Once and Again...Once Again
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Summary of Scribbling Rivalry
by Sue Kaliski
edited by Elizabeth Eccher
At 8:20 one weekday evening, Zoe Manning enters the Manning living room on a mission -- to unseat her sister from the computer. As Grace continues in her chat room, Zoe reaches in and logs her off. Threatening bodily harm, Grace gives chase only to be caught by Lily, who has just arrived home. "Do you know how ridiculous you sound?" she admonishes her daughters.
Lily acknowledges that it's been tough for Grace, holding the fort during this busy time at work. Zoe claims that it's been tough on her, too, as her mom assertively takes her place at the computer to prepare for a morning meeting. This act further rankles Zoe, but Lily stresses that she'll make it up to her.
At Booklovers the next morning, Lily signs some documents as Judy shares a positive article about the shop. Business is good and people are coming, evidenced by the photos and cards covering the BL boards. "I've read them all," praises Lily. "I think it's a great idea -- I'm really proud of you!" Judy glows as Lily kisses her and hurries to work.
Arriving at PagesAlive, Lily immediately senses the hush and hears the whispers. She asks Gwen, who is packing a box, what happened. The young woman reports that Christie sent interoffice emails announcing several layoffs. "Good luck," wishes Gwen.
Moving to her desk, Lily sees Artie, the PA webmaster, engaged in a heated exchange in Christie's office. Clicking on "Mailbox," Lily reads "No new messages," and lets out a sigh just as Artie departs. Christie pops her head out and summons Lily.
Shutting the door behind her, Lily wants it over quickly. Christie reassures her that her job is safe as "You've turned into a gigantic help to me." Lily was under the impression that the presentation to the venture capitalists had gone well. "We're not shut down," concedes Christie, who goes on to say that she has to demonstrate she can make tough choices in order to protect their independence. Money is invested without sending in someone to oversee them. Why? "Because I'm a person with breasts," Christie pronounces.
In the small office kitchen, Lily pulls out a soda. Artie, munching on snack, inquires about her fate. "Alive," replies Lily. He bitterly spells it out: Christie works them for weeks "to save her ass," knowing she will fire them when the presentation is complete. He can't comprehend how she will keep the site up without help. Lily feels terrible about the whole thing, saying Christie's been under much pressure. She realizes her faux pas, and Artie responds, "You have to be political, I understand." Lily gently touches his shoulder as she exits.
Rick and Lily sit at the counter of a diner having lunch. She fills him in on Artie and events at the office, and he speculates that a person becomes a webmaster in order to say, "I'm a webmaster, what do you do?" Likewise, Lily marvels at modern terms such as "sticky eyeballs," saying she may as well get her tongue pierced. She flicks her tongue at Rick for effect, and they kiss. He wonders if they still have a date that evening? Lily declines, citing the regressive behavior of her daughters, for which she blames her job. She needs to be home to prevent "sistercide." Rick signals for the check, and their waitress smiles and flicks her pierced tongue at them.
Back at PA that afternoon, the staff sit in a circle for a meeting. Christie feels that the layoffs are the hardest things she's ever had to do, but Artie takes exception. She cuts him off, then addresses the group, barking "Ideas for new features!" Lily tentatively raises her hand. She suggests forming online communities, assigning people to "families" of about 20 people each. She cites Kurt Vonnegut's Slapstick: Or Lonesome No More! wherein people on Earth were assigned to families so as not to be lonely. PA would assign people to families for a month and they would get to know each other.
When asked how people would be matched up, Lily suggests asking a revealing, even quirky, question. Christie briskly tells Lily to keep this idea in the file. Suddenly squelched, Lily looks up to see Artie wink at her.
As everyone disperses, a man strolls into the office. He is thirtysomething with an athletic build. Lily notices him and asks if she can help. "You can say I'm here about a job," he replies. Lily notes that his timing is off as there have been some layoffs this very day. Surprised, he asks with familiarity, "Parker did that?"
