Call Me On the Line

by Veronica Brown

Cast of Characters

LUCAS SMITH, a teenage, straight male main character who lives in 2021. He starts off as a typical jock character and bully, but he realizes the impact of his words after meeting Matthew.

MATT/MATTHEW ANDERSON, a teenage male main character who lives in 1981. Openly gay and depressed. Lucas helps Matthew work through his identity issues, just as Matthew helps Lucas mature.

JASON TAYLOR, the teenage male friend of Lucas who lives in 2021. Stereotypical jock character who bullies his fellow students. He is appalled when Lucas starts to change, and Jason is the one who finally pushes him out of the jock clique.

MR. ANDERSON, Lucas’ male English teacher who lives in 2021. This is Matthew as an adult. He’s still young at heart, and is very kind and accommodating of his students.

HAZEL SMITH, Lucas’ older sister who lives in 2021. She often hangs around vintage stores and areas because she finds them interesting. She does not form a close relationship with Lucas until he meets Matthew and begins to change. 

AVA WHITE, a teenage female who lives in 2021, and identifies as a lesbian. She is bullied by Lucas and Jason, though Lucas later apologizes to her and they become friendly.

MRS. SMITH, mother to Lucas and Hazel who lives in 2021. She was born in 1968, and grew up with the technology from 1981. Basically, she can help set up a landline phone.

Synopsis

Lucas Smith is your average jock; he hangs out with football player and friend Jason, bullies a girl named Ava on the daily, and has little appreciation for schoolwork. When Lucas’ sister, Hazel, takes him to an antique shop and they buy a landline phone, everything changes. On the other line is a boy named Matthew, or Matt for short. They both like the same music, the same movies, and are friends right from the start. But when Matt ends up in the local newspaper, Lucas learns that Matt isn’t the person he thought- Matt lives in 1981 while Lucas is stuck in 2021. After the initial shock, the two grow closer together. As the both of them work through suicidal thoughts, the struggles of being gay, and Mr. Anderson’s historical creative writing assignment, Lucas realizes how his previous closed-minded thinking hurts the people around him. With Matt by his side (or rather over the phone), Lucas starts rebuilding his relationships and learns that friendship alone can transcend time.

Setting

Call Me on the Line takes place in Gainesville, Florida. The antique shop has tables with various items for sale. Lucas’ home has a desk decorated with a computer, the telephone, papers, etc. The school has smaller school desks and a large desk for Mr. Anderson. For scenes that involve phone calls, LUCAS is on one side of the stage while MATT is on the other.

Scene 1

(LUCAS and HAZEL enter the stage at an antique shop. They are in the middle of a conversation.)

LUCAS

(sighing dramatically)

So, are you gonna tell me why you drove me to some rusty vintage shop, or do I have to guess?

HAZEL

Calm down Lucas, I’m only spending 57 dollars.

LUCAS

57 dollars?! What piece of dust are you paying 57 dollars for?!

HAZEL

It’s a vintage telephone from 1981- and stop making that face, it’s not a piece of dust!

LUCAS

Well at least it’s not my money.

(LUCAS and HAZEL walk offstage with the telephone. The scene changes to a typical household with assorted furniture.)

Scene 2

MRS. SMITH

Hello my sweet babies! Did you have fun today?

(MRS. SMITH pulls LUCAS and HAZEL in for a hug.)

LUCAS

Ugh, get off me!

(LUCAS shoves off MRS. SMITH.)

HAZEL

I got a telephone!

MRS. SMITH

Your iPhone just wasn’t enough?

HAZEL

Ha ha, very funny. It’s a vintage telephone-

LUCAS

-from the 80s, and it’s such a pretty color. Yeah, we got it Hazel.

HAZEL

But, uh, we’re not sure how to make it work?

MRS. SMITH

Oh my god, it’s a slimline phone. You have to plug it into the wall. I think we have one behind this dresser…

(MRS. SMITH moves furniture and plugs in the telephone.)

MRS. SMITH

This noise is called a dial tone. We still have a landline because we haven’t upgraded the alarm system to wireless.

LUCAS

Well…what are we supposed to do with it?

