Clickers by Terence Kuch


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A hotel room. Right, sofa and low table with whiskey decanter and
glasses, TV clicker, cell phone. Left, a door. Upstage wall center,
outline of a large TV monitor. [Actors in roles of JED and TED will
appear live within the monitor outline, but the other characters
perceive them as TV images.]

SAMPSON on sofa, writing on legal pad; TAPLEY beside him; BALLAST
across the room, pacing.

SAMPSON: Humil ...

TAPLEY: Humbled.

BALLAST: Humble. And yet proud.

TAPLEY: Of? for?

BALLAST: Considering.

TAPLEY: Considering?

BALLAST: Considering the staunch support of blah blah blah.

TAPLEY: (to SAMPSON) Consider ...

SAMPSON: (writes) I heard.

BALLAST: (to TAPLEY) Nobody knows we're here, right?

TAPLEY: I told them we'd be at the campaign hotel, holed up in some
room.

BALLAST: So we can watch the returns here without being hassled.

TAPLEY: (to BALLAST) They've got your cell phone number, that's
all.

SAMPSON: And finish my damn victory speech.

TAPLEY: I guess we should have written it before election night.

SAMPSON: Nobody thought I'd be winning.

BALLAST: I did.

SAMPSON: - The polls…

BALLAST: That's my line of work, John. Making silk purses out of
also-rans.

SAMPSON: (with irony) Thanks a lot, Duane!

BALLAST: Truth, John. Never be ashamed of the truth. Keeps you
humble.

SAMPSON: (returns to writing) " - humble. And yet, ..."

BALLAST: Let's see how we're doing.

SAMPSON picks up clicker, points it at TV, clicks

TED: (from TV monitor) ... staying ahead based on early returns from
key downstate precincts. Isn't that right, Jed?

JED: (from TV monitor) That's right, Ted. Sampson looks pretty
strong now, doing better than expected in the minority areas.

TED: But there's still a long night ahead of us here at Channel
Five, Jed.

JED: You bet, Ted; so stay tuned. We'll be bringing you live up to
date returns throughout the night.

TED: Thanks, Jed. We'll be breaking for headline news in - five
minutes. But right now let's take a quick look at state and local
results so far. For Senate, with five percent of precincts reporting,
John Sampson as we said has pulled away to a surprise early lead over
what now appears to have been an overconfident incumbent Al Hurley. In
the House fifth district ...

BALLAST clicks; TED and JED mute

TAPLEY: We're really clicking!

BALLAST: Yeah, looks pretty good. Upstate's still a problem,
though.

TAPLEY: Not for long!

SAMPSON: " - considering the staunch support of -" what?

BALLAST: "Citizens great and small, throughout" - no, make that
"men and women in all walks of life in this great State who have
followed this campaign with ..."

SAMPSON: Wait, wait, you're going too fast.

BALLAST clicks the TV remote.

JED: Ted, has the new Senator-apparent appeared at his victory rally
yet? His supporters are going crazy!

TED: No, Jed, the campaign says that John Sampson is sequestered, if
that's the right word.

JED: Sounds like a good word to me, Ted.

TED: Sequestered in a hotel room with just his top aides, Jed,
watching us here on TV Channel Five and waiting it out, waiting for a
decision, and writing one of those innocuous victory speeches.

JED: At one of those "undisclosed locations", Ted?

TED: You got it, Jed. Even the people at the victory rally don't
know exactly where he is; it's a big hotel, and you can be sure that
there's no sign on the door that says "new Senator inside". But
they expect him to appear for his speech as soon as we've projected
him the winner.

JED: Which would be about -

TED: Maybe as soon as half an hour, Jed, if he keeps rolling up these
totals downstate. Of course we haven't heard from upstate yet, so it
could be longer. A lot longer.

JED: That's Al Hurley country, isn't it, Ted, upstate?

TED: So the experts tell us, Jed; but Hurley would have to win upstate
pretty big to overcome Sampson's downstate lead, especially here in
the tri-county area.

BALLAST clicks off

TAPLEY: We're really coming from behind.

BALLAST: The reporters didn't pay much attention to us during the
campaign.