Lily decides it's time to introduce herself as Christie's assistant, and he steps close to offer his hand, "Graham Rympalski of Pittsburgh!" Finding herself staring into his eyes, Lily apologizes as Graham explains, "One green eye and one blue eye." He claims this can be an advantage in business -- it keeps people off balance.
Lily offers him a drink and he asks for anything with electrolytes. Wondering if he's Christie's new trainer, she is embarrassed again when he explains that he's a management consultant sent to help out on PA's business side. He wonders why Christie took the preemptive move of firing people, then hastens to add that he hopes Lily wasn't fired as well. As she leans over to search for a sports drink, Graham looks her over from behind.
Raised voices are heard, and Christie pursues Artie out of her office. He bids her farewell by blowing his tongue at her. With impeccable timing, Graham hurries over to introduce himself as coming from Clavan and Fosdick. "They're springing me at you," says he. Uncomfortably surprised, Christie wished she had known -- she would have rescheduled her "disaster."
At the restaurant, Jake speaks via cell phone with Lily. "Wow, you kick me out and the house turns into The Jerry Springer Show." She pushes the fact that Grace needs her own computer, an inexpensive one, and Jake sniffs bribery. Lily says it would be "a reward, a thank you" for babysitting. "Right, a bribe," confirms Jake.
Studying in her room, Grace has similar thoughts. "So this is like a bribe?" Lily bustles around collecting laundry, and pines for the days when her girls had pillow fights and laughed together. "She worships you," says Lily, referring to Zoe. Grace disagrees but observes that her sister will soon have Jessie. This stops Lily in her tracks. Grace is onto her, but lightly concludes that she doesn't care, she just wants her own life.
Smiling faces surprise Lily at PagesAlive the next day. Christie lays claim to her assistant and shuts the door to her office. "Basically, we're under siege." Christie orders her to clear any Graham dealings with her, Christie, first. Lily is confused about the staff being rehired, so Christie says this was done to undermine her authority. "They want to make it so unpleasant for me that I resign and they don't have to pay off my contract." She does have a secret weapon, however -- "a high tolerance for people disliking me."
[In black and white, Lily notes that she was raised a geisha compared to Christie. "Not that I would want to be like her, but I thought all women were obsessed with being liked. How did she escape our common fate?" ]
Graham makes his pitch to the staff. He realizes how tough it is when a stranger moves in, but he and Christie will be a team. She will handle content while he works on "survival." He then paints his personal biography, concluding that he now saves companies in the internet sector. Arriving at the Web, he is "with you people, who are making the new universe." At this, Christie lets out a dramatic sigh.
Some time later, Graham calls Lily over to mention that he heard about her Vonnegut idea. Pleasantly shocked, she agrees to write a description for him. Turning to leave, she hears Graham ask if she's going to lunch. Smiling guardedly, she says she's meeting her sister, but recommends a spot with homemade soups, "maybe even electrolytes!"
At Booklovers, Judy states that Graham is obviously flirting. Between bites of salad, Lily considers how she can use this to her advantage in terms of her idea, the workplace, and Christie. Tickled to see this side of her sister, Judy searches for How to Succeed in Business Without a Penis, but finds it sold out. She pulls out What Would Machiavelli Do? instead. When Judy asks about the idea, Lily offers to send her a copy when she sends the description to Graham.
That afternoon, Christie, Graham, and Lily watch the PA introduction on a computer monitor. Flying cows and barns give way to a graphic about Chicago's Top Website. While he thinks this intro is fun, Graham comments that it's counterproductive. Clavan and Fosdick are numbers guys who want "steak" instead of "sizzle." Getting defensive, Christie says that steak is profit, which they don't yet have. "Push this as steak of the future," prods Graham. He notices Lily scribbling on her pad and, leaning over to see, chuckles with her. At Christie's insistence, a chagrined Lily holds up a doodled "Moo...Moooo.." Not so amused, Christie continues the meeting.
Clavan and Fosdick will be bringing investors to see a revised presentation, insists Graham. As Christie continues to resist, he tells her he's trying to save what she's created, but she claims he's digging her grave. Needing to take a break, Graham heads to the kitchen. Lily apologizes to Christie and asks how she can help. Her boss wants her to research Graham from her computer at home, everything about him. "I don't trust him," she says portentously.
