SCENE ONE: IT IS A COUPLE OF DAYS LATER. IT IS JACK'S FIRST DAY AS A REPORTER FOR THE SPECTATOR. VERN IS WAITING FOR HIM.
VERN: You're late!
JACK: You're right but I've got a great excuse.
VERN: Oh there are no excuses. Not in this business.
JACK: Vern, come on, you're kidding right.
VERN: I don't kid about late. Newspapers have deadlines.
JACK: Who do you think you're talking to? I know that.
VERN: Look reporters turn up, on time, ready to go or they don't turn up at all.
JACK: What in the hell are you talking about? I'm late. I said I'm sorry. What, you want me down on my knees to say I'm sorry? To apologize?
VERN: Oh hell, it isn't you. I'm sorry Jack, I didn't mean to jump on you.
JACK: Well I didn't mean to be late.
VERN: I know, Jo called. She told me what happened.
JACK: Well alright then. (Beat) So anything going on?
VERN: Oh just this thing with Tanner.
JACK: What thing with Tanner?
VERN: Oh never mind, let's get down to business.
JACK: Right, right, my assignment. What have you got?
VERN: Nothing yet.
JACK: Heh, well why don't you just look in the file marked high profile front page stories?
VERN: Hahahah, I wouldn't count on that. Not so soon. Not for five or six years.
JACK: Five or six years?
VERN: Hey listen I've got a whole press room full of front page reporters. I mean prize winners. I mean we've got a Pulitzer, we've got three AP Editors Awards, we've got a Ferraro, we've got....
JACK: Wait, wait, wait, who do you think you're talking to. I know that. I'm the one who got the Ferraro. So why am I so low ranked.
VERN: Oh yeah! (Beat) Well only ranked below Ginger.
VERN: Yeah she went to work for us remember. I mean she went to work a week before you did so she outranks you.
VERN: Oh don't worry about it. I think she'll cut you some slack. You were the guy who recommended her for the job, aren't you?
VERN JOKINGLY PATS JACK ON THE SHOULDER.
VERN: Hang in there, old boot.
JACK: What, slack for the....
AS HE IS S TALKING, GINGER COMES RUNNING IN HOLDING A NEWSPAPER AND SCREAMING. GINGER: AAAAAAH, OOOOOOOH.
SCENE TWO: AT THE PAPER JACK IS FRUSTRATED TO DISCOVER THAT HE IS THE LOWEST RANKED REPORTER, EVEN BELOW GINGER. AS HE IS TALKING TO VERN AN EXCITED GINGER RUNS SCREAMING INTO THE ROOM.
JACK: What the hell's going on?
JULIE: What's the commotion?
GINGER: OOOOOOH, they printed my article again. Oh look at this. I'm famous. Can you believe it? My name, my words, my ideas. I'm a famous person. OOOOOOH! And you know what this is the best break I've ever had and I owe it all to you two.
JACK: Well you don't really owe us anything.
JULIE: Well you owe us another column of course.
GINGER: Oh god, you're the best boss in the world Jack.
SHE GRABS HIM AROUND THE NECK AND SQUEEZES HIM HARD.
JACK: Well maybe not the best. Maybe just in the top ten.
GINGER: Oh how can I ever repay you?
JACK: One, you don't owe me anything and two, I'm not your boss. Just a fellow reporter looking for a good story. If you're looking to thank someone in a physical manner perhaps there's Julie or Vern. He is the editor.
AS THEY ARE TALKING, MOLLY WALKS IN.
JULIE: Molly, Molly, darling, come in.
GINGER: Oh Molly wait until you see.
GINGER: They printed my second article. Can you believe people are actually going to be reading what I wrote?
MOLLY: That's very nice.
GINGER IS VERY DISAPPOINTED THAT MOLLY ISN'T IMPRESSED. JACK NOTICES TOO.
JULIE: Jack, Jack, I need to talk to you in my office, just for a moment here.
JACK: Oh, that's would be.... nice.
JULIE: Yes dear, a couple of things I want to get straight.
JULIE DRAGS JACK AWAY.
SCENE THREE: LATER THAT DAY, JACK HAS TAKEN JO TO LUNCH; AND THEY RETURN TO THE OFFICE.
JO: Oh Jack, I just can't....I cannot get over how nice that waiter was and the service and the table and the food. It was just....
