Romance Script posted June 27, 2021 Chapters:  ...8 9 -10- 11... 


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The Plumbs Prepare For Guests

A chapter in the book Genius in Love

Genius In Love, Scene 10

by Jay Squires

Book of the Month Contest Winner 
The author has placed a warning on this post for language.

 

Reader Note: To put yourself fully into this scene, why not drop down to the Youtube Video as soon as you begin the dialogue. (I suggest you turn your computer volume to 50 %.) Leave it on, quietly in the background as you read. That’s how Cornelius would be playing it if you were in his living room—or sitting in the audience.
           One more thing: I must confess that the caustic “foul” language I put in the characters’ mouths does not come easily to me. I use it, I hope, to show the heightened levels of anger and frustration experienced by the characters. Please allow me that and forgive me in advance if I offend you.

Thumbnail Sketch of Last Scene: Cornelius and Jennie sit on a large flat boulder to the rear of the playground where they share their lunch hour. Cililla stands behind them, unseen by Jennie. They are uneasy being together. Jennie does all the talking, while Cornelius stares into space munching the sandwich from his bag. She haltingly tries to get him to trade half-sandwiches; however, Cornelius awkwardly, but decidedly refuses. Later, when she apologizes for not defending him when he was being bullied the day before, he trades his half-sandwich with her. He tells her she can call him Cornie.

CHARACTERS:

Cornelius Plumb: [Not Physically in this scene] An autistic, musical genius child, age 12. 

Toloache [Pron: Toh-loh-AH-chee] Plumb: Cornelius’s mother; former off-Broadway actress and bit player in daytime soaps, she now owns a small, borderline-successful acting studio. She glows with love for her son and protects him with much the same fierce devotion and duty as a knight would protect his kingdom.

Howard Plumb: Cornelius’s father; Enormously successful founder and C.E.O of a Fortune 500 company. Highly intelligent, he is emotionally distant from his wife and entirely dismissive of his son. He recognizes his wife as a social asset but Cornelius as an embarrassment and a social detriment.

SETTING: Plumb family living room. Opulently furnished, there are the trappings of wealth everywhere. Long, plush couch, center stage. Stage left, a large, gleaming grand piano placed at an angle so the audience cannot see the piano keys. Across from the piano, stage right, a door opening to another room.

AT RISE: Unseen, and in another room (the music practice room) CORNELIUS can be heard playing. [see video, below. For the full effect you should click on the video now (at 50% volume) and imagine Cornelius playing the piano in the other room.] HOWARD and TOLOACHE sit some distance apart on the couch. Both are enjoying the music for a full minute, without speaking.

TOLOACHE:
(Eyes closed, a lingering smile)
I can’t even tell you how blessed that makes me feel right now.

HOWARD:
(Shoots her a withering look, but seeing it was wasted on her closed eyes, he recovers)
Well … the boy’s good, I’ll give you that. The lessons are turning out to be a decent return on investment.

TOLOACHE:
(Popping open her eyes and studying him, wearily)
Are turning out? You are kidding. No, you’re not! Howard, the teacher came for five one-hour, weekly lessons. Taught him the scale, how to read music, and by the third lesson he said that he, the teacher, was being taught technique, the nuances of timing and rhythm, just by listening to and observing Cornelius. After the fifth lesson he told me that in all good conscience, he couldn’t continue taking money for further lessons. He ended up gifting Cornelius the portfolios of three great composers, kissed him on both cheeks, and I’ve never seen the man since.

HOWARD:
He’s probably out raking the gutters for punk change. He’ll never make a success of it by throwing away business.

TOLOACHE:
I’m going to tell you something you’ll never understand.

HOWARD:
Spare me!

TOLOACHE:
There are people out in the unwashed world who don’t give a shit for Fortune 500 status. 

HOWARD:
Pity that! And to think we 500 achieve our status while leaving giant footprints on the backs and shoulders of the millions of lesser ones.

TOLOACHE:
Jesus!—And he says it with such pride!

(feigns sticking her finger down her throat and mimicing a gagging response)

HOWARD:
You damn right I’m proud!

