Episode 4: Star Pupil

[SCENE I. The offices of the PORTLAND EXAMINER–specifically, the break room. ERIC is eating a bland-looking lunch. There is a newspaper on the table open to a page where MELISSA’s face is visible, smiling. The headline reads ‘LOCAL HERO: “I JUST DID WHAT I HAD TO DO.”’ As ERIC is reading over the article, SOPHIE walks in.]

ERIC (looking up): You’re back! How was your vacation?

SOPHIE: It was excellent. I’m refreshed and ready to get back in the game. (Glances at the paper.) Ugh, are people still going on about that hack? That was a over week ago! Surely something has happened since then.

ERIC: Not really. It’s Portland, Washington.

SOPHIE: I bet Michael did it just to get back at me for taking a vacation.

ERIC: I think he did it because people love to hear stories about beautiful women saving adorable children. (Beat.) Why do you hate her so much, anyway?

SOPHIE: Well, it all started in high school… (Cue wavy flashback lines. Scene.)

[SCENE II. Portland High School, home of the Vampire Squids. A high school-aged SOPHIE is walking down the halls–she wears unattractive glasses and unstylish clothing. Her nose is in a book. She bumps into MELISSA, who is walking with NICHOLAS. MELISSA still looks like a model; NICHOLAS is twig-like and brooding.]

SOPHIE (friendly in a very ‘I wish I could be like you’ way): Oh, hi, Melissa!

MELISSA: Hey, Sophie. I liked that article you did in the paper–what was it called, Nicholas?

NICK: ‘Science Teacher Revealed To Be Evil Criminal Mastermind?’

MELISSA: Yes! I liked how you recommend he be put on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. That’s hard-hitting stuff.

SOPHIE (blushing): Oh, it was nothing like that poem you wrote, ‘My Heart Is An Autumn Rain.’

MELISSA: I’m glad you liked it. I was really channeling my teen angst. Or Nicholas’s, anyway. He’s angsty enough for two.

SOPHIE: The way you rhymed ‘leaves’ with ‘grieves’ really touched me.

MELISSA: It was an inspired moment, I’ll grant you.

SOPHIE: Hey, did you hear about the school writing competition?

NICHOLAS: She’s already decided she’s going to win it. She’s spent more time working on an acceptance speech for the award than–ow! (He is cut off by an elbow to the ribs.)

MELISSA: Shut up, Nick.

NICHOLAS: “I want to thank–” (This time Melissa’s elbow knocks the wind out of him.)

SOPHIE: So you’re going to enter? What are you going to write?

MELISSA: I don’t want to ruin the surprise. What are you entering?

SOPHIE: I’ve got a controversial editorial in the wings. It will be spectacular.

MELISSA: Well, I’ve got to go, but good luck! I’m sure you’ll do great.

SOPHIE: You too!

(MELISSA and NICHOLAS depart, the latter still wheezing. SOPHIE sighs wistfully. Scene.)

[SCENE III. SOPHIE’s house. She is at her desk in a bedroom with a wall covered in newspapers from across the country, writing furiously.]

SOPHIE: This has to be big, exciting. Something no one has ever written before! (She taps the pen to her chin thoughtfully, then begins writing.) ‘School Lunches Are Bland And Unhealthy.’ No, Sophie, no. Bigger than that. (Scene.)

[SCENE IV. MELISSA’s house. She is downstairs with her twin sister, MELINA. They are identical, but MELINA looks like a punk rocker, or at least like a high schooler who wants to look like one. Her short hair is dyed blue and she wears a black band t-shirt.]

MELISSA: I’m bored, Lina. We should watch a movie.

MELINA: Weren’t you supposed to be writing some thing for that writing competition?

MELISSA: Oh, that? I finished it. Wrote a haiku cycle when I got home today. I like it.

MELINA: Probably took you all of half an hour. You need to stop being so brilliant, Lissa. You’re making me look bad.

MELISSA: I don’t try, honest! It’s completely effortless.

