Table of Contents

Buddha Cat………………………………………………………………………...Connor Schmidt, 2014

“Buddha Cat was a wanderer. He traveled across the land known as House, visiting distant regions such as the Couch highlands and Giant Footrest Peak.”
IT……………………………………………………………………………………..Katie Johnston, 2011

“‗Hey IT, I turned my computer off and now I can‘t turn it back on, where is the ‗on‘ button?‘
It‘s the same as the ‗off‘ button. It‘s always the same as the ‗off‘ button. Even Bill Gates understands the constraints of the average human mind.” A Series of Disclaimers for a “Piece” that Probably Isn’t Very Good…………………..Ben Lee, 2012

“The parallels between my dorm-mate Jack and my piece‘s protagonist‘s dorm-mate are entirely coincidental.”
Dam……………………………………………………………………………………….Katie Baer, 2011

“GLADYS: Then I? Then I? Oh don‘t go pretending you‘re mister perfect all the time! I‘ve seen you stealing logs from the Joneses.”
Creative Writing…………………………………………………………………...Matt McKinney, 2014

“Armed with an extensive knowledge of the Star Wars trilogy and UFO‘s, I felt prepared for a lucrative career in astronautics.”
Grounded………..…………………………………………………………………..Katie Johnston, 2011

“ELLIE
Once he started to slip on an icy sidewalk, so he kept his arms by his side instead of using them to break his fall. Said that‘s how he saw penguins do it on TV. RYAN But it worked. ELLIE Yeah, because I was behind you and you landed on top of me.”

Schmidt 1 Buddha Cat Connor Schmidt

There once was a cat so fat with enlightenment that his belly would touch the ground as he walked. Some knew him as Oliver, but all knew him as Buddha Cat. Buddha Cat himself existed ages ago, but no one knows exactly when. Experts have varying opinions and ideas of when and how long Buddha Cat actually lived, but no actual evidence has ever been brought forward that may suggest when he roamed the earth - or other planets, for that matter. The one thing that everyone can agree on, apparently, is that the spirit of Buddha Cat lives on in all of us, and that he was very, very fat. The following is a brief introduction to Buddha Cat and his ways. Buddha Cat was a wanderer. He traveled across the land known as House, visiting distant regions such as the Couch highlands and Giant Footrest Peak. On these visits, he would sprawl out on a spot he thought suitable, and display his girth to all who passed by. It was impossible to ignore Buddha Cat‘s immense shape in the distance, like a planet eclipsing the sun. It is said that on many occasions Buddha Cat used his tremendous gut to take advantage of inertia and fling himself across the sky, casting a looming shadow over the land below, and land delicately atop the unexplored highlands known as Kitchen Counter. What he did up there is a mystery. However, it is firmly believed by his followers that once Buddha Cat had ascended Kitchen Counter, he would make his way to the legendary Bowl of Enlightenment and dine on its contents, filling his sacred, gargantuan stomach and later digesting teachings of enlightenment and universal peace. Buddha Cat was a cat whose Zen could not be broken. No matter how severe the disruption, nothing could penetrate Buddha Cat‘s outer barrier of tranquility (or his inner barrier of blubber). His head had been repeatedly gnawed upon by the jaws of larger beasts, who in doing so were attempting to leech off of Buddha Cat‘s enlightened spirit. He was pushed from his perch many times by the mysterious Higher Ones, those who ruled the vast land of House. He had stumbled and fallen many times not by the force of others but, in fact, had done so through his own clumsiness and weight distribution. Despite the fact that he had suffered much duress, his positive disposition remained unbreakable. He would always respond to problems by positioning himself in the Pose of the Enlightened One, which consisted of laying flat on his stomach, and allowing his almighty flab to absorb all of his limbs until he retained a uniform, circular shape. From this pose, he would chant his mantra, ―Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr,‖ over and over again, and would irradiate pure, peaceful energy from his belly. Everything surrounding him would immediately become tranquil; all violence would cease, all negativity would vanish, and a Higher One would undoubtedly arrive to perform the sacred art of scratching behind the ears of Buddha Cat. This would apparently increase the peaceful aura that would be emanating from Buddha Cat.

Schmidt 2 Today, thousands of years after Buddha Cat sat upon the earth, his spirit of tranquility and inner peace lives on. The overweight followers of Buddha Cat, known as the Oliverists, have constructed numerous temples and shrines all around the universe. At these temples, the tubby Oliverists will meditate and reflect upon the workings of their internal peacefulness by assuming the Pose of the Enlightened One, tucking all of their limbs under their fat bellies and lying on their stomachs, while purring for at least three hours. Another acceptable pose is lying on one‘s side, allowing their gut to protrude, while purring. This is also done for about three hours, but the duration has been known to vary depending on whether or not one is laying in the sun. Oliverists are only allowed to eat an exotic food similar in every way to Meow Mix, which they believe was consumed by Buddha Cat himself centuries ago. Buddha Cat has left his mark - rather, his indentation – upon the world with his teachings of enlightenment, which have only just recently been translated into comprehensible language. After years of lazing about, as is their way, Oliverist high priests finally got around to translating and printing Buddha Cat's teachings. Buddha Cat's ways of lying about all day, reflecting on the ways of the spirit and the universe, are mirrored by our own actions of lying about on our couch all day on weekends and vacation. So, whenever you see someone who has a noticeably large gut, show them honor and respect, for they, like Buddha cat, are on the true path to enlightenment.

Johnston 1 IT Katie Johnston CHARACTERS SAVANNAH Mid-twenties, slightly mousy girl, wears glasses. Generally awkward and shy, she tends to fidget, especially when she‘s nervous. Works in a major company‘s IT department. JOEL Savannah‘s coworker in the IT department. Slightly older, lazy, heavily sarcastic. Never gets up from his desk during the course of the play. PAUL Average business man, probably mid-twenties, young (slightly attractive) guy. SUSAN Works at the desk next to Paul. Comes off extremely extraverted, bouncy, nice, and talks like she‘s about to burst into a giggle; when she is serious or angry, her voice deepens and borders on a whisper. DAN Boss of all of them. Manager but not that high up the ladder. Not very strict and is reluctant to take action against employees. Has a generally haggard, tired demeanor. SETTING A large office building. The stage is split into three understood rooms: on the left, a messy office with two cheap desks (the IT department). On the right, a cleaner, neater, more high-tech looking space with two desks. All desks have computers on them. Between the two ―offices‖ is a space understood to be an elevator, which is how all characters in opposing offices reach one another. Savannah, Joel, Paul and Susan are always on stage (with the exception of Paul when he is in meetings). When the scene is concentrated in one office, the lights dim to almost black on the other and the characters in it go about mundane tasks, usually something involving a computer and clicking or typing.

Johnston 2 ACT I SCENE 1 (Scene opens with light on the left office on the stage [the IT office]. SAVANNAH appears to be engrossed in something on her computer; she is typing furiously. JOEL is leaning back in his chair, occasionally pressing keys, looking bored. A phone rings on JOEL‘s desk. SAVANNAH looks up from her work and stares at the phone. It rings again. And again.) SAVANNAH Are… you going to get that? JOEL What? Oh. Right. That. Sure, yeah. (Picks up phone) IT Department, how can we I your T today? (Pause) Uh-huh. Yeah. (Pause) Okay. The screen is just… black? Did you check that the computer is on? That tends to be the problem. (Pause. He looks at Savannah. They both roll their eyes exaggeratedly.) Oh, it is? Okay. Hold on. (Covers mouthpiece, says to SAVANNAH) You free? SAVANNAH Sure. Yeah. JOEL (Back into phone) We‘ll be delivering you one bright, smiling nerd pronto. All right. Yeah. Bye. (Hangs up the phone. Yawns.) SAVANNAH Who was it? JOEL It‘s that guy again. You know. The one with the hair. SAVANNAH You realize you‘ve only ruled out the two bald buys who work here. JOEL Only two? Weird. Must be something in the water. SAVANNAH Joel. JOEL You know who I mean. That guy with the hair who looks like that one actor. Except with a different face. The one you get all woozy over when you go… (Looks up at her, grinning)

Johnston 3 … reboot his hard drive. SAVANNAH Who, Paul? JOEL That one. SAVANNAH Oh. Did he say what was wrong? JOEL Eh, I wasn‘t really listening. I‘m in a pre-e-tty intense game of Tetris right now. SAVANNAH (Sighs) I‘ll go check out the scene of the crime, then. JOEL Aren‘t you going to… fix your hair or something? SAVANNAH (Hand shoots up to her head) Why, does it look bad? JOEL I was kidding. Relax. SAVANNAH (Smiling) Shut up. (SAVANNAH walks to the middle of the stage, where the elevator is understood to be, and presses the ―button‖. She momentarily grins to herself and pumps her arm in the way people do when they‘re thinking ―Yesssss!‖ She then regains her composure as lights go down on the IT office and go up on the main office. SAVANNAH walks in. Her hands are in front of her stomach, fidgeting. The only other character in the office is SUSAN, who is at her computer, turned away from her.) SAVANNAH (Clears her throat) Uh… hi. I‘m here to look at Paul‘s computer? SUSAN (Turns around quickly) Oh! Yes! Hi! (Gets up, walks over to Savannah, extends her hand.) I‘m Susan! SAVANNAH Hi, yeah, Savannah.

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(SAVANNAH‘s hand immediately gets lost in both of SUSAN‘s and her whole body is shaken by an overzealous handshake) SUSAN Yeah, Paul‘s in a meeting, but he was getting all grumble-y at his computer before he left. He said he could trust you… (Gives Savannah a hard jab in the shoulder with one finger) …to fix it. SAVANNAH (With a nervous laugh) He did? SUSAN (Walking back over to her own desk) Well, it was something like, ―They‘ll send the only girl in IT. She has some sort of voodoo magic she works on this old carburetor passing as office machinery‖ – or something like that. You know Paul. SAVANNAH (With an embarrassed smile) Right. Sure. Good old… Paul. (Motions towards computer) I‘ll get cracking, then. SUSAN (Sitting down.) Ha-ha! Yeah! You do that! (SAVANNAH sits in PAUL‘s chair and pushes the power button on the hard drive. She keeps sneaking furtive glances at SUSAN. Her fidgeting gets more exaggerated. Finally, she takes a deep breath, and after a pause, says) SAVANNAH Hey. Uh, Susan. I‘ve got a question. SUSAN What‘s up? SAVANNAH I was just wondering… uh. (Laughs a little) Actually, it‘s nothing, never mind. SUSAN Oh, come on, spit it out. So few of us ladies work here, we‘ve got to be able to talk to each other. SAVANNAH (Another deep breath) Okay. Yeah. Well, um, Paul.

Johnston 5 SUSAN Yeah, what about him? SAVANNAH I don‘t know, uh… it‘s just that I‘m just up here at least once a week now fixing something on his idiot computer and I… don‘t know anything about him. (Looks up at Susan) I‘m sorry, this is really… embarrassing. SUSAN (Laughs) Don‘t be embarrassed. Paul‘s cute. SAVANNAH Is he? SUSAN Oh, don‘t pretend you didn‘t notice. You know, I‘ve always said he looks kind of like that one actor. Except with a different face. SAVANNAH (Laughs awkwardly) So do you… know anything about him? SUSAN Well… I think he likes racquetball. SAVANNAH Raquetball. Yeah, racquetball is cool. (Hesitant) Is that… the one with the net? SUSAN One of those games that give guys an excuse to sweat and grunt at each other, I think. SAVANNAH Yeah, I guess. (Goes back to working on the computer for a moment. SUSAN continues to peer at her.) SUSAN You know what else he likes? SAVANNAH What‘s that? SUSAN (Nonchalantly) I don‘t know if you‘ve ever heard of it, it‘s called… Star Wars?

