Like It Or Not: Act 1; scenes 8 & 9

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?

[She nods.]

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?!

Talia:  Yummy!

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!

Talia:  Bye-bye!

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!

[Crowd applauds.]

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.]


Like It or Not: Act 1: Scenes 6 & 7

Scene 6: [Chloe and her mother, Marion, at home.]

Marion:  Chloe, do you plan to mope around the house forever?

Chloe:  I may. I find that moping makes me happy.

Marion:  That’s ridiculous, moping is the exact opposite of happiness. Go find that boy of yours and make up with him. This has been going on far too long.

Chloe:  What could he possibly be doing all this time? I’ve given him two weeks to figure it out. What’s wrong with him?

Marion:  That boy loves you more than anything; that’s obvious. He just needs a little help.

Chloe:  No! I gave him every conceivable hint at the market. In fact, I told him directly to his face what to do! That was two whole weeks ago!

Marion:  Why not forgive each other and embrace? That’s what you both want, isn’t it?

Chloe:  Why must he be so dense?

Marion:  Why not forgive him?

Chloe:  It is hard to believe that he really can’t figure it out. Are all men like that, or only mine? Maybe he’s defective, and I should trade him in.

Marion:  He’s a good man.

Chloe:  He’s off helping those homeless people and not even thinking about me. I know that’s what he’s doing. It’s just like him to go helping someone he doesn’t know. Helping should always start with those you love, and then help others if you have any left over.

Marion:  If that doesn’t prove he’s a good man, what would?

Chloe:  Fine. But he’s good for all the wrong people. I want him to be good for me. Sometimes he can be very thoughtful. But he’s being very thoughtless right now. Am I a bad person just because I want him for myself?

Marion:  Of course not. Let me help you. I’ll just talk to him and give him a little nudge. I can give him a hint or two to set him in the right direction.

Chloe:  Absolutely not! I forbid you to give him any hint whatsoever. That would ruin everything!

Marion:  But you’re miserable! I can only imagine he’s even worse off than you are.

Chloe:  Good! I hope so. That would show him, and maybe he’ll learn something.

Marion:  Unless he learns you’re more trouble than your worth!

Chloe:  That’s mean. And untrue. Difficulty only proves one’s value. Difficult people are more worthy of fighting for. In fact, if you make yourself too easy, you are just making yourself easier to overlook.

Marion:  But if you are too difficult, he may give up trying.

Chloe:  Did you know that Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nothing in the world is worth having unless it means effort, pain and difficulty?” After I heard that, I’ve tried to model myself on it ever since.

Marion:  You can be a pain, I do agree about that.

Chloe:  We’re talking about Hugh, not me. It is best for his character development that I am difficult and that I require effort on his part.

Marion:  Can you tell me what he needs to do? I’m not sure I understand, even after watching you mope around this house for the past two weeks.

Chloe:  What is wrong with people?! Why is it so difficult to understand? I want those shoes and that handbag!

Marion:  Dear, do you hear yourself?

Chloe:  It isn’t just the shoes and handbag, mother. Ugh! It’s the principle of the thing. They’re symbolic, if you will. They represent a certain understanding between us. They demonstrate the give and take of romance. They are merely the material stamps, making the impressions of love. Hugh’s an ignoramus if he doesn’t understand that. But I mean that in a nice way.

Marion:  Of course, you mean ignoramus nicely. Who would misconstrue that, dear?!

Chloe:  Exactly.

Marion:  And you think Hugh is going to catch on? You imagine he’s going to figure this out on his own? I think that just a little hint would be a good idea.

Chloe:  Don’t you dare! I’ll find out if you tell him, mother.

Marion:  Okay, okay! Far be it from me to help you find happiness. I won’t meddle in your well-laid plans to prolong your own misery, and Hugh’s.

Chloe:  Thank you. [Exits.]

Marion:  [Aside.] But there are ways to give clues without giving clues. Maybe I can help him with what it isn’t, then he can better figure out for himself what it is. And if I err a little on the side of helping, is it a crime for a mother to want happiness for her daughter?

[End of scene.]

Scene 7: [City council chambers. Jace, and Four Councilmembers sit at a long table in the front, facing the audience. The Three Peachsellers, Duncan Collins, Matilda Hawkins & Well-Dressed Man, Hugh, Jean Arnaut and others are in the audience.]

Jace:  On to the next order of business, we have a report, an update from the agriculture inspector, Duncan Collins, in regards to the matter of the pesticide levels in the apples being sold by the visitors, led by Jean Arnaut. Currently all sales by said group have been suspended pending further information from Duncan and his testing laboratories. Duncan would you please come to the microphone and address the council at this time?

Duncan Collins:  Thank you mister mayor. My name is Duncan Collins and I own Collins-Bracknell Agricultural Testing, we’re an independent testing lab, non-affiliated, and impartial in all matters of scientific inquiry, and scientific conclusions.

Jace:  Thank you. Could you report on your findings for us?

Duncan Collins:  Yes, mister mayor. Unfortunately, at this time we have inconclusive results.

Jace:  And why is that? It’s been two weeks since you took samples.

Duncan Collins: Yes, mister mayor but we had a non-terminal, antithetical breach of protocols at the lab, subsequent to the introduction of the primary sample substrates. More specifically it was a decoupling, gravitational misalignment, which has led to a temporal slow-down of the results.

Jace:  Oh, well. Hmph. I’m very sorry to hear about that. I hope nobody was hurt.

Councilmember Two:  It sounds like somebody accidentally lost hold of the sample and dropped it on the ground. Is that right?

Duncan Collins:  If you prefer. You could say it that way.

Jace:  Oh, well! That’s not so bad.

Duncan Collins:  We managed to save enough of the sample and cleaned it up, so we’re back on track. We should have results in another two weeks.

Jace:  Decided! We’ll revisit this matter in two weeks. In the meantime the apple stand shall remain closed.

Jean Arnaut:  Mayor, that isn’t fair! We are suffering undo economic hardship. We shouldn’t be penalized for their ineptitude.

Duncan Collins:  I beg your pardon?! I’ll have you know that the occurrence of sample contamination is well within the norms, and is becoming increasingly normative with every passing year. Granted, this may be a dirty little secret in the testing industry. But our honesty about it here and now shouldn’t be mocked by the likes of you. On the contrary, we should be commended!

Jace:  Agreed! We all admire and respect your labs procedures, and have the utmost trust in the reliability of your results, regardless of a little contamination here and there. These things happen. The apple stand shall remain closed until further notice! On to the next matter of business. We’ll be hearing from Terrence Cobb, a most illustrious guest of our little peach hamlet, and the brilliant Matilda Hawkins, his personal biologist, as they report on their findings, with respect to whose darn peaches match the scrumptious one that Mr Cobb’s wife first purchased here, several weeks ago, in our wonderful little peach mecca.

