Article

 December 23, 2016   Karen Higginson

scrouge-gray-ps
From the December 2001 issue of 48° North by Laurie Kimpton-Lorence

Characters:

Eli Scrounge: A lanky man, in his mid fifties… his face heavily lined from squinting and continually frowning. The skipper of the yacht Bank Machine.

Bob Ratchet: One of Eli’s most devoted crew members. A man in his early
thirties with a gentle, nurturing personality.

Mary Ratchet: Bob’s wife. An attractive woman with a personality to match Bob’s.

Briny Tom: Bob and Mary’s youngest son. A meek and quiet person, always anxious to please.

Jake Marlin: Eli’s former partner in the boat, who fell overboard a few years back (some say he was tossed).

Three Spirits.

A Host of Sailors.

SCENE I

Scrounge and Bob are aboard “Bank Machine” immediately following a short buoy race. Bob is busily scrubbing the deck and putting away the equipment. Scrounge is sitting in the cockpit angrily muttering to himself.

Scrounge: I’ve got to replace that crewman Jimmy. Last week he chose the wrong spinnaker and the wind blew the darn thing apart. This week he sheets the sail too tight and rips it… And that fool Craig! Cutting his hand when he raises the sail then COMPLAINING
because I don’t have a medical kit. He’ll be lucky if I ever invite him back. Fools! Clumsy idiots! No wonder I can’t win any races.

Bob: (approaching Scrounge with a broken winch handle clutched in his hand) Mr. Scrounge, (gently) the crew are doing just fine, it’s your boat that needs attention. The problem wasn’t the wrong spinnaker or the sail sheeted too tightly. Your sails are wearing out and need replacing. So does some of the equipment. (holding out the broken handle) Scrounge: Bah Humbug! It’s my crew that needs replacing. Remember on that long distance race last month when three of them didn’t even show.

Bob: (struggling to maintain his gentle tone) Overnight races are hard on the crew, Mr. Scrounge. You won’t bring any food on board and you weigh the crew’s duffel bags as they board, throwing any bag over five pounds back onto the dock.

Scrounge: Weight is an important factor on this boat, Bob, and you know it. Let’s cease this silly banter and get to work. Bring the torn sails to the sailmaker
and demand they be repaired for the Christmas Eve regatta.

Bob: But the regatta’s tomorrow! They can never …

Scrounge: (interrupting) Of course they can. Sailmakers are known as magicians. They can get any sail repaired on time. That’s their job!

Bob: (timidly) The crew didn’t expect you’d want to race the Christmas Eve regatta. I’ll ask them, but many have families and… (faltering)

Scrounge: Families indeed. Give them this message. They race Christmas Eve or they never race on my boat again. (Dumbfounded Bob stares at Scrounge as the scene fades.)

SCENE II

Scrounge is laying propped against his
pillows with a TV dinner at his side and a book of racing rules in front of him.
Suddenly a noise sounding like metal against wood is heard on the stairs. Scrounge sits bolt upright … alert and little afraid.

Scrounge: Is … Is someone there!

(Slowly the door opens and the ghost of Jake Marlin appears. His frail body is wrapped in sails and halyards. Winches drag at his feet; camcleats hang from his hair.)

Jake: Eli Scrounge, look at my condition, for you too will suffer a similar fate.

Scrounge: Jake, my friend, is that really you?

Jake: I am but a ghost of my former self, made to wander the sailing world atoning for my selfish acts. Hear my tale! Again and again I find myself at the starting area of the Swiftsure Race. I am drifting, drifting across the line with little wind in sight and the current about to turn against me. Beseechingly I look at the stern faces of the committee members, “What is the time limit?” I cry out. “None” they reply. Repent, Eli Scrounge, or this too will be your fate for you are destined to be my crew.

Scrounge: How is this possible?

Jake: During the night you will be
visited by three spirits. For once in your life, listen and learn. (the apparition fades…)

(Scrounge stares ahead for a long time, willing his brain to reason with his eyes. With a Bah Humbug, he lies down and falls asleep.)

