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Moral Fiber - a one act play

Moral Fiber

A play

Written by Tarl N. Telford


The players

Rufus – loves breakfast cereal

Suzanne – trying to be healthy

Quaker – the angelic voice of healthy eating

Pizza Girl – devil in a red hat



Scene – a combined kitchen / living room takes up the entire stage.  A half-wall divides the two rooms.  Cupboards line stage left and the rear kitchen.  A table and two chairs are in the center of the kitchen.  A window looks out stage left next to the cupboards.

In the living room, a couch and telephone stand are the only furniture. A rotary phone sits on phone stand.  A door stage right leads outside.


Rufus enters from the outside door.  He is in his 30’s, unkempt.  Thin as a twig.  Wears a superhero T-shirt.  He looks around kitchen.  A silver serving dish is covered on the countertop.


Rufus:                         Anyone home?  Good.  May as well help myself to breakfast.

(He looks in the cupboards)

Ah, breakfast.


Suzanne (a plump woman in her 30’s) enters from the living room behind him.


Suzanne:          There you are!  I’ve been worried sick.  Out all night again.  No phone call.  No instant message.  Not even a post-it note.


Rufus:             Mm-hmm.  Got anything to eat?


Suzanne walks up behind him and whips him around to face her.


Suzanne:          Look at me when I’m yelling at you.  I didn’t get into this marriage to be treated like this. 

                        (She sniffs)

What is that smell? 

(She narrows her eyes at him)

You’ve been cheating.


Rufus:             You’re imagining things.  Why would I cheat?  I’ve got all a man could ever want right here.


Suzanne:          We’ll see.


Rufus:             Where are my Snappy Flakes?


Suzanne:          I threw them out.  Healthy eating starts today.


Rufus:             What is that supposed to mean?  I can’t be healthy without my cereal.

You know I love cereal. 


Suzanne:          Do you know what the benefits of a balanced breakfast are?


Rufus:             Sugar high.  Sweet satisfaction.  Crunchy goodness.  Is there anything else?


Suzanne:          No – if you’re three.  But for those adults who actually care about

their insides, a healthy breakfast keeps you regular.


Rufus:                         I’m regular.  Normal.  Average.   I regularly eat cereal.


Suzanne:          Regular as in your business.


Rufus:             I’m in the business of breakfast.


Suzanne:          Whatever.  In addition, you have more energy.


Rufus:             I bounce off the walls. 


Suzanne:          You are happy in the morning instead of being cranky.


Rufus:             (Pauses, lifts a finger, then puts it back down.)  Okay, you got me there.  So what?  I let you do your thing.  You let me do mine.


Suzanne:          There is cereal in the cupboard.


Rufus:             No there isn’t.  I looked.


Suzanne:          You didn’t look hard enough.

(opens cupboard) 

Right here. 

(holds out cardboard canister of oatmeal.)



Rufus:             That’s not cereal.


Suzanne:          It’s oatmeal.


Rufus:             (looks sick) Oatmeal?  Oatmeal isn’t cereal.  (takes canister, reads

                        ingredients)   No chocolate.  No corn syrup.  Not even any sugar. 


Oh no.


Suzanne:          What is it now?


Rufus:             There’s no free toy.


Suzanne:          I made up nice steaming bowl of oatmeal for you.  It’s right here on the counter.  (lifts a silver lid off the serving dish on the counter)

                        Breakfast is served.


Rufus:             (walks around to backside of table.  Crouches down to look at bowl at eye

                        level.)  It’s warm.


Suzanne:          It warms you up from the inside.  Perfect for a cold-hearted no-gooder like you. Besides,

(she holds up the canister, showing the Quaker face)

that is the kind of face you’d see in church.  Happy and smiling. 

(She pulls a basket of muffins from the cupboard and sets it down next to the bowl of oatmeal.) 

Now you’ve got options - oatmeal or bran muffins.


Rufus looks green – positively ill.


Exit Suzanne.


Rufus sits on the chair and bangs his head on the table.


Quaker enters stage rear.  Stands silently next to the table.


Rufus:             What did I ever do to deserve this?  It’s not fair.  This isn’t cereal.  This is

some kind of steaming protoplasm.  And those – cinder blocks in a cupcake liner.  I’m going to starve.


Quaker:           She only has your best interests in mind. 


Rufus:             Who are you?


Quaker:           This is the kind of face you’d see in church.  I am here to steer you away

from this dangerous path you are traveling.  Your fate is in your own hands.  But tread carefully, Rufus, for the road is littered with cereal boxes and crumpled I.O.U’s of good intentions.


