Mightier Than the Sword

Act 1

Scene One

Night. Isabella speaks in the BLACKOUT. She is a high spirited seven year old and has a wild imagination.

ISABELLA. Once upon a time there was a handsome prince. The prince loved to write poems, ride on his white horse through his beautiful country, Riverton, and most of all in his big heart, he loved the beautiful princess of Ebbets, Angela. (Giggles.)

(Celeste groans. Isabella copies her.)

Lights come up on a shabby Brooklyn apartment. Ted is sitting at his desk with his laptop, but can't think of any words to write. He is in his mid-forties and dresses in haggard work wear. On the couch, Celeste, his turbulent twelve year old daughter, is sewing ribbons onto a shirt while she works on math with little success. She is wearing pajamas she embellished herself with ribbons, sequins and the like. Isabella, Ted's youngest daughter, is on the floor beside Celeste in a nightgown, drawing. She groans whenever Celeste does.

ISABELLA. The prince wanted to marry Princess Angela, but the king and queen said he wasn't brave enough—oh wait! Nobody thought he's brave so he said he would be the most bravest prince and he would go to the dragon and beat him so he wouldn't scare the people in the kingdom no more. And cos he kidnapped the princess and made her disappear! Oh yeah!

(Celeste groans again. Isabella groans too.)

ISABELLA. The prince left Riverton on his horse and went into the forest so he could go through it and get to the dragon's cave. The pixie helped him past the magical traps with her sparkly pixie magic—wait! He was wearing a green cape and the best black boots so he could ride on his horse and look brave and like a prince. Yeah. So he got past the magical traps—oh wait! There was a magical forest between Riverton and Ebbets cos the magic people live there and make it magical and they don't like the people with no magic. Okay.

(Celeste groans again and Isabella does the same.)

TED. Girls, please!
CELESTE. But this is hard.
ISABELLA. Yeah! It's real hard!
TED. Celeste, you're a smart girl. You'll work it out, but do it in your head, please. Isabella, drawing can't be that hard. And didn't I put you to bed an hour ago?
ISABELLA. How come I gotta go to bed and CC don't?
TED. Because you're seven, and your bedtime is 7:30. You need your sleep.
CELESTE. Yeah. I'm bigger than you so I get to stay up later.
TED. You're not helping. Get back to work.
ISABELLA. But I gotta work too! I'm making stories like you.
CELESTE. Drawing fairytales ain't work. Not like math.
ISABELLA. But you'd like it a lot, Daddy. See? I drew the prince from my favoritest bedtime story. Then it could be a book like you make.
TED. That's great, Izzy. Really. But you need to sleep. If you stay up now, you won't stay up for Thanksgiving dinner. It's just a few nights away.
ISABELLA. I can stay up for a real long time, and I won't be sleepy. Mommy let me stay up. Please, Daddy?
CELESTE. Mom is stupid, so who cares what she did?
TED. Celeste, stop it! Do your work.
CELESTE. Whatever.
TED. (Softly.) Isabella, Mommy isn't here, and I need to do what I think is best to take care of you. You need to sleep.
ISABELLA. Why isn't Mommy here? She's been gone like forever. When's she coming back?
TED. She has to be somewhere else. I don't know when she's coming back, but I'm here, and I'm telling you that you need your sleep. Mrs. Finnegan called. She told me you weren't listening in class again.
ISABELLA. Nu uh! Was too!
TED. She said you fell asleep while she was teaching and you wouldn't play games with the other kids.
ISABELLA. That ain't true!
TED. "Isn't."
ISABELLA. That's what I said. I play a lot, and I give the answer when she asks us spelling. But you like to be with just you sometimes, Daddy. Me too cos then I can think of new friends, um, new stories. And I can draw them, and you like my pictures. See this one? It's the prince and princess dancing cos they got married. I even got the pixie. See? Right there.
TED. It's beautiful. Now go to sleep and have a beautiful dream about dancing with the prince.
ISABELLA. I don't wanna dance with the prince.
TED. But you love to dance and you love the prince. It should be perfect.
ISABELLA. Yeah, but he's gotta dance with the princess cos they got married and they're gonna live happy ever after. That's why he fights the dragon. If I was there, I would do party dancing and ballet dancing with them cos I love dancing, but not with the prince. Tell me the story or I can't sleep.
TED. I need to work, baby. You know the story by heart.
ISABELLA. You say it better. Please! Please! Please!
TED. Fine. But no more after this.
ISABELLA. Carry me. I'm sleepy.
CELESTE. You're such a baby.
CELESTE. Uh huh.
TED. Don't start, girls. Izzy, you walked out of your room, you can walk back. Let's go. (Ted and Isabella head towards her bedroom.) Once upon a time in the beautiful country of Riverton, there was a handsome and brave prince, but few knew just how brave this prince was.
ISABELLA. The king and queen don't think so and nobody else does.
TED. That's right. The prince had many loves; he loved poetry and riding through Riverton's golden meadows on his white stallion in his famous green cape and slick black riding boots—gifts from his parents who wanted him to train hard and become wise and strong like a knight so he could win some beautiful princess' heart. But he didn't want to train. He didn't want to read on any political babble. That was boring. He wanted to write love poems and feel the breeze in his face, and pass the time with dreams. None of this seemed very brave. But he would swear from the highest mountains or from the deepest ocean or from the farthest star in the heavens that he would do anything—absolutely anything—to win the heart of the fair princess of Ebbets and win her hand in marriage.
ISABELLA. Say her name, Daddy. You keep not saying her name. I love it. Don't you?
TED. It's a beautiful name. Sorry. He would do anything to win the heart of the fair princess of Ebbets, Angela.

