Valentine's Day Special "How Dudley Took the Plunge" - Credits
Written by David K. Barnes and Directed by Gabriel Urbina.
Script Editing by Sarah Shachat and Gabriel Urbina.
Performance by Leo Wan as Dudley Carmichael.
Original Music by Alan Rodi.
Sound Design by Zach Valenti.
Produced by Sarah Shachat, Zach Valenti, and Gabriel Urbina,
along with Angel Acevedo, Jenn Schneider, and Amy Tanguay.
Valentine's Day Special - "How Dudley Took the Plunge" - Transcript
[Unseen opening credits music plays.]
Announcer: Long Story Short Productions presents... Unseen.
[Unseen Theme continues playing.]
Announcer: Valentine's Day Special. How Dudley Took the Plunge by David K. Barnes.
Dudley: You know, I’ll say this for myself...
[Bright, easy-going piano music begins. In the background, we hear a hint of ocean sounds.]
Dudley: There’s very few of us out there who have made their fortune, lost it, and then won it again.
[A tumbler full of ice shakes and various liquids slosh as Dudley prepares a pair of cocktails.]
Dudley: Very few indeed... and I am one of said few! Now, I know what you’re thinking: how did this handsome harpy with a a spring in his wing and a song in his heart make a bundle, lose it, and then make it again? Well, it may be hard to believe, and yet believe is the very thing you must do. How did the elusive Mr. Dudley J. Carmichael - that’s, uh, that’s yours truly, by the by - pull off such a feat? Well, I’ll - Ah, say when.
[Liquid pours into a pair of glasses.]
Dudley: Well, I’m going to tell you it can be done. And even better, I’m going to tell you how I did it. Never mind what anyone else says, I’m... Hmm. Did I mix this properly?
Dudley: Oh well, we’ll soon know.
[He finishes pouring the drinks.]
Dudley: Strawberry, syrup, just a squidgen of rum - but not too much. I call it a Parson’s Alibi: very weak. Ha. No little umbrellas I’m afraid, but I suppose one can’t have it all in life. Cheers!
Dudley: God, that’s dreadful. Top up?
[He starts preparing another drink.]
Dudley: Anyways: fortunes! Damned slippery things, aren’t they? One moment they’re there, the next they’ve traipsed off to who-knows-where and you’re left wondering how you’re going to charm your way out of the restaurant bill that’s approaching, rather bullet-like. But what’s lost can be recovered! Bring your drink, follow me, and I’ll weave the proceedings into a complete narrative for you.
[Distant, in the background, we hear the toll of a clock tower.]
Dudley: And it’s going to have it all. Machinations, misunderstandings, even the odd bits of derring-do.
[Another toll, a little louder.]
Dudley: Between you and me, the tale’s a corker!
[A third toll, louder still.]
Dudley: ... though sadly, it does take place in England.
[A final toll, now unmistakably the sound of Big Ben specifically.]
[There's a whoosh, and the background sound changes. We're now in a lively, raucous party. A champagne bottle is uncorked with a pop, and poured into a glass. Various other glasses clink together. Lively big band music plays through it all.]
Dudley: So how does a fellow make a fortune in the first place? To be honest, that bit’s dead easy: just get born into a family that happens to be stinking rich. Simple enough, really! No effort required at all. Of course, it’s thought to be a little vulgar nowadays, but back in England everyone’s at it!
[With a deflating sound of tape unspooling, all the sounds of the party come to a halt.]
Dudley: W-Well, not everyone. Probably not many people when you come to think of it.
[Someone coughs awkwardly.]
Dudley: Still - it’s a bloody good wheeze if you’re lucky.
[There's the ker-ching of a cash register, and the party resumes around him.]
Dudley: Which I was, for a while! Dudley Carmichael: the talk of the town! Garden parties and champers and dancing noon till night and back again. Lovely girls, and even lovelier chaps, all bursting with wit and vim. Like yours truly! No one even minded my superannuated lingo - they all insisted it was part of my charm. Oh, it’s just the way I was brought up, you see. It may be the Twenty-First Century for everyone else, but when you come from a harpy clan as old as mine, then one century has a way of feeling - and talking - very much like another.
[The song concludes, and the noises of the party winds down.]
Dudley: It was a year ago next Thursday.
[A car's engine is ignited.]
Dudley: And I was driving towards what promised to be another bacchanalic knees-up. Old Binky Smidgeon had sent me a buzz on one of the party finder apps.
[A beep from an app on his phone.]
Dudley: He said a gang of the chaps were spending a week at Marbury House up in the Cotswolds.
[The sound of the car starting to drive, then fade away.]
