Questionable Circumstances

A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.” -Bruce Lee

(I was asked to write a play.  I took a little David Ives inspiration and crafted what you see below.) 

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Characters: 

Karen, in her mid-late twenties is an attractive/athletic woman wearing standard drab-looking uniform.  She’s a little haggard from the day she’s having, but still a sight for sore eyes. 

Lucas is in his early thirties.  He’s no poster-boy, but he does alright for an average fellow if he’d remember to run a comb through his hair.  He’s a smart cookie, prone to playful discussions on nerdy topics.  

 

Location:  An apartment hallway.  Karen stands with a small box and clipboard in her hand in the hallway on one side of the door while Lucas is in his rather disheveled apartment on the other side of the door.

 

(Knock on the door, Lucas opens it to find Karen standing there in a delivery uniform holding a small box)

Lucas:  May I help you?BenBois_French_parcel_post

Karen:  Is this 624 81st Ave, Suite #512?

Lucas:  Does this look like an office complex?

Karen:  Is that a no?

Lucas:  Are you a lost?

Karen:  Did you order a parcel?

Lucas:  Who wants to know?

Karen:  So you’re not expecting a delivery?

Lucas:  Did I say that?

Karen:  Have you said anything helpful yet?

Lucas:  Would you like it if we started over?

Karen:  Are you going to answer any of my questions this time?

Lucas:  What can I do for you?

Karen:  Is this the office for Mortimer VanHoffner?

Lucas:  You really think I’m a Mortimer kind of guy?

Karen:  Can’t there more than one type of Mortimer?

Lucas:  What kind of parent would subject their kid to that kind of name?

Karen:  (laughs)  How do they ever fit his full name on forms?

Lucas:  Do you think that Mortimer is ever not mortified or mocked because of his morose moniker?

Karen:  How long have you been holding that joke in?

Lucas:  Why should I reveal such personal information to a complete stranger?

Karen:  Did you ever ask my name?

Lucas:  Do you know for a fact that my name isn’t Mortimer?

Karen:  Would it help to smooth things over if I told you I’m Karen?

Lucas:  If I introduce myself as Lucas, will you promise not to call me Luke?

Karen:  Got some identity issues, do you?

Lucas:  Got some directional issues, do you?

Karen:  You think this is funny?

Lucas:  Do you know that this is the most fun that I’ve ever had answering my door?  Do you think I have lovely women come knocking every day?

Karen:  Should I be happy for you?  Are you going to help me or what?

Lucas:  Don’t they give delivery drivers directions?  Or better yet, maps? 

Karen:  You’re some sort of expert at this?

Lucas:  I have to deliver packages to know that it helps to have a final destination for them?

Karen:  Haven’t you ever depended on the kindness of strangers?

Lucas:  What’s an attractive gal like you doing schlepping around boxes for a living?

Karen:  Did I say this was my career job?

Lucas:  Was I given any evidence that it wasn’t?

Karen:  Do you know how hard it is for a Stanford graduate to get a job with benefits these days?

Lucas:  So you’re not a professional?

Karen:  What sort of insinuation are you making?

Lucas:  You didn’t think I was calling you a “professional”, did you? 

Karen:  Were you?

Lucas:  That would be pretty stupid of me, wouldn’t it?

Karen:  Have you ever felt a door slam in your face before?imagesCAQQ7I83

Lucas:  Do you make a habit out of breaking guys’ hearts?

Karen:  What?

Lucas:  You wouldn’t intentionally stomp on my feelings would you?  You wouldn’t be so cruel as to walk away from all this fun we’re having, would you?”

Karen:  This is your idea of fun?

Lucas:  You’re not enjoying it?

Karen:  Is this how you would spend your lunch break?  Do you know what it’s like to have the boss track every second of every day?

Lucas:  So it’s not me you’re irked at; it’s your job?

Karen:  When did I say that I don’t like my job?

Lucas:  Do you love your job?  Do you find it challenging?

Karen:  Do you know how challenging it is to get you to answer a question?

Lucas:  Do you realize how hypocritical it is of you to ask that?

Karen:  Are there women in the world that find this charming?

Lucas:  You don’t enjoy a debate here and there; a conversational crossing of swords?

