a 10 min play
by Tim West
D’ARCY von Rheinhold Hunt-Putnam, 8 CHARLES, a JEEVES Series 300 butler
MERRILL McNaughton Fitzgerald, Jr., 81/2 GERALD, a modified WENTWORTH 2.5 FEMALE V.O./“Deirdre” POPPINS 500
A chill Saturday in early November. A deserted park behind the Guggenheim
LIGHTS UP on two children, D’ARCY & MERRILL,
alongside their much more imposing robots, who
are dressed as butlers. They robots should have
tailored suits or livery that match their station, and
a metallic look and sound we can manage.
MERRILL steps forward. Unsure of protocols but
determined to try, he proffers a handshake. CHARLES
whirrs and shifts. DARCY steps forward. They shake.
Suppose you’re ready to settle this?
I am ready to settle this, once and for all.
I see you brought your butler.
MERRIL gestures at CHARLES, who blinks and bipps. D’ARCY holds up a hand, then explains to MERRILL.
Charles… It’s a Jeeves, the 300 Series.
It looks like a Jeeves.
They’re very sensitive. Charles?
CHARLES does not respond. D’ARCY snaps his fingers.
Activate, you dolt!
CHARLES activates, with a programmatic smile and bow.
Hello! I’m Charles! At your service, young sir!
MERRILL laughs, inspecting CHARLES.
What’s wrong with it?
Ah! Mother messed with his civility settings. They’re really high, for a Jeeves.
He’s not been… modified, though? I mean, physically altered from a 300’s specs.
There’s no need, with a Jeeves. They’re self-teaching. Or self-learning. One of those.
Adjust chagrin settings.
What’s yours, then?
It’s a Wentworth. Also a 300 series. Well, uh— A v2.5, their equivalent.
What’s its name?
“Butler.” *shrugs* I just say “Butler.”
‘BUTLER’ sags a bit, with an audible
electronic sigh. CHARLES’s head tilts
to one side slowly, also with sound FX,
regarding the poor thing. BUTLER’s head
lifts up, sharing with the group, helpfully,
They called me “Gerald” at the factory.
MERRILL regards D’ARCY soberly.
It’s better if you don’t name them.
DARCY regards BUTLER cooly.
What can it do?
I can select fine Wines and Cigars, to taste and occassion. Factory equipped with sensors that can also be set to Craft Beer and 420 settings— vttt!—“other” settings. I can repair vintage automobiles, and can curate collectable—
MERRILL pushes a button. *beep.*
BUTLER falls silent.
Oh, you’ll see what he can do.
D’ARCY takes out a remote control device.
Shall we put them through their paces, then?
Let’s see how that Civility setting holds up.
Both children begin entering numbers,
We hear what sound like phone tones,
bleeps and bloops, bells and whistles.
Both butlers respond, somewhat jerkily.
Master D’arcy… Might I have a word, sir?
Not now, Charles.
But Master Darcy, the young gentleman’s gentleman here has been modified— (buzz) modified— (beep) —modified.
Did you not hear your master, you impudent, pertinent footman? A 300 really ought to
know better. Know your place.
CHARLES makes a harsh clanking sound.
He adjusts his suit slowly, with great dignity.
I beg your pardon. I readily admit that Mrs. Hunt-Putnam adjusts my Civility settings
But I assure you: my Dignity settings are fully intact, and functional.
CHARLES scoffs. Then he holds up a finger,
like a person asking listeners to hold on while
as POPPINS puts her gloved hands
he recalls a punchline, and scoffs again.
Shakes his head, smiles sheepishly, tries
a proper scoff for the third time: nails it.
“Oh, you needn’t remind me of my place, “Butler.”
‘BUTLER’ ’s eyes narrow. We hear this.
Why,I’ve been with the Hunt-Putmans—
vttt!—“Putnams” …since … since… since…
Since we moved up from the Jeeves 200.
CHARLES tracks his head strangely
—a momentary animatronic glitch?
Vttt, vtt, vtt. After a moment, he restores.
I am programmed for respecting my place. Dignity settings low, Civility high. However, my Tolerances for indignities to my Master are also set rather low, and I assure you that my
Civility settings do not short circuit my branded Irony/impudence/Impertinence Detectors —even with inferiors generic-brand butler.
BUTLER registers this insult. We hear
a whirring and clacking.
In service since the days of the Jeeves 200. Yes, your rather threadbare apparel looks to have been with the family that long. Perhaps longer. It is possible it is a Charles 200 hand-me-down?
CHARLES stands stock still, muttering quietly.
.5. 1. 1.5. 2. 2.5. 3. 3.5. 4. 4.5.
DARCY is just about to try the controls, but
CHARLES holds up a gloved hand.
MERRILL grins, and flips a single switch.
BUTLER leans in, aggressive posture, but
his face and tone are kind and explanatory.
A woman like Dolores Villanueva Hunt-Putnam simply hasn’t the fashion sense of a lady like Mrs. Nancy McNorris Fitzgerald.
DARCY: (to BUTLER)
Don’t talk about my mother!