Dudley: One of the swankiest countryside hotels known to man, goblin, harpy and all.
[Car door opens, and Dudley steps into the exterior of a lively, opulent hotel.]
Dudley: Offering luxury to pop the monocle of even the most die-hard ascetic. It’s England’s very own Xanadu, if you’ve seen the musical.
[Footsteps as he walks towards the front door.]
Dudley: From there, said Binky, we’d decamp throughout the week after betting on the gee-gees at Cheltenham. Oh, err, that’s the horses to you and me. It had seemed rather early for Cheltenham... but Binky’s always been a man of scrupulous integrity. If you can think of a scruple, he’s got it.
[A sinister drone starts to build under his voice.]
Dudley: But a second glance at the calendar, might have given me pause. My sixth sense may have twigged impending doom. For you see, the week ahead was due to end with the 14th of Feb. Valentine’s Day.
[The drone and the ambiance both fade out. The sound of a bustling hotel lobby fades in. A door opens and Dudley walks in.]
Dudley: I’d rolled into Marbury a few hours before lunch, so I nabbed my room, and went looking for old Smidgeon.
[A cell phone's ringback tone. Nobody picks up.]
Dudley: He said he’d meet me in the lobby, but the fellow was nowhere to be seen, and he wasn’t returning my calls. I was on the verge of miffed with a touch of irk when suddenly -
[A chime from his phone. Dudley unlocks it.]
Dudley: Ah! Smidgeon! “Meet me in the Vera Lynn suite. You know the way.”
[A whoosh, and the scenery changes. We go from a hotel to a quieter hallway. Dudley walks through it.]
Dudley: I did indeed. I found the suite using only my memory and a set of directions from the concierge. I was readying my most dazzling smile for the imminent rendezvous...
[A door opens, and we hear another person walking down the hallway.]
Dudley: ... when who should I see coming toward me from the opposite direction but Sibella Brand! Now, Sibella was - and to her credit, still is - the daughter of the shipping magnate Sir Putney Brand. She’s an absolute knock-out in many respects, but her father had tempestuous mood swings, and for all I knew, so did she. Humans are like that, you know. Very unpredictable.
[Sibella's footsteps stop.]
Dudley: She saw me and smiled a smile that suggested a certain something that should stay a certain secret. Suspicious. “Hey Dudley,” she purred, “It’s nice to see you again.”
Dudley: “Hello old fruit!” I said. “Can’t talk now; the game’s afoot!”
Dudley: But do you know what she did? She came closer, leaned forward...
[A piece of cloth rustles.]
Dudley: ...and tickled my wrist! Bold as you like, a flick of the digit, right along the radiocarpal. “I say,” I said, “What brought that on?” But she just flashed another grin to baffle the brighest of Bletchley Park, and left the premises.
[Sibella walks away.]
Dudley: Odd, I thought. But then, she was a woman, a human, and rich, so who’s to say what odd really means? I shook my head ruefully for my own benefit, pulled upon the doors of the Vera Lynn suite, and walked on in to greet Binky.
[A door opens, and Dudley enters the room beyond.]
Dudley: “Smidgeon you old son of a so-and-so! Bash open a bottle of bubbly and let’s raise a glass or four!” I declared with my trademark chic.
[Dark music starts to fade in.]
Dudley: But a second later, my mouth had gone as dry as a chameleon’s clavicle. Before me sat not Binky Smidgeon, but an aged being of limitless power, of infinite majesty, whose imperium reaches in all directions across this blessed plot of England. It was, in short, my grandmother Winifred.
[The door slams shut behind him.]
Dudley: Granny Winnie I call her, though never to her face. Or behind her back, for that matter. Eyes and ears everywhere, that one, and you didn’t want to get on her bad side. She could stun a dragon at twenty paces with a cock of the eyebrow and a well placed tut. I saw her do it last Christmas.
Dudley: “W-why hello Grandmama!” I stammered smoothly. “Lovely day - isn’t it - are you having?” In return, she peered at me over the top of her spectacles, and scowled in a way that would keep my therapist busy for another twelve years.
Dudley: I recall her pulling the same expression upon our very first meeting, when I was already a fully grown lad at the mature age of six and a quarter. To be fair to the old girl, she’d never asked to be burdened with me, and it was only loyalty to our clan that had stopped her from turning me out and setting the dogs on my tail. We harpies are very big on family ties. Oh, very big indeed. Sadly the ties between me and my parents had been severed somewhat suddenly when they’d been eaten by a leopard. (I won’t go into it now - and I won’t go back to the zoo where it happened.)
Dudley: I’d known from a single nod of resignation that I’d been taken into my grandmother’s charge. To be raised as a member of the Carmichael clan ought to be: at a distance, and at great expense.