(Recovers, smiles, and places a forefinger across his lips; smiling, and then, glancing furtively, right and left, he whispers)
Shhhhhhh. And now I’m going to tell you something you’ll never understand. The world, my dear Toley, is made up of hunchbacks—like the piano teacher—so stoop-shouldered from scrabbling through the gutters and alleyways for quarters, dimes, and pennies, that they make their backs easy stepping stones for our footprints on our way to the top.
(Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath through his nose)
Just breathe in the sweet fragrance up here, Toley. Go ahead, take a whiff! After all, you’re privileged to be up here with me.

TOLOACHE:
You asshole!  It's me you're talking to .... Don't you ever call it a privilege!

HOWARD:
So, I gather you won’t want me here tonight.

(Pulls up his sleeve to reveal his watch)
I still have time to meet with Jeffrey over next week’s merger strategies.

TOLOACHE:
Another all-nighter. Ha! Whatever the hell brings you joy, Howard. I foolishly thought that your joy would be meeting your son’s first real friend … and her stoop-shouldered parents.

HOWARD:
Do they know about …

(Giving his head a jerk toward the music)

TOLOACHE:
No, I don’t think they know he plays the piano.

HOWARD:
Don’t be coy, Toley.

TOLOACHE:
I don’t know much more than you do. We just talked yesterday… just visited over the phone.

HOWARD:
Out of the blue. She just felt like chatting with you. How’d she get your number?

TOLOACHE:
It’s hardly a conspiracy.  And what makes you think she got my number? I called her.  We chatted a while and then I invited her and Mr. Jax and their daughter over for a visit. It's called being social.

HOWARD:
No. No, that just doesn't smell right. How'd you get her number?

TOLOACHE:
Now you asked the right question. If you quit interrupting, I'll tell you the whole story.


[Howard leans back against the backrest and scowls]

TOLOACHE:
(Continues)
Apparently Mr. Hallows—he’s our son’s principal—noticed that Jennie and Cornelius have been eating lunch together for the last four or five consecutive days.

HOWARD:
(Smiling)
Well, well!

TOLOACHE:
Just innocent stuff, for Chrissakes. Get that lurid grin off your face. They’re only twelve. 

HOWARD:
So, after the principal spies on them for five days—

TOLOACHE:
Not spying.

HOWARD:
What do you call it then? Don’t be naive, Toley. Do you think that Cornelius and his … love interest are the only two kids eating lunch together every day? No, but the principal ticks off five days in a row on his desk calendar. And then he thinks, yep, I’d better call the girl’s folks now. Before it’s too late.

TOLOACHE:
If I didn’t know you better, I’d think you were defending our son.

HOWARD:
Well, he needs defending, that’s for—

TOLOACHE:
He needs loving!

HOWARD:
He needs defending, Toloache! And you … you’re the one … who has chosen to take on that responsibility yourself. I went on record right from the beginning, and I’ll go on record again now and tell you … the boy belongs in an institution—

TOLOACHE:
Where you can hide him.

HOWARD:
 Not …

(He begins rubbing the base of his neck, his eyes registering sudden confusion)

TOLOACHE:
Are you okay?

HOWARD:
You’ve got me worked up is all.
(Taking a deep breath)
I’m fine …. He does not belong in a public school.

TOLOACHE:
Where he might be recognized as the son of California’s … fifth wealthiest

HOWARD:
Fourth.

TOLOACHE:
Oops, I knew that.

HOWARD:
Of course, you know that, Toley. You’ve never let the Forbes subscription lapse.

TOLOACHE:
Yeah, sure. Anyway, I know where you’re taking me with all this. It’s where it ends every time the subject comes up. 

HOWARD:
Well, it’s true!

TOLOACHE:
(In a mock masculine voice—while HOWARD watches with a smug smile)
“Toley, you know full-well the education system would not for one minute consider that boy fit to ma-tric-u-late, kindergarten through eighth grade, if it weren’t for the fifty-thou-a-year charitable grant to the county school administration. Oh, yes, Toley … and another twenty-grand a year, under the table, to his personal alma mater to what? Grease the passage, so to speak? Hmmm, yes, you’ve effectively slipped a golden collar around their corporate necks, my dear, and you have elected to hold the leash.”