HAZEL

Make a call?

LUCAS

No one in their right mind is still using a phone from the 80s. It’s literally ancient.

MRS. SMITH

(offstage)

Do not dial long distance! I don’t want some crazy bill.

HAZEL

(softly)

What’s long distance?

(HAZEL and LUCAS shrug.)

HAZEL

Look, why don’t you just punch in a number? What’s the worst that could happen?

LUCAS

Someone picks up?

HAZEL

Ooooh social interaction. Scary.

LUCAS

Fine. But if this goes wrong, I blame you.

(LUCAS punches 7 digits on the telephone and a ringing is heard. A voicemail begins to play.)

MATT

What up dudes? Hope you’re having a gnarly day. Make sure to leave a message or…or something will happen. Probably.

(The phone beeps.)

LUCAS

Uh hey? Hope everything’s lit with you. Keep, uh…keep breathing.

(LUCAS hangs up in a panic.)

HAZEL

Ah yes, the wonders of social situations.

LUCAS

Shush. I didn’t think someone would actually pick up!

HAZEL

Maybe that technology isn’t as ancient as you thought, hm?

[Blackout.]

Scene 3

(The next day, LUCAS meets up with his friend JASON before school.)

JASON

What’s good, my man?

LUCAS

Jason, my man! Nothing unusual. Hazel dragged me around town, as per the weekly routine.

(LUCAS and JASON exchange a cool handshake.)

JASON

You pick up anything cool? Or just nerd stuff?

LUCAS

She got an overpriced telephone. Someone actually picked up when we called. Well, there was a voicemail at least.

JASON

Daaamn. Did you get her name at least?

LUCAS

Nah, it was a dude.

JASON

That’s pretty depressing.

(A fellow student, AVA, walks by, hugging her books tight to her chest.)

JASON

Hey Ava. You still dating that hoe from last year?

AVA

It’s none of your business, jerk.

(JASON leans forward to take AVA’s books.)

JASON

Aww you’re taking AP History? What a nerd.

LUCAS

AP Science, AP English…you’ve got quite the class schedule. It’d be such a shame if your books got lost, huh?

AVA

Just give them back Lucas!

JASON

I don’t think he can do that.

LUCAS

Whatever, man. Have fun in class.

(LUCAS throws AVA’s books past her and keeps walking.)

[Blackout.]

Scene 4

(Back at home, LUCAS is doing homework while listening to an Eminem playlist. The vintage telephone rings.)

LUCAS

Wait, is that the- hold on, I’m coming, I’m coming. Chill out.

(LUCAS picks up the telephone.)

LUCAS

Hello?

MATT

Are you the “keep breathing” guy?

LUCAS

Oh…yeah that’s me. Haha. Sorry for the random call. My sister got a new phone…well old. And we wanted to make sure it worked and now I’m rambling. Um…I’m Lucas.

MATT

My friends call me Matt. Let’s make sure your sister’s phone doesn’t start crackling, or the cord isn’t working.

(The two of them sit quietly for a moment.)

MATT

Hey, have you seen Indiana Jones? Raiders of the Lost Ark?

LUCAS

Dude, yes! I saw it last weekend. Although the face melting? I had to look away for that.

MATT

Me too! Like, the movie was awesome. But that one part kinda creeped me out.

LUCAS

Exactly. What about Star Wars?

MATT

So. Good. The whole universe is so cool and interesting. And Luke with Leia? Like, oh my god! They’re great.

LUCAS

Yeah…I didn’t see that one coming.

MATT

And Han Solo- what they did to him.

LUCAS

Exactly! That ending made me cry a bit.

(A beat.)

LUCAS

Opinion on Eminem?

MATT

So sweet! I love them so much.

LUCAS

 I know right! I haven’t met anyone else who likes him!

MATT

Oh, they’re really popular over here. It’s hard to shop anywhere without seeing them.

LUCAS

Hey…it seems like her phone is working. It was really good talking to you. I don’t normally find guys with the same interests. I never really talk; text is just more convenient.

MATT

Text?

LUCAS

Yeah, so I was wondering if you wanted to talk again. Maybe tomorrow? Same time?

