THE PROFESSION

by: Walter Wykes

SCENE I

[A classroom. EUGENE and ROSETTA sit in oversized school desks, their feet dangling high above the floor. They hold oversized pencils with oversized erasers and take notes on oversized tablets from an abnormally tall instructor, SCHÄFFER, dressed all in black, who stands about NINE FEET TALL. The two students recite as SCHÄFFER points to a diagram of the human intestines.]

SCHÄFFER: [Pointing.] Duodenum!

EUGENE/ROSETTA: Duodenum!

SCHÄFFER: [Pointing.] Jejunum!

EUGENE/ROSETTA: Jejunum!

SCHÄFFER: [Pointing.] Ileum!

EUGENE/ROSETTA: Ileum!

[SCHÄFFER listens closely to the students, scrutinizes the position of their lips, the placement of their tongues. He is determined not to let the slightest mispronunciation escape unnoticed.]

SCHÄFFER: [Pointing.] Jejunum!

EUGENE/ROSETTA: Jejunum!

SCHÄFFER: [Pointing.] Ileum!

EUGENE/ROSETTA: Ileum!

SCHÄFFER: [Pointing.] Duodenum!

EUGENE/ROSETTA: Duodenum!

SCHÄFFER: Very good! As agents of The Profession, a thorough knowledge of the human intestines can only serve you! Now ... Eugene!

[EUGENE rises. A harmless-looking little fellow, he tugs nervously at the collar of his new suit.]

What is this? This here.

[SCHÄFFER points to the diagram.]

EUGENE: Ahh ... that ... that there?

SCHÄFFER: Here. This little wormlike tube protruding from the cecum.

EUGENE: That ... ahh ...

[EUGENE studies the diagram carefully.]

That ...

[Pause. He continues to study the diagram.]

That would be the ... ahh ... little ... little ...

SCHÄFFER: Little wormlike ...

EUGENE: Little wormlike ... thing ... protruding ...

[Pause.]

SCHÄFFER: From the ...

EUGENE: From the ...

[Pause.]

SCHÄFFER: Cecum.

EUGENE: Cecum.

[Pause.]

SCHÄFFER: Eugene?

EUGENE: Yes?

[SCHÄFFER taps the diagram.]

You know, I ... I don't think we went over that one. Did we go over that one? I ... I don't think we did. I believe you ... ahh ... you skipped that one.

SCHÄFFER: Must you rely on me for everything?

EUGENE: Well ... I ... no ... but--

[SCHÄFFER taps the diagram.]

How am I supposed to know if you didn't--

SCHÄFFER: Throw yourself into the fire, Eugene! Hazard a guess!

EUGENE: A guess?

SCHÄFFER: That's right!

EUGENE: But--

SCHÄFFER: Go on!

EUGENE: Okay, but I--

SCHÄFFER: Eugene!

[SCHÄFFER threatens EUGENE with his pointing-stick.]

EUGENE: Is ... is it the ... ahh ... the duodenum?

SCHÄFFER: No.

EUGENE: Jejunum?

SCHÄFFER: No.

EUGENE: Ileum?

SCHÄFFER: No.

EUGENE: Well ... I ... I don't know then. I give up.

[SCHÄFFER throws his hands in the air.]

SCHÄFFER: Good god!

EUGENE: Well, you never told us. How are we supposed to know if you never--

SCHÄFFER: Have you no intestines of your own?!

[SCHÄFFER tears the diagram to shreds. EUGENE cowers in his desk.]

EUGENE: [To ROSETTA.] I ... I'm beginning to suspect he doesn't like me.

ROSETTA: Schäffer? Don't be ridiculous.

[After a few moments, SCHÄFFER's rampage subsides. He pauses, takes a deep breath, then produces a second diagram identical to the first. Or perhaps he uses a freestanding chalkboard in which case he merely flips it around to reveal an identical drawing after savagely erasing the first. He points to the diagram.]

SCHÄFFER: Rosetta!

[ROSETTA stands. An attractive young woman with a very serious face, she is smartly dressed, hair pulled back neatly in a bun. She studies the diagram carefully.]

ROSETTA: Vermiform appendix.

[Bells sound. Fireworks. EUGENE looks around, startled.]

EUGENE: What ... what's going on?

SCHÄFFER: That is correct!

EUGENE: What's that sound?

SCHÄFFER: [With a grand, official air.] Congratulations, Rosetta–you have just been promoted to Level Two! Next promotion at 1000 points!

