Doug

 

Jerome Chapman

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 106 in 2003.
 

DOUG
By Jerome Chapman

Characters:
Ned Carson..................................... A high school teacher
Walter Simmons............................. A high school teacher
Judy Sweeney................................A high school guidance counselor
Dr. Wayne Turgidson...................A neurosurgeon
Dr. Frank Smiley.............................Another neurosurgeon
Kate
Jeff
Eric.................................................... Student
Man in tuxedo
Doug................................................Gorilla
Benedict..........................................Cafeteria employee
Marty...............................................Cafeteria employee
John.................................................Lawyer
Stanley.............................................Lawyer
  
Scene One
 
A well lit high school classroom. Desks are arranged in rows. At the front of the class is a teacher's desk and blackboard. Ned is at the blackboard frozen in the process of writing the Quadratic Formula. The part of Ned should be played with unswerving calmness. Everything seems commonplace to him. He is only mildly interested in the action on stage. He always seems bored and distracted by the people in the room and is much more interested in the math he is doing on the board. He frequently erases and rewrites to improve his penmanship. He only shows emotion when he runs out of room on the board for his calculations and must erase and start over. This inspires unbridled fury, which is ignored by the rest of the class. Only the student Eric is interested in his calculations. No one else is in the room. A bell rings. Promptly at the conclusion of the bell, action begins. Judy enters.
 
 
 
Judy Mr. Carson? Do you have a moment?
Ned  (his back is to her, he is disinterested-absorbed in his math) Yes Mrs. Sweeney, but call me Ned.
Judy (seems to be in a hurry, speaks with a condescending southern accent)
 

Oh, ok, sure Ted. Listen, you're going to be getting a new student today. He's a transfer from out of town, and we just got information about him today. His name is Doug, and he apparently has some severe learning problems. He doesn't socialize well, he has trouble in all of his subjects, except for government and economics for some reason, and seems generally withdrawn.

