‘No’ is a Key to Independence

I can like a parade; if I must. If someone else’s enjoyment requires me to go along, and they need, or want me to co-sign on that experience with them; I can do it. But I don’t like parades. Crowds make me uncomfortable. Loud noises annoy me. So much stimulation gives me a headache.

But we put up with these things, for others. Life teaches us to sacrifice, and we learn to think of others in addition to, or more than we think of ourselves. We grow up, we become adults, and we gain maturity. Sacrificing for others is one of the hallmarks of maturity. At first we may not like it. As children, our parents may make us consider a sibling’s feelings over our own; or as young adults we may be called upon to consider those less fortunate than us and to give of our surplus. We start off sacrificing through clenched teeth, grimacing; and we begin giving with clenched fists. Our conscience slowly prying our fingers open, as we continue to give and become mature.

Eventually, hopefully, we learn to give graciously, and we learn to enjoy it. We give joyfully. For instance, I can smile at a parade now; and most of the time I’m not even faking it. I’ve learned to overlook all of my discomforts and find joy in the things I like: focusing upon the happy children all about, the cute pets at my feet, the classic sports cars all in line, the silly costumes, and the candy. I can be pleasant at a parade; if I must.

Learning this kind of maturity is good. It helps us ‘play well with others’. But it isn’t without its dangers. I’ve met plenty of people who can get along and be a good neighbor, but who haven’t the foggiest idea what they really think, or what they really like. They know what they’re supposed to like, and they can say all the things they believe they should think. But the critical internal processes that lead a person to character traits like integrity and courage have become lost along the way. For many of us, this path to maturity has led us also into a befuddled confusion. We know how to get along with others, but we can’t get along with ourselves.

Knowing how to live with others takes maturity. Knowing how to live with ourselves takes wisdom.

I suspect we all know on some level, that in this process of ‘growing up’ we’ve lost something vital. Perhaps this is at the root of the widespread narcissism we see in our world today. Folks are desperately trying to find ‘their truth’, and live ‘their best lives’ although we haven’t the faintest idea what makes for truth, or a quality life. Furthermore, folks attempt to make others bend to their own desires, in hopes of living a good life.

We have gained maturity by learning to say ‘No’ to our selfishness, in favor of what others want (our parents would be proud). Now, I suspect we can gain wisdom by the same process.  By saying ‘No’ to the selfishness that is all around us, by saying ‘No’ to everything that would reduce us down to a means of fulfilling the desires of someone else, we find freedom. In this way, we can extricate ourselves from the web of confusion all around us, and we can discover truths that dwell deep within us. We grow independent of this greedy and manipulative world.   

We must say ‘No’ to simply being consumers, or becoming ‘brands’, for we are humans not corporations. We must say ‘No’ to having our spiritual humanity reduced to material commodities and economic units. We should say ‘No’ even to our friends and family members when they want to manipulate us, simply to satisfy their own desires, which may not be in our best interest.

At the root, maturity and wisdom both require discernment. ‘No’ is the excellent path to knowing. Saying ‘No’ builds inner strength and courage. Witnessing the external results which follow from saying ‘No’, helps us to gain discernment and attain wisdom. It is good to be mature, but it is excellent to be wise. Freedom and independence depend upon a healthy, discerning ability to say ‘No’!

~FS

If Software Engineers Ran The World

I recently ran updates on my computer. I knew I shouldn’t do it. Years of past experience told me that it was a dangerous and foolish thing to do. I’ve resisted their reminders for weeks now, maybe months, possibly even years. But in a moment of weakness I clicked on ‘update and then shut down’ when I turned off my computer the other day. I thought to myself: maybe this update is important, perhaps it was for my benefit—and I worried that if I kept ignoring it, then something bad might happen to me. I forgot, in a moment of dementia, that every other time I’ve ever updated my software in the past, it invariably has caused me untold angst, frustration, and despair as it surprisingly changes all the settings I’ve come to rely upon, or it adds new unexpected annoyances that pop-up and never go away. 

Computers can be useful tools. We can do lots of cool stuff with them. But the people who design the software that runs them should not be allowed to get near them again, once they finish their first version. Assuming their initial effort works satisfyingly well, software engineers should be locked out henceforth, and denied all further access to our machines. If they must ‘improve’ something, let them turn their efforts to improving their own relationships (don’t their kids need their moms or dads to toss a ball with them, or help them with their homework?), or they should be unleashed on some other aspect of life to ‘improve’, but not our computers. If the computer ain’t broke, please don’t ‘fix’ it.

At first this seems a good idea, but then, can you imagine what might happen if software engineers were unleashed upon other spheres of our lives? Let’s say you’re a carpenter and you build decks. You own a hammer that you enjoy using. Then all of a sudden the engineers come along and take your hammer and give you the new version. This one has a built-in fan that helps cool your hands in hot weather. But the damn thing breaks every time you try to hit a nail with it. The fan blades can’t take the impact. So a month later they’ve come up with a fix. It is a soft rubber cover that fits over the hammer-head so the fan blades won’t be jarred as you hammer. It works, the fan blades no longer break. But now the hammer isn’t hard, and it can’t set nails anymore, and the nail-heads tear through the rubber cover, shredding it, making it unusable. You try to find the first version of the hammer; the one you really liked that worked, but nobody sells it anymore and it isn’t supported.

