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All in the Family (part 3 of 3)

Premiered -- 14 February 2007

 

What Now? -- Act I

(Part 3 of 3)

 

Mark notices that Scott has returned and is quietly listening to them. Mark turns to Scott, noting the obvious.

MARK: You’re back.

SCOTT: Yes. And I’m running out of clothes. Non-woolen, non-dry-cleaned, approved ones, anyway.

MARK: You can always wear your pajamas. I’m sure they would pass muster.

SHARI: You look very nice, honey.

SCOTT: I don’t know if Shari told you about my new job...

SHARI: Oh yes! Daddy, you’re going to love this! Scott’s now working for... (to Scott.) Oh I’m sorry! I should let you tell him.

SCOTT: About six months ago, after leaving the EPA, I went to work for a Washington think tank. One that specializes in preparing reports on future scenarios: economic, political, demographic, and so forth.

MARK: Really? I’m impressed.

SHARI: (excitedly) I knew you would be.

MARK: And a little surprised. I wouldn’t think that a lawyer would have the qualifications to see very far ahead. At least far enough ahead to make predictions.

SCOTT: Oh, for your information, we’re trained to spot a smart ass coming from miles away.

MARK: Which must be very helpful in Washington. So, does that make you a Beltway Bandit, one of those consulting firms forever preying on the federal government and finding ways to channel federal handouts to the rich?

SCOTT: As a matter of fact, we’re privately funded. It’s important for our credibility to be entirely independent.

MARK: No governmental consulting at all?

SCOTT: None.

MARK: So, what’s the name of your organization?

SHARI: Daddy, you’re going to be so impressed!

SCOTT: Future Scenarios Corporation. Perhaps you’ve heard of us.

MARK: As a matter of fact, I have heard of FSC.

SHARI: And they’re very good, aren’t they, Daddy?

MARK: Yes, they are. They’ve done a lot of good work.

SHARI: And very prestigious.

MARK: That too. Of course, they’re often a bit too conservative, and sometimes fail to grasp the big picture.

SCOTT: Conservative? Are you kidding?

MARK: Their predictions are invariably based on past trends. They never quite see the really major changes, the kind that far exceed the norm and the bounds of historical precedence.

SCOTT: On the other hand, they’re accurate! Unlike a few others that I’ve seen!

MARK: What exactly is that supposed to mean?

Shari momentarily throws up her hands, realizing that the two men are going to find something to argue about, no matter what.

SCOTT: Apparently, you’re not up to date on some of our more recent work. We’re now predicting a recession within the next two years.

MARK: Oh, of course. And precisely my point. You’re predicting a recession, when in fact the world is looking at a major depression for virtually the entire decade.

SCOTT: You can’t be serious! That’s ludicrous! And irresponsible.

MARK: Perhaps you’ve heard of the Business Cycle.

SHARI: Of course he has!

SCOTT: I know all about the Business Cycle! And it’s because I know about the Business Cycle, that I know we’re going to have a recession. That a recession is inevitable!

MARK: I agree with you, about the inevitability.

SCOTT: I’m glad to hear you’re not totally out in left field with all the other radicals.

MARK: But I also know that the longer and higher the preceding expansion is, the longer and deeper the recession. And with our current, extraordinarily long expansion, along with some of the greatest amount of speculation in history, it’s inevitable that the coming decade will be host to a major depression! Not some piddling, “soft landing” recession!!

SCOTT: This is not the twenties! We’re not looking at another version of the Great Depression, when all the banks failed without recourse for the depositors, when no one could...

MARK: You think we’re going to be saved by the FDIC?

SCOTT: Of course! Along with the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation! In case you haven’t heard, they’re both backed by the federal government!

SHARI: Hey! Speaking of savings, I opened a savings account last month.

MARK: Which just means that the U. S. Government has a contingent liability of over four trillion dollars! If the borrowers fail to pay back their loans, you’ve just added four trillion dollars to the national debt! And if you then add in guaranteed student loans, FHA loans, and so forth, you have yet another trillion dollars of debt!

SHARI: They gave me a camera when I opened the account.

