Romance Script posted July 11, 2021 Chapters:  ...9 10 -11- 12... 


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Education of the Eyes

A chapter in the book Genius in Love

Genius in Love, Scene 11

by Jay Squires


Thumbnail Sketch of Last Scene: From the music practice room, Cornelius can be heard playing softly while his parents are having a row in the living room, awaiting the arrival of the Jax family. Howard is uncertain, until the end of the scene whether he will even attend. The underlying feeling is that the meeting will be crucial for the continuance of Cornelius and Jennie’s budding friendship.

CHARACTERS:

Cornelius Plumb:
An autistic, musical genius child, age 12. Stunningly attractive, His mother dresses him fashionably and impeccably. He is at a developmental crossroad, physically, mentally, and emotionally. His thoughts, when spoken, often broken, tend to end in an inflection. Movements Jerky. Has a mild stammer.

Cililla Queez: An outgrowth of Cornelius’ mind, a replacement for his imaginary childhood mentor, Pidely-Poo; she is here to transition him through puberty and adolescence. She has a cute, pert face, and a pixie haircut. She is shapelier than most of the girls she is to typify and her demeanor is rather racy, like a pre-teen channeling a stripper, but she also feels deeply and abounds in wisdom.

Clarinetta: The Plumb family maid.


SETTING: Plumb family living room. Opulently furnished, there are the trappings of wealth everywhere. Long, elegant couch, center stage, facing stage right. Two plush armchairs facing the couch. Chair and couch are angled so the audience has a view of their occupants. Downstage left, a large grand piano placed at an angle so the audience cannot see the piano keys. Upstage right, a door opening to another room. A small bar with bottles, glasses, etc., upstage right, near the door.

AT RISE: CORNELIUS sits on the couch and CILILLA faces him in the armchair, leaning toward him.


CILILLA:
You know we don’t have long, Sweetie Pie. Are you nervous?


CORNELIUS:
(Looking right and left, blinking rapidly, his right index finger making a miniature infinity sign)
Yes. Yes, nerv-vous.

CILILLA:
(Glancing at his finger)
I thought we had more time.
(Tilting her head toward his finger)
But look … you remembered that thing with your finger—to do it small, like that … or even to hide it. Maybe. If you can.

CORNELIUS:
(Slipping his hand under his thigh)
Hide … it.
(Now the thigh with his hand under it, starts to bob)

CILILLA:
(Chuckling at the movement of his thigh)
That’s right. That’s good. Oh, you’ll be fine!
(Beat)
Now …
(Puffing her lips in an exhale)
This next is the most important thing, my little love, so you’re gonna have to try really hard, okay?

CORNELIUS:
Umm … Umm …


CILILLA:
I know, sweetie, I know. But if it ever gets too hard for you, just know that I’m here. You can get your strength from … um … from me. I won’t be able to … to step in and help you. It’ll be like when the bullies were poking at you on the basketball court? Do you remember what I told you afterward? Sweetie, do you remember? I told you with Pidely-Poo gone I can’t whisk you off the way he could. I’m here to help you face bad things in life all by yourself. I can’t … help you directly, though. I will be here, just not like Pidely-Poo … but I will be here.

CORNELIUS:
(A confused, distorted grin)
Pidely? Poo? Pidely … Poo, that’s a f-f-funny—

CILILLA:
(Jumps up, twirls, and dances about the room.)
Good good good good good—oh, so good! He’s gone. He’s really, really gone!
(Returns to her chair and leans toward CORNELIUS)
Now we can get to work, Sweetie. We just need to get you through tonight.
(Beat)
There’s just this one more thing, like I said, and you’ll have to try real hard; it won’t be easy.

[CILILLA reaches out and touches CORNELIUS’S knee with the forefinger of one hand. He tenses while looking away. She proceeds to tap on his knee until he brings his attention to her finger, then, ever so slowly, she brings her fingertip to touch between her eyes. His eyes follow her finger until they reach her eyes, then he jerks them away, his breathing heavy]

CILILLA (continues):
I know, I know, I know, Cornie, I know. I know it’s hard, but I need to have you tell me ... why—why can’t you look me in the eyes?


[CORNELIUS shakes his head, almost defiantly. He’s closed his eyes to tight slits and his body is trembling]

CILILLA (continues):
That’s okay, Cornie, you can keep your eyes closed. You don’t need to look at me. But … but can you tell me why? Why you can’t look at my eyes? You know I’m not going to hurt you, Sweetie.


CORNELIUS:
(Suddenly)
B-b-but they do!
(Beat)
P-p-pickle jar!

CILILLA:
Pickle jar? Pickle—oh! What you told Jennie …


CORNELIUS:
Pick-pic-kle jar.


CILILLA:
Sweetie … when it hit the floor, did it just crack? Or—


CORNELIUS:
Pick-kle jar.