(They exit down the hall to the girls' room. Celeste looks at the pictures Isabella left on the floor. She picks one up. She seems to like it for a moment, but then scoffs at it.)

CELESTE. Let me guess. That's Izzy. That's me. That's Daddy and that's Princess Angela. Nothing to do with mom or nothing. So stupid.

(She crumples up the paper and throws it aside. She starts sewing again. Ted enters and sits at his desk.)

TED. To be perfectly honest, you weren't this much of a hassle when you were your sister's age.
CELESTE. Duh. Izzy is crazy. Not me.
TED. I don't know about all of that.
TED. Relax, CC, I'm kidding. If anyone is crazy here, it's me. You can't devote your life to making up characters and not be a little crazy with all of those people running around in your head. It's almost like sitting with them right beside me and sharing a coffee as they tell me about their lives. Each one with a new story to tell. Something vivid and exciting, full of crisis, climax and resolution. A happy ending like stories should have. I can see it.
CELESTE. Yeah, that's crazy. But if I was crazy I probably get it from mom. I get everything else from her. (Celeste tugs her hair.)
TED. You should be thankful you got her looks. You could've gotten mine.
CELESTE. (Stifles a giggle.) Dad—dy!
TED. Cele—este! Get back to work. I don't want you staying up too late with this.
CELESTE. Math is gonna keep me up forever.
TED. Funny, your mother has trouble with math.
CELESTE. Really? Oh no.
TED. Hmm? What's the matter?

(Celeste doesn't answer and concentrates on her work. Ted tries writing again. Celeste groans.)

TED. I'm not going to get a lick of work done tonight, am I?
CELESTE. I ain't stopping you.
TED. "I'm not."
CELESTE. Whatever. Your stuff's easier than mine anyway.
TED. Easier?
CELESTE. Yeah. You're just making up stories like Izzy. That can't be hard. Math is hard.
TED. Your math homework isn't your livelihood. It changes the stakes. You should be glad you only have that homework to do.
CELESTE. You always said school was my job. Ain't that the same thing?
TED: It's "isn't" and no, it's not. You're not paying for this apartment by going to school. I'm paying for this apartment by writing, and I'm staying out of jail by sending you to school so you can get a job one day and pay for your own apartment. So do your homework and do it quietly please.

(Ted continues writing.)

CELESTE. What if I got a question?
TED. Then ask me.
CELESTE. But you said do it quietly.
TED. Celeste.

CELESTE. What's four times eight?
TED. Thirty-two.

CELESTE. Then 'x' is…minus four…minus one…plus nine…ugh.

(They work in silence again. Ted seems to finally have a good idea. Celeste's groan distracts him again.)

