The scene is a recreation cottage of a summer camp, crossed paddles over the fireplace, shelf of cups, large plain table and several plain chairs and a blackboard. On the board is being written a word in large sprawling letters by a small, undersized boy in a bathing suit. The word is “Wedoodle.”
As the curtain rises a rather stout, overgrown boy of thirteen, also in a bathing suit, comes into the room and says “Hey,” causing the other boy to seize the eraser hastily and obliterate his mysterious polysyllable.
CASSIUS: (the stout boy) What does “Wedoodle” mean?
BUGS: (visibly embarrassed) Wedoodle? That’s just a camp my sister goes to.
CASSIUS: Must be a swell camp. Where’s the Old Man?
BUGS: I was just writing Wedoodle because there was some chalk here and I’m supposed to write her a letter because I got a letter this morning which said if I don’t write her a letter I wouldn’t get my quarter’s allowance.
CASSIUS: The Old Man not showed up?
BUGS: I don’t know. Say, I know my part—do you know yours?
CASSIUS: I know some of it but I’ll bet we don’t have any play.
CASSIUS: Because Bill’s father was just tried in court and the guys in my tent say that Bill will probably be fired from camp.
BUGS: What do you mean?
CASSIUS: I got half of it; somebody else got the other half. (He finds a piece of newspaper from his pocket and reads.) “The acquittal of Cyrus K. Watchman”—that’s Bill’s father’s name—“had had—had had—had had, had had—”
BUGS: What did he have?
CASSIUS: (a stupid boy, slow on the uptake) Well, he had this thing, see?
BUGS: Well, if his father had this thing happen to him he’ll get fired because the Old Man isn’t in any good humor now and I guess if any of us did anything that wasn’t all right he’d fire us right away. I tell you I’m glad I made up my tent right this morning.
Henry Grady comes in.
HENRY: Where’s the Old Man?
CASSIUS: He hasn’t showed up. I came in here and I found Bugs writing Skedaddle on the board. It’s some camp his sister goes to. Some name, hey?
BUGS: (Indignantly) It wasn’t Skedaddle; it was Wedoodle.
CASSIUS: What’s the difference? Skedaddle, Wedoodle, Skedaddle, Wedoodle—
BUGS: Skedaddle doesn’t make any sense.
CASSIUS: I suppose Wedoodle makes a lot of sense.
BUGS: Sure it does. It’s the name of a camp. What’s the sense of the name of our camp, Rahewawa?
CASSIUS: But shucks, Rahewawa is a regular camp.
BUGS: So’s Skedaddle—I mean Wedoodle.
Bill Watchman comes in. He is a cheerful boy, full of energy and apparently quite unaware that his family has been featured in the public prints.
BILL: All right, fellows, let’s get together. I met the Old Man on the way over and he said to go ahead. Does everybody know their parts?
BUGS: I only got two lines. The best one is when I say (quoting), “Mr. Jenkins says the team’s ready to go to bat down there, Doctor.”
BILL: Well, he wants us to run through it once before he gets over here.
The face of a handsome young man of twenty appears momentarily at the door.
RICKEY: (the young man) You guys ought to be able to go on under your own steam; you ought to be old enough so you don’t have to be watched over. How about rehearsing this thing, so we can give your play decent?
The boys are instantly on their feet.
BOYS: All right, Mr. Rickey.
When he goes the excitement subsides gradually,
HENRY: When my father brought me up here he said, “I don’t know about the head man but if they are all like that counselor I know you’re going to be happy up here.”
CASSIUS: He certainly is a swell guy. Boy!
BUGS: (at the blackboard) Guess the Old Man’s wife thinks so.
Bugs draws a large heart on the board and erases it just as Cassius produces from his pocket a much mangled part or rather two parts for it has been torn in half and he can read it only by a process of heavy concentration.
HENRY: Let’s begin.
They move the table so that Cassius is sitting behind it in a judicial attitude.
HENRY: (feeling his pockets) Shucks, I forgot my part.
BILL: You ought to know it by this time.
