Episode 23: A Helping Hand

[SCENE I. SARAH and MELISSA’s house. The house is particularly messy–scattered about with dishes, papers, books, and the general detritus of living. SARAH and MELISSA are in the living room, drinking red wine. SARAH listlessly picks up a book or two and tries to stack them neatly, but gives up when it doesn’t instantly make the room clean.]

SARAH: We should clean up around here one of these days.

MELISSA: But then I’d have to actually do something productive. You know how I feel about being productive.

SARAH: It’s not too late to turn over a new leaf, Melissa!

MELISSA: Hey, the wizard told me ‘don’t ever change.’ I’m just following orders.

(SARAH sighs.)

MELISSA: Aw. I’m just teasing, small friend. We can clean up this weekend.

SARAH: It just gets messy again. (Sighs.) We need a maid or something.

MELISSA: (Joking.) Or pixies.

SARAH: (Serious.) I think house-pixies are called brownies, actually. But that’s a great idea! (She gets up and hurries over to the computer, and does some google searching.) We can leave them gifts of honey and porridge!

MELISSA: Hey now. I’m not made of honey.

SARAH: . . . said the bee. This is a win-win situation, Melissa!

MELISSA: And that is precisely why I think it is a terrible idea.

SARAH: I’m leaving them some right now. (She springs to her feet and half-runs into the kitchen, where she prepares a bowl of porridge and honey and leaves it on the windowsill.) Just remember, this is a gift, not, you know. (She mouths the word ‘payment.’)

MELISSA: Yes, I think I’m familiar with the story in question. (She refills both wine glasses.) I’m not responsible if this ends badly.

SARAH: Oh, Melissa. You’re never responsible for anything.

MELISSA: You wound me, small friend.

SARAH: Sometimes love hurts.

MELISSA: Touche.

[SCENE II. SARAH and MELISSA’s house. Later that night. The living room is empty, and mostly dark, save for a lamp that someone probably couldn’t be bothered to turn off. A BROWNIE creeps in through the window and begins tidying up.]

[SCENE III. SARAH and MELISSA’s house. The next morning. The house is spotless. SARAH is downstairs drinking a cup of tea, wearing a blue bathrobe and matching slippers. MELISSA emerges from her bedroom, wearing an oversized t-shirt and shorts, yawning, etc. When she gets to the bottom of the stairs, she stands blinking at the clean house.]

MELISSA: Uh, hey.

SARAH: Good morning! I’m so glad you cleaned! We should get breakfast.

MELISSA: I didn’t clean. I thought you did.

SARAH: Nope! I passed out.

MELISSA: Oh. (Beat.) So, brownies?

SARAH: Oh, yes please! (Beat.) Oh, you mean the cleaning. (Laughs.) Yeah, probably!

MELISSA: Does that worry you?

SARAH: Not as much as it should!

MELISSA: I see.

(Beat.)

SARAH: The water’s still hot! Come have tea!

MELISSA: Yes, good. (She pours herself a cup of tea and sits down next to SARAH.)

[SCENE IV. SARAH and MELISSA’s house. That evening. SARAH is working on a particularly messy art project when MELISSA comes home, carrying a bag of teriyaki takeout.]

SARAH: Hi Melissa!

MELISSA: Hey. (Looking at the new mess.) Well, that didn’t take long.

SARAH: Our new friends will clean it up! It’s the perfect system.

MELISSA: I suppose.

SARAH: I mean, I’ll tidy up a bit, of course, but . . . .

MELISSA: Right. (She heads into the kitchen, and emerges with a plate full of teriyaki. She sits down on the couch.) You want some? I don’t think I can eat all of it.

SARAH: Did you get the spicy chicken? (Gets up, takes the chopsticks from MELISSA and takes a bite, spilling some rice in the process.) Oh man, you did! I’ll go get a plate.

