JOYRIDE, by John Enright

 

SCENE ONE

An office.BILL, 45, and JERRY, 30, are talking.

 

BILL

Iím meeting with the CEO at eight.

 

JERRY

A.M. or P.M.?

 

†††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† BILL

††††††††††††††††††††††††† P.M.Tonight.

 

JERRY

†††††††††††††††††† †††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† Thatís late.

 

BILL

He doesnít think so.Working long hard days

Is how he got his job.It often pays

To make an extra effort- if you follow

My meaning.

 

JERRY

††††††††††††† I donít think I want to swallow

Your message whole.I want to have a life.

 

BILL

Just wait a minute.Do you have a wife?

 

JERRY

UmmÖ no.

 

BILL

†††††† †††† †††††A girlfriend, then?

 

JERRY

††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††††UmmÖ no.

 

BILL

††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† Then are

You gay?

 

JERRY

UmmÖ no.

 

BILL

††††††††††† ††††††††††† Then whereís this shining star

You call your life?You sound like youíre a dreamer,

Pining away.Meanwhile, some bold schemer

Is scoring with the girl you just envision.

 

 

JERRY

Iím doing fine.Please spare me your derision.

As I recall, youíre single too.

 

BILL

††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† Divorced.

It wasnít pretty.I felt quite outsourced.

But I was married and we made two kids,

Two lovely kids, before we hit the skids.

A big chunk of my paycheck goes for their

Support.And hereís what really isnít fair:

Their motherís turned them both against me.Where

Is the justice in that?I pay my share,

And in return Iíd like my kids to care

About me too.Is that too much to ask?

 

JERRY

Iíd say that every dad expects to bask

In admiration from their children, but

Iíd also say that money isnít what

Inspires their adoration.

 

BILL

††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† When theyíre grown

Theyíll understand.When all the facts are known,

Thereíll be a reckoning, a restitution.

Theyíll thank me for my weighty contribution.

 

JERRY

I hope it all works out.

 

BILL

††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† At any rate,

As I began to say, tonight at eight

Iím meeting with the CEO concerning

The slump in overseas investment earning

That showed up in our second quarter data.

You worked on that, Iím hoping you can wait a

While at your desk tonight - say until nine.

After nine - assume it all went fine

And head on home.But hang till then in case

We need more extracts from your database.

Thatís not a problem, is it?

JERRY

††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† No.Iíll stay.

 

BILL

And by the way, the company will pay

Your dinner bill, since itís at our request

Youíre staying here so late, and Iíd suggest

You go ahead and splurge a little bit.

Just turn the voucher into me, and it

Will be approved.

 

JERRY

Wonít Cooper think thatís strange?

 

BILL

Donít worry.Heís your boss, but Iíll arrange

A small exception, since this is a favor

Youíre doing me.Think of it as a waiver

From Cooperís cheapskate ways, and simply savor

The taste of my largesse.

 

JERRY

††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††† Why thanks, I might

Just take you up on that.

 

BILL

††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††† Yes.Take a bite

Of life, on me.Thereís an Italian place

Just up the road; itís a good choice in case

You happen to get stuck here after ten.

Iíve walked in at eleven.Even then

They seated me and treated me like royalty.

They know how to reward customer loyalty.

Tell them I sent you , and youíll get a meal.

Itís name is Pagliacciís.Try the veal.

Oh, thereís one more thing I meant to mention -

You will not be alone in your detention.

My new assistantís staying here as well.

 

JERRY

I donít believe Iíve met him.

 

BILL

††††††††††† I can tell.

 

JERRY

Howís that?

 

BILL

††††††††††† ††††††††††† Because itís not a him.Itís her.

I think youíd notice that.So I inferÖ

 

JERRY

I see.

 

BILL

†††††††††You will.I was her manager

Before, when I was still in auditing.

And now Iíve pulled some strings so I could bring

Her here. Sheís good.She makes a spreadsheet sing.

Her name is Beth.

 

JERRY

††††††††††††††††††††††††††† The odds are high Iíve met her,

But donít recallÖ

 

BILL

††††††††††††††††††††††††† I couldnít ask for better.

Sheís smart and driven.†† One more favor, Jerry:

The parking lot, when it gets dark, is scary.

Could you make sure to walk her to her car?

So sheíll feel safe.†† You know how women are.

