Scene 8: [Town-square market. Several Health Workers are helping direct Jolene and Penelope set up their gloves, and a Construction Worker is installing clear plexiglass to shield between the stands. Customers are milling about.]
Health Care Worker #1: [To Jolene.] You’ll want to be sure to use a new pair of gloves for each piece of fruit that you touch, and you need to direct your customers also to wear a new glove for each peach that they purchase.
Jolene McCue: My goodness, that’s a lot of gloves.
Health Care Worker #1: Just toss the used gloves in the trash bin right here. You can make a game of it, have fun with it. Oh, and before the customers can take the fruit away they must first dip the peaches in this water bin here, to make sure any remaining pesticides have been removed, and then use a paper towel to dry them off, putting the used towels in this other bin right here.
Jolene McCue: Oh my. This is all so complicated.
Health Care Worker #1: You’ll get used to it and you’ll enjoy it. Pretty soon you’ll wonder how you ever sold peaches any other way! Oh, and be sure not to mix the used towels and the used gloves, they must be placed into the separate trash containers. They must not be mixed under any circumstances.
Jolene McCue: Oh, dear! Why is that?
Health Care Worker #1: I’m not sure, to be honest. [Whispering.] That’s just what they told me. It must be important though. Isn’t that funny? Rules are rules!
Jolene McCue: Yes, they certainly are.
Health Worker #2: [To Penelope.] Your rubber glove color is green. This is for all organic produce. Be certain not to mix this color with the blue gloves, which are only to be worn when handling non-organic produce.
Penelope Lind: That seems easy enough to remember.
Health Worker #2: If you forget, I have a little trick that helps me remember. Green is for ‘Ganic. Get it? ‘Ganic stands for organic but without the ‘Or’ in front, so I just say ‘Ganic’ instead. Say it with me, green is for ‘Ganic. Okay, you don’t have to say it, just listen. And blue rhymes with pee-yew! And I say that because pesticides stink. So the blue gloves are for handling the fruit that has the pesticides on them. See? Super simple!
Penelope Lind: Yes, thank you.
Health Worker #2: If you forget, just ask me. I’ll be around and I can help.
Penelope Lind: Great. I’ll be sure to do that. I think I’ve got it though.
[While the following dialog takes place, Jolene and Penelope raise the prices of the peaches on their signage.]
Health Worker #3: [To Tommy.] Great, Mr Collins you’re fruit doesn’t have any problems with it, so you don’t need to follow the color-coding for the gloves when touching your fruit.
Tommy Collins: Great, I don’t like wearing gloves when I touch my fruit.
Health Worker #3: We’ll just use the honor system at your stand for the time being. We’ll keep an eye on it though, and if you think you should use rubber gloves in the future, let us know. But for now we’d like to make sure that nobody touches your fruit while wearing gloves. Make sure they only use their bare hands. We don’t want any contaminated gloves from the other stands to accidentally infect your peaches. If customers insist on using rubber gloves at your stand please be sure to let us know.
Tommy Collins: Will do, absolutely!
[Grandpa Sammy and Talia enter.]
Grandpa Sammy: Tommy! How are you doing, young man? It sure is good to see you today.
Tommy Collins: Sammy! I haven’t seen you in a long time. It’s so good to see you. Are you feeling well?
Grandpa Sammy: Very well, thank you Tommy. That is so nice of you to ask. Today is a good day for me. That’s why my little princess here is taking me out on the town with her.
Tommy Collins: And how are you today, princess? Would you like a peach? I’ve got Snow Beauty, I think that’s the perfect kind of peach for you.
Talia: I’m good. Yes, that sounds wonderful. Snow beauty sounds like Snow White. She’s beautiful. I want to be like Snow White someday.
Tommy Collins: Well, you’re already a princess, so you’re well on your way! [He hands her a peach, and one to Grandpa Sammy.] On the house.
Talia: But I need horses.
Tommy Collins: Horses?! Is that right?
Tommy Collins: Well, I’m sure your grandpa will get you some horses someday so you can be a proper Snow White when you grow up.
[Her eyes widen and she looks excitedly at Grandpa Sammy.]
Grandpa Sammy: Ha! Well, that sounds like a terrific idea. I’ll have to look into that for you. I would sure love to see you with all the horses that you want, my little lovebug. Thank you so much, Tommy. It is a real pleasure to see you again. Enjoy this lovely day. We’re going to make the rounds, so Talia can show me all her favorite places!