SCOTT: But you’re assuming that everyone is going to default on their loans! That’s idiotic! Nobody is predicting that!!

MARK: Perhaps you’ve noticed the news lately! They’ve already dropped one trillion dollars!

SCOTT: You’d better check your numbers! It’s not that much! It’s only a couple of billion!!

SHARI: Actually, the camera was free.

MARK: It’s easily a trillion dollars! At least the part they’ve acknowledged! And when you add a real estate market on the verge of massive depreciation, an enormous Third World debt ready to collapse, worthless junk bonds...

SCOTT: Now you’re really full of it! For your information, junks bonds don’t represent that much money!

MARK: I agree. But when people recognize that junk bonds are utterly worthless, the loss of confidence will be just another factor in the overall decline.

SHARI: Maybe we can take some pictures of everyone while we’re here.

SCOTT: This is absolutely ludicrous! Where do you come up with all of this doomsday talk!?

MARK: I listen! I’m always ready to accept input from any source. It’s called: Keeping your ears open!

SCOTT: Look! We damn well listen ourselves! We’re very attuned to everything that’s going on around us.

SHARI: I’ve only taken a few pictures, but I’m sure we can get some nice shots.

MARK: How can you say you listen, when apparently you’re unaware of the massive graft, outright corruption and complete incompetence in the government! We’ve been robbed blind! The country is bankrupt!

SCOTT: Not as long as it can borrow money! You may also have noticed that the stock market does not agree with you. It’s rocking along just fine!

MARK: The stock market is being propped up and manipulated by monied interests, using the resources of the Federal Reserve, a non-governmental private corporation. The reality is that the very idea of stocks, the very concept of owning shares, is going the way of the Dodo Bird! Stocks are a thing of the past, for the simple reason that the people running the companies, the people entrusted with someone else’s money, are all thieves! CEOs are robbing the shareholders blind.

SCOTT: That kind of blanket, catch-all statement, is totally and utterly indefensible!

SHARI: Why don’t I get the camera now?

Glaring at Scott, Mark abruptly turns to Shari, his voice a bit intimidating.

MARK: What did you say?

SHARI: Me?

SCOTT: (to Mark) This is really funny! You actually buy all of this doomsday talk, don’t you?

MARK: What makes you think it’s doomsday? There’s going to be a total economic collapse, of course. But this is the good news. Because a total collapse will then allow for some badly needed, fundamentally important changes to be made.

SCOTT: You mean the total collapse of the world that you’re predicting is not doomsday!?

SCOTT: Absolutely not!!

SHARI: Hey! I have an idea!

Both men are still intense and a little testy, but unable to ignore Shari any longer.

MARK AND SCOTT: What?

SHARI: Let’s not talk any more. Let’s just sit here and get to know one another.

SCOTT: (bewildered) What?

MARK: (genuinely confused) How do you propose we get to know one another if we don’t talk?

SHARI: We could tell each other all about ourselves. (to Scott.) We could talk about our plans for the future. What’s happening in our lives. New... friends.

SCOTT: (genuinely puzzled) Like what?

SHARI: Isn’t there anything you’d like to talk to my father about? Anything important?

SCOTT: Oh.

MARK: (to Shari) What are you talking about?

SHARI: Nothing.

SCOTT: I really can’t think of a lot of things to say. At least, right now.

SHARI: (to Scott) Oh, sure you can.

MARK: I have a question.

SHARI: You do?

SCOTT: On second thought, there is something I’d like to say!

SHARI: Good!

With everyone looking expectantly at him, he still dodges the main issue.

SCOTT: I just wanted to say that this is really a nice place you have here, Mr. Lansing.

SHARI: Oh, don’t be so formal, Scott. Call him, “Daddy”.

Shari abruptly realizes her error.

SHARI: I mean, “Mark”!

MARK: (to Scott) Thank you. We certainly like it here.

SCOTT: Of course, it’s awfully remote.

MARK: That’s by design. Considering the plight of the planet, the fact that there are too many people and not enough resources, things could get very ugly, very soon. It seems to be a good time to live in a place that’s not too easy to find.

