Script

Act I of the play is presented below. All material is the property of Duke Ryan and copyright 2013. You may request permission to use the play by contacting the author.


Act I
Scene 1

(Buzz is vigorously pounding a punching bag.)

Valerie

Buzz, BUZZ, please stop that and listen to me. Buzz!

Buzz

Yeah, what is it?

Valerie

(Warm and friendly. She might be saying let’s go to bed)

Buzz…I want a divorce!

Buzz

Yeah, OK, dear, we can talk about it.

Valerie

You’re not listening, darling. I said I want a divorce.

Buzz

(Pauses, then as if he had been goosed by a cattle prod.)

What! WHAT!!

Valerie

Sweetheart, relax.

Buzz

A divorce?!  Did you say a divorce?

Valerie

Yes, dear, I did.

Buzz

What are you talkin’ about?  What’s got into you?

Valerie

Darling, I am bored senseless in this place. If you were at all sensitive to my needs, you’d be aware of that.

Buzz

Aaww, don’t give me that!  I am so sensitive to your needs, it’s ridiculous.

Valerie

All you do is sit at that computer all day

Buzz

I’m day-trading. It’s scary sometimes.  I just got into it.

Valerie

I see, but about the divorce…

Buzz

Stop sayin’ that word. If you’re bored maybe we could take a trip somewhere, go on a vacation.

Valerie

Buzz, I need to get out of this town, out of Union, Illinois, not just for a week or a month, but forever.

Buzz

Why, for god’s sake?  Look, get into something?  Get involved in the commu…

Valerie

(Nicely)

Now, Buzz, stop right there. You know how I feel about the community.  (Gently and softly) It sucks.

Buzz

Then, why did you come here?

Valerie

Oh, darling, don’t play dumb. Could we possibly live in that closet you had in Chicago?

Buzz

Well, maybe not, but I gotta tell you, it gets to me sometimes, livin’ in Paul’s house.

Valerie

It’s my house, if that helps you any.

Buzz

Yeah, well, whatever.  If I can get used to livin’ in it so should you. You ought to be thankful you got it.

Valerie

It’s a nice house in a dreary town! I should never have let Paul move back here, never!

Buzz

(Patiently)

Hey, you coulda stayed in Washington after Paul got his ass bounced.

Valerie

(With plenty of feeling)

Don’t be snide.  He was betrayed by those vile so-called New Republicans.  And now you pal around with them in this town, including that despicable Gumpston.

Buzz

OK, but you don’t have to be no senator to live in Washington.

Valerie

No, you don’t, but just look at that.

(She reaches for a picture of Paul.)

That tells it all.  Paul in his Senate Office.  My God, how he loved it. He couldn’t imagine not being a senator.  Look at that expression; can’t you see it all there?

Buzz

Yeah, I can see it.  I see that picture a lot, too, and if you don’t mind my sayin’ so, I think you ought to put it away.  I ain’t as taken with it as you are.

Valerie

Sorry if it offends you.  He was a big part of my life.

Buzz

Includin’ bringin’ you here.

Valerie

Don’t be nasty!  We both thought we’d get back in a couple of years, and if he had lived, we probably could have.

Buzz

Val, Paul was trounced; he never coulda have gotten back, and you aren’t goin’ back either.  So let’s deal with reality.

Valerie

(With feeling)

The reality is that I am in Union, Illinois, Union the Horrible.

Buzz

You are so damned spoiled, you know that? Ninety-nine percent of the people in this world, I mean like good hard-working, common folks, they would give an arm…

Valerie

(With gentle patience)

Now, Buzz, don’t get all Bolsheviky. We need to be civilized about this.

Buzz

About what?

Valerie

About our divorce, darling.

Buzz

(Hits the punching bag)

There is not gonna be no divorce!

Valerie

(To herself)

Oh, why did I ever go on that idiotic cruise!?

Buzz 

‘Cause it was the widow’s special.  Find a guy in one spin around the globe or your money back.

Valerie

Now that’s mean, Buzz. But I was lonely, vulnerable.

Buzz

That’s all there was, huh?

Valerie

No, that’s not all. Look at that album (on a coffee table).  I never took so many pictures.

There you are looking suntanned and terrific.  I was attracted, more than attracted, fascinated. The sea was calm, the moon was bright; and you said such nice things.

Buzz

I still do; only you don’t listen no more. I thought you were pretty neat, too–classy, sophisticated, romantic–hey, I still do.  I mean that, I do.

Valerie

(Dropping the album)

You forgot rich.

Buzz

(Insulted)

No, I didn’t think that.  From what you told me I figured you to be comfortable, not rich.

Valerie

Well, you were right about that. Paul’s campaigns took care of “rich.”  But you, well, you were different from anyone I’d ever known.

Buzz

Rougher and dumber.

Valerie

Less polished, let’s say.

Buzz

Quite a change from all your preppy friends, huh?  A gym manager and amateur boxer.

Valerie

A huge change, and I loved it—the rough edges; they felt different, and real, and good.  I felt I was in touch with a real human being for the first time in my life.  Someone who did something, not just manipulate things.

Buzz

Yeah, but that was then, wasn’t it?  You know, women like you, the social register set, they go through stages when they like sleek horses and rough guys.  The horses usually come out better.