Thankfully, hammer 3.0 just came out, so you buy that one. It sets nails again, and the fan seems to work without too much effort, though the batteries keep falling out the end of the hammer, but you fix that with duct tape. Everything is good, until your subscription expires. Who knew you had to have a subscription to use your hammer now! You think you can get away with it, so you keep hammering with it, but they have your credit card, and at the end of the month you get dinged for $278.50. It turns out they snuck a microchip into this version of your hammer that tabulates every use; so that every time you hit something with it, they charge you twenty-five cents, since you are using an unlicensed version. You really just want to build decks, but now you are spending all your time trying to figure out how to work with your hammer. You hire someone to hack the chip inside it, at the cost of $150. Now you’re back in business, until your saw breaks.

You have to buy a new one, nobody fixes the one you’ve been using. It was a good saw. But you get a new one and it cuts wood very nicely. The folks at the store show you how it works and its very efficient and you are glad you upgraded, though you still miss your old saw. But you’re about to make decks again, and that’s what you love to do. You unpack the saw but can’t make it work. It turns out there are two hidden buttons up inside the case that nobody told you about. They designed it that way because it looks cool and keeps the buttons from getting wet. But after several calls and a few hours of discussion, you and your buddies figure it out. You locate the buttons and you get the saw going. But the next day you can’t get the saw to work again, even after pressing the hidden buttons. You make a few more calls, but nobody can help you. They ask you to bring the saw into the store. After a few hours at the store, and several calls to the manufacturer, you discover that the day before you didn’t turn the saw off in the correct way; you just unplugged it, stupid. Of course it won’t work again if you do that! First—You have to press the button on the inner left side of the case when turning the saw off. Secondly—that other hidden button, you need to depress that while simultaneously unplugging the saw; this is a safety feature that is designed to help keep the software engineers employed.

On the way back to your jobsite you wonder if you are really a carpenter any longer, or are you becoming a tool technician instead? You’re learning a lot more about your tools than you ever wanted to know. You think, maybe you should give up building decks and just get into tool repair instead. Maybe if you just knuckle down and learn everything there is to know about your new hammer, and your new saw, then you can keep them working long enough to get back to building decks. But you’d really rather just be building decks and not spending all your time learning about the latest version of your tools. Sigh.

And then you think, what if these clowns designed everything?! We wouldn’t get anything done.

~FS

Like It Or Not: Final Scene

Scene 7:  [Campsite. The Visitors are breaking camp.]

Bernard:  Tell me, Jean Arnaut, where to now?

Jean Arnaut:  Finding our place grows more difficult with every passing year, it seems.

Bernard:  Although it has never been easy.

Jean Arnaut:  Maybe we’ll have to start selling peaches!

Bernard:  God forbid! We’re apple people.

Jean Arnaut:  It’s tough to teach old dogs new tricks. We’re just a dying breed, my friend. Human society is fast becoming a monoculture. We don’t fit in.

Bernard:  Only cultivated fields everywhere, and less and less wild ones.

Jean Arnaut:  And only the appearance of variety. Maybe young Hugo over there will figure it all out, what eludes us.

Bernard:  I’ll put my hope in the lad. And in his hopes of raising wild horses. Maybe he’ll find a way to make life work.

[Hugh and Chloe enter.]

Jean Arnaut:  What’s this? Another young man full of hope?! And it appears his hopes have been fulfilled!

Hugh:  Jean Arnaut! Yes! I’ve never formally introduced you two. I would like to introduce my fiancé, Chloe!

Jean Arnaut:  Fiancé?! Marvelous! Congratulations to the both of you! This is very hopeful indeed!

Chloe:  It’s always wisest to put our hopes in deeds. Since people’s words alone are almost always disappointing.

Jean Arnaut:  I’ve been plenty disappointed by people’s deeds as well. But now is no time for an old man’s cynicisms. We have a wedding upcoming! And new adventures await us! Where will you two be going now?

Hugh:  If it is alright with all of you, we would like to join you, and travel the world together!

Jean Arnaut:  Of course! We always welcome new friends! You both are very welcome to join us! Although, I should warn you, our path is not an easy one.

Bernard:  It will certainly put your vows to the test, especially the part about richer and poorer.

Jean Arnaut:  But what we lack in money, we gain in character and empathy. We love one another unfeigned, with nothing to gain and nothing to lose!

Hugh: We can do that!

Bernard:  Life often has a way of ignoring our preferences. Can you live with that?

Hugh:  Chloe, you once said you’d prefer to be rich, rather than poor.

Chloe:  As long as I’m with you, I don’t care either way.

Jean Arnaut:  Though that sentiment is often easier expressed when one is wealthy, rather than poor. What about you, Hugh? Would you feel the same about Chloe is she were poor, as you would if she were rich?

Hugh:  Yes, either way!

Chloe:  Hugh! Now that’s a good answer!

Hugh:  Finally! And I wasn’t even trying.

Chloe:  And what about all of you? How did you feel about our little town of Harmony?

Hugo:  I liked it!

Jean Arnaut:  I didn’t much care for it. But that’s life, like it or not!

[The End.]