SHARI: (cheerfully, to her father) Well, you certainly managed that! We almost got lost, just trying to find this place.

SCOTT: (to Mark) You’re hiding here?

MARK: Not “hiding”. Maintaining a low profile. Staying below the radar net. Recognizing that people can get very ugly when the chips are down.

SCOTT: That’s ridiculous! I guess I have a lot more faith in people than you do.

MARK: We’re not talking people, we’re talking masses. Places like Mexico City, with thirty million people, is already a disaster. Every time they attempt to solve one problem, they have another million people to deal with, and the problems become literally unsolvable. The population explosion negates any potential solution.

SHARI: Do you still have a gun, Daddy? I thought I might shoot myself before dinner.

SCOTT: I’ve heard this garbage for twenty years. Population increases are essential for robust economic growth, and clearly not the only reason for social problems.

MARK: Of course not. They just eliminate all possible solutions! Look, as long as the Catholic Church continues to balk at birth control and family planning, they’re just ensuring more suffering for millions upon millions of people.

SCOTT: Excuse me, but I happen to be Catholic, and I take offense at that!

SHARI: Naturally you would take offense. Just one more reason for the two of you to hate each other! Maybe we can have a religious war! Jihad anyone?

MARK: You’re Catholic?

SCOTT: Very definitely!

MARK: Interesting. Perhaps you’ve heard of a twelfth century, Irish priest, named Malachi. He’s Catholic.

SCOTT: (puzzled) No. I’m not too much into ancient history.

MARK: But this is quite relevant. It turns out that Malachi was in Rome when he had a vision of all the future Popes of the Catholic Church. His prophecies turned out to be essentially the same as those from Nostradamus. I take it, you’ve heard of Nostradamus?

SCOTT: (frowning) Yes. I know who Nostradamus is. A sixteenth century astrologer, with a penchant for obscure and totally vague predictions. Hardly worth mentioning.

El enters, somewhat hesitantly, as if to say something. But as the conversation continues, she becomes interested and follows along.

MARK: Nostradamus’ quatrains were not so vague that they could not be seen to agree in amazing detail with Malachi’s prophecies. And inasmuch as both have been extremely accurate in naming and describing all of the Popes to date, it might be worthwhile for you to pay attention to them. Particularly, when, according to both of the prophets, there is only one Pope left after the current one. His name will be Peter. With Peter, the Catholic Church is prophesied to cease to exist as an organized church.

SCOTT: Nostradamus was a French astrologer! No one in their right mind is going to pay any attention to an astrologer!

El: (aside, to Shari) Particularly a French one.

SCOTT: And I don’t know who this Malachi is that you’re talking about!

MARK: Let’s just say that, if the next elected Pope takes the name, Peter, you might want to sell your stock in the Catholic Church.

SCOTT: The Catholic Church doesn’t have stock!

Scott turns to see El, only now realizing that she’s in the same room.

MARK: I think I was well aware of that.

EL: Too bad. Might have been a good stock to sell short.

Stepping back slightly from El, Scott looks suddenly concerned.

SCOTT: You’re not allergic to Catholics, are you?

EL: Only if they’re pregnant... which I assume you aren’t.

SCOTT: I rather doubt it.

EL: Good. This is one heluva time to have a baby!

Shari shits small bricks.

SCOTT: Why’s that?

EL: With all the stuff that’s coming down? Honey, we’re talking about every disaster imaginable and a few you might not have thought of! I mean, total economic collapse, massive land shifts, UFO landings...

SCOTT: (guffawing) UFOs!!?

Scott glances at Mark, who only shrugs his shoulders.

EL: Sure! They’re going to be coming down to pick up survivors. They may even let a few of us aboard early, in order to avoid the earth shifts. Things are gonna get pretty rocky down here.

SCOTT: Earth shifts?

EL: Honey, you can figure both the east and west coasts to drop right out of sight, not to mention most of the area south of the Great Lakes. Japan and Europe: Gone! Half of Australia doing the bubbly dance. Every place you can think of, worked over pretty thoroughly! And we haven't even begun to talk about Global Warming and the sea level rising a couple of hundred feet. You might have a fair chance here in the Rockies, but as for me, I’d just as soon watch the whole thing from space.

