Romance Script posted August 15, 2021 Chapters:  ...12 13 -14- 15... 


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The Fate of Jennie Jax

A chapter in the book Genius in Love

Genius in Love, Scene 14

by Jay Squires

The author has placed a warning on this post for language.

The Previous Scene: Sitting on Jenny’s empty desk, Cililla spends entirely too long (according to a few of my reviewers) on the extended metaphor about Cornelius, in a rowboat, in the middle of a vast ocean of his music. Meanwhile, Mr. Hiney and his classroom are in suspended animation. Jenny has been absent for three days and Cornelius is blaming himself. The classroom is reanimated by a knock on the door, heralding a request to have Cornelius sent to Mr. Hallow’s office.

CHARACTERS DESCRIPTION: Found in “Author’s Notes”

SETTING: The principal’s office. Large desk, center stage, facing left. His desktop has a look of controlled clutter. Two-tiered tray with papers hanging over the edge. Several stacks of papers. A box of tissues with a sheet protruding. A large book, probably a dictionary, to the side, next to an intercom box. Two chairs face the desk. Centerstage left, on a small circular table, a sizeable ebony Buddha sits. On the floor beside the Buddha table, a white vase holds a lily. Upstage, on the wall, a large cubist, or another modernistic, rendering of Jesus with pierced palms spread. Upstage right, a door. A few chairs line that wall.

Time: Spring, 1952, Wednesday [One hour before Mr. Hallows sends his student aide to have Cornelius brought to his office]

At Rise: A distraught PHYLLIS JAX sits opposite MR. HALLOWS at his desk. She has grabbed fistfuls of tissue from the box and presses them to her face as she sobs. TOLOACHE sits beside her, arm across her shoulder, leaning in. MR. HALLOWS’ face and posture express his compassion.

PHYLLIS:
Oh, Mr. Hallows, I’m—I’m sorry. I-I don’t know what—I’m at such loose ends.


TOLOACHE:
It’s okay, dear. we’re here for you … and Mr. Hallows—

(Smiling across at him)
He’s one of the good guys. He understands.

PHYLLIS:
(Pulling herself erect, dragging the tissues across her eyes)
I have to pull myself together. This won’t solve anything. It’s just—it’s just—

TOLOACHE:
I know …


PHYLLIS:
So helpless.

(She starts to collapse again in her grief, but rallies)
But I feel somehow responsible. You’re a busy man. You—you don’t need this dumped in—

MR. HALLOWS:
Sometimes, just having the synergy of three people focusing on the same problem can help.

(Beat)
Happily, there’s the fourth as well. I’m talking about that tenacious private investigator you retained.

PHYLLIS:
Oh, I’m sorry if—


MR. HALLOWS:
Not at all, not at all. He seems an excellent choice.


PHYLLIS:
(placing her hand on TOLOACHE’S ARM)
Courtesy of my guardian angel, here. I don’t know what I’d do without—I have nothing, now. Nothing!
(Buries her face in her tissue)

TOLOACHE:
(Getting face to face with PHYLLIS)
I told you we’re not going to worry about that, Phyllis. Remember? Okay? Money does not concern me. Not in the least. What does is getting Jennie back to you. And if anyone can do that, Mr. Maneses can. He is good. He’s worked for some of the biggest names in Hollywood.

MR. HALLOWS:
He is thorough, I’ll give him that, Mrs. Jax. And self-confident.


PHYLLIS:
I’m praying he’ll get my Jennie back.


MR. HALLOWS:
Did you—well … I suppose it’s of no consequence now …


PHYLLIS:
Oh, please ask. You never know what might be important.


TOLOACHE:
Oh, yes, do!


MR. HALLOWS:
Probably not this, though, but I couldn’t help but wonder … did you try to contact the Police at all?


PHYLLIS:
The police!

