|General Script posted April 4, 2021||Chapters:||1 -2- 3|
Meet the Parents
A chapter in the book Genius in Love
Genius in Love, (Scene 2)
by Jay Squires
The author has placed a warning on this post for language.
[Thumbnail sketch of scene one: Introducing Autistic, savant syndrome, 12-year-old, Cornelius Plumb in a classroom setting; here he meets for the first time Cililla Queez, his psychic mentor (whom no one else can see), assigned to guide him through an unsettling puberty in a world that is ignorant of autism (this was early ’50s) and frightened, often hostile, when encountering the unfamiliar.]
Cornelius Plumb: An autistic, musical genius child, age 12, in an era when little was know about autism, and one diagnosed as having autism was generally institutionalized. He is uncommonly handsome for a 12-year-old, well-groomed, well-dressed. When he speaks, it is in a clipped, non-fluid manner, with a. beat. between. each. word. The content of his speech is generally uncensored. He speaks without any thought to its effect.
Toloache [Pron: Toh-loh-AH-chee] Plumb: Cornelius’s mother; former off-Broadway actress and bit player in daytime soaps, she now owns a small, borderline-successful acting studio. She glows with love for her son and protects him with much the same fierce devotion and duty as a knight would protect his kingdom.
Howard Plumb: Cornelius’s father; Enormously successful founder and C.E.O of a Fortune 500 company. Highly intelligent, he is emotionally distant from his wife and entirely dismissive of his son. He recognizes his wife as a social asset and Cornelius as an embarrassment and a social detriment.
Plumb family livingroom. Opulent. Furnished more for display and corporate entertainment than for comfort. Long, plush couch, center stage. Behind it, stage left, a large, gleaming grand piano placed at an angle so the audience cannot see the piano keys. Across from the piano, stage right, a door opening to another room.
TOLOACHE hunches forward on the couch, silently sobbing. CORNELIUS is at the piano but is not playing. He is, instead, glancing first at his mother, then at his father who is pacing back and forth in front of her. CORNELIUS’S glances are jerky and accompanied by nervous facial tics.
They were brutal, Howard, brutal!
(HOWARD slows his pacing to glance briefly, and without emotion, at CORNELIUS, but then resumes pacing.)
Would you please sit down, Howard? You make me dizzy trying to follow you.
(Grunts as he plops onto the couch, not close to his wife, and not looking at her.)
As you wish, Tolo.
(Her hands on either side of her mouth, like she is holding a megaphone. Turning to him in a loud voice.)
Thank you, Howard!
You needn’t be so dramatic, Tolo. I’m not one of your students.
(Scooches over a few inches closer.)
No, my students have learned the art of faking a little caring.
So, tell me how they brutalized him.
Well, did you see him?
No, of course, you didn’t.
You can cut the sarcasm.
Come here, boy. Let’s have a look at you.
(CORNELIUS gets off the piano seat and shuffles over to face his father, without looking directly at his face. Fidgets. He has a red abrasion on his cheekbone and chin. The shirt he wore to school that day is torn at the pocket and white skin appears beneath it.)
You’ll survive, boy. Looks like you got caught with your guard down.
(Winks at TOLOACHE, then cocks his head at CORNELIUS)
What’s the other guy look like?
He has … curly hair. He has—
That’s not what I mean, boy.
He has … curly hair and he has squinty, mean … squint-ee eyes. James is his name. Mr. Hiney calls … him M-M-Mister Delaney.
See? The boy has no clue.
Mr. Delaney hurt me.
Did you ever consider hurting him back? Were his friends laughing at you? Did you even care?
His friends were laughing at me. Yes. His friends. Laughing.
Yes. Yes. They were laughing at you. Everyone there would have been laughing at you. Boy, don’t you have an ounce of pride?
He’s not a boy, Howard—he’s your boy. Cornelius is your son!
Your scrapes’ll scab over and heal. You’ll live, Cornelius. Go on back to your piano.
(CORNELIUS glances in the direction of his mother, without eye contact, then shuffles on back to the piano where he sits staring at the keys)
I hope you’re satisfied, Howard. Any pride I tried to nurture in him over the last twelve years, you’ve destroyed in two minutes.
Face it, Tolo, your … Cornelius shouldn’t have been yours to nurture in the first place. We should have put him in an institution when we first found out.
(As though holding herself back from striking him, she speaks in a kind of muted rage, not wanting to be heard by CORNELIUS.)
Shut up! Just shut up!
But I’m right. You know I’m right, Tolo. I should never have agreed to let you hold the reins on his future. He should have been institutionalized.
You bastard! Out of sight, out of mind?
Well … yes, really. Instead, he’s on our minds every single minute of every single day. You don’t think he’s on my mind every day at work?
Work? Fucking work! You … the fucking founder and C.E.O. of a Fortune 500 company and you want me to picture you trudging off to work with a lunchpail in your hand? Work?
Right! And if I wasn’t bringing home a paycheck in that lunchpail every week, you wouldn’t have the cash for your little payoffs. You wouldn’t have your fifteen-hundred-square-foot acting studio in Beverly Hills. Did you think it was your talent? Huh?
Now you’re just being cruel. And I do have talent.
Yeah, yeah … Then there’s the boy’s education. And that, my dear Tolo, baffles me. You could have placed him in the most prestigious private school in the City of the Angels. But no! You insisted he matriculates through the city school system. Another of your mysteries. Of course, if you were the wife of a twenty-five-grand-a-year worker, there’s no school who’d accept him. But it’s amazing what a fifty thousand dollar a year charitable grant to the county school administration will do—
Not to mention the … the less-publicized twenty thou-a-year grant to the boy’s personal alma mater … to help grease his passage. They’ve got a golden collar around their corporate neck … and you, Tolo, hold the leash!
I accept no special favors from the school administration, Howard. How dare you even suggest such a thing!
(Holding out the envelope to him)
If I did, would they send me this letter?
(Waving it away with a flutter of his fingers)
You don’t want to read it.
Just give the leash a yank.
You really don’t care, do you? The principal has new concerns about our son. He’s asking to see Cornelius and me tomorrow night.
The principal! Oh, my! Give it two yanks then, and tell him to look in his mailbox for a special bonus.
Asshole! That’s your answer to every problem. Throw more money at it.
(Gathers the letter in her lap and stares at it, tears trailing down her face.)
I’m not interested in god damn power games. I only want what’s best for our child. What more should a mother want?
(Rising from the couch, and exiting through the door, stage right. Over his shoulder, he says)
Yeah, what more …
END OF SCENE TWO
Much gratitude for the photo by Daniel on Upsplash.Pays one point and 2 member cents.
© Copyright 2021. Jay Squires All rights reserved.
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