A One Act Play

Pregnant Pause

By G. L. Horton
copyright © 2004 Geralyn Horton


GLORIA CLARK: early 30’s. Her small business is part of Eleganza Momma’s chain.
PHYLLIS DIXON: late 30’s. Assistant to Tad Kramer.
TAD KRAMER: somewhere between 30-55. Regional manager of the chain.
MEGAN JACKSON: 20’s. Gloria’s heavily pregnant sales clerk.

SET: The back office of a maternity-wear shop, “Eleganza Mama”. Gloria sits at her desk, reading a confidential memo from headquarters. She may rise when it seems polite, but she can’t walk around because Phyllis’ visit catches Gloria in her stocking feet with her medium heeled business pumps just out of reach. Phyllis calls Gloria’s attention to the rating Gloria’s store has received, and how it relates to the new Business Plan.

PHYLLIS: Your total is seventy four points. Seventy five is the lowest pass.

GLORIA: All these are closing? (referring to a list in the memo)

PHYLLIS: If you make a few changes, you’ll wind up the only franchise north of Connecticut.

GLORIA: Like optimize the window displays.

PHYLLIS: That should do it. Most of the stores we’re closing are on account of location. Yours is good: 26 points out of a possible 30.

GLORIA: I got 5 points just for the Starbucks next door.

PHYLLIS: Right! Location, Location. Good planning on your part.

GLORIA: Just luck. When I moved in this area was cheap.

PHYLLIS: Being in the right place at the right time. The guys on top, they want you to think they plan: but 9/10ths of it is luck, just like yours.

GLORIA: My bad, about the windows.

PHYLLIS: The windows can be fix! Once you re-orient to the new business plan, you can not only raise your score to stay open, but expand.

GLORIA: My customers like twhat we’re doing. They buy what’s in the windows now.

PHYLLIS: Your customers are the problem They can’t afford you. Like it or not, there are huge changes in how the economy works. Businesses that don’t re-position are going to die.

GLORIA: I get a lot of repeat business. Teachers and social workers who used to live around here. They come back to me when they have a second baby.

PHYLLIS: How many, exactly? In the last 6 months?

GLORIA: A lot of people are postponing....

PHYLLIS: Old time Mom and Pop store mentality, that’s sweet. But look at the data in The Plan. Within a decade businesses like ours will serve just the upper 6% of the demographic. The ones with discretionary income!

GLORIA: When times are hard--

PHYLLIS: Families do without. Who needs maternity clothes, really? Cleaning ladies can wear big floppy sweatshirts, Walmart has a smock-- why add to the mountains of debt? The high end customer is the one we’ve got to target. This is basic! You are on board with this? I noticed you aren’t exactly enthusiastic about our new signature exercise suit--

GLORIA: It just doesn’t seem practical. At most, it would fit till the fourth month, and she won’t even need it till the third.

PHYLLIS: Need’s not the point! It’s status, it’s luxury. Most of our new stock is designed to be bought as gifts, to hang in the Mom-to-Be’s closet waiting for The Perfect Occasion.

GLORIA: The perfect occasion? If you’re pregnant, that’s staying home in your bathrobe with your feet up.

PHYLLIS: Banish that thought! We want to create a pink and blue fog. In our new lines, we feature silk--

GLORIA: Silk?!?

PHYLLIS: -- and natural organic fibers-- to flatter and coddle Mom while protecting her against any environmental threats. She’ll buy our exercise suit after her first sonogram, and wear it before her pregnancy shows. Wear it twice, maybe. To show off for her peers at the gym, because she has this exciting new project.

GLORIA: Project?

PHYLLIS: Right, Project! Like- like The Big Dig! It’s going to cost a million bucks to raise an Ivy League kid, and if a woman’s taken on that kind of a burden, doesn’t she deserve pampering? Your location is perfect for moving forward, but if you just don’t get it-

GLORIA: Sorry. It just takes time to----. (Megan looks in, tentative)

MEGAN: Gloria?

GLORIA: I’m in a meeting, Megan.

MEGAN: Sorry. I don’t want to interrupt, but--.

PHYLLIS: It’s all right. What’s the problem?

MEGAN: I may be imagining this--

GLORIA: I trust your instincts, Meg. What is it?

MEGAN: There’s this man--.

GLORIA: That’s an alarm bell, all right.

MEGAN: When I asked if I could help him, he said he was just looking, but--

GLORIA: You think he’s a thief?

MEGAN: If I did, I’d have buzzed. It’s more like --

PHYLLIS: A pervert?

MEGAN: He’s looking at underwear, those new thongs--

GLORIA: Maternity thongs are a real eye-catcher!

PHYLLIS: Has this happened before?