BUGS: I don’t really have to have any part because I only got two lines. One of them is, “Mr. Jenkins says the team’s ready—”
HENRY: Shut up. Bugs. Come on, let’s get going, Cassius.
He stands tentatively at one corner of the table, dashes to another corner and then goes back to the first corner.
CASSIUS: Well, I’m ready.
HENRY: Well go on then; you got the first line.
CASSIUS: (reading from his notes) “So then, Playfair, you are your own worst enemy.”
HENRY: No, that comes later. It’s the upper half of the sheet.
CASSIUS: Oh yeah, I started to write home on this the other night. (coughs) “So, coach, you think we cannot win without Playfair?”
HENRY: “It all depends on him, Doctor McDougall. He is our best pitcher and speed ball delivery artist and say, brother, is he good at the bat. If we are to beat St. Berries we need his services badly.”
BUGS: Now do I—
BILL: Shut up, Bugs. Go on, Cassius.
CASSIUS: (fumbling with his notes) “So then, Playfair, you are your own—” No, I see what you mean you want to start from the beginning. “So, coach, you think we cannot win without Playfair.” Oh you know all that stuff anyhow.
HENRY: What’s my cue? Oh yes. “Doctor McDougall, I happened to stop by the school post office and while asking for my mail they gave me this for you.”
Cassius goes through business of adjusting glasses and opening a letter. He bends over as if reading the letter.
CASSIUS: (reading) “So, Playfair you are your own worst enemy—” Say, I can’t read without some kind of letter. I keep reading my part all the time.
BILL: Here’s a letter. Pretend that’s it. Say, I’m very glad we can go on without any supervision and do the thing because we feel we ought to. Don’t you feel that way?
He hands a letter to Cassius.
The Old Man, an ex-athlete of sixty or thereabouts, comes in with young Rickey, a bland, suave, blond young man who looks like all the coast guards in the world. Rickey is impatient and full of nervous energy. He makes a sort of energetic spring, signifying nothing, and gooses Bill and Henry toward the door.
The OLD MAN: I think we’re not going to have a rehearsal today, boys, I think we’re going to postpone this rehearsal until a lot later.
BILL: Aren’t we going to rehearse the play today?
RICKEY: Hold your horses. (He turns to the Old Man.) Want to go in my bedroom?
The OLD MAN: No. Now, boys, I’m sorry to have to interrupt your rehearsal. What was that little play you were doing?
HENRY: We just as soon not do it because all of us are drawn for the swimming trials, two of us for the canoe and two—
The OLD MAN: Oh I want you all to do this play later. It’ll bring a lot of credit on the camp and next Monday is parents’ day. Do you all know your parts?
BUGS: (from the doorway) I know my part complete. I was just thinking if I have just my two lines to say, I needn’t come to rehearsal and could go to first swimming instead.
The OLD MAN: Now we have to have all four boys here because it’s supposed to be a play for four boys. You’ll just have to learn to be patient, Trevellion. Now you can go to swimming and I want Bill to wait just outside the door.
The boys go out and the two men are now alone in the room.
The OLD MAN: I suppose you think you are indispensable to us, don’t you?
RICKEY: Well, Doc, I got marks all over my face from playing heads up football and I’ll play anywhere, in the line or out of it. My father he’s got sense and I go back and sleep in the same bed with him in the fall and he says some of these men go in there and get two thousand, five thousand, ten thousand, and I go up to the State with you and what do I get?
The OLD MAN: You get your board and tuition.
RICKEY: Yes, but what I mean to say is what do you get? You taught me a lot, I know that, but I could throw a pass like a baseball forty-five yards before I ever saw you. Gimme a ball now and I’ll show you.
The OLD MAN: (patiently) When I go up to college this fall it’s understood that you go with me. I thought that had all been agreed upon.
RICKEY: Sure I’ll go with you. Eleven other boys that learned the game in normal school. (He spits contemptuously.) I know what everyone got. I know what Lawson’s got, I know what Catheart’s got. They come out clean and take the sorority girls out in the night-time. Sure they do. They go in with one shoulder out and the eyes closed. Needn’t tell me how you played football at Michigan—do you think I like going around with my nose broken Sunday, Monday and Tuesday?
