"The war has begun. Our country is being invaded.
They have taken the first swimming pool."
It is a radiantly beautiful Sunday afternoon. A man is walking
through a woods barefoot and in bathing trunks. His step is
jaunty, and he is whistling. Dapples of yellow sunlight slant
through the leafy boughs overhead onto his tanned, lean-muscled
body. The man's name is Ned Merrill. He is in his mid-forties.
Although his handsome, even-featured face shows the marks of his
age more than his body does, it is at the moment a youthful face,
boyishly exultant with a feeling of well-being. Now and then Ned
leaps gracefully from rock to rock in his path -- with the
coordination of a lifelong athlete. Everything about him -- his
health, his physical beauty, his happiness -- seems to be a
celebration of life on this lovely day.
Suddenly he bursts out of the woods onto a perfect suburban scene:
the garden, swimming pool, and glistening white ridge-top house
of Helen and Don Westerhazy. They are sitting on their colorful
terrace. Helen's eyes are closed. Her body is inert. Don is
sipping a drink. Both wear bathing suits.
When Ned sees them he lets out a whoop of greeting and breaks
into a dog trot across the lawn.
At the sound of the shout Don and Helen lift their heads to squint
at the approaching figure. As Ned comes closer, Don stands up and
shades his eyes.
Ned has reached the edge of the garden. He runs past a female nude
in marble, pauses for an instant to slap it sharply and sassily on
the buttocks, laughs with pleasure at his action and continues
toward the pool. By this time Don and Helen have recognized him
and are waving.
Ned reaches the edge of the pool and without breaking his stride
he leaps and arches into the high, flat trajectory of a racing
He swims with a perfect crawl and a powerful kick. The blue water
breaks up into the diamond-shine of splashes and bubbles as he
cuts through it to the end of the pool. He kicks away with a well-
executed racing turn and swims another length. He does this again
and again with untiring vigor and stops only when he sees Don
sitting on the diving board offering him a martini. Ned bursts
from the water, grinning, and reaches for the glass.
He treads water, holds the glass up in a silent toast, and drinks
the icy-cold delicious gin.
So it's not because our service is
What do you mean?
We haven't seen you for so damn
Oh, well -- you know how it is!
Where've you been keeping yourself?
Oh -- here and there, here and there
-- what a day! Ever see such a
He finishes the drink, hands the glass to Don, and heaves himself
easily and gracefully over the side of the pool. They cross to the
God, it's wonderful to see you! You
So do you--
(Don gives him
a sour look)
Well, a little pale around the
I drank too much last night.
They have reached Helen, stretched out on the chaise.
(rests his hand
on her feet)
How beautiful are thy feet in
sandals, O Prince's daughter!
They burst into laughter. She holds out her arms. He bends down to
kiss her; suddenly she drops her head back on the chaise and
(smiling at her)
Bet you drank too much last night!
Don has eased himself gingerly into a chair. He looks at Ned's
dripping, glowing face.
Isn't he a sight for sore eyes?
Oh, Neddy, we've missed you!
Come on now, sit down and tell us
Where're you coming from?
Oh, I was around -- thought I'd come
over and have a swim with you.
Look at that water! Look at that sun!
(squints and grimaces,
then gives up and closes
Know what I think? I think everybody
drank too much last night.
It was that rum. I drank too much of
Our own. Don't worry. You didn't
miss a thing.
Usual Saturday night blowout.
Same old jokes, same old faces.
We've all known each other so long
there's not even anyone to flirt
I'd have flirted with you.
You're practically a new face!
How're things, Ned? Have a good
Oh sure! Just great!
(he bends over
Come on, love, how about a swim?
(takes her by
Come on, puts oxygen in your blood.
Good for a hangover.
What in the world makes you think
I'm hung over?
(tugs at her hands)
I'll race you!
Neddy! Please! No!
He releases her. She settles back and closes her eyes.
How about it, Don?
Are you kidding?
(with a vague wave
towards the bar tray)
Relax, Neddy -- have a drink.
(she opens her eyes)
Go on -- sit down and tell us what
you've been up to.
At this moment the screen door slams, and a man comes out of the
house. It is Stu Forsburgh. He is Ned's age but, unlike Ned, shows
it. He is overweight, with a paunch and thinning hair. He is
dressed in trousers, shirt and tie, and a sports jacket.
(astonished and delighted)
Stu is equally delighted. They clasp each other warmly.
How are you, Sport?
Okay! Never better!
I'm so glad to see you, you old
What the hell are you doing here?
Just stopped over -- been up on the
Cape for three weeks -- how's
And the girls?
All grown up -- and beautiful, Stu,
(giving him a
Don't know how you do it -- you
haven't changed a bit!
Hey, where'd you get this?
(he pats Stu's paunch)
Why've you got all those clothes on?
We got to get into town and catch a
plane. Peggy's packing.
On a day like this -- you're going
to take a plane? Don't give me that,
Got to get back to the shop--
(grabs his lapel)
Do you know how long it's been
since we had a swim together?
Don't remind me--
(at the drink bay)
What'll you have, Stu?
(to Don and Helen)
We're old bunk mates. We went to the
same camp when we were kids!
Gee, I don't know. I drank too much
(lifts the pitcher)
A diluted martini?
Boy, I'm out of practice for the
kind of party you throw around here.
We don't go in for that in Columbus
unless it's New Year's Eve--
I told you not to accept that
What else could I do?
I'd have quit before I'd let anyone
send me to the provinces.
Well -- it's healthy.
Stu's wife, Peggy, leans out of an upstairs window and calls:
Stu! Did you pack the pill case?
(hoots at Stu)
(calls to Peggy)
The vitamin case is on the night
(with a big smile)
Don't tell me that's Ned Merrill
How are you, honeybunch? Come on
Half a minute!
She disappears from the window.
God, Stu, I didn't realize how much
I missed that ugly old mug of yours!
Listen, get out of those clothes --
we'll have one quick swim!
Not up to it. Beginning to feel my
You crazy? You're a year younger
than I am!
Yeah! You were always pulling
seniority on me at camp--
Remember how we used to take off our
suits and swim for miles up that
river? We just never got tired--
Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen -- we
had nice new pink lungs in those days.
The water up there, remember? That
transparent, light green water! It
-- it felt different!
(the memory of it
shows in his eyes)
What a beautiful feeling! We could
have swum around the world in those
That was before we ever touched a
drink or a cigarette.
Or a girl.
That doesn't sap a man's strength!
Or I'd be in a wheel chair today!
Peggy has come out of the house. She is lithe and attractive and
only slightly tense under her badinage.
Ned Merrill -- still bragging!
Ned crosses to her and hugs her.
Oh I've heard those old schoolboy
stories! You all made them up!
Figured that out, have you?
(he hugs her again)
Now let's settle this nonsense about
your taking a plane.
Settle it with him. I like it here.
More and more.
Lucinda will be disappointed as
Well I don't think that's exactly
I can run you over to the house in
There is a small uncomfortable pause. Don gives Helen a slightly
Come for a minute -- just to say
Okay if I borrow your car?
Well, sure, but--
He looks at Helen.
(quickly, to Ned)
Honestly they haven't time. We
promised to stop at the Grahams for
a quick goodbye drink. You come
(her eyes still on Ned)
Of course he'll come with us.
You haven't seen their new pool,
Did the Grahams put in a pool?
He crosses to the balustrade along the outer edge of the pool
terrace and looks down. From this hilltop can be seen the lush
green valley below, crisscrossed by roads, dotted here and there
with houses, a church spire.
Uh huh! They nurse it like a baby!
(peers over the valley
as if trying to find the
Grahams' house and pool)
When did the Grahams put in a pool?
Did you get the suits off the line?
My God, I forgot all about them.
Ned stares over the valley. A faraway look has come into his eyes.
If they're still damp, I have some
plastic bags you can use.
Better get them, honey, and finish
(her eyes on Ned)
Oh there's time--
She crosses to get a drink.
Listen, the Biswangers have a pool,
You know, those awful people on Red
Coat Road. They're always talking
about their Caribbean cruises or
their electric toothbrushes--
Sure, they have a big pool.
(almost to himself)
I could do it.
He frowns with concentration. He is thinking hard and hears none
of the following small talk.
Go on, honey, finish packing.
(her eyes on Ned)
I will in a minute!
If we miss that plane--
Columbus isn't going to fly away,
I want to put the suitcases in the
Don't worry, I'll get you to the
Suddenly Ned lets out a whoop of triumph.
I could do it. I could really do it!
Do what, Neddy?
Now with the Grahams there's a
string of pools that curves clear
across the county to our house!
(he counts carefully
on his fingers)
The Grahams, the Lears, the Bunkers.
Then a portage through the Pastern's
riding ring to the Lindleys and the
Hallorans and over the ridge to the
Gilmartins and Eric Hammar's. Then
up Alewives Lane to the Biswangers,
then, uh, wait a minute -- who's
next -- I can't think--
(he looks at them,
I had it a minute ago, I-- who is
(his panic increases)
Who is it? Who's next to the
(with great relief)
Shirley Abbott. Then cross Route 424
to the Recreation Center Pool, then
the Clydes and that's it.
Who are the Clydes?
That little ranch house at the
bottom of our hill.
What if they don't have a pool?
(he looks at the
others with alarm)
Everyone has a pool these days,
don't they? God, if they don't have
a pool, that'll just ruin it!
Don't you see? I've just figured it
(he gestures over
If I take a sort of dog-leg to the
southwest I can swim home!
Ah, come on, Ned!
Helen and Don exchange the briefest of glances.
Well but -- why would you want to
I don't get it.
Pool by pool! They make a river all
the way to our house!
Well I suppose you could put it
Now Neddy, why don't you sit down
and have a drink, and then we'll all
go to the Grahams--
(hasn't heard a word)
I'll name it the Lucinda River after
(an edge to her voice)
That's quite a tribute.
This is the day Ned Merrill swims
across the county!
He dashes to the pool and dives in in one long unbroken movement.
The others watch him.
Always threw himself into the water
like that. God, what energy!
He keeps himself in shape.
Oh come on, he always ate like a
horse. Never put on an ounce.
Silently, they watch Ned for a moment. Stu and Peggy are smiling
-- each a different sort of smile. Helen and Don look anxious. Ned
has reached the far end of the pool and hoists himself happily
over the curb.
Look at him. Wouldn't use the
ladder, not Ned!
Ned, without a backward glance, is striding hurriedly away in the
direction opposite to that from which he appeared.
Hey Ned! Where you going?
(calls back, not
breaking his stride)
I'm swimming home!
Ned keeps on going.
(on her feet now
Neddy! Come back!
(he doesn't answer,
Where'd he get that nutty idea?
He's just joking.
Sure. We'll find him waiting for us
down at the Grahams.
Swim to his house! Why would he want
to do that?
Listen, I know Ned-- always loved to
kid around. Hasn't changed a bit.