JACK: Now come on, you're acting like you've never been to a restaurant before.
JO: I just wanted you to know I appreciate you asking me.
JACK: Where is Vern? He's supposed to give me that assignment.
JO: Feeling a little lonely?
JACK: Maybe he went to the bank. There's always a long line at the bank during lunch.
JO: You miss her a lot, don't you?
JACK: She is my wife, Jo.
JO: Well when was the last time you talked to her?
JACK: The last time I talked to her was Sunday night.
JO: Well what did she say? How's the show going?
JACK: The show is going great. It's....it's wonderful. They're working night and day. They work all day and Calliope argues with the network all night.
JO: Oh poor Jennifer, she must be exhausted.
JACK: Oh she's doing great. The whole project is great. It's a great opportunity for everyone.
JO CAN TELL THAT JACK IS DOWN.
JO: Not so great for you, huh?
JACK: Talking about it does not help.
JO: I just want you to know that I understand. And Jack, I don't think you need to be sitting up all night watching the home shopping network.
JACK: I don't....
JO: Night after night after....
JACK: What makes you think I'm watching that show?
JO: Well you had the TV on all night last night. Remember I came in and I turned it off and I cleaned your apartment and I did some dishes. And I threw away an empty liquor bottle which probably is the reason for your headache this morning.
JACK: No that is not the reason. Actually I....I happened to have onedrink on a Saturday night and it was finished. I just happened to not clean anything up after that.
JO: Oh son, I know how hard it is living without Jennifer especially with the baby coming. I just don't like to see you get so depressed about it, that's all.
JACK: I'm not depressed. I mean, yes I had one dark moment, one dark Saturday night of my soul. But that's passed now and I'm just moving ahead with my plan.JO: What plan?
SCENE FOUR: JACK AND JO ARE AT THE OFFICE, JACK IS FRUSTRATED WITH HIS LOW LEVEL POSITION AT THE PAPER. HE HAS A PLAN TO CHANGE THAT.
JACK: It's....it's nothing really. It's nothing you can really explain to someone else.
JO: Well I'm not someone else. I'm your mother so tell me please.
JACK: Look I have told you time and again that I'm trying to change. I'm trying to change things. The point is I'm trying to....change and not slide back to the way things were before.
JO: Oh I don't know, I don't think you were so bad.
SHE BRUSHES THE HAIR OUT OF HIS EYES.
JACK: Yes I was. I was and I admit it. That's one thing I've realized and I've learned from this whole thinking I'm dying escapade. I mean I was not easy to live with. Don't argue with me I know I'm not. I'm not easy to live with. I'm....I'm difficult to live with. I'm surprised that Jennifer ever put up with me. I mean the point is I've learned from all of this and ready to move on and ready to make a fresh start and....and make something of myself again.
JO: Well if you're talking about this job, Jennifer doesn't care if you're a publisher, a cub reporter or a bum. She loves you.
JACK HATES HER TALKING SO LOUDLY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE OFFICE.
JACK: I'm well aware of that. I just want to make sure that she has something worthy of loving.
JO: Oh Jack.
JACK: No, the important thing is....is that I'm not going to be in this position much longer. I'm not going to a pug....some little reporter that he can just push around. Vern may think that I am just going to be here forever, for six years. That is wrong. I am not....
JUST THEN VERN ENTERS THE ROOM.
VERN: Jack is that your voice I heard? (Beat) Jo, I didn't know you were here.
JO: Hi Vern.
VERN: It's good to see you.
VERN AND JO HAVE EYES ONLY FOR EACH OTHER.
JO: You too. Good to see you too.
JACK: You wanted to see me.
VERN DOES NOT ANSWER. HE ISTOO BUSY LOOKING AT JO.
VERN: What? (Beat) What? Oh yeah. I have this for you.
JACK: An assignment, good.
JACK TAKES THE PIECE OF PAPER FROM VERN.
JACK: You can't do this.
VERN: It's done.
JACK: Anything but this.
VERN: You're not the boss anymore Jack.
JO: Now, now Jack, Vern is right. You're not the boss anymore.
JACK: Now wait a minute. This is not a story. This is a punishment. This is cruel and unusual punishment.
VERN: Have I told you lately where you stood?
JACK: You will not demean me Vern! You will not!
VERN: I don't know about that but you will write that story.
JO: Now, now, Jack, I don't think that Vern is trying to demean. Now I really don't think he is trying to do that.
