SCENE ONE: IT IS THE NEXT DAY AND VERN IS TYPING UP A STORY AS JACK COMES INTO THE OFFICE.
JACK: Oh Vern, what's the latest update on the labor negotiations?
VERN: Well it's like I told you on the phone, both sides aren't going to budge an inch but they.... rumors are flying it'll be settled by morning.
JACK: Look I'm sure that the bankers/owners would agree with me in saying that this is very boring and will not sell newspapers. Vern, you are a figure head here. You have to understand that. Now please get out of the way and let me do what I have to do. Let me write it the way it has to be written.
VERN: Well thanks for the vote of confidence.
JACK: Thank you.
VERN LEAVES AND JACK CONTEMPLATES HIS OPENING LINE.
JACK: Ah.... Jimmy Hoffa Tells Teamsters from the Tomb. Yeah that will do it. In a surprise move this morning, management showed up at the negotiation table with a pillar from a famous stadium saying that Jimmy Hoffa was speaking from the concrete.
IN HIS HEAD, JACK HEARS HIS LAST WORDS OF YESTERDAY. "BY GOD, I SWEAR, I WILL NEVER BE MEAN AGAIN."(BEAT) MUST BE SOME KIND OF MESSAGE, HUH. WELL IF THIS IS A MESSAGE, I GOT IT, I GOT IT. LOUD AND CLEAR." JACK BEGINS TO SEARCH THE OFFICE FOR A MICROPHONE BUT IT IS IN HIS HEAD.
JACK: Alright, where the hell is that coming from?
"I CAN CHANGE, I WILL CHANGE.... "
JACK THEN HEARS HARPER'S VOICE.
HARPER: You got that right son.
"I ABSOLUTELY WILL CHANGE. YOU GOT MY WORD IN IT. I SWEAR.... "
SCENE TWO: JACK HAS BEEN HEARING HIS OWN WORDS PLAYED BACK AT HIM. HE TURNS AROUND AND SEES HARPER STANDING THERE AGAIN IN HIS DEVIL COSTUME, HOLDING A SMALL TAPE RECORDER.
HARPER: HAHAHAHAHAH. Straight from you know where.
JACK: Okay, just.... turn it off, alright. Turn it off.
HARPER: Alright. You know those expensive elocution lessons were worth every penny. Nice expression, good round tones, good delivery.
JACK: Alright, alright. (Beat) Are you going to haunt me for the rest of my life?
HARPER: Oh, probably, I like short term assignments.
JACK: Good. Very good. Just explain one thing. How did you do it? Was it some kind of diabolical supernatural powers this time? What?
HARPER: Oh come Jack, don't be so dramatic. I planted a bug on you during our last chat. You know last time we met. Picked up everything you said. Yeah I got pretty good at dirty tricks when I was in the Senate. Of course that's a part of why I am where I am. All due credit to Lucifer of course.
HARPER: Yeah, but you can call him Lou or you can call him Louis....
JACK: No, please, please, please, don't. I hate that routine.
HARPER: Oh really. Oh you see he thinks it's side splitting. Does it at all the parties. You better learn to laugh at the right places, you'll see.
JACK: What.... wait a minute, it's definite then. I'm definitely going to end up.... with you and Duke down in....
HARPER: A done deal. Unless you do what you said you'd do. Become a new man Jack. It's your only hope.
JACK: I said I would change.
HARPER: Ah, but at the risk re-stating the obvious Jack, you've got a long way to go and not much time to get there.
JACK: Well, what can I say? I mean I'm trying my best. I'm just...
HARPER USES HIS DEVIL PITCH FORK TO POKE JACK IN THE BACKSIDE. IT CAUSES JACK'S PANTS TO BURN.
HARPER: You're lying Jack!
JACK: OUCH.... OUCH.... OUCH!
JACK STARTS TO HOPE AROUND HOLDING HIS PANTS.
JACK: I'm on fire, that's what I am. OH.... OH.... OH.
HE RUNS OVER TO THE WATER COOLER AND TURNS IT ON SO THAT HIS PANTS COOL OFF.
HARPER: Oh a little taste of what awaits you my boy.
JACK: Look, I said.... I said I was trying. Not that I.... couldn't try harder you understand.
HARPER: You can start right here.
HARPER WALKS OVER TO JACK'S DESK.
JACK: Whoa, watch where you're pointing that thing. I really can't afford to replace that computer.
