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Marc Blitzstein

The Cradle Will Rock, Scene 9 (midi)

 


 

Scene 9: Dr. Specialist’s Office

 

(MR. MISTER being examined by DR. SPECIALIST.)

 

MR. MISTER

Not going to hurt, is it, Doctor? It’s not going to hurt?

 

DR. SPECIALIST

Now, don’t be alarmed, old man, a purely routine examination… Just breathe naturally.

 

MR. MISTER

It hurts sometimes when I breathe, Doc, you know.

 

DR. SPECIALIST

Where—here?

 

(DR. SPECIALIST tries various places.)

 

MR. MISTER

No—not now, Doc. But it does hurt.

 

DR. SPECIALIST

Just breathe naturally.

 

(MR. MISTER breathes heavily, with fear.)

 

DR. SPECIALIST

Mmmmm. Mostly nerves. There are some new injections, rather rare in this country. We’ll start them tomorrow; and remember—a long cure at Vichy this summer, I think that’s all.

 

MR. MISTER

All? You’re certainly not forgetting to take my temperature and pulse, Doctor?

 

DR. SPECIALIST

(Suppressing a smile.) Fair enough.

 

(DR. SPECIALIST does so.)

 

DR. SPECIALIST

Incidentally, old man, I want to thank you for being made chairman of the Liberty Committee. It means a great deal to me, as you probably knew. Among other things, I believe that’s all I needed to get a research appointment I’ve been after for months.

 

(DR. SPECIALIST takes thermometer; looks at it.)

 

DR. SPECIALIST

Perfectly normal.

 

MR. MISTER

(Really disappointed.) Normal?

 

DR. SPECIALIST

Completely. Pulse a bit jumpy. Just nerves, that’s all.

 

ATTENDANT

(Over desk-speaker.) Ella Hammer to see you, Doctor.

 

MR. MISTER

Ella Hammer? That’s the sister of the machinist who got hurt, isn’t it? What’s she doing here?

 

DR. SPECIALIST

No idea. I treated him at the clinic.

 

MR. MISTER

(He lights a cigar.) I think I know what she wants. The man was drunk at the time, wasn’t he?

 

(MR. MISTER offers DR. SPECIALIST a cigar.)

 

DR. SPECIALIST

Drunk? Why, no.

 

(DR. SPECIALIST also refuses the cigar.)

 

MR. MISTER

(On the alert, but revealing it.) No? That’s very interesting. I was sure I heard he slipped because he had been drinking.

 

DR. SPECIALIST

Well… Is it causing you any trouble?

 

MR. MISTER

(Easily.) Oh, in a sort of way. He’s been trying to put over this new union stuff on the employees…. The kind that’s never satisfied. His sister’s beefing all over the place how he got pushed into the ladle…

 

(MR. MISTER continues rather humourously.)

 

MR. MISTER

You know I had a hard time deciding whether a doctor was the right type to head a Liberty Committee; I decided— Well, for a number of reasons… I assumed, naturally, after you examined him— Didn’t you say he was drunk?

 

DR. SPECIALIST

I…?

 

MR. MISTER

(A bit sharply.) Yes, you! As a matter of fact, I phoned the newspapers only this morning to send someone over to get the story from you…

 

(MR. MISTER is humorous again.)

 

MR. MISTER

I’m wondering how easily you could explain your sudden resignation as chairman of the Liberty Committee to your extensive practice… That is, if a change was found advisable….

 

(The cigar drops from MR. MISTER’S mouth; he is suddenly a sort of maniac.)

 

MR. MISTER

Good God, I’m a sick man, Doctor! Doesn’t anyone realize how sick I am? I have nightmares. I’m in the middle of an earthquake! Call it nerves, call it what you like. I don’t understand the times… unions, unions…

 

(MR. MISTER grinds the cigar under his heel.)

 

MR. MISTER

We raised their wages, now they want a union! Things are slipping from my grasp; what’s it coming to? My own doctor helps to make me sick!

 

(MR. MISTER calms down.)

 

MR. MISTER

There, you see.

 

(MR. MISTER continues brokenly and with great charm.)

 

MR. MISTER

I guess you can handle her, eh?

 

(There is a long pause. MR. MISTER, completely recovered, leaves. On the way he meets ELLA HAMMER coming in. ELLA wears a tam and windbreaker. She is no longer young; right now she is in dead earnest. MR. MISTER and ELLA stare at each other, then MR. MISTER looks once again at DR. SPECIALIST and departs.)

 

ELLA

Hello, Doctor. Doctor, you examined Joe— Doctor, you’re the one to know. If he ever touched a drop of liquor, he couldn’t hold it. You know his stomach. They take enough out of his paycheck for you to know his stomach by now!

 

DR. SPECIALIST

(He taps twice with his pencil.) Yes.

 

ELLA

Is the rumor true that they mean to say that he was drunk?

 

DR. SPECIALIST

(The pencil taps.) Yes.

 

ELLA

But, Doctor, you know those hoodlums framed him! Pushed him into that ladle because he wasn’t afraid to talk! He’s been expecting this for weeks! He even told you that!

 

DR. SPECIALIST

(The pencil taps.) Yes.

 

ELLA

Workers who have been cheated and lied to and sold out— They daren’t trust anybody no more! They mustn’t lose their faith in Joe, now— You see that, don’t you?

 

(ELLA’s voice rises. No tears, only fury.)

 

DR. SPECIALIST

(The pencil taps.) Yes.

 

ELLA

(DR. SPECIALIST’S last “yes” disarms her. Somewhat more quietly.) So—you will tell the workers it was all a frame-up… You’ll say their confidence in him was not unfounded? I hoped you would.

 

ATTENDANT

Reporters from the newspapers, sir.

 

DR. SPECIALIST

(The pencil taps.) Yes.

 

(Two REPORTERS enter.)

 

REPORTER ONE

Good morning, Doctor.

 

REPORTER TWO

Mr. Mister phoned us to come here; we aren’t quite sure what for.

 

(A pause.)

 

DR. SPECIALIST

(Finally he speaks. He looks steadily down at something on his desk.) Gentleman, I’ll be brief. My statement is this: I examined the man Hammer shortly after his injury at the Steeltown mills lastThursday. He was obviously intoxicated.

 

(ELLA shoots a quick glance at DR. SPECIALIST.)

 

DR. SPECIALIST

That is all.

 

REPORTER ONE

But Doctor, isn’t there any more?

 

REPORTER TWO

That hardly makes a complete story.

 

ELLA

(Steps forward; so quietly you have to strain to hear her.) A story? Is that what your papers want, a story? Listen, here’s a story. Not much fun, and not much glory; lowclass… lowdown…. The thing you never care to see, until there is a showdown. Here it is—I’ll make it snappy: Are you ready? Everybody happy? Joe Worker gets gypped; for no good reason, just gypped. From the start until the finish comes… They feed him out of garbage cans; they breed him the slums! Joe Worker will go to shops where stuff is on show; he’ll look at the meat; he’ll look at the bread; and too little to eat sort of goes to the head. One big question inside me cries: How many fakers, peace undertakers, paid strikebreakers, how many toiling, ailing, dying, piled-up bodies, Brother, does it take to make you wise? Joe Worker just drops, right at his workin’ he drops, weary, weary, tired to the core; and then if he drops out of sight there’s always plenty more! Joe Worker must know that somebody’s got him in tow… Yet what is the good for just one to be clear? Oh, it takes a lot of Joes to make a sound you can hear! One big question inside me cries: How many frame-ups, how many shakedowns, lockouts, sellouts, how many times machine guns tell the same old story, Brother, does it take to make you wise?

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