Jack and Jill and the Human Race by Michael Riordan


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SCENE 1: THE RACE WALKERS

      JACK: (breathing heavily as he is attempts to catch up with Jillian.
      He appears to be trying to ‘race walk’, but his efforts are
      comical—especially his last hop.) Jillian, (gasping) back here.

      JILLIAN: Jack, what are you doing here?”
      (Jillian turns back to see Jack. He is wearing what looks to be
      pajamas, and she notices little white rocket ships and stars imprinted
      on an otherwise midnight blue outfit. He has a small khaki backpack
      slung over his shoulder. Instead of a headband, Jack has wrapped his
      head in something left over from The Karate Kid.)

      JACK: What does it look like?

      JILLIAN: You don’t want to know, Jack.

      JACK: I’m training, Jillian. Can’t you tell? (Jack appears to be
      exhausted, can barely get the words out) I’m training for the big
      race. Uh, can you slow down just a little bit?

      JILLIAN: I didn’t know you were a race walker, Jack.

      JACK: Well, I didn’t know anyone could walk so fast. (He takes
      another little hop to be abreast with Jillian)

      JILLIAN: You just cheated, Jack.

      JACK: Yeah, well, I wanted to talk to you. Besides, I feel kind of
      silly. I mean, it’s ridiculous when you think about it: a race to see
      who can walk the fastest. If you ask me, walking fast is like running
      slow—only a lot sillier. I mean, just look at me.

      JILLIAN: Sorry, Jack. I can’t giggle and walk fast at the same time.
      And there’s nothing silly about it. Race walking is all about
      self-control, about patience and endurance…discipline,
      perseverance—it’s really about Life, Jack.

      JACK: It’s really about time I stopped, Jillian. What it’s about
      is Death—mine, if I don’t stop this right now.”

      (Jack collapses in a heap on the ‘track’ before propping himself
      up on two skinny arms. He appears to be struggling for air. Jillian
      stops too, consults her stopwatch before squirting a drink of water
      from a pink plastic container. She then offers a drink to Jack.)

      JACK: No thanks. (he waves his tired had slightly) I’ve got my own.
      (Jack guzzles from a giant plastic bottle of cola.)

      JILLIAN: Jack, (She shakes her head in disgust.) that stuff will kill
      you.

      JACK: I know. It’ll rot my teeth and dissolve my chicken bones.
      Remember, Jill? Remember when Mr. Porter put the chicken leg in the
      bottle of Coke, and we had to observe it each day? Remember? I was
      your lab partner.

      JILLIAN: Oh, I remember, all right. But I think you are missing the
      point, Jack. The chicken bone started to dissolve, eaten away by the
      chemicals—you better give up that poison before it’s too late.

      JACK: I know. You’re right of course. (He takes a swig) But it’s
      so refreshing…and it tastes so good with a cigarette.

      JILLIAN: Very funny, Jack. OK. You said you wanted to talk to me. So
      what did you want to talk about?

      JILLIAN: Well, uh. right. I said I wanted to talk to you. I do. (He
      wipes his mouth with a sleeve.) But I didn’t say I had anything in
      particular to talk about. I was, uh, hoping you’d take care of that
      part of it.

      JILLIAN: (sighs) I should have known better. Really, Jack, we’ve known
      each other since kindergarten and you’ve always been the
      same—different—very different. I mean, look at you, you’re—uh,
      never mind.

      JACK: Oh, don’t stop, Jillian. Go on. What were you going to say?
      I’m what?

      JILLIAN: Well, OK. Jack. It’s difficult for me to say this, but
      you’re pathetic. You’re undisciplined, immature, sloppy,
      unmotivated, academically challenged. Jack, this is hard for me to say
      all this—

      JACK:—you seem to be doing just fine, Jill.

      JILLIAN: Ok Jack, you’re socially inept. You’re directionless—I
      mean, you don’t seem to know where you’re going in life or what
      you want—

      JACK: —Now, just hold it right there, Jillian. Just tell me one
      thing, Miss Know-it-All. (Beat) Uh, what does ‘inept’ mean?

      JILLIAN: Inept, Jack, unable to do just about anything. Oh sure, you
      try things. But you never finish. Your school record tells the
      pathetic story—incomplete.  The alphabet, Jack! You never learned
      your alphabet in kindergarten like the rest of us. Sixteen, seventeen
      letters—that was enough for you.

