Bernice the Skunk Who Thought She Could Throw Her Voice

By

Johnny Culver

 

 

johnnyculver@yahoo.com

www.pineyforkpress.com


 

Characters

Jimmy Sweeney

Wendy

Levi

 

The action takes place at several locations in New York City during a wet March weekend in the late Seventies


“Bernice the Skunk Who Thought She Could Throw Her Voice”

Scene One

 

Jimmy

Wendy

 

The Record Explosion on Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street. A wet Friday lunchtime. Jimmy and Wendy listlessly wander through the store.  Perry Como plays in the background.

 

WENDY

(Blabbing on)

…so I goes to Ma “I don’t want to buy the sweater vest, even if it is on sale.” The she goes, “Wee-wee, I am going to buy you two of those sweater vests, because they look so good on you and they are on sale” Then I go, “Ma, I am not going to wear one of them, let alone two of them sweater vests…”

(Takes off glasses)

Dang it, my glasses are all fogged up…

(Wipes glasses, puts them on and looks around)

Oh, no, Jimmy, you did it again!

 

JIMMY

(Stops, takes off his own glasses and wipes them)

What? What did I do now?

(Puts glasses back on)

WENDY

Every time I come into the record store with you, no matter what, we end up in the Barbra Streisand section! We came in here to find a birthday present for my dad, and we end up here! And it’s not like you ever buy anything, you just look and look.

(Coughs)

 

JIMMY

I can’t really afford anything, Wendy, so all I can do is look. I never thought living on New York City could be so expensive.  It’s like I’m losing money by living here…rent, food, the subway, and I really want to take a writing class. I’d like to buy a sofa, too. At least back home, I made money, working at that pet store. We got paid today and it’s gone already! I can’t believe that working for a publishing company pays so little.

 

WENDY

I have the same customer service job that you have, Jimmy. I sit right next to you. And our manager, Miss Rivas, pays us both the same. You don’t hear me complaining about money. Or rent, or food…

 

JIMMY

You live at home. You don’t pay rent, your parents pay for your food. Forget it.

(Flips through records)

Well, what kind of music does your father like?  Maybe he’s like a Barbra Streisand record.

 

WENDY

Then you could borrow it? No chance. I don’t want me sitting in my living room upstairs hearing Barbara Streisand moaning and wailing from your basement apartment downstairs. How could I concentrate on $10,000 Pyramid? And my dad likes Bobby Vinton, Jimmy.

 

JIMMY

Get him a Bobby Vinton record, Wendy, or an 8 track, so he can play it in his car.

 

WENDY

No. His 8 track thing is broke in his car. It eats the tapes. And he has every Bobby Vinton record already.

(Moves into the Bobby Vinton section and flips thru records)

…I got him this one, he has this one, and this one is just the other one with another song on it. This one is just that one without two songs…

 

JIMMY

There’s not much to like about Bobby Vinton, then.

 

WENDY

Jimmy, just between you, me, and Gimbels, my Dad doesn’t really like Bobby Vinton that much.

 

JIMMY

Then why-

 

WENDY

He really likes Shirley Jones, you know the mother from the Partridge Family? He saw here on the TV once and went bananas over her. I used to watch the show ‘cause of David Cassidy, but not my dad watches the repeats with me and drools over Shirley Jones.

 

JIMMY

There’s nothing wrong with that. She’s been in movies, too. And on Broadway.

 

WENDY

Yea, musicals and Broadway, Jimmy. My dad thought if anyone at work found out he liked…musicals and The Partridge Family and Broadway, the guys would laugh him right outta the True Value hardware store. Where he works.

 

JIMMY

I know where he works, Wendy.

 

WENDY

So my dad went to the library and read all about Shirley Jones, and…did you know that she is from the same town that Perry Come is from?

(Coughs)

 

JIMMY

So get him a Perry Come record.

 

WENDY

He hates Perry Como. Don’t ask me why. Something to do with Perry Como being a barber.

 

JIMMY

What does that-?