Ned (pause while scrutinizing the board, then noticing her) Uh-huh.
Judy Well he's being placed in your room "C" period. (Pause, then as if she senses that he is angry, she offers her standard counselor flattery line in a tone that is noticeably insincere) You just have a good rapport with the kids, and uh we just think you would do a good job accommodating his learning style and, uh, special needs. The kids really look up to you, Ed.
Ned Ned. (writing on the board)
Judy I'm sorry, Ned. (Waits for response, but Ned is too absorbed in the math. She looks at the board trying to see what he sees.)
Ned (He notices her looking, stares at her with intent. Then erotically...) You know Judy, trinomials are by far the most beautiful of all the polynomials. There's nothing coy about a trinomial, Judy. (Moving closer to her, looking at her body) I love everything about c-c-c-c-c-conic sections. (Stuttering)
Judy (Looking at him with fright and crossing her arms over her chest) What in the hell are you talking about? You....... freak! (She runs from the room.)
(As she is leaving Ned turns around, looks at the board and collapses against it as if to embrace it. He moves his hands around on the board smearing the writing as Walter enters through the same door.)
Walter (Concerned) Hey Ned, What's the matter with Judy Sweeney? I just saw her running and cry-(noticing the board for the first time) Whoa man, nice trinomials.
Ned(Stepping up to the board to erase and start over.) Yeah. Whaddya need, Walter?
Walter(Confidentially) I heard you're getting the new kid, this Doug.
Ned(writing) Uh-huh.
WalterYou're up for tenure this year, aren't you?
NedUh-huh.
WalterWell then this is it, buddy. This is your tenure test.(pause) You know, your tenure test. (pause)Aw come on, man. Smell the coffee; read the writing on the wall. They're testing you. Seeing if you can take it. Yep, I remember my test. Poor kid named Larry Plebner. Had Tourette's syndrome. Screamed "BOOGERS" at the top of his lungs every 3 or 4 minutes. Try graphing a polar projection with that going on.
Ned (suddenly profoundly interested) You get to do polar projections?!
WalterOh yeah, polar projections. Imaginary numbers, matrices.(As Walter mentions these, Ned again collapses against the board in sensuous delirium then gradually returns to his reconstruction of the quadratic formula) Yeah, but I didn't crack. Never even went to the office about it. That's what they want you know. No boat rocking. Take care of it in class. Poor kid spent half the school year in my supply cabinet. (nostalgically to himself) Sometimes I can still smell him in there, (pause) Yep, take my advice, Ned. Don't make any waves. Just go along. (Exit Walter)
NedUh-huh. (The bell rings.)
(Enter students in groups of two or three. Kate and Jeff enter together. Jeff is good looking, but tough and mean. Kate is strikingly attractive. She is wearing a skirt and fairly low cut blouse. Also enter Doug, a full-grown Rwandan silver-back mountain gorilla. He sits in front of Kate. Jeff sits behind Kate. Eric sits on the front row and is profoundly interested in the lesson. Everyone else is quite disinterested and either stares vacantly or is asleep.
Ned Alright class, I believe we have a new student in the class, (pauses, looks around as if trying to spot the new face. Looks at the paper that Judy left...)It says here that he's from Rwanda, (pauses again for response. looks around the room) Is there a Doug here?
(upon hearing his name, Doug leaps to his feet and beats his chest with great speed and sudden intensity. He also lets out a powerful simian roar. The other students react with apathy and disinterest. Pause)
Ok. (to class) Class this is Doug (pause-no response..one asleep student falls to the floor and remains there. Pause) Ok.
Eric(annoyed) Enough of this jawin'; Bring on the numbers! (Eric should not be dressed as a Geek. He should be large, athletic, and his lines should be delivered as though he were a sports fan yelling things from the stands. Sometimes with annoyance, as if complaining to a referee, sometimes with unbridled joy and enthusiasm. During the following math lesson he constantly cheers {yeah, wooo, etc.}for each phrase Ned utters building to a passionate crescendo.)
NedRight you are mister, (then turning and keeping his back to the class) I introduced quadratic equations yesterday...and today I want to show you one of the most sublime expressions in all of mathematics: (writing the words) The... Quadratic... Formula. Just look at this. (writing as he speaks) Negative B plus or minus the square root of B squared minus four A C all over two A. (emotionally)Look at its subtle beauty, (a nameless/ sleeping student falls to the floor from his desk and remains there for the remainder of the play. He is unnoticed by the rest of the characters.) The quadratic formula, although cumbersome, will solve any quadratic equation. For many equations, there are other, easier methods at arriving at a solution, but these methods are limited in that they do not apply in all situations. It's comforting in a way to know that the good old quadratic formula is always there as a backup when easier solutions fail. It's just so comprehensive in its scope. NOT JUST PLUS; NOT JUST MINUS, BUT PLUS OR MINUS, (pause-then openly weeping) It's not some trendy, fly by night, one night stand, short-cut formula. It's like a faithful wife. Always there plugging away. Even when you go off and have some wild fling with some cheap whore solution, she's waiting for you, loving you, just in case you come home unsatisfied.