      JACK: Now wait, Jillian, you must admit that a lot of those letters in
      the alphabet are totally useless. You take ‘x’ for example. Just
      how many words can—

      JILLIAN: —No, you take ‘x’ Jack and use it to cross off your
      place in the world. A big ‘x’. And you’ve had the nerve to keep
      hanging around me.

      JACK: Jillian, we’ve spent many beautiful hours together. How can
      you forget all the stuff we’ve done together in school?

      JILLIAN: Yeah, I remember stuff, Jack. I remember because I usually
      got stuck with you. I especially remember the geography project in
      Grade 5. (Jack suddenly turns away in embarrassment.) You remember
      that, don’t you Jack? We were supposed to do a series of relief maps
      of all the continents of the worlds. I agreed to do Asia, Africa,
      Australia and Antarctica - all the A’s—and all you had to do were
      the rest, the remaining three continents. You recall that, don’t you
      Jack?

      JACK: I did three.

      JILLIAN: Yeah, sure: North America, South America and—what was that
      third one, Jack?

      JACK: East America.

      JILLIAN: East America, Jack? How could you forget Europe,
      Jack—it’s a fairly significant land mass? But, no. Your world was
      incomplete, missing something…and all these years later you’re
      still the same, Jack.

      JACK: (He is both embarrassed and defensive) You have to remember,
      Jillian, that I was more or less working off the top of my head. You
      know, from memory. Yeah sure, I know the East America thing was a
      little wrong, but I thought—under the circumstances—it was a pretty
      creative alternative. Probably saved our grade.

      JILLIAN: Jack, we got a D’—the only D’ in my entire academic
      career, and I’ve only got you to thank for it, Jack. But that bad
      grade stands there as a reminder, Jack - D for “Don’t get mixed up
      with you.”—D for ‘Danger - the incomplete man is just around the
      corner, just creeping up behind me.’  Don’t talk to me about the big
      race, Jack. By the time the rest of us are finished, you’ll still be
      learning to walk.

      (Jillian stands, arms folded)

      JACK: Admit it. You really do like me, don’t you Jill? (he smiles,
      hoping Jillian will soften up.)

      JILLIAN: Yeah, sure, I like you. But just stay away from me, will
      you?

      JACK: Jillian, you know I’m not so bad. I’m just, you know, trying
      to find myself.

      JILLIAN: Yeah, well, I’ll just go up ahead and organize a search
      party. Now, Jack, listen carefully. And this is just from
      memory—like, ‘off the top of my head’—if you just go forward
      about fifty paces, you’ll end up back at the locker room. Oh, and
      try not to get lost and end up in East America!”
      (Jack watches Jillian walk away.)

      JACK: (alone on stage) Yes. She’s right about me. I am incomplete.
      That is, I’m not finished yet. But I don’t think that’s wrong. I mean,
      in any race you have to start somewhere. Right? And maybe I’m just
      starting a little bit behind everyone. And I do start and stop a lot,
      I admit that. But I get distracted—especially at school. Don’t get me
      wrong. School is very important and all that, and in my own way I like
      it. And in my own way I’ve learned a lot.
      I mean, I don’t like school the way Jillian likes it. I like it the
      way you’re supposed to like it. You know, like the way you’re supposed
      to like vegetables. I sort of nibble, push it all around on my plate a
      bit. Jillian loves school. She breathes it in, sucks it into her lungs
      like oxygen. She thrives on school. I might be academically
      ‘challenged.’, but I do appreciate school. I always have, but in
      my own way. Even when I was little—eight or nine—I appreciated it.
      I remember when my mom and I were going through a rather rough time.
      My parents had split a couple of years earlier—so it was just Mom
      and me. And then I got sick.

      SCENE 2: A FLASHBACK

      JACK’S MOM: (On phone) Yes, doctor, thank you for your call.  I’ll
      tell Jacky today. How do I think he’ll take the news? Well, when I
      explain it to him, I’m sure he’ll understand. After all, it’s a rather
      common childhood disease, as you said. I will certainly make sure he
      gets plenty of rest.
      (There is a knocking at the front door)
      Yes, Doctor. Thank you very much. Good-bye.

      JILLIAN: Good morning, Mrs. Taylor. Can Jacky walk to school with me
      today? Can he, huh? Can he?

      JACK’S MOM: Come in, Jillian (Pause) Jillian, I’m afraid Jack’s
      illness is a little more serious than we first thought; he won’t be
      walking to school with you anymore.

