The Agony & Ecstasy of Bob & Nancy Follett

This was a commissioned ‘theatrical roast’ for the Lake Dillon Theatre Company in 2012.

BOB & NANCY SCENE I

They are sitting in chairs, Nancy reading a newspaper, Bob reading a textbook.

NANCY
Bob, have you heard about these e-books?

BOB E-books? What the heck are those?

NANCY
Well, I suppose they’re digital files of books that you read

on a computer or some kind of electronic device.

BOB
Poppycock! Rubbish! Hogwash! Nothing will ever replace the

book.

(He sniffs his book)
Ah, smell that! The lovely aroma of a freshly printed

textbook.

(looks at cover and reads title – some boring textbook)

”Title,“ wonderful, wonderful!

NANCY
You’re reading a (calculus) textbook?

BOB
Well sure! The equations aren’t really my thing, but just

look at the resolution on these footnotes! It’s marvelous!

NANCY
It might be even better on an e-book. Perhaps even

interactive. Some day, I’ll bet all children, all students, will have access to all your textbooks on an e-reader. Just think of the convenience, the money they’d save.

BOB
(Who’s drinking some water,

does a spit-take)
Stow that kind of talk my dear Nancy! We’d be in the poor

house! And besides, people like books. The feel! The sound of the pages turning … that smell! E-books? Hmmphhh! Never happen!

A stagehand walks by with a sign reading ”10 Years Later.” Bob and Nancy are still sitting and reading, but now Nancy has an IPad.

NANCY
Oooh! Look at this: I can touch this word and it gives me the

definition right there! Amazing!

BOB
Frickin-frackin’ lousy no-good e-Books. Mark my words,

suddenly everyone’s going to devalue words and they’ll expect a hundred-dollar physics textbook downloaded on there (he can barely say it) iPad for $1.99.

NANCY
Well, you must admit, a hundred dollars is a bit much for a

textbook, or any book for that matter.

BOB
All I can say is I’m glad I’m retired. The bottom’s going to

fall out of this whole industry.

NANCY
But you always say ‘look for the opportunity.’ Don’t you

think there’s a remarkable opportunity here to get books to the world?

BOB
What? We already get books to the world. Follett Publishing

operates bookstores at over 800 college campuses. We sell lots of used textbooks, plenty of bargains to be had!

NANCY
Yes, but imagine, every student around the world with one of

these marvelous iPad devices! They could download your books, whenever they need them. It’d be the greatest educational equalizer since the Gutenberg press! And what you lose in high print textbook costs you’d more than make up for with volume.

BOB
Oh, there’s always money for textbooks. People have been

sucking it up for years. Like this spelling primer, we’ve sold a million of ’em!

NANCY Not for everyone. Look:

(Andy, dressed as Dickensian street urchin, enters)

ANDY
Please govenuh, can I have a spelling primer so I can learn

me words and get on in the world?

BOB
Sure kid. It’s $23. Cough it up.

2.

ANDY
Please govenuh, that’s more’n my daddy made all last year.

BOB
Well that’s not my fault and … where the hell did this kid

come from anyway? This is our living room in Keystone! Get outta here.

(Andy exits, sadly shuffling. Nancy gives him a look)

BOB
This is ridiculous. You’re not guilting me into this crazy

scheme. And besides, even if we gave the books away for free for that confounded device, you still need the device. And last I checked, Apple wasn’t really in discount mode.

Oh, Bob …

NANCY

BOB
And furthermore, I’m retired! I’m going skiing. And then,

then I’m going to Antarctica to get away from this whole crazy iPad thing.

(He gets up to leave)

NANCY
Oh, on your way back please pop by Fiji. There are some

children there I’m in touch with who’d dearly love some digital reading material.

(with an exasperated groan, Bob exits; Andy enters from the other side)

ANDY
Mind if I pop a squat here m’lady? It’s awful cold outside.