Scott turns to Mark, and both begin to laugh. El joins them.

SHARI: Oh boy! We’re having fun now!

MARK: El’s always good for a little lighthearted humor.

EL: (to Scott) I almost forgot. I meant to apologize to you for serving your tea the way I did. I was sort of took by sur...

She suddenly sniffs, and almost swoons. Quickly, she backs off.

EL: Ohhh boy! Time to go whomp again.

SHARI: (jumping up to aid her) El!? You okay?

EL: Fine! Just need to get to the kitchen for some fresh air!

El staggers a bit and exits, going away from the kitchen.

Mark moves toward Scott and sniffs him, an act which prompts Scott to back off.

MARK: Are you wearing deodorant?

SHARI: No! I told him not to!

SCOTT: Well... maybe a little.

SHARI: What?

SCOTT: I know you told me not to, but... I sweat! So I used just a little.

SHARI: I told you not to sweat this!

SCOTT: (to Shari) I was coming to meet your father, and I... well, I was somewhat apprehensive. It’s not the sort of thing I normally look forward to!

SHARI: Apprehensive?

SCOTT: And I was right! This has not been a... a simple meeting.

MARK: No big problem. You’ll just have to go and take a shower.

SCOTT: Now?

MARK: Of course, now! We can’t very well cordon off the living room for you, and make it off limits to El.

SCOTT: Is this for real!?

El appears briefly in the kitchen hallway, now staggering toward the kitchen.

EL: It’s for real, honey!

SHARI: El has some really serious allergies. I’m sorry, sweetheart.

SCOTT: Oh, all right!

Scott starts for the bedroom hall.

SCOTT: Man! This is the craziest household!

Scott exits.

SHARI: Maybe I should go and help him.

MARK: Help him take a shower?

SHARI: Of course not! I meant...

Her father does nothing to help her out of her predicament.

SHARI: ...show him where it is.

MARK: I think he can find it. The only other door to his room is a closet, and I’m sure he knows the difference.

Kelly enters from the kitchen hall.

KELLY: The groceries are all put away!

MARK: Great! Thanks, Sweetie.

Kelly looks around, before addressing Shari.

KELLY: Where’s your friend?

SHARI: Showering.

KELLY: Already?

MARK: Some people sweat things more than others.

SHARI: (frowning at her father) He was wearing some deodorant, and El almost got too close.

MARK: Apparently, he was a little apprehensive at meeting me.

KELLY: I don’t blame him!

MARK: You don’t?

KELLY: Of course not! You’re intimidating as hell! I’m surprised her boyfriend didn’t go into shell-shock.

MARK: Me? Intimidating?

SHARI: Thank you, Kelly. I’m glad someone can tell my father something.

KELLY: (to Shari) You’re welcome. (to Mark.) By the way, the pump supplies are still in the car, if you want to put them away.

MARK: Good idea. Let me have your keys, so I can move the car around to the storage shed.

KELLY: They’re still in the car. I rather assumed you would want to unload things right away.

MARK: Ah, you know me too well.

He kisses her affectionately on the cheek and heads for the front door.

KELLY: I’m working on it!

Mark exits through the front door.

SHARI: Tell me, Kelly: Exactly how well do you know my father?

KELLY: Pretty well, I think. We dated occasionally for about two years, whenever he came to D.C. But we’ve corresponded a lot. We got to know each other pretty well that way. Of course, I’ve only been out here for about three weeks. It’s a bit of an adjustment, but it’s also really wonderful.

SHARI: You were in D.C.?

KELLY: For years. More than I care to remember. It’s amazing that you and I didn’t run into each other, especially after your father and I began dating.

SHARI: Daddy and I didn’t do a lot of double dating.

KELLY: I just meant that he should have introduced us before now. I know how much he cherishs you, and I’m really looking forward to getting to know you. I think we’re going to get along famously. I think we have a lot in common!

SHARI: Even after meeting under these trying circumstances?

