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A Bequeathed Project

Premiered December 1, 2003

Perceptions -- Act I, Scene 1

The play begins with the sound of typing on a dark stage.  As the lights go up, we see SCOTT sitting at his desk, busily typing on an old, manual typewriter.  He is in his office at West Eastern State Institute of Technology (WESIT).  SCOTT is dressed casually, but not sloppily or strangely.  As an Associate Professor of Physics at WESIT, Scott is young (early thirties), moderately handsome, and with a casual and tolerant attitude. 

SCOTT stops typing for a moment and begins to read what he has just written.  His voice is deep and highly dramatic as he relishes the mood he is trying to convey in the typewritten pages.

SCOTT

Jake closed the door behind him and looked around the darkened room.  The light from the burlesque’s marquee gave just enough light to illuminate the space and to tell his trained eye that the dilapidated hotel room had already been thoroughly searched.  Jake scowled as he realized there would be little left if the Code 17 operatives had been as thorough as they normally were.  But then he saw the girl sitting quietly in the cushioned chair beyond the ransacked desk.  He recognized her at once as the tantalizing brunette he had seen at the Lithuanian Embassy’s Charity Ball.  She was watching him with care, a loaded revolver resting gently across her slender thighs.

(his expression becoming a pronounced leer)

Jake smiled to himself.  Perhaps the Code 17 operatives had left him something after all!

For a second, SCOTT merely looks at the typewritten page.  Then his leer turns to a frown.  Clearly displeased, he yanks the page from the typewriter, crumples it into a ball and tosses it over his shoulder toward a wastebasket behind him.  Subtly he reacts to the success (or lack of it) of his “hook shot”.  Without hesitation SCOTT grabs another sheet of paper and inserts it into the typewriter.  Ready to try again, his fingers poised above the typewriter keys, SCOTT looks up and tries to create a visual image.  After a brief pause, his expression of intense thinking transforms itself into a slight smile, and as he begins typing in earnest, his smile becomes an obvious and self satisfied grin.  He even chuckles.

There is a knock at the office door, which SCOTT ignores.  Then the handle of the door is tried, only to find that the door is locked.  SCOTT continues to type and to ignore the visitor.  Then a key is inserted into the office door and it opens.  ANN enters, removing her key from the door as she does.  Seeing SCOTT, she smiles mischievously, while he attempts to ignore her and concentrate on his typing.

ANN

I thought you'd be in here!

SCOTT

I lock the door for a purpose.  It’s called privacy.

ANN

It’s a good thing I have a master key.

SCOTT looks up, his concentration now completely interrupted. 

SCOTT

Why do you have a master key?

She smiles and leans over his typewriter to inspect his work.

ANN

Because I’m the departmental secretary.  I have a key to everything!

SCOTT

Ha!  I’ll bet you don’t have a key to my storeroom!

ANN

I bet I do.

SCOTT

Shela told me I was the only one with a key to that room.

ANN

Shela is only the chairperson of the Physics Department.  She not only does not have a key... she does not even know who does.

SCOTT

I'm impressed.  So what brings you down to the lowly office of an associate professor?  Slumming?

ANN: 

(stepping away and clearly relishing the moment.) 

I have some good news for you!

SCOTT

Good news?

ANN

Yes.

SCOTT

And it concerns me?

ANN

Oh yes!

SCOTT

So what is this good news?

ANN

I might also add that you have me to thank for it.

SCOTT

I do?

ANN

(very excitedly)

Professor Karnablowsky died!!

SCOTT

Oh?

ANN

It's true!

SCOTT

Well I knew Karny died, but not that it was good news.  Nor that you were responsible.

ANN

(somewhat peeved at SCOTT’s response)

But you don’t understand!  It’s not Karny’s death... nobody cares about that!  The really good news is that his research project is up for grabs!

SCOTT

Really?

ANN

And I grabbed it!  For you!!

SCOTT

Oh God!

ANN

You can thank me later.

SCOTT

But why?

ANN

Because I grabbed it for you!!

SCOTT

(shaking his head.)

No.  Why did you grab it for me?

ANN

Because you need one!  You haven’t had a single research project funded in the last two years!  Besides... someone’s got to look after you.  It’s a cinch you’re not going to look after yourself!

For a moment, SCOTT simply stares at ANN.  Then he groans and leans forward to drop his arms on the desk.  Clearly frustrated, his reply is heavily sarcastic. 

SCOTT

Wonderful.

ANN

I’m glad you appreciate all I’ve done for you.  Besides... it’s a marvelous project!

SCOTT

But I’m busy!

ANN

Don’t be silly!  You’re not doing any research right now.

SCOTT appears offended and points to the stack of computer printout on the table.

SCOTT

And what do you call all of that?

ANN

That's one of the printouts from your dissertation research.  It’s over seven years old!

SCOTT

Well then... what about my writing?  Professors are supposed to be creative, you know.

ANN

You’re an elementary particle physicist!!  Writing spy novels is not what an elementary particle physicist is supposed to be doing!

SCOTT

Ann... try to understand.  I worked for almost six years to become a tenured professor, so that I could then do what I wanted to do.  And what I want to do is to write.  Fiction.  I’ve gotten bored with elementary particles.  They keep finding new ones!  It’s a bitch just to keep up.

ANN

And so you switched your research interests to Astrophysics!

SCOTT

Yes!

ANN

And what have you done in Astrophysics?

SCOTT

Nothing!

ANN

Nothing!?

SCOTT

Of course!  I didn’t switch into Astrophysics to do research.  I switched in order to keep Shela off my back!  Everyone knows that it takes years to come up to speed in a new research area.  Years in which Shela will not be pestering me to do brilliant and financially lucrative research.

