dramatis persona:
Mercy Melville – a human anatomy and physiology teacher
Ludwik Sander – a history teacher
Thomas Clarence – a student "in love" with Mercy

Scene. A Classroom and an adjoining office.

Thomas Clarence, a tall, gangly boy with glasses, dressed in a school uniform, stands stage left, facing audience. Mercy Melville, a teacher in her late 30's to mid 40's stands at her podium, shuffling papers, front center stage. Both have dim spotlights on them, but their faces are shadowed. Ludwik Sander, another teacher in his late 20's, sits at a desk slightly behind Mercy, in darkness.

[Spotlight on Ludwik illuminates. He gets up and walks around the desk, maneuvering around Mercy and Thomas, addressing the audience.]

Ludwik: In training to become teachers, we are schooled very thoroughly on the proper etiquette for dealing with students with romantic inclinations towards us. We are assured that, sooner or later in our careers, this is bound to happen and, if we handle ourselves the right way, we may not let this effect our chances of gaining tenure.

On this particular morning of November 26, I was in the company of my colleague, Mercy Melville of the science department, when an event of this nature occurred. You see, I had been made aware some weeks prior (through both suggestion and rumor) that a certain senior odd ball, Thomas Clarence, had developed a bit of a fancy for Mercy. Since it seemed a cruel (albeit, rather entertaining) notion to let it catch her off-guard--- as I was sure it would: she never paid much mind to doeful stares and the meanings behind stammered statements--- I decided to inform her of it, and perhaps offer my take on the matter. For sport's sake, if not conversation's. We were actually having tea over it when the boy came in to make his much anticipated bid for her affection.

[Ludwik steps out of the spotlight and makes his way back to desk and sits down with this last statement. Spotlight turns on Mercy; she takes as few strolling steps forwards]

Mercy: Thomas Clarence was, if anything, a rather ridiculous boy. Now, I say that with every ounce of affection, but it's true: he was that intelligent sort of boy who kept his nose in books but his head in the clouds. A bit of a social duck, not much for chit chat or making smalls with his classmates. He rarely spoke to most of his peers, let alone those of the female species. However, based on what I observed of him in class, I did peg him for a bit of a romantic. And despite what Ludwik may have thought, I had some inkling that he had taken to me.

I was not, however, prepared to be approached.

[pauses to think; continues in a bemused tone] I'm not entirely sure what he expected of me; it wasn't as though I could say "yes", even if I wanted to.

[Scene illuminates Mercy and Thomas. They are facing each other]

Mercy: (to Thomas) I am sorry, Thomas.

Thomas: But, Miss---

Mercy: No, Thomas. It's inappropriate. And now I must ask you to leave.

Thomas: You don't understand, Miss! I am completely besides myself for you! Every time I look at you---

Mercy: I must ask you to stop. If someone walks in on this conversation, we will both be in an extraordinary amount of trouble.

Thomas: Why won't you listen to me? What is it? Is there . . . is there someone else?

Mercy: (splutters) Is --- it--- I---

Thomas: That's it, isn't it. Who is it? I bet everything I own that he is not deserving of you--- that he couldn't possibly adore you more than---

Mercy: (sharply) Thomas! That is quite enough. (stops; adopts a softer tone) As flattered as I am, what you are suggesting is far too taboo to even be considered. My suggestion is to put it out of your mind. Now, run along.

[Reluctantly, Thomas leaves. Mercy watches the dejected boy go; then she herself goes back into her office, where she and Ludwik were having tea. Ludwik heard the entire conversation and is holding back a sneer.]

Lud: That was . . . cute.

Mercy: Do you think so?

Lud: In a sense.

Mercy: [settles back into her chair] You're right, of course. Foolish boy.

Lud: I thought it was amusing how he automatically assumed that if you were refusing him, it was because of a pre-engagement with someone else. But with whom did he imagine it? A man? Another student? Perhaps he thought you regularly pulled a Mrs. Robinson---

Mercy: Who?

Lud: Nevermind. The fact is, you just had some excitement thrown into your morning.

Mercy: I could have done without the entertainment, thank you---

Lud: I'm really not sure it deserves to be called "entertaining". In my view, it was far more pathetic than anything else.

Mercy: Must you be so coarse? He's immensely stupid for such an intellectual, but you must admit, it had to have taken a lot of courage----

Lud: I would argue that courage was not the meat of the issue for Mr. Clarence, since he seems to possess great arrogance in even asking you such a thing, and so directly.

Mercy: Arrogance? He probably has one of the lowest self-esteems in his class. I'm not sure he's even ever kissed a girl---

Lud: Then he should not start by kissing women. Nor should he make such confessions as the one he just dropped on your floor.

Mercy: and why not? It was a bit sodden, I'll lend you that. But someday, a woman --- girl, what have you--- might appreciate it.

