Scene 1: [Town-square market, just before sunrise, Sammy and Talia enter, Sammy is using a flashlight.]
Grandpa Sammy: I’m surprised, lovebug, that you wanted to join me so early this morning. I try not to wake you up at this time of day.
Talia: It’s okay grandpa, I was already awake. You were snoring.
Grandpa Sammy: Oops. Sorry.
Talia: And coughing.
Grandpa Sammy: Oh, I must have had something caught in my throat.
Talia: Yes, all night.
Grandpa Sammy: Let’s just rest a bit on the steps here. I think this is a good spot for a little break. [They sit on the steps leading up to the town-square stage.]
Talia: The sun is going to come out soon.
Grandpa Sammy: I noticed that too, the sky is getting lighter. [He turns off the flashlight.] Oh, who is this, coming along so early? Let’s sit here quietly and see what they’re up to.
[Three of the Visitors enter, one is a young boy about the age of nine. They all carry knapsacks and go to the peach stands, taking peaches and leaving apples.]
Talia: Hey! You shouldn’t do that. You’re stealing our peaches!
[The three Visitors freeze, looking for the little voice.]
Hugo: No, we’re not! We’re leaving our apples.
Talia: You’re supposed to pay for peaches. [She walks to Hugo.]
Hugo: That’s our payment. We’re not thieves!
Talia: Why don’t you have money?
Other Visitor: They won’t let us sell our apples.
Hugo: They lie about us!
Grandpa Sammy: It’s called trading, Talia. But usually it’s done in the daylight, and both parties freely choose what to give.
Other Visitor: Our options are limited, sir. If we can’t sell, how should we make a living? Like the boy says, we aren’t thieves. We pay in apples.
Grandpa Sammy: I understand.
Other Visitor: Do you?! At least somebody does. Understanding is in shorter supply than money nowadays. Most people around here don’t seem to understand anything, it seems.
Grandpa Sammy: Maybe we all should start trading in understanding, instead of peaches and apples.
Other Visitor: Ha! That would be a good start. But a little money would help too.
Talia: I have some money you can have.
Other Visitor: That’s very kind of you. We can still earn it though. At least I hope we can. Maybe not here in Harmony, but somewhere. Keep your money for something special. You must have something you’d like to buy with your money?
Talia: I’m going to have horses someday!
Other Visitor: There you have it, save your money for horses. We’ll be fine. We’ve managed this long, we’ll find a way to keep going.
Hugo: How many horses are you going to have?
Hugo: That’s all?! I’m going to have hundreds. I’m going to buy tons of land and I’m going to let them run anywhere they want, and eat grass. I’m going to ride them without a saddle.
Hugo: I’m going to race them too, maybe. I haven’t decided. But I’m going to have every color.
Talia: I’m going to have a white one with speckles and a star on its head.
Hugo: That’s cool.
Other Visitor: We’ve got to get going, it’s getting light. We shouldn’t be seen here.
Talia: Maybe my horses can meet your horses someday! They could play together.
Hugo: Sure. That’d be cool.
Grandpa Sammy: Good talking with you. Take care of yourselves. Hopefully you’ll be able to sell your apples again soon.
Other Visitor: We can hope. That’s something we know how to do!
[The three Visitors exit.]
Talia: They’re nice.
Grandpa Sammy: Interesting folk. Well, young lady, let’s get ourselves home for some breakfast, does that sound good?
Talia: Yum! I want waffles.
Grandpa Sammy: Then waffles it shall be, your highness. With peach slices and whipped cream!
[They exit in one direction as Penelope Lind and Jolene McCue enter from other directions, and begin to prepare their stands for the day.]
Penelope Lind: [Pointing at Tommy’s stand.] Oh, Jolene! Look at that. Look at the price of Tommy’s peaches now!
Jolene McCue: Ha! Serves that little schemer right. That’s going to take a bite out of his profits!
Penelope Lind: Ouch! That’s going to sting.
Jolene McCue: I don’t feel sorry for him. I’m certain he’s responsible for these gloves and our own costs going through the roof. I can’t prove it but the whole pesticide and fungus thing seems very fishy to me.
Penelope Lind: What are you saying? They were tested, it was proven.
Jolene McCue: Sure, it was proven. But that doesn’t mean it’s true. And isn’t it a little suspicious that it’s the exact same trick that we all pulled on the apple people to get them kicked out of the market? I think Tommy went rogue, and he did the same thing to both of us that we did to them. I can’t prove it, but that also doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
[Tommy Collins enters and sets up his stand for the day. He’s clearly agitated and in a bad mood.]
Penelope Lind: Hi Tommy! Wow, looks like your prices really shot up. That’s gotta hurt!
