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Act Five

December 20, 2019

Scene: Will's law office. Amy Ray is at the reception desk. Enter Harper. 

 

HARPER: Hey, Amy Ray. Is Will in? 

 

AMY RAY: Yes ma'am. He's expecting you - go right in. 

 

Harper goes through the door to the inner office, where Will sits behind a desk. 

 

WILL: Good morning, Sissy.  

 

HARPER: We're on the clock here, Counsellor. Think of it as if you were the one paying by the hour. 

 

WILL: Tick tock.

 

Harper sits. 

 

HARPER: I'm serious, Will. We're on a deadline. I have to get home. (She pulls out a tablet of paper with some notes written on it.) Now, it seems to me that Amy Ray would be perfect to take over the shop - she can keep the baby with her during the day, and we keep Sound & Fury in the family. 

 

WILL: We've discussed that, but frankly it's not fiscally practically. The shop is a lot of work, Harper - way more than she could do alone with a baby. We'd have to hire at least one person, maybe more, to help. And I'd have to hire someone here to run this office. 

 

HARPER: So this is a stretch, but do we have any cousins? Aunts, uncles? Anyone who might bite? 

 

WILL (shaking his head): I'm sorry, Harper, no. 

 

HARPER (Looking down at her list; crossing off the first item): Okay, so we eliminate family. What about customers? Does Mama have any regulars who love the shop and would want to take it over? 

 

WILL: Hmm...customers...(snaps his fingers) Hey! What about Nealie Doucet? She's practically in the store every other day, and they're emptynesters now that Tyler's gone to college. Maybe she'll be looking for something new to take up? 

 

HARPER: Ohh, that's a great idea! Okay, you draw up some paperwork that would be fair to Mama but wouldn't be a financial burden to the Doucets. We have to make this appealing. I'll get Amy Ray to set up a lunch for us with Miss Nealie. I think we're going to make this work!

 

WILL: Maybe so, Harper Lee...maybe so. 

 

********

 

Scene: Melba's Diner. Christmas garland hangs from the windows. Christmas music plays. Will, Harper and Nealie Doucet are seated in a booth. 

 

HARPER: So you see, Miss Nealie, it'd be a perfect match for someone like you - who loves the shop and loves this town - to take over the book store. And by the way, I heard you make really, really good cinnamon rolls, too! Will has some figures here to show you. 

 

Will lays out some papers on the table. Nealie looks at them, then looks up at Harper & Will. 

 

NEALIE: I'm honored, really, that you would even think of me. You know I love your mama and that shop has brought me so many hours of joy. I'm sure I would enjoy nothing more than having it as my own. But Duke and I have plans. We're going to travel, you know. We've been saving up for years and we've got several trips already mapped out. We're starting with Hawaii! Can you believe it? Me - in Hawaii! I've always wanted to see Hawaii! 

 

HARPER: But --

 

WILL (cutting off Harper): That sounds lovely, Miss Nealie. You and Mr. Duke will have a wonderful time - make wonderful memories, I'm sure. 

 

HARPER: But -- 

 

WILL (pointedly): Harper Lee, doesn't that sound lovely? 

 

HARPER (defeated, she breaks out her southern manners): Yes, yes it does. Just lovely. Congratulations, Miss Nealie. I'm so happy for you, truly. 

 

NEALIE: Look, don't y'all give up hope. Something will work out, I just know it. Eventually, someone is going to realize how much that shop means to this town - and to them. Someone will step up. 

 

HARPER: Thank you, Miss Nealie. That means a lot. 

 

Nealie leaves. Will stands.

 

WILL (to Harper): I've got to run, too. I promised Mother I'd help her hang Christmas lights on the store. 

 

HARPER (waves him off): Go, go. I've got this. I'll see you later. 

 

Will leaves. Harper turns to look out the window at the Christmas decorations around the Town Square. Joe Bell Lattimore approaches the table with a coffee pot. 

 

JOE BELL: More coffee, Harper Lee? 

 

HARPER: Oh, hi, Mr. Lattimore. Yes, thank you. 

 

She slides her coffee cup toward him. 

 

JOE BELL: You know, I'm not your principal anymore, Harper Lee. You can call me "Joe Bell" like everyone else in town. 

 

HARPER: Can I ask you something, Mr. - err, Joe Bell? 

 

JOE BELL: Sure you can, honey. 

 

Joe Bell sits across from her in the booth, sets down his coffee pot. 

 

HARPER: What made you decide to buy this diner from Miss Melba? I mean, you're a college-educated man. Why would you give up your career to make cheese grits? 

 

JOE BELL: Don't disregard cheese grits, Harper Lee! There's a lot of things that go into making a good life - your career is just one of many. Family. Community. Friends. During a lifetime, the items on the list of what's most important to you tend to shift places. My community has always been important to me, and now I have the opportunity to spend my days with friends.

 

HARPER: But you were making a difference in kids' lives! You had years of training and experience and you were using it to mold young minds and create educated adults - contributing members of society! Don't you think that's important anymore? 

 

JOE BELL: Why sure it is! But here's a secret for you, Harper Lee: I'm not the only one in the world with that training and experience. When we leave a job, the place doesn't fall into pieces without us. Someone else who is just as qualified and maybe even better at the job comes along. The world keeps on turning. 

 

HARPER: How can you be so sure the new principal will be as good as you? 

 

JOE BELL (winks): Because I recommended her! Now (standing), before I get back to my wildly important work of getting these folks caffeinated, let me leave you with two words: Graphic. Novels. Kids today love 'em. 

 

Harper watches him walks off with a confused look on her face. Her phone rings, snapping her out of it. The screen reads "ALEX." She takes a deep breath before answering. 

 

HARPER: Hi, baby! 

 

ALEX (on a speaker phone in his office in Washington, DC): Hi, Harper. How's it going down there? 

 

HARPER: Well, we haven't solved our book store issues yet, if that's what you're asking. But we're working on it.

 

ALEX: Have you been working? 

 

She's taken aback by this question. 

 

HARPER: I...I mean, a bit...here and there...when I can...

 

ALEX: I don't like this, Harper. You're distracted and that's no way to stay on top of your game. 

 

HARPER: Oh, Alex, lighten up. (She looks back out at the Town Square. Will and Menetre are hanging Christmas lights from the book store balcony.) It's Christmas! 

 

ALEX: I don't know what's gotten into you, Harper. It's like you don't even care about your job anymore. 

 

HARPER: You know what, Alex? Sometimes the items on the list of what's most important to you shift places. 

 

Fade to black. 

 

 

 

 

 

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