Laugh or Cry?

a short play by Cathy Ingram

Phone Rings

Builder:   Amazing Organ Builders, how can I help you?

Organist: Hi, it's me, it's not working.

Builder:   What's not working?

Organist: My organ.

Builder:   Oh, that's not good, which organ?

Organist: What do you mean which organ? I only have one.

Builder:   I mean, where is this organ.

Organist: At my church of course.

Builder:   Which church is that?

Organist: St John's

Builder:    ...Yes .....

Organist: ......

Builder:   Which St John's?

Organist: Episcopalian

Builder:   OK, St John's Episcopal Church, where is St John's?

Organist: On Church St., we're 2 doors down from the 7-11 on the corner, across the street from the First Baptist Church. It's a lovely old building, the one the Baptist's have that is, not that our church isn't lovely too, just much newer, we had to rebuild after a fire a little while ago, so it looks like the typical church construction of the 1970's. Lois's church was built in 1869. She's my friend from the Tuesday afternoon seniors' bowling. Lovely lady, always knitting something for her grand kids. She's got 10, plus 2 great-grand babies. It's a lovely white wooden church with a steeple and blue trim. The stained glass is original, made by J R Lamb in New York, they also have a very nice tracker organ. They give tours of the building on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. Lois helps with the tours in the morning then comes bowling with us in the afternoon. You know, St John's was the first parish established here in Greenville, but they have the oldest church building, because of the fire.

Builder:   So, St John's is in Greenville, New York?

Organist: Goodness no, whatever gave you the idea we were in New York?

Builder:   I don't know, you mentioned New York, so I took a guess.

Organist: Well that was a silly thing to do, the stained glass had to be shipped from New York. Not an easy thing to do in the 1860's. It's very expensive and you would have to pack the pieces very carefully. I imagine they transported it mostly by train, then horse-and-cart the rest of the way.

Builder:   So which state are you in?

Organist: Michigan of course.

Builder:   Of course, one moment and I will look up your church in our computer


Builder:   Ok I see you here. Am I speaking to Mary Lockhart?

Organist: Who's Mary Lockhart?

Builder:   According to my database Mary Lockhart is the organist at St John's Episcopal in Greenville, Michigan.

Organist: Well, she's not. I am, I've been the organist here for 3 years. Before me it was George Bailey, but he was only organist for 2 years. It was the diabetes you know, it caused his eyesight to deteriorate, so he couldn't see the music properly anymore. Diabetes will do that you know. George and his wife Sandra still attend St John's, of course their kids are all grown and moved away now. I don't know who was organist before George, maybe it was this Mary person.

Builder:   That is possible, my records show St John's hasn't called for a tuning or service in 8 years. So, what is your name?

Organist: I'm Beth White, I've been playing the piano since I was 6 years old, which is why they asked me to take over when George retired.

Builder:   And is Rev.....

Organist: I didn't have much in the way of lessons after I turned 13, I hated practicing, but I get by OK, I'm even sometimes able to figure out how to do one or two things with my feet.

Builder:   That's very good, tell me, is Reverend James Wood still pastor there?

Organist: Heavens no, he moved on about 4 years ago. My goodness, you don't keep your records up to date very well do you? No, our minister now is Nancy Simons, although I'm not so sure I agree with lady priests, it just doesn't seem right, you'd never have seen it in my day.

Builder:   That is an interesting thought, now tell me, you say your organ doesn't work. What do you mean by it doesn't work?

Organist: I mean it doesn't work. I turn it on and nothing happens.

Builder:   So, you are sitting at the console, you press a key and you don't get any sound?

Organist: No

Builder:   No sound at all.

Organist: NO, I'm not sitting at the console, I'm calling from home.

Builder:   When did you first notice your organ wasn't working?

Organist: Three weeks ago.

Builder:   Three weeks ago?

Organist: Approximately, after Choir practice. I remember it clearly, it was the same day Reverend Nancy got the call from the Morrow family. Their son Peter hadn't been well for a few days and they had taken him to the clinic, turns out he had appendicitis and had to have surgery. Thursdays are the same day that Reverend Nancy runs the Bible Study, so they had to interrupt the study, then she came and told the choir so we could all pray for Peter. He is doing much better now, goes back to school on Monday.

Builder:   That's good to hear. So, you were able to play the organ for the choir practice, but sometime after that it stopped working.

Organist: That same night. I finished the practice with the choir and after everybody left, I went back to the organ to practice a section of the postlude, it is a particularly challenging section. Anyway when I got back it wasn't working.

Builder:   Ok, so you sat down pressed some keys and you got no sound

Organist: No

Builder:   Is that no, as in there was no sound, or no as in my statement was wrong, you did get sound?

Organist: There was no sound.

Builder:   Did you try pressing any of the pistons?

Organist: No, I pulled the knobs out by hand to get the sounds to play.

Builder:   I thought you said you didn't have any sound.

Organist: I didn't. I have to turn on some knobs first.

Builder:   You turned on some knobs, pressed some keys and got some sound.

Organist: Yes

Builder:   Did you get sound on every manual?

Organist: Yes.

Builder:   When you pressed the pistons did the registration change?

Organist: Registration? Is that the group of knobs that pop out when I press a button?

Builder:   Yes.

Organist: Yes.

Builder:   Did the display that tells you which stage your Crescendo shoe is on work?

Organist: Yes.

Builder:   Did every stop play?

Organist: Yes, at least the ones I use. I don't used the Chimney Flute.

Builder:   Why don't you use the Chimney Flute.

Organist: It doesn't work.

Builder:   Oh, ok, so the Chimney Flute stopped working 3 weeks ago

Organist: No

Builder:   No?

Organist: It never worked. I asked George about the knob one time and he says it never worked for him, he wasn't sure we had a Chimney Flute.

Builder:   You have a Chimney Flute and it worked when we were there 8 years ago.

Organist: Fancy that, not really important at the moment though.

Builder:   So, everything you have described so far works; I'm not sure what you mean by your organ isn't working. What isn't working?

Organist: My power isn't working.

Builder:   Your power is working, otherwise you wouldn't be able to get any sound out of the organ. Why don't you think your power isn't working?

Organist: The light doesn't come on.

Builder:   Which light?

Organist: The little red light above the On switch

Builder:   Ok, it sounds like the light bulb to indicate the power is on has blown. We have a technician scheduled to be in your area in 2 weeks, she can stop by the church and change the light bulb and look at your Chimney Flute then.

Organist: Oh no, that won't do, I need to get this fixed right away, the bishop is coming on Sunday.

Builder:   It's Friday afternoon, your Chimney Flute hasn't worked in at least 5 years, I'm not sure I can get it working for Sunday morning.

Organist: I told you, the Chimney Flute isn't important right now, I need that red light.

Builder:   Why?

Organist: If I don't have that red light, how will I know if the organ is on?

Builder:   Well, if it is that important for you to have the light bulb changed, I could send somebody up there tomorrow, it will be about $950.

Organist: $950, that's ridiculous! Why would it be expensive? Changing light bulbs is easy, I do it at home.

Builder:   Because it's a 3 hour drive one way on a Saturday.

Organist: But that's your job, you change the light bulb, I'm not paying more than $50.

Builder:   I'm afraid I can't do that for $50. Would you like me to schedule the technician to stop by in 2 weeks? She can change the bulb then, take a look at the Chimney Flute, make sure everything else is working fine, and tune.

Organist: No. I think I need to find another company to take care of our organ. You don't pay attention to what I'm telling you, you don't keep good records of your customers, you charge too much, and you don't come and do service when we need it. Goodbye

Dial Tone 




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