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"Eavesdroppers Are We All"


Chapter 1
Eavesdroppers Are We All, Sc. 1

By Jay Squires


CHARACTERS: (Listed and described in Author Notes ... I highly recommend that you read them first.)
 

SETTING: Interior of a Eat and Leave Happy diner. Tables with chairs scattered about, a few not occupied. A lunch counter runs from upstage to downstage right, with cushioned stools lining the outside, a few occupied. A rectangular opening behind the counter where orders are placed and steaming food-laden plates are delivered. Upstage center, an old-fashioned nickelodeon hunkers. Upstage right, exit to restrooms and hallway leading to Jackson’s and Martha’s home. Upstage to downstage Left, a huge window offering a view of the outside blizzard.

Time: New Year’s Eve, 1968 

At Rise: Entire stage is in shadow, table occupants gesturing and talking, but in pantomime, and the only light is cast on mini-skirted CILILLA QUEEZ, stopping to consider first one, then another of the table’s occupants. Downstage left stands a man of indeterminate age, in shadow, but seeming lost, scratching his head and looking about.


CILILLA:
(Addressing the standing man, but from enough distance that the stage light on her doesn't illuminate him.)
My name’s Cililla Queez. Yes, I’m speaking to you. No need to look around—it’s you. For some reason, you can see and hear me. That’s odd for an eavesdropper. To the other eavesdroppers—and there’ll probably be a few—and to most of the unwilling guests here in this diner, I’m not even a voice. In that regard, I guess you’ve been singled out. If any of the other guests are allowed to see and hear me, it’ll be because they are thoroughly adrift without me. That’s just the way it is.
(Beat)
My guess is that you’re a scribe. Am I right? 


[The man throws up his hands in confusion. He is holding something in his left hand. As CILILLA approaches him, he is illuminated. We see it’s a tablet he holds]

CILILLA (Continues)
You’re kind of a spiritual recorder of what is going on in the minds of those few here who
are adrift, whose lives are transitioning beyond their will. Oh, Sir, have no doubt about it, change is scary. It produces drama. You may have been chosen to record that drama. That being the case, I suppose I should bring you up to speed.
(Beat)
It’s New Year’s Eve, 1968. History will record this as
the Great Blizzard of ’68. No one wants to be here. Everyone expected to be elsewhere on New Year’s Eve … some for potentially life-altering reasons. Take this couple over here.

[CILILLA turns and walks a few steps to the rear. She puts her hand on a table, it and the two occupants still in shadow. They’re in each other’s arms. With a little imagination, it could resemble, in shadow, a beast with two heads. (No, I said “heads”) The head of the larger one, though, is clearly inclined to CILILLA. As she speaks again, their table is illuminated, and we can see he is looking at her]

CILILLA (Continues):
Before the Greyhound had skidded off the Interstate and into the snowbank, it was taking them to New York City, where the young man was to audition on keyboard for the group,
Jackellanders, readying to launch its tour of England. You’ll note the black case at his feet. It contains an unassembled keyboard.
(Beat)
The young man’s name is Cornelius. He is autistic. Ah, yes, I was his main lifeline in ’52. Jennie, there with him, is his bride of eight years. Look at her—snuggled up in his arms. They’ll miss the audition, of course. But no two people are more grounded in each other than these two. They’re twenty-eight. They’ll make it. They’ll endure. Now, over there …


[She indicates with a flourishing swing of her left arm, another table, to the rear and right of CORNELIUS and JENNIE occupied by two people seemingly in a sort of animated discussion being led by one who keeps dipping her head toward CILILLA and pointing. As she speaks, that table is illuminated, and Cornelius and Jennie’s table goes back into shadow]

CILILLA: (Continues)
Over there are two people, one of whom I was called here to assist. I’m not sure why, as yet. (Even I am on a need-to-know basis, Sir.) I know we are destined to connect because she—the older one—very regal, isn’t she? at the age of eighty-five—can see me, at times, quite well. Too well. She doesn’t like me, I’m afraid. Bett—that’s her name, short for Betty—is trying to convince her younger partner that I’m actually here. See her? Her partner's name’s Jay, age thirty-eight, and he’s worried about her.
(Beat) 
Bett has not yet arrived at the great chasm, where she’ll separate from a lifetime of familiarity and reliability, and begin her drift. It’s close, but it’s not yet time. She may need a nudge. I’ll await my call. Meanwhile …

GREGORY:
May I stop you here? This is very entertaining, but you’ve got me all wrong. I was just earning a few member bucks; if I’m lucky, a pump …and—


CILILLA:
But why else would you be here? With tablet and pen?


GREGORY:
I sometimes make notes on what I’m reading. So … the tablet and pen.


CILILLA:
Don’t underestimate what you don’t understand. Now—let me finish. Time is an important ingredient here.

(Beat)
The rest who have assembled here in this Mom and Pop’s on New Year’s Eve, were occupants of the same Greyhound that Cornelius and Jenny were on which had plunged into the snowbank. All these people—lead actors and actresses in their own family dramas—play no more than bit-parts here, except as an occasional catalyst to greater action. A catalyst like little Wallace there …


[With the mention of his name, the third table, occupied by a middle-aged man, woman, and little boy, is illuminated. The boy climbs off his chair, and as CILILLA continues, he is seen skipping through the shadowy area and toward the nickelodeon]

CILILLA (Continues):
… little Wallace with a fistful of nickels and one song in his head that is, unfortunately, also on the jukebox:
Christmas Don’t Be Late, by Alvin and the Chipmunks. Nothing … nothing is more depressing than Christmas music six days after Christmas. The song is beginning for the fifth time.