Jolene McCue: Oh, look at his face! That’s priceless. Ha! If looks could kill. Serve him right though. Oh, look now Penelope, he’s pulling out the goggles and nose plugs. I love this part, right before he puts them on. That look of disgust on his face, oh there we go!
[Tommy puts goggles on, and fits them over his eyes and then inserts his nose plug, and continues preparing his stand.]
Penelope Lind: It is so funny! I’m actually grateful for these gloves now, they really aren’t so bad.
Jolene McCue: Much better than having to put on scuba gear. Hey, Tommy, you forgot your snorkel!
Penelope Lind: And your fins!
[Customers enter and begin purchasing from the three stands. The Health Workers enter and assist with handing out blue and green gloves as well as goggles and nose plugs depending on the stand, as well as help instructing about washing and drying peaches and keeping the dirty paper towels and gloves separate. Throughout the scene gloves are worn and removed and thrown away as needed, as are goggles and nose plugs for customers shopping from Tommy. All of this is cumbersome and everyone struggles with these things, but these measures remain secondary to the primary action of the scene.]
[In line at Tommy’s stand.]
Customer One: They’ve all jacked up their prices. It’s insane.
Customer Two: Greed. It always happens. You get a crisis and then all of a sudden everyone takes advantage, and it’s the customer that gets screwed.
Customer One: It isn’t fair, but I’ll pay it. I love his peaches.
Tommy Collins: Here, you’ll need to wear these if you want to buy peaches from me. [Hands them both goggles and nose plugs. The two customers put them on.]
Customer Two: My nose plug makes me want to sneeze. Can you breathe?
Customer One: Not too well, but it’s worth it for peaches. My goggles are a little tight. [Takes them off and adjusts them, and puts them back on.]
Customer Two: I like mine. They fit pretty good. Do we take them off after we are done purchasing?
Health Worker: Please continue to wear your goggles and nose plugs the entire time you are carrying and eating your peaches. Once you throw the pit away, you are free to remove them. You may want to keep them in case you buy more peaches later. You can reuse them as many times as you like.
Customer One: That’s great!
Customer Two: It’s not so bad once you get used to it.
[Customer Three and Four get in line behind the first two, they already have their goggles and nose plugs on.]
Customer Three: That’s true, we’ve had ours on for a few days now, and honestly I hardly notice them anymore. We wear them all the time.
Customer Four: And there are unexpected advantages. I think the nose plug saved my marriage.
Customer One: How’s that?
Customer Four: My husband farts in bed. I wish I would have thought of this years ago.
[They all laugh.]
[Two other Customers standing at Penelope Lind’s and at Jolene McCue’s stands finish their purchases and then meet each other.]
Customer Five: Hey, I thought that was you, standing in line over there. How’s it goin’?
Customer Six: Good to see you.
[They shake hands. Health Worker intervenes.]
Health Worker #1: I’m sorry to interrupt. I saw you both just shake hands. I’m going to need you to remove your gloves and throw them away immediately. No, don’t touch your face! Don’t touch anything!
[They remove their rubber gloves and begin to throw them into the trash.]
Health Worker #1: Wait! I’m so sorry. I need you to throw your gloves away over here in this trach receptacle. See, this is the one for green gloves. You can toss yours in that one over there, which is for the blue gloves. I’m really sorry. We just don’t want to mix them up and cross-contaminate.
Customer Five: You know what you guys need? You need to get some turquoise gloves, then we could wear them at any of the stands, and you wouldn’t have to worry about keeping them separate!
Health Worker #1: I don’t get it.
Customer Five: You know, blue and green make turquoise. You know, when you mix them. Ha!
Health Worker #1: [Not smiling.] Thanks for the suggestion, that’s very helpful. Now please just put your gloves in the proper trash can.
[A scream is heard from across stage. Customer Four has fallen down. The three Health Workers all rush to her aid.]
Health Worker #2: Are you okay? What happened?!
[Bending over to help her back to her feet. The other Health Worker’s also try to help.]
Customer Four: I slipped on something. Right there, a puddle of something!
Health Worker #3: Looks like some slime.
Health Worker #1: It’s peach juice!
Customer Four: It’s a hazard! I could have died!
[She remains on the ground. Clutching at her back. The three Health Workers stand up and lean in towards each other.]
Health Worker #2: Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
Health Worker #1: There’s an opportunity here!
Health Worker #3: Is it time to invoke article 22? We could do it, the health code gives us the authority!
Health Worker #2: We’re going to be rich!
[End of Scene.]
Scene 2: [Hugo and the other two Visitors return to their campsite.]
Jean Arnaut: Hey, hey! Welcome back. How is the little hamlet of Harmony doing this morning?
