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What Are We Getting At? by Patterson Willis

What Are We Getting At? by Patterson Willis

Drama, Vol. 4.2, June 2010

CHARACTERS
Bruce
Brinkman
Phil
Christian
Thief
Officer

Stage: Living room of a very old house, with furniture found on street corners. There is a sofa that fits three, a coffee table, and two chairs. The furniture forms a semi-circle around the coffee table, facing the audience. The door is at stage right, at depth about stage center. Behind the sofa there is about ten feet of space to the back wall. There is a window on the back wall, at stage left. The floor is full of pages, books, newspapers, magazines and other similar paper objects. Behind the sofa the paper is more accumulated, so that there are piles. It’s supposed that when someone takes a step, you can hear the crunch of paper against the floor. During the play, the light should be bright—strong enough to see clearly the degraded state of the room, as well as to make more obvious the clutter of paper on the floors.

(Lights up. BRUCE & BRINKMAN sit in two chairs. BRUCE looks through a book.)

BRUCE:

(Reading)

There will always be a direct and necessary relationship between the words.

BRINKMAN:

Does there have to be?

BRUCE:

Yes, there has.

BRINKMAN:

So we will be building bridges.

BRUCE:

Yes, in a way, I suppose… Good point, Reason. Now listen here.

(Reading)

Four classic bridges: Definition; function or purpose; action or item; and degree.

BRINKMAN:

Let’s go!

(Pause, BRUCE turning pages)

If we don’t start, we’ll never begin…We won’t be prepared.

(Slight pause)

I don’t really… want to do this.

BRUCE:

Who really wants to do this? We must try, you understand?

BRINKMAN:

Yes.

BRUCE:

Now

(Slight pause)

LUCID is to OBSCURITY as…What is to What?

BRINKMAN:

What are my choices?

BRUCE:

Choices?

BRINKMAN:

Pass.

BRUCE:

I think—

BRINKMAN:

Alright

(Pause)

Do they maintain lexical categories?

BRUCE:

You tell me. Will that help you?

BRINKMAN:

Yes, it will… Pass. Next question! Now I’m prepared.

BRUCE:

Harder?

BRINKMAN:

Yes. Difficulty, complicity, magnanimity, promontory…

BRUCE:

Promontory?

BRINKMAN:

Practice… Next question!

BRUCE:

Ready?

BRINKMAN:

(Singing)

do—re—mi—fa—so—la—ti—do

(Clears throat)

BRUCE:

(Looks through book, flips pages)

Here…

(Slight pause)

ATROPHY is to INACTIVITY—

BRINKMAN:

Cause! Answer, D. I’m certain—

BRUCE:

But, you’ve not seen the options…How?

BRINKMAN:

Give me that.

(Takes book)

There! D, …as DEBT is to OVERSPENDING. Cause! … Unsound question, really… old trick. ATROPHY doubles noun and verb. DEBT, no—noun. INACTIVITY, noun. OVERSPENDING, verb—intransitive, suffix, gerund—simple variations…

(Gives book back)

Continue.

BRUCE:

(Slight pause, turning pages)

Here! …NOMADIC is to SEDENTARY—

BRINKMAN:

LOQUACIOUS is to TACITURN!

BRUCE:

As… I didn’t get that one… I thought—

BRINKMAN:

Wait!

(Raises hand)

Let me guess!

(Takes book, reading page)

Something excessive, can be characterized as sumptuous, no?

(To BRUCE)

Yes…think then…Sumptuary, no?

BRUCE:

(Slight pause)

When is George coming?

BRINKMAN:

He’s on his way.

(Gives book back)

Continue, please. Turn more pages. Find something.…good.

BRUCE:

But, can we just stay at his house ALL afternoon? Is it ….Prudent?

BRINKMAN:

No…. Turn more pages. Find something relevant. We’re exercising here.

BRUCE:

You have no shame!

(Slight pause, turning pages)

There!

BRINKMAN:

Where?

BRUCE:

This page.

(Points with finger)

Here… PANDEMONIUM—

BRINKMAN:

Good! Now we’re getting somewhere!

BRUCE:

Is to, AGITATION—

BRINKMAN:

AGITATION?!

BRUCE:

Is A. INCEPTION/KNOWLEDGE—

BRINKMAN:

Hmm… INCEPTION, means, to begin—no connect with, KNOWLEDGE. Eliminate.

BRUCE:

Eliminated….. B. GREISEN/QUARTZ—

BRINKMAN:

GREISEN—rock, made up, partially of.…QUARTZ. E—

BRUCE:

—liminated.

