Castle, part 8
A Capricious Drama by Thorin N. Tatge
NOTE: PHILIP and COOK start behind one stage door while MELVIN and WATCHER start behind the other.
NOTE: PHILIP and COOK should note the gender of WATCHER so they know which pronouns to use later in the script.
Enter PHILIP, slowly and quietly.
PHILIP (to audience): Hi there. Remember me, Philip from the Upper Village? Guess what? I think I’m on to something here. It’s taken me a month in this crumbling castle to find the faded hallway on the third floor, but just today I thought to look into the back of a certain closet. It turned out it wasn’t a closet at all, just a hallway people seem to like hanging their clothes in! In fact, I don’t think there are any real closets in this whole castle… except for the one they speak of as if it were a title, with a capital C… the Closet at the end of the faded third floor hall… the Closet that controls the Crumbling Castle and beckons to everyone inside it… I think I’ve almost found it. I think it’s just inside this door, the door to Melvin’s office. (Points.) Wishmaster Melvin is the only one who allows people in and out, as far as I know. But I don’t want to have to deal with Melvin. He doesn’t trust me one whit.
(Pause. PHILIP goes and pulls on an imaginary door handle. It’s locked.)
PHILIP: It’s locked. I expected it would be. (Pause.) Well, I guess if I want to do this, I’ll have to be a little elusive. I’ll just hide over behind those slabs of granite on the wall.
PHILIP sneaks back and crouches. Enter COOK. COOK goes up to the imaginary door and knocks.
COOK: Melvin! We have a problem!
PHILIP: Ooh, who’s that? I think it’s the Cook. I haven’t met (him/her), but I know (he’s/she’s) been teaching my sister how to make a few things. (He’s/she’s) a good cook in any case, based on the food I’ve been eating. Always satisfying and always just a little surprising!
COOK (knocking again): Melvin!!
MELVIN enters from the opposite door.
MELVIN: You summoned me, Cook?
COOK: Yeah, I summoned you! Melvin, we have a problem. I don’t have any new stuff to work with downstairs! You’ve got to give me an advance.
MELVIN: An advance! Why, my precious Cook, do you mean to tell me I’ve slipped up my personal catalogue of emotional radiation so unforgivably as to project an air of something resembling generosity, or any other kind of accommodative nature? I do wonder what I’ve managed to do wrong this time.
COOK: Well come on, Melvin, it’s your job to let me do my job, and my job is to feed the castle. The kind of food I’ve got just won’t let me make anything new. I’ve used every trick I have and cooked up all the combinations! The people are getting tired of it—they need some new kind of fare. Can’t you just spin the Closet a little early this month? I mean, it’s not like we’re going to run out.
MELVIN (towering over COOK, lordly): Did I miss something, then? Was I so wrapped up in my contemplation that I failed to notice it when you became more of an expert on the Closet than me?!
COOK: Look, Mel, we all know a few things about the Closet! No matter which way you turn it, you get food, you get water, you get metal, you get what you need! And you’ve said yourself you can turn it any number of ways.
MELVIN: If only it were that simple, my dear Cook. I can only shudder to think what gross oversimplification you and your fellow servants would contrive if it were that simple! Let me dismiss you with the bald assurance that it is not! You will have to abide with the ingredients you’ve always used, Cook!
COOK: But Mr. Melvin, the problem is—
MELVIN slams the door and turns his back.
COOK: Oh, for crusty grated screams!! Don’t slam the door on me! Melvin!! You haven’t heard the real problem!
PHILIP: I wonder if I should say something.
COOK: You just did. (To MELVIN): Come on, guy, open up again!
PHILIP: Oh… I guess I was thinking out loud. Hi, I’m Philip.
COOK: Hi Philip. What are you doing in the hallway?
PHILIP: Exploring. I have an insatiable curiosity…just the way our fellow denizens of the castle seem to have an insatiable taste for variety.
COOK: Uh… It’s not so much everyone getting bored with the food as it is one person in particular.
COOK: Mrs. Scrub. I mean, they say she’s eating for two now.
PHILIP: Oh! Ah… well, perhaps I’m foolish to ask this, but since this castle rarely fails to surprise me…which two is she eating for, exactly?