Lud: No female in her right mind would appreciate that.

Mercy: I'm not sure I want to know what makes you such an expert on what women do and don't appreciate. Besides, other than being a little forward and ridiculous, what was wrong with his entreaty?

Lud: Truthfully? It was inane. Comedic, at best.

Mercy: Oh? Alright then, ye who art so superior and masterful in the art of confessing love: what wouldst thou do differently?

Lud: Well, for one, I don't think I would bother with such a silly, inadequate confession of my undying love---

Mercy: Oh, come off it. You have to admit, it was sweet---

Lud: ---because, for the first few seconds, I would be too preoccupied with staring at your mouth to force any intelligible syllables from my own.

Mercy: [pause] And why might that be?

Lud: [smirk] Well, ma Madame Merci, to be adequately infatuated, I would have to be properly floored by the mere sight of you. As well as by the boldness of what I was about to do. But, once I was sure to have regained the use of my voice, I would approach your desk. I would make idle chit-chat---

Mercy: By which time I would definitely know something was up, especially if you were my student---

Lud: --- idle chitchat in which I interjected little quips and articulations about how marvelous you look and what an excellent teacher you have been to me. [Pauses; takes a sip of tea] Leaning provocatively towards you over your desk, I would then ask you if you were busy on Saturday, and if you might like to join me for lunch at a quiet little french bistro in the villa--- to discuss some essays I had written, of course.

Mercy: Ah. Academics. How mightily seductive.

Lud: [mock offended] I think so.

Mercy: What should you do if I told you 'no'?

Lud: You wouldn't. If you suspected anything, you would be too flattered to turn me down. You would convince yourself of its innocence. Besides, you love croissants.

Mercy: And you, being the lovestruck thing you are, would know that.

Lud: Naturally. But let me continue: On the day of our luncheon, I would indeed bring my essays--- but they would be quickly forgotten once we began discussing--- nay, arguing--- about one or several subtly erotic topics.

Mercy: Oh yes? And what might those be?

Lud: Art, literature, current affairs. Sports, even. Music. War. Other people.

Mercy: You are a cad, aren't you?

Lud: [ignoring her] If all went well and if I thought you were charmed enough, I would then suggest that we do this again--- perhaps in the Three Tuns, where it might be easier to get you carelessly plastered.

Mercy: That might take a while. I can hold my alcohol quite well.

Lud: I would assure myself that the effort, however tedious, would be well worth itself. Besides, drinking games always help.

Mercy: What makes you think I would ever endeavour to play a drinking game? Especially with a student?

Lud: Prudent and scrupulous you may be, but a woman you still are. I would mention that it's probably been a while since you had more than a pint in any one night, and would jibe you about it until you assayed to prove me wrong. And, once you were drunk enough, I would suggest that we return to the school, insisting upon making sure you got to your rooms in one piece . . . and by that time, it would be too late and you would be too smashed to turn back.

Mercy: You seem to have given this a great deal of thought.

Lud: Hardly. I'm just simply that clever.

Mercy: Obviously. I suppose then, that I am lucky that Thomas Clarence is not half so clever --- though I doubt that any of our students have enough gumption--- or patience, for that matter--- to carry out such a lengthy courtship.

Lud: A good thing too, or you would be imminently doomed.

Mercy: Oh, shut it.

Lud: Poor boy . . . he strikes me as the kind that has the most difficult time leveling with the fairer sex. You turning him down must have been a weighty blow.

Mercy: I'm not about to pull a Mary Kay Letourneau with him just to boost his self-esteem, Ludwik. He is seventeen. In less than a year, he'll be off to a college where I'm sure there will not only be one girl who chases him, but dozens----

Lud: Which is, I must say, not too terribly less frightening than being chased by none at all. I hope he has a good pair of legs on him.

Mercy: [nods] An innocent boy like that? They'll eat him alive. (pause) Maybe I should have considered his proposal---

Lud: Don't be daft.

Mercy: Why not? He certainly wouldn't tell anyone. And it isn't as if there are men knocking down my door---

Lud: Even in your lonely, menopausal state, surely you can see that you can do much better.

Mercy: For your information, I am not menopausal--- I'm not that old, thank you very much. Further more, it might be interesting to have such a young, inexperienced lover---

Lud: Now you're just jibing me. I don't think I'll listen any longer [gets up]

Mercy: [watches him and pours herself another cup] Ta ta, then. I suppose I shall see you at breakfast?

Lud: Maybe. As you know, I'm not much for breakfast.

Mercy: Yes. Well, regardless, I'm sure I shall catch a glimpse of your dour mug later.

Lud: [theatrically bowing out] Goodbye, goodbye, parting is such sweet sorrow---

Mercy: Bugger off, you miserable twerp. And have a lovely day while you're at it.

[Exit Ludwik. End scene]