Matilda Hawkins:  Mister mayor and members of the council. It’s my pleasure to report to you today on this most serious of inquiries. As I’m sure you are all aware, the conclusions of our discovery will have significant and long-term repercussions on the finances of one Harmony peach grower in particular, but will also shed honor and prestige upon your entire township. It is no small thing to become the peach supplier to my clients, Mr and Mrs Cobb, and their worldwide chain of restaurants; so we must be absolutely certain that we are purchasing the very best peaches.

[Crowd grows excited. Cheers here and there, and applause.]

Matilda Hawkins:  For this reason I regret to inform the council that the results of our testing are inconclusive. We have been unable to find a direct and certain match between the original peach purchased by Mrs Cobb, and any of the peaches available in the market stands.

[Crowd is crestfallen. Groans and sighs are heard.]

Jace:  Forget about a direct and certain match. How about one that’s close enough. There must be someone’s peaches that are a closer match than anyone else’s, isn’t there? Lower the bar a bit, we need a winner here!

Matilda Hawkins:  I’m sorry, my clients are uncompromising.

Jace:  Well, damnit! Something about this seems un-American, doesn’t it?! Damn elitist, that’s what it is.

Jolene McCue:  Honey, watch your mouth!

Jace:  I’m piping mad! It’s anarchy. I’ve never heard nothing like it. No winner?! We’re all just a bunch of losers?! I won’t have it, not in my town. Harmony doesn’t make losers!

Matilda Hawkins:  Actually, the test results are only inconclusive. This isn’t to say there isn’t a match, or that there won’t be a match once the final results are analyzed. There very well could be a direct match; we are continuing to do testing, and working at it from several angles. It will just take a little more time.

Jace:  While your lab is taking its sweet time, we’re all suffering here! I think you should expedite the process, Miss Hawkins.

Matilda Hawkins:  It is very important that we maintain sample integrity and take every precaution to ensure accurate and precise results. These things take time. I’m sure you understand.

Jace:  No, I don’t. Not really. Duncan’s lab needs more time, sure, but that’s only because they dropped their samples on the floor. That makes perfect sense to everyone here. But you’re doing everything ship-shape and spic-n-span, or so you tell us. If that’s the case, I’d expect results and not delays. We need accountability and standards, Miss Hawkins! Otherwise it’s just anarchy!

Matilda Hawkins:  You’re right, mister mayor. There are some unexpected results from our tests that I should share with you and the council and everyone here present. These results were not anticipated when we originally tested your peaches, but they are conclusive and of grave importance to all of you. And you will need to consider what measures you should take in order protect your crops and the public safety.

[A hush falls over the council and crowd.]

Councilmember Two:  What have you found Miss Hawkins? Please share with us any and all results from your testing.

Matilda Hawkins:  The peach samples tested from peach stand one, owned and operated by Jolene and Jace McCue had inordinately high levels of Imidan, Hatchet and Captan, these are insecticides and fungicidal products. At the current levels these peaches are dangerous to eat and we recommend suspending sales from this stand until mitigation and cleaning measures can be enacted.

[Crowd is surprised.]

Jace: That’s impossible! It’s a racket. We can’t close our stand, you’d ruin us.

Matilda Hawkins:  Peach stand two, owned and operated by Penelope Lind is entirely organic, there are no pesticides or fungicides of any kind present in samples taken from this fruit stand. However, because of this, there was an infestation of mites found on the fruit, and microscopic colonies of fungus throughout the insides of the fruit. Care should be taken and measures implemented to prevent the spread of these pathogens.

[Crowd is growing louder and concerned.]

Matilda Hawkins:  Lastly, peach stand three, owned by Thomas Collins, is completely free of any pathogens or pesticides, and is therefore healthy to eat without any additional measures needed.

[Crowd cheers. Tommy waves victoriously.]

Jace:  I think we’ll need to get a second opinion. This is troubling, but I’m sure there’s been some mistake. I move that we seek another lab to do follow-up testing, and in the meantime that we continue business as usual.

Councilmember Two:  Hold on a second. This is not something to be taken lightly, Jace. This is about the integrity of our town’s produce, and the health and safety of the general public. We need to take this seriously.

Jace:  Well we can’t shut down our stands, that’s out of the question.

Councilmember Four:  I propose that we instill mitigation measures, cleaning stations for the fruit with excess pesticides, and personal protective equipment for the handling of the organic produce.

Councilmember Three:  That’s a good idea. I would add that we should also use PPEs for the handling of the fruit with pesticides as well.

Councilmember One:  I suggest a color coded system. Use one color for handling organic fruit and another color for handling the treated fruit, to keep them from cross-contamination.

Councilmember Two:  Excellent suggestion. We will need to implement this system for all sellers and also all buyers. And we’ll need to purchase in bulk the rubber gloves, the city can front the cost but we’ll add a tax on produce sales to cover the costs.

Councilmember Four:  Great idea! Let’s get blue gloves for the treated fruit and green ones for the organic.

Councilmember One:  I have no issue with those colors. All in favor?

Councilmembers: Aye!

Councilmember One:  All opposed?

Jace:  I’m not so keen on these ideas myself.

Councilmember Two:  It’s these measures, or we need to shut you down Jace.

Jace:  Ah, crap! Alright, aye!

Councilmember Four:  We’ll distribute gloves to the vendors for use at the stands and then we’ll also need to hire some additional workers who can roam the market distributing gloves of the appropriate color for customers use. Nobody can buy or sell unless they are wearing the correct color gloves!

Councilmember Three:  That’s brilliant! I’m all for it. Good brainstorming, everyone.

Councilmember Two:  Let’s get to work. I want to see these measures in place by the end of the day!

[Councilmembers nod in agreement. Crowd cheers.]

Matilda Hawkins:  There was one more result I wanted to share with the council. The apple sample given to me by that young man over there, [She points to Hugh.] that sample came back completely clean. There were no pesticides of any kind found on that fruit. The apples are perfectly fine to eat.

Tommy Collins:  I object! That’s bad science!

Duncan Collins:  Her testing methods are suspect. Reasonable people can’t trust her results!

Councilmember Two:  She said your fruit was completely clean too, Tommy. You think she might be wrong about that? Should we re-test your peaches?

Tommy Collins:  Uh, well…

[End of scene.]


Good Adaptations

Blue appears the perfect color for the sky,

wings work well for the birds as they fly.

How then are the things of which I consist,

so inappropriate for a world such as this?

The powers that are vital here for success,

in me are wholly lacking or scarce at best:

The stress expected by our environment,

the drive to strive is not my native talent.

Oh! To live in a place I’m constituted,

of inner gifts and outer needs well suited.

Where I can lay aside my soul’s contortions,

myself within the world now well proportioned.


Like It or Not: Act 1; scenes 4 & 5

Scene 4: [City council chambers. Jace, the mayor, and Four Other Councilmembers sit at a long table in the front, facing the audience. The Three Peachsellers and others are in the audience.]

Jace:  Clearly we have a dilemma, and frankly I just don’t see a good solution to it. Those visitors have all the proper paperwork they need to legally sell their damn apples in Harmony. We need a miracle!

Councilmember One:  Does anyone know where they came from? Why are they even here?

Councilmember Two:  They have a right to be here, just like anyone else.