NANCY
OK young urchin. But be still won’t you. I guess I’ll just do

what I always do: Work the phones and see what turns up. (dials)

Oh, hello Apple Computer. This is Nancy Follett here in Keystone, Colorado. Is that nice young man Steve Jobs about? I met him at his mother’s house once some time ago and he said if I ever needed any help to just … oh, oh I see. Oh that’s terrible. No, no I suppose I haven’t been reading the news lately. Mostly I read textbooks. Long story. Well

perhaps getting device.

there’s someone else there I can talk to about some sizable discounts for students on your iPad

(she holds the phone away from her ear against the loud laughter)

Then I suppose free is out of the question.

3.

Oh well, thank you.
(she hangs up)

How rude! Well, that’s a pity. I’m sure Clara Jobs would have wanted him to help me. Hmmm …

(dials another number)
Yes, hello Amazon. This is Nancy Follett in Keystone,

Colorado and I’d like to speak to that nice young man Jeffrey Bezos. I met his mother Jacklyn once and she told me if I ever needed anything from her or little Jeffrey I should just dial him up and … oh, it’s you Jeffrey! How marvelous. Well, what I’m looking for is a rather sizable discount to get e-textbooks to the children of the world. Free would actually be better, and I’m pretty sure I can get Bob to go along with selling the textbooks at a very attractive price as well.

Oh, oh I Oh dear, Jeffrey?

(she listens)
see. They don’t all work on the kindle. Too small? it’s not quite the ideal platform then, is it Jeffrey? Oh dear, we must have gotten cut off.

ANDY
‘E might’ve been offended, m’lady. What you really need is

that Steve Jobs fellow …

NANCY
Well you heard the news, urchin. He’s dead. Not much use to

us at all, is he?

ANDY
Where I come from, there’s always a work-around to that.

NANCY
A work-around? Where you come from? For death?

ANDY
Sure! Wot you need do is summon ‘is ghost! Like you say ‘Oooh

Steve Jobs we beseech you … return from the grave, govenuh, and … well look, there’s the spirit now!

(The ghost of Steve Jobs is in the house, black turtleneck and all)

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS Who dares summon me from my eternal rest?

NANCY
It’s me, Steve, Nancy Follett. I met you once at your

mother’s house, god rest her soul.

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS Oh, right. Hi Nancy. What can I do for you.

4.

NANCY
Well, I’m looking to help spread textbooks around the world

to all the students who need them. We’ve got the textbooks, as you know, and you’ve got the iPad and I was just thinking that perhaps you could help with a, a, um …

A what?

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS

ANDY
She wants a discount on the iPad, she does

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS Ha! Even if I was still alive I’d never do

And who’s this kid?

NANCY
Some sort of Dickensian extra who wandered

thought with a market cap of $500 billion, to spare it.

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS You’re killing me Nancy. Let me tell you a

govenuh.
that. Are you mad?

in. Well I just you might be able

sung to the tune of ‘every sperm is sacred’ by Monty Python)

When I was a young man, my father said to me
Steve, if you give stuff away, your soul will never be free And as I built up Apple, even in those dark days of Newton I vowed never to cut prices, even if it meant sleeping on a futon
So you see Nancy Follett, your Pollyanna idea
Will fail if you try to give my work away for free
For even though I’m dead and gone, I’m still betting on iPad 3
(To aud): What can I say? I just love seeing those options appreciate!
What I’m trying to say, Nancy, is this:

We will never discount an iPad We’ll never discount any Mac! If we sell under list price I’ll have a heart attack

We’ll flog those Chinese workers Work their fingers to the bone Just so we can achieve the goal Of an iPad in every home!

(Steve)
So you see my dear Nancy, it’s very simple math 500 bucks a pop for your school kids in Fiji

little story: (He breaks into song: This is

5.

But please to raise $800 for each, cuz then the kiddies get 3G

(repeat chorus)
Finally Nancy I’ll say this:
You want to sell your textbooks
We want to sell our device
When it comes to the next books
You’ve got to name your price
As we learned from Napster/you can’t just give it away For if you do my dear you’ll learn to rue the day Business is business/and everyone must pay
(repeat chorus)

NANCY
Well, OK then I guess you’ve made your point. Even so I may

try to get a hold of that nice young man Timmy Cook. I once played bridge with his mother.

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS Ha! Good luck. I’m outta here.

(Gestures to Andy)
Come with me kid, this is a lost cause here.

