TWENTY PENCE FOR A PISS: A Ten-Minute Play

Twenty Pence for a Piss

A Ten-Minute Play by Madeline Elizabeth Mitchell


Characters

Maya: Female, late 20s. American. Kind, adventurous, but has a bit of a temper. She’s in London for the first time, on vacation.

Will: Male, early 30s. British. Handsome but not necessarily confident in his looks.  Matter-of-fact, businesslike, shy. He is not usually a confrontational person.

The Play

The underground tube in London, Blackfriars station going towards Ealing. Late afternoon. Fall. MAYA is wearing a simple dress with tights, white tennis shoes and a fashionable scarf. She has a crossbody purse and is holding a newspaper that she’s pretending to read, but really she just really needs to go to the bathroom. We watch her struggle to appear calm as she taps her feet and shuffles about the station, in desperate need to relieve herself.

MAYA suddenly gives up on the newspaper, exasperated, and opens her purse. She frantically scrummages through it, and then, realizing - again - that there is no change, closes it in annoyance. 

WILL enters, gets into position to wait for the train, and then pulls out his phone, scrolling.

MAYA

Excuse me, I’m so sorry to bother you, but do you happen to have a spare twenty pence I could use?

WILL

(without looking up) No.

MAYA

Could you at least… look?

There is no response. 

MAYA

Um? Sir?

WILL looks tired, but unphased by her persistence. 

MAYA

(sticking out her hand) I’m Maya. As a visitor in your lovely country, I would appreciate some help, here.

WILL

(finally putting his phone down and really looking at her) No, I do not have twenty pence I can spare for you. I’m sorry.

He takes out his phone again and goes back to whatever he was reading on the screen. MAYA, getting more and more desperate, stamps around, jittery. She moves in closer to him.

MAYA

It’s just for me to go to the bathroom. It’s twenty pence to use the bathroom here.

WILL

Ma’am, I’m sorry, but it doesn’t matter what the twenty pence is for. Even if it was a life-or-death situation, and only my twenty pence could save you, I simply don’t have twenty pence to give. I don’t have any change on me right now.

MAYA

How?

WILL

How? What do you mean how? I just don’t have any!

MAYA

But, you live here?

WILL

Yes.

MAYA

In London.

WILL

Yes. 

MAYA

Well then how come you don’t have any change on you?! I mean what if you’re in public and you need to go to the bathroom? Everywhere I’ve been the past few days - unless it’s a restaurant where I’ve already paid to eat - it’s twenty pence for a piss. I just don’t understand how you can live here and not be ready for this kind of situation.

WILL

(matter-of-fact) I piss at home. Before I leave for work. And then I piss at work. Before I leave to go home. I haven’t found much need to prepare for… this… situation.

MAYA

Oh.

WILL

Mmm. 

WILL now seems confident that he has gotten rid of her. He walks away a couple of steps and takes out a cigarette to light. He visibly shakes a bit, startled, when MAYA begins speaking again. He puts the cigarette and lighter away.

MAYA

Well, just so you know, in America this “situation” doesn’t even exist. If I needed to go to the bathroom at a subway station in America, I could just go. The toilets would be pretty gross, sure, and there may or may not be any toilet paper or hand soap, but I could go to the fucking bathroom. For FREE. (truly exasperated now) I mean, it’s a basic human right. To be able to relieve yourself. 

WILL

This isn’t a subway. This is the Tube. It runs on time.

MAYA

Subway, Tube, same diff-- 

WILL

And I know that using the bathroom in America is free. I’ve been to America. And then I came back. I don’t need a lesson in culture shock.

MAYA

Oh?

WILL

Yep. I have a sister who moved to Ohio. She met some tourist here - Anthony - and they fell in love and he convinced her to move home with him. To Ohio. So she did. And I visited her. In Ohio. 

MAYA

And then you came back. Here.

WILL

Yes. I was very glad to come back here.

MAYA

Well, I wouldn’t say that Ohio is really the vacation destination of America.

WILL

No, I suppose it’s not.

MAYA

I mean, if you were to come back with me to New York, where I’m from, then maybe you’d think differently.

WILL

I am not coming back to New York City with you.

MAYA

(laughing at her accidental flirtation) No, I didn’t mean that.

WILL

Well, that’s what you said.

MAYA

No, no, I just meant that in comparison to Ohio, New York is just so much more--

WILL

Oh, will you just piss off!!

MAYA

THAT’S WHAT I NEED THE TWENTY PENCE FOR.

WILL

For the love of Christ. (taking out his wallet and retrieving a coin) Take it. 