[With the sound of a coin being inserted, the nickelodeon comes to bright, flashing life as little WALLACE skips back to his table]
 

All right you Chipmunks, Ready to sing your song?
I’ll say we are
Yeah, Lets sing it now!
Okay, Simon?
OK.
Okay, Theodore?
OK.
Okay Alvin?…Alvin?…ALVIN!!!
OKAY!!

CILILLA (Continues):
(Her hands over her ears, she is frowning, and her voice is loud enough to be heard above the music)
See what I’m forced to put up with, all in the name of humanity? But now that I’ve been blessed with a scribe, I’ll leave you here to record the proceedings on your tablet while I sleuth about near Bett and Jay to sense where the energies of change predominate. I can feel a quickening in my atmosphere. Something is about to happen over there.


[As CILILLA goes into shadow, walking toward BETT and JAY’S table, her hands still over her ears, the music plays on, but at a much-reduced volume]

GREGORY:
Oh, geez … Gregory here. This is some horrible mistake! I don’t know what I’m doing here. Don’t expect anything from me. I’m no scribe. I’m no recorder. I don’t know where she got that. I dabble a bit with the written word on a website for writers and readers, called FanStory. I’m here because I had downloaded a story to read. You see, FanStory pays me quite well—I mean, not with real money, but—God, it sounds silly when you try to explain it, but—but they pay me to read and evaluate their stories here—that’s all! Still … I’m not the scribe that Cililla fancies I am.

(Beat)
My plan had been to just read a story. Earn my pay. I had no inkling of involving myself in this intrigue at all. The fact that I can see Cililla and hear her, is easy enough to explain:
(Beat)
You see, I know Cililla Queez. She was an impish-like character I met in a stageplay here. And I have more than a passing acquaintance with Cornelius and Jennie, from that same play. Perhaps this is why Cililla singled me out from the other—what did she call them—eavesdroppers.
(Beat)
And Bett and Jay? Oh, yes! They were characters in a free-verse play I’d read here on FanStory. Ages ago.  I was rather fond of that play, though I was but one of only a handful of others who read it.
(Beat)
But for whatever reason Cililla has chosen me to chronicle the proceedings here, I am no scribe. I will record for Cililla what I see is happening … until that is, she finds out how wrong her perception of me is.


 
End of Scene One


 

Author Notes CHARACTERS

Cililla Queez: An ageless teen. A bit of a Peter Pan, but on assignment, she is dogged in its execution. Sometimes, though, she has to ferret out what her assignment is.

Eavesdropper: Age unimportant. Name, Gregory. Equipt with a spiral tablet and ballpoint pen, he is a reader/writer on FanStory, called into service by Cililla Queez with whom he is a bit smitten. He is chosen to be the objective recorder of everything that transpires, but he can't help chiming in occasionally with his personal aside. Like any good writer, he is an invisible presence, except to Cililla.

Cornelius Plumb: The autistic genius, now married to Jennie. With his wife as his rudder, he has developed markedly in self-assurance but still has difficulty communicating. He speaks in a clipped style, with sentences ending in a slight inflection.

Jennie Plumb: Married to Cornelius to whom she is thoroughly devoted and lovingly protective of his delicate emotional balance. She might be just a tad bit jealous of a rival whose person is available to Cornelius's attention, but invisible to her.

Hon. Betty (aka Bett) Stabler, Retired: Age 85. Small town Judge for 40 years in a town at the base of the mountain that she and the love of her life, Jay, had climbed in 1903. It was at the precipice of that mountain that she made a decision. A decision that would alter lives for generations.

Jay III: Age 38. Grandson, and namesake, of the original Jay who had stood at the mountain's precipice with Bett and asked the question whose reverberations were still being felt today. Jay III delivered the dying request of his Grandfather and accompanied Bett, then age 72, back to the precipice. Now, 13 years later, he is with her again.

Harry Lowery: Mid-twenties. To his core, he has been driven his entire life by the need to find his father; his search had taken him to the farthest reaches of the world. Only recently has he been notified of his father's death. His life's purpose suddenly gone, he is mentally and spiritually adrift.

Rudy: A scraggly terrier mix, originally boxed away in the holding area on the ill-fated Greyhound that slid off the interstate and into a snowbank. The shuttle bus driver who transported passengers and their baggage to this diner, brought the crate that contained Rudy. Now no one will claim him. He is persistent, pees on anything not moving, and his breath crosses eyes.

Wallace Piebald: A ten-year-old boy who does boy things.

Robert Piebald: Wallace's Father, who's just fine in this world as long as everything goes his way.

Henrietta Piebald: Wallace's Mother, who always "goes her husband's way".

Jackson: Owner of the Eat-'n-Leave-Happy Diner.

Martha: Jackson's wife.

Tom, the shuttle bus driver.


Chapter 2
Eavesdroppers Are We All, Sc. 2

By Jay Squires

PREVIOUSLY: Cililla Queez addresses a mysterious person she calls an eavesdropper because he’s not a part of what’s going on, yet he is here. Guessing he might be a scribe (he is carrying a spiral notebook and a pen), who’d been assigned to chronicle her part in the drama, she brings him up to speed about some of the characters, and what they are doing in this diner during a blizzard. When she leaves to nose about among the characters, the eavesdropper identifies himself as Gregory. He has no idea why he is here. He had been reading a selection on FanStory and making notes on his tablet when he suddenly found himself in the diner.

