FIREWALLS
A play in Four Scenes
 
 
 
 
 

SCENE TWO
(15 Pages in Typescript)

 
 

The dining room of the Nelson residence, that evening. The table is set for four, two of the settings being on the upstage (long) side. A swinging door to the kitchen is stage left.

ROGER NELSON, wearing a cardigan sweater with pockets on the sides, is sitting at the stage-right end of the table, fiddling with a Palm Pilot. He glances at the kitchen door, and fiddles with the electronic stylus. He looks up again and studies the kitchen door. He fiddles, and again looks up. He deliberates, then reaches into one of his sweater pockets and pulls out a cell phone, looks at its face, and dials.




------------ROGER:

(into phone, eyes on the door) Is everything all right in there? Do you need any help? (pause) Meatloaf? Yumm. Love meatloaf, nothing better than meatloaf! (pause) It took longer than you expected? (pause) Why don't you bring it out here? I can slice it at the table. (pause) Okay. If you think you have everything under control. (pause) Okay. I will.

He holds the phone away from him. He pushes the off-on button, and pushes it again. He dials, and puts the phone to his ear.

Kevin, dinner's just about ready! I'd like you to come to the table now! (pause) Well, that can wait! What? (pause) The best score you've ever gotten? I don't care! You can go back to it after dinner—that is, if you've done your homework. (pause) Kevin, I don't care! I want you to come to the table! Now!

Holding the phone away from him, he pushes the off-on button, pushes it again, dials, and puts the phone to his ear.

Reenie, dinner's ready! It's time for you to get washed up, and come downstairs. (pause) Don't worry, the internet will be there after dinner! (pause) So, bookmark it! They're not going to remove the site in the time it takes you to have your dinner. Your mother's made meatloaf—(pause) No, you cannot eat your dinner in your room! We're a family, and families dine together! (pause) There's a hum in your phone? I wonder what's causing that. (pause; exasperated) Reenie, come on, now! Get down here!





SERENA emerges from the door carrying a tray
full of serving dishes. She sets the tray on the table
and distributes them. ROGER returns the phone to his pocket,
removes a pill bottle from the other pocket.
He removes the cap, pours out a pill,
and slaps it to his mouth.






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

(noticing this) Your stomach?


------------ROGER:

Yeah. But. . .it's nothing serious.



KEVIN enters, right. He is wearing headphones
that are connected to a small cassette player at his side.
He crosses to the chair up left, pulls it back,
and sets the cassette player on the table.




------------KEVIN:

(standing, eyeing the food with repugnance) What's this?


------------ROGER:

It's meatloaf. Obviously. Don't you recognize meatloaf when you see it?


------------KEVIN:

I don't like meatloaf.


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

Of course you do. Everyone likes meatloaf


------------KEVIN:

I don't. I hate meatloaf. (sullenly, he sits down)


------------ROGER:

Son, don't start. Don't even think of starting. Your mother has made us a wonderful dinner—for which you should be thankful—and if you'll get over your mental block against it, I'm sure you'll find you like meatloaf.




KEVIN pointedly nods his head in time with the music
in his headphones. REENIE enters right, carrying a cell phone.
She takes her seat in the up-right chair,
and sets her phone on the table.
KEVIN picks up his fork and aims it at the meatloaf.





------------ROGER:

Kevin, let your sister go first! Don't you think it's polite to let women go ahead of men?


------------KEVIN:

I'm hungry. Of everybody here. . .I'm the hungriest.


------------REENIE:

(impishly) No you're not!


------------ROGER:

(to KEVIN) Oh fine, fine. I practically have to drag you to the table, then you tell me you're so hungry you can't wait to eat. But. . .you don't like the food that's been prepared.






KEVIN slumps in his chair, nods his head to the music.





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

Go ahead, Reenie.


------------REENIE:

(to KEVIN, as she serves herself) Na-naaah. . . .


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

(to KEVIN) What are you listening to?


------------KEVIN:

None of your business


------------ROGER:

Don't talk to your mother that way!


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

(smoothing over the tension) Okay, Kevin, now it's your turn.



With a spiteful glance at REENIE, KEVIN serves himself.
He is followed by SERENA, then ROGER.



------------ROGER:

Who's going to say grace tonight? Reenie, would you, uh, do the honors?