HARPER: And no more stupid stories scaring the pants off people. Especially stories that are not true. Say it Jack.
JACK: No more, never again.
HARPER: For your sake, I hope you mean that because when he gets ticked off.... well I hope you never find out. Eternity is a long time my boy. Change son and change fast. Hahahahah.
HARPER FADES AWAY FROM JACK'S MIND.
JACK: Oh change, huh. I can change. WHOA!
AS JACK SITS AT HIS DESK, HE FEELS HIS BURNT BACKSIDE.
JACK: I.... can change.... change.
JACK PUTS HIS HEAD IN HIS HANDS AS VERN COMES BACK.
VERN: Jack this is no time to take a nap. We're about ready to go to press.
VERN LEANS OVER TO SEND JACK'S FILE TO THE COMPOSING ROOM.
JACK: Oh Vern, Vern, what are you doing?
VERN: What do you mean, what am I doing? I'm sending your story to composing.
JACK: No, no, no. If you get that printed, I'm going to go straight to hell.
VERN: Jack you don't have to be so melodramatic. I mean if it needs a little more work just say so.
JACK: I'm saying so, alright. I'm saying so. Just give me a little more time. Just a little more time.
VERN LEAVES AND JACK STARTS TYPING FRANTICALLY.
SCENE THREE: A SHORT TIME LATER VERN RETURNS.
VERN: Listen Jack, they've got to set the front page.
JACK: Vern, keep your pants on. I'm just printing it out. You now something Vern, you know how you didn't exactly love the sensationalist stories that I've been submitting?
VERN: Despise is a better way to put it.
JACK: Well you're not going to despise this. You're going to love it.
VERN: What are you talking about?
JACK: I'm talking about this. Say goodbye to Cher, say goodbye to Jimmy Hoffa, say goodbye to Elvis. Unless you see him down at the local Laundromat and then you just give me a call. No I'm just kidding. From now on I am submitting and only submitting news that is fit to print.
VERN: Heh! Well it's a dream come true. Maybe we'll have a respectable newspaper again instead of this laughing stock.
JACK: Huh, uh. You read it and smile.
JACK HANDS VERN HIS LATEST GOOD STORY.
VERN: Smiles are on the increase, brotherly love reigns! Studies show that human beings are kind at heart! (Beat) Jack this is....
JACK SNATCHES IT BACK.
JACK: Beautiful! I know, it puts a smile on the face and a tear in the eye.
JACK STARTS TO READ HIS STORY.
JACK: Everytime you do something nice for somebody, that person will go on and do something nice for somebody else. Scientists refer to this as the snowball effect.
VERN: Scientists refer to this as poppycock.
JACK: So bring a smile to somebody's face. Make this world an even more beautiful place than it already is.
VERN: Well what about, have a nice day!
JACK: Have a nice day.... that's good, that's good Vern. Very Good.
JACK ADDS THAT TO HIS STORY.
JACK: Have a nice day! Yeah.
SCENE FOUR: LATER JO TAKES JACK DOWN TO WINGS WHERE TOM AND ALICE ARE HAVING DINNER.
JO: Oh, Mr. and Mrs. Horton, hello.
ALICE: Hello. How are you Jo?
JACK: Hello hello, hello hello
ALICE: Hello Jack.
JACK AND JO TAKE A SEPARATE TABLE.
JO: You have about the nicest in-laws in the world.
JACK: No, no, I really think that.... Jennifer does.
JO: Oh Jack, how sweet of you. You know I'm glad that I insisted that we have a nice dinner out.
JACK: Oh it really wasn't necessary. I mean I could have just had a hamburger at home.
JO: Only the best for my son.
JACK: Well be that as it may, I really do need to get back to the newspaper soon.
JO: Oh, well we'll just make the most of the time that we have together.
JACK: Good. (Beat) Um, actually on second thought, I'll cancel my plans for the rest of the evening. I want to spend all the time in the world with you, at least tonight.
JO: Oh good! Oh that's wonderful. I was going to make my green noodle casserole but I said no. I want to take my son out to a fancy restaurant.
JACK: And I appreciate it.... even though I am feeling a certain hankering for the.... green tuna noodle casserole.
JO: I don't know what's gotten into you but I like it.
JACK: Well.... it's.... it's what a son does isn't it? I mean.... spends time with his...with his mother especially when he should be at the paper. I mean but that's what counts, right?
