A Play by Timothy Herrick
(written 2011-12) copyright 2015
Introduction: Far Meadow is a town in New Jersey. Far Meadow is an exurb.
An exurb is an “edge city,” a small town, an outer-lying suburb. Exurbs are home to clusters of office buildings, i.e., office parks. Those who work in the cubicles of the offices in the office parks that have been built in the exurbs vastly outnumber the citizens who call the exurb home.
Far Meadow was Garden State farm country, but during the mid-20th century, residential construction transformed the town into a larger, yet still small town. Most fathers worked in Manhattan, nearly a 90 minute commute each way by train. Far Meadow was one of the last to be developed during the N.J. Suburban boom. The Far Meadow Mall – known by townies as the Old Mall – was the first commercial building in the area, followed by in the 80s and 90s, office buildings and office parks – complexes of office buildings – sprung up throughout Far Meadow, now also home to strip malls and a community college.
By the 21st century, the Far Meadow homes have declined in value and the mall, having lost its large anchor stores, has become a vestige of a bygone brick and mortar retailing era. The town’s office parks are thriving. But few Far Meadow citizens benefit from this continued office park success.
The municipal government is planning to sell the Old Mall and surrounding woodlands to help close a budget gap. Most Far Meadow citizens are against the sale and eventual destruction of the Old Mall, but they lack a political forum where their support for saving the Old Mall can be expressed.
Todd Greenfield is an affable introvert, prone to wry comments and a general attitude of bemusement. A few years ago, this middle-aged scholar and writer, moved back to Far Meadow to be closer to his son, Todd Jr., and his father, Todd the Elder, an 80-year old widow. Besides occasional writing gigs and collecting royalties from books and film work, Todd is also an adjunct writing teacher at the Far Meadow Community College and runs a Spoken-Word/Open Mic reading series once a month at a local pub. Growing up, Todd abused drugs, got a local woman pregnant. They married, but it did not last. Todd left town to pursue success, which he achieved to some degree; now back in Far Meadow, he has reconnected with his son, Todd Jr., who is in his late 20s. Todd Jr. is a born-again Christian, works at a local car dealership and has a baby on the way.
Todd Jr. is an intense man, lacking the sense of humor of his father and grandfather, who both inspire apprehension in him. He is plagued by the twin anxieties of a high-pressure sales job and his fast approaching fatherhood.
Todd the Elder is fed up with retirement and wants to prove his usefulness to society. An outgoing man, he believes in civic duty and the common good and once served as City Councilmen, one of the happiest experiences of his life. To save the Old Mall, Todd the Elder decides again to seek office.
Bored and depressed, Beamer’s life is going nowhere. A former student of Todd’s, she is a free spirit, tech-savvy, millennial and a talkative, unabashed wise-ass. Her urge to speak her mind is compulsive. She exudes an irrepressible sexuality. She is intensely alert and intelligent. She intercedes in the lives of the Three Todds and nothing is ever the same for them, or for Far Meadow, again.
Todd The Elder Greenfield
Todd Jr. Greenfield
Henry the bartender
Todd’s apartment. It is pre-dawn; the windows still dark with night. Bookshelves align the walls. There is a computer desk with a computer in a corner, other chairs and a couch and a coffee table in front of the couch. Books are every where. Beamer walks into the room, wrapped in a blanket. She quietly shivers, from both the actual temperature and the fact she is naked beneath the blanket. She is holding a smart-phone. She sits on the couch.
Beamer: Todd? Todd?
Todd: (offstage, from the kitchen) I’m making coffee. How do you take your coffee?
Beamer: It’s still dark outside, what time is it?
Todd: Not quite five.
Beamer: You always get up this early and drink coffee?
Todd: Just about. My biological alarm clock wakes me up on schedule regardless of when I go to sleep.
Beamer: I usually drink green tea, not coffee.
Todd: I know I have some tea, let’s see. (we hear him open kitchen cabinet doors, he whistles as he scans the cupboard’s contents) Hey, how about that. I do have green tea. This box looks pretty old. Pathmark brand. I didn’t buy this. How did this get here?
Beamer: Probably one of your other lovers drank green tea behind your back.
Todd: Then it’s more than a hundred years old.
Beamer: Can I just have a glass of water. Where’s your TV?
Todd: I don’t watch Television. I must have told you that. I know we’ve talked about that.
Todd walks onto the room, sits down next to her, hands her a small bottle of spring water. He’s wearing gym shorts and a t-shirt. Beamer takes the water, but her attention stays on the device she is holding.
Beamer: I can’t seem to hook up to the internet. It might be my battery.
Todd: I can boot up a computer if you need to get on the web.
Beamer: I just want to know the weather. That’s why I asked about the TV. TV is a reliable source for timely weather news. Weather is what TV does best.
Todd: I heard it’s supposed to be nice today.
Beamer: I know, I heard that too. But I heard that report yesterday. I need updates. Up to the second updates. I think about the weather when I wake up. It’s the first thing I think about. What will the weather be like today. What is the exact weather now. What is the weather going to be later. I need to know immediately. I need to know both information and speculation. I’m very weather-oriented. Why are you looking at me?
Todd: I can’t quite believe this happened.
Beamer: It’s a surprise to me too.
Todd: I have never slept with one of my students.
Beamer: I graduated more than two years ago.
Todd: Guidelines are pretty specific against sex between students and faculty, I’m not sure about former students.
Beamer: If you want, I’ll deny we had sex. I’ll just say you raped me.
Todd: They’ll never believe it, you could kick my ass.
Beamer: What if you had a gun?
Todd: Without a permit, that’s two strikes against me.
Beamer: Don’t you think of me as a friend?
Todd: Yes. I mean, no, I mean, I think of you as somebody I like hanging out with very much. I haven’t thought of you as my student for quite sometime, until right now. I mean this exact second that I am seeing you naked on my couch. Up until this specific instant, I had forgotten you were once my student.
Beamer: Now you can think of me as a really good friend. I didn’t plan this either. I guess the alcohol brought things to the surface.
Todd: I didn’t have that much to drink and neither did you. Nobody is showing up for the open mike except you and me, sometimes Amber. We haven’t seen a new face in two months.
Beamer: Maybe if Amber did show up you would have gone home alone. What are you going to do? I was horny and you were there and maybe I’ve always been curious about you. Why deny the subconscious. Do you regret what happened?
Todd: You are wonderful. I usually date women my age and I haven’t dated in a while.
Beamer: A while?
Todd: A few… years.
Todd: I just haven’t made the effort recently. I was busy with the screenplay, and this teaching job. When I was in California, there was somebody but that didn’t end too happily and when I moved back here, I had projects and family matters that required my attention.
Beamer: Who cares? The amount of time between sex partners or the difference in years between you and me? I don’t care about any of that, I just care about what I feel like doing. I just care about not being bored. Why over analyze. We shared an impulse and acted upon it. Isn’t that what impulses are for? Follow your bliss, however fleeting that bliss may be. Why that impulse last night, why we acted, what purpose can knowing the answers to those questions possibly matter. We’re still friends, we’re still going to be friends, aren’t we?
Todd: Yes, of course. You are wonderful. (pensive pause) I’m 52 years old and you are 23.
Beamer: 24, I had a birthday last month.
Todd: I didn’t know.
Beamer: Worst birthday ever. I’m trying to erase it from the memory banks. The day before, my boyfriend broke up with me, I hated him anyway but I hate him even more because he beat me to the punch. The day before my birthday! The imbecilic cad was probably too cheap to buy me a present. Just as likely he lacked the imagination to think of what to get me. What a dullard. So on my birthday, I slept with my girlfriend from when I was like in High School and pretending to be gay. That just made things worse. I was suicidal for days. If you’re not gay, pretending to be gay gets really soul sucking. The thrill was way gone. Pretending it wasn’t was torture. Being with you last night was the first fun thing that has happened since then.
He puts his arm around her and they kiss for while.
Todd: I usually get bagels on Sunday, but they don’t open until seven o’clock.
Beamer: Do they have gluten free?
Todd: You know, they do, I’ve seen the sign.
Beamer: I’m going to back to sleep. Thanks for the water.
She walks off stage.
Beamer (calling off stage, from the bedroom): Why don’t you come back in here instead of making coffee.
Stage goes dark.
Later that morning. Sunlight in the windows. Wearing only one of his dress shirts, a blue oxford with button-down collar and shirt tails, she sits at the computer. There’s a quick knock, then the door opens.
Elder Todd: (as he enters, calling out) Toddy! Why is your door unlocked?
Elder Todd is wearing an expensive velour jogging suit, TCB aviator sunglasses and a baseball cap. He’s a healthy and vibrant 80 year old man. He is carrying a large paper bag, rolled-up posters are sticking out of the top of the bag.
Beamer stands up. Elder Todd gasps when he sees her, removes his sunglasses. She is speechless, her mouth agape. He is frozen in shock and a few seconds pass before he is able to take her unexpected appearance in stride.
Elder Todd: You’re not my son, are you.
Beamer: You startled me. Todd went out for Bagels. I’m his friend.
Elder Todd: I see. (wavering voice) Are you one of his students?
Beamer: No, I’m still in high school. I’m kidding, I’m sorry. I tend to make outrageous quips when I’m nervous. I’m very, very nervous right now. I was a student of his but I graduated the college, and I’m just visiting your son. I always wear his shirts when I visit. Kidding, again kidding. This is my first time, visiting. Hey, why don’t I get you a cup of coffee.
She quickly walks into the kitchen, then almost immediately walks back out, buttoning the shirt up to the collar as she returns.
Beamer: I don’t know where anything is and you’ve been here before so maybe it might be better if you get your coffee yourself.
Elder Todd: That will be fine. Do you have a name young lady?
Elder Todd: Beamer. Hmm. My name is Todd. My father’s name was Todd, and so was his Father’s and so is my son and his son, my grandson. Now, why don’t I go get that coffee you mentioned and you can stop being nervous and we can start over.
He walks into the kitchen.
Elder Todd: How did you get the name Beamer.
Beamer: My mom and dad were hippies, what else. They named me Moonbeam. I tried using the name Moon, but I’m not Asian so that was weird. Then I tried the name Monica, but that wasn’t right either. People just took to calling me Beamer.
Elder Todd’s cellphone rings.
Elder Todd: (we hear his conversation from the Kitchen) Excuse me. Who is this, I don’t recognize the number. Todd! Pay phone. Yes, I imagine it’s hard to find one these days. Forgot your cell phone. Forgot I was coming over this morning. Son… I’ve met Beaming. Beamer, right. … (longer pause)… it’s fine, everyone is calm here… Onion with butter.
Beamer is sitting in the desk chair by the computer. Her face is flushed with embarrassment, she soon hides her face behind her palms. Elder Todd comes back into the living room holding a mug. Realizing the situation is absurdly mortifying for them both, he laughs and so does she.
Elder Todd: I’m truly sorry to intrude. Todd rarely has house guests. I’m surprised and nervous too. I come over most Sundays just about and this is the first time, ever in the history of Sundays, he’s had a house guest. We did talk about today, but my visit slipped his mind. There is no need for more embarrassment.
Beamer: Well, I was just startled. I’m fine now though. It’s nice to meet you. What is the weather like outside?
Elder Todd: Warm not hot, hardly any clouds. They said it might rain later but I tend to doubt it. Do you vote?
Beamer: Do I vote? Yes.
Elder Todd: In local elections?
Beamer: Pretty much every election. I can’t say I personally care all that much about politics, but my mom does. I vote with her. She sometimes works the polls. (suddenly) Hey, I know you. You were at a town meeting I went to, you spoke about the Old Mall. You were arguing with one of the Councilmen. He was shouting at you. You sounded a lot smarter than him.
Elder Todd: That was three years ago. Why were you at the meeting?
Beamer: We had to go for school, it was an assignment. I got an A. I always got As, lots of good that does you in this job market. I’m a part-time receptionist and a part-time waitress .
Elder Todd: I’m running for office, that’s why I’m here. To tell Toddy. I filed the papers on Friday. I want to be a Councilman.
Beamer: I’m a registered Democrat.
Elder Todd: So am I. but I’m running on a third party. Citizens for Change. That’s one reason Charley Robinson keeps his seat, he’s a Democrat. It’s a blue state. No one opposes him because no one can oppose him within the party. There’s no republicans to run against him. The local party will not hold a primary, so you can only run on a third party. I came here to show these to my son.
Elder Todd reaches into a bag, unrolls the poster, which has a professional looking, color head shot of Elder Todd. The background is bright right red, and in blue & white lettering is “Todd Greenfield for Far Meadow Council” and at the bottom of the poster, “Vote for change.”
Beamer: Wow, way cool.
Elder Todd: My daughter made them. She’s a graphic designer, lives in Ohio. She emailed the file to Staples. Had them all ready for me yesterday afternoon.
Beamer: Change is good. I am all about change. You have my vote.