 

WENDY

(Irritated)

Jimmy, pay attention! Because my dad went to barber school, too, see, and he never became famous like Perry Como. He ended up at the True Value Hardware store instead.

(Dramatic)

Still waters run deep, Jimmy.  So then he read a little more about Shirley Jones and found out that she and Perry Como come from the same town that Bobby Vinton comes from. I bet they were all best friends in home room.

 

JIMMY

(Not getting it and not wanting to)

Oh. We had better get back to work.

 

WENDY

That’s why my dad likes Bobby Vinton. Because when he thinks of Bobby Vinton, he is really thinking about Shirley Jones!

 

JIMMY

So he doesn’t really like Bobby Vinton!

 

WENDY

Can’t stand him! Can we get out of this Barbra Streisand section, Jimmy? It gives me the creeps. She’s always looking up at you; her eyes follow you around wherever you go.  Like a sick muskrat, or something.

 

JIMMY

(Flipping through Bobby Vinton records)

Bobby Vinton does the same thing, staring up at you from the record cover. See?

 

WENDY

(Smugly)

You don’t see Shirley Jones doing that.

(Coughs)

Great. I ‘m coughing all the time, now. I hope what happened to my Aunt Doreen from Deer Park doesn’t happen to me.

 

JIMMY

(Not wanting to get Wendy started again)

You know, Wendy, you could get your dad a book about the town that …those people are from. Or a map. So he could see for himself where…those people lived. What is the name of the town? Where is it?

 

WENDY

I have no idea, Jimmy. Some help you are. Now all I can get my dad is socks.

(Starts off)

Let’s go look in for Bobby Vinton in the 8-tracks, Maybe there’s one my dad doesn’t have. At least in the 8-tracks section, you can’t see Barbara Streisand face, the way they got them cassettes shoved in the cases.

(Coughs)

I hope I don’t die, like my Aunt Doreen from-

 

JIMMY

(Giving in)

Ok. What happened to your Aunt Doreen?

WENDY

She coughed herself to death. She was on the escalator at Gimbels. Started coughing in ladies wear and was dead by the time-

(Coughs)

-she hit sofas and recliners. I’m gonna be dead by the time we get to the 8-tracks section.

 

JIMMY

(Frustrated)

Your father’s 8-track player is broken, Wendy!

 

WENDY

Whatever Jimmy, don’t get all technical. And perk up, its Friday! I gotta get back to work to finish my children’s story, I’m writing one. I can’t be working in the customer service office forever!

(Makes a headline in the air)

“Bernice the Skunk Who Thought She Could Throw Her Voice” Some title, huh?

 

JIMMY

Let’s go get a slice of pizza, Wendy.

 

WENDY

Ok, but no mushrooms. Toads sit on mushrooms.

 

JIMMY

Ok, no mushrooms.

 

WENDY

Because, as a general rule, I don’t eat toad furniture.

 

(She leaves, coughing)

 

JIMMY

(Holds up Barbra Streisand record)

I just gotta make more money.

(Sighs and puts record back)

One day, I‘ll have enough money to buy every record in this section! Some Friday this is.

 

END OF SCENE ONE


“Bernice the Skunk Who Thought She Could Throw Her Voice”

Scene Two

 

Jimmy

Levi

 

The dusty Esther’s Bar and Grill, Greenwich Village New York City, The next afternoon, Saturday.

 

JIMMY

(Sitting at the bar, picking forehead)

…..so the pet store job really wasn’t much of a job, and I wasn’t making much money, but it was more than I am now…I thought this customer service job at the publishing company would be enough…but, I don’t know…I could ask Miss Rivas for a raise, but, I’m new and I don’t think…

(Ends up mumbling to himself)

 

LEVI

(Hovering about his only customer, changing the subject)

A pet store? With fluffy kittens and bunny rabbits and parrots that talk?

(Pulls Jimmy’s hand away from forehead)

Jimmy, stop picking your forehead like that. It’s not too nice to look at.

