parergon, or, opuscule

So I think you all know I work at a high school.  Today I was asked to write three skits for tomorrow’s evening presentation about sources of stress in the college application process for parents and students, to be acted out by some of the other counselors.  They don’t have much to do with anything, but I thought you might be interested to see what I came up with on short notice, as I admit I think they’re pretty funny.

A note: I was asked to exaggerate ludicrously a few situations that students or parents might find themselves running into, so I did it.  I actually really like the students and parents I work with; I find they’re almost always down-to-earth, generous, and have one another’s best interests at heart.  These skits are not based on anyone real, be they living or dead!  They are basically me, a little ill and a little loopy, having too much fun with words.



DAD (bursting with enthusiasm): Evening, sport!  How was school today?

SON (deadpan): Adequate.

MOM (just bubbly as all get out): Did you learn anything interesting?

SON (with a withering gaze): Implausible.

DAD (comforting as a well-worn cardigan smelling of cherry pipe smoke):  Plans for the weekend?

SON (transfixed by a computer screen that isn’t even there): Indubitably.

DAD (twinkling-voiced):  How’re those ol’ college applications coming along, buddy?  Seems like not that long ago I was wearing a raccoon coat and waving a pennant myself!

SON (rolling his eyes so hard it’s like he’s playing craps with ‘em):  Swell, pops.  Hunky-dory.

MOM (a close observer will see that doubt is beginning to creep like winter into the perfect life she has created for herself.  Her eye twitches involuntarily):  Are you sure, honey?  I…I was just looking on the computer, and it says you haven’t requested your transcripts or gotten any teachers to recommend you.  Didn’t you say you were going to do that a couple of weeks ago?

SON (he is Elsewhere; the people sharing the room with him are as motes of dust disturbed only by his own breathing): Eh… deadlines are immaterial and picayune, mother.  Perchance I’ll consummate the task posthaste.

MOM (her worried voice rising unbidden, like an unattended hot air balloon): But you said that exact same weird sentence last week…and I know you haven’t touched your essay since August!  The deadlines, they’re very soon!  We just want to help!

SON (a veritable Emperor, wrapped in his disdain like so much ermine):   Mother!  Cease your encroaching upon my autonomy!  I’ll effectuate these affairs at my leisure!  [stalks offstage]

DAD (so optimistic as to make one wonder what his profession could possibly be): Look on the bright side, dear.  At least we know that SAT class paid off.




MOM (w/ clipboard, speaking in clipped, efficient tones):  Greetings, son.  What do you have to report for the day?

SON (pretty normal of a son, all in all):  Oh, good news!  I went in to see my counselor.  We talked about my essays and I got some good editing suggestions.  And now she’s ready to write my letter of recommendation too.

MOM:  Affirmative.  Have you arranged to send your test scores to your colleges of choice?

SON: Well, not yet, but I was just about…

MOM (a torrent of words): You need to do that immediately, also why haven’t you submitted all your applications yet, the deadlines are only 6 weeks away and everyone knows all the serious candidates apply at least a month ahead of time, also what about scholarships have you asked about scholarships have you applied for scholarships…

SON (wading into the flood of words): Yeah, mom, I checked, they’re not due until Febru…

MOM (she’s really rolling now): and don’t forget the housing forms, you can’t be too early, you don’t want to end up with a roommate that snores or leaves dining hall cheese sandwiches lying around or has flatulence issues and they give those roommates to the stragglers, they have a special list of them, and we should probably start looking at winter parkas…

SON (he’s chin-deep at this point): Mom, one thing at a time…

MOM (she’s literally sweeping him off the stage with her litany): And we’ll have to arrange a flight for Parents’ Weekend, and maybe we should pick up a few sweatshirts and a hat for your cousin Mildred, you know how she loves hats, why haven’t you done any of this yet, oh forget it, I’ll do it myself! [she begins to write furiously on the clipboard]

SON (peering in from the edge of the stage): Well, if you’re handling all that, I also have a physics test coming up…

MOM (not looking up from clipboard, still writing like a fiend): F=ma.  I’ve got it covered.

SON: And I have a date Saturday night…

MOM: I’m on it.




SON (walks in the door, buoyant):  Hey, Ma!  Hey, Dad!  You’ll never believe it!  I already got my first acceptance letter!

DAD (there is always a sneer in his voice; maybe it is genetic?): Oh, I see…I didn’t think Hoitytoit College would send out their notices so early.  Good schools usually wait until March at least!

SON: Oh, well, it’s not from them.  It’s from Yonder State University.  They have a great writing program, and I admit I wouldn’t mind rooting for their football team, although obviously that’s not the most important thing.

MOM (sweeps in dramatically and lugubriously): Yonder State University!  Then it’s true?!?  Abandoned by my own darling baby!  My precious embryo!  My sweet gamete!

SON: Mom, really now.

DAD (it’s like his nose is attached to the ceiling with a string or something):  I didn’t pay for you to go to a good high school so you could go to Yonder State.  Anyway, the only thing writers are good for is pouring my coffee.  Actually, scratch that.  They tend to spill.

SON: That’s cold, Dad.

DAD:  Yes, they wait too long to serve it as well.

MOM (flinging her hand over her eyes and sobbing): “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!”

SON: There’s no need to quote King Lear, Mom.  I thought we agreed it was okay for me to look out-of-state.

MOM (pantomiming hysterically stabbing herself with a dagger): Oh, yes, it’s perfectly fine!  Go!  Have fun!

DAD (totally serious): Yes, have fun…starving to death.

SON: What the heck!  Who says that to their own son?  What’s this all about?

MOM & DAD (in creepy unison): We just want what’s best for you.  We’re just trying to help.

DAD (pulls out binder and leafs through it): Yes, let’s just consult the Life Agenda we laid out back when you were born.  Graduate from Hoitytoit by 17 — you’re a little behind there, by the way – discover a new state and be elected Senator there by 26, by 33 you’ll be the engineer who built a bridge to the Moon so that he could blow it up (the Moon, that is), and by 40, the ultimate: cure hemorrhoids!  Actually, let’s move that one up; I haven’t been able to sit down for a week.


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