ANN

Shela is your department head.  It’s her job to ensure that all of the professors are doing research!  Including you!

SCOTT

Not to mention getting grants.

ANN

Well, of course!  Any university has to have grants and money coming in.  Else how would they pay your salary?

SCOTT

This is a university.  I am a professor.  I believe that I am being paid to teach!

ANN

Don’t be absurd!  There's no money in teaching!

SCOTT

Perhaps you’re right.  The idea of teaching at a University does seem a bit farfetched.

ANN

You certainly aren’t being very grateful!  I went to a lot of trouble convincing Shela to let you take over Karnablowsky’s project!  You could at least thank me!

SCOTT

Thanks.

ANN

It took a lot of effort on my part.  Shela was not that easy to convince.

SCOTT

Ann, Shela would do anything to avoid losing a grant.  Plus which, I’m probably the only faculty member of the Physics Department who isn’t already loaded down with projects.

ANN

That’s not true.  And even if it is... you really are the best choice.  It’s right up your alley.

SCOTT

Elementary particle physics?

ANN

No.

SCOTT

Not Astrophysics!?

ANN

Well... almost.

SCOTT

What?

ANN

ESP.  Extra Sensory Perception.  You know... telepathy and telekinesis... that sort of stuff.

SCOTT

Ann... I don’t know anything about ESP!

ANN

Sure you do.  That’s Astrophysics... sort of.

SCOTT

ESP has nothing to do with Astrophysics!

ANN

Isn’t ESP something like astrology?

SCOTT

Astrology!!?

ANN

And you are in Astrophysics.

SCOTT

Ann!  Astrology has absolutely nothing to do with ESP or Astrophysics!

ANN

It doesn’t?

SCOTT

No.  And ESP research isn’t even recognized as a science!

ANN

Oh, don’t be so narrow minded!  You’re a Ph.D.  You’re supposed to have an open mind!

SCOTT

What does having a Ph.D. have to do with an open mind?

ANN

And you have no business writing spy novels!

SCOTT

I enjoy writing spy novels!

ANN

And there’s something else you don’t know... I’m in the project too!  What do you think about that?

SCOTT

What!?  You’re in the ESP project!?

ANN

Yes.

SCOTT

You have ESP!?

ANN

No.  I’m a control.  They have me take the same tests as the ESP subjects.  And since I don’t have any ESP talents, they can then compare my answers to those answers from the subjects with ESP.

SCOTT

How do they know you don’t have any ESP talents?

ANN

(suddenly puzzled)

I don’t know.

SCOTT

And how do they know the test subjects have ESP talents?

ANN

(frowning)

I don’t know that either.  I’m just telling you what they told me.

SCOTT

Who is “they”?

ANN

Professor Karnablowsky had two graduate students working on the project with him.  Dick Watson has been testing me.  (smiling to herself.)  He’s really been very nice.

SCOTT

I’m glad to hear that.  You said “two students”?

ANN

(abruptly frowning)

There’s also Kelly.  I think maybe she’s in charge... or something.

SCOTT

Kelly who?

ANN

Oh, who cares!?  Besides... I’ve got to go.  Shela will be down here any minute now to tell you the good news.

SCOTT

But you’ve already told me!

ANN

Well don’t tell Shela that!  She’ll want to be the one to tell you!

SCOTT

So why did you tell me?

ANN

So you’d be prepared!  I didn’t want her to come down here and tell you the good news, and then have you give her all this backtalk you’re giving me!  I went out on a limb for you!!

SCOTT

Good point.

ANN

I’ve got to go.

ANN goes to the door, where she turns and gives SCOTT a big smile.

ANN

You're going to love this project!

ANN exits the office door.  SCOTT watches the closed door for a beat.

SCOTT

You bet!

SCOTT looks back at the page in his typewriter, and lets out a heavy sigh. 

SCOTT

Thanks so much, Ann.  Now I’ve got two graduate students to baby sit.  Just what I wanted.

At the sound of a knock at the office door, SCOTT hurriedly leaves his desk and sits at the table.  There he begins to feverishly take down notes, while leafing through his computer printout.  With the second, louder knock at the door, SCOTT absently replies.

SCOTT

Come in. 

SCOTT continues to “pour over his data” as SHELA enters through the office door.   Shela is the WESIT Physics Department Chairperson.  She is in her late forties, an older woman professional who has given up on everything but her career.  She is competent, but prefers diplomacy to logic in motivating others.  She is also aggressive, ambitious, and convinced that everyone finds her wit and persuasion irresistible.  She specializes in being sophisticated and a know-it-all.

SHELA

Scott!  I’m glad you’re here!  And busy as usual, I see.  I’ve got some good news for you!

SCOTT

Oh?

SHELA

To start with: Old Karnablowsky has passed away!

SCOTT

Why does everyone think that that’s such good news?

SHELA

And it looks like I’ve managed to find a way to transfer his research grant to you!! 

SHELA looks to SCOTT for his undying gratitude.

SCOTT

His research project?

SHELA

Absolutely!  A really significant investigation into the potential of Extra Sensory Perception has been initiated by Professor Karnablowsky.  The project has been designed to look especially for signs of telepathy, telekinesis, and precognition.  (confidentially)  The research has already identified four subjects with significant potential for ESP.  The results have been very impressive.  (peeved)  Unfortunately, right out of he blue, Old Karny up and died.

SCOTT

None of his subjects saw it coming!? No precognition of...

SHELA

What?

SCOTT

Exactly how did “Old Karny” die?