 

JIMMY

Sorry, I’m just a little anxious these days.  No kittens and rabbits. It was more of a bait store, I think. I wish I was back there. When I worked at the pet store, I had time to do my writing. Mostly crabs and fish, and old dead stuff.

 

LEVI

Kinda like this here neighborhood, Jimmy! That Christopher Street out there ain’t nothing like what it used to be a few years ago.

 

(Goes to smoky dirty window and rubs to look thru)

Look, here it is almost time for the Saturday happy hour and you’re the only one that’s been in here all afternoon. How am I supposed to be the best bartender here at Esther’s, if I can’t dispense with my free advice? Now in a few hours, about nine o’clock in the PM, it’ll be so busy in here; I’ll have no time to dispense my free advice, so you came at the right time…ok, it won’t really be that busy…not too may men come in here anymore. And the ladies…they head down the street…

 

JIMMY

(Getting up)

I didn’t mean to stay so long. I just…

 

LEVI

You’re not going anywhere, Jimmy. You just put that pimply little tush of your back on that barstool, and I’ll get you another nice cold beer. On the house.

 

JIMMY

I can’t really…I should get the Sunday newspaper and look through the help wanteds…I can’t do it at work, or at home, Wendy bothers me all the time….and I can pay for my own beer. I don’t need any handouts!

 

LEVI

(Stops him)

It’s on the house, I said, Jimmy. Not a handout. Courtesy of Esther’s Bar and Grill. A free beer and some free advice.

 

JIMMY

(Looks around)

…AND Grill? You serve food here, too?  It’s not really too much like a restaurant. No tables or chairs. I guess you could eat off the pool table…

 

LEVI

We got a popcorn maker and a hot plate in the back, if anyone one wants a boiled hot dog…I get so busy at the bar though, no time to serve the popcorn and boiled hot dogs.

(Leans in close to Jimmy)

You’re new to the city, right Jimmy? How long you lived here?

 

JIMMY

You know, you could hire someone to serve the hot dogs…how long have I …since last summer, the end of summer…it seems so long ago…I never should have come here to New York…

 

LEVI

Here’s a little of my free advice. That basement apartment you’re living in…where is it?

 

JIMMY

Astoria, by the Grand Central Parkway, neat the Hoyt Avenue stop on the double R train. It’s not a very big basement either, only space for a bed and some furniture.  Wendy and her parents live in the house upstairs. I can’t believe how much it’s costing me, too.

 

LEVI

(Ready to give free advice)

Ok, what if you see some unmarried girl trying to get her baby buggy down them icy subway steps at the Hoyt Avenue stop down to the street. Do you go over and help her?

 

JIMMY

Sure, those strollers are heavy!

 

LEVI

(Irritated by Jimmy’s response)

No, you do not help her! What if you slip on them steps while carrying the baby buggy, and you’re gonna have a lawsuit on your skinny little hands, maybe the baby’s head cracked open, then you in jail for the rest of your life. What’s a writer gonna do in jail? There’s nothing to write about! You’ll be sitting out at Riker’s Island without a cent to your name, spending the days picking at that forehead of yours. You think you got money troubles now? Take my free advice, Jimmy…

 

JIMMY

I never thought of that…and I, well, I don’t have much money, anyway, just what’s left after I pay my rent…what kind of advice is that?

 

LEVI

You earned that money, Jimmy. It’s your hard earned cash. You want some trashy money hungry unmarried girl taking it all away from you?

 

JIMMY

No.

 

LEVI

Your rent can’t be that much, Jimmy, living in a basement apartment in Queens. How much do you pay anyway? Maybe you just need to budget a little.

 

JIMMY

(Uncomfortable)

I…ah…Wendy said her mother said it’s rude for a New Yorker to talk about their rent, and how much they pay.

 

LEVI

What? She did? Well, I think SHE may need a little of my free advice, too.  Jimmy, if you can’t tell old Levi here, at least you can…write it down! You ARE a writer, aren’t you?