The door knob clicks and Todd walks into the room, carrying a paper bag with beverages and bagels. He’s slightly out-of-breath, having rushed back. Beamer holds up the poster in front of her.
Beamer: Todd the Elder’s the next Ralph Nader.
Todd: You didn’t. You’re not.
Elder Todd: I did and I am. Sorry, son. I didn’t want to surprise you like this but I just got to talking to your young friend here and I had to show her. Don’t these look great? Carrie made them. I’m kicking off the campaign after Mass. I’m going to put some up on the telephone polls near our house.
Todd: I thought we talked about this. Here, Beamer, I got you a green tea with organic honey.
Beamer: That is so sweet. Thank you.
Todd goes into the kitchen with the bag of bagels
Elder Todd: We did talk about it and I made my decision.
Todd: (from the kitchen) Pop, I can’t tell you what to do because you’re not going to listen. I’m just worried about your health.
Elder Todd: I’m in excellent health. You were with me last month at the cardiologist. What did he tell you?
Todd: That you’re a man who is ten years younger than your official age. You’re 80. Seventy is still old Pop.
Elder Todd: I feel 50.
Todd: You didn’t need a cane when you were 50.
Elder Todd: I barely use it.
Todd: We talked about that too.
Elder Todd: I have the cane with me. I left the damn thing in the car.
Todd: You don’t feel 50 is all I am saying so stop pretending that you do.
Elder Todd: I’ve done this council thing before. I’ve run for and held the office. It’s old hat, piece of cake.
Todd: That was nearly thirty years ago. (He is walking back into the room carrying three small plates, and a bunch of napkins and the wrapped bagels. He puts a bagel on a plate and hands one to his father and one to Beamer. Then he hands them each a napkin.) Onion with cholesterol-free butter substitute and a gluten-free whole wheat and sun-dried tomato tofu cream cheese.
Elder Todd: When I was her age what you just said did not exist.
Todd: It’s a brave new world Pop.
Elder Todd: The doctor says I can have moderate amounts of butter.
Todd: When I’m buying bagels, it’s no butter. If it makes you feel any better I have the low fat cream cheese.
They’ve been unwrapping their bagels and begin to eat as they talk.
Beamer: We’re all eating a healthy breakfast, just by different degrees. (her joke falls flat)
Todd: I’m just worried about you over-exerting yourself.
Elder Todd: There are a lot of things I’m too old to do, like running a marathon again, or planting a cornfield. I’m not too old to do this. I’m a people person, Todd. I don’t know how I got such a bookish introvert for a son, but I like talking to people, I like listening. I’m a natural schmoozer. I gave so many speeches, presentations and sales pitches when I was working on The Street. I miss that part of my life. I’m sick of playing golf. I thought I would love it and for a while I did, but it’s like too much of a good thing. When golf is the only thing you look forward to in your day, it’s death son. I’m not ready for death.
Todd: Nobody is. What about just accepting God’s plan.
Elder Todd: How do you know that me running for council isn’t part of God’s plan. Lucky for you God planned you would have a lovely house guest this morning.
Beamer: How can I be part of God’s plan if there’s no God?
Todd: I’m just using God’s plan as example for him because he does believe in God and believes that God has a plan.
Elder Todd: You’re an atheist too now?
Todd: She’s in her 20s, Pop and I’m an agnostic.
Beamer: I used to be a druid (another joke falls flat)… Sorry.
Elder Todd: There’s a reason other than just giving the old man something to do. The Old Mall and the woods surrounding it. The city just wants to give that over to developers, sell it for nothing. All the highways and infrastructure we have there. Far Meadow help pay to have that Mall built. They say selling the Old Mall and the land around it is going to improve our tax revenues but we have the lowest tax rate in the county for business. Those companies in those office parks get abatements that other municipalities have long abandoned. It’s not right. That mall should be used to benefit the people of Far Meadow.
Beamer:. My mom and her friends talk about what’s going to happen to the Old Mall all time. I love the Old Mall. I grew up there.
Todd: Pop, you have a comfortable retirement. There comes a point where you have to let the new generation take over.
Elder Todd: There’s barely any new generation here, no offense Beamer.
Beamer: None taken. If I could afford my own apartment it wouldn’t be in Far Meadow.
Elder Todd: Most of that new generation moves to New York or Jersey City or Newark or to an actual suburb. We’re not even a suburb. We’re an exurb. It’s not the early 90s when the office parks, malls and strip malls were popping up like wild flowers and rational people hated cities. We got the community college where you work at, that strip by the city hall where there’s the diner, the drug store and the bar where you hold poetry readings. The hospital, a few other restaurants and that’s it. When I first moved here that was only that strip by city hall and a diner, and none of the other, until our property taxes paid to get the Old Mall built. I have never been one to say things were better in my day, but I’ve only seen things get worse around here. Exurb decay they call it. Maybe instead of sitting around watching old movies on the cable, taking pills and checking my blood pressure until the grim reaper knocks on my door, I can make a change for the better. I want to be of use, son.
Todd: Pop, do you really think you can win?
Elder Todd: It’s not only about winning, but yes I do.
Beamer: I don’t mean to butt into a family dispute, but teachers like you – Todd’s not my teacher anymore, we are friends – but when he was my teacher, and teachers like him, they always say get involved. Todd you always say keep sending your stuff out even if nobody wants to publish it. Why is that constructive advice good for young people and not for old? The worst thing that can happen to a person is entropy.
Todd: You mean atrophy.
Beamer: Whatever. My generation grew up with fewer conventions than you and especially your dad had to follow. Why follow any? Why live by other peoples expectations and not your own. I’ll vote for Todd the Elder. My mom probably will too. This Old Mall thing has gotten a lot of people pissed off, but nobody is doing anything about it.
Elder Todd: My first endorsement!
Todd: I can’t say I have given any thought whatsoever to the Old Mall thing.
Elder Todd: You’ve always lived in your own world. You’re a preoccupied sort, dreamy.
Todd: I’m not going to fight you. I will give this my blessing under one condition, that you take it easy and watch your health, and that you use your cane.
Elder Todd: Thank you son.
Beamer: That sounds like three conditions.
Todd: The general idea is that he uses the cane.
Elder Todd: I don’t need the cane as much as the doctor says I do.
Todd: So, you’re just going to assume you have my blessing and not do anything I ask.
Elder Todd: I’m doing everything you ask. My bypass was five years ago now. Don’t be such a Nervous Nelly. I feel great. And it was a pleasure meeting you Beamer, and now I must go so I can still make the 11:00 at Saint Augustine.
Elder Todd goes to get up, but slightly struggles to stand. He braces himself with his palms against the couch, but wobbles as he gets up. Beamer and Todd stand with him at the same time but then as he takes a step he begins to topple and Beamer is quicker and is able to grab his arm to steady him.
Todd: The cane Pop, you have to use the cane all the time.
Beamer: You can use it as part of your image. Yes we cane.
Todd: Using the cane is change I can believe in.
Beamer: What a cool old dude. I like your Pop.
Todd: He was a lot more understanding and encouraging than most father’s back then. Children were supposed to be seen and not heard, that was still the rule. He was livelier than the other dads, but once he gets an idea in his head, there’s no stopping him. One summer he planted a cornfield. We had a big back yard, all the back yards were big back then, there was so much space. Dug up the entire lawn. Some neighbors complained, others loved it. He gave so much corn away. What a crazy summer. Our yard looked like that movie, Field of Dreams.
Beamer: He may have been ahead of his time. It takes like twice the amount of water for grass than it does for tomatoes.
Todd: The corn was so good. To this day I cannot eat corn without remembering Pop’s cornfield. I remember my mother making corn fritters, they were so good. I remember having that corn on the cob – my mother froze it – on Thanksgiving. It was the only thanksgiving where we had corn on the cob. The next summer he went back to the lawn, no corn, no other vegetables even. He told me he couldn’t do it better than when he first tried it, so he never repeated it. He was like that. Got some idea in his head then went head over heels making it come true, then he lost interest and was on to something else.
Beamer: Life is just a passing fancy. However long or short that fancy may be, everything passes. I did read that about lawns and tomatoes. I can’t remember where. I don’t even know if it is true. It just stuck in my head.
Todd: Read something once then live your life by it.
Beamer: Blasted internet. Well, this turned out to be a more wildly entertaining morning than I could ever have predicted. I have to shower and go. I had a great time by the way.
They kiss again, passionately.
Todd: And at least my Pop gave us something else to talk about than what happened last night.
Beamer: And also around dawn. The best way to avoid over analyzing something is to think about something entirely different than the subject under scrutiny. What was the weather like when you were out?
Jimmy Schneider is the same age as Todd, mid-50s. He works an office job, they’ve been friends since Junior High. Jimmy is overweight, not in great shape. The gym is a small, local place. They are riding recumbent bicycles. When they’re together at the gym it is more social than intensive exercise. Televisions are above the bikes and Jimmy holds the remote, aiming it at the television to change the channel. They are not peddling very fast.
Jimmy: The doctor says I have to lose 20 pounds
Todd: You come here. You’re doing the right things.
Jimmy: I like desert and I like fried foods. I have to do a lot of business lunches and dinners. I hate my life and take it out in food.
Todd: Food is not love even if you did hate your life. And, you don’t hate your life.
Jimmy: I should resign myself to my genetic fate. My old man had a 54 inch waist when he had his aneurysm. Who can buck genetic fate.
Todd: We don’t have to give our genetic fate an easy win.
Jimmy: Maybe I should get a trainer. I probably should go to a nutritionist too. Maybe I should get one of them bypass band things, cut out my stomach, wire my jaws shut for a year. Live on shakes and intravenous nutrients. You’re looking pretty good by the way buddy.
Todd: I’ve gone gluten-free. I feel good. A friend does it, and she got me into it.
Jimmy: She? (aims the remote at the TV, exclaims) Hey there’s your Pop, the local station. Public Access. The town meeting from, look at the date. Two nights ago. What’s he saying (he presses the volume button).
Elder Todd (his voice from the television) the plan to sell the Old Mall includes selling the woodlands around the building. If we allow more development in this area, the whole town will experience increased flooding. We will induce a flood zone, essentially changing the bedrock of Far Meadow just as surely as our society is changing the planet’s climate. The time of ignoring facts and the good of the people in this town must come to an end.
Mayor (his voice from the television): This is a public town meeting, Todd. Not a campaign stop.
Muted boos are heard. Jimmy aims the remote at the television, lowering the volume.
Jimmy: Pop looks good my man. Are you helping with his speeches. He sounds really smart.
Todd: He is smart, but no… I haven’t been. I don’t remember him sounding this smart.
Jimmy: I saw his campaign poster near the Pathmark. Giving old Charlie Robinson a run for his money. It’s good, good for the town, good for the old man. God Bless, at his age too. I’m so messed up with the diabetes and the weight and the cholesterol all I have time to do is work and worry about my health. Remember the days when our bodies used to obey us instead of the other way around. Drink, do coke, screw all night. Eat Mexican food!
Todd: I was never technically an addict, so in retrospect, giving up getting high was relatively easy. After forty, who needs the bother. Same with the fattening foods. I think the last time I drank hard alcohol was at a Christmas party last year. A little healthier life style goes a long way at our age. You might be surprised what you can still do in bed.
Jimmy: I’m married twenty years. There isn’t going to be anymore surprises for me in the boudoir. Not good ones anyway. My birthday, her birthday, and Christmas – either Eve or Night, never both. My doctor wants me to see an urologist and a proctologist. Has his fingers up my rectum and recommends both… just a regular visit, nothing going on that’s worrying me. When was the last time you had colonoscopy, he says and I say never and he says, you need to get one. Then he goes, after like giving a thoughtful hmmm, I can also recommend an urologist. Your prostate seems bigger than usual. So I say how big is it, and he say’s it’s supposed be the size of a walnut, but this feels more like a watermelon, then he laughs. He cracks himself up. His finger still poking around up there. Don’t you just love it when your doctor makes jokes about your internal organs (pause) what do you mean still?
Todd: What do you think I mean? Still.
Jimmy: Recently still? (Todd nods and they high five) Yes! Man, and you were telling me that single women our age aren’t interested in sex any more.
Todd: Well, she’s not exactly our age.
Jimmy: Yes! How many years younger?
Joe Winston, a man into his 60s, dressed in sweat pants and an I “heart” Far Meadow t-shirt, walks over to the recumbent bicycles, interrupting the two men, preventing Todd from answering Jimmy’s question.
Joe Winston: Hey Todd, I saw your father at the town council meeting. Causing quite a stir.
Todd: Well, these old guys need a hobby.
Joe Winston: He had a dozen people cheering him, all kids. Those meetings usually have only three, four people, and that includes him and me. Quite a turnout. Twitter, Facebook. Who knew your old man was into all that stuff. He has a hipster following.
Todd: He told me once he hated the internet.
Joe Winston: These kids don’t know nothing. People like Charlie Robinson. No way your dad’s gonna win. Taxes go up and that will make everything go up. Remember what Jimmy Carter did to this country.
