|General Script posted January 16, 2022||Chapters:||1 2 -3- 4|
A Bit of Madness for Clarity
A chapter in the book Eavesdroppers Are We All
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.
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.
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?
Are you kidding me? You think we’d own a scruffy thing like that?!
Who does own this little fella?
[Heads turning; people looking at each other]
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]
(Bending down, examining his collar)
His name—un momento, Señor—his name is Rudy.
(Looking HARRY up and down appraisingly, and then with a wry smile)
He’s yours isn’t he, young man?
(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.
Who are you?
Ha! I’ve been searching for that answer the whole of my life!
But Rudy’s not yours?
(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]
Best in—what?! What the hell!
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?
Truly, you are in a dilemma, Sir.
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.
(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]
Now, hold on! Hold your horses! I won’t have any of that!
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.
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.
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]
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.
(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, ma’am? Harry Lowery?
Oh, no! No! I mean the little guy. Haha, but then you know what I meant, you joker, you!
Don’t be so sure, lady.
(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—
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!
You don’t know what's made-up from what’s real.
I stand convicted, Sir. You speak with the razor-toothed wisdom of a judge.
(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?
Unwaveringly, your honor.
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.
Who then would represent me, your honor?
Not who, but what?
What? What then, your honor?
[HARRY folds his hands on the table and closes his eyes, meditatively]
(Casting a puzzling glance at HARRY, then quietly, to CILILLA)
I believe you’ve found your assignment.
(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?
I do. Quite well. I’m surprised that you know I know.
I was with him at his darkest hour.
But I was! And it was! He was starving. The weather outside was like this. All he asked for was a job.
But he was offered money.
To wash the windows. To sweep the floor.
To assuage his case handler’s guilt. It wasn't employment.
But he was offered one, Scribe. He was offered a job!
Yes, he was—and the wages were at the expense of his human dignity.
You do know him, then! You know why he’s anchored. You know why he’ll never be adrift.
You’ll make a good scribe yet—if I can just get you to keep your focus.
END OF SCENE 3
CHARACTERS (Extensive, but most you only have to refer to once)Pays one point and 2 member cents.
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.
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