(Andy emphatically shakes his head no and runs offstage in the other direction)

NANCY Oh dear, what do I do now?

(to audience)
I actually didn’t play bridge with Tim Cook’s mother. I don’t even play bridge.

(Bob enters carrying a stuffed penguin and wearing a parka)

BOB Well I’m back from Antarctica!

NANCY What? But you just left!

BOB
Well yeah, like three weeks ago. What were you, in some kind

of Twilight Zone?
You could say that.
Did you solve your iPad problem?

NANCY BOB

6.

NANCY
Oh Bob, I don’t know that I’m any closer to realizing this

dream of digital readers for all. Maybe you were right: We should just stick to old-fashioned books.

BOB
It’s a great technology, there’s no doubt. No batteries

required, easy to carry, never loses its signal. Plus those old physics textbooks make great door stops. Why, I knew a guy back in Chicago who used to pile out-of-date geometry textbooks in the back of his pickup to give him better traction in the wintertime. Now try that with an iPad!

NANCY (musing)

I wonder if we could somehow get Medicare to pay for them — like they do for those little electric carts for fat people you see advertised on TV.

That’s ridiculous. What about Medicaid?

BOB NANCY BOB

Look, Nancy, I know you mean well but this isn’t our fight. Leave it to the next generation to figure out all this digital publishing nonsense.

NANCY
Maybe you’re right. Maybe … No! I don’t buy that! We just

can’t quit.

BOB
What?! Well what are you going to do then?

NANCY
We need Steve Jobs back in here.

BOB Steve Jobs? What the …?

NANCY (calling offstage)

Oh street urchin! Little Dickensian boy, I need you! (Andy reappears)

ANDY

Yes m’lady?
Who the hell is this kid and why is he back in our house?!

BOB

7.

NANCY
Don’t ask. Now urchin, what was it you did to summon the

ghost of Steve Jobs before.

ANDY (sensing opportunity)

Hmmm … lessee … not quite sure I remember exactly. Hmmm …

Oh alright.

NANCY
(She gives him a dollar)

ANDY
Wot’s this then? One quid? For summoning the most revered

business leader in the last century back from the grave? NANCY

Oh, here then. Now do your thing.

(gives him more money)

ANDY
Awright, lessee, goes like this: ‘Oooh Steve Jobs we beseech

you … return from the grave, govenuh’ (Steve Jobs reappears)

BOB
Wow, that was surprisingly easy!

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS
Who dares summon me from my eternal … Oh! It’s you two.

Tell me this isn’t about iPad discounts again. I think I made it pretty clear before, remember we did a musical number and everything?

NANCY
Oh I know Mr. Jobs, but we still really think you should

change your mind. We’ll give you whatever you want … within reason.

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS
Whatever I want? I don’t need anything. I float around in the

afterlife, thinking about all the gadgets and gizmos I didn’t get to invent. It sucks! I even think about all the lovely packaging they’d have, and the hipster commercials. Anyway, there’s nothing you or anyone else on this planet has that I need.

NANCY
We could get your face on Mt. Rushmore.

BOB

No we couldn’t!

8.

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS No thanks, that’s pretty analog for me.

NANCY We could, um, kill Bill Gates.

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS
What? Billy’s not a threat to us anymore. Plus he’s done some

very good things for children’s health and education around the world.

He’s right, Nancy.

BOB

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS
Plus I don’t want that nerd floating around in my space any

sooner than is absolutely necessary. What else you got?

BOB
I thought you said there couldn’t possibly be anything you’d

need?

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS
True, but I like being wooed and tempted as much as the next

guy. Plus I’m bored to death out there. Get it? Bored to death!

Hilarious.

BOB

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS
Yeah I just float around thinking of stuff. Then I’ll hover

around Cupertino and see what they’re up to. Sometimes I’ll go back in time and watch the whole thing take off. See myself with a full head of hair. Glorious.

BOB
Wait … you can travel back in time?

Of course. I’m a ghost.

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS

BOB
Well listen, can you go back to 1984 and buy us a bunch of

Apple stock. What was it going for back then? GHOST OF STEVE JOBS

25 bucks. And today?