COOK: Well…on the one hand she’s eating for herself…
PHILIP: Yes, that much would seem to make sense. I imagine no one else would do the job properly.
COOK: Yes, and then on the other hand she’s eating for the unborn baby in her womb.
PHILIP: Ah yes, that is exactly what I suspected. So she’s expecting! This is the first I’d heard of it.
COOK: Well, she’s been keeping it a little bit secret. See, I think it hurts her to talk about it.
PHILIP: Why would it hurt? Is she ashamed of the child? Mr. Scrub is the father, isn’t he?
COOK: I think so, yeah. No, it actually hurts her to talk about it. Kind of like when you’ve just had a nice meal and then you go for a sleigh ride or rolling down the garrett wall a little too fast.
COOK: You just feel so nauseous…but as long as you just stay still, or keep walking without moving, without even saying a word, you can keep it down. You can make your body forget by forgetting yourself.
PHILIP: Does this happen to you often?
COOK: Hey, that’s not the point.
PHILIP: Well, what is the point?
COOK: The point is Mrs. Scrub hasn’t been feeling well lately, because of her baby. They say…well, they say it’s throwing her out of whack.
PHILIP: Out of what?
COOK: Out of whack. You know, with the castle’s energy.
PHILIP: Wait… so she is ordinarily in whack?
COOK: I guess so.
PHILIP: Normally Mrs. Scrub goes about in perfect whack with the castle’s energies. I’d think she’d be grateful to stop being whacked for a while.
COOK: You don’t get it! She doesn’t talk about her kind because when she does, she can’t control the way he’s—
MELVIN (back still turned): What exactly is being discussed out there? This hallway is not a gossip chamber!
PHILIP: Maybe it would be better if we didn’t talk about it either, Cook.
COOK: Well, but you see, Mrs. Scrub’s lately been very particular about what she eats! She won’t eat anything that’s too humdrum or it makes her feel like she’s left behind. But she won’t just eat the same ingredients stirred up because it makes her feel dizzy! So that’s why I need new ingredients!
PHILIP: And Melvin has the ingredients you want?
COOK: He gets them for me! Just about everything new in this castle comes through this room to begin with!
PHILIP (hushed): Do you think… Cook, can you think of any way I could sneak in along with you if Melvin lets you in?
COOK: Why would you want to?
PHILIP: I’m very curious about the Closet. I’ve never seen it.
COOK: Do you have any business with it? Anything you need from it?
COOK: Hmmm… knowledge. That’s a new one. I’ll ask Melvin about it.
PHILIP: No, wait!!
COOK: Hey Melvin, this guy Philip here wants some knowledge out of the Closet. Can he come in and get it?
MELVIN: Philip!? He dares to mock me here??
PHILIP: I didn’t mean to insult you, Melvin.
MELVIN opens the imaginary door.
MELVIN: And yet you have! What are you talking about, needing knowledge from the Closet? Knowledge of what?
PHILIP: Why…knowledge of the closet itself.
MELVIN: Never has anything more ridiculous passed between these ears. Why should you need knowledge of the Closet from the Closet itself? Why not just leave it alone and do without the whole mess? It would be much easier.
PHILIP: But I already know it exists, so it draws me! Melvin, you give food and water to the Cook and the dietician when they need it. You give materials to the Builder and armor to the guard. Why not give knowledge to the curious farm boy when he needs it?
MELVIN: But you don’t need it, Philip. You wish for it, isn’t that right? And wishes are not necessities, lad. That’s a basic truth of my profession. So in short, I have no duty to grant you access.
MELVIN: I have no wish to please you.
MELVIN turns his back. Philip peeks in through the door, then steps back again.
COOK: But Melvin, I need to get in. Mrs. Scrub says so. She’s got cravings, if you know what I mean.
MELVIN: Cravings! That overflexible slattern! I’ll see about this nonsense!
COOK: I think maybe you’d better.
MELVIN (stepping forward): Yes, well, I won’t have either of you getting in while I’m downstairs. I am locking the door!
MELVIN mimes locking the door, then heads off in the other direction.