SHELA

As you are undoubtedly aware, the University can not allow this valuable and significant research to fall by the wayside and thus be lost to scholarship.  Nor do we want to return the grant money to the Federal Funding Agency.  Let’s face it, we didn’t change the name of this college to an institute of technology just so that we could send grant money back.  Our purpose is to bring money in!  Not to return it!  And once we’ve got it... to keep it!!

SCOTT

About Karny’s death...

SHELA

Obviously, with Karny gone, we just can’t keep the money.  That would be dishonest.  We have to... transfer it.  And that’s where you come in, Scott, my boy!  By taking over the grant, you get to work on a significant and fascinating project, and the department gets to keep a rather lucrative grant.

SCOTT

The Physics Department?

SHELA

It’s not just for the department!  It’s for West Eastern State Teacher’s College!

SCOTT

You mean: Institute of Technology.  They changed it, you know.

SHELA

Of course!  Whatever.  WESIT!  Our employer.

SCOTT

Right.

SHELA

I knew I could count on you.

SCOTT

Of course, I do have some questions.

SHELA

Naturally.

SCOTT

About good “Old Karny”...

SHELA

Scott.  The reason that you were selected to receive this significant opportunity is that you’re the only one at this University with the credentials to take over Karny’s work.  The department certainly does not want to lose control over this significant, funded project.  And!  I might add that none of your other proposals have as yet been funded.  In fact, there is some question as to whether or not they have any chance of ever being funded!

SCOTT

Well, I’ll admit that some of my proposed work is... well... unique.  However, I certainly wouldn’t write my proposals off too quickly.

SHELA

Scott.  Dear.  A comparative analysis of male-female sexual relationships on the planets Earth and Mars, is just a bit ahead of its time.

SCOTT

It’s just that I’ve always wanted to go to Mars and...

SHELA

Much more importantly, it’s not something that’s going to get funded.  And no money means no research.

SCOTT

Not necessarily...

SHELA

I also have doubts about your proposal to establish facilities on the moon to allow belligerent nations to settle their differences off the planet.  I seriously question whether such a project is going to attract a large following.

SCOTT

I just figured that if you had to blow something up, it’d be better to be on the moon instead of on the earth.

SHELA

And your idea for a research project to search for intelligent life in the Congress of the United States is not even funny.

SCOTT

Well, you must admit:  A negative finding would be a "significant result."

SHELA

The only negative you’re going to get with that question is the one from the Federal Funding Agency.  Don’t you know where the university gets its money?

SCOTT

Yes, I know.  All the projects gets their money from the Federal Funding Agency.

SHELA

Well, of course!  Where would this country be without federal funding?

SCOTT

Out of debt?

SHELA

Our country is built upon the foundation of federal funding.  It’s the American Way!

SCOTT

Yes, well... I’d have to agree with that.

SHELA

Fine!  Then it’s settled!  You’ll take the project!

SCOTT

Just one other question.

SHELA

Certainly.

SCOTT

There seems to be a lot of talk around campus about how good old Karnablowsky died.

SHELA

Malicious gossip.  That’s all there is to it!

SCOTT

(staring intently into SHELA’s face)

Exactly how did Karny die?

SHELA turns away, trying to dismiss the question as irrelevant. 

SHELA

He was an old man!

SCOTT

Forty two!?

SHELA

And had been in poor health for years.

SCOTT

I heard some mention of his being bitten by some rare Brazilian spider... a spider which had previously been known to live only in a small section of an impassable tributary of the Upper Amazon.

SHELA

Professor Karnablowsky was a scientist.  He’s always been interested in... wildlife.  But there’s certainly no evidence that the spider was the cause of death.  Or for that matter, that he was even bitten.

SCOTT

Didn’t he have a monstrous swelling on the right side of his face?

SHELA

Allergies.  Karny had severe allergies.

SCOTT

Didn’t they also find traces in Karny’s blood of cyanide, arsenic, hemlock, black plague, and Forney’s Stain Remover?

SHELA

Certainly not enough to cause his death.  In any case, it wasn’t in his blood.  The... “gunk” was found in his coffee cup.

SCOTT

But Karny didn’t drink coffee.

SHELA

...Which I think he used for drinking tea.

SCOTT

Karny had religious scruples against the taking of caffeine.

SHELA

Or lemonade!  Or whatever he drank!  Who cares?

SCOTT

There was also a rumor about an unshielded microwave oven, which caused severe radiation damage to...

SHELA

Rumors!  All rumors!  A university is a hotbed for rumors!  Professors should stick to their research and forget what they hear from others!  The fact is that Karny was in very poor health when he died.

SCOTT

Poor health is often the cause of death.  I was just wondering what precipitated Karny’s “poor health”.

SHELA

Hell, I don’t know!!  Maybe he had a severe case of athlete’s foot.  I’m not a doctor!  I’m an administrator!  Administrators can’t be bothered with how people die.  We leave that to the medical types.  All I know is that it’s a cinch he won’t be bringing in any more grants, and that I’ve got to find a place for his current project.  (turning aggressively on SCOTT.)  And inasmuch as you are the only professor who is remotely qualified, and who is also available, you get the job.  WESIT can not afford to lose grant monies because of a reluctant professor.  On the other hand, the university can afford to reduce its overhead by cutting back on faculty positions.

SCOTT

You, of course, mean untenured faculty positions?

SHELA

(sweetly, but laced with cyanide)

Naturally, the school would never fire a tenured faculty member such as yourself.  On the other hand, we can certainly make life miserable for anyone who does not pull his fair share of the research load.

SCOTT

Well... it does sound like a... significant project.

SHELA

Oh, you’ll love it!  I’ll handle all the administrative details of transferring the project over to your name.  It may take a little arm twisting with the Federal Funding Agency, but I’ve been handling federal bureaucrats for years.  Nothing there to worry about at all.

