The scene: A Kwik E Mart in North Jersey, late at night. Two pairs of headlights can be seen in the parking lot outside, one from a sports car and the other from a bus. The store is deserted but for two shoppers, JAY PANDOLFO and SCOTT GOMEZ, who meet accidentally at the cash register as they are finishing up their respective shopping runs.
PANDO: Awkwardly, juggling a three cases of beer in his arms. “Hey, Gomah. Uh, I didn’t expect to see you here.”
GOMEZ: Equally awkward, trying to hide the bottle he’s holding behind his back. “Oh. Pando. Um, yeah. Good to see you.”
Long, painful pause.
PANDO: Rolling his eyes at the effort needed to start a conversation. “So what are you doing out here? Don’t they have Kwik E Marts in the City?”
GOMEZ: “Uh, yeah, they do.” Uncomfortable pause. “It’s just that, you know…” Shrugging, trailing off.
PANDO: “No, I don’t know.”
GOMEZ: Blushing. “Well, this is the one Jagsie — I mean, er, Jaromir likes going to.”
PANDO: A smirk spreading across his face. “Did you just call Jaromir Jagr ‘Jagsie’?”
GOMEZ: Barely audibly. “Uh, no?”
PANDO: “So this is Jagsie’s favorite convenience store? Whatevah. But why on earth would that make you drive out from The City this late at night?”
They are interrupted by a long, angry honk of the sports car’s horn, and muffled, Czech-accented shouting can be heard through the window at the front of the store.
GOMEZ: Laughing nervously. “Funny story. Uh… Jaromir is actually waiting in the car.”
PANDO: Eyebrows jumping in surprise. “You and Jagsie are hanging out together in North Jersey tonight? Wait, no — You and Jagsie hang out at all?”
GOMEZ: “Well, no, not so much.” More pained silence. “He kind of asked me to drive him out here.”
PANDO: Looks over Gomez’s shoulder to the parking lot. “That’s not your car.”
GOMEZ: Cringing. “Yeah, no. It’s his. He asked me to drive him in his car here.”
PANDO: “Is he not capable of driving himself?”
GOMEZ: “He got in a little fender bender last time he drove out here, so I guess he’s decided he really needs me to do this for him. Or something. I dunno. He’s sort of weird about wanting me to do everything for him, then wanting to do everything himself. I kind of have to do what he asks, though, don’t I? I mean, he is my captain.”
PANDO: Derisive snort.
GOMEZ: Bristling defensively. “That’s some attitude for a guy who’ll do anything for his team. I mean, are you telling me that you’d tell Patty to go fuck himself if he called you at midnight and demanded you drive him to the middle of nowhere to pick up some tincture of prunes?”
PANDO: “WHAT??? Tincture of prunes???” Somehow manages to balance the beers while still grabbing the bottle Gomez unsuccessfully attempted to conceal behind his back.
GOMEZ: “So Jagsi– Jaromir likes tincture of prunes. And so this is the only store that sells it around here. That’s not my problem.”
PANDO: “It is if you’re driving out here at midnight to pick it up for him.”
GOMEZ: “That’s not the point. And don’t try to change the subject — you would totally do this if Patty told you to.”
PANDO: Smugly. “Patty’s not my captain anymore.”
GOMEZ: A flash of hurt in his eyes. “Wait, what?”
PANDO: Smugger. “No more Captain Hugs for us.”
GOMEZ: “But… but…” Struggles to keep his face expressionless. “Um… Well. Wow. Huh. That’s good. I guess. So… who’s captain now?”
PANDO: Smuggest. “Me.”
GOMEZ: Stunned into silence.
PANDO: Cracking up. “I’m just shitting you. I’m totally not captain. Like I’d ever want a C if all the other guys on the team weren’t wearing them too. But seriously, Langer’s the captain now.”
GOMEZ: Exhaling with relief at the news that Pando isn’t captain, then sucking in his breath in a sharp hiss at the mention of Langer. “Aw, fuck. I bet he’s a really cool captain.”
PANDO: Nodding at the cases of beer. “Yeah, he really is. We’re having a party tonight.”
GOMEZ: “Oh.” Long, decreasingly expectant pause. “Well, I wouldn’t want to keep you from it.”
They are interrupted by another honk from the parking lot, this time from the bus. It is followed by the sound of a group of guys giggling.
PANDO: “Oh, it’s no biggie. That’s our party bus, so we can take our party everywhere we go.”
GOMEZ: “You guys have a party bus now?”
PANDO: “You don’t? I always figured the Rangers had to have one. I mean, why else would guys go there?”
GOMEZ: Primly. “You know I’m getting paid over 12 times as much as you are this year, right?”
PANDO: Shrugging. “That’s okay with me. Hey, can you hand me some of those Slim Jims behind you?”
GOMEZ: “I’m also a superstar now. I mean, I’m playing at Madison Square Garden every night.”
PANDO: Innocently. “Are you getting lots of points? I know you were really looking forward to getting away from our defensive system.”
GOMEZ: Doesn’t respond as he pretends to “accidentally” knock over the Slim Jim display.
PANDO: “Seriously. How’s the run-and-gun offense going?”
GOMEZ: Suddenly haughty. “We play defense. Excellent defense.”
PANDO: Nodding with fake sympathy. “That must be lots of fun for you.”
GOMEZ: Clearly lying. “It is. I love it. I mean, obviously it’s really comfortable for me to be in a system like that, only now I’m making a lot of money and my jersey says ‘RANGERS’ on it. It really doesn’t get better than that, you know.”
GOMEZ: Slyly thinking he’s about to gain the upper hand. “So how’s your season going? Still getting no fans in the building? Stumbling out of the gate? Same old boring Devils?”
PANDO: “Oh, well, yeah, we did start a bit slow, and the attendance is a work in progress, but really, it’s all pretty good. We’ve got this great new building, you know.”
GOMEZ: Smirking. “New building, but same old Devils, right?”
PANDO: Smirking back. “Think again. It took a while to get used to it, but…” Shrugs contentedly. “The new coach is all about forechecking and shit.”
GOMEZ: Another flash of hurt in his eyes. “Really?” Pause, then meanly, “Well, not like that would matter to you.”
PANDO: Supremely self-assured. “Sure, whatevah, Gomah.” He steps up to the cash register and pays for his beer and Slim Jims. “Look, I gotta go. The Party Bus is waiting for me — and my eight goals. See you around.”
GOMEZ: Eyes bugging out with surprise. “You have eight goals?” Darts after Pando on his way out the door. “Wait, Pando!”
PANDO: Suddenly impatient. “What is it, Gomah?”
GOMEZ: Haltingly. “I miss you. I miss us. I want my BFF back.”
PANDO: Exhales a small sigh, then smirks again. “Sorry, Gomah. I’ve got a whole bus full of BFFs now. It’s the best room I’ve evah been in.” Shifts the cases of beer onto one hip as he digs some change out of his pocket, then tosses the coins to Gomez “Look, there’s some money for your tolls. Have a fun night with Jagsie.” Spins on his heel and strides out to the bus, where he is greeted warmly by his teammates.
GOMEZ: Looks down at the bottle in his hands as his tears splatter onto the Tincture of Prunes label. “What have I done?”