THE PROFESSION

by: Walter Wykes

SCENE III

[The classroom--next day. EUGENE and ROSETTA sit in their desks in a kind of daze, their clothes half-buttoned, their hair mussed, their faces smeared with lipstick. SCHÄFFER hovers over them with a clipboard.]

SCHÄFFER: [To EUGENE.] Well ... how do you feel?

EUGENE: [Lost in a dream.] Hmmm?

SCHÄFFER: How do you feel? Deadened?

EUGENE: Hmmm? Oh. I ... I don't know.

[Pause. He grins.]

Different.

SCHÄFFER: Numb?

EUGENE: No.

SCHÄFFER: [Irritated.] No?

EUGENE: [Enraptured.] No ... no, I don't think so!

SCHÄFFER: Hmmm ...

[SCHÄFFER makes some notes on his clipboard--turns to ROSETTA.]

What about you? Deadened?

[No response. SCHÄFFER snaps his fingers, but still she does not respond. In contrast to EUGENE's haze of delight, ROSETTA's face is glazed over with an expression of boredom, disappointment, and revulsion. SCHÄFFER makes a few notes.]

EUGENE: I ... I have a suggestion.

SCHÄFFER: A suggestion?

EUGENE: That's right.

SCHÄFFER: Well ... let's have it.

EUGENE: Perhaps we should try it again.

SCHÄFFER: Try it again?

EUGENE: Yes!

SCHÄFFER: Oh, that won't be necessary.

EUGENE: But ... I think I might have the beginnings of numbness! See! Right here! In my thumb! A little tingling! One more time might do it!

SCHÄFFER: No, no, we have other methods.

EUGENE: Other methods?

SCHÄFFER: That's right.

EUGENE: What's wrong with this method? I mean, why move on until we've exhausted the present course? We could be on the verge of a breakthrough! No, no, I'm not prepared to give up just yet. In fact, I'm firmly opposed to it!

SCHÄFFER: Your partner seems to have had enough.

EUGENE: Yes, but ... what if she's only temporarily deadened? Did you think of that? She could snap out of it at any moment! Then where would we be?

[ROSETTA shudders, re-living some unpleasant experience.]

There! You see!

SCHÄFFER: Hmmm ...

[He studies ROSETTA--makes a few more notes.]

EUGENE: Once more for good measure. I'm only thinking of The Profession.

SCHÄFFER: I'm afraid not.

EUGENE: No?

SCHÄFFER: The handbook strictly forbids it.

EUGENE: The handbook?

SCHÄFFER: That's right.

EUGENE: But I ... I thought the handbook required it.

SCHÄFFER: That was before. Things have changed.

EUGENE: How? In what way? When did they change?

SCHÄFFER: I can't tell you.

EUGENE: Why not?

SCHÄFFER: It's forbidden.

EUGENE: Forbidden!

SCHÄFFER: That's right.

EUGENE: By whom?

SCHÄFFER: [Horrified.] WHAT?!

EUGENE: By whom? Who does the forbidding? Is it one person or is there, you know, some sort of panel?

SCHÄFFER: It's not your place to question!

EUGENE: Why not?

SCHÄFFER: Return to your desk!

EUGENE: All right, look, just give me a hint then.

SCHÄFFER: A hint?

EUGENE: That's right! A little clue!

SCHÄFFER: Who do you think you are?! Return to your desk at once!

EUGENE: Are clues specifically forbidden–or just straight answers?

[SCHÄFFER hesitates.]

Ah-hah! They're not! Clues are allowed! Come on! Out with it! Forbidden by whom? Don't try to hold out on me or I'll ... I'll make a scene! I'll question your integrity as an instructor! File official complaints! Do you want that on your record?

SCHÄFFER: I've followed the handbook to the letter!

EUGENE: Are you sure?

SCHÄFFER: Of course!

EUGENE: To the letter?

SCHÄFFER: I've studied that book from top to bottom! Memorized each passage!

