The Linguist (Scene 6)

For reference, see character thumbnails.

[outside Abbott estate; NELL enters, fuming]

NELL:     [muttering]     William Farris working here? As a gardener? The football player, the half-back, number 47, scored two touchdowns in the championship against the Barrow Bulldoggs during his senior year, scouted by representatives from Harvard and Yale? Six foot three with dark hair, tan skin, and blue eyes—

WILL:     [walking on stage]     Did someone call me?

NELL:     [jumping]     What? No, I—no.

WILL:     That’s odd. Could’ve sworn I heard someone talking ‘bout my baby blues.     [beat]     Well, I best get back to work.     [makes to leave]

NELL:     “Gnossienne.”

WILL:     What’s that now?

NELL:     “Gnossience,” A moment of awareness that someone you have known for years still has a private and mysterious inner life.

WILL:     Oh, there’s no mystery about me.

NELL:     Then why are you here working as a gardener instead of at Harvard?

WILL:     I did go to Harvard. I worked in a bank for a while. It’s been fifteen years since high school, Nell.

NELL:     I still pictured you there for some inescapable reason. But that does not explain what you are doing here now.

[long pause; NELL shows no sign of feeling awkward about this]

WILL:     I just got tired of the rat race.

NELL:     A euphemism which means—

WILL:     [laughing]     I remember how much you used to hate euphemisms.

NELL:      I have since learned that they are a necessary part of human interaction and conversation.

WILL:     But you still don’t like ‘em, do you?

NELL:     Nope. [beat; she laughs]

WILL:     That’s nice to hear again.

NELL:     You’re the only one who ever made me laugh.

[pregnant pause]

WILL:     Well, that’s high praise if I ever heard it.     [tips his baseball cap]     How’ve you been Nell? I hope you haven’t holed yourself up in some apartment in the city like you used to do here.

NELL:     I keep busy.

WILL:     Why? Are you afraid to be alone with yourself? Or…?

NELL:     Mostly because my work alleviates my sense of pâro—But I will not bother you with that.

WILL:     C’mon, tell me. I love learning new words. Keeps the brain sharp.

NELL:     It is the feeling that no matter what you do, it is always somehow wrong. That any attempt to make your way comfortably through the world will only end up crossing some invisible taboo, as if there is some obvious way forward that everybody else can see but you.

WILL:     [low whistle]     Well, I think everybody feels like that sometimes.

NELL:     You do not understand. Everyone else can see the invisible line! If they do something wrong, they see the mistake and correct it. No one has to point it out and explain it to you like they are talking to a child. These mistakes are solitary incidents, not at every moment of the day. It’s like I am a foreigner in a sea of natives and I don’t speak the language

WILL:     [aside]     Hard to imagine a language you don’t know.

NELL:     Every move I make is some obscene gesture, misinterpreted, ostracizing me from the culture. From my own family even, forever a stranger in a strange land trying to

[WILL pulls her into a fervent kiss; NELL shoves him away after a moment, stares at him, then runs offstage; lights fade; transition to inside Abbott estate; lights come up; CYNTHIA and REESE are at the kitchen table peeling potatoes]

REESE:     You really shouldn’t have pushed her buttons like that.

CYNTHIA:     Well they aren’t in the normal places, are they?     [beat]     Give that here, you’re too slow.

[CYNTHIA snatches the potatoe from REESE; REESE looks like she is about to say something, then stops herself]

REESE:     Mom…do you have any idea how much Nell and I are going to get?

CYNTHIA:     No…your father kept the books. Or his secretary did at least. What was her name? Jessica? Jennifer? Something trashy and common, I’m sure. At any rate, it certainly wasn’t me.

REESE:     Well, I guess we’re not going to know until Monday.

CYNTHIA:     We can’t expect Milton and Milton to stay open over Easter weekend.

REESE:     I know. But the suspense is killing me…

[NORAH enters wearing pajamas and holding a book]

NORAH:     Mom? Can we read the next chapter of Silver Chair? I want to know if the giants eat Puddleglum.

REESE:     Of course, sweetie. Though I’m sure he would say that being eaten by giants isn’t the worst thing that could happen.

[REESE rises and follows NORAH out]

NORAH:     [from offstage]     What’s worse than being someone’s soup?

[NELL comes onstage from outside, muttering to herself]

CYNTHIA:     Dinner was at 6:30, young lady.

[NELL ignores this proclamation and crosses to the opposite side of the stage and exits towards her old room; lights down]

—End Scene—

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