There is a knock at the door, and without hesitation, ANN opens the door and looks in.  Her bright smile fades to slight embarrassment when she sees SHELA, but Ann quickly recovers.

ANN

Hi.  I hope I’m not interrupting anything. 

Without waiting for a reply, ANN steps into the room, leaving the door open.

ANN

I thought that you might want to meet one of your new assistants. 

As the door opens wider, KELLY enters.  KELLY is a very attractive woman in her early thirties (having, in fact, just turned thirty).  Her manner is very business like and abrupt.  She is dressed in the current style of a woman professional.  She carries a briefcase, but no purse.  As she enters, she extends her hand in a business like gesture.

KELLY

I’m Kelly Gregg.  You must be Professor Conner.

SCOTT

(shaking hands with KELLY)

Right.  But feel free to call me Scott.  You said your name was Kelly?

KELLY

Ms. Gregg.  (turning to SHELA)  Ah, Chairman Shela.  Nice to see you again.

SCOTT

(aside, to ANN)

Chairman Shela!? 

ANN just shrugs and smiles.

SHELA

Nice to see you Ms. Gregg.  I just know you’re going to find working with Professor Conner very rewarding.

KELLY

(obviously not convinced)

I certainly hope so.

SHELA

Scott, Ms. Gregg has been in charge of the day-to-day decisions of the project thus far.  I have the utmost confidence in her ability.  (with a slight threat in her voice)  She will, therefore, continue to run the day-to-day aspects of the project.

SCOTT

Excuse me, but if Kelly... if Ms. Gregg is in charge of the day-to-day aspects... what do you need me for?

SHELA

To be the Principal Investigator.

SCOTT

But I’m not actually in charge.

SHELA

Of course you’re in charge!  Ms. Gregg merely “runs” the project.  In any event, someone with the proper credentials has to be... responsible for the project!

SCOTT

So if anything goes wrong...

SHELA

Precisely.

SCOTT

That, of course, makes total sense.

SHELA

I knew you’d understand.

ANN

I haven’t yet located Dick Watson, but I’ll keep trying.  I’ll bring him by the office as soon as I locate him.

SCOTT

Who’s Dick Watson?

KELLY

The project’s Junior Graduate Research Assistant.

SHELA

Excellent, excellent!  In any event, time to get back to the old grindstone.  (obnoxious laugh)  No rest for the weary administrators.  Come along Ms. Jennings.  Lots of work and miles to go before we rest.

ANN

(to SCOTT)

If there’s anything at all that you need...

SCOTT

No, nothing.

SHELA

(opening the door)

Come along Ms. Jennings.

ANN glances at KELLY as if she is suddenly uncomfortable with leaving SCOTT and KELLY alone.

ANN

Anything at all...

SCOTT also glances at KELLY, with a bit more appreciation for KELLY’s attractiveness. 

SCOTT

No.

SHELA

(taking ANN’s arm)

Now, Ms. Jennings! 

SHELA leads ANN from the room, with ANN looking wistfully at SCOTT and worried about KELLY.  With SHELA and ANN out of the room, SCOTT turns to KELLY who had previously been sizing up the room with a critical eye.  Apparently unimpressed with what she was seeing, she sighs heavily and shrugging her shoulders begins to take charge.

KELLY

I presume you’ll want to conduct the experiments here in your... laboratory.

SCOTT

Oh, I don’t know. 

SCOTT glances at his typewriter and the start of his mystery novel, as if suddenly remembering his need for privacy. 

SCOTT

Of course, there’s no real reason to move everything. 

SCOTT casually removes his typing from the typewriter, covering the paper to prevent KELLY from seeing it.

SCOTT

I certainly wouldn’t have a problem leaving everything where it is.  Wouldn’t want to put you to any trouble.

KELLY

Impossible.  Chairman Shela has already informed me that Professor Karnablowsky’s laboratory will be converted to other uses.

SCOTT

Oh.  (frowning)  Well then... I suppose we can conduct the experiments here.  Unless, of course, there’s a better place!

KELLY

There isn’t.

SCOTT

Then I guess we’re stuck.

KELLY

(starting to move about the room)

Apparently. 

KELLY begins examining the equipment and other “artifacts” of SCOTT’s laboratory.

SCOTT

Why don’t you tell me about the project.

KELLY is suddenly aware of a temporary breech in her omniscience in that she has neglected an important job.  She quickly puts her briefcase on the table and begins to talk directly to SCOTT, who has sat back down in his desk chair, behind the desk.

KELLY

Yes, of course.  Briefly, the project is to look for evidence of telepathy, telekinesis, and/or precognition.  For purposes of our research, telepathy is defined as the ability to communicate between minds by means other than the normal sensory channels.  Telekinesis is the ability to initiate movement of an object with the mind and without perceptible mechanical or other means.  And precognition is the perception of an event or condition before it occurs.  We are currently testing five subjects, including Ms. Jennings, for talents in any or all of these areas.

SCOTT is relatively unimpressed with KELLY’s explanation, but decides to try to be helpful. 

SCOTT

Perhaps I could review the results to date as a way of getting involved.

KELLY

Before you do this, I think, perhaps, I should explain that the results to date have not yet been correlated.

SCOTT

What do you mean?

As SCOTT leans back in his chair, KELLY begins moving about the room, carefully explaining things to SCOTT.

KELLY

None of the results are identified with a subject’s name as yet.  Nor have the results of the individual experiments been correlated and assigned to any particular file.  Currently, the results of each experiment is related to each subject only by a code.

SCOTT

You’re kidding?