BRINKMAN:

Now. We’re finally on the same page. Continue.

BRUCE:

DERELICTION/POVERTY

BRINKMAN:

Eliminate!

BRUCE:

Eliminated!

(Realizing)

Wait! No—not so.

BRINKMAN:

Yes. Is so.

BRUCE:

Is George really coming?

BRINKMAN:

I don’t, exactly, know anything.

BRUCE:

He’ll come.

BRINKMAN:

(Pointing around the room)

This, around you, is POVERTY, my friend. This block, this neighborhood, this side of the world.

(Stands)

Yet what you see before you, this room, this throbbing clutter of space, is a product of DERELICTION ….See negligence.

(Pause)

BRUCE:

And the answer?

BRINKMAN:

The answer is no longer important. Next question. Turn more pages.

BRUCE:

(Slight pause, turning pages, stops)

No more—

BRINKMAN:

One more.

BRUCE:

Where?

(Slight pause, turning pages)

Wait! Here! …. ARCANUM/SECRECY—

BRINKMAN:

Good, now…

(Knock on door. Slight pause. BRUCE stands, opens door.

Appears PHIL with large bag, overstuffed with books and paper.)

BRUCE:

George. Hello, my name is Bruce.

(Extends hand, shake hands.)

BRINKMAN:

That’s not George.

(PHIL moves inside toward empty chair. His manner is so casual it suggests that he lives there, or visits frequently)

PHIL:

(Sitting)

I’m not George.

BRUCE:

(Let down)

Oh—

PHIL:

Phil

BRUCE

What?

PHIL:

I’m Phil. And you…are Bruce. Yes, I believe I’ve heard of you.

(TO BRINKMAN)

What is he?

BRUCE:

I’m Bruce.

PHIL:

No, I mean, what are you? What do you do?

BRUCE:

Right now?

(Sits in chair)

Nothing, really… What do you mean, exactly?

PHIL:

With your life… What makes you special?

BRUCE:

Nothing—

BRINKMAN:

Nothing.

BRUCE:

(To BRINKMAN)

What makes you special?!

BRINKMAN:

Me? I am a writer.

PHIL:

Yes. He is a writer. I am a philosopher. George is a painter. And you are…?

BRINKMAN:

Wait!

(Raising hand)

Let me guess!

(Pause; All eyes on BRINKMAN)

BRUCE:

Well?

PHIL:

Let the man think…. He’s a writer. His mind is a labyrinth, he must find his way.

BRUCE:

What?

BRINKMAN:

(Finger over lips)

Shhh—I’m conjuring.

BRUCE:

(To PHIL)

Conjugating?

PHIL:

Yes. Let him conjugate.

(Pause)

BRINKMAN:

Ah-ha! That’s it!

BRUCE:

What? What is it?

PHIL:

I’ve lost it.

BRINKMAN:

But you don’t have it. I’ve got it!

BRUCE:

Do you? Do you really?

BRINKMAN:

No. I’ve lost it.

BRUCE:

Come on!

(Slight pause)

PHIL:

Perhaps we should ask questions. Derive an answer.

BRINKMAN:

Superb idea.

BRUCE:

I want to go first!

BRINKMAN:

That’s not possible.

PHIL:

Why?

BRUCE:

(To BRINKMAN)

Yeah. Why not?

BRINKMAN:

(Frustrated)

Why not! Why not!

(Slight pause, calms)

Because Bruce is the subject of interrogation. I am interrogator. Phil is interrogator. Bruce is the interrogated. Is that clear? Understood?

BRUCE:

Oh, alright.

BRINKMAN:

Good. Now—

PHIL:

I want to be interrogated too!

BRUCE:

Wait your turn!

BRINKMAN:

Yes. Bruce is right. Technically we’ve already begun now, haven’t we.

PHIL:

Right. Right, you are.

BRUCE:

Begin—

(Pause, BRUCE looks at others; they sit well-postured and pensive.)

And now what? The both of you thinking?! Son of a—

(Slight pause)

Mother—! I mean… I’d like to get all this cleared away before George gets here.

PHIL:

Oh. Is he coming?

BRUCE:

I don’t, exactly, know anything.

BRINKMAN:

Yes. He is on his way.

PHIL:

From where?

BRINKMAN:

No idea whatsoever.

BRUCE:

Don’t get carried away now? Can’t we just—

PHIL:

Quite right. Quite right, you are.

BRINKMAN:

Yes

(Slight pause)

Bruce, hmm. What…do…you…do?

