Stan and Ollie: The Desperate Years
STAN. Mid-eighties, lean, attractive for this age and he knows it. Deep-dish suntan.
The Don Juan of the octogenarian set.
OLLIE. Late-seventies. Fat, unattractive and he knows it. Unkempt and atrocious.
AGGIE. Somewhere between sixty-five and eighty years old, difficult to tell under
outrageous wig and heavy makeup. Still beautiful, but quirky to an extreme.
Dresses like a woman a third her age. Outspoken. Diagnosed with Irritable Bowel
The set is the tiny, cramped, and cluttered apartment that Stan and Ollie share in
a retirement community. The space is littered with pizza boxes, empty Chinese
take-out containers, girlie magazines and assorted bric-a-brac indicating a sort of
bachelor life. It also contains boxes that suggest the hygienic needs of elderly men:
adult diapers, denture adhesive, bed pads, etc. A modest kitchenette is upstage right
containing a cheap kitchen table, perhaps a collapsible poker table, a microwave
and a sink spilling over with dishes.
A huge water bong sits on the coffee table before a dying sofa, center stage.
Ollie is seated on the couch, wearing a stained undershirt that only partially conceals
his jutting belly, sweatpants likewise stained, taking a deep toke from the bong as
the lights come up. He takes in far too much smoke and starts hacking
uncontrollably, eventually leaning forward, accidentally tipping the bong over,
spilling brown water all over the floor. Just as he does so, Stan enters with several
bags of groceries, stumbles to the kitchen table and lets the bags tumble onto it with
a loud crash. Groceries scatter across the tabletop.
STAN. Well, this is the new norm, I guess.
OLLIE. The new—
STAN. —norm. Torn grocery bags, every one of them cheap and thin and flimsy,
and zero assistance, God forbid you get a little assistance! Blank-faced young
people standing around with name tags and slack jaws. They steer you over to the
self-check-out because they haven’t hired enough cashiers, but every other item
you scan there’s a problem. “Please place item in bagging area,” which I’d just
done. Bar codes don’t scan because the item is folded just exactly over it, so it
doesn’t read. You call for the guy to help but he’s busy inspecting the cart with the
tv set or whatever, making that poor son of a bitch feel like he’s been caught
stealing. And just try to buy booze: you need an employee to confirm that you’re
twenty-one, but nobody comes, and you stand there like an idiot for how long. The
guy shows up finally, but he’s new and doesn’t know what the hell he’s supposed
to do. A kid with more pimples than sense.
OLLIE. Did you get my sixer?
STAN. I got your sixer. Is that all you have to say? Did I get your beer? Yes, I got
your beer, old chum, that’s why I had to wait for the guy to confirm my age. I picked
up some chips, too, because I thought, hell, how can we make Ollie a bit fatter? So,
I get to the car and I’m loading the groceries and suddenly, like a cosmic joke, just
about every single bag rips open at once and everything tumbles out all over the
back seat and onto the floor. Every bag except one, that is. (He holds up the sole
surviving shopping bag.) This bag is my new hero. I’m going to get this bag framed
and hang it up right here, inspiration to all the cheap-ass grocery bags struggling
for recognition with no role- models to look up to.
OLLIE. You should have double bagged.
STAN. I did! You think I don’t understand the concept of double bagging? I
double bagged what I needed to double bag. The milk, that’s a gallon, no-brainer.
Your sixer, all over it, double-bagged. But what, crackers, too? Soap? Toothpaste?
How is that my responsibility to double bag? It’s the bags! They’re skimping on
plastic, now. I should sue their asses. It’s like making condoms out of crepe paper.
OLLIE. Did you happen get guacamole?
STAN. You know what? Fuck you. Yes, I got guacamole. But by the time the kid
showed up to help me, it was already turning brown. That’s how long I stood there
like a prick.
STAN. No problem, Ollie. (Notices the spilled bong, still lying on its side,
brown water on the floor.) What happened?
OLLIE. It fell over.
STAN. No shit, I can see it, I can smell it. Right on over. Any plans to clean it up?
OLLIE. It just happened now.
Stan starts putting the groceries away, angrily tossing them into the
refrigerator and cupboards with little regard for esthetics.
OLLIE. (Cont’d) Your lady friend called.
OLLIE. Unless you have another new lady friend I don’t know about.
STAN. Did you tell her I don’t want to talk to her?
OLLIE. Since when?
STAN. Since right now, Ollie! Since a couple of hours ago.
OLLIE. OK, well… I’m not your secretary and I didn’t know. This is a turn of events.
I can’t even believe you still have a land-line. I’ve pointed this out before,
who has a land line these days?
