Business Dinner | By: Ken Wells | | Category: Short Story - Comic Bookmark and Share

Business Dinner

Setting: A very expensive restaurant, with one table at the center of the stage, no tablecloth. A coat stand is between the table and the kitchen doors on the right.


James Porter: Upper class executive, tall, dignified, sophisticated, good-looking, distinguished, clean-cut, hundred dollar haircut, late thirties to early fifties. He is extremely well-dressed in a navy blue pinstriped business suit, yellow patterned silk tie and pocket handkerchief, red suspenders, black dress shoes polished like mirrors, starched white shirt, black overcoat, silk scarf, leather gloves, Rolex and briefcase.

He is the epitome of the successful businessman, with a confident demeanor and walk. At the beginning, he is the very model of the self-assured, slightly arrogant captain of finance.

Carl: The waiter, thirties to forties, thin and dressed in a waiter's uniform, always smiling, speaks in a soft voice that never gets excited - unless he has to.

Bud: A janitor, late 50s, tall, thin, very serious, never smiles, wearing a jumpsuit with his name on the front.

Hank: A man in his fities, tall and thin with a flat, unemotional voice.

Mr. Shlemon: Distinguished executive, 50s.

Mr. Everett: 30, another well-dressed executive, very similar to Porter but younger, cockier, black overcoat, charcoal business suit, red tie, white shirt, black tasseled loafers, hair gel, cell phone.

At the opening, Mr. Porter is alone, waiting to be seated. He takes off his overcoat, scarf and gloves, straightens his tie and suit jacket and checks his shoes to see if they are properly shined. Carl appears and quickly walks over to Mr. Porter and leads him to the table, and hands him the menu as he sits and puts the briefcase down.

Carl: (taking the overcoat, scarf and gloves and hanging them on the coat stand) Here you are sir! And will sir be dining alone today?

Mr. Porter: No I will be meeting a Mister Shlemon. I'm early…

Carl: That's fine, sir! May I say what a pleasure it is to have such a distinguished gentleman in our restaurant!

Mr. Porter: (somewhat condescendingly, as if accustomed to such praise) Hmm? Oh, yes, thank you very much...

(Carl leaves)

Mr. Porter puts on his glasses and sits quietly for a moment, studying the menu. As he does, Bud walks out of the kitchen and stares at Mr. Porter, looking him up and down.

Mr. Porter: Yes? (Bud continues to stare) What is it?

As Bud turns to return to the kicthen, he passes Carl; he shakes his head up and down, and Carl gives him thumbs up. Carl proceeds to the table.

Mr. Porter: (condescendingly) I am not accustomed to having janitors stare at me! I suggest you talk to him about that!

Carl: Certainly, sir! Sir, I…

Mr. Porter: (looks over his glasses) I think I'll wait to order.

Carl: It's not that sir. I'm afraid I must inform you that…there seems to have been a complaint, in fact several complaints. They are in regards to yourself, sir!

Mr. Porter: (raising his eyebrows) What? A complaint? About ME?

Carl: Well, sir, here at Chez Grand, we are very proud of our extremely quiet ambience.

Mr. Porter: (sitting with his legs crossed and his right shoe clearly visible) Well? What has that go to do with me?

Carl: Well, sir, it seems that you are disturbing the patrons with your…noise. It's those… (he points to Mr. Porter's shoes)

Mr. Porter: (takes off his glasses) My SHOES? These are brand new!

Carl: Brand new...(thinks for a moment)...Yes...Sir; I'm afraid that the squeaking is becoming intolerable. THERE…I just heard it again! We have had several complaints…

Mr. Porter: (with irritation) My shoes do NOT squeak! These are five hundred dollar shoes handmade in London!

Carl: Sir, please, I must ask you to maintain your composure.

Mr. Porter: (calmly) Very well...what am I supposed to do about it? I can't leave. This is the most important meeting of my professional career! My colleague will be here shortly, and I can't reach him...

Carl: Sir, I am afraid I must insist that you take off your shoes.