BOB

9.

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS (holds finger to temple)

$617.75 it closed at yesterday.

BOB Holy crap. Well here …

(he starts writing a check)

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS
Now wait a minute. Why would I do that for you?

NANCY
Because if you don’t, we’re going to summon you here every

day for the rest of eternity to pester you.

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS No you’re not. Good-bye!

(he exits spectrally)

NANCY Ok urchin, do your thing!

ANDY Now wot thing would that be?

BOB
Summon the ghost of Steve Jobs! Weren’t you listening? Kids

today!

ANDY
S’pose I wasn’t. No idea what you’re talking about.

NANCY
Oh Bob, he wants more money of course. Now here’s a bright

shiny quarter …
(she rummages in her purse)

ANDY
(pointing at checkbook)

No, not that rubbish. That kind of money. BOB

What?

ANDY
The money you write on paper. It’s always bigger, ain’t it?

BOB

Very well, urchin.
(starts writing a check)

But I don’t know your name.

ANDY
Just put ‘Poor downtrodden child of the universe.’

10.

Right. Here you go.

BOB

ANDY (pocketing check)

Thank you govenuh. OK here goes: ‘Oooh Steve Jobs we beseech you … return from the grave, govenuh!’

(Steve Jobs reappears)

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS
Who dares summon … Oh, it’s you three. Good bye.

(he leaves)

ANDY
‘Oooh Steve Jobs we beseech you … return from the grave,

govenuh!’

(Jobs returns)

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS
Damn it! Why does this kid have that power over me?

(Bob & Nancy shrug)

ANDY
Because I represent all the Chinese children working their

fingers to the bone making Apple products. I command more guilt than a thousand Jewish mothers.

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS
OK, so why the cockney accent? Which needs work, by the way.

ANDY
It just sounds more pathetic. Plus, none of us speak

Mandarin.

BOB
So if you want to spend more time eavesdropping in Cupertino

and less time in Keystone Colorado, you know what to do. (he hands Jobs a check)

Oh, all right!

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS

(he exits, Bob, Nancy and Andy stand in awkward silence for a moment)

ANDY May I have something to eat?

No!

BOB & NANCY

ANDY
Alright alright! Sheesh. After all I done for ya.

(more awkward silence)

11.

BOB
OK, that should have been enough time. Call him!

NANCY
What? He had to buy a few hundred thousand shares of stock!

BOB
Yeah but he’s got a, a time machine. Shouldn’t have taken

more than a second.
(to Andy)

Call him. And no, you’re not getting another check. ANDY

I dunno …

BOB
I’ll call your parents and have you back on that Foxconn

assembly line in Sichuan Province so fast it’ll make your little fake accent spin.

ANDY
Awright awright. ‘Oooh Steve Jobs we beseech you … return

from the grave, govenuh!’ (Jobs reappears)

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS
Ha! Sorry, just checking. Boy, that really works. It’s kinda

scary. I really thought I’d have a lot of autonomy in the afterlife.

Did you do it?

BOB

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS (hands Bob a sheaf of paper

shares)
You’re all set. Sell those shares and you should have enough

cash to buy every little urchin from here to Timbuktu. (to Andy)

But now you must release me.

BOB
I don’t know urchin. He could be pretty handy to have around.

GHOST OF STEVE JOBS
Release me! Or I’ll go back in time and make sure your

grandfather never gets on that train to Chicago. No Follett Publishing, no retirement home in Keystone!

BOB Alright, alright! Do it kid.

12.

ANDY
Um, we hold your obligation fulfilled.

(Jobs sorta floats away) NANCY

Well, there’s that.

BOB
What a weird day. I’m going skiing.

(he exits)

NANCY
Well urchin, your work here is done. Uh, back from whence you

came!

ANDY
Fine, but can you cash this check for me first?

Be gone!

NANCY

ANDY (exiting)

Alright, alright! Sheesh!

NANCY
Well, now all that’s left is the shipping. Now what’s the

name of that nice young man who runs UPS? I think I sat on a foundation board with his mother once …

CURTAIN

(she starts to dial the phone as …)

FADE TO BLACK.

13.

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