GLORIA: Not to me.

MEGAN: Me either.

PHYLLIS: Let me deal with it. I have a sixth sense about perverts. (exits to shop)

MEGAN: What’s the verdict?

GLORIA: It’s touch and go.

MEGAN: Oh, my God. What’ll we do.

GLORIA: (retrieving shoes) Right now we’d better get out there and protect the thongs.

MEGAN: Must be a pervert, if he can look at those and not bust out laughing---!

GLORIA: Thongs are a magic charm. They make pregnancy sexy, and slim! Get used to it-- if we want to stay in business, that’s what we’ll be selling.

MEGAN: Can we go out together? He gives me the creeps.

GLORIA: Now that I’ve got my shoes on. (PHYLLIS enters with KRAMER)

PHYLLIS: Gloria?

MEGAN: (mouths it, whispering) That’s him!

PHYLLIS: This is Tad Kramer, from Eleganza’s home office.

GLORIA: And this is Megan, my sales assistant.

MEGAN: Uh-- how do you do? Sir.

KRAMER: Mrs. Clark--

PHYLLIS: I told Tad about our meeting, Gloria, and he seems to think that we’re all on the same page. Except for the little misunderstanding about his interest in underwear..

GLORIA: You made Megan a little nervous, Mr. Kramer.

KRAMER: Call me Tad.

MEG: The only men I’ve seen here before are the plumber and Gloria’s husband.

GLORIA: You can’t blame Meg for being suspicious.

KRAMER: Yes, well. We have another matter to discuss, Mrs. Clark.

PHYLLIS: To discuss privately.

GLORIA: Will you excuse us, Meg?

MEGAN: Of course. I should be out on the floor anyway.

GLORIA: What is it, Tad?

KRAMER: Just a moment. (signals PHYLLIS to look out toward the shop floor. PHYLLIS does, then signals that MEGAN has moved out of hearing range)
That girl is impossible.

GLORIA: Megan?

KRAMER: Whatever her name is. Get rid of her.

GLORIA: What do you mean?

KRAMER: What do you mean, “What do I mean?”

PHYLLIS: He means fire her!

GLORIA: But, why?

KRAMER: She’s a disgrace.

GLORIA: But-- ?

PHYLLIS: What’s the problem?

GLORIA: That’s what I’m asking: What’s the problem?

KRAMER: Look at her!

GLORIA: You think her condition is interfering with her ability to do the job--?

KRAMER: Do you even understand what the job IS?

GLORIA: Meg’s a sales assistant.

KRAMER: Damn right, she’s supposed to be.

GLORIA: She’s my best.

KRAMER: Then I’d hate to see the rest of them!

PHYLLIS: When you consider the reactions of the customers--

GLORIA: Megan is friendly, she’s helpful, she puts customers at ease--

KRAMER: She’s gross!

GLORIA: Because she’s pregnant?

PHYLLIS: It’d be one thing if she were in the stockroom, but shoppers see her!

GLORIA: But shoppers come here FOR her. They ask for Meg by name.

PHYLLIS: What about new customers? Better customers?

KRAMER: They look at the elegant models in the window, and then in the background they see this grotesque thing.

GLORIA: It seems to me that a pregnant saleswoman’s a plus for a maternity shop, Mr. Kramer. Megan’s big, sure, but she’s--

KRAMER: Disgusting!

PHYLLIS: Her’s is the last kind of image we want to put out there.

KRAMER: It’s like a neon sign, “Look here, women-- this is the Ghost of Pregnancy Future”.

GLORIA: Well, it is! Megan’s strong and healthy, that’s reassuring--

KRAMER: She’s fat and ugly. They’ll think she’s contagious! “Come through our door and turn into a gunny sack, a disgusting bag of garbage”.

PHYLLIS: Bags under her eyes, no make up-- clumping around in those muk-muks--

KRAMER: Like a gorilla. When I walked in she was sitting down, picking at her toes!

GLORIA: Her feet are swollen. If has to get off them once in awhile--.

PHYLLIS: What about overtime? The new Plan includes opening evenings and Sundays, with no extra hires. That girl’s not physically capable.

KRAMER: You’ll replace her after she drops the kid, anyway. Doing it now saves time and money.

GLORIA: Once Megan goes on Maternity leave...

KRAMER: The company doesn’t allow Maternity. Read your contract.

GLORIA: But it’s the law!

KRAMER: When you dump her, tell her to sue.

PHYLLIS: Every hour that girl’s in here we lose customers, I guarantee it. Our most important, most style-conscious customers.

KRAMER: Now I understand why this store’s numbers are falling.

GLORIA: I’m sorry Mr. Kramer, but if--If sales are falling-- and I don’t believe they are, my numbers don’t agree-- it’s because we’re in a recession.