Johnston 6 SAVANNAH (Beat) Really? Paul? SUSAN I know, right? So not like him. I always thought it was more of a thing that… uh… SAVANNAH People who work in IT like? SUSAN Yeah. No offense. SAVANNAH None taken. One of my coworkers almost cried when I accidentally chipped the porcelain Bobba Fett on his desk. SUSAN The what? SAVANNAH Uh, never mind. But… really? He likes it? SUSAN (Exaggeratedly) He. Loves. It. He‘s always talking about it. With Paul it‘s always Jedi this, Harrison Ford that… SAVANNAH You mean Han Solo. SUSAN ... that guy with the headband on his face and the other guy with the pointy elf ears… SAVANNAH That‘s Star Trek. SUSAN Oh. Are those different things? SAVANNAH Glad you asked me that and not someone like Joel. Anyway… thanks. SUSAN No problem. (Turns back to her desk, clicks a few things) You really like Paul, huh? SAVANNAH (Startled) What? (Nervous laugh)

Johnston 7 Oh. No, I was just… wondering. You know. Get to know your workplace! (Gets up and starts walking to the elevator) SUSAN That was it? SAVANNAH Oh, yeah. Pretty basic old screw-up, actually. His software just… (sees Susan staring at her blankly) … sucks. Hey, uh. Thanks. SUSAN No problem. (SAVANNAH gets back on the elevator. As the lights go down on SUSAN and PAUL‘s office, SAVANNAH is clearly beaming. SUSAN, as the lights fade, is still staring after SAVANNAH. Lights go up on SAVANNAH and JOEL‘s office as SAVANNAH steps back in.) SAVANNAH Still on that game of Tetris? JOEL Yep. Putting this one piece next to this other piece. Pre-etty crazy up in here. What happened to you? Your face is all… happy. Did you see (Raises his voice an octave and makes the name into three syllables) Paaa-aaa-aaaul? SAVANNAH No. He wasn‘t there. JOEL Oh. I don‘t see why you like that guy, anyways. He‘s just like everyone else in the building. (Puts on a stupid voice) ―Hey IT, I turned my computer off and now I can‘t turn it back on, where is the ‗on‘ button?‖ It‘s the same as the ―off‖ button. It‘s always the same as the ―off‖ button. Even Bill Gates understands the constraints of the average human mind. SAVANNAH (Shakes her head) Paul is… different. I don‘t know. Better. He doesn‘t stare at my ass when I have to get down on the floor to unplug something. (Shrugs, taking off her glasses) Then again, what do I know? I‘ve hardly ever even talked to him. I can never get the courage up. JOEL Oh. Well, sometimes that‘s the trick. (SAVANNAH looks back at him, quizzically) After I first met Jan in math class in college I didn‘t talk to her for years. She was dating this football player. And then he broke her heart and I swooped in and… (snaps in the air)

Johnston 8 … now we‘re married with two kids and a goldfish that just won‘t die. SAVANNAH I think you‘ve managed to make me even more depressed. JOEL (Sticking his chest out with fake pride) My work here is done. (The phone rings. SAVANNAH glances between the phone and JOEL. It rings again.) SAVANNAH (Slowly, exasperated) Are you going to get that? JOEL (Looks at it, as if surprised to find it ringing) Oh. Yeah, I guess. Why not. (Picks up the phone.) You have reached the IT department, delivering inspired technological knowledge right to your desk in 30 minutes or it‘s free. (Pause) Yeah. Uh-huh. (Pause, then rolling his eyes with disbelief) Really? Are you guys just punching your computers? (Pause) Never mind. Yeah, I‘ll send someone right up. (Hangs up. Looks over at SAVANNAH) Fifth floor again. SAVANNAH Paul‘s computer again? JOEL No, some lady this time. She sounded… blonde. SAVANNAH How does one sound blonde? JOEL With practice, I imagine. SAVANNAH I think I know who you‘re talking about. (Gets up) Yeah, I‘ll get on it. (Points at JOEL as she walks to the elevator) But you‘re going next time. JOEL

Johnston 9 Nope. I‘m not. SAVANNAH I‘ll find some way to make you work, I swear. JOEL The ―they‘re offering free pancakes‖ trick can only work once, Savannah! Don‘t be the boy who cried pancakes! It‘s cruel! It‘s unconstitutional! (SAVANNAH gets back in the elevator, beginning to fidget again. Lights come up on SUSAN and PAUL‘s office. SUSAN is doing something on her cell phone under her desk and occasionally glancing at PAUL, who is sitting at his desk, not looking at SUSAN. SAVANNAH walks in.) SAVANNAH Hi, Susan. (PAUL also looks up and smiles at SAVANNAH. SAVANNAH gives a small wave back.) SUSAN Hey, buddy. (As SAVANNAH walks over to her desk) It‘s so weird - as soon as you left I swear this big lump… (Indicates her computer) … just froze. And then the back looked like it was smoking a little, which is weird because if it froze then it can‘t be on fire, too. SAVANNAH Yeah, that‘s not what they mean by… I tell you what, let me have a look at it. (Leans over Susan‘s computer) SUSAN Here, take my seat. (SUSAN gets up, and they switch places, with SUSAN now standing and leaning over SAVANNAH at the desk. SUSAN leans over to SAVANNAH‘S ear and whispers loudly) There‘s actually nothing wrong with it. I just thought you might want to see… you know… Paul. SAVANNAH Oh… oh. You didn‘t have to… do that, it‘s… SUSAN Oh, hush. What‘s a favor between girls? (Gives her a pat on the shoulder, a little too hard, and it knocks SAVANNAH a little bit) SAVANNAH (Laughing nervously) Yeah. Uh, thanks.

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SUSAN (Announces to no one in particular) I‘m going to go see what‘s going on in the break room. I will be back soon… but not too soon. (Gives a suggestive glance to SAVANNAH) PAUL Sure, Suze. (SUSAN begins to walk out, off-stage right. When SAVANNAH is turned away, SUSAN stops behind PAUL and drums her fingers across his back. This clearly startles him and he jumps a bit, turning around. SUSAN grins at him. SUSAN exits, and SAVANNAH continues to pretend to be working on SUSAN‘s computer for a few moments.) SAVANNAH (Turns quickly around to PAUL) Hey. PAUL (Looks up.) Hey. Oh, thanks for fixing this… (Indicates his computer) … thing this morning. What was wrong with it this time? SAVANNAH (Nervously) Oh, just some… software… stuff. PAUL Right. I never know anything about that stuff. For the longest time I didn‘t even know that the ―on‖ and ―off‖ button were the same. SAVANNAH Heh. Yeah. (Beat) You, uh, want to hear a joke? PAUL Yeah, I could use a break. Shoot. SAVANNAH Okay. Um. How did Darth Vader know what Luke was getting for Christmas? (Beat) He felt his presents. PAUL What? SAVANNAH (Laughs nervously)

Johnston 11 Yeah, that wasn‘t very good. Um, how about this one: What‘s the worst cantina on Coruscant? PAUL I have no idea what you‘re talking about. SAVANNAH … the… Ackbar. Because of… Admiral Ackbar? (PAUL stares at her blankly.) You know, ―It‘s a trap‖? PAUL Sorry, I don‘t think I get it. SAVANNAH Oh. Okay. Star Wars? PAUL I haven‘t seen those since I was, like, twelve. SAVANNAH Right. Sorry. Um, I think I‘m done with… (waves at SUSAN‘s computer) … this. (SAVANNAH gets up and walks quickly towards the elevator; she is turned toward it as SUSAN re-enters the room from stage right. SUSAN is staring at PAUL while pressing something on her phone. PAUL‘s phone lets out a ring indicating a text message.) SUSAN (Cheerfully, to Savannah) How‘s it going? (PAUL picks up his phone; something distresses him and he gets up. He starts walking out of the door that SUSAN just came in.) SAVANNAH The computer‘s… fine. I… defrosted it… (PAUL exits. SUSAN and SAVANNAH are left on opposite sides of the office from one another.) SAVANNAH You told me he liked Star Wars! SUSAN Did I? Oh. I must have gotten him confused with someone else. SAVANNAH He thinks I‘m… I‘m… oh my God.

Johnston 12 SUSAN What did you say to him? SAVANNAH I made an Admiral Ackbar joke! (Covers her face with her hands) SUSAN I have no idea what that means. SAVANNAH Neither did he! SUSAN (Offhandedly) Cheer up. I‘m sure he‘ll still be interested in you. SAVANNAH (Shaking her head) Before he wasn‘t interested in me. Now he‘s just… creeped out. I gotta go. (SAVANNAH gets back on the elevator. Before the lights go out on SUSAN and PAUL‘s office, SUSAN looks at her phone, then goes to sit back down at her desk. On the elevator, SAVANNAH covers her face with her hands. Lights up on JOEL and SAVANNAH‘s office, where JOEL is sitting at his computer) SAVANNAH Ugh. (She flops down in her chair) JOEL What‘s the deal, young‘un? SAVANNAH Joel, I‘m… I‘m mortified. (Puts her elbows on her desk and her head in her hands) I just made a complete idiot of myself. I haven‘t felt like this since… since every single day of high school. JOEL Jeez, that‘s rough. What happened? SAVANNAH I told Paul Star Wars jokes. Two of them. JOEL Two? (Beat) You didn‘t tell the ―presents‖ one, did you? Way overdone. Even fans hate it.

Johnston 13 SAVANNAH (Groaning) I did. And he had no idea what I was talking about. JOEL Why would you tell Paul Star Wars jokes? He looks like a guy who plays, like, racquetball and… and goes outside and has never sold an action figure on eBay in a bind. SAVANNAH (Sighs) Because Susan told me… JOEL Wait, Susan? SAVANNAH Yeah. I just met her today. She works next to him on the fifth floor. JOEL Crazy Susan? She moved again? SAVANNAH (Slowly) What do you mean, Crazy Susan? (In the opposite office, though the lights are down, they come up a little so that the audience can see what‘s going on. While SAVANNAH and JOEL are talking for the next few lines, PAUL comes back in and sits down at his computer. SUSAN comes over and leans over his desk and starts touching his hair. She is saying something, but the audience can‘t hear it. PAUL backs away and goes over to a cabinet and SUSAN follows him. PAUL pushes her away a bit and says something sternly. She shrugs and goes back to sit at her computer, but continues to stare at him. When this is done, the lights go back down all of the way on PAUL and SUSAN‘s office.) JOEL It means pretty much what it sounds like. This has to be the fourth time she‘s had to move offices since she started working here a couple months ago. SAVANNAH The fourth time? Why? JOEL Why? Because she‘s way creepy. SAVANNAH Like telling Star Wars jokes to near-strangers creepy? JOEL Like following home the married coworkers who reject her creepy.