CHARACTERS: (Listed and described in Author Notes)
 

SETTING: Interior of a Eat and Leave Happy diner. Tables with chairs scattered about, a few not occupied. A lunch counter runs from upstage to downstage right, with cushioned stools lining the outside, a few occupied. A rectangular opening behind the counter where orders are placed and steaming food-laden plates are delivered. Upstage center, an old-fashioned nickelodeon hunkers. Upstage right, exit to restrooms and the hallway leading to Jackson’s and Martha’s home. Upstage to downstage Left, a huge window offering a view of the outside blizzard.

Time: New Year’s Eve, 1968

At Rise: GREGORY sits at one of the empty tables. A small dog is at his feet, trying to get into his lap. He casually pets the dog, then crinkles his nose, sniffs his fingers, and making a horrid face, begins wiping his hand on his shirt. Alvin and the Chipmunks’ song, Christmas Don’t Be Late is playing in the background. A young man stands in shadow at the window, silhouetted against the bright snow outside.

GREGORY:
(Pushing away the dog, then frowning down at his hand. Speaking as to himself)
Cililla failed to mention this stinky cur as one of the bit-players.
(Turning to the shadowy figure at the window)
But then, she didn’t mention that one, either. Aaaand if that’s who I think it is …


[Suddenly the young man comes into full light so that only he and GREGORY are spotlighted]

GREGORY (Continues):
(Startled, looking around)
Jesus H. Christ! Did I do that? This new job Cililla’s given me—wow! This is interesting. And yes … yes, if I’m not mistaken, that
is the one I thought it was. Harry! Harry—Harry Lowery! How could you have been so wrong, Cililla? Harry’s no bit player.

[
The music stops, replaced by a very loud and purposeful throat-clearing from the shadowy area behind the counter. As GREGORY turns, the counter area is illuminated, while the area in front of the window goes back into shadow]

GREGORY:
Wow!

(Covers his mouth, and glances around to see if anyone had heard him)

JACKSON:
Ladies and Gentlemen, if I can have your attention for just a moment.


[
As he speaks, the entire stage goes under regular lighting, and continues on this way. He smiles at the child, Wallace, sitting with his parents]

JACKSON (Continues):
Son, sorry about your song, but after I say a few things it will play again. And again. And—

WALLACE’S FATHER:
If ya didn’t want people to play it, ya shouldn’t put it on the jukebox.


JACKSON:
Yeah, I know … Probably not my best decision. Only one person’s playing it, though. And it wasn’t played this much
before Christmas.

WALLACE’S FATHER:
My boy likes it … okay?!


JACKSON:
I’m sure he does. I’ll tell you what, young man, how ’bout I give you the record—kind of a late Christmas present, huh?


[
CILILLA, who had been standing by the table occupied by Bett and Jay, drops to her knees in mock prayer. Bett stares at her with disgust on her face]

WALLACE:
Can I, Daddy? Can I?


WALLACE’S FATHER:
(Nods his approval, but not happily. Then, to JACKSON)
Don't think I don't see through it, but you made the boy happy, so … so go ahead.

JACKSON:
Thank you. Anyway, folks, Martha and I own this place.

(Putting his hand on the shoulder of the diminutive woman standing beside him)
My name’s Jackson. It's my first name. Wish you’d come here under more favorable circumstances. Like in your individual cars instead of a shuttle. To get a bite to eat before going on. I know you do, too. Now, you may recognize this other guy standing by me. Name’s Tom, and he drove the shuttle bus that brought you folks here. He’s been in constant contact with the Greyhound driver who stayed with his bus. You want to tell ’em, Tom, or should I?

TOM:
I'll take it. Folks, I just got word from your driver that there was no structural damage to the bus from sliding into the snowbank. They have it righted and rarin’ to go. That’s the good news. The bad news is that, in the meantime, Interstate north and south, and all access roads, have been closed down indefinitely, owing to the blizzard. It’s a bad one.


JACKSON:
So … Yes, I know you’re disappointed. But we’re all here together. It’s kind of a New Year’s Eve party no one planned on. I encourage you to mingle, to get to know one another. We may be here for days. Who knows? When you
do leave, I want you to keep your wallets in your pocket. 
(Smiling at his wife)
Martha and me … well, we talked it over. You’re guests in our home. We got plenty of food here. And since Martha had the foresight, years ago, to have our house attached to the diner, on account of the weather, we got extra blankets, and even a cot or two we’ll bring in when they’re needed.

[
The figure from the window meanders to GREGORY’S table, never taking his eyes off JACKSON, and sits]

GREGORY:
(In a subdued voice)
Sorry. Am I sitting at your—

[
JACKSON’S words cut off the end of GREGORY’S sentence, while GREGORY stares, smiling, at the new arrival … who doesn’t acknowledge his words or his presence]

JACKSON:
Does anyone have any questions?


WALLACE’S FATHER:
Mighty white of you, Johnson.


JACKSON:
Any of you’d do the same, I’m sure. And it’s Jackson. 

(Eyes flitting to the other tables)
Any other questions?

GREGORY:
 
(Half-rising)
 Just one, Jackson.

