Funny Drama

“Hello, Bitches and Players, and welcome to Dating Surprises!” The director stands opposite the cameraman, against a blank white wall in Crescent Moon Dojo—our first shooting location—speaking with exaggerated enthusiasm. “Our contestants for tonight are Laura and TJ. Laura is an accountant from Westwood. Her turn-ons are chocolate-covered strawberries and trashy romance novels. Her turn-offs are big ears and cheaters.” I wince to hear him say aloud the lines my co-workers typed into my profile. This is such a bad idea.

“T.J. is a bartender from Santa Monica,” the director continues. “His turn-ons are big hair and body glitter and he dislikes women with annoying laughs and low self esteem. Let's see if this pair can get along and get it on, on the next DATING SURPRISES!” 

I look over at TJ, who’s standing to take off his bright green tennis shoes. I’d been sitting in the midcity dojo for twenty minutes when TJ swaggered through the door, confident for someone who’s missed call time. His brown hair is slicked back with too much gel. He’s so not my type, but for some reason I can’t stop staring. 

“Hey, Babe. You must be Laura.” TJ extends his hand as I join him at the edge of the mat to bow in, and I watch his eyes travel from my chest to my face, and back again down my legs. “It's a pleasure to meet you.” His voice drips suaveness. “Let's get it on!”

“Excuse me?”

“I mean, let's get this date started.”

We step onto the cushioned mat for a warm up—push ups, jumping jacks, lunges.  

“So what do you look for in a date?” TJ asks.

I huff over my jumping jacks. “I guess a guy who I can talk to, most of all.”

He looks at me and I hear him murmur, “I'll listen to anything that comes out of those lips.”

I look at the instructor, hoping TJ can’t see the blood that’s risen to my cheeks. I can always blame it on the jumping jacks. I decide to ignore him and continue, “Somebody I can connect with. I want to feel special. Not necessarily the whole flowers and chocolates—”

“How about those trashy romance novels? That's cool. Pretty kinky…”

So much for a guy who listens. I’m one sentence in and he’s already interrupting. I change the subject. “So why are you here?” I ask as I lunge forward in a deep squat.

“To meet girls.” How has he not broken a sweat?

“Would you say you're popular with girls?” I, on the other hand, am sweating.

“I usually have my pick.”

No wonder. He’s making me do the heavy lifting in this conversation. “And? What kind do you pick?” 

“All kinds. Blondes, mostly.” (I am thankful for my plain brown tresses, pulled back in a martial arts-friendly ponytail.)

The director, who has been watching us from the corner of the room, suddenly strides in our direction, tribal-tattooed arms outstretched. “This has gone on long enough! Laura, I can't take it. Girl, you've got to loosen up! And while you're at it, speak up a little.” He looks to the instructor. “We've got to do something—can we have them fight each other or something?”

So now TJ is circling around me, bouncing on the balls of his toes, and I hold a big red pad, bracing myself for an onslaught of the few quick moves the instructor demonstrated.  

“Much better,” the director declares. “Action!”  

“Okay, what's the worst date you've ever had?” TJ throws a jab-cross in my direction.

I raise the pad to block him. “In high school. I finally got to go out with this guy I liked and halfway through he took off with another girl.”

He kicks—a sidekick with too much fanfare to be powerful. “What's your favorite sex position?” 

I lower the pad. “Is this how you get to know girls? No wonder you had to come on a reality show to get one to stay with you for a few hours! Ask me some real questions.” I thrust the pad into his hands and punch.

“Whatever you say. What's your favorite color?”

“Lavender.” I jab-cross-hook. “What are your goals in life?”

“Whoa! Okay, I'm going to be an actor.” He moves the pad to block me. “Do you have any tattoos?”

“No. If you have any tattoos, what do they say about you?” I punch another jab-cross.

“I'm going to get finger prints tattooed on my ass.” 

I’ve heard this before. It was dark and smelled like sawdust. My stomach does a flip and I put my hands down and look hard into his green eyes. The nose is right. Maybe without the hair gel? Underneath the goatee? 

“What?” TJ squirms for the first time this evening as my eyes shoot lasers into him, but he recovers. “I mean, what pet name would you give me?”

I do a side kick, extending my foot cleanly from my raised knee, and ask, “Do you have any pets?”

“A dog,” he answers as he blocks me. “What do you do for fun?”

“What's your dog's name?” I plant my feet on the mat, sending more lasers in his direction.


Oh my god, his dog is still alive. “What's your name?”

