Fried

Credits

Coral Baxter-Ellis – Tal Minear
Paul Ellis – Carl G. Brooks
Allison Baxter – Erin B. Lillis

Written by Shannon Perry
Opening music “Coffee” by Cambo
Closing music “Life Illusion” by Ketsa


COLD OPENING – IN THE CAR, DRIVING BACK FROM WEDDING

SFX: ROAD NOISE

COR

Well, it was actually a nice ceremony, don’t you think?

Silence

COR

I thought Chuck’s new wife was pretty nice.

Silence

COR

The cake was tasty.

Silence

COR

Come on, when she chewed out the minister for putting “obey” back in the vows, that was kind of awesome.

The radio is flicked on

COR

Whooooo. Tough crowd.

FOREWORD

OPENING MUSIC

COR

That’s a verbatim transcript of the entire ride home from Chuck and Elaine’s wedding. THE ENTIRE RIDE. I never knew saying nothing could make you so tired. It’s been 28 hours since the wedding, and they still haven’t said a word to each other. That means that yours truly is stuck carrying messages between them, and I’m sick of it. So I’m going to make them talk to each other. Sorry, listeners… you’re kind of like… bait.

RECORDING SESSION – NEXT DAY, AFTERNOON

ALLISON

(walking in to the room)

OK, I’m here. Why am I here? We’re not doing the podcast anymore, COR.

PAUL

(walking in to the room)

What was so flipping urgent you had to text me four times in five minutes? Why is the podcast stuff set up?

COR

Because we’re doing an episode. Sit down

ALLISON

No, we’re not. I’m going back to bed.

COR

It’s 2.30 in the afternoon.

ALLISON

It’s night in… Mexico or something.

PAUL

Mexico? For Christ’s sake, Allison, they’re on the same side of the planet as us.

COR

You haven’t spoken for an entire day, and that’s how you break the silence?

ALLISON

What a coincidence. You’re taking Mexico’s side.

PAUL

That’s not what I meant by-

ALLISON

Got Mexico on your mind, huh? I wonder why that is!

PAUL

You were the one who brought up Mexico in the first place!

ALLISON

Maybe because you keep throwing Mexico in my face!

PAUL

You know what? I’m going for a run.

ALLISON

And so it begins.

PAUL

What’s that supposed to mean?

ALLISON

It means you saw Marisol yesterday for the first time in ages, and suddenly you need to start running again. Wanting to look good naked, are we?

PAUL

I… ate a lot of cake, that’s all. Staving off middle age. And middle belly bulk.

ALLISON

Too late.

COR

SIT. DOWN.

ALLISON

Hey there, we’re still your parents.

COR

Really? Because you sound like a couple of spoiled, bickering children on the playground. Or Real Housewives on any given day. Sit down and put on your headphones.

(pause)

Please.

PAUL

Fine, but you get 15 minutes. First sign of rude from the snark tank, I’m out of here.

COR

Mom? Can you do 15 minutes without a snark attack?

ALLISON

Can he go 15 minutes without inspiring me to snark?

COR

Let’s do our best to avoid snark week for the time being, can we? We got an urgent question from a listener, and I think you should answer it.

PAUL

A listener sent in a question?

ALLISON

We have a listener?

COR

Yes, Dad, and more than one, Mom. Lots more, actually. This one in particular I found very interesting and I’d love for you to answer it. Do you want to know the question?

ALLISON

Let’s hear it. Nothing better to do.

COR

Gee, that’s the spirit, Mom. Very civic-minded of you.

ALLISON

Just… tell us the question.

COR

OK, headphones on. Scootch up to the mics!

PAUL

Tell your mother she’s using the wrong polar pattern for her microphone. It’s supposed to be on cardiod.

ALLISON

Tell your father if it’s switched it’s because he let his grubby friend Chuck play with it.

COR

I’m not playing the “tell your mother/tell your father” game again! If you keep it up I will buy you a bunch of carrier pigeons and you can communicate that way.

ALLISON

Tell your father he’ll have to raise them because… well, as you know, birds freak me out.