Mr. Porter: (silent for a second, stunned) WHAT!

Carl: Sir, I have asked you not to get excited. I must insist…

Mr. Porter: You expect me to sit here with my shoes off? In my BUSINESS SUIT?

Carl: If you do not comply…

Mr. Porter: You'll WHAT?!

Carl: Is sir threatening me? I may have to call the police.

Mr. Porter: (forcing himself to be calm) The's just that...surely you can't expect me, a man in my position, to have his dignity... (attempting to lighten the mood) After all, as you know, the first things people notice are your shoes!

Carl: (ignoring the comment) Take them off, sir!

Mr. Porter: You must understand how ridiculous this is. Perhaps you're not aware of the important position I hold.

Carl: (holds out his hand) Your shoes, sir.

Mr. Porter, in one last attempt to keep his shoes, stands and walks up and down and points to them.

Mr. Porter: (for the first time coming down slightly off his high horse) You see! Not a sound! (appeals to Carl) I just had them polished.

Carl: (puts his hands over his ears and winces, then uncovers them) Sir! Please! The squeaking! You MUST comply!

Mr. Porter: (angrily admits defeat) ALRIGHT! YOU WIN! I'll take my shoes off! (He sits down unties his shoes and slowly, grudgingly pulls them off his feet.)

Carl: (Picks up the shoes and holds them up) I will hold these for you in the back. They certainly are a fine pair of shoes, sir! Sir has excellent taste! In fact, they look brand new!

Mr. Porter: (irritably) Thanks! Yes, they are! (Carl continues to stand there) Well?

Carl: One more thing, sir…

Mr. Porter: (more irritably) What?

Carl: (points again at Mr. Porter's feet) It appears that sir is wearing business socks. Dress socks?

Mr. Porter: Yes, of course!

Carl: Well, sir, as you can see our floors are very well polished. We cannot take the slightest chance that sir might fall while walking. A law suit would ruin us!

Mr. Porter: (hesitantly, afraid of what is coming next) So?

Carl: It IS the law, sir. I must have your socks as well…

Mr. Porter: (starting to stand up in anger) MY SOCKS!!! Do you realize who I am?! I am James Porter, vice president of Cabot, Smith and Shlemon, one of the city's largest investment firms!

Carl: But this is NOT your office, sir!

Mr. Porter: didn't mean...

Carl: Please comply with our rules. (firmly) Take those socks off.

Mr. Porter: This is outrageous! I can't sit here in my bare feet! I am an investment banker!

Carl: The future of our restaurant is at stake. I would have assumed that a gentleman of your stature would behave more appropriately!....Your socks, sir.

Mr. Porter: Look, you already have my least allow me the dignity of keeping my...

Carl: The socks...

Mr. Porter: (in exasperation) FINE! GREAT! You want my socks? Here are my socks! (He reaches under his cuffs and angrily pulls off his black dress socks and holds them out in front of him, then holds his legs straight in front of him so the soles of his feet are visible) Now I'm barefoot! Are you satisfied?

Carl: (takes them) Armani, and silk! I should have known that a well-dressed gentleman like yourself would wear socks of such outstanding quality.

Mr. Porter: (mutters to himself) Look at me! Barefoot! (visibly embarrassed, tries unsuccessfully to hide his feet) Just leave me alone. (Bud walks out from the kitchen; Carl hands the shoes and socks to him. Bud holds them up to examine them as the two return to the kitchen)

Mr. Porter is again looking at the menu when Bud walks on from the right. He is holding a mop, but doesn't use it. Again, he walks over and stops in front of the table. He stares at Mr. Porter without speaking.

Mr. Porter: (bewildered, annoyed) Yes, can I help you? (Bud continues to scrutinize him) What do you want?

Bud: Nice suit.

Mr. Porter: (coldly) Thank you.

Bud: Nice tie...

Mr. Porter: WHAT?!

Bud just walks away without answering. Mr. Porter just shakes his head as Carl returns.

Carl: Sir, there has been another complaint about you.