JO: Counts for what, counts?
JACK: Counts in my ledger.
JO: Your what?
JACK: The ledger, the ledger book. The counting of all of the good, bad and ugly that you've done over the years. Then when it's over it all weighs out and decides whether you go to heaven or.... the other place.
JO: Oh son, I didn't know you had a spiritual side to you.
JACK: Neither did I, but I do now.
JACK POURS A DRINK FOR JO AND HOLDS UP THE BOTTLE.
JACK: April 1992.
JACK: A good month and a good year for ginger ale.
JO: Well I'd like to make a toast.
JO: To life.
JACK: Did anyone ever tell you, you have a flair for the inappropriate?
JO: I don't think that's inappropriate. Son, sometimes when things happen you start thinking about things that you didn't think about before.
JACK: And you're going to tell me all about them. (Beat) Please, tell me all about them.
JO: The truth is.... death comes to all of us.
JACK: Preferably without using the "D" word.
JO: And we just don't know when.
JACK: Five and a half months and counting.
JO: So we have to make the best of it. We have to reach out and smell the roses.
JACK: "Smell the roses?" That's good, that's good. I like that. I.... I like that.
HE GETS OUT A PEN AND PAPER TO WRITE IT DOWN.
JO: You know I think things like that come down to us because they're the truth. Darkness before the dawn. You know I still believe that there is a silver lining behind every cloud.
JACK: "A silver...." I like that. It's a good idea. That's good, that's good. I like that.
JO: Are you making fun of me?
JACK: No, I'm not. I mean I can't.... not anymore. I mean.... ah....
HE PICKS UP HIS GLASS AND RAISES IT IN A TOAST.
JACK: .... to life!
JO: Heheheh, okay, to life.
AT THAT MOMENT ALICE WALKS OVER TO TALK TO JO. JUST AS SHE APPROACHES, JACK STARTS TO GET A SPASM AND SEEMS TO BE IN A LOT OF PAIN.
JO: Jack? Jack, Jack, what is it?
ALICE: Jack darling, is anything wrong?
HE HIS HOLDING HIS MIDDLE AND IS IN PAIN.
JACK: Huh.... ah, no, no. It's just the.... ah, just the gas from the ginger ale. It went up my nose. I gotta lay off that stuff.
ALICE IS NOT SO SURE HE IS TELLING THE TRUTH.
ALICE: Yah.... but you better go see Tom first thing in the morning.
JACK: Oh that's not necessary at all. I'm actually been seeing one of his doctors, Dr. Hunter. He said I'm perfectly fine.
ALICE: Are you sure?
JACK: I'm sure, I'm sure. He said I'm fine. I'm perfect, positively.
ALICE: Alright. But I want you to promise me that you will go and look into it, right?
JACK: Yes, certainly, certainly, whatever you say.
ALICE: Alright. (Beat) Jo?
ALICE: What I wanted to ask you. Can we make a date to go shopping for our grand- and great-grandbaby?
JO: Oh I'd love that. Yes.
ALICE: Alright, I'll call you.
SHE TURNS BACK TO JACK AND WAGS HER FINGER AT HIM.
ALICE: Alright young man, now remember, lay off the ginger ale.
JACK: Hahahah, yes.
ALICE WALKS AWAY AND JACK SIGHS IN RELIEF.
JO: Apparently Jennifer hasn't told her about your condition or if she has told her about your condition she's pretending not to know or she's pretending not to know that you know that she knows or....
JACK: Now, the important thing is, I have figured out that Jennifer definitely does not know.
JO: I told you. So why don't you tell her?
JACK: I.... I don't know. I suppose I thought it was easier when I thought she already knew. I mean she's pregnant now and....
JO: Jennifer is a very strong lady. She can handle just about anything and I don't want you going through this alone.
JACK: I don't know if I can go through it at all. I don't know what to say, I don't know what to do. I look in her face and she's so full of.... this.... this hope and I.... I can't tell her. Not yet, no.
JO: Jack, If.... if you have six months to live, you make it the best six months of your life. You enjoy every single day to it's fullest. You squeeze out every every hour and you live it. Son.... live it .
JACK: Yes, live, live.... live until you die. (Beat) That's good. I'm going to save that one too. Live until you die.
JACK PICKS UP THE NAPKIN AND WRITES DOWN THE QUOTE.