Jimmy: What bullshit. We’re stilling trying to get out of the ditch George W. drove us into. What century are you living in Winston.
Todd: It’s just city council. Aren’t you blowing this thing a little out of proportion.
Joe Winston: Let him have his fun, I ain’t complaining. I pay enough taxes is all I’m saying and people feel the same way that I do. Nobody cares about that ugly, Old Mall. Have a nice day.
Winston walks away. Jimmy has put the remote in the cup holder of the recumbent bike and has picked up his smart phone and is fiddling with it.
Todd: I don’t think we ever said anything more than good morning to each other before today. Most of the time he doesn’t even wave to me when I see him in here. Now he comes over to me to complain about my Pop?
Jimmy: That was one riled dipshit.
Todd: I barely care about national politics, much less local crap. I just live here, you know. He seemed really mad about Pop. I did not like how he was talking at all.
Jimmy: Holy moly, look at this. ( He holds up the phone for Todd to see) 737 likes. Your dad’s Facebook page. Incredible! This is so cool. I’m going to like it too. (he pokes the smart phone screen). I’m jumping on the bandwagon.
Todd: He asked for my blessing and I gave it. Now he’s all over the local media.
Jimmy: At least you have a parent alive. (he begins to peddle faster) He’s all healthy and shit. Who cares what an asshole like Winston says. My mom with the Alzheimer, I still miss her, I still dream about her. She hated pity, but she knew could only elicit pity at the end. To see her rot like that. They know they have the dementia and they can’t do anything to get better. That is the worst. All you can offer is comfort. We all die slowly, but when that slow death is all there is to life, it’s the saddest thing in the world. I miss both my mom and dad. An old dude like Todd Senior, sticking it to the man. Right on. Screw Winston. Screw Charley Robinson. I say right on! Let your Pop go out kicking and screaming. (he’s peddling at full speed) I don’t’ care about politics either, but I’m voting for your Pop! Come on. Pick up the pace. Tramps like us, Wendy, we’re pulling out this town a winner. Down the shore, Toddy, down the shore. Like an everlasting kiss!
We see only Elder Todd face, neck and shoulders, illuminated by a single bright light. He is wearing a short sleeve polo shirt and standing in front of a white sheet.
Elder Todd: My name is
Beamer: Louder, a little louder for the mike. Don’t shout. Speak robustly.
Elder Todd: (louder) How about this?
Beamer: Perfect. Just start again, I’ll cut this part out later.
Elder Todd: My name is Todd Greenfield.
Beamer: Stop squinting.
Elder Todd: My name is Todd Greenfield. I moved to Far Meadow probably before many of you were born and I still live in that first house, where my wife and I raised our two kids. I remember when there were celery farms where the office parks and highways stand now. Our town has grown a lot since then and I love Far Meadow. I love Far Meadow just like you do and that is why I’m running I’m for council person of District 2.
I’m not here to talk about the past, or the good old days. I’m here to talk about the future, our future. Not just the future of the big developers or the office parks, but the future of our little town, the kids in our grammar and high schools, the moms and dads who are working hard to make ends meet and our senior citizens who gave us the community we now enjoy.
All of you have made Far Meadow the home we all now love. I am running for the people of Far Meadow.
I oppose the sale of the Far Meadow Mall and the surrounding woods. Giving the Old Mall over to developers will mean we lose forever a valuable resource and an institution that has been part of this town for nearly half a century. We can attract independent retailers, smaller businesses into this building, turn parts of it into a much needed community center for our kids and our seniors. Together, we can save our Old Mall.
I am asking you to vote for me, Todd Greenfield. I am asking you to vote for the future of District 2. I’m asking you to vote for the future of Far Meadow.
Beamer has her hand up. She puts one finger down at a time, counting to five. When her hand forms a fist, he speaks.
Elder Todd: I’m Todd Greenfield and I approve this message.
Beamer: And cut. Excellent Todd the Elder.
The room lights go on, a large living room, with the sheet hung on the wall behind the couch.
Elder Todd: I don’t want to look cranky.
Beamer: Totally not cranky. Reasonable and wise. I’ll put the Far Meadow image-montage behind you, add that sensitive guitar riff you heard yesterday. I’ll have this online tomorrow.
She looks at the viewer screen of her hand-held digital recorder, then shows him.
Beamer: Reasonable and wise.
Todd Jr.’s house, an empty room that will become the baby’s room. They are painting the room with primer, Todd Jr. is painting the walls of one side of the room with a paint roller, and Todd is on the floor, brushing primeron to the molding.
Todd Jr.: The only thing is that we don’t know whether to paint the celling a sunny dawn with cotton ball clouds or a starry night with constellations. The walls will be either blue or pink, but the celling will be a sunny dawn blue sky with cotton ball clouds or a starry night sky, with constellations. They have these stencils you put on for clouds or stars.
Todd: The ceiling sounds like a great environment for an infant. And, really cute. You guys are going to be great parents. This room looks like a professional contractor remodeled it, Todd. I’m impressed.
Todd Jr.: I learned some wood-working from Grandpa.
Todd: He sure was good with his hands.
Todd Jr.: Uncle Joe helped me.
Todd: He’s a good guy. I always liked your mom’s family.
Todd Jr.: Mom has been over two, three times a week. She’s in one of her over-protective modes. Can you ask her to stop?
Todd: Your mother is a difficult woman and you know she and I are never going to speak again. I’m looking forward to being a grandfather, but not so much seeing your mother, but that’s my concern. Maybe Pop-Pop can talk to her, if he can find time out from his campaign.
Todd Jr.: Is there anyway you can get him to stop?
Todd: Why would you want him to stop?
Todd Jr.: I love Pop-Pop and when he told me about his idea about running for council, I thought it was just something to keep him busy, a harmless hobby. He said you gave him your blessing. How could I then not tell him to go for it. But business people, people, like my boss, are getting pissed about what he’s saying on the internet. It’s embarrassing.
Todd: Families can do that to you, embarrass you. It’s just local politics, I can’t imagine Mr. Levine taking it all that seriously.
Todd: Jr. Levine contributes to all the politicians, that’s one reason he’s the only car dealer in this part of the county. He follows politics, there’s no separation between politics and business for him. Pop-Pop is all over the internet.
Todd: He is?
Todd Jr.: Is all you read books?
Todd: I wish. I don’t think a Facebook page is all over the internet.
Todd Jr.: He has a viral video about saving that stupid mall. Levine wants that place torn down. He was watching Pop-Pop on his computer at work, in the office. He was talking on the phone too. Pop-Pop’s gotten people pissed off. Levine gave me crap when he found out I was his grandson.
Todd: What did you say.
Todd Jr.: I told him that he used to be a councilmen and politics are his retirement hobby. Luckily I sold an SUV that morning and he still likes sales more than elections. I’ve been praying on this Pop. I know you think that is crazy talk, you’re catholic like your crazy father.
Todd: I was just born catholic. I’m agnostic. I’m not sure Jesus is the son of God. I believe in the Sermon on the Mount, but that Virgin Birth thing. That was like the popular myth among the legends of the area, there was a bunch of virgin-birth gods in Egypt and Africa. Luke just happened to write down a version that stuck.
Todd Jr.: There were four Gospels.
Todd: But the Virgin Birth is just in Luke… and Matthew, or was that Mark. I forget now.
Todd Jr.: You and your books and your studies. Having Jesus in your life is more important than your so called scholarly books.
Todd: Lighten up, son. How is Jane.
Todd Jr.: Fine. She couldn’t be healthier. She never cared for politics.
Todd: Pop is old school like that, thinks we have an obligation to society and that democracy can be a force for good. I do not disagree, but history has made me skeptical. Pop wants a better future for everybody.
Todd Jr.: I don’t care about history or the future. I care about the present. Pop-Pop is ruining my life.
Todd: How could anything your grandfather do possibly ruin your life?
Todd Jr.: I cannot be a father and without a job. You think I’m exaggerating, but it is the honest truth. I never talked about local politics with my boss before. The first time I do is to apologize for Pop-Pop? That is not good. It’s hard enough keeping my sales figures high enough for Levine to stay off my back.
Todd: Well, like you said, your boss cares about sales. Interest in Pop’s campaign will wane, it’s just a council seat. There’s two seats and the mayor, we’re just a bum-fuck town at the edge of the suburbs.
Todd Jr.: I need to stay focused. Doing my job. Becoming a father. I don’t need any distractions.
Todd: Pop will always be Pop. You’re good at your job and you’ll be a great father. That’s something I do believe.
Elder Todd is again standing in front of the screen, his face, neck and shoulders illuminated and everything else in the room is dark, but he is not alone with Beamer this time. There is a small huddle on the side, someone is holding a boom mike, the more professional looking camera is on a tripod. Elder Todd is wearing a dress shirt with tie and his sleeves are rolled up.
Beamer: And Go
Elder Todd: I am Todd Greenfield.
Beamer: Lower, these microphones are very sensitive. Be Warm, inviting, but serious.
Elder Todd. How about this…I am Todd Greenfield.
Elder Todd: I am Todd Greenfield. As you all know, I am running for the Far Meadow District 2 Council Seat. While campainging, it has been my pleasure and privilege to meet my fellow citizens by talking about how we can make our town better.
I am here to propose an effective solution to the municipal budget problem that has hindered so much progress in Far Meadow and is being used as an excusse by our our current town council to sell our beloved Old Mall.
Do you know that our kids are using text books printed in the 1990s. Our grammar school doesn’t even have a computer lab. We were not able to replace one of our snow plows. When we had a foot of snow in February, it took three days to finish clearing our streets, even though the highways and the office park parking lots were cleared that next morning after the blizzard so the office workers would not miss any pay checks.
You are paying your taxes, but the owners of our office parks and office buildings, and the companies who are leasing out those spaces, are paying a property tax rate far lower than any Far Meadow homeowner . Do you know they pay less than one percent of the value of their property in property taxes each year, and there has not been a re-valuation of commericial property since 1993.
Improving the quality of life in Far Meadow will take more than my election to town council. That is why I am also introducing a ballot measure – Fair Corporate Property Tax – please, sign this petition – all we need are 900 signatures for this question to be on the ballot in November – and then vote Yes for the Fair Corporate Property Tax measure.
Let the people decide how Far Meadow should finiance the government works that are necessary for our quality of life.
For too long, the companies who call Far Meadow home have not paid their fair share. This Ballot Question will increase their property tax only 10 percent, which is a modest increase and makes the corporate property tax rate in keeping with the rate homeowners now pay. The ballot will also assess the property to justly measure its current market value so the new rate can be accurately adjusted.
Far Meadow needs your help. Far Meadow needs your vote and we need your signature. Please look for me or one of my supporters around town. Go to our website and Facebook page to find out where we will be so you can make your voice heard. The future of Far Meadow needs you.
Beamer has her hand up. She puts one finger down at a time, counting to five. When her hand forms a fist, he speaks.
Elder Todd: I’m Todd Greenfield and I approve this message.
The lights go on.The living room has been transformed into a campaign office. There are Ikea desks set up in the living room, lap tops are everywhere, Maxine Dunbar and her walker is a at desk. The camera is now on a tripod, someone is holding a boom mike above his head. Amber is operating a spot light. Elder Todd and the small group watches the playback on a video monitor.
Dimly lit, small restaurant. There’s bar next to a brick wall, Amber and Todd are at the bar. The bar hosts the monthly Far Meadow spoken word/open-mike night. Amber is dressed very Goth. There’s a small cluster of people at the other end of the room, who are not part of the reading. It’s a dead night.
Amber: This doesn’t look good. Beamer isn’t even here. I don’t want to text her again.
Todd: Attendance is always bad this time of year.
Amber: There hasn’t been anyone beside me, you and Beamer since June.
Todd: (bemused sarcasm) I once believed poetry would make a better world.
Amber: The world won’t get better if nobody shows up to hear the poetry. I wrote a new poem too. I work-shopped it online with my wattpad group and they loved it.
Todd: Well, I would love to hear it.
Todd waves over the bartender, reluctantly turns down the volume on the background music (the other ambient bar noise also becomes lower in volume) ambient noise. A spotlight forms a circle on the brick wall, encompassing the microphone on the stand. Amber walks over to the microphone, which issues a feedback squeal as she adjusts it to her high. She shakes her head, getting herself into character. She cops a pose – bad girl, punk poet.
Amber: (sneering) This is about my day job and my dark thirst.
Dental Hygienist Vampire
I scrape your teeth/ You squirm in pain/I flush your gums/ you scream my name
I remove your plaque/Make your teeth shine/But there’s a final release/
For which we both pine
(Beamer walks into the bar, sits next to Todd, she squeezes his hand)
At my cleavage/I see you stare/But when you spit and rinse/You best beware
When our naked thighs touch/only pleasure, not yet pain/you can take my body
/just give me your vein.
Beamer: (shouts, loudly clapping) Awesome!