 

JERRY

No problem.Hey, does she get dinner, too?

 

BILL

Of course.

 

JERRY

††††††††† †††††††Well, maybe I can ask herÖ

 

BILL

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††You?

There is no harm in asking, but youíll find

That sheís a girl with business on her mind,

Who carefully and wisely has declined

To date fellow employees, out of fear

Of overcomplicating her career.

 

JERRY

So she refuses to be wined and dined?

 

BILL

I donít mean that Iíve asked her, but Iíve heard

Her talk emphatically upon these themes

In phone calls with her mother.All her dreams

Are centered on becoming a success.

Iíve heard her say she wonít date men unless

Sheís sure that they wonít bog her down at all.

 

JERRY

Yeesh.Not my type.Well, if you need to call,

Iíll be here.

 

BILL

††††††† Thanks.

 

JERRY

†††††††††††† But I cannot envision

My scoring big with Beth.

 

BILL

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† A wise decision.

††††††††††† ††††††††††† Blackout.


SCENE TWO

 

The same.The next morning.JERRY is talking to BETH, an attractive woman, about 27.†††††††††††

 

JERRY

(with jesting formality)

Good morning, Miss McNulty.How are you?

 

BETH

††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† (jesting in return)

When did you learn my last name?Beth will do.

 

JERRY

You don't like Liz or Betty?

 

BETH

No, I don't.

Don't even say those names.

 

JERRY

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Okay, I won't.

 

BETH

††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††† (with distaste)

I had an uncle that used to call me Liz.

 

JERRY

Would I be right in guessing that he is

Not quite your favorite uncle?

 

BETH

††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††Well, he's dead.

 

JERRY

Oh, sorry.

 

BETH

††††††††††††††† Don't be.

 

JERRY

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Why not?

 

BETH

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† (reluctant, then bursting forth†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Uncle Ted

Did something bad to me when I was ten.

 

JERRY

Oh, sorry.

 

BETH

††††††††††††† Don't be.Don't be sorry again.

There's too much sorry in the world already.

 

JERRY

Okay, then.I'm not sorry.

 

BETH

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† About last night...

 

JERRY

Yeah.How about it!

 

BETH

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Perhaps it wasn't right

For me to lead you on like that.

 

JERRY

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Like what?

Besides, I liked it.

 

BETH

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Like a little slut.

 

JERRY

Who?Me or you?

 

BETH

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Regardless, I don't think

That it would be advisable to link

Up in the future the way we did last night.

 

JERRY

Advisable?Is this about that bite?

 

BETH

I want you to know that's never happened before.

 

JERRY

Really?I'm flattered.

 

BETH

Is your shoulder sore?

 

JERRY

It smarts.How would lunch be?

 

BETH

I told you no.

 

JERRY

Just lunch.No games.Just talk.We'll even go

Fast food or something.Totally unromantic.

No charm.No atmosphere.

 

BETH

†††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† I think we can pick

Some place with better food that's simply quiet...

Wait.No.No lunch.I said -

 

JERRY

††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† C'mon.Just try it.

 

BETH

That's what you said last night.

 

JERRY

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† You really looked

Like you enjoyed yourself.

 

BETH

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† I could get hooked.

You know that.But it isn't in my plans.

I've got a career here.Why should some man's

Attractiveness wreck that?We had some fun.

Let's leave it there.

 

JERRY

††††††††††††††††††††††† But what if you're the one?

The one for me.The one that I was born

To love.

 

BETH

†††††††††† Oh please.Grow up.

 

JERRY

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Don't pour your scorn

Out on my dreams like that - like lemon juice

Into a wounded heart.

 

BETH

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Let's have a truce.

I won't make fun of your romantic dreams,

If you will keep them to yourself.That seems

A fair exchange.

 

JERRY

††††††††††††††††††††††††† That's no exchange at all.

A frank exchange of views - of dreams.I'd call

That fair.I think we owe each other more

Than thanks for mutual pleasure.Don't ignore

The meaning of that pleasure.

 

BETH

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Pleasure means

Plenty to me.But such passionate scenes

As we enacted in my bed are not

A substitute for income.What we've got

Here -- jobs -- come first.Without gainful employment

We'll be out on the street -- and sexual enjoyment

Will be the last thing on our minds.How many

Intimate entanglements -- if any --

Do homeless people have per week?