      JILLIAN: Oh, is Jacky dead, Mrs. Taylor? Is he dead? Is he? Is he? Can
      I see his body? I’ve never been to a funeral before—except for the
      one I gave my turtle, Jerry, after he got run over by a truck.

      JACK’S MOM:No, Jillian, you don’t understand, you see -
      (Jack enters)

      JACK: Mom, have you seen my other shoe?
      (Jillian screams when she sees Jack very much alive.)
      What’s the matter with her?

      JACK’S MOM: Jack, that was Doctor Frank on the phone, and I’m afraid
      the blood tests show that you have an illness called rheumatic fever.
      Now it can be serious if you do not follow his advice. You’ll need to
      have some medicine every day for a while, and you have to get plenty
      of rest. But Jacky, I’m afraid you won’t be able to attend school for
      the rest of the year.

      JILLIAN: You mean Jacky is not going to die?

      JACK’S MOM: Jillian, perhaps you better run along to school. You’ll
      be able to visit Jacky from time to time.

      JILLIAN: Yeah, okay. Bye ... (She exits)

      JACK: Mom, back up, back up. Can you repeat what you just said?

      JACK’S MOM: Well, rheumatic fever is a disease that affects –

      JACK: No, not that part. The last part, the last part.

      JACK’S MOM: Well, I said that you won’t be attending school for the
      rest of the year.
      (Stunned by the news, Jack collapses into his chair)

      JACK’S MOM: Are you all right, Jacky?

      JACK: What? Yes. I just need to be left alone for a while, Mom.

      JACK’S MOM: Yes, of course. I understand. This is a shock to you,
      Jacky. 
      (Mom exits)

      (Jack does a perfect cartwheel, or jumps for joy, looks to the sky)

      JACK: (alone on stage) Imagine it! No school for the rest of the year!
      There I was doing cart-wheels, rolling around in my free time. Three
      cheers for rheumatic fever, whatever that was. But there was a slight
      catch. Mom and the doctor insisted that I had to stay in bed all the
      time, except for going to the bathroom for, you know. Well OK. I could
      handle that. After all, it was a small price to pay for unlimited
      freedom.
      At first it was great. I watched Jillian walk to school. “Oh, going to
      school, are you?” I taunted. My hands were clasped behind my head as I
      watched from my window. “Did I tell you, I won’t have to go to school
      for the rest of the year?”
      “Well, Jillian,” I shouted. “You have a good time at school!” My smile
      often became a chortle. I couldn’t help myself. I watched Jillian
      until she disappeared. Then I fluffed up my pillow and prepared to
      luxuriate in a bath of laziness.
      I wasn’t allowed to watch T.V. until after 3 o’clock, but I read
      books, listened to music, drew pictures, played with clay—everything
      I could think of. I looked at the clock. Uh Oh. It was only 9.30 A.M.
      So I played some more, read, drew pictures…but something was wrong.
      My fun-boat had sprung a leak. It was filling up with boredom. No,
      this can’t be. For a fleeting moment the thought of missing school
      scampered across my brain. ‘I must be going mad,’ I said to
      myself. I broke out in a cold sweat of panic. Over the next days and
      weeks, my boredom only got worse. I became more and more pathetic
      ....

      JACK: (Pressing nose against imaginary window) Going to school,
      Jillian? Why don’t you stop and tell me about it? What’s that
      you’re doing with your mouth? You’re smiling, Jillian.
      (Jack’s mom enters with a breakfast tray.)

      JACK’S MOM: Jacky Dear, please try to keep your away from the window
      pane.  I keep having to wipe away your nose-print.

      JACK: (Looking down at his cereal bowl) What – Toastee Oatees
      again!? (Jacky’s mom exits.) Here I am, growing pale and soggy like
      my Toastee Oatees.
      (Jack reaches for a plastic squirt gun. He squirts himself in-the
      head.)

      My squirt gun had a range of thirty feet. My lizard Doris and my
      parakeet Rocky were not safe. I started to feel like I was in prison—
      a prison of boredom. All I had was my imagination, and that was
      filling up with rebellious thoughts and dialog from some of the old
      movies I was watching. I pretended I was an old movie gangster, and I
      squirted my two pets unmercifully:
      “I’ll get you, coppers. Keep me from going to school, will you? Wipe
      that grin off your face, Flatfoot!” My parakeet Rocky would often
      cower in his cage or hang on his perch upside down, thinking I
      couldn’t see him. I was pretty sure my lizard Doris had developed an
      identity crisis. She thought she was a fish.

[End of Extract]


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