JACKSON:
Don't be shy, folks. Any at all. Now, we don’t have hard liquor to bring in the New Year. But, we do have beer. And for the little guy, root beer and other soft drinks.


GREGORY:
(In full-voice, turning, looking at the other tables)
Ah-ha!
(Waving his hand in front of his table-mate’s face, which stares, unblinking)
So, you’re not being anti-social!

CILILLA:
(From across the room, through a smile)
 Of course, he’s not! Don’t be a goofball! What did you expect? At worst you’re an eavesdropper—at best, a scribe. Assume you're the latter and do your job.
(Like a cheerleader, shaking imaginary pom-poms)
Yes! Yes! Do your job! Like butter, butter, butter on the cob!

JACKSON:
Say, I’ve got an idea that might be fun, folks … to help us get to mingling …. Don’t feel you have to do this—it’s perfectly all right—but I thought it’d be fun if one or two from each table said a few words to introduce ourselves.


CILILLA:
Yeeeeeees! Perfect! Like the Canterbury Tales. Maybe—


JACKSON:
(Adding to his idea, of course, oblivious of CILILLA’S celebratory chatter)
You know, what you do for a living, and so forth.

CILILLA:
 
(On top of JACKSON’S last word)
 … Maybe I’ll discover why I’m here. Nothing’s come to a head yet.
(To Gregory, loudly)
Hey, Scribe! Are you getting this all down? I may need to review your notes later.

[
GREGORY makes a quick little nod, glancing about anxiously]

CILILLA (Continues):
You still don’t get it, do you? Geez! You’re an eavesdropper, see? 

(Muttering to herself)
Where do the Kelly Girls get their candidates anyway?

[
GREGORY stands and bending, gets face-to-face with HARRY, then walks about stopping at the PIEBALD family table, makes a “face” at little WALLACE, and snaps his fingers in front of ROBERT and HENRIETTA’S faces; he returns to his table and sits]

GREGORY:
I’m new to all this, Cililla.


CILILLA:
You shouldn't be. When you write for that—what is it?—that FanStory place … aren’t you invisible to your characters there?


JACKSON:
(Laughing)
Don’t everyone speak at once. How ’bout if I start first? …

CILILLA:
You have to think about it? Do ya, Scribe?


GREGORY:
Well … I guess that can be a problem. Of course, I try. I know I should … Unity and all. Author intrusion. That kind of stuff.


CILILLA:
Meanwhile, poor Jackson’s struggling to make his point and all you can do is palaver about your writing problems. I’ll bet you didn't write down the last thing Jackson said.

JACKSON:
Martha and me … we’ve run the
Eat-n-Leave-Happy for twenty years.

GREGORY:
Wait a minute! You brought it up, Cililla!


CILILLA:
If it wasn’t me, it’d be you! You’re on the clock. Do your job.

GREGORY:

(Slamming down his tablet and pen)
Like butter on—

[
JACKSON' S sentence stomps on GREGORY'S closing words, "the cob", and GREGORY picks up his pen again and starts writing]

JACKSON:
We had our lean years, but through them, we hung on …

 
END OF SCENE 2


 

Author Notes CHARACTERS (Extensive, but most you only have to refer to once)

Cililla Queez: An ageless teen. A bit of a Peter Pan, but on assignment, she is dogged in its execution. Sometimes, though, she has to ferret out what her assignment is.

Eavesdropper: Age unimportant. Name, Gregory, called into service by Cililla Queez with whom he is a bit smitten. He is chosen to be the objective recorder of everything that transpires, but he can't help chiming in occasionally with his personal aside. Like any good writer, he is invisible to the other characters, save Cililla.

Cornelius Plumb: The autistic genius, now married to Jennie.

Jennie Plumb: Married to Cornelius to whom she is thoroughly devoted and lovingly protective of his delicate emotional balance.????????????????????? 

Hon. Betty (aka Bett) Stabler, Retired: Age 85. Small town Judge for 40 years. She and the love of her life, Jay, had climbed a mountain in 1903, and at the precipice of that mountain that she made a decision, a decision that would alter lives for generations.

Jay III: Age 38. Grandson, and namesake, of the original Jay who asked the question whose reverberations were still being felt today. Jay III delivered the dying request of his Grandfather and accompanied Bett, then age 72, back to the precipice. Now, 13 years later, he is with her again.

Harry Lowery: Mid-twenties. To his core, he is driven his entire life by the need to find his father. His search had taken him to the farthest reaches of the world. Only recently has he been notified of his father's death.

Rudy: A scraggly, foul-breathed terrier mix. He loves everyone. The more he loves, the more others are repulsed by him.

Wallace Piebald: A ten-year-old boy who does boy things.

Robert Piebald: Wallace's Father, who's just fine in this world as long as everything goes his way.

Henrietta Piebald: Wallace's Mother, here only to help everything go Robert Piebald's way.

Jackson Forte: Owner of the Eat and Leave Happy diner. Has a story to tell, and a heart to mend.

Martha: Jackson's wife.


Image courtesy of Pixabay.


Chapter 3
Eavesdroppers Are We All, Sc. 3

By Jay Squires

PREVIOUSLY: Gregory grows, with difficulty, to fully accept that he, like Cililla, is a pure eavesdropper, unseen by any other character. Jackson and the shuttle-bus driver explain everyone’s situation: They will be snowed in for days. Jackson offers his diner as his home to them, and they are his guests. Encourages them to mingle and to that end, he suggests everyone tell a little about themselves. He begins by telling about himself and Martha and about the Eat-and-Leave-Happy Diner.

