Membership vs. Melt Point

Credits

Carl G. Brooks – Paul Ellis
Coral Baxter-Ellis – Tal Minear
Richard Nadolny – Chuck
Erin Lillis – Allison Baxter

Written by David S. Dear and Shannon Perry
Opening music “Coffee” by Cambo
Closing music “Life Illusion” by Ketsa


PAUL

Hey, kiddo, so… which vacuum won?

CORAL

You actually remember what you discussed? I’m impressed. Could you move? I’m trying to reorganize all the cords in here.

PAUL

Yes, I remember. I always remember. Mostly. So….?

CORAL

I guess you’ll have to wait and find out when Mom does.

PAUL

Look, kid, we really can’t afford the BotVac, so if our listeners voted for that, we might want to … rejigger the outcome.

CORAL

No, Dad. You should’ve considered that, or made it part of your argument against it.

PAUL

I did! I said it was expensive!

CORAL

“It’s expensive” is not the same as “we can’t afford it.” Move.

PAUL

I already moved.

CORAL

Yes, out of the path of that cord and directly into the path of this one.

PAUL

So you’re saying the BotVac won.

CORAL

I didn’t say that.

PAUL

So even though it costs more than Mom’s engagement ring did, we have to buy that vacuum cleaner because a handful of people out there chose it?

CORAL

That was the deal. And I can’t help it if you were cheap then and you’re still cheap now.

PAUL

You do WANT to go to college, right?

CORAL

If my continuing education depends on which vacuum you buy, we’re in real trouble.

PAUL

Look, how about we make a little deal: you massage the outcome ever so slightly, and I’ll pay for your WAD.

CORAL

Changing the vote isn’t “ever so slightly,” and my “WAD”? I really hope you mean “DAW.”

PAUL

Your editing thing.

CORAL

ProTools. And no.

PAUL

Fine. I guess we’ll just eat beans for a month.

CORAL

Considering the effect beans have on you, that’s almost tempting.

PAUL

Almost?

CORAL

No, Dad. And what kind of example are you setting for your kid here?

PAUL

Self-preservation.

CORAL

This is funny. Today’s word for the day on that fancy desk calendar my dad got me as a combo Christmas AND birthday present was “parsimonious.”

PAUL

Which means?

CORAL

There’s a reason we don’t own a dictionary.

PAUL

Look, if you won’t change the vote, can we at least keep this conversation between us? Chuck’s going to be here any second, and I really don’t want him to think we’re poor.

CORAL

Then buy Mom the vacuum she wants.

PAUL

Ah ha! So the trusty old Harrell won!

CORAL

I didn’t say that. And does Mom know Chuck is coming?

PAUL

Huh. I guess you’ll just have to find out.

CORAL

(nonchalant)

OK. Cords are rearranged, and we’re ready to go.

PAUL

There he is! Come on in, bud. See where the magic happens.

CORAL

Testing, one, two-

PAUL

(off mic)

So check it out.

CHUCK

Wow, nice set up! You’re all in on this thing, huh?

PAUL

You bet. Come on in. Check out the set up.

CHUCK

Ah, got a swivel boom, I see. Nice. Got that spring action.

(to CORAL)

Hey, kid.

CORAL

Do you mind, Chuck? I’m trying to do a sound check.

CHUCK

I got you. Here…

(too hot on the mic)

LET’S START TO RUMBLE!!!

CORAL

Dad-

PAUL

You got the next Michael Buffer there!

CHUCK

Paging Dr. Tennis Elbow-

CORAL

Dad! Can you tell him- Excuse me, Chuck- that’s my mom’s mic.

PAUL

Speaking of, where is she?

CORAL

I don’t know. She went out to run some errands. I thought she’d be back by now. She knows we’re planning on recording.

CHUCK

Next up to bat, Dan Griffin Jr.

PAUL

That’s Ken Griffey Jr.

CORAL

Chuck? Do you mind?

CHUCK

Sorry. Next up to bat, Ken Griff-

CORAL

No, no… that’s my mom’s mic.

CHUCK

Yeah but I don’t see her. She’s not here right now, is she?

CORAL

Even so, I don’t think she’ll like the fact that your mouth is all up in her mic.

CHUCK

Well to that, I say-

CORAL

Can I stop you there?

PAUL

Hey Chuck, did you unlock the surge cannon in Zond Arsenal yet?

CHUCK

Almost. I’ve played the Habeus level a dozen times but I keep dying at the melt point.

PAUL

How have you not gotten past the melt point? The melt point’s easy.