~FS

Like It Or Not: Act 2: Scene 6

Scene 6:  [Marion is outside her house. Hugh enters carrying two boxes.]

Marion:  [Calling to Chloe inside the house.] Chloe! Hugh is here. It looks like he has something for you!

Chloe:  [Yelling from inside.]  What is it? It better not be from a fruit stand!

Marion:  No, it’s in a box. Two boxes!

Chloe:  [Pokes her head through the door.] Really?! Two? That’s certainly better than one.

Marion:  They look from a department store! [Worried. Whispering to Hugh.] Did you pick them out yourself? Oh, dear.

Chloe:  [Walking towards Hugh.] Did you pick those out yourself?

Hugh:  I had some help from the lady at the store.

Chloe:  Oh, that’s a relief. That gives me greater confidence.

Hugh:  I’m certain you’ll like them. Well, I hope you do. [He hands the boxes to her.] Here, open them!

Chloe:  I’m a little nervous. It could be anything. And so much depends on this. But you did say that you got help, so, that’s really good news.

Marion:  Open it already! I’m dying of suspense.

Chloe:  I will, mother! Okay. [She opens the first box and pulls out a handbag.] Oh, thank God!

Marion:  What a relief!

Chloe:  It’s beautiful. I love it!

Marion:  Open the next one!

Chloe:  I will! I have much greater hope now. I wonder what it is?! [She opens the second box and pulls out a pair of shoes.] They’re exactly the ones I saw that girl wearing! They’re perfect!

Marion:  Well done, Hugh! You did it.

Chloe:  Yes, you did it Hugh! Finally! I love them. And I love you!  

[She embraces and kisses him.]

Hugh:  You do, Chloe! Do you mean it?

Chloe:  Of course! I’ve always loved you, I’ve never stopped loving you. I don’t think I could stop loving you, Hugh. But it is much easier to express my love, now that you’ve given me such lovely gifts! Getting new shoes always makes my love flow freely!

Hugh:  I could never stop loving you either, Chloe!  I just have one question, Chloe. Why did you tell me to bring you a good answer?

Chloe: A good answer? I never said that.

Hugh:  Yes, I remember it exactly.

Chloe:  But that doesn’t make any sense. Ha! What would be the question then? Did you even think about that?!  Hugh, what would I care about answers, good or bad, or about questions?

Hugh:  But you told me all along that I had to have an answer for you. You forbade me seeing you until I had a ‘good answer’!

Chloe:  Silly boy. There you go again! You’re so literal sometimes. You pay far too much attention to what I say, and not nearly enough attention to what I mean.

Hugh:  But Chloe, how can I know what you mean, except by what you say? 

Chloe:  What people say almost never has anything to do with what they mean, Hugh. Especially about important things. I’m surprised you don’t know that.

Hugh:  That explains so much.

Chloe:  Oh Hugh! Why must we ever talk about important things? I think unimportant things are so much more interesting. Besides, you’re much more attractive when you’re speaking about unimportant things!

Hugh:  I love speaking about unimportant things with you, Chloe. [They kiss.]

Chloe:  I know. That is also what I love about you. Triviality makes you adorable, and I always want to adore you, Hugh.

Hugh:  Then I will always strive to be as trivial as I can possibly be, my dear Chloe. I will make myself utterly trivial for you. Only promise, to never stop loving me. The world is so dull and tasteless without your love. [They embrace and kiss again.]

[End of Scene.]

~FS

Like It Or Not: Act 2: Scene 5

Scene 5:  [Town-square market. Peachsellers and Customers are selling and buying. Health Workers are helping people. Everyone wears rubber gloves, some green, some blue, some with one color on one hand and the other color on the other hand. Some also are wearing swim goggles and nose plugs and everyone is wearing one of the new ‘Juice Buddy’ head-gear trays. Grandpa Sammy and Talia are sitting on the steps eating peaches, wearing only their ‘Juice Buddies’. Many people have ‘I support swim-gear while eating!’ shirts on. Jace and Matilda Hawkins enter wearing ‘Juice Buddies’ and shirts.]

Matilda Hawkins:  Harmony really is a model town, mister Mayor. I have to admit I never would have imagined such community support and participation with many of these measures which you and the council have implemented.

Jace:  I’ve never been prouder, Miss Hawkins. If I were a more sentimental man, I might be crying.

Matilda Hawkins:  How long do you expect these protocols to stay in place?

Jace:  Tough to say, we may just keep some of them forever. Look at the spirit everyone is displaying. Besides that, the Health Workers informed me that article 22 of the state health code was recently enacted by them, so it’s out of my hands now.

Matilda Hawkins:  That sounds vaguely familiar. That gives them authority over health protocols during public health emergencies, is that right?

Jace:  I can’t say I mind it. Takes the blame off me, we just have to go along with whatever they tell us now. The nice thing about it is that nobody has to be accountable. It lowers the risk for all of us.

Matilda Hawkins:  That is convenient.

Jace:  Very. Makes my job a whole lot easier.

[Tommy and Duncan Collins are sitting at Tommy’s stand wearing ‘Juice Buddies’, goggles and nose plugs.]

Tommy Collins:  Oh, these things are driving me nuts! Why can’t we stop all of this? Heck, I started it all. There aren’t even any pesticides or fungus, we just made that all up!