(As Ned becomes overcome momentarily with emotion, Doug purposefully drops his book so that Kate will pick it up. When she stoops to pick it up, he looks down her revealing blouse, stands up and beats his chest furiously. She notices him looking, their eyes meet, she strokes his fur then aggressively thrusts him back in his desk, sits in his lap, and they begin to kiss passionately. Jeff is getting angry.)
She's there waiting to solve all your problems for you (then turning quickly to face the class. Viciously, and brandishing a pistol...) ONLY YOU PEOPLE DON'T EVEN CARE! (he shoots Jeff six times. No one notices except Eric.)
EricWooooo! NICE SHOOTING SOLDIER! (Pause, then Loudly Enter Man in Tuxedo)
Man in Tux STOP THAT WEDDING!! (everyone suddenly pays attention, even Doug and Kate who have been getting very physical. Long pause) Oh, excuse me... I'm very sorry, (exit Man in Tuxedo. All return to their previous respective states of apathy or passion.)
NedWell. Where was I? (looking at the board)
Kate(pause in passionate embrace only long enough to deliver line and resume. Calling to him without looking at him very quickly as if she had committed to memory everything he had said...) She's there waiting to solve all your problems for you, only you people don't even care.
NedAh yes. The glorious Quadratic. (Suddenly with inspiration) You know what the quadratic equation is? (Pause, chuckling) It's radical (hysterical laughter from Ned only. Everyone else maintains whatever they're doing.)Get it? (pointing to the Square root sign in the formula) RADICAL! (Pauses waiting for response, Eric cheers wildly, another student falls to the floor and remains there. Enter very bloody Wayne Turgidson frantically dressed in surgical garb. He has apparently walked out on a major brain operation that for some unknown reason is occurring in the hall. He is overcome with self doubt.)
WayneOh my god!! (Shouting and falling to his knees.) I don't know what I'm doing!!
Ned(very calmly) Wayne Turgidson, this tardiness has got to stop; do you have a pass?
Eric(loving it) Yeah Turgidson/ Where's your pass, dork?
WayneYou don't understand, Mr. Carson. I have a patient out there dying because of my wretched scatterbrain, and you want a pass?
NedLook Wayne, I'm sick of excuses. You're looking at detention. (enter Frank Smiley furiously. He is also bloody and wearing surgical garb.)
FrankDammit Turgidson, your patient is dying! You are a neurosurgeon; you don't just walk out on an operation!
WayneI know, Frank. I know. I just went blank as we were about to breach the corpus colossum. (pause then whimsically) I'll tell you what it was like! It was like when you're trying to remember an actor's name. It's right on the tip of your tongue, but just out of reach. I'm standing there, and suddenly I don't know an amygdala from a hypothalamus... then I look at the time and realize I'm late for math... again.
FrankYou walk out of emergency brain surgery for a stupid math class? (Eric rises menacingly)
WayneHey, my education comes first.
Frank  Are numbers going to help that guy on the table? Maybe a few derivatives will repair his brain stem? You gonna save that guy's life with a matrix? I ask you (challenging Ned) What are you going to do to solve this little problem teach? (all eyes are on Ned, even the people who have collapsed have awakened and gathered around to see the showdown. Finally even Doug shows interest.
(long pause/ the music to Ennio Morricone's "Theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" can be heard briefly.)
Ned(smugly) Eric, do you care to handle this one?
Eric (pause) Did you try... .(painfully long pause).........factoring?
Frank(pause, then embarrassed and stammering) Well... uh... (looks at Wayne for support, but he is looking at the floor in shame, then shamefully) of course. I guess I just wasn't thinking. I guess I had better head back. (to Wayne) You coming?
WayneUm uh no. You think you can handle it?
Frank Yeah I got it now that I have that (embarrassed) uh factoring tip. That should get me through the rest of the procedure.
Intense passionate physicality between Doug and Kate builds to a surreal crescendo. Doug is completely out of control. This should play as an animalistic frenzy. Kate at first is excited, but then becomes panicky. Ned rushes to his desk and opening a drawer, pulls out a whip and lashes Doug mercilessly for a period of time far longer than it takes Doug to stop the offending activity. The whipping goes on and on. Kate leaves straightening her clothes. The other students act as though nothing strange is going on. Eric is frantic with excitement encouraging Ned.
 
