JOYRIDE, by John Enright
An office.† BILL, 45, and JERRY, 30, are talking.
Iím meeting with the CEO at eight.
A.M. or P.M.?
††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† BILL
††††††††††††††††††††††††† P.M.† Tonight.
†††††††††††††††††† †††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† Thatís late.
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
††††††††††††† I donít think I want to swallow
Your message whole.† I want to have a life.
Just wait a minute.† Do you have a wife?
†††††† †††† †††††A girlfriend, then?
† ††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††††UmmÖ no.
††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† Then are
††††††††††† ††††††††††† 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.
Iím doing fine.† Please spare me your derision.
As I recall, youíre single too.
††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† 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?
Iíd say that every dad expects to bask
In admiration from their children, but
Iíd also say that money isnít what
Inspires their adoration.
††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† When theyíre grown
Theyíll understand.† When all the facts are known,
Thereíll be a reckoning, a restitution.
Theyíll thank me for my weighty contribution.
I hope it all works out.
††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† 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?
††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† No.† Iíll stay.
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.
Wonít Cooper think thatís strange?
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.
††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††† Why thanks, I might
Just take you up on that.
††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††† 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.
I donít believe Iíve met him.
††††††††††† I can tell.
††††††††††† ††††††††††† Because itís not a him.† Itís her.
I think youíd notice that.† So I inferÖ
† †††††††††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.†
††††††††††††††††††††††††††† The odds are high Iíve met her,
But donít recallÖ
††††††††††††††††††††††††† 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.
No problem.† Hey, does she get dinner, too?
† ††††††††† †††††††Well, maybe I can ask herÖ
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††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.
So she refuses to be wined and dined?
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.
Yeesh.† Not my type.† Well, if you need to call,
Iíll be here.
†††††††††††† But I cannot envision
My scoring big with Beth.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† A wise decision.
††††††††††† ††††††††††† Blackout.
The same.† The next morning.† JERRY is talking to BETH, an attractive woman, about 27.†††††††††††
(with jesting formality)
Good morning, Miss McNulty.† How are you?
††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† † (jesting in return)
When did you learn my last name?† Beth will do.
You don't like Liz or Betty?
No, I don't.
Don't even say those names.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Okay, I won't.
††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††† (with distaste)
I had an uncle that used to call me Liz.
Would I be right in guessing that he is
Not quite your favorite uncle?
††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††Well, he's dead.
††††††††††††††† Don't be.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Why not?
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† (reluctant, then bursting forth†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Uncle Ted
Did something bad to me when I was ten.
††††††††††††† Don't be.† Don't be sorry again.
There's too much sorry in the world already.
Okay, then.† I'm not sorry.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† About last night...
Yeah.† How about it!
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Perhaps it wasn't right
For me to lead you on like that.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Like what?
Besides, I liked it.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Like a little slut.
Who?† Me or you?
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Regardless, I don't think
That it would be advisable to link
Up in the future the way we did last night.
Advisable?† Is this about that bite?
I want you to know that's never happened before.
Really?† I'm flattered.
Is your shoulder sore?
It smarts.† How would lunch be?
I told you no.
Just lunch.† No games.† Just talk.† We'll even go
Fast food or something.† Totally unromantic.
No charm.† No atmosphere.
††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††† I think we can pick
Some place with better food that's simply quiet...
Wait.† No.† No lunch.† I said -
††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †C'mon.† Just try it.
That's what you said last night.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† You really looked
Like you enjoyed yourself.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 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.
††††††††††††††††††††††† But what if you're the one?
The one for me.† The one that I was born
†††††††††† Oh please.† Grow up.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Don't pour your scorn
Out on my dreams like that - like lemon juice
Into a wounded heart.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 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.
††††††††††††††††††††††††† 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.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 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?
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 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.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Don't kid
Yourself.† It's not always that easy.
Just freaking out.† And I'm not really sure
What it's about.† Is this some kind of guilt
Trip after the joyride?
(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?"
I think you are a beautiful debater.
But, whoa, here comes your boss, I'll see you later.
I'm sorry.† Was I interrupting something?
††††††††††††††††††† 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
†† Yes.† Of course.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Well then...† You know
Today you seem to have a certain glow.
††††††††††††††††††††† Oh, yes, really.† So if you could
Give me those numbers again then I would
Be grateful.† Very grateful.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Why so grateful?
Two reasons.† First, I'm busy.† I've a plateful
Of things to do.† And secondly...† But speaking
Of† platefuls, hot sauce has a way of leaking
All over.† I must ask about your dinner.
†††††††††††††††††††† 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.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Did HE
Tell you all this?† Has he been bragging
About his virtuoso feat of dragging
Me into bed?
†††††††††††††††††††† 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?
Against my better judgment.† Listen, Bill,
You know the way I am.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Indeed.† I do.†††††††
I'm not the type to lose my head.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Who?† You?
I'm not the type to fall in bed.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† What?† Fall?
I mean, I might jump in and have a ball,
But at my choosing, after careful thought.
And this time?
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.
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!
††††††††††††††††††††††††††† You'd like to feel confused?
By love?† You bet.† I see you're not amused.
Don't joke about my feelings.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 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.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Too much?
††††††††††††††† To me.
What are you saying?
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Is it such
A shock that I might care?
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† What do you mean?†††††††
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.
††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††Oh please.† Get real.
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.
†††††††††††††††††††††††† Are you teasing me?
Let's just call it hypothetical.
So it's not just theoretical.
No, my dear, my question's practical.
Strategic then, or merely tactical?
A bit of both.† I'd like to know your heart.
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.
Good luck.†† But in the present, what's your guess
On our compatibility?†† A "yes"
Would be welcomed.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† The probability....
Stop there!† That word foretells sterility.
I want a guess and not a calculation.
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?
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.
Youíre saying that itís better to start out
With someone that you arenít all hot about?
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
††††††††††††††††††† 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
††††††††††††††††††††††† 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!
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 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?
††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† 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.
Thank you.† But, no.† I don't think it would work.
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.
What was all that about?
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† I couldn't say.
It somehow looked like it was full of feeling.
We spoke of fishing.† And it left me reeling.
You see, some people only recognize
True love when false love stands before their eyes.
Listen, I'm sorry I was too insistent
About us having lunch.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Being persistent
Is a virtue.
††††††††††† Well, you seemed so resistant,
I thought that maybe it was a mistake.
†††††††††††††††† Say what?
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† I think that you should make
Lunch reservations.† Where we ate last night.
We've got a lot to talk about.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† All right!
And how about a coffee break right now?
Um, yeah.† Let's do it.
Beth and Jerry exit together.† A beat passes.† Enter Bill, inheriting the empty stage.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 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.