Dudley: “Good morning Dudley,” she said, snapping my brain back into the present.
Dudley: “Likewise,” I replied fervently. “Is there anything I might do for you, Grandmama? Only I’ve a chum lurking somewhere and I ought to let him know I’ve been detained.”
Dudley: Granny Winnie sighed. “If you’re referring to Mr Smidgeon, then I do not regret to inform you that he isn’t here and nor will he be.” I soon learnt that Binky had turned Judas, luring me out here on Granny’s behalf with the promise of betting a few quid on the horses! I couldn’t blame him really. A request from Granny was like an order from Attila the Hun: you’d better comply or you’ll find yourself a few limbs short of a full set. Except Attila at least had the good grace to use a sword, whereas my grandmother deploys her team of lawyers.
Dudley: But why had I been so circuitously summoned to the Marbury this week? “Dudley. Let us not mince words,” my grandmother began. “You are and always have been a disappointment to me and the family.”
Dudley: “Fair enough,” I replied.
Dudley: “It is not!” she snapped. “You seem entirely incapable of making something of yourself. And so I’ve decided it’s time for you to marry a woman who can make something of herself instead.” My blood chilled. My wings bristled. So this was it: a marriage plot! Harpy clans are mad about them. It’s all politics of course. The course of true love never gets a look in.
Dudley: I thought it best to play for time and pretend I didn’t know what she was talking about. Which was easy, because I didn’t. “Married, grandmother?” I said.
Dudley: “Yes, Dudley. It hasn’t been easy to locate a willing subject where you’re concerned. But I’m relieved to announce that you will marry Sibella Brand.”
Dudley: Of course! That explained Sibella’s strange behaviour in the corridor outside. My grandmother must have discussed the matter already with her and her father. It was a pity to be the sort of chap who’s the last to know about his own wedding, but evidently that’s the sort of chap I am. I sputtered impotently, and Granny raised her voice. “Dudley, her family is one of the few in this country to rival ours for influence! They may be human,” she said, wincing slightly, “but they see through the Caul, and rather more than you can.”
Dudley: Ouch. It was a sore point that. I’m no great shakes in the magic department. But more on that shortly - Granny Winnie was winding up for the pitch. “It’s all been decided. You have only to ask for Sibella’s hand, and she will accept.” She leant forward and fixed me with a glare that turned my legs to jellied eels.
[A dark rumbling builds up around them.]
Dudley: “Do not foul this up, Dudley.”
[There's a crash of thunder.]
Dudley: And with that, she banished me from her presence until the deed was done.
[Grandmother Winnifred snaps her fingers. The door flies open, Dudley's feet slide as he is magically dragged out of the room, and the doors slam shut once he's past them.]
Dudley: Outside the Vera Lynn Suite, I gazed bleakly into the black pool of eternity. Or at least, into a small potted plant near the telephone. I resented this intrusion into my private life. But I very much did not resent the Carmichael cash that kept said private life funded, and I was as sure as sure could be that Granny Winnie would cut me off without a penny were I to disobey. I knew which way my bread was buttered, and unless I wanted margarine I’d have to vote with my brain and tell my heart to put a sock in it.
[The music ends.]
[A splash. We are now in the vicinity of a busy swimming pool.]
Dudley: I wrestled with the issue for several days, taking no small steps or giant leaps for Carmichael-kind, and avoiding Granny Winnie as if my life depended on it. Which I rather thought it might. I’d taken to lounging outdoors by the swimming pool, where I could cogitate and run up a sizeable tab at the bar.
[Ice clinks as he drinks from a cocktail.]
Dudley: The ambience was smooth and balmy - not like February at all. No doubt a magician on staff was keeping the air warmed up, and a colleague had tipped a wink to the water too. Persuasion at its finest. All part of the service at the Marbury. And yet here I was in the doldrums and unable to enjoy it! Valentine’s Day was upon me. The stars had aligned in my disfavour. Having failed to act already, my gallant proposal would surely be expected today. At a pinch, Sibella (and my grandmother) may have thought I’d waited till now deliberately, for maximum romantic atmos.
[Someone leaps off a diving board and into the pool with a splash.]
Dudley: My roving eyes were drawn to two individuals in the swimming pool. One was a lady who, though perfectly pleasant, has no part to play in this narrative, so I’ll withhold editorial comment. But the fellow into whose arms she had tumbled... ah, well now. This was Jean Rouvray. Swimming instructor to the magically inclined, and a ruddy good one too. Not a bad racket that. The lady was one of six people of varying sexes he happened to be teaching that morning. All wealthy, all willing, all head over heels in love with him. He was that kind of man.