Older Visitor: Hugo has found a new girlfriend!
Hugo: No I haven’t!
Older Visitor: Ahh, the lad protests too much! He does like her!
Hugo: No, I don’t. A little. But not a lot.
Jean Arnaut: Like her or not, you’re blushing. That says something!
Hugo: You people don’t know anything! Why do I put up with you?
Jean Arnaut: It’s because you love us!
Hugo: Not always!
Jean Arnaut: How was town?
Older Visitor: They like their rules, I’ll say that. We got peaches, of course, and salami, some bread, veggies, enough supplies to last us a few days.
Jean Arnaut: Well done! I expect we’ll be reinstated soon and we’ll be able to sell again any day now.
Older Visitor: You’re more optimistic than me.
Jean Arnaut: They’ll realize their mistake.
Older Visitor: I think they prefer to realize other people’s mistakes. But they leave their own mistakes unrealized. If we’re waiting for them to admit their mistakes, we may starve first.
Jean Arnaut: Our apples don’t have pesticides, it’s as simple as that. They’ll see that and be forced to allow us back. We have all the proper permits and permissions. We have a right to sell there.
Older Visitor: You know as well as I do, Jean Arnaut. This isn’t about pesticides. In my mind, it is a conflict between domesticated humans, and free-range humans. Those folks in Harmony are domestic, they are indoor cats and dogs. They like their comforts and they love their security. They don’t want wild beasts like us coming in, and dirtying the carpets.
Jean Arnaut: Every person chooses their own way.
Older Visitor: Unless someone else chooses it for them.
Jean Arnaut: Maybe it’s time to move on.
[Hugh wanders into camp.]
Jean Arnaut: Look who we have here, our new friend Hugh! What’s this? Why look so forlorn? Is it love, is it your Chloe? Is she still confounding you?
Hugh: I am sorely perplexed. She has cast a terrible riddle into my path, and I cannot move it.
Jean Arnaut: My goodness! This is already the second love-stricken young man to arrive at our humble camp, in just this morning. [He winks at Hugo.] Is there something in the water?!
Hugh: If only it were something I drank or ate. Then I could pass it through me and be done with it. No, my problem is of an intellectual nature, not a physical one.
Jean Arnaut: Come. Have a seat and tell me the nature of it. Maybe together, we can crack this nut, and bear some fruit.
Hugh: That is the entire source of the problem, it would seem. Apparently, I gave Chloe the wrong fruit, and because of that she will not speak to me anymore. And I am forbidden, by her, to speak to her again, until I’ve discovered a ‘good answer’. Unless I can bring her this mysterious good answer, I will never again see her, or speak with her, or hold her close to me. This confounded ‘good answer’ is the entire thing between us. It is nothing, like a vapor, and yet it is everything, like the tallest fortress wall. It is dark and deep, like the widest gulf of outer space, and we are just two remote and lonely planets, Chloe and I.
Jean Arnaut: That does sound dire. I had thought our apples would delight her.
Hugh: As did I! They strike the perfect balance. They are different but not too different, romantic but not smothering. And they have a rosy pink flesh, just like Chloe! Oh, I miss her flesh, if I could only touch her flesh once again!
Jean Arnaut: Now is not yet the time for touching flesh, my friend. I will help you win your Chloe back. Let us put our heads together now, and I’m certain that we can come up with her ‘good answer’. Then, you and she can rub all the flesh that you desire!
Hugh: Such a rosy pink flesh, but not only that. She embodies endless surprises. I’m always surprised by her. Sometimes she is cold, she can make your shiver, but then she becomes refreshing, like a shaded pool in the heat of a summer day. She can be bitter, but that only highlights her sweetness all the more. Some people think she’s haughty and fragile but you see, this is only because she has such a sensitive heart. Tenderness is the bedrock upon which her every edifice is built.
Jean Arnaut: Stop, or I may also fall in love with her.
Hugh: Who wouldn’t? I couldn’t blame you if you did. I must find this ‘good answer’, there is no room for failure, Jean Arnaut. I must get my Chloe back!
Jean Arnaut: A good answer should not be so difficult to find.
Hugh: Wait, but there’s more. I almost forgot to tell you. I met with her mother and she directed me further. Bless that woman! I was entirely headed in the wrong direction. But she informed me that the good answer is not actually an answer at all. And there is in fact, no question either, to which one should give an answer, good or bad. Yes, I know. Very mysterious, and very clever. Very surprising, and very much Chloe!
Jean Arnaut: No question? A question that isn’t a question?
Hugh: That’s right. Exactly correct.
