The Topic At Hand: Lost and Found


LARRY (48, unkempt, wearing an old, beat up coat with mismatched hat and scarf) enters, quickly scans the room, and takes a seat in an empty booth. He lifts the menu in front of his face, engrossed.

FRANK (33, handsome and confident, wearing designer winter attire that’s two sizes too big) enters. He stands just inside the door, scanning the room, referring to an unfolded piece of paper. After a moment he notices LARRY and the empty seat across from him. He approached the booth, removes his jacket, and has just begun to slide into the seat when the WAITRESS approaches.

LARRY: Chicken cacciatore and a bowl of clam chowder.

WAITRESS: And for you?

FRANK: (still shifting in his seat, getting comfortable) Coffee, black, and a blueberry muffin. Thanks.

WAITRESS: You got it.

[WAITRESS leaves]

FRANK: So. . . I obviously got your note. Mind telling me what I’m doing here?

LARRY: (lowering his menu) What are you doing here. . . What are you. . . doing here. . . Stupendous choice of words. Brilliant, really. For a man who is so good at finding lost items he didn’t even lose it seems a bit contradictory that you find yourself lost as well.

FRANK: With all due respect, I’m not the one who ordered Italian food and a bowl of clam soup for breakfast. Look, I’m a busy man-

LARRY: Of course you are. I brought you here today because I know what you are up to. I got my first whiff of you last month. My take from the Harold Street Cineplex was about half of what it usually is. For a Sunday first showing I should’ve been able to claim at least three wallets, two purses, and a pair of reading glasses but all I walked out of there with was an umbrella and a kid’s book bag full of Spanish homework. I shouldn’t need to tell you that claiming lost items that aren’t yours is hard enough, working with a depleted inventory makes it that much more difficult.

FRANK: So you’re afraid of a little competition? Worried that there aren’t enough forgotten sunglasses in this town for the both of us?

LARRY: Just thought we could make things easier for both of us with a few simple ground rules. So seeing as I don’t know your address or phone number let alone your name, I had to arrange a meeting.

FRANK: (pulls out the note and sets it on the table). Pretty slick.

LARRY: Yeah. Last week I dropped three dozens black wallets just like the one you found filled with nothing but newspaper clippings throughout all the joints I’ve seen a major drop off in merchandise. The Mikan Street Y, the mini mall on Barber Street, the train station, you name it. Each wallet had the same note shoved inside. I figured if there really was some new hotshot beating me to the punch to the lost and found bins and if he was anything close to resembling a worthwhile adversary one of these wallets would eventually end up in his hands. Didn’t take you long. Which one you pick up?

FRANK: (tossing wallet on the table) I happened across this fine leather number at the airport information desk.

LARRY: Terminal A?


LARRY & FRANK: (together) Clarice.


LARRY: Ha ha ha. Sweet gal. Fortunately she doesn’t take much pride in her work.

FRANK: True. I’ve managed to claim six laptops, three coats, and a mountain bike without so much as a follow up question from the dear girl.

LARRY: She’s handed me 57 cell phone chargers.

FRANK: May I ask what you do with 57 cell phone chargers?

LARRY: (flicking an errant crumb of blueberry muffin off the Formica table) I’ve got guys. You need guys. Shouldn’t have to tell you that. My cell phone charger guy thinks if he gathers enough chargers he can somehow put Verizon out of business. Stems from an as yet unresolved disputed cell phone bill from what I understand.

FRANK: You should try checking out online hoarding support groups. Whenever I find myself with a surplus of slightly stained sweaters or technologically obsolete handheld devices I infiltrate hoarding chat rooms and easily unload stuff at an albeit below market value but still profitable rate. Most times they’ll come pick it up too so that saves on shipping costs and travel time. They also don’t have problems buying in bulk. Of course that’s only for items that retail for under $100. Everything else I put on EBay under a number of highly rated but untraceable accounts and sell as refurbished at 15% below retail.

LARRY: Bah! Too complicated. I’ve got a guy who makes sculptures out of keys. He pays me 10 cents for every gold key, 15 cents for every sliver key, and 25 cents for any key bigger than the standard door key. Seeing as the average key chain contains to less than 5 keys I can usually get 75 cents easy per set of keys. There are five subway stations, two libraries, a sports stadium, three shopping centers, and a couple dozen restaurants within a ten-minute walking distance of my apartment. That means in one hour I can typically collect over $8 worth of merchandise. That’s higher than minimum wage my friend. Just in keys.

[Beat as WAITRESS returns]

WAITRESS: Excuse me sir. We don’t currently have chicken cacciatore or clam chowder. Is there something else I could get you?

60 Cents

LARRY: Both items were clearly listed on the menu.

