One Last Thought

Slide3

31 PLAYS IN 31 DAYS: Play 5, Day 5 – One Last Thought

PROFESSOR GEOFFREY is dictating to his amanuensis, TIMMS. GEOFFREY stands, like a lecturer at a university (which he is)
at a table, set with a couple of convenient volumes of reference,
a pitcher with a half-full glass of water, and a vase of flowers.
TIMMS is taking dictation in a notebook, as fast as he can.

GEOFFREY: (dictating)
“…he had discovered the suprising import of a tea in Tottenham, for it was this chance encounter that occasioned the next phase of Anthony Leyden’s extraordinary academic career.”

TIMMS labors to catch up, and after a moment of scribbling, with GEOFFREY waiting patiently, he does so.

TIMMS:
“…extraordinary academic career.” Got it.

GEOFFREY:
Well, that finishes out the chapter. And that should do it for today, Timms. You’ll type that up and bring me the proofs this evening?

TIMMS:
Yes, Professor.

TIMMS rises to go. GEOFFREY forestalls him.

GEOFFREY:
Stay a moment, Timms.

TIMMS:
Certainly, Professor.

TIMMS sits back down.

GEOFFREY:
You’ll forgive me, Timms, but you seem… distracted this afternoon. Are you feeling quite right?

TIMMS:
Oh, quite alright, sir. I got a bit of exercise this morning, a walk in the gardens, and then got in a bit of gardening myself, in my own little…

GEOFFREY:
“Domain.” If I may.

TIMMS:
“Domain” is a word would do nicely, sir, for the thought I had in my head. That’s why you’re the professor.

GEOFFREY:
And may I enquire after Mrs. Timms?

TIMMS:
Oh, Mrs. Timms is grand, sir. A bit of the rheumatism, now and then, since the accident, but she committed herself to a walk in the garden this morning, and though I often enjoy the solitude
I was certainly grateful for her company.

GEOFFREY:
She’s a tad young for rheumatism, if you don’t mind the observation.

TIMM:
Oh, no sir. And yes, I don’t know if that’s the proper medical term for it. Aches and pains still, since the accident, you know, but I don’t have that from a doctor.

GEOFFREY:
I see.

TIMMS:
She’s taken up needlepoint. It helps with the rheumatism. She sews flowers, while I pot and plant ‘em.

GEOFFREY:
“When Adam delved / And Eve spun / Who then was / the gentleman?”

TIMMS:
I beg pardon, sir?

GEOFFREY:
An old aphorism. Horn-book wisdom from centuries past. Might make a good embroidery.

TIMMS:
Can you elucidate, sir? I lack your scholarship.

GEOFFREY:
An old style saying, for the needlepoint. It would parse out something like this: “When the first man was a farmer, digging in the earth to feed his wife and sons, and the first woman was a domestic worker
in a cottage industry, plaiting fibers to make fabric with which to clothe them –which person, in that situation, occupied the exalted status of the upper class?”

TIMMS:
I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that, sir.

GEOFFREY:
It’s a rhetorical question, Timms. There’s really no answer to it. No one, really. That’s the point, isn’t it?

TIMMS:
I’m sure I don’t know, sir. May I go now, sir?

GEOFFREY:
Yes.

TIMMS starts to go, but GEOFFREY catches him
before TIMMS is well out of his seat.

One last thought. Take this down.

TIMMS:
Of course, sir.

GEOFFREY: (dictating)
Dash. “A phase of Leyden’s career that would lead him to question the very foundations of his life’s work, an epoch marked by bitter disappointment and, perhaps because of it, to a renewed commitment that enlivened and enlightened Leyden’s latter days and lent new meaning to his… his…

TIMMS:
You’ve already used “life,” sir.

GEOFFREY:
Yes, I know.

TIMMS: (reading it back)
Leading him to “…question the very foundations of his life’s work.”

GEOFFREY:
Yes, yes, I know.

TIMMS:
I’ve annoyed you, sir. I’m terribly sorry.

GEOFFREY:
No, Timms, it’s not you. I simply can’t think of a word. A man who has given his life to the life of words, and I can’t think of a simple synonym.

TIMMS:
Well, sir, I’m no scholar, sir, but… there’s really no synonym for life, is there.

GEOFFREY:
Well, of course there is, Timms!

TIMMS:
I’m sorry, sir. I spoke out of turn.

GEOFFREY:
No, no. I apologize.

TIMMS:
Oh, no sir. I’m sorry, I’m sure. There’s no two ways about it. Perhaps the thesaurus?

GEOFFREY consults the thesaurus. He thumbs through the index,
muttering to himself, before he finds the entry and reads it.