Jace:  Rights! Is it just me or is there just too many rights around here? It’s practically anarchy! Rights, rights, rights. It’s enough to drive one mad, all these rights everywhere. It’s damn inefficient!

Councilmember Three:  Mayor, I think it’s time now to open up for public comment. Will everyone who wants to comment please line up and approach the microphone one at a time. State your name and then you’ll have up to two minutes to say what you like. Please be respectful and don’t talk over one another. And please speak directly into the microphone but not too loudly, and try to enunciate clearly. Also, avoid saying your ‘p’s and ‘t’s right into the microphone, as that can be really annoying; especially the ‘p’s really can be grating, am I right?

Councilmembers:  Yes. So true. Uggh. Agony.

Councilmember Three:  I know, it’s like having someone reach inside your ears and start tapping your eardrums. P, p, p!

Jace:  Alright! Enough! Let’s hear from the public now. 

Peachseller Two:  Umm, my, my name is Pene, Penelope. Sorry, I’ll say it softer. Penelope Lind. Umm, I just wanted to say that I ate one of their apples earlier, and I wish I hadn’t. I got a terrible tummy ache, it’s been just dreadful. And, well, I think there is something off with the apples they are selling. And I think in the interest of public safety, especially for the children, I think it is incumbent upon the council to protect the people of Harmony, and shut down that apple stand!

Jace:  Noted! Did you get that down? [Looks toward councilperson taking notes.] That’s very important. Thank you Penelope for sharing that with us. I’m very sorry and I hope that you feel better soon. Let’s hear from the next speaker.

Peachseller One:  Hello dear.

Jace:  Strike that from the record. Please people, when you address the council, use formal names. We’re trying to run a city here, please!

Peachseller One:  Fine. My name is Jolene McCue, I’m the mayor’s wife. Coincidentally, I also had a strange reaction after eating an apple from the visitor’s new apple stand earlier today. I felt terribly nauseous and thought for certain I was going to pass out. I think we are risking something much worse if we allow them to keep selling those apples to unwary patrons. Not to mention the threat to our town’s reputation. I don’t think that is anything any of us want to risk.

Jace:  Excellent points! And I do hope you feel better right quickly Mrs McCue.

Peachseller Two:  Thank you Mister McCue, I am feeling quite well now I think.

Peachseller Three:  Testing, testing! Umm. My name is Tommy Collins, I sell peaches here in Harmony.

Jace:  Yes, we know who you are Tommy. It’s a small town. Get on with it.

Peachseller Three:  Right. Well, the funny thing is I also haven’t been feeling right since I ate an apple earlier today. But the fortunate thing is my cousin here, he’s right here behind me. Well, he’s, he works in agriculture testing, and he’s a scientist type you know. And he thinks those apples may have a lot of pesticides on them. Like too much, and that’s what is causing everyone to get sick, isn’t that right Duncan?

Duncan Collins:  [Leaning forward to speak into microphone.]  Yes, that is correct.

Jace:  Oh my!

Councilmember One:  That’s terrible.

Peachseller Three:  So you can see, it’s a real matter of public health.

Councilmember Three:  I had no idea. How scary!

Jace:  That settles it, I move that we shut that apple stand down, until further notice!

Councilmember One:  I second the motion!

Jace: All in favor?

Councilmembers:  Aye!

Jace:  Opposed?

Councilmember Two: No!

Jace:  Well, I’m sure you have your reasons. Can’t imagine what they’d be though. Anyway, the motion passes. Let’s get this thing written up and get on over there, and shut them down! Excuse me, Tommy. You’re cousin there, Dunbar is it?

Duncan Collins:  Duncan, mister mayor.

Jace:  Yes. Ha! Duncan, could you help us draft up a little notice to desist, or some such thing? Put in some sciency jargon like you people use and such, something about pesticide levels, that sort of thing? I think that will really help out. Come over here and take a seat! [Duncan joins the other councilmembers at the table. Jace gestures to Councilmember Three.] There we are, let’s bring him a glass of water. And put some peach slices in that, would ya?! We’ve got some work to do!

[End of Scene.]

Scene 5:  [Town square, market. Customers are purchasing from Peachsellers and Jean Arnaut’s group, and are milling about. The mayor and councilmembers enter.]

Jace:  Folks, folks! We’ve got some big news here. [Waving paperwork in the air.] It appears these apples are tainted. Several people who have eaten them have recently fallen ill. Yes, that’s right. Sickened!

Jean Arnaut:  Impossible!

Jace:  It just makes me sick too. Nobody should get sick from fruit bought in Harmony. I take it personally, though I’m not responsible for it in any way, note that. Still, my heart bleeds for the innocent victims. And we need to put a stop to it! Read this! [He hands the paperwork to Jean Arnaut.]

[Hugh enters.]

Jean Arnaut:  Pesticides! That’s impossible. No, all of our fruit is completely organic. There are absolutely no pesticides on any of our apples! This is a mistake. [He hands the paperwork back to the mayor.]

Jace:  ‘Fraid not, my friend. That’s official correspondence there. You keep it and mull it over for a bit. Says you folks are selling fruit, high in pesticides, and you are hereby ordered to cease and desist.

Jean Arnaut:  There’s no proof. I don’t believe it.

Duncan Collins:  We’re getting proof. We are taking samples and sending them off to the lab. [Councilmembers gather up apples and place in Ziploc bags.] It should take a couple weeks to get results, but in the meantime you are not allowed to sell any of your produce, by order of the EPA, FDA, CDC, and the city of Harmony.

Jean Arnaut:  I protest! I appeal. How do we appeal? Is there no due process?

Jace:  In matters of health and human safety due process always takes a back seat, dear man. Lives are at stake here. Don’t you understand that? If you want a-peel, cut up one of your apples! Ha, ha! Just a little pun. Folks! It is important to keep things light in times like these. We don’t mean anyone any harm here, we just want everyone to be safe and healthy!

Hugh:  This isn’t fair! I myself have eaten many of their apples. Nearly a dozen of them. [Aside to Jean Arnaut.] My dear Chloe did not accept our gift. But more about that later. [To the crowd.] I tell you all, after eating a dozen of these apples I am no worse than before I ate them.  In fact, I think I’m much the better for having eaten them! I feel as strong as an ox.

Jace:  Son, you’re young! That’s no big surprise. But trust me, if you really ate a dozen apples earlier today, then you’ve got some surprises coming soon! I wouldn’t stray too far from a restroom, if you catch my drift. Ha!

Jean Arnaut:  Listen to Hugh. Our apples are fine, there is nothing wrong with them.

Jace:  Just tell that to the three folks who got sick eating them. Now let’s move on, take your apples and go back to wherever it is you all are staying.

Jean Arnaut:  I want to talk to the people who got sick from our apples. Who are they?! Let me talk with them.

Jace:  That is a private matter. We can’t go sharing information like that at the drop of a hat, my friend. That would be anarchy. Sick people have a right to privacy.

Jean Arnaut:  Healthy people have a right to justice!