EUGENE: Even so, most complaints, you know, aren't won or lost on their own merits, but rather on larger issues–politics and the position of the planets. In this day and age, you never know what could happen!

SCHÄFFER: Pfff!

EUGENE: Perhaps there's some passage you've forgotten.

SCHÄFFER: Impossible!

EUGENE: Something obscure.

SCHÄFFER: Never!

EUGENE: An addendum.

[Again, SCHÄFFER hesitates.]

Do you really want to take the chance?

SCHÄFFER: I ... I don't suppose one little clue could hurt. But don't ask for anything more!

[SCHÄFFER removes his hat and offers it to EUGENE--motions for him to look inside. EUGENE reaches into the hat and pulls out an orange.]

EUGENE: It's ... an orange.

[SCHÄFFER nods expectantly.]

This is my clue? An orange? This orange is supposed to tell me who's running the show? Who's doing all the forbidding?

[SCHÄFFER nods–motions as if to say, "Go on--think about it!". EUGENE studies the orange carefully.]

A ... an orange picker?

[SCHÄFFER indicates that this is incorrect.]

A magician?

[Again, wrong. SCHÄFFER waits expectantly.]

I have no idea.

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

[EUGENE studies the orange with renewed determination. SCHÄFFER hovers over him hopefully. Occasionally, they exchange a meaningful glance. Slowly, however, EUGENE's determination begins to wane.]

EUGENE: Give me another clue.

[SCHÄFFER throws his hands up in despair.]

Well, how am I supposed to know? No one ever told me!

[ROSETTA comes to with a start.]

ROSETTA: Oh!

[She spies EUGENE and, although she smiles at him awkwardly, seems a little revolted.]

SCHÄFFER: How do you feel?

ROSETTA: Deadened. Numb.

[Bells sound. Fireworks.]

SCHÄFFER: Good. That's one at least.

[With a grand, official air.]

Congratulations, Rosetta–you've just been promoted to Level Three! Next promotion at 10,000 points!

EUGENE: Hey! Wait a minute! How did she get so many points?! I did all the work!

SCHÄFFER: Pfff!

[EUGENE shows ROSETTA his orange.]

EUGENE: Look at this orange. Take a good look. What do you see? All I see is an orange, but there's something more. It's a clue.

ROSETTA: [Still a little revolted.] To what?

EUGENE: The mastermind behind it all!

ROSETTA: Ahh.

[She studies the orange.]

An orange picker?

EUGENE: I've already guessed that.

ROSETTA: Hmmm ...

[They study the orange.]

A fruit fly?

EUGENE: A fruit fly?

ROSETTA: That's right.

EUGENE: An insect?

ROSETTA: Why not?

EUGENE: But it's brain would be the size of a ...

[Pause. EUGENE considers this.]

Then again, when you look around ...

[To SCHÄFFER.]

A fruit fly?

SCHÄFFER: [Alarmed.] What's that?

EUGENE: I ... I said "fruit fly".

SCHÄFFER: Return to your desks!

EUGENE: What? But I--

SCHÄFFER: Return to your desk! No more games!

EUGENE: I only said--

SCHÄFFER: Take your seat this instant!

[He does.]

EUGENE: [To ROSETTA.] This fruit-fly thing is really getting to him! There must be something to it!

SCHÄFFER: [Fumbling through his notes.] Open ... ahh ... open packet ... packet 1-X!

[ROSETTA removes the dangerous-looking packet from her desk. EUGENE searches his desk but comes up empty. He raises his hand.]

Not now.

EUGENE: But I don't–

SCHÄFFER: Silence!

[SCHÄFFER pulls a handkerchief from thin air and wipes his brow.]

Go on! Open the package!

[ROSETTA opens the package and removes a large pair of hedge clippers. Once again, the clippers are much larger than the packet from which they are removed.]

EUGENE: Oh, that's nothing. Hah! After yesterday? A little pair of clippers? Pfff! You hold them–I'll go first.