They watch as Ned leaps over the shrubbery way at the other end of
Hasn't changed a bit!
A blinding silver image. A high-pitched feminine shriek. Ned is
pressing his lips lightly to Betty Graham's cheek. She sees his
face reflected in an aluminum foil sun-tan folder she is holding
under her chin.
She tosses the device down and leaps up to throw her arms around
him. She is about forty, plump and tanned.
Neddy! Neddy! It's been such a long
time! You look wonderful!
So do you, fatso!
I'm going on a diet a week from
Thursday. Where'd you come from?
Don and Helen's.
Where are they all? Why didn't they
come with you?
They're driving down.
The Grahams' house is white clapboard and expensive but not as
expensive as the Westerhazys'. It is obvious that the Grahams have
gone all-out with the landscaping and the outdoor accouterments.
The velvet lawn is pierced by a flagpole flying the American flag.
There is a good sized terrace and an elaborate brick barbecue. The
pool is new, and prominent beside it is a wooden bulletin board on
which the Grahams have posted rules for its use.
Betty takes Ned's hand and leads him to the edge of the pool. She
watches his expression carefully as he looks at it.
Terrific! Absolutely terrific!
Cost a bundle but Howard's had a
Look at how clear the water is!
We've got the best filter money can
buy. A Dia-something-or-other filter.
It filters 99 point 99 point 99 per
cent of all solid matter out of
(crosses to the
little outdoor bar)
We put in a six-inch lint filter,
too. The way we take care of that
pool the water is purer than
drinking water. What'll you have,
(indicates the pool)
Scoop me up a glass of that.
Don't be silly. Gin and tonic?
Nothing, thanks. I'll have a swim
and be on my way.
Oh, Neddy, you will not! You just
Okay -- a light one.
(mixes the drinks)
Next summer we're going to build a
pool-house over there -- you know,
with dressing rooms and a little
playroom with a bar.
Boy! That'll be some great lay-out!
(hands him his drink)
Neddy, sit down for goodness sake.
They sip their drinks.
You never thought he'd make it, did
When we were kids and I first
started going out with Howard, you
weren't very nice to him.
I wasn't? Why?
Remember, he kept track of every
penny he spent in a little note
book? You thought that was very
I was just jealous.
I was crazy about you.
You never said -- I didn't know
that! Oh go on! You were having a
big affair with Lucinda!
Why do you think I got smashed at
Because Lucinda was dancing with
Buzzy Bunker, that's why!
What a long memory you've got,
He senses that Betty is hurt because he's put her on and looks for
a way to make amends.
No kidding, though, you've got a
(snaps at him)
I've got everything I've ever
(pause, she looks
at him, her face
Funny, the way things turn out,
The sound of a motor has been getting louder, and now from around
the house comes Howard, sitting on a midget tractor-mower. He is
an ordinary-looking man, with little humor, literal-minded. At the
moment he is having the time of his life. He drives the tractor
toward the terrace. Ned and Betty cross to him.
Well of all people! How are you,
They shake hands. Howard pats the tractor.
How d'you like my new, toy?
Next year we're going to get the
luxury optionals. Padded seat and a
Sounds as if the timing is a bit off.
Let me take a look.
Howard gets off the tractor. Ned lifts the small hood and turns
and twists something which guns up the motor loud and fast.
It's not supposed to be a racing
car. What's he doing?
(giving her husband a
He's fixing it.
It'll be okay now.
He puts down the hood. The three of them cross to the pool.
Ned's just crazy about our pool.
I didn't skimp on anything. I've got
a Dia-Tomaceous Earth Filter in there.
That's what Betty said--
It filters 99 point 99 per cent of
all solid matter out of the water.
Betty told me--
(mixing himself a drink)
How come you never put in a pool at
Never got around to it.
Too bad. Helps the resale value.
I don't have to worry about resale
Well, with the tennis court and all
that planting you put in you'll get
a hell of a lot more than you paid
If I ever sell it.
Right person has to come along.
I want the girls to be married in
But-- I thought--
He stops abruptly, frowns at Betty.
Won't be long now. Boys all over the
place. Our drive looked like a
parking lot today.
Howard's eyes meet Betty's. She raises her eyebrows. There is an
awkward pause although Ned is unaware of it.
(to change the subject)
Gosh, it sure is a heavenly day!
Don't like the look of that cloud.
The three of them stare up at the blue sky where a strand of
cumulus cloud has appeared in the west.
It's beautiful! It's like a dream
city! As if we're looking at it
from the bow of a ship -- Lisbon,
Naples, Istanbul --
He laughs at his joke. Betty gives him an irritated glance.
I'd like to see all those glistening
white domes and minarets against the
sky. First chance I get away from
the office that's what I'd do. Go
sailing around the Golden Horn.
(pouting at Howard)
Why don't we travel more?
What for? We've got everything we
need right here at home--
He is interrupted by the sound of a car horn from the direction of
the driveway. Betty leaps up, relieved. So does Howard.
That must be Don and Helen with the
She runs toward the driveway. Howard jogs after her. Immediately
Ned dives into the pool, leaving a glistening trail of bubbles as
the wake of his passage.
Ned is walking rapidly across a spacious lawn toward a large and
elaborate pool and pool-house set at its far end.
As he approaches the pool he sees a young girl leaping on the
diving board. Her name is Muffie. She waves enthusiastically at
Ned. Another girl is swimming in the pool. She doesn't notice Ned
until she hears his voice.
Hi, Mr. Merrill, how are you?
Hi there, Muffie!
Mother and Daddy are at the Club
Mind if I have a swim?
Of course not! Help yourself!
As Ned walks to the end of the pool the other girl swims to meet
him. Her hands grasp the curb. Ned bends down and pulls her out
and onto the terrace. Her name is Julie and she is arrestingly
beautiful. Her long blonde hair is plastered to her head. Her
eyelashes are stuck together in little points. Her perfect
willowy figure is shown off by a brief bikini. Water is running
in rivulets down her face and body.
It isn't -- Julianne Hooper!
Yes it is!
(stares at her)
I can't believe it. You're all
There is another flashing smile from Julie.
How come we never see you any more?
I guess you don't need me any more--
Of course we need you, Julie --
we're always looking for a baby-
Oh, Mr. Merrill!
She picks up a towel and starts to dry her hair. Ned watches every
move she makes with intense pleasure.
Hey! How about next Sunday night?
Okay, you're hired. Still live in
the same place?
I'll pick you up at seven.
You're putting me on! A baby-sitter!
Ellen and Aggie would have a fit if
they heard you!
She laughs with embarrassment.
At this point there is a shout from Muffie.
At last! I'm parched!
A tall boy, about seventeen, in bathing trunks, is coming from the
direction of the drive carrying a carton of Cokes. He comes up to
them. Ned looks at him blankly.
Mr. Merrill, this is my brother
Muffie has come out of the pool. She takes the carton from him and
puts it on the table.
They shake hands.
(gesturing the height
of a small boy)
But your brother was--
(with a grin)
Boy, I sure liked that little red
Jaguar you used to have!
He crosses to Muffie, who is taking cold bottles of Coke out of
Julie, I can't get over you. How old
are you now?
Twenty last month.
Going to school?
(shakes her head)
I've got a job.
Want a Coke, Mr. Merrill?
He and Julie join the other two. Vernon hands them each an opened
Gee, I miss Ellen and Aggie. Where
They're -- they're home playing
They are? But when did they-- why
didn't they call me?
I'd just love to see them. Let's
(rises suddenly and
puts the Coke down)
Well, I've got to be on my way. I'm
You're swimming home?
Figured out there's a river of pools
all the way to my house!
That's more hiking than swimming.
Not hiking exactly. Portaging.
It's okay, if you like exercise.
(to Ned, with a laugh)
What a crazy idea!
(with a withering
glance at Vernon)
I think it's a brilliant idea.
From here I go to the Bunkers,
then a portage through the Pastern's
riding ring, then the Hallorans and
so on -- I've got it all mapped out
in my mind.
What are you doing it for?
Ned looks puzzled.
Why do you want to do it?
I think it's very original. As if
he's an explorer or something.
Now you sound like a girl with
I mean I think it's an adventure!
Come with me!
Well, gee, I-- I--
Come on, live a little!
Well, I don't know if--
Come on! We'll explore the torrential
headwaters of the Lucinda River!
Muffie and Vernon giggle at this.
(with a cold
glance at them)
All right -- I will!
She puts down her Coke and jumps up, smiling at Ned. He is
They take running dives into the pool and race to the other end.
Ned wins. They hoist themselves over the curb, laughing and
dripping. Julie's sandals are there. She slips her feet into them
and they start off, running over the rest of the lawn and down a
The Country Lane
Ned and Julie are walking along a narrow country lane, half
overgrown with weeds and bushes, shaded by tall trees. A few
black-eyed Susans are blooming along the side of the road. Ned
Black-eyed Susans now.
They're all over the place.
Usually bloom later--
He picks a half dozen and hands them to Julie, like a country boy
to his girl. She smiles with pleasure. They walk a little farther
in silence. Ned's eyes are on Julie, constantly admiring her. She
catches him looking at her. He smiles.
What did you mean before -- all that
about my coming over to baby-sit?
Coming over to baby-sit?
Oh, I was just joking.
I was teasing you.
Gee, I wondered.
You used to be such a shy little kid.
Always brought along a pile of school
books, always dropping pencils and
things. Never had a word to say.
I thought plenty though.
Oh -- daydreamed --
(gives him a
Oh -- lots of things.
What sort of things?
It's so silly. I mean it was such
Come on -- tell me.
I bet you never knew I had a big
crush on you.
Oh, I was mad about you. Out of my
If Mrs. Merrill called me to baby-
sit -- even at the last minute --
I'd cancel out whoever I'd promised
and come to your house instead.
You must have lost a lot of
And then I'd spend about an hour
getting myself fixed up. My mother
thought I was nuts. I mean, I was
just a kid to you but you were a --
god to me!
Now you're putting me on!
Know what I'd do after the girls
were asleep? I'd go up to your room
and open your closet and touch your
suits. Then I'd go into your
bathroom and smell your shaving
lotion. Then one time -- oh this is
a terrible thing to admit--
I stole one of your shirts
She looks at him. He laughs happily.
When I was doing my homework up in
my room I'd put it on. It made me
feel as if you were around me.
(his spirits soaring)
Julie -- I -- I didn't know --
When you'd drive me home late at
night I'd pretend like mad--
(Julie doesn't answer)
What is it you used to pretend?
I-- after all, I was just a child in
I want to know--
He takes her hand. Julie starts out reluctantly but gets caught up
in her own recital.
Oh -- that you were desperately in
love with me -- but you were too
honorable to say so because, well, I
mean -- you were married.