STAN. I’m paying for it. What’s the problem? I told you not to answer it. I have an
OLLIE. It rang, I picked it up. Habit, I guess, from when I was a kid. What decade
are you living in, Stan? Who has a land line and an answering machine
OLLIE (cont’d) Stan?
STAN. (Barely able to contain a rage building within him) I do, Ollie…I
have them. They’re mine. But I encourage you to exercise the liberty of ignoring my
possessions, Ollie, because they don’t concern you. My phone. My machine. You
watch your television, use the toilet in your bedroom, scratch your belly with your
filthy fingernails and stay the hell out of my things. It’s as simple as you are.
OLLIE. (Holding up both hands in a sign of surrender) Anything you say.
Just trying to keep the peace.
STAN. And please clean up the bong-water, it stinks to High Heaven!
Having finished putting the groceries away, Stan takes a seat on the couch next
to Ollie, hands him a roll of paper towels, with which Ollie reluctantly cleans
the coffee table and floor.
STAN. So, she called, huh? Some nerve.
OLLIE. Well… She called.
STAN. I told her I needed space.
OLLIE. Space? You’re eighty-five years old and you need space? How much space
do you figure you’ve got left to afford in your lifetime, bud?
STAN. I had to back away. Just had to. But I know what you mean.
OLLIE. Stan, you’re not seeing clearly. That’s what I mean. She’s a sexy lady, Agnes.
Not many women her age you can say that about.
STAND. (Tragic tone) Ollie, she’s a… gasser…
OLLIE. Sure, that too! Great sense of humor! Plus the looks…
STAN. That’s not what I mean… what I mean is, she’s gaseous… As in, full of and fully
loaded for bear. Contents under pressure.
OLLIE. She— ?
STAN. Is composed largely of hydrogen and helium. Capable of sulfurous blasts that
can render the atmosphere uninhabitable. No pretext, no precursors. Like a
one-woman construction site with no posted hours of operation. Explosive.
OLLIE. (Laughs) C’mon.
STAN. I kid you not, Ollie. This morning alone, another little moment of shock and
awe, a sudden and extreme wind advisory. Timing couldn’t have been worse,
only to be repeated twice again in quick succession, and during one of the most
intimate imaginable scenarios, if you get my meaning. She claimed later to
have a medical condition called Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Ever heard of it?
STAN. Of course not. Didn’t sound legit to me either. A lie, obviously, to distract
me from what she’d done.
OLLIE. I don’t believe that, Stan. Maybe she does have that thing she said.
STAN. I mean, in the end it’s a natural act, a gastrointestinal certainty
that we all experience. After a meal or… during a rigorous game of
tennis. Watching television and kicking back in a reclining chair.
OLLIE. Working through a crossword puzzle, sure. A little air biscuit never hurt anyone.
STAN. But Ollie… Have you ever in all your years as a man on this planet been
interrupted like that, at just about the most personal moment imaginable? You know,
“letter to the editor” type situation gone regrettably south?
OLLIE. (After a pause) That is off-putting, yes. I mean, no, I haven’t, but I can
imagine, Sort of wish you hadn’t shared it with me now. Such a pretty lady.
STAN. How does a man come back from that?
OLLIE. Mm… My Pop used to call that a “Tail Scutter.”
STAN. What sort of post-traumatic treatment is prescribed, Ollie?
OLLIE. That would depend on the seismic intensity of the offense, I imagine.
STAN. No little putt-putt tail scutter this, my friend, I’m talking floorboard lifter!
OLLIE. Well… Accidents happen.
STAN. I have a long fuse; you know that about me. I tolerate a lot and try to turn my
cheek as needs be and situation dictates.
OLLIE. Did she afford you the same courtesy? Turning her cheek, I mean.
STAN. Particularly as I grow older and work harder to accept the follies of
Humankind. But a man’s got to draw the line somewhere in the litterbox, am I
right? Even a fella my age… There are certain indignities that no living being
should have to endure.
OLLIE. “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.” You know, Stan, I wouldn’t be so
rash as to call it a deal-breaker. Hell, I crap myself almost daily, but my heart…
my heart is fecal-free.
STAN. What did she say exactly?
OLLIE. She asked if you were here. I said no.
STAN. How did she sound?
OLLIE. I don’t know.
STAN. Did she sound at all embarrassed about what she’d done?
OLLIE. (Sighs) Yeah. Sure. I suppose.
STAN. Sobbing? Was she sobbing?
OLLIE. Not so I could tell.
STAN. Contrite, surely.
OLLIE. OK. Whatever that means.
STAN. You know…guilty.
OLLIE. No. She just asked if you were here.
STAN. But a bit stuffed up? Like she’d been crying but had just managed to pull
herself together to make the call.
OLLIE. Not so I could—Maybe a sniffle, if that makes you feel any better… but
casual otherwise. She asked me how I was doing. I said OK.