That night, Zoe watches her mom forward her work idea to the e-mail of Zooey, also known as Aunt Judy. Lily turns the computer over to her young detective and grabs the ringing phone. When she tells Rick that Zoe is searching for Graham's Driver's License, Rick remarks that they're "turning into a crime family." Lily reads to him about office politics according to Machiavelli, and he asks if all this is inspired by Rympalski, "of the mesmerizing eyes"? She has to ask, "You're not jealous, are you?" Rick denies this, but admits to wondering what Graham looks like.
Meeting Graham for breakfast at Bobby's, Lily wonders why the invitation. He tells her that he was blown away by her idea. While pleased, Lily rightly suspects this is not the only reason for the meeting. She then tells him that she's "involved with someone." Noting that there's no ring on her finger, he says that as a venture capital guy, it's his job to take risks.
Hoping the matter is cleared up, Lily asks him what he sees happening to the magazine. Graham sees PA being run by people with a "profound understanding of the marketplace." "PagesAlive is a stagnant little pool right now. Someone needs to churn up the water so all the little fishies can live..."
Arriving at work once again, Lily delivers a mocha double espresso to Christie, who has pulled an all-nighter. "With Artie gone, someone needs to get the site up."
Lily admires several pieces of furniture which have been delivered. Christie asks her to find out if these are Graham's personal items, or if Clavan and Fosdick are furnishing his office. Lily tries to console her, saying these wouldn't have arrived had they not believed in PA. Bone-weary, Christie says they believe in getting their dollars out ASAP. "I'm the one who believes in this place."
That evening, Jake arrives at the house carrying a big box -- a new computer for Grace's room. To Zoe he says with a flourish, "You get to use the one downstairs any time you want." Comparing the two units, Zoe finds hers sorely lacking in capabilities. Infuriated by this conspiracy, she storms up the stairs, leaving Grace and her parents in her wake.
Jake enters his daughter's room and Lily props by the door. "When you're older, you'll have your own computer," he attempts. Zoe protests her hand-me-downs status, and her dad points out that she has more sweaters than Grace ever had. Zoe quickly retorts, "And she got five more years of a non-divorced family. I think that means you owe me a computer!" Zoe turns up her stereo to end the discussion.
At Booklovers, Judy sits at her computer reading Lily's idea description. She appears troubled as she leaves a message for her sister to call as soon as possible.
Graham leads a staff meeting on revenue-raising. He recommends charging a fee for the services PA provides, and Christie claims this is unethical, that he wants to create a "shopping mall." When he retorts that the Web is "the Wild West" and the old rules don't apply, she stalks back to her office. Graham follows and firmly closes her door. He reminds Christie that she took money from Clavan and Fosdick, but not to sustain a hobby magazine. She fires back that he just wants to "fatten up the pig to take it to market," thereby pushing her out. Taking exception that she's the only one who can create quality, Graham mentions Lily and the idea which Christie buried. "I had to meet with her to hear about it," he says.
Disbelieving, Christie walks out and confronts Lily about meeting Graham behind her back. Lily claims that she didn't tell him -- he heard about it -- and anyway, "He just wants to date me." Taking a seat, Christie dissolves into tears. As Lily kneels to reassure her, Christie looks up and says, "Lily, you're fired."
Arriving at Booklovers, Lily fights tears and hyperventilation. Judy, assuming she got the phone message, is glad Lily's upset. After all, the community-building, matchmaking "idea" for the magazine was basically stolen from Judy's idea for the bookstore. Completely shocked, Lily denies this and Judy refines the charge -- the idea was "subconsciously appropriated." All she wants is for Lily to acknowledge the fact.
Turning away, Lily's eyes come to rest on a BL card. It's a photo of a man, Joey, with his favorite book, Slapstick: Or Lonesome No More!
[In an interview, Lily speaks about the week after Judy was born, when a baby nurse was hired. Little Lily was playing in the corner with a hard little pink ball, and she threw the ball at Judy's head. "Obviously I wasn't trying to kill her. Boy, did that nurse freak out."]
