BEGETTING

a play
by
Ashleigh Brilliant
(Written in 1980. First performed, 1985)

Copyright © Ashleigh Brilliant 2008. www.ashleighbrilliant.com
All Rights Reserved.
117 W. Valerio St., Santa Barbara, California, 93101, USA (805) 682-0531

 

CHARACTERS

SIDNEY SCHINE, a teacher
MINERVA SCHINE, his wife
MORTY WALL, their friend
LAURA SCHINE, Sidney's mother
CHARLES CARMAN and CINDY BECK, citizens
KIMBER JONES, a reporter
SUSAN PALMER, a student
STUDENTS

 

 

SCENES

ACT ONE

The living-room of the Schine home in San Boleta, California. Late afternoon. January.

ACT TWO

Scene One: The Schine School of Thinking in San Boleta. Six weeks later.

Scene Two: In the hills above San Boleta. One month later.

Scene Three: The apartment of Laura Schine in Los Angeles. Several hours later.

ACT THREE

The Schine home in San Boleta, as in Act One. August, the following year.

 

 

BEGETTING: A Play by Ashleigh Brilliant

ACT I: The living-room of the Schine residence in San Boleta, California. Late afternoon. January.

(Minerva Schine is sitting on sofa, playing with her Cat - stroking it, talking to it in baby-talk. The audience can plainly see, however, that the creature looks much less like a cat than it does like a human baby doll)

MINERVA (crooning)
Yes, yes, precious, sweetest cutie lamby poo pie. Ooooooh . . . Ahhhhhhhhh ……….

The voice of Sidney Schine is heard off to stage left

SID
Hello! I'm home! Minerva!

MINERVA
We're in here!

SID (still offstage)
Where's "here?"

MINERVA
Here is where you'll find us both waiting for our lord and master, home from the wars. Come and look at us.

(Sid enters from stage left, beholds his wife sitting on sofa with cat, stands, holding his briefcase, surveying the scene, smiling, perhaps a little grimly. It is clear that this is a ritual which has been performed many times before - a sort of instant Adoration Scene. He approaches her.)

SID
Well! Well! What a beautiful sight! Which one shall I kiss first?

MINERVA
Aren't you lucky to have such a choice to make!

SID
I'll just shut my eyes, and whatever gets in the way of my lips gets kissed first.
(He does so, and Minerva presents the doll to his face. He kisses and strokes it.)
Pretty pussy! (He opens his eyes, looks at Minerva as if seeing her for the first time.) Pretty wifey! (He kisses and strokes her too, in the same way.)

MINERVA
And what happened to Hubbie in the big world today? Tell! Tell!

SID
The important thing is not so much what happened as the mere fact that Hubbie survived the day, and is able to stagger home to wife and cat.

MINERVA
Oh dear! Was it one of those?

SID
Yes, I'm afraid so. Some of those kids are just too smart for me.

MINERVA
Your own fault. The more you teach them, the smarter they're going to get.

SID
Did you manage to tape the pictures of Pluto?

MINERVA
I've got it all set up for you. It's really wonderful. They've found seven new moons!

SID
(Collapses into recliner-chair in front of TV and switches it on with remote control.)
So, there it is. Look at that! Another big ball in our ball-park. How many million miles away is it?

MINERVA
Right now, it's about three billion.

SID
I bet I know what you're thinking whenever something like this happens.

MINERVA
What?

SID
If only Daddy could have lived to see this.

MINERVA
Well, after all, he did so much to make it possible. And remember, he was working and writing at a time when many other astronomers thought that actual space exploration would be impossible.

SID
I know. And I wish he could see Pluto too, the way we can. In fact, I wish everybody in the past could have the fun of doing all the things we can do today. What's more, I wish that all of us today could somehow be around long enough to see the things we're never going to see.

MINERVA
The good things anyway - or at least maybe we could come back once in a while, just to catch up on what's new.

SID
A return trip to Earth, just for a treat, maybe once every million years or so.

MINERVA
But I'd want us to come together.

SID
The two of us, of course.

MINERVA
And Fallacy too!

SID
Pardon me! Of course! (reaching over to stroke the cat) The three of us! Nice Fallacy! Nice Pussie! (He brushes some cat-hairs off his hands and sleeves.) Minerva, would you mind putting Fallacy away now so I can have my dinner in here?

MINERVA
Why should one member of the family have to leave so another one can eat?

SID
(agitated at this) Do we have to go over all that again? You know I can't eat with cats climbing all over the place. Now Morty said he'd probably drop over this evening, and I want to finish eating before he gets here. So would you please put Fallacy away.

MINERVA (glancing towards the window at R.)
Well I see I'll have to anyway. There's somebody coming to the front door. Would you mind getting it, Sid, while I put her in her room, and start getting dinner ready.

(She goes out at L. murmuring baby-talk to the cat. Sid struggles out of the chair as there is a knock on the front door. He goes over and undoes its several locks, turning on the porch light. CHARLES and CINDY are standing uneasily, CHARLES holding an umbrella over CINDY, who carries a clip-board.)

SID
Gosh, I didn't realize it was raining so hard out here. You must really be feeling fired-up tonight. Are you Saints of the Latter Days or are you witnessing for Jehovah?
CINDY
No, Sir. Not either one. We're from the No-Growth Coalition. We'd like to urge you to vote Yes on Proposition P next Tuesday, to control population growth in this town before it's too late.

SID
So that's what you're after - not more souls for the Lord, but fewer souls for San Boleta. Well, in that case, why don't you come in for a minute.
(They step hesitantly across the threshold, handing him a brochure.)
You can put your umbrella in the rack, here (pointing to an umbrella-stand near the
door.)

CINDY
We're pretty wet, I'm afraid. We'd better not sit down. This rain certainly isn't making things any easier for us.

SID
No reason why it should, is there? You're the anti-growth people, and rain is what makes things grow.

CHARLES
Say, I know you! You're Mr. Schine. I've seen you on TV, talking about your School.

CINDY
The Schine School of Thinking! One of my best friends took a course from you - Eleanor Gomez.

SID
Oh yes. Eleanor. That was three or four years ago, wasn't it? I haven't seen her lately. What's she doing now?

CINDY
Still driving that big-rig truck of hers. But you know, she always says that going to your School was one of the best things she ever did.

SID
I'm glad to hear it.

CINDY
"Thinking About Life and Death" - that's what it was called, the course that she took. She said you didn't just sit and talk, but you went out to hospitals and cemeteries, and even to a funeral parlor and a -a -

SID
-- a slaughterhouse? The good old Morningside Abbatoir in Pacoima. They've been quite accommodating to several of our seminars.
CINDY
Eleanor said it nearly turned her into a vegetarian.

CHARLES
(He has been looking at some pictures on the wall)
The College of the Rails. Say, isn't that the train that goes all over the country with a school on it? Were you connected with that too?

SID
I was one of the founders. That's a picture of our first train, just after we'd first persuaded the North Central Line to let us operate on their tracks. It was taken up in Michigan. (He scans the brochure they have given him.) … And where are you people from?

CINDY
We really should have introduced ourselves. I'm Cindy Beck, and I'm originally from Pennsylvania, but my family came to San Boleta about fifteen years ago.

CHARLES
I'm Charles Carman, and I'm from Columbus, Ohio. Been here five years.

SID
Well, Minerva and I came here eleven years ago from Los Angeles. So, now that we've all managed to get into this paradise called San Boleta, it's definitely time to pass Proposition P, and keep the rest of the world out.

CHARLES
Well, if we don't, it's not going to be a paradise much longer. Have you seen what's already happening along Outer Pedro Street, and up in Ridgeway Park? If we don't put a stop to all this development -

SID
I know. It'll ber all the things we came here to get away from - smog, congestion, crime . . . I like your slogan (reading from brochure): "Too many people in San Boleta don't realize that there are too many people in San Boleta."

CHARLES
That's why Cindy and I are doing this. We want to keep San Boleta a good place for our children.

SID
Oh? How many children do you have?

CINDY
None yet, but give us a chance. (She takes Charles' hand.) We're not even getting married until April 12.
SID
Well, it's good to see that, even if we do close the gates with Proposition P, somebody will be taking care of natural increase.

CINDY
Don't you have any children?

SID
No. Minerva and I - she's five years older than I am, you know, and l'm already forty - we got married a bit too late in life, after making what you might call false starts. So now I have my School, and she has her cats. And we'll just have to leave it to community-minded people like you to keep the human race going.

CHARLES
(uncomfortable at this) Maybe we'd better be going, Cindy. Remember, there's three more blocks we're supposed to cover tonight.

CINDY
I guess so … But can we count on you, Mr. Schine?

SID
You bet. But what do you think our chances are?

CINDY
I wish I could be more optimistic. Those developers are spending so much to defeat it.

SID
If only it were always the best causes that had the most money.

CHARLES AND CINDY
Right! Right on! Goodnight, Mr. Schine. Thank you for your support. Goodnight.

SID
Goodnight. Looks like the rain's let up a little. Fight the good fight!

(They go out the front door. SID returns to recliner, picks up newspaper from side-table. MINERVA enters from kitchen, carrying tray.)

MINERVA
(Setting down tray on side-table) Who was it? Those church people again?

SID
No. It was about the City elections. The anti-growth people. Wanted to know how I'm going to vote.

MINERVA
Didn't they want to know how I'm going to vote?

SID
Funny, they never even asked. We got talking about the School, and -

MINERVA
Naturally.

(A pause, while SID begins to eat.)

SID
How was your mother today?

MINERVA
Poor dear, she hardly even seemed to know me. You know, some days she's so bright and perky, I almost forget - and then she'll be like today, and I'll say to myself "Why am I torturing myself, coming her to this hospital every day to look at a shadow that's just growing fainter all the time?"

SID
Well, you really don't have to go every day, do you?

MINERVA
Now don't you start! I'm all she's got left in the whole world.

SID
Sometimes it's as if she were all you had left - she and your cat.

MINERVA
I do wish you wouldn't say things like that.

SID
I'm sorry, Dear. I know it's stupid of me to feel that way. (Pause.) How has your swimming been going? Did you get down to the City Pool today?

MINERVA
No. I haven't been all this week. I get so discouraged sometimes, when I realize how much better I was twenty-five years ago than I'll ever be again.

SID
That must be the fate of all champion athletes. Too bad you didn't keep it up all these years, instead of just trying to get back into it now.

MINERVA
It's hard to believe I was once practically offered a contract to be in the Aqua-cades.

SID
I'm sorry I didn't know you in those days. It would have been fun to see you in the top of your form.

MINERVA
You should have seen my triple back-flip.

SID
I would have liked to.

MINERVA
But if we'd met in those days, we'd have passed each other right on by.

SID
Well, after all, when you were seventeen, I was only twelve.

MINERVA
You know what I mean. We were so different, in so many ways.

SID
Because your father was a big University astronomer and mine was just a clerk in the Post Office?

MINERVA
No, I don't mean different from each other. Actually, we were very similar to each other - shy, lonely, but somehow self-contained, because we knew how superior we really were. I mean different from what we are now, what we've become.

SID
And what have we become?

MINERVA
Well, you've become some kind of far-out educational super-star, being quoted and raved about everywhere, and basking in all the adulation as if you'd been born to it. I don't really know how it happened. There was still something bashful and disarming about you when we first met.

SID
The answer's obvious, Dear. It was all through you. You made me what I am.