Johnston 14 SAVANNAH Seriously? (JOEL nods.) Yeesh. Wait, you don‘t think she… likes Paul, do you? JOEL Does Andre Agassi like tennis? Does Amy Winehouse like the occasional sip of alcohol? (SAVANNAH groans and puts her head in her hands again) JOEL Oh, man. I‘m sorry, Savannah. SAVANNAH She just used me to get closer to him. They‘re probably bonding over making fun of me right now. JOEL If either of them call you ―four-eyes‖ or stick your head in a toilet, I‘ll step in. SAVANNAH Thanks. (With gentle sarcasm) You‘re so talented at making me feel better. JOEL I do what I can. Do you have any work to do to take your mind off it? SAVANNAH No. Not anymore. JOEL (Lifts up some papers on his desk) Want some of mine? SAVANNAH I‘ve already done most of it. (Sighs, stands up, putting on her glasses) I‘m going to go buy all of the Ho-Hos out of the vending machine. JOEL (At SAVANNAH as she walks off-stage left) Eating your feelings? SAVANNAH It‘s not my fault that my feelings taste like Ho-Hos. JOEL Understandable. (SAVANNAH leaves the stage. DAN, their boss, comes in via the elevator)

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DAN Hey, Joel. JOEL Oh, hey there, boss-man. Don‘t see you much around these parts. You lost? DAN Is Savannah around? JOEL She‘s… busy. Why, what‘s up? DAN I‘ve run across something on our computer systems that seems… strange. JOEL Really? Huh. (Jokingly) I‘ve been wiping my hard drive. DAN It seems… and I mean, it seems, I could be wrong, you‘re the computer people, but… it seems like Savannah‘s… (Pointing at her desk) … been messing with someone‘s computer. JOEL Why would she do that? She‘s got enough work as it is. DAN Yeah, well, the weird part is that it‘s just one computer. JOEL (Pause.) Which one? DAN I can‘t really tell, I just know it‘s a fifth floor one. JOEL Oh. DAN Why, do you know anything about it? JOEL (Pause, then, quickly) Yeah. Yeah, I do, actually. It was actually me. Just… messing around. DAN

Johnston 16 Messing around? JOEL Yeah. (Nervously laughs) Just a stupid joke between me and… good old Paul over on the fifth floor. I used Savannah‘s computer to hack into his. I have to use hers, because, you know, mine is always full of… work… stuff on the screen. (Motions towards his computer) And I mess his stuff up and then I go up and fix it and we laugh. (Awkwardly) Ha-ha. DAN Oh. It‘s a… joke? JOEL Yeah. A joke. Admittedly a pretty lame one. DAN Yeah. Well, I‘d say lay off it, because if the higher-ups get a whiff of this they‘ll call me up and (Sighs) start droning about productivity or synergy or something. JOEL Yeah, I‘ll stop. Thanks, boss. DAN Sure thing. (Sighs. Gets into the elevator as SAVANNAH re-enters the office via stage left. She gives him a slight wave with a hand full of packets of HoHos.) SAVANNAH (Her mouth slightly full, pointing towards the elevator) The hell did Dan want? Is he lost? JOEL (Nonchalant) Oh, nothing. Just… guy stuff. SAVANNAH Yeah. I can imagine the extent of your manly talks. JOEL Spitting and buying tires. Usual stuff. SAVANNAH Right. (Sits back down at her desk, dumping the Ho-Hos on it) JOEL

Johnston 17 Hey, Van? You haven‘t been, uh, messing with any computers in the building, have you? SAVANNAH That‘s kind of our job, Joel. JOEL No, I mean, like… messing them up. (Beat) So you can go fix them. (Beat) On the fifth floor. SAVANNAH (Smile falls from her face. Whispers) Oh, God. JOEL Damnit, Savannah. SAVANNAH That wasn‘t what Dan came to talk about, was it? JOEL No. Well. I… I told him it was me. I said it was like a joke between me and Paul. SAVANNAH You didn‘t have to do that. JOEL I know. The thing is, if you get fired, you‘ll probably get replaced by someone who won‘t do my work for me. SAVANNAH But if you get fired, you may have to go work somewhere where no one will do your work for you. JOEL I didn‘t think that far ahead. It‘s not in my nature. SAVANNAH Thanks, Joel. JOEL Yeah, sure thing. How long have you been doing that, anyway? SAVANNAH Just a few weeks. I mean, the first time I had to fix his computer it had really, actually messed up. These things are, like, ten years old anyway… but you know that. And I, I don‘t know, I just kind of liked him from the moment I met him, but for the life of me I couldn‘t get up the courage to talk to him. So… when I came back, I was so frustrated with myself, and I knew I had to go and try again. So I kind of messed around with his system and got called up, thinking, ―This time, I‘m going to say hello‖. But I didn‘t that day. I stuttered a little bit like a loser but… nothing. So I did it again, thinking this time I‘ll say ―Hi‖. I‘m

Johnston 18 just going to say ―Hi‖. And I did, though it kind of came out between ―Hi‖ and ―Hello‖ so I actually said ―Hilo‖ and he went ―What?‖ and I just pretended to click on stuff. So I thought, I‘ve taken the first step! But then his computer was fine for a while, so, I mean, I had to. Well, I didn‘t have to, but I wanted to talk to him again, so I… gave him a virus. JOEL You gave the guy a virus so you could talk to him? Savannah, I‘m pretty sure that‘s illegal in this state. SAVANNAH It was just a little one! And I got rid of it for him, but, you know, one error message led to another and… (Sighs) then today happened. I promise it won‘t happen again, Joel. Really. Anyway, I‘m pretty much too embarrassed to ever go to the fifth floor. I will never be found again between floors four and six. JOEL (Pause) Well, I don‘t know about that. SAVANNAH Not even to do your work, Joel. JOEL No, it‘s not that. I mean, you should still try to talk to the guy. SAVANNAH No way. JOEL Oh, come on. So you were a little creepy. He works with Crazy Susan, he‘s probably used to it! And anyway, if everybody never spoke to anybody they‘d ever embarrassed themselves in front of, the world would come to a halt. People like us (Motions to himself and SAVANNAH) would never procreate. Can you imagine a world without IT departments? Just idiots hitting their computers eight hours a day and grunting. SAVANNAH I think you‘re exaggerating a tad. JOEL What I‘m saying is, don‘t let Crazy Susan get you down. Hell, get even. SAVANNAH (Guffaws) Get even? This isn‘t an action movie, Joel. I don‘t even know what getting even would mean. JOEL Yeah, you do. You‘ve got to find a way to show her for what she is. Rip off Vader‘s mask to show the wonky Anakin lava-face beneath. SAVANNAH I don‘t know if I have that level of manipulation in me.

Johnston 19

JOEL Sure you do. Come on. Find her Alderaan. Blow up her home planet. SAVANNAH You‘ve out-nerded yourself, Joel. JOEL Come on. Find her crazy at its source and draw it out so Paul can see her for who she really is. SAVANNAH I don‘t even have an excuse to go up there. JOEL (Quickly types something into his computer) Sure you do. Her system just shut down. (Looks at SAVANNAH, smiling) For no reason at all. (As JOEL says this line, the lights go up slightly on SUSAN and PAUL‘s office. SUSAN suddenly gets up from her computer and yells at it inaudibly. PAUL jumps a little and begins to scoot away from SUSAN. SUSAN turns and stares at him. PAUL walks out quickly, stage left. SUSAN sits back down. Lights go back down) SAVANNAH How did you even do that? JOEL Just because I don‘t actually do any work doesn‘t mean I don‘t know a few tricks. That one‘s especially handy for before Dan calls me in for annual job evals. SAVANNAH I‘m not going to do this, Joel. It‘s not going to make Paul like me. JOEL She tried to make you look weird in front of him. And, well, succeeded. It‘s only fair that you return the favor. (The phone rings. JOEL answers.) El Department-o del IT? Yes? Again? Huh. Did you try pushing the button? The big one with the light on it? (Nods) Of course you did. (Looks at SAVANNAH) We‘ll send someone right up. (Hangs up.) Remember what Napoleon said. ―Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.‖ SAVANNAH (Walking over toward the elevator) I‘m pretty sure that was under slightly different circumstances.

Johnston 20

JOEL Nah, old Bonaparte was fighting off crazy blondes left and right. Good luck. SAVANNAH (Getting on the elevator.) I don‘t need luck, Joel. I‘m not Luke Skywalker. I‘m not even Leia. I‘m just going to fix her computer and come back. (Lights go down on the IT office and go up on PAUL and SUSAN‘s. PAUL is still not there. SAVANNAH enters the office.) SAVANNAH (Waves at SUSAN) Hi, another computer problem? SUSAN Yeah. Piece of crap just died out of nowhere. SAVANNAH (Walks over to her desk) I‘ll see what I can do. SUSAN Ugh, I have had such a day. Dan‘s been on my back about… stupid little things. SAVANNAH You too? SUSAN Yeah, and as soon as I get a minute to sit down and get work done, this thing (Motions angrily at the computer) goes kaput. (SUSAN gets up. SAVANNAH sits in her chair. SUSAN stands behind her.) SUSAN Sorry about the, uh, thing. Earlier. SAVANNAH (Pretending to concentrate) What thing? SUSAN You know. The Star Wars thing. SAVANNAH Oh. Yeah. (Typing) I remember that.

Johnston 21 SUSAN (Begins pacing behind the chair) It‘s just… I really like Paul. Like, really. All of the other men around here have some weird problem with me. And this morning? When he mentioned that he was glad that you were coming to fix his computer? I have to admit, I… I got a little jealous. SAVANNAH (Turns around to look at SUSAN) Wait, he said that? That he was glad I was coming? SUSAN I just kind of told him he had to go to this stupid committee meeting that he didn‘t have to go to because I didn‘t want you to… take him. SAVANNAH I wasn‘t going to try to take him. I‘m not even sure how ―taking‖ works. SUSAN Yeah. (Stops pacing and stares down the back of SAVANNAH‘s head) I realize now, you‘re not a threat at all. SAVANNAH (Beat) You know, the weird thing is, he sent me an e-mail earlier. SUSAN What? SAVANNAH Yeah. He said he really liked my Ackbar joke but he was afraid to laugh because he didn‘t want to exclude you. (Quickly) And then he asked me out for coffee! In a café! With other people in it! At a table! SUSAN (Walks to face SAVANNAH, angry) He didn‘t. SAVANNAH Yep! He did! SUSAN That little… he has no right to… Oh, I‘ll show him. (DAN enters via stage left) SUSAN Dan! Have you seen Paul? DAN

Johnston 22 Yeah, I was just talking to him, actually. (Leans around SUSAN and sees SAVANNAH) Hey, Savannah. SAVANNAH Oh, uh, hi. Dan. SUSAN (In DAN‘s face) Well, could you tell him to come talk to me? DAN I‘m afraid I can‘t do that. I actually… (walks over and sits in PAUL‘s seat) I hate to do this, Susan. You‘re a decent worker. Sort of. But… (Slowly) I‘m going to have to ask you to… not. Not work here. SUSAN (Walks over, standing over DAN.) What? DAN I think you should see other companies. SUSAN Are you… firing me? DAN We honestly have no other place to move you. After Paul‘s, this is the fifth complaint we‘ve gotten about you, and… Susan, we don‘t tolerate sexual harassment in this work place. SUSAN Sexual harassment? What the hell are you talking about? DAN Do I have to explain it? You can‘t give coworkers massages three or four times a day. Or continue when they ask you to stop. (In a loud whisper) Especially when they stop being back massages. SUSAN I was just being friendly! DAN Susan, I didn‘t even know what ―sexting‖ was until this morning, and I would have preferred to remain ignorant. (PAUL enters, almost tiptoeing, and stands next to DAN) SUSAN

Johnston 23 (Pleading to PAUL) Why are you doing this to me?! PAUL I… I‘m sorry, Susan! I just can‘t take it anymore! I feel like I‘m walking on eggshells! Sex eggshells! And I‘m just… not interested. I don‘t know how many times I have to tell you. SUSAN Fine. Fine. I see what it‘s like. I don‘t need this place anyway. (Starts opening desk drawers as she‘s talking, grabbing things and throwing them in her purse.) Most men would be happy to have me! Joyful! Exuberant! The men here are just… freaks. They‘re all like, ―Stop touching me,‖ and ―I have a wife,‖ and ―That‘s not what company e-mail is for‖ – and you! (points to PAUL) Taking her (points to SAVANNAH) out for coffee? When you could have this? (Points at herself) You people are crazy! (Grabs her purse and starts to walk out, but stops at the door, turning on her heel exaggeratedly, pointing at DAN). This isn‘t the last of me, Dan! DAN Yeah, I know. I‘m already pretty well acquainted with your lawyer. Poor guy. (SUSAN walks out, slamming the door, leaving DAN, PAUL, and SAVANNAH in shock.) SAVANNAH (Beat) Wow. DAN I deserve a vacation. Or a long nap at my desk. SAVANNAH Yeah. DAN I was going to take one anyway. Guess you don‘t need to fix that now. (Points at SUSAN‘s computer.) SAVANNAH Guess not. (DAN exits, leaving SAVANNAH and PAUL in PAUL‘s office together.) SAVANNAH Well. Uh. My work here is done, I guess.

