The Debtor

“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ~ Tony Morrison


Cast of Characters

SABRINA → the main character refusing to file for bankruptcy

Insolvency Manager (I.M.) → managing her case


This is a world of debt in terms of words, where every book, article, and any other written language read lowers one’s credit.  The only way to have a good credit score is to write and return the words once “taken” in the form of writing.  The more people they share with, the more debts are relieved.

Production Notes

This play is in an office setting, so there is minimal movement across the stage.  However, the lines are meant to make up for the lack of movement, with fluctuating levels of intensity depending on the circumstances.  SABRINA is stubborn and witty, while the I.M. is patient, but loses his temper when SABRINA annoys him.

(Stage directions are blue and in brackets.)

(The I.M. is sitting across from SABRINA, looking down at her file.  He shakes his head, sighs, and looks up at her slouching figure.)

I.M. I am sorry ma’am. I can’t do that.

SABRINA Do what?

I.M. What you just asked me.

SABRINA What did I just ask you?

I.M. You asked for another loan.

SABRINA A loan? No, I just asked for a book.

I.M. A book is a loan, ma’am.  You are no longer eligible to ask for more.

SABRINA Why not?

I.M. (Through gritted teeth) We have been over this already.  How many times to I have to —

SABRINA I want to hear it again.


I.M. (Quietly, intensely) Am I a joke to you?

SABRINA No, sir.

I.M. (Volume increases) Do you understand the gravity of your situation?

SABRINA No, sir.

I.M. Then I can’t help you anymore.  I have tried, numerous times, and I am done with you. (Starts to rise) Leave my office right —

SABRINA (Jumps upright, slams hand onto the desk) Alright, alright, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.  I will listen, I promise I will listen this time.  Just, please.

(The I.M. pauses, sighs, and sits back down.)

SABRINA I know I am in a bad place right now, but if you give me a few more books I promise—

I.M. You always promise.  The world doesn’t run on promises, girl, it runs on spreadsheets and calculations, and my calculations show me (peers over at his laptop screen) you have an incredibly poor reading to writing ratio for your young age.

SABRINA Well, what do you expect me to do, not read? (Loud laugh, slowly dies when she looks at the I.M’s straight face)

I.M. (Amused) Yes, that is exactly what I am suggesting.

SABRINA I can’t do it.

I.M. You are living beyond your means, woman!

SABRINA You can’t just expect me to give up my lifestyle.

I.M. You are taking more from the world than you give. You —

SABRINA Do you read?

I.M. (Taken aback) Excuse me?

SABRINA I asked, do you read?

I.M. (carefully) Yes, (slight pause) I do, but with moderation.

SABRINA I don’t understand.

I.M. I read as much as I can return.  If I read twenty-five pages, I make sure I write twenty-five pages by the end of the month, plus the additional three for interest.

SABRINA What do you write?

I.M. Usually bankruptcy reports for debtors like you.  It is a respectable lifestyle, and one without burden, for that matter.

SABRINA But you read so little, its pathetic!  I don’t care if I am in debt, I will read until my eyes strain and my body aches for sleep, every single day, and there is NOTHING you can do to stop me.

I.M. How shamelessly you make such a bold statement!  You inhale pages worth of knowledge, oblivious to the countless hours the author puts into molding their work!  You just take, take, and take, and when it comes to returning to the world what is owed, you shy away and drown yourself in another author’s hard work.  Reading is not a right, but a responsibility, Sabrina. TREAT IT AS SUCH!


SABRINA (quietly) Is there another option?

I.M. (sighs) You could declare bankruptcy. (SABRINA is about to say something but the I.M. holds up his hand.) Because you are unable to resolve your debts, your assets will be used to repay a portion of all that you owe.  You will be suspended from books and articles until you can prove your self-reliance to us again.

SABRINA (intense) Please, don’t do this to me.  Let me breathe through Frankenstein’s lungs when he gasps at the ugliness of his creation, see through Marium’s eyes when the Taliban forces her to kneel, feel through Marie Laurie’s fingers when she discovers the stone hidden in her puzzle house.

I.M. You may have the audacity to read the works of Mary Shelley, Khaled Hosseini, and Anthony Doerr, but you will NEVER have the ability to repay the world in the way they did if you just read for the sake of living the lives of others!  TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR OWN LIFE FOR ONCE!


