FIREWALLS
A play in Four Scenes
 
 
 

Characters:

HAROLD BRITTON: head of Personnel Department at IXI Corporation
HARRIS BRITTON: his son; a liaison with IXI clients
KELLY OLCOTT: an office worker at IXI
SERENA NELSON: same; older than Kelly
ROGER NELSON: Serena's husband
KEVIN NELSON: their teenage son
REENIE NELSON: their teenage daughter
LUIS: an Hispanic delivery boy
HECTOR: same
OFFSTAGE VOICES:   the CEO of IXI; a commercial pilot; Roger Nelson


Scenes:

Scene One: An office in the Personnel Department at IXI Corporation, late morning.
Scene Two: The dining room of the Nelson residence, that evening.
Scene Three:  The bedroom of Kelly's apartment, one year later.
Scene Four: Same as scene one, two years later.



SCENE ONE
(12 Pages in Typescript)

 
 

An office in the Personnel Department at IXI Corporation, late morning.

SERENA (stage left) and KELLY (stage right) face the audience behind desks angled away from one another. They sit in chairs on rollers, each with a keyboard and mouse in front of her, and peer intently at computer screens positioned so as to preserve the sightlines to their faces.

For as many minutes as it takes to extract laughter from the audience, KELLY and SERENA enact a pantomime of puzzlement and paralysis, frustration and defeat. KELLY shifts the position of her chair. SERENA thoughtfully scratches her cheek. KELLY raises her hands tentatively to her keyboard, then retracts them. SERENA taps her fingers on her desk. KELLY twists her hair, seems to find inspiration, and reconsiders. SERENA holds her hand over her mouse, then retracts it. KELLY shifts position in her chair. SERENA drops a hand to her side in despair. KELLY folds her arms in defensive irritation. Finally:




------------SERENA:

(peering over her screen) Mustard?


------------KELLY:

(looking up) What?


------------SERENA:

Do you want. . .mustard?


------------KELLY:

What in pete's sake are you talking about?


------------SERENA:

I'm going to have lunch at my desk, today. If you're as tired of cafeteria food as I am, I'll call the restaurant and order one of your usual. Should I do that? And if so, do you want. . . mustard or no-mustard?


------------KELLY:

Oh, no mustard, I guess. (pause) Serena, when you want to access the attribute-shift multiplier using the dreambox dropdown function, do you click on control-T template format, or control-U alt-hot spacebar?


------------SERENA:

That's funny, I was just having the same problem. I was trying to get into the dreambox sequester applicator, and I couldn't remember whether I should click on the batch multiplier or do a force-field parameter insertion.


------------KELLY:

Did you think of using the page-zoom command and going through the pivot-table cell coordinator?


------------SERENA:

No I didn't. My autolink embedding customizer? (pause) But wouldn't that require me to turn off my autolink embedding customizer?


------------KELLY:

I don't think so. If you clicked on array-change or scenario merge, your cell coordinator would lead you right to spreadsheet field definition.


------------SERENA:

Oh. That's right. (pause, glancing at screen) Wait a minute! (pause) Kelly, that's our answer! You just go right from dreambox to array-change, do a field magnifier, and click on the edit-repeat option!


------------KELLY:

(peering first at computer, then at SERENA) Serena, you're a genius.




Both return to work, their hands moving
between keyboard and mouse.
Eventually, at the same moment, they stop.



------------SERENA:

(peering over screen; to KELLY) How is Mr. Dashing-World-Traveler, Harris Britton, these days?


------------KELLY:

Well, we haven't been out for two weeks, though he's called and e-mailed a few times. He's away on company business. (pointedly) As usual.


------------SERENA:

Do you think he's going to ask you to (mischievously) marry him? I know it's none of my business, but I certainly hope he does. He really seems to like you. And he's smart. And he's nice. And. . .I hear he's in line for a promotion.


------------KELLY:

Yes, Harris is quite smart, and quite nice. But I'm not sure he's ready for marriage.


------------SERENA:

Well, you've got yourself a live one. Hold on to him, don't let him lose interest. (pause) Did you hear what I said? I heard through the grapevine that he's in line for head of the Research Division.