CILILLA:
Or, did it …

(Fingers like fluttering bird wings)
Did it explode?

CORNELIUS:
(With clenched fists pressed to his chest)
Explooooode! Explode, explode! Ohhhh … Ohhhhhhhhhhh! 
(Starts rocking.)

CILILLA:
Baby, I’m sorry. Sweet Cornie … we’re so close to—I don’t know—to something. So … so it shattered? Is that what you’re trying to tell me? Into a thousand, million glittering pieces—little, little, little slivers of light every time you look into—

(Beat)
Oh, God! That’s it! I can feel it too, Cornie, I can feel it too, now. Ohhhhhh, Sweetie.
(Reaching out a hand, she touches CORNELIUS’S knee. He stops rocking and stares at her hand)
CILILLA (Continues):
Cornelius, can you close your eyes and listen to me? Good. Sweetie, listen, I can’t make this go away … now that I can feel it inside me, too, I know I can’t make it go away. But we have to work with it. We have to work on a strategy.


CORNELIUS:
(Relaxing, head cocked, eyes still closed)
A strat-egy…

CILILLA:
Yes. The eyes. Oh, dear, eyes are so important. The eye is the window to the soul. King Solomon said that. You have a beautiful, musical soul, Cornelius. Jennie sees your soul. She really does. But not everyone will have Jennie's patience. Sweetie, others will react with fear when you avoid looking at them. Only, they won’t see it as their own fear. Because then they would have to accept it or change it in themselves. It’s easier for them to say that you are the problem. You are different.


CORNELIUS:
(Repeating, eyes still closed)
I am diff-er-ent. I am—a problem.

CILILLA:
No. No, you’re not a problem. They are the problem. But that’s your and my little secret, okay? You and I know that they have the problem.

(In a conspiratorial whisper)
… and we’re not gonna tell them.
(Beat)
But you are different … you are different in so many marvelous ways.

CORNELIUS:
(Slowly nodding but with closed eyes and a barely perceptible smile)
I have—music.

CILILLA:
Yes! Yes! 

(Beat)
Still … if we can make those others not so … aware that they have a problem.

CORNELIUS:
(Slowly shaking his head)
We won’t—tell them.

CILILLA:
No, our secret! But if they can feel … just a tiny bit … less afraid.

(Beat)
Sweetie, when I touched your knee, a few minutes ago, remember how you stared at my hand.

CORNELIUS:
(Eyes still closed, but crinkled in remembrance)
Ummm … yes.

CILILLA:
(Turns her head to the side so her ear faces him, but keeps her own eyes closed)
Now, I want you to open your eyes and tell me what you see …

CORNELIUS:
(Elevated breathing)
I—I … oh, yes I ... your … your ear.

CILILLA:
Perfect! You can close your eyes again but just remember my ear. A pretty ear. Wasn’t it pretty?


CORNELIUS:
(Eyes closed; a small smile appears, vanishes)
It was shiny.

CILILLA:
(Noting his brief smile, she keeps her face turned to the side, but with her eyes open)
I know you were nervous, Sweetie, because along with seeing my shiny, pretty ear, you also saw my pretty nose. But you also saw one of my eyes, even though it was closed.
(Beat)
Now, only when I tell you to, I want you to open your eyes and keep them focused only on my ear. Now, this is important: the moment you feel uncomfortable, close your eyes. You’re in control. Okay? Okay, now open your eyes.

CORNELIUS:
Oh! Oh!

(Snaps his eyes shut)

CILILLA:
That’s okay, baby. You did just like I told you. But for some reason, my pretty ear scared you, didn’t it.


CORNELIUS:
No … Your eye. Was open.


CILILLA: 
But how did you know that? You were only looking at my ear.


CORNELIUS:
Open … Your eye was ooopen.


CILILLA:
But it wasn’t looking at you. Did it—explode? Did it shatter?


CORNELIUS:
Umm … nooo.


CILILLA:
That’s good, then. We’re doing so well. But now we’re going to just talk for a minute, okay? No practice, so you can open your eyes now and we’ll talk. 

(Beat)
Cornie, do you remember your first piano lesson?

CORNELIUS:
(Eyes open, blinking at his knee)
I—yes. I remem-ber.

CILILLA:
I know you learned incredibly fast, but still—


CORNELIUS:
(Matter-of-factly)
I am—smart.

CILILLA:
(Smiling)
Yes, you certainly are … but I want you to remember back when you saw all those black and white keys, and you knew that each one made a slightly different sound from the one next to it.

CORNELIUS:
Sharps. Some are sharps.


CILILLA:
Yes. Yes, they are. But I want you to remember when you first learned the language of music—


CORNELIUS:
Language …


CILILLA:
Yes, and the notes were kind of like a new alphabet … your ABCs. But … but do you remember how hard you had to concentrate? You had to concentrate very hard on attaching one new piece of knowledge to one you already had. I know you learned super fast, but I want you to close your eyes and remember that very first piece of knowledge … how hard you had to focus on one thing only, until everything that was not that one piece of knowledge kind of, like, just disappeared.


