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Uncle Fletcher's Meals

By Paul Rhymer

 

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Announcer: Well sir, it’s about the middle of the afternoon as our scene opens now, and here in the living room of the small house half-way up in the next block we find Mr. Victor Gook and his son Mr. Rush Gook. The former is established at the library table with some paper work he’s brought home from the office, while the latter, gelatinously athwart the davenport, somewhat sluggishly glances through a volume of vigorous fiction. We hear…

 

VIC: [To Rush, sharply] Listen. Somebody’s in the kitchen.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [In Kitchen] Oh, Sadie.

RUSH: [To Vic] Uncle Fletcher.

VIC: [Unhappily] Oh my.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Approaching] Hello, Sadie?

RUSH: [To Vic] He’s coming in…you might as well answer.

VIC: [Calls without much enthusiasm] Hello, Uncle Fletcher.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Approaching, calls genially] Well, Vic honey, old boy.

VIC: [To Rush] I bring work home from the office because I figure it’ll be quiet and I think I can concentrate.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Coming up] And Rush honey on deck too, are they? Afternoon, Rush honey, old boy. Vic, I bet you brought work home from the office. Am I right? If I’m right, let it go. If I’m wrong, don’t say a word. Rush, there’s a morsel of something on your cheek.

RUSH: Apple.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [With deep satisfaction] Fine.

VIC: [Briefly] Are you going someplace, Uncle Fletcher?

UNCLE FLETCHER: No.

VIC: I ask because you’re carrying your valise.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [In some surprise] Why, yes…I forgot.

VIC: [Briefly] Uh-huh.

UNCLE FLETCHER: The Numbskull fat-head valise completely slipped my mind.

VIC: Um.

UNCLE FLETCHER: I am going someplace.

VIC: Where are you going?

UNCLE FLETCHER: Here!

VIC: [Briefly] I see.

RUSH: You are here.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Sharply] Who is here?

RUSH: [Rather sharply] You are.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Sharply] I am here?

RUSH: [Sharply] Sure you’re here.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Sharply] This is no place for tiny tots, Rush, honey…go down cellar.

VIC: [Dismally to himself] I brought work home from the office so I could have it quiet and concentrate.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Tough] Seeing this valise in my hand, Vic, reminds me that I am in a towering fury. I have come over here to stay with you a few days.

VIC: [Feebly] Oh, is that so?

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Tough] You may recall or you may not recall, Vic, that Sadie has frequently invited me to occupy the bedroom at the head of the stairs. Well sir, I am availing myself of that invitation. Conditions at the establishment where I have accommodations has become intolerable and driven me to open rebellion.

VIC: You’re in open rebellion against your landlady?

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Dramatically] I am in open rebellion against my landlady.

RUSH: Has Mrs. Keller laid down the law about…

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Dramatically] Mrs. Keller has overstepped the mark! Mrs. Keller has piled on the straw that broke the camel’s back! Mrs. Keller like the needle’s eye has torn the serpent’s tooth from the ungrateful child!

RUSH: I expect she insisted on you…

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Sharply] Go down cellar, Rush. This conversation is not for the tiny tots. This conversation is strictly for the grown-ups. Go down cellar, sir, I say. Vic, you go down cellar too.

VIC: [Startled] Huh?

UNCLE FLETCHER: I mean you stay here!

VIC: [Rather dryly] O.K. I believe I will.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Sharply] Rush, you stay here also.

RUSH: O.K.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Sharply] Because there is nothing about this conversation which is not suitable for a child to hear.

RUSH: Well, fine.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Sharply] Vic, go down cellar.

VIC: [Sharply] Hey, Uncle Fletcher, aren’t you a little off your noggin?

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Tough] Any man would be off their noggin!

VIC: What’d your landlady do?

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Bitter laughter] What’d my landlady do! That’s rich!

SADE: [Off, in kitchen, calls brightly] Vic, you still working? Can I interrupt you half a minute?

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Bitter laughter] What’d my landlady do! That’s rich.

RUSH: [Pleasantly] Here’s mom home.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [A bitter inquiry] What’d my landlady do, you say?

RUSH: No, I say “here’s mom home.”

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Bitter laughter] That’s rich!

VIC: [Little tired chuckle] Oh for Pete’s sake, Uncle Fletcher.

SADE: [Approaching] I won’t disturb you but half a minute, Vic.

VIC: [Unhappily] Disturb me a whole minute. Disturb me a minute and forty seconds.

SADE: [Approaching] Who’s in there with you, Uncle Fletcher?

VIC: [Briefly] Yeah.

RUSH: And me, mom.