BRINKMAN & PHIL:

Hmmm.

(Knock at door. BRUCE stands, goes to door, opens. Appears CHRISTIAN, wearing tie and suit, carrying a large briefcase overstuffed with pages.)

BRUCE:

(Extending hand)

George. Hello, my name is Bruce.

CHRISTIAN:

(Doesn’t accept handshake.)

Sorry. I don’t know a Bruce.

PHIL:

That is Christian.

BRINKMAN:

(To self)

Ha! I nearly thought—

(To CHRISTIAN)

What are you?

PHIL:

(To BRINKMAN)

Reporter.

(CHRISTIAN sits, puts briefcase on table, opens, fumbles objects, pages, pens, pencils, etc. fall to floor. BRUCE remains standing at door.)

BRUCE:

No …I am Bruce!

CHRISTIAN:

(To BRUCE)

Yes, of course you are.

(BRUCE sits; CHRISTIAN still fumbling inside briefcase)

BRINKMAN:

Does that tape recorder work?

CHRISTIAN:

Yes. It records—

BRINKMAN:

(Pointing inside briefcase)

Well. Turn it on. We’re really getting somewhere here.

CHRISTIAN:

(Removes recorder and places on coffee table)

There…

(Presses play, makes strange sounds, fumbles device, rewinds tape.)

Now…

(Sets on table again, sets to record)

What’s the game?

BRUCE:

I don’t know what I do.

(Slight pause)

PHIL:

Questions. Questions—

CHRISTIAN:

What do you do, Bruce?

BRINKMAN:

Not that question.

BRUCE:

Yes, please. Not that question.

BRINKMAN:

(To BRUCE)

You’re the Poet … the Lover … the Hedonist … the Cannibal—

PHIL:

Poet! …Brilliant!

CHRISTIAN:

I see it!

BRUCE:

(To BRINKMAN)

But you…are the Writer.

BRINKMAN:

Me? Oh yes, of course….Though I don’t write, exactly.

BRUCE:

Neither do I.

PHIL:

That’s not important. What—

CHRISTIAN:

No! No, I don’t see it. Poet…Cannibal…No, that’s too simple.

BRUCE:

Cannibal?!

BRINKMAN & PHIL:

Right…Right, you are.

BRUCE:

I…am…I?

(While BRUCE mutters confused, THIEF, dressed in black, pries window open. THIEF climbs in slowly, carrying large empty canvas bag; he proceeds cautiously in the area behind the sofa, looking for objects to collect. He puts several objects in bag before BRUCE sees him.)

BRUCE:

(Sees THIEF, stands, approaches him)

Hello, you must be George. I am Bruce.

THIEF:

Sorry. I am not.

BRUCE:

Oh. Right.

(Pause, THIEF continues standing)

BRINKMAN:

(To THIEF)

Please. Man, don’t just stand there! Take a seat.

THIEF:

Yes. Of course.

(Sits)

BRUCE:

And, what do you do, Mr.—

THIEF:

Thieve.

BRUCE:

Yes, of course. Mr. Thieve…. What do you do, exactly?

THIEF:

I—

BRINKMAN:

Good God Bruce! Don’t harangue the poor fellow. He’s only just arrived.

PHIL:

Yes, man has got a right to privacy.

CHRISTIAN:

In my world, it’s not the case.

(THIEF takes object from table and puts in bag)

THIEF:

(To CHRISTIAN)

Your world?

PHIL:

This is rather confusing.

BRINKMAN:

Without a doubt. …Let’s try this again…

(To THIEF)

Now, Mr.—

BRUCE:

Thieve—

BRINKMAN:

Yes, Mr. Thieve…. This is Bruce, Phil, Christian.

(Salutations)

BRINKMAN, PHIL, CHRISTIAN:

Nice to meet you.

PHIL:

(To CHRISTIAN)

What do you mean by there’s no privacy?

(THIEF takes book from floor, puts in bag.)

CHRISTIAN:

I find truth….I extract it….stretch it….I invent it…. Ultimately, the truth is merely a matter of privacy.

(THIEF takes book, thumbs through pages.)

BRINKMAN:

Yes, Mr. Thieve, please. Turn the pages. We’re really getting somewhere here!

THIEF:

(To BRINKMAN)

Excuse me, what are we getting at?

PHIL:

(To CHRISTIAN)

By interrogation?

CHRISTIAN:

Sometimes, yes. Others require…something more.

BRUCE:

(Remembering)

Yes! That’s it!…

(To THIEF, excited)

I’m being interrogated.