Johnston 24 (Gets up and starts to walk to the elevator) PAUL Wait. Savannah. SAVANNAH (Turns around) Is this about the… taking me out… thing? Because I swear, I was just lying, I thought if you saw how crazy she was… you would… think I was less weird in comparison. PAUL I already knew she was crazy. And I don‘t think you‘re weird. SAVANNAH Not even… after this morning? PAUL What about it? SAVANNAH You know. The Star Wars thing. Making an idiot out of myself. PAUL We all do that sometimes. Hell, I tried to dress up as a Tom Baker-era Doctor Who a few Halloweens ago. Everyone thought I was Phil Spector. SAVANNAH Seriously? PAUL Yeah, unfortunately. (Walks over and sits down at his desk) I‘ll see you around, then. I hope. You can always fix this thing (Indicates his computer) when it crashes. Or… some other time. SAVANNAH Yeah. Yeah, I hope so, too. (SAVANNAH enters the elevator. Lights go down on PAUL and SUSAN‘s office, go up on the IT office. SAVANNAH enters, heaving a big sigh.) JOEL So? SAVANNAH (Sits down at her desk) So… Susan doesn‘t work here anymore. JOEL

Johnston 25 What? SAVANNAH Apparently her flirtation was a bit… excessive. JOEL Huh. She never flirted with me. SAVANNAH I said excessive. Not desperate. JOEL Ouch. Any luck with Paul? SAVANNAH (Beat) I think so. JOEL Good. Don‘t forget to put out. SAVANNAH Joel! (Throws another packet of Ho-Hos at him) JOEL What? I meant in a good way. BLACKOUT

Lee 1 A Series of Disclaimers for a “Piece” that Probably Isn’t Very Good Ben Lee

Before I get started, a few disclaimers:

Disclaimer No. 1 The characters and events I describe are completely fictitious.

Disclaimer No. 2 Though the characters and events are fictitious, they may remind certain people of certain events that have transpired at a certain college. Good art always borrows something from life. My mediocre ―piece‖ is trying to do the same.

Disclaimer No. 3 There is one scene in my ―piece‖ that you might think is too contrived or absurd and would never actually happen in real life. I call it the ladybug scene. Well, don‘t think I‘m a bad writer, because this scene actually did happen. I had been assigned to capture a live insect for my microscopy class. While walking to lunch I saw a ladybug on the crotch of my pants. So, I placed my index finger in a location where the ladybug could crawl onto it and said to it, ―Come here, ladybug, come here.‖ And then, when I looked up, I noticed that a girl who I knew was named Becca was looking in my direction. She apparently seemed to believe I was calling her a ladybug and beckoning her towards my, well, pants. So I shouted after her, ―There was a bug! A ladybug! Here, I can show it to you!‖ But at this point, she didn‘t hear me. And so I collected myself, and the ladybug, and continued on my way. Which happened to be in the same direction as the girl whose name I knew was Becca. Which made her walk even more quickly than before.

Disclaimer No. 4 I realize, after consideration, that a detail in the story I‘ve just told isn‘t one hundred percent verifiable: I cannot be sure that she did not hear me. Perhaps she noticed the bug, understood my ―there was a bug,‖ but shook her head as a joke. Or perhaps she was playing coy, trying to flirt with me.

Lee 2 Disclaimer No. 5 Becca may have been trying to flirt with me. May. I‘m not the kind of guy who thinks everybody‘s trying to flirt with him. This, along with the fact that I‘m writing a story about a protagonist who is basically me (who is writing a story about a protagonist who is basically him (and thus also me)) might suggest some narcissism in my character (and perhaps my character‘s character.) I won‘t say that I don‘t have a big ego because that in itself would provide evidence that I do have a big ego, which I don‘t. I will instead show you, not tell you, the size of my ego… As a matter of fact, I‘m going to quote word for word a little something written by yours truly that I think will demonstrate the verifiable modesty of my tiny ego. This email I sent on September 30th, 2010: ―Dear B. ―Although I‘ve been doing a routine of push-ups for several weeks now, and may indeed be making some progress, I am not what you would call muscular. ―Although I brush my teeth with regularity, at least three times a day, I occasionally have bad breath. The problem is most likely intestinal. ―My hair is brown and often covered with dandruff covered with a hat. My neck and shoulders are a little on the hunched side. The only redeeming aspect of my appearance is often the witticism on my t-shirt. ―I hope that this physical description helps you think of who I am. If not, tomorrow, when you‘re in your fourth period Psych class, glance behind you to your left. To verify my identity, I will nod twice and then blink three times. ―I‘m sending you this email simply to clear the air between us. I‘ve been noticing that you‘ve been walking much more quickly than usual between certain classes. ―I hope I am not causing you any anxiety. ―Just know that my behavior has nothing to do with you, I‘m just awkward. Especially around certain members of a certain sex. The problem is that I have kissed a girl only once (and it didn‘t really count since it was an April Fool‘s Day joke) and I have never had other such relations. I hope this explains my behavior. It‘s not that I, by any means, love you. Sincerely (as you can see, not ―Love‖), That guy who put a finger to his crotch and said, ―Come here, ladybug.‖ P.S. Just to make sure you‘re clear, it‘s because there was a ladybug. Disclaimer No. 6

Lee 3 I should probably get on with the actual story soon, but before I do I just want to clear a little major issue. Virgin is often a word used to describe me. And though (as stated above) I have no ―such relations,‖ I would still like to dispute its accuracy. You see, from very early on in my development, I‘ve been suspicious of what I cannot prove. What I‘m trying to say is I might not be a virgin because sex might not exist.

Disclaimer No. 7 I don‘t want you to go around thinking, after reading my previous disclaimer, that I don‘t believe sex exists. That‘s ludicrous. I‘m just being logical and acknowledging that the existence of sex (albeit incredible likely) is only one among many possibilities. For instance: Women have invented sex as a prank to pull on men. Maybe they have their own means of making babies, but know that if men knew this, they would never agree to buy them jewelry. Corporations have invented sex in order to sell us clothes, colognes, and condoms. Perhaps nobody has sex but only wants to seem as though they do and children are made in secret factories. The world has invented sex in order to pull a prank on me. This last possibility has occurred to me often, likely because I had a reputation for being gullible in both middle and high school. I once fell victim to a school-wide prank in which I was convinced that I had turned invisible. I thus have a bit of a practical joke phobia. But, indeed, from the perspective of logic, when I look at the evidence, such a wide-scale sex prank really isn‘t all that improbable. 1) The adult world lied to me about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. And at about the same time they came clean on those two falsities, they told me, purportedly, ―the secret of the birds and the bees.‖ Perhaps they were merely substituting lies? My mother would never do such a thing, unless she was convinced to by my stepfather. He, however, would do just such a thing. He‘s a jerk. 2) If my stepfather contacted FOX, he may have convinced them to make my life into a disturbed reality TV show hosted by Ashton Kutcher. Perhaps all of my experience with information surrounding sex (the first time I looked at chapter nine of my biology book, or caught my parents breathing heavily in the dark) has been fabricated. My shocked reactions would have been filmed and broadcasted for the amusement of working class Americans. 3) In the middle of the night, when I hear that noise in the dorm room next to mine, and I cover my ears for shame, the sounds may simply be my neighbor and one of his female friends jumping up and down on his spring mattress, making groans as bizarre as their imaginations allow, and simulating kissing sounds by slurping Jell-O off of sponges.

Lee 4 In conclusion, I will suppose that sex exists. But if it ever turns out otherwise, let it be here recorded that I saw it coming. Dear Ashton Kutcher, I saw it coming. November 3rd 2010

Disclaimer No. 8 The previous disclaimer in no way admits that I have heard any such suggestive sounds emanating from the dorm room adjacent to mine. (Which, since I live in the single at the end of the hallway, is obviously Jack‘s.) Nor have I ever recorded such sounds for later examination.

Disclaimer No. 9 The parallels between my dorm-mate Jack and my piece‘s protagonist‘s dorm-mate are entirely coincidental.

Disclaimer No. 10 The previous disclaimer is only to clear up confusion. It is not intended, in any way, to spare Jack‘s reputation. I know some people think that Jack is actually a nice guy. Let me clear this up. Jack is not a nice guy. He is not a nice guy at all. He is an asshole. Here is why: 1) Even though his voice is always ―calm‖ and ―quiet,‖ it‘s still obnoxious. 2) He calls people weird and condescending names like ―Big boy,‖ ―bud,‖ and ―chickadee.‖ 3) He makes jokes that he thinks are funny but are usually just mean. 4) He objectifies women. 5) He has bad breath. And, in his case, it‘s not intestinal. He doesn‘t brush his teeth enough. 6) He‘s a Business Major, which just means that he‘s good at lying. (My stepdad, as it turns out, was also a business major.) 7) He convinced me that he was a nice guy and that we were friends. But then he surprised me by turning into an asshole. To illustrate, here‘s something that he actually said to me one night: ―Just go away, all right, chickadee?‖ I was standing outside his dorm-room door, doing nothing wrong, only waiting to talk with him, since that‘s what ―friends― do.

Lee 5 ―I‘m sorry to bother you,‖ I said, politely, ―But, about what I said earlier, I don‘t want you to go around thinking that—‖ He cut me off and said, ―I‘d love to hear about that later,‖ obviously lying, ―but not right now, all right, bud?‖ And then he shoved the door closed. I heard him say something to someone inside, and I heard a female voice respond. Becca‘s. I heard laughter. I knocked on his door once again. He took a long time to answer, as usual. When he did, he threw the door open violently. And then he said, with that salesman smile still on his face: ―Listen big boy, both me and my friend would like you to leave us alone, ok?‖ His bulgy body filled most of the doorframe. I couldn‘t see inside, but I could make out Becca‘s small and purple empty shoes. ―I‘m aware but—‖ He cut me off again and said, ―Take a hint, all right? She‘s out of your league.‖ He was presuming a) that I ―liked‖ Becca (which wasn‘t necessarily true) and b) that I wanted to know whether or not Becca ―liked‖ me. Which I didn‘t. Otherwise I wouldn‘t have deleted her responses to my emails without reading them. But, to be polite, I said, ―All right.‖ ―So, you‘re not going to be following her around, or knocking on my door when we‘re hanging out, is that ok, my man?‖ ―That‘s ok,‖ I said. ―My man.‖ ―Good. Now I‘m going to close this door, and you‘re going to go back to your room or do whatever you want, but you‘re not going to be knocking on my door or kicking my wall anymore, do you read?‖ ―I read,‖ I said. ―Good.‖ He paused and then said, ―Listen, I can tell you‘re a cool guy, but you need to learn to relax, ok? It‘ll be good for you.‖ And he closed the door. And then, as I could hear through his door, he said something, then she said something else, then he said something louder, and then they both laughed. And so, I decided that I should do him the favor of listening to his advice. I relaxed and left. This I did because I am a decent person. Unlike Jack. Who, as you‘ve seen, is an asshole.