“It's TJ. What?” Maybe now he's starting to sweat. 

I plant another sidekick on the pad—something I must have saved up for seven years— and the force of it knocks him to the ground. “You are such a liar, CALVIN!”


A part of me wanted to leave right then and there, but my curiosity won the day. I had to find out what happened to him. How did my friend become this sleaze bucket? 

So I kicked his ass, helped him up, traded my yoga pants for a classy black sheath dress in the dojo bathroom (I hate to admit the extra care I took with my hair and eyeliner) and now I’m on to Phase Two, walking into the restaurant with Calvin. The music is pulsing as he pulls out one of the two leopard print-upholstered chairs for me. The lights are low, but the lava lamp at our table casts an intimate red glow around Calvin. We could be in the lair of some Austin Powers villain. 

He’s still apologizing. “Look, can you believe me? I didn't know it was you.”

“And that's supposed to make things better?”  

“Hey, you didn't recognize me either.” There's an awkward lull in the conversation and we both pick up our menus. 

I look around the room and catch the director gesticulating silently from the booth to our right. I try to think of something to say and find strange words pouring out of my mouth. “So do you miss being a star?”

“I don't really think about it much,” Calvin said, too quickly for me to believe him.

“Remember the fall play? The Glass Menagerie? You were so good. But you and Tom would always show up to rehearsal in your pajamas—

Calvin looks up slowly from his menu and smiles. “I was just waking up from my evening nap.”

“Right!” For the first time this feels like Calvin. “And Mrs. Anderson said—”

“CUT!” This is the voice of our new director. “Come on, guys. Let's back up a bit. I mean, it's great that you know each other. It's a surprise and that's what this show's about. Really, it's beautiful. But the rest of the world doesn't care what Mrs. Anderson said. They want drama, not drama class! You've got to make this interesting or I can't air it.” 

He looks at me. “Laura, you're being too nice. Be a bitch if you want; people love it. It makes them feel like better people than Calvin.” 

He turns to Calvin. “Calvin—do you go by Calvin now? Ask some more of those sex questions. Surprise me! Favorite body part, favorite sex toy. Got me?” He disappears into the dark booth. “Action.” 

Calvin’s body slumps into a practiced casualness and the bro-y-ness in his voice is thick enough to match his hair gel. I have to admit he’s a good actor. “So, Laura, what really turns you on?”  

“Honesty. You?”


“This is your last chance to impress me.” I fold my arms across my chest.

“Okay, a laugh,” he says. “Do you laugh?”

“When I'm amused. Yes.”

“You know, you never answered me about the sex position.”

“What right do you have to ask me that? Do you care? Really?”

“Yes, I care.” He bats his eyelashes at me over the menu. I lean in to study him. 

“Tell me—right now—are you acting?”


“But you're an actor.”

His demeanor shifts. He’s sitting up straighter. His voice is less of a purr when he says, “Look, I'm Calvin.”  

“Then act like Calvin! Start talking to me like I'm Laura!”

He takes my hand in his— something he would never have done. “Laura, look. I can't be Calvin right now. You heard the director—that's not what the audience wants. This is my big chance. Can't you just play along? I've got to look cool.”

I feel a monologue welling inside of me, too. I’m not senseless to the warmth of his hand, or the way his thumb brushes over the veins at the back of mine. “I used to think you were cool. Back when you would talk to me backstage and you liked it when I could write limericks about everybody, and we talked about our feelings and our goals.” 

“Have we gotten all this out yet?” Ugh, it’s the director. Somehow I had been lost in the lava lamplight, but his grating voice brought me back to reality. “Can we roll again?”

“Yes, let's go,” Calvin says, overpowering my sigh.

“Excellent. Back to the sex positions. Action!”

“So you never answered...” he smiles at me—not TJ’s empty smile, but one that I recognize, one that makes his eyes dance. “Do you have any pets?”

A laugh escapes me. “Yes. A cat.” 


Dancing was never my strong suit. In fact, I was never very coordinated. It’s part of why I have a desk job now. But we are dancing now to a loud song that I think is some techno version of What Does the Fox Say?, and the camera is rolling. Calvin is a good dancer. Really good. I watch as his arms make smooth movements in the strobe light on the crowded dance floor, and I sort of bob along.

I’m focusing so hard I don’t see the director shimmy up to us until he’s yelling in my ear over the music. “Hey, Laura, can you at least try to look human? Haven't you ever been dancing before? I mean, I at least thought you'd wear something more exciting.” He gestures at my dress and pulls out a roll of toilet paper. “Can you use some of this?” 