Mr. Porter: (wearily, nervously) ANOTHER complaint. Who are these people who are so irritated by me? (He sticks out his bare feet from under the table) Are my feet squeaking now?

Carl: (laughs artificially) Oh NO, sir! It's your tie, your necktie, sir.

Mr. Porter: (coldly) What about my necktie?

Carl: No fewer then three people have complained about it. The color, sir. They don't like it. They were HIGHLY offended. They will leave if you don't…

Mr. Porter: (arrogantly) Don't what? Why should I care if someone doesn't like my necktie?

Carl: Sir, these are regular customers...I MUST INSIST that you remove your necktie. It is...rather garish…

Mr. Porter: GARISH! This is a two hundred dollar Hermes tie, made in Paris!! It is silk. It matches my suit and my red suspenders! I will NOT take it off!

Carl: Your tie, sir.

Mr. Porter: (folding his arms) NO!

Carl: Sir, your belligerence is so extreme that I might easily have you arrested. And wearing suspenders is strictly prohibited. Some diners have found their digestion impeded, and naturally we can't have that.

Mr. Porter: (coldly) That is absolutely ridiculous. Who do you think you are?!

Carl: (hands a written form to Mr. Porter) As you can see, sir, regulations…(Carl holds out his hand for the items) The tie, the tiepin and the suspenders. (suddenly) Did I notice sir is wearing CUFFLINKS?!

Mr. Porter: (pulling his jacket sleeves down like a guilty child) No...I...

Carl: Sir, I think you ARE! I am VERY disappointed in you!

Mr. Porter: (slowly reveals them) But I need them to...

Carl: Several people have CHOKED on their cufflinks after they fell in their SOUP! They are forbidden! I am surprised at you, sir!

Mr. Porter: You’’re kidding...These are monogrammed with my initials...

Carl: Hand them over, NOW.

Mr. Porter: You have RULES about wearing suspenders and cufflinks! How am I expected to keep my trousers up or my cuffs closed?! And what about my necktie? I have already explained to you that I am an executive! It should be clear to you that I am wearing a suit, and the tie goes with the suit!

Carl: Sir, these regulations must be enforced. Surely sir does not want to be sued? Also, we may be forced to contact the local news channel; they are often interested in these stories.

Mr. Porter: Sued? You would really do that...(starting to crack, shoulders sagging, stands up) My necktie, my suspenders, my cufflinks...(he reaches up to his tie and unfastens his tiepin and takes it off, and is about to reach into his suit to unbutton his suspenders, when Bud walks onstage. Bud roughly grabs Mr. Porter’s tie and unties it and pulls it off, while Carl snatches the silk pocket handkerchief from the pocket. Then Carl unbuttons the suspenders in front while Bud lifts up the suit jacket and unbuttons them in back. Both of them get to work on the cufflinks, each taking a sleeve. Mr. Porter keeps staring straight ahead, in shock).

Carl: (taking the items and handing them to Bud, who nods and leaves) THANK you, sir, for your cooperation! (At that moment, Carl waves to someone offstage)

Mr. Porter: Who...was that?

Carl walks quickly to the left and out of sight. Mr. Porter looks anxiously after him, and Carl returns.

Mr. Porter: Tell me! Who was that?!

Carl: Why, sir that was the Governor! He was very surprised by your rudeness! He wanted to know why you didn't say hello to him! He WAS surprised to see you without shoes or a tie! I really COULDN'T explain.

Mr. Porter: (really cracking now, his business demeanor crumbling) The Governor! And he saw me like this...Please, please, just leave me alone. (He looks down at himself, holding up his trousers, and collapses into his chair and puts his head in his hands)

Mr. Porter is alone on the stage for a moment. He is already rapidly changing from the supremely confident business executive who arrived at the beginning. Bud walks on again, without the mop. Again, he stops and stares at Mr. Porter, folding his arms, and looks carefully at Mr. Porter’s suit.

Mr. Porter: (anxiously) WHAT are you staring at?! LEAVE ME ALONE!