Duncan Collins:  It’s ironic isn’t it? We started it, but everyone else is running with it. And they like it now.

Tommy Collins:  But there isn’t a threat! There never was. We made it all up to get rid of those apple people. And then to jack up the prices for Jolene and Penelope. Heck, now we aren’t even going to win that contract with the fancy dresser. Nobody has any idea where his wife got that peach. What’s the point of it all? It’s depressing.

Duncan Collins:  Like it or not, we all have to live with it now. It’s out of our hands.

Tommy Collins: It’s damn annoying!

[Jolene McCue and Penelope Lind are wearing rubber gloves and selling their peaches. They also have ‘Juice Buddies’ on.]

Jolene McCue:  Penelope dear, doesn’t it warm your heart to see everyone looking out for each other like we are? It just proves to me that people are good.

Penelope Lind:  Yes, people are certainly good at all sorts of things. And some are better than others.

Jolene McCue:  Oh, that’s a horrible thing to say. You better watch out, you’ll get us in trouble!

Penelope Lind:  I just mean that some of us are better at getting our own way. Some people are good at looking out for themselves, but also making it seem they are looking out for others.

Jolene McCue:  Oh, hush! That’s just living life. We all have to get by, like it or not. We did what we had to, don’t go getting a conscience on my now. If we didn’t force Tommy to sell those silly goggles, he’d have run us out of business. Besides, they protect people’s eyes from peach juice! That can really sting. We did everyone a favor.

Penelope Lind:  You’re right. Things do seem safer now. It turned out to be what we all needed.

Jolene McCue:  We live in Harmony, remember that dear. We look out for one another.

[Jean Arnaut and the other Visitors arrive and set up their apple stand. Everyone watches in surprise, frozen and waiting to see what will happen.]

Jean Arnaut:  Good people of Harmony! We’re back! Come and taste the best apples in the world, if you dare! Come enjoy a crisp, refreshing alternative to your peaches. And we have rubber gloves, for those of you so inclined. We have gloves for your every hand! You may even wear them on your feet, if you like. We won’t judge!

Jace:  Friends! I thought I was very clear, we’ll have no apples here in Harmony. Now, you need to pack your stand back up and skedaddle. We don’t want to make a scene.

Jean Arnaut:  We’re only interested in making a living, mister Mayor.

Jace:  And nobody is stopping you. Just not here. Now let’s pack it up. Just a little misunderstanding, folks! Don’t worry. They’ll be moving along now!

Jean Arnaut:  This isn’t right, mister Mayor.

Jace:  Come on now, what do you have to prove, Jean Arnaut? Why would you even want to stay where you aren’t wanted? Isn’t it better for everyone if you go?

Jean Arnaut:  It may not be better for the people who want apples. But I have nothing to prove, mister Mayor. I just want to live.

Jace: And you’re free to live, Jean Arnaut. Just not here.

Jean Arnaut:  Is anyone free to live anymore, here in Harmony, mister Mayor?

Jace:  Life is good, my friend. Life is good in Harmony. We all like it here. But it’s not for everyone.

Jean Arnaut:  I think I understand that now. You’re right, mister Mayor. It’s not for me. We’re leaving! Good people of Harmony, you win! We will go!  [He motions to the others and they pack up and exit. Hugo returns and runs up to Talia. He is carrying wildflowers.]

Hugo:  Talia!

Talia:  Hi Hugo!

Hugo:  We’re leaving Harmony. I didn’t expect it. But we’re going to break up camp now, and leave. I wanted to get you something. I just picked these. I’m sorry they aren’t nicer. [Hands the flowers to her.]

Talia:  Thank you! They’re so pretty.

Hugo:  They aren’t much. I’m sorry. I have to go. Don’t forget me! [He kisses her, turns and runs offstage.]

Grandpa Sammy:  It looks like you have an admirer, Talia.

[She sits, smiles at Grandpa Sammy, and happily examines the flowers.]

Grandpa Sammy:  I’ll bet good money that you haven’t seen the last of Hugo. He’ll be back to find you again someday. I’ve seen this story before.

[Terrence Cobb enters with his wife, Olivia Cobb. They are both very well dressed.]

Terrence Cobb:  Matilda, I would like to introduce you to my wife, Olivia. Olivia this is our brilliant scientist, Matilda Hawkins, who has helped us tremendously in our search for your peaches.

Matilda Hawkins:  I’m so pleased to finally get to meet you Mrs Cobb. Please forgive me that I haven’t been able to find a match between the peach you had, and any of these at the market. Your peach simply wasn’t from any of these vendors.

Olivia Cobb:  It’s so odd. I’m sure I got it here. It was such a busy day though. I can’t really remember. [She looks around the square at the various stands.] I remember these, I think. [Walking to Tommy’s stand.] Yes, I remember you.

Tommy Collins:  Hello, ma’am.

Olivia Cobb:  But I didn’t buy peaches from you. I remember now. I was walking towards those stands over there. [She sees Talia and Grandpa Sammy sitting on the steps.] Wait a moment! Little girl. Hello. Do you remember me?

Talia:  Yes.

Olivia Cobb:  Did we sit together right here?

[Talia nods.]

Olivia Cobb:  Yes, that’s right. I remember. I saw you as I was walking across the square, just like I did now. And you were eating a peach. I sat down with you.