PHYLLIS: For some people, it’s a recession.

KRAMER: For everybody, it’s Evolution.

GLORIA: When times get better--

KRAMER: They won’t! No more “better times”! Phyllis showed you The Plan.
Don’t you understand?

GLORIA: I’m trying to, but--

KRAMER: Are you as stupid as that cow out there? It’s Malthus. It’s Evolution in action--

GLORIA: (to PHYLLIS) Is he really in charge? It sounds crazy!

PHYLLIS: Call it what you want, but it’s how the world works. A growing population is competing in a game where the rules keep changing.

KRAMER: Not all the rules. Fat cows will always lose.
(MEGAN enters, drawn by the raised voices, and listens)
Statistically, the difference between being relatively secure and being one lost job or one hospitalized illness away from bankruptcy is -- guess what? One itty bitty baby! Lucky for us, lots of women can’t think straight. They operate out of primitive emotion. Be fruitful and multiply. All you need is Love. But the Middle Class Dream Baby is a luxury, now. The poor are going to tend the children of the rich, and send their own kids to Boot Camp, where they’re training to compete for scut work--

MEGAN: Gloria, why is he yelling like that?

KRAMER: Because I’m trying to get it through this woman’s thick skull that we can’t afford to have somebody like you waddling around out there! You're fired!

MEGAN: Can he do that? Gloria?

GLORIA: Of course not. This is my store.

PHYLLIS: This is your store as long as Tad passes on it. Otherwise, you’ll be closed.

KRAMER: (makes note on the rating memo) Twenty points subtracted till that girl’s gone.

MEGAN: But what have I done?

GLORIA: You got pregnant.

MEGAN: But we’re in the maternity business.

GLORIA: Serving mothers-to-be.

MEGAN: So, why?

KRAMER: You’re a negative. You’ve got to go.

MEGAN: But what about Gloria? When she starts to show?

KRAMER: You’re pregnant too? (points to Gloria’s tummy) I knew you were hiding something!

GLORIA: Not that it’s any of your business.

KRAMER: (expansive gesture encompassing the shop and...) It’s all my business!

GLORIA: I leased this shop it. I run it in the black.

PHYLLIS: If Tad says “No”! you’re out, and so’s she.

MEGAN: He can’t do that, can he? It’s discrimination--

KRAMER: They’re both out. No way Gloria can do the job we need done, here.

GLORIA: We’ll file with the Commission.

KRAMER: Not a chance. Managers don’t work when it’s convenient, they work when and where they’re needed. You can’t do that and have a kid.

GLORIA: Why not? Men do it.

KRAMER: Men have wives.

PHYLLIS: Less every year. If it weren’t for immigration, our birthrate would be minus.

KRAMER: Some middle class fools still act as if they can afford kids, raise them like prize orchids- but they can’t. That’s why we’re changing our business. 80% can’t afford what we sell, another 10% don’t want it. The middle class is kaput.

GLORIA: The entire middle class--?

KRAMER: Extinct. After the race to the bottom, we’ll be like Argentina. The well-off and the peons. Period. Think about that, as you throw away your one chance to work your way up. Phyllis -- tell Ms. Gloria here how many hours a week you work.

PHYLLIS: About 80.

GLORIA: I work 70.

KRAMER: How many days a month do you sleep in your own home bed, Phyllis?

PHYLLIS: Maybe seven.

KRAMER: And when do you figure you’ll be able to start a family?

PHYLLIS: Probably, I won’t.

KRAMER: Why’s that?

PHYLLIS: Because there are 1000 qualified people who want my job. I only get to keep it if my boss can’t even fantasize that there might be somebody better. I can’t afford a full time live in nanny. Or vacations, or sick days, or female trouble or family crises.....

GLORIA: That’s not a life!

MEGAN: People can’t live like that.

PHYLLIS: It’s better than yours is going to be. This is a crap job, Megan, but once that kid is out and running around, a woman loses whatever bargaining power she had. Minimum wage can be a life sentence. You want to grovel to get even that? Ask Tad for a reference.

KRAMER: Last chance, Gloria. I like this location, and in spite of your foolishness I could even like you. You remind me of a young Phyllis. Prove to me that you can do what needs to be done, and I’ll see that you get a second chance.

MEGAN: Did that man just order you to get an abortion?

GLORIA: Never mind, Megan. I have a plan. I’m going to get a good lawyer.

KRAMER: (laughing) Sue? Are you crazy? That’s the only path to bankruptcy that’s quicker than cancer, or having a kid! Lose, you pay the lawyer. Win, and the government taxes it all away! (opens the door, motions them to exit) Have fun, ladies. I’ll see you in court.



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