MINERVA
And meanwhile, I've just been marking time, letting my own personality be swamped and submerged by yours. Letting the years go by, putting my family and my pets one by one into the ground …

SID
Now, now, come on. Don't get into one of those moods. Look at all we both have, because we're together. Look how good life has been to us. And you, you have just about everything you've always wanted, haven't you? Here we are, living in one of the most desirable parts of the whole world. And the world is at peace - at least, there's no war like the last big one, and not even likely to be, except for absolute lunatics. We have this beautiful house, and the garden you love. Look one way out of your room , and you can see the Mission - two hundred years of tradition. Look the other way, and there's the whole Pacific Ocean, practically lapping at your feet. Look over your shoulder and see the mountains standing guard over us. Go out and look up, and see your father's stars, all the way to infinity.

MINERVA
Yes. Yes. I love it all. I'm the one who always wanted to come back here to live - remember? And I don't really blame you. Just getting older, I guess, and somehow don't know what to do about it.
(The telephone rings.)
SID
I'll get it, Dear. (MINERVA clears the dishes away and disappears into the kitchen, while SID walks downstage Right to the telephone, switches on lamp, and settles into chair beside it.)
Hello … Yes, this is Sidney Schine speaking . . . Oh, hello, Dr. Barker, how are things in Minneapolis? . . .No, I haven't heard a thing about it . . . Oh, you have? . . .What, really? . . . Are you quite sure? The Nolworth! . . . Well, I know, but -- . . . Even so, it sounds too good to be true. When will they make the official announcement? . . . I - I really don't know what to say! It's very good of you to let me know . . . Yes . . . I guess I'll just have to sit tight, wait and see. Well, thanks so much for the tip-off . . .When are you going to be coming out here again? . . . Good. . . I hope you can . . . Yes, I certainly will tell her . . . Okay . . .Goodbye. (He hangs up with a dazed expression, sinks back into the chair.) The Nolworth Prize! I don't believe it! . . . Minerva!

MINERVA
(Emerges from kitchen, dish and dish-cloth in hand, wearing apron.)
Was it your mother?

SID
It was Stanley Barker, calling from Conway College. He has a friend on the Nolworth Committee, and he says it appears they're going to nominate me for this year's Prize!

MINERVA
The Nolworth Prize! Sidney! (Her hands drop to her sides in astonishment.)

SID
Of course, this is still unofficial. And even if I get the nomination, it still has to be approved by the entire Academic Council. But that's usually just a formality.

MINERVA
Oh Sidney! (She rushes to embrace him.) The Nolworth Prize . . . "For Outstanding …" What is it. . . ?

SID
(Searching his memory for the exact words, and savoring them) I think it's "For Outstanding Achievement by an American in the Field of Educational Innovation."

MINERVA
The award ceremony's in Minneapolis, isn't it? You'll have to get a new suit - or no, it's probably evening dress. At last I get you in a tuxedo! But what will I wear? My long green gown? Or maybe the sequins. . . ?

SID
I think you look fine in that apron. Maybe a darker shade of dish-cloth.

MINERVA
Oh Sidney! I just can't believe it! And there's cash in it too, isn't there?

SID
A few thousand, I think. Enough to pay for my tuxedo, anyway. But it's the prestige! Imagine, to be chosen from a whole country for my outstanding achievement. You know, maybe I really have achieved something.

MINERVA
Of course you have.

SID
Either that, or they were really hard-up for achievers this year.

MINERVA
How can you say that? They could have chosen Walter Rice, or Bailey and Hicker, or Martha Sandridge, or any one of a hundred others.

SID
Well, maybe it just goes to prove that the Nolworth Prize isn't such a big deal after all.

MINERVA
Just like you to be thinking that at a time like this!

SID
Anyway, let's not count our prizes before they come to us. Barker said they don't announce it officially until sometime next week.

MINERVA
I think I see Morty coming. That must be his car pulling up.
SID
I hope he's got the pot he said he was going to get for me. This would be a great occasion to try it out.

MINERVA
Aren't you high enough just to know you're getting the Nolworth Prize?

SID
If you could share it, you'd know -

MINERVA
All I know is that it never does anything very much for me except make me sleepy.

SID
You'd know that there's nothing better than sharing it with one of your best friends when you've just had some really good news.
(The door-bell rings. SID goes to answer it.)
Hi Morty! Come on it.

MORTY
Hi! I hope I'm intruding at the right time. You're looking great, Minerva.

SID
What about me - How am I looking?

MORTY
(Cocks his head, studying and considering.) Oh, about the same as usual, unfortunately. I didn't know you cared.

SID
Did you get the stuff?

MORTY
Sure did. Top quality too, according to my connection. (Brings out a small package.)

SID
I've always been curious, Morty - who is your connection?

 

MORTY
Would you believe, my boss?

SID
(Incredulous) No! (Starts to laugh) Not really!

MORTY
I kid you not.
SID
The Managing Director of Astroplex Electronics?!

MORTY
His Eminence himself. Do you still wonder why I like my job so much?

SID
Well, I've always thought there must be more in it for you than just programming computers. Anybody with your talent -

MINERVA
How's Erica, Morty?

MORTY
Fine, I guess . . . Well, actually, we're having problems again.

SID
The children?

MORTY
What else? . . . Say, did you see the pictures of Pluto?

MINERVA
Yes. Weren't they fantastic!

MORTY
Incredible. But that's what startedus off. The kids got bored with it, and wanted to watch Tiny-Town. Stephen kept saying "Nothing's happening, Daddy - When does something start to happen?"

MINERVA
Well, they are pretty young.

MORTY
Yes, but this is historic. This is truly historic. I kept telling them I wanted them to see this and remember it, so that they could tell their own children about it someday - how they saw the first pictures come back from Pluto.

MINERVA
And what did Erica say?

MORTY
Believe it or not, she starts siding with the kids. "They can always see tapes of Pluto when they're older," she says, "Why not let them watch Tiny-Town now, and at least learn their numbers and letters?" Can you imagine such an attitude? And of course, there goes my authority as a father right out the window.
SID
You ought to have been a teacher, Morty.

MORTY
With other people's kids, I wouldn't care so much.

SID
For people like me and Minerva, the world consists entirely of other people's kids. . . . Well, what do you say we sample some of this grass. I'm really interested, now that I know it's guaranteed by Astroplex Incorporated. (He begins to unwrap the package on coffee-table.)
How's the song-writing coming along?

MINERVA
If you two are going to do that, I'm going to do some indulging of my own. (She takes a bottle and one glass from cabinet.)

MORTY
I keep sending them out, and they keep sending them right back.

SID
(Is now filling a pipe.) You're just too good for the market, Morty. If you were writing rock-and-roll numbers, you couldn't miss.

MORTY
You know Proposition P - the anti-growth thing they've got on the ballot? I've just written a song about it.

SID
(Lighting pipe) Terrific! They were just around her, earlier tonight. Let's hear it!
(He takes a long "hit," while MORTY sings)

MORTY
(To the tune of "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing"):
Proposition P must pass -
Vote to keep our city small,
Fight the concrete, save the grass,
Never let our standards fall;

San Boleta's life is beauty -
Help to save her, it's your duty;
Learn the lesson of L.A.:
She grew from small to smell today;
Keep the good life! Here's the key:
YES ON PROPOSITION P!

SID
Beautiful, Morty, beautiful. (He passes him the pipe.)

MINERVA
Sidney, how can you be so much in favor of space exploration, which is only another kind of "development" on a cosmic scale, and so much opposed to development in your own town?

SID
I agree with you that the principle's the same in either case. Eventually we may indeed find MacDonald's on Mars, if we let things get out of hand. But I'm willing to take that risk. I want to know what's out there, although I admit I know I never will know much of the answer before I die, and I don't honestly have any strong hopes of finding out any more after I'm dead.

MINERVA
So, people from Los Angeles and back East come wanting to know what's "out here," where we are. They explore, and they like it, and they want to settle down and share it with us, and be our friends and neighbors. Is that so bad? It's not as if there obviously isn't more room for anyone.

SID
But our life-style! The quality of our lives! The air! The very air we breathe is at risk.

MINERVA
Millions of people in this free country live and work quite voluntarily in air that you would call polluted, and it would apparently have to be much worse to drive them away. Obviously, there are things much more important in life than perfectly, or even reasonably, clean air.

SID
Even you would have to draw the line somewhere.

MINERVA
I suppose I'd draw it at the point where I personally began to feel uncomfortable. But I don't feel uncomfortable yet. In fact, I take a certain comfort at seeing things being built, businesses opening -

SID
The myth of progress, Morty - and coming from my own wife! The mother of my cat! You know, Morty, I'm the one who named the cat. Do you understand now whyI named it Fallacy?

MORTY
So you like my song.

SID
Of course, we love your song, and we love you, old pal. (He goes over and pats him.) Now I want to share with you a wonderful piece of news that just came before you arrived.

MORTY
Wonderful for whom?

SID
Do you want to hear it, or don't you?

MORTY
Wonderful for whom?

SID
Wonderful for me - isn't that enough for you, in my house, where you are my guest?

MORTY
Tell me your wonderful news, Sidney.

SID
I have it on good authority that I am very likely slated to receive this year's Nolworth Prize.

MORTY
This year's what?

SID
This year's Nolworth Prize! -- Don't tell me you've never heard of it!

MORTY
Sorry, chum, I can't honestly say that I have. What is it?

SID
It's a prize for significant achievement. They only give one every year. I thought everyone had heard of it. What kind of a friend are you, anyway?

 

MORTY
That sounds very impressive. I'm truly sorry, if it hurts your feelings, that I haven't heard of it. Tell me about it,

SID
(Much deflated) You tell him, Minerva.

MINERVA
It's a prize for educational innovation. It's awarded by Conway College in Minneapolis, which I suppose you haven't heard of eitherl. They've been doing it for about thirty years. You have to go there to accept the award and make a speech - just likethe Nobel Prizes.

MORTY
Is it widely publicized?

SID
Obviously, not widely enough.

MORTY
What is the actual prize?

MINERVA
You get some money - we're not sure how much, but it's in the thousands. And I suppose you get some kind of plaque or certificate or medal.

MORTY
Well that's very nice, Sidney, very nice! -- Congratulations!

SID
What a bummer!

MORTY
No, I mean it. Just because I haven't heard of it doesn't mean it's not a very great honor. And money is money. And what better way to receive it than in recognition of your achievements? Look, man, I was one of your first students at your School, wasn't I? I know, if anyone does, how much you deserve it.

SID
It's no use, Morty. I know who I am. I know what life is all about. I know (courtesy of my wife) that Pluto is three billion miles away, and that that's not even a drop in the big bucket of the Universe. I know that I'm forty years old, and getting older every second, and that nothing I can ever be, or have, or do, matters a damn.

MINERVA
(Mockingly) The lovely old Mission! Two hundred years of tradition! The mighty ocean at your feet! The -

SID
Yes, there's the big difference between us. Those things are enough for you - or almost enough. But I need something more, much more. And it's not something anybody can put in a loving-cup and give me to stick on my mantle-piece.

MORTY
What are you trying to say, Sidney?

MINERVA
Yes, Sidney, what are you trying to say?

SID
I think about it whenever I hear Morty talk about Loni and Stephen, and the future they're going to see after our subscriptions to life have been discontinued.

MINERVA
Think about what?

SID
I think about you and me, Minerva.

MINERVA
Really! And what do you think?

SID
I think about the fact that we have no children, and are never going to have any.

MORTY
But anyone can have children, Sidney. In Australia a few years ago, a court ruled that a girl had become pregnant by some semen in the water of a public swimming-pool. So, in effect, the swimming-pool was declared to be the father of the child.