She hugs Amber, a big hug.
Todd: Very, intense Amber. A solid addition to your bloodsucker series.
Bartender walks over to Todd and they talk.
Amber: Did you really like it?
Beamer: Didn’t I say it was awesome, Ambien?
Todd: I think that might be it for the open mike tonight. Somebody complained. We’re out numbered.
Beamer: They’re jerks here, maybe we can get more people next time. I’ll message you Ambien, we can come up with some ideas for the readings together.
Amber: I have to work an early shift tomorrow anyway. I’ll see you after at the House of Campaign.
Beamer: It’s getting a little cooler, good sleeping weather.
Todd: House of Campaign – is that what you’re calling my Pop’s place.
Beamer: Indeed. I even crashed in your old bedroom the other night. He said you used to have a black light and Led Zeppelin posters. I thought you might find it hot that I slept in your childhood bed.
Todd: I do not. Amber is helping with the campaign?
Beamer: She works so hard. I’m surprised she still has time for her vampire poetry. She is awesome. I’m the campaign manager, and I have more and more to manage every day.
Todd: How did you start helping him in the first place.
Beamer: I was with my mom and we met him outside the Pathmark handing out flyers. He’s got a lot of spunk your old man, and my mother is really into local issues. He never even goes on the internet, even though your sister bought him a brand new, fully-loaded apple last year. I set him up on Facebook, and friends of mine and my mom turned out for the council meeting, then it has continued to snowball ever since. I’m really excited Todd. I never knew Politics could be so interesting.
Todd: Has, um, he mentioned, me and you, to your mother.
Beamer: Ick, no!
Todd: Did you?
Beamer: Double-ick. Why should I?
Todd: I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about you. I just wanted, I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about you and wasn’t sure what I should do. It’s been nearly a month since I saw you last.
Beamer: I think it’s cute, that you can still be awkward when it comes to women.
Todd: At my age, you mean.
Beamer: Of course at your age. Barkeep, I require your talents. (Henry walks over) Vodka Tonic, extra lemon, if you please.
Todd: Henry, I’ll have another beer. (Henry leaves) You’re something else.
Beamer: Dynamo, that’s what your Pop calls me. We are having another meet and greet at Evergreen Center tomorrow afternoon.
Todd: The old age home?
Beamer: Assisted Living, if you please. Those folks are really, really cool. The men and women, well it’s mostly women and they swoon over your Pop. They are like groupies. But the guys there are his buddies too. Your Pop takes them seriously. People want respect. They want the dignity they feel for themselves validated. Todd the Elder listens to them. Old people vote. And they have nothing but time so they volunteer. They get a lot of signatures. They contribute too.
The bartender brings the drinks.
Todd: Thanks Harry. Contribute?
Beamer: He’s got about $5,000, through checks and crowd funding. That’s a ton of dough for us. Nobody wants to see the Old Mall torn down. That ballot initiative, that has gotten so much response, donations are coming up from Trenton and even from out of state. We set up a website, we got an email base. Our goal is to talk to every voter in town. The League of Women voters contacted us, because this is an off-year election, they have a lot of resources available and they’re going to set up voter registration drives. They told me for a city council seat that’s practically unheard of, but they’ve seen your Pop on YouTube. They like him. If we get a good voter turnout, we can win this thing. People don’t turn out, the Old Mall, all those nice woods, is going to be another ugly glass and steel headquarters for some pharmaceutical giant.
Todd: You’ve really become involved.
Beamer: Campaigning for your father, there’s like a dozen things coming at you at once. He said hope is a virtue and if I just remember that everything we do is for hope, and that hope is a virtue, then tomorrow will be better a day. I remember what we says about hope and dealing with each mini-crisis becomes easier. All the decisions that need to be made, all the ideas that need to be worked on, those answers just come instantly. I’m like, whoa – maybe anything is possible! This has been the most exciting thing, not exciting. Strike that. Fulfilling. I feel like I’m finally doing something with my life that matters, that affects something other than me, you know.
Todd: Is he using the cane?
Beamer: That cane might as well be part of his hand.
Todd: Thank you.
Beamer: Your Pop has more energy than I do.
Todd: My god, I hope not. You seem like you’re practically on Meth.
Beamer: I do feel energized and it’s not just the three, sugar-free Red Bulls I drank today. Okay, only one was sugar-free. But if you’re worried about the health of Todd the Elder, don’t be, he is fit as a fiddle half his age.
Todd hugs her and it’s friendly at first but suddenly becomes passionate and then realizing they are in public they just as quickly unlock lips and Todd looks around, nervously, Beamer just drinks.
Beamer: (whispering) that was nice. I’ve been thinking about you too, Todd. I’ve just been busy and your dad thing has been a surprise. I surprised myself with it, I never cared about this stuff before. I guess I should be writing but it is writing, statements, tweets, posts, lots of stuff. I sound more like Todd the Elder than he does sometimes. (she finishes her drink, then after a lull). I don’t want to complicate your life.
Todd: You’re not. I know that you can do a lot better than me. I’m just saying I care about you.
Beamer: You’re a caring person. I care that you care, believe me. And you’re good too… in bed too I mean.
Todd: Not great? I know that I’m a good person but at my age my ego needs all the esteem it can beg, borrow or steal. False esteem is just as acceptable.
Beamer: Have you eaten? Cause I could use some of Chang’s gluten-free lo mien. Why don’t we grab some then go back to your place.
They kiss again.
Todd: Chang delivers.
Stage goes dark.
The House of Campaign: the room still looks like a living room, but filled with campaign related clutter, new posters of Elder Todd have been tacked to the walls as well as a large multi-colored map dotted with push pins. Elder Todd is at the big, wooden desk talking on a land line phone, Beamer is at a smaller desk, landline cradled in her neck, cellphone in the other hand, her free hand tapping on her lap tap. On another desk is Maxine Dunbar, who is in her 90s, a large screen computer monitor is in front of her, and she scribbles in a notebook. Two younger campaign workers sit on the couch, tapping on lap tops. It’s a buzzing beehive.
The Mayor walks in. He has no entourage, he is alone and is dressed casually. He is in his early 60s. He is a friendly, charismatic extrovert.
Mayor: So, this is where the revolution begins.
Elder Todd: (exclaiming) Mr. Mayor.
Elder Todd says goodbye, hangs up the phone and stands up.
He grabs his cane, goes over to the Mayor and they vigorously shake hands.
Elder Todd motions for the Mayor to sit in an upholstered chair – a remnant from what used to be living room prior to the House of Campaign taking over the space – and after the Mayor sits, the workers vacate the couch and Elder Todd sits on the couch, near the Mayor.
Elder Todd: Would you like some water (the Mayor nods yes). Please, somebody get me and the Mayor something to drink
Mayor: I used to come to this house when I trick or treated as a kid. You always gave out good candy.
Elder Todd: My wife loved chocolate with almonds, Hershey’s. We used to run out of chocolate that night, there were so many kids, and then one Halloween we didn’t run out, and there were fewer kids. My wife would complain she was eating a whole bag of chocolate. I still get the Hershey’s, and I’ve noticed more kids, not as much as back then but more than there used to be.
Mayor: There’s still some trick or treating being conducted. I still bring my grandkids. I dress as a zombie.
Beamer: I saw the photo op.
Elder Todd: Chill dynamo.
Mayor: It’s all part of the game, but it is not just a game. Public relations, you need not just an image but a way for people to understand there are leaders and they are humans they can identify with. I get a picture taken, it goes up on our website and sometimes the newspaper prints it too. The message is that Far Meadow is a good place for kids and it is safe to go trick or treating – that is a positive message, and it’s the truth. Why not promote the truth? I used to put on a mask, but now I get my face painted. The fact I use it as a photo-op, how is that a negative thing, being associated with something positive?
Volunteer hands the Mayor and Elder Todd bottles of spring water.
Elder Todd: We should go trick or treating, it might be a good way to meet people.
Beamer: Exploit Halloween, I’ll make a note.
Elder Todd: Halloween is not exactly Padre Pio.
Mayor: I like that your campaign is shaking things up.
Elder Todd: You’ve always been polite to me, I appreciate that.
Mayor: You sit through almost as many council meetings as I do. Most of the time I would rather have a root canal while listening to speed metal then go to one of those damn things. But I have to go. That kind of endurance demands respect. You don’t become a politician if you don’t like people, or believe in the people. I was born and raised in Far Meadow and I like it here. Nobody in the party, the state-wide party, wants me to run for even state senator. They let us be. No one really cares about the Exurbs except the people who live here. I’m not the ogre your campaign manager thinks I am.
Beamer: What kind of ogre are you?
Elder Todd: She’s young and she just wants me to win.
Mayor: I’m a friend of Charlie Robinson. He’s my man. But just because I support him does not mean that I don’t think it is a good thing that you are running. I hope you lose of course, but it’s up to the people. I like that your campaign has gotten attention, and I admit, more attention than I ever though it would have gotten when you first announced. I’m impressed, Todd.
Elder Todd: Thank you.
Beamer: Can you make Robo-Cop debate Todd the Elder?
Mayor: I’m not here to talk about your candidacy. That’s a done deal. You want to debate him, then you have to get him to agree to do so, that’s something out of my sphere of influence. He’s not used to having a challenger. I never had a challenger running for Mayor. Now, I know that sounds like we have a dictatorship, but it is not like I suppress anybody. I hold down a full time job, you only get a stipend here to hold office. We’re lucky if 20 percent turn out to vote, hell barely 50 percent come out to vote for president.
Beamer: We’re going to get the vote out in our district. We’re registering new voters.
Mayor: I’m all for that. I came here to wish you well. If you get elected, I look forward to working with you. I am probably closer to your position on the Old Mall than you realize. It’s this ballot question business that I would like you to reconsider.
Elder Todd: Reconsider? Without that tax question I’m a paper tiger.
Mayor: Not in the least – you have become a force, you’ve energized people. I admire that, I do.
Elder Todd: I’m not going to settle for energizing people. My campaign is not just Public Relations! Far Meadow cannot get what the people need without more tax money and the corporations are the ones who have the money.
Mayor: There is serious money ready to be spent that will prevent the tax question from getting on the ballot.
Maxine: It’s as good as on now.
Maxine’s old, wizen voice momentarily stuns everyone in the room. She slowly starts to stand.
Beamer: Walker Maximum.
She wobbles as she grabs hold of the walker, then eases her way towards the Mayor and Elder Todd.
Maxine: I had my hearing aid turned up. I heard you correctly, Mr. Mayor. We’ve already filed. You only need two hundred signatures to file and we have six weeks to get the rest. We hit two hundred signatures on Monday. The ballot is already in the system. A judge has the ability to approve it with just the amount of signatures we have now if he or she can be persuaded that there was an ongoing good faith effort to collect more signatures and that the issue is pressing enough that the will of the people is required to decide the potential conflict. But even that stipulation is mute since we will get the 900 signatures required.
Beamer: Darn Toontin we will Maximum! I just got a text from Ambien, 232 sigs from the train station tonight already.
Mayor: Maxine Dunbar? You’re involved with this campaign?
Maxine: I may have to wear a diaper and use a walker, but all my marbles are still in my head.
Mayor: You’re a real estate lawyer.
Maxine: I was. Now I’m retired. Now I’m just a lawyer. I was the first woman lawyer in Far Meadow and now I’m the first woman Lawyer at Evergreen Center.
Mayor: We have national experts in election laws we’re consulting with.
Maxine: I was an expert in Far Meadow law when you were in kindergarten. We have nearly five hundred signatures now, Mr. Mayor. We are going to get all the signatures we need.
Mayor: We will contest each one.
Maxine: As is your right, but it will be up to the judge. We are asking for ID when we get the signature. People in the other district want this too. All our signatures are valid and verifiable. We’re ready to go to court. I’ll have you know, I’ve kept my license up to date.
Mayor: You got to be 90 years old. Why are you doing this?
Maxine: I’m 95. I like talking to people. Beamer and Todd here came to visit, two three times. She’s a very smart girl and fun to be around. Smart too. Oh, I said that. They talked to me. That made the difference. Charlie Robinson, he visits, he talks at you, like you’re a house plant. I suggested the ballot question to raise taxes. You can’t keep the Old Mall without somehow increasing the town’s revenue. Beamer listened. We talked. We researched. That’s the problem with politicians, they get into office and they forget about the actual law books, what’s in them. And all those law books are online and when they’re online, you can make the print as big as you need it to be. You’d be amazed how easy it is to get a question on the ballot in this county, especially if it is specific just to one town. The NJACLU answered my questions for free. They’re very interested in this Far Meadow election now. Please, contest our petition for the Fair Corporate Tax Ballot question. I haven’t been in a court room in thirty years, I can’t wait to have me and my walker on Television talking about how our Mayor wants to silence the will of the people.
Elder Todd: We’re going for the mandate, Ed. There’s no stopping that now.
Beamer: We be Mandate Nation.
