You Can't Beat Kids Anymore

AT RISE: Two old men, Franjo and Sloba walk into an empty bar. Wooden tables are strewn about in no particular pattern. A dented, wooden bar sits at the far end of the room and the bartender is cleaning glasses. They stiffly take a seat at a table near the entrance. Sloba taps his cane against the table, absentmindedly. SLOBA Did you see him? FRANJO I saw him. SLOBA You saw him? FRANJO I saw him. SLOBA Unbelievable. FRANJO Fucking right. SLOBA I mean, really. Who does that? FRANJO That fucking guy. SLOBA No goddamn respect. Did you see him? FRANJO I saw him. SLOBA I’m telling you, when I was a kid, we didn’t do that shit, did we? FRANJO We didn’t. SLOBA When I was a kid, an old man got on the bus, I would get up and let him sit. None of this fucking attitude bullshit. FRANJO Lack of discipline. SLOBA You said it. FRANJO The problem is you can’t beat kids anymore. SLOBA Fucking right. FRANJO Nowadays they arrest you for that shit. I tell you, if these laws were around when I was a kid, my father would have been in jail longer than your president. Sloba suddenly stops tapping his cane and looks up at Franjo. SLOBA Your president. Franjo looks up just as suddenly. They stare at one another for a few beats. FRANJO Both our presidents. SLOBA Combined. FRANJO May they rot. SLOBA Fucking crooks. The bartender, and old man named Alija, walks up to their table, interrupting their conversation with his presence. The two men look up at him. FRANJO Jesus, finally! What fucking service! SLOBA You run this shithole? ALIJA Didn’t you two see the sign on the door? No Chetniks and no Ustashas. Sloba and Franjo both stand and scowl at Alija, who stands with his hands on his hips at the foot of the table. A few beats of silence. Without warning, all three men burst into laughter. They start clapping one another on the back in greeting. SLOBA Alija you old sonofabitch! ALIJA Ahhh Sloba, Franjo! My two favorite heathens! FRANJO How the hell are you, Alija? ALIJA Can’t complain. Life’s good, but it’s not what it used to be, you know? SLOBA I hear you. Fucking kids wont even give up their seat on the bus anymore. ALIJA No! FRANJO He’s not kidding. ALIJA Unbelievable. SLOBA So you still serve beer here? Or does Allah forbid it? ALIJA Ah, sit down and shut up. Alija walks over to the bar and fills three mugs of beer. He retrns to the table and sits down with Franjo and Sloba. They all take a pull. ALIJA So the kid didn’t get up? SLOBA Nope. ALIJA The youth are out of control these days. FRANJO The problem is you can’t beat kids anymore. ALIJA You know you can get arrested for that now? SLOBA Unbelievable. ALIJA They need strong leadership. Like my old president. He lifts his mug to his face and drinks. Sloba and Franjo let go of their mugs and look at one another, then to Alija. They blurt out simultaneously: SLOBA & FRANJO Your president? Alija lowers his glass. ALIJA My president. SLOBA Is a fundamentalist zealot. FRANJO That brought terrorism to Bosnia. ALIJA You come into MY bar and say that to MY face? FRANJO Well Sloba’s president certainly isn’t a fundamentalist. SLOBA Certainly not. And Franjo’s president doesn’t harbor terrorists. FRANJO Ludicrous. ALIJA (To Sloba) Yours is a war criminal! (To Franjo) And yours harbors fascists! SLOBA You son of a bitch. Franjo and Alija turn to look at him, but he is looking past them. The door to the bar has been thrown open, and a youth walks in and takes a seat at the bar. He looks at the old men with a disgusted look on his face and points to the empty space on the counter in front of him expectantly. Alija grumbles and goes behind the bar and begins pouring the youth a drink. SLOBA That’s him. FRANJO What? Who? SLOBA Him! The little prick. FRANJO That’s him? SLOBA That’s him. Alija slams the drink roughly down in front of the youth and returns to the table with Sloba and Franjo. FRANJO (to Alija) That’s him. ALIJA What? Who? FRANJO Him! The little prick. ALIJA (to Sloba) That’s him? SLOBA Yes that’s fucking him already! Look at him sitting there, little hooligan’s probably bathing in his victory over me. FRANJO Damn kids these days. ALIJA Smug bastard. We should do something about it. SLOBA Like make him give up his seat? Wont work. Look at him sitting there, he’s in his element. That generation is practically glued to a chair. FRANJO The problem is you can’t beat kids anymore. Silence at the table. Franjo’s words hang in the air. All three men lean in close. SLOBA We could do it. ALIJA We could. FRANJO Do what? SLOBA Solve the problem. ALIJA We could. FRANJO What problem? SLOBA Our problem! The bus problem. FRANJO The problem is you can’t beat kids any- SLOBA That problem! Yes, we could solve it. FRANJO We could? ALIJA We could. FRANJO What are you saying? SLOBA There’s three of us and one of him. ALIJA There is. FRANJO I don’t follow. SLOBA Franjo, the problem is you can’t beat kids anymore. ALIJA You can’t, except when you can. SLOBA Exactly. They look at Franjo expectantly. He finally gets it. FRANJO (Knowing) We could solve the problem! SLOBA Now you’re getting it. Alija, the door. Alija gets up and goes to the door. He turns the latch, locking it. Sloba picks up his cane and stands. SLOBA This kid is going to learn some manners. He wont be able to sit after I’m through with him. Franjo stands and begins removing his belt. He coils the end of it around his hand. He and Sloba begin crossing the bar. Alija stands in front of the door, blocking the exit. As Sloba and Franjo approach, the youth looks up. He finishes his beer and fishes out some coins from his pocket, leaving them on the bar counter. YOUTH You want this seat, sir? I was just leaving. SLOBA I... The youth gets up and walks up to the door. Alija, unsure of what to do, moves out of the way. The youth unlocks the door and leaves the bar. FRANJO So... we solved the problem? SLOBA That kid’s got stones, I’ll give him that. Sloba takes a seat in the youth’s seat and Franjo next to him. Alija returns behind the bar. FRANJO That’s some composure. Did you see how calm he was? That sophisticated demeanor reflects the Croatian in him. SLOBA Excuse me? Clearly the healthy rebelliousness and calm subversion of authority stems from his oppressed history. That’s the Serbian in him. ALIJA I’m sorry, but his choice of establishment and generous tip clearly shows his support towards the local community. That’s the Muslim in him. FRANJO That’s absolute nonsense. Clearly he was a Croat. SLOBA He offered his seat to me. He was a Serb. ALIJA He gave me his money. He was a Muslim. FRANJO He was a Croat! SLOBA He was a Serb! ALIJA He was a Muslim! Alija scoops up the coins and inspects them. FRANJO Croat! SLOBA Serb! ALIJA That Western loving prick! SLOBA Don’t you dare call a fellow Serb a Western lover. FRANJO I fail to see how this makes the poor Croat a prick. ALIJA The coins are Euros. He paid in Euros. SLOBA He what... FRANJO But that means... All three of the old men yell out at once: SLOBA, FRANJO, & ALIJA Slovenian! CURTAIN.

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