I’m so confused. “I don't really have to go right now.”

“I’m talking about your boobs, dear,” he says into my blank stare.

Calvin comes to my rescue. I think. “Come on, give her a break. She's gotta be what, at least a 34-B?”

“Fine. Have it your way,” the director grumbles as he shimmies off the dance floor, “but Laura, you've got to work on those dance moves. Just…do what he does.”

I watch Calvin and start to mirror him. It reminds me of a theater game we used to play. I bend my knees, swaying to the relentless beat of the song, step out with the balls of my toes, roll my hips and let my arms sway across my body. 

“I used to watch you,” I start to admit, shouting over the music in the seconds before I trip over his feet. 

Calvin steadies me, putting his hands around my waist.

I dodge the closeness, which has made my stomach flip uncomfortably. “I must have had too much to drink,” I say. “I'm going to sit down.”

Calvin grabs my hand. “What's wrong?”

“It's nothing.” I pull my hand free and I’m weaving through people toward the leopard print sofa. 

I see Calvin and the director talking, and I don’t care. Calvin looks at me and shakes his head. No. The director says more things and finally Calvin nods yes. He starts dancing by himself. I mean dancing, like some sort of mating ritual. He grabs another girl who had been gyrating nearby and I watch their bodies twist and writhe together. 

I could leave. Once again, I could be the girl leaving the aquarium alone, in tears, reliving the humiliation. I could let him fool me twice. Or I could confront him—show him what a fool he is. And that sounds better.

I march out onto the dance floor and grab him by the collar of his ridiculous flamingo-print shirt. “You are not doing this to me again!”

“Look, I'm sorry,” Calvin stammers, “but the director—”

On cue, the director shimmies forward. “Slap him if you want, Laura! But first, make-up! The fire in your cheeks isn't showing up well in this light—can we add a little blush?” He pulls a compact from the messenger bag slung around his shoulder and dabs a brush across my face. “Slug him! Now…Action!”

I don’t slug him. I just shoot more lasers at him with my eyes. “You did this back in high school, or do you even remember?”

“No,” he says. 

My stomach doesn’t sink; it rises high in my chest. “When we went on the date!” I find myself shouting.

“A date?” 

“You asked me to go to the museum with you.”

“Oh, yeah!” I see recognition light his blank face before he deflates. “Oh. You thought it was a date?”

“I was so excited. You were the popular guy—the star—and I was just the stage manager. And do you know why I did it every year?” The camera is rolling, but I have nothing to lose. “I got to watch every performance, every rehearsal. And I'd wonder what it would be like to be out there on stage with you, fighting or stage kissing, or dancing.”

“So I am the jerk who left you in the middle of a date. Shit. I didn't know.”

I am lost in that moment. “We were at the shark exhibit, and there were the little schools of fish and you were making faces at them.”

Calvin takes my hand and spins me around as the music changes to a slow song. “Hey, I can explain. Lisa was having a crisis when she called that day. Her boyfriend just dumped her and ran over her dog. If it makes you feel any better, I didn't like Lisa.”

“And you didn't like me, either. But I thought then, for just a little while—”

“I just remembered you said you liked fish,” Calvin said. “I like them too. Let's dance again.”

I try to protest. “I'm not very good at it...”

Calvin smiles and I see his posture shift. His voice takes on a drawl as he says, “Just leave it to me. You hold your arms out a little.” It’s not Calvin, but Jim O’Connor, the charismatic gentleman caller, who begins to lift my arms. 

I still know most of the lines from The Glass Menagerie. The dance floor becomes a stage and I play my part. Because I’ve always wondered. “Like this?”

“Just a little bit higher. Right,” he says, sliding between my outstretched arms. “Now don't tighten up, that’s the main thing about it—relax.”

I don’t have to be a great actress to be convincing. I’ve convinced myself. “It's hard not to.”

“Let yourself go, now, Laura.” 

Somehow I do. The strobe lights, the director—it all disappears and I’m only conscious of Calvin as I rest my head on his shoulder. 

We just dance for a while until he asks, “Do you still like me?” Calvin’s voice sounds like his own again.

This is a moment I’ve imagined, until tonight happened like nothing I could have imagined. “I'm not sure,” I reply.

“What if I liked you?”

“I wouldn’t believe you. You’re too good an actor.”