CORNELIUS:
(Scrunching up his eyes)
I r-r-r-remem-ber.

CILILLA:
Can you focus just as intensely for the few minutes we have left?


CORNELIUS:
Y-y-y-yes.


CILILLA:
Now, back on that first day, when your hour was up and before the music teacher went home, he gave you some exercises to practice on for the next session? And no matter how hard you tried that first day by yourself, you didn’t always strike the right combination of keys, did you? But I know you continued to practice, I’ll bet for hours.


CORNELIUS:
Mama m-m-made me s-s-stop. To go to bed.


CILILLA:
Sure. Well, we’re going to work together for a few more minutes. Then our lesson will be over for the evening. But then I want you to go on practicing. You’re going to do just fine, Sweetie-pie. 

(Beat)
Now, I want you to close your eyes again. Keep an image in your mind of my shiny, pretty ear. Only my shiny, pretty ear. When I have you open your eyes, that’s the only thing you will focus on, my ear. And the same as before, the moment you feel uncomfortable, close your eyes. Okay, we’re about to start.
(She turns her face to the side and opens both her eyes)
Open your eyes, Sweetie.

[She waits about fifteen seconds. Then, hearing no response from him, she moves her head toward him by about ten degrees. Still nothing. She starts to move it more when there is a sudden huff of air and she turns to him. His eyes are closed and his face scrunched and twitching.]

CILILLA (Continues):
I am so proud of you, Cornie. It’s your first day practicing alone. So you hit a few clunkers on the keys—so what! You’re doing fine. Just take a moment, allow yourself to float away on the beautiful music you made on the piano earlier today. Hear it? Music that came from all those hours of practice. Just float on it for a while. Then we’ll practice a little more.

(She watches him until she sees him relaxing, then she stands, stretches, and with an enormous grin on her face, gives a victory punch toward the ceiling. She returns to her chair and smiles at a relaxing CORNELIUS for a while longer.)
CILILLA (Continues): 
You’re ready then?


[CORNELIUS gives an exaggerated slow-motion nod]

[Here the stage lighting plays an almost characterial role. While CILILLA is giving the instruction one spotlight is on her, a separate one on CORNELIUS. The rest of the stage is muted or grayed out. When she instructs CORNELIUS to open his eyes, the spotlight dims just slightly on CILILLA and increases on CORNELIUS, tightening in on his face, showing the intensity of his focus.]

CILILLA (Continues):
Okay, keeping your eyes closed until I ask you to open them … right now I want you to focus on just your memory of what my pretty, shiny ear looked like when we started, okay, and then I want you to focus only on how your view of my ear changed as my head turned more toward you. That’s very important, Cornie, because I’m going to start where I left off before. So, keep a tight, tight focus only on my shiny ear, only on my pretty, shiny ear. I’ll only move my face more toward you when I see you’re comfortable. And the moment you’re not … close your eyes and listen to your music, okay? 

(She begins with her face in approximately the same position it was in earlier when he lost his focus. Her eyes are open and she sits very still)

CILILLA (Continues):
Focusing only on my ear, Cornie, blotting everything else out, open your eyes.


[After about 15 seconds without hearing tale-tell signs of CORNELIUS’S discomfort, CILILLA turns another 20 degrees. He is easily within her field of vision now. She had no hope of this much progress, and she wants to end it on a positive note.]

CILILLA (Continues):
You can close your eyes now, Sweetie. You make me soooo proud.


[Instead of seeing CORNELIUS close his eyes, she watches him shift his eyes until they lock onto hers. She covers her gasp with her hand. After a few moments more, he closes his eyes and a trace of a smile lingers on his lips. CILILLA stammers but nothing comes out that resembles speech.]

CORNELIUS:
(His eyes closed)
I tried … your … eyebrows.

CILILLA:
What? You … what?


CORNELIUS:
I need … m-m-more practice.


[While CILILLA is fighting the urge to give CORNELIUS a big hug, there is a knock on the upstage right door, and the maid, CLARINETTA sticks her head in. Stage lights come on full]

CLARINETTA:
Your mother wants me to take you to the practice room, Cornelius. Your little friend will be here soon. 

CORNELIUS:

(Standing, looking in CLARINETTA'S direction)
I—am ready C-Clar-in-etta.

CLARINETTA:

(With a puzzled expression)
I’ll swear, you are turning into a mighty handsome young man right before my eyes.

[CORNELIUS crosses to her with CILILLA smiling up at him.]

CLARINETTA
Gonna have to keep an eye on you and Miss Jennie.

 

END OF SCENE 11





























 



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2021
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