MATT

Sure! Sounds rad.

LUCAS

Thanks man. Have a good one!

MATT

You too!

(LUCAS hangs up. HAZEL walks into his room.)

HAZEL

Who was that?

LUCAS

Do you remember when we called someone on the telephone you got?

HAZEL

Don’t you mean when you called someone on the telephone? Yeah, I remember.

LUCAS

Well, he called back. His name is Matt, and he’s actually pretty cool.

HAZEL

You talked to an actual person…on the phone?

[Blackout.]

Scene 5

(The scene changes to the next day at school.)

MR. ANDERSON

Happy Tuesday everyone! We’re starting our creative writing unit this week, and as a pre-assignment, I’d like you all to write a creative writing piece that takes place during the 1980s. It doesn’t have to be a major historical event, but it should be written in first person using MLA format. Be creative. Now, let’s start with the hero’s journey.

(MR. ANDERSON’S lecture fades into the background. JASON leans over and starts whispering to LUCAS.)

JASON

Lucas. Psst Lucas!

LUCAS

Hm?

JASON

What are you gonna write your assignment on?

LUCAS

I was thinking maybe 1981? It’s got a lotta cool stuff; Reagan, the Iran Hostage Crisis, AIDS, first woman in the Supreme Court. I can get a lot out of it. You?

(JASON pauses, surprised at LUCAS’S knowledge.)

JASON

Not sure yet. Maybe something about video games.

[Blackout.]

Scene 6

(The next evening, LUCAS is calling MATT.)

MATT

Dude! DUDE! I went to the coolest concert yesterday!

LUCAS

What happened? I wanna hear every detail.

MATT

Ok ok, I went to the Rathskeller, right? And U2 was playing there!

LUCAS

You…you went where?

MATT

The Rathskeller at UF? I got in the newspaper, man! Front page.

(LUCAS grabs the day’s paper from off his desk.)

LUCAS

I don’t see a concert. Uh- what’s the newspaper date?

MATT

May 3rd, 81. You feeling ok?

LUCAS

I- you said 81? You’ve got to be pranking me.

MATT

I’m not pranking you. It’s 1981. What’s up with you?

LUCAS

It’s 2021.

MATT

It’s what now?

LUCAS

2021. That’s the year. Hold’up. I’ll just look up your 1981 newspaper.

MATT

What do you mean “look up”? You need a microfiche and a library.

LUCAS

Oh my god, there’s no speaker on these old phones!

(LUCAS puts the phone down to look up the newspaper. MATT is still talking quietly from the receiver.)

LUCAS

Holy crap.

(LUCAS picks up the phone, beginning to read the headline.)

LUCAS

“U2 Preforms at UF Rathskeller.” And there’s a picture on the front- wow, that’s a huge crowd! Which one is you?

MATT

I’m wearing a jean jacket?

LUCAS

There’s like a thousand guys in jean jackets, you gotta narrow it down for me.

(MATT looks at his jean jacket covered in pins, trying to pick one out.)

MATT

I’m wearing a few buttons with logos for The Police. Does that help?

(LUCAS looks closer at the paper.)

LUCAS

That’s a huge button, my god. And you’re really close to the front!

MATT

That’s what I just said! How are you in 2021?!

(LUCAS hesitates, and holds the phone away from him.)

LUCAS

I- my mom’s calling me for dinner, I gotta go.

(LUCAS hangs up quickly, visibly panicked.)

[Blackout.]

Scene 7

(The next day in MR. ANDERSON’s classroom.)

LUCAS

Hey, Mr. Anderson? Did you ever see U2 preform at the Rathskeller?

MR. ANDERSON

Oh wow…that was a long time ago. Maybe the early 1980s? I remember it though. Good songs. Of course, that was before the place burned down in 1987.

LUCAS

It burned down?

MR. ANDERSON

Yep. Grease fire started the whole thing. Now it’s the Academic Advising Center.

LUCAS

Huh. I didn’t know that.

MR. ANDERSON

Did you need something else? Help with the assignment maybe?

LUCAS

Oh no, I’m all good. Thanks!

