CARLYLE CROSS: Male, late 30’s,
BETH DANIELS: Female, early 30’s
WAITER/PETE: Male, late 20’s
AGNES: Carlyle’s assistant, late 50’s
SETTING: Town’s cafe’
TIME: 5:45 PM
CARLYLE is seated at a table facing the window.
BETH walks in holding a book. She sits at the table near CARLYLE beside the window. She looks at him and meets his gaze. Then she starts reading. But CARLYLE keeps staring at her. She walks to his table and addresses him angrily.
BETH: Why are you staring at me?
CARLYLE: I’m sorry, but I’m not staring at you.
BETH: You lie! It’s rude to stare at others.
CARLYLE: Yes, indeed! That’s why the good Lord took care to get my eyes fixed when I was born.
BETH: You are not only rude but crazy too!
CARLYLE: I assure you I’m neither.
BETH: Then enlighten me what you are!
CARLYLE: Simple. I’m blind.
BETH: (Laughs) You’re blind? What a lame excuse!
CARLYLE: I never use my disability as an excuse, Miss.
A WAITER interferes.
WAITER: Is something wrong, sir?
CARLYLE: It’s alright, Pete. The lady here needs convincing about my eyesight.
WAITER: (Turns to the woman and smiles) Miss, Mr. Cross is a regular here and he’s not lying.
BETH: Oh! I’m so sorry.
CARLYLE: Please. Don’t mind it. Sometimes it’s hard to see even when the eyes are open.
BETH: That’s true!
CARLYLE: If you aren’t waiting for anyone or don’t have anything better to do, would you like to have coffee with a blind man?
BETH: I’d be glad to. Thank you.
BETH sits on the chair facing him. CARLYLE calls PETE.
WAITER: What will I get you this time, sir? Ma’am?
CARLYLE: Black coffee, Pete.
BETH: Milk tea for me, please.
WAITER takes their orders and leaves.
CARLYLE: I’m Carlyle, by the way.
BETH: Beth Daniels.
CARLYLE: (Smiles) Are you a calf, Ms. Daniels.
BETH: (Frowns) Excuse me?
CARLYLE: I was asking whether you are a calf?
BETH: (Doesn’t answer, just stares at Carlyle)
CARLYLE: Humans are the only species on earth who refuse to get weaned. And they’re the only animals on the planet who drink milk from another mother…even in their adult years.
BETH: (Clears throat) Well, I’m not a calf, but I like milk tea. I don’t think it’s a crime.
CARLYLE: You can ask the starving male calves wandering on the streets of India.
DIANA: What have male calves got to do with milk?
CARLYLE: Starving…male calves.
Enters PETE with their order, serves and leaves.
BETH: (Sips tea) So?
CARLYLE: Well, male animals don’t produce milk, do they?
BETH: (Laughs) Even a kid knows that.
CARLYE: (Drinks coffee) True! But not even adults realize male calves are left to wander the streets after they’re born. Most of them die eventually.
BETH: That’s awful!
CARLYLE: Hm Mm! In developed countries such as ours, male calves are separated from their mothers right after their birth and slaughtered for veal days after.
BETH: (Chokes upon hearing Carlyle’s words.)
CARLYLE: Are you alright?
BETH: Y-yeah. (Wipes mouth with a handkerchief). But that’s cruel! No mother and baby should be separated from each other. How come I haven’t read anything like that anywhere!
CARLYLE: Just because some things are not visible before our very eyes, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
BETH: I agree.
CARLYLE and BETH fall silent. Carlyle drinks his coffee while Beth plays with her cup’s handle.
CARLYLE: Please, continue drinking.
BETH: I feel bad ordering it.
CARLYLE: Don’t worry. You didn’t know.
BETH: Now that I know, I don’t want to drink it anymore.
CARLYLE: (Smiles and resumes drinking his coffee). Would you like to try their muskmelon juice?
BETH: Oh! I haven’t tried anything like that before. I’ll be glad to try. (Calls PETE and gives order).
BETH: (continues…) You’re a very straightforward person, Mr Cross.
CARLYLE: The only way to really know a person is the straight way, Ms. Daniels.
BETH: Huh! You’re strange as well.
CARLYLE: You’re quite strange yourself for not walking out. You could’ve left, but you stayed.
BETH: Well, it’s not usual to meet someone who speaks their mind.
CARLYLE: I take that as a compliment. Do you find my personality intimidating?
BETH: Not at all! In fact, I find it interesting.
PETE enters with the cafe’s phone.
PETE: A phone call for you, sir.
CARLYLE: (Takes the phone from Pete) Hello!
AGNES: Where are you?
CARLYLE: You’ll be glad to know that I’m having coffee with a beautiful woman. (Looks at Beth).
AGNES: How do you know she’s beautiful?
CARLYE: I don’t see, Agnes. I feel. Now, let us enjoy our coffee and I’ll see you before 7.
CARLYLE: (Carlyle hands back the phone to Pete, then addresses Beth) It was my typist. She’s a friend, a mother, and an assistant rolled into one.
BETH: Good to hear that. Are you a writer? (picks up her book and skims it.)
CARLYLE: You could say that.
PETE comes back with a glass of juice.
CARLYLE: What book are you reading?
BETH: I’m reading The Eternal Garden by Carylle C. I’m actually reading it for the fifth time.
CARLYLE: Is it so hard to understand you have to read it so many times?
BETH: (Laughs) Hardly! It’s so good I just can’t put it down. He’s my new favorite author. I wish I could read more of his books. (Sips juice.) Oh, this is delicious!
CARLYLE: (Smiles) So good to know that! (pause). Are you married, Ms. Daniels?
BETH: Divorced. I married young. I didn’t know any better.
CARLYLE: Good! Divorce demands you to divide everything in half but not the children.
BETH: (Laughs). Indeed! (pause). Are you?
CARLYLE: I never had the desire to become a willing victim of society’s pressure to raise a family. Besides, you don’t need to marry to have a family.
BETH: That’s deep! And I totally agree. My ex-husband was strongly opposed to the idea of us adopting a child.
CARLYLE: Maybe he wanted to adopt a dog or a cat? Perhaps, an adult?
BETH: (Laughs) You have a good sense of humor, Mr. Carlyle. No cats and dogs for him. He wanted children of his own. How selfish! I was more interested in taking care of the children who are already born but have no home.
CARLYLE: Now I understand what went wrong.
BETH: Yeah. I wish I’d known earlier.
CARLYLE: At least you know what to do next time.
BETH: Yeah. (Checks her wristwatch). You said you have to be home before 7. It’s already 6:35.
CARLYLE: I must be going then. As much as I want to know you more I don’t like breaking my own word.
BETH: It’s alright. It’s not good to keep someone waiting.
CARLYLE: Right. (Gets up and extends hand for a handshake. BETH takes it) Nice meeting you, Beth.
BETH: My pleasure, Mr. Cross.
CARLYLE pays and exits. BETH remains seated finishing her juice. PETE enters.
PETE: Miss, I think you forgot to have your book signed by Mr. Cross.
BETH: He’s Carylle C.?
PETE: Yes! Carlyle Cross.
BETH rises; her jaw drops. She stands watching the door wishing she could meet her new favorite author again.
* * *
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