Valerie

I’m sorry, Buzz.

Buzz

But now you’re tired of “rough,” is that it?  Now, you’re lookin’ for “smooth” again, some hotshot lawyer or stockbroker.

Valerie

The whole thing was just a pretty bubble, starting with the cruise, but the bubble has burst, and I am bored witless. And…and you seem to be, too; that’s probably why you’re playing around with other women.

Buzz

I am what!!? Have you gone nuts? I love you, for Christ’s sake.  That seems to be the one thing that doesn’t count here.  Playin’ around!! Jaysus!!

Valerie

Buzz, every time I see you with some woman under 60, you’ve got your arm around her.

Buzz

Baloney, and anyway that ain’t exactly cheatin’.  I’m a friendly guy.

Valerie

You’re not that friendly with me.

 Buzz

Well, you don’t make it real easy.  You keep getting’ more and more like a debutante and treatin’ me more and more like the chauffeur.

Valerie

Oh, I do not.

Buzz

Oh, come on, Valerie.  Enough of this!  Look, we’re here.  Make the best of it.  Do stuff; get to know people.  Look at me; I got stuff going on here.  It’s interesting and useful.

Valerie

Oh Lord, like what?  You don’t mean that ridiculous gym?

Buzz

That gym helps one hell of a lot of people.  Keeps young folks out of trouble, which is a damn good thing these days, and it keeps older guys fit…

Valerie

(Looking at his girth)

Oh, keeps older guys fit, eh?  Maybe it’s not really the gym you’re going to on all those afternoons.

Buzz

(Sucks in his gut.)

OK, OK, maybe I’m a little softer than when I was boxing, but I’m OK. And you know something, we’re gonna build a new gym– much bigger.  It’s gonna serve three cities in this county. You could help us, too, you know that, raisin’ money, for example.

Valerie

You and that obscene Gumpston?  He led the fight against Paul in this county, I hope you realize that.  And now we have that despicable Hoopentaker in the Senate.

Buzz

Valerie, get over it; it’s just politics, for Christ’s sake, politics, nothin’ else.

Valerie

Well, where I come from politics matter.  Anyway, a gym, even a three-city gym, is really not what I’m aiming for, Buzz. Do you realize that entire foreign affairs budgets used to be worked up in my living room? That’s the level I’m aiming for.

Buzz

OK, OK, good luck. Mind tellin’ me how’re you gonna get there?

Valerie

I have a plan, Buzz.  That’s why I need the divorce.

Buzz

Well, you’re not gettin’ no divorce, so forget it, and even if you ever got it, you’d have to pay me so much alimony you’d be livin’ on skid row, considering I’m your major life-support system–cooking, cleaning up, chauffeuring, shopping…

Valerie

And you live in my house, remember?  (Buzz hits the punching bag and Valerie continues rather sweetly)  The thing is, Buzz, I have an escape plan, but I’m afraid it only accommodates one of us.

Buzz

You really are somethin’ else. What is this plan?

Valerie

(Enthusiastically)

I am going back into public life.  I want to be an ambassador.  I have been thinking about it for a long time.

Buzz

Oh, yeah, nifty idea.  That really sets you apart, that you’d like to be an ambassador.

Valerie

(Patting his hand)

The difference, darling, is that I can do it. I haven’t tried because…well…because of us.

Buzz

What are you talkin’ about?

Valerie

I can do it, Buzz, but you can’t. I haven’t had the heart to break us up, but I just can’t stand this life any longer.

Buzz

Hey, I’m waitin’.  You gonna tell me this great plan, or what?

Valerie

(With conviction, enthusiasm—and naivete)

Don’t be angry, darling.  I’m just going to call some of our old friends in Washington, Paul’s and mine. I’m going to network.  For someone with my background that should be pretty easy.

Buzz

What background?  You ain’t never done a day’s work yet.

Valerie

You can be flippant, but I was respected in that town, and I am still remembered.  You’ll see.

Buzz

Well, pardon a dumb question, but, uh, where does divorce come into this?

Valerie

Ah, Buzz, you’re a dear man; I really mean that, but do you see yourself in that environment, entertaining presidents, prime ministers, foreign secretaries.  I’ve been there, for me it’s easy.

Buzz

You think I’d embarrass you.

Valerie

I’m saying nothing in your background has prepared you for this kind of work, and it would be work.

Buzz

You’d be ashamed of me.

Valerie

I think you would be miserable.

Buzz

Well, well, well.

Valerie

(With happy insight, perhaps clapping her hands)

Oh, but I have an idea.  If you want to come along, maybe you could do some kind of work at the embassy. You could have an administrative job maybe, looking after the building and grounds. I’m sure I could arrange it. In fact, I’d like that, having you around–but after the divorce.

Buzz

Oh, sure, that would be nice, havin’ your ex cuttin’ the grass and doin’ the windows. But bein’  divorced he couldn’t be pesky about sittin’ at the dinner table, huh?

Valerie

(A little like talking to a child)

Buzz, being in charge of the physical plant is a big job.  Well, maybe you wouldn’t have charge of all of it, but a lot of it anyway.

Buzz

You are a piece of work, you know that, you really are. How about you try all this high- powered networking before we turn our lives upside down, huh?

Valerie

You’re not angry, are you, darling?

