The Rug Man
by Charles C. Cole
Enter CLAYTON and TABITHA, mid-conversation, first time house-hunters, being led by their agent, NAN.
CLAYTON: Raising twin infants in an apartment, might as well live in a tent in the employee bathroom at Walmart: walls so thin we can hear our neighbor popping his pimples. (He shivers.)
TABITHA: I’m sure the babies have startled Mr. Grady more than once. That makes us almost even.
CLAYTON: Honestly, if we don’t move, I’m gonna shove a screwdriver in my ear.
TABITHA: Naturally, we’re hoping for privacy and a space we can grow into.
NAN: I think this place has everything on the list. (Ominously.) And some.
TABITHA: And some what? (NAN ignores her.)
CLAYTON: It’s a little big. You know we have a budget?
TABITHA: She knows, Clayton.
CLAYTON: I’m just saying, “Why not an affordable starter home... for starters?”
NAN: You’re not going to find a better deal. Four bedrooms, two and a half baths, a master bedroom that’s almost the size of your current place. (Searches for her one-sheet.)
CLAYTON: (To Tabitha) When did Nan stop by our apartment?
TABITHA: Never, but she knows our landlord. He tried to convert the units to condos a couple years ago.
CLAYTON: Too many people “know” too many people in this town. I bet they’re all related and don’t even know it.
TABITHA: Don’t judge her because she’s good at her job.
CLAYTON: I never judged anyone — except your stoner cousin who looks like the guys from Duck Dynasty, only with that dead-shark gaze of Charlie Manson.
CLAYTON: Do we need to be ready? Is there a problem? Someone install the toilet seat upside-down?
NAN: This is a sweet deal, the house has been on the market for a while and they’re eager to sell; complications of a nasty divorce.
CLAYTON: Please tell me nobody was murdered over the remote control. Two houses in a row. What would be the odds?
NAN: You know the vision of white picket fences? There’s a mill, just minutes away, that makes them. And this is a year-round, controlled community. No loud parties. No guns.
TABITHA: Is it a “bad vibe” thing? There wasn’t any domestic abuse, was there?
NAN: To be candid, the husband had a breakdown. He didn’t hurt anyone. There’s no feces on the floor or holes in the walls, that sort of thing.
TABITHA: (Weakly) Yay!
CLAYTON: Sounds move-in ready.
NAN: The fact is the poor fellow’s convinced himself he’s a rug.
TABITHA: Oh my God!
NAN: Rest assured, he still uses the bathroom. He’s not a typical rug, but he’s convinced he’s a rug, nonetheless. It was the divorce. He had a breakdown. Everyone said his ex walked all over him. Somehow the expression’s defined him, literally. He’s had to rationalize, “Why does she walk all over me? Must be who I am. I’m something people walk on.”
CLAYTON: (Joking) Does he come with the house?
NAN: Definitely not.
CLAYTON: Say it like your commission depends on it.
NAN: There’s an understanding.
TABITHA: You’ve discussed this with him?
NAN: With his people. He won’t talk to me; I’m a woman. But he’s part of the furniture. And the house is definitely not being listed as furnished.
CLAYTON: (Echoing TABITHA) Yay!
TABITHA: A story to tell our grandkids.
CLAYTON: Does he talk? (She shrugs.) So he’s half-human and half-rug.
NAN: (Teasing) But which is which?
CLAYTON: Guess they’ll carry him out when the house is sold. (Joking) I bet the ex takes him to the cleaners. Ba-dump-bump. (Bad reaction)
NAN: It’s not the weirdest thing I’ve seen in my career.
CLAYTON: I’ll bite.
NAN: One time, at my old office, this family had to move overseas. Husband was in the military, I think. They listed their house with two cats and two dogs. The new owners had to promise to take care of the pets for the rest of their lives.
TABITHA: Oh! I don’t think I can go any further. What if I fall in love with it, but there are “complications?” This could be our dream house. I don’t want my heart broken. Maybe we should go.
CLAYTON: What?! This whole thing was your idea.
TABITHA: Maybe it was the wrong idea.
CLAYTON: (Being supportive) Tell you what, check out the bedrooms, kitchen, backyard, bathrooms: the lay of the land, and I’ll investigate the one-of-a-kind floor covering.
TABITHA: Okay. Don’t tease him. We don’t know how he’ll react. (Kissing him) Watch your step.
NAN: Not that there’s anything to step in.
CLAYTON: What are you hoping to find? What’s “love at first sight” for you, for a house?
TABITHA: Two sinks in the en suite. And a sunny guest bedroom for when Mom visits. What about you?
CLAYTON: Off-street parking, a deck for barbecuing, and a front door that actually locks.
(TABITHA and NAN exit. The RUG MAN enters, lies face-down on the floor, in stockinged feet, like a bear rug with a little pillow under his face — which is turned upstage.)
CLAYTON: That’s one beautiful hardwood floor, I kid you not. Bet it put you back a pretty penny. And a striking fireplace. Add a wet bar in the corner, and this would make a very cool man-cave. God, what if Tab likes the place? (Beat)
For what it’s worth, I’ve been there. That vivacious specimen of a woman is the second Mrs. Weatherby. The first one only lasted two years. I’ve never been more grateful. My point is: things can turn around, but not if you’re lying in a ball on the floor.
Join a gym. Take a class. My wife and I met taking ballroom lessons. It’s not as lame as it sounds. When I’m with her, I “walk taller.” If I didn’t have her, I’d be a piece of furniture, too, a beanbag chair that makes squeaky farts whenever you move. And if you fall asleep in it, you need a rolling pin to straighten your back. (Beat)
So, good for you, really: you made a symbolic gesture and you embarrassed the hell out of your ex in the bargain. Now it’s time to man up. Don’t be a wuss.
RUG MAN: (Sighing) Take it, you lucky bastard, before my man-hating ex gets it. I hope it’s your stinking dream house. (EXITS)
CLAYTON: (Shell-shocked as TABITHA returns.) So, how’d it go?
TABITHA: The master bedroom is huge! And the hot tub’s practically brand new.
CLAYTON: You’ve always wanted a hot tub.
TABITHA: I know, right? The backyard has lilacs, a deck for barbecuing, and a lovely childproof fence. I think we can be happy here.
NAN: In my business, we call that opportunity knocking. (Noticing) What happened to Rug Man?
CLAYTON: Call it a gut feeling, but I think he was dying to leave. This place was nothing but bad memories. We’re doing him a favor. (To Tabitha) If you like the place, make an offer.
CLAYTON: Sure. (To himself) Take care, Rug Man. Maybe next house, you’ll evolve into something handy in the kitchen, like a coffee-maker. Everybody needs one of those. We can only hope. (Shivers involuntarily.) Damn, I need a hug. (Looking at NAN) Anybody?
Copyright © 2017 by Charles C. Cole