[ROSETTA claps gleefully.]

EUGENE: Points? We ... we get points?

SCHÄFFER: Definition!

EUGENE: How do we get points?

ROSETTA: Narrow, wormlike tube protruding from the cecum, having no known useful function.

SCHÄFFER: No known useful function!

EUGENE: Could someone please explain the–

SCHÄFFER: A redundant organ!

[SCHÄFFER begins to circle EUGENE.]

And if this ... organ ... this redundant organ ... this waste of tissue ... useless to the whole ... if this organ should become infected?! Inflamed?! An irritation?!

[SCHÄFFER hovers over EUGENE menacingly.]

Eugene!

EUGENE: Ahhh ... wait! I ... I know this one! Ahhh ... Appendicitis! Inflammation of the ... of the vermiform–

SCHÄFFER: The diagnosis has been made! Procedure! Procedure!

EUGENE: Oh ... procedure. That ... that would be ... ahh ... appendectomy?

SCHÄFFER: Definition!

EUGENE: Excision of the vermiform appendix! Removal of the redundant organ to save the whole!

SCHÄFFER: [Still hovering menacingly.] That is correct!

[A beat.]

Your progress continues to astound me ... Eugene.

EUGENE: Do I get any points?

SCHÄFFER: [Violently.] SIT!!!

[EUGENE sits.]

You will now remove packet D-7 from your desks. As agents of The Profession, you will be entrusted with a sacred duty. An ancient task. In order to carry out this task, you must inspire confidence within the community. You must be beyond reproach! Trustworthy! The last suspected of any wrongdoing!

[A beat.]

Open your packets.

[EUGENE and ROSETTA open their packets and remove two very long, very dangerous-looking swords. These swords are much larger than the packets from which they have been removed. (ie. the old magician's suitcase!) EUGENE is amazed by this and studies his packet carefully trying to figure out the trick. ROSETTA seems to take it for granted.]

You will now pair off and hurdle your partners instrument. Trust. Trust is the key.

EUGENE: Hurdle?

SCHÄFFER: That's right.

EUGENE: These?

SCHÄFFER: You may begin.

EUGENE: [Testing the blade.] But ... someone could get hurt!

SCHÄFFER: The mysteries of The Profession are many and myriad, Eugene. If you wish to understand ... to fathom the depths ... you must have faith. You must throw yourself into the fire. Blindly.

ROSETTA: It's a test. We have to stick together.

EUGENE: But–

ROSETTA: Don't worry. I won't hurt you.

EUGENE: Why should I trust you? You're a complete stranger! And a woman on top of that!

ROSETTA: A stranger? But you've known me for years.

EUGENE: Have I?

ROSETTA: Yes. Since we were children.

EUGENE: Are you sure?

ROSETTA: We used to hunt frogs together.

EUGENE: That ... that was you?

ROSETTA: Our mothers were twins.

EUGENE: You're the frog girl?!

ROSETTA: Our fathers–hooked at the waist.

EUGENE: My God! This is fantastic!

[EUGENE embraces her.]

What happened to you?! You vanished without a trace! One moment we were hunting frogs, and the next–

ROSETTA: Shhh!

EUGENE: What?

ROSETTA: I can't talk about that.

EUGENE: About what?

ROSETTA: What happened.

EUGENE: Why not?

ROSETTA: It's forbidden.

EUGENE: Forbidden?

ROSETTA: That's right.

EUGENE: By whom?

ROSETTA: I'm not at liberty.

[Pause.]

Shall we?

EUGENE: Well, I ... I don't know. It seems a bit dangerous.

ROSETTA: Do you want in or don't you?

[EUGENE considers this.]

EUGENE: You know, now that I think about it–

ROSETTA: You do.

EUGENE: Do I?

ROSETTA: More than anything. You've dreamt of it all your life.

EUGENE: Oh ... well ... all right then. I suppose if I've dreamt of it all my–

SCHÄFFER: You may begin!

[EUGENE extends his sword, and ROSETTA hurdles it easily.]

Very good–switch.

ROSETTA: You see? It's not so bad.

[ROSETTA extends her instrument. EUGENE hurdles it.]

EUGENE: You're right. It's not so bad.

SCHÄFFER: Again.

[EUGENE hurdles the sword.]

Again.

[Once more, EUGENE hurdles the weapon.]

EUGENE: It's exhilarating! Life on the edge!

SCHÄFFER: Blindfolded!

EUGENE: What?

[SCHÄFFER blindfolds EUGENE.]

