The interior of a very small post office. A man in his seventies is waiting patiently at one of the counters, even though at the moment there is no one on the other side.
A similarly aged woman enters.
MAN: Oh, good morning. How are you?
WOMAN: Don’t ask. My legs are killing me. I didn’t sleep all night and on top of that I had to walk all the way to the chemist’s.
MAN: What? Haven’t you heard the latest?
WOMAN: No. What’s new?
MAN: They’ve opened a chemist’s near us. It started work yesterday.
WOMAN: Really? Where?
MAN: Right here, at No. 90.
WOMAN: It was about time they got round to it. An area with so many elderly people, and they took thirty years to open a chemist’s.
MAN: I agree. But better late than never. Well, we can say that we’ve now become quite a respectable area. Chemists, bakers, post office – all next to each other.
WOMAN: All we need is someone to work in the post office. Where is she?
MAN: Back there. (He points to a door in the wall behind the counter.) Drinking coffee.
WOMAN: Drinking coffee during working hours? I’ll give her coffee. (Moves towards the little door beside the counter.)
MAN: Don’t. She’ll get angry.
WOMAN: I couldn’t care less! It’s time someone brought some order to this place.
MAN: Believe me, it would be better to leave her to drink her coffee in peace.
WOMAN: But the post office is only open for another half-an-hour.
MAN: I know, but it would be better to wait for her to finish her coffee. I interrupted her once and for six months after that not a single letter that I posted arrived. Please wait just a little longer.
WOMAN: All right, we’ll wait. But believe me, I can’t put up with all this disrespect any longer. Did you hear those louts in the little park last night?
MAN: Yes, I did. I couldn’t sleep because of them.
WOMAN: Nor me. They were yelling until dawn. Such disrespect. Believe me, I got to the stage when I almost threw jars at them from my window.
MAN: I believe you. At one stage I wanted to call the police. But I didn’t. After all it is the madness of youth. I mean, we could be just a little unrestrained at that age, too.
WOMAN: No, we behaved a little differently. Yes, it did happen that we got together and drank a little, but we played music and sang, while they howl like monkeys. We talked about life, about love and art, while they’re not in a position to string two sentences together. The young men just swear, while the girls squeal hysterically. I know, because I could hear every word, even though I’m on the twelfth floor. And we used to talk quietly, because we knew that the older and sick people were already asleep. Nor did we stay up until dawn because we didn’t sleep until three in the afternoon. Unlike them, we got up at seven at the latest. We studied, we worked…
MAN: I agree entirely. But even so we have to understand them to some extent. Considering the times they live in, it’s not surprising they behave like that.
WOMAN: Oh, the times they live in. As if that’s an excuse. Instead of sleeping all day, why don’t they try to change things around them? But no, they just gawp at the television and don’t think about anything. And in the street they stick those strange things in their ears and churn out some sort of noise, just so they still don’t have to think about anything.
MAN: I know. I saw a couple like that yesterday on the bus. Earphones this big over their ears and their eyes completely empty. They sat and looked at me and another elderly lady standing, and nothing. They didn’t even think of standing up. When I was young, I always jumped up when I saw older passengers.
WOMAN: Yes, today it’s not just that they don’t jump up, they dash to sit down. They trample over everything in their way to get to a seat. And when you get off the bus, they try to run you over in their car. You won’t believe me, but yesterday I saw one of them quite calmly driving along the pavement.
MAN: Yes, I know. They go wild with their tinted windows and there’s no one to protect you. Even the police don’t dare confront them.
WOMAN: What police? When I called them last night…
MAN: So you did call them in the end?
WOMAN: Of course I called them. Not because of me, as I sleep badly anyway, but because of that baby on the eleventh floor. I could hear it screaming – the ruffians had woken it up. And somebody’s got to teach them law and order sometime. But they didn’t want to come. They said: “Madam, we’ve got more serious problems.” “What sort of more serious problems?” I asked. “Send someone this minute!” In the end they promised they’d come, but they were lying.