JACK: Jo, stay out of this. We are just scuffling here. It's a ritual thing. A kind of a primal, very male and ultimately very predictable. The younger stronger male always wins.
VERN: Not this time rookie.
JO: Jack, Jack, you know what I think, you know what I think. I think that you could write anything you want. If you put your mind to it you could write anything you want.
JACK: That's the point. This takes no mind. This is mindless.
VERN: Oh the mindless stories you've been writing. You come on like this gung ho guy. I mean hey what, are you the next Bob Woodward?
JACK: I just....alright, alright. I will write this story.
VERN: Just call it sandpaper for the soul, Jack. It's either that or unemployment.
JACK: Look I told you I will write this story and it will be the best damn story this newspaper ever had.
JACK STARTS TO WALK OUT THEN STOPS.
JACK: And another thing, you get that shelf in there ready for one more Ferraro Award. Mine! As usual.
JACK LEAVES, DETERMINED.
SCENE FIVE: JACK IS WORKING ON HIS STORY, WHICH IS ABOUT A DOG STORY. HE INTERVIEWS THE DOG OWNER WHO IS HOLDING A WHITE MINIATURE POODLE.
JACK: That's it.
DOG OWNER: Isn't he the smartest dog ever?
JACK: Yes, so recount everything Miss Pommerance....
DOG OWNER: Pommeroy. O-Y.
JACK: OY. So Fido here....
DOG OWNER: Phaedeau. P-H-A-E-D-E-A-U.
JACK SMIRKS TO HIMSELF.
JACK: Yes, the dog got lost on vacation.
DOG OWNER: Oh just outside Tucumaere, New Mexico. Now that's (Sarcastic) T-U....JACK: Ah, please. I'm a fairly adept speller Mrs. PommerOY. But thank you anyway. (Beat) Dog got lost on vacation and found it's way home. End of story. And a fascinating story it is. An absolutely fascinating story. I really want to thank you for sharing your story with myself and all of our readers. Thank you.
SCENE SIX: JACK IS AT THE PAY PHONE.
JACK: Vern, it's me.
VERN: Oh Jack did you get the story?
JACK: Oh I got the story alright. Some mutt gets lost and finds its way home.
VERN: Mutt, I thought he was pedigree.
JACK: Vern, you know what I'm talking about. This is nothing. It's trash, it's a no nothing story. I can't write it. I won't.
VERN: Jack, I gave you an assigment and....
JACK: Vern, there are a million stories in the naked city and all of them are better than Phaedeau's. I'm going to find one and write it.
VERN: What the hell are you talking about?
JACK: I'm talking about....
JACK TURNS AND SEES THE DOG OWNER TALKING TO A POLICEMAN. JACK IS SUSPECIOUS.
JACK: I'm talking about a....about that story about the guys who have the stolen cop uniforms and run around robbing stores.
VERN: I got two other guys on that.
JACK: Yeah, but what are they doing?
VERN: What do you mean, what are they doing? They're reporters, they report.
JACK: No, no, no, what are they coming up with? They haven't come up with anything have they? Let's just take one sugar coated moment here and talk about this. How do you tell a real cop from a fake one?
VERN: Well I don't know but if I ever see sugar coated in one of your stories, I'll....
JACK: No Vern I am serious, I am serious. How do you....how do you tell a real cop from a fake one?
VERN: Well if you see a cop robbing a store, he's the fake.
JACK: That's very good Vern, very good. That's brilliant. Thank you. And thank you for giving me the story.
JACK HANGS UP JUST AS THE COP WALKS AWAY FROM THE DOG OWNER. SHE SHOWS JACK THE DOG AGAIN AS HE WALKS PAST TO FOLLOW THE COP.
JACK: Ah, yes, yes.
THE COP GIVES JACK THE SLIP.
JACK: Where the hell did he go? (Beat) Excuse me, did you see a policeman go by?
WOMAN: Well actually I did, yes.
JACK: Great, great, which way did he go?
WOMAN: Why do you want to know?
JACK: Don't ask me why. This is important. It's imperative. Life and death.
WOMAN: He went that way toward the Brady Fish Market.
JACK: Okay, alright....
SUDDENLY A SERIES OF GUNSHOTS RING OUT.
JACK: This must be right.
JACK RUNS TO THE FISH MARKET.