SID
I didn't say I regretted not having children. I said I think about it.

MINERVA
Well, do you regret it?

SID
In certain very specific ways, I have certain regrets. I'm perfectly aware of the fact that large numbers of parents (and apparently the number is growing) regret that they ever brought up the children they did bring up, and think, perhaps, that they might have spent their time and feelings better playing some other role in life.

MORTY
As I said, anybody can have children. It doesn't take any talent. It often takes much more talent to avoid having them. But bringing them up well, I'll agree, takes plenty.

SID
The ultimate test of a good parent, I suppose, is a good life lived by the child. But I'm not necessarily interested in playing the role of a parent at all.
MORTY
Then what are we talking about?

SID
I'm talking about the biology of having children.

MINERVA
Whose biology - yours or mine?

SID
Well, in this case, it has to be mine, since, regardless of any other factory, you are now well past the age when it would be safe for you to attempt to bear a child.

MINERVA
You always said you didn't want children.

SID
Well, I didn't then, and you certainly never expressed any strong interest in the idea. But the point is that you are now no longer capable, while I, so far as I know, still am.

MINERVA
Are you saying you want to get divorced?

SID
No, I am definitely not saying that. I have absolutely no desire to end our marriage. But if we remain married, then I am prevented by both the laws and the mores of our society from ever having children of my own for the rest of my life.

MORTY
I suppose you know there is such a thing as adoption.

SID
Well, as I said, I'm not sure if I want the responsibility of raising them.

MORTY
I see. Just having them, not raising them. Nice work if you can get it. But why bother to even have them, if you can just have sex, free and clear?

SID
You're forgetting what this is all about - the future. I want to put my claim on a little piece of the future, so that even after I'm dead, there will still be something of me continuing actually to live on earth.

MORTY
Immortality, is that your game? Too bad you're not a religious person, Sidney. Any decent religion would take care of that problem for you.

MINERVA
And don't forget that many children die before their parents, especially if there's a war.

SID
I'm not so sure that wanting to be part of the future is the same as asking for immortality. But if it is, then I plead guilty. I've long felt that death ought to be outlawed, or should at least be illegal without special clearance. But somehow they haven't gotten around to doing that yet, and my own time is running out. What is this sexual apparatus for, that I find I've come equipped with? Surely it's not purely for ceremonial purposes! Giving pleasure and release to my wife and myself? Of course - but I can't believe that's the whole answer.

MINERVA
How long have you been feeing like this, Sidney?

SID
It's gradually been creeping up on me over the last year or two. Maybe it's just the onset of middle age.

MINERVA
But I want to help if I can.

SID
I don't see how you can help with the solution when you're so much part of the problem. You see, there's something very sterile about our whole situation. Not only have we no children of our own, but you're an only child, and I have only one spinster sister, so we don't even have any nieces or nephews. And it goes farther than that. Whenever we acquire a new cat, Morty, the first thing she does is take it to be "doctored," so that it won't reproduce either.

MORTY
Well, isn't that better than having to kill so many unwanted pets.

SID
Of course; but with us, it just seems to be part of a pattern.

MINERVA
Sidney, I said I want to help.

SID
There's only one way you can do that, Minerva.

MINERVA
Which is . . . ?

SID
Help me get what I want.

MINERVA
And what exactly is it that you do want?

SID
I want to make somebody pregnant.

MINERVA
(After a strained pause) Anyone in particular?

SID
Not at this point. No. Not yet.

MINERVA
Maybe that's how I could help.

SID
How?

MINERVA
By helping you choose somebody.

SID
You would be willing to do that?

MINERVA
I don't think you have ever been unfaithful to me, have you Sidney?

SID
You know I haven't. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't still have this problem.

MINERVA
Then I must help you find a mother for your children (She begins to cry) - a better mother than I would have been.

MORTY
It's too bad there's no way yet for a couple like you to have your own child artificially, in some kind of special breeding machine, like in "Brave New World," or even in some animal's or some other woman's body, but still using your eggs and sperm. . . But at least we're part-way there - that is, as far as the man's concerned. You could just donate your sperm, Sidney, and the woman who's going to play Mommie could be artificially inseminated, and you would never even have to meet her.

SID
I'm sorry, that's not quite what I had in mind. I am not going to play the role of an Australian swimming-pool.

MINERVA
You mean, sex would have to be part of the arrangement.

SID
Definitely - But only because it's part of the biology.

MINERVA
Why have you suddenly become so biological, Sidney?

SID
Don't you understand? For once in my life, want to feel like a real man, a fulfilled person, a total living being. It's not just biology - it's intellect. Man is the only creature who can procreate an know what he's doing while he's doing it. What act, what experience, can be more fulfilling than the conscious making of new life out of your own old life?

MINERVA
And somebody else's.

SID
Yes, somebody else's. That's the way the system's been set up. Those are the rules. But at least you can choose, or at least I can choose, who the somebody else will be.

MINERVA
Or we can choose together.

SID
(Goes over to embrace her) If you really mean it. Yes. We can choose together.

MORTY
This is beginning to sound sort of kinky. But if there's any choosing to be done, how about letting your friends take part in the balloting too?

MINERVA
Are you ready to nominate somebody?

MORTY
Before we get around to that, I want to get something straight. What happens after the baby is born? Who takes how much responsibility?

SID
Responsibility means being willing to accept the consequences of your actions. I'm willing to accept them, whatever they are; but it's impossible at this point to predict just what they might be. Obviously, it depends a great deal on the woman, and her attitude, and the social circumstances.

MORTY
But what about obligation?

SID
Biologically speaking, human fatherhood doesn't seem to carry much obligation beyond the sex act itself. But you know me, Morty. I'm a fairly decent person. I've even been known occasionally to have a generous emotion. Don't worry. If and when the time comes, I'll do the right thing.

MORTY
In financial terms, how much are you willing to pay?

SID
I hope to God this never gets into court. But we all know there are laws establishing what's fair for child support; and I'd be willing to abide by them, if necessary.

MORTY
O.K. That more or less satisfies me on that score. Now, if nominations are in order, I'd like to make a suggestion. The next time you two go on one of your trips to Africa or China or some other pretty remote place, why not seek out some poor woman with the right qualifications. Sidney can have his experience, you can pay the woman enough to make it well worth her while - and nobody back here need ever know anything about it.

SID
I'm sorry, that doesn't appeal to me at all. You want me not only to add to the population of some probably already over-populated country, but to give my child a likely social handicap at birth by making it of mixed race. Furthermore, while I don't necessarily want to get too involved, there's always the chance that, once it starts happening, I may
Want to get very involved with the mother and the child and the whole thing. I want to keep my options open. So, thumbs down on your export scheme, Morty. Let's keep this a local product.

MINERVA
Just how local?

SID
Well, preferably right here in San Boleta. After all, this might take . . . er . . . repeated attempts, even with a very fertile woman - and at this point in my career, I certainly can't spare a lot of time for it.

MINERVA
Speaking of fertile, just how fertile do you think you are, Sidney?

SID
My sperm count is quite high; had it checked by Dr. Levy a couple of weeks ago.

MINERVA
Oh, you did!

SID
Yes. I told you, this has been on my mind for a long time.

MORTY
Well, if we can narrow the field to San Boleta, that certainly simplifies a lot of things.

SID
I can narrow it much more than that.

MINERVA
A classified ad in the Sun-Bulletin: "Winner of Nolworth Prize taking applications for motherhood." You'd have them flocking.

SID
No, I'm thinking more specifically, of the School.

MINERVA AND MORTY
(Shocked) The School!

MINERVA
Your School! Our School! - that I helped you found! Our livelihood! -- Our place in the community! You want to use the Schine School of Thinking for -- to -- as a -

SID
Well, it is the place where I have met most of the young women I know.

MINERVA
I knew it all the time! You already have someone in mind!

SID
I don't!

MINERVA
You do! Who is it?

SID
I don't! I swear I don't!
MINERVA
Who is it, Sidney?

SID
Susan Palmer.
(There is a tense pause.)

MINERVA
And to what extent is she aware of your interest in her?

SID
She may suspect that I am interested in her more than as a student - but I have done nothing to confirm her suspicions.

MORTY
Just a minute here! I don't even know Susan Palmer. Who is she?

MINERVA
I've met her a few times when I've been at the School, and once, about three months ago, when she came here to one of our parties, with another girl, I believe, and we chatted for a few minutes. She's from San Jose, isn't she?

SID
Yes. She went to San Jose State for four years, then somehow heard of me, came here last September, and told me that my School was going to be her graduate school. She has a part-time job at the Hagerty Hardware Store, downtown.

MORTY
How old is she?

SID
Twenty-two.

MORTY
Where does she live?

SID
She shares an apartment near the South Beach with another girl, who's going to City College.

MINERVA
No doubt you find her attractive.

SID
I won't deny that that enters into it. But after all, that's part of the biology. She's also highly intelligent, and an excellent student.
MINERVA
What do you know of her background?

SID
I don't know many of the details, but it seems to be a pretty unhappy one. Apparently she was brought up largely by nuns. Her father was a Navy flier, and was listed as "missing in action" early in the Vietnam War. Her mother, I gather, has some severe mental problems, and is now in some kind of State institution. She has one married older brother, but he's somewhere in upstate New York. I haven't really inquired about these matters, but they've come out in class discussion, and in some papers she's written.

MINERVA
Sidney, look me in the eye, and tell me if you love this girl.

SID
No, I don't love her; but I must say that she does remind me of someone I did once love, before I met you.

MINERVA
Natalie?

SID
Yes.

MORTY
I seem to have missed that episode in your career, Sidney.

MINERVA
He still doesn't like to talk about it. It was long ago, when he was doing graduate work at Stanford. She eventually married a British historian. Sidney took me to visit them in Oxford when we were over there.

SID
They have three children.

MORTY
Well, now at least we have one candidate. Do I hear any other nominations?

SID
I assure you Sue knows nothing about any of this.

MINERVA
And you want my approval - is that it, Sidney?

SID
Yours and hers.
MINERVA
Or else?

SID
Or else, at least yours. If it doesn't work out with her, we can always look for somebody else.

MINERVA
I said I'd help you, and I will. But it's not going to be easy for me. I'll need your help too.
(They embrace.)

MORTY
I don't know about you guys, but I'm beginning to feel in the mood for some munchies. What have you got -- besides this touching love-scene - that's nice and sweet and gooey?

(CURTAIN)

 


ACT II Scene 1 - Six Weeks Later
(The Schine School of Thinking, in a converted old house on a quiet street in San Boleta. A sunny afternoon in March. SID's office adjoins a classroom.
SID is in his office, being interviewed by KIMBER JONES, a middle-aged, rather gaudily-dressed woman.)

KIMBER JONES
And what are your plans now, Dr. Schine?

SID
You mean, now that I've actually been awarded the Prize? Or, now that it's springtime, and the days are getting longer? Or, now that Kimber Jones of the Sun-Bulletin has been kind enough to want to interview me? You know, being written up in your column is just about as high as one can go socially in San Boleta.

KIMBER JONES
I'm not sure what that says about me, or about San Boleta - but I'll take it as a compliment for both of us. But there was also the editorial.

SID
Yes! Imagine! An approving editorial - a congratulating editorial! About me! An encouraging editorial! In my home-town paper! Why is it that successful people, no matter how well-known they become, always like to be taken notice of by their home community? It's no good being a hero in Minneapolis if nobody cares what I'm doing in San Boleta - especially if San Boleta is where I'm doing it.