But I ... I can't see!

SCHÄFFER: [A strange gleam in his eyes.] Precisely!

[To ROSETTA.]

Higher.

[ROSETTA raises her weapon.]

EUGENE: Higher?

[SCHÄFFER pushes EUGENE towards the sword.]

How ... how much higher?!

SCHÄFFER: You may begin!

EUGENE: But–

SCHÄFFER: Begin! There's more at stake than meets the eye!

EUGENE: How ... how will I know when to jump?!

SCHÄFFER: Your partner will inform you.

[Again, SCHÄFFER turns EUGENE towards the sword.]

Begin!

[EUGENE approaches the sword very, very slowly.]

EUGENE: Okay ... ahh ... here ... here I come! I'm coming! I ... I must be getting really ... really close ... tell me when to--

ROSETTA: Jump.

[Pause. EUGENE does not budge.]

EUGENE: A lot higher? Or just a little bit?

SCHÄFFER: Throw yourself! Blindly!

EUGENE: But–

SCHÄFFER: Blindly! Into the fire!

ROSETTA: Trust me.

SCHÄFFER: The chasm!

ROSETTA: Jump.

[EUGENE hesitates.]

Jump!

[EUGENE safely hurdles the instrument.]

SCHÄFFER: Damn!

EUGENE: What was that?! What did he just say?!

[EUGENE removes his blindfold.]

ROSETTA: What did who say?

EUGENE: Schäffer!

ROSETTA: He didn't say anything.

EUGENE: Yes, he did! Didn't you hear?!

ROSETTA: Hear what? It's your mind playing tricks.

[SCHÄFFER tears the second diagram to shreds.]

EUGENE: He ... he didn't want me to make it! He was hoping I'd impale myself!

ROSETTA: Don't be ridiculous. He's a great educator. A respected member of The Profession.

[SCHÄFFER composes himself. Returns to his desk.]

SCHÄFFER: You may remove packet E-2 from your desks.

EUGENE: [To ROSETTA.] What's in this one–hand-grenades?!

[EUGENE produces a packet. ROSETTA comes up empty-handed. She raises her hand.]

SCHÄFFER: Rosetta!

ROSETTA: I don't have an E-2. I have a 1-X ...

[She removes a dangerous-looking package from her desk.]

SCHÄFFER: No! No ... that must only be opened in extreme situations. As a last resort. The handbook makes it very clear. You'll have to share with Eugene.

[To EUGENE.]

Well ... open the packet!

[EUGENE opens his packet, and, as if by magic, a stream of oversized, brightly-colored condoms begin to spew endlessly into the air. There seems to be an unlimited supply–far too many to have ever fit into the packet from which they issue forth.]

EUGENE: What ... what are these?

ROSETTA: Condoms. Prophylactics. Common birth control device. Also known as rubbers, skins or bags.

EUGENE: Yes, but what ... what are they for?

ROSETTA: You don't know?

EUGENE: No, I ... I know what they're for, but I don't–

SCHÄFFER: You will now pair off and perform the carnal act of possession. Ten minutes. You may begin.

[Pause. EUGENE raises his hand. SCHÄFFER is annoyed.]

What now?

EUGENE: Well, I ... I just have a question. When you say perform the carnal act ... do you ... ahh ... do you actually mean ... ... ... well, what ... what do you mean exactly?

SCHÄFFER: Sexual intercourse.

EUGENE: Ahhh.

SCHÄFFER: You may begin.

[SCHÄFFER produces a stopwatch and proceeds to time them. An awkward pause. Once more, EUGENE raises his hand.]

EUGENE: I have a wife.

SCHÄFFER: Even so.

EUGENE: We've only just married.

SCHÄFFER: So much the better.

EUGENE: But–

SCHÄFFER: You may begin!

[Pause.]

EUGENE: I ... I really don't think I can.

[SCHÄFFER pauses his stopwatch. He approaches EUGENE, attempting to contain his mounting rage.]

SCHÄFFER: Eugene ... may I call you Eugene?

EUGENE: Well ... sure. Sure. If you'd like.

SCHÄFFER: As an agent of The Profession, you will frequently be exposed to the naked body. Heads. Buttocks. Ankles. Breasts.

ROSETTA: Testicles.

SCHÄFFER: You must become deadened to them. Numb. Numb, numb, numb! How would it reflect on The Profession if you were to become aroused on the job? Hmmm? That wouldn't be proper at all, now would it?

