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This one KITCHEN SCENE is offered free for performance if Jeannette Jaquish is notified.
SCENE 3: KITCHEN PLOTS & PLANS
From “Auditioning a Ghost”, adapted by Jeannette Jaquish from a short story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle titled, “Selecting a Ghost”, in the years before his success with Sherlock Holmes eclipsed his other works.
When the wife inherited a lot of money, the family bought a castle in England to live out her fantasy, which was spoiled when she discovered it had no ghost.
The COOK and GARDENER have just been told that the master of the house is planning a fake séance to fool his wife into imagining that the castle is haunted.
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COOK (leaves mop in bucket): Bloody grand, this is! Oh, the things we can get away with! By blamin’ it on the ghost! Yes, yes. Grand. Bloody grand….. The trick ya see, is to get them wonderin’ about the nature of the ghost: why the ghost is takin’ and doin’ this an’ that, not if it is the ghost. So ya set it up with some things happenin’ only a ghost would do, such as settin’ the pictures askew, maybe turning only certain people’s pictures all the way around, so’s they think there’s some personal dislike the ghost has for that person. An’ maybe ya find a pair of shoes in a size that would not be fitting the foot of anyone in the house, and spill some flour and make some footprints through it, and they can even go up the wall – but that can be tricky to do without stepping in the flour with your own shoes.
(WATKINS stares off as if thinking, barely moving, occasionally slurping his tea. COOK seems to forget about him. )
GARDENER: Why do you want to do all that? If the Mister wants to give ‘is wife a scare let him hire more actors.
COOK: I ain’t doin’ it to entertain. I ain’t some party clown. Let me finish. Anyway you do the normal ghost things, moving stuff around, such as a puddle of tomato juice that disappears while she’s runnin’ to tell the Mister, or one of the child’s dolls that always winds up on a window sill in an unused room…
GARDENER: Why’d they be scared by tomato juice.
COOK (sigh of exasperation) : What does tomato juice look like?
GARDENER: (thinks) Oh! That would be scary.... You’d hide the can.
COOK: Yes. You would. So you do the normal ghost stuff and get ‘em convinced of it, an’ then you add in stuff to suit yourself, and they blame it on the ghost!
GARDENER: Eh? But what’s the point?
COOK: So’s ya can nick stuff. See?
GARDENER (getting it): Huh.
COOK: Just small things a ghost could carry. A coin, a piece of jewelry, a tool. Or maybe move it a few times first, so’s they can’t find it and then they do find it, then they can’t find it and then they do, a few times before you take it away completely, so’s they think it’s still in the house somewhere.
GARDENER (pause to think about it): Do ghosts break stuff?
COOK (teasing a little): Could be. (making it up on the spot) Could be the house is haunted by a child ghost, what throws tantrums. And maybe this child got bitten by a goose when he or she was alive, and so this little tortured soul might draw a picture of that attack on the wall – in chalk, of course, so no harm done. So if the Missus sees that, and then later if she goes into the drawing room and finds the porcelain swan on the floor broken into a dozen pieces, it would just be more of the same. The ghost did it.
GARDENER (nodding seriously): I see.
COOK: Of course, an angry little child ghost would leave the broken swan in the drawing room. A ghost would never hide it under an old tablecloth in the tool shed, and would never think of putting rubber cement on it.
GARDENER (embarrassed): You do say.
COOK: You’d never in a century believe what Randall and Betsy Dalton get away with by spookin’ their employers.
GARDENER: Like what?
COOK: Oh, just a few little things. To supplement their income, you might say. A silver spoon, military memorabilia, a violin, mixed in, of course, with ordinary stuff like an ash tray, pin cushion, handkerchief – stuff no one would steal. And sometimes the haunting can be right handy -- Betsy said it were an accident when the cat choked dead on a chicken bone and who got blamed?
GARDENER: The ghost?
COOK: You see the advantages. But it’s best not to make the ghost too bloodthirsty, though, or you’ll scare the family out, and then what have you got?
GARDENER: Yeah. Baby with the bathwater.
(WATKINS finishes tea and EXITS.)
COOK: And they never even meant to set it up. Betsy had to suddenly take care of her sister’s 4-year-old when the sister went to hospital, but Betsy knew the master wouldn’t let her, so’s she was keeping the kid hidden in back rooms. But the Master’s teenage son heard the kid’s footsteps and him singing and plinking on the piano.
COOK: And when the teenager opened the door the little scamp hid quick, the teenager got spooked, and --Voila! -- the house was haunted.
GARDENER: Ha Ha!
COOK: And it really comes in handy when you accidentally breaks stuff. Just say you heard the sound from the other room and found it like that and look real spooked--
COOK: What? Is it...?
GARDENER: Shhhhh! (goes and peeks out door to rest of house) It’s Jeffers! He’s got my suitcase ... and yours! He’s comin’ down the stairs and turnin’ this way.
COOK: Our suitcases? What for do ya... Oh.
GARDENER: You and your talk of stealing! We’re bein’ sacked!
END OF SCENE