KIMBER JONES
But you've been well-known locally ever since your book came out last year, and you must know that it's been much-discussed. Incidentally, what proportion of your students, would you say, have come to San Boleta from somewhere else specifically to enroll here in your School?

SID
It's a growing percentage, and must by now be well over half. And to that extent, I'm afraid I'm contributing to our population problems here. Nevertheless, you may report that I voted for Proposition P, and am very sorry that it didn't pass.

KIMBER JONES
Your total enrollment is . . . ?

SID
At present, about fifty; but I expect quite an influx as a result of this Nolworth Prize.

KIMBER JONES
It must have been difficult financially . . .

SID
There's plenty of work to be done around this old house, and some students have been helping that way . . . And my wife's family have been very generous.

KIMBER JONES
I'm intrigued by this opening statement in your Catalog: (Reads) "We try to teach you how to think. We do not guarantee satisfaction. In fact, we almost guarantee dissatisfaction. That is an additional price you pay in learning to think."

SID
(Laughing) Well, that certainly forestalls a lot of complaints.

KIMBER JONES
I also enjoyed your "Proclamation of Non-Accreditation."

SID
I don't know what body would conceivably want to accredit me. But if any did, it would totally shatter my image.

KIMBER JONES
So all your standards are internal ones?

SID
Apart from the various laws and ordinances which I have to obey.

KIMBER JONES
It says in the Catalog that you have no age restrictions.

SID
That's right. Our youngest student is twelve - Of course, he's only part-time. Our oldest, Mrs. Tracy, is ninety-one.

KIMBER JONES
Now, as I understand it, there's no particular length of study . . .

SID
Students can keep coming as long as they feel they are benefiting and I feel I have something to offer them. I try to encourage them not to stay too long. The faster I can get my message across to them, the more successful I feel I have been. That's unfortunate, of course, because it always means I lose my best students soonest. But sometimes they come back again.

KIMBER JONES
Well, I might as well ask you the big one: What exactly is your message?

SID
To me, it's nothing more than basic common sense: the way things are, served up with whatever humor, charm, and drama I can put across. But this, of course, is strictly between you and me and the rest of the world. - But we'll be having a lesson soon, at 3:00, and you're welcome to stay and be part of it.

KIMBER JONES
There are people who talk about you and this place as if it were some kind of a cult.

SID
Only because they're misinformed, I assure you. But I know the sort of thing they probably have in mind. They ought to realize that there's nothing either of religion or of business in my background. I'm no Christ-like figure; and I'm no charismatic showman. I'm just an ordinary rational humanist free-thinker type who's more comfortable on the far fringes of academia.

KIMBER JONES
Suppose some established University offered you a good permanent position . . . ?

SID
A year ago, I might have considered it. But I guess that's one big difference something like the Nolworth Prize can make. Of course, I've been all kinds of invitations to go here and there giving speeches. But video tape is going to take care of most of those situations.

KIMBER JONES
But I hear you're very fond of traveling.

SID
Oh, yes, and I like to tie it in with my teaching too. Minerva and I have been around the world several times together, visiting unusual schools. And I often send my students traveling, especially if they haven't done very much, just to loosen up their minds. You'd be surprised how much difference it can make if you take the right trip at the right time in your life.

KIMBER JONES
I don't suppose you award any kind of degrees or diplomas?

SID
And naturally we have nothing resembling examinations or grades or units of credit. But I'm always happy to write a letter for any student who wants one saying that they were here, and whatever else seems appropriate; and I've been getting reports that, as the School becomes better-known, these letters of mine are being accepted as having some value, in matters of admission and "evaluation" by some pretty fancy institutions. The University of Cansiltania, for example, admitted Seymour Fisk to a doctoral program mainly on the strength of my letter - and he never even graduated from high school.

KIMBER JONES
Remarkable! But tell me, just how did all this get started?

SID
My family were refugees from Europe. They settled in the Eagle Lake district of Los Angeles, which is where my sister and I were born. My father was hungry for security. He got a job in the Post Office, and stayed there all his days. I went to the ordinary public schools, then to U.C.L.A. and Stanford, where I got my Ph.D. in European History. I taught college for a while, got interested in what they were then calling "alternative education," and first met Minerva when we were both attending a conference about it. San Boleta is her home town, and she was teaching at San Boleta High. We got married twelve years ago, with the idea of founding our own School here. She helped a lot in the early days, but, as it's become more successful, I'm afraid she's somehow, as you very well know, become much more of a socialite.

KIMBER JONES
And socialitism, I gather, is not quite your bag.

SID
Certainly not just for its own sake. But in any case, the School satisfies most of my social needs. (Glancing out the window) Ah - I think I see Minerva coming now. She's been coming to these Tuesday afternoon lessons lately. Maybe you'd like to talk to her while I -- Oh! I see she's with a student I'd like you to meet.
(Enter MINERVA with SUE PALMER)
Minerva, this is Kimber Jones from the Sun-Bulletin. Kimber, this is Sue Palmer, a very important person.

SUE PALMER
I'm glad you consider me important. I hope you always will.

SID
Why should you doubt it?

SUE PALMER
In this place, you learn to doubt everything.

KIMBER JONES
And what do you consider important, Ms. Palmer?

SUE PALMER
I know that I consider this place and these people very important, but beyond that, I'm no longer sure.

KIMBER JONES
(Sarcastically) You don't mean they've been washing your brain, turning you into a blindly loyal follower of their insidious cult, plot, or orgy?

SUE PALMER
You would have to define "orgy" . . . No, I feel I've been learning to become more free.

KIMBER JONES
There are other people elsewhere, I presume, who are also important to you?

SUE PALMER
In my case, as it happens, there aren't. But if you want to call me to that extent "alienated," it can't be blamed on the School. I was already alienated before I came here.

SID
Minerva, Kimber was asking about your part in my life, and I was hoping you might answer for yourself.

MINERVA
My part in your life! I'm not even sure of my part in my own life! I suppose I'm your wife and lover, and to a certain extent, your companion and friend.

SID
For better or worse, you are unquestionably my best friend.

KIMBER JONES
Dr. Schine was pointing out how active you are socially.

MINERVA
I know he wishes I were more avtive in the School. But I do have my own life to live, and I would like to live at least a certain part of it according to my own standards of elegance.

SID
And this School, for better or worse, does not always meet those standards.

MINERVA
But I must say it's rising, especially since he won the Nolworth Prize. And I have been taking more of an interest lately, haven't I, Sidney?

SID
Yes, you have, and I appreciate it. But I wish there could come a time when your judgments concerning me do not depend so heavily upon what other people say about me. Still, so long as it works in my favor, I can't complain. It's when I find you agreeing with my critics that I become uncomfortable.
\
KIMBER JONES
Does criticism upset you?

SID
Not if it is intelligent - and non-violent. (Looks at watch) It will soon be time for the lesson, so if you'd like to make yourselves comfortable in the classroom . . .

(SUE PALMER and KIMBER JONES enter the classroom. SID closes office door behind them)

Well, what did she say? Is she or isn't she?

MINERVA
She'll talk about everything else with me, but she insists that that is a matter for you and her alone to discuss. But we're getting to know each other quite well, and I'm thinking more and more that, if you had to do it at all, you at least did choose a wonderful person.

SID
And I'm beginning to wonder about the whole thing. It's so strange. She was perfectly willing to have sex with me that one week. And she agreed to the whole idea of taking no precautions, and doing whatever she could to bear me a child. But since then, she's been so uncommunicative to me, and all she will say is "I'll let you know when I have some definite information."

MINERVA
And from what I can gather, there's no likelihood of her having been with anybody else for a long time; and that week was at the height of her fertility cycle.

SID
It's truly wonderful of you, Minerva, to be with me at a time like this.

MINERVA
What choice do I really have? I don't want to lose you. But it turns out, fortunately, that I'm also making a friend. You'd be surprised how many interests and opinions we have in common. Do you know, she even likes sandwiches cut exactly the way I like them cut, and not the way you like them cut at all.

SID
Well, I'm beginning to feel pretty awkward. I want to be on good terms with the mother of my child.

MINERVA
But we don't yet know -

SID
Yes, that's the whole point. And I'm not used to living with this much uncertainty about something this important.

MINERVA
Nevertheless, the show must go on. So go on out there, and do your stuff!

(They enter the classroom, which is by now full of students, SUE PALMER sitting at the rear, where MINERVA joins her. KIMBER JONES sits near front, with note-pad.)

SID
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. First, you should know that an invited member of the Press is with us today, Ms. Kimber Jones of the Sun-Bulletin, our only daily newspaper. So everything said here may be considered on the record.
Speaking on the record, then, and choosing my words very carefully, I will first say "Hello," hoping that such a statement will not be misquoted or misunderstood.
We made no previous decision about what we were going to think about here today. Is there anything particularly on anybody's mind?

MINERVA
(To SUE PALMER) Go on! Now's your chance!

SUE PALMER
(Hesitantly) Yes. Can we discuss motherhood - or parenthood.

SID
Alright. I'll kick that around for a while, if you like. And anybody who wants to interrupt at any time, please feel free.
I've never been a parent. But I had parents. My father is dead, but I am alive, and to that extent, my father is still alive. I don't honestly know whether that does him much good now - but the thought of it may have sometimes made him feel better while he was alive. And feeling good is surely of all things one most desirable - so long as it doesn't lead to feeling bad.
Until very recently, of course, parenthood for most people was more or less automatic. Only a few years ago, it became, for most people, to a large extent, a matter of choice. The social effects of this change, which of course we owe, together with so much else, to modern science, are just beginning to be felt. Of course, the choice we have is limited to "whether or not." We cannot yet even choose the child's sex, and many other physical and possibly even mental factors are already in the cards, or the genes, at the moment of conception.
That is a wonderful word and thought: "Conception." I don't know how it works in other languages, but in our magnificent English tongue, we can speak of an idea or a child as both being "conceived." However, although it seems rather unequal, only women can conceive children, while both men and women can conceive ideas.
The woman conceives. The child develops completely inside her, so that it is totally invisible, although it gives increasing evidences of its presence. And it keeps developing until some magic moment when something decides it to go forth. This process is not peculiar to Man, but it is something we alone have secured some control over. And no other species has yet written any books about it.
Even after being born, we are practically helpless for a long time, while various things are done to us, most of which are probably supposed to be for our own good. A parent protects, nurtures, educates, loves.
Species differ, and societies differ - and there's not much you can say about family life which is universally true. Certainly, in our society, the very idea of a family is changing before our very eyes. But mother, father, and child were until recently, and, for all I know, possibly still are, thought of as the basic family unit. You see, it all has to do with the survival of the species. But that's something else over which we now, strangely enough, have a little more choice about, and control over, than we once did.
There was a time when the species more or less survived by itself, and nobody really had much say about it. But today, not only can we choose whether or not to support species survival by having children. We can also choose whether or not to support the existence of weapons of mass destruction.
There's always a chance, I suppose, that those weapons, even if used, in some doomsday scenario, would not mean an end to our species per se. Science fiction must by now have explored innumerable alternative outcomes. And in any case, all of us who live and pay taxes here are willy-nilly supporting this system, which is based on the idea that the survival of our nation is important enough to be staked against the survival of our species.

A STUDENT
You're getting away from the subject of parenthood - and I have a question: Can't there be many advantages to a childless lifestyle?

SID
Of course there can - in terms of freedom and lessened responsibility. But as far as I know, there are no tax advantages, and there are no awards for "Childless Person" or "Childless Couple" of the year. Even the unmarried state is not, beyond a certain point in life, honored or celebrated.
We have to face it: There is a gigantic conspiracy to keep the world going. And those who are not with it are not necessarily against it - We just don't count, as far as Nature is concerned.