Jace:  Justice is determined by those who make the laws, friend. You should remember that! Now don’t go testing the graces and the patience of the powers that be; ’cause that be unwise. Just go now, and make it easy on yourselves, and on all the rest of us.

Jean Arnaut:  This is not over! Our apples are organic and perfectly healthy. We’ll be back!  

[The Visitors collect the apples and their things and exit. The Well-Dressed Man enters with Matilda Hawkins.]

Well-Dressed Man:  I’d like to collect a sample from each stand, and then compare those results to the original peach that my wife purchased earlier. Hopefully we can determine which stand that peach came from, and then I can then contract with them in confidence for our future purchases.

Matilda Hawkins:  Don’t worry, my lab will definitely be able to get to the bottom of this for you. Let’s begin here, and then we’ll visit those other two stands across the way. Can we get one peach, please.

Peachseller Three:  With pleasure. Only one? There are two of you. Take more.

Matilda Hawkins:  One will be fine, thank you. It’s for testing, we won’t be eating it.

Peachseller Three:  Testing?! Am I under suspicion?

Well-Dressed Man:  Only suspicion of excellent produce! Take it easy. I just want to determine without a shadow of doubt which of you sold my wife that peach the other day. We want to make one of you here, a very wealthy person. But they’ve got to be the right peaches. Trust me, if you knew my wife; they’ve got to be right!

Peachseller Three:  Absolutely! Here, take another one just to be safe. Test away!

[Well-Dressed Man and Matilda cross to the other peach stands. Peachseller Three motions to Duncan to join him, Duncan walks to his stand.]

Peachseller Three:  That woman over there is a scientist like you. She’s testing our peaches.

Duncan Collins:  Let her test away! It shouldn’t be a problem. Just keep her away from the apples.

Peachseller Three:  Are you certain your lab will find the pesticides? We don’t want those gypsies back again.

Duncan Collins:  Keep cool, stay calm. Our labs will find exactly what they need to find. We have all the protocols in place. It’s legit, it’s believable, and it’s scientific.

Peachseller Three:  Not everything scientific is believable. I’d like better assurances.

Duncan Collins:  Why worry? Look how smoothly shutting them down was; keeping them shuttered will be even easier. Trust me.

Peachseller Three:  You’re right, of course. To be honest, it almost seemed too easy. But it does get me to thinking.

Duncan Collins:  About?

Peachseller Three:  What if something similar were to befall our friends over there? Just imagine, what if Jolene’s pesticide levels were also a little too high? Or if Penelope’s peaches somehow came down with a fungus? I’m just saying, that would be a shame, if they had to close shop for a while. Maybe mister big-shot over there, with the lady scientist, might have no other choice but to buy our peaches; and sign that big fat contract with us.

Duncan Collins:  Yes, that would be a shame for them. I see where you’re going with this.

Peachseller Three:  Is it possible?

Duncan Collins:  Anything’s possible. I think it’s extremely likely.

Peachseller Three:  Highly probable?

Duncan Collins:  A sure thing. A statistical certainty!

[Hugh approaches Matilda and the Well-Dressed Man.]

Hugh:  Excuse me! Could you also test one of these apples?! Something’s fishy. I’m sure there aren’t any pesticides on these!

Peachseller Three:  Hey! Stop that kid.

[End of Scene.]


An Overachieving Slacker

My friend recently called himself an ‘Overachieving Introvert’. I hadn’t heard that epithet before, though maybe it was merely an adjectival phrase, but it got me to thinking about myself. While I also consider myself an overachieving introvert, I think a different moniker better applies to me: Overachieving Slacker. As in, “did you read what that Overachieving Slacker just wrote?” Or, “that Overachieving Slacker sure is incredibly lazy, but somehow he still manages to accomplish more than one would ever expect.”

I’ve always tried to subscribe to the words of wisdom: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” And the next part that comes after it makes my heart sing: “And it’s all small stuff!”  This proverb appears to give my natural inclinations full license to slack off, and I find this delightful. Were it not for other people, and their pesky insistence on tending to minutia, I’d blissfully take care of only the broad strokes of life, and leave ‘grinding out the details’ to the accountants; and there are an astounding number of ‘accountants’ in our world. They like to focus on all the ways things can be done better, more precisely, more completely, more perfectly, and God bless every one of them! But I prefer to focus on getting things done pretty nearly fine, and good enough, and that’ll do!

Weeds don’t bother me, rounding up or down is a joy, a little food stain on my sleeve? Fine, I can suck on it as a snack later this afternoon. Even so, I do actually like doing the laundry, and cooking meals. But in moderation, everything in moderation. My mother-in-law recently told me that her husband only cooked two times for them in their entire forty plus years of marriage. Now that is a bar that is set low enough that I could crawl over it. And I’m thinking this has to give me a little leverage with my wife, that man’s daughter. She can’t expect much from me, having grown up seeing the level of domestic engagement that her own dad performed. I cooked for us twice, maybe more, in just this past week. I’m wondering if this gives me a pass for the rest of our marriage.

Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? There’s a bit more to it, but it basically says that twenty percent of your effort will yield about eighty percent of your results. That’s a great ratio, I like it! But that means that the other eighty percent of your effort is only getting you another twenty percent. That’s a horrible return on investment! Think about how much more one could get done if they only apply twenty percent of their effort to everything they do, while they still get about eighty percent completion. The other eighty percent that one might still devote towards that same project, which may only yield a twenty percent improvement on that project, one can divert to other new projects instead. Eighty percent, that’s a B average, nothing to be ashamed of there.

Admittedly, I tended towards getting A’s in most of my classes, and certainly some things in life I want to spend a bit more time on to get just right. I once heard that the author Ursula K. LeGuin would spend years, perhaps decades, reworking her writing and she never considered it finished, she believed it could always be made better. My goodness, that sounds like my definition of living in hell. Let me write, as fast as I possibly can get the thoughts out of my head, and then maybe jostle them around on the page a bit to get them orientated a bit better, and then ship it out, and move on to the next project. I’m sure Ursula would call me a ‘slacker’, or maybe she’d find a different word for me, maybe a ‘hack’. But then she probably wouldn’t be settled on that word either, and would have to change it for a different one next year. God bless her!

There are few words that have more power to give me peace and joy than the word ‘No’. I love saying no when I’m asked to do things. As a child and young man I always tended to say ‘yes’ to nearly everything, in hopes that people would like me, and admire how much I could do, and respect how they could rely on me. I was the proverbial underachieving workaholic. I set the 80/20 rule on its head; I worked eighty percent to achieve twenty percent results. And was I stressed? You bet I was stressed! And I just kept grinding it out. But it dawned on me, fairly early in life that this is no way to actually live; doing all of this just so that people would consider me an accomplished hard-worker. I wondered, would it be so bad if I became a slacker? It turns out that it isn’t so bad at all. In fact it is pretty terrific! And by slacking in these special and specific ways, I am actually able to get a ton of things done, maybe not perfectly, but well enough. And that’s good enough for me!


