Once and Again...Once Again

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Summary of The Other End of the Telescope

by Angela Stockton
edited by Larramie Kertis

[Lily, in a black and white scene, is holding, not wearing, Rick's engagement ring. She turns it around and around in her hands as she turns his marriage proposal over and over in her mind. She looks to the camera for guidance.]

On a Sunday morning, Lily is awakened by her alarm clock. She rolls out of bed and goes to Grace's room. While she tries to wake up Grace, a smoke detector blares in her kitchen. Hurrying to turn it off, she finds the kitchen filled with smoke, and Zoe baking a birthday cake for her father. Scolded for turning on the oven without supervision, Zoe explains that she did so because she was afraid Mommy would never wake up.

Judy arrives with bagels for brunch with Lily and the girls. Grace enters the kitchen dressed in her Sunday best, explaining to Judy that she's working at the restaurant that day. "As a hostess!" Lily adds. Although Grace has homework and is tempted to beg off, Lily reminds her that she has promised to work for her father because it's his birthday.

Rick arrives and the atmosphere becomes strained immediately, Grace and Judy making excuses to leave. Alone with Lily, Rick tells her, "I wish we would get back to normal." His marriage proposal hangs over them like a pall. "I felt like you blindsided me," Lily tells him.

"Blindsided you by asking you to marry me?" he asks incredulously.

"You didn't ask me -- you kind of asked me," Lily says.

"Well, I didn't exactly have a rule book," Rick defends himself. Zoe interrupts their tete-a-tete by strolling into the kitchen, asking if they can bake the cake now.

At the restaurant, Jake approaches a table and picks up a tab and credit card, Grace following him like a trainee. He instructs her about the importance of creating turnover by quickly ringing up tabs, clearing tables, and seating new customers before they become impatient and leave. While Jake's attention is elsewhere, Grace exchanges greetings with a young busboy named Benny.

Giancarlo, Jake's chef, is slicing pizza at the buffet table when he notices Benny carrying a bus pan. When he asks Benny to bring plates from the kitchen, the busboy agrees to do so, once he has cleared a table. That's not soon enough for Giancarlo, who snaps, "I need the plates now!"

"Why are you talking to me like that?" Benny whimpers.

"Just get me the damn plates now!" Giancarlo shouts.

Jake rushes over to mediate, sending Benny to bus the table and ordering Giancarlo not to pick a fight with a busboy while the restaurant is busy. He tells Giancarlo to fetch the plates himself. Meanwhile, Grace is at the entrance, studying the seating chart. "Lewicki, party of two," she reads perfunctorily, until the name "Lewicki" registers. Looking up, she sees Spencer, who grins and says, "Hey, Manning, I didn't know you worked here!" -- which doesn't fool Grace at all. Spencer introduces the white-haired woman accompanying him as his grandmother, whom he's treating to a seventy-fifth birthday celebration lunch.

In the kitchen, Giancarlo and Benny are continuing their argument, coming to blows when Giancarlo calls the busboy a "stupid little retard." From the dining area Jake hears raised voices and breaking dishes, and rushes in to pull the combatants apart. He orders Giancarlo back to the dining room and tells Benny to go home and cool off.

"Am I fired?" Benny asks anxiously. "We'll talk about it tomorrow," Jake answers, again ordering him to leave.

Returning to the entrance, Jake is talking to Grace when, behind her, he sees Tiffany, who greets him shyly. Grace is rescued from the awkward encounter when Spencer approaches her to ask if they have birthday candles. When Tiffany describes where they are kept, Grace leads Spencer to the kitchen.

Though as ill at ease as Jake, Tiffany explains that she has come to give him a birthday present which she bought before their breakup, a monogrammed appointment book. "I'd written all your important dates in there, all the ones I could remember, anyway," she adds. Jake is touched but at a loss for what to say besides his thanks, and he offers her a drink. "Well, Jake, the thing is, there's something I want to tell you," she begins.

At that moment Jake sees Benny, a jacket over his busboy's uniform, pushing through the line of customers at the front door. Leaving Tiffany, he muscles Benny aside, telling him, "I told you to go home!"

In response, Benny pulls out a handgun. A woman screams. Benny shouts, "I want to see Giancarlo!" When frightened customers crowd toward the exit, he waves the gun and orders, "Nobody move!"