A STUDENT
But we can affect human survival in many ways other than by being a parent.

SID
Very true. And of course, the people who become parents, even today, do not in most cases have human survival uppermost in their thoughts . . . Unless "human survival" is somehow another way of saying "Love." There do seem to be some very close connections between love and survival, although you wouldn't know it, to see the way many government often behave towards each other - But let's not get back into that. There must inevitably be much selfishness in parenthood - but on the whole, it does tend to be one of the best opportunities most of us are ever given to become somewhat less centered in ourselves.

A STUDENT
If you don't mind my changing the subject, you were talking about honors and awards, but you haven't yet told us about your trip to Minneapolis. Of course, we've all heard and read about it in the news, and we've read your speech. But what was it like behind the scenes.

SID
I must respectfully decline to answer, because my wife is here, and she specializes in behind-the-scenes information.

MINERVA
We kept joking that it would all turn out to be a mistake or a hoax. But it was for real. A real reception committee at the airport. A real luxury hotel. Real people of real eminence being polite and kind and complimentary. And a real check for Five Thousand Dollars. But I'll tell you the truth: somehow I still can't believe that it really happened.

SID
This might be a good point at which to take a break.

(STUDENTS relax and chat. SID goes out.)

MINERVA
(To SUE PALMER) Can I get you a cup of coffee?

SUE PALMER
Thanks.
(MINERVA gets two cups of coffee from urn at side of room and returns to sit beside SUE PALMER.)
I'm not sure now that I got him to talk about the right subject.

MINERVA
How do you mean?

SUE PALMER
Maybe, before you get into motherhood and parenthood, you ought to get your thinking straight about marriage and commitment.

MINERVA
(Somewhat perturbed) Well, yes, perhaps you should. I have some good books I could loan you.

SUE PALMER
Incidentally, I want to thank you for the "present" you both sent me.
MINERVA
Well, we thought it was the least we could do.

SUE PALMER
Nobody ever gave me a home pregnancy test kit before. Actually, I had already bought myself one - but yours claims to be even more accurate.

MINERVA
It was the best one Sidney could find. He told me he stood in the drug store for an hour, taking everything out of the boxes, and reading all the instructions.

SUE PALMER
How can you take all this so sweetly?

MINERVA
It's probably just because I know him so well. He's afraid, you see. We women, whether we have children or not, somehow we know that life and the Universe go on, and that we're all a part of it forever and ever. But for a man, especially one like him, with his wonderful mind, the future can be a very frightening place. I'm his wife. I've got to see him through his fears.

(SID returns and takes his place at the front.)

SID
Shall we resume? . . . . I'm not sure, Sue, if you have any thoughts of your own about parenthood that you might want to share with us?

SUE PALMER
My own thoughts are somewhat confused at the moment. Maybe that what always happens when theoretical matters suddenly become very practical for the first time.

SID
You mean . . . . ?

SUE PALMER
Yes. I am pregnant. I just found out for sure this morning.

(Murmurs of interest, approval, concern, etc.)

SID
(Stammering) Are you sure? -- I mean, is this on the record? -- I mean -

SUE PALMER
The test is supposed to be 98 per cent accurate. And I took two of them.

SID
Then - er - allow me - er - on behalf of all of us, to - er - congratulate you. I - er - presume that congratulations are in order, or else you wouldn't be announcing it in this way.

MINERVA
(Suddenly jumping to her feet) That's right, Sidney! Congratulations are in order! Congratulations, Sidney! (She bursts into tears, and rushes from the room)

(Uproar in the classroom.)

(CURTAIN.)

 

 

ACT II, Scene 2 - One Month Later

Scene: A view-point in the hills above San Boleta, one of many along the Jackrabbit Hiking Trail. A pleasant April day, about lunch-time.

(MORTY enters from stage left)

MORTY
(Calling back behind him, slightly out of breath, looking at his watch) Not bad, Sid! We made it in forty-five minutes. Wow! Look how clear the Islands are today.

SID
(Entering) And a splendid view of the oil platforms. What a world, Morty, what a world! Well, I guess this is a good place to break out the refreshments. I'll have to be back by 2:00.

MORTY
Good enough! (They settle down, get out their bagged lunches, and start eating.) So, go on with what you were saying . . .

SID
Oh yes, about the doctor. Well, you know, she was ready just to go to the Public Health Service Clinic - after all, she doesn't make all that much at the hardware store. But of course, I insisted on getting her to a top gynecologist, so she's being taken care of by Aaronson, the same one that Minerva goes to. And he says everything looks A.O.K.

MORTY
So you're really going to be joining the ranks of us proud pappies. Well, old son, I told you there was nothing to it.

SID
At this point, I'm just keeping my fingers crossed. From the books I've been reading, there are so many things that can go wrong.

MORTY
Then you shouldn't be reading those kind of books. Just leave it to nature and Dr. Aaronson. What I want to know is, what is all this doing for you, so far? Are you happier now than you were before?

SID
I'll tell you the truth, Morty: I'm tickled pink. I can't believe I had the courage to go through with it. I keep saying to myself, it was I who conceived this child.

MORTY
I've never asked you before, Sid, but I'm curious, naturally: What was it like when you first approached Sue with this "plan"?
SID
Well, of course, I had to get thoroughly stoned before I could discuss it with her at all. But I did have the advantage of being her teacher, whom she had chosen, and whom she admired so much. And I think she had a certain compassion for me. And maybe it was even more than that.

MORTY
Did you make any kind of written agreement?

SID
I thought of it, of course, and told her I'd be willing to state in advance that I acknowledged paternity, and would guarantee financial support. But she said she didn't feel that was necessary.

MORTY
And what about the hanky-panky? How was that?

SID
Not as good as with Minerva. Maybe Sue thought I was being too obsessive about it. I tried to be warm and affectionate; but she was a means to an end - and she knew it?

MORTY
So, how are things with Minerva now?

SID
Pretty icy, I'm afraid. But she'll work through it, I hope. Anyway, she's at least still on good terms with Sue. In fact, they've gone off on a drive together today.
And meanwhile, I can revel in the idea of becoming a father, just like all you other guys -- even if it did take me a long time and a roundabout way to get into it. Life really does seem richer now. There really is something for me to live for - something even more important than the School.
Sure, I know I may just be deceiving myself. Everything's still going to change. We're all still going to die. But I was out there in some side-channel. Now I'm in the mainstream of life, with my own little ticket to eternity.

MORTY
(Looking off to R.) Looks like some other hikers coming down the trail. That's the trouble with these trails - they're getting too popular.

(CHARLES and CINDY enter from right)

CHARLES and CINDY
Hi!

MORTY and SID
Hi!
SID
I think we've met before.

CHARLES
Oh! It's the - er - famous Dr. Schine. We've - er - been hearing a lot about you.

CINDY
Come on, Charles.

SID
Can't you stay for a minute, and enjoy the view? This is my friend, Morty Wall.

CINDY
Charles, I really think we should be going.

CHARLES
I'm Charles Carman. This is my wife, Cindy.

SID
Ah, yes, so you went ahead and did the deed. Blessings on you both. Too bad about Proposition P.

CHARLES
Yeah. Well, you can't win them all. We're trying now to do something about those oil platforms out there. We're working with CRUD - you know, the Committee to Resist Underwater Development. It's really all the same thing, isn't it?

CINDY
Charles, I do not want to stand talking to this man.

SID
Now just a minute. What is all this about? You said you've been hearing a lot about me. Do you mind telling me just what you've been hearing, and where you've been hearing it?

CINDY
I'd prefer not even to be seen associating with you.

SID
Well, you're not very likely to be seen up here, and Morty won't tell. Now come on . . .

CHARLES
We heard what's been going on at your School.

SID
What particular rumor has reached you?
CHARLES
How you've been makin' it with the chicks and knockin' 'em up -

CINDY
And calling it "Education" !

MORTY
Sure, Sid, that sort of crap is all over town . . . I've heard some of it myself.

CINDY
Do you deny it?

SID
If only people like you would learn to think for yourselves, you would never get hold of such distorted ideas.

CINDY
"Think for ourselves" -- In other words, we need some lessons from you. That must be just the line he gets these poor girls hooked on. Well, I want you to know that no child of mine will ever go near a school like yours. And if my friends and I have any say about it, we'll get you closed down and run out of town. Charles, I am going! (She stomps off L.)

CHARLES
Wait, Cindy - I'll be with you in a minute! (to Sid) Don't take it too hard, Dr. Schine. Seems to me you've got a pretty good thing going there. I wish I had your brains - and your guts - and your balls! (He follows Cindy off.)

SID
It's the story of my life, Morty. Always being misunderstood. Do you know, when I was a child, there's only one time I can ever remember really praying a special prayer of my own -- I prayed to God once, after I'd been beaten or punished for something, to "give me understanding parents."

MORTY
I don't know who spreads all this garbage. There's never been anything in the paper about it.

SID
That was hardly necessary, considering the way it came out. Of course, Kimber Jones couldn't mention it in print-not in a paper like the Sun-Bulletin.

MORTY
Well, I'm behind you all the way, Sidney. But you know I always did think you shouldn't have got the School mixed up in it.

SID
So did Minerva - and look at the way she chose to emphasize her point.

MORTY
Maybe she just couldn't help herself. In any case, she's the one who's really going to be most hurt by these wild stories, isn't she? After all, as you say, you're used to it. But she's not - and this is much more her home town than it is yours.

SID
As usual, there's nothing on my side but the truth. I've been a perfectly faithful husband. I did nothing without the full knowledge and approval of all concerned. The girl is twenty-two years old. She just happened to be enrolled -

MORTY
Sidney, you know as well as I do that most people prefer a good juicy story to the truth any day.

SID
I'm sorry to say this, but it's at times like this that I just feel like getting the hell out of here. Why did I ever come to such a backwater? You know, Morty, sometimes I go back to my old neighborhood in L.A. Of course, it's changed tremendously, and nearly all the old people are gone. But our old house is still standing there, number 83 Lakeview Road. It's the only place where I can ever remember being really happy. We moved away when I was five, and from then on it was always apartments and miserable bits of other people's houses that we live in. I don't know who owns it now, but sometimes I dream that one day I'll buy it and go back and live there again. . . . I could even move the School there.

MORTY
Is that the area where your mother lives?

SID
Her apartment's not too far away, in West Hollywood. Of course, she'd be delighted if I moved back into town . . . although I'm not sure if my sister would.

MORTY
Is that the one who goes on the cruises?

SID
I only have the one - Geraldine. She and my mother have become very close since my father died, almost like sisters.

MORTY
Would Minerva go with you?

SID
Frankly, at this point, I don't even care.

MORTY
But you have a child to think about now.

SID
Yes, a child . . . And my mother doesn't even know about it yet. Her first grandchild.

MORTY
Do you think she'll understand?

SID
I gave up praying or hoping for understanding from my parents long ago, Morty. All I hope for now is a little bit of acceptance.

MORTY
Well, I know my Mom wouldn't accept it. It was hard enough to get my folks to accept Erica, just because she wasn't a Catholic.

SID
She's always wanted grandchildren . . . They all do, don't they?

MORTY
But from what I've heard about your sister and you, she must have given up hope of that some time ago.

SID
That's why this should be such a wonderful surprise for her. Morty, you just don't know how much I want to please her. The last thing my father ever said to me was "Take care of your mother and Geraldine. Help make them happy if you can."