Mayor: You see anybody building factories in America? Do you think people are going to start growing celery again? What happens when all the corporations leave Far Meadow. What is an exurb with empty offices?
Elder Todd: Will some companies leave, maybe. That’s just short term. When I was in investment banking, I steered a lot of money here. People liked living in Far Meadow, it was bucolic, near the highway. We have bus stops and our NJ-Transit stop. Companies moved here because we built them. That’s what my job was back then, finding places that are good to do business in and making it possible for that business to happen. They benefit, their investors and share holders benefit. There was an agreement, a social contract. Everyone benefits. Long term profit growth, long term revenue – that was what we believed in when I was commuting back and forth to The Street, and that was the promise of Far Meadow. We need that social contract back and we need to get rid of the contract we do have, where only short term profits are maximized and there’s no vision beyond the next quarter. We must shift the tide before things get worse
Mayor: Delusions of grandeur. These forces are beyond us, beyond you, me and this little hick-burg we call home.
Elder Todd: I can only do what I can. I used to love coming home to Far Meadow, once you’re on the train – an hour and fifteen minutes from Hoboken – especially when it’s warm and it was still light after six o’clock – I would just think of things I could do with my wife and kids, things that would make them happy, make our life better. They sometimes thought I was crazy, the whole town probably did too. I feel like that now. I’m back on that train, coming home, with lots of ideas about what to do.
Mayor: I remember your cornfield when I was in high school.
Elder Todd: This campaign started to give me something to do besides retirement, but that wasn’t truly it even if I thought that was why, when I first decided to enter the race. I looked around and thought about the town that would be here when I was gone and knew if I didn’t do something about changing things, then my life would lack meaning. I would cease doing good.
Mayor: Keeping taxes low is not evil.
Beamer: Taxes for whom! I studied Ronald Reagan in school. I saw documentaries. How can our country still be hoodwinked by his deceptive hogwash. Lowering taxes for rich people and letting companies do whatever they want to make profits have made this country a mountain of toxic manure for the rest of us. My mom was always talking about the mall and the woods. Todd the Elder has given her hope. He’s given us all hope. I remember him from high school, not the Gipper, you, the Old Gray mayor here. He always came to the school, had his pictures taken with the kids. Always trying to inspire us, talking about public service and volunteerism. I guess those were just words for you.
Mayor: They were not just words. But you have to be reasonable, you have to be mature, work within the system.
Maxine: This is the system, democracy is the system. Voting is the system.
Beamer: Walker Maximum. Guess what, your words worked Old Gray. Todd the Elder here was the catalyst that made your inspiration a reality. All the kids from school are my Facebook friends and they don’t want to see the Old Mall and the woods go either. They’re registering to vote. Maybe we have you to thank, Old Gray. Better be careful what you tell the kids. Sometimes we actually listen.
Maxine: It’s more than just kids. You told us the same thing at Evergreen. You say we can still contribute. Here I am.
Elder Todd: We love Far Meadow just like you.
The Mayor gets up to leave.
Mayor: You do have a point, most of what you say echoes why I decided to add public service to my life. But you’re not just dealing with me, you know the kind of money those companies have, Todd. (to Beamer) And you should have respect for people older than you.
Elder Todd: What good did showing respect do us, Ed? Wars still happened, the rich still got richer except now they get rich without creating jobs.
Mayor: Stuffing envelopes. That’s what my volunteers do. Maybe a day in the Pathmark Parking lot. That’s about the extent of their volunteerism. I didn’t even ring one doorbell last cycle. You know who does my Facebook page, a niece who lives in Paramus. I’ve never personally been on Facebook. My wife designed my brochure. It’s ten years old. I guess I will have to get a new one made up next year. Whether you win or lose, this won’t stop.
Mayor and Elder Todd shake hands.
As he leaves, he passes Amber, flustered and excited and hurrying into the House of Campaign space. She’s holding an iced coffee and a large manila envelope.
Beamer: Is it raining yet?
She ignores her question, breathless as she nearly shouts.
Amber: Beamer! I got 43 more sigs after my text. People were coming to the platform because of all the people who’s shared your FB posts and re-tweeted your tweets. They weren’t just coming to sign from off the train, they were coming to the train station just to sign.
Beamer jumps up and down.
Beamer: Lets hug Maximum.
Squealing and giggling, they hop over to the old woman, hugging her, giddily kiss her cheeks, make dance moves that rub their bodies against hers.
Maxine: (flustered with happiness) Girls. Girls
Elder Todd goes over to them, everyone high fives. More people join them, a group hug forming as the stage goes dark.
Todd’s apartment, morning. Beamer is wearing a long t-shirt, one of his. She has become comfortable there, sleeping together is now a more relaxed situation. She has ear buds in, talking on Skype as she gazes at her laptop. Coffee and bagel by the computer.
Beamer: (mid-conversation) We don’t take the signs out and hold them up until we’re all inside. The Evergreeners will come by their bus, they go there all the time. Nobody is going to mess with those women and their walkers. We meet at the food court, then we all take out our signs. They ask us to leave, we leave. We just want to parade around, get some Facebook pictures. We will get a reporter or two I bet.
Todd walks in from the bedroom, talking on his cellphone.
Todd: I’ll see you soon (Drops phone on the coffee table) Red Alert. Todd is coming over, he says he has to talk to me. I kind of think it might be good if—
Beamer: I skedaddle? I am totally down with that totally. T-3 don’t like me.
Todd: You met him?
Beamer: (she has removed her ear buds, and is already powering down her computer)The other day, he came by the house of campaign. T-3 was none too happy. The wife seems nice. Preggers. Just starting to show. Glowing stage. I was getting ready to bolt anyway. Think I have time for a quick shower?
Todd: Make it fast.
Beamer: (Closes her laptop. She stands quickly. Kisses him) Pits and slit, then I’m out of here. Ten minutes tops.
Todd puts her lap top in the laptop case, then begins to clean up the coffee table area, the mug and plate, which he takes into the kitchen. There is a knock on the door
Todd Jr.: (from outside): Pop?
Todd: One minute son. (he runs from kitchen to bedroom. We hear his voice offstage). He’s here. I would like to avoid an introduction right now, he probably won’t stay long.
The son knocks again. Todd opens the door and they hug hello.
Todd: That was quick.
Todd Jr.: I called on my way. I didn’t realize I was so close. No traffic.
Todd: Is Jane all right?
Todd Jr.: She’s fine. It’s work dad. Levine said I should get Pop-Pop to drop out of the race. I’m asking you to ask him or at least go with me when I do.
Todd: I gave him my blessing. I cannot go back on that. It’s too late anyway. He’s on the ballot. People can vote for him even if he stops running.
Todd Jr.: Do you know how much a baby can cost?
Todd: Obviously I do. I wrote restaurant reviews while holding down a TV writing gig just so you could have braces.
Todd Jr.: I cannot lose my job right now.
Todd: Calm down. Let’s talk about it. Have a seat. Let me get you a cup of coffee. I have some gluten-free bagels.
Todd Jr.: Gluten-Free?
Todd Jr. sits on the couch, Todd goes into the kitchen.
Todd: They’re not bad. Do you want butter substitute or tofu cream cheese?
Todd Jr.: Coffee is fine. (genuinely worried) Did you see the doctor recently? Is your cholesterol high?
Todd: Just trying to eat healthier, drop a few pounds. I want the energy my old man has. You too, working full time, getting ready for Fatherhood. I’m sick of being the lazy Todd.
Todd Jr.: I’ve been praying on this, I swear. I must talk to Pop-Pop. Have you been down to his place lately?
Todd hands him a cut of coffee and sits next to him on the couch.
Todd: The House of Campaign?
Todd Jr.: Hipsters and the nearly-dead. What do they think they’re doing? You can’t go anywhere in Far Meadow without a clipboard being shoved in your face, somebody wanting to talk about the office park tax or the Old Mall. You know, there are crack dealers in the parking lot there. Why would anybody want that eyesore saved. My Pop-Pop is the most beloved man in town, except at my job, where my boss thinks he’s Satan.
Todd: Look, um, before you go on (he whispers) I have something to tell you, keep your voice down. I have a guest.
Todd Jr.: (Voice now a whisper) A woman?
Todd Jr. : A sleep-over type woman, that kind of guest?
Todd Jr. : Why didn’t you tell me. How long has this been going on.
Todd: It’s still new. Do you really want to know about my sex life every time I get one?
Todd Jr.: Good point.
Todd: I just don’t want you or her embarrassed. Try to act cool.
Todd Jr.: I’m cool. I’m happy for you. You’ve been alone too long. I’ll go. I just wanted you to know about what’s going on with work.
Todd: Levine cannot fire you because of Pop, that’s against the law.
Todd Jr.: Levine owns the place, he can do anything he wants.
Todd: There are laws. What if he fired you because you’re a born-again Christian. Would that be right?
Todd Jr.: Just because it’s not right that he fires me doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It’s a small office and he can do what he wants and when he does then who is to say what is right or wrong. If his taxes go up, then he has to close.
Todd: He will not have to close if he has to pay the same tax rate as you do for your house. I thought you were doing well there. Sales wise.
Todd Jr.: My sales are up.
Todd: Didn’t you get a contract deal for delivery trucks for the laundry service, that friend of yours from when your mom sent you to Bible Camp?
Todd Jr.: Justin.
Todd: Me, Pop, your Mom, your Uncle Joe. We all get our cars from Levine. He loses you, he loses a lot of business.
Todd Jr.: It’s not that simple Pop.
Todd: You have a lot of leverage, a lot more than you are certainly giving yourself credit for. The law is on your side too. Levine is an asshole and he will be an asshole if Pop wins or loses and was an asshole before Pop decided to run for the council seat. He was a councilman before.
Todd Jr.: I remember the stories. He’s selfish. He cares so much about everyone else in Far Meadow, but so little about his own flesh and blood.
Todd: That’s unfair. You say you believe in Jesus, son, that you have a personal relationship with Christ. Pop believes that saving the Old Mall and reforming the town’s property tax code will make it better for everybody, especially those in town who are struggling. What you do unto me. Don’t you have a personal relationship with that Jesus, son?
Todd Jr.: You only mention my faith to use it against me. What if the actions of Pop-Pop prevent me from providing for my family?
Beamer enters fully dressed, carrying a stuffed tote bag and a pocket book. She burst into the scene, shocking the two, knowing that her sudden presence will shock and using that fact to her advantage.
Beamer: I have to do a shift at the coffee house and if I don’t go now I’ll be late. I can’t listen to this anymore. T-3 is full of bilge water. Todd the Elder will make this town a better place for the yet to be born baby of yours. How can you think he’s selfish?
Todd Jr.: Her? Pop? Her?
Beamer: Sorry Todd, I couldn’t help overhearing, and I do have to go. You’re going to break your Pop-Pop’s heart if you make him dropout just to appease your boss.
Todd Jr.: Pop… Who are you, Woody Allen? She’s younger than me.
Todd: It’s complicated.
Todd Jr.: She’s your student.
Todd: Ex-student. We’re friends. We just became a little closer.
Beamer: It’s not like you have to call me Mommy.
Todd Jr.: This is so not cool, Pop. You’re sleeping with Pop-Pop’s hipster campaign manager!
Beamer: He introduced us.
Todd Jr.: You just said you were her former teacher.
Beamer: No, your Pop introduced me to your Pop-Pop and your Pop-Pop got me into politics.
Todd Jr.: Do you know how bad this looks.
Beamer: There goes my invitation to the debutante’s ball. I’m an adult T-3. I can legally drink and everything. What I do is my own business and my own decision.
Todd Jr.: Oh come on you freak, who knows what psycho-shit is inside your head that you’re acting out. Never got enough love from your daddy so you’re pulling a female Oedipus.
Beamer: I did get enough love from my daddy but I still like fornicating with your daddy. And it’s Electra.
Todd Jr.: Dare Devil’s girlfriend?
Beamer: No the female Oedipus. Didn’t you make him read books as a kid?
Todd: I only had joint custody.
Todd Jr.: Does Pop-Pop know about you and Hannah Montana?
Todd Jr.: He’s okay with it?
Beamer: Pop-Pop is not as judgmental as his grandson.
Todd: I didn’t know they would hit it off too.
Todd Jr.: They?
Todd: Pop and Beamer here. She’s really made that campaign. I haven’t seen him this happy since my mother passed away.
Beamer: That’s so awesome of you to say. I like him tons – he’s the political Pop-Pop I never had. I’m not going to let his spawn’s spoiled spawn break his heart.
Todd Jr.: Pop, how can you know scripture so well and still think it’s right you sleep with somebody half your age.
Beamer: Todd the Elder goes to church nearly every day and even he doesn’t spew the repressive Jesus Freak balderdash you do.
Todd Jr.: Pop-Pop is Catholic.
Beamer: You’re a Jesus Freak and you don’t even go to church.
Todd Jr.: I’m not a Jesus Freak. I’m Assembly of God. I go to services every Sunday.