WAITRES: I’m sorry about that. Can I offer you a cup of coffee on the house?

LARRY: Sure. Thanks.

WAITRESS: Anything else?

LARRY: Just the free coffee.

[WAITRESS leaves]

FRANK: I see your propensity to get something for nothing doesn’t end at conning bin masters.

LARRY: Ha! It’s not about the con. It’s about getting what and as much as you need for nothing through whatever means necessary while minimizing the amount of unhappiness spread as a direct result.

FRANK: (sarcastically) Right. A sort of utilitarian who lies about lost stocking caps and can’t afford a cup of coffee. Give me a break.

LARRY: Now you’re getting the idea. But why stop at lying? If the stocking cap can’t be obtained through standard ‘describe and claim’ processes then it shall be taken by force.

FRANK: Rob the lost and found bins?

LARRY: Sure.

FRANK: Where?

LARRY: Wherever. Bars, restaurants, rental car centers.

FRANK: That’s crazy. If you’re going to resort to robbing the lost and found bins why not just rob the cash registers why you’re at it?

[LARRY gives a broad smile before taking a long, exaggerated sip of coffee]

LARRY: There lies the difference between you and I. It’s not about cash or laptops or items that retail for over $100. It’s about obtaining wayward objects and either utilizing them myself or distributing them to others in a manner that results in a greater good. Take the chicken cacciatore and clam chowder. Placing a claim on those lost menu items may very well result in the kitchen manager placing an order for marinara sauce and oyster crackers thereby decreasing the chances of a future patron finding themselves disappointed in the inaccurate menu. All I ask for in return is a cup of coffee.

FRANK: Well if we’re so different than why am I sitting across from you? I mean, you said yourself that because of my sudden rise in the ranks you’re working with a depleted inventory. If I’m claiming laptops and you’re claiming car keys there shouldn’t be a problem.

LARRY: I wasn’t certain until a minute ago but I think it’s the purses and wallets. You target them for the cash and credit cards and the like. I target them for the bus passes, business cards, and chewing gum.

FRANK: So how you want to do this? I get purses and you get wallets? Vice versa?

LARRY: I have a better idea. Whoever successfully obtains the purse or wallet first takes what they need and then leaves it in Terminal C where the other can claim what’s theirs with minimal resistance.

LARRY & FRANK: (together) Clarice.

FRANK: And I assume I continue to get dibs on electronics, designer clothing and bags, and jewelry?

LARRY: And I retain rights to hats, scarves, umbrellas, pipes and other such accessories, writing utensils, stuffed animals, weapons, personal hygiene items, trinkets, books, day planners, and journals.

[WAITRESS returns]

WAITRESS: So how is everything tasting? Can I get you more coffee?

FRANK: No thank you. I think we’re ready for the check.

WAITRESS: I’ll be right back with that.

LARRY: Excuse me, Miss. Do you happen to have a lost and found bin?

WAITRESS: We do. Did you leave something here?

LARRY: My friend here thinks he may have left his wallet here a few days back.

WAITRESS: I can go back and take a look. What’s your name?

FRANK: (wondering what his counterpart is up to) It didn’t have any ID in it. It’s black, leather, and full of newspaper clippings.

WAITRESS: I’ll go take a look and come back with your check.

LARRY: Well, I’m going to hustle on out of here and let you settle the bill Mr. 15% below retail.

FRANK: Pleasure doing business with you. I’ll see you around.

LARRY: (putting on his jacket) Doubt it.

[LARRY leaves]

WAITRESS: Here’s your check and I believe this might be yours.

FRANK: (taking the wallet) Great. Thanks. What a relief.

[FRANK opens the wallet to find, amongst the strips of paper, $4.89, the exact amount of the bill including a 15% tip, along with the following note]

The Note

Figured you to be the cup of coffee with a muffin sort. Most found folks are. Remember that the lost, while scattered about, often broken and dismissed, always outnumber the found. Also, never underestimate the man with dibs on the all the umbrellas and writing utensils.

Good luck in your endeavors. -L


Key image by DistortedSmile

Read other pieces by Rich Zeroth.

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    The Author

    Rich Zeroth

    Rich Zeroth pays his bills by day working at an online publishing company & pursues more creative endeavors on nights & weekends, e.g., stand-up comedy, blogging on the interwebs, and tweeting about owning a mismanaged zoo. His one-man show about faking sick 127 consecutive days of school in 5th grade, titled “Swollen Head”, won the 2005 ECNY (Emerging Comics of New York) Award for best one-person show, and is currently being adapted into a screenplay. He lives with his wife, daughter, and dog in Brooklyn, NY. A complete list of Rich's pieces on Revolving Floor can be found here.

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