[The sounds of the swimming pool fade out, replaced by a soft ethereal tone and a hint of a soft piano melody.]
Dudley: Dark eyes. Dazzling smile. Toned physique. All that rot. Makes one happy to be alive. Oh yes, I wasn’t immune to his charms. We’d met during my last visit, which had ended with six bottles of Claret and a wager as to which of us would be better at singing La Marseillaise backwards in another accent. (It was me. Belgian.) Name a stronger foundation for a friendship and I’ll gladly call you a liar. Renewing our acquaintance this week was a welcome respite, and, dash it, he really was a handsome cove.
[A splash. With a whoosh, the tone and the music disappear and the ambiance of the pool returns.]
[Sibella's footsteps approach.]
Dudley: I was wrenched from my revery bythe approach of my intended fiancee, Sibella. “Dudley! There you are!” she called, and walked towards me at speed, like a missile in Louboutins. Thinking quickly, I pretended to be asleep, but I was already pouring a vodka tonic when it happened so I ended up flooding my trousers.
[Glasses clatter and liquid spills.]
Dudley: I passed this off as the result of vigorous splashing from one of the lesser children, but Sibella wasn’t interested. “I just read your note!” she said.
Dudley: I’d written nothing since I arrived. Something was amiss. “Oh yes?” I replied mechanically.
Dudley: “Shall we say seven?”
Dudley: “Yes if you like,” I said, wondering why we’d be saying it and in what context.
Dudley: “You were very lucky, you know,” she continued. “Daddy’s taking us away tomorrow morning, so you very nearly missed your chance.” She paused with what I could only assume was significance. “I’m very glad you didn’t,” she concluded.
Dudley: “Well, gosh, so am I!” I replied gamely.
Dudley: She laughed and turned away, calling, “See you at dinner!”
[Sibella walks away.]
Dudley: I blinked, perhaps twice, and brooded on our exchange for the best part of an hour, in a state of abject distraction. A notification even popped up on my calendar.
[A chime from her phone.]
Dudley: “Important Dinner. Participants: Sibella Brand, Dudley Carmichael.” Clearly frustrated at my lack of progress, Granny Winnie - like any Machiavellian matriarch worth their salt - had taken matters into her own hands and dispatched a dinner invitation in my name! Events had overtaken me. I now faced a stark choice: get hitched or get out. Bye- bye family and fortune unless I closed my eyes and said “I do.”
[He puts down his glass on a table.]
Dudley: No. There had to be another way. I may not be the brightest bulb in the boudoir, but a safe route had to exist between Charybdis and the... other one. And I wouldn’t let it go without a fight.
[He gets up from his deckchair.]
Dudley: I vacated my deckchair, renewed with purpose. As I did so, I saw Jean looking at me curiously from the pool. His attention was soon drawn by a dowager needing help with the backstroke, but I could have sworn he’d been frowning at me - as if aware of my fate, but powerless to prevent it. If ever I’d needed courage, the sight of that man had done the trick! It was time to determine my future. The only question was... how?
[The sounds of the swimming pool fade away, and are replaced by the ambiance of a small hotel room. Dudley paces through it.]
Dudley: I retired to my room to give the problem due consideration. The issue required tact and finesse, and I hadn’t been blessed with either. But to say nothing would be like baking a pie with a landmine in it: bound to blow up in my face. I couldn’t refuse my grandmother’s wishes, and I couldn’t flee the hotel. If I tried, she’d only have to pull a few strings to entangle me again. And then there was Sibella herself to consider. I’m not so much of a cad that I can’t appreciate the pain of a woman’s heartbreak. She was dead keen on the whole idea and to let her down would be a rum thing to do. If only there was -
Dudley: Ah! But wait! The old lightbulb was blazing above my head at last! Sibella was leaving Marbury in the morning with her father - by which time it’d be too late to pop the question. So all I required was a reason why the proposal couldn't take place this evening!
[He starts pacing again.]
Dudley: Called away on business? No, they know I don’t have any. Illness? Mmm, that’d only encourage love’s tender fire - the whole Florence Nightengale routine, holding my hand, sighing softly, “Let me care for you, Dudley, forevermore!”
Dudley: Precisely the opposite sort of atmos I wanted to create.
[He snaps his fingers.]
Dudley: Atmosphere! That’s it! I had to extinguish the flames of romance altogether! Ruin the evening to such an extent that even Tristan and Isolde would have said “Let’s pack it in for a lost cause.” And I had to do it secretly. No one could suspect the hand of Dudley Carmichael. Which meant I’d have to employ... Magic. Oh corks.
[He slumps onto the bed.]