------------REENIE:

Okay.

They all close their eyes and bow their heads, except for KEVIN who, head up and eyes open, uses mincing expressions to mock Reenie.

Father, we thank you for this food that has been prepared for us. We thank you for the Harmonix' new hit single, and for getting me through that test. We thank you for this beautiful day. We thank you for all your blessings. Amen.



------------ROGER and SERENA:

Amen.


------------ROGER:

(to REENIE and KEVIN, as all begin to eat) So what went on in school today? Give us some. . .news.


------------REENIE:

(looking at KEVIN; quietly) Tell Mom and Dad how you sneaked that pocket knife through the metal detector.


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

(startled) A pocket knife?


------------ROGER:

You sneaked a pocket knife into school?


------------KEVIN:

(to REENIE) You want to know something? You're a real little brat.


------------ROGER:

What were you doing with a pocket knife?


------------REENIE:

(pause; impishly) Tell them.


------------ROGER:

And take those headphones off! Turn off that cassette machine.


------------KEVIN:

(ceasing rocking, but leaving headphones where they are) Some of the boys have been picking on me lately. And I have to be able to defend myself. It's only fair.


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

Kev. . .inn!


------------ROGER:

So you were going to do it with a pocket knife? You were going to stab someone?


------------KEVIN:

Not really. I was just going to flash it in front of their faces. But if they keep bullying me outside school, follow me home like they've been doing lately. . .well, I don't know.


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

Kevin, you know that's no way to behave! You know that's not civilized behavior!


------------ROGER:

Look son, (pointing at him) the Nelsons do not carry pocket knives to school. If you have a problem with some of the boys, we can go to the principal and talk about it. Or you can get in with a different group that will stand up to these kids. But I'm not having you taking a slash at someone in the schoolyard, do you understand that? Do you want to be carried off in a police car? Do you want to see our names in the newspaper?


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

Well, they wouldn't exactly—


------------ROGER:

I know, I know. But it's the principle of the thing. The Nelsons are not a family of thugs. I am not having a knife-carrying thug for a son. (to KEVIN) I don't want you ever to carry a knife to school again. And if I find the thing. . . .

KEVIN jerks his head in time with the music.

Okay, now Reenie. How was your day?


------------REENIE:

Oh, all right I guess. Miss Delancey said she's going to tell us about sodomy, tomorrow.


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

(incredulous) Sodomy. . . ?


------------REENIE:

Yes. She says it's not a very pleasant subject, but it's something we need to know about. She's told us other things about hygiene, which is her word for  girls' bodies. . .so I guess I'm. . .curious about this.


------------ROGER:

Don't you think the seventh grade is a little early to be learning about. . .that subject?


------------REENIE:

I don't know whether it is or not. I don't know what. . .that subject is.


------------ROGER:

(to SERENA) Can you believe? What they teach the kids nowadays! They never discussed any of this stuff when I was growing up. I think I was nearly thirty before I knew what sex I was! (to REENIE) That is, you know. . .whether I was a boy or girl.


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

I was very innocent about sex, too.


------------ROGER:

(to SERENA) Do you think we should have a meeting with Miss Delancey?


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

No. I don't think it would do any good. She can be pretty willful, you know. I think she thinks it's her classroom and she's going to do whatever she darn well pleases. (pause) Anyway, maybe it's for the best. Maybe, nowadays, kids need to know about things like that. (pause) But I think there are. . .more pleasant things to talk about.


------------ROGER:

What would you like to talk about that's. . .more pleasant?


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

Well, I don't know how pleasant it is, but it's certainly gratifying. 'Ixey' has been awarded a contract to build a sophisticated new component for the Department of Defense. I'm not supposed to. . .talk about it, but it's something that's going to be put in the cockpits of jet fighters. It lowers their silhouette, their electronic visibility. The problem is, the Defense Department wants the component on a hurry-up basis, and that may wreak havoc on the Christmas vacation schedule. I may have to work a few days I'm not used to working. I'll know better about it, next week.


------------ROGER:

Oh-oh, there goes the trip to Disneyland!


------------REENIE:

Awwww. . .!


