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Once and Again...Once Again

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Written by Angela Stockton

edited by Elizabeth Angela

Night is turning to morning when Rick, exhausted but unable to sleep, turns on his home computer. The chirpy "You’ve got mail" raises hopes which are quickly dashed once he reads his messages. [To the camera, Rick explains cynically, "In about sixteen seconds you can get three polite No’s on presentations that took you eighty-six hours to finish, and one friendly Hi from 'Amber, a Hot College Vixen.' The No's are real, Amber isn't." In a voice tinged with anxiety, he continues, "I need a job."]

Lily comes downstairs and, finding him slumped in his chair, asks if he's OK. "I'm fine," he lies wearily. Trying to accentuate the positive, she assures him, "I like you unemployed, I get you home all the time." She tries to coax him upstairs, but he continues to stare dejectedly at the computer screen.

Rick spends the morning at his office, assembling promotional brochures and phoning prospective clients. Just as his secretary places his pad thai lunch in front of him, Sam Blue casually walks in. After their initial greetings, Rick asks Sam why he never showed up for their racquetball game, to which Sam offhandedly replies, "I went to Rome. Just got back." While they eat the pad thai, Sam briefly recaps the ten weeks he spent studying art in Rome, then reveals that he has left his wife, Jeannine. "That was on its way, you knew that," he says.

Meanwhile, at the defunct Phil's Restaurant, Judy describes for Jake and Lily the combination restaurant- library-bookstore she intends to open in the empty building. [Jake gasps for breath and grimaces.] "Change is good," Jake says bravely [perched atop a kitchen stool, Judy looks down at eggshells covering the floor in every direction], and names a contractor who, he says, can do the needed renovations. [Judy climbs down from the stool and begins stomping on the eggshells.] Glancing at Lily, Judy replies, "I thought I might talk to Rick," pointing out that Rick is good and needs the job. "Rick's the guy, which I'm fine with, by the way," Jake answers hastily, as it sinks in that he's no longer running Phil's and must defer to Judy.

Pregnant Tiffany arrives ["Did I mention that I'm going to be a daddy--again?" Jake asks] to tell Jake that she's found a marked-down stroller. After he ushers Tiffany to his office, Lily shares with Judy her hunch that the baby will be a girl. Judy asks Lily not to tell Rick that she's going to hire him, saying, "I think it should come from me." Lily agrees. At the same time, at Rick's office, Sam admits that his future plans are uncertain and asks Rick not to tell Judy or Lily that he's back in town and has left Jeannine. Though skeptical that this news can be contained, Rick promises.

"Do you know Colin Fleischer?" Sam continues. The name of Fleischer, a hotel magnate, is very familiar to Rick. Sam reveals that Fleischer likes his work, has decided to renovate an old Chicago building as the newest hotel in his chain, and wants Sam to design it. Sam asks for Rick's help, saying that he needs an architect and a partner.

"You still using people, Sam?" Rick replies sourly.

"I need to feel good to work, and comparing myself to you is my one source of self-esteem," Sam explains smugly.

That night, in their bedroom, Rick reminds Lily that he needs a job and asks her what she thinks about his working with Sam. Although her comments sound supportive, Rick keeps repeating, "But--?" as if he suspects that she's holding back. Finally she rises to the bait, pointing out, "He's a married man who had an affair with my sister." In desperation, Rick asks, "Which means I can't trust him?" and tries to argue that maybe the affair was Sam's way of trying to save his marriage. Lily stops him with a scornful "You're an idiot."

As they unwind by reading in bed, Rick breaks the strained silence by asking, "Did I ever tell you that he's related to Stephen Stills on his mother's side---Sam, I mean? In school he used to ask all the girls he went out with, 'Are you my Judy Blue Eyes?'"

"Judy's eyes are brown, with little green flecks," Lily replies crisply. Later, as Rick nuzzles her, she tries to fend him off by pleading fatigue; but when he persists, she soon succumbs and they make love. Afterward, lying in each other's arms, they return to the topic of Sam and Judy. This time Lily blames Judy as much as Sam, declaring, "If you want to be a wife, then start with an unmarried man, shop in that aisle!"

Rick reveals that Sam has left his wife [and dope-slaps himself for betraying Sam], but he asks that Lily not tell Judy. He's convinced that if Judy knows he's kept a secret from her, she'll hate him even more than she does already.

"She doesn't hate you!" Lily protests. "She does hate me," Rick counters. [Lily wears a cat-swallowing-the-canary smile.] To prove her point, Lily blurts out that Judy is going to hire him to renovate the restaurant. "Maybe she doesn't hate me," Rick concedes. "I hate myself--I swore I wouldn't tell you," Lily mutters. They remind each other to act surprised when they hear, again, the news they're not supposed to know.

Next day, at Rick's office, Sam and Rick spread photographs of Fleischer hotels across the floor, the better to study them and get a feel for Fleischer's style. When the phone rings, Rick's secretary answers and then informs Rick that the caller was Judy, who is on her way up. Rather than face her, Sam quickly exits by the back door.