SAMPSON: Thank God!

TAPLEY: Now, we're golden.

SAMPSON: But they'll start.

BALLAST: They never found out about your problem before the election.
If you'd been the favorite ...

TAPLEY: They would have looked ...

BALLAST: Harder.

SAMPSON: For a while I thought the Daily World was onto it, but their
reporter dropped the ball.

TAPLEY: Wonder - .

SAMPSON: Not a problem. Never was a problem.

TAPLEY: Not a smoking gun.

SAMPSON: Not anything illegal.

BALLAST: No, of course not. Not illegal at all. - Not exactly -

SAMPSON: Somewhere out there in "error of judgment"-land.

TAPLEY: That's it, "error of judgment". We could have gone with
that if we'd had to.

SAMPSON: Still -

TAPLEY: Could have hurt us. We'd have to apologize.

SAMPSON: Never good to apologize. I guess.

BALLAST: Only assholes apologize.

SAMPSON: Sometimes, in a scrape -

BALLAST: Deny. If you can't deny, stand tall.

SAMPSON: Error of judgment.

BALLAST: John, would you vote for somebody who makes "errors of
judgment"? You want him making "errors of judgment" with nuclear
weapons? With war and peace? In your name?

SAMPSON: No, ...

BALLAST: Would you vote for some son of a bitch who'd do the
"error of judgment" routine? That's like eating a bowl of
piss-flavored shit on prime time TV.

SAMPSON: No, ...

BALLAST: You know what "error of judgment" is? It's a punch
line. Eleven o'clock monologue. Amateur comedy club. "Error of
judgment" is something you say after some open mic catches you
talking about "niggers".

SAMPSON: What do you ...

BALLAST: Or you're with some hooker and the flash goes off and there
you are with a blank look on your face and the girl is tugging your
dick and mugging for the camera like her fifteen minutes are finally
here, except she's been tugging for half an hour and you still
can't get it up, which is worse, if anybody finds out and wonders
why.

SAMPSON: Every man ...

BALLAST: Every man doesn't run for the Senate. Or if he does, he
loses.

SAMPSON: OK.

BALLAST: OK. Remember: Women and old farts vote; the rest just stand
around and bitch.

TAPLEY: (to SAMPSON) But you're recovered. Nobody can touch you.

SAMPSON: Recover-ing. Not recover-ed.

BALLAST: That's what they tell you, isn't it.

SAMPSON: (to TAPLEY) ics are always ing, never ed.

BALLAST: That's a sad fucking commentary.

SAMPSON: I guess.

BALLAST: Isn't it. There's a lot of sad fucking commentary in this
country. Not all of it's on TV.

SAMPSON: I guess.

BALLAST: Anyway, I'm off tomorrow to help Andrews become governor of
South Carolina in two years. That should be an exciting ...

Cell phone rings. BALLAST picks it up, looks at the caller-id, clicks
a button.

BALLAST: Yeah? Hi. - Yeah. Good news. - Now? We're just writing
it. - Oh, OK. - Sure. No, not there; the Madison. -
Three-oh-five. - See you.

Clicks off cell phone

SAMPSON: Who was that?

BALLAST: Phyllis Stoltz, from the Finance Committee.

TAPLEY: She's coming here?

BALLAST: Yeah.

TAPLEY: We've got to get this speech finished!

BALLAST: I know. She said just a minute.

TAPLEY: In just a minute she'll be here, or just a minute's how
long she'll stay?

BALLAST: I don't know - didn't ask.

SAMPSON: To discuss - ?

BALLAST: Campaign finance, I suppose. It's her job. Last I heard, we
were doing OK. She didn't say what she wanted.

pause

TAPLEY: (to SAMPSON) Where were we?

SAMPSON: (reads) "Ambitious program to strengthen our national
security through diplomacy, without raising ... "

BALLAST: Let me see that, John.

BALLAST takes pad from Sampson, flips a few pages.

BALLAST: (to TAPLEY) Ellen, look at this.

TAPLEY crosses to BALLAST. They look at a few places on the pad and
speak indistinctly during the next few minutes, ignoring SAMPSON.
SAMPSON clicks-on TV.