Karen:  You don’t really get out much, do you?

Lucas:  And you do?

Karen:  Would you believe that I like to have a little more fun than you do?

Lucas:  How so?

Karen:  Have you tried going out?

Lucas:  To where?

Karen:  You’ve never heard of clubs?

Lucas:  Aren’t those places designed to make your ears bleed?

Karen:  You’re going to make assumptions just like that?

Lucas:  Are you saying I’m wrong?

Karen:  You’ve never been to one, have you?

Lucas:  Did I say that?

Karen:  What about restaurants?

Lucas:  What about them?

Karen:  Do you ever eat out?

Lucas:  Why do you ask?

Karen:  Aren’t there three pizza boxes stacked in your trash can over there?

Lucas:  How do you know that I ate all those myself?  What if I have a girlfriend?

Karen:  What girlfriend would come over to a place like this?

Lucas:  What’s that supposed to mean?

Karen:  Do you carefully position rat traps around your living quarters, or do you just throw them around and hope for the best?

Lucas:  Why are you so dead-set on me having rats?

Karen:  Would it be a big surprise?

Lucas:  What if I promised you that I’m just going through an unorganized streak?

Karen:  Are you trying to set some sort of record?  Is there an official from Guinness adding up the days?

Lucas:  Haven’t you heard that all geniuses are messy?

Karen:  So you’re a genius now?

Lucas:  Did I say that?

Karen:  Didn’t you imply that?

Lucas:  Would you agree that we’re both reasonably intelligent people?

Karen:  Who in their right mind would describe anything about this whole ordeal as reasonable?

Lucas:  Why don’t you just accept that I’m a fairly nice guy?

Karen:  What sort of nice guy doesn’t offer a hard-working gal who’s been driving around all morning the opportunity to use a restroom?

Lucas:  Do you need to use the facilities? 

Karen:  Can’t you tell when I’m kidding?

Lucas:  You’ve figured out by now that I’m not Mortimer, right?

Karen:  Mortimer would have offered me a drink by now, why haven’t you?

Lucas:  What if I was hoping to get you a drink later?

Karen:  What’re you trying to say?

Lucas:  What happens if I ask you out?question_cedric_bosdonna_01

Karen:  Wouldn’t you find out if you actually tried?

Lucas:  Are you the kind of woman that gets offended when guys try to hit on her at work?

Karen:  Do you get a lot of people telling you that your apartment looks like a mail and parcel service depot?

Lucas:  So you’re not afraid of me, but you’re afraid that I breed rats?

Karen:  Don’t you get by now that I was teasing you?

Lucas:  Do I strike you as the sort of person who likes to be teased?

Karen:  You’re used to dishing it out, but not taking it, aren’t you?

Lucas:  Did I say that?

Karen:  Is that a no?

Lucas:  They don’t make many women like you, do they?

Karen:  Are you complimenting me?

Lucas:  Isn’t it obvious?

Karen:  You don’t have much practice in all this, do you?

Lucas:  So why are you letting me fumble so?

Karen:  Can’t a girl have a little fun? 

Lucas:  Do you ever wish that things were different?  Do you wish you could take a break from the same old activities with your friends and find that one someone who gets you more than anyone else?  Don’t you yearn for that one person who you know you can call after a hard day and they reassure you that everything’s going to be all right?  Don’t you wake up some mornings; look at the things in your life, and wonder?  What if this is all well and good, but there’s that certain person that could make everything seem a thousand times better just by having them in your life?  Do you even know what I’m talking about?

Karen:  Have you been reading my diary?

Lucas:  Should I?  Are there really juicy parts in there?

Karen:  You’d love to know, wouldn’t you?

Lucas:  Am I helping my chances here?

Karen:  What if I told you that you were right?  What if I listed off the long string of guys who spent more time in the bathroom working on getting their hair to look disheveled than they did asking me how my day was?  What if I was tired of being around guys who did their best to have a “good time” with every female in the room while stealing money from my purse?  What if I told you that my most recent relationships were more interested in themselves than my opinion?

Lucas:  Why don’t you try something new?

Karen:  Something along the lines of the Lucas 2000?

Lucas:  Haven’t you heard the buzz about the many daily stresses I cure and soothe?