She looks at him. He is listening seriously. Reassured, she goes
So I had to go to Paris to, you know,
put an ocean between us. And no
matter how many divine Frenchmen
begged me, I'd never marry. I'd just
live there all pale and mysterious
with huge tragic eyes. Then one night
I'd be in some club in a fabulous
Paris gown and I'd see you at the
door -- tall, distinguished, a
little gray at the temples--
Ned touches his temples where his hair is indeed turning gray.
--I pretended your eyes would burn
into me across this whole roomful of
people and suddenly there'd be a
hush and everyone would look at me.
And then I'd just stand up and float
She stops abruptly.
And then what?
(disengages her hand)
(with a wild surge
I -- I don't know what to say!
I told you. I was a real spooky kid!
During the last few exchanges they have been hearing the sound of
voices and laughter from the pool nearby. The voices have gradually
The Bunkers must be having a party!
The Bunkers' terrace is crowded with people, all of them
prosperous looking, chic, and deeply tanned. White-coated waiters
are passing trays of drinks. There is a crowd around Ned and
Julie, the women are kissing Ned, the men are shaking his hand.
Ned is on the crest of the wave. His life seems to him as sunny
and full of promise as this summer afternoon.
Buzz Bunker, a middle-aged man in trunks, is sprawled limply
across a wild-looking inflated rubber animal which is floating in
the Bunker's pool. His eyes are closed. His slack face indicates
that he is loaded. When he hears the commotion and cries of
"Neddy! Neddy!" he opens one eye and gazes toward the terrace.
A woman screams joyfully and breaks through the circle around Ned.
She is Enid Bunker, a little under forty, sleek and handsome.
Look who's here! What a marvelous
She flings her arms around Ned and kisses him. When she releases
him, she looks appraisingly at Julie in her still damp bikini.
This is Julianne Hooper, our baby-
sitter. I lost her for a while but I
found her again!
(with a slight
curl of the lip)
How fortunate for you, darling!
My God, that sun tan. You look
Enid, all smiles again, gives him a playful push.
You know where the bar is -- go get
She rushes off to another approaching guest. For an instant Ned
surveys the scene. Then he says, with glowing tenderness:
How bonny are the banks of the
I knew we'd find friends all along
(leads her toward
Let's have a quick one to appease
As they push through the crowd Ned continues to be greeted
enthusiastically. Everyone is friendly and warm and terribly
pleased to see him. They eye Julie with various expressions, most
of the men admiring her, the women amused or jealous. All of these
encounters are en passant.
(claps Ned on
Hey Ned! Good to see you! How've you
Great! Just great!
(and kisses him)
You look marvelous, honeybunch!
Is it undiplomatic to ask if
Lucinda's with you?
She'll be along--
(pumps Ned's hand)
My God! It's been a dog's age!
Rusty! Say, we've got to get
together! Call me!
Yet another woman, an athletic-looking freckled blonde, kisses
Aren't you a sight for sore eyes!
(kisses him, exclaims)
The fourth woman pokes her -- but too late.
She's fine. We want to see you.
We'll call you--
When he has gone, the freckled blonde whispers to her friend.
One of the men shakes Ned's hand.
Good Lord! Where'd you pop up from?
How you doing, chum?
(staring at Julie)
Not as well as you!
Ned laughs and pulls Julie on. At the bar, the Bunkers' Negro
butler extends the same hearty welcome.
Hiya Stanley. How's Inez?
Will she be glad to see you, sir!
Inez is my girl!
(indicates a wine bottle
in a silver cooler)
He takes the bottle out of the cooler. Ned examines the label.
Dom Perignon! That's for us!
The butler gets out two champagne glasses and fills them.
I've only had it once -- at a
birthday party --
The butler hands them their glasses.
A boy drank it out of my slipper!
(as he touches
his glass to hers)
Here's to sugar on our strawberries!
Julie giggles. Ned drains his glass and, hardly allowing Julie to
finish, pulls her along toward the pool. A man stops them and
shakes Ned's hand with vigor.
Ned! My God!
Brian! How are you, Brian?
Listen, I feel rotten for not
calling you. Been so damn busy --
don't know where the time goes --
Let's have lunch this week -- for
Okay, but I want to tell you right
now I think it was a stinking thing
to do -- what they pulled on you
over at your place--
Ned's eyes are a little anxious, a little puzzled.
What's that, Brian?
I don't care how big a firecracker
that new guy was! Brother, that story
really jolted me--
Ned's eyes flicker past Brian. He is not listening.
I kept thinking what if some young
smart-ass comes in to our shop and
does that to me!
Ned's attention is elsewhere.
I'll hear from you, huh?
He is already pushing past Brian.
Call me up at the office--
Ned's eyes are on an extremely good-looking woman of about thirty
who is wearing a backless bathing suit; she is talking to a man.
Ned sneaks up behind the woman and enfolds her in a bear hug.
Cynthia spins around, delighted.
Haven't you heard? We're separated!
Julie has joined them.
This is Julianne Hooper, our baby-
(her eyes on Ned)
Run along to your babies, dear.
She's with me. We're swimming across
an icy stare)
How healthy and young of you!
Who the hell else out here could
wear a suit like that?
Why don't you come over tonight --
And she means more than dinner.
Love to -- if Lucinda hasn't made a
Lucinda! Well -- congratulations!
She turns her back abruptly.
Ned hasn't heard. He has already pushed past her, intent on
getting to the pool. A man rushes determinedly over to him and
blocks his way.
Why don't you leave some phone
numbers around? Been trying to reach
Danny-boy! How are you, chum?
Look, I've heard of an opening --
sounded perfect for you, your
experience. Smaller place than
you're used to, but these two guys
are creative as hell and--
(puts his arm
Say hello to Julianne--
back to Ned)
This firm has a reputation for
quality. I think if you approach
them right, take a cut just at
Now look here Ned -- you don't have
to pretend with me.
But Ned has Julie by the hand and is running to the pool. She
slips out of her sandals, and Ned tosses them clear across the
length of the pool to the grass at the other end. They dive in.
Buzz is still floating on the rubber raft. He doesn't move nor
glance her way as Julie passes him. Ned stops alongside of the
raft, treading water.
Buzz! Hey, Buzz!
Buzz turns his head slowly and stares at him with glazed eyes.
Know what day this is, Buzz?
Buzz looks infinitely bored.
This is the day Ned Merrill swims
across the county!
Expressionless, Buzz turns his head away and closes his eyes.
(shouts joyfully to
Buzz and the world)
This is the day!
The Pastern's Riding Ring
A standard size grassy riding ring, neatly enclosed by a low white
fence. In the background is a well-cared-for stable. Inside the
ring the jumps are set up for practice. Ned is hurdling one of the
highest with graceful ease. After he lands he turns to Julie, who
is watching him.
How about that?
I'm in good shape, huh?
Oh yes! You're in much better shape
than my father, for example.
Ned reacts to this comparison. He gives her a look.
Come on, try it.
Julie runs to him. He motions her down on one knee, fingertips to
the ground, and takes the same position himself.
All set? Go!
They dash together toward the next jump and hurdle it in unison.
Julie sails over, her hair flowing out behind her. They land
together, laughing delightedly. Ned reaches for her hand and
together they continue to circle the ring, leaping over the jumps
like two healthy and beautiful animals. For Ned it is a period of
his youth returned, and his face is boyish with sheer
uncomplicated joy in the perfect obedience of his body, in the
girl beside him, in the sunny day.
Suddenly, as he lands, Ned makes a stunned grimace of pain. He
gasps and holds his ankle.
What's the matter?
Oh! Does it hurt much?
No, it's nothing -- let's sit down
for a minute--
Ned limps in real pain toward a place near the fence where the
tree branches make a dappled patch of shade. Julie sits. Ned lies
on his stomach, his chin propped on his hands, his eyes enjoying
What kind of a job do you have,
Secretary. We're the biggest office
supply company in New York.
Funny -- I've never run into you on
I take the 7:22. I'm always the
first one in -- so I make the coffee.
Two of the girls want me to get an
apartment with them. Soon as we get
Watch out! It's a big wicked city!
I know. I've had some experiences.
Well, one morning I was making the
coffee and I happened to look out of
the window. There's an apartment
house across a court. A man was
standing at his window looking at
He was stark naked!
I just stood there looking at him!
You should report that to somebody--
He's never been there again. I
check every morning.
Lots of nuts around.
Once my boss sent me to deliver some
record books. I got into an empty
elevator and pressed twenty-six.
Then a man got in and pressed
twenty-seven. Then the door closed,
and the elevator started up. This
man came right over and kissed me.
On the mouth!
What'd you do?
I dropped the record books.
What'd he do?
He picked them up.
He gave them to me, and the door
opened on the twenty-sixth floor
and I got out.
(expels a breath)
Can you imagine! In a building on
Julie sighs at the quixotic behavior of the human male. She
stretches out in the grass. Ned puts his hand lightly on her
How beautiful are thy feet in
sandals, O Prince's daughter--
He touches her leg.
(moves her leg away)
That's from the Bible, isn't it?
Song of Solomon.
When I was a little girl in Sunday
School they never mentioned that
part of the Bible.
You still are a little girl in
Sunday School. I've been thinking. I
could meet you on the train in the
morning and take you to your office
when you have to go out on an errand
you could call me and I'll go with
you and I'll pick you up at noon
every day and we'll have lunch
(his enthusiasm grows)
That's what we'll do! I'll take
care of you, Julie!
(inches away a little)
Gee I don't think that would work
out very well, Mr. Merrill. I mean
I--I need my lunch hour to get my
hair done -- and shop -- things like
Ned hasn't really listened to her. He very tentatively and lightly
strokes her hair.
That shirt of mine, Julie. Do you
still have it?
(shakes her head)
After a while I decided it was --
well, it was just a shirt -- and I
threw it away--
Ned looks hurt.
You had so many shirts I didn't
think you'd miss it or anything. Do
No, but I wish you'd told me how you
Oh I couldn't! I would've died!
There's so little love in the world.
If it's kept a secret then it's
wasted, don't you see?
He lets a long strand of her hair slip through his fingers. She
moves away the least bit.
I won't let you ever be scared or
He runs his finger along her arm.
And if you want anything -- whatever
it is -- you just come to me.
He puts his arm across her breast and around her, protectively.
I'll -- I'll be your guardian angel--
The hug is meant to be the most delicate and tender embrace, but
Julie misinterprets it and tries to release herself. She makes
only a slight move but Ned's grip tightens.
Julie -- Julie -- Julie--
Julie panics and breaks away from him. She jumps to her feet and
dashes off through the high grass.
She doesn't look back. She is running away. Devastated, Ned
watches her until she is out of sight.
Two suburban matrons in their late thirties, good-looking, well-
dressed in the ubiquitous suburban uniform of madras shorts and
round collared blouses, are seated under a tree in a small woods.
The woods border a large clearing of mowed lawn, at the end of
which is a swimming pool and an elaborate Tudor house.
