SETTING: An English library.
AT RISE: A neat, but not fastidious, MAN peers around book shelves as if searching for a small something. A female LIBRARIAN goes about her duties, generally unaware of the neat, but not fastidious, MAN's presence.
MAN (approaching the LIBRARIAN)
Excuse me? So sorry to bother you, but it seems that someone has stolen my umbrella.
Oh? I'm sorry.
(She returns to her work, shelving books.)
(She turns to him.)
It's still raining dreadfully outside.
LIBRARIAN (looking offstage, toward a window)
Oh. Well, we do have a pile of umbrellas right there.
(A bundle of umbrellas is nudged onstage by a stagehand.)
(She again returns to her work. The MAN looks to the newly present umbrellas, then back to the LIBRARIAN.)
MAN (in disbelief)
LIBRARIAN (frustrated over having to stop again)
I said , we have—
I heard you. But don't you see how that exacerbates the trouble?
…in that I'm taking something which is not mine.
Sir. You need an umbrella, don't you?
Ah-ah. Let me finish. If you decide not to take one of these umbrellas, which are completely free and may well be of a quality finer than the one you lost—
I beg your pardon.
LIBRARIAN (speaking over him)
—should you decide to leave this space, unprotected from the torrent which will surely pelt you through to your core, you'll get home angry. You'll be livid and sit down to pen a nasty letter to our establishment, urging us to change our policy about belongings left unattended. Through this, the damp will set into your bones, you'll contract pneumonia, and be stone dead before the week's end.
(The MAN stares at her.)
Are you mentally unstable?
I? Am I mentally unstable? Sir, it is you who is passing up the thrill of petty theft. It is you who left your umbrella in a miscellaneous pile of others, where it could have been confused with someone else's—
I would've kept it with me, but I didn't want to get the books wet.
And here you are, telling me that you're above taking someone else's umbrella, when your own health is at stake.
(He squints at her.)
You encouraged someone to steal my umbrella, didn't you?
LIBRARIAN (shaking her head)
Your mind cycles along a lonely track, sir.
MAN (not breaking eye contact with her, but walking toward the door, nearly offstage)
THIEF! HELP! This woman is a thief! I've been burgled!
(She steps over the pile of umbrellas, reaching out toward him as a mother to her misbehaving child.)
Sir, stop it. Sir?
Sir, desist . I beg you; this is a library.
(She attempts to take his arm, but he twists out of her grasp, nearly tumbling over the umbrellas.)
I demand to see the head librarian.
She's not in.
I want her name. And yours.
LIBRARIAN (walking away from him)
I'll give you something better.
(She exits, and then returns with a svelte, sleek umbrella. She offers it to him.)
What's this? That's not mine.
No, it's mine. And you can keep the bloody thing if you'll just leave.
It's a perfectly fine umbrella.
But it's not mine. That makes it theft.
Sir, I'm giving it to you. It's a gift.
(He eyes it, then looks at her pleadingly.)
Let me at least pay you for it.
(He pulls a twenty-pound note from his pocket. Her response is her bored expression.)
Can you break a twenty?
(Snatching the bill from him, she tosses the umbrella his way, which falls to the floor)
(She pockets the money and exits.)
(The MAN watches her go. Then he opens the umbrella and lifts it above his head. That serves his curiosity well enough. He walks offstage with it.)
(A few moments pass. He reenters and rings the bell at the information desk.)
(A GIRL appears behind the counter.)
No, not you. The other one.
I need your coworker.
Your associate. I just purchased her umbrella, but it's stopped raining, you see. So, I'd like to return it and get my money back.
Sir, I'm the only librarian on staff currently.
(The GIRL shrugs haplessly.)
Right. Um. Thanks.
(He exits, leaving the umbrella behind. The LIBRARIAN sneaks back in, finger to her lips. She grabs the umbrella and runs offstage whence she came.)
(Thunder sounds offstage.)
(The GIRL puts a sign on the counter which reads “CLOSED” and ducks out of sight.)
(The sound of heavy rain can be heard as the lights dim.)