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

Oh, and I forgot to mention. When Kelly and I order out, it's always a nice Hispanic kid who brings us our lunches. I think he's from Guatemala. Well, I got bogged down in my computer today, trying to do something I didn't quite understand, when Luis shows up with lunch—Luis is his name—and explains how to do it. Turns out he's going to night school, learning computers.


------------ROGER:

Isn't that something! Good for him! Because you almost have to be an engineer, nowadays, just to get up out of bed! (pause) Is Kelly going to marry that man you said is the son of one of the company bigwigs?


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

Harris Britton. Son of Harold Britton. I don't know, but on a whim I made him get down on his knee today, and rehearse proposing to her. I stressed it was only a rehearsal, he wasn't actually committing himself. Doing the deed.


------------ROGER:

And did she accept?


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

Don't know. His phone rang, and he got into a conversation about some technical matters.

During the preceding, KEVIN has turned to his side, and continued rocking his head up and down. REENIE has turned her back to the table, and begun talking on her cell phone.

Kevin, I want you to take off those headphones—like your father asked you to. If you're not going to take part in the conversation, frankly there's not much pleasure in having you at the table.


------------ROGER:

(as KEVIN looks defiant) You heard your mother! Take off those headphones! Now! Turn that damn machine off!




With slouching resentment, KEVIN obeys.





------------KEVIN:

(in retribution; to ROGER) Can I have some more?


------------ROGER:

Yes. But you might consider leaving some for your sister.


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

Not to mention your father.


------------ROGER:

And your mother.




After helping himself to more food,
KEVIN moodily knocks some of what he has taken
back into the serving dish.




------------REENIE:

(picking up her cell phone) Dad, would you do me a favor? You remember that hum I said I was hearing in my phone? Something else has gotten into it. I can call out okay, but when I receive a call I hear something. . .scratchy.


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

Maybe it's the battery.


------------REENIE:

No, I replaced the battery last week. I tried that. Please, Dad, would you give me a call, so I can test it?


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

Oh honey, not at the dinner table.


------------ROGER:

Well, let's see. . . .



ROGER reaches into his sweater pocket, pulls out
his cell phone, and dials. REENIE's phone rings.
She pushes a button and answers.



------------REENIE:

Hello?


------------ROGER:

Reenie, it's your father! I'm in the dining room talking to my. . .beautiful daughter! Can you hear me?


------------REENIE:

I can hear you! I can hear you just fine!


------------ROGER:

Do I sound. . .scratchy?


------------REENIE:

No! You're . . . perfectly clear!


------------ROGER:

But I think we need to be scientific about this! This is not an adequate test! Reenie, we have to think scientifically! We're too close to one another! What works at a few feet might not work at all. . .from a distance! Why don't you go into the living room?


REENIE rises and goes off, right. While SERENA follows their conversation, KEVIN puts his headphones back on and turns on his cassette player. He resumes nodding in time to the music.

(pause) There! How's this? Can you hear me now? Can you hear me okay? (pause) It is? Good! Then say something back to me! (pause) Yes, I can hear you fine! Just fine! We can work on this some more later, but now. . .come back and finish your dinner!




REENIE enters, stage right, holding her phone,
and takes her seat.



------------ROGER:

(amused by what has transpired; into phone) Would you like to hear how my day went?


------------REENIE:

(into phone) Yes, Dad! I certainly would! Tell us how your day went!


------------ROGER:

Okay! If you want to hear what happened on the way to work, press one! If you want to hear what happened at work, press two!

REENIE looks at her phone and presses a button.

Now, if you want to hear what happened in the tower, press one! If you want to hear what happened when I went down to the terminal for lunch, press two! If you want to hear a joke my supervisor told me, press three! Or stay on the line for further assistance!

REENIE looks at her phone and presses a button.

If you want to know the number of planes we landed and got airborne, press one! If you want to know why the glass panels of an airport control tower are slanted inward, press two! If you want to hear about a conversation I had with one of the pilots, press three! Or stay on the line for further assistance!

REENIE looks at her phone and presses a button.

(into phone) That's my daughter! Very. . .inquisitive! The windows of an airport tower are slanted inward so us folks who are controlling the plane traffic don't see our reflections! If the windows were upright, vertical, we'd see ourselves along with what we were trying to see. . .the field! It would be distracting! Anyway, who wants to look at himself all day? No, no, no! We have to have a clear view of the field!