CHARACTERS: (Listed and described in Author Notes … I highly recommend that you read them first.)

SETTING: Interior of a Eat and Leave Happy diner. Tables with chairs scattered about, a few not occupied. A lunch counter runs from upstage to downstage right, with cushioned stools lining the outside, a few occupied. A rectangular opening behind the counter where orders are placed and delivered. Upstage center, an old-fashioned nickelodeon hunkers. Upstage right, exit to restrooms and hallway (implied, but off-stage) leading to Jackson’s and Martha’s home. Upstage right to downstage right, a huge window offering a view of the outside blizzard.

Time: New Year’s Eve, 1968

At Rise: Full stage lighting, as JACKSON is resuming the pre-mingling personal history of his and MARTHA’S early years as owners of the Eat-and Leave-Happy diner. And GREGORY is writing, looking about at the others, and writing more. CILILLA’S attention is divided between JACKSON and BETT.


JACKSON:
The fire in ’54—well, that pret-near closed us for good. A grease fire in the kitchen it was—took over. Almost wiped us out. But we rallied.
(Glassy-eyed)
That’s how you find out who your friends are, folks. Our customers never stopped—
(His attention is suddenly drawn to RUDY who’s trying to get on little WALLACE’S lap and his father is kicking at the little dog.)
Say … is that your dog?

ROBERT PIEBALD: 
Are you kidding me? You think we’d own a scruffy thing like that?!


JACKSON:
Who
does own this little fella?

[Heads turning; people looking at each other]

JACKSON (Continues):
That’s odd. He has to belong to one of you. Is he tagged?


[Meanwhile, RUDY has scampered over to HARRY’S feet and is pawing at his legs]

HARRY:
(Bending down, examining his collar)
His name—un momento, Señor—his name is Rudy.

JACKSON:
(Looking HARRY up and down appraisingly, and then with a wry smile)
He’s yours isn’t he, young man?

HARRY:
Mine? 

(Appearing at first perplexed, then amused)
Ohhhh, because of my attire … ah, yes, and how it matches Rudy’s unkempt appearance … I can’t fault your perception, Sir. But to answer your question … no, he’s not mine.
(Just as Jackson is about to speak again)
 … Which ... is not to say I wouldn’t be proud to share my less-than-modest life with such a magnificent example of loyalty and unconditional love as Rudy. 

ROBERT PIEBALD
Who
are you?

HARRY
Ha! I’ve been searching for that answer the whole of my life!


JACKSON:
But Rudy’s not yours?

HARRY:
(Gathering a squirmy RUDY in his arms and onto his lap)
No …. But were I, to Rudy, what Professor ’enry ’iggins was to Eliza Doolittle … 
(He pulls back abruptly from Rudy, blinking rapidly, looking like he’s swallowing back something rising in his throat, he tries to regain his composure)
… My—my apologies, b-but … give me a bar of soap, a tubful of water, and time, Sir—oh, my—and I will transform Rudy to Rudolfo, and within a fortnight, I’ll have him prancing beside me at the
Nationals on his way to Best-In-Show.

[At this, CILILLA moves across the stage to HARRY, dropping down and sitting in a rather indiscreet Indian-style beside his table, smiling up at him. GREGORY ceases his writing for the moment and stares down at his mentor]

ROBERT PIEBALD:
Best in—what?! What the hell!


JACKSON:
I don’t know about any of that, young man, but you’re not claiming ownership. No one claims ownership … and I’m in a kind of a pickle. You see, the county’s Environmental Health Department guidelines are clear that no pets can be inside an establishment that prepares and serves food. They could yank my license for sure. You know? Close my doors?


HARRY:
Truly, you
are in a dilemma, Sir.
(Chuckling)
A pickle, yes. A word well-chosen. You are principled—you are a law-abiding man. While you know that no enforcer of the county’s rules—unless posing incognito—is likely to be in your establishment today … no matter! Law is law. Right is right. 
(Getting to his feet, still holding Rudy to his chest)
A lesser man—I assure you—a lesser man faced with this dilemma, would, without hesitation, have taken this scabby cur directly to the door …
(taking a few steps in that direction, then stopping, turns back around, and with his eyes fixed on Jackson, dramatically whips his Rudy-holding-arms to his side toward the exit door)
…and tossed him into the blizzard.

ROBERT PIEBALD:
(Standing, scanning the room)
Would you just listen to this guy?! A lesser man! Ha! A thinking man—a reasoning man!—damn it, a man with any balls at all!—excuse me, ladies—would never have let that dog in here in the first place. He’s diseased, I tell ya! D’you smell his breath? And I’ve seen him lift his leg a couple of times. Doesn’t that bother you? Huh? He belongs outside. And if no one else has the—the—the guts—


[ROBERT PIEBALD takes a step toward HARRY, who, with a smile on his face of someone who is curiously and mysteriously detached from the unfolding action, presses RUDY to his chest and waits]

JACKSON:
Now, hold on! Hold your horses! I won’t have any of that!


HARRY:
As I surmised … but only to myself … if allowed to go far enough, we’d observe that something else has been added to the stew of this dilemma you are in, Sir. I needed to wait for its appearance, but see? Here it is. Applied morality … applied humanity .... That's the ingredient added to your principled and law-abiding nature.