MAN: You don’t say? They didn’t send anyone?
WOMAN: No they didn’t. No one came. I was looking out of the window all the time until they all went off.
MAN: What insolence.
WOMAN: It’s terrible. Absolutely terrible.
The two of them shake their heads bitterly. At that moment two youths in black tracksuits run into the post office. They have black hoods over their heads with slits for their eyes and they are carrying pistols.
FIRST YOUTH: Everyone on the floor! Quickly! LIE DOWN! LIE DOWN!
The two customers do not move.
FIRST YOUTH (waving his pistol): Are you deaf? Come on, don’t force me to shoot you! LIE DOWN!
MAN: Look, young man, I can’t even bend down, let alone lie down.
WOMAN: And if I lie down, I won’t be able to get up again.
FIRST YOUTH: What the hell’s happening here? Are these two fucking us about? And what sort of shitty post office is this? Where are all the faggots from security?
MAN: There’s no security here. There never has been.
FIRST YOUTH: Don’t lie to me! Tell me where they are!
SECOND YOUTH: Wait a moment, for God’s sake. Calm down… Listen, grandpa, does someone work here?
MAN: Stana works here.
SECOND YOUTH: And where is this Stana?
MAN (points to the door behind the counter): There. She’s drinking coffee.
SECOND YOUTH: Go and call to her to come out.
MAN: No, thanks. You go and call her.
FIRST YOUTH: I told you they were fucking us around. I’m going to fuck him up a bit…
SECOND YOUTH (pushing him away): Wait, for God’s sake, wait! What the fuck’s got into you? You keep your eye on them and I’ll pop back there.
FIRST YOUTH: Where the hell do you think you’re going to pop back to, for fuck’s sake? What are you talking about? You can see that the old wrinkly’s trying to get us to go in there. The security guards are sure to be inside, ready to grab us as soon as we open the door.
SECOND YOUTH: Grandpa, look me straight in the eye. Are you sure that there’s nobody there except this Stana?
MAN: No one. But believe me, it would be better not to interrupt her while she’s drinking her coffee.
FIRST YOUTH: Keep your trap shut once and for all, you old ape. Don’t start annoying me.
WOMAN: You ought to be ashamed of yourself! How dare you talk like that to your elders! Young, full of energy and you get your kicks out of maltreating pensioners! Young, full of energy and you won’t stand up in the bus. Not for people who have worked honestly throughout their lives, instead of taking from others, like you. Shame on you, you scum!
FIRST YOUTH: Fuck you, you wrinkled old whore! So you’ve picked me to…
His sentence is interrupted by the slap he gets from the woman. They try to grab hold of each other, while the man and the second youth separate them.
FIRST YOUTH: I’ll kill you, you whore! I’ll kill you!
WOMAN: I’ll show you how to talk to older people.
The second youth pulls the first one towards the door.
FIRST YOUTH: I’ll kill her!
SECOND YOUTH: Come on. Leave grandma alone, let’s go.
FIRST YOUTH: But what about the money?
SECOND YOUTH: Come on, let’s go. We’ll find a normal post office.
The two of them leave the post office. The man turns to the woman, who is standing there, trying to catch her breath.
MAN: Are you all right?
WOMAN: Yes, yes… It’s just that I can’t forgive myself for not hitting him harder.
MAN: Forget that now. You came out of it very well. Be thankful that he didn’t shoot. You shouldn’t react so emotionally. They could have killed both of us.
WOMAN: Huh! I’ll kill the lot of them! They don’t let people sleep…
The door behind the counter opens and Stana appears.
STANA: I’m coming, I’m coming, why are you shouting? One can’t even drink a cup of coffee in peace.
Originally published in BCS (Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian) in Par grama drama (A Few Grams of Drama) in 2010. Translated by Timothy John Byford. Translation copyright by Kosta Tadic.