'Tis The Season
‘Tis the Season
A play in one scene
By Margie Deck
PHINEAS— Lilliputian-sized elfin creature. Very formally dressed. Fussily and excessively respectable.
ALVISS—Lilliputian-sized elfin creature. Clad in pajamas and a dressing-gown. Bemused and emotive.
A small comfortable room with a sturdy table used for writing, South Norwood; the second week of October 1891.
(ALVISS is sitting on the top of a very full bookshelf, his legs dangling off the edge. He hums to himself as he watches the human form below lean back in his chair, put his feet on the desk, and fiddle with the pen in his hand.)
ALVISS: Fa la la la la, la la, la, la…Hmmmmm….tis the season to be jolly….hmmmmmmm..
(Phineas appears from the back of the cabinet and joins Alviss on the edge.)
PHINEAS: Whatever are you up here for? And what are you singing? Is that Oliphant’s carol you’re singing? Why? It is not time for the gent’s Christmas celebrations.
ALVISS: Perhaps it is not calendar time for all the Christmas ado, but it is time for him to write another story about that Holmes fellow. I think a Christmas story is next.
(Phineas straightens his pince-nez, sniffs and reaches over to straighten Alviss’ pant leg.)
PHINEAS: The Holmes fellow has been good for the gent. It was a brilliant suggestion you gave him. I have to say my own addition of the doctor made the thing. These humans seem to be entranced with them since that red-headed business. Despite the less-than-spectacular first outings the gent put together. Mormons in American—for heaven’s sake!—followed by a tiny murdering islander. What was he thinking?
ALVISS: I don’t believe he thought it through. There’s only so much we can give him. He must do some of the work. Fa la la la la la la …oh, that’s not right. How does it go?
PHINEAS: We should remember. After all, we gave that lyricist all he needed. It is a good thing he decided to do some work in the British Museum or he would have missed us entirely. But then I can’t remember half what we did for that Shakespeare fellow, and that was some of our finest work.
ALVISS: Deck the halls with boughs of holly…hmmm…fa la la la…isn’t bough a funny word?
PHINEAS: Alviss! (Phineas leans over and carefully smells the air around Alviss.) Have you been in the tokay? You have! How much have you had?!
(Alviss giggles again.)
ALVISS: So? I have. It’s Christmas!
(Phineas stands and points a finger at Alviss.)
PHINEAS: It is not Christmas and we have work to do.
(Alviss unsteadily rises to his feet and assumes a theatrical stance.)
ALVISS (speaking loudly): ‘“Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”’
(Phineas laughs in his peculiar manner.)
PHINEAS: Keep your voice down! It is a shame we can’t take any credit for Dickens. How did he do all that without our help? How?
ALVISS: Who knows? Dickens! Bah, humbug! And don’t worry about him hearing us. On the rare occasion he does, he always thinks he heard a…
(Alviss is stopped in mid-sentence as they are startled by the sound of the pen falling from the human’s hand.)
PHINEAS: And…there he goes. Napping again. That Micah Clark business must not be too interesting today.
(Alviss plops back down.)
ALVISS: I’m going to have some more tokay, and then we are going to get the Christmas tale going. What should we do? Nothing too stodgy. Nothing too sentimental. Tiny Tim and all that. Ugh.
(Phineas sits down too. Alviss pulls a flask from his pocket, drinks from it, and passes it to Phineas, who has a drink as well.)
PHINEAS: We have that snake business started. I heard you telling him yesterday. That speckled band—brilliant, by the way.
ALVISS (smiling broadly): Yes, good stuff that. The gent likes it too. He was laughing when he penned my best line: When a doctor does go wrong, he is the first of criminals.
PHINEAS: Oh, I like it. Now, what for Christmas? Too bad we’ve already used the snake—we could have had it delivered as a Christmas present.
ALVISS: You saw what he did with the snake didn’t you? He has it drinking milk and answering to a whistle. A snake with milk and a whistle.
(Phineas sighs heavily.)
PHINEAS: We can but try. So: Christmas?
(They stop talking and stare off into space for a few minutes. Alviss lies back, still lightly humming.)
ALVISS: Hmmmm….We could go the Shelley route. Human body parts. Oh, no, wait—human body parts delivered in that Christmas box. Here: have a box of ears!
(Alviss laughs loudly, quite impressed with himself.)
PHINEAS: Bit gruesome for Christmas. These humans love their murderous ways, but they don’t want to admit it at Christmas time. But still—that is a great idea. I will make a note.
ALVISS: You do that.
(He yawns, puts his hands behind his head, and closes his eyes.)
PHINEAS: Oh, no, you don’t! You are not going to sleep too. You started this—you finish it. We need to get the information to him during this nap. I don’t want to go to his bedroom tonight and wait for him to go to sleep. Human bedtime rituals are simply awful to behold. We have a chance with this nap. I don’t want to miss it.
ALVISS (talking with his eyes still closed): I keep telling you to go around 4 or 5 AM—so much better. But no-o-o-o, you don’t listen to me.
PHINEAS: It is cold this time of year at 4 AM. Ok, enough of this. What are we going to tell him to write? We had revenge in the first one, and then jewels in the second. We’ve had the king and his mistress, those red-heads, and the silly woman in the purple plush. The murder of that scoundrel McCarthy came out this month. We have the business with the pips and the twisted lip. And now the snake that is not coming in a box.
ALVISS: I love purple plush. A snake in purple plush: now that would be a story.
(Alviss yawns again. Phineas begins to pace.)
PHINEAS: Will you get up and help me?
ALVISS: Oh for heaven’s sake. I’ll be right back.
(He gets up and stretches. He then climbs down the bookcase, up the desk leg, and onto the napping human. He climbs up to the human’s ear, where he whispers intently for several minutes. He then climbs down to the floor where Phineas is now waiting for him.)
PHINEAS: What did you do?!
ALVISS: Why, I gave him a goose, of course. It’s Christmas.