[Blackout.]

Scene 8

(Back at home, LUCAS is on a call with MATT.)

MATT

So run this by me again…what’s supposed to happen tomorrow?

LUCAS

Alright, today was Jerry Seinfeld’s first performance in front of a national audience…and tomorrow should be the Winter Park sinkhole incident.

MATT

And what exactly happens?

LUCAS

Well, a sinkhole starts forming and it swallows quite a few buildings by Saturday. You’ll see it in the paper.

MATT

Like, how do you know?

LUCAS

I’m in 2021, it’s that simple.

MATT

It’s crazy to think being 40 years apart is simple for us.

LUCAS

Well, it’s definitely new.

MATT

So, how’s 2021? Any stocks I should invest in?

LUCAS

Apple.

MATT

But I like bananas.

LUCAS

Trust me- Apple.

LUCAS

(exhaling)

I dunno man. Maybe the world is folding in on itself. We just had the worst quarantine. Like, two years of just being inside. And it’s not even over, the cases just get higher every day.

MATT

No way.

LUCAS

Yeah. N95 masks probably don’t exist yet, but when they do, you need to get tons. And toilet paper. Around December of 2019 or January 2020.

MATT

What’s the virus called?

LUCAS

COVID-19. And it’s the dumbest thing since grape popsicles.

MATT

Grape flavored things are so bad.

LUCAS

Exactly! Who even likes that stuff?

MATT

Well…Chris did.

LUCAS

Chris?

MATT

My ex.

LUCAS

Did she dump you?

MATT

Yeah, he did. It really sucked.

(A beat.)

LUCAS

Wait wait, you’re gay?

MATT

Yeah. The other guys at school really didn’t like that.

LUCAS

Damn, I’m sorry.

(A long pause.)

MATT

It’s not your fault. It’s just hella annoying, you know? I can’t really go anywhere without being shoved onto a locker and called a fag.

LUCAS

Want me to make a time machine? Teach those guys a lesson?

MATT

Ha…I don’t think it would change their minds. But I appreciate the thought.

LUCAS

Yeah man. There’s nothing wrong with being gay. I don’t know if you needed to hear that, but I thought I’d say it anyway.

MATT

Thanks. You’re a good friend, Lucas.

(LUCAS hangs up and HAZEL bursts into his room.)

HAZEL

Did you just like my post on feminism?!

LUCAS

Yes? What about it?

HAZEL

You never like my posts. You barely check Instagram as it is!

LUCAS

I just thought you made a good point is all.

HAZEL

Are you feeling ok?

LUCAS

I’m great. Just changed, is all.

[Blackout.]

Scene 9

(Over the next two days, during the weekend, LUCAS gets MATT to help him with the school assignment.)

MATT

And there were flashing lights everywhere, the music was blaring. Everyone was dancing with their hands in the air. It’s funny, the Rathskeller is really a bar, but I got in.

LUCAS

How’d you do it?

MATT

I know a guy.

(A beat.)

MATT

A guy named $20.

LUCAS

Bribery? How scandalous.

MATT

Well then, I met this guy. And we were in the bathroom, kissing. And he was, like, really hot. We only stopped cause someone came in.

LUCAS

Well, jeez, I hope you had protection.

MATT

Um…yeah. Wait what are you talking about?

LUCAS

Protection. Like condoms?

MATT

Uh. I know knowing someone gay is new for you. But I can’t get him pregnant.

LUCAS

I’m talking about AIDS.

MATT

AIDS? What?

LUCAS

Oh my god. Oh my god! Hold on.

(LUCAS shifts to his computer to look something up.)

LUCAS

Matt, you have to listen to me. This is life or death. There is a virus and it’ll start in summer, 1981…

[Blackout.]

Scene 10

(LUCAS is at school the next day with JASON, and AVA is walking to her next class.)

JASON

Oh my god, it’s the lesbian loser! When will she learn that this is our sidewalk?

AVA

You can’t just own a sidewalk.

JASON

Oh, you wanna bet?

(LUCAS steps in front of JASON.)

LUCAS

Jason. Leave it alone.

(LUCAS approaches AVA.)

