When You Have No Class by William Griggs


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ACT I

Time: Monday, 9:30 a.m.

Scene:

The entire action of the play takes place in the faculty lounge of
Campbell Regional High School, which serves students from both a poor
rural section and a small urban section of Burlington County New
Jersey. Two small conference tables split down stage center. They are
cluttered with papers and folders. Three chairs sit behind each table.
An entrance door leading to the lounge is down right. A small,
outdated copy machine sits on a table upstage center. The stage right
wall features a banner that reads: "KNOW YOUR NUMBERS." Below the
sign is a table holding yet more forms, and memos. A microwave oven
and an empty coffee machine sit on a table up right. A small
refrigerator and a plastic container marked "ART SUPPLIES" sit on
a table up left. A door leading to the only restroom in the lounge is
up center and a sign taped to it reads: "PLEASE! KNOCK BEFORE
ENTERING." An intercom speaker hangs above the door to the restroom.
A rather large open window is on the up left wall. Another table at
left is cluttered with yet more paper and two computer monitors with
signs saying "OUT OF ORDER" and "CALL SERVICE: 1-800- NO WORKY.
All of the walls are plastered with outdated memos and announcements.

At Rise:

U.S. History teacher BEN STEINMETZ, early fifties, places the master
to his "Original Colonies" test on the copier's glass, closes
the lid and presses the start button. Nothing happens. He presses
start again, nothing. He pulls out the paper tray, checks it, pushes
it back in, presses start. Nothing. He kneels, pulls the copier's
plug from the wall socket, replaces the plug, stands and presses start
again. Nothing. He shakes his head, puts his hands in his pockets,
turns his back to the machine and walks away calmly. Now at center, he
turns, faces the machine and charges it.

BEN
(Pounding on the Start button of the copier)

YOU MOTHER, SON-OF-A-LOUSY PIECE OF CRAP

(Walking away from the machine, catching his breath)

Three yearsJust keep telling yourselfThree years and you're
out of this dump they call a high school.

ENTER, through door, English teacher LARRY MCCORMICK, early fifties,
carrying a cooler and two large shopping bags filled with groceries.


LARRY
(Placing bags and cooler on left conference table)

Hey, Benny, how's it shakin'? Where were you Saturday?

BEN
(Starting to pay attention)

Saturday?

LARRY
What happened? You haven't missed a tee time since your last
divorce?

BEN
Oh?.ErI lost my clubs.

LARRY
How the hell did you lose your clubs? They've been in the trunk of
your car since Ronald Reagan was president.

BEN
(Taking a seat at the conference table)

Well, technically, they're not lost. They're in the river behind
my townhouse. I shot a lousy game last week, so I went home and tossed
them in the river.

LARRY
Are you nuts? A fifteen-hundred-dollar set of clubs, and you threw
them in the river?

BEN
(Standing, begins to pace and then stare into space)

What's the point, Larry? What's the point of playing golf every
week when you know you're never going to play like Tiger Woods?
After eighteen holes of pure torture, you know what you're gonna'
do? You're gonna' go home to your empty three-bedroom townhouse,
turn on the TV and watch Tiger Woods play like Tiger Woods, that's
what you do. And after Tiger reminds you that you play golf like a
girl scout, you swallow as many pills as it takes to sleep until
Monday morning, just in time to go to work so you can make enough
money to pay for the pills and the mortgage on the empty house. So,
what's the point, Larry? What's the point?

LARRY
(Perplexed)

What point? I actually forgot what we were talking about. Are you
okay?

BEN
Oh, I'm just fine. If people ask, just tell them I lost my clubs,
all right?


LARRY
(Remembering the conversation)

Oh, right. The clubs. The clubs.

BEN
(Noticing the shopping bags)

What's all this? Are we having a picnic?

LARRY
(Removing several items from one of the bags)

I quit smoking today.

BEN
(Searching through the other bag)

Except for feminine napkins, you've got the entire third aisle of
Shop Rite in this bag. Is this how Martha Stewart quit smoking?

LARRY
(Still removing items)

Whenever I try to quit, instead of smoking I eat.

BEN
(Examining the items as they come out of the bags)

Yeah, but you always go back to smoking.

LARRY
Because I always run out of food. (Pointing to the bags, cooler and
food) That won't happen this time. Do me a favor and put the
mayonnaise, the diet soda and the 'I Can't Believe It's Not
Butter' in the fridge.

BEN
(Picking up the mayonnaise, the diet soda and the 'I Can't Believe
It's Not Butter')

I can't believe they let you out of the house every morning. (He
walks to the fridge and begins placing the groceries in it.)

LARRY
You may think I'm crazy, but my doctor says that by quitting today,
I'll add twenty years to my life. Besides, smoking costs me more
than ten dollars a day.

