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]


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