MELINA (snorts): See, I don’t try, either, and I just get yelled at for never doing my homework.

MELISSA: You just care about things more interesting than quadratic equations and the name of Teddy Roosevelt’s second-favorite horse. Now come on, those movies aren’t going to watch themselves. (Scene.)

[SCENE IV. A school assembly at Portland High School, in the gym. The vampire squid banner is flying in the background, and the PRINCIPAL is giving a speech at a podium. SOPHIE and MELISSA are sitting together.]

PRINCIPAL: And one final item on the agenda. Entries for the PHS Writing Competition are due no later than this Friday! Turn your entries in to your homeroom teacher. Be sure to write your full name and class on the entries. We’ve hired an excellent panel of judges, and we’ve already gotten some great entries, but that doesn’t mean you can’t kick it up a notch! Go Vampire Squids!

(He steps off the podium.)

SOPHIE: Ugh, I spent all night writing my editorial. I’m so tired this morning.

MELISSA: Are you done though?

SOPHIE: Well, I still need to write another draft where I check it for errors, and then have someone else proofread it, but I finished the rough draft, yeah.

MELISSA: I’ll proofread it for you.

SOPHIE: Oh, you will? Thank you so much!

MELISSA: What are friends for, right? (Yawns.) Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t get much sleep either.

SOPHIE: Slaving over your secret entry?

MELISSA: No, I finished it when I got home. Melina and I did a movie marathon and the time just got away from me.

SOPHIE (incredulous): You finished it? Aren’t you going to revise and proofread and write drafts and compare versions and, and–

MELISSA: I never do any of that stuff, Sophie, you know that. I’m just naturally awesome.

SOPHIE: I just, I don’t want to see you do badly because you didn’t–

MELISSA: Relax, Sophie. It’ll be fine. (Scene.)

[SCENE V. MELISSA’s house. She is reading a book when she is interrupted by a knock at the door. MELINA is playing guitar.]

MELISSA: Coming! (She opens the door. SOPHIE is standing there, manuscript in hand.)

SOPHIE: I revised it as much as I could but I’ve been staring at the words so long they don’t even look like English anymore.

MELISSA: Hey, no problem, that’s what I’m here, right?

SOPHIE: Thank you so much for doing this! It means so much to me. I really want to have a chance at that competition.

MELISSA: Sure. I’ll get it back to you tomorrow at school, okay?

SOPHIE: Okay! Bye!

(SOPHIE runs off excitedly. MELISSA closes the door.)

MELISSA: Guess I need to proofread that paper, huh?

MELINA: We never finished the last movie, Lissa. You can proofread while we watch, come on.

MELISSA: All right. (She sits back down on the couch and begins looking the paper over in a very distracted way.)

(MELINA puts the movie in, and puts her guitar away. She sits down on the couch next to her sister. They watch the first movie, then another, then a third, until MELINA has fallen asleep and MELISSA looks like she is barely staying awake. She glances over at SOPHIE’s paper.]

MELISSA: Oh, shit. (She glances at a clock. It is about three in the morning.) Fuck.

(She makes a valiant attempt to read the paper, but she is clearly having trouble focusing.)

MELISSA: Eh, looks good to me. (She finds a minor punctuation error in the first few sentences, marks it, and then puts it aside. She then makes her way upstairs and goes to bed.)

(Scene.)

[SCENE VI. Portland High School. SOPHIE is running after MELISSA in the halls. MELISSA looks like she has not slept much at all.]

SOPHIE: Melissa! Did you finish proofreading for me?

MELISSA: Yeah, yeah. (Yawns.) It’s good. Just missing a comma or two. Anyone could make that mistake. (Yawns again.) You did all the hard work for me.

SOPHIE: Oh, thank you! I’ll fix that and turn it in right away! You’re the best, Melissa! (She runs off. Scene.)

[SCENE VII. The journalism room. The TEACHER is handing out some pamphlets. SOPHIE and MELISSA are both in class; SOPHIE is excited. MELISSA is asleep at her desk.]