CHUCK

Oh really, Power Paul? How many tries did it take you?

PAUL

Fourteen. But I got past it.

CHUCK

Fourteen is way more than a dozen.

PAUL

But I got past it, which is way more than you can say. Want me to tell you how to beat it?

CHUCK

No.

(pause)

Okay. Tell me.

ALLISON walks in

ALLISON

(off mic)

Sorry I’m late. It took longer than I thought to-

(seeing CHUCK, groans)

What’s he doing here?

CHUCK

Alli-gator! What’s up?

ALLISON

Ugh. Chuck. Um, Paul… we need to record.

PAUL

I know. I’m ready. You’re the one that’s just now getting here.

ALLISON

Well…

PAUL

Well what?

ALLISON

Well Chuck.

CHUCK

(Frank Nelson style)

Yyyyyeeessss?

ALLISON

Chuck, no… I’m not- We need to record. And as you know, Chuck is not part of the show. You know that. You’re being deliberately obtuse.

PAUL

I wanted him to see how we do it. I want him to see the process.

ALLISON

No. That’s not how this works.

CORAL

Dad, Mom’s right. That’s not what this is about.

PAUL

What, just two adults sharing their opinions and differences on things and letting the listeners decide. What’s the big deal?

CORAL

It just doesn’t seem appropriate.

ALLISON

I’m not doing the show with him here.

CORAL

It would affect the dynamic you two have.

CHUCK

I’ll be as quiet as a Disney mouse.

PAUL

See? He’s not going to say anything. He’ll just observe. Right Chuck?

CHUCK

Bet your mama’s bottom, Paul!

CORAL

Wow, that was…

ALLISON

Well I for one find doing the show a personal experience. So I would not be comfortable having him here.

PAUL

Personal? You do realize this gets released out to the interwebs.

ALLISON

Yes, but there’s a lot of stuff that happens in the background that gets edited out that people don’t need to hear, right Coral?

CORAL

Uh…

PAUL

Come on, I don’t see the harm in him staying. See, he’s nice and quiet. So let’s do this. I’m ready.

ALLISON

(after a pause, with a heavy sigh)

Fine. But if that Chucker says one thing-

CHUCK

My lips are sealed.

ALLISON

I should chuck you out just for saying that much.

CHUCK

Har har. I see what you did there. So fresh and new.

ALLISON

Paul, I’m telling you-

PAUL

Okay, Chuck. Ya gotta be chill during this if you want to stay.

CHUCK

Chill as a pill.

PAUL

See, Ally? We’re cool.

ALLISON groans

CORAL

Okay, now that you all are “cool” can we get on with the show? Let’s start with the results from the last episode.

ALLISON

What was the last episode?

CORAL

It was on what we should do about the vacuum situation.

PAUL

And they decided on us keeping the one that still works- the Harrell!

CORAL

Actually-

ALLISON

Oh yeah, the vacuum thing. How could anyone vote for us keeping the Harrel? It’s been wrapped in so much duct tape it looks like a mummy now. The BotVac may be dead but at least it’s not undead.

PAUL

Well we could sell the Subaru so we can raise the money to buy a new BotVac. Then you could ride it to work like a cat in one of those videos.

CORAL

And the vote is-

ALLISON

Paul, that upright of yours can’t even pick up any of that Doberman hair. It barely works anymore. And I’m tired of seeing a spark every time I plug it in. I don’t want my obituary to say I suffered death by vacuum.

PAUL

And I don’t want mine to say “death by robot” when I trip over that thing and crack my skull.

CORAL

Okay, while you’re both still alive do you mind if I read the results? You’re not going to like it.

PAUL

Go ahead.

ALLISON

Ha! I knew it!

CORAL

No, neither of you are going to like it. It was a tie between keeping the Harrell and buying a new BotVac.

ALLISON

Well we’re not going to do both.

PAUL

I’m inclined to agree, Allison.

CORAL

Wait, what?

PAUL

That’s right. Your mother and I cannot accept the tie. We will simply decide some other way.

ALLISON

Like a flip of a coin.

PAUL

Or arm wrestling. Or maybe just thumb wrestling.

ALLISON

Or a round of archery. Closest to center out of three shots wins?

PAUL

You’ve never even shot a bow. And frankly I’m afraid to.

ALLISON

Okay, how about another round of paintball? That was sooo much fun!

Pause

PAUL

Okay, we’ll figure something out later. Coral, what’s our topic for today?

CORAL

The topic is whether or not Dad should join a gym.

ALLISON

Good. I’ve been looking forward to this one.