SADE: [Coming up, says uneasily…] Ah…are you being distracted from your work, Vic?

VIC: [Bluntly] Yeah.

SADE: [Courteously] Good afternoon, Uncle Fletcher.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Rather dramatically] Good afternoon, Sadie honey. I have here my valise and I am going to avail myself of your kind invitation to occupy the upstairs bedroom which you said was at my disposal.

SADE: Of course. Is anything wrong? [Rather sharply, to Rush] What are you doing bothering your father?

RUSH: It’s a long story, mom. But I think I can make the whole thing clear in ten minutes of rapid explanation. In the first place…

SADE: [Briefly] I’ll say what I came in to say, Vic, and then I’ll see if I can’t shoo this crowd out of here.

VIC: O.K.

SADE: [Briefly] I just met Mr. Erickson out in the alley. He’s at last managed to get a-hold of lumber for a new railing for our front porch and the carpenters’ll be here in the morning.

VIC: Swell.

SADE: He says it’d be a great help if we knocked the old railing loose and tore it off. Then the carpenters could start right in with the construction work without any fooling around. They’re awful busy this summer and Mr. Erickson could only hire ‘em for five hours. He thinks they can put us up a new porch railing in five hours, but it’d be dandy if we had the old one ripped out so they wouldn’t have to bother with trash we could take care of.

VIC: Rush and I will look into the matter after supper.

RUSH: I can rip out that old porch railing myself. The wood is so rotten it crumbles like pie crust.

SADE: All right, fine- now that’s settled. Shall we leave now, Uncle Fletcher? You and I and Rush? Vic’s busy with work he brought home from the office. What ya say we three go out on the back steps and sit in the shade?

RUSH: Suits me.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Dramatically] Sadie honey, conditions at the establishment where I maintain accommodations has become intolerable.

SADE: [Briefly] You’ve had another run-in with your landlady, huh?

UNCLE FLETCHER: I have had a terrible run-in with my landlady.

SADE: [Briefly] And you want to stay here for a few days?

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Fiercely] I may want to stay here a week!

SADE: [Briefly] You know that won’t work, Uncle Fletcher. You know Mrs. Keller always comes and gets you and makes you go back home.

UNCLE FLETCHER: Do you know what Mrs. Keller has done this trip, Sadie?

SADE: No, but let’s go out in the back yard and discuss it.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Ignores this, speaks fiercely] My landlady, Mis’ Keller is leaving tonight for a visit with her brother Charlie!

SADE: In Sweet Esther, Wisconsin?

UNCLE FLETCHER: No, in Dismal Seepage, Ohio.

SADE: I thought he lived in Sweet Esther and was an armed guard at the Wisconsin State Home for the Obstinate.

UNCLE FLETCHER: Not any more. He quit that job. He is now residing in Dismal Seepage, Ohio, where he is employed as an armed guard at The Ohio State Home for the Too Agreeable.

SADE: [Urgingly] Let’s go out doors in the shade and sit in the nice breeze and talk. Then Vic can go ahead with his work.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Ignores this, says fiercely] My landlady, Mis’ Keller plans to be gone until next Tuesday afternoon. Five days she plans to be gone! And you want to know what she’s done!

SADE: [Rather sharply] Not until you and I and Rush are out-doors sitting on the back steps and…

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Fiercely] She’s laid out my meals for me!

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Apologetically] I’m sorry, Vic.

VIC: [Little unhappy chuckle] Not at all!

UNCLE FLETCHER: She’s laid out my meals for me, Sadie, Vic and Rush honey!

RUSH: I don’t believe I quite understand just what you mean by that, Uncle Fletcher. I don’t…

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Fiercely] My meals, meals! She’d laid ‘em all out. For me to eat!  My suppers I’ll eat downtown at the restaurant because in the evenings I require hot food.

SADE: You mean while Mis’ Keller is away visiting?

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Loudly] Of course I mean while Mis’ Keller is away visiting.

SADE: [Sharply] Well, you needn’t jump down my throat! I only…

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Fiercely] While my landlady is away in Ohio visiting her halfwit brother, I will take my suppers downtown because my system requires hot food. But the rest of my meals – my breakfasts and my dinners – my landlady has got distributed all over the numbskull house. It adds up to ten meals all told. See, there’s breakfast and dinner tomorrow, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. That’s eight…And breakfast and dinner on Tuesday is two more. She gets back home Tuesday afternoon. Ten meals in all. And them meals is distributed all over the fat head house!

VIC: [Rather Sharply] What in thunder you talking about, Uncle Fletcher?

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Tough] My meals, my meals! I expect you know what meals is.