The two women, whose names are Harriet and Jane, have bird-watcher
manuals and notebooks in their laps. They scan the branches of
nearby trees through binoculars.
It's a Chestnut Sided Warbler! See
there! It has a yellow cap!
No, no, it's a Myrtle Warbler. Just
the crown is yellow and it has a
She lowers her binoculars to rifle through the pages of the manual.
Harriet continues to look through her binoculars. Suddenly she
gasps, swings them in another direction and peers intently.
What is it?
I don't know--
What's it look like?
Bronze-crested, tawny-chested, flat-
bellied, with a blue rump--
After a glance at Harriet, Jane lifts her own binoculars. They
suddenly frame the figure of Ned, limping through the woods.
Oh-oh, I haven't spotted that one in
a long time.
Who is he?
Common species. Found everywhere
except home in the nest.
Oh? What's the female like?
Small, brown, gray crest.
Ned has come out of the woods and is crossing the lawn toward the
house. The two women follow him with their binoculars.
Like birds! The gorgeous ones always
mate with the drab ones!
She is not drab. And she's very nice.
Ned has now arrived at the terrace at the back of the house. The
windows are open. The place is silent.
Eliot! Nancy! Hey, Eliot!
There is no answer.
Hello! Hello! Anybody home?
The house is deserted. Ned's look of bright anticipation fades.
His shoulders slump. His disappointment is obvious. He sits down
in a chair, all the lines of his body slack.
Too bad. No reception committee. No
drums and banners.
I'd have stayed home if he was coming.
After a moment Ned pulls himself together and, his steps dragging,
crosses to the pool. The family has only recently left it. There
are remains of drinks, half-filled dishes of peanuts. Children's
toys are scattered around. On a chair is a beach bag and a man's
jacket. On the grass near the pool a croquet game is set up,
mallets and balls lying about. Ned surveys the scene with a lack
of enthusiasm. He wanders restlessly over to the ice-bucket, digs
out some ice and pours himself a short drink. He eats a peanut.
There is a portable radio on the table. He switches it on, listens
for a moment to the broadcast of a Sunday baseball game.
What's the name of that bird? A
crow? Takes whatever he wants from
the other fellow's nest--
Ned switches off the radio, puts down the barely tasted drink,
rummages in the beach bag and finds a pack of cigarettes. He puts
a cigarette in his mouth and looks around for a match. There are
none in the bag. He looks on the tables near the pool but finds
only an empty packet which he tosses away in frustration.
God, I know just how he feels!
Ned's search for a match has become more frantic. He picks up the
man's jacket and goes through the pockets without success. He
dumps the beach bag upside down and sorts through the pile of
Would I love to give him a light!
I wouldn't give him the time of day.
What's the matter? Why've you got it
in for him?
I happen to have heard the story and
I'm on her side.
I haven't heard the story and I'm on
Ned takes the cigarette out of his mouth and tosses it away. He
starts for the end of the pool, passing the croquet game. He
pauses and picks up a mallet, then places a ball. His first stroke
is perfect -- the ball rolls directly through the wicket. His
second stroke is successful but comes to rest in a position from
which it is impossible to make a good third stroke. He scowls at
the ball. He bends down and moves the wicket to a favorable
position. He strokes the ball through it. Then, obviously feeling
much better, he jauntily continues towards the pool.
See that? He's got the ethics of a
Oh come on! We all cheat if we think
we can get away with it!
(glances at Jane)
Jane's lips tighten. She lowers her binoculars and starts looking
through her bird manual. By this time Ned is swimming across the
pool. He reaches the far end and leaps over the curb.
She watches Ned, favoring his bad ankle, stride happily away.
Jane is still consulting the bird manual.
By the way, you were wrong. That
bird we saw before was a Myrtle
Harriet glances at the manual with bored indifference.
I don't give a damn if it was a
solid gold warbler.
She stretches out lazily on the ground, still thinking about Ned.
After a moment she turns her head towards Jane and demands:
What are we doing here in the prime
of our lives -- watching birds?
Ned limps up to the impressive entrance gate to the Halloran
estate. The huge house is set well back from the road. As he is
about to start up the drive a limousine turns in after him. It is
driven by a dignified Negro. Ned signals him to stop. He
approaches the car, smiling.
Hi there, Steve!
He crosses to the car door.
How are you, Steve?
Oh, you're not Steve.
No. How are you, Mr. Merrill?
I'm a friend of the Hallorans.
Yes, I know.
Mind if I ride up to the house with
Not at all.
He is about to get out of the car to open the back door.
He opens the front door and gets in beside the chauffeur. The
Sunday New York Times is lying on the seat. Ned moves it over. The
car starts off.
(with an anxious glance
at the chauffeur)
How long have you been working for
Going on two years now.
What happened to Steve?
I'm afraid I don't know.
What a character! Did he mangle the
The chauffeur doesn't answer.
We told him he ought to be on
Again no answer.
Big bass voice. You should have
heard that guy sing!
A natural sense of rhythm?
Suddenly something about the Negro's question bothers him. Ned
glances at him. The chauffeur is gazing straight ahead, his
profile pleasant and impassive.
The car pulls up in front of the entrance to the house. Ned opens
the door and gets out.
I'll take them the paper.
(hands it to him)
Thank you for the lift. My apologies
-- I don't know why I thought you
That's okay. Sometimes you all look
alike to us too.
Ned gives him a look and turns away. He limps slightly as he walks
off around the house. The Hallorans' pool, which is several
hundred yards away in back of the house, is set at the end of a
wide rolling lawn. Everything about the estate says "lots of old
money." Mr. and Mrs. Halloran are sitting at a table beside the
pool. They are both gray-haired, handsome, distinguished-looking,
elegant in manner and totally naked. It becomes apparent at once
that Mrs. Halloran is the Commanding General of this couple and
Mr. Halloran her lieutenant. She has set up what looks like an
outdoor office at the pool. On the table is a typewriter, piles
of papers, pencils, envelopes, etc., and a telephone.
At the moment Mrs. Halloran is busily stapling tickets to form
letters and stuffing them into envelopes. From time to time she
consults a long list of names and addresses in front of her. Mr.
Halloran is in the midst of a conversation on the phone.
to a young child)
You want me to say hello to the
teddy bear? Hello teddy bear--
Tell him to call his mother!
Will you call your mummy, please?
Oh, you want me to say hello to your
little brother? Hello little--
(snatches the phone
from Mr. Halloran)
Young man, I want to speak to your
mother at once!
She hands the phone back to Mr. Halloran and immediately continues
Mrs. McCauley, this is Chester
Halloran ... oh yes, they're
He sees the sour look on his wife's face and continues quickly.
I'm calling about the Safari Ball, a
benefit for the Preserve Our Wild
Life Foundation ... Oh? ... of
course, out of the question -- bon
There is a feeling that Mrs. McCauley has hung up before the bon
voyage. Mr. Halloran hangs up.
She's leaving tomorrow for a cruise
around the world--
The hell she is!
Ned has come around the corner of the house and, favoring his
ankle, is limping towards the Hallorans. They have not yet noticed
Mr. Halloran sighs, consults a list of names, and is about to dial
again when the phone rings.
Hello. Oh, hello honey--
Tell her to hurry -- they'll miss
(who has been listening
on the phone)
She absolutely refuses to bring the
children unless we put on our suits.
After the way we brought her up?
What's the matter with her?
After the way we brought you up?
What's the matter with you, honey?
(listens, then to
She says they're her children and
she's going to bring them up her
They'll end up repressed!
Mummy says they'll end up repressed.
He listens a second and hangs up.
She's not going to bring the children.
Ned is coming toward them when suddenly he remembers something. He
retraces his steps a few feet toward a convenient bush, puts the
newspaper, down on the ground, and removes his trunks.
Mrs. Halloran is peering toward the now nude figure coming toward
them, holding the trunks and the newspaper as a modest cover.
Good heavens! It's Ned Merrill!
(squinting at Ned)
I wonder if he's come to ask us again.
He'll get the same answer.
Oh dear, it seems a little mean--
(shaking her head)
He's not going to get a penny.
Couldn't we help him out a little?
For old times sake? After all, he's
Friends are not deductible.
Ned is closer and waving.
Hello Neddy dear!
How are you, my boy?
Ned reaches them and places the New York Times on the table. Mrs.
Halloran flips through it hurriedly and selects a section.
I'm swimming across the county!
head in the paper)
Why I didn't know one could--
Met your chauffeur on the way in.
Nice boy. Real sense of personal
Always got a lot of laughs out of
(still scanning the paper)
Steve had no sense of personal
Suddenly she folds back a page of the paper, excited.
It's in here!
What does it say, dear?
At a meeting of the Zoning Board,
local property owners objected to
the Halloran proposal on the basis
that it would overcrowd the public
We've petitioned to have the Driscoll
Estate cut up into two-acre lots
instead of five-acre lots.
Ned is staring at a nearby tree, its branches bare.
eyes on the paper)
They're practically calling us
Sticks and stones! Sticks and stones!
Sticks and stones!
Mrs. Halloran puts the paper down. Her jaw is set.
It's going to be a tough fight,
She takes up her stapling with renewed vigor. Ned has not been
listening to the last exchanges. His attention bas been totally
focused on the tree.
Why is that tree bare?
That's an ash.
That tree must be blighted.
No, ashes are the last to get leaves
and the first to lose them.
Ned continues to eye the tree in puzzlement for a moment.
(to Mr. Halloran)
Overcrowding the public schools! As
if people with two acres give birth
to more children than people with
That's not even a biological fact!
During the foregoing Ned has crossed to the table. He picks up
one of the tickets.
Safari Ball -- put me down for a
What's wrong? Don't I always support
A table costs one thousand dollars!
Okay, put me down.
She hesitates. He picks up the pen and holds it out to her. She is
about to protest, but something in his eyes changes her mind. She
writes his name on the list. This makes him feel much better. His
spirits lift visibly. Mr. Halloran beams and nods smugly at his
By the way, my boy, I was awfully
sorry we couldn't be of help.
I don't recall asking you for help.
Oh, dear, I thought-- how're Lucinda
and the girls?
Lucinda's fine and the girls are
home playing tennis. Now if you
don't mind I think I'll get wet.
He crosses to the pool.
Well! He didn't ask for any money
Ned is swimming across the pool, mostly using one arm, his trunks
held above the water in the other hand. He reaches the end of the
pool, hoists himself easily over the curb and puts on his trunks.
He turns, salutes the Hallorans, and hurries off.
There, you see! He must be back on
his feet. He bought a whole table,
With a knowingly skeptical smile, Mrs. Halloran picks up a pencil
and definitely crosses Ned's signature off the list.
A boy of about eleven, dressed in shorts, is sitting on a stool
behind the wooden crate counter of a home-made lemonade stand on a
country road. He is playing a recorder. Nearby is the entrance to
a drive up to a large house. It is obvious that few cars come up
this road and probably no pedestrians.