KELLY

Not at all.  A great deal of time and effort has gone into the development of experiments and tests that are sufficiently subtle that the desired results are not easily discernible.  Thus a subject would not know how to cheat, even assuming they would want to do so.

SCOTT

Well, given all the subtlety and cleverness of the tests and experiments that you’re conducting, it would seem obvious to me that the results must be correlated with the subjects eventually.

KELLY

Naturally.

SCOTT

But you’re saying that this has not been done?

KELLY

Professor Karnablowsky was responsible for correlating the results.

SCOTT

So, where are his correlations?

KELLY

I’m afraid that all of Professor Karnablowsky’s records were destroyed in the acid bath.

SCOTT

Acid bath!?

KELLY

Yes, of course!  Standard security precautions for disposal of classified material.

SCOTT

Classified Material!?  What in the world are you talking about?

KELLY

The project is dealing with very sensitive material.  The Armed Services are very interested in our results.

SCOTT

I didn’t know there was a military connection.

KELLY

There's always a military connection.  And I would think the potential military implications of this project would be obvious.

SCOTT

So, who destroyed the records?

KELLY

Apparently... Professor Karnablowsky did.  One of his arms had... rather severe acid burns.

SCOTT

Acid burns?

KELLY

The Professor must have inadvertently hurt himself.

SCOTT

So, in addition to Karny being gone... all of the correlated results are gone as well.

KELLY

Yes.  But of course, we still have all of the raw data.

SCOTT

And I, as Principal Investigator, will be the one correlating the results from now on?

KELLY looks away, uncomfortable in what she now has to say.

KELLY

Unfortunately, the necessary security surrounding the project will prohibit you from reviewing any results of the experiments until after you have been cleared.  I’m afraid that you cannot correlate anything until after you’ve received your security clearance.

SCOTT

My security clearance!?

KELLY

I’m afraid it’s essential.

SCOTT

I’m in charge of correlating the results, but I can’t see the results until I’ve had a security clearance!?

KELLY

Exactly.

SCOTT

That’s crazy!

KELLY

It’s standard procedure.

SCOTT

I’m in charge of the project, but for some idiotic reason of security, I’m not allowed to know what I’m in charge of?

KELLY

Don’t be absurd!  Of course, you will know what you’re in charge of.  Just as soon as you’ve completed your background security check.

SCOTT

My what?

KELLY

Your background security check. 

KELLY pulls out a large and very complicated form from her briefcase. 

KELLY

Just fill out this form and I’ll have a background check initiated immediately. 

SCOTT

Then I get to see the results?

KELLY

Certainly.  When the background check is completed.

SCOTT

And when will that be?

KELLY

They usually take nine to twelve months.

SCOTT

But won’t the project be over by then?

KELLY

Perhaps.  But I’ll request that your background check be given a top priority.  They should be able to rush it through in a few months.

SCOTT

A few months!!?

KELLY merely smiles noncommittally.

SCOTT

So what do I do in the meantime?

KELLY

What do you normally do?

SCOTT

Well, I occasionally do a little writing...

KELLY

Oh?  What kind of writing?

SCOTT looks at KELLY, suddenly realizing that he needs to be, well, circumspect.

SCOTT

Investigative writing...

Thinking quickly, SCOTT decides to change the subject.

SCOTT

Which reminds me of another point.  What can you tell me about Professor Karnablowsky’s untimely death?

KELLY

Nothing, I’m afraid.  The results of the investigation into his death... have been classified.

SCOTT

His death has been classified!?

KELLY

The circumstances of his death can only be disseminated on a “need-to-know” basis. 

When SCOTT continues to look incredulous, KELLY adds a word of explanation. 

KELLY

Only those persons who have a “need-to-know”, are told anything about the Professor’s death.

SCOTT

You don’t think that his successor has a “need-to-know”?

KELLY

No.

SCOTT

You don’t think his successor might be in line for a similar fate?

KELLY

Not at all!  Particularly when you will not be privy to the results.  There would be no point in harming you.  Unless, of course, you knew too much. 

KELLY smiles, cynically.

SCOTT

Perhaps you’re right.  Still, it all seems a bit risky.

KELLY

“Risk is a necessary ingredient, if science is to advance!”

SCOTT

Who in the world told you that?

KELLY avoids answering SCOTT’s last question, as she once again begins to roam about the room.  As she checks out some of the devices strewn about the room, she attempts to take the offensive.

KELLY

Some of your... “equipment”, seems to be a bit dated.  Some might even call it... “junk”.

SCOTT

My “junk” carries great sentimental value for me.

KELLY

Does any of it work?

SCOTT

Some of it works quite well.  You might flip the switch there on the Van de Graff Generator.

KELLY

The what?

SCOTT

The tall cylinder with the large silver ball at the top.

KELLY sees the object and flips a switch at its base.  Nothing happens, except for the turning on of the motor which drives the belt in the Van de Graff.

KELLY

Is something supposed to be happening?

SCOTT

Touch the silver ball on top.

KELLY does so and gets an immediate shock—the Van de Graff is an electric charge generator which generates a static charge on the silver ball.  As KELLY yelps at the unexpected jolt and whips her hand back, SCOTT dryly notes the obvious.

SCOTT

See?  The Van de Graff “works”.

KELLY

Of all the incredible...!!!!!

SCOTT

Don’t be upset.  It’s just one of my very subtle ESP tests.

KELLY

Your what!!?

SCOTT

If you were precognitive, you would have seen it coming immediately.  (smiling broadly)  Apparently, you don’t have any such talents.