Todd: (picks up Beamer’s lap top, hands it to her) I’ll call you later, okay Beamer. We’ll talk later.
Beamer: Hey, T-3 what was the weather like outside.
Todd Jr.: What? Nice. Clear. No more humidity. (Sarcastically) Have a blessed day.
She blows kisses to the two men as she leaves
Todd Jr.: My own father. A Barely Legal fetishist.
Todd: It’s not like that at all. I never thought of her in that way at all until the night that it just happened.
Todd Jr.: Spare me the details.
Todd: I am. She’s a young woman, but she is a woman and I may be old, but I’m still a man. We are consenting adults. I don’t even know how serious it is. For what it’s worth, she does make me happy. I’m happy when we’re together.
Todd Jr.: I’m sure it’s a rush. Am I the only one who still believes in only appropriate sex?
Todd: Could be, son. You had some girlfriends before you put on that purity ring.
Todd Jr.: I’ve been with the same woman since I was 22 Pop. And we’re both from the same generation.
Todd: I know, and she’s great and you’re happy, right.
Todd Jr.: I love her with all my heart.
Todd: Nothing I do, or your grandfather, will hurt that love. We’re family, and we love Jane, and we love you, and we love the one on the way. Don’t worry so much.
Todd Jr.: What a terrible morning. Now I have to go sell cars and/or face my boss.
Todd: You’re not going to see Pop?
Todd Jr.: I think I’ll just process this first.
Todd: I know it’s a pain in the ass and annoying, but so many people, especially men, at Pop’s age, they get feeble or they have dementia or they’re not around, they’re dead. We’re lucky to have him around and if this keeps him going, then it has to be for the good. Did you see him in the new web commercial.
Todd Jr.: Yes. He looks good, like Charlton Heston.
Todd: Let’s hope The Ten Commandments and not Bowling for Columbine Chuck. I can’t go back on my blessing, you understand that.
Todd Jr.: I do.
Todd: But if you ask him to quit, I will not say it’s a bad idea.
Todd Jr. Slumps forward, his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. Todd puts his arm around his son’s shoulders as the stage slowly goes dark.
The gym Jimmy Schneider and Todd, peddling on recumbent bikes. Jimmy is flipping through channels as he talks and Todd is watching the channels go by, indifferently.
Jimmy: I saw your dad leading a discussion in front of the Pathmark.
Jimmy: There was a group of women.
Todd: Young women?
Jimmy: All ages, elderly with walkers, but a lot of were young, with the tattoos and all. Baby Strollers too. Not just women, but mostlywomen, maybe 70/30. People surrounded him. They were flocking to him. Asking him questions. He drew a crowd. He was at a folding table, and people were standing around, he was just talking, they were just listening. Some were holding up their phones to take pictures. People were shushing.
Jimmy: (demonstrates, putting his finger to lips and making the classic librarian sound) I was at the edge of the gathering and somebody right in front of me said something to the person they were with and another person shushed them, made them be quiet so they could listen to your old man talk about flood zones. That patch of woods around the mall, we used to smoke dope in there, he was saying how if the developers chop down those woods and build more buildings, we will ruin our aqua-filter or some such eco-type term. Without those woods, we could be a flood zone next big storm, he said, or maybe it was one of those hipster chicks who explained that. It was a heady discussion, on the sidewalk by the Pathmark. People with their carts, lingering to listen. I’ve never seen anything like that before. Then I came home and told the wife. She asks me if we can put a Todd Greenfield sign on our lawn. I was like what? She and her friends are loving your Pops. She said she was going to bring a sign home when she asked but there’s a waiting list to get signs, they ran out.
Todd: What did you tell her?
Jimmy: We’re buddies. I should’ve put one on the lawn weeks ago, but you’ve seemed ambivalent about this whole election deal with your Pop, so I didn’t pursue. But it would help me if you can hook me up now. Your Pop’s lawn sign is like a status symbol. She was probably telling me not asking me to ask you about getting us a lawn sign. My wife and I agree about your father. Agreeing with my wife. Political symposiums at the Pathmark. It is a brave new world.
Todd: (suddenly) What’s that, go back .
They stare for a moment.
Todd: Is that the local station?
Jimmy: No, ESPN.
Todd: That’s Charlie Robinson
Robinson: (volume up, his voice from the set) Far Meadow is at the cross roads and this year’s council race determines what sort of future you want for your families. There’s been a lot of irresponsible election chatter about what we as citizens can and cannot do. Do you want a future of stability and security, where the companies who have been our partners have a place they want to base their business and create jobs, or do you want a future of higher taxes and declining quality of life. Do you want the insecure future that irresponsible leadership will bring to Far Meadow, or do you want the dependable home town we all know and love.
A vote for Charlie Robinson is a vote for a future you can depend on.
Jimmy: Holy friggin crap.
Robinson: I am Charlie Robinson and I approve this message.
Todd: ESPN, this is on ESPN?
Jimmy is aiming the remote again, rapidly changing channels.
Todd: Not the local channel?
Jimmy: Public Access doesn’t have commercials. It’s cable dude, oh that’s right, you live in book world – it is only running in our area – holy crap, there it is again – the Hallmark channel – wow!
Todd has his cellphone out,
Todd: Beamer, a commercial for Charlie Robinson was just on ESPN.
Jimmy: Food Network. There it is again, Discovery. A&E!
Todd: (talking on cellphone to Beamer) He’s calling my Pop irresponsible. You know? Knew it was going to air. How? Mole? (listens) No, I am not starting to watch television, they have cable at the gym. (longer pause) I wore a sweat jacket but I didn’t need it.
Ends call, puts phone back in gym pants pocket
Jimmy: Unlike you, I watch cable TV all the time. It’s what I do when I’m not working. I ain’t never seen a Far Meadow election ad ever. Not even for mayor. This costs tens of thousands of dollars.
Todd: Who are they trying to reach.
Todd: Who watches TV at this hour, except old guys with flexible schedules and shut ins.
Jimmy: We still vote. So do shut ins. But this is not the only time his propaganda piece is being shown. They buy blocks of ad-time through Comcast, they get shown on multiple cable channels throughout the day, only Far Meadow subscribers see the commerical, but it is still costs mucho dinero to show it on so many stations , a lot more than a newspaper ad or a direct mail brochure. That was professional looking commercial, as slick as any Mitt Romney made. You know, yesterday I got a Robinson flier in the mail. It was the size of a wall calendar.
Todd: I got one of those too.
Jimmy: We are looking at major money.
Todd: My chair talked to me about the election. He just found out the guy running against Charlie Robinson was my father. He drives all way the down from Westchester, but he said the College Board is none too happy about Pop’s ideas. He said, if he lived in town he would vote for him. Kids want to get him to speak on campus, but the board hasn’t approved it and probably won’t. The chair said he rarely sees this kind of student support for a Governor or president; for a local seat, it’s completely unheard of.
Jimmy: Todd Greenfield is everywhere and now Robinson has launched his expensive counter-offensive. Robinson has begun his office park financed backlash against your Pop.
Todd: Now that I think about it, that was a weird discussion he had with me, like he was going out of his way to inform me that higher ups at school were not pleased with my Pop. My chair was warning me about my job.
Jimmy: I know Robinson, he cannot have the personal resources to drop this kind of dough, it has be 30, 40 grand at least. Shoot, it had to more than that too that would be just for the ad-buy, not production. That was not made on somebody’s phone.
Joe Winston has walked over and is not noticed by Jimmy and Todd until he speaks.
Joe Winston: My boy looks pretty good. The fun and games are over. I like your dad, but his nonsense has to be stopped.
Jimmy: Up yours, Winston. That commercial was defamation of character. Your old man should sue, Todd.
Joe Winston: Bring it on. That tax hike ballot is already in court.
Todd: You and Robinson are liars. My father is everything you and Robinson are not.
Joe Winston: Why would you ever think people want to pay higher taxes.
Todd: You stupid bloody fool. You don’t care about Far Meadow. You think those companies care about you or your family?
Joe Winston: I made it on my own.
Todd: Made what? You run an insurance franchise for Prudential. Everybody works hard, Joe. That doesn’t make you special. I ’ve been dealing with close-minded idiots like you my whole life. You think what you see on television passes for incisive thought.
Woman 1 and Woman 2, who have overheard, walk over to the men, are so engrossed they do not notice them. When Woman 1 speaks to Winston, she momentarily surprises the men.
Woman 1: You support that guy that was just on television.
Joe Winston: Of course, he’s been councilman for ten years. Do you want your taxes to rise and all the office parks empty?
Woman 1: Ten years you say? That’s the first time I ever saw him or heard his voice and he’s been representing me for ten years? What I want is those office parks to pay their fair share of the tax burden.
Jimmy: How did your boy get so much money to do this kind of ad buy?
Joe Winston: He has more support is why.
Jimmy: He’s getting corporate money. Lots of corporate money.
Woman 2: My house is worth half as much as it was less than ten years ago, but I read where those office parks rents have doubled during that same period of time. How is that right?
Joe Winston: America is not a socialist country
Woman 2: That’s what they always say to you instead of answering your question.
Joe Winston: His old man once turned his backyard into a cornfield, you think he can run things? Have you seen the people his father’s got working for him?
Jimmy: You make another crack about my buddy’s father and I’m going to smack you in the face.
Gym attendant: Stop this ruckus.
They ignore him.
Woman 2: (to Todd) I talked to your father at the strip mall near the dollar store. What a nice man.
Woman 1: How did that Robinson guy get that kind of money to be on TV like that.
Joe Winston: Companies are allowed to donate as much money as they want to a politician of their choice, just like people.
Woman 1: That’s why we the people keep getting screwed over.
Jimmy: We’ve never seen the kind of money Robinson is spending in a Far Meadow election before. Not even close.
Todd: Those office parks have been robbing us blind for decades. It is not just about saving the Old Mall, but taking back our town. That’s why jerks like him hate my Pop.
Woman 1: Why shouldn’t we be able to vote on how much taxes a company should pay?
Gym Attendant: I think you better go.
Joe Winston: He’s just like his father, a rabble rouser. You should have seen him in high school, with the drugs and the leather jacket.
Jimmy: You’re a douche bag, Winston.
Gym Attendant: Not Todd, you Mr. Winston.
Joe Winston: Me?
Gym Attendant: Please leave. I’m not cancelling your membership, but I can’t have this disturbance when I’m on duty. You’re causing the problem.
Joe Winston: I am?
Jimmy: You came over to us, Winston. It’s not like we have anything we wanted to say to you.
Gym Attendant: I’ve liked his father’s Facebook page. Everybody in my graduating class has, except your son. Todd’s father is the future.
Joe Winston: The Future? He’s 80 years old.
Gym Attendant: We all get old, Mr. Winston. The future is about all of us. The future is about people. It’s about a future we all can have.
Todd: I’m going anyway; go back to your treadmill, Winston.
Joe Winston: (to Gym Attendant) I’ll have a talk with your boss about how you’ve talked to me.
Woman 2: I will too. You handled the situation like a professional.
Woman 1: He was the one disturbing the peace. Your boss won’t be getting just his side.
Jimmy: What a creep, getting a kid in trouble with his job because he has different politics than you. Your dad fought in World War II, just like mine. I remember them trading war stories. I’m sure he’s proud his son is now a fascist.
Gym Attendant: Everybody calm down and go back to your workouts. You can do what you want Mr. Winston, just stay away from these guys. My boss is voting for Todd’s dad. He told me so. He’s friends with Todd.
Todd: (shrugging) Vito was in one of my continuing education classes years ago, before he opened this gym. English Composition. I was one of the first members here.
Stage goes dark
A Pathmark Supermarket aisle. Todd Jr. is pushing a cart. He is talking to his wife on his cellphone. He doesn’t notice Robinson Worker, a man barely 20 years old, holding a clip board and some brochures, following him.
Todd Jr.: I am not mad at you. I just have a lot on my mind. Things are crazy right now. I’ll get the roasted chicken for dinner. What else do you want to eat… gluten-free? What about the microwavable white castle. Don’t you have cravings for them? What if I have cravings for them? (He starts laughing) I’ll surprise you then, love you.
Robinson Worker: (approaching as Todd Jr. puts the phone back in his pocket). Are you voting in the election for the Far Meadow council seat?
Todd Jr.: (sighing) Probably.
Robinson Worker: Can I give you this brochure for Council Robinson and quickly explain why he will improve the quality of life in Far Meadow for you and your family.
Todd Jr.: I think I have made my decision already, thank you
Robinson Worker: Did you know Councilman Robinson’s opponent is some crazy old man who wants to raise your taxes?
Todd Jr.: That’s a damn lie!
Robinson Worker: I didn’t mean to get you angry sir.
From the other side of the aisle, Amber appears.
Todd Jr.: Don’t sir me. What street did you grow up on? Who are your parents? I never saw you before.
Amber: You never saw him before because he doesn’t live here. He’s a paid worker.