Rufus:             You must be my shoulder angel.  Wow.  You’re taller than I imagined.  I

                        thought you were supposed to stand right here, on my shoulder.


Quaker:           Healthy eating creates a healthy body and healthy mind.  You need both in

this world today.  Things are tough enough out there without pumping pollutants into yourself.  Now, eat up.


Rufus:             (scoops up oatmeal and turns spoon upside down.  Oatmeal sticks to spoon.) 

It sticks.  I will not be a part of anything that defies the laws of physics. 

(takes a bran muffin from the basket, holds it up and drops it.) 

Cinderblock muffins fall.  Oatmeal doesn’t.  What would you want in your stomach?


Rufus pulls several muffins from the basket and stacks them up, gluing them together with spoonfuls of oatmeal.


Quaker:           The virtues of healthy eating are their own reward.  Simple food leaves your body strong enough for all the other busy activities – what are you doing?


Rufus:             Building.  Why?


Quaker:           You are supposed to be eating.  Did your mother not teach you anything?  You are not supposed to play with your food. 


Rufus:             Does my mother wear a Quaker hat and knee socks?  Besides, I thought we established that this isn’t food.  For a shoulder angel, you don’t seem to be very intelligent.  Cereal falls, protoplasmic oatmeal doesn’t.  These things

(he gestures to the muffins)

might be found in nature – as glaciers.


Suzanne enters.  She doesn’t see the Quaker.


Suzanne:          Finished with breakfast? 

(She stops short.  Sees tower of muffins.) 

What are you doing?


Rufus:             True genius is always unappreciated.  Do you want me to die?  That would

make my genius self-evident, wouldn’t it?  You’d like that.  But, ooh, you’d be sorry.  You’d say to yourself, “Gosh, Rufus sure was a genius.  How I wish I had appreciated him.”  Yeah, that’s what you’d say.


Suzanne:          Yeah.  That’s exactly what I’d say. Rufus, you are like a fine bread – you just get crustier with age.


Rufus:             Just because I don’t buy into your diet craze … This is going to end up about salads, isn’t it?  Because I’m not going to eat dandelion salads.  At all.


Suzanne:          Salads?  You’re trying to make this about salads?  This is not about me, this is about you.  You eat cereal three meals a day.  Look at you, you’re pathetic.  You’re sloppy, your arms are like jello, and you can’t touch your toes.


Rufus:             You’re a fine one to talk, Miss Molly McButter.  I can’t touch my toes.  You can’t see your toes.


Suzanne:          Don’t change the subject.  I can so see my toes – all eleven.


Rufus:             If you won’t feed me, I’ll just find someone that will.


Suzanne:          What are you doing?


Rufus:                          I’m going to order pizza.


Suzanne:          It’s nine in the morning.


Rufus and Suzanne rush to phone. 

Rufus:             I’ll leave a message. 


Rufus gets there first.  He holds the receiver away from Suzanne. 


Rufus:             You think you’re so smart.  Nuh-uh.

I’ve got the phone.


Suzanne holds up rotary dial part of the phone.


Suzanne:          Go ahead.  Dial.


Rufus looks at receiver.  He scowls.


Rufus:             So maybe they’re not open yet, but I have ways.  Be afraid. 

(he stares down Suzanne, who is almost twice his size)

Be very afraid.


Suzanne:          We’re out of rutabaga.  I’m going to the farmers market.  Eat your breakfast, sweet cheeks.  This is only round one.  The next one’s a doozy.


Suzanne exits stage right.


Quaker steps forward, tossing a bran muffin in his hand.


Quaker:           You have to stop this unhealthy obsession. It will rip you apart.  Your loyalties are already divided.  Remember, a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Your breakfast is getting cold.


Rufus:             I’m not going to eat that.  I can’t.  It’s art. 

(dials phone) 

Hey, it’s me.  Have you got any cereal?  What kind?  Oh, that’s my favorite.  Could you just pour a bowl for me?  Oh that sounds so good.  Now could you just crunch some?

No, I don’t think that’s creepy.  So what if I have a thing for Snappy Flakes.  No, I don’t have any more here; she must’ve thrown it all out.  Could you crunch again, for me, just once?

Oh yeah, well I think YOU are sick in the head.  Yeah, what do you think about that?  Mmm-hmm. Love you too, Mom.


Rufus slams down phone.


Quaker:           You are out of options.  She threw out all your cereal. 


Rufus:             (walking to window) Maybe there’s some still out there.


Quaker:           You can’t eat out of the garbage can.  It’s unsanitary.