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

(as ROGER gets carried away) Uh, Roger. . . .


------------ROGER:

(pause; into phone) All our customer representatives are with other clients right now! But we value your business and your call is very important to us! Please stay on the line! A customer service representative will be with you shortly!


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

Uh, Roger, please. That's enough.


------------ROGER:

Did you know that at IXI Corporation, we supply a full line of sophisticated electronic parts for jet fighters and flight simulation equipment? Furthermore, some of the world's most advanced weapons, including tanks, make use of components fabricated by IXI. At IXI we take pride in supplying the very best and most reliable—


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

Ro. . .ger!


------------KEVIN:

(distant, unaffected; to SERENA) Can I be excused?


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

Please, that's enough, Roger. You're keeping Reenie from finishing her dinner.


------------ROGER:

(pushing button to turn phone off, then returning it to his pocket) Okay, okay. I was just. . .having a little fun.


------------KEVIN:

(to ROGER, more firmly) Can I be excused?


------------ROGER:

Don't you think it would be polite to wait until your sister finished her dinner?


------------KEVIN:

No. Because you aren't letting her finish. I want to play Thor the Invincible. I was really creaming him, earlier. Smashing him up. Pulverizing him.


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

You talk like it's a physical fight, but it's. . .you know, just a computer game.


------------KEVIN:

Yeah, I know. But I was fuckin' terrorizing him.


------------ROGER:

What? What did you say?


------------KEVIN:

Sorry. (slumping) I didn't. . .mean to.


------------ROGER:

Don't you ever let me hear you using that kind of language! I will not have profanity in this house! You're far too young to be using that kind of language. . . !


------------KEVIN:

(hypocritically) I'm sorry. Really. It just sorta slipped out.


------------ROGER:

Is that the way they talk at school? It's beginning to sound to me like you're getting in with the wrong crowd.


------------KEVIN:

No. No I'm not, Dad. I hear the word occasionally. But I don't use it.


------------REENIE:

(after a sour silence) Dad, I'm full. I can't eat any more.


------------ROGER:

Okay. (eyeing her plate) You've done very well. We can use the leftovers to make sandwiches for your school lunches. (pause) By the way, what website were you investigating before dinner?


------------REENIE:

Oh, just something.


------------KEVIN:

(mincing) 'Just. . .something'! That was some kind of something! Tell him what it was!


------------REENIE:

It was about, uh, horticulture. Plants. Plants at the. . .botanical gardens.


------------KEVIN:

Yeah, plants! Plants without any clothes on!


------------ROGER:

(after a glance at KEVIN) Reenie, you're not. . .going to websites that are inappropriate for kids, are you?


------------REENIE:

No, Dad. Mrs. Jackson gave us an assignment about, uh, plants. And the. . .botanical gardens.


------------ROGER:

Well, maybe I'll have to speak to Mrs. Jackson. But in the meantime, you stay away from websites that are inappropriate for, and off-limits to kids, okay? You know what I'm referring to. (pause; responding to a look from KEVIN) Yes, you may be excused.




KEVIN and REENIE rise, leaving their chairs askew,
and exit right: she with her telephone,
he with his tape player.
ROGER and SERENA exchange weary looks,
then she rises and begins clearing the dishes.





------------ROGER:

Do you want some help?


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

Oh no, I can do it. You'll just get in the way. (pause) Would you like some coffee?


------------ROGER:

Mmm, I guess I'd better not. It's liable to keep me from sleeping.




SERENA takes a load of dishes into the kitchen,
ROGER returns to fiddling with his Palm Pilot
(which has been on the table throughout the scene).
SERENA reenters left, carrying a tray.




------------ROGER:

(motioning to Palm Pilot) Oh, look. Here're some pictures of the Franks in Switzerland. They went on a ski trip. (fiddles) Oh, and some pictures of the Mueller's new baby. (fiddles) And I see the market's up.

ROGER holds up Palm Pilot so SERENA can see it.

Now please. Don't be shy. Call me if you need me.



The lights begin to dim.
SERENA takes another load of dishes into the kitchen.
ROGER takes the pill bottle out of his pocket,
uncaps it, pours out a pill, and slaps it to his face.

He resumes nervously,  obsessively, fiddling with his Palm Pilot.
The lights slowly dim to




BLACKOUT

 
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