(Giving TOLOACHE a knowing, but trembly, smile)
I’m sorry, Mr. Hallows, but ha-ha, the police—they were the first I tried. Even before Toley. If it wasn’t so serious they'd have been a comedy. When I told them my daughter’d been abducted—that was 6 AM Sunday—
(A smile flickers, vanishes, then returns again)
I’m smiling, and I know it’s not funny—damn, it’s anything but funny! but at the word ‘abduction’ they were like a-a-a scramble of hens, bumping into each other …
(beat)
… but the instant I mentioned my husband was the abductor. Oh, my! How they settled into a-a relaxed, self-satisfied …
(taking a ragged breath)
… into a f-fucking—I’m sorry, sir!—into a philosophical mode. Mrs. Jax, the captain said, we get more of these than you’d think. Then the captain’s men traded nods and smiles. We consider these cases more like the one spouse taking a breathing spell away from the other after a spat. And they take the kid for, you know, added oomph! You watch, they’ll be back in a couple of days, a week max!

MR. HALLOWS:
I was afraid of that. You didn’t ask them, did you, how they would respond if the wife had abducted—


PHYLLIS:
Oh, yes! I was getting to that. I asked them if they would be as smug if it had been my husband who came in, frantic that his wife had abducted their child. The captain’s condescending smile spoke volumes. Fact is, Mrs. Jax, he says, that don’t often happen. And amid his men chittering behind their papers and coffee cups, he finished: See, most wives don’t have the cash to get out of town. And with his parting words, I spun on my heel and stormed out of the station.


TOLOACHE:
… You mean his words that wives don’t have the cash?


PHYLLIS:
No, his parting words were: We may not like it, Mrs. Jax, but the truth is that the husband in our society is the breadwinner, and the breadwinner calls the shots for the family! Alls we can do is enforce the law.


TOLOACHE:
Could he have been more equivocal with his “We may not like it…”?

[While the women shake their heads and sigh, MR. HALLOWS, appears to be deep in thought, the fingertips of both hands pressed together as a kind of outward expression of an expanding and contracting mantra operating behind his closed eyes.]

MR. HALLOWS:
(Opening his eyes, and giving each woman a weak smile)
Excuse me. I was bringing together the loose ends of a quote from one of the founding fathers of our modern educational system, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. 
(Beat)
“Once you teach people to say what they do not understand, it is easy enough to get them to say anything you like.”

TOLOACHE:
You've lost me.

MR. HALLOWS:

It's what happens when an entire culture chooses to follow a faulty premise and then be forced to live by its results—even defending them to their death. 

TOLOACHE:
(Exchanging quizzical glances with PHYLLIS, then with a smile to MR. HALLOWS)
What faulty premise is that, Mr. Hal?

MR. HALLOWS:
(Offering PHYLLIS a smiling aside)
Toley’s calling me by the name my kids, here, use … Mr. Hal. I’d be honored if you’d call me Mr. Hal, as well. Or just Hal. Or … what the Hal—even Jeff. That’s my given name.

PHYLLIS:
Jeff. I like that. That’s my brother’s name.

(Beat)
But … but …

TOLOACHE:
The faulty premise … Jeff?


MR. HALLOWS:
The faulty premise … yes. 

(Beat)
I’m sorry if my interlude just now might seem to downplay or trivialize, your experience with the police captain. That false premise which law enforcement works under was also penned by the father of our educational system, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. But in fact, he was paraphrasing a much older faulty premise rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. In the words, then, of Rousseau:
(Beat) 
“Men should be active and strong, women passive and weak; it is necessary the one should have both the power and the will, and that the other should make little resistance.”


TOLOACHE:
Oh, my God!


PHYLLIS:
That can’t be …


MR. HALLOWS:
But it is, Mrs. Jax.


PHYLLIS:
It's Phyllis …


MR. HALLOWS:
Thank you … That quote, Phyllis, lies in the birthing bed of twentieth-century education. Our entire educational system mirrors society; and likewise, society’s reflection, starting in Kindergarten and before, falls differently on little boys than little girls. Case in point ...

(holding up his arms as though conducting an orchestra)
“Sugar and …?”

TOLOACHE:
“…spice? … sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of.”


MR. HALLOWS:
And think back … as a child didn’t you feel proud in that distinction?


TOLOACHE:
Well… I suppose I did.


PHYLLIS:
Especially when I could throw its opposite in the face of those bratty little boys: “Snips and snails and puppy-dog tails, that’s what little boys are made of.”


MR. HALLOWS:
Exactly! Roles we learned from nursery rhymes. And it’s reinforced by mama and daddy, even before school, with cap guns and dolls. With marbles for boys and ...