MELVIN: When I get back, I want to see empty space where the two of you are standing!
COOK: Empty space? We couldn’t possibly create a vacuum in such an unsealed area.
PHILIP: Never mind. Cook, did you know that someone is in the room?
COOK: No, can’t say I did.
PHILIP: I think it’s the Washer! Or I guess now I should say, the Watcher.
COOK: Oh yes? I knew they were setting (him/her) to watch all the furniture to make sure it didn’t grow mold…and it ought to behave itself under those watchful eyes. But I didn’t know Melvin’s office was the base camp for that.
PHILIP: I saw (him/her) sitting at the far end of the room! Do you think we could try to talk to (him/her)?
COOK: I don’t know… we might as well try.
PHILIP (looking back): I think Melvin’s out of earshot.
PHILIP knocks on the imaginary door.
PHILIP: Hey, Watcher! Are you in there?
COOK: I think you’ll have to yell louder to break (his/her) concentration.
PHILIP: Right. (Louder): Watcher! Ahoy! Halloo!! Are you there?
WATCHER: Is that you, Philip? You’re making it really hard to watch things if I have to listen so much. A person can only handle so much sensory input at once, you know.
PHILIP: I wanted to get your attention! How come you’re in there, Watcher?
WATCHER: Because this is the core of the castle! This was the easiest place for the Builder to route all those mirror tubes, so this is where I sit! All day long…it gets a little boring, I have to admit.
PHILIP: Can you open the door from inside?
WATCHER: Of course not. Melvin locked it!
COOK: Melvin isn’t stupid.
PHILIP: I guess not. But I really want to get inside.
WATCHER: You could tell Melvin you wish to be let in.
PHILIP: Uh, no. I’m not that stupid. I know how risky it is to wish for anything from him.
WATCHER: Well, I don’t think you can get in, then.
PHILIP (sighing): I really want to see what all the fuss is about. Well, what does it look like, Watcher? The Closet, I mean.
WATCHER: I don’t know. I ‘m not allowed to look at it.
COOK: What do you mean?? You’re right in there in the room!
WATCHER: I know, but Melvin didn’t want me spying on his work, so he had the Builder put a screen in front of my face that blocks me from seeing Melvin or the Closet clearly. I can see other things through it all right, though.
PHILIP: That’s awful! You’re doing this castle a great service! How can they treat you like this?
WATCHER: I think Melvin was pissed at the invasion of privacy. First we routed the irrigation system through his room, and now I’ve set myself up in his office. He’s cracking, Philip.
PHILIP: Well…well, maybe it’s for the best if he does. I just wish it didn’t mean your humiliation like this.
WATCHER: Oh, it’s no problem. You can hardly see the screen.
PHILIP: Wait, Watcher. Can Melvin see your face through the screen?
WATCHER: Nope, it works two ways. I don’t think he likes seeing my face all that much, truth be told.
PHILIP: But then… hmm.
COOK: What are you thinking about?
PHILIP: A plan. Yes, a plan! Cook, Watcher, will you help me?
COOK: I—I guess, if it means getting back at Melvin.
WATCHER: I’ll do anything for a break.
PHILIP: Okay. Cook, run downstairs and tell Mrs. Scrub that in order to fix the food she wants, you need to make sure your cooking equipment stays perfectly clean. Tell her you need the Watcher to watch it for a few minutes while you’re busy doing other things.
COOK: Er… okay. But (he/she) keeps it clean enough as it is, and besides, I can always wash it off again.
PHILIP: Just say that to Mrs. Scrub! Then play along when the Watcher shows up.
PHILIP: I’ll be in the larder waiting for you, Watcher.
WATCHER: All right, Philip.
Exit PHILIP. WATCHER returns to the edge of the stage and sits down, watching the audience.
WATCHER: Oooh, there’s a pretty one. It’s true it’s a boring job, but sometimes it’s so nice, you hardly notice time passing.
MELVIN: Time to pack up, you annoyance! You’re needed downstairs, Watcher!
WATCHER: Why in the world would you need me down there? The whole kaleidoscope of being is right here!
MELVIN: Just move it! I’ll escort you to the kitchen.