Disclaimer No. 11

Lee 6 My opinion of Jack is in no way related to the fact that Becca is his girlfriend. I would hate him anyway. He is an asshole.

Disclaimer No. 12 The previous disclaimer relies on a theory that is (as of yet) unproven: the theory that Becca is or has ever been Jack‘s girlfriend. It is possible that, instead: Becca is being blackmailed. Becca is being brainwashed. Becca is pretending to date him either because she is trying to pull an embarrassing joke on me or because she is (and I only state it because it is a possibility) trying to flirt with me. These theories would help explain the following inconsistencies: 1) Before Becca becomes intimate with Jack, she generally consumes incredibly large quantities of alcohol provided, most often, by Jack. Is she being forced to perform acts contrary to her desires? I know that, when I drank in high school, my peers were able to force me to make many mistakes. Although, I‘ve yet to see her agree to spend a night in a cafeteria trashcan. 2) Soon after Jack and Becca‘s ―relationship‖ began, a peculiar incident occurred between me and my stepdad. He phoned me out of the blue saying that he just wanted to ―talk,‖ ―father to son.‖ And then he said: ―So, are there any girls at school?‖ as though he knew some joke that I didn‘t. Of course there are girls at school. What was he hinting at? 3) After closely examining certain digital records that I have attained, I have determined, without a doubt, that during the act of their supposed ―intercourse,‖ Becca often releases, not only groans of pleasure but peals of laughter. What is she laughing at? 4) If Jack were actually dating Becca, why do I keep seeing him with his arm around girls whose names I don‘t know? And there are certainly tapes without Becca‘s laughter. Who else is next door?

Disclaimer No. 13 I want to apologize, for what I know has been probably a few too many disclaimers. Sorry.

Disclaimer No. 14 One last thing, though. You may have noticed that my ―piece‖ doesn‘t seem to be altogether present (see Disclaimer No. 15). I apologize. I would have finished it, had certain circumstances not taken hold of me. Let me explain:

Lee 7 I was in my room, Sunday night, hard at work on what you are reading now. I had spent most my time so far writing a few disclaimers (13) and was just about ready to head into the actual story (which was so complex it had given me a headache). It was 2:14 a.m. I heard a series of shouts coming from Jack‘s room, some of which I was able to distinguish. ―That‘s not what you said! That‘s not what you said!‖ screamed a female voice. ―Tell me! Who the hell is she? Tell me!‖ screamed another. If I had to guess, I would say it was Becca‘s. And then I heard Jack say something indistinguishable in a voice that was trying to be calm but was really just annoying. Then the first voice screamed: ―You said you broke up with her last week! That‘s what you said!‖ And then the second asked, ―What‘s she talking about, Jack?‖ Jack‘s voice murmured something else, but was interrupted— ―I don‘t want to relax. You can‘t have me on Saturdays and her on Sundays. Either she leaves right now, or …that‘s it! We‘re through!‖ And then the other voice said again, ―Tell me what she‘s talking about, Jack.‖ And then there was a long pause. And then Jack started talking, this time loud enough to be heard through the wall. He said, ―Becca, I think it would be best if you left right now. Christine and I need to talk things over and… hang out.‖ As I said before, Jack is an asshole. After the yelling subsided, I went back to work. I might have finished and gone to bed as usual if, just a few minutes later, I hadn‘t heard the sound of sobbing in the hallway. Since I am a decent person, I investigated. As it turns out, the sobbing was coming from Becca. When I opened the door, she stopped sobbing for a moment. But when she saw who I was, she started sobbing even more than before and said, ―Don‘t look at me.‖ Still a decent person, I didn‘t look at her. After a while, she asked me, ―What are you looking at?‖ And I said, ―I‘m counting the tiles in the ceiling,‖ because I was. She laughed at this. Which I found odd, since she had just been sobbing. She said, ―You‘re that guy, aren‘t you?‖ ―I think so,‖ I said.

Lee 8 ―So, there was really a ladybug on your…‖ ―Pants? Yes,‖ I said, and she laughed. ―You know what the worst part about this is?‖ she asked me. ―My roommate‘s boyfriend is in town today, so I don‘t even have anywhere to sleep.‖ After a pause, I said, ―Jack is an asshole.‖ This made her silent for a little while, but then laugh really hard. I asked her if she wanted to see the ladybug. She said she did, so I took her inside my room to show it to her. Its legs were detached and she thought it was gross. I agreed with her, but only theoretically. She started hugging me, not theoretically. I said: ―I notice that you‘re touching me, which I appreciate, but I would like to make a few things clear.‖ ―Me too,‖ she said. ―For instance, I don‘t want you to think that I…‖ ―F‘rinstace, I‘m drunk,‖ she said. I would have continued, but she closed my lips with what wasn‘t an April Fool‘s Day joke. What happened then I believe was sex, but I cannot be certain. I say that I cannot be certain because later I asked her to tell me if she thought what had happened was, in some way, a prank. She said, ―I guess it sort of was… I‘m sorry…‖ and drifted off. And when I woke up she was gone.

Disclaimer No. 15 Sorry again about all the disclaimers. Here‘s what I have of my ―piece,‖ though it‘s probably not very good… (See Disclaimer No.1)

Baer 1 Dam Katie Baer

Two beavers, GLADYS and MONTGOMERY, sit on top of an unfinished dam, which they are in the process of constructing over a river near a Levittown type housing development.

GLADYS: Would you hand me that branch? MONTGOMERY: No. GLADYS: Ha... MONTGOMERY: What? GLADYS: I asked you to hand me that branch. MONTGOMERY: And I said no. GLADYS: Real funny Montgomery. Hand it over. (Gladys reaches out to Montgomery) MONTGOMERY: No. I‘m using it. GLADYS: No you‘re not. It doesn‘t even fit there. (Montgomery is trying to put the branch in the dam next to him, but the branch pokes out awkwardly) MONTGOMERY: I think it fits just fine. GLADYS: No, it would fit much better over here. MONTGOMERY: I said, it fits fine over here. GLADYS: And I disagree. It would fit better here. (Gladys grabs at the branch. Montgomery pulls it out from the dam, throws it into the river, and it floats away) GLADYS: What on earth did you do that for? I need that branch over here! MONTGOMERY: You can‘t always get what you want, Gladys. GLADYS: Jesus, Montgomery, I just want that stick. Don‘t turn this into something else. MONTGOMERY: Something else? Whatever do you mean? (Gladys unknowingly picks up a stick and uses it to gesture as she speaks) GLADYS: You know damn well what I mean, Montgomery. Drama, drama, drama. That‘s what you live for. Making drama. Ever since we were kits. MONTGOMERY: What I live for? You‘re the one who— (Gladys slams the stick she’s holding to the floor) GLADYS: The one who what? Slept with Harold? You‘re never going to get over that, are you? No matter what we‘re doing you always bring it up! It was two

Baer 2 years ago! How is it any of your business anyways? MONTGOMERY: Me always bring it up? You just brought it up! GLADYS: You act like you‘re my mate! How is whom I sleep with any business of yours? MONTGOMERY: I‘m your brother! All your business is my business. Especially when it involves our family image. GLADYS: Family image? Oh God, not again. (As he talks, Montgomery looks at the dam, putting sticks into holes in various places, avoiding eye contact with Gladys) MONTGOMERY: What? What? I spend my whole life doing the right thing, being respectable, making connections. How do you think we get such a good selection of logs? But then youGLADYS: Then I? Then I? Oh don‘t go pretending you‘re mister perfect all the time! I‘ve seen you stealing logs from the Joneses. MONTGOMERY: What I do, I do for the family! I built our dam from a single twig. Now look at it! We‘d be the most admired family on the river if you hadn‘tGLADYS: Just say it. Say it, Montgomery! (Montgomery throws the sticks he’s holding in the air) MONTGOMERY: IF YOU HADN‘T SLEPT WITH A WOODCHUCK! GLADYS: I knew it. You‘re a goddamn racist. All your self-righteous bullshit is exactly that – bullshit! MONTGOMERY: Come on Gladys. Don‘t pretend like you‘re in love with the guy. GLADYS: And what if I were? MONTGOMERY: Oh please. He‘s from the development, for God‘s sake! (Gladys fills cracks in the dam with mud, slapping it against the twigs overtly loudly) GLADYS: Yes, Montgomery, he‘s from the development. He‘s a woodchuck from the development, and it kills you. MONTGOMERY: And that‘s exactly why you did it. You did it to spite me. You wanted to ruin everything I‘ve done. (Gladys stops moving and looks Montgomery directly in the eyes) GLADYS: No, Montgomery. It had nothing to do with you. You made it about you. I was lonely. So lonely. I have needs. Needs that your perfect world and your perfect dam can‘t fill! (As Montgomery speaks Gladys angrily gnaws on a stick)

Baer 3 MONTGOMERY: You think you‘re the only one who‘s lonely? Hah! Do you think I‘ve had time for relationships? But I didn‘t ruin everything I‘ve built for some one night stand. I could‘ve any time, I mean, look at these teeth! This tail! Every beaver on river wants me. But I never give in! I take my responsibilities seriously. GLADYS: What do you want me to do, Montgomery? I did what I did and I don‘t regret it. Move on. MONTGOMERY: How can I move on? Instead of being the top beaver on the river I‘m the brother of a whore. (Montgomery slams his fist on the dam, causing sticks to cascade down the side) GLADYS: It was always a sham. Reputations are a sham! Just live your life, Montgomery. Live your life. MONTGOMERY: That‘s easy for you to say, you never cared. (Gladys takes a step towards Montgomery) GLADYS: I loved you, Montgomery. I still love you. You‘re my brother and always will be. MONTGOMERY: Are you finally apologizing? GLADYS: I don‘t regret what I did. I‘m just sorry that you can‘t get past it. (Montgomery is silent for a moment) MONTGOMERY: Pass me that stick. (Gladys hands Montgomery a stick and he places it in the dam). MONTGOMERY: See you tomorrow. (Montgomery scampers away along the dam. Gladys slaps her tail against the dam loudly) GLADYS: DAMN IT!

END.