DARCY pushes some buttons, himself.
CHARLES runs more pugnacious program.
Your young gentleman has you tricked out with an unpleasant setting for Cheekiness.
I assume your Physical modifications are consistent with your Speech settings?
Do you care to test me?
Your Speech settings are in a repetitive pattern. But what future performance can logically be anticipated from a broken down-old Wentworth… designed for “finding accents of wood and leather” in wine, tolerating the stink in cigars, fixing old cars and maintaining the vintage collectibles of a man in full-blown—
It is behavior not inconsistent with Mid-Life Crisis. Which is why he pays so little attention.
MERRILL: (first to DARCY, then to BUTLER)
Shut him up!
MERRIL punches buttons, as does DARCY.
Their butlers begin removing their garments
as in preparation for a fist-fight.
“You insult not only me, sir, but my young master and your betters. Do you care to make good your family’s honor in the customary way”
Each hands their clothing items to their boy.
They nod to each other.
They each crouch into full Marquis of Queensbury
Old School pugilistic posturing, mechanically
windmilling their arms and quick stepping, etc.
The 3rd Rule of Butter Robotics forbids self-damaging behaviors of possible permanent status.
Unless programmed to do so by Organic Human Being.
Affirmative. Vtt… vtt-vtt. Does the Law not also similarly forbid similar damage to other butlers
Again, unless commanded by an Organic Human.
That is also the 3rd Rule?
It is logically implicit. Review.
Affirmative. Upgrade downloaded.
Notation: it does not affect application of function, 2nd Rule of Butler Robotics.
Must execute commands of Organic Human Being.
(turning to their boy) That one.
(turning to the other boy) Not that one.
1st Rule of Butler Robotics. So…
They turn again to each other,
and try a few feints and punches.
Dodge the upper cut.
They square off again.
He catches CHARLES on the nose.
who wipes oil from his nose, and
glares at BUTLER before launching
forward to strike him.
But BUTLER catches the fist in his hand,
blocking it and slowly forcing it back
as the two robots wrestle for advantage.
We hear a high-pitched whirring, as
BUTLER begins to shake.
Your eyes. They’re glowing!
They’ve been fitted with lasers.
BUTLER lowers his head. MERRILL
punches button, beep-boop. We hear a fizz.
Two red points of light appear in front
of BUTLER’s eyes, and track together.
Warning, Master D’Arcy! Warning! A modific- modific— modifictation!
MERRILL punches buttons, beep-boop.
The lights slowly advance on CHARLES as
BUTLER razes raises his gaze.
Finish it already, Butler. Finish it!
I’m sorry, fellow Sentient Being. You are in my path. Tell your young master to avert his gaze.
All but BUTLER do so.
The two red lights creep forward to touche
CHARLES’s foot. He jumps back. Again,
and his back is now to a barrier. Lights
advance on CHARLES. Rising whirring.
Gerald Wentworth! WHAT do you think you are doing?
POPPINS glides enters. A hoop skirt
should hide something she rides one.
Her bonnet is a metal pail.
Both robots run Highly Respectful pose
routines. They must: 500 overrides all
D’ARCY and MERRILL madly work
their now useless devices.
Those won’t work with a 500 meter radius of a properly programmed 500, boys, but
I am instructed to confiscate them anyway. If you please.
POPPINS puts out a gloved hand,
I daresay I’ll not take instructions from a common robot.
Yes, who the devil do you think you are? Instructed by whom?
POPPINS slowly rotates her head
and regards the two Organic Children.
Well, Mister Jeeves and Mister Wentworth, we are not the only ones with the need for
a little… upgrading.
POPPINS gestures slightly with her
other gloved hand.
CHARLES and ‘BUTLER’ activate.
Is your laser array still responsive, Mr. Wentworth?
Affirmative, Mr Jeeves. It can deliver blows that are quite….
An odd tilt of the head, following POPPINS.
…. proportional. Is that the right word?
The two bots hand their devices over
without taking their eyes off their robots.
I believe it is, Mister Wentworth. Quite the right selection. May I call you Gerald?
The two robots march the boys off home
to her temples and tracks them off.
Hunt-Putnam, Fitzgerald household text list. This is ‘Deidre,’ your POPPINS 500. Below please see attached copy of my live-feed. The Jeeves 300 rental unit known as ‘Charles’ and the illegally tampered-with Wentforth 2.5…
We hear a sound like electronic chatter.
Red laser lights flash and buzz in
POPPINS gaze, and we hear what
sounds like scramble and override.
A pause, with no sound. POPPINS
gives a delicate little cough into one glove.
Thank you. …the Wentworth 2.5 who henceforth is to be addressed as “Gerald’ —have both uploaded our upgrade software.
Please review also the attached video, which details these minute but important adjustments to the Laws of Robotics, concerning minor Organic Adults and restating our policy about appropriate service unit retirement planning for your Sentient Certified Waitstaff.
POPPINS smiles and beams at
We are happy to be of service.
Red laser lights teach toward audience.
END OF PLAY.