Buzz

Of course not.  Why should I be?

(He slams the punching bag a few times.)

Valerie

Buzz, Buzz, please, settle down.  Now, look, I have a very important call to make.

Buzz

Oh, I beg your pardon.  You gonna call the president?  Hi from me, don’t forget. But if he says you gotta be divorced before you can go to Washington, tell him it’s off ‘cause your dumb, roughneck husband thinks marriage is more important than politics.

Valerie

(Conspiratorially)

I’m going to call one of the most powerful figures in Washington.  He’s a lawyer in a very political law firm and could easily be the next Attorney General.

Buzz

Oh sure, the kinda lawyer that makes millions keepin’ the government from helpin’ simple people.

Valerie

(Nanny-like)

Buzz, dearest, no cracker barrel Marxism, please.  Didn’t we agree about that?

(She dials.)

Buzz

I give up. Anyway, you’re never gonna get no ambassador’s job, so why am I all fussed up?

(Goes to his computer.)

All right, baby, let’s see how you’re gonna treat me today.  Yesterday wasn’t so hot.

Gumpston

(Enters)

Hey, hello, the door was open.

(Valerie looks disgusted but says nothing. She reads a newspaper furiously all the time Gumpston is on stage.)

Buzz

Hey, Gumps, how the hell are you, guy?

Gumpston

I’m OK, but listen, I just got a second. I’m on my way to Chicago. I’m working two days a week in Hoopentacker’s office up there.  It’s a killer drive, but worth it.

Buzz

Wow, That sounds really great. A terrific break for you, huh?

Gumpston

Yeah, it sure is, but look, I just want to drop off this jacket. A guy I met up there made it for me.  He’s kind of political– he says for a Hoopentacker guy he’ll do it really cheap.  I figured they’d be good for us guys workin’ on the gym, and maybe to give to some of the right people—the mayor, Hoopentaker, you know, folks like that. What do you think?

Buzz

Damn good idea.

Gumpston

Good, and catch the design on the back—a gold triangle for the three cities were gonna serve when we get going. Neat, huh?  I”ll tell him make up a few more when I get up there today.  Anyway, I gotta run. I’m late as hell now. Keep this (the jacket) and I’ll talk to you soon. See you later. Goodbye Valerie.

(Valerie ignores him. He exits.)

Buzz

Wow.  Gumpston workin’ with Hoopentacker, how about that?

Valerie

I don’t even want to discuss it.  It might make me ill.

Valerie

(While dialing the phone.)

You’re going to lose your shirt with that thing–and I am going to get an ambassadorship, just you….Hello…My name is Valerie Butts, I’m the late Senator Paul Huffer’s widow…Yes, that’s right…I would like to speak to Mr. Leon Strummer.  (She is pacing nervously as she speaks.)…Thank you….

Buzz

Oh, wow.  Oh, look at this!  Go baby, go.  Climb, you sucker.  Climb.

Strummer

We can see him, although some sort of staging must make it clear that he is in another city, i.e. Washington

Yeah, hello, who’s this?

Valerie

Leon, it’s Val.  I’m so glad I caught you.  How are you?

Strummer

I’m OK, but look..

Valerie

….Oh, that’s wonderful.  And are you still running the government?

(Buzz scowls at her coyness.)

Strummer

Hey, who is this?

 

Valerie

It’s Valerie, darling, Senator Huffer’s widow.

 

Strummer

Oh, yeah, I remember.  Where are you—at the hotel?

 

Valerie

Oh, no, no, I’m not at the hotel….(she laughs coyly) Oh, the old suite. How well I remember.

(Buzz bashes the punching bag.)

Strummer

So, OK, where the hell are you?

Valerie

I’m, back in Union.

Strummer

Where?

Valerie

Union. You know, like the one Lincoln saved.

Strummer

Jesus! Is that in America?

Valerie

Yes, darling.  It’s in Illinois, Paul’s state, remember?

Strummer

Why the hell are you there?

Valerie

Because Paul came back here after he left the Senate….

Strummer

Yeah, OK. We’ll look, uh, uh…

Valerie

Val.

Strummer

Uh, yeah, Val.  Look I’m so busy I can’t think straight, so what do you need?

Valerie

Well, I won’t keep you more than a moment.  You see, I want to get back into public service…

Strummer

Back?? Pardon my ignorance, but when were you in public service?

Valerie

(indignantly)

Leon, all the time I was in Washington.  We were a team, Paul and I….

Strummer

Oh, come on, lady.  What did you do–church socials, that kind of stuff?

Valerie

I did plenty that was substantive, behind the scenes.

Strummer

You mean in hotel rooms?

Valerie

Oh, you have gotten wicked!

(Slightly like a public announcement)

Leon, I would like to serve our country abroad.

Strummer

Oh, yeah, get into the public trough… hob nob with the power elite. Well, look, I’m really very…

Valerie

Leon, please don’t be quite so cynical. I want to serve…

Strummer

Great! Serve who? What?  Where?  Lady, I’m really busy.

Valerie

Serve my country…Anywhere…say…Paris.

Strummer

Yeah, well, that’s very patriotic.  If you got about a million bucks for the President’s campaign fund, maybe we can talk about it, and I mean that, a million.