The sky has darkened by this time. The frail, half-naked boy and
the plaintive sound of the recorder convey a sense of aching
loneliness. The boy sees Ned approaching. He continues to play the
recorder until Ned is at the stand.
(puts the recorder down)
Your name's Gilmartin, isn't it?
Kevin Gilmartin, Jr., after my
father. My mother says I've got a
lot to live down.
How about pouring me a cup?
(eyeing Ned in
his wet trunks)
It's ten cents.
I'll owe it to you.
How do I know I'll ever collect?
I'll drop around tomorrow and pay
The boy looks dubious.
The boy hesitates.
(urgently -- it matters)
I look honest don't I?
The boy doesn't answer. He fills the cup and hands it to Ned. Ned's
hand is shaking as he takes it.
Is your mother at home?
She's in Europe. It's a honeymoon so
she couldn't take me.
How's your father?
He's in love with a manicurist.
That's what my mother says. I have
to depend on her for information.
You all alone here?
There's a maid.
Know what? I'm going to invite you
over to our house. I've got two
girls you can play with.
A little bigger than you.
Do you play with them?
Sure, we play catch and tennis. We
go bike riding together--
I have an English racing bike.
You bring it over. We'll race you.
He puts down his empty cup.
Want another? You'll owe me twenty
Haven`t time. I'm swimming home.
The boy eyes him suspiciously.
Mind if I use your pool?
Well, I don't mind, but--
Without waiting to hear what he has to say, Ned has already
started up the drive. The boy picks up his recorder and follows
You know those girls of mine are
like a couple of wild cats. When I
get home from the office they pounce
on me. They nearly hug the breath
out of me.
What games do they play?
Cops and robbers, touch football--
They play chess?
We haven't tried that.
Chess is a brainy game.
As they come close to the pool Ned is stunned to see that it is
He crosses to the edge and stares disconsolately down at the empty
God this does it! This really does
He sits wearily, the boy beside him.
My whole project's ruined.
The boy looks at his forlorn face. He senses Ned's vulnerability
and for the first time is drawn to him.
They took the water out because I'm
not a good swimmer. I'm bad at
sports. At school nobody wants me on
It's a lot better that way -- take
it from me. At first you think it's
the end of the world because you're
not on the team and then--
You realize you're free. You're your
own man. You don't have to worry
about getting to be the captain and
all that status-stuff.
They'd never elect me captain in a
You're the captain of your soul.
That's what counts. Know what I
The boy nods gravely. They sit in silence for a moment.
There's one thing I could do. I
could get down there and make
believe I'm swimming across the
That's kind of cheating, isn't it?
Not if I did all the strokes exactly
as if I were in the water.
That's a good idea.
Okay, let's do it.
Delighted, the boy follows him to the shallow end of the pool.
They jump down to the concrete bottom.
All set? Let's start off with a
Walking side by side and stroking as if they are really in the
water, they begin.
That's right. Relax. Reach out. Say,
you've got very good form.
I've had lots of lessons. It's just
that I'm afraid of the water.
They continue about a third of the way.
Okay now, change to the side stroke.
They do so.
Know what we do in the winter? We
flood our tennis court, and we ice
skate on it. Those kids of mine look
so damn cute. Like a couple of elves
in those little red caps -- stocking
I don't know how to skate.
You come over next winter, and I'll
teach you. Then we'll have a hockey
They have gone another third of the way.
They pantomime the breast stroke.
Yes sir. My kids think I've got all
the answers! My kids think I'm just
They arrive at the end of the pool.
I've done it! It's the first time
I've ever swum the whole length.
I suppose it doesn't count because
there's no water.
For us, there was.
(looks at him curiously)
Well -- that's a lie, isn't it?
No. You see if you make believe hard
enough that something's true -- then
it is true -- for you.
They climb up the ladder.
Let's do it again!
I've got to be going.
Oh come on! Please!
(shakes his head)
It's getting late--
I'm sorry. I'd like to but--
Kevin is unforgiving; he's been failed again.
Okay. If you're going to leave, then
He turns away.
I'll give you a ring tomorrow --
about coming over --
The boy doesn't answer.
Ned starts off down the driveway. He has gone only a few yards
when he hears the unmistakable sound of someone jumping up and
down on the diving board. At first it doesn't register. Then he
stops in his tracks, a look of intense alarm on his face. Ned
turns and dashes back. The boy is leaping hard up and down on the
board. Ned sprints up on to the board and throws his arms around
the boy from behind. The force of this action almost tumbles both
of them into the empty pool. They regain their balance. The boy
looks at Ned, stunned and bewildered.
It's okay -- it's okay!
What's the matter?
I thought you were going to dive--
You thought I was going to dive?
Ned releases the boy who turns and stares at him.
(as if explaining
to a child)
There's no water in the pool!
Ned gives him a long, thoughtful look.
Well -- so long, again.
He walks away, turning once to look back at the boy, who is
sitting alone on the curb of the empty pool. When Ned is part way
down the drive he hears the sound of the recorder playing the same
tune as before.
This is a contemporary house surrounded by a lovely garden. The
pool is a free-form shape. Mrs. Hammar, an old lady, is bending
over to cut some flowers. She has a basket on one arm in which she
lays them. She is over seventy, with snow white hair, a majestic
figure. She wears pearls and a soft print dress -- very much the
She hears a splash in the pool and straightens up, surprised. She
cannot tell who it is from this distance so she walks slowly
toward the pool. By the time she is close, Ned is three quarters
of the way toward the opposite end, but she recognizes him. She
stops, rigid with anger. As Ned leaps out of the pool she hurries
to confront him.
Good afternoon Mrs. Hammar. How are
May I ask what you're doing here?
On my way home -- thought I'd cool
off in the pool--
Who gave you permission to use the
Ned is completely baffled at her tone and attitude.
I'm Ned Merrill!
basket on her arm)
Flowers are beautiful -- I see
Eric's put in a rock garden--
You're not welcome here, Mr. Merrill.
You know me, don't you? I'm a friend
Friend? How dare you use that word?
(her voice breaks)
You never came to see him -- you
never even called him--
There is a flicker in Ned's eyes as if he has suddenly remembered
something unpleasant and long buried.
How is Eric? Is he better?
The woman gives him a horrified stare. Ned's eyes widen with a
sudden realization. He backs away slowly, then faster.
Just one minute, Mr. Merrill.
This is my house now. Don't you ever
set foot on my property again.
Ned draws in a breath, turns and runs.
(a frail shout
Don't you ever come here again!
She stands where he has left her, her face crumpled with grief.
An extremely noisy and frantic party is going on around the pool
and on a huge terrace covered by a plastic dome. (The plastic dome
is used to cover the pool in winter.) A loudspeaker is blaring
This is the Biswangers' party, and everything about it is louder
and faster than at the Bunkers -- the clothes are brighter and
further out, the women wear more jewels. No one at all is in a
bathing suit. It is apparent, too, that the party is being given
to celebrate Henry Biswanger's hole-in-one. A huge banner is
strung from one side of the dome to the other. It reads:
CONGRATULATIONS HENRY HOLE-IN-ONE
TWELFTH HOLE MEADOWLARK CLUB
Attached to a float bobbing in the pool is a number 12 flag from
a golf green. All the other decorations are in the shape of "12s."
The centerpiece of the buffet table is a huge 12 molded out of
ice. Embedded in its ice base is an enormous bowl of caviar. No
one notices Ned's arrival. He stands forlornly at the edge of the
Henry Biswsanger and two other men are examining the plastic dome.
Henry is a bull, muscular and in tip-top physical shape, a
blustering rough diamond who has made it the hard way and is
perfectly honest about enjoying it. He slaps the dome proudly as
--ain't it a bitch! Did you ever see
anything like it? Fifteen tons --
thirty thousand pounds of structured
aluminum and clear plastic!
(strokes the dome
And she rolls! She rolls on these
tracks here -- slides right back
like a goddam toy!
ONE OF THE MEN
Hell no! Machinery to drive this
thing takes up half the space down
THE OTHER MAN
What kinda temperature can you keep
it in the winter?
Like a goddam hothouse. Up to 90 if
I want. It can be 20 below and a
blizzard outside and I can be in
Two other men, drinks in hand, are standing out of Henry's earshot,
looking at the flag bobbing in the pool.
--Club gave it to him. You make a
hole in one at Meadowlark -- they
give you the flag.
Guess they don't lose many flags
Maybe they shouldn't of lost this
The friend raises his eyebrows.
He was playing alone. Just him and
They both glance at Henry, who is still chatting away about his
How much use you get outta your
pools? Three months? Three and a
half if you're lucky? With this rig
I'm guaranteed the use of my pool
all year around.
THE MAN NEXT TO HIM
Sure, and swimming's good for the
ticker at our age--
So what do you guys do in the
winter? I tried them health clubs in
the City. Bunch of pansies runnin'
around droppin' soap! Right? Right!
They all laugh heartily.
A blonde and a red-head, both with elaborately lacquered hair-dos
appropriate for a formal ball, are sitting at a small table
playing gin rummy and drinking martinis.
(indicating the pool)
A pool's to get wet in. Who needs an
olympic-size pool to get wet in?
(pats her hair)
After what I pay Pablo every week?
Romeo does me. All the girls are
going to Romeo now.
Do you think Romeo's better than
(touching her hair)
Sweetie! Look at the difference!
A waiter comes with a tray. They help themselves to two more
Henry has a larger audience now.
Last New Year's Eve for instance.
Big bash all night. Grace and I got
home at dawn loaded -- not too
loaded to get our clothes off--
--so there we are bare-ass and we
jump in the pool, and it's all
steamy and warm and the snow flakes
are floatin' down and the hi-fi
system is playin' and I says to
He whispers to one of his friends. The man throws his head back
with a loud, obscene laugh.
At the edge of the terrace, Ned is tapping a woman on the
She turns. Grace Biswanger is about forty. She is dressed in wild-
colored hostess pajamas, wears false eyelashes and a huge diamond
ring. Her automatically wide smile fades the instant she sees Ned.
Why this party has everything!
Including a gate-crasher!
Several nearby guests turn around to stare. Ned tries his usual
I thought you'd be glad to see me.
You never came when I invited you.
Why should I be glad to see you now?
I thought better late than--
You thought wrong, buster.
As a gatecrasher, do I rate a drink?
She turns her back on him and walks away. Ned crosses to the bar.
He is terribly conspicuous and naked among all these overdressed
people. Some eye him curiously. A few who know him nod coldly or
glance at him with dislike. The bartender is mixing some drinks
for a waiter who stands ready with a small tray.
(leans on the
You're new here, aren't you?
What d'ya mean, new?
Oh just -- that I haven't seen you
around at parties.
(with a nasty look
at his nakedness)
I ain't seen you either.