TED: ... entered the capital of Pakistan today against heavy
opposition. Meanwhile, the war in Eastern Europe took a new turn as
clouds of highly toxic ...

BALLAST turns back to SAMPSON, hands him legal pad; SAMPSON clicks TV
off.

SAMPSON: We're almost there. Let's go over the wrap-up. (reads)
"And again, I want to thank all of you who gave so generously of
your time and money to win this wonderful victory for the people of
this state and of America tonight: my irreplaceable assistant, -
Ellen Tapley! Come on up here, Ellen!"

TAPLEY wriggles with pleasure.

BALLAST: Watch out for that.

SAMPSON: Watch out for what?

BALLAST: We don't want anyone thinking you're banging her. Bad
impression on the voters. The women, at least. The old farts won't
care.

TAPLEY: Wait a minute, Duane, I'm a married woman!

BALLAST: Well, there's your answer.

SAMPSON: What answer?

BALLAST: Do I have to spell it out? "My irreplaceable assistant, -
Ellen Tapley, and her loving husband David! Come on up here, Ellen and
David!"

TAPLEY: It's Michael, not David.

BALLAST: (to TAPLEY) Whatever.

BALLAST: (CONT'D; to SAMPSON): Just mention him in the same breath.
Then they'll figure he's doing her, not you.

SAMPSON: (writes) OK. - "And my likewise irreplaceable adviser,
Duane Ballast ..."

BALLAST: No, John. Leave me out.

SAMPSON: But I want to ...

BALLAST: Looks weak; makes me look insecure. Like I need the
publicity.

SAMPSON: But you deserve applause; and the people deserve to know how
much you ...

BALLAST: The people who count already know. And there's no such
thing as "deserves to know". Leave it alone.

SAMPSON: But I can thank ...

BALLAST: Everybody else you can think of, John: Ellen, here, and of
course David ...

TAPLEY: Michael.

BALLAST: Envelope stuffers, county supervisors, wife, kids, grandkids,
dog-catcher. Whatever. But not me.

SAMPSON: OK.

BALLAST: And your father.

SAMPSON: My dad?

BALLAST: I see you're thanking your wife here.

SAMPSON: Of course.

BALLAST: What about your mother and father?

SAMPSON: They're gone. You know that. Years ago.

BALLAST: Sure, but don't forget the influence. That's mandatory.
Nobody minds, and lots of people care.

SAMPSON: About what?

BALLAST:
About what you learned from your mother and father. Especially father,
when a man's running. You can put it right about - here. (points
to place on pad)

SAMPSON: OK. That's OK.

BALLAST: So, what did you learn? Say something like courage loyalty
faith perseverance blah blah blah.

SAMPSON: Well, ah - just make something up for me, Duane. Whatever
works. You know best.

BALLAST: I could, and I do, but it's stronger if it comes from you
and you mean it. So what did he teach you? What did you learn from
your father that led you to seek public office and serve the people
selflessly and combat the forces of evil and balance the budget and
blah blah blah.

SAMPSON: Well - I guess I could say - ah - prudence and justice.
How's that?

BALLAST: Ditch "prudence"; I think it died about the time your
father did. "Justice" will do fine.

SAMPSON: OK. My dad taught me justice.

BALLAST: And that life-forming experience - you'll need a few
anecdotes about how your father taught you justice, but that can wait
- that life-forming experience led you to see how easily justice is
thwarted, bought off, disregarded even in this country, and how
critically important blah blah blah. Ellen, can you write that? (hands
her pad)

TAPLEY: OK.

(TAPLEY writes)

BALLAST: (to SAMPSON) Your father was rich, wasn't he?

SAMPSON: Not really. "Well off" was about it. "Well to do",
perhaps.

BALLAST: You can call it "well off'" if you want; my family
called your kind of people "rich". - And my father taught me
something. He taught me to be a winner.

SAMPSON: That's you, Duane!

BALLAST: I get results, John. Five straight wins; six including yours,
Senator. Yeah, I'm a winner.

[end of extract]


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