PAUL

Tell your mother she’ll have to clean out the coop because of my bird allergies.

COR

Can I get to the question now?

PAUL

If you must.

ALLISON

Just hurry up. I want to get back to having nothing to do.

COR

The question is, should you share your food with your partner?

PAUL

What kind of question is that? And why are they asking us?

ALLISON

What do you mean? Like, if you’re starving on a deserted island with only one banana?

COR

No, nothing that dramatic. I mean sharing food like when you get yourself a bowl of ice cream, do you give your partner a spoonful?

PAUL

This is a question from a listener?

COR

Yes. Let’s say you order French fries at a restaurant, and your partner orders a side salad because… reasons; do you let them slip a fry or two off your plate?

ALLISON

This is stupid. Good night.

PAUL

You know what? Let’s just do this, Allison. Fifteen minutes. Four our listener.

Pause

ALLISON

Fine. Fifteen. For our listener.

COR

Thank you. OK, so — do you?

ALLISON

He wants one of my French fries; do I share? Not sure — what’re my chances he’ll choke on it?

COR

We’re not talking about you and Dad. We’re talking generally. I think they want your perspective on this as a married couple.

PAUL

Good thing. The only thing your mom would share with me now is rat poison. Or maybe pigeon poison.

COR

Uhhhhhh… podcast? You said you’d give me 15 minutes. Snark-free. That goes for you too, Mom.

ALLISON

Oh, all right. Let’s get this over with. Repeat the question?

COR

Your partner asks for a bite of your food. Do you share?

PAUL

Well… it depends.

COR

That’s a cop-out.

ALLISON

No, he’s right. It depends.

COR

On what?

ALLISON

On what this other person is really asking for. Does he really want a French fry? Or is there something he needs to ask her?

PAUL

Does she want a scoop of ice cream or just a moment of closeness?

COR

How can you tell which it is?

PAUL

You just can. Does she snuggle up when she asks for a scoop, or does she come diving in spoon-first armed with a bottle of chocolate syrup in the other hand?

ALLISON

Exactly. Sometimes it’s the food they want. Sometimes it’s the sharing.

COR

So what if it’s not really the food they’re after? What do you do?

ALLISON

Food can be an analog for something that you don’t really want to ask for, or maybe you don’t know how to. So, you have to work it out of them.

PAUL

Gently.

ALLISON

(insulted)

I didn’t say stab them with your fork!

PAUL

I don’t know. I’ve seen the way you try to work a kosher dill out of a jar.

ALLISON

Well when the pickle refuses to surface willingly then it deserves to be stabbed.

PAUL

What I meant was, if they’re asking by not asking, you have to pull it out of them. Gently. Like pulling a pigeon out of a pipe.

ALLISON

Boy, you’re really going all in on this pigeon thing, aren’t you?

COR

And how do you do that? Pull it out of them gently?

ALLISON

Well, first you give them what they asked for — I mean, the French fry.

COR

Okay….

ALLISON

Then you might ask, “How is it? Too salty? Still warm enough? Want another?”

PAUL

Right. If they say the fry is good, great, perfect, doesn’t need a thing, then they’re probably fine.

ALLISON

But if it’s cold or greasy or mushy, then probably something’s up.

COR

What if you don’t feel like sharing? Because maybe you want all the fries, or maybe you just don’t want to share with them right now?

ALLISON

You have to be careful. Not sharing is a pretty powerful weapon in a relationship.

PAUL

Not always, though. There may be valid reasons for not sharing. Maybe you are at one of those restaurants that gives you only seven fries, so there’s not enough to share…

ALLISON

Maybe your partner is in a low-carb phase and you don’t want them to suffer death-by-fry.

PAUL

But if you can make a joke out of it, and you both can laugh at it, that’s probably OK.

ALLISON

Right. But if you pull your food away, or yell at them to get their grubby pigeon-holding hands off your food, that’s harsh. Asking someone to share what they have with you makes you vulnerable. If they refuse… ouch.

COR

I can see that. What about when you offer to share without having been asked?

PAUL

Yeah, that’s big.

ALLISON

Huge.