THIEF:

You? … Why?

(Puts book in bag)

BRUCE:

I don’t, exactly, know—

BRINKMAN:

(To THIEF, pointing at BRUCE)

Don’t pay attention to him. He knows not what he does.

(Knock at door. Pause, all look at door. Knock again. BRUCE stands, goes to door, opens. Appears POLICE OFFICER standing in doorway.)

OFFICER:

Good afternoon—

BRUCE:

Hello, I am Bruce. You must be George.

OFFICER:

You are mistaken, sir.

BRUCE:

I assure you, I am Bruce.

CHRISTIAN:

(To PHIL)

I don’t believe him.

PHIL:

Nor I. Haven’t believed his act for a second.

BRUCE:

What!?

BRINKMAN:

(Pointing at BRUCE)

Please, Officer. Forgive this man. He knows not what he does.

BRUCE:

I know who I am, God-damn-it!!

THIEF:

(Points at BRUCE)

Look at that, Officer. That’s guilt. He’s projecting.

PHIL:

(To THIEF)

Interesting, you are, Mr. …?

BRUCE:

Thieve! Mr. Thieve!

(THIEF, picking up object from floor, hesitates, then puts object in bag)

BRINKMAN:

Exactly!

(Slight pause; Stands, approaches OFFICER)

Exactly!

OFFICER:

I don’t follow you, sir.

CHRISTIAN:

It’s all very simple Officer.

(Pointing at BRUCE)

This man is a thief.

BRINKMAN:

Ohh! How daring.

(To PHIL)

…No?

CHRISTIAN:

He’s simply played us all for dumb, the entire time—

BRINKMAN:

(To CHRISTIAN)

Yes.

CHRISTIAN:

Stealing our time—

BRUCE:

Stealing!?

THIEF:

(To BRUCE)

Yes.

CHRISTIAN:

—our time—

PHIL:

Days—

BRINKMAN:

Years—

BRUCE:

Years!?

CHRISTIAN:

And most of all—

BRINKMAN:

Wait! … Let me guess!

(Slight pause)

OFFICER:

Excuse me, sir. What exactly are you trying to communicate?

BRUCE:

(Finger over lips, to OFFICER)

Shhh ….He’s conjugating.

OFFICER:

Ahem.

BRINKMAN:

(Looks at BRUCE)

He.

BRUCE:

I?

OFFICER:

(Finger on BRUCE’s chest)

You.

BRUCE:

Yes?

THIEF:

Officer, please. Won’t you take a seat?

PHIL:

(To THIEF)

There are no more chairs.

BRINKMAN:

(Points at BRUCE, continuing)

He—

OFFICER:

WHO!?

PHIL & CHRISTIAN:

(Pointing at BRUCE)

Him.

BRUCE:

Me?

BRINKMAN:

Yes … We have interrogated him. I do not know him.

BRUCE:

Officer, please forgive this man. He knows not what he does.

BRINKMAN:

I know exactly what I’m doing!!

(Slight pause, all eyes on BRINKMAN)

OFFICER:

Look… I came here to ask a few questions. To simply ask—

BRINK:

(To OFFICER, putting hand on his shoulder)

I know exactly what I’m doing.

OFFICER:

(Stepping into room)

Last night—

PHIL:

Please.

(Gestures for OFFICER to stop)

Officer, please! There isn’t enough space—

(OFFICER stops)

BRUCE:

There isn’t enough—

OFFICER:

Last night!—

BRINKMAN:

Wait! Let me guess!

OFFICER:

NO! SILENCE! I will arrest the next man to utter a word!!!

(Pause, 8 seconds of silence, during which BRUCE looks around the room impatiently, then begins to touch his throat, as though suffocating.)

BRUCE:

OH! I can’t take it! Please take me away, Officer! Take me—

(OFFICER leaps forward, beating BRUCE brutally with his club. BRUCE folds into the wall, falls, and is shoved out of the door. Exit BRUCE and OFFICER.) (Long pause, after which BRINKMAN stands, closes door, then returns to chair.)

BRINKMAN:

Well, at least at this rate we can keep going.

THIEF:

True.

PHIL:

Yes. Let’s see what we’ve got so far.

CHRISTIAN:

Right.

(Stops recorder, rewinds, sets back on table)

There.

THIEF:

(Looks at recorder)

I didn’t see that.

BRINKMAN:

Nor I.

(CHRISTIAN presses play button. Roll tape: approximately one minute of static; lights slowly fade away to darkness)

END

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