Scene Two
As the lights come up we see a cafeteria style lunch room. All patrons are wearing business suits, carry enormous "planners" and are seated in large, executive office chairs. They never leave these chairs, but scoot wherever they go. The constant noise of cellphones and beepers is heard in the background. In addition, occasionally, a louder cellphone/beeper noise is heard as though it is nearby. The response is that everyone on stage has to stop to check if the noise is coming from their particular device. In doing this, all communication is immediately broken off, people visibly swivel away from each other to check their devices. The effect of this activity on the action of the scene should be a kind of frustrating, staccato movement. Spoken lines are not fluid; ideas are disjointed. Everyone is talking; no one is listening. Phone messages and beeper messages are apparently much more important than face to face conversation. At the rear of the stage is a lunch counter with trays that slide along. No one can get very far because of the constant ringing of cell phones and pagers. The main characters have to shout to be heard. Above the Lunch Counter is a large picture ofThoreau. Behind the counter are two employees dressed in fast food uniforms. Benedict is fat. Marty is short and thin. These two are the only characters who do not follow the seemingly mechanized pattern that the noise creates. Enter lawyers John and Stanley in chairs. They proceed to the cafeteria line and begin their stop and go Journey down the sliding-tray cafeteria rail.
John(fairly loudly) I've been doing a lot of thinking about this case, Stanley.
Stanley(Checking his silverware for cleanliness) What? (loud ring) Oh wait. (everyone checks; the ring belongs to no one) WHAT?
JohnI SAID I'VE BEEN THINKING A LOT ABOUT THE CASE. YOU KNOW THE GORILLA CASE.
(loud ring)
StanleyI...oh hold on. (checks along with John and all executives on stage; nameless extra answers his phone and begins frantically looking through his planner.)(to John) I'm sorry, you were saying?
JohnTHE GORILLA CASE- I'VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT IT, AND I'M NOT SURE HOW TO APPROACH IT.
StanleyLook, John (ring) Oops, hang on. (It is his. Furiously thumbing through his planner he says "yeah" a few times and hangs up.) I've worked a thousand gorilla cases. The trick is to use the fact that he is a gorilla to advance your case. For instance (ring) oh, wait... (not his; some one else goes to town in his planner.) Where was I?
JohnUSE THE GORILLA.
StanleyRight. The key is...
Benedict(To Stanley) What'llitbe?
StanleyUh, I'll have the (ring) hang on (not his) I'll have the hamburger steak, (to John) What was I saying?
BenedictIt's Salisbury Steak.
Stanley WHAT?
BenedictIT'S SALISBURY STEAK. HAMBURGER STEAK DOESN'T COME WITH TOOTHSOME GRAVY.
StanleyALRIGHT, I'LL HAVE THAT AND BLACKEYED PEAS. (to John) Anyway (ring) hold up... (it's his-another animated wrestling match with the planner-a few "yeah's" and a "no" or two. Checks a date with John who wrestles with his planner. Something is agreed upon.) Any way the key is...
BenedictTHEY ARE PURPLE HULLS.
StanleyWhat?
JohnI THINK HE MEANS THE PEAS.
StanleyWhat peas?
BenedictYOU SAID BLACKEYED PEAS WHEREAS THESE ARE CLEARLY PURPLE HULLS.
Stanley(to John)I never could tell the difference between those (to Benedict) OK let me have some Purple Hulls, (to John) The key, John, is to use what we are presented with. Now think about this. Yes, Doug is a gorilla, but he is also an American. An American born in Africa. That, my friend, makes him an African American and Bingo, we got ourselves a discrimination case. Think of the press-White Teacher Whips African American. Baby, we are in the money, (ring) Time out (not his)
BenedictDESSERT SIR?
StanleyIs that Lemon Pie?
BenedictNO.
StanleyWell what is it?
BenedictIT'S LIME PIE SIR. THE LEMON PIE CLEARLY HAS A VANILLA WAFER PIE WALL.
StanleyPie wall?
BenedictYES SIR. THE HEEL OF THE PIE. IMAGINE LOOKING AT THE PIECE OF PIE MATHEMATICALLY FROM ABOVE. THE SLIGHTLY ARCED BASE OF THE ISOSCELES TRIANGLE YOU SEE IS THE PIE WALL OR HEEL OF THE PIE. IN THE CASE OF LEMON PIE, IT IS CONSTRUCTED OF VANILLA WAFERS.
Previosly unseen, by the audience is a handcuffed Ned having lunch with his lawyers. At the mention of the isosceles triangle he stands profoundly interested and is quickly/creed back into his seat by his lawyers. No one notices.
StanleyI'll pass.
JohnBUT HE WAS IN THE PROCESS OF RAPING THAT GIRL.
StanleyJesus Christ, John. Where did you go to law school? Have you never studied Kuntsler? We are going to use the Simian Rage Defense, (ring) Woop. (Checks, as does everyone but John. Another ring sounds- all eyes on John who is thinking) I think that is yours.
John OH JESUS! (wrestles with the phone)
BenedictWhat for you sir?
JohnNOTHING! (tries to answer phone but it is too late) OH GOD. (furiously goes through planner trying to figure out whose call he has missed.)
   