Like It or Not : Act 1: Scene 3

Scene 3: [Hugh enters peach grove alone, carrying the basket of apples.]

Hugh:  I must be early, that’s good. I’ll hide this basket of apples behind this tree and when Chloe arrives I will first make her guess what I’ve gotten her. There. This will be good fun, let’s see if she can guess correctly. She is a very clever girl, and she knows me well. It won’t take her many guesses. [He climbs into the hammock.] I’ll just rest here until she arrives.

[After several moments, Chloe arrives and notices Hugh from a distance.]

Chloe:  Ah, there he is now, the dear. Asleep under the trees. He must have worn himself out looking for my gift. But where is it? It must be small. Oh! Maybe it’s a ring, and he has it in his pocket. That would be dreadful. He wouldn’t propose to me, would he?! How dare he even think of it! I wouldn’t like that one bit. But look at how peacefully he’s sleeping. He’s like a big bear. Look at that belly sticking out, eww, he should do more sit-ups. I’ll have to have him work on that. But these adorable cheeks, and this thick hair; yes, he’s the perfect one for me. Wake up, you!

Hugh:  [Startled.] Chloe! You’re here!

Chloe:  Yes, and I can’t wait to see what you’ve gotten me!

Hugh:  You’re in luck, it is exactly what you wanted, sweet and very romantic! Guess what it is.

Chloe:  [Delighted.]  Oooh! I know. Can I carry it?

Hugh:  Yes, you can!

Chloe:  Hmmm, do you put things inside it?

Hugh:  I suppose. Well, part of it.

Chloe:  It’s that cute handbag I saw at the market!

Hugh:  What? No!

Chloe:  [Aside.] It must be those cute shoes. The ones that girl was wearing at the market. [To Hugh.] Okay. Are they red?

Hugh:  On the inside.

Chloe:  Inside!? [Aside.] I suppose the soles are red. I guess that is also inside. [To Hugh.] Do I put them on my feet?

Hugh:  That’s strange! I suppose you could.

Chloe:  Well, yes or no, Hugh. It’s pretty simple!

Hugh:  I don’t know, that seems weird. But maybe…

Chloe:  Maybe?! Why wouldn’t you know if you put them on your feet or not?

Hugh:  You mean like at a spa or something? Like those cucumbers that people put on their eyes? Like you’d slice them up and put them on your feet?

Chloe:  Slice them up?! Are you nuts?

Hugh:  Okay! I don’t know!! I guess you could mash them up, for like a facial or something?!

Chloe:  Mash them?! Have you lost your mind?! Those shoes are worth a fortune!

Hugh:  What shoes?! What are you talking about!?

Chloe:  The gift you got me! Duh!!

Hugh:  I didn’t get you shoes!

Chloe:  What did you get me then?! I wanted shoes or a handbag!

Hugh:  [Gets the basket from behind the tree.] I got you these apples. They’re Hidden Rose. They look ordinary on the outside, but inside they are rosy pink! It’s a surprise! And they’re sweet and sour, like you! It’s romantic! But not too romantic.

Chloe:  No, it’s not! They’re not romantic. And what are you saying, I’m sweet and sour?! That’s what I am?!

Hugh:  They were supposed to say romance.

Chloe:  That’s just stupid, Hugh, they don’t say that at all. Do you want to know what they say? They say that my boyfriend, after all the years that we’ve been together, still doesn’t know me at all! They say that my boyfriend is clueless! That’s what these stupid apples say.

Hugh:  I wanted them to say that I love you.

Chloe:  How can you?! That’s why I was talking about the handbag and the shoes the whole time we were at the market. I was giving you hints the whole time! I was talking about them while you were there with me! I never talk about handbags or shoes when you aren’t with me, Hugh, you should know that!

Hugh:  How could I possibly know what you aren’t talking about, when I’m not with you? To know what you are saying when I’m not around would be difficult enough, but to know what you aren’t saying at all, when I’m not there, seems nearly impossible!

Chloe:  Well, you would know if you were paying attention.


Chloe:  I think you need to think long and hard about what you’ve done, Hugh. I really don’t know if we can be together. [She starts to leave.] I don’t want to see you again until you’ve thought about this, and until you have a good answer for me! [She exits.]

Hugh:  A good answer? An answer to what? What’s the question?

[End of Scene]


Like It or Not  (A Comedy for the Stage.) scenes 1 & 2

Act I:

Scene 1: [A peach grove; late afternoon.]

[Enter Chloe and Hugh.]

Hugh:  What a great day! Chloe, I love being with you. I don’t want to be with anyone else!

Chloe:  Same here, Hugh. Being with you is like being alone.

Hugh:  That’s sweet of you!

Chloe:  And talking with you is almost as good as talking to myself.

Hugh:  What a nice thing to say! Why, I feel the same way.

[They get into hammock together.]

Hugh:  It is wonderful to be together, Chloe!

Chloe:  I always say that anything one does, will be made much better when you share it with someone else.

[Each grabs their phone from their pocket, takes a selfie and sends it to their friends.]

Chloe:  Sometimes I feel sad, when I think about all the people who have never met me; and of everyone who may never meet me at all. Ever. I’m so interesting. I mean that in a very humble and simple way, of course.

Hugh:  Of course. Why, you’re the humblest person I know.

Chloe:  And you are by far the simplest, Hugh. I consider that among your very best traits. Complicated people are so…complicated, and not very enjoyable to be around. Although they are fun to talk about, when they aren’t present.

Hugh:  I find that nearly everyone is more fun to talk about, than to talk with. Talking to people can be very tiring, but talking about people is always entertaining.

Chloe:  Speaking of that, have you seen the new people who’ve set up tents outside of town? A whole group of them are camping out there. Nobody knows who they are.

Hugh:  Interesting. I love camping.

Chloe:  Yes, but not all the time. It’s no longer camping if you are doing it all the time. Living in a tent all the time just seems selfish and inconsiderate.

Hugh:  It’s possible they don’t have a choice; I mean financially speaking. Or perhaps they like it; maybe they prefer it.

Chloe:  Like it or not, I think it’s very rude of them. And it makes me wonder why you would defend them. And why you would bring up the topic of money as well; that also is very rude. If they don’t have money, then they should keep their poverty to themselves, and not wave it all about for everyone to see. It makes people uncomfortable.  Poverty, like wealth, should be a private matter, in my opinion.

Hugh:  When we’re married Chloe, if we’re poor, I promise to never tell you.

Chloe:  That is certainly for the best. But let’s be wealthy instead, I think I’ll much prefer that. As a matter of ethics and morality I think one should always prefer to be wealthy, it makes it so much easier to be good. Don’t you agree?

Hugh:  I’ve never given it much thought. Though I suppose one could be good whether they are rich or poor; and one could also be very bad in either of those conditions.

Chloe:  You’re being very bad yourself, young man.

Hugh:  Why? How!?

Chloe:  You haven’t kissed me in nearly ten minutes, and you know how much I like to be kissed.  [They kiss.] That’s much better. I forgive you for all that talk about money. Let’s talk about something more interesting; like, what are you going to buy me when we go into town tomorrow?