McKinney 1 Creative Writing Matt McKinney

At seven years old, I was hell-bent on becoming an astronaut. The idea of flight fascinated me, especially if I could not do so as a professional basketball player. But my wishes only fed to the larger, ongoing debate between my friends: Whose career path was most exciting. The few classmates that had no use for our enthusiasm would still sit with us at the lunch, but were forced to tolerate the same grisly scene each and every day—half-eaten chicken nugget scraps flying in all directions, while a grimy huddle of first-graders bickered over which was cooler: life as a superhero or joining the mysterious world of train conductors. Of course, I knew the conversation was unnecessary all along—it was a moot point. Most weekends, I would sit through Sunday school pondering not about saints and parables, but rather, space travel how God was going to help get me there. Armed with an extensive knowledge of the Star Wars trilogy and UFO‘s, I felt prepared for a lucrative career in astronautics. But as the years passed, and one thing led to another, something happened. Math quizzes started to incite more fear in me than the threat of an alien invasion. Chemistry wasn‘t going any better. I finally decided that NASA‘s heads would need to be drunk to give me the keys to the office, let alone a multibillion dollar space shuttle. Eventually my fascination just… died. It wasn‘t idea of walking on the moon had become any less cool; I just became more in tune with the stark reality of my position. I figured the odds: If there are over 6-billion people on the planet, and only three of them have ever set foot on the moon, I‘d have better odds at getting struck by lightning, winning the lottery and running into Ronnie from MTV‘s ―Jersey Shore‖ at a poetry—on the same night. At least, they were something like that. And now, at age 19, I find myself at a similar juncture. With an underwhelming football career fallen by the wayside and a personal vow to never willingly take a math or science class again, I‘m on the brink of declaring as a Creative Writing major. (That sentence just sent chills down my parents‘ debtstricken necks). Most people find self-assurance and relief when they decide what they want to do with their life. Me? All I can see writing for is what it‘s not. A writer is not an astronaut. Children don‘t plan to spend the rest of their lives behind a keyboard unless they‘re gifted pianists. Towns don‘t hold parades for writers when they return home from work, unless you consider rush-hour traffic a parade. And writers will definitely never win keys to a city, unless, of course, your name is Ernest Hemingway—and the odds of that are worse than you walking on the moon. But maybe those sorts of accolades and recognition aren‘t your cup of tea. Perhaps, there‘s no room left on your mantel for a Pulitzer Prize medal, and the idea of making the New York Times Bestseller List just isn‘t on your To-Do List. Writing is what you love to do. If you become critically

McKinney 2 acclaimed, then that‘s just icing on the cake, you say. Your idealism is refreshing, but do you know what I love? Food. And every study I‘ve seen has shown that each year more writers starve to death in their Greenwich Village apartments than in any two third-world countries combined. I don‘t want to graduate college five figures in debt, just to die alone on the cold floor of my unfurnished loft. Where‘s the dignity in that? What would class reunions be like? My old friends, who had undoubtedly become successful stock-traders and computer engineers, would chat about the circumstances surrounding my death. ―What ever happened to McKinney?‖ the computer engineer would ask. ―Oh, you didn‘t hear about him, man? They found him sprawled out on the floor in his underwear reaching for an empty bag of cat food,‖ the stock-trader would explain without irony. ―At least he didn‘t go out like Johnson. That dude was living off packets of coffee creamer for weeks before he died.‖ So in the spirit of the Class of 2014 and those to follow, I extend the same advice given to me: DO NOT BECOME A WRITER. Go fight fires, instead. Become a doctor, cure cancer. Start training to be a competitive hotdog eater and spend fourth of Julys with Kobyashi and Joey Chestnut. Start an online-dating website for the elderly. Be a record executive and sue the pants off of anybody that‘s ever downloaded music illegally. Go produce a movie with the Coen brothers. Backpack in the Andes with Mark Zuckerburg. Do anything, but be a writer. Unfortunately, my warning will have not arrived soon enough to save the sea of twentysomething‘s that decided to give it a go behind the ol‘ typewriter. Walk into a liberal arts school cafeteria and ask a random table of students what their major is. The response from three of every four will be ―Creative Writing.‖ On campuses everywhere (read: liberal arts school campuses) the entranced eyeballs of shaggy-haired storytellers are glued to $1,300 MacBook Pros ready to begin their next fairytale or poem. It‘s too late for them, but it‘s not too late for you. However, for anyone that has decided to throw away their life, I might start looking at apartments on the Lower West Side soon. Any chance you might want to split rent?

Johnston 1 Grounded Katie Johnston CHARACTERS NICK Fraternal twin brother of Brian. Agoraphobic. Turning thirty today. Hasn‘t left the house in four years. BRIAN Fraternal twin brother of Nick. Also turning thirty today. Local weatherman. Married for two years to Maureen. ELLIE Older sister to Nick and Brian. Girlfriend to Ryan. Bitter and sarcastic, but holds a soft spot for NICK. RYAN Ellie‘s boyfriend. A big, muscular guy. He is desperately in love with Ellie, but has no idea how to show her. A bit dim-witted. MAUREEN Brian‘s cheerful, ambitious wife. Anchorwoman at the local news station.

SETTING The living room of a small house in Wisconsin, not far from an airport. A warm, well-decorated place on the far right, there is a fireplace with a chair next to it, a couch across from it and a coffee table between them. Off-stage to the left is a kitchen; off-stage to the right is a hallway. Characters enter and exit the house via a door at the back of the stage and to the left. They throw their coats, sweaters, hats and scarves onto a table by the door. Whenever the door is opened, heavy snowfall can be briefly seen.

Johnston 2 ACT I SCENE I (BRIAN enters through the front door, wrapped up in coats, sweaters, a hat, snow boots and gloves. NICK is sitting in the chair by the fireplace, reading a newspaper.) NICK (Looks up) Hey, you. Cold out? BRIAN (Stomps his snow boots on the doormat, then starts taking winter clothes off) Oh, shut up. You wouldn‘t even know cold if you felt it. NICK That‘s not fair. I was cold once. BRIAN Sure you were. NICK Last year, the heater broke. For like an hour. BRIAN That must have been terrible for you. Besides that horrific incident, how‘ve you been? NICK (Shrugs) The same. I try to keep my wild partying down to a minimum. BRIAN (Half-paying attention, looking out the window) I hope Maureen makes it through this. NICK (Looks back down at his newspaper) She‘s a big girl. Ellie‘s still coming, right? BRIAN Yeah. I think she‘s bringing that boyfriend of hers. NICK (Looks back up, concerned) Boyfriend? Since when does she have a boyfriend?

BRIAN (Shrugs) Who knows.

Johnston 3 NICK (To himself, starting to breathe heavily) Why didn‘t she tell me? BRIAN She didn‘t tell you? NICK (Agitated) This is bullshit. BRIAN (Soothing) Nick. Nick. It‘ll be alright. You‘ll have family here. It‘s just one guy. And I‘m sure he‘s… nice. NICK It doesn‘t matter if he‘s a good guy or a bloodthirsty lunatic; I just want to know who‘s going to be in my house. (Pause. Takes a deep breath) Sorry. BRIAN Don‘t be. She should have told you. NICK (Sighs) You‘re right. Just one guy. It‘ll be fine. Knowing Ellie, I‘m sure he‘s… lovelier than the Queen of England. (Glances at the door) And anyway, they may never even make it here. This is the worst storm since, what, the 80s? BRIAN (Shrugs) I don‘t know. NICK Aren‘t you supposed to know this stuff? BRIAN (Shrugs) I just read what they put on the teleprompter. NICK You‘re the worst weatherman in the world. BRIAN No, there are worse. I know a guy in Kentucky who reported wrong on purpose once. NICK I thought you all reported wrong on purpose. BRIAN

Johnston 4 We‘re not evil geniuses. NICK You‘re right. That would require you to be geniuses. (BRIAN smirks, finishing taking off his last sweater, then sighs, walking over and plopping down on the couch. He grabs a magazine from the coffee table and starts flipping through it. NICK smiles and looks back down at the newspaper for a second, then over into the fireplace.) NICK You know, I‘ve been thinking. BRIAN (Not looking up) Oh, yeah? How‘s that working out for you? NICK I think I want to… try. You know. To get out. BRIAN (Puts down his magazine and stares at NICK) Really? NICK Yeah. We‘re thirty years old today. I mean, look at what people have done long before our age. Kurt Cobain made Nevermind. James Dean got nominated for an Oscar. BRIAN Yeah, and their lives only went uphill from there. NICK I‘m serious, Brian.

BRIAN (Slowly) How do you want to do it? I mean, you could hire an in-house therapist, or… NICK (Shaking his head) No. I don‘t know. I just want to do it. BRIAN (Softly) You‘ll need help. NICK I know. BRIAN

Johnston 5 I‘ll be here for you. Whatever happens. You know that, right? NICK Yeah. But don‘t… I mean, I don‘t want to be your stupid house-bound brother, you know? You‘ve got your own life. You shouldn‘t be stuck worrying about me. BRIAN I‘m not stuck. (Knock at the front door. BRIAN pauses for a moment, then gets up and walks over to open it. NICK gets back to his newspaper. BRIAN opens to door to ELLIE, who comes in, wrapped up in a coat, shivering.) BRIAN Ellie! You made it! ELLIE Yep. So did Ryan. (RYAN comes in after ELLIE, over-bundled up. NICK looks up and stares at him.) BRIAN Hi, Ryan. Nice to meet you. I‘m Brian. Over there‘s Nick. (RYAN looks at BRIAN and attempts to smile through very frozen features. He sticks out his hand for a handshake but can barely move his arms in his thick coat. He then turns and awkwardly waves to NICK.)

NICK (Looks back down at his newspaper) Ryan. Right. BRIAN Don‘t mind Mr. Friendly. Just throw your stuff over on the table. ELLIE (Turns to RYAN) Did you get the box out of the car, Ryan? (RYAN stares at ELLIE, then attempts to shake his head.) ELLIE Oh. (Starts putting her coat back on) I‘ll go grab it. RYAN (Stopping her, voice muffled by his scarf) No, no, no, it‘s OK, sweetie. I‘ll go grab it.

Johnston 6

ELLIE (Smiles) Thanks. Be careful of the ice. (RYAN exits through the main door.) BRIAN So? ELLIE It‘s fucking cold. Couldn‘t you assholes have been born in the summer? NICK (Looks over at her) Nice to see you too, Ellie. ELLIE I‘m going to come over there and hug you once I find my arms. NICK No rush. I‘m not going anywhere. (Pause) So. Ryan, was it?

ELLIE (Stops taking off gear) Nick. I‘m so, so sorry I didn‘t mention him. I just thoughtNICK You could have called. I‘m pretty easy to get a hold of. ELLIE I know, I know. It was a dick move. It‘s just… I didn‘t think he was still going to… be here. BRIAN (Walks over and sits back on the couch) A little soon to be murdering him, don‘t you think? ELLIE (Finally gets off her gloves and thick sweater and walks over to sit next to BRIAN, hitting him playfully on the back of the head) Not quite. I didn‘t think we‘d still be… together. NICK (Glances at BRIAN) What‘s wrong with him? ELLIE He‘s just…

Johnston 7 (Sighs). You know how I‘m kind of into jerks? BRIAN Sure. That‘s how I know you prefer Nick. NICK Don‘t be jealous. ELLIE Well, Ryan, he‘s… he‘s not like the other guys I‘ve dated. He does this thing where he just really, really likes me, you know? BRIAN Your relationships just get healthier and healthier, don‘t they? ELLIE It‘s kind of like how Mom and Dad used to be, remember? How sometimes he‘d just randomly bring her roses?