I.M. (Pause) Write your heart and soul for the rest of the world to see.  It is the least you can do.

SABRINA I can’t write.

I.M. If you are a reader by choice, then you are a writer by default.  

SABRINA I can’t write.

I.M. Well, I am not giving you a choice anymore.  The bank is taking away all your assets today, and you are to support yourself with the little we leave you with.  However, (pulls out a pen and journal) you have the privilege of repaying as much as you can if you so choose.

SABRINA (grabs the pen, and examines it) I will never be able to write to meet all that I have read.  Thousands of pages have raced past my eyes and shook my mind, but my hand has written very few words.  

I.M. Then, it is your fault for having read in the first place.  If you had never seen a word, you would be living blissfully, but now you are burdened by the knowledge of others.  All of us are in some form of debt, Sabrina, but those who start reading once can never really stop. This loan will haunt you longer than your house mortgage.

(Pause.  The I.M. slides the journal to SABRINA)

Take it.  Look at the empty lines, and imagine filling them with all the metaphors and similes that you so recklessly inhaled.  Bring it back to me when it is filled, and I will update your credit score for you.  

SABRINA (gets up, takes journal) I am not going to use this.  There is no way that this system works.

I.M. I have been an insolvency manager for twenty-five years.  Writing is the most efficient method of resolving reading debt, I promise.

SABRINA Then why don’t you read more if you can write it away?

I.M. (Pause) Because a reader owes the world their heart and soul, and I fear to give mine up.

SABRINA That makes you a coward.

I.M. If being a coward means that I get to keep my sanity, then so be it.

SABRINA You speak like a reader, sir.


I.M.  What are you accusing me of?

SABRINA (amused smirk) Reading.  It sounds like you have had your share of sonnets and haikus in your day.

I.M. Control your own debt before you question that of others, girl.  Come back when you have filled that journal, and I will deal with your nonsense then.

SABRINA (turns, walks to the door, stops, turns back to the I.M.) And, sir? (The I.M. looks up) If readers are debtors, then writers are thieves.

I.M. How?

SABRINA They take wisdom from the books they have read and write about it as if it sprouted out of their own mind.

I.M. (Smirks) I guess so.

Playwriting Organization inspired from Jed’s Broken Mirrors:(

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4 thoughts on “The Debtor

  1. Dear Nazeefa,

    This is a very, very interesting piece that I genuinely did not expect in the slightest. It is genuinely a breath of fresh air. This is SUCH a unique idea that I can’t help but feel extremely humbled by you. You are extremely talented and it shows in this piece.
    I really enjoyed the line:
    “Am I a joke to you?” It is actually making me laugh right now because I can imagine someone saying that under their breath.
    “They take wisdom from the books they have read and write about it as if it sprouted out of their own mind.” is also a very powerful line.

    I was wondering if you could include what inspired you to write this as well.

    Can’t wait to read more!


    1. Dear Tina,
      Thank you so much! Your kind words are very encouraging, and I am happy that someone with your intellect took the time to read my work. This idea was gestating in my mind for a while, and it took me a bit of time to actually write it out. I am happy that you liked it.

      My inspiration was the quote at the top of the post, but if you would like a detailed description, check my September 2019 inspirations.

      Once again, thank you for your input!

  2. Dear Nazeefa,

    This is beautiful. Perfection. I am at a loss for words. The whole time I was reading this piece, I was just wondering how one’s mind can be so unique and creative to generate something so unreal and breathtaking. This deserves to be read by everyone. I love the idea of reading being a debt and only being recovered by writing. My favourite lines are definitely the ones that your character Sabrina said at the end about writers stealing ideas from books and being thieves. I have never thought about that ever, but in a way, it’s true.

    I’ve read over your piece many times, and I can’t find any room for improvement. This is absolute perfection.

    Once again, thank you for giving brith to such a uniquely beautiful piece, it was really needed in the world of writing. I really think this should become an actual script for a play and I’m so excited to read more of your work. You are truly an amazing writer.


    1. Dear Maira,
      Your comment made me smile so hard. Thank you so much for your kind words. You are so gracious in the way you give feedback, and I am honored to have your very eyes read my work.
      This idea has been something that has been in my head for many years, but this class has finally given me the ability to articulate it; I am truly glad that you enjoyed it.
      I look forward to your comments!

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