The Linguist (Scene 10)

For reference, see character thumbnails.


[inside Abbott estate; NELL, WILL, REESE, RODGER, ELIZA, NORAH, and CYNTHIA are playing a heated game of charades; RODGER is miming reeling in a huge fish]

REESE:     Oh, that movie you love so much with Ewan McGregor…

NORAH:     The one where he works at the circus?

WILL:     BIG FISH!

RODGER:     YES!

[everyone but WILL and RODGER groan]

CYNTHIA:     Okay Norah, you’re up next.

[NORAH takes center stage; she holds out one finger]

REESE:     One word.

[NORAH frames her face]

RODGER:     A person.

WILL:     A name.

[NORAH produces a letter from her pocket and imitates REESE reading it, pinching the bridge of her nose, jumping at RODGER coming home, and hiding the bill behind her back; no one gets it except REESE, who is frozen; NORAH acts out the charade again]

ELIZA:     That makes no sense, Norah. Just tell us who you are.

NORAH:     [groaning]     I’m mom! Obviously.

[pregnant pause; then RODGER gets up to take the letter from NORAH; he reads it]

RODGER:     Reese, what is this?

REESE:     Our bank statement, honey.

RODGER:      But why is it in the negative? And why were you hiding it from me?

REESE:     Can we talk about this in private, Rodger?

RODGER:     Answer the question, Reese.

ELIZA:     Look what you did, Norah! Why couldn’t you just do some stupid circus trick like you usually do? Why do you always have to mess everything up?

NORAH:     Me? You’re the one who messed everything up! You’re the reason I can’t go to camp this year! You and your stupid leg!

ELIZA:     What? What do you mean I’m the reason?

REESE:     You’re not, Eliza. I mismanaged some things. It’s not your fault.

CYNTHIA:     Don’t you worry, Eliza. Your mother just can’t handle her own affairs. But I will make sure you always have a place here.

NELL:     A place here? Her place is with her own parents. What’s your place in all this anyway? You were never a mother to us, much less a wife!

CYNTHIA:     Nell, you don’t know what you’re talking about. You never have.

NELL:     Yes, I do. You always tried to make me think that because I was different, I didn’t understand. But I saw you kissing Mr. Dover. And daddy’s golf partner, Ralph. And the gardener.

[a few people gasp and turn to WILL]

WILL:     Don’t look at me!

NELL:     Michael, the gardener when I was in still in high school.

CYNTHIA:     So what if I did? Your father was never around. I know you thought very highly of the senator. But he had his string of secretaries. And I had nothing but my hobbies and an empty house from the time Reese started driving.

REESE:     I think maybe we should all take a breather.

CYNTHIA:     No, I want to explain. Because you don’t understand it ALL. Yes, I married your father because he was senator and he could take care of me. But he married me because I looked good on his arm during campaign season. And how do you think I felt trailing after him at all those congressmen’s parties? I was trying to keep track of the conversation, but I was always surrounded by wives with PhDs in philosophy of art or neuroscience or what-have-you. So I stopped trying to keep up. I had a couple babies and retired to the role of housewife. Then my babies grew up and became lawyers and linguists. And I was proud of them, but I was sad too. Because they left me here alone, just like their father. And I couldn’t keep up with them anymore.

[pregnant pause]

NELL:     “Anecdoche.”

WILL:     What’s that, hun?

NELL:     It means “a conversation in which everyone is talking but nobody is listening.” But I’m listening, mom. I’m listening now.

[CYNTHIA and NELL embrace; RODGER turns to REESE]

RODGER:     So am I. Tell me what we need to fix and we’ll figure it out. Together.

[lights go down]

—End Scene—

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