Valerie

Good God, prices have gone up.  Isn’t there anything for less?

Strummer

So how much have you got in mind?

Valerie

Well, say, oh, well, maybe $100,000.

(Buzz snaps to at this.)

Strummer

(Disdainfully)

A hundred grand!  God, I don’t know.  Fiji maybe.

Valerie

Fiji! FIJI! for $100,000.

Buzz

Where in hell are you going to get $100,000?

Valerie

Be quiet!!…

Strummer

What!!?

Valerie

No, no, I was talking to my husband.  He asked me something.

Buzz

Don’t come to me.

Valerie

(Scowls at Buzz)

I know it’s a campaign year, Leon, and I know the president needs money, but my God, these prices….(Buzz is back at his computer.)  Well, look, Leon, I can’t give it to you right now, but I can come up with, well, about $50,000

Strummer

Fifty K!  We’re sinkin’ fast here.  That’ll get you Nauru, if you’re lucky.

Valerie

Nauru?  Is that a place?

Strummer

Yeah, it must be.  It’s on my list here.  Well, think about it, dearie. See if you can come up with some more bucks.  Look, I got stuff to do.  Oh, by the way, the President’s Domestic Advisor might be going out to the Midwest somewhere.  Maybe you can meet him. Do you some good…contacts and all.  Check with the party office out there.

Valerie

Well, I’d love to meet him, but I’m mostly interested in serving abroad so please look into the ambassador thing, and I’ll scout up the money somehow.

Strummer

OK, OK, but now look, sweetie, if you are going to get anything at all you first got to get an endorsement from the local party office back wherever you are.  My secretary will tell you who to call.  Hey, nice to talk to you. Good luck.

Valerie

Thank you, Leon

(With her hand over the phone)

You little shit.

Buzz

What’s happening?  What’s Nooroo?

Valerie

Nauru is a speck somewhere, and I’m waiting for his wretched secretary.

Buzz

Why?

Valerie

I need some party hack in Illinois to vouch for my candidacy.  It’s just a formality. She’s going to tell me his name…..Yes, yes, I’m here.  I’ve had a nice nap; I’m quite refreshed….Who!!?  GUMPSTON!!  I need a referral from Gumpston!! Oh, my God, I don’t believe this….No, no, nothing.  Thank you. Goodbye.

Buzz

Hey, what’s goin’ on.  What’s this about Gumpston?

Valerie

Gumpston, that vile squid, has taken over my life!  Everywhere I turn one of his tentacles grabs me.

Buzz

Most guys only got two.

Valerie

Buzz, I said tenta…Oh, never mind.

Buzz

OK, but where does Gumpston come in?

Valerie

Everywhere, apparently. First, he’s the one who has to vouch for me, which is enough to make me vomit.

Buzz

Oh, hey, that’s good.  He’ll do a swell job for you.

Valerie

So I will either end up in Union for the rest of my life or in Gumpston’s debt for the rest of my life. Well, can’t be helped. The relatively good news is that the President’s Domestic Affairs Adviser is coming to the Midwest.

Buzz

To Union?

Valerie

Yes, but he doesn’t know it yet. That’s exactly what we need to make happen.

Buzz

Who’s “we?”

Valerie

Well, me, if you don’t want to help me.

Buzz

I do, but then I think, “Hey, if she gets what she’s after, I’m helping myself become a divorced yardman in Nooroo.

Valerie

Well, anyway, that despicable Senator Hoopentacker is working with Gumpston on the itinerary.  I want that adviser here, even if we have to work with Gumpston to make it happen.

Buzz

“We” again.  Is that ’cause Gumpston knows you think he’s pond scum?

Valerie

Let’s talk about it all later, shall we? Right now, I have to think about money.

(Meanwhile, it has begun to storm outside.)

Buzz

Whoa, listen to that thunder!

(Looking at his computer screen)

Oh, wow, look at this stock, holy mackerel, that baby is hot. I’m gettin me some more of that stuff.

(At that moment there is a crack of thunder, and the lights go out. Buzz shouts.)

Shit!

End Scene

Scene 2

 (About an hour later. The electricity has returned. Buzz goes to his computer.)

Buzz

Ah, great, the juice is back.  Now watch the people’s capitalist rake in the loot, ladies and gentlemen.

Valerie

Uh, Buzz, have you really made money on that thing?

Buzz

Have I made money? Hell, I’ve cleaned up.

Valerie

Really?  Amazing!  Like, uh, about how much?

Buzz

Hey, in the last few weeks alone, oh, about $450,000.

Valerie

What!!?  You amaze me, Buzz.  You really do, again and again.  I guess that’s why I married you.

Buzz

Aw, it’s a knack, you know, kinda a head for figures.  Sometimes I think either you got it or you ain’t.

Valerie

Well, it seems you’ve definitely got it.  Have you thought about what you might do with all that money?

Buzz

Oh, I don’t know, I’ll probably use a lot of it to get the new gym started.

Valerie

The gym!?  Buzz, it’s a nice idea, but I wonder if we couldn’t, well, just lift our sights a little bit.

Buzz

What does that mean?

Valerie

I mean let’s help more people, the kind of people you are so concerned about, ordinary people.

Buzz

Is that a fact?