Dudley: I alluded earlier to a certain deficiency in that area, and that’s putting it mildly. I may be the youngest in a family of prominent harpies, but [imitating his grandmother] to their shame, [back to his regular voice] I’ve yet to inherit their flair for the sorcerer’s arts, being nothing but a spectator in their use.
[Hisses of vapor, as if someone was ironing a shirt.]
Dudley: I once had an uncle who could iron shirts merely by passing his hand over them. “Are you watching closely?” he’d say to me, and then - whoosh! - not a wrinkle to be seen! An amazing feat! He should have been a dry cleaner. Instead he was a bigamist. What a waste.
[The hisses of vapor stop. Replaced by the sound of a lecture hall.]
Dudley: The point is, my knack for magic was rudimentary at best. My grandmother even had me dispatched to the Alethia Academy, but a diploma remained somewhat... elusive. I flunked out with nothing to offer except an awkward smile and the words, “No man is an island, grandmother.” She agreed, but exiled me to the Outer Hebrides just to be certain.
[A burst of thunder, wind, and rainfall. It fades quickly.]
Dudley: That was a very long year. But... perhaps, thought I in the present, sat alone in my hotel room, I’d had neither the will nor the inclination to flex the magic muscles before. It hadn’t seemed important at the time. But today... I faced a fork in the road of destiny! Sibella Brand on one side, penuary on the other - but also a short hop over the fence to freedom if only I could find it. It was worth a try!
[Various objects clatter together.]
Dudley: I ordered a tray of odds and ends to be sent to my room post-haste, and spent the afternoon locked in ceaseless battle with the fundaments of magic.
[Music starts to fade in.]
Dudley: The trick was to achieve the maximum gain by the slightest means; to devastate a sensuous evening with a mental flick of the wrist, so to speak.
[A low thrum of magic, and the sound of ringing glass.]
Dudley: Could I compel a glass of wine to upend over Sibella’s dress, for example, thereby prompting her swift exit from proceedings? The answer it seemed was no.
[The magic flickers and disappears.]
Dudley: For I could not budge it an inch. How about overcooking the dinner at a glance, as soon as it was served?
[Another thrum of magic, combined with a sizzling sound.]
Dudley: Nobody can agree to marriage on an empty or queasy stomach! But even after twenty minutes of furious concentration, I could barely brown a slice of bread.
[Again, the magic fizzles out.]
Dudley: It was time for drastic action, I conceded grimly.
[Another hum of magic, along with a meaty popping sound.]
Dudley: So I tried to make it appear as though my face had erupted in horrendous boils! That was bound to put her off! But no matter how hard I strained, I could barely produce a solitary zit.
[And, again, the spell fizzles and sputters.]
Dudley: I couldn’t believe it! Nothing worked! My family was littered with accomplished masters of the arcane woodgimidoo, and here was I, a harpy at the height of health, unable to cast the simplest spells. Oooh, it made me mad! Furious! Raging, absolutely! Why I was so incandescent - and miffed - I could almost -
[A small flicker of flame.]
Dudley: ... and there it was. A flicker, just a flicker. But it was indeed... fire. Conjured by my very own will! A tiny spark of Promethean flame! My mind whirled with the possibilities. I could set a napkin alight, or a tablecloth, or, or perhaps... set off the overhead sprinklers in the dining room!
[The sound of the flame fades as Dudley laughs.]
Dudley: I had it, I had it, I had it! I’d spirit up a whoosh of flame under a sprinkler and let thousands of pounds of combustion-quenching technology do its work. Instant panic, lots of dashing about; passion postponed, ardor averted. I’d say “Never mind, another time?” and we’d part company on equitable terms, with only the slight risk of a head cold to worry us.
Dudley: “Gosh, Dudley,” I said out loud, “You’re the goods when the chips are down, and you can say that again!” So I did, three times. I wanted to run down the corridors with joy, to do cartwheels through the foyer, to tell someone, anyone - like Jean! - I could do magic, and I was free!
[The music ends.]
Dudley: Best not, I thought, best not. Keep it under your hat. The proof of the pudding’s in the dining room, and I’d have to wait till seven o’clock to enact my masterplan. So instead I sat back with a paperback book - well, at least with that, um, Candy Crush game on my Kindle - and gave my overheated brain a rest.
[The ambiance of the hotel room fades out. It's replaced by the sounds of the busy hotel lobby as Dudley walks through it.]
Dudley: A few hours later and I was promenading through Marbury House in my dinner clothes, as calm and collected as an album of stamps. I made my merry way to the dining room, nabbing a flower from the reception desk to give to Sibella. I had to play the part, and all that. No need to hurt the girl’s feelings. There was a bounce in my step as I turned a corner and bounded into the dining room.