For a moment, KELLY only glares at SCOTT, who continues to smile.  Then KELLY turns off the Van de Graff -- with a vengeance -- and begins to walk around the room again.  When she comes upon the “calendar”, she stops and looks at it.  The “calendar” is a computer printout of a naked girl sitting on a stool, with a printed out calendar below.  All of the picture is a composite of different letters and type symbols, of which the computer printer is capable.  The “calendar” is a standard in the computer field, and demonstrates conclusively the ability of computer programmers to waste time on irrelevant challenges of questionable artistic merit.  SCOTT’s “calendar” is prominently displayed -- despite the fact it’s several years out-of-date -- and earns a pronounced frown from KELLY.  Then KELLY begins her “attack”.

KELLY

I can’t say that I’m overly surprised.  When I was told that you would be taking over for Professor Karnablowsky, I did a little research on you.  (sweeping the room with her hand)  These... artifacts, so generously displayed, confirm much of what I learned about you.

SCOTT

What do you mean?

KELLY

I’ve reviewed your graduate and postdoctoral research, as well as the work you’ve done as an associate professor.  Your previous work in elementary particle physics was competent and relevant.  Your more recent efforts, however, particularly since receiving tenure as an associate professor, deals with research which can only be described as “lightweight”.  None of your recent efforts are relevant, nor can they be described as even remotely worthwhile.  Your current proposed research areas are simply beyond belief! 

Before SCOTT can object, KELLY continues.

KELLY

A tenured faculty position is a great opportunity to do something for the world.  Apparently, you’ve chosen to flit it away!

SCOTT

Perhaps I’ve chosen to work at what interests me, and not at what interests the establishment.

KELLY

There’s good reasons for the establishment.

SCOTT

There’s also good reasons for what I’m doing.

KELLY

Don’t you have any ambition?

SCOTT

Ambition for what?

KELLY

For advancement.  For the accolade of your peers.

SCOTT

In the first place, I have no “peers”.  I am unique.  And in the second place, why would I want advancement?  In a more advanced position, I would just have to work harder and have less opportunity to do what I want to do.

KELLY

If for no other reason you might find it financially rewarding.

SCOTT

I’m paid enough.  Besides I always have the possibility of selling one of my spy novels for a lot of money.

KELLY

You write spy novels!!!?

SCOTT

Why, yes.

KELLY

You actually waste your time writing such trash?

SCOTT

Don’t tell me your research efforts on my background failed to come up with that significant tidbit!!

KELLY is momentarily stymied.  She turns away.  Shaking her head and obviously dismayed, she begins to look around for a change of subject.  Then she notices the door to the storeroom.

KELLY

Where does that door lead?

SCOTT

My equipment storeroom.

KELLY smiles slightly, as she sees an opportunity to turn the tables on SCOTT.

KELLY

And is it as well organized as your laboratory?

SCOTT

Oh, yes.  (then, with a grin)  Sort of a random, chaotic form of organization.

KELLY

I suppose I had better see if it can be put to any worthwhile use. 

Reluctantly, she goes to the storeroom.  Opening the door, she looks in, and then sighs heavily at what she sees.

KELLY

Oh my God!!

Without another word, she exits via the storeroom door, shaking her head and shutting the door behind her.  As she exits, SCOTT muses aloud.

SCOTT

What’s that old saying?  Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread?

As KELLY shuts the door, SCOTT is interrupted by a knock at the office door.

SCOTT

Come in!

When there is no reply, SCOTT raises his voice. 

SCOTT

Come in!!

When there is still no reply, SCOTT gets up and goes to the door.  He opens it to find DICK, leaning against the door frame.  DICK is a professional student in his mid twenties.  He is casual, laid back but, at the same time, a fair student of human psychology.  At the time the door is opened, DICK is looking very bored and apparently not too happy to see anyone home.

DICK

You’re here.

SCOTT

Yes.  And who are you?

DICK

I’m Dick Watson.  They told me that I was supposed to come here.

SCOTT

And why was that, do you suppose?

DICK

Probably because I’ve been working on Karnablowsky’s ESP thing.  They told me a Professor Conner was doing it now.  You him?

SCOTT

Yes I am.

DICK

(sympathetically, as he sizes SCOTT up)

Too bad.

SCOTT

Apparently.  Why don’t you come in?

DICK

I can come back later if you like.

SCOTT

No.  Now’s as good a time as any.

DICK

No kidding.  If you’re busy, I can come back next week.  Or next month.

SCOTT

Hey!  I figure the day is shot to hell as it is.  Come on in.

DICK shrugs as if he could care less, and enters into the room. 

SCOTT

Besides, I wouldn’t want to do anything to dampen your enthusiasm.

DICK takes a quick glance about the room.  His voice betrays his apparent total lack of enthusiasm.

DICK

Nice place you’ve got here.

SCOTT shuts the door and returns to his desk.

SCOTT

Thanks.  Feel free to look around.

Obediently, DICK walks around the room.  DICK notices the Van de Graff, but is too uninvolved to even bother to investigate it.  SCOTT notes the momentary interest.

SCOTT

That’s a Van de Graff Generator.

DICK

(not bothering to glance back at it) 

Right.  I’ve seen one before.  (in jest)  Shocking!  (noticing the “calendar”.)  Nice art work. 

When SCOTT does not reply, DICK begins to study the picture, as if suddenly fascinated by some aspect.

DICK

Why do you suppose they use... whatever they're using here... for a woman's breast?

SCOTT

Maybe because they fill the space better.

DICK

Huh?

SCOTT

They’re there to fill up the space better.

DICK turns to give SCOTT a disbelieving stare.

DICK

They’re just there to fill space!? 

When SCOTT cannot find an answer to his question, DICK lifts his eyebrows as if he’s just uncovered a new and important fact about SCOTT.

SCOTT

You don’t seem to be all that interested in the project.