At Sammler and Cassilli some time later, Lily confesses to Rick about her theft. He offers, "Lil, if something in the world inspires you, that's how people get ideas." But she's inconsolable. She must have noticed the card but completely blocked it out. Coming over to face her, he suggests she's focusing on this to avoid thinking about what's really bothering her. "You mean that I got fired?" asks Lily.
Lily stirs in bed -- her clock reads 5:37AM. Hearing a sound downstairs, she descends to find Zoe studying the computer installation info. Her daughter doesn't feel well, but not from a physical ailment. Lily sits close and, after a moment, shares with Zoe the anxieties of the time when she first had a baby -- Grace. Zoe thought this would have been "the most special, greatest thing," but her mom tells her there were many mistakes made. "You benefited from me practicing on her," observes Lily. She cautions that if they go through life making lists, her girls will be two unhappy people.
Zoe claims to be unhappy now because she's all alone and will be again in a couple years, when Grace is gone. Lily gathers her into her arms and assures her, "You know what? I'll be here with you."
At PagesAlive, Christie approves the technical set-up for the presentation. Lily knocks on her door, then assures her former boss that she's not trying to reclaim her job. She is concerned about appearances at this critical time, and offers to stand with Christie that afternoon in a show of strength to the investors. Why would she do this, wonders Christie. "Because I can," replies Lily, adding that she should have told her about breakfast with Graham.
As a postscript, Lily offers to approach Artie about returning. If he doesn't, Graham will install his own choice as the new webmaster. Christie is amazed at this "political savvy," but Lily says she has two kids with sibling issues -- "This is nothing!"
Grace arrives home that afternoon to find Zoe completing the computer assembly. Zoe is conciliatory, but Grace suspects a ploy to get her to part with the computer. Crushed, Zoe hurries from the room.
[In an interview, Grace asks, "Do you ever find yourself being a much more horrible person than you really are? Since you know you didn't mean to be that horrible, you hope everybody else knows too." She looks at Zoe, who looks away in anger.]
Lily and Christie track Artie down at the bowling alley game room. He engages in target practice as Lily professes that people aren't interchangeable. She prompts Christie to remind him that he was Employee #3, and Christie continues, "Artie, you have a very personal and creative signature." She knows it's not just a technical skill. He smiles at her, and she desists from further groveling.
Graham begins his presentation to Clavan and Fosdick and a group of investors. Charts are projected as he poses, "How do we monetize what's already working on the content side?" He explains that new revenue streams would be created as PA becomes "a portal to e-commerce sites." He speaks of mezzanine financing providing an exit strategy in 9-12 months. At the conclusion, he displays some "cool graphics," which include flying cows, red barns, and the Chicago skyline.
Clavan, pleased with the presentation, shakes hands with Graham at the elevator. He and Fosdick agree that Graham and Christie are "a good fit."
Back in the office, Christie informs Graham that Artie will be returning -- she resolved the conflict. Lily, meanwhile, needs to be somewhere, so she declines a celebratory drink.
Lily finds Judy out in the revamped, chilly Booklovers alley. She begins to confess about her childhood near-miss with the pink ball, but Judy already knows about this. "Mom told me." Lily is stunned, but apologizes anyway at long last. After a meaningful pause, she continues, "I can't believe I took your idea and didn't even realize it." She feels like she threw that pink ball again, like "I obliterated you in my mind." Judy softly notes, "That's exactly what it felt like." To her sister's trembling apology, Judy says, "I forgive you," and they embrace. Collecting herself, Lily asks if she can still use her idea? "I thought you were fired," says Judy.
At the Mannings, Grace lugs her computer to her room as Zoe tells her to stop apologizing because "I'm not always gonna hate you. It's impractical." She may need her sister some day. If she gets her period, Zoe wonders, would that explain her getting so emotional? That, says Grace, or because "I've been kinda mean." They begin to trade insults as Grace tiptoes in with a pillow and POW! surprises Zoe.
Lily enters her front door to the sounds of screams and laughter cascading from above. Listening and smiling, she removes her scarf and coat.
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