BEN
(Back at table)

You're right. It makes perfect sense.

LARRY
Damn right it does.

BEN
Yessiree. You're a bright guy, Larry. You're replacing a
ten-dollar-a-day habit with one that costs fifty dollars and'll give
you a heart attack by Thursday.(HE takes a seat at the table and
looks at his watch) I hate this new schedule.

LARRY
(Opening a bag of pretzels)

What's not to like? Instead of six classes a day, we have three. And
how can you not like a ninety-minute free period and a forty-minute
lunch? (HE starts eating a pretzel.)

BEN
(HE stands and starts pacing again)

Because it's just not right, that's why. And because that moron
Bettis, that creep of a new principal, started this ninety-minute
crap.

LARRY
(Alarmed, looking in all directions as if someone might be listening)

For Christ sakes keep it down, will 'ya? (Pointing to intercom
speaker, whispering) You know he likes to listen in on things up
here.

BEN
(To Intercom)

I hope you're taking notes you crazy son of a bitch! It's me, Ben
Stein-METZ, not Stein-FELD! (To LARRY) You know, he's sent me twelve
memos since he's been here. Twelve memos in two weeks, and he
hasn't got my name right once. (Turning again to the intercom) You
god damn nazi!

LARRY
(Standing, grabbing BEN by the arm and placing him in a chair)

All right, all right.just calm down, will ya? Before we both get in
trouble just calm down…(Reaching for pretzels) Here. Have a pretzel.
You want a pretzel? Or how about some cheese curls?

BEN
No. I don't want to eat. Keep your pretzels, your cheese curls and
your Baby Ruth bars to yourself. I'll gain enough weight watching
you eat.

LARRY
Hey! Don't take whatever's bothering you out on me(He unwraps a
Baby Ruth bar and takes a bite)Anyway, what did you do to make
Bettis send you twelve memos?

BEN
Forms. I'm not sending the thirty-two daily forms he wants to his
office. And the forms I do send aren't filled out right. Forms and
memos. That's all he cares about. He's got the personality of a
paper clip.

LARRY
That reminds me. (Standing, walking right to the table of forms) I
need some late forms. (Searching the table) Hey, what's the number
on the late forms?

BEN
Eighty-three-fourteen. They used to be difficult to find because the
first two words in capital letters said 'LATE FORM.' Welcome to
the world of Bettis: there are no words, just numbers.

LARRY
(Finding only one eighty-three-fourteen)

Ah Jeez! There's only one left. (Walking to copier) I guess I'll
have to make copies. (He walks to the copy machine)

BEN
Have fun.

LARRY
(Retrieving BEN's master from the copier's glass)

Is this your Original Colonies test?

BEN
That would be mine, yes.

LARRY
(Walking to Ben's side and placing the test on the table)

I'm always picking up after you. I have an entire folder filled with
your tests in my desk. Did you know that?

BEN
You're starting to sound like my ex-wife.

LARRY
Which one?

BEN
The schizophrenic.


LARRY
(Placing the eighty-three-fourteen on the copier's glass)

Hee, heeThat one was a real piece of work. (He presses the start
button and nothing happens) Hey, what's with this copier? (He pulls
out the paper tray and pushes it back in. He presses start again to no
avail. To BEN) Can you help me with this? You're good at these
things.

BEN
(Looking straight ahead)

Pull the plug.

LARRY
But if I pull the-

BEN
Just pull the plug.

(LARRY stoops and pulls the plug. HE stands up, puts his hands on his
hips)

LARRY
There. I pulled the plug.

(BEN, in deliberate fashion, stands, turns, walks to the copier, picks
it up in his hands, gives LARRY a look, walks to the open window, and
heaves the copier. LARRY, who has followed him to the window, brushes
him aside, looks out the window. A crashing sound is heard. LARRY
turns back from the window and gives BEN a serious look.)

LARRY
(Walking swiftly back to left table, taking another bite out of the
Baby Ruth bar)

And I had to pick today to quit smoking.

BEN
(Examining his hands)

I've got to wash my hands. (He walks to the bathroom door)

LARRY
Do us all a favor, Chief Bromden, and leave the sink attached to the
wall.

(Pops the remainder of the candy bar in his mouth and chews
nervously)


BEN
(Waving LARRY's comment asside)

Ahhh

(BEN opens the bathroom door without knocking. A WOMAN screams. HE
slams the door shut.)

WOMAN
(OFF)

Can't you read!?

LARRY
(Matter-of-factly)

Who was it this time?

(Sound of toilet flushing)

BEN
Carol.

LARRY
Oh, boy! You should have knocked.

BEN
It's not like I saw anything. What's the big deal?