Todd Jr.: You’re paid to lie about Todd Greenfield.
Amber is aiming her cellphone at the Robinson Worker.
Robinson Worker: I’m getting fifty cents above minimum wage to canvass for Robinson and against the crazy old man who wants to raise your taxes.
Amber: I told you to stop lying to people about Candidate Todd Greenfield. Your ugly puss is going right on Facebook.
Robinson Worker: (puts his hands in front of his face) I need the money.
Amber: (tapping her phone) Too late sucker.
Todd Jr.: (in the guy’s face, yelling) You talk about my Pop-Pop again and I’ll kick your ass.
Robinson Worker: (leaving) This hick-town is nuts, you don’t have to worry about me coming back to this shit hole. Your Starbucks sucks too.
Amber: Who’s Pop-Pop?
Todd Jr. : I’m Todd Greenfield’s grandson.
Amber (in shock and awe): For real?
Todd Jr.: For real.
Amber: You have the same blue eyes. My name is Amber.
Todd Jr. : Well it’s very nice to meet you Amber but if I have to think any more about this campaign my head will explode.
Amber: You don’t live here then.
Todd Jr. I certainly do live in Far Meadow. Both my parents are from here. I grew up here.
Amber: Oh, of course, you’re his, Todd, I mean, your father was my teacher at Far Meadow Community College. I’m a poet. Actually, I’m a dental hygienist and waitress, but I’m also a reader at his spoken word readings.
Todd Jr.: Well, it is a small circle of friends. Now you’re part of the occupy Old Mall movement. How swell.
Amber: You think we should let the corporations do what they want in Far Meadow?
Todd Jr.: I got more on my mind than politics. I have a pregnant wife at home. My grandfather has my boss pissed at me and my father is banging one of his students.
Amber: Oh Beamer, she’s a former student. They’re just friends.
Todd Jr.: Friends with benefits.
Amber: Big woop. Still friends. They’re adults. It’s casual. The only sex life you can do anything about is your own. Don’t you care about what happens to your town. What kind of Far Meadow do you want your little boy or little girl to grow up in?
Todd Jr.: I am more worried about paying the mortgage so I can have a roof for my kid to grow up under.
Amber: Your grandfather wants a better future for everyone in Far Meadow. He wants the corporations to pay their fair share so we can all have that future.
Todd Jr.: Render unto Caesar.
Amber: Corporations are not Caesar. Caesar is the government and in America that’s by the people and for the people. Jesus wasn’t saying we should let the powerful trample working folk. He preached that everybody matters because God his father made everyone.
Todd Jr. How do you know what Jesus said?
Amber: Both my parents are Assembly of God. I’m born again. I have a personal relationship with Jesus too, but I take a waitressing shift on Sundays at the Chili’s on Route 287 so I don’t have time go to services with my parents as often as they would like.
Todd Jr.: Are they voting for my Pop-Pop, your parents.
Amber: Yes. My mom has even gone door to door with Todd the Elder. It’s like a flock of geese in some neighborhoods. The other day, there was like a hundred people talking, standing in the driveways as he went door to door. He energizes people.
Todd Jr.: So did Hitler.
Amber: You don’t mean that. I think he’s great, but it’s not like we worship him. He’s a catalyst. He brings us together, and together we figure things out. He’s so much fun to be around, it’s not like he dictates. What to do about the Old Mall is just the tip of this like enormous ice berg. The more we talk, the more we see how all these things, these issues, interrelate. They go beyond just Far Meadow, our state, our country even. You really feel how together we can actually accomplish something that makes life better for everybody.
Todd Jr.: Sounds like a bad Bruce Springsteen song.
Amber: Your grandfather inspires everybody in Far Meadow but you.
Todd Jr.: He inspires some powerful people to hate him.
Amber: So did our Jesus, didn’t he?
Todd Jr.: (He laughs) You know, it has been very nice meeting you.
Amber: Meeting you is the best thing that happened to me tonight. I can’t wait to tell the gang at the House of Campaign I actually met T-3. You are so awesome.
Todd Jr.: I don’t feel very awesome. I have to get back to my pregnant wife. She wants munchies but now only healthy munchies. Gluten free.
Amber: I’m totally all down with that, aisle five. Let’s go, I’ll show you. What type of gluten snacks does she usually eat?
Election day is two weeks away. Beamer is alone in the House of Campaign. It is about eight in the morning, and Beamer is wearing a woman’s business suit, sitting at a desk and tapping away at a laptop. Elder Todd enters, casually dressed. He is returning from 7:00 Am, weekday Mass.
Beamer: Is it raining yet?
Elder Todd: It’s not really that cloudy. I don’t think it will clear before it rains. You’re here early.
Beamer: It’s not every day my candidate gets interviewed by NJ-TV and CNN. Are you nervous?
Elder Todd: Not really.
Beamer: Mass calmed you down. I guess it’s like transcendental meditation, except with bearded guys bleeding on crosses.
Elder Todd: It must seem silly to you.
Beamer: Grannie Solvenski, my mom’s mom, used to take me when she baby sat me. The bordem I felt there seemed like it would never end. My mom kept getting mad at her for bringing me there. They didn’t have the same relationship me and my mom have. My parents taught me religion was bullshit. Religion gets people mad at each other, they keep killing each other for some unproven ideal. When they flew those planes into the trade center, that was like my religion is better than yours. I don’t like the idea of an answer that is absolute, this is my way so you’re on the highway. Questions like the future of the Old Mall, what benefits society most – answers to those questions are answers I can believe in. The idea that there is a knowable answer to what happens after we die, or who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, I’m not down with at all. But you’re so un-judgmental, how does that stack up?
Elder Todd: I have faith. Faith is not the same as religion. I’m used to Catholicism, it helps me express that faith, at times even experience that faith, but like all religions, our good mother the church is limited and imperfect and at times, excruciatingly flawed. Faith comes from an all knowing, and all loving God. Religion is made by man and like most things made by man, Religion can be used for good or used for evil, and like all things made by man, Religion is used more often for evil and not for the good the scriptures upon which it is based espouse.
Beamer: True dat.
Elder Todd: After Agatha died, I hated God. How could He do this to me, to our kids. I stopped going to mass, even on Sundays. How could an all knowing and an all loving God let my wife die before I did. We were supposed to travel more. We wanted to go to Russia. Most of our lives, Russia was the enemy, the big bad boogey man America had to stop from trying to take over the world. That was the next place we were going to go. We wanted to dance in Red Square, you should have seen us whirl away at Carrie’s wedding.
Beamer: You didn’t dance at Todd’s wedding?
Elder Todd: He had some non-denominational reverend and a hard-rock band. They didn’t play dance music. Everybody was smoking pot in the parking lot. God, those kids were stoned. Everyone was, except me and Aggie. My daughter’s wedding, my wife got to plan. Carrie wanted more traditional. Aggie and I finally had a wedding we could dance at.
Beamer: (sniffling with tears) You loved her so much.
Elder Todd: Present tense, Beamer. I still love her. At Mass, I feel her presence, for a moment or two. I feel I can talk to her. Carrie and Todd, they were worried I was going to die after Aggie passed. I wasn’t looking after my health. Their concern had justification. When the wife goes first, the husband often soon follows.
Beamer: June and Johnny. Happened to my father’s aunt’s sister in law’s mom and pop. Week after she died, the doctor found a cancer and he was gone a week later. Hardly had time to get the black clothes dry cleaned between wakes.
Elder Todd: I expected to die soon after she did, too. Maybe I wanted to die, which is a horrible feeling, Beamer.
Beamer: I know the feeling all too well, Elder.
Elder Todd: It’s not as speculative when you have that feeling at my age. It does more than fill a youthful need for drama. I was doing some part conslutation work on The Street, just to stay busy and have something to do. I was on that train ride back to Far Meadow, and I was hungry and I was going to order a take-out pizza, I would do that, I was putting on weight like crazy. I didn’t care about what I ate. I realized, I wanted a salad and began to wonder, why do I want a salad. Why this sudden urge to eat healthy? Nobody really likes salad, we’re not rabbits. Then I saw the train station, the hills and woods and yes, even the gleaming office parks. I realized I didn’t want to die and that if I did I die by horrible diet, I would dishonor her memory and everything Aggie meant to me and our kids. I had salad for dinner and the next day I went to mass again for the first time in months. I realized how much I missed praying. Father Jackson, who is not such a bad guy for a young priest, talked with me after the Mass. He said welcome home. Aggie may have died, but I hadn’t lost her. She was with me, in my kids and grandkids, she was in those hills, the woods, our house, at church. I stopped hating God. I’m just human, just like she was, just like we all are. We cannot understand what is the purpose of death. But what I could understand was my life. I didn’t want to date, I didn’t want to find somebody to replace a woman who could not be replaced. I didn’t want a diluted love. I have sorrow, sure. But I’m not sad. I started living my life again.
Beamer: And you decided to be councilman.
Elder Todd: Other than being a husband and father, councilman was the most fun and rewarding thing I ever did with my life. Beats the hell out of investment banking. A new store opened at the mall, you would be at the ribbon cutting. Everybody says hello to you, and you can get things accomplished. We were able to get picnic tables at the overlook park on the other side of the woodlands. They had a playground there, some benches, but no where to each lunch. There have been picnic tables there ever since. It may not be much, the people whose lives benefit from those tables are small in number, but those people whose lives were improved were citizens like me and it was my duty to improve those lives. I was only there for one term.
Elder Todd: Work, mainly. I was making money. Todd was getting into trouble, he was moody. He was getting to be a juvenile delinquent. He was different than the other kids, really well read. He was reading Tolstoy at eight, he used to get awards at the public library’s summer reading program for the amount of books he read – a few summers in a row. But the teen years were tough. I found a crack pipe in his room. I probably shouldn’t tell you.
Beamer: No biggie, we smoke crack together all the time.
(He chuckles, but ignores her, having gotten used to her humor. They rarely talk about Todd).
Elder Todd: Well, he got his life together and I’m very proud of him. But back then, the town was a lot simpler too. It really was just a small town. The elections were usually uncontested, but you had to give somebody else a chance, people wanted to serve, they took turns. Jenkins, he was the undertaker back then, took over his old man’s business. He felt it was his time to run. Jenkins was a good guy.
Beamer: Robo-Cop has been there more than ten years. He’s never had anybody oppose him.
Elder Todd: I don’t really know when that changed. People moved away and new people move in and you don’t get to know them. There were fewer people who wanted to take on the responsibility or had the time or desire for public service.
Beamer: Living in our own little worlds is why we let this planet be turned into a steaming pile of dung.
Elder Todd: That Facebook of yours, and all that networking, I’ve met more people than I ever knew lived here. We are more connected to each other. Maybe civil responsibility is coming back, even if it seems more superficial.
Beamer: Superficial is in the eyes of the beholder. We’ve already registered more than three hundred people in District 2 to vote. They never voted before and maybe they’ll vote next time. Facebook is silly and fun, but it was a means to a good end. I never gave Democracy much thought. Now I love the momentum.
Elder Todd: Momentum?
Beamer: One thing builds on another. You were talking about things that my mom talked about all the time, basically how the exurb we call home was being ruined by greed. But it wasn’t just the Old Mall and what to do about that, it was the tax structure, the Far Meadow woods, schools, sewers, senior citizens. I never realized before how everything is connected. The more I talked to people about the issues, the more I realized what we were really talking about was our lives. Our lives are not isolated. Our lives are our hopes and our dreams.
Elder Todd: You’re the first one to suggest the tax on the ballot, that really stirred things up.
Beamer: Maximum was the one who suggested changing the tax structures of the office parks. Then she helped me to find out how to do it You listen enough and you start believing things can be changed for the better and then it is just a matter of finding out how to go about getting that change done.
Elder Todd: You’ve given this campaign more meaning than I ever imagined when I first registered to be on the ballot.
Beamer: You’ve given my life more meaning than it ever had. I knew I was smarter than people thought I was. I knew that I was smarter than I ever gave myself credit for or that my life was letting me be. I could express myself, but express just me? This whole experience has taught me that I have more to express than just me. Maybe my life had meaning, but it never had a real purpose. The only purpose I had was not making my mom mad.
Elder Todd: She’s been very helpful. She’s a good woman.
Beamer: I love my mom. Now that my life has purpose I am not going to ever give that up.
Elder Todd: There’s a lot of money behind Robinson. History has taught us that the good guys usually lose. Robinson’s TV commercial reached a lot of people.
Beamer: But it gave you as much publicity as he got. On the news they were comparing his points to our points from our online commercial, showing them side by side. Whoever saw Robo-Cop’s commercial has now seen ours. When they Google him they’ll get us too.
Elder Todd: Do we have any diner time before we meet the crew.
Beamer: Gluten-Free pancakes here I come. But change into the oxford shirt and tie. Blue Blazer. The khakis are fine though.
Elder Todd: What’s wrong with a Polo shirt?