WATCHER: Whatever, Mel-man.
MELVIN angrily escorts the WATCHER through the door and locks it behind him. They exit. Everyone is offstage together.
COOK (offstage): Right, then! Watch that pot carefully and keep it from boiling!
WATCHER (offstage): Yes, Master Cook!
MELVIN (offstage): Is this really necessary? Is this Watcher so much more skilled at watching things than everyone else?
WATCHER (offstage): Yes, sir! I’ve been practicing my cunning sidewise glances, my abashing stares, and of course my evil eye.
COOK (offstage): Just stand there and watch the pot. I’m almost done with the roux.
WATCHER (offstage): And how I rue the concoction! Its smell tantalizes me, but I must put forth all my energy into watching, watching, watching!
MELVIN (offstage): Will you please be quiet!!
COOK (offstage): Melvin, if you would, please step into the serving hall while we’re working. We need no distractions.
MELVIN (offstage): Yes, gladly. Have your privacy.
PHILIP (offstage): Okay, he’s gone. Watcher?
WATCHER (offstage): Yes?
PHILIP (offstage): Undress yourself.
WATCHER (offstage): What?
PHILIP (offstage): Take off your clothes! I’m going to wear them and pretend to be you.
WATCHER (offstage): Are you crazy? You’re nothing like me.
PHILIP (offstage): I’ll do my best. If Melvin doesn’t expect to see your face through the screen, he probably won’t notice mine.
WATCHER (offstage): All right, all right. Just don’t watch me.
PHILIP (offstage): I won’t. You’re doing quite enough watching.
COOK (offstage): Don’t either of you watch me.
PHILIP (offstage): Why are you taking off your clothes, Cook?
COOK (offstage): Er…oh. No reason.
PHILIP (offstage): Put that thing back on this minute. Mmmph. Okay, here, put these on, Watcher.
WATCHER (offstage): Right. How’s that roux coming, Cook?
COOK (offstage): It’s at the height of perfection. And that broth?
WATCHER (offstage): Erp! It’s boiling!
COOK (offstage): It is? You were too careless! Is it doing anything besides boiling?
WATCHER (offstage): Yes, it’s roiling.
PHILIP (offstage): And coiling.
WATCHER (offstage): And toiling.
PHILIP (offstage): And oiling.
WATCHER (offstage): And spoiling.
COOK (offstage): Oh, for parsimony’s sake! I’d better take over again.
WATCHER (offstage): Please. Okay, I’ve got your clothes on, Philip. Now what?
PHILIP (offstage): Now just hide over here and come out when we have dinner.
WATCHER (offstage): Okay…
PHILIP (offstage): Melvin! We’re ready. You can come back in and take the Watcher back
MELVIN (offstage): Hmm? Very well. That smells skillfully wrought, Cook. I see you were able to make do with your standard ingredient list, after all.
COOK (offstage): Yeah. I think I’ll call this dish Sporadically Watched Brille.
MELVIN (offstage): An excellent choice. Where is Philip?
COOK (offstage): Oh, um, he went to the bathroom.
MELVIN (offstage): Typical. Well, Watcher, come on. Your work here is done.
COOK (offstage): Thanks for the help!
Enter MELVIN and PHILIP. PHILIP is averting his face. MELVIN comes to the door, unlocks it, and throws PHILIP in.
MELVIN: There, now continue your infernal surveillance. I’m going back to continue my conversation with Mrs. Scrub.
PHILIP sits down. MELVIN exits again.
PHILIP: So this is the core of the Crumbling Castle! It’s so dank…so decrepit. Nothing even a little shiny or fine… and look at that spot on the wall. Wow… that must be what the Watcher watches. It’s so intricate… and meaningless. And yet it gets the job done. But I wonder where the Closet is?
PHILIP gets up and looks around.
PHILIP: There’s something over around the corner, there… I feel something stirring in my mind…
PHILIP goes upstage and spots the Closet. As he delivers the next line, he slowly falls to his knees.