HOWARD:
Brav-ooo! 

TOLOACHE:
(Effecting a bow)
Anyway, wealthy husband of mine, they are going to be here in a little over an hour. I really don’t give a flying fuck whether you’re here or not. It will be awkward if you’re not, but I’m good at making excuses for your absences. If you choose to stay and meet them, and you would like, in a few sentences, to know how the invitation came about—instead of playing your insipid, paranoic guessing games—I can tell you.

HOWARD:
Just … tell me, Toloache.

TOLOACHE:
First of all, the principal you hold in such low regard, Mr. Hallows, loves our son …

(Seeing HOWARD’S eyebrows arch and a smile form)
TOLOACHE (Continues):
Quit! Just quit! He’s a saint—I won’t have you drag him into the sewer with the rest of your thoughts. Mr. Hallows loves our son almost as much as I love him … and a hell of a lot more than …

HOWARD:
Yes?

TOLOACHE
Never mind…

HOWARD:
Go ahead, tell me.

TOLOACHE
No, I won’t put words to it, but … but for once in my life, please—please prove my thoughts wrong.

(beat)
For Chrissakes, Howard, just let me go on.
(beat)
Mr. Hallows’s office looks out on the playground and he noticed Jennie Jax and our Cornelius sitting together during lunchtime. At first, he thought it was just a happy circumstance of Cornelius finally finding a friend. But then he noticed it was a daily occurrence. He could see from his distance that little Jennie was the chatty one. Cornelius hardly spoke at all.

HOWARD:
Go on, Toley, get to the point, or you’ll still be telling me about it when they’re ringing the doorbell.

TOLOACHE:
So … after the fifth day, Mr. Hallows thought that, given his knowledge of the overall circumstances, and given their ages and of course his responsibility as principal, that he should give Mrs. Jax just a casual call.

HOWARD:
Mrs. Jax! Mrs. Jax! Why not us? Doesn’t he know what side his bread is buttered on?

TOLOACHE:
Mr. Hallows already knows me.

HOWARD:
Really!

TOLOACHE:
Jesus! I already had a meeting with him, for Chrissakes. About Cornelius. Remember the letter I told you about?

HOWARD:
Oh, yes … What was that meeting about, anyway. How did that turn out?

TOLOACHE:
(With a bitter chuckle)
The time to have asked that would have been the day after. Not a week and a half later. If you’re still interested tomorrow, we’ll talk about that, but just now, let me finish this.
(wearily)
So … he called Mrs. Jax and told her that her Jennie had made a new friend and had been eating lunch with him daily for five days and—

HOWARD:
Oh, I see … and he just wanted to let her know what kind of boy their precious little daughter—

TOLOACHE:
No, you asshole! That’s not it at all. He didn’t tell her anything about Cornelius. He thought that should be handled in a dialogue between the Jaxes and us. Which was the reason why before ending the call with Mrs. Jax, he told her she could expect a return call shortly from either me or himself. He didn’t want to provide her with our phone number, but she volunteered her number for him to give to me.

HOWARD:
Quite a tightrope act our Mr. Hallows performed. So … so, you called Mrs. Jax and told her all about the boy’s … condition.

TOLOACHE:
No!

HOWARD:
What!

TOLOACHE:
No, I-I mean … because if I had told Mrs. Jax about Cornelius … and-and if she cut off the kids’ friendship right there—if she would have forbidden Jennie, right there, from having anything to do with our son …

(Her eyes filling)
I don’t know—I-I couldn’t—how could I live with myself?

HOWARD:
Well—You manage.

(watching her blink the tears from her eyes, he reaches out and pats her thigh.)
You’d better go put a fresh face on. So … you need me here, then?
(beat)
Never mind—I’ll stay. I think …
(After a thoughtful nod, he turns his whole body slowly toward the music)
I think I want to be here.

[As HOWARD turns, the stage lighting fades to gray and the two sit in silhouette. The music volume increases until it seems to fill the whole room, and the stage goes to black]

END OF SCENE 10








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