(ENTER, from bathroom, CAROL VANHOLT, a shapely 38-year-old history
teacher who hides her beauty with an ankle-length skirt and a fully
buttoned blouse. She wears "cat's-eye" rimmed glasses and her
hair is tied tightly in a bun.)

CAROL
Really, Mr. Steinmetz, where are your manners?

BEN
I left them in my carI'm sorry, Carol. I should have knocked.

CAROL
(Pointing to sign on bathroom door)

You should have read. (Walking to right table) Signs are placed for
reasons, you know. (She takes a seat at the table)

(BEN EXITS to bathroom. CAROL begins to massage her neck)

LARRY
(HE unwraps an Italian hoagie and is about to take a bite when he
notices that CAROL is in pain.)

Are you all right, Carol?

CAROL
He scared me to death. I think I suffered a whiplash.


LARRY
Can I get you something?

CAROL
Do you have a tylenol or, perhaps, a muscle relaxer.

LARRY
Sorry, no pills. (Offering her his hoagie) How about an Italian
hoagie? I've got one with extra oil and one with mayonnaise.

CAROL
I take it you quit smoking again.

LARRY
You don't miss a trick, do you Carol? You know, you were the
brightest student I ever had. (Whispering) And the smartest teacher
here, I might add. (He takes a large bite from the hoagie)

CAROL
Thank you, Mr. McCormick. That's quite kind of you. (She stands and
takes a few steps toward bathroom) I'm worried about him.

LARRY
(His mouth is full)

Bahh?

CAROL
I'm afraid he's losing his mind.

LARRY
(His mouth is still full. Waving off CAROL'S concern.)

Ah, hi mof hif mah yif ahmo.

(Somehow, CAROL understands that LARRY just said, "Ah, he lost his
mind years ago.")

CAROL
Of course. Everybody thinks he's been crazy since birth. But
lately-

(CAROL stops talking when BEN exits the bathroom. THEY stare at each
other.)

BEN
What?

CAROL
Oh, nothing. Nothing. (She turns and walks back to center right table.
Massaging her neck, she takes a seat and begins grading papers.)


BEN
(To LARRY)

What's wrong with her?

LARRY
(He has finally swallowed)

She pulled a muscle in her neck when you barged in.

BEN
Ah Jeez! (He takes a few steps toward CAROL) Are you okay Carol?

CAROL
(Turning toward BEN, she feels a sharp pain in her neck.)

Ow!

BEN
(Moving quickly to her side)

Damn! I'm sorry Carol. Here, let me massage it for you. My ex-wife
said I gave great massages.

LARRY
Which one?

BEN
The older twin(HE begins to massage HER neck. CAROL takes pleasure
in the massage, but only briefly, then SHE removes HIS hands.)
What's the problem? Did I hurt you?

CAROL
NoI just think that it isn't proper for you to be touching me in
that manner.

BEN
What manner? Jesus, Carol, I didn't mean anything by it. I felt bad
about your neck, that's all.

CAROL
Well, Mr.-

BEN
(Raising his voice)

It's Ben. When are you going to stop calling me by my last name? I
stopped being your teacher twenty years ago, and you've been
teaching with me for fifteen years.

LARRY
Oh, boy. Here we go again.


CAROL
(Raising her voice.)

What is so wrong with showing my colleagues the respect they deserve?

BEN
Stop it with the 'colleague' nonsense! In case you haven't
noticed, the walls of this dump aren't covered in ivy. Plenty of
bird crap, but no ivy!

LARRY
Settle down, both of you!

CAROL
Why must you constantly criticize the language I use and the manner in
which I choose to communicate?

BEN
What happened to you Carol? Twenty years ago you were this bright,
vivacious hippie cheerleader. Four years at Dartmouth and you come
back looking and sounding like William F. Buckley.

LARRY
All right, that's enough, Ben. You're way out of line. Why don't
you go for a walk and calm down. Or how about some M&Ms? (Searching
through bag.) I've got plain and peanut.

BEN
Offer me food one more time and I'll shove a bag of peanuts up your
nose.

LARRY
(Retrieving two bags of peanuts from bag)

Shelled or unshelled?

(ENTER mathematics teacher SIDNEY BAUMGARTNER. HE is in obvious pain,
groaning and holding HIS stomach.)

SIDNEY
I think I just crapped a frying pan!

BEN, LARRY &CAROL
Ah, Jeez! Can't you see I'm eating here? You are disgusting!

SIDNEY
I couldn't even make it up here. I had to use the boys' room down
stairs, the one with the open stalls. Talk about embarrassingOh,
God, I think I have to go again.

BEN
(Returning to center left table.)

Good. Larry could use a crock-pot.

[end of extract]



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