Play # 19: Stalled

The play is set on a length of railroad track somewhere in the wilderness—perhaps under a Christmas tree.  There are only two characters in the play: Paul, a boy of seven, and a grizzled trainman named Bernard.  They are sitting atop a double-ended, electric locomotive—which doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. 

Bernard (gazing sadly down the railroad tracks):  So little choice.

Paul: Just forward or back.

Bernard: Left or right.

Paul:  And yet we’re not going anywhere at all.  Bernard, we’ve got to move.  It’s almost dark, and I’m getting tired and hungry.

Bernard (rummaging in his pocket): Here. Have a chaw of tobacco.

Paul (sulking):  No.

Bernard:  There’s only one way I can think of to get this old bucket moving again.

Paul (listlessly):  What’s that?

Bernard:  Well, which way do you want to go?

Paul (pointing down the tracks): East.

Bernard: Alright then.  You go and stand on the eastern end of the engine.

Paul (moving off): Okay.

Benard:  And I’ll go stand on the western end.

Paul (shouting back to him):  I’m here!  Now what do I do?

Benard:  You think all the good, positive thoughts you can.  Think about what you really like, and all the things you hope for.   

Paul (dubious): I’ll try.  And what are you going to do?

Bernard:  The opposite!  I’m going to think all the dark, bleak, despairing thoughts I can.  Now get thinking!!

(Paul closes his eyes tightly and tries hard to ponder all the lovely things he can muster.  Bernard doesn’t have to work quite as hard as Paul does)

Paul (suddenly feeling movement beneath his feet): Bernard!!  The engine’s starting to move!!

Bernard (grinning at him): Yes, I think we’re definitely eastward bound!

Paul (exuberant):  Oh don’t smile, Bernard!

Bernard (gleefully): Why not?

Paul (laughing):  You might stall us again!!