ROBERT PIEBALD:
Stew! Jesus! If it was up to me, I’d throw both you fleabags out in the snow together—not you, Jackson, him, and his dog.


JACKSON:
We all have to simmer down, now. Please. The two of you, have a seat. Take a few breaths. This isn’t at all what I’d planned. 


[HARRY and ROBERT PIEBALD sit]

JACKSON (Continues):
I wanted us all to get to know each other. We’re all gonna be stuck here for at least a few days. I was hoping we could be kinda like, I don’t know … family? I still have more to tell you about Martha and me.


MARTHA:
(Moving from beside JACKSON, rounding the counter, but looking back at him)
Let me do what I can do, Dear, to make the mood here a little less tense. Someone needs a bath. Now … I don’t remember your name, but—

HARRY:
Harry, ma’am? Harry Lowery?


MARTHA:
(Befuddled)
Oh, no! No! I mean the little guy. Haha, but then you know what I meant, you joker, you!

ROBERT PIEBALD:
Don’t be so sure, lady.


MARTHA:
(Removing RUDY from HARRY’S arms, but holding him away from her body as she walks back toward Stage Left exit)
I don’t know whether a bath and a splash of cologne will make him ready to win a contest, but—

HARRY:
Aye, but he’s got the heart of a champion, Ma’am! and that’s where it all begins, isn't it? It’s what ’enry ’iggens saw in the flower girl, Eliza Doolittle. And with his tender guidance, occasional toughness, but above all, his faith, he elevated her heart until she believed that she could pass herself off as a princess!


ROBERT PIEBALD:
You don’t know what's made-up from what’s real.


HARRY:
I stand convicted, Sir. You speak with the razor-toothed wisdom of a judge.


BETT:
(In a tired, but authoritative voice, that carries across the room)
Allow me ... allow me a moment, young man … Speaking as a once-tenured judge, now retired, may I offer—would you suffer me to advise you in this matter?

HARRY:
Unwaveringly, your honor.


BETT:
If you are being accused of living too comfortably in a world of both truth and umm, fancy, the court suggests
it might be unwise, at least imprudent, for you to represent yourself.

HARRY:
Who then would represent me, your honor?


BETT:
Not who, but what?


HARRY:
What? What then, your honor?


BETT:
Silence.


[HARRY folds his hands on the table and closes his eyes, meditatively]

GREGORY:
(Casting a puzzling glance at HARRY, then quietly, to CILILLA)
I believe you’ve found your assignment.

CILILLA:
(Not looking at GREGORY, her eyes, having followed the exchange between BETT and HARRY, are now resting on HARRY)
Harry? No, no. There’s nothing adrift in him. He’s well anchored. You know him, don’t you?

GREGORY:
I do. Quite well. I’m surprised that you know I know.


CILILLA:
It’s unimportant.


GREGORY:
I was with him at his darkest hour.


CILILLA:
Ha!


GREGORY:
But I was! And it was! He was starving. The weather outside was like this. All he asked for was a job. 


CILILLA:
But he was offered money.


GREGORY:
A dole.


CILILLA:
To wash the windows. To sweep the floor.


GREGORY:
To assuage his case handler’s guilt. It wasn't employment.


CILILLA:
But he was offered one, Scribe. He was offered a job!


GREGORY:
Yes, he was—and the wages were at the expense of his human dignity.


 CILILLA:
You do know him, then! You know why he’s anchored. You know why he’ll never be adrift.

(Beat)
You’ll make a good scribe yet—if I can just get you to keep your focus.


 

END OF SCENE 3

Author Notes CHARACTERS (Extensive, but most you only have to refer to once)

Cililla Queez: An ageless teen. A bit of a Peter Pan, but on assignment, she is dogged in its execution. Sometimes, though, she has to ferret out what her assignment is.

Eavesdropper: Age unimportant. Name, Gregory, called into service by Cililla Queez with whom he is a bit smitten. He is chosen to be the objective recorder of everything that transpires, but he can't help chiming in occasionally with his personal aside. Like any good writer, he is invisible to the other characters, save Cililla.

Cornelius Plumb: The autistic genius, now married to Jennie.

Jennie Plumb: Married to Cornelius to whom she is thoroughly devoted and lovingly protective of his delicate emotional balance.

Hon. Betty (aka Bett) Stabler, Retired: Age 85. Smalltown Judge for 40 years. She and the love of her life, Jay, had climbed a mountain in 1903, and at the precipice of that mountain that she made a decision, a decision that would alter lives for generations.

Jay III: Age 38. Grandson, and namesake, of the original Jay who asked the question who asked the question whose reverberations were still being felt today. Jay III delivered the dying request of his Grandfather and accompanied Bett, then age 72, back to the precipice. Now, 13 years later, he is with her again.

Harry Lowery: Mid-twenties. To his core, he is driven his entire life by the need to find his father. His search had taken him to the farthest reaches of the world. Only recently has he been notified of his father's death.

Rudy: A scraggly, foul-breathed terrier mix. He loves everyone. The more he loves, the more others are repulsed by him.

Wallace Piebald: A ten-year-old boy who does boy things.

Robert Piebald: Wallace's Father, who's just fine in this world as long as everything goes his way.

Henrietta Piebald: Wallace's Mother, here to help everything go Robert Piebald's way.

Jackson Forte: Owner of the Eat and Leave Happy diner. Has a story to tell, and a heart to mend.

Martha: Jackson's wife.


Image courtesy of Pixabay.