BRIAN Yeah. She was allergic to flowers. He only did that when they were fighting. ELLIE But still. Every time I try to dump Ryan he just does something really stupid and nice. Like make me macaroni and cheese or agree to go a whole day without using the word ―awesome‖. NICK Sounds awesome. So, you‘re just going to keep him forever? ELLIE No way. That‘s why I can only stop by. He‘s flying out to California in a couple of hours. And once he gets there, I‘ll… call him and tell him. BRIAN Ouch. NICK Jeez. ELLIE You know me. I don‘t know what to do when people like me. This is the only way I can do it, I swear. Otherwise he‘ll get all adorable and try to win me back. You can block people on the phone. It‘s too hard in real life. At least without a court order. Or a bodyguard. On my salary, I can‘t afford either. NICK What‘s he doing in California? ELLIE He‘s got a brother out there who got him tickets to some big movie premiere.

Johnston 8

NICK Fancy. BRIAN If he even makes it out there. ELLIE What do you mean? BRIAN I‘m not sure the airport will be flying people out in this weather.

ELLIE (Desperately) Oh, God. They have to. (RYAN re-enters, a wrapped box in his arms.) ELLIE (Calls over to RYAN) Thanks, hon! (RYAN makes a muffled sound through his scarf and sets the present down on the table, then starts attempting, clumsily, to take off his winter gear.) BRIAN (Looking over at the box) One present for the both of us? Lame. ELLIE (Turns back to BRIAN next to her on the couch) Oh, I just got something for Nick. Why, is it your birthday, too? BRIAN (Sarcastically) Ha-ha. ELLIE (to NICK) The sad thing is, he really thinks I‘m joking. BRIAN This better not be like that year you and Dad got him a Nintendo and just bought me Donkey Kong. ELLIE Oh, quit your whining. So, is Maureen coming? BRIAN

Johnston 9 Hopefully. She was still making a birthday cake when I left this morning. Said she‘d come over once she finished. NICK (Making a face) She didn‘t have to make us a cake. BRIAN Well, you know, she‘s Maureen. NICK Oh, yes. (Raises his eyebrows) Yes. I know. BRIAN Be nice to her. NICK (Innocently) When am I ever not nice? BRIAN (Giving NICK a warning look) I‘m gonna go call her, see if she can make it alright through this semi-apocalypse. (Gets cell phone out of pocket and walks into the hall, offstage right) NICK You two want anything to drink? Coke? Diet coke? Hot chocolate? Hard liquor? ELLIE I‘m alright for now. It‘s too cold for liquor. NICK Tell that to the Russians. (Pause. Then, hesitant.) How about you, Ryan? (RYAN is finally down to his last sweater. He is panting a little bit from the effort of taking his off his extra layers. He gets the sweater off and comes to join ELLIE on the couch.) RYAN No, I‘m OK, I‘m watching my carbs. But thanks. NICK Suit yourselves. I‘m going to party like it‘s my birthday. (NICK gets up and walks to the kitchen. RYAN sits down on the couch.) ELLIE (in low tones, to RYAN)

Johnston 10 There‘s something I didn‘t mention to you about Nick. I didn‘t think it would come up, but… just in case. RYAN (Serious) He doesn‘t raise bees, does he? ELLIE (Caught off-guard) What? No. No, he doesn‘t raise bees. RYAN (With relief) OK, good. I‘m allergic. What is it, then? ELLIE He‘s… (glances back at the kitchen) He‘s an agorophobe. RYAN (Shocked) He‘s afraid of water? Oh, man, that‘s got to be terrible. I had a cousin who was afraid of water. Either that or he just didn‘t bathe muchELLIE (Interrupting, slowly) A-gor-o-phobe, Ry. It means he‘s afraid of places that are… open. Crowded. Have people he doesn‘t know in them. RYAN Oh. ELLIE He hasn‘t left the house in four years now. RYAN Wow. How does he… ELLIE He gets by. Orders stuff online. Works from home. RYAN How did he get like that? ELLIE His psychiatrist told him it‘s panic disorder. He was always kind of a nervous kid. Didn‘t really like getting out much. And then when we were sixteen he started getting these really bad panic attacks. He was really embarrassed, and since he only got them when he left the house, he started (cont’d) leaving less and less. And then, four years ago, after he‘d moved out here, he just stopped leaving altogether. RYAN

Johnston 11 Jeez. I‘ve never heard of that without the ankle monitor. ELLIE (With exasperation) Anyway, I just thought you should know. I come over here every year for his and Brian‘s birthday. RYAN (Smiles, putting his hand on ELLIE‘s knee) Guess I‘ll get used to it, then. (ELLIE smiles awkwardly. NICK comes back from the kitchen with a Coke.) NICK So, Ryan. How long have you been courting my gracious sister? (RYAN stares at him blankly) How long have you been dating? RYAN Oh. About three months, I guess. (RYAN squeezes ELLIE‘s knee. ELLIE looks at him, bewildered.) NICK How‘d you meet? RYAN At the gym where I work. ELLIE It hasn‘t been three months. RYAN Sure it has, sweetie. Our first date was on the third, you remember? ELLIE (Furrows her brow, then, with realization) That wasn‘t a date, Ryan. I fell off the treadmill and you took me to the hospital. RYAN I thought it was romantic.

ELLIE (Mumbles) Nothing more romantic than a mild concussion. RYAN (to NICK) But I‘m really excited to finally meet her family. ELLIE (Quickly)

Johnston 12 Who just happens to live on the way to the airport. (BRIAN re-enters the room from the hallway stage left, still on his cell phone.) BRIAN (To NICK) Hey, which number is your house? NICK Fourteen. BRIAN Right. (Into the phone) Honey, I think you‘re next door. NICK She could stay there if she wants. The Robinsons love cake. BRIAN (Glares at NICK) Okay. Okay. See you in a sec. (Shuts his cell phone.) I told you to be nice. NICK What? It doesn‘t count if she‘s not here yet. BRIAN Oh, come on. Just because she didn‘t invite you to our weddingNICK Who doesn‘t invite their future husband‘s twin brother to their wedding? BRIAN She just knew you weren‘t going to come! NICK (Sulks, mumbling) Never heard of ―it‘s the thought that counts‖? BRIAN (Starts putting on his coat) I‘ll go help her carry in the cake. Make sure she doesn‘t fall and die. You should really scrape the ice off of those sidewalks. NICK (Sarcastically) Yeah, I‘ll get right on that. RYAN

Johnston 13 (to BRIAN) You need some help? BRIAN That would be great, actually. ELLIE (Getting up) Oh, no. Ryan, you stay inside. RYAN But I want to help. ELLIE (Goes to the door and starts donning winter gear) I know you do, but your status as a Californian means you‘re not so good with ice and snow. (Raises an eyebrow at BRIAN) Once he started to slip on an icy sidewalk, so he kept his arms by his side instead of using them to break his fall. Said that‘s how he saw penguins do it on TV. RYAN But it worked. ELLIE Yeah, because I was behind you and you landed on top of me. (A pause as ELLIE and BRIAN get their coats on and walk outside through the main door, leaving RYAN and NICK alone together.)

NICK (Slowly) Sorry about… earlier. I‘m not always so good with… new people. RYAN It‘s okay. Ellie told me about the… aerophobia. NICK I think that one‘s fear of flying, but close enough. (Pause. Awkward silence.) RYAN So. You‘re Brian‘s twin, huh? NICK Yep. RYAN Always been?

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NICK Have I always been my brother‘s twin? Huh. (With gravitas) No one‘s ever asked me that before. For as long as I can remember, yes. RYAN Okay. Cool. (Pause) You and Ellie are close, right? NICK Yeah. I mean, she makes it down here when she can. Guess I‘m not exactly easy to reach if you‘re not in the area. RYAN I was wondering if you could… give me some advice on something. NICK (Quizzically) Alright. Shoot. RYAN (Shifts around and gets a piece of paper out of his back pocket) So, I‘m going back to California to see my brother.

NICK I heard. RYAN And I thought… well, I really like Ellie, so… (Shows NICK the pieces of paper) NICK (Takes a moment to comprehend) You… got her a plane ticket? RYAN Yeah. To go with me. It‘s just, like, sometimes, I‘m not really sure how she feels about me. I mean, I‘m crazy about her, but, you know… NICK (Nods) She‘s Ellie. RYAN Yeah. Yeah. And so I thought… we could spend some time together somewhere else and… NICK (Motions to the tickets)

Johnston 15 She doesn‘t know about this at all? RYAN No. It‘s a surprise. I was going to give her the ticket at the airport. I already packed her an extra bag. NICK (Uncomfortably) Have you really thought about this, Ryan? Just… springing this on her? RYAN I thought it would be romantic. NICK Well. (Pause) I mean, your plane might not even be able to take off in this storm. (BRIAN and ELLIE come back in, with MAUREEN trailing behind, holding several large stacked Tupperware containers.) MAUREEN (Muffled) Happy birthday, Nick! NICK (Not as excited) Hey, Maureen. (MAUREEN puts the Tupperware containers down on the table and starts taking off her winter clothes, along with ELLIE and BRIAN.) MAUREEN So, anything special planned for this year? NICK (Looking at RYAN) No, but you never know what‘ll come up. MAUREEN I brought cake and some cookies. Ellie, dear, could you help set everything out in the kitchen? ELLIE (Unexcited) Sure, Maureen. (ELLIE goes into the kitchen. MAUREEN and BRIAN join RYAN and NICK in the living room.) RYAN (to MAUREEN) Wait, I recognize you from somewhere.

Johnston 16

MAUREEN (Smiles) Probably from TV. I‘m an anchor with the local news. RYAN Right! (Points at Brian) And you‘re the weather guy! BRIAN (Dryly) Yes, I‘m very important. If I don‘t report that it‘s snowing, then no one will know. RYAN Sometimes I see you guys on the screens at the gym. People usually ask for the remote so they can switch it over to Food Network, though. MAUREEN (In a low voice to BRIAN) Have you said anything to him about it yet? BRIAN (In a low voice back) No, I… there‘s something I need toMAUREEN Hey, Nick, there‘s something Brian and I need to talk to you about. I know it‘s not a great time to mention it, since it‘s your birthday and allBRIAN (Interrupting in a low tone) Honey, I‘m not sureMAUREEN - but it‘s about our moving to Chicago. NICK (Pause) Chicago? RYAN But, wait, who would do the news? BRIAN (Hurriedly) Nothing‘s set in stone yet, Nick, butMAUREEN (Interrupting) –but we‘ve been talking about this for a while.

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NICK A while? BRIAN Yeah. Well, Maureen got offered a job as an anchorwoman at WBBM. MAUREEN Ever since that last anchorwoman had that thing with that helicopter and that cheetah. BRIAN And, you know, it‘s a great opportunity for her, and I‘ve been looking into any sorts of… weather… things that they have out there. NICK I‘ve heard rumor that they have weather in Chicago. BRIAN But, I mean, I know that you… you‘re making some big steps this yearMAUREEN What steps? BRIAN That‘s what I was going to tell you, Maurie. Nick‘sNICK (Interrupting) It‘s nothing. Don‘t worry about it. BRIAN No, but it‘sNICK (Interrupting) It‘s fine. It‘s something I can do on my own. MAUREEN (To NICK) So, what do you think? (ELLIE steps out of the kitchen, large knife and cake.) ELLIE Cake‘s ready! Candles are in place! There are thirty of these bad boys, so we better hurry or I might burn this place down. NICK (To ELLIE, but still looking at BRIAN) Please avoid doing that.