Valerie

Yes, Buzz, it is.  Just think about it.  American diplomacy influences the way people live around the world.  Someone well placed in our foreign affairs could do so much for so many people.

Buzz

Oh, yeah, now I see where this is going.

Valerie

If we could get enough money for a good post in Europe, well, we–you and I–could be a real force in world affairs.

Buzz

OK, OK, now let’s just review the biddin’ here.  You are sayin’ you want me to give you my money to give to Strummer so you can become an ambassador somewhere.

Valerie

Buzz, so that we can become ambassador.  This is something we’ll be doing together, something important.

Buzz

Don’t we usually have just one ambassador in these places?

Valerie

Yes, of course, officially, but that’s not the point.  An ambassador needs all the help he or she can get, good, trustworthy assistance.  That’s where you would come in.  Back-stopping everything I did, everyday.

Buzz

Oh, is that right?  Well, that’s pretty good, but uh, tell me, where exactly does the divorce fit in?

Valerie

The what?

Buzz

The divorce you wanted a couple of hours ago.

Valerie

Oh, Buzz, darling, I hope you didn’t take that too literally.  I didn’t really mean I wanted to divorce you, you must realize that.

Buzz

You don’t want no divorce?

Valerie

No, of course not.

Buzz

And you want me to go with you overseas?  I mean without I need to do the windows?

Valerie

Of course, I do; do you think I’d go without you? We might have to give you some administration job title, but you’d really be co-ambassador.

Buzz

I don’t know, Val. I really want to do this gym thing. It’s my kinda thing, you know what I’m sayin’?  I can see it helpin’ folks, ordinary folks, whereas this other thing, well, it’s all kind of airy-fairy, and anyway, I always figure that Washington and diplomats and all are really more out to screw folks than to help ‘em.

Valerie

Oh, Buzz, that’s not true.  We’ve got to have good government and really good people, like you and me, running it. Now, look, let’s just call and see what might happen if we were to offer some real money to Strummer, shall we?

Buzz

I gotta tell ya, I don’t like it very much.

Valerie

I know, dear, I know, and I respect your concerns. (She picks up the phone and dials.)

Buzz

Hey, you be damned careful, you hear me?

Valerie

I just want to see what they say.  We don’t need to make a commitment….Hello. This is Valerie Huffer.  (Buzz looks up surprised and irritated)  Uh, that is Valerie Butts.  I’d like to speak with Leon Strummer please….No, don’t see if he’s in.  If he weren’t in, you’d say so.  I want to talk to him….I’m following up on my earlier call….What more do you need to know?  Tell him it’s about a large sum of money that I intend to give to him if he plays his cards right.  It’s for him to give to the President.  See if that interests him.

Strummer

(Roughly)

Strummer, here.

Valerie

Leon, darling, sorry to bother you again, but I found some money, quite a bit actually

Strummer

God, that was quick. What did you do, stick up a liquor store?

Valerie

That’s none of your business. And could we be a little more civilized?

Strummer

Yeah, sure.  So how much ya got?

Valerie

$650,000.

Strummer

Oh, yeah?

Buzz

(At nearly he same time)

Jaysus, what??

Strummer

Not too bad

Buzz

How much??

Valerie

(Mouthing “be quiet” to Buzz.)

Yes, and I think that should buy something pretty good.

Strummer

Well, maybe, what do you have in mind?

Valerie

Something nice, dear.  (Buzz hits the bag)

Strummer

Yeah, OK, sure.  Look, dearie, it’s possible because of some special circumstances that Copenhagen might be going for that kind of money, and let me tell you, it’s a goddamn steal.  I’ll make some calls.

Valerie

Copenhagen? Really. Oh, that would do nicely.  The Danes are a jolly sort of people aren’t they?  As close to being Italians as you get in Scandinavia.

Strummer

Yeah, I guess they’re OK. I think they yodel or something.  Anyway, if you want a shot at it, get that money very fast, you understand?  Listen, I got to go.  My secretary will fill you in on the Copenhagen situation.

Valerie

Alright, Leon.  I’ll get the money there very quickly. Bye now….Hello, is this Mr. Strummer’s secretary?…Yes, you’re going to tell me about Copenhagen…Uh huh, uh huh, I see…. Uh huh, uh huh…. Yes, yes…Thank you.  Goodbye.

Buzz

What the hell are you up to?

Valerie

Buzz, this is unbelievable.  I can have…we can have Copenhagen.

Buzz

I don’t want Copenhagen.  Where would I put it?

Valerie

Of course, you do, and so do I. Look, the ambassador there just died.  They’re stuck, and there’s going to be a special meeting of NATO there next month.

Buzz

What good are you going to be at that? You don’t know NATO from bug spray.

Valerie

I happen to know a great deal about NATO, but the beauty of it is, I don’t have to. I will have an excellent career deputy who knows all about everything.  Isn’t that delicious?  All they need is someone presentable in the ambassadorship. Me, in other words.

Buzz

OK, you’re ambassador, huh? And you got this crackerjack career nursemaid. So just exactly where do I fit in?

Valerie

Buzz, you’ll be helping me all the way.  Behind the scenes.  The power behind the throne….Oh, I nearly forgot, Leon’s secretary told me that the President’s domestic affairs adviser wants a program for Illinois by the end of the week.