Chapter 4
Eavesdroppers Are We All, Sc. 4

By Jay Squires

PREVIOUSLY: Little Rudy, the mutt whose ownership no one claims, takes a liking to Harry, who, though his nose is offended by Rudy’s stench, waxes poetic about how, with a bar of soap and a tub of water, he could pass Rudy off in The Nationals as the Best In Show. Robert Piebald verbally (and almost physically) attacks Harry because of the latter's pretentious manner. He questions Harry's sanity. Martha exits with Rudy to bathe him. Bett, the retired Judge, in the language of the courtroom, suggests that in the question of Harry’s sanity he should not represent himself—that he should be represented, not by another person, but my silence. Harry immediately falls into a meditative state.

CHARACTERS: Listed and described in Author Notes. They take a few moments, but if it is your first foray into “Eavesdropper”, I highly recommend that you read them first.

SETTING: Interior of the Eat and Leave Happy diner. Tables with chairs scattered about, a few not occupied. A lunch counter runs from upstage to downstage right, with cushioned stools lining the outside, a few occupied. A rectangular opening behind the counter where orders are placed and steaming food-laden plates are delivered. Upstage center, an old-fashioned nickelodeon hunkers. Upstage right, exit to restrooms and hallway (implied, but off-stage) leading to Jackson’s and Martha’s home. Upstage to downstage Left, a huge window offering a view of the outside blizzard.

Time: New Year’s Eve, 1968


At Rise: With CILLILA sitting on the floor in an unintended, but most inappropriate cross-legged manner; GREGORY appearing to try not to notice, instead to keep at his writing; PIEBALD forced into an uneasy alliance with HARRY who will be sitting at the table, eyes closed, as though meditating throughout the scene; JACKSON continues his story …

JACKSON:
If you’re not from these parts, you’d have no way of knowing the reason we nearly burned to the ground fourteen years ago …. It was because there was no firehouse near us. We were twenty-eight miles from the nearest town, with nothing in between.


PIEBALD:
Puttin’ the fire on the back burner—heh-heh—Jackson … you’d be a damn fool not to put you bein’ remote to your advantage. You know? You do an' you'll have to double the number of tables and even add a bunch of booths …

(tapping his forefinger against his temple)

if you used your noodle. Invest about five grand in signage alongside the interstate tellin’ the traveler if they don’t stop here they got twenty-eight miles to the next town. I’d have noticed signs like that when we were on the Greyhound, 'cept there weren’t any. And this … send a letter to Phillips or Mobil or Chevron an’ they’d be trippin’ over themselves to put a pump or two outside. Then it’d be “no food, no gas for twenty-eight miles!” You’d be packin’ ’em in here in droves. Oh—oh, yeah … and add “ample Deisel parking” at the bottom of your sign. Win those truckers’ loyalty—oh yeah!

JACKSON:
(Patiently)
Won’t we have to change the name in front to
Eat-’n-Leave-Happy, Inc.?

PIEBALD:
No, you could leave the Inc. off the sign in front. That would just be for the IRS. I tell ya’ Jackson … you listen to my ideas, and we’ll have you rollin’ in dough.


GREGORY:
The guy’s like a bull in a … a sar—

(a stricken look on his face when he realizes his sentence is going nowhere.)
 … in a sar … um … sarcasm closet.

CILILLA:
Don’t you wish you’d kept that to yourself?
(Laughing behind her palm)
Oh, my! Let me catch my breath. Thankfully, I’m the only one who heard you. 

GREGORY:
He may not recognize sarcasm, but his ideas are sound, though.


CILILLA:
They’re appropriate, but only if delivered to the right person at the right time. Listen …


JACKSON:
Martha and I will consider it, Mr … um—


PIEBALD:
Consider it! Consider it!


(Standing, striding to the counter)
The name’s Piebald, Robert Piebald. Here’s my card.
(Extends his arm across the counter)
You call me just as soon as this storm blows over.

JACKSON:
(Taking the card, slipping it in his shirt pocket.)
We’ll see, Mr. Piebald. If you would've come to me ten years ago, I’d have been more receptive.
(Looking up, blinking)
Not ten years ago. No, that was a rough road for me and Martha at that time.

PIEBALD:
But that's then—this is now!

GREGORY:
Typical salesman ... He's not interested in what Jackson's saying!

CILILLA:
But I am .... Keep writing.

PIEBALD:
This is now. Don’t want to get ahead, Jackson? That’s just plain—

(Shakes his head)
I’d have taken you to be a brighter man than that, Jackson.


[
From the rear (upstage) table, CORNELIUS begins to stir about uneasily in his chair. JENNIE stares over at him. When he does speak, CILILLA’S head whips around]

CORNELIUS:
(His voice strained, his words coming out with great difficulty and ending, characteristically, in a question)
J-J-Jackson n-needs to—needs to t-talk now? You s-s-should be quiet …?

[
CILILLA leaps to her feet with his first words and races to stand beside him]

PIEBALD:
(Making his way back from the counter to stand by his table, his eyes all the while on CORNELIUS)

I should be quiet? Who the hell are you?

CORNELIUS:
Cor-neeeel-yus. Th-that’s my name?


CILILLA:
(Holding her arms open to CORNELIUS, then pulling back and hugging herself)
I’m so proud of you, Sweetie pie, I could bust! You’ve come so far—you’re looking right in his eyes, aren’t you?