Johnston 18 ELLIE I can‘t make any promises. (ELLIE comes into the living room with the cake, candles lit, carrying it over to the coffee table.) ALL (Singing) Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday dear(some awkwardly say Nick-and-Brian and others say Brian-and-Nick) Happy birthday to you! (ELLIE sets the cake on the coffee table in the middle of the living room. NICK gets up from his chair and stands on the opposite side of the cake from BRIAN. They look at each other, obviously a bit wary and uncomfortable, and blow out the candles. Everyone else cheers.) MAUREEN What did you wish for, hon? BRIAN A dozen more years of living in Wisconsin. (Laughs. MAUREEN stares at him.) What? It was a joke, Maureen. (RYAN‘s phone rings. He fumbles with it for a moment and walks off into the hallway to answer.) RYAN (into the phone) Hello? What? What do you mean? Well, when will it(Walks into the hallway stage right, voice trailing off.) ELLIE (Dejectedly) Oh, man. I hope that‘s not his flight. BRIAN (Seriously) Maureen, we need to talk. NICK Ellie, we need to talk.

MAUREEN Not now. Someone needs to cut the cake.

ELLIE I grabbed the giant knife for exactly that purpose. (Bends down to start cutting the cake) BRIAN

Johnston 19 Oh, good. I was scared for a second. (RYAN comes back into the room, looking flustered.) RYAN They said my plane is grounded. ELLIE (Stands up quickly, cake-covered knife in hand) What? For how long? RYAN Indubitably. ELLIE You mean indefinitely? RYAN Yeah, that. ELLIE Damn it. RYAN Well, guess it means I‘ll get to spend some more time with you. (RYAN smiles at ELLIE. She winces back.) NICK (To MAUREEN and BRIAN) You guys have really been thinking about this for a while? BRIAN (Sheepish) I know I should have told you, butNICK No, it‘s alright. I mean, you don‘t have to tell me everything. BRIAN No, I mean, I should‘veNICK Brian. It‘s alright. I want you and Maureen to go to Chicago. (Simultaneously) MAUREEN Great! MAUREEN (Looking warily at BRIAN) Brian, what do you mean? BRIAN No.

Johnston 20 BRIAN We can do Chicago later, Maureen. For right now I don‘t- I don‘t want to leave Nick alone. NICK It‘s fine, Brian. I can take care of myself. BRIAN I know that. Of course I know that. But- if you‘re going to try getting out this year, thenELLIE (Suddenly stops cutting the cake) You‘re going to what? NICK Yeah. Four years is long enough. This year, I want to- I want to try it. ELLIE Oh my God, Nick. (Puts the knife down, goes over and hugs him) I‘m here for you. No matter what, I‘m here, you got it? NICK (Muffled through the hug) Yeah. And thanks for putting down the knife. (ELLIE goes back to cutting the cake) BRIAN Nick, you‘re my twin. We‘ve been through everything together. I should be here for this. NICK I know you want to, but that doesn‘t mean you have to. I mean, I‘ve got Ellie. With all of her- um, loving and… you know, compassion. ELLIE You may notice that I have the knife in my hand again. MAUREEN (In low tones) Brian. We talked about this. We‘ve put it off long enough. BRIAN I know. But… I want to be here to help Nick. Whether he needs me or not. MAUREEN Yeah. You‘ve always just wanted to be here to help Nick. BRIAN SweetieMAUREEN (Interrupts)

Johnston 21 No, it‘s fine. You want to stay so bad, then we‘ll stay. BRIAN Okay. You sure about that? MAUREEN (Restrained) It‘s fine. (Forces a smile) Why wouldn‘t it be fine? (ELLIE finishes cutting the cake. She passes out pieces on plates. Everyone sits down.) NICK So, Ryan. What did the airline say about your tickets? RYAN I don‘t know. This sucks, the premiere is tonight, I don‘t know if I can get two more plane seats in time. ELLIE Two seats? For the last time, Ryan, you‘re just big-boned-

RYAN Uh, actually, one of them is for you. (ELLE freezes as RYAN gets the tickets out.) I was going to make it a surprise, but… I got you a ticket, too. I even got you a suitcase packed in the car.

ELLIE (Shocked) A suitcase? Packed? With… clothes? (RYAN nods.) To… California? (RYAN nods.) With… you? RYAN (Nods, enthusiastically) I thought it would be good for us to, you know, get away together. Somewhere warm. You can meet the Hartnetts. ELLIE Your last name is Hartnett? RYAN Yeah. Wait, you didn‘t know that? MAUREEN (Jokingly) This brother of yours wouldn‘t happen to be named Josh, would he?

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RYAN Yeah. MAUREEN (Freezes) Oh. Oh my God. Your brother is the Josh Hartnett? ELLIE Ryan, this is really sweet, but… RYAN (Grabs her hand, gets down on one knee) I love you. Please come with me. I‘ve got it all lined up – we can go to a spa and get covered in green mud, and we can go to the beach and lie down in the sand, and then we can go to my favorite Indian place-

ELLIE (Jerks him back upright) That doesn‘t sound as pleasant as you think it does. RYAN I did all of this for you. ELLIE (Unsure) IMAUREEN I love Josh Hartnett. ELLIE (Distracted) Maureen, is this the best timeNICK Who the hell is Josh Hartnett? MAUREEN (Breathing hard) I- I can‘t believe. You‘re his brother. I love Josh.

ELLIE (Annoyed) Fantastic, Maureen, butMAUREEN (Suddenly) If you don‘t go, I will.

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(ELLIE, RYAN, BRIAN and NICK turn to MAUREEN, startled.) BRIAN Say what now? MAUREEN I‘m sorry, babe, I just- I need to get away for a while and- and- I love Josh Hartnett. BRIAN You‘re a twenty-nine year old woman! Is this why you watched Pearl Harbor a thousand times? I thought you were a history buff! And since when do you have time for a vacation? MAUREEN (Hesitating) Brian, there‘s something I didn‘t tell you.

BRIAN Besides the fact that you‘re willing to run off with the first guy who- who offers to cover you in green mud and introduce you to movie stars? MAUREEN I- I may have already taken the job. BRIAN You mean… the WBBM job? MAUREEN Yeah. I quit the station last week. I just assumed- as your wife, I assumed you would want to come with me. (Pause) I‘m almost thirty years old. I‘ve never taken a day off in my life. Just always working, always trying to get a better job, be a better anchor- and this job is going to be harder than ever. The stress of that plus the stress of… of us… I need to do something different. To help me think. And maybe going to California would give me time to think. BRIAN Wait. To think? NICK You can think in Wisconsin. Sometimes. BRIAN Are you… Maureen, are you leaving me? On my birthday? MAUREEN No. No, of course not. I just- I mean, if Ellie doesn‘t want this ticketRYAN

Johnston 24 (Interrupting) But Ellie does want this ticket. Right, El? ELLIE (Wrestles her hand away from RYAN‘s) I‘m sorry, Ryan, but I can‘t. RYAN Is it because of Josh? ELLIE No, this is not about Josh Hartnett. Huh, never thought that sentence would be something I‘d end up saying in my life. But… Ryan, honestly, I was waiting until you went to California to… to tell you that… I can‘t see you anymore. RYAN Not seeing me… because I‘m far away? ELLIE Not seeing you because… I don‘t want to be with you. NICK (Under his breath) Fun party. RYAN Well- I- Maureen, do you really want to come to California with me? BRIAN I don‘t know how they do it in California, Ryan, but in Wisconsin, it‘s less than cool to steal someone‘s wife. Especially when you just met her. Maureen, you‘re not really considering this, are you? We can work this out. We‘ll figure out something, I- I don‘t know, maybe- I don‘t know. MAUREEN Right now, there‘s nothing for me here. NICK Hey, don‘t knock here. I‘m pretty fond of it. RYAN (Gets up, putting unfinished cake on the coffee table) Well. There‘s no reason for me to stay any longer either. (Indicates MAUREEN) We don‘t need your big stupid cheese state anyway, do we? (Goes over to the door and begins putting on winter gear, quickly) Oh, and Ellie, I‘ll put your suitcase by the front door. There‘s nothing but a bikini and Ritz crackers in it anyway. ELLIE You were planning on taking me to California with nothing but a bikini and Ritz crackers? You know what? Yeah. You should pretty much definitely go without me.

Johnston 25 MAUREEN (Stands up) I‘m sorry, Brian. (Leans over and kisses him on the cheek) I promise, I‘ll be back. I just can‘t be here right now. I‘ll see you in a few days. (MAUREEN joins RYAN at the door, quickly grabs her winter stuff, wrapping her scarf around her neck) BRIAN Maureen, wait, I – MAUREEN We‘ll talk about it when I get back, okay? Bye, Brian. RYAN Bye, Ellie. ELLIE You can keep the Ritz crackers. NICK Can I have them? Only if they‘re the cheesy kind. (RYAN and MAUREEN exit through the main door. NICK, BRIAN and ELLIE are still sitting in the living room, BRIAN and ELLIE on the couch, both looking stunned, and NICK in the armchair, eating his cake like nothing has happened. )

BRIAN I… I don‘t even… what just happened? ELLIE Jeez. I‘m so sorry, Brian. BRIAN All of this because I won‘t go to… to stupid Chicago. NICK (Serious) Brian. Listen to me. I know you don‘t want to go right now, but you‘re just going to regret it later. I mean… just because Maureen isn‘t quite my… my style doesn‘t mean that I don‘t think you two should be together. A woman who‘s stayed in Wisconsin for you this long is a woman worth keeping. And I meant what I said before. You should go. Not just for Maureen, but… but for you. If I‘m getting out, then you should, too. BRIAN This is a big step for you. NICK I know. For both of us.

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BRIAN I just… I don‘t want to be gone when it happens. NICK I‘m going to make sure it happens whether you‘re here or not. BRIAN You‘reNICK (Interrupts) Yeah. I‘m sure. BRIAN (Pause. Gets up.) I‘ll give you a call later. ELLIE Where are you going? BRIAN (Walks to the door) The airport. NICK This is kind of exciting. Are you going to do that thing where you run up and kiss her at the gate? BRIAN You really do need to get out more. ELLIE Hey. Don‘t die on the roads. BRIAN (Putting on winter clothes) I won‘t. Could you imagine the headline? ―Weatherman Killed by Weather.‖ (BRIAN exits through the main door.) ELLIE (Takes a deep breath) Wow. NICK (Sarcastically sing-songy) Happy birthday to me. ELLIE (Chuckles) Yeah.

Johnston 27 NICK Hey, what‘s that box you brought? ELLIE Oh. (Gets up, goes and gets it off of the table) Your present. It‘s just(hands it to him) Here. Open it. (NICK opens the box while ELLIE watches. He pulls out a long, clear tube with a tray on the bottom. He looks at it and then ELLIE, quizzically.) ELLIE It‘s a bird feeder. NICK Oh. Uh, thanks. (Turns it around, inspecting it) Super helpful for around the house. ELLIE I thought it would… I don‘t know. Give you some motivation to go out and put it up. You‘ve got that big oak in the back, and maybe once the sky isn‘t falling anymore… NICK (Smiling) Thanks, Ellie. ELLIE You‘re welcome. NICK (Pauses) Ellie. Could you help me out? ELLIE Sure. With what? NICK No, I mean… could you help me out? ELLIE (Pauses) Are you sure you‘re ready? NICK No, but… I want to try. ELLIE What if you, you know… panic?

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NICK Then I‘ll come back in. And tomorrow I‘ll try again. ELLIE Okay. But if it works and you immediately freeze to death, I‘m gonna be mad. (ELLIE and NICK get up. They both walk to the door. ELLIE starts to put her winter gear on.) NICK Oh, is it cold out? BLACKOUT