(Hands him napkin and pencil)

Just write it down and show it to me, Jimmy.

 

JIMMY

Ok. I guess.

(Writes and folds napkin, handing it to Levi)

 

LEVI

(Reads napkin)

What? You should be buying ME free beer! Jimmy, Sweeney, where you living? Fifth Avenue?

 

JIMMY

No, Astoria, Queens, in a basement, I told you-

 

LEVI

Jimmy, this is more rent that I pay in three months! Why are you paying this much? Is your bathtub made of solid gold?

 

JIMMY

It is? Well, that’s what Wendy told me the rent was, so I had no other choice. And the shower is in the garage. No tub. I just go in there when I have to take-

 

LEVI

Jimmy, they’re taking your hard earned money. Like candy from a baby! As we say on the street, you are getting ripped off.

 

JIMMY

I am?

 

LEVI

You earned that money, Jimmy. It’s your hard earned cash. You want some money hungry Queens’s chick taking it all away from you?

 

JIMMY

I didn’t think that…what do I do?

(Picks at forehead)

 

LEVI

(Proudly)

I always earned and saved my own money. Sold Girl Scout cookies, Jimmy. Made a good bitta money selling them cookies. A good chunka change…

 

JIMMY

You sold girl cookies? You were in girl scouts? But you…you’re…

 

LEVI

(Proud)

I am all man, Jimmy, always have been. But when you’re twelve years old and you got no money and your sister quit Girl Scouts because they all made fun OF her cause she was the only black girl in the troop, cause our mother sent her to a snooty downtown girl scout meeting, cause she wanted her daughter to get a little class in her life, so she quits the Girl Scouts and she throws her uniform down the trash chute and you get it outta the basement…

 

JIMMY

Um…is there some free advice coming up?

 

LEVI

(Ignores Jimmy)

And you see that the uniform fits because you and your sister are about the same size...both real skinny. And before you know it, you on the IRT clattering down to Wall Street, going office to office, selling cookies, know all the while that you will never deliver them and the people that you deliver them to are going to forget about you as soon as they close their office doors!

 

JIMMY

You never got caught? No one ever stopped you?

 

LEVI

Jimmy Sweeney? You know how many big buildings there are on Wall Street and how many doors to there are to knock on, and how many of them secretaries there are; ready to shell out a buck for a box of them thin mints? And who would question a poor little black girl from Harlem, unusually gawky and awkward, big thick glasses, and green knee socks that wouldn’t stay up?

 

JIMMY

But isn’t that stealing?

 

LEVI

Where was I gonna get 1 hundred dollars worth a girls scout cookies every week? The goods were undeliverable, Jimmy! And I lost my order notebook! That’s what I told my mother, when she never saw any cookies, who, by the way demanded a little cut of my take, if you know what I mean.

(Awkward pause)

I sold them Girl Scout cookies for three years, Jimmy. Playing hooky from school, I saved and saved, until I was fifteen and I moved outta that smelly apartment where I lived with my sister, who had a baby by that time, and my mother, who had another boyfriend by that time, and my granny, who was dead by that time, and I moved down here to Greenwich village, where I belonged. No one to steal my hard earned money, down here! No one to take a cut. I never looked back, no sir, Levi always looks forward. Been working here and giving out my famous free advice ever since.

 

JIMMY

Wow, that’s some story. And some good advice…I think. I should look forward, too. Get an apartment I can afford. Once I get a better job. Or another job.

 

LEVI

(Eyes Jimmy)

I still got that old uniform, Jimmy; you could head back down to Wall Street and make yourself some cash. You could pass for a confused little Girl Scout pretty good…with really bad acne…we’d have to comb your bangs to cover up that forehead of yours.

 

JIMMY

No, thanks.  I’d better be going.

(Gets up to leave, and stops)

Levi! Can I give you some free advice?

 

LEVI

Me take advice from a wet behind the ears scarred forehead, sucker when it comes to rent, Ohio farm boy like you? Ok, Jimmy Sweeney, gimme some free advice. Knock yourself out.

