Monday, February 14, 2011

Caffeinated Inc. Episode 04: "Peter's Ghost"

Caffeinated Inc. (pronounced fully - "Caffeinated Incorporated") was the Gathering's weekly sitcom in the first two years of our existence. To that end, these scripts predate the Year of the Rabbit I'm celebrating here, but are indicative of the sort of approaches the Gathering took toward expressing the Christian faith. They also formed the basis for my blogged novel, Magik Beans. I was the primary writer, but the characters and sometimes dialogue took shape in a improv-to-script approach I shared with co-stars Blaine Kehl and Marcia Hamm.  I'll be posting all of our initial seven episodes in subsequent updates.

(CARL is at the counter making a coffee for someone when SARAH walks in.)

CARL:  Sarah!  You’re back!  How was your vacation?

SARAH:  I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t long enough.  There comes a point where you can get too much of your family, you know?

CARL:  Sure.  But did it do the trick, are you feeling better?

SARAH:  I think so.  I took a lot of long walks out in the woods behind mom and dads.  Did some horseback riding.  Spent a lot of time alone, just thinking.

CARL:  And you still got too much of your parents?

SARAH:  Well, my mom started in right away with the “when are you getting married” bit. 

CARL:  They never let up with that.  I would think you’d be used to it by now.

SARAH:  It intensifies the older I get.  So while I expect the question, I’m never prepared for the way she puts it.

CARL:  What do you mean?

SARAH:  Well, I told her and dad I was thinking very seriously about pursuing my music career, and dad gave me the whole speech about getting a ‘real job,’ but I blew it off and thought that would be the end of it for this visit.  Then later on we were watching some program on CNN Tonight and they were talking about the high incidence of AIDS amongst the arts community.  So my mom turns to me and says, without any warning, “You aren’t gay, are you dear?”  And I look at her like, “Excuse me?”  And she says, “I’ll understand if you are,” and proceeds to explain that the combination of me not having a boyfriend, the way I color my hair all the time, and now this musical thing got her wondering if I wasn’t. . . well, not straight!

CARL:  Wow.  So did you calm her fears?

SARAH:  I almost didn’t.  I thought I might leave her wondering, but I told her, no.  I just haven’t found the right person.

CARL:  Amen to that.

SARAH:  So what’s new, what did I miss?

CARL:  Well aside from viewing the effect of six to seven lattes per hour on Alan, I had to manage the books while you were gone, which was hell.  I’m so bad with numbers.  I got a graphic designer to draw up some designs for a new sign for the store, which may end up being a new storefront, since I decided to move the shop. . .

(ALAN and JASMINE enter.)

ALAN:  Merry Halloween! (Sees SARAH) Sarah!  Welcome back to the Frisky Goat!

(SARAH looks at CARL.)

CARL:  I’ve stopped trying.  I let him live in his delusion now.

ALAN:  Its good to see you!  Carl has been exceedingly tremulous while you were gone. 

JASMINE:  Hi, I’m Jasmine.

CARL:  She’s the artist who’s designing the new sign.

JASMINE:  And giving the store a new look.

SARAH:  It could use one.

CARL:  Don’t you go agreeing with her.

JASMINE:  Well, you’re going to have to do all that, if you decide to go ahead and move the location to the mall.

SARAH:  What?

ALAN:  Didn’t Carl tell you?  He’s decided to move the shop to West Edmonton Mall. 

SARAH:  No, he didn’t tell me.

CARL:  I was about to when Alan interrupted. . .

SARAH: I can’t believe you’re actually thinking of moving the shop!

CARL:  Oh come on Sarah, how can I not move it?  Every time I walk in here, all I can see is Peter, lying there in a pool of blood.  The memories are just too thick.

SARAH:  But moving to the mall?  Carl, Peter built this shop on Whyte Ave. to keep it from becoming commercial!  From becoming. . . mainstream!

CARL:  Yes, and he’s dead!  Now I have to take care of things, and I can’t.  Not here.  I think things would be better for me if I moved to a new location, and the mall just makes the best sense.   I won’t have to drive as far to get to work, for starters.