STAN. Off-putting is what it is.
OLLIE. I think you should get past it, Stan.
STAN. Direct hit, Ollie! Thought my toupee was going to come off!
OLLIE. OK. I’m not trying to diffuse a bomb that’s already exploded. I’m just
pointing out that a handsome woman like Agnes could do that to me
anytime, intentionally or otherwise, if it tickled her fancy. The odd Heini
Hiccup or Butt Yodel now and again or what have you. Little would I
care two shits if she did.
STAN. Yes, well… I’ve got standards.
OLLIE. I don’t.
STAN. That’s because–
OLLIE. I know. I look like this, and you look like that.
STAN. With looks, Ollie… With looks comes responsibility. No personal slight
against you, understand. But I’ve been told on occasion that I look, and
I don’t mean to brag, but that I look a lot like George Hamilton.
OLLIE I know. The actor. You’ve told me.
STAN. That’s right, George Hamilton! I’ve got the same mole on my cheek, in
the same spot, ever notice that? And we’ve both got sun tans to die for,
years of tanning beds and creams. I even had my teeth whitened last
year to look more like him and damned if it didn’t work beyond my
OLLIE. You look good.
STAN. Exactly, Ollie. I look great. Eighty-five years on this planet, seventy spent
in the company of lovely ladies, and not once until just today have I been made
to suffer such an indignity: shameless booty bombs, turtle burps, cheese
OLLIE. Rectal Turbulence!
STAN. Thunder from Down Under!
OLLIE. So, you’re done with her? Good and all?
STAN. I don’t know yet, Ollie. My eyes are still stinging.
OLLIE. Because I’ll take her off your hands.
STAN. What makes you think you could score with a lady like Agnes?
OLLIE. No idea. I know that the older they get the lower their standards seem
to be. At some point it evens out.
STAN. I think we’re looking at five years minimally for the two of you to even
out. She needs to either lose sight in one eye, or maybe develop some
aggressive form of cancer.
OLLIE. You don’t think the flatulence evens the playing field a bit?
STAN. Not even close.
OLLIE. Well… I think I’ll take my chances.
STAN. I haven’t even broken up with her yet! You don’t just swoop in like a
vulture when your best friend is having relationship issues.
OLLIE. You mean that?
STAN. Sure, I mean it. It’s not done.
OLLIE. I mean about being best friends.
STAN. (Softens) Ollie, if “only” means “best,” then sure. We are best friends.
OLLIE. (Satisfied) OK. OK, then. Since we’re best friends, I won’t pursue a
relationship with Agnes.
STAN. I can’t tell you how relieved I am.
OLLIE. You’re welcome.
The doorbell rings. Stan stiffens. Ollie rises and goes to the door.
OLLIE. (Cont’d) I ordered pizza.
Stan removes a handkerchief from his shirt pocket and dabs sweat from his
brow as Ollie opens the door, lurching suddenly back as Agnes charges past
him, straight to the couch where Stan sits stiffly.
AGNES. There you are, you skunk! Why didn’t you call me back?
STAN. I just got here.
AGNES. I run to the restroom to powder my nose, come out five minutes later
and you’re gone.
STAN. I left a note.
AGNES. The hell you did! You disappeared.
STAN. I meant to leave a note. I had an emergency.
AGNES. What kind of emergency?
STAN. It’s personal…
Stan steals a look at Ollie, who pretends not to be listening. Agnes senses
something unspoken between them.
AGNES. You told him, didn’t you?
STAN. Told what?
AGNES. You scum! You swore to me, on your father’s own shallow grave that you
wouldn’t tell a soul.
STAN. I never said “shallow.”
ANGES. And what’s the first thing you do when you get home? You tell your fat
Ollie stands abruptly, wiping crumbs of food from his pants, starts for his room.
AGNES. (To Ollie) Sit down, you!
OLLIE. I was just— It’s past my bedtime. Fat friend needs his sleep.
AGNES. It’s four-thirty in the afternoon. I happen to know that you watch
“Jeopardy” every night at seven, Stan told me.
STAN. You ordered pizza. You’re not going anywhere.
Ollie sits back down.
AGNES. (To Ollie) He told you, didn’t he?
OLLIE. (After a pause) He mentioned something.
STAN. We’re friends—
OLLIE. Best friends!
STAN. We confide in each other.
AGNES. (To Ollie) Did he tell you I have a medical condition? Did he mention that?
OLLIE. Yes. Irritating Bowels.
AGNES. Irritable Bowel Syndrome! A couple of fine gentlemen you are. I’ll bet
you both had a big laugh.
OLLIE. No. There was no laughing.