Bud leaves without speaking. Mr. Porter is increasingly nervous and confused. When the kitchen door opens again, he 'starts' and looks around.

As Mr. Porter's dignity and bearing are quickly disappearing, Carl is finding a new confidence. He enters the dining room with brisk strides. This time, Mr. Porter looks at him with real fear.

Carl: (urgent, much bolder, points at Mr. Porter) Take off your suit.

Mr. Porter: (exhausted, anxious, disoriented) What? WHAT?

Carl: (in a bullying tone) A new regulation. No business suits without neckties. NO EXCEPTIONS! EVER! Take it off, sir.

Mr. Porter: But...what will I...

Carl: (snaps) Is sir wearing a business suit? IS HE?!

Mr. Porter: (hangs his head) Yes.

Carl: (scolding) Really, sir! We ALSO have our rules!

Mr. Porter: (helpless, pleading) But YOU TOOK AWAY my NECKTIE!

Carl: So sir is blaming ME for his failure to follow the rules!

Mr. Porter: (whimpering) NO! NO! It's just that...

Carl: (folding his arms) Take your suit off. NOW.

Mr. Porter: (desperate, but speaking softly) But...but can't be serious…

Carl: NOW!!

Mr. Porter: (reduced to begging, his composure and confidence gone) Please don't take my suit! Can I borrow a necktie from someone, ANYONE!!!! (He looks around)

Carl: Sir, PLEASE! I simply CANNOT have you harassing the other customers! (He pulls out a large brown bag) Sir can trade his suit for this!

Mr. Porter: TRADE! (looks in the bag and slowly pulls out the contents) This...this looks like a jumpsuit! A…a janitor's uniform!!!! And it's covered with grime! It even has a nametag - it says "Gus"! I am wearing a three thousand dollar Savile Row suit! Tailored for me in London! (starting to break down, shaking)

Carl: (yelling) TAKE OFF YOUR SUIT!

Mr. Porter: (slides off the chair to the floor, kneeling) But...but...I can't possibly…a JANITOR! A MENIAL WORKER! MANUAL LABOR! (jabbering) I am a corporate executive! I have a corner office, a BMW...dozens of people work for me...I'm a very successful man...a country home...a private jet...I have a wife and three children...

Carl: It is OUR RULE, SIR! (suddenly "anxious" and speaking quickly) SIR! If my boss comes in and finds you dressed like this, I will be fired! FIRED! (hysterically) I have SIX children! Does sir want to be responsible for six children losing their home? And starving? Is sir so high and mighty that your fancy suit is more important!? Does sir think he's BETTER!? I will not leave this table without that suit. (smugly) It's the least I can do for the sake of my children!

Mr. Porter: (becoming more and more confused and anxious himself) No, no, I didn't mean...six children...but my name isn't's James Porter...(as if he's starting to doubt it) I'm an investment banker, a Princeton graduate, not a janitor...

Carl: (yelling, mocking, haranguing) Does sir EVER think of anyone ELSE! Sir doesn't CARE about the other patrons! SIR is not CONCERNED if our restaurant closes! Sir is too important to follow rules and regulations! Sir does not even care if I LOSE MY JOB! Or if my children STARVE! All that matters to sir is himself!

Mr. Porter: (crumpled on the floor) Please...I didn't mean...

Bud walks on and sees Mr. Porter on the floor, whimpering. He catches Carl's eye, nods in an obvious way, and leaves.

Carl: (inflexible, no more 'sir') Hand over that fancy suit NOW! There is a policeman just outside the door! Assault! Disorderly conduct! Disturbing the peace! Refusal to comply with...

Mr. Porter: (pleading) You don't mean I'm supposed to take it off HERE!

At that moment, Mr. Shlemon walks in. He stands and stares at Porter, who is a wreck, curled on the floor.

Mr. Shlemon: JAMES PORTER! Have you lost your mind! What on earth do you THINK YOU’RE DOING!?

Mr. Porter: (turns and sees Shlemon, and recoils) Mister Shlemon! I can explain!