[A door opens and his footsteps stop.]
Dudley: Hmm... Now, I’ve never been known for my powers of perception, but I was nonetheless able to make three disquieting observations about that dining room. First, there were no chairs. Second, there were no tables. And third, there were no people. Aside from that, everything was going fine.
Dudley: Panicking quietly, I sought out a waiter to ask what was going on. The answer turned me to stone, as sure as a quick wink from Medusa herself. It was a beautiful evening, they said. Why stay indoors, they said. Far better, they said, to serve dinner outside. So that’s what they were doing.
Dudley: I reeled. I don’t mind admitting it. I reeled. Outside! If there’s one thing the outside doesn’t have on a glorious evening, it’s a fully functioning overhead sprinkler system. It’s the first thing they teach you in hospitality, I’m told.
[A whoosh. The sounds of the hotel fade away and are replaced by the sounds of an outdoor terrace as Dudley walks through it.]
Dudley: I stepped into the evening air almost blindly, like a somnambulant in search of his cabinet. There was Sibella, sat patiently at a table nearest the swimming pool. My instinct to hide behind a flotilla of American tourists came too late, for Sibella had seen me, and waved. “Well, old boy,” I said to myself, “Time to do the decent thing. Which is whatever your grandmother tells you.” And so, with a carefree smile that should have won me a BAFTA, I approached my future wife and took the opposing seat.
[A chair is pulled out and Dudley sits down at the table.]
Dudley: The rapport was not immediate. I said hello... she concurred... and there the matter rested. It’s fair to say we felt the weight of expectation, like mice upon the wheel of a juggernaught. But my spirit rallied upon the sight of Jean, standing at the bar.
[Again, the sounds of the world around Dudley fade away, replaced by the comforting ephemeral tone and the hint of a soft piano melody.]
Dudley: He was leaning over to speak more clearly into the barmaid’s ear, and I wished he were whispering sweet nothings into mine. Dash it all, I realized, the brain deserves to have its say - but can anyone truly ignore their heart and refuse to return its calls? Let alone a debonair and wingéd bon vivant like me? My scheme had been derailed but I would not give up. By hook or by crook, this evening would end in disaster.
Dudley: “Dudley?” Sibella asked. “Are you alright?”
Dudley: “Oh, yes, never better! My, err, sweet,” I added, drawing upon every reserve of romance I possessed. “How about a bottle of fizz?”
[A pop as a champagne bottle is opened.]
[The tone and the music both fade out. The scene resumes some time later. It sounds like more people have arrived.]
Dudley: Within half an hour, we were tucking into our first course. I’d been buttering her up something fierce while steering the conversation away from any subject that had even a whiff of matrimonial bliss. It had been tough work being so nonchalant, and my hand reached out for the champagne.
[A clatter from an empty bottle.]
Dudley: “Gosh!” I observed gaily, “We’ve drunk a bottle already!”
Dudley: “Yes you have, haven’t you?” she replied in what was, in retrospect, an undertone. It was only then I realized that she’d barely touched her glass, whereas I’d been knocking the stuff back like tapwater. Damn it, Dudley! My head was swimming.
[Tense music begins.]
Dudley: If I wasn’t careful, I’d be in danger of doing something reckless, like proposing marriage. There was no more time to waste. I tried to use the power of my mind to destroy the romantic ambience - spilling her glass, igniting her salad, even setting off rude noises from an unknown province - but without a jot of joy. I’d begun perspiring visibly when Sibella said:
Dudley: “You don’t want to get married, do you?”
[A clatter of silverware.]
Dudley: How did she know? What gave it away? She couldn’t read my mind, could she?
Dudley: “Yes, Dudley,” she said. “I can read your mind.” Oh corks!!!
Dudley: “Don’t want to get married?” I chortled, “You’ve got me all wrong, old thing!” When in doubt, brazen it out.
She sighed. “You’ve been doing everything within your power to ruin the evening,” she observed, correctly, “Luckily, that isn’t saying very much. Your powers are limited, unlike my own. But I’m offended all the same.”
Dudley: “D-d-don’t be upset, Sibella,” I stammered, “It - it - it’s merely an apprehension. Totally natural. Big steps. Little feet. And so on.”
[Silverware clinks as it is put down on a plate.]
Dudley: Sibella’s manner changed, very suddenly. There are certain individuals who do not suffer fools gladly - which is bad luck if you happen to be a fool in their vicinity. Sibella clearly subscribed to this philosophy. “Look, Dudley,” she said in a dangerous tone, “Let’s get one thing clear. I don’t want to get married any more than you do.”