 

JERRY

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Oh, please.

Talk about sharing wild fantasies!

Nobodyís going to get fired, and if we did,

So what?There's lots of jobs out there.

 

BETH

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Don't kid

Yourself.It's not always that easy.

 

JERRY

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† You're

Just freaking out.And I'm not really sure

What it's about.Is this some kind of guilt

Trip after the joyride?

 

BETH

(becoming visibly upset)

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Okay.You've built

A wonderful defense.It's all my fault.

Your ego's safe.A woman dares to jilt

You?Just launch an analytical assault

Upon her motivation.Rip her soul

To shreds and run the pieces up a pole.

Then ask : "what kind of woman could this be

Who wouldn't want to spend the night with me?"

 

Enter Bill

 

JERRY

I think you are a beautiful debater.

But, whoa, here comes your boss, I'll see you later.

 

Exit Jerry

 

BILL

I'm sorry.Was I interrupting something?

 

BETH

Not really.

 

BILL

††††††††††††††††††† Good.Because it's just a dumb thing

I need to ask.The numbers that you gave

To me last week, did you happen to save

A copy?

 

BETH

†† Yes.Of course.

 

BILL

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Well then...You know

Today you seem to have a certain glow.

 

BETH

Oh.Really?

 

BILL

††††††††††††††††††††† Oh, yes, really.So if you could

Give me those numbers again then I would

Be grateful.Very grateful.

 

BETH

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Why so grateful?

 

BILL

Two reasons.First, I'm busy.I've a plateful

Of things to do.And secondly...But speaking

Ofplatefuls, hot sauce has a way of leaking

All over.I must ask about your dinner.

 

BETH

My dinner?

 

BILL

†††††††††††††††††††† Yes.Last night.Was it a winner?

I hear that you two shared a cozy table

At Pagliacci's, and that you were able

To polish off two bottles of Chablis

Before departing arm in arm.

 

BETH

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Did HE

Tell you all this?Has he been bragging

About his virtuoso feat of dragging

Me into bed?

 

BILL

†††††††††††††††††††† I heard it from the waiter,

When I arrived about an hour later

After you left.Somehow it didn't sound

Like you were dragged.Or were you gagged and bound?

And if you were, was it against your will?

 

BETH

Against my better judgment.Listen, Bill,

You know the way I am.

 

BILL

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Indeed.I do.†††††††

 

BETH

I'm not the type to lose my head.

 

BILL

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Who?You?

 

BETH

I'm not the type to fall in bed.

 

BILL

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† What?Fall?

 

BETH

I mean, I might jump in and have a ball,

But at my choosing, after careful thought.

 

BILL

And this time?

 

BETH

This time, somehow, I got caught

In passion that was not so rational,

Desire that was simply smashing all

My plans to bits in pounding waves of pleasure.

 

BILL

Sounds rough.Strong feelings overflow the measure

And leave you tossed and turned upon the ocean.

But what I wouldn't give if that emotion

Could be my own!

 

BETH

††††††††††††††††††††††††††† You'd like to feel confused?

 

BILL

By love?You bet.I see you're not amused.

 

BETH

Don't joke about my feelings.

 

BILL

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† I don't joke.

I know confusion all too well.You spoke

To my own heart.And now I find I'm saying

More than I should.But please don't think I'm playing.

I'm not.You mean too much to me.

 

BETH

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Too much?

 

BILL

††††††††††††††† To me.

 

BETH

What are you saying?

 

BILL

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Is it such

A shock that I might care?

 

BETH

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† What do you mean?†††††††

 

BILL

Between us - well - how could you not have seen?††

Suppose I said Iíd had a revelation,

Or, better yet, Iíd felt a strange sensation

Of overwhelming partnership for you,

Dazzlingly new, but somehow dťjŗ vu,

As if I always knew but had denied

The truth about the joy I felt inside

Whenever you were near.

 

BETH

††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††Oh please.Get real.

†††††††††††

BILL

Would you presume to tell me what I feel?

Suppose I said, please marry me, dear Beth.

And be my wife until the hand of death

Pries us apart.And we will climb the ladder

Of corporate success together.Gladder

Every day to share the company

Of one another.

 

BETH

†††††††††††††††††††††††† Are you teasing me?

 

BILL

Let's just call it hypothetical.

 

BETH

So it's not just theoretical.

