Hot Desk Extract: Sauce

As part of the Wheeler Centre's Hot Desk Fellowship programme, Georgina Harriss worked on her play, Sauce.

A fictionalised exploration of the Rick and Morty Szechuan sauce debacle, this absurdist play explores why, in a world defined by insecurity and consumerism, a nostalgic novelty sauce could drive people to violence.

Photograph of an empty food court seating area

Image: Scott Limbrick (modified from a photo by Crispin Semmens, CC-BY-SA 2.0)

A generic fast food outlet. Melbourne, Australia. Posters for a familiar, futuristic cartoon line the walls. They read, 'try our extremely limited Szechuan sauce'.

The store’s manager SHARON teaches trainee HOLLIE how to use the till. They both wear headsets.

Male fan DICK and female fan MARGIE wait in line. They are in tents and fold up chairs, asleep. They wear papier mache cosplay masks for the duration. 

SHARON
No, it’s that button there.

HOLLIE
Don’t worry, I’m a really fast learner … What are they waiting for? 

SHARON
Sauce. 

HOLLIE
Sauce? 

SHARON
You know, a condiment. (beat) A liquid or semi-liquid substance used to add moistness and flavour to food.

HOLLIE
They’ve been lining up all night, for a sauce?

SHARON
It’s a special promotion. Something to do with an adult cartoon, which, for legal reasons, we’re not allowed to name.

HOLLIE
What’s the cartoon? 

SHARON
(irritated) For legal reasons, we’re not allowed to say. Now, show me your upsell. 

HOLLIE
Upsell? Like 'do you want fries with that?'

Hollie laughs. Sharon does not. 

SHARON
You think this job is a joke?

HOLLIE
No. I –  

SHARON
I can’t handle this today – what was your name?

HOLLIE
Hollie. 

SHARON
Every summer high school tourists traipse through my place of work on their way to their fancy degrees. Their parents think a holiday job will be character building, will give them life experience. Well this isn’t a holiday for me Hollie, and I’m not here to give you a fucking life experience, I’m here to teach you how to use a deep fryer. (beat) What are you studying next year? 

Sharon pulls a batch of fries out of the fryer. The oil sizzles, Hollie flinches.

HOLLIE
Commerce … with a concurrent diploma in French. 

SHARON
And the fries are the cliché.  

HOLLIE
What’s happening today?

SHARON
Show me how you’d upsize a combo meal. Quickly.

Hollie prods distractedly at the buttons.

HOLLIE
You said you can’t handle this today?

Sharon takes a deep breath, moves closer, whispers.

SHARON
I accidentally got CC’d on an email from HQ saying mystery shoppers were being dispatched, to this location, today.  

HOLLIE
What’s a mystery shopper?

SHARON
You don’t – ? Ugh, they’re fake customers, hired by the parent company to make sure all our employees are following correct customer service protocol and that all our food products are of a consistently high quality.

HOLLIE
They’re agents of the panopticon? (beat) You know, like spies? 

Sharon smiles. She likes this. 

SHARON
Yes, they are like spies. But I’ve uncovered their plot.

HOLLIE
So who are they? Are they in that line?

SHARON
They could be anyone. But we know they’re coming today, that’s valuable information to have.  

HOLLIE
I’ll make sure I’m extra rude to all the customers.

SHARON
You’ll be rehydrating the onion out back. I can’t afford to have you on the front line today, this is too important to me. 

HOLLIE
It’s important to me too. This is a legitimate job, which I am taking seriously. 

SHARON
Jeez you talk a lot of shit. Look, the store with the best score, right? Well the manager of that store, they get an all expenses paid trip to Bali. Ten whole days. I’ve always wanted to go to Bali. You’ve probably already been … 

HOLLIE
God no, it’s so touristy.

SHARON
Are you from Bali?

HOLLIE
(Confused) I just said I’ve never been.

SHARON
But if you did go to Bali, you’d be a tourist too.

HOLLIE
Which is why I’d never go. I spent my gap year in South America.

A phone rings. Sharon scowls at Hollie and answers the phone.

SHARON
(To Hollie) Practice putting an order through, a large double cheeseburger meal, no pickle, extra ketchup, with a Sprite. (On phone) Hello, welcome to (cough), Clifton Hill, Sharon speaking. 

Hollie fumbles with the buttons.

SHARON
What? No Jason. No, no, no you have to come in today.

The till springs out, startling Hollie. 

SHARON
(To Hollie) You didn’t actually put that through did you?! Jesus, now the till will be out at the end of the day.

HOLLIE
Sorry, I thought that’s what you said to do …

A burger slides through from the kitchen. Hollie opens it, sees there’s a pickle. She pulls it out and eats it, then re-wraps the burger. She hands it to Sharon. 

SHARON
Jason, no I don’t care if you have gastro, or smallpox or however else you’re mis-fucking-diagnosing your hangover, you’re my 2IC, just pop a Berocca and get your arse in h– 

Jason hangs up on her. Sharon slams the phone down. 

Hollie picks up a mop and walks towards the front window. It’s clearly an excuse to stare at the fans. 

SHARON
Right. Looks like it’s just gonna be you and me today. Think you’re up to it? 

HOLLIE
Course, I told you, I’m a really fast learner.

Sharon unwraps the burger, expecting to find a pickle. She’s pleasantly surprised the order was put through correctly. She stress eats it. Hollie mops the floor. She has a weird technique.

SHARON
Have you never used a mop before?

Sharon puts a 'slippery when wet sign' out. Hollie continues to mop, trying to mask her self-consciousness with confidence.

HOLLIE
So … have you tried this sauce?

SHARON
I think back in the nineties. I thought it was a bit too spicy. Still, might have to get used to it, you know, if I’m going to Bali.

HOLLIE
(excited) Can we try it now?

Sharon rolls her eyes. She looks to the clock, concerned. 

SHARON
The delivery hasn’t actually arrived yet. 

HOLLIE
Should I let them know?

SHARON
It’s fine. They’ve been lined up since 3am, they can wait.

Portrait of Georgina Harriss

Georgina Harriss is a Melbourne-based writer specialising in screen and theatre. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from the Victorian College of the Arts, where she majored in comedy writing. In 2016 her playlet The Best is Yet to Come was featured in Red Stitch’s annual showcase: Playlist. Georgina was subsequently offered a playwriting residency at Lonely Company and her work was chosen for inclusion in the inaugural Betafest: Theatre in Various States of Undress.

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