TED. What's the question, Celeste?
CELESTE. You don't gotta be so grumpy. Seven times three?
TED. Twenty-one. Where's your calculator?
CELESTE. I let Jeffrey borrow it…but I don't know if he's still got it.
TED. Of course. And you probably expect a new one, huh?
CELESTE. I can't use the one I don't got.
TED. That's a shame. You're not getting a new one for a while.
CELESTE. Why not? I need it for school.
TED. Because we can't afford it. You can't keep giving your things to Jeffery so he can keep losing them or breaking them. You'll have to borrow one from your teacher for now.
CELESTE. He don't do it on purpose. If he needs something, I gotta give it to him.
TED. You're his girlfriend, not his mother.
CELESTE. So what? He has a good mom and he has me too to give him everything he needs. That's what you do when you love someone.
TED. You're the expert on being in love, I'm sure. So how do you plan to get your own homework done?
CELESTE. Well, let's see. What's six times six?
TED. Thirty-six.
CELESTE. Good. Then this'll work perfect. Hey, can we turn the heat on?
TED. It's broken. You want another blanket, they're in the closet.

(Celeste goes to the closet and grabs two blankets. She sees one of them has a big hole in it.)

CELESTE. This blanket got a rip.
TED. Another one? Alright. Get a different one. I'll throw that out.
CELESTE. There is no more. I can sew it. I'm getting an A in Home Ec.
TED. Really?
CELESTE. I told you that when I brought home the pillow I sewed.
TED. Oh, that's right. Great. Then I'd appreciate if you could sew up those blankets. I'd gladly buy you some thread and needles. It's less expensive than buying more blankets and more calculators.
CELESTE. You should know how to sew, Daddy. Then you could make your clothes better like mine. See? (Shows him the shirt she's sewing.) I sew on stuff and it's way better than yours. If you do it, then you could get a better job and get me a calculator. All my teachers look real dressy and they got lots of calculators and stuff.
TED. Even if I got a job on Wall Street I couldn't afford all of the supplies you go through thanks to Jeffrey. But you actually make a fair point. How about you teach me to sew?
CELESTE. Wait, really?
TED. Sure. We can do it over the long weekend. After your homework, of course.
CELESTE. Nah, you're just playing. You don't care.
TED. Of course I do. It's something I ought to know so my daughter doesn't have to do the dirty work. We can tag team the jobs.
CELESTE. But you're always writing on the weekends.
TED. Not always.
CELESTE. Uh huh.
TED. Well, this weekend is for you and me, CC, and we're going to sew until our fingers fall off.
CELESTE. Then we can't sew no more.
TED. We'll sew each other's fingers back on.
CELESTE. (Laughs.) Okay. (She curls up in the blanket and gets back to work.) What's nine times six?
TED. Fifty-f—wait. If I give you the answers, it's my work, not yours. What are those teachers teaching you besides sewing?
CELESTE. Nothing. Math is stupid and you can't learn it. You've just gotta memorize everything, and I can't do it!
TED. Baby, you spend more time complaining than trying to learn.
CELESTE. Maybe I just got mom's stupid genes. Maybe next I'll run away. Then I won't gotta worry about stupid math!
TED. CC, you're not stupid. No one is perfect at everything. If you need help with math, I'll help you as best as I can. I'm not so great at it either. Wrong side of my brain.
CELESTE. Better than me. I can't remember the stupid times table.
TED. Everything gets easier with time. The more you practice, the better you'll get. And some have tricks that help you. Like the nines. (He takes her hands.) What was the problem?
CELESTE. Nine times six.
TED. Hold up your hands and put down your sixth finger. Now how many fingers are on the left side of that finger?
TED. And how many on the right?
TED. So what's nine times six?
CELESTE. Five…four…fifty-four?
TED. There you go.
CELESTE. That's awesome! They all do like that?
TED. Not quite like that.
CELESTE. But then I'll only get nines.
TED. I'll explain all the tricks I know later. I've got to get some writing done now, okay? Especially if we want to sew this weekend.
CELESTE. Whatever. Running away is still easiest.
TED. The easiest answer isn't always the best.

(The doorbell rings. Frustrated, Ted answers the door. Marvin stands there smelling himself until he realizes Ted is at the door.)

MARVIN. Good evening, Ted.
TED. Hello, Marvin. Please come on in.
CELESTE. (Coughs) Or don't.
TED. Celeste.
CELESTE. I was just leaving.

(Celeste exits to the kitchen making a scene about the smell. Ted gestures for Marvin to sit on the couch and locks the door.)