ALAN:  But I’ll have to drive farther to get my coffee.

CARL:  You could always go to a different shop.

ALAN:  I’m having an unsatisfactory coffee experience again.

JASMINE:  Carl, are you the only person working here?

CARL: (Mockingly looks around behind the counter.)  It would appear that way, yes.

JASMINE:  No, I mean, are you the only person on staff.  Period.  End of story.

SARAH:  No, there’s a girl who works nights. . .

CARL: (Shaking his head.)  Annie gave her notice two days after you left for your parents’.

SARAH:  You mean you’ve been running the shop by yourself for the past week?
(CARL nods)  What’s the matter with you?  Why haven’t you hired anyone?

CARL:  Because I’m moving the store to the mall!  I want to get through the move before I start hiring new staff.

SARAH:  Carl, this means you’ve been working 16 hour days, seven days straight. 

ALAN:  Its no wonder you’re tremulous.

CARL:  I’m fine.  I can handle this you know.  I don’t need to hire anybody, I don’t need to be told what to do, I’ve even discovered I don’t need you (to SARAH) to do the books.  So don’t worry about me, okay?  As for moving the store, the discussion is closed!  I named the shop, I’m moving the shop, the shop belongs to me.  If I want, I can close early. 

SARAH:  Carl, calm down. 

CARL:  Nope!  We’re closing.  I can’t calm down; I’m tremulous!  Tremulous and closed.  So please, everyone go home.  Out!

SARAH:  Carl, can we talk?

CARL:  I don’t know.  Every time I open my mouth lately, someone tells me I’m doing the wrong thing, or I need this or need that.  You were the one who told me I could do this!  Now I’m doing it and you don’t like the WAY I’m doing it.  So until you all can keep your opinions to yourselves, stay away.

SARAH:  Fine.

(She storms out.  JASMINE stays a moment, then walks away.  ALAN lingers a moment longer.)

ALAN:  You know Carl, I don’t even like coffee. (He exits.)

(CARL sighs and sits at one of the tables, opens the accounting books.  The lights go down.  When they come up again, CARL is sleeping with his head on the table.  PETER enters, sits down across from CARL.)

PETER:  Trick or treat?

CARL: (head still down.)  We’re closed.

PETER:  Okay, how about a cup of Joe?

CARL:  We’re closed.  Go away.

PETER:  Come on buddy, I’m dead on my feet here.  Cup of coffee would do a soul some good.

CARL:  Whatever. . . Pot’s on the counter.  Should still be warm.  If not, there’s a microwave back there.  Just let me sleep.

PETER:  You’re awfully trusting.

CARL:  No, just apathetic. 

PETER: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

CARL:  Very nice.  Write it on the blackboard.  The guy who normally does it won’t be coming back here.

PETER:  That’s too bad, I really liked Alan.  (He turns his back to start writing.) 

(CARL looks up.)

CARL:  How do you know Alan?  (He starts)  Sheesh man, you scared me.  From behind, you’re a dead ringer for my old boss.

PETER:  That’s funny.  Dead ringer. (He turns around.)  Hi Carl.

CARL:  Peter!  What the—I must be dreaming.  How are you. . . what’s going on?

PETER:  All Hallows’ Eve.  They let us out on shore leave.

CARL:  I am dreaming.

PETER:  Maybe, but dream or not, your customer service skills sure went into the toilet when I died. 

CARL:  I’m sorry—If I’d known it was you. . .

PETER:  Shouldn’t have mattered who I was.  Customer service is about putting others before yourself.  What was the motto of Peter’s Coffee Shop?

CARL: (Chastised) To serve, not to be served.

PETER:  Damn straight.  Now what do you think I left you the shop for?  So you could ruin your life and alienate all your friends?

CARL:  Hold on!  Don’t you start in on me too!  I’ve had a hard couple of weeks here.  First you get shot right in front of me, then I’ve got to take care of this shop, Sarah goes away so I end up doing the books, Alan’s always in here driving me crazy. . .

PETER:  I thought the word was tremulous.

CARL: Whatever!  Then that crazy artist wants to remodel the whole place, Annie quit and I’ve got a splitting headache every night when I go home!

