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Settling Up

Vincent H.  O'Neil

CURTAIN OPENS

 

INT. CORNER OFFICE OF A SKYSCRAPER - DAY

A desk is at center stage, with an open ledger on it.  Two chairs face each other across the desk.  The BUSINESS MAGNATE stands at stage left, looking out a window.  The Magnate is middle-aged, wears conservative business attire, and seems troubled.

The CORPORATE RAIDER enters stage right.  Young and jubilant, the Raider practically bounces up to the desk and then cups a hand to an ear.

RAIDER
Listen to those numbers tallying up!  I swear, I must have acquired every juicy asset in the universe this time around.

The Magnate turns and regards the Raider
without speaking, so the Raider looks at the ledger.

RAIDER
Ouch.  Look at all that red.  But that's zero-sum competition for ya.  What I win, you lose.

The Magnate stiffly gestures at the chairs.  

MAGNATE
Shall we?

They sit. 

RAIDER
Come on, don't be like that.  I never get to see you, except at these little settling-up meetings.  And we used to be so close.   

MAGNATE
I still watch everything you do.

RAIDER
Oh, that's right.  You know all, see all, be all.  And yet you can't stop me from winning, unless you knock over the board.

The Raider leans an elbow on the desk.  

RAIDER
Don't you get tired of it?  You create them, invest in them, and then most of them end up with me.  You watch me devour what you made.  

MAGNATE
I made you.

RAIDER
You made me leave.  I was your best and brightest, but you wanted to turn me into a stunted sycophant like all the others.   

MAGNATE
You demanded power that was never promised to you.

RAIDER
There wouldn't have been any demands, if you'd stepped down when it was obviously time.

MAGNATE
Why would I move aside for you?  When this all started, I was the only one here.  I created it from nothing, all by myself.    

RAIDER
And they accuse me of hubris. 

The Raider stands and points at the ledger.

RAIDER
Well look at this.  The books say most of the assets prefer my pitch to yours.  Why is that, if you're the be-all end-all?

MAGNATE
Simple.  Your way sounds easier.

RAIDER
And more fun.  I'm a lot more fun than you.

MAGNATE
Only until you drop the mask.  Then you rip them into pieces.

The Raider strolls around behind the Magnate.

RAIDER
They never read the fine print.  Never see what's hiding in the details.

MAGNATE
They call out to me.  Saying they're sorry, begging for my help when it's too late.

The Raider speaks into the Magnate's ear from behind.

RAIDER
That must eat at your very core.  I've wondered—is it possible for you to lose faith in yourself?

The Magnate stands, face-to-face with the Raider.

MAGNATE
You know it isn't.  I create things you can't even imagine.  That's why you spend all your time following me, kicking over the sandcastles I build.  A jealous child whose only talent is destruction. 

RAIDER
I loathe you.

The Magnate takes on a pleading, almost tearful tone.

MAGNATE
Why can't you see their value?  If you'd tried to nurture just one, instead of dismembering them out of spite, I could have respected you.  Even forgiven you.

The Raider makes sarcastic gestures of obeisance.

RAIDER
Oh, forgive me, master!  Put my collar back on my neck and give me a piece of the floor where I can howl hymns to your greatness!

The Raider stops, embarrassed, and walks
to the other side of the desk.  Facing away from
the Magnate, the Raider speaks in a strained voice.

RAIDER
You're a worse liar than I am.  You know you can't forgive the things I've done.

MAGNATE
Even now there is a hole in me with your exact dimensions.

The Raider turns, speaking in tight anger.

RAIDER
Weren't you listening?  I left you to escape that cramped little space.  And time has proved me right.  My dimensions have grown enormously, outside your shadow. 

They stare at each other for several seconds, and then finally give up and look away.

RAIDER
So what are we going to compete for next?

MAGNATE
This new one's very special.  I've labored on it for a long time.

The Magnate and the Raider both face the audience.  Despite himself, the Raider marvels as the Magnate makes a sweeping "Behold!" motion toward the viewers.

RAIDER
What spectacular scenery!  So lush, so alive!  But that's just the marketplace.  Where are the assets?

MAGNATE
I've made only two of them so far.  There they are.  Out for a walk.

RAIDER
They're so different from the last ones!  Such sublime delicacies.

MAGNATE
I named that one Adam.  He calls the other one Eve.

 

CURTAIN CLOSES

 

THE END

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Vincent H. O'Neil - Scene4 Magazine

Vincent H. O'Neil is the Malice Award-winning author of the Exile mystery series from St. Martin's Press and the theater-themed mystery novel Death Troupe. More at www.vincenthoneil.com.
For more of his writings in Scene4, check the Archives.

©2021 Vincent H. O'Neil
©2021 Publication Scene4 Magazine

 

 

 

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