MARVIN. Is she alright?
TED. She just picked up a bug. Probably from that no good boyfriend. The only thing he's actually given to her. New cologne?
MARVIN. Oh, this old thing? I've had it for years. Got it in a gift basket. A very fancy gift basket from Paris. You like it?
TED. It's aromatic.
MARVIN. Isn't it? It has a way of lingering in your thoughts. Makes you think about it. I know how you writers like to think about things. I'm sure you've got a plot coming to mind right now.
TED. It definitely has me thinking. So what can I do for you this late?
MARVIN. We need to talk. I'd rather do this in person.
TED. Oh. This doesn't sound entirely casual.
MARVIN. When is it ever between us? I'm practically your boss.
TED. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, Marvin. I like to think of you as an elevated co-worker.
MARVIN. Well isn't that the anti-euphemism of the year. Boss sounds much more refined. Charming. Outstanding. Like me.
TED. But you're not my boss. You're my agent.
MARVIN. Practically your boss.
TED. Can I get you a drink, practically boss?
MARVIN. Please.
TED. I'm afraid all I've got right now is fruit punch, soda and water.
MARVIN. I hope you mean those are the only drinks you have and not all of the contents of your fridge.
TED. Close.
MARVIN. Just water is fine.

(Ted exits into the kitchen. Marvin looks around the rundown apartment distastefully and sympathetically. Isabella enters from her room, dancing. She heads for the kitchen, but bumps into Marvin.)

MARVIN. Oh! Hello, Isabella.
ISABELLA. Hi, Mr. Reed. Is Daddy—? (Coughs.)
MARVIN. Oh, that doesn't sound good. You might be coming down with what your sister has.
ISABELLA. Nu uh. I ain't sick. Is Daddy in trouble?
MARVIN. Trouble? No. Not in trouble per se. Don't you worry your pretty little head about it. Your daddy is going to take great care of you.
ISABELLA. I know. He always do.
MARVIN. Say, what do you think about my new cologne?
ISABELLA. What's that?
MARVIN. It's called Eau de—
ISABELLA. No, what's colon?
MARVIN. Cologne. It's a spray that makes men smell good.
ISABELLA. Like perfume? Mommy likes pretty perfumes.
MARVIN. She certainly did. Yes, it's like perfume, but it's for men.
ISABELLA. You have colon?
MARVIN. Cologne.
ISABELLA. Oh. You have co-lone?
MARVIN. That's right.
ISABELLA. Right now?
ISABELLA. (Confused.) And it smells good?
MARVIN. Doesn't it? Very charming. Outstanding. Robust.
ISABELLA. What do that mean?
MARVIN. Very manly.
ISABELLA. Daddy don't smell like that.
MARVIN. Well, it's a bit more expensive. Brand new fragrance from France. Do you know where France is?
MARVIN. The other way around. What do you know about France? Or Paris?
ISABELLA. Daddy says Paris is real pretty and people go there when they're in love like mommies and daddies. He wrote about it in a story.
MARVIN. He used to write a lot of stories like that. You know, some people say Paris is the city of love.
MARVIN. Because it's a very romantic place.
ISABELLA. What do that mean?
MARVIN. It means they do things there to show how much they love each other.
ISABELLA. Like what?
MARVIN. Like special dinners and sightseeing and plays.
ISABELLA. And dance?
MARVIN. Yes. Sometimes they dance.
ISABELLA. I love to dance!
MARVIN. What kind of dance?
ISABELLA. Mommy took me to ballet class. See? (She shows him a ballet step.)
MARVIN. That was amazing. Ballet is a beautiful dance.
ISABELLA. Do they ballet dance in Paris?
MARVIN. I believe they do.
ISABELLA. Is ballet romantical?
MARVIN. It certainly can be.
ISABELLA. (Thinks.) Is Paris where mommies and daddies have babies?
MARVIN. I—I, uh, well, some might, maybe.
ISABELLA. Some? You said people go there to show they love each other.
MARVIN. Well, yes.
ISABELLA. Don't mommies and daddies when they love each other have babies and make families?
MARVIN. Well, many do, yes, but they don't have to go all the way to Paris for that.
ISABELLA. No? Then what do you gotta do?
MARVIN. It's nothing you have to worry about just now, sweetie. There are other things to do in Paris. Do you want to go to Paris one day?
ISABELLA. I don't know. I ain't in love. I don't think I am.
MARVIN. That's all right. One day when you're a big girl, you'll fall in love more than once. Maybe snag yourself a nice man like your daddy and run off to Paris. Have a beautiful little girl of your own.
ISABELLA. I don't wanna fall in love.
MARVIN. Why's that?
ISABELLA. Mommy fell in love.

