The Reckoning

By Percival Wilde, 1930


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The Reckoning
A Play in One Act


The Reckoning



The scene is a barber shop. At the center is the chair, facing a mirror and washstand at the right. The tiled walls are sprinkled with the usual advertisements. At the rear, a door leads up to the street by a flight of two or three steps. A dock on the left wall indicates three.

At the rise of curtain, THE BARBER, a man of fifty, is discovered sharpening a razor, and whistling softly to himself. He finishes with the razor; seats himself in the chair, takes up a paper, and reads.

The door opens, and THE CUSTOMER, a flashily-dressed individual of forty-five, enters the shop.

THE BARBER. (Rising at once) Good afternoon, sir.

THE CUSTOMER. (Pulling out his watch) That clock right?

THE BARBER. Yes, sir; Western Union time. Corrected every hour.

THE CUSTOMER. My watch has run down. (He sets it.) Now, I've got just five minutes to spare. Can you shave me in that time?

THE BARBER. Five minutes, sir? Easy! Easy!

THE CUSTOMER. All right. Go ahead. (He takes off his hat and coat, and moves towards the chair.)

THE BARBER. Your collar also, sir.

THE CUSTOMER. (Smiling) Fussy, aren't you?

THE BARBER. Well, sir, I try to do my work well.

THE CUSTOMER. (Takes off tie and collar, putting his expensive scarf-pin in the edge of his vest, which he does not remove) Satisfied now?

THE BARBER. Yes, sir Thank you, sir. (He gets out sheet, towels, etc.) In a hurry, sir?

THE CUSTOMER. Yes. Got to attend a meeting at three-ten.

THE BARBER. Oh! The auction up-stairs?

THE CUSTOMER. Yes. (He glances at the clock.) You'll have to cut it pretty fine.

THE BARBER. Don't worry, sir. There's lots of time…. From the country, sir?

THE CUSTOMER. (Lighting a cigar) Yes. Southerner.

THE BARBER. (Fastening the sheet) I thought so. I'm from the country myself.

THE CUSTOMER. What part?

THE BARBER. Oh, that would be difficult to say. You see, I've moved around so much that I'm neither a Southerner nor a Northerner. I'm just an American. (He mixes the lather.) I lived in a little town near Savannah for a year.

THE CUSTOMER. Did you? Why, so did I.

THE BARBER. Yes, indeed. I used to see you—quite frequently— though you never came into my shop. Then I went to Philadelphia.

THE CUSTOMER. What year?

THE BARBER. Let me think. It was April, twelve years ago.

THE CUSTOMER. April, twelve years ago? I went to Philadelphia the same month!

THE BARBER. I saw you there, too, sir. (He lets down the chair suddenly.)

THE CUSTOMER. (Startled) What are you doing?

THE BARBER. I'm hurrying, sir.

THE CUSTOMER. Well, you needn't break my neck about it.

THE Barber. No, sir. (Lathering.) From Philadelphia I went to


THE BARBER. And from Newark to Indianapolis.

THE CUSTOMER. (Much surprised) What?

THE BARBER. And then Muscatine—for a few months—and Chicago— and Louisville.

THE CUSTOMER. Why, one would think you had been following me about! I've lived in every one of those places.

THE BARBER. Have you, sir? It's a little world, isn't it?

THE CUSTOMER. You've been a barber right along?

THE BARBER. I couldn't do anything else, sir. It's my trade.

THE CUSTOMER. (Smiling) Well, this is the first time you ever shaved me.

THE BARBER. Curious, isn't it? But it may be the last.

THE CUSTOMER. That's so. I'm going to leave town right after the auction.

THE BARBER. If I may ask, sir, where are you going?

THE CUSTOMER. I don't know yet. (Jocularly.) Are you going to follow me?

THE BARBER. Sooner or later, sir. It's going to be a long journey, isn't it?

THE CUSTOMER. What makes you think so?

THE BARBER. There's a long journey we all take—sooner or later.

THE CUSTOMER. A long journey? But you're wasting time, man!

THE BARBER. Am I, sir? (He strolls to the clock; looks at it; returns.) Fine weather we're having.

THE CUSTOMER. (Impatiently) Yes.

THE BARBER. Though a little more rain would be good for the crops.


THE BARBER. (Very leisurely) You know, sir, the young man who keeps the shoe store at the corner was saying as I trimmed his hair this morning—

THE CUSTOMER. (Interrupting) I don't care what he said! I want to get shaved!

THE BARBER. Yes, sir! Yes, sir! And—and the young lady who runs the news stand up-stairs—right next to the elevator, sir—she was saying that she had never—

THE CUSTOMER. (Interrupting more violently) I told you once I don't care what your friends were saying! I've got to be at that meeting at three-ten.

THE BARBER. Yes, sir.

THE CUSTOMER. My time is almost up. You'll have to hurry.