Saved by the Bell:
The Grad School Years.
BY TEDDY WAYNE
[Originally published March 26, 2009.]
INT. THE BOYS’ HOUSE—DAY
[SLATER enters the living room of the perpetually dark three-bedroom house he sublets with ZACK and SCREECH. He wears flared warm-up pants, a neon spandex tank top, and horn-rimmed glasses, and his hair is tied in a ponytail.]
SLATER: Did you do the Milton reading for our Early Modern seminar, preppy?
[ZACK sits on a futon under framed posters of T.S. Eliot, John Cheever, and Bret Easton Ellis.]
ZACK: Just because I’m writing my dissertation on the anxiety of influence of Tender Is the Night on Richard Yates’s midcareer short fiction doesn’t mean I’m a preppy, you medievalist.
SLATER: Yeah—and Screech isn’t a dweeb for studying the intersection of science and the gothic novel during the 18th century and its relation to Pynchonesque paranoia.
[SCREECH crawls out from under a mountain of library books, simultaneously reading an academic book on leeches and a heavily dog-eared copy of Gravity’s Rainbow.]
SCREECH: Hey, is someone talking about me?!
[A loud, impatient knock at the door.]
ZACK: Here’s an Austinian performative utterance: “Come in!”
SCREECH: Technically, “I am coming in” would be the performative utterance, or illocutionary act.
[SLATER smacks SCREECH on the head.]
SLATER: “I am hitting you.” How’s that for an illocutionary act?
SCREECH: According to the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, pretty accurate … and hard!
[JESSIE opens the door. She’s clad in a black leather jacket, her hair is cut short and jagged and is dyed blue, and she’s chain-smoking Marlboros.]
JESSIE: (Excitedly.) I’m so stressed; I have two papers due tomorrow; I need some whiskey.
ZACK: Jessie, you’re not back on those caffeine pills, are you?
JESSIE: No, why?
ZACK: I want to give a few to Nerdstrom; I need him to be sharp: he’s writing my application to the Fitzgerald conference in Maryland for me, in exchange for being introduced to some girls in the sculpture program at the next Graduate Council mixer.
JESSIE: Ugh, Fitzgerald. You boys and your reverence for dead white males. What chauvinist pigs.
SLATER: Oink, oink, mama. And I mean that in the most Orwellian and neo-Freudian senses.
ZACK: As Henri Bergson might say, “Time-out!” Can you two ever have a conversation without it devolving into a dispute over phallologocentrism?
[LISA pokes her head in the window, struggling to get through with her Afro.]
LISA: Salaam alaikum, brothers and sister. My Shakespeare study group meets in an hour—what can I say about othering and the male gaze in Othello?
SCREECH: Well, Stephen Greenblatt argues that homosocial tensions in the Globe Theatre may have contributed to—
ZACK: No, you homophone—the male G-A-Z-E, not G-A-Y-S.
[KELLY joins the group. Her ripped T-shirt reads FREE MUMIA.]
KELLY: Are you guys busy?
KELLY: Sorry. I could use your opinions on the title for my colloquium presentation: “Disco Balls and Lyricless Synthesizer Music: A Situationist Critique of the Prom in Post-Vietnam Literature.”
ZACK: Who cares? It’s happy hour at the Max—let’s toast to Bacchus like the Lost Generation 2.0 we are.
SLATER: I hope we don’t run into Department Chair Belding there.
JESSIE: That guy is so creepy—I still can’t believe he joined an accelerated Ph.D. program at Stansbury, followed us all out to Berkeley, and somehow politically maneuvered to become head of the English Department.
LISA: He’s such an imperialist oppressor—a Kipling without conscience. And no fashion sense at all with that tired, leather-patched corduroy jacket from 1973.
KELLY: He always hits on me by reciting the same Marvell poem and asking if I want to work with him on an independent study—gross!
SCREECH: Compared to him, I’m a regular Dom Juan!
SLATER: Yeah, what a knavish, elf-witted coxcomb.
[They repair to the Max. After several pitchers of PBR, ZACK sleeps with KELLY (the audience oohs) and asks her not to tell anyone, SLATER and JESSIE get in a fight over gender essentialism before sleeping together [the audience oohs again], and SCREECH unsuccessfully attempts to woo LISA with his postcolonial reading of The Tempest before dropping out and returning to Bayside High to teach ninth-grade English.]
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