PETER:  And whose fault is that?

CARL:  What?  It’s the fault of the people responsible!

PETER:  So you’re telling me you’re not at all responsible for your present state of mind?

CARL:  How could I be?  I didn’t shoot you, I didn’t ask for the shop to be handed over to me, I didn’t ask Sarah to go away, I didn’t ask Alan to come in here everyday. . . I didn’t ask for any of this!

PETER:  So why are you still here?  Why don’t you just sell the shop, move away?  Do whatever you want.   If this shop makes you so miserable, why are you still here?

CARL:  I couldn’t sell the shop.

PETER:  Why not?  It seems to be the source of your troubles.

CARL:  Its not the source of my troubles. . .  I don’t know what is.

PETER:  That artist friend of yours seemed to know.  So did Alan.

CARL:  What’s that?

PETER:  You won’t admit you can’t do it alone.  That you actually need somebody’s help. 

CARL:  Oh, come on Peter.  You’re seriously telling me that all I need is to let people help me and all my bitterness will be gone, just like that?

PETER:  Nothing happens, “just like that.”  Everything takes time.  But yeah, admitting to your friends that you need them would help a lot.  Your problem goes a lot deeper though. 

CARL:  My problem? What are you talking about?

PETER:  Your bitterness.  You’re mad because when I died, a lot of questions manifested in your mind.  And you didn’t have any way of answering them.  What’s the purpose of life, does my life have any meaning?  Why am I here?  Why are any of us here?  Sound familiar?

CARL:  Yeah.

PETER:  That’s what I came to talk to you about.  I don’t really care if you sell the store, or move it to that ridiculous mall; do whatever you want.  It was a gift to you.  Its yours to do with as you please.  I came back to tell you that there was something else which was to be left to you.  (He takes a key out of his pocket.)  This key opens “the box.”

CARL:  You mean “the box”?

PETER:  I mean “the box.”  That big old wooden box in my office.  This is the key to it.

CARL:  I had completely forgotten about it.  You used to carry that thing everywhere.  What the heck is in it?

PETER:  You’ll see.  (He walks to the door.) Take care of yourself.

CARL:  You too.  (PETER leaves.  CARL looks at the blackboard.  It says, “Beware the very worst wickedness.”  CARL shrugs his shoulders, picks up the key, then sits down at the table.  Lights go down.  When they come up again, CARL is sleeping once more.  ALAN, SARAH and JASMINE walk in.)

SARAH:  I told you it was unlocked.  Alan, will you get the light switch.  I’ll wake him up. . .

(ALAN walks to the counter and looks at the blackboard.  SARAH shakes CARL.)

CARL:  What. . . Oh, hi Sarah.  Why are you here?

SARAH:  We were down at O’Byrnes, and were walking back to our cars.  Passed by and saw the light on. 

CARL: What time is it?

SARAH:  Two thirty in the morning.  Time to go home.

CARL:  (still groggy)  I’m sorry about what I said earlier. . . I had the weirdest dream.

ALAN:  Who wrote this?

CARL:  Wrote what?

ALAN:  “Beware the very worst wickedness. . .”

CARL:  Peter. . .

ALAN:  No, its D. H. Lawrence, but who wrote it here?

CARL:  Peter did. . . in my dream.

JASMINE:  So you’re a sleep-scribe. 

CARL:  I guess that must be it.  But where would I have read it?

SARAH:  Who knows?  We need to get you home.

CARL:  Just wait.  I want you all to know, I’m really sorry about what I said.  I do need your help.  Your opinions.  I may even need to redecorate.  Especially if I move to the mall.  I’m just having trouble with Peter’s death.

SARAH:  We’re here for you. . .

CARL:  Listen, I have to grab my jacket, can I meet you guys outside?

(They nod, say sure, and walk out. CARL stands a moment longer, then grabs his jacket.  He is headed for the door when he looks over and spots the key to ‘the box’.  He stops dead, picks it up, and looks up toward the roof, looking at nothing in particular.) 

CARL: Thanks.  (He smiles and exits)


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