Contentious in-laws Judy and Rick exchange uncharacteristically friendly hellos, then Judy announces that she wants Rick to redesign the restaurant. Rick's wide-eyed "Wow!" is so transparently hammy that Judy's smile fades and she states, "So she told you." The Fleischer photos on the floor remind Judy that she left some things in her car which she wants to show Rick, and in spite of his attempts to deter her, she goes back downstairs.

It's raining outside, and although her car windows are fogged and rain-streaked, she has no trouble recognizing that the man in the car next to hers is Sam. Though she is as unprepared to see him as he is to see her, they roll down their windows and haltingly converse. Sam explains that he's there because he's working with Rick on a project, and Judy replies that she is too. "Then maybe we'll--" Sam says without finishing the thought; "Yeah--yeah," she stammers. Although she asks, "How's your life?" he replies "It's OK," saying nothing about the breakup of his marriage. Finally they say their good-byes, Judy so overcome that she can't watch him drive off.

Upon her return to the restaurant, Judy confronts Lily, convinced that Rick must have told her something about Sam. "He's related to Stephen Stills distantly, on his mother's side," Lily answers glibly. She tries to allay Judy's suspicions by claiming that men talk about things (like cars), not about their lives.

Judy takes Lily at her word and concedes that she has to stop believing people can change just because she wants them to. "Judy, he's free," Lily blurts at last. She confesses that Sam told Rick and Rick told her, but that he made her promise not to tell Judy. "Which means he's getting a divorce?" Judy asks warily. Lily says she doesn't know, that he may only be separating from his wife. "I don't want you to get your hopes up, and I don't want to see you get hurt again," she says. With bleak humor, Judy replies that she'll survive, and that every relationship teaches her some fact about love that she will never use again. She wonders what she has learned from Sam, and what, if anything, Sam has learned from her.

Jake enters, bellowing "The Brooks babes!" and asking Judy if she has any more brilliant ideas. [Looking sweaty and agitated, Jake says he's thinking about the name Chloe if the baby is a girl: "But then it would be Zoe and Chloe," he notes.] As if afraid he's overstepped, he quickly adds that all her ideas have been good. Lily notices that he's sweating profusely and remarks that he doesn't look well. [As Jake hears the sounds of a baby crying, he has an attack of nausea.] Feeling put upon, Jake excuses himself and leaves. "I'm worried about him," Lily says to Judy. "Am I still allowed to do that?"

Rick meets Colin at the empty building which Colin envisions as his future Dreiser Hotel. His thoughts flowing almost too fast for his tongue to keep up, Colin explains that the name was inspired by the fact that Theodore Dreiser wrote his novel Sister Carrie while living in this building, and that he wants to use a literary theme throughout. Bluntly, he asks Rick, "Who are you? Sam says you're great. Are you great?" Before Rick can answer, Colin has a brainstorm: "Sammler--you were involved with the late Mr. Miles Drentell," he snickers, wagging a finger at Rick, "and you got indicted!"

"I did not get indicted," Rick says, respectfully but firmly. Shrugging, Colin replies without embarrassment that he's been indicted himself.

When Sam joins them, Colin asks where his sketches are. "I'm still working on them," Sam explains airily. As Colin turns on Rick, demanding to know why Sam is empty-handed, Sam explains, "I need to be tense to work." Mockingly, Colin threatens to bring in "mean people" to attack Sam if that will help.

After this meeting, Sam and Rick work off steam with a game of Ping-Pong in Rick's office, Sam conceding that he acted like a jerk with Colin. He defends his need for "tension," recalling that as long ago as second grade, he would turn in work late but still make the best grades in the class. "I just need him mad at me," he says. "I just can't seem to show up on time."

Unable to share or appreciate his partner's insouciance, Rick insists that Sam put something, anything, on paper. "I don't need him mad at me, not after the year and a half I've had," Rick says testily.

In Tiffany's apartment, Jake assembles a mobile for the baby's crib while Tiffany keeps him company. Already breathing shallowly, he suddenly slumps over. Concerned, Tiffany observes that he's clammy. Although he tries to blame his obvious distress on uncomfortable new shoes, Tiffany is convinced that Jake's symptoms are related to his ambivalence about their relationship. She assures him that having a baby together doesn't mean that they are together, and enfolds him in a tender embrace. [Short of breath, Jake resolves to take up yoga, noting that Judy does yoga and finds it calming.]

Sam goes to the restaurant, where he finds Judy arranging flowers while listening to a Crosby, Stills & Nash CD. He claims to be looking for Rick. "How are you?" Judy asks. [Sam can't decide how to answer.] Finally he tells her, "It's over, Jeannine and me." Judy babbles regrets and sympathy until Sam interrupts by touching her hand and saying, "Nice to talk to you, Judy." [Smiling and holding a flower, Judy says, "Let's say I married him. I'd keep my maiden name, but I'd also be Judy Blue, like the song. Sam, of course, would have to be Sam Blue Eyes for it to be exact, but it'd be close enough." Shaking her head, she adds, "I'm a fool," lays the flower on the stool, and walks away.]