MAYA

You had this the whole time? Are you kidding me?

WILL

Will you - please - just take the bloody coin? 

MAYA

Now that you’re trying to get rid of me? Hah. No way. I won’t take your passive aggressive, pity pence. 

WILL

Fuck’s sake, where’s the train?!

MAYA

I thought you said this one always ran on time. 

There is an audio announcement in the station: ‘WE ARE SORRY TO ANNOUNCE THAT THE 16:44 SERVICE TO EALING IS BEING DELAYED BY APPROXIMATELY SEVEN MINUTES DUE TO A MINOR COLLISION. WE ARE VERY SORRY FOR THE DELAY THIS MAY CAUSE TO YOUR JOURNEY.’

MAYA

(looking at him snarkily) Interesting.

They stand together in silence for several moments. 

WILL

(Finally) I quit my job today.

MAYA

Oh. I’m… (trying to gage his attitude) sorry? Congratulations?

WILL

I haven’t told anyone yet. When I get home I’ll have to tell Kendra.

MAYA

Kendra?

WILL

My wife.

MAYA

Yikes.

WILL

Yep.

MAYA doesn’t know what to say. She watches him.

WILL

I hated it. My job. I’m not a salesperson, I’ve never been a salesperson. That’s been ten years of my life now, and the company’s probably going under when Brexit hits, anyways. 

MAYA

Hmm.

WILL

It wasn’t impulsive. I’ve been thinking of leaving for a long time. (he pauses) I just didn’t tell anyone, because… I don’t know. 

MAYA

Hey man, you don’t have to prove anything to me.

WILL

But it wasn’t like the movies. It was actually pretty lame. (laughs to himself, then reenacts his conversation with his boss) ‘Hey Neil, uh, it’s been a great ten years, but I’m putting in my two weeks.’ (anxious laughing now) ‘No, I don’t have another offer. No, I haven’t been interviewing anywhere else. Yeah, this maybe a bad idea! Who knows!’

MAYA

You sound nervous.

WILL

I’m terrified. I just quit my job. Kendra’s going to be furious.

MAYA

But, are you relieved?

WILL

(without thinking) Yes. (he dwells on this for a moment) Yes, I really am. I feel… light.

MAYA

Yeah. (she looks at him, and then away) I broke up with my boyfriend a couple weeks ago. There wasn’t really anything wrong, I guess I was bored, and he was annoying me. I felt like that afterwards. Light. Relieved. We were supposed to go on this trip together, but after everything, he didn’t want to. Which, obviously, I understand.

WILL

(sincerely) Sorry.

MAYA

I thought it would be fun, going by myself. Give me some time to think. But then I got here and I remembered I don’t really like to think, I don’t like to reflect and process things. Now I’m just lonely.

An announcement rings out: ‘WE’RE SORRY TO ANNOUNCE THAT THE 16:44 SERVICE TO EALING HAS BEEN DELAYED ANOTHER SIX MINUTES. IT IS NOW SCHEDULED TO ARRIVE AT 16:57.’

MAYA starts jumping around in pain/panic, taking deep breaths and closing her eyes.

MAYA

Oh. My. GOD!! Ow! Owwww! DOES ANYONE HAVE CHANGE FOR THE BATHROOM, PLEASE?!?

WILL

(coming over to her, trying to calm her down, handing out his coin) Maya, here, please, just take this!

MAYA

(panicked, guilty) No! What about Brexit? And your job?

WILL

Maya. (laughing) Twenty pence is not going to break me. It’s fine, I was being a prick before.

MAYA looks at him. This is the first genuine laugh she has seen from him. He looks happy.

WILL

And besides, it’s like you said: it’s a basic human right, to relieve yourself.

MAYA

(looking at him) Thank you… ?

WILL

Will. 

MAYA

Thanks, Will. 

She takes the coin and lingers for a moment.

MAYA

Congrats on your… unemployment. (They laugh.) And good luck with your wife.

MAYA begins to leave.

WILL

By the way, it will still be the same as a subway bathroom. There likely won’t be any soap or toilet paper in there, either.

MAYA

Even though I’m paying?

WILL

Yep.

MAYA

Fantastic.

WILL

Welcome to London, Maya.

MAYA

Thanks, Will.

MAYA exits. WILL stands waiting for the train, visibly more at ease than when we first saw him. He is more confident, and relaxed. After a few moments, his phone rings. He looks at the number and breathes in deeply before answering. He is smiling as he speaks to his wife.

WILL

Hi, Love… Yes, I’m about to get on the tube now, there were some delays… Kendra, I have some… (he pauses) news.

End of play