 

JIMMY

No one comes in here because when they DO come in here they want popcorn and boiled hot dogs AND some free advice. You need someone to serve the customers their food and drinks, so you can do what you do best.

 

LEVI

Now who would want to work in a dump like this and how am I gonna pay them?

 

JIMMY

I would work here, Levi, and you wouldn’t have to pay me. I would work for the tips. I work here at night, and during the day, I’d work at the customer service office! I could get some pretty good tips, too. I’d be able to pay the rent and, maybe take that writing class.

 

LEVI

(Comes out from behind bar and checks out Jimmy)

I bet you could, Jimmy, with that little pimply tush and your nice way about you.  You could make the customers laugh, telling them about that dirty pet store you used to work in. Maybe you could wear that Girl Scout uniform, too. But, you gotta stop picking your forehead, though. It’ll make the customers lose their appetite. And take off those Mr. Peabody glasses. Show off those pretty eyes of yours. You make plenty of tips with them baby blues.

(Jimmy takes off glasses and squints)

Now get on back o back in that kitchen and take a long look around. See what you’ll need to make them popcorns and boiled hot dogs. Make a list of what you’ll need and give it to me and I’ll be all ready for you to start tomorrow night! Sunday night is my busiest of the whole week!

 

JIMMY

You won’t be sorry, Levi.

(Goes into kitchen, banging into a few things on the way)

 

LEVI

(Laughs to himself)

That’s right, Jimmy, I won’t be sorry at all. Heh heh.

(He goes back to wiping the bar)

And neither will you!

 

 

END OF SCENE TWO

 


“Bernice the Skunk Who Thought She Could Throw Her Voice”

Scene Three

 

Jimmy

Wendy

 

Jimmy and Wendy’s publishing company office. The next Monday morning. Jimmy sits with his head on his desk. On his head is a Girl Scout hat. Next to him is a Girl Scout rumpled uniform.

 

Wendy enters, carrying a large shopping bag, and a 8-track player. She is wearing huge headphones connected to the player by a long cord. She does not see Jimmy at his desk.  She goes to her desk and puts down the 8-track player, leaving the headphones on. All the while, she sings loudly out of tune.

 


 

WENDY

She wore blueeeeee velvet

 

Bluer than velvet was the night

 

Softer than satin was the light

 

She wore blueeeeee velvet-

 

 

 

 

 

 

JIMMY

Wendy, not so loud...

(Wendy continues to sing)

Wendy, you’re making my head hurt even more…

(Wendy continues to sing)

Wendy, please be quiet-

(Jimmy gets up from desk goes to behind Wendy, takes headphones off her head and drops them to the floor)

Wendy! Stop singing!

 


(Wendy, startled, stops singing and turns to face Jimmy)

WENDY

Whadda you do that for? Poor Bobby Vinton…

(Bends over to pick up headphones)

Great. Now I don’t know which goes over which ear.

 

JIMMY

The left one goes on the left ear.

 

WENDY

Oh yea.

(Stares at headphones)

Where does the other side go?

 

Where did you get that 8-track player, Wendy, they’re pretty expensive.

 

WENDY

(Taking off coat tangling herself in the headphone wire)

At the Radio Shack on Steinway Street. I went there to get my dad a present for his birthday. I was going to get him socks, but I thought this year, I could splurge a little. So I went to Radio Shack to get him one of those wallet making kits. He’s always losing his wallet in bars, so I thought the next time he loses his wallet in a bar, all he has to do is come him and make a new one!

 

JIMMY

(Going back to his desk)

Oh, my head is throbbing. I don’t even want to hear this.