In the kitchen, another busboy bolts for the rear door, past Spencer and Grace, who are decorating a cake. He calls to the two teens that Benny pulled a gun on Jake in the dining room, and they need to get out too. Grace is stunned, but her first concern is for her father. She and Spencer watch through the kitchen door as Jake tries to reason with the gun-waving Benny. With customers cowering under tables and inching toward the exit, Jake agrees to take him into the kitchen, but Giancarlo has disappeared.

Taking advantage of Benny's absence, customers try to slip out of the building. When he and Jake return to the dining room, Benny orders them to stop. When they ignore him, Benny points the gun at the ceiling and fires. "Nobody's going anywhere!" Jake yells, fearing for their safety. As sirens fill the air outside, Benny orders Jake to lock the front door. Rattled by the sirens, Benny orders Jake to lock the back door also, and tells everyone to sit on the floor.

In her kitchen, Lily mixes her cake while Zoe "helps" by watching television, and Rick keeps them company. Zoe's program is interrupted by a bulletin about a hostage situation unfolding at Phil's in Evanston. Judy bursts into the kitchen, terror in her eyes.

At the restaurant, Benny hovers at Jake's elbow while Jake dials Giancarlo's home number. The telephone rings but is not answered. Frustrated, Benny paces, venting his anger at Giancarlo and worrying aloud that Jake will fire him, he'll lose his apartment, no one will offer him another job, and Giancarlo will not suffer at all. Jake's attempts to pacify him get nowhere.

The restaurant telephone rings with a call from John Patterson, a police captain, asking Jake what Benny wants. Jake replies that Benny wants to talk to Giancarlo. Taking the phone from Jake, Benny barks, "Find him and bring him here!" before hanging up. When the phone rings again, Benny disconnects it.

Again Jake tries to talk him into letting the hostages go, offering to stay behind himself. Offended by Jake's use of the word "hostage," Benny waves the gun at Jake and tells him not to move.

Lily and Rick arrive at the restaurant, where Patterson grimly confirms that Grace is inside. A hostage negotiator, Lt. Ruth Saticoy, asks Lily about Jake's temperament in crisis situations. Consumed with fear for Grace, she stammers that he's always been good in emergencies.

Inside, Jake and Tiffany exchange a few words, Jake speculating that the police will simply wait for Benny to tire out. Grace calls to her father that Spencer's grandmother seems to be sick, and Spencer confirms that she has a heart condition. Jake pleads with Benny to allow the hostages to get off the floor, then, sensing Benny's indecision, announces that he is putting Nana Lewicki in a chair.

Saticoy calls Jake on his cell phone and asks to speak to Benny. "Can I get you anything?" she asks. "Yeah, you can get Giancarlo down here to apologize," Benny snarls. Although she offers to come inside to talk, he refuses to allow her in and orders Jake to turn off the phone. Thinking quickly, Jake fumbles with the telephone, pretending to turn it off, but actually leaving it on. "There, it's off," he lies boldly. When Benny demands to keep the phone, Jake hands it back with the dial turned away from Benny. Hearing the whole exchange, Patterson announces to his troops, "We've got ears." To Rick, Lily blames herself for Grace's predicament, since she insisted that Grace go to the restaurant that day.

When Benny complains that he's hungry, Jake offers to make carbonara for everyone. Benny vetoes that suggestion, but says he can serve the birthday cake -- "no ice cream" -- to anyone who wants some. He orders Grace and Spencer to bring out the cake.

In the kitchen, the teens commiserate with each other about the situation they're trapped in and confess to their phobias, Spencer saying, "I have trouble believing the world can exist without a catastrophe," and Grace replying, "I'm really scared of tidal waves." "That's a particular danger in Chicago," Spencer jokes nervously.

Taking a seat alongside Jake, Tiffany says, "There's something that I have to tell you. I'm pregnant." Jake is astounded, not only by the timing of this news but by the fact that she's pregnant at all, since he thought she couldn't have children. Tiffany admits that she thought so too, but she is. While they talk, Benny eats a piece of cake, indifferent to the drama he's created.

At Lily's house, Judy is watching Zoe, who's tired of being stuck at home and worried about her sister and her father. She takes her coat off the peg and announces that she's going to the restaurant. Judy tries unsuccessfully to dissuade her, but as Zoe opens the front door, she comes face to face with Karen and Jessie on the stoop. "We were worried," Karen explains simply. "We wanted to see if you were all right," Jessie adds. Thwarted in her desire to visit the scene of the crime, Zoe runs upstairs, Jessie following her. Unnerved and exhausted, Judy sags against Karen.