 

BILL

No, my dear, my question's practical.

 

BETH

Strategic then, or merely tactical?

 

BILL

A bit of both.I'd like to know your heart.

 

BETH

Ah.So would I.I'd like to find a chart

Of all its workings - map out every part,

To make emotion science, and not art.

 

BILL

Good luck.†† But in the present, what's your guess

On our compatibility?†† A "yes"

Would be welcomed.

 

BETH

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† The probability....

 

BILL

Stop there!That word foretells sterility.

I want a guess and not a calculation.

 

BETH

Grow up.You men!Well, for your information

There's not a chance that we could work it out.

Perhaps, indeed, with all your corporate clout

And all your business savvy and advice

My own career would soar - but at what price?

 

BILL

No price at all.Just be my lovely wife.

And share with me the fruitful joys of life.

Keep some perspective on a basic fact:

Infatuation fades.The second act

Of the Romantic drama loses steam,

And suddenly you waken from the dream,

Perplexed, distraught, distressed, as you discover

Itís just a man youíve taken as your lover

And not a knight in shiny silver armor.

Although today he seems a perfect charmer,

Tomorrow he will show some tell tale sign

Of being ordinary.The decline

And fall will follow.Your affair

Is just a floating castle in the air.

 

BETH

Youíre saying that itís better to start out

With someone that you arenít all hot about?

 

BILL

Not necessarily, but keep in mind

The total picture of your life.Youíll find

That Iím the wiser choice.Donít be a fool

For love.Your feelings are, I take it, cool

Toward me right now, but they will surely warm

And warm until at last their final form

Of gentle love is reached.No disappointment,

No tears.My love would be a soothing ointment

Healing the bruises of your psyche.Quiet

Contentment is healthier than a riot

Of passion.

 

BETH

††††††††††††††††††† And yet, you Ė yourself - as you

Now speak, your tone sounds strangely like you do

In fact feel passion.But if that tone rings true,

How can you say that passion isnít key

When passion is whatís drawing you to me?

Now donít deny Ė

 

BILL

††††††††††††††††††††††† I wonít deny this much.

Iím drawn to you.And the imagined touch

Of your skin on mine does induce a shudder

Of pleasure in me.I admit itís utter

Silliness.But I have to say this urge

To let my holdings and your assets merge

Makes altogether perfect sense!

 

BETH

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Iím not

So sure.You know you showed an awful lot

Of zeal last night in checking on our meal

In such detail.What is it that you feel,

Exactly?Are you simply overzealous

In your concern?Or are you really jealous

Of the new turn my life has taken?

 

BILL

††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† Well,

I wouldnít use that J-word, but Iíll tell

You this: I feel a mite competitive,

And at the risk of sounding quite repetitive,

Iíll ask you once again.My darling Beth,

Please marry me.Weíll swear that until death,

Or till divorce, whichever may be first,

Weíll be united in a fruitful burst

Of mutual advantage.Itís your life.

Schedule it wisely.Be my lovely wife.

 

BETH

Thank you.But, no.I don't think it would work.

 

BILL

Think it over.Fish within the murk

Of your mind to see if there might not lurk

Somewhere in there, a lure that pulls my way.

 

Exit Bill.Enter Jerry.

 

JERRY

What was all that about?

 

BETH

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† I couldn't say.

 

JERRY

It somehow looked like it was full of feeling.

 

BETH

We spoke of fishing.And it left me reeling.

You see, some people only recognize

True love when false love stands before their eyes.

 

JERRY

Listen, I'm sorry I was too insistent

About us having lunch.

 

BETH

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Being persistent

Is a virtue.

 

JERRY

††††††††††† Well, you seemed so resistant,

I thought that maybe it was a mistake.

 

BETH

No way.

 

JERRY

†††††††††††††††† Say what?

 

BETH

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† I think that you should make

Lunch reservations.Where we ate last night.

We've got a lot to talk about.

 

JERRY

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† All right!

 

BETH

And how about a coffee break right now?

 

JERRY

Um, yeah.Let's do it.

 

Beth and Jerry exit together.A beat passes.Enter Bill, inheriting the empty stage.

 

BILL

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† That, my friends, is how

This story ends.I didnít get the girl.

But -- what the hell -- whoever said the world

Would always go my way?At least the action

Seemed to boost employee satisfaction.

 

Curtain