Rufus:             (looks out window) No, it’s empty.  Already gone.  Maybe the dogs got into it.  I can just pick a few flakes off … 

(his eyes drift back to the sofa).

I had some flakes on me last week watching TV. 

(jumps on couch) 

I was sitting here, like this.  Got up, brushed off. 

(pulls off cushions) 

Ah HA! 

(holds up a flake triumphantly, then eats it) 

Still crunchy.


Quaker steps forward to front of stage.

Lights dim. Spotlight on Quaker.


Quaker:           He spent the rest of the morning digging for Snappy Flakes.  But that was just the beginning of the nightmare.


Rufus leans back on sofa.  Sighs contentedly.


Knock at the door.


Rufus:                         (rushes to door, throws it open) You are the greatest.  I love you. 


Pizza Girl enters holding a pizza bag.


Rufus:             Have you got it?  You weren’t followed, were you?  Nobody knows you’re here?


Pizza Girl:       Nobody.  It’s just you, me and …

                        (she sees Quaker and narrows her eyes))

Rufus, we’ve got us a nice little thing going here.  You told me I was the only one for you.


Rufus:             I didn’t do anything, I swear.  She has no idea.  I mean, she threw out all the Fruit Zowies, the Maple-Crossies, and the Marshmallow Frosty-saurs, but she doesn’t know anything, I promise.


Pizza Girl:       (points to Quaker)

Not herHim.  Why you gotta be bringing the breakfast police to rain on our parade?


Quaker:           I should have known.  So you’re delivering pizzas now?  What tawdry webs we weave. 


Pizza Girl:       Jealous, are we now?  Wouldn’t it be nice to shovel in some empty calories?  Nobody has to know.


Quaker:           You are a vile temptress.  Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what arteriosclerosis is made of.

(to Rufus)  We don’t need her kind here.  We’ve got all the breakfast we



Pizza Girl:       Yeah, Q’s the man.  Sticks to your ribs and devours you from the inside.  At least with me, you know the trouble you’re getting into.

(opens pizza bag)

As for you, Rufus don’t break my heart.  Make it count.

 (pulls out a pizza box)

 I’ve got what you want.  What have you got for me?  Any surprises?


Quaker:           You don’t have to do this.  Think about your actions.  This could lead to

                        terrible consequences.  What will your wife think?


Rufus:             She doesn’t have to know.  Nobody has to know.

(hands over a wad of bills) 

At last. 

(opens pizza box.  Pulls out a box of cereal.) 

Snappy Flakes.


Pizza Girl:       When you want to walk on the wild side again, call me.  But make sure you’re alone.

(glares at Quaker)

                        I don’t play well with others.


Quaker:           Oh, you’ll have plenty of company where you’re going.  The road to the inferno is paved with partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Wicked temptress, your seven   deadly ingredients have condemned an entire generation.  I will not let you destroy this incompetent doofus.


Rufus:             Hey!


Quaker:           Incomparable Rufus.  Sorry, slip of the tongue.


Pizza Girl:       (blows raspberries at Quaker) Nyah-na.  Smell you later, Oat boy.


Pizza Girl exits stage right.


Quaker:           It’s not too late to turn back.  You must not do this.  This way can hold only tears.


Rufus:             What more can I lose?  My soul belongs to the frosted goodness inside this


(pulls a huge handful and holds it high over his head.  He drops cereal over his open mouth.) 

Not you or any power on this earth can stop me. 

(he continues the stream of falling cereal over his face)


The door opens behind him. Suzanne stops cold in the door.  She drops the bags of rutabaga on the floor.


Suzanne:          You filthy rotten liar!  I leave you alone for two hours, and you cheat on

                        me!  Who is it this time?  Crispy Choco-bombs?  Golden Waffle Pops? 

                        Who is your sweet mistress today?  I trusted you.


Quaker:           Only tears.


Rufus:             You don’t understand.  We love each other.


Suzanne rushes at Rufus, trying to get the Snappy Flakes away from him.  She chases him all around stage.


Suzanne:          Give me that!


Rufus:             I have every right.  It’s my life.


Suzanne:          You’re destroying yourself.


Rufus:             I’m loving life.


Rufus dives onto couch.  Suzanne grabs his feet and pulls.  He holds out cereal box at arms length so she can’t reach it.


Suzanne:          This is not a balanced breakfast.

                        (grabs his ankle and twists it into an ankle lock)

                        Who’s your mommy now?


Rufus:             Okay, okay. We can work this out.


Suzanne:          Really?


Rufus:             (leaps up and runs to the kitchen) Never!  Ha ha.


Quaker:           You’re going beyond the point of no return.  Stop now or you’ll regret it forever.