------------KELLY:

(now eagerly) You did? Where did you hear that?


------------SERENA:

(pause) Oh, reading between the lines. (indicating her computer) Reading between the lines of. . .interdepartmental mail.


------------KELLY:

Serena. . .you're such a snoop! (staring at her screen, then back at SERENA) How does it look out there? Is the coast clear?




Holding on to her desk for leverage,
SERENA slides her chair to the left,
leans forward, and peers off, left.



------------SERENA:

(turning back) There's no one in the hall, and I think Papa Britton is in a meeting.


------------KELLY:

Ha. Good. I'm going to send Harris an e-mail.




KELLY similarly peers off right,
makes some adjustments with her mouse,
and begins typing. SERENA returns to work.
HAROLD BRITTON enters stage right,
holding an armful of papers.
KELLY quickly grabs her mouse, makes adjustments.




------------HAROLD:

(approaching KELLY) Kelly, about the RLK reimbursements. I've been thinking. If we used a spreadsheet-integration layout, couldn't we employ a biochronic calendar technique to shuttle-batch the numbers right over to the capping diverter?


------------KELLY:

(businesslike) Serena and I were just discussing that. In fact, we were thinking we could toggle the spreadsheet field parameters with the autolink cell coordinator, employ a laminated texture analyzer and let the capping diverter do the rest.


------------HAROLD:

(surprised pause) That's brilliant, Kelly! (pause) Damn, I have to keep an eye on you two! If you keep thinking like that, one of you will end up head of the Personnel Department. You'll have my job.




HAROLD crosses left, pauses to trade
significant glances with SERENA,
and exits left.




------------SERENA:

(to KELLY; with mock sarcasm) Oh, great, that's just great. Harris will end up in charge of Research, you'll be head of the Personnel Department, then you two'll get married. But instead of engaging in pillow talk every night, you'll lie in bed trying to figure out ways to take over the company.




SERENA and KELLY laugh, then resume work.
When they eventually hear the following, they stop.




------------VOICE OF CEO:

Good morning, members of the IXI corporate family. This is your CEO with some news I thought would be of interest. Largely as a result of improvements made to our Proactive Resonator Module 67NLP, the Department of Defense has accepted our bid for two hundred and fifty Silhouette-Shield Suppressors, to be shipped over the next twelve months. I would like to express my appreciation to the Design and Engineering Divisions for their outstanding work in refashioning this unit, and to the Fabrications Division for the efficient manner in which they retooled to accommodate the design changes. Thanks to your dedication, IXI employees, I am pleased to announce that the company's stock has risen two and seven-eighths since the start of trading this morning. The challenge that faces us now is to revise our production schedule to accommodate the refinements to the Resonator Module sub-assembly, thus permitting timely delivery of two hundred and fifty Silhouette-Shield Suppressors. Thank you for your attention, and have a productive day.




KELLY shrugs with pleasure, and SERENA flashes
a (circle-plus-fingers-up) okay sign. Eventually:




------------KELLY:

One more time, please. How does it look out there?

SERENA and KELLY, grasping their desks, roll downstage and
peer out their respective doors.


I'm determined to get an e-mail off to Harris—




HARRIS BRITTON, in jacket and tie
and with a travel bag over his shoulder,
bustles in, right.




------------HARRIS:

So why don't you just tell me what you have to say in person!


------------KELLY:

Harris! I thought you were still away! When did you get back?


------------HARRIS:

My dear, I'm just coming from the airport. I haven't even been over to the lab. Or to my office.


------------KELLY:

How was your trip?


------------HARRIS:

Thirteen days, nine cities. At this point, I don't know. It's all a complete blur. (pause) But you aren't a blur. You're a quite specific and, I must say, very pleasing vision. And I've come to invite this specific and pleasing vision to lunch. (pause) Any chance? Haddad say?


------------KELLY:

Lunch? Well. . .sure! But to what do I owe this honor?


------------HARRIS:

To what do you owe this honor? It's your birthday, silly! I can't take you to dinner tonight, because I have a meeting with the infrastructure-support staff—


------------KELLY:

My birthday! It can't be! (in confusion looks from HARRIS to SERENA) Are you sure?