PHYLLIS:
… and jacks for girls. I used to love jacks.


MR. HALLOWS:
Me, too ... but only in private. And by the time the little boys and girls graduated elementary school, the curricula reflecting their opposing sexual roles were deeply ingrained … and rarely, if ever, challenged by parents. Here at Zachary Taylor, we have woodshop for boys; and thanks to a budgetary increase two years ago, we now boast a brand new stove and refrigerator for our …

(with flair)
… our little ladies’ kitchen.

TOLOACHE:
You seem to be opposed to …


MR. HALLOWS:
Role-based education? Yes—oh yes!


TOLOACHE:
(With a wry smile)
Which is why …?

PHYLLIS:
Why what, Toley?


TOLOACHE:
I’m guessing why … he’s, um, retiring?


MR. HALLOWS:
There are other reasons, too.

(Beat)
So, anyway … Phyllis …

PHYLLIS:
Yes.


MR. HALLOWS:
I spoke at length with Mr. Maneses. He’s very dedicated, your private investigator is. He has connections with Heinberg and Shaw Family Law. Very prominent in the valley. He’s good. Anyway, he interviewed me. I opened up our school records to him. 


PHYLLIS:
Are you supposed to do that?


MR. HALLOWS:
(Raising his shoulders and dropping them)
I don’t know. It seemed the right thing. He made me feel okay with it. I showed him the request for her transcript and shot records from …
(Refers to a sheet on his desk)
Orchard Secondary School in Socorro, New Mexico.

PHYLLIS:
Mr. Maneses phoned me with that information.


MR. HALLOWS:
I also gave him permission to speak with Mr. Hiney during lunch hour, yesterday. You know Mr. Hiney?


PHYLLIS:
Not really. Jennie mentioned he’s kind of creepy.

(Sighs, daubs her eyes with a tissue plucked from the box on MR. HALLOWS’ desk)
But … you know kids …

MR. HALLOWS:
Jennie’s not the first, Phyllis.

(Beat)
Can we be confidential?

[Both women answer affirmatively and lean forward]

MR. HALLOWS (Continues):
Mr. Hiney can be rather … unfiltered in what he says and does. But he is among the senior faculty—teaching under the rule of tenure. He knows he enjoys rights not conferred to newer teachers, and that allows him, at times, to be verbally reckless. Personally … 
(Placing his index finger across his lips)
I feel he is troubled and … potentially dangerous. Dangerously reckless, I guess you’d say.
(Beat)
That’s why I contacted you, Toley, after my interview with Mr. Maneses, knowing he was to interview Mr. Hiney. Cornelius is quite sensitive, of course, and …
(To PHYLLIS)
you did meet Cornelius the other night, didn’t you?

PHYLLIS:
Oh, yes! Cornelius is a lovely boy. And so gifted!


MR. HALLOWS:
Indeed, he is! And … did Toley explain …

(Giving TOLOACHE a searching look)

TOLOACHE:
In just the briefest of ways. She knows he has special needs, but somehow he concealed them pretty well when they met.


PHYLLIS:
I’ll swear, I thought he was just shy. Kids can be at that age. Gary did seem to, I don’t know, pick up on something different about him, and I have to say he was concerned.

(Beat)
No … oh shoot! He was more than concerned. He used that ugly word to describe him.

TOLOACHE:
Idiot Savant?

PHYLLIS:
That's it. That was what we had such a battle royal about. He insisted we end their friendship.

(grabbing several tissues from the box and holding them to her eyes)

MR. HALLOWS:
Well, the fact is that Cornelius and Jennie have developed a special friendship. And I think the three of us, at least, would like to see that continue on. Mr. Jax is understandably frightened and confused.


PHYLLIS:
Oh, it’s so much more than that, Jeff. Like I told Toley the other night, Gary hasn’t been the same since our boy—our boy died. And he won’t get help. And he won’t talk about it. He’s not sleeping. Not eating. By now he’s probably back drinking. And he’s got … Jennie … with him.