EUGENE: Well ... no ... I ... I never thought of it like that.

SCHÄFFER: Exactly!

EUGENE: But–

SCHÄFFER: Do you want to embarrass us all?

EUGENE: No. No, I don't. Of course not.

SCHÄFFER: Very well. You may begin.

[SCHÄFFER restarts his stopwatch.]

Ten minutes.

EUGENE: [To ROSETTA.] What ... ahh ... what do you think?

ROSETTA: Hmmm?

EUGENE: Intercourse. It seems a bit unusual.

ROSETTA: Oh, no.

EUGENE: No?

ROSETTA: Not at all. It's quite standard.

EUGENE: Really? I ... I had no idea.

ROSETTA: All the top programs require it. Haven't you read the handbook?

EUGENE: What handbook?

ROSETTA: The handbook.

EUGENE: I ... I haven't seen any handbook.

ROSETTA: It's a crucial element of the training. The ability to control one's natural desires. It's what separates us from the apes.

SCHÄFFER: I find your hesitation disturbing, young man. One might begin to question your commitment.

ROSETTA: We have to stick together.

EUGENE: Apparently.

SCHÄFFER: The Profession requires quick thinking! Split-second decisions!

EUGENE: But–

SCHÄFFER: No "buts!"

EUGENE: But my wife, Ibid–

ROSETTA: Oh, what a beautiful name!

EUGENE: Thank you. She's very sensitive about these things, and, you know, we ... we've only just married. This morning.

ROSETTA: Oh! Congratulations!

EUGENE: Thank you. We ... we haven't even ... well ... you know ...

SCHÄFFER: Perhaps you should examine your priorities!

EUGENE: My ... well ... no ... I–

SCHÄFFER: How do you think she'd feel if you were booted out?! Hmmm?!

EUGENE: Booted out?

SCHÄFFER: That's right! How do you think she'd feel about that?! Your sensitive young wife!

EUGENE: I ... I don't–

SCHÄFFER: Chained forever to a failure! A reject! The Mark of shame upon her forehead! And her children's! And her children's children's! Think of the humiliation! The disgrace! She wouldn't like that at all–now would she?!

EUGENE: Well ... no.

SCHÄFFER: Ten minutes. You may begin.

[SCHÄFFER restarts his stopwatch.]

EUGENE: It's just that I–

ROSETTA: Think of her. The poor thing.

EUGENE: But–

SCHÄFFER: DO YOU WANT IN OR DON'T YOU?!!!

EUGENE: Well ... I ... I suppose I must or I wouldn't be here.

ROSETTA: You do. You've dreamt of it–

EUGENE: –all my life. That's right. Perhaps we could just imagine! Or ... or beat each other with sticks!

SCHÄFFER: Don't be absurd.

ROSETTA: Well ... shall we?

[She hands EUGENE a condom. He accepts it reluctantly–studies it. Picks up another. And another.]

EUGENE: Wait a minute ... look at this ... they're ... they're all ... they're full of holes! All of them! Look! Someone's taken a needle to them!

SCHÄFFER: Of course.

ROSETTA: What did you expect?

SCHÄFFER: They've been specially prepared.

EUGENE: But ... they've ... they've got holes! They're useless!

SCHÄFFER: Precisely.

EUGENE: What if I catch something and die?!

SCHÄFFER: [A strange gleam in his eyes.] That's always a possibility!

ROSETTA: Don't worry. You're safe with me.

EUGENE: How can you be sure?! How can I be sure?! I mean ... you know ... the ... the way things are nowadays–

ROSETTA: I'm a virgin.

EUGENE: A virgin! Hah!

ROSETTA: That's right.

EUGENE: No!

ROSETTA: Yes.

EUGENE: [Tempted.] Really?

ROSETTA: A monument to purity. A living shrine, completely untouched by human hands.

[Pause--EUGENE considers this.]

EUGENE: Completely?

[She nods.]

Completely untouched?

ROSETTA: Completely.

[Pause. EUGENE considers this.]

EUGENE: Not ... not touched at all?

ROSETTA: That's right.

[Pause. EUGENE considers this.]

EUGENE: And you want me to ... ahh ...

ROSETTA: I'm only thinking of The Profession.

[Pause. EUGENE considers this.]

EUGENE: Can you prove it? I mean, you know, that you're a–

ROSETTA: A virgin? Of course. Just ask my husband.

EUGENE: Your husband?

ROSETTA: That's right.

EUGENE: Oh! I suppose he's a virgin, too!