MORTY
They always say that sort of thing.

SID
I know. But I've tried. I've really tried. But it's not easy. My mother wouldn't even let me put an air-conditioner in her apartment, even though it gets so hot in there every summer. She's just so set in her ways - doesn't want anything changed.

MORTY
Yes, mine's like that too . . . But when are you going to tell her about Sue?

SID
It ought to be soon, I guess - before she finds out in some other way. . . . Maybe I'll drive down there later this afternoon, and surprise her. (Looks at watch) Better get a move on now. On the way down, I want to hear some of your new songs.

CURTAIN

 

ACT II, Scene 3 - Several hours later.

Scene: The apartment of Laura (Mrs. Hector) Schine in Los Angeles.

(LAURA SCHINE, a small woman in her mid-seventies, is on the telephone.)

LAURA SCHINE
I tell you, Reba, it's been terrible, just terrible. This was all three hours ago, and I'm still trembling. (The door bell rings.) Oh! Somebody at the door. I've got to go. Goodbye, dear. Goodbye. (She goes to front door, and calls through it) Who is it?

Voice of SID
Are you decent? Would you like some company?

LAURA SCHINE
Sidney! Is that you?

SID
It's not the Ayatolla Khomeini.

LAURA SCHINE
But you didn't tell me you were coming . . .

SID
Every now and then, I like to bring some unexpected pleasure into your life . . . Aren't you going to let me in?

LAURA SCHINE
Of course, of course. (She opens the door, and they embrace.) Oh, my son! My son!

SID
Is anything wrong?

LAURA SCHINE
Come in. Come in. Why should anything be wrong?

SID
You seem a little edgy.

LAURA SCHINE
It's just that you're . . . such a surprise.

SID
Aren't you glad to see me?

LAURA SCHINE
Of course. Of course. Very glad. I'm always glad to see you . . . . Come, sit down, tell me. . . how everything is . . . Let me get you something. . . a cup of tea? . . . Have you had dinner yet?

SID
I'm not very hungry yet, but I'll have some tea and cookies. (LAURA busies herself nervously preparing things, while SID settles on the sofa). . . What's been happening here? Is Geraldine still working at the Jewish Welfare?

LAURA SCHINE
Yes. . . yes, still there. Of course, she's not very happy with it.

SID
Has she ever had a job that she was happy with?

LAURA SCHINE
Now, don't you criticize your sister, Sidney. You know she doesn't have such an easy life.

SID
I've told her a dozen time, we could always use office help at the School.

LAURA SCHINE
You know she'd never move way out there to San Boleta.

SID
How's Auntie Reba?

LAURA SCHINE
About the same, thank God. Still with the teeth and the dentist -- but otherwise O.K.

SID
And you?

LAURA SCHINE
You know how it goes, Sidney. Day to day. Day to day.

SID
O.K. Come on, stop fussing around and sit down. Don't you want to hear what's been happening to me?

LAURA SCHINE
Yes . . . Sure . . . How are things at home? How is poor Cordelia?

SID
Not much worse, I guess. Minerva still goes to see her every day, and I go once in a while. But it is depressing . . . Anyway, I've got lots of good news.

LAURA SCHINE
Have you? . . . Good.

SID
Yes! First of all, I want you to know that, since I won the Nolworth Prize, people have been coming to me with all kinds of ideas, and one of them is to set up a franchise system, and have Schine Schools of Thinking all over the country, and eventually maybe even all over the world. What do you think of that! Of course, there's nothing definite yet, but these people have the funds to do it, and I think they really believe in me. They're talking about having me write more books, to use as texts - and the money they say I could make is making my head swim! (He notices that LAURA is beginning to weep) . . . What are you crying about? . . . Don't cry! . . .

LAURA SCHINE
I'm thinking about your father . . . If only he could be here . . .

SID
But wait, I've got more to tell you. You know the old house at 83 Lakeview? -- I've just been over there, before I came here. . .

LAURA SCHINE
I haven't been around there for years. . . Is it still standing?

SID
Not only is it still there, but I've been making inquiries, and, you know, I think I could buy it!

LAURA SCHINE
Buy it? . . . But why would you want to do that, Sidney?

SID
Why? . . . It's our old home! It's the only real home we ever had! You know we'd never have sold it, we'd never have moved away, if Dad hadn't had the accident - if he'd been able to drive to the Fenimore Post Office after he was transferred.

LAURA SCHINE
But that was so long ago, dear. It's all changed. Everything's changed.

SID
But it's still there! We could at least have it again.

LAURA SCHINE
And what would you do with it now?

SID
I could live in it, maybe, part of the time. Maybe have an office or classes there. Maybe a job for Geraldine! And you could come over sometimes, and - but we can talk about all of that some other time. Right now, I've got something even more important to tell you about . . .

LAURA SCHINE
Honey, I'm kind of tired today, and I was thinking of going to bed early. Maybe it will keep until the next time you come into town. Maybe you should start back for San Boleta before it gets too late -

SID
Wait a minute. What is all this? You never go to bed early.

LAURA SCHINE
I told you, I'm tired.

SID
Well, just sit back and relax. You've got to hear this. It's really what I came to tell you, something I've been holding back for weeks.

LAURA SCHINE
O.K. Go ahead. Go ahead.

SID
It's not easy for me, even though it is good news. . . . You know how you and Dad always looked forward to the day when you'd be grandparents. . .

LAURA SCHINE
Y-yes. (She begins to cry again.)

SID
And how disappointed and sad you've become over the years as you've realized that it was never going to happen . . .

LAURA SCHINE
Yes, dear, yes (weeping more and more) -- Oh Sidney, don't go on! I know! I know all about it!

SID
(Bewildered) You know?

LAURA SCHINE
They were here! They told me all about it!

SID
Who were here?

LAURA SCHINE
Minerva and - and Susan. They said you would be hiking all day in the hills. I never thought you'd -

SID
You mean they came here today? But why? What did they tell you?

LAURA SCHINE
They told me the whole story. We had a long talk.

SID
But I don't understand. Why did they come here, to you, without even telling me?

LAURA SCHINE
Minerva said she thought I ought to know. She wasn't sure when you were going to tell me. But she seemed to feel that I was partly responsible. The poor girl was obviously very upset.

SID
So she brought Sue to meet you?

LAURA SCHINE
A lovely young woman. And she has so much respect for you and your ideas. But she seems very mixed-up. I don't know if you realize, Sidney, what you've done to her.

SID
What do you mean, what I've done to her?! Whatever has been done, we did it together -- and Minerva too. I wouldn't, I couldn't, have gone through it without her support.

LAURA SCHINE
Minerva loves you very much. That's why she was so disturbed by what happened today, this morning, in San Boleta.

SID
What do you mean? What happened?

LAURA SCHINE
After you left on your hike, someone showed her a petition they're passing around town. It's to the Nolworth Prize Committee. They're petitioning to have them revoke your Prize! Here . . . She brought a blank copy to show me . . . (She brings it out of a drawer.)

SID
(Groans) Oh God! (He forces himself to read it.) This is so stupid! Do you realize how stupid this is? "menace to our children" . . . "moral blight on our community" . . . Look, it's even got spelling mistakes! Do you think a group like the Nolworth Committee would even look twice at something that so obviously comes from some bunch of ignorant crackpots?

LAURA SCHINE
Minerva said she saw there were already signatures of some of your own neighbors.

SID
Oh God! Minerva can't handle situations like this. I know she can't. She goes to pieces, and blames it all on me.

LAURA SCHINE
She said she felt she had to do something.

SID
So what does she do? She can't go running back to her own mother, so she runs to mine! Well, at least she gave you the first chance to meet the mother of your first grandchild.

LAURA SCHINE
There isn't going to be any grandchild, Sidney.

SID
What!

LAURA SCHINE
We talked it over - the three of us.

SID
What's been going on here? You talked what over?

LAURA SCHINE
We decided . . . . it would be better if . . . .

SID
(Horrified) No! I don't believe it! You wouldn't!

LAURA SCHINE
It's the only way, Sidney. You can't have a child just to prove a point.

SID
What are you saying? What are you telling me?

LAURA SCHINE
For Susan's sake . . . for the sake of your career . . . for the whole wonderful life you and Minerva have built together in San Boleta . . .

SID
Not an abortion! For God's sake, Momma, tell me you don't mean it!

LAURA SCHINE
It had to be, my son, it had to be.

SID
Where did they go from here? Where are they?

LAURA SCHINE
I don't know. They weren't even sure themselves. They had the names of some private clinics, but I didn't see the list. There's nothing you can do now. Just try to accept that it's God's will, and for the best.

SID
God's will! My mother's will! Minerva could never have acted without "authorization."
She knew she could never get my approval, so she came here for yours - and you gave it!

LAURA SCHINE
I had to do what seemed right to me. Remember, I didn't know anything about this before today, because my son hadn't yet found time to tell me. But I could see right away that that poor young girl didn't want that child. All she really wanted was to please her teacher. Don't you realize how low it is for an "edcator" to take advantage of his pupil in that way? Do you think I want other people to say that's how your father and I brought you up?

SID
How can you talk that way? What sort of lies have they been telling you? Susan is twenty-two years old. She knew exactly what she was doing.

LAURA SCHINE
But did you know what you were doing? - all the harm it could cause, even in these "liberated" times? Oh sure, she'd bought your bill of goods. Even Minerva couldn't talk her out of it. It's a good thing she brought her here. I did feel responsible in a way. I could see that words weren't going to be enough. It was just like when you were a kid, and I had to pay the landlord for the windows you broke . . .

 

SID
Now what are you saying? You don't mean you -

LAURA SCHINE
Sure, I gave her some help. More than I could afford, really, but worth every penny to help save you from further shame. Please God, when you come to your senses, you can pay me back.

SID
You paid her to . . . !

LAURA SCHINE
She didn't ask for it. She didn't want to take it at first, didn't like the whole idea. But I could see the difference it made to a poor girl all alone . . . I thought how, if it had been Geraldine, God forbid. . . Against all the expenses, the time, the anguish, what's a few thousand dollars. . . ?

SID
You paid for this? You paid to have this life taken - to have my child, your unborn grandchild - murdered?

LAURA SCHINE
It was the only way, Sidney. Really, it was the only way.

SID
You bribed Susan to kill our baby.

LAURA SCHINE
Susan is not your wife. How could you ever expect me to accept this child?

SID
And to think I was hoping to please you! To think I believed I had something wonderful to share with you, to give new meaning to all our lives! You and my father have done some stupid and terrible things to me, but I thought I'd forgiven you. I'd forgotten how much I could hate you. . . . I'm getting out of here! (He makes for the door.)

LAURA SCHINE
Don't, Sidney - Don't go like this! -- When will I see you again?

SID
Quite possibly, never!

(He rushes out as his mother cries "Sidney!")

(CURTAIN)

 

 

ACT III -- an early August day in the following year.

Scene: The Schine home in San Boleta, as in ACT I. The décor shows many changes. Posters on the walls. Records and a stereo have appeared. New furniture, and some colorful rugs. As the curtain rises, we see SUE PALMER on sofa, looking very much at home, playing with cat. She wears a dressing-gown, and has her hair in a towel.

SUE PALMER
(Giggling) Oh Fallacy! You're such a funny cat! You're the funniest cat I know! And the cutest! And the prettiest! Yes you are! It's just too bad you can't come to my wedding. Maybe we'll have a separate ceremony for you afterwards. I am going to miss you, but Minerva says she'll let you stay with me and Harold whenever she needs to go away. Isn't that wonderful! And it's wonderful because I'm the only private person Minerva would trust you with.

