One Act: La Superviseur

La Superviseur

A one-act © by John Arnold


LAUREL – in her 20s

ETIENNE – in his 50s

Scene: adjoining cubicles in a French government office.

LAUREL enters and takes off her coat. ETIENNE is intent on his computer and is listening to his iPod.


LAUREL         (Kissing him) Bon jour.


ETIENNE         Gently! Gently! Bon jour.


LAUREL         What’s the matter?


ETIENNE         I drank too much at Marcel’s retirement party last night.


LAUREL         Good for you. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it. I hope you gave him my present.


ETIENNE         Of course I gave him your present. What do you think I did? Return it and keep the money? (LAUREL shoots him a look.)


LAUREL         (Points to her computer) Did you put this post-it on my computer?

ETIENNE         (Listening to his iPod) No. What does it say?


LAUREL         “Let me check to see if she is in.”


ETIENNE         What?


LAUREL         It’s from La Superviseur.


ETIENNE         What? 


LAUREL         It’s from La Superviseur.


ETIENNE         Oh.


LAUREL         Did you get one?


ETIENNE         No.


LAUREL         (Throws down her purse) Now she’s correcting me on the way I answer the phone!


ETIENNE         What?


LAUREL         Take off that iPod!


ETIENNE         (Takes it off) Don’t take it out on me!


LAUREL         She’s driving me crazy!


ETIENNE         Why do you think I wear the iPod?


LAUREL         She’s going to give you a post-it for that, too, you know.


ETIENNE         I don’t care.


LAUREL         Of course you don’t care, you can retire!


ETIENNE         Not until my financial advisor says so.


LAUREL         Well, if he says so you’d better let me know in advance. Don’t leave without telling anybody like some people have done.


ETIENNE         I don’t want a party.


LAUREL         Who says I’m going to throw you a party?


ETIENNE         Just don’t do it.


LAUREL         And, speaking of parties, you still owe me money for the baby shower.


ETIENNE         I drove you to buy the gifts. That’s enough.


LAUREL         It is not.  I had to plan the party for La Superviseur, invite everybody, and buy the presents. You’re not the only one who owes me money. You owe me twenty Euros, and you know it.


ETIENNE          I worked on the party and you know it. I still think we should have dressed like the Three Kings of the Magi and brought gold, frankincense and myrrh.


LAUREL No, we should have done that when she brought the kid into the conference room for the “showing.” Thank God Le Directeur shouted “TWO HOURS!” when he saw her memo. Two hours to show off that kid!


ETIENNE         Well, at least she thanked you for the party. When she gave her “thank you speech,” she managed to thank you and Jacques. No mention of me.


LAUREL         Maybe it slipped her mind.


ETIENNE         It may slip your mind if you have ten or twenty employees, but she only has the three of us. If it slipped her mind, it was a hell of a Freudian slip!


LAUREL         This is so impossible!


ETIENNE         “Let me check to see if she is in.”  (Laughs)


LAUREL         It’s not funny.


ETIENNE         Maybe she’ll get pregnant again. Of course, she’ll probably still come back early like she did last time. Remember that e-mail – “I can’t wait to get to work.” So much for motherly feelings!


LAUREL         And that poor nanny.


ETIENNE         You couldn’t pay me to do that.


LAUREL         I’m going to get another job.


ETIENNE         There are no jobs.


LAUREL         Well, at least she’s afraid of you.


ETIENNE         What!


LAUREL         She is uncomfortable with gay people and she’s afraid of you.


ETIENNE         That’s crazy!  What does she think I’m going to do?!


LAUREL         Well, you should use it.


ETIENNE         No, she’s out to get me. She wants me out of here.


LAUREL         No…


ETIENNE         Look, she hired you. She was stuck with me when she got here.


LAUREL         Well, she acts like she’s stuck with me, too.


ETIENNE         (Looks at the computer screen.)  Did you see the memo she cc’d us? I love the way she refers to us as “her team”. Her is the operative word.


LAUREL         I’m going to go mad. We’re going to have to put together another lottery pool. I’m that desperate.


ETIENNE         Maybe it’s time to turn my retirement papers in. And if anybody asks me why, I’ll be glad to tell them it’s because of HER.


The phone rings.


LAUREL         Oh-oh. (Picks up the phone) Yes, m’am. (Makes a face) Yes. Yes. (Makes a face at ETIENNE) Yes. Yes. Yes. (Hangs up the phone) Oh! That woman!


ETIENNE         We’re always talking about how we should talk to Le Directeur about her. Maybe we should.


LAUREL         He won’t do anything. He thinks of her as a daughter. One of her kids is named after him!


ETIENNE         Besides, he was in the French Foreign Legion. He doesn’t like insubordination.


LAUREL         Well, maybe we could talk to someone in the Human Resources Office….


ETIENNE         Ho! That’s the last place I’d go if I had a problem! And besides, no one would believe us. She looks like Catherine Deneuve but acts like Catherine d’Medi.


LAUREL         So…?


ETIENNE         We are stuck.


LAUREL         Well. Not everywhere is that bad.


ETIENNE         You are so naïve         !