Beamer: You looking all serious, evoking that investment banker vibe of yore, will play better on the TV news. That will make Robo-Cop look like the crackpot puppet that he is. Blue oxford shirt and red tie. We should probably bring umbrellas just in case.
In the baby room at Todd Jr.’s house. Todd Jr. is on a ladder, painting with a roller while Todd, who just came to visit, is drinking a cup of coffee.
Todd: More primer?
Todd Jr.: This is a luminescent under-coat. Uncle Joe told me about it. This goes between the primer and the final coat so the final coat is shinier. Luminescent.
Todd: Luminescent night. I like that, a deep black sky.
Todd Jr.: Not pitch black. Cobalt blue. But night.
Todd: Night instead of dawn.
Todd Jr.: Well, we figured it might make him sleep better.
Todd Jr.: She finally let her OBGYN tell us the results of the test. It’s a boy, she has a healthy baby boy in her womb. And yes.
Todd: Yes, what.
Todd Jr.: Todd will be his name.
Todd: Have you told Pop?
Todd Jr.: I figured we would tell him together. That’s not the only news I have to tell you.
Todd: You seem a lot happier today.
Todd Jr.: I am. I talked with Levine, in fact, he wanted to talk to me.
Todd Jr.: Two days ago. He called me into his office, and said, in no way will your dad’s election affect your position here. He said I am sorry if that was the impression I gave. He said your grandfather’s policies will not affect your employment here. Than he repeated himself.
Todd Jr.: He said it twice, In no way will your dad’s election, yadda yadda yadda. In no way.
Todd: You didn’t expect that.
Todd Jr.: You could have knocked me over with a feather. Then he said he respects the rule of law.
Todd: Rule of law?
Todd Jr.: He said his lawyer reminded him that it was against the law for people to be fired for political beliefs or political activities.
Todd: I thought you thought Levine thought he was above the law.
Todd Jr.: I did, but his lawyer thought otherwise. He said his lawyer called him about the election and told him not to harass me.
Todd: His lawyer?
Todd Jr.: Turns out his lawyer is from Far Meadow and his aunt was like one of the first woman lawyers in town, the whole county even. She inspired Levine’s lawyer to go into law, she started the firm he is still a part of. They’re family.
Todd Jr.: What?
Todd: Maximum – Maxine Dunbar, she’s part of the House of Campaign team. Beamer the Schemer. Maxine is Levine’s lawyer’s aunt.
Todd Jr.: Levine offered me a raise.
Todd Jr.: He seemed really afraid of being sued, I wanted to calm him down, reassure him I wasn’t about to do anything against him or Far Meadow Motors. I asked for a few days off instead. I was going to paint the ceiling, but I’d rather help out Pop-Pop. They’re having a rally in the park tomorrow to get out the vote. It’s amazing Pop, not only the effect he has, and how everybody was so friendly – not just friendly, enthusiastic – and he looked great, he’s not some feeble old man like so many guys his age. He has real life in him. How could I even think to ask him to stop? I was thinking he was the one who was selfish, but I was the one. I’m not selfish any longer. Are you okay.
Todd: (his eyes tear) I’ve never been more proud of you than I am right now.
Todd Jr.: Thanks Pop (they hug). Jane and I were thinking of helping them get ready for the rally, going over there tonight.
Todd: Tomorrow’s the last big rally of the campaign. Do you know they got 378 people registered to vote who never voted before? Now it’s get out the vote mode. The way incumbents go down is if the get out the vote is strong.
Todd: I’m going too.
Todd Jr.: To the House of Campaign?
Todd: I want to see his face when you tell him about Todd four. But you helping out and not me, I would never hear the end of that from the old man.
Todd Jr.: You got that right. But no more cornfield stories.
Todd’s bedroom. Todd and Beamer are naked, under blankets, wearing only T shirts (but no nudity please).
They have just finished making love.
Beamer: Life is awesome.
She is on her back, he is on his side. They are still catching their breath.
Todd leans over, puts his arms around her, pulling her up on her side, then against him, and kisses her deeply. He rolls her back on her back and is on top of her.
Todd: I love you.
Beamer: I know, I know honey.
Todd: How would you like to go with me to Peru.
Todd: This travel magazine wants to do this special edition, maybe even book. The editor knows my work. I did all that Andean research for that Amazon film. I’ll be there 10 days, all expenses paid, for two. You can be my assistant. Macchu Picchu will change your life. We can spend Christmas in Lima.
Beamer: (long pause) I can’t go to Peru. I’ll be in Trenton for the holidays.
Beamer: I wasn’t sure how to tell you. I was going to tell you tonight, I just didn’t know when. I accepted this job offer, it finally came through. For the Garden State Environmental Coalition, it’s a liberal lobbying organization. Good salary, with benefits. I’ll be able to afford my own apartment. I’ll be handling their social media, dealing with the public, researching policy. They’ve been following Elder’s campaign. They’ve given support, information. I really have a real rapport with them. Maximum was once on their board.
Todd: (long pause). That’s great. I’m happy for you. I’m proud of you. Very, very proud.
Beamer: Thanks teach. Not too shabby for a Far Meadow gal with an associates degree. No more part time receptionist or waitress work for me.
Todd: When did this happen?
Beamer: A few days ago.
Todd: And you didn’t want to tell me.
Beamer: I wanted to tell you so bad, are you kidding? I wanted you to be the first to know, so we could drown ourselves in champagne together. But I didn’t want to hurt you.
Todd: How could good news about you ever hurt me.
Beamer: I have to live in Trenton. My mom is already on the net looking at apartment listings.
Todd: Trenton is not that far away.
Beamer: I love you, Todd, but not the same way as you love me and you probably don’t love me as much as you feel you do.
Todd: I think about you all the time. I think about you more each day. I love making love to you. I love your eyes, your hair, your body. Don’t tell me how much I love you.
Beamer: I’m no fashion model, Todd. I’m 24. I was a gawky teenager, now my body has its own power and that power is enticing. I love feeling like a sexual ideal. I’m glad I acted on my impulse to fuck you. But it was only an impulse. That doesn’t mean that impulses aren’t good, but they are what they are. I haven’t done anything yet with my life. I thought I was going to be working shit-jobs and writing poems for you and Amber to hear until I croak or until I settle for some local loser who isn’t too ugly so I can birth out a baby before my eggs shrivel up. My writing isn’t like yours. I can only say what I think. What I write is used by somebody else and then what they produce is then used by somebody, and so on until change occurs. I don’t want an audience. I want a cause. I like politics and I think I’m good at it. You’ve seen every continent on the planet, you’ve lived in Los Angeles. I’ve been to Manhattan seventeen times, Boston once and I’ve never even seen the Pacific Ocean. I love Far Meadow but if I stay here just to make love with you and be a dutiful wife for your old age, then I’ll just resent you.
Todd: I’d resent me too.
Beamer: I have your blessing then.
Todd dryly laughs. The room is dimly lit, but not completely dark and the audience can see Beamer touch his face.
Beamer: Your eyes are wet. Those are tears.
Todd: (Whispers.) I was getting used to no longer being alone. I was getting used to liking that idea.
Beamer: (She quietly sobs, then clears her throat.) Hey, instead of Lima, how about a weekend in Miami, or Bermuda. We can make love in a Jacuzzi, I can bathe topless and we can turn our skin brown and maybe come up with some new impulses to act upon.
Long pause. He sniffles, sits up, not facing her.
Todd: My impulse is to fall in love with you. And being with you only gives me more reason to act on that impulse, which means it’s no longer an impulse, it’s forever. I cannot change how I feel about you and pretending I’m feeling something that is more shallow than my reality means that I will eventually hurt more than I do now, which is something I prefer avoiding.
Beamer: I’m sorry.
Todd: Don’t be. You’re still wonderful. You have my blessing
Beamer: You want me to go home?
Todd: Of course not. We may not have tomorrow, but we can still have now.
Beamer: I’ll always love now.
Shadows thicken, stage goes dark.
There is a stage at a hotel meeting room. We hear sizeable crowd, but only see the stage. Elder Todd walks, with his cane, on stage, up to the microphone, into the spotlight. It is election day night.
Elder Todd: Charlie Robinson just called to congratulate me on our victory.
Elder Todd: I want to thank him.
Audible boos from Beamer, Todd Jr. and Amber, but Elder Todd quiets them with a wave of his cane.
Elder Todd: I want to thank Charlie for the service he gave to Far Meadow, the town we all love.
I am the new councilman of Far Meadow’s District 2.
Crowd cheers more wildy.
The election board has informed me that I won, excuse me, that we won, by a two to one margin; 1,217 more Far Meadow citizens voted in this election than in the last year’s Presidential race – we had a turn out of 80 percent. And, 65 percent of voters voted yes for the Fair Corporate Property Tax Ballot questions.
Uproar from crowd.
Elder Todd: There are so many things I want to say, so many things I prepared, so many people I need to thank. I’ve been alive, well a long time – twenty years short of a century and I’ve never missed an election. Voter turnout has gone down ever since the first time I have voted, which was not for George Washington like some of you kids think.
Elder Todd: But it was probably pretty soon after that election, I don’t recall. But, seriously, the real miracle, even more than me getting elected or all the great people of this town that it was my privilege to get to know on my journey to this stage tonight, is the fact that so many have exercised a right that so many Americans gave their life for. The right to vote has made this country the greatest nation on earth, the last best hope for Mankind and tonight Far Meadow is an example to the entire world.
Here, in our town, we put people first. In Far Meadow, people count more than maximizing a company’s bottom line. We have given New Jersey and America, hope for a better future. Martin Luther King said that we are all going to the Promised Land, that he couldn’t get there without you. Far Meadow may not be the Promised Land, but it’s the place we all call home and that counts for a lot. I will not be able to do what we need for the future of Far Meadow alone. I need your help. I need your ideas, your support, your prayers. Our future did not end with you casting your voice today. We are all going to get to our Promised Land together and the only way we can get…
He suddenly stops talking, he stammers, he’s forgotten what he was saying. Now he can’t breathe. He lets go of his cane and topples to the floor.
Elder Todd: (wheezing) Aggie.
Mayhem ensues, Todd rushes to the stage, followed by Todd Jr., then Beamer, Amber and Jimmy. Maximum is at the edge of the small crowd, stoic, sad, not surprised.
Beamer: (shrieking) Somebody do something!
Weeks later. Town Hall, there’s an elevated dais at the front to the space, chairs in front. People are milling about waiting for the ceremony to start. Todd Jr. and the Mayor are talking on the Dias. Amber and Beamer are standing next to Maxine, near the chairs. Todd goes up to them, he greets them all. Beamer hugs him a long time.
Todd: The rain stopped. How’s Trenton.
Beamer: Intense hours. I love it, Todd. I’ve never been so engaged. But I told them when I started I’d be here for this day. There was no way I was going to miss his swearing in. Your father would be so proud of T-3.
Todd: Almost as proud as me. The mayor offered me the position, but the public good is not one of my priorities. I recommended Todd. He’s the people person. My son genuinely cares. He takes after Pop more than I do. Plus, he sold the Mayor’s wife her Prius and she loves it.
Jimmy walks over. He and Todd hug like the good pals they are.
Jimmy: Can you believe that man up there was that same squirt in diapers.
Todd: Not without having a nervous breakdown.
Jimmy: (to the assembled House of Campaign team, his arm around Todd) We’ve been buddies for 40 years. (then in another breath) This was the best outcome, all things considered. What this town didn’t need was another election.
Beamer: He’s going to be an awesome councilman. He listens.
Jimmy: I never thought the mayor would come through like that.
Maxine: He wasn’t going to come through on his own. I reminded him of what the Far Meadow law actually is. In case of an unforeseen, sudden death of an elected candidate, they have to first offer the seat to a “suitable” family member. It’s not only some tradition, it’s the law. He checked with his lawyers. There was no way to prove the young Todd was not suitable. The Mayor wasn’t doing anyone any favors, except himself.
Beamer: Oh Maximum, cut Old Gray some slack today.
Maxine: (pause) Trenton has changed you already.
Mayor: (at the microphone), before we swear in our new councilman of Far Meadow District 2, let us join in the Pledge of Allegiance. I pledge allegiance, to the flag
Stage fades to dark, only the figure of Todd is still visible. The pledge of allegiance fades out and there’s silence for a few moments and then we hear Todd Jr.’s voice.
Todd Jr.: My grandfather showed us all that the people can make a difference and now we, together must fulfill that promise. I know we will. It is an honor to carry on his mantle. These are big shoes I’m trying to fill, but not as big as our hopes and the hopes of our children, and the responsibility we all share to make this world a better place than what we found.
His voice fades as the lights go back up. Todd sits on his the chair at his computer desk and turns on his computer, then turns to the audience. The windows screen lights up the monitor screen. Todd turns to the screen and away from the audience as Todd Jr.’s voice returns.
Todd Jr.: It’s too big a responsibility for one person. We can only realize our hopes together.
— The End —