Dudley: I choked. “Y-you don’t?”
Dudley: She gave me a stare so withering that I wondered if she’d taken lessons from my grandmother. “You know what this is,” she said, “It’s a marriage of convenience. You don’t want it. I don’t want it. But our families want it. And I’d do anything for family. Wouldn’t you?” My expression did the talking for me.
Dudley: “Oh don’t look like that,” she said, her voice softening. “I know we won’t love each other. But we’ll find a way to make things pleasant. Money does that.” She consumed a small mouthful of pâté before the killing blow. “So let’s get it over with, shall we? Go on. Ask me.”
[A sinister drone starts to build...]
Dudley: I fiddled with my neckerchief, desperately. “I’m getting round to it, I promise!” But Sibella fixed me with a stare that told me I should have been down on one knee immediately and uttering the magic words, “How about it then?”
[... and builds...]
Dudley: And I would have done so too, had it not been for a miracle - or rather, the sudden appearance of Jean Rouvray on my left hand side.
[... and is cut off as a pair of feet land next to the table.]
Dudley: “Excuse me, Mademoiselle Brand?” he asked gallantly.
Dudley: She frowned. “Yes, what is it?”
Dudley: “I am sorry to disturb you,” Jean said, “But I think you may be needed, urgently.” And then, before either of us could ask his meaning, the answer became all too clear. Sibella stared over my shoulder. Her eyes widened. She put a hand to her mouth. And then she said, with a note of rising horror, “Daddy!”
[A clatter of dishes from another table.]
Dudley: There was her father, Sir Putney Brand, by the buffet table, and engaged in spirited conversation with a gaggle of youngsters, gesticulating fiercely with a glass that told its own story.
[Various items clatter and break as they are dropped or knocked over.]
Dudley: The fellow, it seemed, was entirely soused. Blotto. As pickled as an evening bishop. In short, he was drunk. I’d wanted a distraction, and Fate had pulled an absolute blinder. The young agitators kept needling away and provoking his wrath. Sir Putney puffed out his chest, lurched forward, and with a cry of “I think you’ll find...” he fell and demolished the buffet table.
[A loud crash as a table collapses. A crowd gasps, and various people break into laughter. Animated music starts playing.]
Dudley: Sibella leapt to her feet with a cry, and I stared dumbly at her father, thrashing around in a mountain of quiche. His foes were gasping with laughter, but they’d written him off too early. For Sir Putney then grabbed at a handful of trifle and hurled it at the nearest vagabond - fetching him a creamy smack on the forehead!
[A creamy splat.]
Dudley: It was an incredible shot. Four of us applauded.
Dudley: But Sir Putney had drawn first blood, and his enemies would retaliate in kind.
[A massive food fight breaks out. All sorts of foodstuffs whiz about and land with splats.]
Dudley: The air was thick with vol-au-vents! Breadsticks were used as javelins! Swept up in spontaneous gaity, the other diners got in the on the act, flicking spoonfuls of soup and fistfuls of caviar. I grinned at Jean, and looked to Sibella. Weddings were far from her mind! I was free!
Dudley: But then I was struck rigid with horror as a new disaster unfolded. A young woman had picked up a custard pie and thrown it with zeal at their father-in-law - and they’d missed!
[A low hum goes through the air. Everything slows down.]
Dudley: The gooey projectile now arced through the air, and its new target... was Jean! It was as if time had slowed to a crawl. The very idea of Jean’s Gallic good-looks being sullied by custard and pastry - it was anathema! I couldn’t stand it! I wouldn’t stand it! And before my brain caught up with itself, I was concentrating hard on the pie - or more accurately, the air through which it travelled!
[A thrum of magical energy...]
Dudley: Could I impress my will upon it, and adjust the direction of the pie so as to avoid the man I loved? (For - for in that moment I realized I did!) The merest nudge would do the job... but had I the power? For Jean? For myself? Was this the moment of truth? Was the mouse about to roar?
[... and a small creak.]
Dudley: Yes... yes! I was doing it! It was turning! Ever so slightly, that pie was changing course! Jean was safe! I’d done it! I’d done it!
[With a whoosh, time speeds up again. The pie lands with a splat.]
Dudley: Unfortunately the pie did hit Sibella instead, and she fell into the pool.
[A splash as Sibella falls into the pool.]
Dudley: I don’t mind telling you, I felt pretty guilty. Tthe poor girl in no way deserved a face full of pastry, and I had been the cause of it. Now there she was in the deep end - and it was my duty to save her!
[He slips off his jacket, and runs towards the pool.]
Dudley: I threw off my jacket, ignoring Jean’s words of remonstrance, and dived into the pool!