DICK

(leaning against the shelf)

Well, to tell you the truth, Doc, I’m not.

SCOTT

Then why are you in the project?

DICK

Can I be straight with you, Doc?

SCOTT

Absolutely.

DICK

Okay.  We’ll give it a try.

DICK takes a seat at the table, straddling a chair.

DICK

I’m a college man, Doc.  I mean, I like being a college man.  I really go for all the wonderful things that you can do in college.  At the same time, I’m not all that eager to rush out and put all of my hard earned education to some practical use.  Know what I mean?

SCOTT smiles.

DICK

Unfortunately, my father -- my loving and devoted father for which I have the greatest admiration -- is a medical doctor, a pediatrician I think, and he thinks that education is everything.  The absolute ultimate.  Well, I’m willing to go along with him on that.  Provided... that I don’t have to quit getting an education.  The idea of using my education, quite frankly, turns me cold.  (smiling with nostalgia)  Well.  When I received my bachelor’s degree, my father was ecstatic.  I mean, like it had taken me six and a half years, involved five different majors, and my dad had suffered through every bit of it.  Man!  What a trooper!  The only problem was that I wasn’t quite ready to end my college career.  So I figured that if I was going to be able to avoid working, I’d have to go for an advanced degree.  Well I told my father that I was going to go for my doctorate.  Incredible as it may seem, he was thrilled to death.  I mean he really digs this education kick.  The only thing now is that I’m in my third year of graduate school, and just between you and me, I’m getting a fair amount of pressure to select a topic for my master’s thesis.

SCOTT

Your masters' thesis?

DICK

Right.  Have to get a masters before I go for a Ph.D.  It takes a lot more time that way.

SCOTT

Yes, of course.  I see.

DICK

In any case, I need to select a topic.  So, I spent a fair amount of time looking around for just the right area of research.  Then I heard about this ESP project.  It sounded perfect!  I figured that if ever there was a dead end project, this was the one.  And by working on it, I could appear to be diligently pursuing a degree without the danger of actually finishing a thesis.  It’s an excellent delay tactic.  When it all comes to nothing, I’ll look around for another thesis topic... having blown a good year or so fiddling.  If you then add another year or so for actually completing my master’s degree, and then procrastinating for four or five more years going for a doctorate, I can manage to stay in college for seventeen or eighteen years. I’d like to go for twenty, but I’m not real sure I can make it.  I might have to try to switch over to education and get a teaching certificate or something.

SCOTT

You want to be a teacher?

DICK

Oh God no!  It’s just that getting a teaching certificate is the best waste of time I can think of.  (more seriously)  I suspect the basic philosophy of the education department is pretty much the same as mine:  Tons of course work without every having to put the material to any beneficial use.  Of course, my father might not be too big on my pursuing a teaching career... he’s not that stupid.  But who knows?  I might have to go for a second doctorate instead.  In any case, I’ve got plenty of time to decide.  There’s no hurry.

SCOTT

Let me see if I’ve got this right.  You’re only in this ESP project, because you figure it’s a waste of time.  But at the same time, it will give you an excuse to write off another year or so in graduate school?

DICK

That’s about it, Doc!

SCOTT

What happens if the project is successful?

DICK

Successful!?  Hey, you don’t think there’s any chance of that, do you?

SCOTT

No, not really.

DICK

Oh good.  You had me worried there for a minute.  I mean like I really had to do a selling job on my father when I got in this project.  If the damn thing was successful, I’d have to stick with it!  Good Lord!  That might eliminate two or three years!

SCOTT

Well, I hope that it wouldn’t come to that.

SCOTT's expression suddenly becomes more serious, and he turns to study DICK even more closely.  He next statement is said with considerably more care.

SCOTT

Of course, you could always sabotage the results.  I mean, if the project looked as if it was working out.

DICK

What!?  I couldn’t do that!  I may be a professional student, but I’m not a fink!  (softening)  Besides... I couldn’t do that to Kelly.

SCOTT

Oh?

DICK

Oh yeah!  Kelly’s something else.  She pretty well makes this project worthwhile.  (smiling)  She's the other reason I signed up for it.  And I sure wouldn’t want to put the screws to her.  I figure she’s heading for a bit of disappointment on this project, but I sure as hell ain’t gonna be the one to shoot her down!  (grinning)  I think I’d rather be the one to catch her when she falls.

SCOTT is suddenly and clearly interested in DICK’s opinion of KELLY.

SCOTT

I suspect you’re probably right about the project.  But this Kelly doesn’t exactly come across as Miss Congeniality. 

DICK only smiles, as if he knows something that SCOTT evidently had not discovered.  But before SCOTT can follow up on his question, they are interrupted by KELLY’s entrance from the storeroom.

KELLY

It will take some doing, but I think we can actually use the storeroom.  (seeing DICK for the first time)  Oh, Mr. Watson!  I’m glad you’re here.  You can begin bringing over all of Professor Karnablowsky’s equipment immediately, and setting it up in the storeroom.

DICK

Yes, Ms. Gregg!  Right away!

SCOTT

But what about my equipment?

KELLY

I don’t suppose that you’d be willing to throw any of it away.

SCOTT

No!

KELLY

And I suppose there’s no other place to put it.

SCOTT

I doubt it.

KELLY

I didn’t think so.  (turning to DICK)  Before you bring over Professor’s Karnablowsky’s equipment, start reorganizing the storeroom.  Stack all of the equipment as efficiently as possible in the far end of the storeroom, out of the way as much as possible.  You should be able to free up... oh seventy-five percent of the room for our equipment.

DICK

Right away!

DICK fairly leaps to the task by rushing off and exiting to the storeroom.  KELLY starts   toward the closet on the opposite side of the room.

