magnifying glasses, books on stamp collecting, and a few loose stamps. They are both peering at different stamps, oblivious to each other. Suddenly a badly dirtied and tattered envelope is slid into view under a door on one edge of the stage.
Fred- Ethel? What's that?
Ethel- How should I know? Go get it.
Fred dutifully fetches the envelope, and looks out the peephole in the door.
Fred- I don't see anyone.
Ethel- Bring it over here.
Fred sits back on the couch, handing the envelope to Ethel. She opens it and they quickly read it, leaning in close to each other but not touching.
Fred- (his voice scared and quavering) What do you think it means, Ethel?
Ethel- (her voice abrasive and domineering but slightly higher out of fear) Exactly what it says you moron, we've been chosen.
Fred- I'm sorry, but, but...why us? I don't understand.
Ethel-(Quickly regaining her composure) They've obviously noticed my extraordinary intellect and quick thinking, and my stunning good looks couldn't have hurt either.(she tosses back her greasy hair but her heart does not seem to be totally in it)
Fred- Yeah, that all makes sense, but-I'm still-I'm sorry-why m-
Ethel- (Cutting him off before he can finish the word me) Oh you're just lucky you're my brother- (she rises and starts to slowly pace back and forth within the room, Fred slouches a little lower into the couch) god I do enough for you as it is and now you're probably going to mess up the most important thing that's happened to us in a long time.
Ethel- (she cuts him off again) Shut up and be useful. Read the letter to me again. (she sits on a chair a little distance from Fred.)
Fred-(clears his throat and begins to read from the letter) "Two stamp society members, Ethel and Fred Gittleman, have been chosen to assist in the next top-secret mission. You will meet our president, Philatella, tomorrow night at 10 pm outside the train station for further instructions. Destroy this letter. Signed, Philatella, President of the secret stamp society." (Fred finishes reading the letter and looks up and sighs) ahh, Philatella, she chose us, maybe that means she does like me.
Ethel- Ha, get over you little puppy love infatuation already, you know she'd never waste time with you, you don't have a chance.
Fred-I know, but at meetings, from where I sit I can see her perfectly, and sometimes it seems like I just can't keep myself from staring at her. I know I can never keep myself from thinking about her. I think she looks at me sometimes too, out of the corner of her eye, but whenever I think I've caught her, she's either looking past me or through me. And I still can't get my nerves up enough to talk to her.
Ethel- Ok, so what?
Fred- Remember that one time, when I tried to talk to her at the coffee machine, I was really close that time.
Ethel- And then you spilled coffee all over yourself.
Fred- Well, yeah, but I think she really wanted to talk to me. I had a feeling. And then she helped me clean off the coffee, it was like she really cared about me and wanted to help me. (Ethel opens her mouth, but closes it again without saying anything) Everything she does is effortless, everything is so hard for me.
Ethel- OK, I think that's quite enough whining, poor you, your life is so hard. At least you're content with its pathetic little struggle to talk to a woman. What about me, do you think I want to live here, in this crappy apartment with you, obsessed with something as trivial and stupid as stamps, scared of lie, afraid to go practically anywhere but form here to work to stamp meetings and back again? I need change, good or bad, something to jump start my life, but I'm too scared to not live with my brother and keep the same stupid dull boring dumb routine, day after fucking day.
Ethel- Shut up, I can swear if I want to, its something different anyway. At least you have your little Philatella to obsess over. Never actually do anything about it, mind you, but its something to think about and occupy the time. God knows there's not much else. (She angrily pushes away the book of stamps in front of her)
Fred- Ethel, are you ok?
Ethel- No I'm not fucking ok, whenever I trey to do something different with my life I freeze and come running back to this hovel where you are. I'm too afraid of my fear to confront it, does that sound ok to you?
Fred- What about tomorrow night, are we gonna be able to go through with it?
Ethel- Who knows, but for Philatella and the stupid society we'll have to. I can't let down the only thing left in my life. The shrink said take up a hobby, who knew it would take over my life.
Fred- But I'm still in your life, Ethel, I'm your brother, you know you can count on me.
Ethel- (Snarls under her breath) Not much to count on. Now, we have to get rid of that letter. (she thinks for a moment, then decides) You eat it, I have to go get ready for tomorrow. (Ethel leaves through a door opposite the door that the letter was slipped under, and Fred puts the letter in his mouth and begins to chew as the lights go out.)
Scene 2- Fred and Ethel stand outside the exterior of a train station in dim light. They are both dressed in all black as they nervously shift their weight while either wringing their hands or stuffing them in their pockets.
Fred- Maybe she's not going to come, maybe it was just a joke.
Ethel- Of course not. She'll be here.
Fred- At the last meeting, when we put our names in for a secret mission, I never thought it would actually happen. I'm scared.
Ethel- Of course you are, you're weak.