GEOFFREY:
Life, life… Life of the party… Life of Riley… lifeless, life-giving, life’s blood… Ah! Life! Life: A being, affairs, biography… Existence 1.1

(looking at the first page of the book)

No help.

(back to the index, reading)

Lifetime. 110.5

(flipping to that page)

Existence.

(looking a tad embarrassed, but hiding it well)

Let’s try that one, shall we?

TIMMS:
Yes, sir.

GEOFFREY:
Would you read that back to me, Timms?

TIMMS:
Yes sir: “…enlightened and enlivened Leyden’s latter days, and lent new meaning to his… existence.

GEOFFREY holds out his hand for the notebook
which TIMMS gives him. He stares at the page.

GEOFFREY:
That’s not quite the same, is it.

TIMMS:
No, sir.

GEOFFREY:
A bit flat, that is.

TIMMS:
Yes, sir.

GEOFFREY tosses the thesaurus on the table in disgust.

GEOFFREY:
Roget, you’re damn useless.

TIMMS:
Well, sir, he was a Frenchman.

GEOFFREY stares at TIMMS for a moment, for this
unexpected temerity. Then he bursts out laughing,
quite enjoying the unexpected humor.

GEOFFREY:
Very good, Timms! Yes, a fine scholar, but not without his limitations.

TIMMS:
Perhaps, sir, if I may, the fault is not with Monsieur Roget, but with Doctor Leyden.

GEOFFREY:
Eh? What do you mean?

TIMMS:
Well, sir… You’re attempting to delineate the life a man who encountered… frustrations, I suppose. Or disappointments, as you said. And then went on to assimilate that… that lesson –that life
gave him. Before he went to his Maker. Having learned what he’d been put on earth to do.

GEOFFREY:
Yes?

TIMMS:
So, sir, perhaps the gift was not in the realization, but in the travail that produced it. Life being not the result of living, but the engine of it. If you see what I mean.

GEOFFREY:
Yes.

TIMMS:
Because Doctor Leyden was –like you, sir— a brilliant scholar. But, perhaps, like all men, he came to question…

GEOFFERY:
Yes?

TIMMS:
Well, sir, forgive me, but –What’s the point?

GEOFFREY:
I beg your pardon.

TIMMS:
I’m speaking for myself here, sir. This morning, walking with the missus in the gardens, I felt so— so very small. I mean, I’m only           a clerk to a man who’s a magnificent scholar, acknowledged by all
as a brilliant man, the brilliant biographer of a brilliant man.

GEOFFREY: (blushing, false modesty)
Well…

TIMMS:
But when I expressed this thought to Mrs. Timms on our walk today, she said: Well, who’s he when he’s at home? She gets a bit querulous when she’s particularly ailing, but for all that, she has a point. I mean, you yourself are beholden to Dr. Leyden for your life’s work, its inspiration and even much of its substance, and I’m sure Doctor Leyden before you sat at the feet of another, and he at another’s, and
so on, back to old Cain and Abel, and Adam himself.

GEOFFREY:
Well?

TIMMS:
So if I’m just a small period, a punctuation mark, in the book of another man’s life, so is he, and him before him–Doctor Leyden,           I mean. And all before him, back to Adam, who was just a bit of            a part in the book of the Almighty Himself.

GEOFFREY:
Get to the point, Timms.

TIMMS:
Well, sir, I’m no scholar, but I had a bit of learning at school, and I believe Mrs. Timms, in her plain way, expressed it. There’s a difference between life and existence, isn’t there. Life is growth, like
flowers in the garden. And each phase of that growth requires the acknowledgement that we’re not there yet. That no thought is our last thought, really, until our final thought. Until the Great Gardener deems us worthy of a place at his table, perfectly formed.

GEOFFREY is speechless for a moment.

GEOFFREY:
Good God, Timms. You’re a poet.

TIMMS:
No sir. This was all Mrs. Timms on the subject. She has quite a lot of time to think on things, you see.

GEOFFREY hands the the notebook back to TIMMS.

GEOFFREY:
Let’s hold off on transcribing that last chapter, Timms. I’d like some time to consider it.
TIMMS:
Yes, sir.

TIMMS rises to go. GEOFFREY forestalls him.

GEOFFREY:
One last thought.

TIMMS conceals a sigh as he drops gently back in his chair,
prepared for further dictation when he’d like to get home
to his garden and his missus.

TIMMS:
Yes, sir?

GEOFFREY:
Would you do me the honor of joining me for tea tomorrow? You and Mrs. Timms.

TABLEAUX. LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK. END OF PLAY.

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