------------HARRIS:

(after a glance at SERENA) Of course I'm sure! Today is November 15th, isn't it?


------------KELLY:

It is? (pause) Wait a minute.

KELLY turns to her computer and does some calculations.


(to HARRIS) Gee. It is. But how did you know?



------------HARRIS:

It just so happens. . .someone sends me very informative mail.


------------KELLY:

(tentatively) Who?

SERENA smiles, her smile eventually attracting KELLY'S notice.

(to SERENA) Well, if you aren't. . .the biggest gossip!


------------SERENA:

Hey, you're going to get taken to lunch, aren't you? (capitalizing on her modest triumph) Harris, you know I have a bit of the cupid in me. And I think it's time you asked this beautiful young lady to marry you.


------------KELLY:

(to SERENA) Se. . .rena!


------------SERENA:

(persevering) It wouldn't hurt you, at least, to practice making the proposal. It wouldn't hurt you one bit to rehearse the move.


------------KELLY:

Serena! Please!


------------SERENA:

(undaunted) So why don't you just get down on one knee—now is as good a time as any—and at least pretend to do the right thing.


------------KELLY:

Serena. . .really! Harris isn't here to—


------------HARRIS:

(good-naturedly; to SERENA) Well, just so long as you're sure this is only practice. Just hypothetical. . . .

HARRIS approaches KELLY'S desk from the side, gets down on one knee, and raises his hands in a gesture of prayer. His cell phone rings. He lowers his hands and removes a phone from a pocket inside his jacket.

(still on his knee, speaking into phone) Did I hear the announcement? No. I'm just coming into town. What did he say? (pause) He did? That's great! Great news, eh? (pause) Yes I know. But that means we're going to have to adapt the final stage mother board to the voltage requirements of the torsion frame servo-mechanism. . .maybe redesign the sequential trigger function on the extractor-network analyzer to accommodate the final-stage capping resonator. (pause) He did? (pause) You sure he did? (pause) So why didn't he tell me? He knows the pulse-delay monitor won't fit into a force-border edge regime! We dealt with that problem two years ago! (pause) Yeah, but that's the beauty of the color-separator force-field junction! (pause) Okay, okay. Sure. Still, you're going to need a heatsink. You're drawing way too much power, you're going to need a heatsink. (pause) No, I'm over in the Personnel Department. I'm just heading out to lunch. I'll be back in an hour. No. . .(holds phone between cheek and shoulder, pushes his shirtsleeve back, and glances at his wristwatch) make it forty-five minutes. (pause) Okay, right. See you then. (getting to his feet; making a note to himself) Going to have to redesign the sequential trigger function on the extractor network analyzer to accommodate the final-stage capping resonator. . . . (to KELLY) So what say you, Miss Olcott? Hungry? Ready for lunch?


------------KELLY:

(as SERENA looks nonplussed) Sure. Let me just get out of. . . this program. (fiddles with mouse)

KELLY gets up from her desk.




------------KELLY and HARRIS:

(cheerfully, to SERENA) See you later!


------------SERENA:

Have a nice lunch!


HARRIS escorts KELLY out, right.
SERENA stares thoughtfully into space, then returns to work.
When she eventually hears the following, she stops.



------------VOICE OF CEO:

Good morning, this is your CEO again. I neglected to mention in my earlier announcement that the accelerated production rate for the Advanced Silhouette-Shield Suppressor is going to require certain adjustments to the Christmas vacation schedule. The sacrifices asked of you will be voluntary, of course, but I must ask not only those of you who are working on the retrofit of Sixty-Seven NLP, but all IXI employees, to understand the importance of this project to our relationship with the Defense Department. A proposed new schedule will be available next week. Thank you for your attention.




SERENA bangs her hand on her desk, rolls her eyes.




------------HAROLD:

(entering right, glancing around nervously as he crosses to SERENA's desk) Serena.  &Serena, there's something I have to say to you—


------------SERENA:

Harold, I'm a married woman. You know that. It happened once, but I will not let it happen again. It was foolish of me. (distraught, looking away) Selfish. If my husband found out—


------------HAROLD:

Serena. Please—


------------SERENA:

(voice rising) Or my children—


------------HAROLD:

(anxiously peering stage left) Shsssh. Serena. Please! Keep your voice down!