 

WENDY

So I’m at the Radio Shack and I see this 8-tracks player, so I get it, so I can play 8-tracks on my way to work. Well, my dad’s 8-tracks, ‘because his -player in his car is broke…

(Sees glasses on desk)

Here they are! Jimmy, you never know how much you need your eyeglasses, until you leave them at work over the weekend, like I did. It was terrible. I couldn’t find the clicker for the TV - so I was stuck watching Channel 4 all weekend, I couldn’t tell the number on the Steinway Street bus this morning, and , last night, last night, my Uncle Maurice took me out with some of his decorator friends, and I had no idea where we was!

(Puts glasses on)

Ahhhhh! So much better! But, wherever I was, they had good boiled hotdogs and popcorn! And the cutest little Girl Scout was selling her cookies or something there. Everyone sure liked her there, trying to hug her and buy her drinks. Bet she sold lotta cookies! Made a chunka change!

 

JIMMY

(Removing hat and hiding it under desk)

What? Wendy, do you have to be so loud?  And you’d better put your coat away. Miss Rivas will-

 

WENDY

-will not be here today. She’s taking the day off. The receptionist told me on the way in. Funny she didn’t tell you when you came in. She must not like you.

 

JIMMY

She never takes the day off? Is she all right? Miss Rivas, not the receptionist.

 

WENDY

Something about her parakeet falling onto the toilet, or something. I can’t understand a word that receptionist says. She’s got that terrible Brooklyn accent.

 

JIMMY

The receptionist didn’t see me come in. I…Wendy, I spent the night here. Or what was left of the night.  I never got home. I…was out late…

 

WENDY

You spent the night here? So that’s why I didn’t hear ya snoring last night, like I always do, on Sunday night.

 

JIMMY

I’m so tired, and sore…what are you doing here so early, anyway? You don’t usually get in-

 

WENDY

I thought I could get here early and work on the story I’m writing. The one I was telling you about. It’s…in progress. Now that Miss Rivas parakeet fell into the toilet, I can use her typewriter.

(Takes out sheets of paper)

I’ll read it to ya.

 

JIMMY

Oh no, not today…

 

WENDY

(Clears throat and reads nervously from her handwritten notes)

“Bernice the Skunk Who Thought She Could Throw Her Voice” by Wendy G.”

(Points to self)

That’s me.

(Clears throat again)

Once upon a time, after a dinner of grubs and beetles, Bernice the skunk sat in her cold cave watching $10,000 Pyramid. Her mother lay snoring on the couch. Suddenly a mysterious voice rang through the air. “I hate you and you stink!” the voice said. Bernice’s mother awoke with a snort. “Who said that?” she mumbled. “Not me.” said Bernice’s mothers TV Guide. Bernice giggled. “Not me.” said Bernice’s mothers pack of Viceroy Cigarettes. Bernice suppressed a smile.

 

JIMMY

(Head in his hands)

Wendy, please not now…

 

WENDY

(Shushing him with her finger)

“Not me.” said Bernice’s mothers jelly glass full of gin. Bernice covered her snout to hide her amusement.

 

JIMMY

What kind of children’s story is this…?

 

WENDY

(Waving him off)

“Not me.” said Bernice’s mothers dirty bathrobe. Bernice slunk down into her nest of twigs to keep from guffawing out loud. “Not me.” said Bernice’s father, his suitcase in hand; ready to leave the cave for good. Bernice curled into a ball, shaking with laughter. “Not me.” said-

 

JIMMY

(Red with anger)

That’s it! Wendy that’s a terrible story and its stupid, and its giving – you’re making my hangover worse. Be quiet!

WENDY

(Coughs)

Don’t you want to know how it turns out?

 

JIMMY

No!

(Calms down)

I want to ask you about your mother. How did she decide how much rent to charge me? Did she ever have anyone living in the basement apartment before?

 

WENDY

(Coughs)

No. No one ever lived down there before, except my dad, when Ma made him stay down there for a few weeks in the wintertime a few years ago; after she found out that he was meeting this lady at a bar on Steinway Street after work.

 

JIMMY

Your father was having an affair? That’s terrible!