ROSETTA: Oh, no. Not at all. That's why he proposed. My husband is very experienced. He's been with hundreds of women. Thousands. On our wedding day alone, he impregnated seven bridesmaids, two caterers, the photographer, the photographer's assistant, her youngest daughter, the preacher's wife, my third-grade English teacher, a marine biologist, two blue whales, and one old woman who just happened to wander in off the street. He has no morals, you see. He thinks they're very old fashioned. He's a philosopher! But he liked the idea of having a virgin, you know, tarnishing the flower, plucking the petal, all that–it was very exciting for him. Unfortunately, he knew, being a philosopher, that the moment he actually did it, everything would be ruined. So as soon as the ceremony was over, he locked me away in a little room with his galoshes.

EUGENE: That ... that's awful!

ROSETTA: Yes. In addition, he had a problem with his feet. A certain ... odor ... and the galoshes ... well ... you know. I used to beg him to release me. To have his way. Or at least put a bullet through my head. But he wouldn't do it. Except on Sundays. On Sundays, he often let me out, and we would pretend to be very happy.

EUGENE: So ... what happened?

ROSETTA: [Violently.] NOTHING! I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT! I'M COMPLETELY INNOCENT!

EUGENE: What? No, I–

ROSETTA: Oh ... you ... you only meant ...

[A disarming little laugh.]

No one knows. One Sunday evening, we went for a little stroll in the park and he just ... disappeared. Vanished without a trace. His body was never found.

EUGENE: My god! He ... he just vanished?!

ROSETTA: Strange things have been known to happen in that park at night. Evil things. I'd stay away from there if I were you.

EUGENE: How do you ... ahh ... how do you know ... if ... if his body was never found ... I mean ... how do you know he's dead?

ROSETTA: [A strange gleam in her eyes.] Oh ... just a hunch.

[ROSETTA and SCHÄFFER exchange a meaningful glance. They begin to chuckle, softly at first, but soon this chuckle grows into harsh, raucous laughter. EUGENE stares at them, horrified.]

EUGENE: Oh my god! You ... you killed him!

ROSETTA: Oh, now don't get hysterical.

EUGENE: You killed him! Your own husband! Murder! Help!

[EUGENE tries to flee, but SCHÄFFER intercepts him and returns him to his seat.]

ROSETTA: Let's get on with it–shall we?

[ROSETTA begins to shed her clothes.]

EUGENE: Please! I can't! She'll ... she'll eat me alive! Like a spider! Help! Help! Someone help me!

SCHÄFFER: Ten minutes.

EUGENE: [Frantically.] Wait! Wait! What if ... ahh ... what if I have something?!

SCHÄFFER: You?

EUGENE: Yes!

[SCHÄFFER laughs.]

SCHÄFFER: Hah! What do you have?

EUGENE: A disease!

SCHÄFFER: Which one?

EUGENE: The worst kind! It's very contagious!

ROSETTA: I've been vaccinated.

EUGENE: It's a new strain! A mutation!

ROSETTA: For the sake of The Profession, I'm willing to take that risk.

[ROSETTA stands naked before them.]

SCHÄFFER: Oh! How noble you are! What a magnificent creature! Look at her, Eugene!

[EUGENE attempts to avert his eyes.]

LOOK AT HER!!!

[EUGENE complies.]

Isn't she exquisite?! Let this be a lesson to you! Put aside your selfish nature! Think of The Profession!

ROSETTA: Think of your wife. Do it for her, if nothing else.

EUGENE: But–

SCHÄFFER: You may begin!

EUGENE: It's just that I–

SCHÄFFER: Ten minutes!

EUGENE: But–

SCHÄFFER: Begin!

[SCHÄFFER restarts his stopwatch. Blackout.]

NEXT SCENE

Back to The Profession Index

Copyright © 1997 by Walter Wykes

CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that The Profession is subject to a royalty. It is fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America, and of all countries covered by the International Copyright Union (including the Dominion of Canada and the rest of the British Commonwealth), and of all countries covered by the Pan-American Copyright convention and the Universal Copyright Convention, and of all countries with which the United States has reciprocal copyright relations. All rights, including professional and amateur stage performing, motion picture, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio broadcasting, television, video or sound taping, all other forms of mechanical or electronic reproduction, such as information storage and retrieval systems and photocopying, and the rights of translation into foreign languages, are strictly reserved.

Inquiries concerning all rights should be addressed to the author at sandmaster@aol.com

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