AGNES. In case you geezers haven’t noticed, I happen to be one hell of a
Agnes does a twirl, raising her skirt slightly. Her legs are in great shape,
causing Stan and Ollie to lean forward for a closer look. Unfortunately, just as
they do so, Agnes breaks wind violently. The sound is exaggerated over the
theatre speakers, almost elephantine. Stan and Ollie lean back quickly,
stunned expressions on their faces, unable to speak or even to look at Agnes.
AGNES. (Cont’d) Cowards! Sure, let’s all just pretend that we didn’t hear that. Do
you boys think I enjoy this affliction? Do you have any idea what it’s like for a woman
to graduate from young and groovy to old and windy in the swish of a tail? Look at
these legs! Look at these marvelous breasts, all natural, ass still tight as a bongo
drum! I turn heads of men half your ages. I gave up chips, cookies, alcohol, coffee,
dairy, fried food, carbonated soda, Fentanyl, everything I love. And for what? (re:
Stan) For a date with this petrified hunk of rawhide who actually thinks he looks like
STAN. Hey! I’ve been told. On at least one occasion.
OLLIE. (To Agnes) I was just telling Stan before you showed up that I had no
problem with your condition.
AGNES. (To Stan) There you go, see.
OLLIE. But considering what I just witnessed—
STAN. Careful, buddy.
AGNES. Let him speak his mind.
OLLIE. It was a bit of a surprise is all.
AGNES. You’re honest anyway, Ollie. Not like your roomie.
OLLIE. That was a real barnburner.
STAN. OK, Ollie. We got it.
OLLIE. I like yours, Stan, “Thunder from Down Under!”
STAN. Jesus. Christ. Ollie.
AGNES. Don’t worry. (Laughs) That’s a good one, I admit.
All three laugh now, and the tension is broken.
STAN. When I first laid eyes on you, Agnes, I thought to myself that you favored
AGNES. No! Me? Connie Stevens!
STAN. Sort of a combination Connie Stevens and Joey Heatherton.
AGNES. Now you’re just teasing me.
STAN. No, I mean it! You really kept your shape.
AGNES. I was a dancer, you know. I was one of the first to dance the Huckle
Buckle on television.
STAN. I’m sure you looked great.
AGNES. I wore a black body suit and a black beret. Very modern.
OLLIE. Bet you had a lot of boyfriends.
AGNES. No. My mother wouldn’t ever let me run around with boys. She was so
religious. I guess I was, too. But I was too focused on my career
anyway. I’d been dancing since I could walk, and my mom was just
about convinced I was going to be the next Shirley Temple. Then when
that didn’t happen she was just as sure I’d be the next Ann Miller. I
never got further than chorus or back-up, though. I might have. I could
have, probably. I had the talent… But then it happened.
AGNES. You know what. I told you. And on live television.
Stan and Ollie whistle in unison.
AGNES. (Cont’d) Actors used to flub their lines on live television all the time
in those days, they just moved on. There was even that famous
broadcast where Carmen Miranda had forgotten to wear her panties
for a live dance number that sent her skirt swirling up over her waste.
OLLIE. I remember that!
AGNES. All good. All fine. But nobody was prepared for me, for what I was
capable of that day: nobody was ready for the Belly of the Beast. It
was pandemonium. Andy Williams couldn’t sing a note after it
happened. Some sort of gag reflex kicked in and he wretched his way
off the stage. The other dancers just fell apart, coughing and running
for the wings, and then another blast came, and another and another,
out of nowhere, Wrath of God stuff. Waves of panic overtook the
studio, and they pushed and tumbled over each other for escape. It
wasn’t just a show anymore, this little Network offering. It was a
judgment. A sort of reckoning.
AGNES. There are television historians who claim to this day that it was this
broadcast that brought about the demise of live television, helping to
usher in the era of pre- recorded content.
Agnes wipes away a tear. Stan and Ollie each look as if they’d love to
comfort her with a few words of consolation, but their cognitive functions
have declined to the point where the capacity for compassionate insight is
just out of reach.
AGNES. (Cont’d) That was forty-seven years ago. Forty-seven years, six
months and thirteen days. (Slipping into a reverie, intensely focused
on the past, on imagined better days) … And I never danced
again… Not professionally… But I still hear the screams… Andy
Williams, choking on his own sick, scrambling off the stage… And the
children… The poor children. Nothing ever the same for them
The doorbell rings. Stan, Ollie, and Agnes sit in awkward silence until… It rings again.
OLLIE. Well… (Finally springing to his feet) That’ll be the pizza…Who’s hungry?
Former actor (AKA Heinrich James). Short play “Gargoyle” was presented in 2022 in Dubai, as part of Short and Sweet Play Festival. Author of “Shameless Dick: Odyssey of a Cad.” Short Play “Confessions of Fritz Feldenfortz,” published in New Voices: A Collection of One-Act Plays, v. 5,” October, 2022.