KELLY

Is there any room in the closet for storing equipment?

SCOTT

Absolutely none!

KELLY opens the closet door to reveal a virtually empty closet.  The only exception is one sweater and two haphazardly hanging hangers.

KELLY

You’re sure?

SCOTT

When I put my winter coat, galoshes, umbrella, parka, and my snow mobile in there, it’s positively loaded.  Besides, with the other members of the project all using the same closet, there wouldn’t be any room at all.

KELLY closes the door, apparently deciding not to fight it.

KELLY

Perhaps not.  You might want to look over some of your “equipment” in the storeroom... in case there are some things we can dispose of.

SCOTT

I can think of nothing in there that I would want to... “dispose of”.

They are interrupted by the sounds of a large CRASH in the storeroom, accompanied by the sound of considerable glass being broken.  SCOTT drops his dead slightly, as if defeated.

SCOTT

Well... perhaps there is one or two items.

DICK opens the storeroom door and sticks his head out, with a large reassuring smile.

DICK

Not to worry!  I wasn’t injured at all! 

With that, DICK reenters the storeroom, closing the door behind him.  SCOTT groans, while KELLY pointedly ignores his apparent pain.

KELLY

While we’re getting organized, you will probably want to complete your personal history form.  For the background check. 

KELLY pushes the large form toward SCOTT. 

KELLY

I’ll be in Professor’s Karnablowsky’s lab should you need me. 

Without waiting for an acknowledgment, KELLY exits through the office door.

For a moment, SCOTT sits staring into space.  Then with a heavy sigh of resignation, he pulls the personal history form toward him.  He quickly appraises it by nothing it’s length (legal size) and number pages.  Then he’s interrupted by another large CRASH from the storeroom.  As SCOTT drops his head on his desk, DICK opens the storeroom door and, in a very apologetic fashion, sticks his head out.

DICK

Pardon me.  Do you have a wastebasket?

SCOTT looks up with a distressed expression, as DICK glances back into the storeroom.  Then DICK turns back to SCOTT. 

DICK

A large one?

BLACKOUT—END OF SCENE 1

adadadadadad

Perceptions -- Act I, Interscene 1-2

The interscene takes place at the pay telephone booth at stage right, which is isolated by appropriate lighting.  GERALDINE enters the telephone booth from stage right, as the lights on the booth go up.  GERALDINE is a federal bureaucrat in her forties.  Not particularly attractive, she tries to overcome her lack of feminine charms with overwhelming competence at her job.  Her sense of humor is almost nil, and she carries herself with a bit too much pomp.

As she approaches and enters the telephone booth, GERALDINE is secretive, but not overly so.  She glances around several times as she dials a sequence of thirty numbers or so -- with appropriate pauses in between (e.g. seven numbers for the long distance company, a five number personal code, the area code and seven numbers, a five digit code for the extension, and three extra numbers just for show).  Her finger sore from all the dialing she bites the tip of her finger to get the blood flowing again.

GERALDINE

Les?  Is that you?  (pause -- ad) Good.  This is Geraldine.  I wanted to check in and...  (ad)  Geraldine.  (ad)  Geraldine Murphy, your boss!  (ad)  You know... the one who signs your pay vouchers!  Right!  Now, listen carefully.  I’ve arrived at the University and should be meeting the new project leader right away.  But before I do... (ad)  West Eastern State Institute of Technology.  (ad)  Yes, I know I called it the University.  It is one.  (ad)  All right!  It’s an institute!  Fine.  I’m at the Institute!  (ad)  What do you mean, “Why?”  Les, try to remember.  We have a research project here, funded by our office, which I have to ensure is progressing properly.  (ad)  Right.  The ESP project.  Now Les, the reason I called.  Has our office received any recent reports from our... “inside contact”?  (ad)  You know, Les, the spy that we planted in the project?  (ad)  Right.  Its name is “Wandering Star”.  (ad) Les?  Have we heard from Wandering Star?  (ad)  What do you mean, “no news is good news”?  (ad)  Well, for example, has there been any further reports on Professor Karnablowsky’s death?  (ad)  Karnablowsky.  (ad)  The guy in charge of the project.  (ad)  The ESP Project!  (ad)  Right.  Now.  Is there any further word on how he died?  (ad)  There is?  What?  (ad)  Teeth marks?  (adTwo teeth marks?  (ad)  On his throat!?  (long ad)  Les.  There is no such person as Dracula!  (ad)  I don’t care.  Dracula doesn’t exist.  He’s a myth!  (ad)  Get serious, Les.  With all the poison in Karnablowsky’s blood, Dracula wouldn’t have stood a chance.  They didn’t find a second body, did they?  (ad)  Les!  The part about Dracula turning to dust when he dies is a myth!  (ad)  A fictional story.  Like the Easter Bunny.  (ad)  Well of course, the Easter Bunny’s a myth.  (ad with sudden concern)  Les?  Are you there?  (ad)  Well, I’m sorry, Les.  I thought you knew.  (ad)  Well, yes, I suppose I could be wrong.  (ad)  If you say so, Les.  (ad)  Les, I have to go now. (ad)  I’m sure that you’ll feel better in the morning.  Bye now.

Frustrated, exhausted, and thoroughly put out, GERALDINE hangs up the telephone.  For a moment she stands there, her hand still hanging on the receiver.  When she speaks aloud, her voice is almost vicious.

GERALDINE

God, how I hate civil servants!

GERALDINE exits off stage right.

BLACKOUT—END OF INTER-SCENE 1-2

 

Back to:

Perceptions

Forward to:

Act I, Scene 2 -- Psychics Anonymous

               

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