(As SARAH runs into the kitchen to get a plate, MELISSA eats her teriyaki with a fork, occasionally spilling some onto her lap, which she brushes off absently onto the floor or couch cushions. SARAH returns with a plate, and they successfully transfer some food from one place to another.)

SARAH: You always know just how to make things better.

MELISSA: It’s a gift.

SARAH: You want to watch a movie? I think I need a break from my project.

MELISSA: Hey, sure. I also picked up a bottle of that Shiraz you were talking about.

SARAH: Yess.

(They watch the movie, drink the wine, eat their dinner. Some wine is spilled and half-assedly cleaned up. MELISSA goes straight to bed after the movie. SARAH makes some weak attempts to clean up, but ultimately loses interest and also goes to bed. The mess is small but significant.)

[SCENE V. SARAH and MELISSA’s house. The following day. First, we see that the house has been cleaned once again. A montage: SARAH making breakfast (bacon, pancakes, etc), leaving something of a mess on the counter. MELISSA and SARAH eating said breakfast, leaving their plates on the table. SARAH resuming work on her art project, leaving scraps of paper around. Both of them drinking beer, leaving bottles about. Etc. By the time they each go to bed, the house is an enormous mess.

We cut to the following morning in SARAH’s bedroom. It is full of various paintings, sketches and drawings. She awakes bright and early, with no alarm clock, stretches, yawns, and gets out of bed. By the time she’s standing she looks to be fully awake. She wears sky blue pajamas, over which she slips on her royal blue bathrobe and steps downstairs. Her usually cheerful expression freezes and fades here.]

SARAH: (Shouting.) Melissa!

(After a few moments, MELISSA stumbles out of her room, looking unhappy and confused. She sees SARAH looking distraught and rallies somewhat.)

MELISSA: What’s wrong? (She runs downstairs.) Oh.

(Cut to the living room. It has not been cleaned, but this is not the cause for alarm. Instead, the living room has been occupied by several dozen BROWNIES, carrying protest signs, saying, e.g., ‘Porridge is Poor-age,’ ‘Occupy Brownies,’ ‘Stop Human Fat Cats,’ ‘Honey is Slavery,’ etc.

SARAH and MELISSA approach, cautiously.)

SARAH: Um, hey.

FIRST BROWNIE: There they are!

SECOND BROWNIE: Your working conditions are deplorable!

FIRST BROWNIE: We’re not going to be your porridge slaves anymore!

SECOND BROWNIE: We demand a raise that includes also milk!

THIRD BROWNIE: And cookies!

(A collective gasp from the crowd of BROWNIES. One of them eventually starts a chant: “Milk and cookies or bust! Milk and cookies or bust!”)

MELISSA: So, if we upgrade our pa–(SARAH elbows her in the ribs)gifts to include milk and cookies you’ll keep cleaning up?

FIRST BROWNIE: You’ll do that?

SARAH: Yes! Everyone should have milk and cookies!

MELISSA: And we’ll throw in some other things, too. As a bonus.

(The BROWNIES huddle together and discuss this.)

FIRST BROWNIE: We find your terms amenable, human.

SARAH: Hurray! And we promise we’ll never, ever take you for granted again. (Beat. Sharp look at MELISSA.) Don’t we?

MELISSA: What? Yes. Definitely. You’ve proven the power of collective bargaining.

FIRST BROWNIE: Excellent. (Looks around uncomfortably.) I hope you don’t mind if we clean up now, instead of at night. It’s just–

MELISSA: No, no, we understand. We were just heading out to, uh. Get some coffee.

SARAH: But we have–(MELISSA elbows her in the ribs.) Ow! I mean, yes. Coffee.

[SCENE VI. The Jaded Old Crone. SARAH and MELISSA are drinking coffee. MELISSA still looks like she’s just rolled out of bed; SARAH is as chipper as ever.]

MELISSA: Do you ever think that maybe we’re horrible people?

SARAH: Oh yes.

MELISSA: Does that bother you?

SARAH: Not as much as it should.

(Fin.)

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