(Ted enters with a cup of water)

CELESTE. (Off) You forgot the air fresh—!
TED. Celeste, hush! (Hands Marvin the cup.) Here you are. (Sees Isabella.) Isabella, I know I put you to bed.
ISABELLA. You did.
TED. And yet here you are. Did you at least say hi to Mr. Reed?
TED. And are you going to bed now?
ISABELLA. I ain't sleepy.
TED. "I'm not." And you said you were.
ISABELLA. Not now.
TED. At least do something productive before you sleep.
ISABELLA. What do producky mean?
TED. Productive means useful so you're not wasting time. Did you do your homework?
TED. All of it?
ISABELLA. A lot of it.
TED. How much is a lot?
ISABELLA. I did spelling.
TED. All of the spelling?
ISABELLA. Some of the spelling.
TED. Get to it, Izzy. But when CC goes to bed, I want you asleep.
ISABELLA. Okay. Byebye, Mr. Reed.

(Isabella exits to her room slowly, thinking she's being very subtle.)

MARVIN. She looks like she'd make a fabulous dancer.
TED. I should get her back to dance classes someday. (Hears Isabella. Shoos her to her room.) A-N-G-E-L-A took her to ballet classes three times a week, but we can't really afford it at the moment.
MARVIN. I see. Sounds like she would have the time of her life. You've got a bright and beautiful little girl there. She'll make something big of herself one day.
TED. My girls inspire me.
MARVIN. I can see how. They're rich with youth, enthusiasm, beauty, intelligence. They even come with the heartache package.
TED. They're strong girls. They can handle anything.
MARVIN. And how are you handling all of this?
TED. All of what?
MARVIN. You know. (Lifts a divorce document off the desk.) The single fatherhood. The low income. The suffering artist spiel.
TED. We may as well cut to the chase, Mr. Reed.
MARVIN. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Ted, I really do.
TED. It's your job, boss.
MARVIN. I suppose it is. Well, the work you're giving us—it's not quite up to snuff.
TED. Even the latest one?
MARVIN. The one about the girl who forgets she was sent to Earth on an espionage mission? TED. I read pieces of that one to CC and Izzy—the parts I thought they'd really understand. They loved it, and you know how kids their age will gladly speak their minds.
MARVIN. Yes, well, I'm glad they enjoyed it. It wasn't bad, really. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad. It's just, well, it just isn't going to cut it.
TED. I know it's not my best work, but I think I'm getting my muse back. Really. That's what I'm thankful for this year.
MARVIN. That sounds painfully familiar.
TED. The story I'm on now is gold. It'll sell faster than I Heart NY keychains in Times Square or tourist photos with the guy dressed like Lady Liberty outside Central Park.
MARVIN. I want to believe that, Ted. I really do. But after the last manuscript you sent I just can't take your word for it.
TED. Why is this suddenly an issue?
MARVIN. I got your request for the advance.
TED. Perfect. I could use that. I'm sort of between jobs at the moment.
MARVIN. Ted, I can't get you an advance for something that won't make money in the future. You owe us big and I've got to collect.
TED. Marvin, you can trust me on this one. I need that advance.
MARVIN. I'm sorry.
TED. This next book will do it. I know it will! I've got my heart and soul in these characters and their plot. It'll sell.
MARVIN. What's this astounding work of art about?
TED. It starts with a college boy going about his business, returning a camera to the photography lab for his friend. Then he gets chased down by this android that suddenly appears and starts tearing up the place. He runs into the girl everyone knows by sight on campus as the punky girl. She's into photography so she was staying for some last minute work. They hide together until the thing gets called away—they don't know it got called away. They just think it left. The boy wants to forget it ever happened, but the girl keeps confronting him about weird things going on around campus that no one else notices and the strange symbols like binary that appear in the girl's pictures when she develops them. It's actually a code to help them escape from the computerized world they forgot they entered and were trapped in. They slowly regain their memory as they solve the mystery that gives them clues to the truth. They remember they entered the computer to set off a virus and complete their real objective—to free the children that a scientist kidnapped in order to extend the lives of prospering adults.
TED. Don't you get it? The whole theme is that youth is wasted on the young. It's good, right?
TED. I'm telling you, Marvin, it'll sell. I'm a little tired so I'm not explaining it well—long day at the call center. But it'll be amazing.
MARVIN. You sure cling to your abstract science-fiction. What happened to those love stories?