The OLD MAN: Shut up now, shut up now.
RICKEY: Oh shut up and have all these kids admire me.
The OLD MAN: I know football is different than it was in my day. 1 didn’t know what fear was.
RICKEY: I don’t know what fear is. I know where a play’s going. My business is to bump into a play so where I go there isn’t going to be any more play.
The OLD MAN: That’s why you’re a great football player. I thought we’d agreed on everything.
RICKEY: Agreed, hell.
The OLD MAN: Don’t talk so loud. You know what I wanted to ask you. Stay away from my wife; she’s only a baby and don’t know what she’s doing.
RICKEY: Then why did you marry her? Go on, anything you say, I’m willing to leave. I can go up to Temple maybe.
The OLD MAN: (earnestly) Well, let’s give these kids some example of decency. (at the door) Hi, boys, we’re going on with the play. Start right in where you left off.
The boys come in.
CASSIUS: I can still use your letter, can’t I, Bill?
CASSIUS: Well let’s go on.
The boys go directly to work. The Old Man nods at Rickey—a gesture that Rickey returns with a somewhat insolent wink. They go out.
CASSIUS: “Dear Dr. McDougall, we have heard that your star athlete, Dick Playfair, was a star in professional baseball this summer and therefore cannot compete against our team in the game this afternoon. Sincerely yours, Hiram Jones, President, St. Berries College.”
HENRY: (in a great flurry of acting.) “What horrible news, Doctor! This means we haven’t a chance. We might as well give them the ball game now. But what proof have they?”
CASSIUS: “He gives plenty of proof here.” (He fumbles for a moment) “Playfair, you are your own worst enemy—” Now wait a minute it goes over to the other side. “He has positive proof.”
HENRY: “I would not care so much for the loss of eleven men but this man. When he begged me to send him into the game it would become different. Playfair would take the pigskin and before anyone had known it would run the full length of the field. I have coached many teams in my time—”
CASSIUS: “Go away; leave me to my thoughts. Send Playfair to me.” Now this is the place I was supposed to walk up and down. “The integrity of my school means more to me than the athletic success of my teams upon the playing field.” (He studies his manuscript.) “Now, stay a moment.” You know you’re supposed to stick around now.
HENRY: I know perfectly well what I’m supposed to do. You’re supposed to walk up and down. Why don’t you walk up and down?
CASSIUS: How about giving me a chance? Anyway it says Bugs here.
BUGS: (turning from the blackboard) I haven’t got anything to do till Jenkins goes out.
CASSIUS: Well, anyway it says something that looks like Bugs. (resuming his perusal of the manuscript) “Well let us go on with what material we have and atone by sheer something for anything we may have lost or something.” (He sighs and puts down paper.) “I am afraid we must lose a game for once.”
The Old Man puts his head in at the doorway.
The OLD MAN: All right, boys—I’m glad you are going ahead on your own. I want to get the canoes off and I’ll be with you in no time.
The head disappears.
HENRY: Gosh, let’s quit this. Let’s wait till Cassius learns his part.
BUGS: Why not go on till we get to my line.
BILL: Give me back that letter from my father. I haven’t really read it and you’re getting it all mixed up with your part.
CASSIUS: (handing over the letter and at the same time bringing out the clipping) I thought you might want to see this, Bill. It’s got a lot about your father. (He reads:) “Mr. Watchman seemed depressed during the trial even though it was increasingly apparent that he would be acquitted. He was like a man who had lost all interest.”
Bugs at the blackboard has just written the first two syllables of Wedoodle. Bill, looks once more at the letter, evidently confused.
BILL: I guess my father’s going away—for a long trip, maybe to Europe probably. Gee, this is the nutsiest letter.
HENRY: Well, what’ll we do, rehearse some more?
BILL: (absently) Sure, we might as well. (He walks to the side of the stage, the letter still in his hand, reading half aloud.) “Good bye and good bye and good bye. Some day when you are grown you will forgive all this.”