“I love the way your lips move when you talk,” he said. “I wish you talked more back then.”

“You were usually too busy to listen.”

“You were usually too shy to make me listen. I'm glad you make me listen now.”

“You were such a jerk. You needed to listen.” I laugh, and so does Calvin as he spins me out. “I think I needed this. I needed to yell at you. I feel great.” 

“I'm glad I could help.” 

“I’m sorry I spoiled your big break,” I say as his arm reels me back in. 

A cackle offstage draws my eye to the director. “Are you kidding me? The audience is going to eat this up! I’ve outdone myself! This is going in the hall of fame. Just keep doing what you’re doing!” he bellows.

And so we dance. “You're going to be famous,” I say to Calvin.

“Maybe. If I do, I owe it all to you. Somehow you knew that Calvin was a natural.”

“I just knew TJ was no charmer.”

“Oh, come on, baby, he could have taken you home.”

We laugh, and our foreheads touch. I let him linger there. 

I still don’t know what I will say in the exit interview. Would you go out with Calvin again? Probably. When your worst date and your best date (in a strange, surreal way, I admit to myself) are with the same guy...well, that kind of requires a tie breaker, right? Best two of three? 

For now I let all of that go. There’s no past and no future; only his cheek against mine. 

October 01, 2020 19:54

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Radhika Diksha
09:22 Oct 23, 2020

You really are a good writer. I loved the twist at the begging, while reading the story even, I had a flashback of my high school. Even my best guy friend, friend zoned me for a fair chick. If you have spare time please give your feedback to my stories too. I will feel honored.


Show 0 replies
Zilla Babbitt
15:35 Oct 18, 2020

I think I lost a little bit of respect for Reedsy because this didn't at least get shortlisted. Just kidding, but seriously, this is awesome.


A.Dot Ram
16:21 Oct 18, 2020

Haha. There are so many great things each week on Reedsy. Thanks, though.


Zilla Babbitt
19:44 Oct 18, 2020



Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Yolanda Wu
05:26 Oct 16, 2020

I loved the whole reality dating show as a backdrop. You captured the whole scripted part of it, but you manage to make the characters' personalities shine through all of that. Like Natalie said, the ending was really heartfelt, which shows that even amongst the whole 'fakeness' of the dating show, there is something genuine there. Amazing work!


Radhika Diksha
09:23 Oct 23, 2020

Yes you are right. It had a nice twist too a reality show.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Julie Ward
16:21 Oct 10, 2020

This story is awesome. I love the absurdity of the reality show as a backdrop. Your dialogue is fantastic. I really enjoyed the interplay between TJ/Calvin and Laura. A fun, engaging read!


Show 0 replies
20:05 Oct 07, 2020

I did not expect this story to be so heartfelt, but you managed to make the same person both intensely unlikeable and sweet in same short space. I can imagine this as an actual dating show, and it's an interesting exploration of how much 'reality' television is real. Who among us hasn't had the thought 'How did my friend become this sleaze bucket?'


A.Dot Ram
17:53 Oct 09, 2020

Haha. Thank you. I had some fun with the juxtaposition of heartfelt and ridiculous. It's larger than life, but somehow true to life. A bit like Tennessee Williams says in his intro/stage directions in The Glass Menagerie: Tom "takes whatever license with dramatic convention is convenient to his purposes" in his exploration of memory.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Jill Davies
02:53 Oct 03, 2020

The intro feels a little rough to me. I can’t put my finger on it, but I absolutely love the rest of it. And I love that it’s opened ended It needs something more than her coworkers put her up to it. Bad luck, a recent breakup... maybe even a string of bad luck that started in high school... But everything from there is fantastic, as usual


Show 0 replies
Lani Lane
23:04 Oct 01, 2020

This is awesome!! You did a fantastic job at making the reader hate TJ/Calvin in the beginning--he had an great character arc. And I liked how this was somewhat open-ended, in that we don't know where they go from here. I also laughed at What Does the Fox Say lol, it's been so long since I've heard that! Only thing I caught is that it should be "shimmies" instead of "shimmys." There's also an extra space in “Slug him! Now… Action!” That's it! Great job!!


A.Dot Ram
23:17 Oct 01, 2020

Thank you, and great catches. I actually wrote the first draft of this as a stage play looong ago when it was still cool to put two spaces after a period.


Lani Lane
23:23 Oct 01, 2020

Haha got it!! This would be great as a stage play, or as a short film!! You did such a nice job with the dialogue!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.