KELLY: Why? What’s wrong?

SHARI: This visit has not exactly been going the way I had it planned. Daddy and Scott hate each other, they argue constantly, and if I leave the room, I’m afraid they’ll strangle each other.

KELLY: Don’t worry about that. Your father loves to debate. And apparently, so does your boyfriend... did you say... Scott?

Shari shakes her head in the affirmative.

KELLY: Besides, they’re just having a good time.

SHARI: Good time? You mean some sort of macho competition to see who can slash the other to ribbons first, to see who wins the virgin goddess?

KELLY: (laughing) It’s just a mental exercise, a battle of wits.

SHARI: Well, maybe you’re right.

KELLY: I’m sure of it. I know your father. And while I may not know your Scott, if you chose him, I’m sure he’s going to be a lot like your father. Daughters, who really love their fathers, tend to choose men who are cut from pretty much the same mold.

SHARI: Is Daddy a lot like your father?

KELLY: In many way, he is.

SHARI: And I suppose they’re probably about the same age.

KELLY: Does our age difference bother you?

SHARI: No, not really. After all, my guy’s eight years older than I am. Come to think of it, he’s just two years younger than you.

KELLY: Shari, I really love your father. But as a lover, not as a father figure. It’s just that I’ve always preferred older men. All my life, I’ve always looked for that added maturity. Just as, I suspect, you have.

SHARI: Haven’t you ever dated younger men?

KELLY: Certainly. Before I met your father, I dated one who was actually younger than I was. It was a very nice relationship, very pleasant and fulfilling. But ultimately, I needed a man who could really challenge me. A man with the experience that I could have unbridled respect for. It’s important to me that I grow, and your father provides me with plenty of incentive to do just that.

SHARI: I know what you mean. That’s been my attraction to Scott. Apparently, I like the challenge as well. Something I guess that I inherited from my father.

KELLY: You know, Shari. Inasmuch as we both love Mark, I would suspect that you and I have a lot in common, and we’re going to get along great!

SHARI: You and me? A lot in common?

KELLY: Don’t you think so?

SHARI: You’re probably right.

Shari hesitates, then gives Kelly an affectionate hug. After just a moment, they break apart.

KELLY: Thank you, Shari. I appreciate that hug more than I can say.

SHARI: Well, I’ve always liked hugs. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been feeling a little queasy in the stomach.

KELLY: Oh? You’re not carsick, are you?

SHARI: (knowingly) I don’t think so.

KELLY: You want me to get you something?

SHARI: No, you stay here. I just need a drink.

Shari starts backing toward the kitchen hall, trying to make light of it all.

SHARI: Maybe a stiff one. It’s been sort of a tough day. No telling what’s going to happen next!

KELLY: You never know.

Shari exits to the kitchen hall. Kelly smiles, and goes to her desk, where she goes immediately and unhesitatingly to a document lying completely concealed under several papers. Kelly picks it up (it’s clear that this is precisely what she wanted, and knew where it was). She looks at it for a moment.

KELLY: (to herself) I wonder if Mark’s seen this latest bulletin from the Club of Rome?

Scott enters from the bedroom hall.

SCOTT: I hope it was okay to use soap.

Then he sees Kelly and almost drops his jaw.

SCOTT: Kelly!

Turning at the first sound of Scott’s voice, Kelly quickly recognizes him.)

KELLY: Scott! What are you doing here?

Scott moves quickly toward Kelly, his arms outstretched in a "lo and behold" posture.

SCOTT: It’s really you! I can’t believe it! My God, it’s been so long!

They quickly embrace, laughing and smiling, at seeing an old lover. Then Scott backs off enough to look at her face, still holding her, as she holds him.

SCOTT: God, I thought I was over you.

They kiss passionately, Scott very intent on the kiss, Kelly more or less reacting out of habit. Shari, carrying a drink, enters from the kitchen hallway to see Scott and Kelly kissing. Naturally, she is absolutely astounded and stunned.

Blackout.

END OF ACT I

 

What Now?

Forward to:

Act II-- Sortings

 

               

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