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Preston Dirges and the Lunchtime of the Soul

Int. Office Canteen – Day

Gordon and Tina sit at a table, facing each other and chatting as they eat. Preston leads Valerie across the canteen to join them, carrying their trays of food. Preston sits alongside Tina, across from Valerie. Valerie sits alongside Gordon, across from Preston. The conversation criss-crosses between the four of them.

PRESTON: (to Gordon) Gordon, you’re going to have to come up and answer a quick audit question.

GORDON: (to Preston) I don’t think I will. Last time I was asked a quick audit question, it took a week to answer it.

TINA: (to Valerie) Hello. My name is Tina and this is Gordon.

VALERIE: Pleased to meet you. I’m Valerie.

GORDON: (to Valerie) Sorry, hello, I’m Gordon.

PRESTON: (to Valerie) Yes, Valerie, this is Tina and Gordon.

VALERIE: I think we’ve established that.

PRESTON: This is Valerie’s first day. She’s a graduate developee.

GORDON: (to Valerie) Are you working with Preston?

PRESTON: It’s strictly temporary.

VALERIE: That’s right. Temporary. I should be in Marketing.

PRESTON: Valerie studied marketing.

TINA: Gordon wants to be in Marketing too.

GORDON: Yes I do. That’s where they make the big bucks.

PRESTON: (to Gordon) You want to work in Marketing? Why would you want to work in Marketing?

Tina glares at Preston. Preston turns toward Valerie.

PRESTON: (to Valerie) Not that there’s anything wrong with Marketing. Per se.

GORDON: I want a promotion, and more money.

PRESTON: You’re so materialistic, Gordon.

TINA: Yeah, Gordon.

GORDON: I don’t want to keep living in a flat with three blokes who always smell of beer, cigarettes and rugby socks.

PRESTON: Then move in with a woman. Women usually don’t smell of rugby socks. Unless they’re cheating on you with a rugby player.

TINA: (to Valerie) You’ll like working with Preston. He’s funny.

GORDON: (to Preston) Some women play rugby.

VALERIE: (to Tina) Yes. Funny. I can’t argue with that.

PRESTON: (to Gordon) But you wouldn’t want to go out with a woman rugby player.

TINA: (to Valerie) I mean, you’ll learn a lot from Preston. He’s very insightful.

GORDON: (to Preston) You’ve obviously not seen some of my ex’s. I may not want to go out with a rugby playing woman, but I might have to. Or risk getting beaten up.

VALERIE: (to Tina) Compliance Certification just isn’t my kind of thing. I studied art.

PRESTON: Certification Compliance.

GORDON: (to Preston) Anyway, I don’t even have a girlfriend right now. My girlfriend in South Africa dumped me.

TINA: (to Valerie) I thought you studied marketing?

PRESTON: (to Gordon) I can’t see how that makes a difference, really. She must have been around six thousand miles away.

Gordon vigorously nods his agreement.

VALERIE: (to Tina) I studied marketing and fine arts, joint honours.

PRESTON: (to Gordon) Enjoy your freedom, Gordon. Then get married to a hard-working woman with a proper job who’ll pay her share of the mortgage.

TINA: (to Valerie) That’s an interesting combination.

GORDON: (to Preston) I intend to enjoy my freedom, (whispers) each and every night if I can. (normal voice) But it would help if I had a decent place to take the girls back to.

TINA: (to Gordon) Gordon! Don’t talk like that!

GORDON: I didn’t know you were listening to our conversation. If I’d known you were listening, I wouldn’t have talked like that.

TINA: Women can talk and listen at the same time.

PRESTON: Which must be a very efficient time-saver. The best I can do is talking and ignoring people at the same time. Sometimes I don’t even attempt to talk, and I just concentrate all my efforts on ignoring people.

VALERIE: Women are born multi-taskers. It’s very efficient to listen whilst you’re talking.

GORDON: It’s like a superpower. A feminine superpower.

VALERIE: I suppose you could describe it like that.

PRESTON: Don’t encourage Gordon. He reads too many comics.

GORDON: But it’s not good to have superpowers in real life. People with superpowers would always be evil, in real life.

PRESTON: And he thinks about them. Too much.

VALERIE: Erm…

TINA: What Gordon means is that some of the motivation for characters in comic books wouldn’t make any sense in real life.

PRESTON: And you shouldn’t encourage him either.

TINA: I like reading comics too. I’ve got too many brothers not to.

VALERIE: But superheroes don’t exist in real life.

GORDON: Quite. But if superheroes existed in real life, they’d all be supervillians.

VALERIE: Why?

TINA: Because power corrupts.

GORDON: And absolute power corrupts absolutely. Think about it. Spiderman is Peter Parker during the day: a freelance photographer. Pfff… that makes no sense. He make a pittance and struggles to pay the rent. Temptation would be too great – he’d be a great catburglar instead.

PRESTON: Spider-cat-burglar.

GORDON: Exactly. And Clark Kent is supposedly an ordinary reporter during the day, living in a meagre apartment and driving a crappy car. But he’s Superman. Why would he settle for so little? He can fly. Why would he pay car tax? Could you imagine him waiting in line at airport security? Or letting some scumbag from Goldman Sachs push ahead at the taxi rank? That wouldn’t make any sense at all.

TINA: And Batman. He can beat anyone up, but during the day he’s just an ordinary… (beat) multi-billionaire… (beat) playboy…

GORDON: Batman doesn’t count. He’s not got any real superpowers. He’d be corrupt because he’s so filthy rich. Which I suppose is the point with Batman. He’s so corrupt that he gets his kicks from being an untouchable thrill-seeking vigilante, beating the life out of criminals whilst wearing a kinky suit, and protected by Commissioner Gordon.

PRESTON: So in conclusion, Gordon, power corrupts. And women shouldn’t listen to you, when you talk out loud. Nor men.

GORDON: You were correct on the first point. However, the rest was baffling nonsense.

PRESTON: Good, because I’m paid for my baffling nonsense. Now you’re coming with me to baffle my auditor. And Valerie knows not to listen to a word whilst you do.

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