Behind the police barricades, Lily recalls for Rick all the times she left Grace with a sitter in spite of her apprehensions that something terrible would happen. "I'm telling you, it's gonna be OK," Rick assures her. "How can you know that?" she challenges him.

When Grace tells her father that Nana Lewicki is having trouble breathing and may need an aspirin, her words are carried through the cell phone to the police. Immediately, Patterson orders his SWAT team to take up positions around the building. Lily hears the commands and sees the activity and slips under a barricade to talk to Patterson, only to be ordered away. Seeing assault rifles pointed at the front door, she bends double, retching, while Rick tries to comfort her.

While reporters announce to their TV audience that the standoff is moving into its sixth hour, the hostages alternate between fear and boredom, and Lily waits helplessly inside a patrol car. Rick brings her coffee, but even as she thanks him for staying with her, she can't stop crying.

Tiffany assures Jake that she doesn't want anything from him: "We're clearly not gonna get married or anything, I just thought you should know." Wearily, he agrees. Grace calls him to look at Nana Lewicki, whose breathing is labored. When the elderly woman collapses across her table, Benny callously refuses to allow her to be removed. Jake sends Grace and Spencer to the kitchen for an oxygen canister. Paralyzed by panic, they can't unlock the wall-mounted case, and Grace has to scream for Jake to help.

Tiffany helps Nana lie on the floor. As Spencer watches Jake run back to the dining room with the canister, he can't bring himself to go to his grandmother. He moans that he talked her into coming to Phil's because he wanted to see Grace, and it's his fault that she's going to die.

"Spencer!" Grace screams, trying to cut through his hysteria. She wraps him in a consoling hug. They pull back as if seeing each other in a new light, and kiss.

Through the cell phone, Patterson hears of Nana's deteriorating condition, and uses a bullhorn to shout a demand to Benny that he allow paramedics to remove her. Flustered and wondering how the police know what's happening inside the restaurant, Benny examines the cell phone, sees that it's turned on, and furiously hurls it across the room. He herds the hostages to the front door, forming a human shield. Patterson orders his troops to stand down.

Fed up with trying to reason with Benny, Jake finally explodes, saying that this has to stop. "You have got to do the right thing!" he tells him repeatedly.

"I just want it to be over," Benny mutters. With one hand he tosses the front door keys to Spencer, ordering, "Everybody out now!" and with the other he points the gun at Jake, adding, "Everybody but him."

Terrified for her father, Grace has to be dragged out the door by Tiffany. Although she runs to her mother, she screams for the police to rescue Jake.

Inside, Benny tells Jake that he should leave also. Concerned for him, Jake tries to talk him into surrendering, but Benny despondently refuses and, at gunpoint, orders Jake to leave. Hands raised, Jake walks out the front door, past the police, and embraces Grace and Tiffany. Benny ignores Patterson's shouted order to come out. Seconds later, everyone hears a single gunshot.

Late that night, as the wind tears down the police tape and blows it away from the entrance to Phil's, Jake sits slumped at a table in the darkened dining room, a bottle of whiskey in front of him and a mop bucket behind him. Tiffany approaches the table.

"I don't know why I ever thought I could make this place work," Jake mutters.

"But you did make it work!" Tiffany protests.

Bitterly, he predicts that no one is going to return to a restaurant notorious as the place where a busboy blew his brains out. "In one day, just like that, there's nothing left," he mourns.

'There's me," Tiffany reminds him guilelessly.

Overcome, Jake pulls her to him and kisses her abdomen, then collapses against her in tears. Tiffany stands awkwardly, allowing him to hug her.

In her bedroom, Lily tucks Grace and Zoe into her bed. Thoughtfully, she gazes across the room, then goes downstairs where Rick is waiting. He asks about Grace. "She was afraid to fall asleep, but she finally did," she reports.

"Listen, I'm not letting you go away. I am staying right here, do you understand? Because I don't care what you say," Rick declares, so fervently that when Lily replies, "I don't want you to go," he doesn't hear. To silence him, she raises her left hand to show him that she's wearing his engagement ring.

"Oh...oh?" he stammers. In reply, she flexes her hand so that the ring sparkles in the light. Of all the things he wants to say, "Thank you" is all he can manage.

"You're welcome," she replies, smiling. They hold each other in a tight, loving embrace.

The end.

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