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Doctor Wren who says 'dude' a lot

A Play in One Act


HARRY and BLIND FATHER TOM walk slowly amongst crepe myrtle trees. HARRY’s house is in the background. BLIND FATHER TOM wears sunglasses and carries a white stick, indicating blindness.

HARRY:                    (continuing a conversation we can presume is ongoing) …and I got nothing out of Flaubert’s ‘Anthony’-

FATHER TOM:         Nothing at all?

HARRY:                    Not a thing. Nothing stuck. I’m not saying it’s Flaubert’s fault, but-

FATHER TOM:         Now, Athanasius’ ‘Anthony’. That one would be-

HARRY:                    I have that! Inside the house… (motions towards his house)

FATHER TOM:         I’ve searched and searched because I’ve heard such good things-

HARRY:                    It’s a very old hardback. I don’t remember where I found-

FATHER TOM:         They don’t make it in Braille or books on tape, last time I checked, so-

HARRY:                    I’ve got a digital recorder, I could record um, it’s a short book, and-

FATHER TOM:          If you could do that for me, Harry, I’d be forever gratef-

WREN appears, running from HARRY’s front door. She is heard before she is seen.

WREN:                      (waves her arms around) Dude! You got a little tuxedo cat!

HARRY:                    (looks back and forth from WREN to his front door. His face shows confusion.) Me? No, I don’t think so…

WREN:                      Yeah! He’s just sitting in there, chilling! He’s got a little tiny head…

HARRY:                     (looks back and forth between WREN and the door) He must have snuck in when you snuck in…

WREN:                      (thinks about this for a moment) Nooooo… he’s yours. He-

A bird swoops down at BLIND FATHER TOM, who sidesteps it with ease, avoiding the collision.

WREN:                      Dude, I thought you were blind!

HARRY:                     (staring at BLIND FATHER TOM) He is. Not even shadows. Um, WREN, TOM. TOM, WREN.

FATHER TOM:         Charmed. What did I do?

HARRY:                    A bird dive-bombed you and you jumped out of the way of it.

FATHER TOM:         Oh… Yes. Yes, that happens sometimes.

WREN runs back into HARRY’s house. HARRY watches her go.

HARRY:                    But how?

FATHER TOM:         I don’t know. It’s completely involuntary. Instinct. It’s like those times when you hear a loud crack of thunder and-

WREN runs back out of HARRY’s house and throws a basketball at BLIND FATHER TOM’s head. BLIND FATHER TOM bats it away before impact.

WREN:                      Dude!

HARRY:                     Are you Daredevil or are you faking?

FATHER TOM:          No, it’s one of the things that led me to the priesthood, really. When I was young, it became part of my notion of this mover behind the universe…

WREN waves her hands before FATHER TOM’S EYES. She gets no reaction.

HARRY:                     Are your other senses super-senses because you’re blind? I mean, do you hear it? Smell it?

WREN:                       Do you want to know how he does it?

FATHER TOM:          (ignores WREN) No, I don’t believe that’s it at all. To be honest, I believe the way the world fits together involves more than just our five senses. I’m not saying God tells me, no, nothing like that-

WREN:                       I know what it is!

HARRY:                     (ignores WREN) Like the holographic universe theory? Space is an projection and there are connections that-

WREN:                       Hey! Hey! I know how he does it.

HARRY:                     (stops at last to look at WREN) Wren is a first year medical student.

FATHER TOM:           Ah, yes. Of course. Doctor Wren-who-says-‘dude’-a-lot.

HARRY:                     Okay, Father Tom-who-tells-people-he-can’t-see!

WREN:                       (reaches up, waves her hands around BLIND FATHER TOM’s head) So you know how you have these optic nerves, right? And they go on back into your brain. Basically to the part we think with. So you see, um, your Aunt Martha and your brain says, “Dude! That’s my Aunt Martha. She’s a little ugly and wrinkly and all, but I like her and I trust her because she treated me well when I was a kid…”

HARRY:                     Uh-huh.

FATHER TOM:          Aunt Martha. Got it…

WREN:                      But you got this other path, too. This older path. From back before we grew a smart brain that could think about Aunt Martha. And these nerves go through your brain stem and don’t take the time you need to name or to feel anything. They just need to react to, like, tigers jumping out at you from the primordial forest or spears and shit. They say “Get out of the way!” before the other part of your brain even knows what you’re getting out of the way of…

WREN retrieves the basketball and dribbles it.

WREN:                       Dude, something is wrong where the optic nerves go to the smart part but you still have this other part okay. Probably. You can see the ball even though you can’t see the ball.

HARRY:                     But God designed the nerves, though, right?

FATHER TOM:           And the tiger, too, you jackass.

HARRY:                     So now that you know the Mad Conductor isn’t sending you out warnings from beyond about, I don’t know, pianos falling on your head, is this lifestyle you’ve picked-

FATHER TOM:           Oh, please. Now wait… That’s hardly fair! I never said-

WREN:                       Harry, if that isn’t your cat in there, did he bring that litter box with him when he came?

HARRY:                     (to WREN) And where in the blazes did you find a basketball in my house, anyway?

HARRY, BLIND FATHER TOM, and WREN wander off stage left, arguing.

Curtain.

Comments

  1. Dude!!!! You got a tuxedo cat? I love those little guys. It's lovely to have people to argue wih isn't it? Even if they are only in your head.