PIEBALD:
Big deal, Cor-neeeel-yus. What’re you starin’ at?


CORNELIUS:
I d-don’t know … wh-what I’m s-staring at?


CILILLA:
You made a joke, Sweetie! You actually—I’m so proud of you! But—but—but be careful.


PIEBALD:
What’s that supposed to mean? Huh, Cor-neeeel-yus? 

(to Jennie)
You—young lady … you best look after your friend there.

JENNIE:
(In a controlled, even voice, but one not used to the limelight)
Cornelius is not just my best friend, Mr. Piebald … he’s my husband. He doesn’t talk much. We usually keep to ourselves. But if he does say something, Sir, it’s because he thinks it’s important. And that makes it important to me.
(Beat)
You know, you talk about my friend, Mr. Piebald .... It strikes me that we all need friends. And as I look around me …
(She does just that)
… if my eyes are telling me what I think they are … no one needs friends more this New Year’s Eve than you do.

[
All heads are turned and all eyes have been riveted to JENNIE’S as she finishes speaking in her even voice, and afterward, there are generally subdued, but affirmative, chuckles and muttered “yeses” from the customers, including those at the counter, who’d turned to watch]

CILILLA:
(Stricken dumbfounded from JENNIE’S first words, now she’s dancing about)
Whoa, Nellie! Girl, you brought the bully to his knees!

PIEBALD:
What-say you let me worry about my friends, missy. But you best keep a tighter leash on your friend there.

(He slowly sits, scowling, but his eyes are stealing glances at other guests.)

JACKSON:
This is not what I had in mind for mingling, folks.

(To PIEBALD)
Mr. Piebald, you appear to have an interesting life. Whyn’t you tell us about you and Mrs. Piebald and little …?

WALLACE:
(Filling in the awkward breach)
My name’s Wally.


JACKSON:
Why thank you … Wally, then.


PIEBALD
Wallace.


JACKSON:
Well, then … So, Mr. Piebald … why not tell us about your family? And what you do?


[
Sounds of displeasure from a few quarters of the room, followed by BETT’S authoritative clearing of her throat as all eyes turn to her]

BETT:
I think I can speak for most when I say that your unfinished story leaves us with our appetites unquenched, Jackson. And Mr. Piebald—being the excellent salesman that you appear to be—you might even gain a valuable perspective of your own life by quietly listening to Jackson’s story.


JENNIE:
I would like to hear it.


PIEBALD:
(Standing)
All I wanna know is where the little boy’s room is.

JACKSON:
(Smiling and pointing to the exit, Upstage Right)
I don’t know how much it’s going to quench anyone’s appetites, your Honor …
(Pausing while he watches PIEBALD cross the room and exit)
… but I will tell you folks about Martha’s and my years here … as long as when I finish, you will share something of your life, your Honor, which I’m thinking will be far more interesting than any of ours.

BETT:
(Glancing at JAY III in a way that appears to convey something of shared knowledge)
I’ve led a rather uneventful and introverted life, Jackson. Aside from my eight hours at the high bench, daily. By nature, I am a private person.

JACKSON:
I can understand that.


BETT:
No. I'm afraid you don’t. My name is Betty. You may call me Bett.

(Beat)
Finish your story, Jackson, then … who knows. We’ll see.

CILILLA:
(Spinning about by CORNELIUS and JENNIE’S table like a Whirling Dervish)
We’ll see! We will see! A new door’s gonna be opened soon … 
(To GREGORY)
Take good notes, scribe. My assignment is about to be revealed to me.
END OF SCENE FOUR

 

Author Notes CHARACTERS (Extensive, but most you only have to refer to once)

Cililla Queez: An ageless teen. A bit of a Peter Pan, but on assignment, she is dogged in its execution. Sometimes, though, she has to ferret out what her assignment is.

Eavesdropper: Age unimportant. Name, Gregory, called into service by Cililla Queez with whom he is a bit smitten. He is chosen to be the objective recorder of everything that transpires, but he can't help chiming in occasionally with his personal aside. Like any good writer, he is invisible to the other characters, save Cililla.

Cornelius Plumb: The autistic genius, now married to Jennie.

Jennie Plumb: Married to Cornelius to whom she is thoroughly devoted and lovingly protective of his delicate emotional balance.

Hon. Betty (aka Bett) Stabler, Retired: Age 85. Small town Judge for 40 years. She and the love of her life, Jay, had climbed a mountain in 1903, and at the precipice of that mountain that she made a decision, a decision that would alter lives for generations.

Jay III: Age 38. Grandson, and namesake, of the original Jay who asked the question whose reverberations were still being felt today. Jay III delivered the dying request of his Grandfather and accompanied Bett, then age 72, back to the precipice. Now, 13 years later, he is with her again.

Harry Lowery: Mid-twenties. To his core, he is driven his entire life by the need to find his father. His search had taken him to the farthest reaches of the world. Only recently has he been notified of his father's death.

Rudy: A scraggly, foul-breathed terrier mix. He loves everyone. The more he loves, the more others are repulsed by him.

Wallace Piebald: A ten-year-old boy who does boy things.

Robert Piebald(Known hereafter as Piebald): Wallace's Father, who's just fine in this world as long as everything goes his way.

Henrietta Piebald: Wallace's Mother, here only to help everything go Robert Piebald's way.

Jackson: Owner of the Eat and Leave Happy diner. Has a story to tell, and a heart to mend.

Martha: Jackson's wife.


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