COR

Really? Why?

ALLISON

It’s very intimate, isn’t it? Reaching into the same popcorn container at the movies…

PAUL

Giving someone a bite of a meal because it’s so good and you love them so much that you want them to enjoy it too.

ALLISON

Trading plates at a restaurant, feeding each other…

PAUL

Two straws in a strawberry milkshake.

ALLISON

Oh my god, I forgot about that.

COR

About what?

PAUL

We went to…. Dairy Queen, was it?

ALLISON

Six of us were crammed in Paul’s crappy old station wagon on a road trip to see the giant redwoods. This was way before you, Cor; were we even officially dating yet?

PAUL

I don’t think we were! In fact, had just gotten out of a long relationship and we had planned that road trip so I figured I’d still go anyway. It was you, me, Gerald, Bobby, Steph, and… what was her name?

ALLISON

I never knew her last name. I used to call her Samantha Bag-hat.

PAUL

You used to tease her so bad about that hat! “What’s in the hat, Sam? Better let the cat out of it!”

PAUL and ALLISON both laugh

COR

I don’t get it.

PAUL

You had to be there.

ALLISON

So anyway we were on our way to Cali and we stopped at a DQ because it was hot, and the car’s air conditioning hadn’t worked for years, remember?

PAUL

We were miserable. Then out of nowhere we see this Dairy Queen sign, and all six of us shouted “MILKSHAKES!!!”

ALLISON

They were just about to close down but managed to squeeze enough out of the machine for one last strawberry milkshake, so Paul and I claimed it by sticking our straws in it before anyone else could.

PAUL

Man, nothing has tasted that good since.

ALLISON

That was a hell of a milkshake.

(beat)

Come to think of it, I do think this round of Chuck’s marriages has a better chance of sticking.

COR

Weird subject change, but I’ll bite. Why do you think so?

ALLISON

Actually this goes right along with what we’ve been talking about. He brings her coffee.

COR

Isn’t that just being polite?

ALLISON

When is Chuck ever “polite”? Besides, he knows she wants a big old dollop of milk and a tiny bit of sugar. Without asking. I saw him bring her coffee twice, and both times, big old dollop of milk, tiny bit of sugar.

PAUL

He did? Wow.

COR

So he knows how he likes her coffee. So? I know you like whole milk, Mom, and Dad wants honey in his tea, so what?

PAUL

And why do you know that, young Padawan? Because you pay attention. You don’t pay attention if you don’t really care.

COR

Ahhhhhh.

ALLISON

(in this speech, she makes an unhappy realization, so she should start out OK, but by the end, we know something’s gone awry)

Sometimes it’s a performance — so the in-laws can see what a good partner you are for their kid, or something. But when it’s done quietly, just to give your loved one a little boost or comfort or pleasure… it matters.

PAUL

All couples develop a sort of code, right?

ALLISON

The ones who survive do.

COR

That’s nice.

PAUL

It is. It’s what you do for the people who matter most to you.

ALLISON

(tight, angry)

That’s it. Time’s up.

She removes her headphones and is gone.

COR

Whoa. What happened?

PAUL

Uhhhhh, I have no idea. Nice try, kiddo. I’m going out.

AFTERWORD

COR

Hi again. So after mom just up and stormed out, and then dad decided to run off as well, I didn’t really know what to do.  I don’t know if you remember this, but I helped the wedding videographer with some equipment, and he emailed me the rough cut of some of the footage he got. I figured I’d watch it to see if there were any clues as to why mom was so angry, and there it was. About an hour into the reception, they cut the cake. Dad went up and got two pieces. He brought one to me. And gave the other to Marisol. I have to say, I’m really glad the camera was behind mom. I don’t think I could have handled seeing the look on her face. I watched the whole video, just watching to see who brought food, who shared food, who knew what their partner would want without having to ask. My mom and dad never brought each other anything. Not one thing. I really thought at some point they’d get past this rough spot and be OK because they truly love each other. Now? I’m not so sure. I suppose all I can do is keep trying with these episodes. Thanks for listening. I’ll see you next time.

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