Voice of MINERVA from off L., calling
Now you know just how important one person can be to another.

SUE PALMER
Minerva! Are you eavesdropping again on my conversations with Fallacy?

MINERVA
(Looking in from kitchen door) I'm always alert. Now tell me, just what is your program for today?

SUE PALMER
Tennis this morning. Then at 2:00 there's some kind of little wedding rehearsal at the Mission. I don't think you need to come to that, but you could if you wanted to. Then tonight Harold's taking me to a show at the Riviera Ranch. Aren't Sundays wonderful!

MINERVA
Heavenly! What about the laundry?

SUE PALMER
Oh dear! Was it my turn this week? I completely forgot! I'll do it after the tennis.

MINERVA
Better wait until late this afternoon. I wouldn't want you trapped in a Laundromat while everybody at the Mission was waiting for you.

SUE PALMER
But this is only a rehearsal. The wedding's not for another week.

MINERVA
It's not every day a room-mate, or house-mate, of mine gets married. I want to be sure that everything goes well - even the rehearsal.

SUE PALMER
Sometimes I feel you're less of a house-mate and more of a house-mother.

MINERVA
Let's face it: If I ever had had children, if I'd ever had a daughter, you are just about the age she would be now.

SUE PALMER
Oh, really, Minerva, I don't mind it. You know I've never had a real mother of my own. I appreciate you as a friend, and that can certainly include a bit of mothering. The funny thing is that sometimes I feel you're the one who needs more mothering than I do.

MINERVA
Well, you know I did lose my own mother just last year. And now that Sidney's been away so long, maybe I am in need of care.

SUE PALMER
Do you think he'll ever come back?

MINERVA
By now, I've begun to wonder. At first, I thought he'd get over it and come back at least in a few weeks, or at most in a few months. But it's been nearly a year and a half now, and he writes so little, except things for the School - hardly anything personal - and never a return address.

SUE PALMER
Do you still think we did the right thing?

MINERVA
Do you really believe Harold would have been as interested in marrying you if you had a seven-month old child?

SUE PALMER
He said he would, when I first told him the whole story; but of course the point is that I would have been much less likely to meet him. But I can't say that I'm sorry things have turned out as they have.

MINERVA
Nor am I, really - or at least that's how it seemed until I began to face the fact that you'll be moving away.

SUE PALMER
Only a few blocks away!

MINERVA
Still, you know how it is, coming home to an empty house.

SUE PALMER
You'll be able to have all the cats you want.

MINERVA
But even cats are better when you have someone to share them with.

SUE PALMER
You do miss him, don't you?

MINERVA
I've been so busy running the School, and there's so much of him in the School, that I'm not sure I really have. But I'm always afraid that I will.

SUE PALMER
By now, there's as much of you in the School as there is of him. If it hadn't been for your idea of turning it into a correspondence school, the whole thing would probably have collapsed, after he ran off like that. (The doorbell rings.) Oh, would you get it, Minerva? I'd better go get ready. Come on Fallacy, you can watch.

(SUE goes out, carrying cat. MINERVA opens front door to MORTY)

MORTY
Hi! Just wanted to check with you about a couple of things in Lesson Seventeen, before it goes to the printers.

MINERVA
Sure, Morty, come on in.

(He enters, sits, and starts taking out papers.)

MORTY
How are you enjoying "Happy Week"?

MINERVA
Oh, is that what they're calling the Fiesta this year?

MORTY
Sure, Happy Week, the Festival of Life. Once a year, we celebrate. What do we celebrate
exactly? -- It really doesn't matter. Why do we celebrate? That doesn't matter either. But every year, rain or shine, for a whole week, San Boleta celebrates.

MINERVA
You're already beginning to sound as if your new position is affecting you.

MORTY
Well, you can't very easily be Manager of a School of Thinking without doing a little yourself, on the side.

MINERVA
So, what have you got for me?

MORTY
It's this part here (showing on paper), where it talks about urban development . . . . Are you sure that's the way Sidney wrote it?

MINERVA
No. I'm sure that's the way Sidney did not write it.

MORTY
That gives me a problem. I feel I should be loyal to Sidney's ideas.

MINERVA
Sidney has given me Power of Attorney in all matters concerning the School . . . And I'm the one who pays your salary.

MORTY
I thought you agreed with Sidney -

MINERVA
I always felt a little modification could improve some of his teachings.

MORTY
But what will he say if he comes back. . .

MINERVA
I hope he'll give me credit for doing some thinking of my own. . . But who knows if he ever will come back?

MORTY
How long is it since you've heard now?

MINERVA
About two months. The last letter came from England, with lesson twenty-three.

MORTY
England! I've lost track of how many different countries that makes - but it sounds like he may be heading back in this direction.

MINERVA
All I know is that he's punctual with the lessons, and another one should be arriving very soon from somewhere . . . Was there anything else you wanted to ask me about?

MORTY
Well, there was another part here, but I guess your answer would be just the same, so I won't even bother you with it.

MINERVA
Good! I hate to talk shop on Sundays. . . . What's your family doing in the "Festival of Life?"

MORTY
(Looks at watch) Well, in half an hour we'll be off to the Children's Parade. I'd better be going . . . How are the wedding plans coming along? (Moves towards door.)

MINERVA
I haven't had so much fun since my own! Goodbye. See you tomorrow.

MORTY
Goodbye! (leaves.)

(MINERVA settles down to read the Sunday Comics. SUE PALMER re-enters, dressed for tennis.)

SUE PALMER
Hi ho, off to the courts! . . . What did Morty have to say?

MINERVA
He doesn't like the way I've been altering Sid's lessons.

SUE PALMER
Even in this enlightened age, men still stick together. Good thing he doesn't know you've been letting me have a hand in it too! But after all, it serves Sidney right. You can't teach people to think, and still hope to control them . . . What are you doing today, Minerva?

MINERVA
It's such a lovely morning, I thought I'd go down to the cemetery with some fresh flowers.

SUE PALMER
It really is beautiful down there, isn't it? Strange, but I almost envy you having somebody's grave to visit. I still don't know where my own father is buried - probably never will.

MINERVA
I'll say hello to my family for you.

(Sound of honking outside)

SUE PALMER
There's Charlene! See you later. (Leaves by front door).

MINERVA
Have a good game! Don't get too much sun!

(Watches through window as SUE departs. Then goes to mirror, puts hand to face, as if checking complexion, wrinkles. While she is absorbed in this, the kitchen door opens, and SID steps quietly in. His hair is much greyer, and he appears generally weary. He carries a briefcase. He clears his throat, and MINERVA turns abruptly. For several seconds, they stand wordlessly, staring at each other across the room.)

SID
Your hair!

MINERVA
Don't worry. It didn't go white with grief. I simply stopped dyeing it . . . All those cancer stories about hair-dyes . . . . So you still have your side-door key.

SID
I was afraid you might have changed the lock.

MINERVA (gradually approaching him)
You're looking a good bit greyer yourself.

SID
Are you surprised to see me?

MINERVA
More relieved and glad than surprised.

SID
Did you worry when you didn't hear from me? I wanted you to worry. I wanted to cause you all the worry I could.

MINERVA
Well, whatever caused the change in your feelings can only have been something good.

SID
It's good of you to say that. You're the first person who's been willing to state to me that they saw some possible good in my mother's death.

MINERVA
Your mother's death! Oh Sidney! (She moves as if to embrace him, but he backs away).

SID
That's really why I came back. I hadn't written or called her since you-know-when. But when I heard that she was very ill, I had to come. Coronary and pneumonia. When I arrived, they said she couldn't last long - but thank God, I was still able to talk with her. Somehow it's easier to forgive some people for some things when they're dying. And we each had a lot of forgiving to do.

MINERVA
Oh Sidney, I'm so sorry! If I'd known, I would have been there. For months after you went away, I kept in close touch with her. But as time went on . . .

SID
It did come fairly suddenly. And it was only indirectly that I myself learned about it, through my relatives in London.

MINERVA
(Beginning to weep) And when did she -

SID
She died four days ago, and the funeral was yesterday. I flew back from London a week ago. Geraldine and I saw her installed beside my father in Forest Glen. There was a pretty good turnout. It's really surprising how many friends that woman had.

MINERVA
You should have called and told me! I should have been there with you.

SID
I didn't feel I could face you then. Now, somehow, it's much easier.

MINERVA
Why now?

SID
After what you did, I somehow always thought of you and my mother as an evil team, conspiring against me, thwarting me. Standing there at the funeral, it came to me that you don't have anybody to conspire with any more.

MINERVA
Then you don't know about me and Sue - but of course, you wouldn't.

SID
What about you and Sue?

MINERVA
She's been living here with me, ever since you departed so suddenly - and, needless to say, in all this time, we've become very close friends, and done our share of conspiring - but not all of it against you . . . . You probably also don't know that my mother passed away last November.

SID
Oh! No! I didn't know . . . But of course, I can't honestly say I'm surprised. I would probably be more surprised if you told me she was still alive. But I am sorry to hear it, Minerva. You know that I had nothing but good feelings about your mother.

MINERVA
I don't know how long you're planning to stay - but why don't you at least sit down and let me bring you something . . . . Or maybe you'd rather help yourself?

SID
This is still at least legally in part my house, so I presume I can stay as long as I like. Is my room available, or is that where Sue has planted herself?

MINERVA
At first we stayed out of it, but Sue's had it now for more than a year. And wasn't that better than letting it go to waste all that time?

SID
Perhaps. I don't feel like arguing the point just now. But I will accept your off of some refreshment - and I'll even let you serve it to me.

MINERVA
Good! (She goes into kitchen, and calls in from there.) You must be exhausted after all that traveling, and the emotional ordeal.

SID
(Making himself comfortable on the sofa) Somehow, after going through it once with my father, it wasn't quite so draining the second time.

MINERVA
At least, with your father, I was with you.

SID
And with yours, I was with you. (MINERVA brings in a tray of bread, cheese and fruit, and a glass of milk) Thanks - That looks good. You still know what I like.

MINERVA
I didn't hear a car - How did you get here?

SID
I took the early bus from L.A. Walked up from the Greyhound station. Of course, I couldn't resist going by the School. . . . I gather you've been able to keep it going?

MINERVA
Better than that - It's finally beginning to show a good profit, especially since Morty got it all computerized.

SID
Morty! -- Morty Wall?

MINERVA
None other! He's been my - our - Manager for the last four months.

SID
That's good news, I suppose. I always thought that, if I didn't catch up with computers, computers would eventually catch up with me. I'm sure there've been a lot of changes . . But right now, I'm more interested in what's still the same.

MINERVA
We still have Fallacy.

SID
Hallelujah! We still have our Fallacies! . . . Which reminds me of what I really came here to bring you - my latest thinking lesson, Number Eighteen of the current series. . . . At any rate, it's my best excuse for coming here.

MINERVA
Oh Sidney, you don't need an excuse for coming back to your own home.

SID
How can I feel it's my home if it's inhabited by a woman - by two women - who killed my baby? (Pause) I suppose you still don't think that what you did was wrong?

MINERVA
If it was wrong at all, I feel it was outweighed by the amount of right there was in it.

SID
If it was wrong in no other way, it was wrong in betraying my trust in you, and thereby threatening, if not destroying, our marriage.

MINERVA
What you apparently still don't realize, Sidney, was that what you were proposing to do was also a very serious threat to our marriage, and that at a certain point I began to feel that our marriage just wasn't worth it.

SID
But you were killing something of me!