Tommy Collins: Great to see you too, Sammy. Come back again soon! We all miss seeing you.
Jolene McCue: Sammy! And little Talia. It’s so good to see you both this morning. I’d offer you a peach but I see you already have some. Unless you’d like some more?
Grandpa Sammy: Very good to see you Jolene. No, I think we’re doing fine with peaches for right now. I see you’ve got some new procedures around here.
Jolene McCue: Oh, these darn gloves. Yes, we have to use them. To protect people from pesticides or from mites and fungus.
Grandpa Sammy: Ha! Well, I’ll be, that’s something new. I thought I’d seen it all, but I guess I haven’t. Back when I grew peaches commercially, we considered mites to be just a tiny bit of secret protein. They added some flavor! And fungus, well, a little fungus never hurt anyone as far as I knew. What do you think about the gloves, Talia?
Talia: I think they’re pretty. I think the blue ones are my favorite.
Jolene McCue: Then have a pair sweetie, here you are. She is so adorable. Looks just like her mommy.
Grandpa Sammy: That she does, you are so very right about that, Jolene. The spitting image, with all of the good qualities too, and none of the bad.
Jolene McCue: Talia, are you being a good girl, with your grandpa?
Talia: Yes, I’m a very good girl. I live with grandpa. He’s going to get me horses.
Jolene McCue: Is that right? How wonderful! I love horses.
Talia: Me too! I love them so much!
Grandpa Sammy: Shall we go say hello to Mrs Lind, Talia? I see her right over there.
Talia: Yes. But we should tell Mrs McCue goodbye first.
Grandpa Sammy: Ha! That is an excellent idea. I wish I would have thought of that. What a smart and very courteous little girl you are. And extremely clever! Mrs McCue, it has been a pleasure to see and talk with you. We both hope you have a wonderful day, and thank you very much for the gloves.
Talia: Yes, thank you very much! The gloves are so pretty.
Jolene McCue: You are very welcome. They look very pretty on you!
Talia: Thank you. [She smiles at Grandpa Sammy.]
Grandpa Sammy: Okay, let’s get going. We’ll say hello to Mrs Lind and then go eat our peaches.
Talia: [Waving to Jolene McCue.] Bye-bye.
Jolene McCue: Bye-bye sweetheart.
Grandpa Sammy: Well look who’s here, the daughter of my competitor, the talented Penelope Lind! How are we doing today, Mrs Lind?
Penelope Lind: Sammy! [She runs to give him a hug.] I’m so happy to see you! How have you been? I heard you’ve been having a rough spell, are you okay? It’s so good to see you, and Talia.
Grandpa Sammy: I’ve had some ups and downs. I’m doing just fine. Thank you for asking. Talia here keeps my spirits up and makes my days bright. Isn’t that right, Talia?
Talia: Yes. I’m a bright ray of sunshine!
Penelope Lind: You are?! I don’t believe it.
Talia: I am! Do you like my dress and gloves? My dress is old, but my gloves are new!
Penelope Lind: Very pretty! I see your blue gloves, would you like a green pair as well?
Grandpa Sammy: It’s fine, go ahead. That’s very nice of Mrs Lind, isn’t it?
Talia: It is very nice. Thank you!
Grandpa Sammy: We’re just out enjoying the morning, taking a little stroll. Looks like we’ve got quite a few changes around here: blue gloves, green gloves, and plexiglass! My goodness, it looks like you’re all getting ready for a war around here.
Penelope Lind: Ha! Just a war on disease and sickness.
Grandpa Sammy: Just make sure you don’t turn it into a war on each other. I’ve been around a while, and from what I’ve seen there aren’t many sicknesses worse than divisions between people. And not a disease more treacherous and painful than fear or mistrust of one another. I’d hate to see that happen here in Harmony.
Penelope Lind: Sammy, you are a treasure! Harmony wouldn’t be the same without you.
Grandpa Sammy: It wouldn’t be the same without any of us. Keep that in mind. You’re all important. You all have your place here. Alright, young lady, and younger lady, it is time for us to go and eat our peaches. How’s that sound?!
Grandpa Sammy: Okay then, let’s go find ourselves a seat. Preferably in the shade, and let’s enjoy our scrumptious Snow Beauty peaches and watch the folks go by. Mrs Lind it has been a pleasure, as it always is to see you. Enjoy your day. May it be profitable in every way!