SCENE III

As Scrounge’s Casio watch beeps the midnight hour a female spirit appears. She
is dressed in the style of the 60’s… bell bottomed jean, a loose embroidered shirt and flowers interweaving with the strands of her long blond hair.

Spirit: Like wake up old man and smell the flowers.

Scrounge: (awakening with a start) Who and what are you?

Spirit: Like my name is Blossom ant I’m the spirit of Christmas past. Like I’ll be your mentor for this trip.

Scrounge: If I vow never to eat frozen pizza again, will you leave me alone? (He lies face down trying to shut out her image)

Blossom: Sorry to freak you out, man, but this trip’s like already in progress. Hold my hand cause we’re outa here … far outa here.

(She takes his hand and immediately they are whisked away to another time.

The sounds of children’s laughter fills the air. In glancing around, Scrounge realizes they are standing at the end of a dock watching a group of boys dismantle their lasers.)

Boy I: That was a great race, sure enough, and look who’s still coming back … dead last. (Scrounge’s attention is directed to a youthful version of himself rocking his laser towards the dock.)

Boy 2: Serves him right, the cheater. He barged me at the start then wouldn’t admit it.

Boy 3: Yea, and he wouldn’t give me room at the mark. He’ll try just about anything to get ahead. I say let’s protest him right out of our club.

(There are shouts of approval and the boys set off towards the clubhouse. Young Scrounge reaches the dock just as they are leaving. He watches their departure with hurt and disappointment evident in his eyes. The older Scrounge reacts in a similar fashion.)

Blossom: That was heavy man.
(glancing at Scrounge)
Hey, are you OK? I guess we’d better exit this scene.

(The dock changes to the cockpit of a sailboat flying downwind. Scrounge, now fifteen, is behind the wheel. An older man sits trimming the main, Old Scrounge crying out in delight.)

Old Scrounge: Why it’s Mr. Willit, the first skipper to invite me on his yacht!

Willit: Eli, you’ve been driving for four hours. Why don’t you go below and eat dinner with the rest of your watch.

(Young Scrounge looks longingly below and hesitates, then turns resolutely to his skipper.)

Young Scrounge: No sir, I’ll steer for a bit longer. I’m not hungry anyway.

Blossom: Like crazy, man. If you don’t have friends, like who can you borrow things from.

(As she finishes speaking Scrounge realizes they are no longer on a boat but in an apartment that looks agonizingly familiar. Sitting uncomfortably in a bean bag chair another Scrounge, now in his twenties, stares sadly at the crying girl across from him.)

Girl: It’s no use Eli. I can’t continue seeing you. You’ve changed too much. Instead of marches and peace rallies you head business committees. The time you used to dream with me you now use to plan regattas with your sailing buddies. There’s life beyond the next race, you know… and while you’ve joined your adversaries I’ve joined the peace corp. I leave for Africa next week.
(desperate pleading in her voice)
Come with me… just for a year.

Old and Young Scrounge (simultaneously): I can’t leave my life here. And my friends… my friends…

SCENE IV

(Scrounge rises suddenly from his own bed, then falls back, sobbing into his pillow. Another apparition appears, a man in his early thirties dressed in a business suit.)

Spirit: Come come, sir, we have no time for these emotional outbursts. I am the  spirit of Christmas present.

(Taking a tape cartridge from his in side coat pocket he slides it into Scrounge’s VCR machine. On the screen appears a beautiful wooden sloop, it’s teak decks gleaming; it’s lines artistically coiled. The boat’s mast and boom are missing as well as some winches and tracks. Bob and his wife Mary appear from below, deep in conversation.)

Mary: How can you allow that mean old tightwad to boss you around, Bob? The children will be so disappointed.

Bob: I promised them a great view of the Christmas ships and I will keep my promise… but not tonight. I need to phone the crew, and help the sailmaker, and … maybe you could make some sandwiches? (he looks imploringly at his wife)

Mary: Yes, fine, only explain to me one thing. Why do you continue to crew for Scrounge when so many nicer skippers have invited you to race. He never
repays you for the supplies you buy, he never says a word of thanks for the extra work you do on his boat. He never even lets you drive.