PHILIP: There. It’s there! It’s overwhelming—I can’t see what’s through the door! It’s so much goodness… so much hope… so much… but I can see it. It’s—I can’t believe it. It’s the field of silver flax! Anabelle’s father’s field of flax…only it’s so much bigger than in real life. I can see the mountains for perspective…and they just fall away. And I can almost see people in the distance… I can think people in the distance… they must be there, it would be right. What are these thoughts going through my head? What is this place through the Closet telling me?
Enter COOK and WATCHER.
WATCHER: Philip, are you in there?
PHILIP: Wha—what? Oh, yes, I’m here! The Closet is telling me something… it’s…
COOK: What’s it telling you, lad?
PHILIP: It’s… I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around it. It’s shaping thoughts into me…cautionary thoughts. It’s telling me… that unless I start… granting other’s desires more fully and honestly… I’ll have to give them a share of the reward.
WATCHER: Melvin! It thinks that you’re Wishmaster Melvin!
PHILIP: Yes, I think you’re right! He’s got the Closet attuned to him! And I’m feeling what must be meant for him. I need to be a better Wishmaster…need to grant better wishes…because the Closet… Watcher, Cook, listen carefully: this is important! The Closet wants to claim everyone here, to give them their Heaven. But if I, the rightful Wishmaster, can grant everyone else their greatest desires…if I can take care of everyone else’s reward…then noone needs to go through the Closet but me! I can have its Heaven…all to myself.
WATCHER: Is it serious? Is that really what it said?
PHILIP: It doesn’t say things… I just feel them. And know them. It’s true! Melvin is trying to cheat all the rest of you out of your rewards!
WATCHER: Us, Philip. The rest of us.
PHILIP: He thinks he can fool the Closet into thinking he’s granted everyone’s wish! He’ll take it all for himself! No! I’m not Melvin! I’m not even a resident! I’m just a person from the Upper Village! Stop prying at me! Stop telling me what I have to do!! Let’s see what happens when I close the door!
WATCHER: No, heavens, no, Philip! Don’t close the door, or you’ll seal it forever!
PHILIP: Are you sure?
WATCHER: Completely sure! Please, Philip, just get away from there!
PHILIP staggers back downstage.
PHILIP: Okay… I’m away. I’m back. I’m Philip again. Wow, what a feeling.
WATCHER: You’ve seen what there was to see… now get out of there! We’ve got to tell Mrs. Scrub what Melvin’s up to before he catches us here!
PHILIP: But… but the door’s locked! I can’t get out.
WATCHER: Then we’ll have to try and come up with—
MELVIN: What’s going on here?? Is that you, Watcher? How did you get out of the room?? Answer me!
WATCHER: I’m not the Watcher, sir, I’m Philip. I’ve been… learning how to mimic the Watcher so (he/she) doesn’t have to talk so hard and get all out of breath and everything. See?
MELVIN: Don’t toy with me! Who is in my office? Who?
COOK: Nobody’s in there!
MELVIN: I’ll just see for myself!
MELVIN throws open the imaginary door to find PHILIP on the other side.
MELVIN: I knew it! You, Philip! You haven’t been satisfied with your role as naïve bungler around the castle…you had to add meddler to your resume as well!
PHILIP (waving at the Closet): I was just curious… to see.
MELVIN: Well, now that you’ve seen, you can’t take it back. Philip, you’ve provoked me in the past, but now you’ve crossed every line! You and your fellow conspirators! All of you! You have left me no choice! You will now face the power of the Castle’s Owner in its full grandeur!
COOK: No, please, I was just dragged into it!
MELVIN: How you got here is no matter—what matters is that you must not be allowed to leave as the beings you came in! I hereby declare all of you—PRISONERS!!! Philip—you are Prisoner 000002! Watcher, you are Prisoner 000003! Cook, you are Prisoner 000004! Now go, and forget what you’ve seen—it won’t matter to you ever again. Get out!!!
PHILIP, COOK and WATCHER run off stage.
MELVIN (raising his arms maniacally): Get out of my office!!!!! (To audience, frightened): By the Closet’s promise, they’ve seen what I’m doing. They know my plan. My only hope is that as prisoners, they won’t care enough to do anything about it. Oh, how I hope they’ll leave me alone!