Talia:  My grandpa’s peach!

Olivia Cobb:  Oh, really?! Is this your grandpa? I don’t think we met last time I was here.

Grandpa Sammy:  Glad to meet you. Sammy. And this is Talia.

Olivia Cobb:  A pleasure. Do you mind if I sit down with you again?

Talia:  Sure!

[Olivia sits beside Talia.]

Olivia Cobb:  Did you give me a peach?

[Talia nods.]

Olivia Cobb:  Yes, you did! Of course you did. You and I ate right here, and you told me all about your animals. You have a cat.

Talia:  Billy!

Olivia Cobb:  That’s right. Billy the cat! You know, I’ve been trying to remember where I got that peach, it was so delicious.

Talia:  Would you like another one? Here. [She reaches into a bag next to her grandpa.] We grow them ourselves.

Olivia Cobb: Thank you very much!

Health Worker #2:  Um, miss. If you are going to bite into that, could you please put this on. [Hands Olivia a ‘Juice Buddy’.] Thank you. Sorry for the inconvenience.

[Olivia dons the Juice Buddy and tastes the peach.]

Olivia Cobb:  Oh, yes. Yes, this is it. Terrence, this is definitely the same peach I had here before!

Terrence Cobb:  You found it!

Olivia Cobb:  Yes, I think so! I’m sure of it. Oh, Talia. I like your grandpa’s peaches very much, thank you for sharing them with me.

Talia:  You’re welcome.

Grandpa Sammy:  We have a lot more where that came from. We don’t sell much anymore. I’m getting too tired for all that. But we used to sell a whole bunch of them back when I was younger.

Olivia Cobb:  What if my husband and I were able to supply you with all the labor that you need? Would you sell your peaches to us? You wouldn’t have to do a thing. We’ll take care of everything. Just name your price, and we’ll do the rest.

Grandpa Sammy:  That’s very generous of you. It would be a good thing. It could set up Talia the right way. I’m not going to be around forever to take care of her. She’ll need to take care of herself.

Olivia Cobb:  She’s just a little girl. She can’t take care of herself.

Talia:  Yes, I can!

Grandpa Sammy:  She’s pretty resourceful. You’d be surprised!

Olivia Cobb:  But still, how old are you honey?

Talia:  Six and three-quarters. Almost seven.

Olivia Cobb:  Almost seven? You are a big girl. I stand corrected. Still, even seven year olds need help sometimes. I even need help sometimes.

Talia:  How old are you?!

Olivia Cobb:  Older than seven!

Talia:  I like you.

Olivia Cobb:  Oh! How darling. Thank you. I like you too, very much. I can tell you are a very smart, and pretty girl.

Talia:  I am.

Olivia Cobb:  I can tell that you and I are going to be very good friends. I’m going to learn a lot from a clever girl like you!

Talia:  Yes. I’ll teach you everything I know.

Olivia Cobb:  Wonderful! I can’t wait!

[End of Scene.]

~FS

Like It Or Not: Act 2: Scenes 3-4.

Scene 3: [Town council meeting: The Mayor and other Councilmembers sit at the front. Peachsellers, Duncan Collins, Terrence Cobb, Matilda Hawkins, Jean Arnaut, and Three Health Workers sit in the audience.]

Jace:  Before continuing with the next order of business I would just like to take a brief moment to congratulate all of you, the people of Harmony, for really coming together these past several weeks. I know it hasn’t always been easy, but your community spirit has been an inspiration. Look at what we’ve accomplished together, we successfully drove out the apple sellers and kept the integrity of our peach festival intact! That alone merits some applause, but beyond that, together we’ve also been tackling the health issues affecting our peaches. These protocols haven’t been easy on any of us but they’ve been worth it! Granted, they haven’t had any effect on the actual spread of peach fungus in any tangible way, and many of us aren’t completely sure why we’re doing it all, but more important than that, it has broken down the divisions between us. We are working in unity now against a common enemy, and it has made us all better people. We wear our rubber gloves, our goggles and our nose plugs proudly, and by these things we all know that we are citizens of Harmony! There may be a small cost to pay for these measures, in money and in comfort, but what we are gaining is priceless!

[Several cheers, and applause.]

Jolene McCue:  Dear, I’d like to add something if I may?

Councilmember Three:  Yes, please approach the microphone and state your name.

Jolene McCue:  My name is Jolene McCue, I’m the mayor’s wife. I agree with what the mayor has said however, I don’t think we’ve gone far enough. I’m encouraged, very encouraged, by the way that everyone has really gotten behind these protocols, such as wearing goggles and nose plugs while eating peaches, and I’m very appreciative of all the Health Workers who have descended upon our little town to help us all out. But I feel as though, for many of us, there is still a bit of a disconnect, it’s as though our hearts aren’t really in it. I’d like to see more genuine spirit in our efforts. Voluntarily. I’m wondering if we could implement a few more measures to help us all make the extra effort, and inspire us to greater conformity, no, I mean more uniformity of purpose!

[Several people clap.]

Councilmember One:  This is really great to hear. Thank you Jolene. I for one would find this sort of thing very inspirational!

Councilmember Four:  What if we had pins made that said, “I’m proud to wear the gloves.” Or something like that?