CASSIUS: What are you talking to yourself about?
BILL: Nothing. (He tucks the letter into his pocket and says:) Well come on, let’s rehearse.
Cassius resumes his place at the table.
CASSIUS: I’m willing.
HENRY: “Well, the game must go on. I will tell the boys to get their bats and balls ready.”
CASSIUS: “Do, and send young Playfair to me. He and I must have a word or two about this.”
Henry walks from the scene, replaced immediately by Bugs, all eager and ready to go.
BUGS: “Mr. Jenkins says the team’s ready to go to bat down there, Doctor.”
CASSIUS: (confused) I haven’t got that or I haven’t got any answer—
BILL: Oh yes, that’s me. (He draws himself up.) I come in now. “Good morning, Dr. McDougall.”
CASSIUS: “Sit down, sir. I hear bad news of you.”
BILL: “I was afraid so, Doctor.”
CASSIUS: “Why did you do this, playing professional ball when you were still a student at Crescent Range? Was it for sordid money?”
BILL: (shaking his head) “No, sir. I’d rather lose my arm than play for money—but I can’t tell.”
CASSIUS: (standing up quickly) “Then I think you had better leave the school.” (The other characters move out of the room with an expression of alarm, then come back when they realize that this is part of the play.) “You are no longer a fit companion for my other pupils. Contamination once abroad smells like a verminal plague.” (He eyes his manuscript.) Say that can’t be right. “Contamination once abroad spreads like a veritable plague. Do you think you can have your baggage ready for the school bus this afternoon to take you into Troy?”
BILL: “Yes, sir.”
BUGS: That’s near Wedoodle.
CASSIUS: There isn’t a single line in my whole part that has anything about Wedoodle in it.
BUGS: I just thought so because the town my sister’s camp’s in is somewhere near Troy.
BILL: Since our parents have spent money to send us here I think we should take advantage of every single advantage that we have while we are here. Now this is a play that’s supposed to teach us how to be fine actors in the future or if we don’t want to be fine actors—well to be fine actors in any case.
HENRY: Shall we go on?
CASSIUS: “You have been a good student here, Playfair, and I regret to take this step. The other boys looked up at you.”
HENRY: Like we look up at Mr. Rickey.
CASSIUS: (studying the manuscript) It doesn’t say anything about Mr. Rickey here.
HENRY: You’re as crazy as Bugs.
CASSIUS: Aw go jump in the lake.
HENRY: Just what I’d like to do.
BILL: No, fellows we got to stay here till the Old Man comes back.
CASSIUS: Well I can’t walk up and down when I have this paper in my hand can I? (Nevertheless he rises and walks up and down.) All I can remember is a line I read in Bill’s letter, “Good bye and good bye and good bye.” But I couldn’t put that in the play, could I?
BILL: The next line is something about “Playfair, you are your own worst enemy.”
CASSIUS: “Playfair, you are your own worst enemy.” (He sighs a great breath of relief.)
BILL: “Doctor McDougall, you don’t understand it all.”
BUGS: Now wait a minute. Here’s where I come in. (Bugs makes a quick circle of the mom and intrudes upon the scene.) “Mr. Cassius says the team’s ready—” I mean, “Mr. Jenkins says the team’s ready to go to bat down there, Dr. McDougall.”
BILL: “All right, I will tell you, I must tell you. There was a mountain settlement near my residence and they were trying to raise money for a schoolhouse. They needed a fast shortstop. I wanted to play for Crescent Range but I yielded because I wanted the school children to learn to read and write. I guess I was guilty.”
BUGS: You’re supposed to get up here now, Cassius.
CASSIUS: Don’t tell me now. I know all this part of my part. “Well, well, we must reconsider. Well, well, we must reconsider.”
BUGS: I never knew what I was supposed to do here, just stand or get out.
HENRY: Write on the blackboard.
CASSIUS: “Well, well, we must reconsider. Well, well, we must reconsider.” I tell you it’s the walking up and down that tells on you. Oh yes, I’ve got it. “Playfair, you are your own worst enemy—Playfair, we must reconsider.”
