Recycled Life

(or Le Petit Shop de Hereuse)

By John McNeil


Darryl, a man with very low self-worth, goes to a dealer in second-hand lives to see what he can get in exchange for his failures.



(Scene: the premises of a second-hand dealer, "Recycled Life".)

(Darryl wanders in, a man ill at ease with himself, depressed. He looks around, but sees no sign of the proprietor.)

Darryl: Shop!

(There is no immediate response, so Darryl pokes around the items on display. [Can be mimed])

Darryl: (picks up an object, reads the label) "Ambition...slightly dented, quick sale as owner going overseas." Hmmph! (He puts the object down, wanders to another. It is heart-shaped [as in from a butcher's]. Reads the label.) "Compassion...worn but serviceable. Some fatigue spots." Ummm! (Puts down the heart, wanders to another spot in the shop. Picks up a perfume bottle.) "Joi de vivre...contents shallow, lacking stabiliser." (Takes a sniff.) Not that bad. I could do with some of this. (Examines bottle more closely.) Oh...there's a crack in the bottle. (Puts it down dismally.) There must be something here that will suit.

(As Darryl picks up another object, he does not see Mr M enter.)

Darryl: (Examining label of new object) "Sex appeal...warning, buyer must obtain Dangerous Goods Licence."

Mr M: One of our fastest movers, sir. Perhaps you would like a test drive?

(Darryl jumps, and first tries to hide the item, then hastily puts it down.)

Darryl: Uhh...I'm not sure...that is...

Mr M: Perhaps not at this moment... But if not that, then what?

Darryl: (Not sure how to explain himself) You...sort of... sell....

Mr M: Actually, we don't sell, or buy. We trade. If you want to sell, I have a cousin two blocks down who buys. But I have to say, there is rather a glut of people wanting to sell their souls these days, so you may not find the return you expected. Supply and demand and all that.

Darryl: (Flustered, panicky) No, no...nothing like that. I don't want to sell my soul. I've read about the consequences of that sort of thing. I'm just fed up with the life I've got, and (hopefully) your advertisement says you can exchange it for a life worth living.

Mr M: Then you've come to the right place. There are treasures galore here at "Recycled Life".

Darryl: How does it work? I couldn't see any prices on those items I looked at just now.

Mr M: Quite simple. You have dissatisfactions in life. You wish you could be wealthier, a powerful businessman, a hit with all the women....

Darryl: (mutters) Just one would be a major improvement!

Mr M: So you sign over to us those things you are fed up with in your life, and in exchange you take over what someone else wants to be rid of.

Darryl: I can't believe anyone would want the dregs of my life. I've been a failure from the word go. I flunked kindergarten, for goodness sake! My father could never remember my name...and I was an only child. I was so pathetic at school that the bullies didn't bother with me....instead, I was picked on by the kids the bullies picked on. I decided to run away to sea, so I crept down to the wharves and hid on a boat. It was three days before I discovered I had stowed away on the Diamond Harbour ferry. You get the picture? I wash coal trucks for a living. My one and only girl friend ran off with a used car salesman. And my one brief moment of fame was dressed as Noddy (Bobble-Head) in the Christmas parade.

Mr M: And yet...

Darryl: (Incredulous) And yet!!!?

Mr M: It might surprise you to know that many of the so-called rich and famous are just as dissatisfied with their lives, and would be happy to exchange their fortune for the drab and hum-drum.

Darryl: Show me.

Mr M: (Moves to an item, which he takes and shows to Darryl) How about this?

Darryl: (Reads) "Fame and 12million a mansion in the Bahamas." I'll take it! That is, if it's still available. I can't believe....

Mr M: Oh, it's available all right. But perhaps you should know it's been through three owners already. The current owner is...was...a rock star who's currently on constant medication in a mental institution. He couldn't handle the incessant media attention and microscopic examination of his life. Now he's desperate for a hum-drum life in some back water.

Darryl: (Hands it back hurriedly) No, I don't think so.

Mr M: (Takes another object) Perhaps this, then. (Hands it to Darryl)

Darryl: (Reads) "Chairman of the board and 3 mistresses." (Dreamily) I'd have it made! Why would anyone want to exchange this?

Mr M: The gentleman concerned has also been divorced 3 times and his son committed suicide. I believe he is now desperate for a stable, long-term relationship.

Darryl: How many more "exchanges" are there like that in here?

Mr M: Let us just say we do a thriving trade. The world is full of people dissatisfied with their lot, I'm pleased to say.

Darryl: (More depressed than ever) Then where is the hope?

Mr M: Don't give up so easily, sir. I'm sure we can.....

(Mr M breaks off as he looks up and sees another person about to enter the shop. A horrified look comes over his face and he rushes to the door, attempting to bolt it.)

Mr M: No, no. We're closed. You can't come in. The Eftpos/ATM machine has broken. (Grabs Darryl by the arm) You were just leaving, weren't you sir.

(The newcomer ignores the protestations and pushes in.)

Trader J: Hello, Luke. I gather that once again you "forgot" to show your customer all the available exchange items!?

Mr M: (Bitterly) Can't you let it pass for once?

Trader J: (Ignores him, addresses Darryl) There's an exchange which Mr M usually keeps under the counter. But he's going to show you it now, aren't you, Luke.

(Mr M goes and collects the item, which he begrudgingly brings to the pair. Trader J gestures to Darryl to read the label.)

Darryl: "Love... joy... peace...patience...tenderness." Who'd want to exchange these. What's the catch?

Trader J: They're mine... and there's no catch. All your mess-ups, Darryl, all your failures... I will happily take them. And in return, I give you everything that is mine.

Darryl: (Looks questioningly at Mr M, who nods bitterly.) It's almost too good to believe, but how can I turn down a bargain like that?

Trader J: Just wait here, while I go and settle the deal with Luke. He'll bring you back the exchange papers.

(They exit while Darryl waits. In the background are heard three slow hammer blows, and a cry, "It is finished," as the lights fade to black.)


© John McNeil 2000, All rights reserved
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged.
In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed.
He may be contacted at:
Or at: 36B Stourbridge St, Christchurch 2, New Zealand.