  
   
BenedictWhaddya mean, nothing?
JohnI DON'T WANT ANYTHING! (still looking frantically in the planner)
BenedictThen why did you get a tray?
JohnCRAP, I MISSED MY 12:35. (hits himself in the forehead with the planner as a sort of penance) I'm sorry, Stanley. What were you saying about the Simian Rage defense?
Benedict HEY I WANNA KNOW ABOUT THE TRAY! YOU THINK YOU CAN COME IN HERE, GET A TRAY AND NOT BUY ANYTHING? DON'T YOU KNOW WE GO IN THE HOLE ON THAT DEAL?
MartyYou tell'em Benedict.
BenedictMARTY HERE JUST WASHED THAT TRAY NOT 30 MINUTES AGO SO THAT IT WOULD BE READY FOR A PAYING CUSTOMER, AND YOU GO DIRTYING IT UP JUST FOR THE HELL OF IT. YOU JUST WANT US TO TAKE THE LOSS AND SHUT UP ABOUT IT. WE'LL NEVER SEE THAT SOAP AGAIN. YOU ARE THE MODEL OF INEFFICIENCY.
John Sorry.
Benedict Fuck you.
John(to Stanley) What were you saying? I mean I've heard of the Black rage defense.
StanleyIn the Simian Rage Defense, we claim that being a Simian in a human dominated environment creates so much tension and angst that the slightest provocation could have sent our client over the edge.
JohnDon't you think that by making these thinly veiled comparisons between gorillas and Blacks that we run the risk of being labeled racist ourselves? Aren't you worried that a jury would see through this facade we are creating?
StanleyWho are you? Roger fucking Ebert? You're being too analytical. Stay on the surface. Don't overestimate the intelligence of the guy on the street. Nobody sees these patterns, certainly not a guy too fucking stupid to get out of jury duty. The race card is a lock.
JohnI see. So maybe we could suggest that the teacher is a racist because he reacted so quickly when it was a white girl seemingly being attacked. Maybe if she had been another gorilla... (they sit at a table)
StanleyNow you're getting it! Being a lawyer means looking for opportunity. You have to turn adversity into advantage. Suppose there's this 1300 pound Guinness book fat guy, and you're his lawyer. How would you advise him?
John(Pause) I guess I would tell him to approach the National Hockey League about a position as a goalie.
StanleyAnd a pro hockey salary...
TogetherBUYS A LOTTA FUCKIN' TWINKIES! (they High Five as best they can in their chairs)
StanleyI see a bright future for you my boy. (Huge ring-everybody checks and answers at once; everyone gets a call simultaneously and spends the rest of the scene thumbing insanely through planners. Ned's lawyers are so distracted that Ned is able to sneak away.)
Lights dim on executives; intensify on Benedict and Marty signifying a shift in focus.
BenedictI am filled with existential dread.
MartyYou can say that again.
Benedict(annoyed-not looking at him) Shut up you freak. I was not talking to you.
Marty(sincerely) Oh, hey man, I'm sorry. I did it again, didn't I? It's just that when you start talking, and there's no one else here, I think you are talking to me.
BenedictDon't you ever think out loud? Don't you ever have a thought and want to give it utterance for no other reason than to establish it clearly?
Marty(very long pause as they stare at each other) Are you talking to me?
BenedictYES GODDAMN IT!
Marty Oh. Well, yeah I guess I do that sometimes... but not as completely as you do. Like this morning when I burned my arm on the breadpan, I thought "Oh Shit that really hurts." But I think I only said the "Oh shit" part.
Benedict(utterly frustrated with Marty's inability to relate to him, he finally breaks off the angry stare. Then to himself) God what am I doing here?
Marty I know what you mean.
BenedictSHUT UP!
Marty You said we were talking! What's bugging you anyway?
BenedictWhat's bugging me? I'll tell you what's bugging me. The absolute absurdity of our existence is what is bugging me. You see that painting? Do you even know who that is?
Marty I think you told me once. But I can't remem...
BenedictIt's Thoreau you brainless lemming. He said we should simplify our lives, that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, that our lives are filled with too much getting and spending, that our lives are frittered away by detail. Now look at all these assholes, and tell me if he was right.
MartyUm... yes?
Benedict(seething with frustration)You're not supposed to actually answer the question you fucking cretin.
MartyYou were looking right at me that time! You were talking right to me!
BenedictIT'S CALLED A RHETORICAL QUESTION YOU... ARRGGHH(bangs his head violently against back wall)
MartyI'm sorry, man. I guess I'm just not that familiar with what's his name.
Benedict (softened slightly by Marty's humility)Well, you should be. Everyone should be. He had an understanding of things that few people possess. Like time for instance. Do you know what he said about time?
Marty (very long pause-he is hesitant to respond-finally, sheepishly) Is that a rhetorical question?
Benedict(becomes enraged, then gradually calms himself down enough to say) He said "Time is but the stream I go fishing in." That is an enlightened perspective.
MartyI love to fish.
BenedictFor him, time is fluid like a stream. It is constantly moving and changing and adapting. You can't catch it. (pause) But look at these morons. They've got their planners and their watches and their schedules. It's like they are all standing in the river trying to scoop up a little bit of it and define it and demarcate it. (he looks to Marty to check for comprehension)
Marty (Sensing the need of a response and attempting to mimic Benedict's scorn for the masses he says unconvincingly) I just wish these fuckers would get out of the fucking river.
As Marty returns to work, Benedict (with a steely stare) brains him with a cast iron skillet. Marty falls behind the counter. Benedict puts down the skillet, and picks up a meat cleaver. He crouches down behind the counter, and hacks away at Marty's body. With each strike we see the bloody cleaver rise leaving grisly blood trails on the counter and rear walls. Benedict stands and leaves. No one in the restaurant is aware of any of this.
Blackout