Councilmember Three:  That’s good. And bumperstickers that say, “I support swim-gear  while eating!” We could make shirts too!

Jolene McCue:  Exactly! Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. If I saw people wearing pins like that, and cars with bumperstickers, or shirts that said that, I’d feel so much more supported in my own efforts. I think it could really help.

Councilmember Three:  I’m all in! All in favor of making and distributing these inspiring pins, shirts and bumperstickers, say Aye!

Jace and other Councilmembers:  Aye!

Councilmember Three:  All opposed?

Councilmember Two:  No!

Jace:  Always a naysaying Nellie, aren’t you?! Approved! Let’s get those made and distributed right away. Good thinking everyone!

[Applause.]

Jace:  Okay, the next item on the agenda is hearing from Matilda Hawkins with any updates on the source of that peach. I know we’re all dying to hear the results of her testing!

Health Worker #1:  Mister Mayor, I apologize for interrupting but we have something important to say, and I think now would be a good time for us to do that. Before you move on to Miss Hawkins.

Jace:  Oh, well. That’s a little unusual, but I don’t see any harm in that. Okay, please proceed.

[All three Health Workers come forward to the microphone.]

Health Worker #3:  We agree that everyone has been doing a really good job wearing their gloves and everything. But as your health care overseers we are going to need to implement a further measure to help ensure the public safety. We had a very scary event happen just the other day, in which a customer slipped and fell, and nearly died! It was peach juice that had escaped somehow, and landed on the ground. Fortunately this customer was okay, and they were able to get up and walk away on their own, but it clearly demonstrated to all of us, just how fine the line is between health and something terrible happening.

[Crowd nods in agreement, several outbursts of approval.]

Health Worker #2:  Fortunately, we three have been working on a solution to this problem.

[They pull out a head-gear similar to those used in orthodontics, with a tray connected to it.] We’ve invented a tray that goes over the head like this [Putting it on as a demonstration.] with a tray that sits just below the mouth like so. Once you have it in place you are able to eat a peach, or anything that’s juicy for that matter, without concern because the tray will catch any juice that accidently escapes your mouth as you’re eating. Watch as I eat this peach. [Demonstrating.]

Health Worker #1:  Notice how the tray catches the juice?

Jace:  I’m just not sure I want to wear a funky spittle-tray every time I eat a peach!

Health Worker #3:  It’s not a spittle-tray, mister Mayor. We call them ‘Juice Buddies’. It’s a simple juice buddy that catches juice, which you’re then free to drink after you finish eating, or you can dispose of the juice from the tray into the accompanying ‘Juice Jammer’ which is basically just a disposable baggie.

Jace:  I see. So this Juice Buddy contraption is just to keep peach juice from falling on the ground? That’s it?

Health Worker #3:  It isn’t simply peach juice. We in the health profession call it biohazardous material. It’s peach juice while it remains inside your mouth, but the moment it hits a public surface, it becomes a public hazard, and a public concern.

Health Worker #1:  That’s right. It’s no longer a private matter between you and your fruit. It becomes a community matter that involves all of us.

Councilmember One:  This makes sense to me. I just hadn’t thought about it before.

Councilmember Four:  It does seem to be a bigger problem than I had realized. You say that someone nearly died from this?

Health Worker #3:  That’s correct, councilmember.

Councilmember Four:  Well, then, isn’t this a no-brainer? I mean we have to do something about this!

Health Worker #3:  As we’ve said, fortunately we have been on this problem proactively and we’ve already got a manufacturer, who has already made several hundred of our Juice Buddies and Juice Jammers, and we can have them delivered to Harmony, express, and they will arrive later today. And we will place an order for several thousand more, to get us all through the peach season. Those could be here as early as next week. They’ll only cost the city $20 per unit, that’s a 25% savings under retail, since we are purchasing bulk.

Councilmember One:  Frankly, I’m relieved! I think this is a really important issue. I want to say that I really appreciate your foresight about this matter. That seems like a fair price too.

Councilmember Four:  I agree. Thank you!

Jace:  I’m still not too thrilled about wearing one of those contraptions just to eat a peach!

Councilmember Three:  Mayor! It’s for the good of the community. What were you just saying?!

Jace:  I know, I know. You’re right. Okay, all in favor of Juice Buddies and Juice Jammers say Aye!

Councilmembers: Aye!

Jace:  Against?

Councilmember Two:  No!

Jace:  Of course. Approved! Let’s get these things out there pronto, for the public safety.

Health Workers:  Thank you, mister Mayor! Thank you, council! [They high-five each other.]

Jace:  You’re welcome. Okay, now let’s hear from Miss Hawkins about the origin of that peach. Who is going to be the lucky grower?!

Matilda Hawkins:  Mister Mayor, councilmembers, I regret to say that I have conclusive results now. However, none of your peach stands produced a match with the original peach that Mrs Cobb purchased. Her peach didn’t come from any of your orchards. None of you are going to be the lucky winner.

Jace:  What!? No winner!? This is anarchy, how many times do I have to say it?! No, it’s worse. It’s communism! That’s what this is! I’m piping mad!

