Sûrah LXXIV
THE CLOAKED ONE
"Every soul is a pledge for its own deeds!"

74
CLOAKROOM

If she lets me out of here, that is; never mind three wishes. It occurred to me my jailor may have thrown away the key.

JOY

Cliché.

Franchone, with a wry falsetto, speaks for the manikin, then for himself, monologue turned to dialogue (at least in effect).

FRANCHONE

Clichés are useful; life's not blow-by-blow unique; inventive phrases, for the most part, are inappropriate.

JOY

Case in point?

FRANCHONE

Well, this is novel, I concede. Although I do recall a precedent. I was six years old the last time I got locked inside a room. It was a cloakroom. Class of '82. Jefferson Elementary.

JOY

Déjà vu.

FRANCHONE

A little smoochin' midst the snow pants was my gullible infraction, sweet Amelia my accomplice and 1st-grade Valentine. Claimed she needed kissing practice; would I, pretty-please, oblige? You bet; it was fun until I realized I'd been fooled; it was a trap. She and her co-cohorts snapped the light off, shut me in all by myself, and left me stranded midst the soggy coats and leggings. Recess ended. I was designated AWOL after class was back in session. "Okay, who locked Franchone in the coatroom?" No one squealed. And I was not a snitch, so wouldn't tell.

Franchone readjusts the manikin's kerchief-anchored wig, cradling its chin with his outstretched hand.

FRANCHONE

To think that I mistook you for a genuine human being.

JOY

Comes natural when regarding women as props.

FRANCHONE

Low blow; unfair. I give as good...

JOY

...as you get? In bed, perhaps—for what that talent 's worth.

FRANCHONE

I leave 'em satisfied.

JOY

But you "leave" them; that, precisely, is the point. Men who truly satisfy women stay.