LUCAS

Look, I know this is probably sudden. And weird. But I just wanted to say…I’m sorry for everything I’ve said. It’s not very cool of me to treat you like this.

JASON

I’m sorry, what?!

LUCAS

 You don’t have to forgive me- I don’t expect you to. But I just thought you should know.

(LUCAS walks away and JASON follows behind him, AVA is standing there shocked. JASON shoves LUCAS to the ground.)

JASON

What the actual hell was that?!

LUCAS

It’s just rude, man! She’s allowed to love who she wants.

JASON

Since when did you become all high and mighty? You keep this up, I’ll kick you from the group chats. And no more game nights with the boys.

LUCAS

Go ahead. I’m trying to be better, dude. And if you guys aren’t gonna let me do that? Then have fun without me.

(LUCAS storms off.)

[Blackout.]

Scene 11

(That afternoon, in class.)

MR. ANDERSON

Alright everyone, hand in your assignment. Let’s not have any more late work this time.

(LUCAS hands in his paper and MR. ANDERSON sees the title.)

MR. ANDERSON

“A Night at the Rathskeller” huh? Now it all makes sense.

LUCAS

Just wanted to get the time period right, Mr. Anderson.

(MR. ANDERSON is distracted, looking at the paper.)

MR. ANDERSON

Oh yes…I can’t wait to read it.

[Blackout.]

Scene 12

(The next day, LUCAS is on the telephone with MATT.)

MATT

Hey…are you ok if I talk about something more serious?

LUCAS

More serious than your Beach Boys addiction?

MATT

That’s definitely hard to top, but yeah. You know how I told you about all the bullying a few days ago?

LUCAS

Yeah. What about it?

MATT

I got shoved in a locker. I was stuck for 4 periods until the janitor found me.

LUCAS

God, this 40-year difference is ridiculous! I’m about ready to throw some hands.

MATT

Maybe it’d just be better if I ended it all. No more bullying, no more heartbreak.

LUCAS

Hey, hey-

MATT

It wouldn’t really make a difference. No one really cares who I am here.

LUCAS

Matt. You’ve changed my whole life, you know that? I used to be a whole jerk before I met you. And now, I’m maybe 10% jerk. But I apologized to someone I had really, really hurt. I wouldn’t have even tried to work on myself if you hadn’t come in my life. You’re one of the strongest people I know. Being openly gay in 1981? That’s freaking brave, man.

MATT

Maybe you’re right. I dunno. I just- my whole brain is fuzzy right now.

LUCAS

Look look look. You gotta live long enough to see paintball in June. Donkey Kong in July. Ali’s last fight in December.

MATT

You’re kidding me, like, he loses?

LUCAS

To Trevor Berbick.

MATT

Like, no way.

LUCAS

Yes way. And this is exactly what I’m talking about! There’s so much out there you haven’t lived to experience yet. And I need to meet you! Granted, you’ll be old and I’ll still be my hot self, but-

MATT

Ok ok…let’s get back to the Beach Boys now.

[Blackout.]

Scene 13

(The next day, in class.)

MR. ANDERSON

Alright. I know Mental Health Day was in October, but since your projects are during the 1980s, we’re doing it now. Everyone, put your folders and binders away.

(MR. ANDERSON opens up a PowerPoint presentation about mental health. His name, “Matthew Anderson” is on the front slide.)

MR. ANDERSON

So, in the 80s, mental health was extremely neglected and therapy was expensive. Suicide rates were high for the time, but low compared to now. Among teen suicide, it’s only a small difference from the 80s and today. Back then, social media wasn’t a prime cause of suicide. Bullying, home life, and more often contributed. And if you know someone struggling, or think they’re struggling, it’s always good to reach out to a trusted adult. That could be a parent, guardian, just someone who can help.

[Blackout.]

Scene 14

(Later that night, LUCAS is on the telephone with MATT. The two are them are calling during a thunderstorm.)

LUCAS

Are you feeling a bit better?

MATT

I guess so. At least today was locker-free.

LUCAS

That’s some improvement! We had Mental Health Day at school.

MATT

Mental Health Day?