Hugh:  Are we going into town? I didn’t know that.

Chloe:  It’s peach season, silly. Have you forgotten? Everyone will be there to buy peaches; and not only the other islanders. People will also be coming from the mainland as well, in their boats, and wearing their finest summer clothing. We can’t miss that!

Hugh:  Peaches are okay.

Chloe:  Okay?! Peaches are delightful; they’re delicious. They’re divine!

Hugh:  They’re peachy!

Chloe:  They’re more than that! My mother tells me that peaches pay for everything around here.

Hugh:  Okay then, they’re peachy-keen!

Chloe:  You know our town motto, don’t you Hugh? “Peach season, is the reason!” It’s true; without peaches, this island would be uninhabited. There would be no town of ‘Harmony’. You and I would never have met.

Hugh:  I’d probably be living in a tent!

Chloe:  Shush! That is not the least bit romantic. I desire romance, Hugh. You must get me something very romantic in town tomorrow. Something very romantic and very sweet. Of course, getting something is very wonderful, but giving something is so much better. That’s what they always say, and I think it is certainly true. That is why I want to give you the opportunity, to give me something delightful and romantic tomorrow, while we’re in town.

Hugh:  Chloe, that is very kind of you, and thoughtful.

Chloe:  It’s because I love you, Hugh. [They exit.]

Scene 2: [Town square, market. Two peachsellers set up their stands side-by-side, and set out their signs with products and prices listed. When each other isn’t looking, while the other is setting up, each take turns putting their sign in front of the other’s; and then increasing the prices on their competitor’s signs, finally one writes ‘free’ on their competitor’s sign. They argue and agree to set the same prices. Just then a third seller arrives with a much lower price than the price set by the two sellers; just as all the customers arrive, who see the prices of the three stands, and all flock to the third seller, leaving the original two sellers without any customers. They quickly lower their prices to match the third seller.]

Customer: [To Peachseller Three]  What kind of peaches do you have?

Peachseller Three:  We’ve got Babcock, these here are Melba, some Snow Beauty over here.

Customer:  Uhh, no. Do you have any that are more like…

Peachseller Three:  Oh, and those right in front are Doughnut.

Customer:  Really?! Do they taste like donuts?!

Peachseller Three:  Well, no…they’re peaches. But they’re sweet like donuts.

Customer:  I don’t really like peaches, do you have any that taste more like pears? Or maybe like apples?

[Two Friends cross to Peachseller One’s stand.]

Friend: [To the other.]  I actually don’t know why I came to this peach market, I hate peaches!

Peachseller One:  Would you folks like some samples?

Friend:  Are they free?!

Peachseller One:  Of course!

Friend: [Grabs several pieces, with both hands and eats them.]

Other Friend:  You just said you hated peaches!

Friend:  I do. But I love free stuff!

[Hugh arrives and talks with Peachseller Two.]

Peachseller Two:  Hello young man, can I interest you in some peaches?

Hugh:  I have to buy Chloe something romantic.

Peachseller Two:  Nothing says romance like a freshly baked peach pie!

Hugh:  I don’t know. I was hoping for something a little different.

Peachseller Two:  A peach pie is different! It’s not chocolates or roses. It’s not boring like those. It’s unexpected, but not too unexpected. You don’t want that, trust me. Be different but not too different, Hugh. Remember that, it’s important. With matters of the heart you’ve got to walk a fine line; be exciting, but not too exciting. Get her a peach pie, it will tell her you have flair and you’re a true romantic, but you are also dependable; and you can be trusted.

Hugh:  Really?! It says all that? Maybe that would be a good surprise.

[Chloe enters.]

Chloe:  Hugh! I’m glad I found you. Isn’t this wonderful? I love our peach festival, everyone is dressed so brightly and look so nice! Have you bought me anything yet?

Hugh:  Still looking. But I have lots of good ideas. I think you are really going to like it.

Chloe:  I rarely like good ideas. They make me think, and that usually bothers me. Plus, ideas demand attention and that makes it so much harder to be distracted. Distractions are much more enjoyable. Oh! Look at those, cute shoes! I’ve got to get some of those!

Peachseller Two:  I can’t agree with you more, young lady. The best things in life are distractions, and nothing distracts one as well as something sweet to eat. How about some peaches?

Chloe:  Oh! They do look good. They are all so pretty, aren’t they Hugh? It almost doesn’t matter if they taste sweet or not; as long as they look sweet.

Peachseller Two:  But they do taste sweet.

Chloe:  That’s good too, of course. But what if they looked bitter? Nobody would want to try them. You wouldn’t know if they tasted sweet or not. You’d assume they’re bad and throw them away before trying them.

Hugh:  That seems a little unfair. It’s like judging a book by its cover.

Peachseller Two:  Some ugly peaches can taste very good. But mine are all pretty.

Chloe:  Well, I always judge a book by its cover. The cover tells me everything I need to know. Besides, who has time to read anymore? So many words? A picture is worth a thousand words, don’t they say? So a video must be worth a million. Oh, I should Instagram this! [Takes out her phone and begins filming the scene.]

Peachseller Two:  You two should film yourselves eating some of my peaches, and you could post that. You can tag it, or whatever you do, call it ‘world’s most beautiful peaches’.

Hugh:  All the peaches here look beautiful. Those look nice too! [He points at the neighboring stand.]

Peachseller Two:  Oh my goodness. Don’t be fooled, their peaches are not very good.

Chloe:  But they look nice.

Peachseller Two:  Just between you and me, I heard someone got sick eating their peaches the other day. It isn’t common knowledge yet, but they are being investigated. Keep it quiet. But you may want to tell your friends, and anyone else who you don’t want getting sick. Keep away from those peaches!

Hugh:  That’s amazing, they look perfect. They look just like yours.

Peachseller Two:  Ha! Looks can be deceiving my boy. Never trust your eyes. Especially if you don’t know what you’re seeing. Trust me, I have been growing peaches all my life.

Chloe:  That’s true, Hugh. It is much easier to be told the truth, than to try to figure it out for yourself. Who has time for that?! She obviously knows what she’s talking about. You can tell just by looking at her.

Hugh:  I’m confused. She said not to trust my eyes, but then you just said that you can tell she’s an expert just by looking at her.

Chloe:  Oh, silly. Stop thinking about what we just said. You aren’t supposed to listen to people, who has time for that?! The important thing is that everything is good and we’re together, and we all agree that those other peaches are bad. You think too much sometimes.

[A very well-dressed middle-aged man enters, talking loudly on his phone.]

Well-Dressed Man:  I have no idea which stand you bought those peaches from! I’ve checked with them all…yes, I’m sure of it. No. Nobody seems to recognize that peach…I know. I know it’s disgusting. [He holds up a peach and looks boldly around at the three peachsellers. They all turn away to avoid him.] Anyone? Anyone of you sell these?! No honey, nobody seems to carry these! They’re all ignoring me! What dear? You want to buy more? But I thought you said they’re disgusting. Oh, they only look disgusting; they taste amazing?! Oh I see, well, no I was telling them all that you were very unhappy. I thought you wanted a refund. You what?! We want to buy how many more?! Are you serious?! For all of our restaurants, worldwide?! That would be thousands of peaches, dear, are you sure? [All three peachsellers listen attentively.] Well, okay. I’m not sure. Nobody seems to know, apparently none of them sold you this peach. [All three peachsellers rush towards him.] Honey, I’ve got to go. I’m being swarmed. I’ll call you back later. Okay, bye-bye.