Fred- I know you're scared too, you just won't admit it.
Ethel- Shut up, I don't want to hear it.
Fred- Do you think Philatella will talk to me?
Ethel- She probably won't even notice you. I'm not even sure why she bothered to call you here anyway. I guess they felt bad sending a letter just to me, can't see why though.
Fred - (with a distant look in his eye as he stares out at nothing) Sigh. She's just so beautiful and smart and...perfect.
Ethel- Stop gushing, I get it- just give it up, ok?
(Fred does not respond, when suddenly a woman dressed in a trench coat with a hat on emerges from one side of the stage. She bears a striking resemblance to Carmen San Diego. She approaches Fred and Ethel, nods at them, then begins to talk.)
Philatella- Ethel and Fred Gittleman. Good. Do you know why you're here?
Ethel- To assist the society!
Fred- (noticeably embarrassed and stumbling over his words) umm, uh, yeah, uh, yes, I am, uh, me too.
Ethel- Say the right thing, stupid.
Fred- To assist the uh society.
Philatella- Good enough. Now, the case is this. It has come to our attention that someone is attempting to mail an extremely valuable golden eagle limited first edition stamp in the mail tomorrow evening. (Fred and Ethel both gasp and look shocked) It is out job to stop this from happening. We will gain access to the post office tomorrow before it closes, then at night when we are alone we will search the mailbox inside the post office and retrieve the letter with the stamp. We will then leave before anyone has a chance to stop us.
Ethel- But how-
Philatella- We will be delivered to the post office in a large package tomorrow afternoon, then wait until nightfall to emerge. I need you both to swear that you will complete the mission to the fullest and tell no one of this.
Ethel and Fred- I swear.
Philatella- Now we must leave before we are spotted. Go to society headquarters tomorrow at 1 pm and we will be packed and prepared for the mission. Goodbye.
(Philatella exits the stage from one side and Ethel and Fred leave from the other)
Scene 3- Inside a post office empty of people there is a large box on one side of a counter and a mail box on the other side. The box opens and Philatella, Ethel and Fred emerge, all dressed in black.
Philatella- (In an audible whisper) We must be extremely quiet and careful, there may be alarms here.
Fred- (Quietly) Should-
Ethel- (Louder than Fred) Shhhh!!!
(They crawl over past the counter to the mailbox and start trying to jimmy it open with screwdrivers)
Philatella- let's see here....(She sticks her screwdriver into the lock and fiddles with it, opening the mailbox. She then suddenly pushes Ethel into the box and slams it shut. Fred is too shocked to act in time to stop her)
Fred- What, what, what, have you done?!? (He moves to open the mailbox, from which can be heard the banging of Ethel trying to escape. Before he can reach the lock Philatella holds back his arm)
Philatella- Fred, let her go, and le me explain this to you.
Fred- But I-I-I
Philatella- Calm down Fred, take a deep breath.
(As Fred breathes again the banging from within the mailbox stops)
Philatella- There was no secret mission to rescue a golden eagle stamp, Fred, there was no golden eagle stamp to begin with. But the mission has been a success so far. Your sister is now in the relative luxury of a padded double-strengthened corrugated cardboard box, complete with air holes, and enough food and water to last the trip to Australia.
Philatella- Her box also happens to have the address of my brother printed on it. He lives in Australia and has agreed to help Ethel get on her feet once she gets there. You see Fred, when you started coming to our meetings you caught my eye, and so I had to learn more about you. Your sister as well. She's a good woman, but as she grew more fearful of life she grew more angry at it as well. She couldn't provide the change she needed herself, so I decided to give her a push in the right direction. There's a letter in that box that describes all of this to her too. From the lack of a continued struggle it seems she has read the letter and agrees with it.
Fred- But, she must be so frightened...
Philatella- Of course she is afraid, but is that so different from how she spends the rest of her days? And this fear carries behind it the promise of new life in a new place. Fear can be either a paralyzing or pushing emotion. Your sister was paralyzed, but now that she's been pushed, well, we'll see if she can't keep on going on her own.
Fred- I, I don't know, this may be good for her, but what about me, I need her, I don't know what I'll do without her.
Philatella- You don't need her, that's the thing. She needed you to need her, while being able to push you away at the same time. You did wish well for her, but I'm afraid you trying to help her up only kept her down. That vicious cycle kept you down too, Fred, you know that.
Fred- But that doesn't mean I know what to do now.
Philatella- Why don't we start by doing something together?
Fred- You mean me and you?
Philatella- Only if you want to, but I've been wanting to ask if you were interested in me for a while now.
Fred- (He spits out quickly) Of course I, (Then slows down and tries to sound more casual) I mean yea, I guess I am, do you want to um, get some coffee or something, get to know each other for real?
Philatella- Yeah, I think I'd like that. (She takes his hand and they walk out together, the lights dim)