VIC: [Tough] I have a rough idea, but I…

SADE: I know what he means. He means…

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Exasperated] Go down cellar.

SADE: [Sharply] Who you talking to?

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Sharply] Rush, go down cellar.

RUSH: [Politely, but firmly] No.

UNCLE FLETCHER: Listen, I’m trying to tell you people something!

SADE: [Sharply] Well, you better try to tell it without yelling and…

UNCLE FLETCHER: My tomorrow morning’s breakfast Mis’ Keller has got laid out all neat and appetizing for me on the kitchen table.

VIC: What’s the matter with that?

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Tough] Will you listen?

VIC: [Shoulder Shrug] Sure.

UNCLE FLETCHER: My tomorrow’s dinner she’s got laid out on the dinning-room table. Covered with a napkin and looking mighty tasty.

RUSH: I don’t see what you object to in that. I don’t see what…

SADE: [Briefly] Keep out of it, Willie.

RUSH: Um.

UNCLE FLETCHER: Saturday’s breakfast sits on the library table in the living-room. Saturday’s dinner is on the numbskull sideboard. Sunday’s breakfast is laid out on top of the buffet. And Sunday’s dinner is on a tray in the lame-brain nit-wit pantry! Monday’s breakfast sits on my dresser up in my bedroom. And Monday’s dinner is perched like a numbskull parrot on the doggone fat-head piano stool! Tuesday’s breakfast is …

VIC: Are you complaining because…

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Tough] What Vic?

VIC: Pay attention a minute. Are you complaining because…

UNCLE FLETCHER: I’m complaining because my landlady Mis’ Keller treats me like a child! I can fix my own meals; I don’t have to have my meals scattered all over the premises like anthracite coal!

SADE: [Gently] Mis’ Keller arranged your meals like that because she was apprehensive you might get into trouble if you fixed ‘em yourself.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Sharply] Why would I get into trouble?

SADE: [Somewhat vaguely] Oh – sharp bread knives – electricity – gas escaping from the gas stove – forget and leave the ice box open and the ice all melt and the food spoil – there’s millions of things could happen to a gentleman at home five days preparing his own meals.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Tough] Am I a half-witted numbskull?

SADE: I’m not insinuating that. I’m only…

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Tough] Suppose Mis’ Keller went on a visit and stayed a year! Would she leave a year’s meals strewed about the house? How many days in a year, Rush?

RUSH: Three hundred and sixty five.

UNCLE FLETCHER: What’s twice Three hundred and sixty five?

RUSH: [Promptly and honestly.] I don’t know.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Tough] Around seven hundred?

RUSH: Yeah.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Tough] How’d you like to have seven hundred meals cluttering up every available chair, table, piano stool, window-sill, side-board, buffet, dresser…

SADE: Oh ish, Uncle Fletcher.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Tough] Yeah, “oh ish.” I’m the fat-head that pays the rent, aint I?

SADE: [Sharply] Yes. And Mis’ Keller is the fat-head that owns the house.

UNCLE FLETCHER: I will show Mrs. Keller that I have been imposed upon enough. I will show Mrs. Keller that I…

SADE: [Briefly] I bet you don’t show Mrs. Keller nothing. And I bet Mrs. Keller will be over here directly and shoo you on home.

UNCLE FLETCHER: Sure she’ll be here directly. I’m surprised she’s not here now. [Significantly] Sadie honey, when she arrives…I’m going to show her I’m a violent man.

SADE: [Ironically] Yeah?

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Dramatically] I’m going to kick your front porch railing to smithereens.

SADE: [Alertly] Yeah?

UNCLE FLETCHER: I heard what you told Vic about that front porch railing.

SADE: Mister Erickson wants it ripped loose and torn off.       

UNCLE FLETCHER: Exactly. So the carpenters can start right out in the morning building a new one.

SADE: Uh-huh.

UNCLE FLETCHER: I will kick that rotten old front-porch railing to smithereens! I will show Mrs. Keller that I am a violent man!

VIC: [Interested] You’re going to have a terrible fit of temper and do that?

UNCLE FLETCHER: Yes. [Gently] Have any objection, Vic honey?

VIC: None in the world. In fact, I’m interested.

RUSH: So am I.

UNCLE FLETCHER: [Gently] Let us all step out on the front porch. Mis’ Keller should arrive any moment.

SADE: Are you coming, Vic?

VIC: Bet your life.

SADE: What about the work you brought home from the office?

VIC: [With boyish anticipation of pleasure] This is better. After you, Rush.

 

ANNOUNCER: And so, backing off to a safe distance, we end our visit, half-way up in the next block, with radio’s home-folks, Vic and Sade.

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