Peachseller One:  Let me see that peach more closely, sir. I may have been mistaken, I think I did sell that one to your wife.

Peachseller Two:  Garbage! That’s not one of yours, I can tell by the smell and the color of the flesh, those are definitely from our farm. I sold that peach to your wife, sir. I’m certain of it.

Peachseller Three:  Not true! I’m all for a little friendly competition but I draw the line at boldface lies. That peach is mine, sir! I can guarantee it! I would stake my reputation on it!

Peachseller Two:  Then you’ve staked something that’s completely worthless.

Peachseller One:  Sir, everyone is always trying to take credit for what I’ve worked so hard to achieve. It isn’t fair, but that’s the way it goes. They know they can’t produce the quality that we do at our farm, so they pretend that our peaches are their own. Don’t fall for it, I would hate to see you fall for their lies. I know I sold your wife that peach, she had mentioned to me that she was going to send you back today. Now I remember her saying that to me. I don’t know why I forgot earlier, I must have been distracted and not remembering straight.

Well Dressed Man:  Well, I’m really not sure which of you sold us this peach. But I can tell you that whoever did, is going to be very wealthy in the near future. My wife wants to purchase your entire crop, and she will also want to contract exclusively with the seller of this peach for many years to come! We’ll just need to get to the bottom of this; which of you actually sold us this peach?! It’s quite a mystery. Solve that question and then it will all be easily taken care of. Simple as pie! Ha!

Chloe:  I love a good mystery, especially when tons of money is involved. Hopefully someone also will be ruined. That makes it even more exciting.

Hugh:  I wouldn’t want anyone to be hurt though. That would be a shame I think.

Chloe:  Not seriously injured, just ruined a little bit. Something dramatic that we can all talk about for years to come.

Hugh:  Just a little bankruptcy?

Chloe:  Yes, but not permanently. Just long enough to keep us interested for a while, until something new comes along.

Hugh:  And then they can get their money back?

Chloe:  Sure. Wouldn’t that be romantic? Riches to rags to riches again. I for one would be very interested if all that happened. It would be so exciting and heart-wrenching. In fact, the tragedy of losing all that money should include a death in the family, maybe a suicide.

Hugh:  But that’s so tragic.

Chloe:  Yes, but maybe it turns out that they had a serious illness after all and they were going to die soon anyway. I would be very entertained by that.

Hugh:  I’m not sure I’d want all that to happen to anyone that I know. It would be very hard on them.

Chloe:  No, but it would all turn out fine in the end, silly. I hope it happens to someone I know. Then maybe someone would interview me about them. Wouldn’t that be exciting?! I could say how I knew them, and it was so tragic, and it shocked all of us, and we never would have expected something like this to happen in our town, especially to such good friends, and such nice people.

Hugh:  It is always more tragic when tragedy happens to good people.

Chloe:  I suppose the best tragedies are the ones that happen to the people you don’t like. If only it could always turn out that way.

Hugh:  Maybe it does, in a way. I suppose everyone isn’t liked by somebody. So every tragedy makes some people very sad, and others very happy.

Chloe:  That’s a strange thought. Oh my, look at her purse! I must get one of those. Isn’t it so cute, Hugh?!

[Jace, the Mayor arrives, with Councilmembers. Steps up onto raised stage in town square.]

Jace:  Folks! Folks! Please quiet down for just a moment. I have a few things I’d like to say. First of all, for any of you who don’t know me, I’m the mayor of this little town. But that’s unimportant, what is important is you! And I’d like to welcome all of you to our Sixtieth Anniversary Peach Festival! It is hard to believe that our little community of Harmony has been holding this festival annually for sixty years running! Amazing! Let’s hear a nice round of applause for that! And let’s hear an even bigger round of applause for our amazing peaches, the best damn peaches in the world!

Peachseller One:  Honey, don’t swear! [Crowd laughs.]

Jace:  Ha, ha! That’s my wife folks. I should be on better behavior. Ha! But seriously folks, take a look at the peaches over yonder at her stand, they are among the best of the best. And I’m not just saying that.

Peachseller Three:  Yes you are! [Crowd laughs again.]

Jace:  Ha! Well, they do happen to be my peaches also, that’s true. But I can’t help that. Look folks, everyone in Harmony grows good peaches, that’s just a given. Folks, try any of the peaches from any of the stands here, you won’t be sorry. But you might be sorry if you don’t try ours. Just sayin’. Ha!

Peachseller Two:  If you like indigestion, that is! [Crowd laughs.] And like spending time on the toilet!

Jace:  [Visibly annoyed.] Ha, that’s clever. Very funny. Yes. Very nice. Folks, peaches are incredibly important to the people of Harmony. And you’ll taste the care and love we put into every single fruit. Heck! I don’t need to tell you that, that’s why you’ve come here to buy our fruit. You know it yourselves. There’s nothing like a Harmony peach. A Harmony grown peach is a little slice of heaven on earth. Why, there ain’t a problem in the world that can’t be solved by a Harmony peach! Isn’t that right?! [Crowd cheers.] Ha, ha! That might be a little bit hyperbolic. But not by much! Ha! Thanks again folks, for coming to our little peach festival here in Harmony. You’re one of the family now, and while you’re here you’ll enjoy our small-town hospitality. We welcome everyone! As long as they’re buying our peaches! Ha, just kidding! No, you can buy whatever you want, it’s a free country. Do as you please!

[A commotion as a group of seven people arrive and set up tables, signs, and barrels filled with fruit for sale. They are selling apples.]

Jace:  [Approaching the group of arrivals.]  Friends! Welcome. Welcome, I see you are setting up shop. That’s fine…but apples? Come now! This is a peach festival after all. Ha, ha! Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to bring peaches for sale?!

Jean Arnaut:  You were just saying, it’s a free country, were you not?

Jace:  Well, yes it is! I was saying that. I was telling everyone they are free to buy anything they want, but I didn’t say we’re free to sell anything we want. That would be anarchy!

Chloe:  He makes a good point doesn’t he, Hugh?

Jean Arnaut:  I would think that free consumption and free production would go hand in hand. One needs the other.

Chloe:  Oh, an appeal to romance! I do love a romantic argument.

Jace:  Yes, I was merely jesting. But I’m afraid there is a long application process to get permission to open a stand in Harmony. And there are permits, fees…a business license. It is all so troublesome for folks like you, I should think. Perhaps you’d do better to move along and sell your apples someplace else.

Jean Arnaut:  [Shows the required forms.]  I believe everything is in order. We’ve paid our fees and have our license to sell.

