The Linguist (Scene 9)

For reference, see character thumbnails.

[Nell’s childhood bedroom; NELL is sitting on the bed reading; WILL knocks and enters without waiting for a response]

WILL:     Fancy meeting you here. Watchya readin’? “The Study of American Folklore.” Well, that sounds interesting.

NELL:     It’s about how to categorize folklife, from the material to the verbal, and how to distinguish the characteristics of elite, normative, and folk culture.

WILL:      That sounds…admittedly less interesting. At least for light reading in your freetime.

NELL:     I have a vested interest in understanding more about normative culture.

WILL:     I know.

[knock at the door]

WILL:     Come in!

[ELIZA enters, agitated, then stops as she notices WILL]

ELIZA:     Sorry, I didn’t realize you had company.

WILL:     Don’t mind me! What can we do for ya?

ELIZA:     Well, I guess you could weigh in too, since you’re a Harvard man.

WILL:     Don’t remind me.

ELIZA:     Excuse me?

WILL:     Nevermind. What’s up?

ELIZA:     My mom wants me to go to college.

WILL:     Well, that is serious.

ELIZA:     Look, I’m not sure I want to go. Did college actually do anything for you?

[WILL gestures for NELL to take the lead]

NELL:     Well, I personally found college to be rather refreshing after high school.

ELIZA:     But I’m not like you, Aunt Nell. I like high school. I’d stay if I could.

WILL:     [aside]     Well, there’s a dangerous idea.

NELL:     It’s true, I didn’t like high school that much, but even so, college was when I got to be independent and find my niche in the world. I got to settle into academia like putting on a warm coat…

ELIZA:     Uhm, okay…     [to WILL}     What about you?

WILL:     Well, a lot of it was football for me. But I landed a really good job after I graduated, so I can’t complain.

NELL:     Of course you can. Nothing’s stopping you.

WILL:     It’s an expression.

ELIZA:     Why are you working here then if you landed a good job after college?

WILL:     I got tired of the rat race.

ELIZA:     Why though?

WILL:     I don’t know.

NELL:     Will? You can tell me.

WILL:     I–I guess I just finally figured out that banking wasn’t for me. It was too stuffy. The neckties were too tight. I felt like my father more and more everyday. And that wasn’t a source of pride, it was scary. I just needed a break, okay?

ELIZA:     Yeah, I get that. I don’t want to be like my mom either. And neither does Nell.

NELL:     No, I don’t. But Eliza, your mother is trying very hard to make sure you have a bright future. Just because you don’t agree with her plans, doesn’t mean you need to spite her every chance you get.

ELIZA:     [rising]     What do you know? You don’t understand how to talk to people! Not even your own family!     [she exits]

NELL:     [sighing]     I know. But I’m right anyway.     [turning to WILL]     So what do you want to do now that you’ve “quit the rat race.”

WILL:     I’m doing it.

NELL:     No, you’re not. I know you, Will, and you are wasting yourself here.

WILL:     I can waste myself if I want to. I–I mean, it’s not a waste.

NELL:     It is. I’m not saying you should go back to D.C. Or even that you should work at the Wells Fargo across from Mrs. Dover’s hair salon. But I do think that you should find something better than being my mother’s gardener. Waste yourself on something you love.

WILL:     What about someone?

NELL:     I couldn’t say. I don’t know about people, remember?

WILL:     [he rises and opens the door to leave]     I think you know more than you give yourself credit for.     [he exits]

NELL:     Maybe you’re right.

[lights go down]

—End Scene—

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