 

WENDY

He kept telling Ma that it was a cousin of his from Flushing and they were talking about old times. Butt them Ma asked if it was a he cousin or a she cousin and my dad got confused and spilled the beans and, before you know it, he was on a cot by the water heater for two weeks!

(Jimmy glares at Wendy)

Ok, ok, no one ever rented the basement apartment before you.

 

JIMMY

Then how did-

 

WENDY

And Ma didn’t decide how much the rent would be. I did.

(Coughs)

 

JIMMY

You did? You don’t know a thing about rent; you’ve never rented an apartment before!

 

WENDY

(Taking cover off typewriter)

Ma thought that since I took that “Office Assistant in Thirty Days” course, I’d be good at being a landlady. So when she decided to rent out the basement apartment, I found someone to clean and paint and wax the floors – me - and I found someone to live there – you – and I decided how much the rent would be.

(Proudly)

I am your landlady!

 

JIMMY

(Getting frustrated)

Like I said… You don’t a thing about, rent; you’ve never rented an apartment before!

 

WENDY

I did research Jimmy. I asked my Uncle Maurice about rent and he told me how much he paid for rent and I –

 

JIMMY

Your Uncle Maurice is a rich decorator and lives on Park Avenue in Manhattan! He has a live in butler! Of course he pays so much rent. Wendy, what am I going to do? I’m paying Park Avenue rent for a…parking space.

 

WENDY

(Puts sheet into typewriter)

No Jimmy, it’s not want you think. And that ain’t no butler he’s got living there.  After I explained to my Uncle Maurice why I wanted to know about his rent, he pulled me into the kitchen and said “Mandy, I have an idea…”

(Coughs)

 

JIMMY

Mandy? Your names Wendy.

 

 

WENDY

(Sheepishly)

Uncle Maurice thinks its Mandy and I don’t want to disappoint him.

(Jimmy glares at her, drumming his fingers on the desk)

Ok, when I graduated from high school – Bryant High, where Ethel Merman went to, Uncle Maurice sent me fifty dollars in cash as a graduation present. Ma made me write a thank you note to him. In ink. I was so excited. I never had that much money in my pocket before. Well, I was so nervous, I…I spelled my name MANDY, instead of WENDY. I was so embarrassed. And I didn’t want to waste a perfectly good Hallmark card. I told him I was going to be a famous model and was changing my name to Mandy.

 

JIMMY

(Screaming)

What about the rent!

 

WENDY

So, in a nutshell, Uncle Maurice went to all of his decorator friends and found out how much rent they pay and I took all the numbers and…I...I…averaged them, and that’s how I decided how much the rent for the basement apartment would be.

 

JIMMY

No one can afford this rent!

 

WENDY

I could…if I was a famous model…

(Coughs)

I need a Ludens cough drop. I wonder if Miss Rivas has any in her desk.

(Tries drawers, but they are locked)

Locked! Great. I know she has Ludens in here. I saw them last week. She puts the cough drops in her tea.

 

JIMMY

(Gets up and gets coat)

Wendy, I have no the choice. I have to move out; I can’t afford to live there. I’ll be out by the end of the week. I’ll starting looking for another place now.

 

WENDY

(Frantically pulls on metal desk drawers trying to get them open)

Jimmy, no! What am I going to do? What will Ma think? My career is over. I’m finished as a landlady.

(Cough)

Where am I going to find another –?

 

JIMMY

Sucker? Another fool, Wendy? Another one to fall for your scheme…

(Stops, thinks)

Wendy, what do you do with the rent money I give you? Do you give it to your mother or father?

 

WENDY

(Coughs)

No way, it all goes right into the bank. I got a passbook account at the Manufacturers and Hanover’s Trusts bank. I keep the passbook, in a hidden place. Where no one can find it.

(Coughs and pats bosom, then glares at Jimmy)

Not there, get your mind outta the gutter.

 

JIMMY

It sure would be safe there!

 

WENDY

(Coughing more frequently)

I gotta get in this desk, Jimmy. I need a Ludens!

(Lifts typewriter and bangs it on desk)

 I’m too young to die! Com’on! Open up!

