April 15, 2006

CHICAGO VOICES: “House of Cakes,” by Robert N. Georgalas

The Goodman Theatre recently produced the David Mamet Write-Alike contest as part of their David Mamet Festival. “House of Cakes,” by Robert N. Georgalas, was among the finalists. Georgalas is a professor at College of DuPage and a founder of Polyphony Press. His stories and poems have appeared in Rambunctious Review, Hair Trigger, Sport Literate, Urban Spaghetti and other magazines.

Scene: A bakery. Ricky Roma is behind the sales counter, Carol in front, holding an open cake box.

ROMA: The cake?
CAROL: Yes.
ROMA: That’s what we’re speaking of? The cake?
CAROL: Yes.
ROMA (points to the box): And that. What is that? What you’re holding? Is that not a confection of flour and water and sugar and cream? And does it not, in its shape, in its shape does it not look like what we, what you, what I, what all of us from childhood were taught to call a cake?
CAROL: Wait. Wait. You’re confusing me. I said...
ROMA: You said...?
CAROL: Yes, I said. I said to my group, I said I needed a cake...to celebrate...to celebrate my transfer to a new school...
ROMA: Did you ever notice that all classrooms smell vaguely of sleep? You transferred? Good. I’m going to tell you something. We’ve all transferred. Me, because of Mitch and Murray, those cocksuckers. And you... you from...
CAROL: What are you talking about? I mean, I stand here in front of this counter and I try to smile, I try, but I don’t know what in the world you’re talking about.
ROMA: You ever take a shit made you feel like you just dropped ten pounds?
CAROL: You’re vile, Mr. Roma. Wretched and vile. You stand behind your counter in your white apron and you talk about how this (shakes the box) is a cake, but to those of us who paid good money, who struggled through traffic and backstreets and rain to get here... Who are you to mock me, Mr. Roma?
ROMA: To mock you?
CAROL: A cake. I needed a cake, and they said go to that bakery so I...
ROMA (circles the counter and takes the box from her): A cake? What is it? Something to eat? Perhaps. Something to make us look good as hosts? Perhaps. To add weight to ourselves so that we feel worse? Perhaps. So fucking what? It’s just part of an event. Listen. You go to a bakery. You talk to the baker. You call him on the phone. It doesn’t matter. A cake. What does it mean? What do you want it to mean?
CAROL: I don’t understand. I mean, I come to you...to you... I mean, I tried to bake one myself. I looked at the recipes... but the words... (removes a small recipe book from her purse and reads) ‘Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl...’ ‘fold batter into beaten egg whites’... I don’t understand.
ROMA: So you thought something from the store...?
CAROL: Yes.
ROMA: And because you couldn’t bake a cake you thought of yourself as a failure? That you’d never get on the board?
CAROL: What board? No. A cake. I just wanted something....
ROMA: ...that your group would approve of?
CAROL: Yes. Yes. That’s right.
ROMA: Fuck you.
CAROL: What?
ROMA: Fuck you. You come in here to my bakery and you say my cake is not a cake, because...
CAROL: Because there are pink florets on top, Mr. Roma. Sexist florets. Did you think that just because I was a woman, you could decorate the face of the cake, of my cake, in pink? (turns to leave)
ROMA: Where you going...? Carol, Carol. This is me, Ricky. Anything you want, you want it, you have it.
CAROL: No. No. You are a sexist and an elitist and I will report this bakery to my group and I will see to it that no one, not one person, buys so much as a cookie from you. No. A breadstick. Not even a breadstick.
ROMA: Breadstick? Why you little cunt... (scoops a handful of cake from the box and pushes it into her face.)
CAROL (stumbles to the floor, trying to back away): No!
ROMA (raises the box above his head as if to bring it down full force, then stops himself): Oh, my god.
CAROL: Yes.
ROMA: Fucking Mitch and Murray. Fucking...cocksuckers...
CAROL: Yes. (Pause) Yes, that’s right.

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