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    1. He's been life-changing so far, and he hasn't even called me downstairs to tell me that the moving truck is on the way and he's leaving, which makes him the best roommate I've ever had.

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  2. Father Tom reminds me of Daredevil, definitely!

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    1. I have yet to see him fight, though. Hell, I haven't even had the nerve to throw a basketball at his head. So I don't know.

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  3. Well, blindsight is an actual thing, so who's to say, really?
    All I know is that when I went blind from cataracts, it was a huge pain in the ass, and I seriously adore the modern medicine that gave me 20/25 in my right and 20/40 in my left. I don't even have to wear glasses any more, except to read.

    As for "dude", back in the eighties, when my friend Jack moved from Eureka to our other bedroom, surfer speech was all the rage, and sentences were peppered with "whoa" "dude" and "man" a lot.
    In the name of humor and efficiency, Jack compressed them to "whoa, dudeman" (plural "dudesmen", female variant "dudegirl") and in the spirit of inclusiveness, melded the darker usage of "hambone" in to arrive at "dudebone", which I found a little difficult to explain the usage of to the uninitiated...

    I was saddened to learn that your neighbor Daniel Quinn died in February.

    -Doug in Oakland

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    1. Hi, Doug. I looked it up, and sure sure enough, she's probably right. I read this study where they even asked people who reported they were totally blind to "guess" as to whether a yardstick was being held vertically or horizontally, and some got every guess right, meaning their brains were processing something.

      I hadn't heard Quinn died. I used to look him up every few months, but it must have been before February last time. Others I check on: spoken word artist Ken Nordine (98), environmental scientist James Lovelock (98), and ambient composer Harold Budd (82). They're all older folks whose passings might not be mentioned in the media.

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    2. My sister bought me one of James Lovelock's books when I was in acute rehab from my stroke, along with two other books, one of which I can't remember and the other Fritjof Capra's "The Web of Life". It turned out to be a good thing to read about the interconnectedness of everything when trying to put one's brain back together...

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    3. Haven't read Capra, but looking through his stuff, it looks like it would be up my alley.

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  4. I keep hearing vague science reports that lens have been developed that can restore human eyesight, even for those who are legally blind. I hope they're real, although I have my doubts. I have an issue with the lens in my right eye that ultimately requires a transplant.

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    1. As with the cure for baldness and Alzheimer's, I have this terrible feeling that the cure for blindness is going to be found six months after it would do me any good.

      Which would still be great. I mean, it would be wonderful if others didn't have to live with those things.

      But still...

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  5. Who's zoomin' who, dude? Father Tom, Wren, you or that little tuxedo cat?

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    1. Reading back over this, all of us except for the cat seem awful.

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  6. Huh, is that actually real? About how blindness doesn't necessarily mean you can't see at all? That seems pretty reasonable actually, just a brain defect for one kind of vision. So cool!

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    1. Apparently so. There are a lot of pathways that can get messed up to screw with vision. This "blindsight" thing makes me really happy because I love weird brain stuff.

      Phantom limbs? Split brain experiments? All weird and wonderful...

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  7. All that cutting each other off - it's like talking to my Mom.

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    1. Haha... Yeah, and that's how we talk. For whatever reason, we end up not finishing many sentences around each other.

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  8. I loved that, I wish I could write dialogue

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    1. Thanks. I have a tough time working in dialogue, so when I had this much, it's easier just to do it like a play.

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  9. This reminds me of a TED talk I watched recently. Here's the link
    https://youtu.be/BEuNa1Vp_b0
    The speaker explains the neural processes underlying visual perception. Apparently (first I had heard of it) when our eyes are moving we briefly go blind. Every time we change what we are looking at we have a very brief period of blindness. We don't notice it because our brains just fills in what it predicts should be there.

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    1. I'll watch that. I spent a few weeks playing around with blind spots a few years ago, and they function the same way. Can make things disappear on a wall. More amazingly, you can fill in rows of letters with what look almost like hieroglyphics if a blank part of the letter line enters your blind spot.

      Weird stuff.

      If you have any interest in that kind of thing, I can't recommend VS Ramachandran's book, "Phantoms in the Brain" enough. one of the most exciting and memorable non-fiction books I've ever read.

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  10. My biggest fear is going blind. I quite like being called "dude". Doesn't happen much of course I normally get called nothing, as people can't quite work out what I am.

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    1. Lately, I've developed a fear of going deaf. I don't believe I'd like to live a life without sounds.

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  11. Maybe he's seeing with his pineal gland.


    Also known as the third eye.

    Anything is possible.

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    1. Seems useful. I mean, enlightenment would be great, but being able to avoid divebombing birds and basketballs would be great to have as well.

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  12. Now, this needs to go on stage. You know that, right? The expressions on the faces will be glorious.

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    1. My very very short off-off-off-off Broadway plays will be all the rage in the early 22nd century!

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  13. This is excellent Harry! I really enjoyed reading it! I have to admit, that eye photo, kind of freaks me out! LOL! The way you were "cutting off" the conversations with each other, reminded me and my family! LOL! Give your fur baby a hug from me!

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    1. Ha! If you think about it, the ends of sentences aren't really THAT important, are they?

      I've been trying to pay attention to how people I know actually talk and well, this is pretty much it. For better or worse...

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