LUCAS

Yeah. Usually it’s in October, but the teachers always do a few presentations and lectures. It’s their way of helping the community, and educating them.

MATT

That sounds like it would totally help a lot of people. Rad.

(A beat.)

LUCAS

Wow, it sure is raining hard out there.

MATT

It’s raining for you too?

LUCAS

Yeah, it’s totally pouring. Typical Florida weather; we get a nice and rare 60 degrees, only for the sky to soak the town by noon.

MATT

For one day, couldn’t it just be a normal 70 degrees? That’s like, ideal.

LUCAS

For sure. You know, I just realized something.

MATT

What?

LUCAS

I think my teacher put his full name on the presentation by accident. Matthew Anderson, or something like that.

MATT

Lucas, I told-

(The phone starts to glitch out, and LUCAS can only hear bits of MATT’s dialogue.)

LUCAS

Hello? Dude, you’re starting to cut out.

MATT

This…killing…me-

LUCAS

Matt?

There is a bright flash and the sound of thunder. The phone goes dead.

LUCAS

Matt? Matt, can you hear me? MATT?

(LUCAS puts down the phone and starts pacing around the room nervously, mumbling to himself.)

LUCAS

Oh my god, what do I do-

(LUCAS keeps pressing the plunger (switch), trying to get a dial tone, panicking. He starts to cry, and HAZEL comes in.)

HAZEL

Lucas? Are you-

LUCAS

The phone’s dead.

HAZEL

Yeah, I just unplugged my computer a bit ago-

LUCAS

No, no. The slimline, It’s dead. Matt was trying to tell me something and now…now I don’t know! He might not even be alive.

(LUCAS starts crying harder, and HAZEL hugs him.)

HAZEL

Shh, it’s gonna be ok. There’s probably a way to find him, even now.

(LUCAS realizes how to find MATT, and hugs HAZEL tighter.)

LUCAS

Thanks, sis. You’re the best.

[Blackout.]

Scene 15

(The next day, before class, LUCAS approaches MR. ANDERSON.)

LUCAS

Umm…Matt?

MR. ANDERSON

That’s Mr. Anderson to you- oh, Lucas!

LUCAS

Did you ever…how am I supposed to say this?

MR. ANDERSON

Talk to a guy from the future on the phone?

LUCAS

What you said.

MR. ANDERSON

I did, actually. What’s today’s date?

LUCAS

May 14.

MR. ANDERSON

How could I forget? Here, past Matt wanted me to give this to you.

(MR. ANDERSON hands LUCAS an envelope. LUCAS opens it and begins to read it aloud. From the other side of the stage, MATT begins to recite the letter along with LUCAS.)

LUCAS

Dear Lucas. Up ‘til today, I had never thought of being a teacher. I figured it out after we hung up. I tried to call you but the lighting storm cut the cord. I’ll have to wait 40 years to tell you all this- but it’ll be only a few hours for you. First of all, I’m so sorry for making you worry. From what I could hear, you sounded terrified. I just want you to know that I’m alive and well. Lucas, I wish we could have grown up together. You’ve done more for me than you could ever hope to know. I did write down everything cool from the future, including Eminem’s debut EP. I still don’t know why he’s named after the best candy ever, and how you could possibly like Skittles more, but that’s beside the point. I hit a rough patch when I met you, going through bullying and a breakup. But you helped me through that. I owe you a lot. Best of luck, Matt.

LUCAS

40 years apart, no kidding…

MR. ANDERSON

I did end up listening to the EP, actually. Eminem’s got pretty good stuff.

LUCAS

Did Skittles ever grow on you?

MR. ANDERSON

Nope.

LUCAS laughs.

MR. ANDERSON

Go ahead and take your seat. Class is starting soon.

(Students begin to filter into the classroom.)

MR. ANDERSON

I hope you all read Lucas’ story “A Night at the Rathskeller” on Canvas. Yes, Ava?

AVA

It sounds so realistic. You did a wonderful job. I was just curious; how did you get it to be so accurate?

(LUCAS looks at MR. ANDERSON.)

LUCAS

Well, it’s simple. I had a great friend.


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