Karen:  So you’ll give me a backrub at the end of a hard day?

Lucas:  You’ll push me to try some new adventures?

Karen:  You don’t have a prison record, do you?

Lucas:  How long do you think I would last behind bars?

Karen:  You don’t think an orange jumpsuit would suit you?  What about me?  You’re not just asking me out because of how I look in this uniform, are you?

Lucas:  Who told you about my love for industrial tones?  Who could resist a woman in baggy clothing and cotton baseball caps?  Don’t you know the allure those oil stains and wrinkles have over a man?

Karen:  Would you believe that I clean up nice?

Lucas:  Can I ask you to think the same about me?

Karen:  What if I assure you that I take my dates very seriously?  Do you realize how much I like dressing up after wearing this all day?  Can you imagine my hair coming down, the slinky dress, and a desire to have fun?

Lucas:  (nervously clears throat)  Is it getting hot in here?

Karen:  What about you?  Do you have a pair of shoes that aren’t tennis?  Have you ever used shoe polish?  You look pretty handsome in a button up charcoal shirt and a nice pair of slacks, don’t you?

Lucas:  So… you’re saying I’m allowed to ask you out?

(The two smile with each following question.  They only get more eager with each possibility)

Karen:  It sounds like that’s the case, doesn’t it?

Lucas:  Will you go on long walks with me?

Karen:  Will you distract my mother when she starts asking me why I’m not married?

Lucas:  Can we stay up late just talking about the thoughts in our heads and the hopes that we have?

Karen:  Will you open doors for me and not answer your phone when we’re in the middle of a date?

Lucas:  Are you okay with the fact that sometimes I’ll have a collection of cardboard boxes and take-out containers here and there?

Karen:  Am I allowed to vent when people cut me off in traffic and I want someone to listen to me?

Lucas:  Don’t you think the possibility here is rather fantastic?

Karen:  (teasing)  You realize that at some point I have to go find this Mortimer guy’s office, right?

Lucas:  Are you free for dinner?

Karen:  When?

Lucas:  Could it be soon?  Don’t you want to strike while the iron’s hot?

Karen:  Is that really the best you can do?  Can’t you ask a gal out a little better than that?

Lucas:  Hey Karen, you seem like a rather fantastic person that I would like to get to know much better.  Would you let me take you out to dinner after work tonight?

Karen:  Of course I will, Lucas.  Thanks for asking.

Swinging to Their Own Rhythm

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Swinging to Their Own Rhythm

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” -Mark Twain

Ralph was the type of person that seemed as ordinary as could be.  His frame could hardly be called tall or muscular.  He was just a little too short to be of average height.  His hair wasn’t buzzed, nor was it shaggy; it was in that rather standard range in between.  With brown hair and a perfect triangle for a nose, Ralph was almost the token definition of non-descript.  If there was anything Ralph was good at, it was blending in.

There seemed to be no job better suited for Ralph than that of a guard.  He spent his days surrounded by beautiful paintings and sculptures in the museum.  When he was feeling lonely he would stroll through the Edward Hopper paintings, when he was homesick he would walk up to the museum’s lone Norman Rockwell, and when he felt like life just didn’t make sense, he’d stroll down the wall of Impressionists.  Ralph liked art a great a deal; he appreciated how these artists could express themselves and their emotions in ways that others could understand.  Ralph had yet to master that a remarkable talent for himself.

Ralph’s skill for being unnoticed, however; that he had down to an art.  As soon as someone started to take out a camera or reach out to a painting, Ralph was right there.  The most common reaction was that of surprise.  Ralph never tried to walk quietly, but his gait hardly employed stomping.  People didn’t register his presence when they passed him in the halls.  Then, before they knew it, Ralph was standing by them; tapping them on the shoulder.  Once they recovered from the shock, many of the visitors putting their hands to their chests, they apologized and cooperated.

Ralph’s supervisors had seen how stealthy he was and how he approached quietly.  The higher-ups thanked him for being so diligent in his role, but asked him to try to make his presence known when a guest was first visible.  They offered that part of his role was to serve as a visible deterrent.  If patrons saw him and were reminded that there were rules, then perhaps he wouldn’t startle the guests so much.  Ralph had heard the suggestion repeatedly, but was unsure how to go about doing so.  A small man with a slight build and a quiet voice could hardly compete with the wonderful canvases and breathtaking installations that surrounded him.