[PHYLLIS collapses into tears and TOLOACHE pulls her into her arms and holds her close. MR. HALLOWS' eyes are closed and he has a pained look on his face]

PHYLLIS (Continues):
(Abruptly)
I’ll be okay. I’m fine, Toley. 
(Gently pushes TOLOACHE away)
My emotions are just on the surface. But I’ll pull myself together. There’s nothing I can do right now but wait. And…
(Counting on her fingers)
I’ve got the best support system in the world. Thank you for being part of it, Jeff. And thanks to you, Toley, I’ve got the best private eye your money can buy. And, despite my outbursts, I do—I really do—feel confident that Jennie will be back soon. 
(Beat)
And now, I really want to see my daughter’s best friend again.

[TOLOACHE looks across to MR. HALLOWS who shrugs]

MR. HALLOWS:
I could have my aide take Cornelius out front to the student pickup where you could be waiting in your car. 


TOLOACHE:
If you think that’s best.


MR. HALLOWS:
That way, you’ll have privacy.


TOLOACHE:
You’ve already been so kind with your time. 


MR. HALLOWS:
I’ve got all the time in the world. I would be taking a nap after you left.


PHYLLIS:
Then it’s decided. Toley?


TOLOACHE:
I don’t know. If you want to know the truth I’m terrified at the prospect of being the sole parent today. Howard’s home. He's sick. But even under the best of circumstances, he wouldn’t be any help, only a hindrance.


[She lays her left hand, palm up, on the desk and MR. HALLOWS takes it in his; PHYLLIS clutches TOLOACHE’S proffered right hand and holds it in her lap]

TOLOACHE: (Continues):
I do need you here today. I need your support. But …

(Beat)
This may be messy.

MR. HALLOWS:
My office is soundproofed.


TOLOACHE:
His reaction to the triggers will be unpredictable. 


MR. HALLOWS:
The one trigger. Of why Jennie hasn’t been in class for three days. But you said triggers.


TOLOACHE:
(Looking long and penetratingly at PHYLLIS, then sighing)
If—suppose your emotions take over again, Dear? 

PHYLLIS:
(Wrestles TOLOACHE’S hand free)
I should leave. I could wait out in the car. I have a book in my purse; I-I could read. 

TOLOACHE:
Sweetheart …


PHYLLIS:
No … I could call a cab.


TOLOACHE:
(Taking back PHYLLIS’S hand)
You’ll do nothing of the sort. You won’t call a cab. You won’t sit in the car. You’ll stay right here. I was saying only that it could be messy. We need to consider how—how radically he may react.

MR. HALLOWS:
On the other hand, doesn’t it make sense to allow the lad to react in whatever manner is right for him at the moment? Shouldn’t we be here to offer him the loving support he’ll need while he processes whatever the reality is … and express whatever comes out of him. 

(Beat)
Only, we just can’t let him, in his confusion, hurt himself or one of us. So leave that part to me. He’s not that big a boy. If that happens, I can restrain him myself until he calms down. 
(Beat)
Still, his reaction may surprise us all. There’s so much beautiful complexity and depth in the lad. Rather like a Mozart symphony.
(Beat)
So ... Toley?

TOLOACHE
Let’s.

MR. HALLOWS
(Pushing the intercom button)
Betty, kindly send our aide to Mr. Hiney’s room and bring Cornelius to my office.

 
END OF SCENE 14



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2021


CHARACTERS (Not all of whom appear in this scene):

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.

Phyllis Jax: Jennie's mother; housewife and very serious amateur painter.

Mr. Hallows: Principal of Zachary Taylor Middle School. Age 45. A true empath. He understands Cornelius from within the social and educational construct better than anyone. Is there a dark, troubling secret to which the administration and he are privy?

Cornelius Plumb: An autistic, musical genius child, age 12. He is uncommonly handsome, well-groomed, well-dressed. His speech is clipped, with a beat, between each word, as though he is forcing himself to slow the flood of experiences bubbling from inside.

Cililla Queez: An apparent product of Cornelius' mind, there to guide him through a rough emotional patch. Only Cornelius can see Cililla. And while they are able to converse openly with each other, no one else is privy to these conversations. [This is accomplished by fading into shadow all but the two, who are in full light.]

Thanks to Jason Rosewell on Unsplash for the photo.
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© Copyright 2021. Jay Squires All rights reserved.
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