TEACHER: I’m handing out to you the results from the writing competition. One of the perks of being in Journalism is getting to see these things first! Technically we’re not supposed to announce the winner until the assembly next period, but I thought that, since the winner is here in the room . . . .

(SOPHIE is nearly bursting with anticipation.)

TEACHER: Congratulations to Melissa Xenakis for her winning haiku cycle!

SOPHIE: What. (Incredulous, she opens the pamphlet and begins to read.)

TEACHER: Wake up, Xenakis.

(MELISSA starts awake.)

TEACHER: Congratulations, Melissa! Your haiku were very touching. Moving, even.

MELISSA: Yeah, thanks. (She looks confused. Eventually she looks down at the pamphlet and understanding dawns.)

TEACHER: And congratulations are also due to Sophie Swanson, the second runner-up, for her editorial on censorship. Well done, Sophie!

(SOPHIE is busy reading the pamphlet. She has moved on to her piece now. She looks angry about something. But the class bell rings, and the students begin packing up. Scene.)

[SCENE VIII. After the assembly. Students are filing out of the gym, and MELISSA is sleepily enjoying the adulation she is being given for her award-winning haiku. It is to this scene that SOPHIE approaches, angrily clutching a pamphlet.]

SOPHIE: You said you proofread it!

MELISSA: What? I did!

SOPHIE: I misspelled the word ‘separate’ in the third-to-last paragraph. You should have caught that! I should have won that prize, not your stupid haiku cycle!

MELISSA: I don’t think one word is–

SOPHIE: That’s the only explanation! These aren’t real poetry, they’re just some words you threw together! They’re not even proper haiku! There was only a couple of them with the traditional 5-7-5 syllable pattern!

MELISSA: So–

SOPHIE: They’re punishing me for your sloppiness! If you’d proofread properly I would have won and nobody would have had to read this–this shit you’re passing off as creative writing. You’re a disgrace, Melissa. A disgrace.

(SOPHIE storms off angrily. MELISSA looks more bewildered than anything.)

NICHOLAS: What the fuck just happened?

MELISSA: I think I just got friend-dumped over a typo.

NICHOLAS: Women.

(A young, twiglike SARAH approaches shyly.)

SARAH: Um, excuse me, Melissa?

MELISSA: Yes?

SARAH: I’m Sarah. Sarah Ames. I just wanted to say, I thought your haiku were really great.

(Scene.)

[SCENE VIII. Wavy flashback lines take us back to the present, where ERIC is looking at SOPHIE as if she is insane.]

ERIC: So this whole rivalry is because you spelled a word wrong and she wrote some haiku?

SOPHIE: I had a beautiful editorial about censorship and she went and spewed some words on a page for a few minutes, broke them into little lines, and called them poetry! And she won! Everyone kept talking about how marvelous and creative and in-touch with her emotions were. I trusted her with my paper and she let me down. She betrayed me. She sabotaged me.

ERIC: That is the most incredible thing I have ever heard.

(It is clear he is not impressed by SOPHIE’s story, but SOPHIE doesn’t seem to think so.)

SOPHIE: I know! My best friend! How could she do that to me? There wasn’t even any prize money!

ERIC: Yeah. So hey, anyway, welcome back from your vacation. I just remembered I have to do a photo shoot with those kids she rescued. We’ll chat later, okay? (He hurries out of the break room, leaving SOPHIE alone with the smiling picture of MELISSA.)

SOPHIE: One day, Xenakis. One day.

(Fin.)

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2 comments on “Episode 4: Star Pupil

  1. Infini says:

    This was quite a funny read to anyone who has experianced drama in this stage of life. You do a good job of pointing out how pointless and idiotic it could be at times, unless that is only what I managed to interpret from it. Eitherway, these have been a joy to read! Especially in a script like format. : )

    • rcrantz says:

      It is definitely inspired by the way things go in actual high school. Glad you enjoyed, and thanks for reading and commenting!

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