Dudley: ... and then, a split second before I hit the water, I remembered two very important things. One) Sibella could swim, and Two) I couldn’t.
[The music ends. A splash. We hear some thrashing and bubbling underwater.]
Dudley: And so I chose the only option available to me, and began to drown. As I submerged beneath the waves, I
saw Sibella climbing out of the pool and audibly swearing off marriage for good.
[There's another splash.]
Dudley: I felt someone plunging into the depths beside me. And then an arm was slipping around my waist - but it was too late, I was sure, and the water was somewhere above my head. And so it seemed to me that blacking out was the rational thing to do.
[The sounds of the scene fade out.]
[Dudley groans as he awakens.]
Dudley: Needless to say, I wasn’t dead. I doubt I could have told my story if I had been, though I know that hasn’t stopped some people from telling theirs. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe in ego. I awoke in my hotel room... and found Jean sat nearby. Yes, it was he that had leapt to my rescue and hauled me from the maelstrom - and it turned out I owed him thanks for more than that besides.
Dudley: You see, the news of my betrothal had wound its way throughout the building, days before I’d even arrived. I really had been the last to know about it! And suspecting my unhappiness, Jean had devised a scheme of his own. It ran along similar lines to mine - but whereas I had relied upon magic, he’d put his money on booze. (The world would be a better place if more of us did the same.) Knowing Sir Putney was a lightweight, Jean had slipped the barmaid a few fivers to give him double shots in his G&Ts. An affray was bound to follow, and a dinner date diverted!
Dudley: “You’re a genius, Jean!” I exclaimed, “The whole thing worked a charm! But how could you know I’d leap into the swimming pool?” Well... the answer was he hadn’t known... because that would have been ridiculous. But even this had played into our hands, he told me with a smile.
[The comforting piano music we've heard hints of throughout the episode starts to fade in, playing in earnest.]
Dudley: For when he’d given me the kiss of life and I responded with great enthusiasm, Sibella was left without a doubt of where my affections truly lay. Nor was she upset. In fact, she seemed relieved. No anguish and no wedding bells! The end was in sight! But what about my grandmother? What had she to say?
[A rustle of paper.]
Dudley: A letter. Oh dear. Your ears are best protected if I don’t divulge its contents - strong men have been left as kittens by such words - but the gist was that I was to do nothing else tonight to further sully the clan Carmichael. For if I did, I’d be disinherited. Cut off without a penny. “I know what is best for you, Dudley,” it said in black and white. “Forget it at your peril.”
Dudley: I sat in silence for a while. Thinking, as you do. And then eventually I looked at Jean and asked, emphatically... “How about it then?”
[The sounds of the ocean fade back in. It's the sounds from the first scene.]
Dudley: And that’s how I gave it all up for the heart of a swimming instructor. We were married by the middle of the following week. Granny Winnie was incensed, as you’d imagine, but there comes a time in a chap’s life where he must stand up to his grandmother once and for all, or else go halfway around the world to avoid her. So... here we are. In Tahiti, and the martinis are fantastic.
Dudley: Ahh, there he is! Jean!
Dudley: They’re queuing up along the beach for him, you know. He gives the lessons, while I sort the bookings. Turns out I’m rather good with money when I’m not spending it. Manager and husband, all in one! And my backstroke has never been better. You must stay for dinner too? I’m a wizard in the kitchen. Scrambled eggs, beans on toast, you name it! Just whack ‘em in the microwave, and job’s a good’un.
Dudley: Yes, I may have said goodbye to wealth, but I’ve found happiness at last. You see? That was the fortune I was talking about. Sort of a twist. Reversal of expectation. Thought you’d like that. To love, old sport! To love! I may
not know much about magic, but I know what I like. Cheers!
[A final clink of two glasses coming together, followed by the music ending.]
[The Unseen Credits music starts to fade in.]
Announcer: This has been UNSEEN, by Long Story Short Productions, based on an original idea by Gabriel Urbina, with additional conceptual design work by Sarah Shachat. Today’s episode was written by David K. Barnes and directed by Gabriel Urbina, with script editing by Sarah Shachat and Gabriel Urbina. It starred Leo Wan in the role of Dudley Carmichael. Original Music by Alan Rodi, with additional songs by Bob Hart and the Shtriker Big Band. Sound design by Zach Valenti, with additional editing by Gabriel Urbina. UNSEEN is produced by Sarah Shachat, Zach Valenti, and Gabriel Urbina, along with Angel Acevedo, Jenn Schneider, and Amy Tanguay. For more information on the Unseen World, please visit Unseen.Show. Thank you for listening.
[Music fades out.]
End of Episode
© Long Story Short Productions 2020