Ned, who has always been instant pals with bartenders, is
mystified by this reception.
I'll have a gin on the rocks please--
The bartender gives him a sullen look.
--when you have a chance.
The bartender continues to mix the other drinks. Ned is joined at
the bar by a young, sexy-looking blonde in a tight sailor suit.
Her name is Joan. She puts an empty glass down on the bar.
(to the bartender)
Here I am again, Leroy! Fill 'er up!
She gives Ned a dazzling smile and leaps on the bar next to him.
Some big deal, huh?
pool, the dome, etc.)
Boy you sure got to like swimming to
go in for this kind of expenditure.
(eyes his body
You're the type who goes in for
Why not -- when the world is so
generously supplied with water?
(hasn't quite got it)
I'm not a maniac about pools. To
tell you the truth it's murder on my
The bartender has put their drinks in front of them. They clink
glasses and drink.
You a neighbor from around here?
Ned shakes his head.
Oh, you're a friend of the
(shakes his head)
They're not even on our Christmas
Then what are you?
I'm an explorer.
I mean, what are you doing here?
I'm swimming home.
What's that got to do with it?
Joan gives him a long sizing-up look.
You divorced or what?
Want to come with me?
Along a river of sapphire pools!
I've never heard anyone talk like
Come with me and be my love--
Oh-oh, I've heard that before!
Not from me.
You're no different from any other
Oh but I am! I am a very special
human being, noble and splendid--
At this moment a stocky young man thrusts himself between them,
takes a firm grip on Joan's upper arm and propels her quickly
away. Ned sees the man talking furiously to the girl. He watches
her bottom in tight slacks without emotion, empties his glass,
puts it on the bar, and suddenly takes a running dive into the
pool. The splash distresses various people along its edge who leap
backwards and scowl at the swimmer.
A waiter is carefully pushing a hot dog wagon across the terrace
in front of the pool house. The wagon is gaily painted and shaded
with a little striped umbrella. The waiter parks it and is about
to begin serving hot dogs and buns just as Ned emerges from the
Ned's eyes are immediately fastened on the hot dog wagon. Suddenly
his expression changes to one of astonishment and alarm. He runs
over to it.
My God, this looks like my wagon!
I'm sure this is my wagon!
He opens it and peers inside, hastily pushing the hot dogs into an
untidy pile. The waiter looks pained, a few onlookers gather
around. Ned bends closer to examine the bottom of the wagon.
Hey, this is mine!
He straightens up and addresses the waiter.
How'd this thing get here?
The waiter shrugs.
I wheel my kids around in it. See
(points to something
at the bottom)
That's where Ellen put her foot
through and I mended it with plywood.
This is my wagon, man!
By this time Grace and Henry Biswanger have noticed what's going
on and approach along with several of the guests. The guests are
clearly supporters of the Biswangers.
What's the trouble here?
This is my hot dog wagon!
Well -- we bought it.
At a white elephant sale.
How the hell did it get to a white
Your wife must have donated it--
(trying to be patient)
She hadn't any right to do that!
She knows I'm crazy about this
Take it up with her.
Listen, I'll buy it back from you.
I'll give you twice what you paid
for it. I'll give you a hundred
A hundred dollars! For that piece of
(slowly and distinctly)
I want to buy this wagon back. Name
a price. I'll send you a check.
(winking at the others)
He'll send me a check.
I'm taking this thing home with me.
He gets a firm hold on the handles.
Hands off, you!
He steps very close to Ned. His face is menacing.
You crashed in -- now crash the hell
Ned glances at the ring of unfriendly faces around him.
Go on -- beat it!
He gives Ned a push which knocks him off balance; he stumbles,
his ankle turns, and he falls to the ground.
Ned's first impulse is to get up and punch Henry. In an instant he
realizes that this would be beneath his dignity. He rises slowly
to his feet.
I'll have my lawyers get in touch
with you tomorrow.
Yeah, you do that!
Ned turns and, hobbling a bit on his weak ankle, he walks off
slowly, his back straight, his head high.
The other guests stand silent and hostile, watching him.
This is the most modest pool along Ned's way -- small, beautifully
planted, and with an informal atmosphere -- as if all the decor
and the gardening had been done by the owner, which indeed it has.
The house looks more like a weekend hideaway than a conventional
There are colorful chairs and tables and a large chaise longue on
the small terrace. Scattered about are Shirley's possessions --
playscripts, magazines, sun tan oil, dark glasses, beach bag,
terry cloth robe, etc. Also on a table is a well-stocked drink
Shirley Abbott is an actress in her early thirties. She has a
striking face, handsome, with interesting mobile features. She is
unlike all the suburban women Ned has met along the way --
distinctly "other." She is wearing a dramatically cut bathing suit.
At the moment she is sitting on the chaise, a magnifying glass in
one hand, a tweezers in the other, and is apparently trying to get
a splinter out of her foot.
Nearby is a flat of bulbs and some tools. She has been working in
a garden bed close to the pool.
Ned appears out of the trees at the opposite end of the pool.
Shirley is not aware of his presence. He watches her with an
expression of infinite yearning. In a moment this changes to
uncertainty and anxiety. He is totally unsure of what kind of
welcome he will get.
As he comes forward Shirley looks up. She is obviously astonished,
anguished, and angry in that order. Then quickly she puts on a
look of total indifference, relaxes back onto the chaise, and
waits for him.
What the hell are you doing here?
Wow! New suit?
It's not new.
I don't remember that suit.
Will you tell me what you're doing
I'm swimming home. Pool by pool
across the county.
Good Christ will you ever grow up?
She turns her attention back to the splinter. She is unsuccessful.
Ned kneels in front of her.
Let me try.
Oh come on, let me--
Gently he takes the tweezers from her and probes for the splinter.
I passed a first aid test when I was
a Scout -- got it!
(looks at the tweezers)
(continues to probe)
Wasn't much in it about splinters.
If you broke something I could make
you a beautiful splint!
(probes once more)
There we are!
(examines the splinter)
A regular redwood. You could cut a
hole in it and drive a car through.
Shirley smiles in spite of herself. Ned smiles back at her.
Suddenly he presses his lips to her foot. She jerks it away with
such vehemence that he loses his balance and is sent sprawling.
What'd you do that for?
Keep away from me.
He sits up, puzzled.
You must be crazy. Everybody's gone
crazy today. I've just come from the
Biswangers. They snubbed me.
Everyone at their party snubbed me--
--they've even got my hot dog wagon
and they won't give it back!
I painted it myself and put the
little umbrella up. Always kept it
down in the playroom where the
ping-pong table is, remember?
I've never been in your house,
Lucinda gave it to a white elephant
I'm sure it was for a good cause.
She hadn't any right. I ought to go
straight home and give her hell.
What's keeping you?
She turns over on the chaise, her back to him.
Ned is hurt. His shoulders droop.
I'm tired. Must have come six miles.
Mind if I have a drink?
All right -- but hurry up about it.
the drink tray)
How about you? Want a Bullshot?
Oh come on -- you love the way I
(holds up a
Hey, we're running out of Tabasco!
We? Aren't you a little confused
Ned is behind her, fixing the drinks. Partly because he is
concentrating on what he is doing and partly deliberately, he
doesn't really listen to what she is saying.
(stretching out on
the chaise, not
looking at him)
Well, how goes it in Never-Never Land?
Has the ideal all-American family
found happiness in the big stone
house with the tennis court?
I heard a rumor that you had changed
your place of residence. Moved out
Of course not. That's ridiculous.
Where's the pepper grinder? It's not
Use the shaker. I didn't think it
Should have freshly ground pepper.
That's what makes the difference.
Well how is the President of the
League of Women Voters?
How is your wife?
Oh, she's fine.
I've been away so long I haven't
kept up with the news. Are all the
waitresses in town certified non-
Last I heard that was your wife's
project. Physical checkups for food
Yes. Oh yes.
Mrs. Edward Merrill, guardian of our
hamburgers! Patron Saint of our
Ned, oblivious of her sarcasm, crosses to her with the two drinks.
Lucinda's always done a lot of good
in this town.
Shirley's eyes meet his.
She just didn't do so good at home,
She takes her drink.
Well, here's to sugar on our
She holds her glass without drinking and glares at him.
Well -- cheers.
They drink. Shirley's face is blank. Ned gives her a worried
glance. The vodka revives his energy a bit. He makes a visible
effort to get through to her.
Remember last winter in Toronto? We
called Room Service and asked for
Bullshots, and they said--
I wasn't in Toronto last winter.
Sure! I came up for the opening of
your show. Don't you remember how it
snowed? And I hired a horse and
sleigh to take us from the hotel to
That was the winter before last.
(with a slight
frown of anxiety)
Was it in Boston? What was the name
of that play in Boston?
I came up on a Saturday, remember?
You faked a slipped disc, and your
stand-by went on for the matinee. I
cured your aching back, didn't I?
Shirley stares at him, her eyes narrowed. She presses her lips
Acapulco was the best. We tasted of
salt all over, and the phone never
rang. And all the nights were
Listen, Ned, I want you to go now.
I mean it.
I'm expecting someone.
None of your business who. I don't
want you to be here when he comes.
Naturally a man. Do you think I've
been in a deep freeze while you're
been playing house up on the hill?
There is a pause. They look at each other. Ned begins to shiver
slightly. He rubs his upper arms with his hands. He coughs.
I'm cold. What's happened to that
sun? No heat in it.
Throat's sore. Don't know when I've
been so cold.
(almost to himself)
Not since those winters in Hanover,
that's when. Except I had my martini
Shirley is ignoring him.
Hey Shirley, did I ever tell you
about that coat?
He crosses to sit beside her.
Did I, Shirley?
There is no answer.
I've got to tell you about that
raccoon coat I had when I was at
Spare me the tales of your glorious
But this is a great story.
I don't want to hear it!
When my father was in college, it
was Prohibition see? So he bought
this raccoon coat, and he took it
to a shoemaker. He had the guy sew
leather pockets in the lining --
one for gin, one for vermouth, a
big one for a thermos of ice, and a
little one for olives. He designed
himself a martini coat!
There is a disgusted reaction from Shirley.
Oh yes, he had straps put in to hold
Some guy, my old man. He didn't
forget a thing!
Shirley leaps up and crosses to the flat of bulbs. She picks up a
tool and starts digging in the flower bed.
(turns to face her)
Twenty-five years later when I was
a freshman he gave it to me. Brother!
Was I a sensation! I didn't carry
any stuff around except to football
games, but I wore it all the time.
I'll have to bring that coat over
here and show it to you.
(his eyes lighting)
You know something, Shirley, that
coat was the damnedest, most
wonderful thing I ever owned. If
Lucinda gave that coat to a white
elephant sale I'll kill her -- I
swear I'll kill her--
He looks off into the distance. A long pause. His voice softens.