(Bangs typewriter)

 

JIMMY

Wendy!

(She bangs typewriter again)

Wendy!

(Jimmy opens his own desk and takes out a box of Ludens)

(Loudly)

Wendy!

(Holds up Ludens)

Look what I have.

(Wendy sees Ludens and stops banging typewriter mid bang)

Put the typewriter down.

 

WENDY

(Coughing)

Jimmy! Don’t let me die! Give em to me!

(She dives for the Ludens but Jimmy jumps on his own desk, holding them out of reach)

 

JIMMY

You want them?

 

WENDY

(Coughing frantically)

Yes!

 

JIMMY

What will you do for them? The Ludens?

 

WENDY

(Coughing)

(Struggling to reach Ludens)

Anything! Jimmy Save me! I’m not ready to die in sofas and recliners!

 

JIMMY

(Dangling Ludens)

You cut my rent in half and you can have them!

 

WENDY

(Stops)

Huh?

 

JIMMY

(Dangling Ludens)

You reduce my rent by fifty percent and they’re yours…all the Ludens you can stuff in your mouth…remember your Aunt Doreen from Deer Park…she never made it to sofas and recliners…and you will never tell anyone how much rent I am paying, not even your mother…

 

WENDY

(Doing calculations with her finger in the air)

I, ah…carry the nine…deal!

(Coughs harder than ever as Jimmy tosses the Ludens to her. She catches them and rips the package open, stuffs in them in her mouth, reacting dramatically)\

Ahhhhh! They’re working…see? No more coughing?

(She catches her breath)

I’m going to live! Wait till I tell Ma I’m not dead.

 

JIMMY

How could you cough, ever breathe, with all that stuffed in your mouth…

(Gets down from desk and goes to Wendy, pointing at her)

Remember, Wendy, not a word of this to anyone…this is just between you and me. OK? Phew! You smell like a medicine cabinet!

 

WENDY

(Leans on her desk, breathing deeply)

I don’t care what I smell like as long as I’m not dead. You saved my life, Jimmy Sweeny. I am forever in your debt. You’re my…best friend!

(Wipes her mouth with her sleeve)

Phew! Anything for you, Jimmy. I’ll even return half of what you paid me so far. I owe you that much. I feel so alive!

 

JIMMY

You will? That’s great, Wendy. There’s a sofa at Gimbels I want to look at, maybe buy it.

 

WENDY

You can do that on your own. I am not ready for sofas and recliners!

 

JIMMY

(Takes bag from under his desk)

I’ll be back in a while, Wendy. I have an errand to run. I have a Girl Scout uniform to return…

 

WENDY

Then when you get back, I’ll go to the Manufacturers and Hanover’s Trusts bank. With my passbook, and do a little withdrawing – Girl Scout uniform? Jimmy, them girls are a little young for you, don’t you think? Best friend to best friend, I mean.

 

JIMMY

(Ignoring her)

Never mind and I thought you kept your passbook in a secret place?

 

WENDY

I do.

(Pats Miss Rivas desk)

Right here, scotch taped under the …

(Realizes desk is locked)

…bottom drawer…oh no…

 

JIMMY

That’s ok, Wendy. I have a key to her desk. Miss Rivas gave me one, in case she was ever out. We’ll open it when I get back.

(Heads to door)

See you later, Wendy, and thanks.

(He exits)

 

WENDY

(Sits at desk and eats last of Ludens)

Any time, life saver!

(To herself)

Hey, I could go for a pack of Lifesavers, right about now.

(Picks at typewriter keys)

He had a key to the desk the whole time? Oh well, I bet Shirley Jones would have done the same thing for Perry Como…or Bobby Vinton…just like best friends…

(Puts on headphones and types)

“…not me, said Bernice’s mothers overdue Montgomery Wards bill. Bernice the Skunk couldn’t hide her laughter any longer, so she stood up and…”

 

(She continues typing slowly)

 

END OF PLAY