Matilda Hawkins:  Our labs have done extensive testing. Every conceivable genetic test, as well as testing for trace elements found in the soils of your individual orchards, comparing with trace minerals found in the original sample. We even looked into the water supply in your orchards and there are some unique characteristics found in Mrs Cobb’s original peach which aren’t found in any of the other peaches from your orchards, nor in the water used to irrigate your trees.  There is simply no match. I’m sorry.

Jace:  Dunbar?! Where’s that Dunbar Collins? There he is, what do you have to say about this?!

Duncan Collins:  I’m sorry, mister Mayor. But my lab wasn’t able to get any sample material from the original peach to do any testing.

Jace:  Get some from Miss Hawkins! Miss Hawkins give some of that peach to Dunbar here so we can get a second opinion! We need a second opinion.

Duncan Collins: Unfortunately, it’s too late. There isn’t any more available, it all was used up. Even if there was any left, that material would be expired now. We couldn’t use it even if we wanted to.  

Matilda Hawkins:  He’s correct, mister Mayor. I’m sorry.

Jace:  Anarchy, anarchy, anarchy. And communism too. Unbelievable! What a mess.

Duncan Collins:  While we’re on the topic of testing, my lab did find high levels of pesticides in the apples being sold by Mr Arnaut and his gang. This is in contradiction to Miss Hawkin’s findings that their apples were clean.

Jace:  Ha! I knew it. At least that’s some good news.

Jean Arnaut:  That’s impossible! We don’t use any pesticides. It’s a lie.

Duncan Collins:  You’re the liar, Mr Arnaut!

Jean Arnaut:  Never! But fine, let’s say you found pesticides! So what?! Even if our apples had pesticides, which they don’t, but even if they did. Just make people wear gloves like they’re doing at the other stands.

Councilmember Two:  That’s a fair point. Why don’t we just do that? Let them sell their apples, as long as people wear rubber gloves and clean the apples, like we’re doing with the peaches.

Jace:  Where’s the fairness in that?

Councilmember Two:  I think that would be the definition of fairness.

Jace:  Well, life isn’t fair! Live with it. Anarchy!

Councilmember Two:  Why should we have one set of rules for the peach growers and another set for the apple growers? That isn’t right.

Jace:  They’re not the same thing! Can’t you see that? Apples aren’t peaches, are you blind?!

Councilmember Two:  What’s the difference?

Jace:  Completely different fruit!

Councilmember Two:  Obviously! But what is the material difference between them, related to this argument? Why can peaches be sold with pesticides on them, but not apples?

Jace:  Science! That’s why. I’m done with this. We’re not bringing back the apples and that’s final. I’m the mayor and I’m invoking my executive privilege. Some lines just can’t be crossed, and this is one of them. End of discussion! No apples at a peach festival. No apples in Harmony. No apples, no apples, no apples! Like it or not!

[End of Scene.]

Scene 4: [Chloe and Marion are outside their home.] 

Chloe:  Is Hugh ever going to figure it out?! How long do I have to wait for him?

Marion:  How long are you willing to wait?

Chloe:  For Hugh, I could wait forever.

Marion:  Good, that was going to be my answer.

Chloe:  Why is it so difficult?!

Marion:  I like Hugh. I like him a lot, Chloe. He is perfect for you dear, but he isn’t very bright.

Chloe:  I know. I wouldn’t like him if he was very bright. But I don’t want him to be very dim either. When it comes to intelligence, I want him to be perfectly average.

Marion:  That’s Hugh.

Chloe:  But when it comes to understanding me, he needs to be perfectly brilliant.

Marion:  That’s a lot to ask of anyone, dear. And certainly too much to ask of Hugh, I think. Poor boy!

[Hugh enters.]

Chloe:  Oh, no! It’s Hugh! [Chloe runs into the house, and hides just inside the door.] Tell him I’m not home!

Marion:  I think he already saw you.

Chloe:  Make something up!

Marion:  Good morning, Hugh.

Hugh:  Hello, Marion. I need to see Chloe. I have something for her. Well, I have a question for her. A question that isn’t a question. If you know what I mean. [He winks.]

Marion:  Oh, dear. I’m afraid I do.

Chloe:  [Whispering to her mother through the door.] What question? What is he talking about?

Hugh:  And I suspect that we all know what her answer will be as well. If you know what I mean. [He winks again.]

Marion:  I’m not sure that I do.

Chloe:  [Whispering.] Answer to what? What’s the question?

Hugh:  So. Can I see her?

Marion:  Um. She isn’t home right now, Hugh. I can give her a message if you like.

Hugh:  But I saw her run inside as I was walking up to the house. I swear that was her.

Marion:  Oh, that girl? That was my helper. She helps me clean. She was just leaving to go home.

Hugh:  But she ran inside your house.

Marion:  She had to get her jacket, and her purse.

Hugh:  Why hasn’t she come back out?

Marion:  She went out the back door. Her house is that way. Out the back.

Hugh:  Oh. That’s strange. She looked so much like Chloe.

Marion:  Everyone says that. I’m always getting that from people. It’s like I have two daughters! Twins! Ha!

Hugh:  Darn. It’s such a shame. I got her something I know she’ll love. It’s exactly what she’s been wanting.

Chloe:  [Coming out of the house.] Oh, Hugh! What are you doing here? I had no idea you were here.

Marion:  Oh my goodness! Where did you come from, Chloe?! When did you get home?