Carl: Ah! This is the gentleman you were waiting for! (to Shlemon) I'm sorry, sir, but this gentleman is having a difficult time.

Mr. Porter: (pathetically, to Carl) BECAUSE OF YOU! (He lunges at Carl, who backs away)

Carl: (to Shlemon) (shaking his head sadly) You see.

Mr. Shlemon: (angrily) Jim, our association is at an end, and I'm sure Cabot and Smith will agree with me! I just met the governor and he was very confused by your behavior. I see that he was being polite! Blaming this hard-working man (points at Carl) for your behavior! You will have a very difficult time working in this field again. (turns and leaves)

Mr. Porter: (in shock) job. My career...

Carl: (calm again, lifting Mr. Porter back to his chair) Sir, this is most unseemly.

Mr. Porter: My job...

Carl: (relentless) I am STILL waiting for that suit! I have asked you I HAVE to contact the authorities?

Mr. Porter: (a broken man) No! No! Please! I'm sorry! I'll take it off…here, please take it! (quickly, desperately, takes off his suit jacket) I'm sorry! I'm sorry!

Carl: (pointing and barking orders) Shirt! Rolex! Briefcase! (points to the coat stand) Overcoat! Scarf! Gloves!

Mr. Porter: (desperately complying, trading places with Carl and calling him 'sir') Yes, yes, sir, I should have thought of that! I'm sorry! I'm SORRY! Take them! Take everything!! Of course, I should have taken off my shirt! And PLEASE take my briefcase! (he quickly takes off the Rolex and unbuttons his white shirt, takes it off, and hands them to Carl, followed by the briefcase and other items. Carl puts everything into the bag, and gives the bag to Bud who comes and leaves quickly.)

Carl: (again smooth) Ah, a Brooks Brothers shirt and overcoat and a Savile Row suit! Sir wears only the finest! (holding up a tablecloth in front of the table) PLEASE be discreet, sir.

Mr. Porter: (takes off his suit trousers) Here...(takes the janitor's uniform and quickly puts it on - the transformation is complete) I...I'm sorry. I should never have worn this suit...Forgive me...(slides into his chair)

Carl: (placing the suit on a hanger and gives it to Bud, who again comes and goes quickly) THANK you, sir! I DO forgive you, sir.

Mr. Porter: Thank you.

Carl: (stops and looks at Mr. Porter) May I say how well that uniform looks on you, as if it was made for you! (Mr. Porter slumps in his chair) If sir is ever looking for a job as a janitor...(Mr. Porter's head falls to the table) Yes, sir...oh, this goes with the uniform! (places an orange wool cap on Mr. Porter's head.) I know some FINE janitor positions...

Carl walks off, leaving Mr. Porter alone on stage for a moment.

Mr. Porter: (sitting slumped in his chair, in a janitor's jumpsuit with "Gus" written in large letters on the front, utterly humiliated, holding his head in his hands) A...janitor...(he sits in silence for a few seconds, then looks down at himself; then a slow smile spreads over his face) Maybe...a janitor...that's what I should become...(his voice growing in confidence) Maybe I've been wrong all along!

Carl: (cheerfully returning) Well, if I may say so, sir certainly looks the part! You would have to learn to mop and sweep and buff the floors. Could sir do that? And clean toilets?

Mr. Porter: (in shock) Mop floors...clean toilets...I think so...(confidently) I KNOW I can!

Carl: Well, I think sir would be a FINE janitor! Maybe all these years as an executive have been a big mistake. Maybe sir has only now found what he is MEANT to do!

Mr. Porter: (stunned) A mistake? My Princeton degree? My career? Maybe you're right.

Carl: Yes, sir! You would not have as much stress, and sir would not have to worry about stocks and bonds and having his shoes polished! Sir would LOVE the work!

Mr. Porter: (dazed) Do you really think so? (silence)'re right...a janitor...Yes, I'm sorry, I'm sorry...(he stands up, puts on the sweat jacket, stands up, not knowing who he is, disoriented, dejected, barefoot and dressed as a janitor, stunned and glassy-eyed) I...I'll sell my home...sell all my suits and shoes…the house...I am really a janitor…deep down inside...a janitor...("Gus" wander offstage, muttering to himself)

Hank: (walks in from the kitchen): Well? What do you have for me today?