Penelope Lind: Bye-bye Talia. [Hugs Sammy.] Bye Sammy, you take care!
Grandpa Sammy: I will do my very best. I’ve got a little girl to take care of.
[Jace and councilmembers enter.]
Jace: Damn! What a mess. [Looking at the plexiglass between the stands and the gloves as customers put them on to touch fruit and take them off and throw them away. Or as they change glove colors as they touch other types of peaches.] This is going to cost us a fortune. [He sees the new higher prices of peaches at his stand.] Holy moly! Look at that price. Jolene is this what we’re charging now?!
Jolene McCue: I’m afraid so. The rubber gloves are expensive and we need tons of them.
[He looks across to Tommy Collins stand, which is significantly cheaper.]
Jace: Look at that guy! Not a care in the world. Look at the price of his peaches. And he’s selling them like hotcakes. It’s no wonder, ’cause he doesn’t have to follow these onerous restrictions.
Jolene McCue: It’s not an even playing field.
[Terrance Cobb and Matilda Hawkins enter.]
Jace: But I have an idea. Miss Hawkins! Could I have a brief word with you? Miss Hawkins I’m very worried about the peaches from Tommy’s stand over there. I know they’re healthy and all that, but here’s the thing. I’m a student of life, I’ve kept my eyes open over the years and one thing I’ve noticed is there are often dangers lurking just beneath the surface where one never expects a thing. I imagine that is even more true in the world of biology and of microscopics, if I can say it that way. Would you agree, Miss Hawkins?
Matilda Hawkins: Yes, that often is the case, since we are dealing with such small organisms.
Jace: Yes, exactly. They are small, very small, but they can have a very big impact, on all of us. Take for example, Tommy’s peaches. They seem fine but they may not be fine at all. I mean on the level of microscopics, that tiny level which you spend your time observing. On that level his peaches might be a teeming dystopia!
Matilda Hawkins: We did test them and found nothing.
Jace: Exactly! And that’s my point. Science is always evolving, we are always discovering new things, new dangers, things we never dreamed of before in our wildest imaginings that might hurt us, or kill us even. And that is exactly what is infecting Tommy’s peaches! It’s the things you don’t know, that we don’t know, that are the scariest. They come at you right out of left field and wham! Before you know what hit you, they whack you right on your butt! And this is why I think we need to be cautious, very cautious, and implement some safety procedures for his peaches right away!
Matilda Hawkins: It couldn’t hurt, I suppose. To be a little extra diligent.
Jace: For the public safety! I mean, look at those customers right now biting into his peaches. There are gases being released. Sure, his peaches smell good, of course they do, but what other toxic gases might be intertwined with those good smells. We all know the dangers of carbon monoxide, it’s got no smell and no taste, but it’s the silent killer. There could be something just like that coming out of those peaches and we’d have no idea. No idea at all, and someone could die!
Matilda Hawkins: It seems unlikely.
Jace: But possible, Miss Hawkins! We’re talking about possibilities here. Isn’t science about what’s possible?
Matilda Hawkins: Well, yes it is possible. I suppose.
Jace: I’m glad you said that. I’m no scientist but I know that the nose and the eyes are very vulnerable parts of the body, and I’m thinking we need to protect customers who shop at Tommy’s stand from the dangers of these hidden gases entering their noses and also splashing up into their eyes. Look at that, right now! That customer eating that big juicy peach over there. Splat! Juice just shot out all over the place. That could be a biohazard, Miss Hawkins, could it not!? Not saying it is, but it could be, it’s possible, right?
Matilda Hawkins: Yes, of course it is possible.
Jace: Enough! [Shouting.] Enough! Folks, please, please may I have your attention! I don’t want to alarm anyone, please continue to enjoy yourselves at our peach festival. But I do want to let you know we have an emergency brewing. It’s a potential threat to the public health but we are going to take measures and nip it in the bud, so we’ll all be safe here.
[Crowd murmurs, expressing concern.]
Jace: Folks, in talking with Miss Hawkins just now, she expressed some concerns, which I share by the way, that there could be potential dangers emanating from the peaches sold by Tommy Collins over there. Now! Now, take it easy! His peaches are fine, there is no cause for concern. You can keep eating them! We just want to take a few precautions to better protect the public going forward. Fortunately, I’m the mayor, and I am authorized to enact the occasional executive order, when in the interest of public safety. Therefore, I am enacting, effective immediately, several measures to protect customers who shop at Tommy’s stand. We are going to require all customers to wear protective eye and nose wear to ensure that no gases or juices accidentally enter the body through the nose and eyes. Tommy will need a little time to purchase and provide the necessary nose plugs and eye goggles but in the meantime, there is a swimming apparel store just around the corner, for anyone interested. I’m sure you can purchase nose plugs and eye goggles there, if you intend on buying any peaches from Tommy’s stand.