Jace:  [Surprised, he grabs and reviews the forms.]  Damn! Who issued these?…those infernal people in permitting. Excellent! Wonderful! I see everything is here. [Handing the forms back.]

Peachseller Two:  Mayor, they can’t sell apples! That goes against everything we stand for. I won’t stand for it!

Peachseller Three:  I have to agree, it isn’t right! They shouldn’t be allowed!

Jace:  What can I do?! They have the paperwork. It’s out of my hands.

Peachseller One:  Dear, we’ll talk about it more when we get home!

Chloe:  [Aside.]  There’s the real mayor of Harmony.

Jace:  Folks, we’ll take care of this matter later. For now, just enjoy the festival, enjoy the day! We can all ignore this little distraction. It will take care of itself, trust me! Buy peaches! Please excuse me now, we have an emergency council meeting that I just remembered. Can’t be late! [Exits.]

Jean Arnaut:  Good people of Harmony, come taste the best apples in the world. We have free samples of everything today! [Crowd gathers.]

[Peachsellers talk among themselves.]

Peachseller One:  This can’t be tolerated. It’s a mockery of our festival.

Peachseller Two:  There must be a way to shut them down.

Peachseller Three:  I have an idea. It will require a little stretching of the truth.

Peachseller One:  The truth’s malleable.

Peachseller Three:  And we’ll need to stick together, no backstabbing, no going rogue. All for one and one for all.

Peachseller Two:  That’s less appealing, but it’s for a good cause. I’m in.

Peachseller One:  Count me in too. What’s the plan?

[The three lean in and hear the plan, and then disperse.]

Hugh:  It is good to see them all working together for a change.

Chloe:  But is it a change for the better, or for the worse? I’d prefer they all stay the same and remain not so good all by themselves, rather than change and become very bad all together. Now Hugh, when are you going to give me my gift?

Hugh:  Don’t you want it to be a surprise? How can I get it for you if you’re with me the whole time?

Chloe:  Yes a surprise is better, much better. If you give it to me now, and it’s a bad gift, then my whole day will be ruined. But if I can imagine now that you will be giving me a good gift later, then my whole day is spent in wonderful anticipation. But when will you give it to me?

Hugh: Let’s meet again, this afternoon at one, at our hammock. I promise to give it to you then.

Chloe:  Don’t be late! [They kiss and she exits.]

[Hugh crosses to the apple stand and works his way to the front.]

Jean Arnaut:  You look perplexed, is it so difficult to pick a fruit?

Hugh:  To find the fruit that says all the right things, it is.

Jean Arnaut:  I see. Well my friend what does this fruit you are seeking have to say?

Hugh:  It must speak of love, and of romance, but not speak of these things too loudly, I’m told. It must whisper loud enough to be heard, but not scream so as to frighten.

Jean Arnaut:  Very poetic. We have Red Delicious of course, but that is too straightforward it would seem. Too direct and forward, we don’t want to scare the lovely lady off, right at the start. But what about a Cameo? No, too subtle, you are the lead in this romance, not merely making a brief appearance. Pazazz must certainly be too ostentatious for your purposes, and Pink Lady is perhaps to cloying. Ahhh, this may be it: the Hidden Rose! Is your lady a bit sweet, but not too sweet?

Hugh:  Yes, that is certainly her.

Jean Arnaut: This one has a sharp flavor with a hint of sweetness, and the flesh is a rosy pink.

Hugh:  That is her too! She also has a rosy, pink flesh.

Jean Arnaut:  Now, that is not something I hear every day! Your love has a rosy pink flesh. Very well, you have a refined eye, as well as a classical tongue. I perceive you’ve spent some time reading the poets.

Hugh:  A little, though they are hard to understand. 

Jean Arnaut:  No harder to understand than our present times, I propose. 

Hugh:  Yes, our present times are more perplexing, you’re right!

Jean Arnaut:  And less edifying for the effort.

Hugh:  Again! You are right! What is your name? I enjoy conversing with you very much!

Jean Arnaut:  Likewise. I am called Jean Arnaut. I am the de facto leader of this small conclave you see here selling apples.

Hugh:  Glad to meet you, and I am Hugh. I have no claim to fame.

Jean Arnaut:  And it is no great accomplishment being the leader of this little group either, believe me! But they are generous, and courageous; and humble, I will give them all that. And for some reason, they follow me.

Hugh:  Excellent! I do hope we’ll all become friends.

Jean Arnaut:  We already are! I have a sense for these things.

Hugh:  Now about those apples, the Hidden Rose. I’m afraid she might prefer peaches. I don’t want to make a mistake and get her the wrong gift.

Jean Arnaut:  When it comes to fruit, Hugh, it is hard to go wrong with an apple. The apple is epic in the story of man and woman. True, it had a rather ignominious beginning back in Eden, but it has since overcome that original stigma, and is now a herald of true love.

Hugh: Give me a dozen!

Jean Arnaut:  And I will include a little basket to carry them. No charge for that. Eight dollars for the apples. [They exchange money and the basket.] She is going to love it!

Hugh:  Yes, it suits her perfectly! She’ll be very surprised, I think I’ve really done it this time! Thank you Jean Arnaut, thank you. [He exits.]

[To Be Continued]


Blurry Days

On a clear blue day,
sometimes I’m not ready,
to see and to be seen.
Give me one that’s gray,
soft and somewhat blurry,
to ponder and to dream.

And let it rain a lot,
in buckets and in sheets,
and wind buffeting the windows.
Lost within my thought,
tucked deep beneath my sheets,
I’m careless which way the wind blows.

Sunny days can be very fine,
But rainy ones are quite sublime.
Though clear blue skies are delightful,
Cloudy days are more insightful.


Hope, In Times of War

In times of war, there are no rules.

We justify ourselves.

Rules may be recalled later, discussed by history;

Examining ourselves through hindsight, judging by a peacetime morality.

Not now, not yet!

Now is the time for power.

Our every action is now justified by desire:

By need, our greed, and because…

Because they were unfaithful first, we have become unfaithful.

Because everyone is doing it, it has become our ethics.

Because we killed God, God is dead, so we shall erect our own Gods.

Because we know no truth, we will make our own.

Because they are not us, we will hate them.

Because they don’t do as we do, we will fight them.

Because they have what we want, we will scheme and steal.

Because we’ve been hurt, we will hurt.

Because we do not agree, we will not agree!

Because the past was evil, we will make the present even worse:

We will envy, we will kill, we will destroy, and we will lie,

and lie, and lie, and lie.

Because it is war, and we can do it.

Will anyone stand for goodness?

Only goodness, simple goodness.

Does anyone hear its tiny voice?

See it crying in the rubble.

Calling, calling quietly?

I envision someone purely good;

This makes me cry.

I cry for the beauty of the goodness;

And I cry again for its rarity.

Who will love in wartime?

Who will lay aside ‘because’?

Who will resist their ‘Cause’?

And stand for simple goodness;

A universal goodness?

For kindness, gentleness,

And self-control?

Are any of us strong enough,

To be at peace in time of war?