Carl: (suddenly sharp-tongued, shrewd and lively as he pulls out a table piled high with the former executive's clothes) Look at THIS! (He holds up the Savile Row suit) Savile Row! Three Grand when he bought it!

Hank: Yeah, it's a beauty. I'll give you a thousand for it. I got a customer who'll grab it. What else?

Bud: (holds up the shoes) These are brand new. Just look at 'em.

Hank: Two hundred.

Bud: But...

Hank: That's it.

Bud: (nods) How about his socks? Armani!

Hank: Fifty for the socks, suspenders and shirt. Who WAS this guy?

Carl: (pulls out the overcoat) Investment Banker. Take a look at THIS! This is worth fifteen hundred!

Hank: (grudgingly admitting that Carl is right)I'll give you five hundred. I have to make a profit, too! (picks up the cufflinks) I'll give you one hundred for the cufflinks. I know a guy who can get the monogram off.

Carl: What's hot?

Hank: Armani suits. Get me an Armani, and you can name your price. Had a request for one today. And tasseled loafers. Have to be new, of course. I can't sell them if the customers think they're used!

At that moment, Mr. Everett strides in, slicked-back hair, confident, dapper, and impeccably dressed - in an Armani suit. He looks around him pompously; he is more obviously arrogant than Porter. Carl and Bud look at each other. Bud quickly pushes the table with the clothes away while Carl walks over to him and resumes his smiling, humble manner.

Carl: Greetings, sir! May I complement you on your suit!

Mr. Everett: (offhandedly) Armani...(pointing behind him and shaking his head with contempt as he takes off his overcoat) I just saw some janitor named Gus wandering around without shoes! He didn't know where he was!(Smirking as he straightens his suit and tie, sits at the table, places his briefcase next to him, and flicks a speck of dust off his tasseled loafers) Those menial workers! Some people have no pride at all! Excuse me. (Picks up his cell phone)

Bud looks very closely at Mr. Everett's shoes. Mr. Everett looks at him with surprise, as Bud walks away to talk to Carl on the side of the stage.

Bud: What can we give him to wear? We don't have any janitor suits left.

Carl: Well, we do need a dishwasher...

Bud: (grins) Great.

Carl (to Hank): Come back after closing. (Hank leaves) We'd better get going. We only have twenty minutes.

Mr. Everett snaps his fingers for Carl as Bud starts his stopwatch. Carl smiles and walks over to the table, as he gives Bud a thumbs up.

Mr. Everett: I HOPE this is not an indication of the quality of the service. I'm a lawyer, and I have a meeting soon!

Carl: Yes, sir.

Mr. Everett: My boss will be here any minute! I am supposed to be made a partner in my firm!

Carl: Any minute?

Mr. Everett: YES! You know I really don't have much time.

Carl: No, sir, we don't...

Mr. Everett: What?

Carl: (pointing at Mr. Everett's shoes) Sir, I'm VERY sorry. There's been a complaint.

Fadeout, followed by a few seconds of silence, as the curtain goes down. A voice over a loudspeaker announces very politely that the restaurant is now closed. When the curtain rises, the lights are dim as the restaurant is now closed, but the table is still clearly visible.
Mr. Everett is sitting there, staring straight ahead. He is wearing only his socks, Rolex, boxer shorts and a t-shirt; his briefcase still sits next to the table and his hair is still slicked back. Carl walks in and drops a dirty apron and overalls on the table, and grabs the briefcase.

Hank appears from the kitchen holding up the Armani suit and the tasseled loafers with admiration; he notices Everett and points to him as he looks at Carl. Carl nods, and snaps his fingers at Everett. Everett looks at Carl, slumps further, takes off his Rolex and his socks and hands them over, as his head falls to the table. Carl takes them, hands them to Hank, who nods as he leaves by the front door. Curtain.

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