PAUL

You know, Chuck and I were just talking before you got here. We were talking about Zond Arsenal. We should talk about that today.

CHUCK

But no spoilers. I haven’t got past the melt point yet.

ALLISON

We already agreed we’ll be talking about-

Why does my mic smell like onions?

PAUL

So I was about to tell Chuck about how to get past the melt point. Listeners, this is a spoiler alert, so if you don’t want to know how to-

ALLISON

No, no, Paul. It was agreed that we would talk about whether or not you should get a gym membership.

PAUL

Or… or… what about this? We could have the audience decide whether or not we should talk about me going to the gym or if we should talk about Zond Arsenal…

CHUCK

I vote Zond Arsenal.

ALLISON

You don’t get a vote, Chucker. Are you part of this marriage? Are you part of this family? Are you part of this show? No, no, and no.

CORAL

We can’t have people vote on an episode topic before there’s even an episode.

CHUCK

But as an audience member, a live audience member at that, I get a vote and I vote we discuss Zond Arsenal.

PAUL

Ooh, our first live audience member votes! There we have it! Zond Arsenal it is. Here we go. Okay…

Hello everyone I’m Paul-

ALLISON

No.

PAUL

And that’s Allison-

ALLISON

No.

PAUL

And this is Deconstructive Criticism, the show where you decide what we need to decide, and this week we’ve decided to discuss the game Zond Arsenal. With us we have a special guest, my best friend Chuck. Say hi, Chuck.

CHUCK

Hi, Chuck.

ALLISON

Ugh. No. Paul, I’m not doing this.

PAUL

Come on, it’ll be fun. You’ve played Zond Arsenal before, so we’ll have a nice little trio today. It’ll bring a fresh new dynamic to the conversation.

CORAL

Should I be offended? You know what? Whatever…

ALLISON

Okay, first of all I played it once and I hated it. Second of all, you can’t just bring that Chucker in here without discussing it with us beforehand, or anyone for that matter and think we’ll be okay with it. And you can bet if you’d suggested having him do an episode with us, you would have received a hard no.

CHUCK

Heh. She said-

ALLISON

Don’t.

PAUL

Okay, alright, I get it. I should have asked first. I totally get where you’re coming from. Chuck will be a silent audience member. Sorry, buddy. I know how much you like Zond Arsenal.

CHUCK

I love Zond Arsenal. One of the best games I’ve played.

ALLISON

Chuck, please be quie-

Uck. Why does my mic stink? What is that?

(beat)

Chuck, did you use my mic?

CHUCK

No.

ALLISON

Well someone used it other than me. And since I don’t store my mic in a jar of pickled eggs….

CORAL

I’m sorry, Mom. I asked him to do a mic check. You weren’t here yet and I had to get things set up, so-

ALLISON

Oh god, that is so gross. I don’t think I can use this.

CORAL

Hold on… here, wipe it off with this.

ALLISON

Then my mic will smell like disinfectant.

CORAL

Better than smelling like whatever Chuck last ate, right?

ALLISON

I suppose…

Sound of mic being rubbed

CHUCK

Man, I love Colin’s Sandwich Stop.

ALLISON

Gross.

CHUCK

Thanks for covering for me, kid.

Awkward pause

ALLISON

Seriously?

PAUL

You know what? Let’s continue this. So, Zond Arsenal, one of Gamespot’s top ten games of the year.

ALLISON

No, we’re talking about you going to the gym, one of your top ten procrastinations of the year.

PAUL

You made it sound like we were going to talk about whether or not it makes sense to pay for a gym membership versus working out at home.

ALLISON

I may not debate you on either. At least you’d be working out.

PAUL

If that’s the case, we can nullify that topic as it’s not at all what we agreed on.

CHUCK

One thing I think we all can agree on is that Zond Arsenal is top drawer!

ALLISON

Top drawer? Who says that? What is this, 1927?

CORAL

No Mom. That expression’s back. They say that all the time on MTV Cribs.

ALLISON

Well I can’t keep up with these new shows. And I don’t care which drawer the game is in, we’re not talking about it today.

PAUL

Hey, our live audience member votes Zond Arsenal, and I vote Zond Arsenal, so it’s two against one.

ALLISON

Well I have Coral here to back me up that the gym is today’s topic, so that’s what we’re discussing.

CORAL

Well usually I prefer to stay out of these debates, but I’m going to take Mom’s side today.

ALLISON

Really? Thank you, sweetie. See, she agrees with-

CORAL

(clears throat)

I could change my mind, Mom.