------------SERENA:

(quietly) My marriage would be ruined. I should never, never have compromised my marriage that way. You're not worth it.


------------HAROLD:

(confused regret) But wouldn't it be possible. . . . (stumbling) I'm a widower. You know that. I get lonely. Couldn't we at least. . .have dinner now and then?


------------SERENA:

No, Harold, no. I'm sorry.


------------HAROLD:

(pause; brightening) Has my son returned? Has Harris been in?


------------SERENA:

Yes. He was here a few moments ago. You just missed him. He's taken Kelly to lunch. (pause) And that's another thing you ought to consider. If senior management ever found out about us, it would not reflect well on your. . .or Harris's. . .prospects. So please. Don't—


------------HAROLD:

(quietly) Serena! (glancing side to side) I'm asking you! Not so loud!


------------SERENA:

Well, if you don't wish to talk to me—


------------HAROLD:

(feverishly) Look. I'm going back to my office. I'll e-mail you. Your system is secure, isn't it? I have to say what's on my mind.


------------SERENA:

I have a lot of work I'm behind on, so I'm having my lunch delivered. I'll be. . .right here. (firmly) But don't assume that I'll e-mail you back.


------------HAROLD:

Fine. (crossing and exiting right) Just don't turn. . .your computer off !


SERENA slumps in her chair, then,
with an air of resignation, makes adjustments
to her computer. She pushes her chair back and
stares into space. Six seconds.
LUIS enters stage left. He is wearing a white apron
and holding a brown paper bag with a bill stapled to the top



------------SERENA:

(weary relief) Hi. Luis.


------------LUIS:

(with an accent) Hi, Mrs. Nelson! I bring you lunch! Sorry it take so long!


------------SERENA:

That's quite all right, Luis. Turns out there's a lot more to worry about, in this world, than what time lunch gets here.


------------LUIS:

New man at security desk! Made me say again--security codes. . .three times! Not seem to understand system!


------------SERENA:

(as LUIS approaches her desk) But you do, don't you Luis. You understand the system.


------------LUIS:

Oh yes, yes, Mrs. Nelson! I understand it!

As he sets the paper bag on SERENA's desk, LUIS notices SERENA'S computer screen.

Ah, I see you have mail!


------------SERENA:

Luis! Get away from my screen! What's on my screen is none of your business! (making adjustments with mouse) I was just. . . (desperately, but emphasizing the complexity of the terms) trying to go from dreambox to array-change, without having to click on the cell-coordinator or edit-repeat option.


------------LUIS:

(backing away) Trying to go from dreambox to array-change, without clicking on cell coordinator or edit-repeat? That's easy, Mrs. Nelson! You just do a split-window shade-fill and apply astro-direct! In fact, it's easy to construct a macro that'll do it for you!


------------SERENA:

(pause; looking up) Luis, how do you know so much? Where did you learn all that?


------------LUIS:

I go to school, nights, Mrs. Nelson! When they put electronic ordering system in restaurant, I get interested in computers! I go to school! Learn computers!


------------SERENA:

That's wonderful, Luis. That's just. . .wonderful. Maybe, someday, you'll have a job here. (looks at bill on paper bag, reaches into the drawer of her desk for money; hands it to LUIS) You keep that, Luis, you keep the change. I'm very impressed that you're going to school for computers. You apply it to your schooling.


------------LUIS:

(discreetly not looking at it, placing the money in his pants pocket) Thank you very much, Mrs. Nelson. (pause) But please! Me have a job here? I be president of company!


------------SERENA:

President of the company. (pause) Maybe you will, Luis. Maybe you will.


------------LUIS:

(as he crosses left and exits; over his shoulder) Computers, Mrs. Nelson! I learn computers! I be president of company!

SERENA stares into space. Eventually:

------------SERENA:

(reaching for the paper bag) Computers. . . .


BLACKOUT


 
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