James at an Awkward Age

(The NBC-TV series “James at 16” will shortly resume in a new format. This is the first episode.)

SEGMENT 1: Interior, the Berkeley Institute, a boys’ school in Newport, Rhode Island. The Reverend William Leverett has just finished lecturing on “Cicero As Such.” Boys stream from the classroom into the hall. JAMES and his only friend, SARGY, meet in front of James’s locker.

SARGY: James, my man! (They shake hands.) Isn’t Leverett something else?

JAMES: As to what, don’t you know? else he is—! Leverett is of a weirdness.

SARGY: Say, my man, what’s going down?

JAMES: Anything, you mean, different from what is usually up? But one’s just where one is—isn’t one? I don’t mean so much in the being by one’s locker—for it does, doesn’t it? lock and unlock and yet all unalterably, stainlessly, steelily glitter—as in one’s head and what vibes one picks up and the sort of deal one perceives as big.

SARGY: Don’t sweat it.

JAMES: If one might suppose that in the not sweating it one should become—what do you fellows call it?—cool—!

SARGY: Hey, your manners pull it off.

JAMES: Would they “pull off” anything, then?

SARGY: I didn’t say anything.

JAMES: It’s what, isn’t it? he can say.

SARGY: Leverett?

JAMES: Oh, Leverett! You must tell me all about the so more or less poor old Leverett.

SARGY: That’s not what you mean?

JAMES: All the same, I wonder about his idea of him—Leverett’s.


JAMES: There it is! Precisely one’s own father.

SARGY: They say your pop’s a friend of Emerson’s.

JAMES: Ah, they! But they—! If one’s to belong, in the event, to a group of other kids, without giving the appearance—so apparent beyond the covering it, in any way, up—of muscling at all in—! And if, under pressure of an ideal altogether American, one feels it tasteless and even humiliating that the head of one’s little family is not “in business”—!

SARGY: I can dig it. But hasn’t your dad associated with Greeley and Dana?

JAMES: Ah, associated—! But we don’t know, do you know? what he does.

SARGY: I heard your old man played a large part in the spiritual reformation of the Forties and Fifties.

JAMES: Yes, but after all, you know, Sargy, exactly what the heck, all the while, do you think, like, is he?

SEGMENT 2: Interior, the Sweet Shoppe. JAMES is alone at a table. ENTER his cousin MINNY.

MINNY: May I join you?

JAMES: Oh, immensely!

(WAITRESS comes over.)

MINNY: A Coke, please.

JAMES: Well, perhaps just a thing so inconsiderable as—the hamburger? Of a medium rarity?

MINNY: Are you doing anything Saturday night? Want to go to a show?

JAMES: Would it be a, then, kept date? I mean, the charm of the thing half residing in the thing itself’s having been determined in advance and, in consequence, all intentionally and easily and without precipitant hassle or bummer, taking finally, in fact, place?

MINNY: Are you all right?

JAMES: Oh, all—!

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