LAUREL         It’s not just her – it’s just all this bureaucratic bullshit – it’s going to make my head explode.


ETIENNE         It’s like No Exit.


LAUREL         What?


ETIENNE         It’s a play. By Sartre. Didn’t they teach you anything in school?


LAUREL         I don’t think it was on Sister Marguerite’s list. What’s it about?


ETIENNE         It’s about these people stuck in a room forever – it’s hell.


LAUREL         Like here!


ETIENNE         Exactly.


The phone rings.


LAUREL         What now! (Picks up the phone) Yes? Yes, yes, yes. Yes, I will. (Hangs up.) Doesn’t she have anything better to do than torture me?


ETIENNE         Yes. She can torture me.


LAUREL         Yes, but I’m her “personal assistant”/slave.  You’re just a factotum. See, Sister Marguerite taught me something.


ETIENNE         If I’m a factotum – you are, too.


LAUREL         Yes, but you’re an old factotum. I’m a young one.


ETIENNE         Give it time. In twenty years you’ll be sitting there saying the same thing to someone young.


LAUREL         God forbid!


ETIENNE         You’ll be surprised how fast time flies as your mind goes numb with all this bureaucratic bullshit.


LAUREL         It’s numb already.


They stare at each other for a moment, then go back to work.

ETIENNE’s phone rings.


ETIENNE         Yes? (Looks at LAUREL and makes a face) Of course. As soon as possible. Yes. Immediately. (Hangs up) My turn.


LAUREL         What does she want immediately?


ETIENNE         (Shrugs) Everything.


LAUREL         Of course she wants everything immediately. Oh, God, just shoot me and put me out of my misery!


ETIENNE pretends to fire an imaginary pistol and LAUREL falls over in her chair.


LAUREL         Just bury me here and put on my tombstone “Let me check to see if she is in.”


They laugh


ETIENNE         (Goes through some paperwork) Shit.


LAUREL         What?


ETIENNE         You know, she sits on my reports until they’re overdue and then she makes these stupid changes.


LAUREL         What!


ETIENNE         (Holds up paper) See?


LAUREL         Shit!


ETIENNE         Well, she does the same thing to you, so I guess it’s equal opportunity.


LAUREL         Oh, that woman!


ETIENNE         Do you think she talks this way about us?


LAUREL         No. I don’t think she thinks about us at all. Well, maybe you. (Laughs) Do you think she realizes she’s lucky to have us?


ETIENNE         No.


LAUREL         We smooth over her mistakes, fix her faux-pas…


ETIENNE         There are a lot of people out of work.


LAUREL         Even so.


ETIENNE         Even so.


LAUREL         Thank you for saving me thousands of dollars on a therapist.


ETIENNE         The same to you, my friend.


They go back to work.


LAUREL         (Points to her computer screen) Hey, she’s going to be gone on Tuesdays for the next four weeks.


ETIENNE         What for?


LAUREL         (Looks at the screen) She never gives any details. She never even writes “personal business.”


ETIENNE         Humph.


LAUREL         Does it matter? Let’s call it our “Oasis Day!”


ETIENNE         All right!


LAUREL         Just think of it – every Tuesday, no more clock watching…


ETIENNE         A day without memos…


LAUREL         A day without her.


ETIENNE         We can actually take a real lunch hour!


LAUREL         I’m going to go home and take a nap.


ETIENNE         I’m going to actually have a real lunch.


LAUREL         I’m not going to sign in or out.


ETIENNE         She never signs in or out.


LAUREL         I know.


ETIENNE         You know, I’m not one to hold a grudge…


LAUREL         Ho!


ETIENNE         …But the time she chewed me out is engraved on my brain. She came stomping in from her office, eyes ablaze, nostrils flared, telling me never to question her authority – she was red in the face – (sighs) – that wasn’t good for my nerves.


LAUREL         Well, at least she’s never turned down your vacation requests.


ETIENNE         That’s because you’re “essential.” Oh, and “incredible.” Isn’t that what she put on your performance review?


LAUREL         Well, you’re “capable.”


ETIENNE         I’m going to put that on a T-shirt.


LAUREL         At least she’s afraid of you.


ETIENNE         She is not.


LAUREL         She just knows she’ll never get anyone as stupid as I am to put up with all her nonsense.


ETIENNE         She should count her blessings she has you to mop up after her. Do you think she appreciates it at all?


LAUREL         No.


They laugh.


ETIENNE         You don’t think she’s looking for another job?


LAUREL         Not when she has it so good here. Le Directeur lets her get away with murder.


ETIENNE         You’re right. She comes and goes as she pleases. She has us to boss around. It’s a perfect set-up.


They go back to work.


LAUREL         You don’t suppose these Tuesdays she’s taking off could be looking for another job?


ETIENNE         No. (Pause) Could it? (Pause) No.


LAUREL         It’s not impossible.


ETIENNE          Who would hire her?


LAUREL         Le Directeur did.


They go back to work.


ETIENNE         On the other hand, I guess we could get somebody worse.


LAUREL         (Stares at him) Not possible.


ETIENNE         No.  (Stares at her)  No?


They stare at each other – then they go back to work.






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