SCHÄFFER: These are not for hurdling.

EUGENE: Not for hurdling?

SCHÄFFER: No.

EUGENE: What ... ahh ... what ... what are they for?

SCHÄFFER: [To ROSETTA.] He isn't numb.

ROSETTA: Not numb?

SCHÄFFER: No.

ROSETTA: My god!

[SCHÄFFER takes the clippers from ROSETTA. Tests them.]

EUGENE: You know, I'm ... I'm a little numb ... my ... my thumb ... see ... a little tingling ... actually, it's ... it's my whole ... my whole arm ... I hadn't noticed before, but really my whole left side!

SCHÄFFER: Do you take us for fools?

EUGENE: Fools? No, I--

SCHÄFFER: [To ROSETTA.] You will perform the operation.

ROSETTA: [A strange gleam in her eyes.] Of course.

EUGENE: The operation?

ROSETTA: Testicals!

[ROSETTA takes the clippers. Tests them.]

EUGENE: Oh! There it goes! My whole body! Numb! It's a delayed reaction! I told you I'd come around!

[ROSETTA approaches EUGENE with the clippers.]

Now ... now hold on! Wait just a minute!

SCHÄFFER: As an agent 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.

EUGENE: But–

SCHÄFFER: Trust. Trust is the key.

[To ROSETTA.]

You may begin.

EUGENE: But someone could get hurt! Me!

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

EUGENE: I don't want to fathom! Somebody else can fathom! You fathom!

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

SCHÄFFER: What if you were to become aroused on the job? That wouldn't be proper at all, now would it? Do you want to embarrass us all?

[ROSETTA tests the clippers.]

EUGENE: Stay back!

SCHÄFFER: You must become deadened! Numb! Numb! Numb!

EUGENE: Don't come any closer! I'm warning you!

SCHÄFFER: Don't be frightened. In a moment, it will all be over.

EUGENE: I don't want it to be over!

SCHÄFFER: Everything will go much smoother if you just relax. Struggling only makes things worse. Messy. You'll force us to improvise.

[ROSETTA takes a swipe at EUGENE with the clippers. EUGENE screams. SCHÄFFER waves his handkerchief in the air and produces a second pair of clippers as if from nowhere. He comes at EUGENE from the other side. EUGENE screams. He rushes to the door, but it is locked.]

EUGENE: Isn't this a violation of the fire code?! What if there's a tornado?! Or a fire?! What if I have to pee?!

[They move in on him, clippers raised.]

Help! Help! Somebody help me! Hey ... what's that over there?

SCHÄFFER: Where?

[EUGENE darts past them to the window. He tries to lift the latch, but it is stuck.]

SCHÄFFER: There's nowhere to run, Eugene. It's not safe out there.

EUGENE: It's not safe in here!

SCHÄFFER: Here, things are orderly. They follow a certain pattern, a set of rules. It's just a matter of learning the rules, that's all, learning to play along. After a while, you'll adjust. You'll begin to anticipate the twists and turns long before they actually occur. Out there, it's utter chaos! You'll be lost! Alone! A ship without a sail!

EUGENE: I don't like your rules!

[EUGENE takes one of the giant desks and, with a great effort, hurls it through the window, shattering the glass.]

You'll never find me! I'll hide from you! I'll live in the shadows! And if you come after me, I'll ... I'll kill you! I'm only trying to protect myself!

[EUGENE climbs through the window and disappears. SCHÄFFER goes to the window and stares after him.]

ROSETTA: You shouldn't have given him the orange.

SCHÄFFER: Return to your–

ROSETTA: [Defiantly.] What if he tastes of it? What then?

[As SCHÄFFER and ROSETTA glare at one another, the buzzing of flies can be heard faintly in the distance. At this sound, SCHÄFFER looks up, startled.]

SCHÄFFER: What's that sound? What ... what's going on?! I've followed the handbook to the letter!

[ROSETTA tests the clippers. Lights fade to black.]

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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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