Shirley, what happened?
What happened to what?
Nothing's turned out the way I
thought it would--
--when I was a kid I believed in
things -- people used to be happier
when I was a kid -- it -- it seemed
as if everybody loved each other--
Excuse me while I swallow the lump
in my throat.
You got pushed out of your golden
play pen, that's what.
I used to mow the lawn around our
house -- my mother paid me twenty-
five cents -- I can smell that
--it's so fast! People grow up, and
then they die--
Ned, for the last time, will you
please go away?
Tell me who's coming over.
I told you -- it's none of your
On a scale of one to ten how would
you rate him in bed?
Shirley picks up her drink and tosses the contents into Ned's
face. Their eyes meet and hold in a long stare.
(his voice breaking)
Shirley -- I'm sorry -- for whatever
You only did the usual red-blooded
married-man thing. Took me out to
lunch, and gave me that lecture on
the duties and obligations of a
husband and father.
It's become a classic hasn't it?
Republished every year in the
Ned frowns with effort, trying to follow her.
It was the first time we'd been to a
really chic restaurant in New York
-- right out in the open in front of
the people who count.
I also raised my voice.
It tore me apart to see you crying--
Especially when everyone stared.
I figured it out later. You chose
that place because you thought I
wouldn't dare make a fuss in front
of all those mink hats and stylish
fags and snotty waiters.
Did you really think you could smash
my world with no more noise than the
tinkle of finger bowls?
I loved you -- I didn't know what to
So you went back to your wife. Well,
that figures. The real estate is in
her name. She owns the pots and pans.
She knows where the lost shirt
button is. Why give up all those
(a thin smile)
I had my comforts too. While you
were still on the train back to
Connecticut -- that groovy young
bellhop in my hotel -- a real
primitive. No hang-ups.
When you got in and called me from
the station I put the phone down on
the pillow so he could listen too.
All that sniveling about not hurting
your innocent wife and your innocent
children. We had hysterics. We had
to stuff the sheet in our mouths--
You'll never know, will you?
Ned begins to shiver uncontrollably. He coughs louder. His face is
ashen. He winds his arms about himself. Shirley rises. She is
truly concerned. Her tone changes to one of compassion:
Ned, what's the matter with you?
I'm so cold. I'm just so cold.
I'd better go in and get you a
Don't be a fool -- you must be
She makes a move as if to go into the house.
No! How can I swim in a sweater?
You'll get pneumonia--
(puts her hand
on his arm)
Listen, I'll drive you home.
Ned, what is it? You're being
I've got to swim home.
For the love of God, why?
I've just got to. I've got to.
I'm going to get the car.
I can't go in the car. It's
impossible. How can I?
My God what's happened to you?
Something's wrong with you.
Lucinda's waiting -- the girls are
home playing tennis-- I'm swimming
Ned's whole body is shaking spasmodically.
Alarmed, Shirley keeps watching him. She picks up her terry cloth
robe and puts it over his shoulders. This act is the first really
tender gesture he has experienced all afternoon. He turns to her
with gratitude as if her gesture has been a proof that she still
loves him. Shirley understands the extent of her revelation. In an
attempt to negate the moment she turns away and picks up a bottle
of sun tan oil. She crosses to the chaise longue and sits down.
Ned's shivering gradually subsides. He has control of himself
There -- that's better--
Shirley is rubbing the oil on her arms. Ned crosses to her and
sits beside her.
Let me do your back.
(reaches for the bottle)
Please let me.
Reluctantly Shirley turns over on her stomach. Gently Ned begins
to stroke the oil into her back. His touch, the feel of his hand
on her flesh, brings memories flooding. Her eyes begin to fill
Shirley, listen, let's go off
together for a couple of weeks -- I
could manage it right after the
The fourth? Do you mean the fourth
(rubbing her back
I read about a great old castle in
Ireland. A real one with a moat and
a drawbridge. Some king built it
hundreds of years ago. It's an inn
now, with crazy old four-posters--
Ned please -- please go away--
Big soft beds with canopies--
(bends over her)
Come with me, Shirley?
Do you think you can just reappear
and move in again? Do you think it's
She whirls around to give him a long, appraising look.
Everything's always been easy for
you, hasn't it?
(her voice breaks)
God knows I was easy enough to get!
You wore a blue slip with a safety
pin holding up the shoulder strap.
(presses his mouth
to her shoulder
I kissed your safety pin.
close to tears)
Don't do that--
(puts his arms
I only want you to love me--
away and leaps up)
That's your hang-up, Neddy-boy.
You're afraid the sky will fall down
if everybody doesn't love you. You'll
lose the popularity contest, you
won't be elected Head Boy -- as if
the whole world's a prep school!
This truth reaches Ned. He grasps at her blindly, desperate for
the only pain-killer he knows. He locks his arms around her and
pushes her back on the chaise, his body almost on top of her, his
mouth searching for hers.
Don't! Don't do that! Leave me
She struggles to push him away.
(holding her tighter)
You don't want me to. You know you
She struggles furiously to get away from him. Finally she wrests
herself free and leaps to her feet.
Don't touch me!
He leaps up after her, and they struggle. She gets away from him,
runs to the pool, and plunges in. He jumps in after her. She swims
only a few strokes before he has caught her.
Stop it! Stop! Let go!
He is holding her close, his hand tangled in her hair to pull her
face back, to make her look at him.
We made love in this pool, remember?
You loved it!
He is trying to pull down the straps of her bathing suit. She is
kicking and hitting at him.
You loved it in the pool!
He has the straps of her bathing suit down. She is half naked. She
continues to fight him desperately.
They wrestle in the water. The bathing suit rips. Finally she
pulls away from him and swims a few feet. She rushes, sobbing and
outraged, up the steps of the pool. Ned is standing waist-high in
the water. Holding her tattered suit up to cover herself, Shirley
screams at him.
I lied! I lied all the time. Telling
you I loved it anywhere with you!
You bored me to death! Boasting
about your deals and your golf
scores and your old girls and your
old war and your old bloody duty to
your wife and kids!
You loved it.
I played a scene with you!
You loved it!
It was a fake! I was fooling you!
You met your match in me, you
suburban stud! I'm an actress!
Her words are like a fist smashed into Ned's face. His eyes are
wild, his mouth slack. He throws back his head and bellows to the
YOU LOVED IT!
Crying hysterically, Shirley turns and runs toward the house. She
disappears inside. Ned's expression is stony and vacant. After a
moment he swims automatically to the end of the pool. He grasps
the curb to hoist himself out, but he has difficulty. The strength
is drained out of him. He struggles. His face is contorted with
Finally, wearily, hand over hand, grasping the curb, he moves to
the ladder and, totally defeated, he climbs up it. When he steps
off onto the ground his whole body seems limp and fragile. His
eyes are sunken. His face is a ruin.
The sun is clouded over. Rain is imminent. Ned is on the side of
the road, limp, shivering, his arms wrapped around himself. The
Sunday traffic is heavy. Cars of all descriptions whiz by. Ned
looks pitiful as he waits on the shoulder of the road. Every time
he thinks he might have a chance to dash for the grass divider in
the middle of the road a car comes hurtling toward him and he
He is the object of all kinds of scorn and ridicule from the
occupants of the cars. Some peer at him as if he is crazy, some
point and laugh, a beer can is thrown at him. He dodges it.
Several people shout at him but he can't decipher the words. From
the backs of station wagons little children make faces, thumbs in
their ears, waggling their fingers. No one makes the least attempt
to slow up to let him cross. In fact, some drivers, seeing his
intention, speed up gleefully as they approach him.
Ned feels the indignity of his position and appearance. He looks
tense and miserable. He coughs. He hops up and down to warm
Finally an old man tooling down the highway at fifteen miles an
hour gives him a chance to cross. He dashes for the grass divider
and makes it safely. Now he has to buck the long lines of traffic
speeding in the other direction.
The same ridicule from this traffic is heaped upon him. He watches
alertly for a chance to cross. Finally there is a gap in the
traffic and he sprints to the other side of the highway.
Recreation Center Pool
A sign above the ticket booth window says "Adults 50 cents,
children 25 cents." The ticket seller is a young man, stocky and
muscular. He wears a T-shirt. Ned is arguing with him.
--but I'll pay you back. I swear to
God I will!
THE YOUNG MAN
(shakes his head)
Against the rules
I'll do whatever you want -- I'll
sign an IOU.
THE YOUNG MAN
(shakes his head)
Can't do it.
I'll get my wallet -- I promise --
the minute I get home, I'll get my
wallet and drive right back here--
THE YOUNG MAN
Look, I didn't make the rules,
Just one length! I want to swim one
length. You don't understand--
THE YOUNG MAN
I understand you ain't got half a
buck. That's all I'm supposed to
Can't you make an exception this
once? My house is right up the hill
I'll come straight back with the
money! Believe me, I will!
He grasps the ticket cage and shakes it, his urgency growing.
I swear! I promise!
THE YOUNG MAN
Get your hands off there!
Ned's eyes begin to tear. His tone changes.
Listen, will you please, please lend
me fifty cents?
THE YOUNG MAN
What for? Why the hell should I?
I'll pay you back--
His body sags against the booth.
Don't you realize I'll pay you
THE YOUNG MAN
At this point a middle-aged man and woman walk up to the booth
carrying bathing suit bags. The man is bald and wears a loud sport
shirt. The woman is plump and wears slacks. Their names are Howie
and Lillian Hunsacker. Ned smiles with relief and recognition.
Hello, Mr. Merrill.
Howie, for Christ sake, will you
lend me fifty cents?
Don't you do it, Howie!
What's fifty cents more or less,
He digs in his pocket and gives Ned the money.
(with enormous relief)
Thanks, Howie! You're a lifesaver!
(thrusts the money at
the young man, then
again to Howie)
Thanks a lot, chum. Thanks an awful
He rushes through the turnstile and disappears into the locker
room. There are a couple of people ahead of him at the counter
where baskets for clothes and dog tags are given out. He gets into
line until he realizes that he has no need for a basket. He starts
to cross to the open door to the pool area.
Hey! Hey you! Hey you in the trunks!
You take a shower?
Ned shakes his bead.
Can'tcha read, buddy?
He points to a large sign. Ned looks at it.
ALL SWIMMERS MUST TAKE A SHOWER BEFORE USING THE POOL.
ALL SWIMMERS MUST USE THE FOOT BATH.
ALL SWIMMERS MUST WEAR THEIR IDENTIFICATION DISCS.
Ned crosses to a shower booth, enters, closes the door, turns the
water on full force, stands under it a split-second, turns off the
water, and leaves the booth. He crosses to the open door again.
An attendant beside the foot bath glares at his feet, battered,
scratched, and still filthy.
You take a shower?
Go back and wash those feet.