ALLISON

What? What did I-

Oh, yes. They totally agree.

CHUCK

That sounds more like a tie. You know what we should do to break the tie? Face off in a match on Zond Arsenal in arena mode.

Brief pause

ALLISON

Paul, why did you bring him here?

PAUL

He’s my friend. I wanted him to see how we make an episode.

ALLISON

No, why did you really bring him here?

PAUL

I just told you-

CORAL

I think you know what she means, Dad.

PAUL

No, I don’t.

ALLISON

You don’t want to talk about going to the gym, do you? You’re hoping that Chuck will serve as a convenient distraction, don’t you?

PAUL

I don’t see the harm in him sitting here silently. He won’t be bothering us at all…

(beat)

You know what? I don’t know what your issue is with him but you just don’t like him. That’s really what this is all about, isn’t it?

ALLISON

Yep. I’ll go with that.

CHUCK

Why is that, Allison? What do you have against me anyway?

ALLISON

You want to hear it again? You really want me to go through it again?

CHUCK

No, not really…

ALLISON

Very well. Since you insist. You are a bit of a know-it-all. If anyone has anything to say about anything, you seem to know something about it, even if what you cough up is waaayyy off base.

CHUCK

Well I don’t know how to get past the melt point yet.

ALLISON

Plus you think you’re funnier than you are. Everything is a joke to you. You are pretty much a walking dad joke encyclopedia. And your jokes quite often border on inappropriate, if not crossing the line. So what we end up getting from you are a bunch of inappropriate dad jokes.

CHUCK

You know I don’t have any kids…

ALLISON

Not to mention you’re a bit of a mooch to be perfectly honest. You can’t offer anything, you can only take. It makes it such a pleasure to have you around, essentially a giant sponge walking around our house.

CORAL

Mom, come on. Take it easy-

ALLISON

He asked.

CHUCK

Actually, I said no-

ALLISON

Well that’s too bad cuz this train has left the station. So while I’m at it, you know what really frustrates me about you, Paul? It’s your total lack of ambition. You say you’re going to accomplish this and that, you’re going to make this happen and do that big thing. You’re all talk. Talk talk talk talk talk. Maybe actually make something of yourself and I would have some modicum of respect for you.

A period of silence

CHUCK

Chuck.

ALLISON

What?

CHUCK

My name’s Chuck.

ALLISON

Yes, I know your name is Chuck.

CHUCK

You said Paul.

ALLISON

What are you talking about?

CHUCK

Just now. You said “You know what frustrates me about you, Paul?”

Pause

ALLISON

No, I said Chuck. I’m pretty sure-

CHUCK

No, you said Paul.

CORAL

You did, Mom. You said Paul.

ALLISON

Did I?

CORAL

I can play it back if you want.

ALLISON

Well, I meant to say Chuck. You guys know that.

PAUL

But you said my name. You said Paul.

ALLISON

(nervous laugh)

Come on, Paul. You know I meant to say Chuck.

PAUL

I know what you meant to say. But you said what you meant.

Awkward silence

PAUL

(getting up)

Well, Zond Arsenal ain’t gonna play itself. I’ll show you how to get past the melt point.

ALLISON

Paul-

CHUCK

(as they exit)

So is that how your process usually goes?

PAUL

Pretty much half the time, yeah.

PAUL and CHUCK exit

CORAL

You did it again, Mom.

ALLISON

Honey, I was talking about Chuck. You know that.

CORAL

Yeah. I know that. Just Chuck though?

Pause

ALLISON

You know, maybe we can do an episode on Zond Arsenal. Not today though. Maybe next episode? I’m pretty tired.

CORAL

Okay, Mom.

AFTERWORD

CORAL

That was brutal. I mean, I know Mom doesn’t like Chuck. She never has. He’s a serious dork, but he’s pretty harmless. But does she not like him because he reminds her of Dad, and she’s too afraid of saying how she really feels about Dad to his face? So like Chuck is a kind of proxy or something.

I suppose at least it’s out there now. In kind of a passive-aggressive way, but it’s out there. Maybe now that it is, they’ll talk about it? Or Dad’ll just probably go into turtle mode and avoid Mom for a week. Well they can’t keep that up too long because we have an episode to do in a couple of weeks. By then Mom will probably be overly sweet and buy something for Dad and he’ll grouse about her spending money and we’ll be back to normal by the time we record. I just wish their “normal” was a healthy normal. I guess we’ll see in a couple of weeks. Until then, this is Deconstructive Criticism. See you later. Bye.

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