Chloe:  I just did. I came in through the back.

Hugh:  Did you see the cleaning lady?

Chloe:  What? Oh, yes. She was just leaving as I arrived. Why are you here? Do you have something for me?

Hugh:  Yes, as a matter of fact. I do. Um. Marion, would you mind if Chloe and I had some…

Marion:  I’ll just go inside. I have some things to do in the house. I’ll leave you both alone.

[She goes inside and listens just inside the door.]

Hugh:  Chloe, I want to first apologize for taking so long to figure this out.

Chloe:  You really did take a long time, Hugh. I was afraid you’d never figure it out.

Hugh:  But you really set a difficult riddle for me to solve.

Chloe:  But you finally did solve it! I’m so pleased, I am sure I’m going to like it quite a lot!

Hugh:  Yes! Well, are you ready?

Chloe:  I’ve been ready for several weeks now, Hugh. Can we move it along a little faster?

Hugh:  Yes, of course. [He pulls out the ring, and kneels.] Chloe, will you marry me?!

Chloe:  Marry you?! You got me a ring?! I can’t believe it.

Hugh:  I know, it’s magnificent, isn’t it? I can hardly believe it myself. But Chloe, tell me. What is your good answer?

Chloe:  My good answer?! I can’t believe you got me a ring! Why would you think to propose while we’re right in the middle of a fight?

Hugh:  But Chloe, it’s a rhetorical question. We both know the answer. We’ve always talked about getting married. I figured it out, your riddle. This is what you wanted!

Chloe:  You haven’t figured out anything! Hugh, you may be a lot dumber than I thought. And I’m trying to say that in the nicest way possible.

Hugh:  I’ll try to take it that way. I just thought…

Chloe:  No, you didn’t think at all, Hugh. How could you have thought?! You are so frustrating! I can’t talk to you right now.

[She turns and runs into the house. Marion barely avoids being run over. Marion comes outside.]

Hugh:  That didn’t go at all as I expected.

Marion:  I’m sorry.

Hugh:  What did I do wrong, Marion? I was certain that was the good answer, and the question that wasn’t a question. I assumed she and I both knew the answer. It was rhetorical. It was obvious she’d say yes. But she didn’t. She got very angry.

Marion:  Hugh. I was told not to give you any hints. So I’m not going to give you any. But this whole situation has gone on long enough. I can’t take it anymore. So I’m just going to tell you outright, exactly what the girl wants. She wants new shoes, and a handbag. Just get her a purse and some shoes, for the love of God. Please!

Hugh:  No, that can’t be…

Marion:  Yes! Yes it is! Yes. New shoes! A new purse! That’s it, that’s exactly it. That’s all it is. That’s all she wants! Come on, Hugh. Please. You can do it! For all of our sakes, just do it already!

Hugh:  I’m surprised.

Marion:  Of course you are, dear. I understand. Chloe is very surprising, you’ve said it yourself. I know. But there it is. She’s a girl of simple wants and needs. You should be glad.

Hugh:  I am. I’m very glad, Marion! If that’s the answer, I am more glad than you’ll ever imagine. Certainly, I can buy Chloe new shoes and a handbag. And I will, right now. I’m going right now to buy them. Thank you Marion. Thank you so much. I just wish I understood what she meant by a good answer and a question that isn’t a question. That is even more baffling now than it was before.

Marion:  Hugh, dear. Let it go. It doesn’t matter. You know what she wants, you know what you need to do. Make us all happy now. Just go shopping!

[End of Scene.]

~FS

Our Post-Misinformation Age

In our current age of abject subjectivity, isn’t it high time that we do away, once and for all, with this idea of misinformation or disinformation? As if any of us can objectively say what is true or not? Sheesh! Even if we can say something objectively, should we? Surely that would be in bad taste, perhaps even be rude, certainly presumptuous; maybe even immoral? How dare any of us be so bold? It isn’t neighborly. That’s for certain.

So, in the interest of maintaining a thoroughly subjective mindset, let us all apply the possessive pronouns of our choice to the information we believe in, and propagate to others. Because we cannot know objectively what is misinformation or disinformation, which would be akin to knowing what is true, and that’s a lot like magic. It definitely has no business in our modern era; where everyone is allowed, even compelled to assert their subjective reality upon everyone else. Especially if you invoke the word: ‘science’. That is extra magical; no matter if it actually follows a scientific method. The word itself is numinous and awe-inspiring!

For my part, I’m going to heretofore believe in me/my/mine information, and I’m going to treat as suspect you/your information, and I’m going to downright scoff at they/them/their information. We are entering a bold new world, post-misinformation age. Now it is the age of personal pronoun information. Let’s be honest, none of us have the objectivity needed to call something misinformation, let’s just call it what it is: its either me/my/mine, you/yours or they/them/theirs.

I suggest you just believe in me/my/mine information, it will save us all a lot of time.

~FS

Like It Or Not: Act 2: Scenes 1-2

ACT II:

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?

Talia: Ten.

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.

Talia:  Wow!

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!

Talia:  Yum!

[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!

[They smile.]

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.

Hugh:  No.

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.

Hugo:  Hello.

Talia:  Hi.

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!

Talia:  Bye!

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.]

~FS

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.]

~FS