Buzz

Hey, speakin’ of that, I told Gumpston how you wanted really bad to get that guy here.  He says he’ll see what he can do.  (slowly getting an idea)   Hey, hey, let’s get him involved in the gym. Yeah, look, I give the town my money to start building a new gym.  That way we got something real to get this domestic guy’s attention

Valerie

Forget it.

Buzz

It’s perfect.  With my money we start diggin’ the foundation for the gym. Meanwhile, we make a date with this domestic guy, lay on a photographer, and pose the guy in front of a bulldozer.  Then he goes back and gets Washington all excited about it.

Valerie

But Buzz, you forgot….

Buzz

Wait a minute, wait a minute, let me finish. I got another neat idea—those jackets Gumpston is having made.

Valerie

Yes, yes, Buzz….

Buzz

Just one sec.  Let me finish.  We give one of these jackets to the domestic guy during the bulldozer ceremony and one for Hoopentacker, too. Is that a neat idea, or what?

Valerie

(With restrained exasperation)

Buzz, think of it this way. We have a box of money, a fairly sizable box. If we give it to Stummer, he will send us to Copenhagen.  If we give it to the gym, they will say, “Gosh, thanks,” and we will live and die in Union.

(Pause)

Ah, but wait a minute…Maybe we can give the box to Strummer and also promise it to the gym, a pledge, I think they call it.  We do all your stuff with the domestic guy and the bulldozer, but when the gym says, “Hey, where’s the money?” We’re gone.

Buzz

What?  You mean we stiff the gym?

Valerie

Buzz, we can do so much for so many people this way, good people, common folks.

Buzz

By giving fancy-assed dinners in Copenhagen.  That’s going to help folks in Union?  Call me dumb, I don’t see it.

Valerie

Oh, you are so obstinate!

Buzz

No, I ain’t obstinate, Val, but I got a vision, see? You got to realize that.  I can turn this gym into a real force for good in this community and in the other communities around here, too; you know that?  We’re started on all that, Val, and I ain’t givin’ it up.

Valerie

Buzz, Buzz, ordinarily I wouldn’t dream of asking you to give it up.  But think of the wonderful opportunity you will have…

Buzz

(His mood changes suddenly.)

Hey, stop, wait! Maybe we can both have what we want.  You can have Copenhagen—with me by the way, which we need to talk about a little more, like what the Sam Hill I’m gonna’ do there—and I can have my gym.

Valerie

(Dubiously)

Well, Buzz that’s wonderful.  Go on.

Buzz

You got money to live on.  Investments, Paul’s pension, that stuff, right?

Valerie

(Warily)

Yes, not a lot, but some.

Buzz

You don’t really need no salary.

Valerie

What?  Are you crazy?

Buzz

No, listen! We, that is, I, give my box of money to Strummer.

Valerie

That’s good.

Buzz

But, to keep the gym from getting shafted you give your new salary to it.  We can get a lawyer this afternoon to set it all up.  In fact, Gumpston oughta do it.

Valerie

Are you absolutely out of your mind?

Buzz

I am serious.

Valerie

You are raving.  For one thing, in these posts, especially European posts, you need all the income you can get.  You need to entertain constantly.  They never give you enough.  They figure if you’re rich enough to buy the post, you’re rich enough to run it.

Buzz

It’s time they learned different.  Time they started to pay for stuff, if they want it.

Valerie

(Excitedly)

Buzz, just forget it.  Give away my salary!  You must be mad!

Buzz

Well suppose I just call up Strummer and tell him it was really my money, and I’ve changed my mind, huh.

Valerie

Don’t give me that.

(Buzz goes to the phone.  Valerie laughs.)

You don’t even know his number.

Buzz

Redial!

Valerie

(snatching away the phone)

Don’t ever try that again!

Buzz

The hell I won’t.  You want to be an ambassador, huh?  Well, get your coat. The way to Copenhagen is through Gumpston’s office.

Valerie

Oh, God, I swear I’ll sue that damned cruise company.

(The stage goes dark.)

End Scene


Scene 3

(Several hours later.)

Valerie

That meeting with Gumpston was the most humiliating experience of my life.  I hope you appreciate that.

Buzz

Aw, come on, relax, will ya, relax.  You done the right thing. That’s what’s important.

Valerie

Ehhhhhhhh.

Buzz

Oh, Val, take it easy, OK?… I’m going to see what’s goin’ on in the market. I damn near forgot this thing.

(Valerie paces and fumes. Buzz logs on.)

Oh, oh. Whoa! What the hell’s goin’ on here!?  Wait a minute! Jaysus! Oh, my God! Oh, Cheerist!  Oh, this is a disaster! This is a wipeout. OH, NO, NO, NO!!

Valerie

What are you howling about?  Quiet down, for heaven’s sake.

Buzz

We’re wiped out, that’s what I’m howling about. We’re Goddamned destroyed, ruined.  I not only lost all my money…

Valerie

How?  Make sense, will you?

Buzz

About six months ago I got into trading commodities.

Valerie

Which means what?

Buzz

Vegetables, hog jowls, stuff like that.

Valerie

And??

Buzz

Oh God, oh God…

Valerie

Buzz, speak!

Buzz

Well, the idea is that you buy this stuff low, and sell high.

Valerie

Yes, that’s called gambling.  Buzz, what have you done?