Wearily Ned crosses back to the shower. The booths are all
occupied now. He feels dizzy. The room reels before his eyes. He
closes his eyes and leans against a shower door for support. The
door opens suddenly, and Ned falls in upon the man coming out.
The man grabs him by the shoulders and pushes him back. He gives
him a dirty look and walks out. Ned enters the shower. This time
he soaps his feet and rinses them under the water, wincing as he
does so. They are bruised and sore. The soap hurts the cuts.
Gently his hands rub them again and again to get the dirt off. His
dizziness returns for a moment. He supports himself against the
side of the booth. He comes out of the shower and crosses again to
the attendant beside the door. The attendant gives him a surly
look and then gazes at his feet with distaste.
Spread your toes.
Ned balances on one foot while he spreads his toes with his hands.
The attendant peers into the crevices between them. Ned repeats
this business with the other foot.
Ned holds up the sole of each foot in turn. The attendant waves
him on. He steps into the foot bath and through the door. The rain
clouds hang even lower now. There is thunder in the distance.
The pool area is surrounded by a high wire mesh fence. It is
jammed with people of all ages and all sizes, shouting, splashing.
The lifeguards sit on high wooden platforms, at intervals blowing
their whistles or bellowing through a public address system
various warnings and instructions to the swimmers. The pool has
been constructed at the bottom of a high slanting hill -- almost a
wall of irregular rocks.
The shrill sound of voices, the activity, confuse Ned at first. He
looks about, uncertain at which end of the pool to begin his swim.
He finally figures out which is the deep end and crosses toward it.
A couple of children run into him and almost knock him down.
(through the public
Cut out the running, you two kids!
No running in the pool area!
Ned finds an empty place in the pool and plunges in. It is an
awkward, tired dive, his body is bent, his legs fly apart. He
comes up sputtering with disgust at the taste of the chlorine in
the water. With difficulty he continues his way toward the other
end of the pool, keeping his head above water to avoid collisions
but even so he is bumped into, splashed and jostled.
At one point a young boy dives from the side of the pool, lands on
top of Ned, and submerges him. Ned comes up spitting out water,
breathing hard, half-drowned. A girl practicing an awkward crawl
slaps her hand across his face.
As Ned makes his way across the pool he is watched grimly by Howie
and Lillian, now in their bathing suits, and another couple whom
they have joined. The other couple are a few years younger than
the Hunsackers but the expressions on their faces are equally
sour. They are Jack and Sylvia Finney.
As Ned reaches the shallow end all four of them rise and approach
the place where he will be getting out. Ned has to stand and walk
through the last few feet of the pool since the water is barely
higher than his knees. He is bumped into at every step, splashed,
pushed. A whistle blows shrilly and a guard's megaphone is pointed
Hey you! You without the
identification disk. Get outta the
Ned is not aware that he is being shouted at. He stumbles on,
dizzy, half-blinded, and weak. Finally he grasps the ladder and
painfully, gasping, pulls himself up.
The two couples have placed themselves so that they block his way.
They make no attempt to move.
Whatsa matter, Mr. Merrill, your
friends' pools run outta water?
So how do you like our water, Mr.
Oh, hi Jack! Sure is a lot of
chlorine in it.
Stings your eyes a little, huh?
That's too bad.
(the one friendly voice)
Ain't seen you in a dog's age, Mr.
Merrill. Too bad you don't get into
town any more.
(warmly, with relief)
We had a lot of laughs together,
didn't we, Howie?
Used to count on seeing ya maybe
four, five times a week in my place
-- few drinks, hamburger maybe --
Say, how was the Series?
(loudly to Howie)
What you waitin' for? Go on and ask
The World Series. Didn't you use
those tickets I gave you?
Oh! Last year! Sure -- those were
great seats! Right over third
(louder than before)
Are you gonna ask him or not?
Hold it down, Lil--
I got somethin' to ask you,
Mr. Merrill. When you gonna pay your
We're decent people tryin' to make a
living. We gotta eat too, you know.
Tell 'im Howie. Tell 'im he's the
first deadbeat we ever got in our
Cut it out, will you, Lil--
I--I'm going to send you a check
tomorrow both of you--
That's a laugh all right!
Whatsa matter? He's no friend of
yours! What kinda friend sends a
check ain't worth the paper it's
The altercation has attracted attention. Several onlookers have
(to Lil, Jack,
Let's break it up. Come on, let's
not have a fuss in public--
Nobody moves. Jack is aware of the audience and plays up to them.
You shoulda seen the orders I sent
up to his house! French strawberry
jam, his wife made me stock for her.
American strawberries ain't good
enough for her!
Plain mustard ain't good enough for
Mrs. Merrill. She had to have Dee
The onlookers snicker.
Heartsa palm. Heartsa artichoke,
heartsa this, heartsa that! Some
rich diet you had up there!
The onlookers laugh. Ned looks around, confused.
Heartsa Jack Finney, that's what
The onlookers laugh again. Ned has hardly understood the words,
only the attack. He backs away a a bit.
You used our market to feed your
kids. We all got kids to feed too--
What's more we bring up our kids to
behave themselves. Our kids don't go
around drunk, our kids don't wreck
(more or less to
He kept his daughters' names outta
the paper that time!
Bet that check didn't bounce!
Ned stares dizzily around at the curious, amused, or grim faces.
He feels cornered, humiliated. He begins to shiver again.
You leave my daughters out of this!
Why didn't ya teach 'em some
Those girls never paid no attention
to him. Why should they?
Always runnin' around, chummin' with
their friends -- always tryin' to be
one of the gang, weren't ya?
(his voice shaking)
My daughters worship me -- they love
me and -- and they obey me and --
and what I say is the law to those
girls because I'm their father and
they respect me--
(close to tears)
--they respect me--
My daughters love me--
(to the others)
Plenty of times we used to hear
those girls talkin' in our place.
We heard his kids givin' him the
You're a goddamn liar!
Now look here, Mr. Merrill -- you
don't get away with that! You don't
call my wife names!
She's a liar!
(giving him a good,
long, hard look)
Wanna know what your girls really
thoughta you? Your girls laughed at
Ned stares at him -- he won't believe it.
I heard them! Your girls thought you
were a great big joke!
This last wound triggers Ned's panic. He feels suffocated by the
ring of strange faces and bodies. All he can think of is that he
must get out, get away. He thrusts blindly at Howie with enough
force to throw him to the ground. Women scream. The guards blow
their ear-splitting whistles. The crowd increases in an instant.
Ned dashes through them -- pushing at anyone in his way --
straight for the wire fence. He climbs it nimbly, given a new
spurt of strength by his consuming desire to escape. As he goes
over the top he tears his flesh in several places on the sharp
He leaps to the rocks and scrambles frantically up the hill like a
wild animal -- clinging to clumps of grass, slipping and sliding
on the slippery surface, intent only on fleeing his tormentors. A
few drops of rain are falling.
The back yard of a modest ranch house on a small lot. A half dozen
adults -- men in loud sport shirts and shorts, women bulgy in
pedal pushers, and several small children are hurriedly
dismantling what was to have been a picnic supper.
Apparently they have waited, hoping it was not going to rain, but
now the sky is slate-colored and the rumble of thunder frequent. A
charcoal grill is already blazing but unused, and they are taking
plates of frankfurters, hamburgers, potato salad and trays of beer
into the kitchen. In the center of the back yard is a very large,
round, plastic wading pool, the kind used by children.
Ned comes around the side of the house, cold, exhausted, walking
with the greatest effort. The people in the yard stop what they
are doing and stare at him.
Ned is transfixed at the sight of the pool. He stumbles toward it.
With visible effort he swings one leg over the rim of the pool and
then the other. The water barely reaches to the middle of his
thigh. He crouches down in the water and begins to paddle across
like a little child. The adults exchange glances. The children
watch with mouths agape.
What the hell's going on?
You know him?
(gesturing up the hill)
That's his house up there.
Ned is half way across. A large inflated rubber duck is floating
in his path. He rests his cheek on it.
Look at that!
Makes himself right at home!
Soused out of his skull.
The children take their cue from the adults and laugh too. A
little boy tosses a soft rubber beach ball at Ned. It bounces
crazily off his head. They scream with glee.
Ned climbs out of the pool. Mrs. Clyde is standing in his path. He
stops, takes her hand, bows and kisses it briefly. He drops her
hand and staggers toward the road. The sound of laughter follows
Ned is coming up a narrow winding road. He is weaving a bit from
side to side. His chest is heaving as if every breath takes all
his strength. From time to time he coughs. Raindrops are
splattering down on him.
His foot slips and he falls to his knees. The raindrops increase.
He wipes them away, leaving the dirt of the road on his face. He
struggles to his feet.
Ned comes to the gatepost of his own driveway, stops and clings to
it for support. There is a streak of lightning overhead and
thunder very loud and close. By now the rain is falling steadily.
It seems to rouse him a bit. He leaves the gatepost and plods up
the curving driveway.
Ahead of him is his house -- large, grand, rather formal. It is
set on a spacious lawn. A tennis court is visible at one side and
to the back. Once in a while lightning illuminates the entire
The raindrops are more frequent now. With a last spurt of energy,
Ned quickens his step. The crescent-shaped drive curves up to the
front door. He manages a limping run the last few yards to the
He turns the knob and pushes at the door in his hurry to get
inside. The door is locked. He is astounded and tries the knob
again. The door will not budge. He frowns with confusion and turns
the knob frantically back and forth.
Now the rain is coming in a downpour. He pounds on the door. He
tries to force it open with his shoulder. The rain is flooding
down upon him. In desperation he beats his fists against the door.
Lightning flashes over the house. Thunder crashes above. Ned
shouts -- not words but deep bellows of anguish.
The door is solid. By contrast, Ned's flailing fists seem puny and
fragile. He beats continuously at the impervious oak. The veins
stand out in his neck as he shouts convulsively. There is terror
in his eyes. His fists pound and pound.
The windows of the house are dark. Behind them is the unlit and
dimly visible living room. It is totally empty -- rectangles of
pale paint on the wall where pictures once hung, a fireplace with
tarnished andirons in it. Some cardboard cartons filled with
cast-offs -- wire hangers, broken tennis racket, a worn broom --
are against the wall.
In the library the shelves are empty except for a tattered
telephone book. In the small mirrored bar there is nothing but a
corkscrew on the counter.
The kitchen is large and well-equipped but dusty. An old calendar
and a bulletin board hang on one wall. A scrap of paper
thumbtacked to the board reads, "Slip covers -- CA 7-4333."
In the spacious, paneled dining room one of the wall sconces has
come loose and is hanging by its cord.
At the end of the entrance hall is the heavy front door. The knob
is moving back and forth, back and forth.
Outdoors it is darker. The downpour has lessened to a light rain.
Ned's exhausted hand is turning the knob. He no longer pounds. His
body is slumped against the door. He is uttering small gasping
sounds. His eyes are streaming with tears.
Screenplay by Eleanor Perry