There was one area, one lone activity where Ralph felt confident and bold.  The activity didn’t require him to be tall or strong or good looking.  All Ralph had to do was show up.  There was no competition involved, Ralph only had to participate and his world was made better.  Yes, despite his age, Ralph still received great joy from playing on swings.

Oddly enough, the swings were the one place in the world where Ralph stood out.  Walking around in the crowds and throngs downtown, Ralph was invisible.  His feet would get stepped on, people cut in front of him in line to get coffee, and bartenders always managed to ask for his drink order last.  On the playground, the situation was completely different.  It didn’t matter how many children or families were near the swing sets, if Ralph was there he became the center of attention.  He tried not to take away from the children’s enjoyment and was quick to give up his swing to any youngster that might want it.  Yet, even if there were no kids wanting to swing, Ralph remained a curiosity

The day came where he was about to give in.  Ralph started to wonder if he shouldn’t start enjoying the relaxing swing sets early in the morning when no one was about.  A mother and her small daughters were approaching and the eldest had a wary look on her face.  The playground had eight different swings to choose from, but Ralph still felt like he should disembark to alleviate her concerns.

As he started to slow the swing down so that he could casually walk away, Ralph noticed something.  Two squirrels were gathered at a large oak tree about ten feet away from the playground.  Both animals were standing on their hind legs, apparently arguing with the other.  They chittered back and forth as a lone nut sat on the ground between them.  The chatting and excited noises came out louder and louder.  Suddenly, the slightly bigger of the two squirrels took its right paw, swatted the other squirrel upside the head, grabbed the nut, and then ran off.

Ralph burst out laughing.  He couldn’t help himself.  The action had been so quick, so completely unexpected that he guffawed at their squabble.

The two girls opened their eyes wide.  They ran forward asking Ralph what was so funny.  He pointed to the lone squirrel that was recovering on the ground.  It shook its head and began to run off.  Ralph told the small children about the nut and fight.  The retelling of the story only made Ralph laugh more.  The two girls didn’t fully understand his story, but they laughed along with Ralph regardless.

The mother rushed forward, rather upset that the girls had broken free of her.  She stood there, taking the scene in.  Her two children stood laughing while a stranger in a swing chuckled and laughed with them.  The scene was an odd one, to be sure, but she couldn’t help herself.  She too started laughing.  Before long, the four of them were assembled around the playground enjoying the day and commenting on how nice everything seemed.

Ralph stayed up that night thinking about what had happened.  No one had pressured him to leave the playground that day.  If nothing else, he had made some new friends.  Ralph wasn’t about to invite them over for tea yet, but he doubted that he would feel awkward if he saw them again.  Ralph wondered if the day hadn’t opened up a new opportunity for him.

The next day at work, Ralph tested out his plan.  He didn’t really change anything about himself, but he did take things a bit less seriously.  Ralph stopped worrying about what people would think and loosened up.  For many years he had been walking around, looking at the paintings and chucking at some of the stranger, more avant-garde creations.  And one day, not too far from that happy time in the park, Ralph cracked a joke.

The visitor didn’t laugh out loud.  She didn’t burst at the seams.  She merely smiled and went on with her visit.  Ralph grew a little bolder from that success.  He made another joke.  After that came another.  It didn’t happen overnight, but gradually Ralph became something of a go-to guy for light-hearted visits.  He would kneel down to talk to small children and sometimes tell them a joke.  Ralph was never an intimidating guard, but he became more and more of a good-natured one.  By the next year, Ralph had received several letters complimenting him for making peoples’ visits more fun.  Children especially, thought he was quite delightful.  He only spoke a sentence or two, but those few phrases made all the difference.  And when he laughed, everyone around him chuckled along.

Ralph is still the same person that he always was.  He probably won’t stand out in a crowd.  Folks who don’t know him pass him by.  He is still “that guy in line at the grocery store” or “a neighbor I know”.  But once people get to talking to him, they laugh.  For Ralph, it’s a small thing; one he rather likes.  And now he fits right in with every other kid, big or tiny, that likes to play on swing sets.

 

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