(Scrounge moves close to the TV, curious to hear Bob’s answer.)

Bob: Sailing is the only joy that Eli allows himself, Mary. He claims no family, no real friends, and his job forces him to work night and day. This regatta is the only present he’ll receive … the opportunity not to be alone on Christmas Eve. He introduced me to yacht racing. I’d like to introduce him to friendship. (Firmly, more to himself than to Mary) I won’t desert him now! (listens to a noise from below) Is that Briny Tom practicing again? I wish he would show as much interest in sailing as he does in that bass guitar of his.

Mary: Give the boy time, Bob. Briny wants so much to become a sailor, just like you. But he claims that being on a boat makes him feel lousy and he can’t concentrate. (trying to be diplomatic) You could try a little more patience with him.

Bob: Mary, he drives me to the very brink of insanity … constantly complaining, asking the same questions over and over .. . interrupting me when I’m trying to explain.

Mary: (soothing) He wants to learn, Bob, but you intimidate him. Maybe when he recovers from this stomach flu he’ll be able to concentrate.

Bob: I hope so, but I fear we have a landlubber on our hands. (The VCR fades)

Scrounge: (Looking miserably at the spirit) Is this true? Will Briny Tom be (he swallows hard) … a landlubber?

Spirit: I’m afraid Tom suffers from an undiagnosed case of seasickness. Where he sleeps now I see an empty berth. (Scrounge gasps) If this situation remains unaltered by the future, Tom will never set foot on a boat again. The boy will move to Iowa to farm wheat.

(Fresh tears spring to Scrounge’s eyes as he stares despairingly at the spirit. The scene fades.)

SCENE V

We hear the beeping of Scrounge’s Casio as his alarm goes off. He awakes with a start, sensing another presence in his room.

Scrounge: Who comes to torture me now?

(The spirit appears as an old time pirate, black eye patch, peg leg and all.)

Pirate: Aarrgh, Matey. How be ye faring this night? Quite a wild one, I might add.

Scrounge: Let’s get on with it, spirit. Do you have another movie for me…
another horrifying trip down memory lane? Or will you simply beat me with my own words?

Pirate: Why Mr. Scrounge, that’s not it atoll, and I’m ashamed ye be thinking that way. Why, we be going to a party. And we’d better hurry or I’ll be missed.

(Scrounge suddenly finds himself leaning against the yacht club bar. Unobtrusively the pirate moves behind the bar and begins serving drinks.

Pirate: It was a bloody Mary you wanted now, wasn’t it Mr. Wilder? Aye, that’s me favorite drink as well.

(Scrounge begins ease dropping on the conversations around him)

Sailor 1: Who’d have believed an outdated boat like Generosity could move that fast.

Sailor 2: I’d say it was luck, except that this series is the third time she’s won.

Sailor 3: The  skipper’s a great helmsman, yet he lets everyone on the crew drive. It’s just a great all-round program. No wonder they’re receiving the “boat of the year” trophy.

Pirate: (Leans over and whispers in Scrounge’s ear) Would you like to set your eyes on this here winning boat?

(Scrounge nods eagerly. The Pirate hangs a “back in  minutes” sign on the bar and walks Scrounge to the marina. Halfway down one dock he stops and points to starboard.)

Pirate: Thare she be.

Scrounge: (staring in disbelief) The paint’s new and the winches have been replaced, but it’s my old boat Bank Machine.

Pirate: Aye. Ain’t she a beauty! I’d sure like to borrow her for some pirating (he chuckles at the idea). . . But we’d best get back for the ceremony. Wouldn’t want to miss all the fun. (His eyes twinkle as he says this. They return to the club and the pirate again takes his place behind the bar)

Pirate: Go to the front of the crowd, lad. You’ll not want to miss the presentations.