Jean Arnaut: I’ve got it! It is a rhetorical question! Why, that is a question that isn’t really a question at all. Because nobody actually expects an answer to it! The answer is already assumed. Or it’s already known by everyone involved.
Hugh: Brilliant! And if you’ve asked a question that isn’t really a question, such as a rhetorical question, then how can there be an answer to it? You can’t have an answer if there isn’t a question. So the answer isn’t an answer, to a rhetorical question that isn’t a question! I think we’ve done it!
Jean Arnaut: I’m no philosopher, but I think that must be it!
Hugh: Yes, I agree.
[They sit a while in silence.]
Hugh: But, now what?
Jean Arnaut: I’m not sure.
Hugh: It appears I still haven’t a clue what Chloe wants from me.
Jean Arnaut: No, neither do I, I’m afraid. What would be a rhetorical question between you two?
Hugh: We both agree that she’s beautiful. That’s assumed.
Jean Arnaut: That’s a start. But it doesn’t tell us what ‘good answer’ you should bring her.
Jean Arnaut: Is there anything you always do, or always say to her, that she might come to expect, and like? That could be a ‘good answer’, perhaps.
Hugh: I like the way you’re thinking. I think we’re onto something now.
Jean Arnaut: Is there anything obvious, anything she clearly likes or wants?
Hugh: She kept talking about shoes and handbags. She wouldn’t stop talking about them. She thought I got those for her.
Jean Arnaut: Hmmm. Could that be it?
Hugh: She said she liked them. It seems she wants them. But that’s silly, it’s just shoes. I could get her shoes anytime, there’s nothing special about that.
Jean Arnaut: You’re probably right. What about the handbag?
Hugh: A purse? Come on! No. She’s already got tons of purses. She doesn’t need another purse. No, it can’t be that.
[Grandpa Sammy and Talia enter. She is carrying her piggybank.]
Grandpa Sammy: Good afternoon! Or maybe it’s morning still. I left my watch at home. We were hoping to speak with the little boy we met earlier today.
Jean Arnaut: Hugo? Yes, he’s right over there. Hugo! You have some visitors.
[Hugo walks over to meet them.]
Grandpa Sammy: Hugo, it’s a pleasure. We didn’t get your name before. I’m Sammy, sometimes called Grandpa Sammy, but Sammy is fine. And this is Talia.
Grandpa Sammy: Talia has something she wants to give you. Go ahead, Talia.
Talia: I wanted you to have this. [She hands him her piggybank.] So you can buy horses.
Hugo: But you want horses too.
Talia: I’m only going to have ten, you’re going to have hundreds! You need more money than me.
Hugo: Maybe we can buy them together. [He hands it back to her, but she takes a step away.]
Talia: I want you to have it. I’ll get other money someday.
[Hugo looks to Jean Arnaut for direction.]
Jean Arnaut: If she wants you to have it, Hugo. That’s a very generous gift.
Hugo: Thank you.
Talia: Maybe I can visit them?
Hugo: Yes, of course. They’ll be yours too.
Talia: We’ll grow them together!
[They both smile.]
Hugo: Sure. That’d be cool.
[Talia smiles at her Grandpa Sammy.]
Grandpa Sammy: It’s settled then. Looks like you have a business partner now, Talia. I predict a wonderful future for the both of you.
Jean Arnaut: That is very generous. Thank you. Talia, you are always welcome here with us. You are part of our family now. Come anytime.
Talia: Thank you.
Grandpa Sammy: Well, we best be heading back home now. It must be about time for lunch.
Jean Arnaut: You’re welcome to eat with us.
Grandpa Sammy: Thank you. That is very kind of you. I have a special diet I’m supposed to stick to. Nothing too exciting, but it keeps me going. We’ll see you around again, soon.
Jean Arnaut: Okay, thanks again. That was very nice. It makes me feel a lot better about Harmony now. You’ve restored my hope, Talia!
Hugo: Bye, Talia.
[Grandpa Sammy and Talia exit.]
Hugh: I’ve got it! I know what it is that Chloe wants.
Jean Arnaut: Yes?
Hugh: I’m going to propose. She’ll say yes. It’s obvious. We’ve always talked about getting married someday. That’s the rhetorical question! Will you marry me? Yes, of course I will! That’s the good answer. To a question that isn’t a question, because she and I already both know the answer. She wants to get married!
Jean Arnaut: Congratulations! My friend, this is wonderful news. I’m so happy for you, for both of you!
Hugh: Thank you! Oh, Chloe, it is so clear to me now what you’ve been wanting all along! How foolish I’ve been. You didn’t want apples, or peaches. You don’t care about handbags. You don’t want another pair of shoes. You want a ring! What better answer to the problems of life could there possibly be, than a promise of eternal love!
[End of Scene.]