When Judy sees Jake awhile later, she too notices that he doesn't look well, and she assumes that he's having an anxiety attack. As he strenuously denies this, she insists that it's an illness, not something to be ashamed of, and begs him to see her own doctor.

Soon Jake is reluctantly undergoing a physical. To the doctor's question about stress factors, he admits, "A friend is having a baby--mine." [On a treadmill, panting, with electrodes attached to his chest, Jake says, "You know, unless it's absolutely necessary, you don't really think about your heart."] He also confesses that his last physical was ten years ago. When the doctor asks if he has a family history of heart disease, Jake insists that his family is of hardy Swedish stock. "That's good," the doctor comments mildly, but he still recommends an immediate chest x-ray and stress test.

Colin again meets Rick at the Dreiser, but to Colin's disappointment, Sam is neither present nor answering his phone. "Have you seen Sam's sketches?" Colin asks. Rick hesitates just long enough that Colin knows his answer, "Yeah, I have, and they're terrific," is a lie. Colin gives Rick a backhanded compliment--"I like you, and I don't usually like people like you. You're not big, and I like big people"--and predicts that the Dreiser job could make him big. He asks Rick if he wants to be big. Caught off-guard by the question, Rick ponders and cautiously answers, "I wouldn't mind."

"You wouldn't mind," Colin mimics him. His affability turns to irritation and he warns Rick, "Sam thinks this is a game, but I don't like him enough to keep him in this game unless he comes through. You tell your putzy little friend he's got two days to come up with something good or he's fired, along with you--which is something I'm sharing with you because I like you." He advises Rick to treat every chance as if it's his last, exhorts him to be big, then turns and stalks out.

Long after night has fallen, Rick is driving around, searching for Sam. Finally he sees him and orders him into the car. "Is this where the yelling starts?" Sam wisecracks as he climbs into the passenger seat, but Rick explodes, "Colin came down on me! He had every right. We're about to lose this job, if we haven't already!"

Realizing that Rick will no longer tolerate or make excuses for his erratic work ethic, Sam hangs his head while Rick continues, "The stakes are high, Sam--maybe not for you, but they are for me. I lost the last eighteen months of my life and I don't get them back, and I need this job!" He tells Sam to leave and "do what you're good at." Silently, Sam climbs out of the car, but once Rick is out of sight, he goes straight to Judy's apartment. When Judy opens her door to him, they fall into each other's arms.

The following morning, Rick, in his kitchen, tries to phone Sam but can only leave a message on his answer machine. He says he doesn't want their friendship to come untied because Sam can't come through on this job. "Just--- " he pleads, but can't think of anything else to say, except for a sardonic "Beeeep."

Sam doesn't hear the phone because he has spent the night with Judy. When he wakes up, he asks Judy if she has a sketch pad. Not stopping even to get dressed, Sam sits at her dining-room table and draws for hours. Looking over his shoulder, Judy comments, "You must be exhausted."

"You're not that good," he taunts her affectionately. [Smiling, Judy observes, "When you love someone, you can talk to that person and they don't even hear you, and still somehow you're both there."]. He hands over the sketch pad for her inspection.

Later that day, when Rick goes to the future Dreiser for another meeting with Colin, he finds Sam, and the sketches, already there. Sam says that Colin is on his way. He promises Rick that their friendship will not become, in Rick's word, "untied," because he respects Rick too much, and "because it's an honor and a privilege for me to help somebody I feel that way about out of the gutter." On a serious note, he insists that he needs Rick for this job, and suddenly turns mystical, recalling a night when he heard a creaking noise at 3:00 a.m. and found Death in his kitchen, making a sandwich. He immediately told himself that he would tell "Ricky" about it, because he'd understand.

"At my house he made soup," Rick quips. When Sam shows off his drawings, Rick examines them with genuine admiration.

The next time Jake is in the doctor's examining room, Tiffany is with him. Pacing, Jake tells her, "When the kid is old enough to understand, I want you to tell him the good and the bad about me." Tiffany begs him to stop. Seconds later, the doctor walks in and tells Jake that everything looks great, but not to wait ten years for his next physical. Elated, Tiffany confides to Jake that she felt the baby kicking and knew he was trying to reach his father, to tell him that everything would be OK. "A him, huh?" Jake asks hopefully.

Judy is at the restaurant when Sam enters, beaming after his successful meeting with Rick and Colin. He asks Judy if she's busy, but she orders him, "Just say it." He begins, "Judy, I just don't think that this is the right time, because of where I am--"

"Where you are in your life," she continues for him. "And until you know where you are--"

"And where you are," he finishes. But Judy points out that they already know where they are, and adds, "As for the right time, you never just find it, you steal it and somehow you never get caught. Lovers are thieves, and that's that."

He asks to say one more thing: "Judy Blue Eyes is my favorite song."

"My eyes are brown," she reminds him. "Details," he says, shrugging, and walks toward the door, while Judy starts toward the dining room. They turn around and stare at each other.

The End

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