TED. My inspiration changed.
MARVIN. So it has.
TED. But this is better. It still has the romantic element with the protagonists, it's just geared towards a new audience.
MARVIN. An audience I don't know that you're suited to write for.
TED. I write whatever comes to me. It's just been a bit sporadic lately, but that's okay. My girls bring out creativity in me than Angie never could. Forget Angie! I just need to organize it. I'm going to dedicate this story to the girls. Hopefully when they get to college, they won't have quite the same kind of adventure, but they'll be able to pursue their dreams like—like I pursued mine.
MARVIN. College is expensive.
TED. I'll have money by then. I'll have plenty of money. I'll have so much money, I won't know what to do with myself. I'll have so much money, I can buy those stupid decorative eggs that rich people have. That's the sign of a well off family—decorative eggs. I'll get there, and a few loans never hurt anyone.
MARVIN. Not immediately.
TED. I'll make it work.
MARVIN. Ted, you've been giving me the same crap for two years. The characters are lifeless, the plots are stale and predictable or complete asspulls that don't make any kind of sense. It's like reading a story Isabella might've thought up.
TED. Hey, I'd take that as a compliment. Izzy is extremely creative. You should see the pictures she draws and the way she dances and when I tell her stories at night, sometimes she changes them as I go along and makes up incredible things.
MARVIN. Then maybe she should write your books.
TED. (Biting.) I taught her everything she knows.
MARVIN. Look, you've never given yourself a break. I know the divorce is hard for you and the circumstances could be better.
TED. I'm fine.
MARVIN. Your work says otherwise.
TED. My work doesn't say anything like that. It just says I've gotten a bit of writer's block.
MARVIN. Two years of writer's block is detrimental to a writer. He can't live off of writer's block.
TED. I'm fine!
MARVIN. You've got more than yourself to think about. Maybe you can go for days without eating or having company, but there are two young girls in this apartment who are missing out on a lot because they don't have a mother-figure and their father-figure is too busy sending his publishing company crappy manuscripts.
TED. Don't tell me how to raise my daughters! The girls are doing great in school. They have friends. I've got my jobs that put food on the table and when my writing takes off again, it'll be great. Don't give me your pity, Mr. Reed.
MARVIN. You just told me you were between jobs.
TED. Sort of between jobs. I still have work, and it still brings in money.
MARVIN. And a father's careful attention too?
TED. When your wife runs off with some pretty boy scam artist, abandons your daughters, and leaves you alone to make ends meet, then I'll listen to advice on how to raise my kids.
MARVIN. All I'm saying is that maybe you should take a step back from the computer. Be with your girls and find a stable, decent paying job until you can get back on your feet.
TED. I'm on my feet, and I'm holding my girls up too! If Angie needs a younger man to hold her up, then fine. But it doesn't bother me or my girls.
MARVIN. Your life is a wreck, man! I'm not saying it's the worst situation you could ever be in, but it's not far off. And I'm not saying it can't get better, but you've been in the same rut for two years, and you haven't done anything to change it.
TED. What the hell do you expect me to do? I can't just pick up and move to a fresh new hovel or take the girls off to downtown Detroit for a paradise vacation! I can't just step back from my life. I need to keep working or the girls have nothing, and I won't let that happen.
MARVIN. It's already happened!
TED. They don't have nothing! They have me and I'm going to give them the goddamn world and no arrogant son of a bitch is going to tell me what I can or can't do for my daughters!
MARVIN. If you say so, Ted. My advice is all I can give.
TED. Well, thank you very much for your advice, Mr. Reed. I appreciate your concern. I'll have your money and a great new manuscript before you know it.
MARVIN. Alright. Well, I should head out. Wish the girls good night for me.
TED. Goodbye.

(Marvin exits and Ted locks the door behind him. He sits down again and tries to type. He hears Isabella's laughter.)

TED. Girls! (Isabella and Celeste enter.) Come on! You know better than to be noisy while I'm working! Cut it out, and get to work or get to bed!
ISABELLA. Sorry, Daddy.
CELESTE. But I didn't say nothing.
TED. Don't argue with me now. Just keep it down, please. Go on.

(Isabella and Celeste exit. Ted tries to keep writing, but can't. He slams his laptop shut. BLACKOUT.)