Tommy Collins: That’s absolutely ridiculous! They aren’t swimming in my peaches, they’re only eating them. This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.
Jace: Tommy, it’s only stupid until somebody dies.
[Crowd gasps and is worried.]
Jace: It’s okay folks, I’m not saying anyone is going to die. Although it is possible. But we want to protect you all from that possibility and that’s why we’re enacting these measures. Tommy, come on now, please don’t stand in the way of your customers’ safety. That’s bad business for one thing, but it’s also not neighborly or kind. And that’s a whole lot more important. We’re a community here, we can’t afford for anyone of us to go rogue and act selfishly, just because it’s an inconvenience, or may cost you a bit of profits.
[Crowd expresses agreement.]
Jace: We all have to look out for each other. This is only one simple way that we’re asking you, Tommy Collins, to look out for the rest of us, your neighbor’s, your friends, your community!
Jace: Let’s all hear it for Tommy! He’s going to purchase all the nose plugs and eye goggles he needs, for every single one of you, his customers and his neighbor’s. We’re all on board now, and we’re all looking out for one another. Together, we can nip every single one of these potential threats in the bud! Nobody’s going to die!
[Crowd cheers. End of scene.]
Scene 9: [Marion and Hugh enter from opposite directions.]
Marion: Hugh, just the person I have been looking for. I need to talk with you.
Hugh: I need to talk with you too, though I despair that you’ll be able to help me.
Marion: Why so glum? Is it my daughter that has you feeling this way?
Hugh: I could never blame Chloe. She’s a perfect angel. But she has indeed set before me a very difficult challenge. Sadly, I’m completely stumped. She says that I’m not to see her again until I have a good answer for her.
Marion: A good answer? What does she mean by that?
Hugh: That is precisely my problem. I have no idea. I don’t even know what the question is, which I’m to give a good answer. It is quite a riddle.
Marion: [Aside.] I see that there is little to no hope for these kids, unless I intervene. [To Hugh.] Hugh, perhaps you are overthinking it. Have you tried simplifying the problem?
Hugh: She has set before me such a mystery that I can’t imagine how to begin to simplify it. I don’t even grasp the beginnings of it.
Marion: Maybe it isn’t at all what you think it is.
Hugh: But I don’t think it is anything at all. I mean, I can barely begin to think what it might be. I would give her a good answer, I’d give her any answer she likes, if I could only fathom what the question is to begin it all.
Marion: Hugh, maybe it isn’t a question. Have you thought of that?
Hugh: My goodness! Not a question?! No, I hadn’t considered that. So she wants a good answer to a question, that isn’t a question. Oh! That is an even more mysterious riddle than I was previously thinking. Thank you, Marion!
Marion: No, that’s not exactly it. Hugh, maybe it isn’t even an answer that she wants. Think about that.
Hugh: Not an answer? Hmmm. Not an answer, to not a question. Oh, Chloe! You are such a sphinx! Isn’t that so very clever of her?! My goodness, what a philosopher she is! But I am out of my element here.
Marion: Oh, dear. I’m not supposed to give you any hints. But I…
Hugh: But Marion! You have! You have helped me tremendously, though at the same time you’ve cast me into an even deeper quagmire of confusion. I was not thinking about it properly, and you’ve shown me that now. Thank you!
Marion: But, Hugh…
Hugh: No, I see the problem more clearly now, and it is a monumental problem. You see I was looking for a question. That was my first mistake. And my hope was that once I knew the proper question, then I could go about finding the good answer to it, which Chloe requires before I can return to her.
Marion: Oh, dear…
Hugh: But this isn’t it, right?! No, I must instead, look for a non-answer to a non-question. I must discover an answer that isn’t an answer, to a question that isn’t a question. Why, that seems nearly impossible. Ha! Dear Chloe, what a rare and magnificent creature you are! Marion, I do believe I love your daughter even more, now that I fully understand the bewildering problem she has set before me.
Marion: My daughter certainly is a bewildering problem.
Hugh: Now, what could that be?
[End of scene. End of Act 1.]