Rufus throws bran muffins at Suzanne.  She ducks behind the couch.


Rufus:             You never loved me.  Not like this.  If you want these Snappy Flakes, you’ll have to pry them from my cold, dead fingers.


Suzanne:          You’re crazy.


Rufus:             Crazy in love.  You can’t see that.  You never understood.  I tried to explain, but you just wanted to keep us apart.  This is all your fault.


Quaker:           This is horribly wrong.  This cereal fixation has got to stop now. 

(he lifts the muffin-oatmeal sculpture up high, brandishing it like a rock over Man’s head.)

 I’m sorry. You brought this on yourself. 


Quaker drops the muffin sculpture on Rufus’s head, knocking him to the floor.


Lights out.


Spotlight on Rufus in Chair.  He appears to have his hands tied behind his back.  He stares against the harsh light.  It should look like an interrogation.


Rufus:             You can’t do this to me.  I love Snappy Flakes.


Suzanne’s voice comes from offstage.  She enters, wearing a jacket and holding a



Suzanne:          There’s just me now.  You’ve hurt me too many times, Rufus.  We can’t go on like this.  Things are going to change.


Quaker:           Are you happy now?  You’ve ruined everything.


Pizza Girl slips behind Man and pops up next to his shoulder.


Pizza Girl:       Hey Sweetie, what’d I miss? 

(looks at Quaker) 

You again.  Now you’ve done it.  Gone and ruined a perfectly healthy relationship.


Quaker:           Healthy? They were always at each other’s throats.  He couldn’t stay faithful for two seconds.


Pizza Girl:       You never gave them a chance.  It was all about you.  Spirit of healthy eating.  Well, you couldn’t change him, and now look.  LOOK.


Quaker:           Her bags are packed.


Suzanne:          I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, Rufus.  We can’t keep doing this to each



Rufus:             I don’t know what you’re talking about.


Quaker:           She’s calling you out, you slippery corn syrup-loving slimeball.


Pizza Girl:       Hey!  Keep your whole grain nose out of it.  Let them screw up their own lives without the constant threat of cholesterol breathing down their necks.


Quaker:           You want that, don’t you?  Just let them make their own choices.  Well, I have some things to say to them.


Rufus:             What are the suitcases for?  You’re not thinking of –


Suzanne:          This is hard enough as it is.  Don’t make this any harder for me.  These have been packed a long time.  I was hoping that this day would never come.  I promised my mother if something like this ever did happen …


Rufus:             I can change.  Promise.  Pinky swear.  If I had a pinky available, that is.  Don’t leave me.  I’m not vitamin-fortified without you.


Suzanne:          You can’t change.  You never will.


Rufus:             My blood sugar was low.  I wasn’t myself.  It was the corn syrup talking, not me.  You know me.


Suzanne:          I know.  You’re the same.  You’ve always been the same.  You will always be the same. 


Quaker:           No moral fiber.  Can’t stand the heat.  Has to stick with cold cereal.  He

never really loved her.  He never loved you, either.


Pizza Girl:       But you stuck with him.  Or is it that you’re stuck with him?


Suzanne:          If you’re not going to change –


Quaker:           Yeah, let him have it.  Rip his partially hydrogenated heart right out of his



Suzanne opens up her suitcase and pulls out a cereal box.  Sets it on top of her suitcase.


Suzanne:          You’ve been bad.  But that’s not such a bad thing.  See, I’ve got a secret.


She takes off her jacket and drops it on the floor.  She’s wearing a Snappy Flakes T-shirt.


Quaker:           Don’t do it.  Remember the rutabaga.


Pizza Girl:       Say it.  Say it.


Suzanne:          I’ve been lying to myself for too long.  I have to finally be honest to you and to myself. 

                        (she grabs the cereal box and embraces it tightly)

I love Snappy Flakes!


Quaker:           NO!


Pizza Girl:       And that’s the power of love.


Rufus:             I love you. 

(he jumps up from his chair and hugs Suzanne.  He takes the box and drops it to the floor.)

                        Both of you. 


Suzanne picks up the box of Snappy Flakes, places it between them and hugs Rufus back.


Suzanne:          And I love both of you.


Pizza Girl grabs Quaker by the arm.


Pizza Girl:       That is so sweet.  Why can’t you be sweet like that?


Quaker:           Maybe I just haven’t had the right motivation.


Pizza Girl takes Quaker’s hat and puts it on her head.


Pizza Girl:       C’mon Oat-boy.  You’ve got a lot of catching up to do.


Quaker growls seductively deep in his throat.


Quaker:           Rrrr-owwwr.


The end