Bugs at the board has begun to write Wedoodle. The Old Man comes in.
The OLD MAN: Boys, we’re not going to have any more rehearsal this morning. Go along. I want to see Bill Watchman alone for a minute.
BILL: We did pretty well, almost up to the end.
Bugs makes a last dash at his blackboard and joins the others on the way out.
The OLD MAN: Bill, I have a telegram here that will make a great difference in your life and I want you to be a brave boy when you hear the news in it.
BILL: Is it about my father saying good bye? I had a letter and he said “Good bye, good bye, good bye.”
The OLD MAN: Yes, he said good bye because he’s gone away on a long long journey. Bill, you are old enough for me to tell you things that other people might tell you later in a cruder form. Your father is dead.
BILL: I knew my father was dead.
The OLD MAN: How did you know, Bill?
BILL: I just knew he was dead. I never ought to of left home this summer.
The OLD MAN: Bill, your father took his own life.
BILL: I don’t understand what you mean took his own life.
The OLD MAN: He killed himself.
BILL: Do I have to go home now, or, I mean wherever I’m going?
The OLD MAN: I don’t know yet. Of course you’ll stay here ’till we see what arrangements are going to be made.
BILL: I don’t want to go home. I want to stay here forever. I think Mr. Rickey is the most wonderful man in the world. I’d like to be able to dive like him. I know I can never be as great as to be able to do a two and a half or even a one and a half like Mr. Rickey. And I want to be like you too. If I could ever be like Mr. Rickey just once.
The OLD MAN: Mr. Rickey is a very fine athlete.
BILL: It’s like in the play. Sir, can’t we just go on with it?
The OLD MAN: You mean now?
BILL: (passionately) Yes, now. I don’t want to think about my father. Can’t we just rehearse now as if nothing had happened and not tell anybody what happened? I won’t cry. I knew my father was dead last night.
The OLD MAN: (thoughtfully) Well of course if you think you want to do that—(He goes to the door and calls.) Hey, you down there, send those boys back for the festival play, Henry and Bugs and Cassius. (He goes and puts his arm around Bill’s shoulder.) You like it here, don’t you, Bill? And we have been glad having you these four summers. Sometimes you’ve been your own worst enemy.
BILL: You won’t tell any of the rest of them will you?
The OLD MAN: They’ll realize how you feel. No one will say anything to you.
Henry, Cassius and Bugs come in.
The OLD MAN: We’ve decided to go on with the rehearsal. Now let’s start from the beginning. All ready?
Cassius takes his place behind the desk.
CASSIUS: “So, coach, you think we cannot win without Playfair?”
HENRY: “It all depends on him, Dr. McDougall. He is our best pitcher and speed ball delivery artist and say, brother, is he good at the bat. If we are to beat St. Berries we need his services badly.”
They all look toward him guestioningly.
HENRY: What’s that?
BUGS: Well, that’s the other line I’ve got that I’m supposed to yell from the window when Playfair makes a triple play.
The OLD MAN: He hasn’t made it yet.
BUGS: But I don’t know where he’s supposed to make it so I thought I’d just say it once in a while.
The OLD MAN: No, Trevellion, that’s not the way we work here. We wait till the man is out before we think he’s out. Henry, go to the window.
HENRY: Yes, sir.
The OLD MAN: Is Mr. Rickey out in the canoes?
HENRY: Yes, sir, I’m almost sure it’s Mr. Rickey.
The OLD MAN: (sighs) All right. Now let’s go on with the play. Now, Cassius, I don’t think you’re getting the full effect with the part. Let’s begin from the beginning.
CASSIUS: All right, sir. “So, Playfair, you are your own worst enemy.”
Bugs has gone to the board and in very small letters is tentatively sketching in Wedoodle. Bill has gone to the side of the stage and straddled a chair leaning his head forward on his arms, his shoulders shaking a little.
The OLD MAN: No, Now it ought to be more like this.
He pushes Cassius out of the way and sits down at the table as the curtain falls.
Published in Esquire magazine (November 1936).
Illustrations by unknown Esquire artist.