Buzz

I bought beans.

Valerie

Oh my God. And the price didn’t go up, did it?

Buzz

No, it didn’t.

Valerie

How bad is this going to get?

Buzz

I should have sold at any price, but I hoped things would get better.  Then I got distracted and missed a deadline.

Valerie

Yes, and…

Buzz

I just got a message—the first three truckloads of beans are coming to this address tomorrow.

Valerie

Beans!!  Buzz, do you realize that you said “beans.”  Are you telling me that instead of money we have beans!!

Buzz

Lots of beans.

Valerie

Instead of ambassador to Copenhagen, I’m the bean queen of Union.  Buzz, do something.

Buzz

Do what?

Valerie

(Hysterically)

How should I know?  Call somebody.

Buzz

There ain’t nobody to call.

Valerie

(Shouting frantically.)

Now , let’s keep calm.  Let’s just all keep calm.

(Then she weeps.)

(Buzz is pacing.  He passes the punching bag, growls at it but doesn’t hit it.  Then he changes his mind and punches it.)

Buzz

Aww, well, come on, Val, it’s not the end of the world.

Valerie

No. God, I wish it were.  Lord, please hit me with a thunderbolt.

(Then, to Buzz.)

Otherwise, you know what’s going to happen?  I am going to live out my wretched life right here in Purgatory, Illinois.  How will I get my kicks? buying bird seed at K-Mart out on the highway, or getting a big hot chocolate half-price on seniors’ day at Anne’s Sweetie Pie Pastry and Coffee Shop. Meanwhile, the center of this beastly town and I will decay together. That’s my life from now on.  Oh God, please, send a thunderbolt.

Buzz

Oh, now, come on, calm down.

Valerie

How could you?  How? How? How? You’ve completely ruined me. And with beans, for God’s sake.  Beans! By the way, do you have any idea what you’re gong to do with the wretched things.  Make salads for the world?

Buzz

I don’t know.

Valerie

Buzz, I never thought I’d hear myself say these words.  Call Gumpston.

End Scene


Scene Four

 (Enter Gumpston)

Gumpston

OK, I got it fixed.

Buzz

How?

Gumpston

Union is a sister city with Yakutsk in Siberia. I kid you not.  A few years ago everyone was crazy about these city to city things. We got Yakutsk.  They just had an earthquake.  Everything is a mess. I suggested to the mayor that we ask them if we can help, maybe send food. They said sure.  How about beans?  They said, that’s fine.  The neat thing about Yakutsk is you don’t to put them in cold storage.

Buzz

Great….. but how will they get there?

Gumpston

The mayor agreed to use city funds as long as the New Republicans back him for Congress in two years. Sure, I said. He’s a small time crook, but what the hell.

Buzz

Gunpster, you’re amazing!

Gumpston

Thanks, but now look, that domestic guy is coming this afternoon.  I got a big photo op set up–him, you, Val, the mayor, and a bulldozer. It’ll look real good in Washington. We’re gonna have a bushel basket of beans there, too.  Symbolic, see.  And the mayor has a banner with his picture that says “beans for freedom.”

Valerie

(With despairing irony)

How did this ever happen to me?

Gumpston

To tie the gym and the beans together, I told Washington it’s all the work of a new foundation you two have started, the Huffer-Butts Foundation for a Better World.  They love it. My guy in the White House said speed the photos down so they can send them out with a press release.

Valerie

OK, we won’t drown in beans, bit we still don’t have any money.

Gumpston

Yeah, but we may not need it.  Just before I came over here I sent the White House my endorsement for Val.  Told ‘em you were wonderful, Val.

Valerie

(coolly)

How nice…Thank you.  But why don’t we need the money?

Gumpston

Well, the administration took a lot of flack last term on taking forever to make appointments. So I think their ready to move real fast this time.

Valerie

Without money?

Gumpston

Yeah, but they don’t know it yet.  I played on their fears.  I gave ‘em nightmares, talked about bad press, stories about slow appointments, how we’re not serious about Europe any more, all that kind of stuff.  See, I knew if we can get this done fast enough, we can get you to Denmark before Strummer realizes all he’s got is a pledge. And here’s the best part, I said if they don’t act fast they might lose you. That was the clincher.

Valerie

Lose me!  I can’t believe it!  Now, I’m some kind of prize.

Gumpston

You’re darn tootin’ you are!  I made sure of that. And so they’re pushing your appointment through super quick.  They sounded out the Danes, who don’t have any problem with it, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which says it won’t either.

Valerie

I would think not.  Paul was on that committee.

Gumpston

Yeah, well, that was Paul.  Some people down there say your experience is sort of…weakish.

Valerie

(Offended)

Who said that?

Gumpston

Some people in the White House, but I got all that fixed up real good.  I told ‘em all again about all your great qualities.  I told them you were the force behind Paul’s success.

Valerie

Well, God knows that’s true enough, until he got beaten anyway.

Gumpston

And I stressed again how you were completely at home with high-powered folks, even if they were foreigners, like a lot of them are likely to be overseas.

Valerie

I have entertained ambassadors, presidents, and prime ministers in my home. They ought to know that.

Gumpston

And above all, and this is the big, big item, I pounded home how you have been completely and totally involved in your local community.