MINERVA
Sometimes something - even something good - has to be killed, in order that something else, perhaps even better, may survive. If you were not so important to me, I might simply have left you. And I knew that what I was doing would probably hurt and anger you greatly, and I might still risk losing you. But I felt you had gone out of your senses, and I simply must take that risk to have any chance at all of remaining with you.

SID
If I had gone out of my senses, you must have gone out of yours too, from the way you encouraged me.

MINERVA
Maybe I did, but I recovered - but you seemed to remain trapped in your madness.

SID
Was it mad to want to have a child of my own flesh living and breathing in the world? To be able to see it, and perhaps even behave in a fatherly way towards it? Was it mad to wish for a genuine descendant, to whom I might leave whatever it is you and I will both have to be leaving just a few short years from now?

MINERVA
You should have thought of that before it was too late.

SID
It was not too late for me.

MINERVA
(Emphatically) It was too late for our marriage.

(Pause)

SID
So you regret nothing?

MINERVA
Obviously, I regret very much the pain I know I must have caused you. And I also very much regret your behavior, which led to my causing you that pain. But I must admit that your paternal feelings were stronger than I had realized.

SID
I was ready to do everything I could in the world for that child to survive and grow into a future person. Possibly you don't realize, Minerva, that you have been closer to being a mother than I had ever been to being a father. . . . Incidentally, when I was in Kenya, a few months ago, I went to visit the two little boys you took care of during that year when you were there - the ones you always cried about when you remembered them.

MINERVA
Jeffrey and Thomas! You did!

SID
Yes. Of course, they're both grown men now, in their thirties. I brought you a photograph. They gave it to me to give to you. Here. (Takes it out of briefcase.)
They wrote on the back.

MINERVA
(Reads) "To our wonderful American mother. . ." -- and I've been out of touch with them all these years! . . . "We will never forget you." (Weeps.)

SID
You see, you're crying now . . . I had quite a time locating them in the Asian community . . . . But you see, I have had nothing like even that experience.

MINERVA
Well, I presume that, in all this long time you've been gone, you've had plenty of other opportunities.

SID
After this experience here, I certainly didn't go seeking them. And as far as sex is concerned, if that's what you're asking -- or even if it's not - to be quite frank, I find my sex drive has diminished to the point where it can be quite easily handled.

MINERVA
So what is it that you want now, Sidney?

SID
Want? Somehow or other, I guess I just want to make my peace with life. I've got to accept who I am, and may even - which may be much harder - have to accept who you are. I've got to say goodbye to my , and your mother, and face the fact that, for you and me, ours is the generation next to go. We're not the first couple in the world to have no children. And this isn't the only disappointment I've had in life.

MINERVA
Welcome to middle age, Sidney.

SID
We still have some time ahead of us on this Earth, I suppose, if we keep healthy - and it could even be a good time - or at least, have good times in it.

MINERVA
You've no idea how many wonderful letters and proposals have been coming in for you and the School from all over the world. Of course, I couldn't forward any of them, so I've just had to deal with each one as best I could.

SID
You've been good, to do all that.

MINERVA
Just last week, the Nolworth Committee wrote to ask if you'd submit a chapter for some new book they're bringing out.

SID
So they never did revoke my prize.

MINERVA
Of course not. That whole "movement" died down pretty quickly after you . . .

SID
. . . Removed myself from the scene? How kind of San Boleta to accept the teachings after getting rid of the teacher.

MINERVA
You didn't have to go.

SID
Yes, I did. I had to get away from a mad herd of unnatural women, from a place where everything is drying up - where even the schools are closing for lack of children.

MINERVA
Then you'll be pleased to know that fear of population growth is still one of our biggest local issues.

SID
And where do you stand on it now?

MINERVA
Let me answer by telling you that the Schine School of Thinking is now a member of the San Boleta Chamber of Commerce.

SID
My God! The Chamber of Commerce!

MINERVA
And the Better Business Bureau.

SID
(Half-jokingly) I am ruined! Totally ruined!

MINERVA
Not at all. Just slightly renovated.

SID
But I had to remind myself of the real world out there, beyond these mountains, around this ocean, across these borders. I went to France, lived among the students in Paris, improved my knowledge of the language to the point where I could actually have fairly meaningful conversations.

MINERVA
And it was something I could only do on my own. And I went later to Copenhagen, and there for the first time got really serious about learning to play the guitar. . . And I went back to a number of places like Israel and Russia, because I wanted to see how much they've changed in what's now more than half my lifetime. I also went back to visit that land we bought in New Zealand. And, as you now know, I also went to East Aftica.

MINERVA
I feel that I've missed out on a good deal.

SID
How could I go on sharing my life with the murderer of my child?

MINERVA
You know Sidney, I honestly never realized, before all this happened, what strong feelings you had about abortion.

SID
I probably would never have felt as strongly, if it hadn't been my own child. Let other parents make their own decisions. I'm not interested in any controversy about when "life" actually "begins." In this case, as far as I am or ever will be concerned, the life began when I knew that this particular woman was pregnant, this particular time.

MINERVA
Well, if anybody really betrayed you, wasn't it she?

SID
I've never been quite sure how to apportion the blame.

(SUE PALMER has overheard the last part of this conversation, and now enters from kitchen.)

SUE PALMER
Well, I hope you've considered giving yourself at least a fair share.

SID
Sue!

SUE PALMER
Hello, Dr. Schine.

SID
Alright. You know how I feel - both of you. It's taken me a year and a half to get around to telling you. Hello Sue.

MINERVA
Sue, I don't know how much you heard - but Sid's mother has just passed away.

SUE PALMER
Oh! I'm very sorry.

SID
But you deserve an answer, Sue. How much can I blame myself for what happened? I blame my love of logic and rationality, and my inability to predict the illogical and irrational behavior of others.

MINERVA
If that's another way of saying "Occasional poor judgment," I think I might agree with you.

SUE PALMER
I'm glad you're back.

SID
I'm not here for long. Got to get back to L.A. Many things about my mother still to take care of.

SUE PALMER
Has Minerva told you that I'm getting married next week, and moving out of here?

SID
No, she hasn't . . .

SUE PALMER
I could move even sooner, if you wanted me to.

SID
That really won't be necessary. But I'll admit I'm not sorry about your news. As a matter interest, who are you marrying? Is it anybody I would approve of?

SUE PALMER
His name is Harold Cook. He's a local architect. We'll be living not far from here, down on Hidalgo Street. We have our doubts about each other - who doesn't, these days? -- But in general, all the auspices look favorable . . . I appreciate your, shall we say, "fatherly" concern.

SID
He knows about . . . ?

SUE PALMER
Yes, and about some other rather messy episodes in my life. But don't worry - what he mainly feels towards you, just as I still do, is much respect and admiration.

SID
You can tell him that one of your favorable auspices is his name. Did you know that you were marrying God?

SUE PALMER
God?

SID
Our Father who art in Heaven, Harold be thy name.

(They all laugh.)

MINERVA
Sidney, if you managed to forgive your mother before she died, couldn't you also try to forgive me and forgive Sue?

SUE PALMER
It would be wonderful if you could.

SID
Is this to be a specific forgiveness, or a general pardon?

MINERVA
Pardon us all for living, and pardon life for not always meeting your expectations.

SID
Even if I could forgive, I doubt if I will ever forget.

MINERVA
I don't ask or expect you to forget. There are many things in our life together that I haven't forgotten, and not all of them have been good. But I can and do ask you to forgive, so that we can make the most of what we still have left to us, and not have all the rest of our lives soured by blame and bitterness.

(Some festive Spanish music is heard faintly.)

SID
I see it's that inevitable Fiesta-time again in San Boleta.

SUE PALMER
I think they're practicing some dances, up by the Flower Gardens.

SID
The Festival of Life! Even here in Paradise, life somehow still goes on . . . . You and Harold, Sue . . . . I suppose you'll soon be going forth to increase and multiply, and replenish the Earth . . . .

SUE PALMER
Believe it or not, we've already talked about the idea of naming our first child after you. And the great thing is that a name like Sidney will do today for a boy or a girl.

SID
Alright Sue. There'll probably never be a better time than now. Take my forgiveness as a wedding present. Take it in memory of my poor mother. (He is momentarily overcome with emotion) . . . Take it as a last tribute to the love I once had long ago for somebody you once reminded me of.

(SUE rushes over to hug SID warmly.)

SUE PALMER
Oh, Dr. Schine . . . . Sidney . . . . Thank you! . . . Thank you! . . . And welcome back!

MINERVA
Sue, hadn't you better be getting changed. It will soon be time for the rehearsal.

SUE PALMER
Oh! Yes! Excuse me. (She takes the hint, and goes out.)

(The music has faded away.)

MINERVA
Did you go to see Natalie in England, Sidney?

SID
I did spend an afternoon with them, a few weeks ago.

MINERVA
It took you a long time to forgive her too, didn't it?

SID
Her children call me "Uncle Sidney" now.

MINERVA
It was years before you could talk about her at all, even to me.

SID
And now she's getting dumpy, and starting to look like her unlovely mother.

MINERVA
But what about me, Sidney?

SID
You have nothing to worry about. Your mother was a lovely person all her life.

MINERVA
I mean, what about forgiving me?

SID
How can I ever really trust you again?

MINERVA
You've trusted me with the School, with everything you left behind here all this time. It's all still here waiting for you.

SID
My old house in L.A. is still available. I'm still thinking of buying it.

MINERVA
Can't you turn away from the past? . . . . But whatever you do from now on, I'd at least like to be included. That in itself would be a kind of forgiving.

SID
I suppose that's really why I'm here today. But it will all take time . . . . And, to tell you the truth, at the moment I'm pretty tired.

MINERVA
Maybe you'd just like to rest, here on the sofa for a while.

SID
That's not a bad idea.

(He stretches himself out on the sofa, and is almost immediately asleep. Minerva tip-toes out, brings in a blanket, and puts it tenderly over him. She looks lovingly down at him, then settles onto the floor beside the sofa, with her head against his body. She reaches over to the photograph he brought her, looks at it with a sad smile, holds it to her. There is a quiet pause, before SUE PALMER, now dressed in a bright summer frock, looks in.)

SUE PALMER
What's going on?

MINERVA
He went right off to sleep. Poor dear, he must be absolutely worn out.

SUE PALMER
Will he stay? Has he come back for good? Wouldn't it be wonderful to have him teaching at the School again!

MINERVA
I don't know. I don't know what he's going to do . . . . But you mustn't be late for your rehearsal. I was hoping to go with you, but -

SID
(He has heard most of this.) What is this rehearsal I keep hearing about? Are you in a play?

SUE PALMER
It's the rehearsal for my wedding, at the Chapel in the Old Mission.

SID
Ah, the beautiful Old Mission! Two hundred years of tradition! It would be nice to see the old place again.

SUE PALMER
Would you like . . . . Have you time . . . to walk over there with us?

SID
(Getting up and putting on his jacket) I guess I could squeeze it into my schedule . . . . Why not . . . . Wedding rehearsal, eh? (Goes to mirror and spruces up, then goes to MINERVA, extends his arm, and says joshingly) Come along, Mother. Our little girl is leaving the nest, and we must put a brave face on it. Dry your eyes, summon up a smile, and let us march her proudly to the altar.

(They form a sort of procession, SUE PALMER going first to the front door.)

MINERVA
(In the same joshing tone) Oh Father, dear Father, it seems but yesterday that you and I were all alone with each other, and she was only a gleam in your eye!

(CURTAIN)

 

THE END

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