(Scrounge elbows his way among the sailors until he reaches an advantageous position)

Announcer: And for all their skill and good sportsmanship, even when encountering confused skippers such as myself, (general laughter) I present the “boating award of the year” to Generosity. (loud applause, announcer tries to shout above the noise) But there’s one more award to be announced, folks, so don’t leave yet … This trophy represents the “I told you so” of boating. Each year we present it to the sailor who has experienced frequent breakdowns, been involved in many protest situations, and generally, complained the loudest. Luckily, the same boat has never received this trophy more than once. So, in hopes we’ll get this reprimanding ornament back real soon I present the SCROUNGE AWARD to …

Scrounge: (shouting) No! No! (clutching the sleeve of his neighbor, who coincidentally enough is the bartending Pirate)

Pirate: Need a whiskey, laddie?

Scrounge: (gasping for air) Take me away from this place!

Pirate: All righty. We’ll make it a double, to go!

(Scrounge awakens to daylight, his body drenched with sweat.)

Scrounge: What a dream I’ve had! Frozen pizzas are more powerful than I thought.

(He scoops up the TV dinner carton and notices a half finished drink underneath it. Cautiously he picks up the drink, sniffs its contents, then stares ahead for a long while. Decisively he picks up the telephone.)

Scrounge: This is Mr. Scrounge, I would like to order a mast and boom for Bob Ratchet’s boat. You’ll need to send a man there for measurements, but send the bill to me. (pauses to listen) Yes, yes, this is Mr. Eli Scrounge. Take care of the matter immediately.

(Hangs up with a satisfied look. Thinks a minute then picks up the phone again.)

Scrounge: Is this Dr. Milfoil? Doctor, this is Eli Scrounge speaking. No, it’s not my arthritis again. I want you to send a prescription for one of those new ear patches to Bob Ratchet’s son, Tom. Send me the bill. (listens) Yes, you can send along all my other outstanding bills, too.

(He replaces the receiver, a newly discovered grin on his face. Picks up the phone once more.)

Scrounge: Hello, Jelly Belly Catering Company, I would like… (scene fades)

SCENE VI

It is Christmas Eve and Bob has convinced Scrounge’s entire crew to race. They amble gloomily down the dock towards “Bank Machine”.

Bob: (to crew) That’s funny. Scrounge called me this morning to say that he’s prepare the boat. The sail covers still on and no sheets are led. This morning a man came to my boat to measure for a mast and boom he insisted Mr. Scrounge ordered. I wonder if he’s sick?

(Scrounge’s head peeks out from the hatch.)

Scrounge: Come aboard, fellows. We’re not racing today. We’re having a crew meeting.

(The sailors climb wearily below, expecting the worst, but their faces light up with delight and disbelief when they see what awaits them. Christmas wreaths are everywhere. The table is unfolded and bedecked with all sorts of gourmet delights. Buckets of champagne sit chilling in the galley.)

Bob: Mr. Scrounge, in speaking for both myself and the crew, we’re grateful, but a little confused.

Scrounge: And well you should be, Bob. Last night I DECIDED (at this word he glances meaningfully at Jake Marlin’s photograph on the cabin wall), that my racing program needs changing. This boat is destined for complete overhaul. If you can bear not racing through the winter season (he notices relief reflected in many faces), I promise you a much improved boat next spring… With hot meals for overnight races (there are murmuring of approval), and duffel bags as heavy as you like (the murmuring grows louder), and anyone with itchy
fingers is welcome to drive. (There are cries of “wow” and “about time”)

Bob: Three cheers for Mr. Scrounge.

Crew: Hip Hip Hooray! Hip Hip Hooray! Hip Hip Hooray!

(During the cheers Briny Tom has climbed below.)

Tom: Mr. Scrounge, I feel so much better with my ear patch on.

Scrounge: I’m glad, Tom, because I’ll need you next spring for a very important crew position.

Tom: (unbelieving) Really? Why me?

Scrounge: Because I believe you have real sailing ability. Right Bob?

Bob: (regards Scrounge gratefully) Right, Eli … thanks … for everything.

Tom: And God bless us, everyone.

(Julie, Bob’s oldest daughter suddenly sticks her head down the hatchway.)

Julie: Hi, Mr. Scrounge. If Tom can crew for you, will you take me along as well?

Scrounge: A woman in my crew?

(he halts in confusion and despair)

Bob: (to no one in particular, everyone in general)

Here we go again…