Valerie

(Surprised)

Oh, you did. Well…uh, that’s… interesting.

Gumpston

And emphasized the great work your foundation is doing locally and internationally. Told ‘em how you’re even giving your entire salary to help build the new gym.

Valerie

You told them that? They liked it?

Gumpston

They loved it.  They said that can really make a difference, especially with how senators react to you. They’re going to put it in your nomination papers and in a press release. Goes out tomorrow with the bulldozer photo.

Valerie

And what about the State Department?

Gumpston

They don’t seem to come into it.

Valerie

That sounds right.

(A pause.  She brightens gradually.)

So, what you’re telling me is, it’s done.  It’s in the bag.

Gumpston

That’s exactly right.  I am telling you that you are an ambassador, or as good as.

Valerie

I am an ambassador!  I am ambassador to Denmark!

Buzz

Hey, cookie, is that great or what?

Valerie

(Half serious, half silly)

Madam Ambassador would sound better.

(Then she laughs and dances around the room. Then stops suddenly.)

And what about Strummer?

Gumpston

If you say I said it, I’ll deny it, but Strummer is screwed.  The whole thing is going too fast.  No silver will cross his palm at all, or anyone else’s.  From a politician’s point of view, it’s a real foul up because you’re going to be ambassador to Denmark before anyone realizes they didn’t get a payoff.

Valerie

(Starts dancing and laughing again.)

I am Madam Ambassador, and Strummer is screwed; oh, God, life doesn’t get better than that.

Gumpston

Now, listen, they want you to be ready to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by the end of next week.

Valerie

Oh boy!  I’m going to need new clothes and new luggage.

Buzz

Yeah, me, too.  All I got is my old sea bag.

Valerie

(With a sharp change of attitude)

Ah, uh, Buzz, that, I’m afraid, brings us back to what we we’re talking about earlier.

Buzz

What was that?

Valerie

(She is sounding ambassadorial already.)

Well, Buzz, I don’t want to go into it all right here and now, but I mean that whole broad range of issues centered basically upon how exactly you can fit into diplomatic life, if indeed, you can.  Do you see?

Gumpston

Oh, I’m sure he can.  Anyway, he’s going to have to.  Without him there’s no deal.

Valerie

(Alarmed)

What!!?

Gumpston

That’s the really interesting part.  The domestic advisor is setting things up so that when you go to Washington, Buzz should go along, too, and be there for everything–in the Senate and everywhere else.  Buzz might even get a question from the Senators, and you’ll both have your pictures taken with the President. Is that neat, or what?  I fixed it all up.

Buzz

Gumpston, that’s fantastic, absolutely fantastic, our pictures with the president.  Amazing!

Valerie

(Stunned)

But, but, what?  Why?

Gumpston

The White House wants to stress that the government’s getting a team, one with deep community concerns. Isn’t that great?

Valerie

(Aside)

I’m chained to Godzilla.

Gumpston

Wait, that’s not all.

Valerie

(With muted sarcasm)

How could there possibly be more?

Gumpston

There’s great news for Buzz, for when you get to Denmark.

Valerie

Lay it on me, I’m putty already.

Gumpston

See, in a couple years there will be Olympic games in Denmark.

Valerie

(Expressionlessly)

That’s interesting.

Gumpston

Well, the White House thinks it would be really terrific if Buzz were the liaison with the Olympics Committee folks there.

Buzz

What?  What? Say that again.

Gumpston

I swear it’s true.  I pushed hard for it and got it.  They want you to be our government’s liaison with the Olympics Committee.

Buzz

Holy mackerel!! Val, you hear that??   Me, a diplomat!! A leezeeon.  Wow!! I never thought I’d grow up to be a leezeon.

(He mimes receiving an Olympics trophy.)

This special Olympic trophy goes to Buzz Butts, winner in the leezeeon category.

(Then he gets second thoughts.)

Hey, but you know what?  I’m not goin’ be some fancy striped pants sort of dude, I’m goin’ a people’s leezeeon.

Valerie

(Incredulously)

Liaison to the Olympics? Buzz? Really?

Gumpston

Yeah, you bet.  Listen, I used Buzz to really get things moving.  See, I knew they were interested in him. And I told the domestic advisor and anybody else who would listen that he was on the verge of getting into a lot of pretty big stuff here, local and international, so they better darn well hurry things along if they want him because he isn’t going to be available too much longer.

Valerie

They want Buzz!  Really?

 Buzz

Could you say that in a happier voice?

Valerie

And that clinched it?

Gumpston

Yes ma’am.  That was what put it over.

Valerie

Well, well, well.

Gumpston

Anyway, the President will mention all this, probably in the Rose Garden tomorrow or the next day…Oh, hey guys, one more thing. You’ve got to be careful when you get to Copenhagen.

Valerie

Careful, why?

Gumpston

There’s a rumor that the Senate is going to launch an investigation of some kind.  I don’t know any more than that yet.  It will try to show that the party is cleaning itself up.

Valerie

That will be a challenge.

Gumpston

And the word on the street is that they might go overseas, but I don’t know where yet.  Everyone figures, though, that they’ll be rough here and there to show that it’s not all just a whitewash.

Valerie

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.  It sure doesn’t take him long anymore does it?

[Act I Curtain]