Photo by JOHN VATER
iowa.... oh...... iowa: a screenplay
Scene 1 Ext: Hawker Centre in Singapore
Actors Zaleha, Hadijah
There are many people at the hawker centre which is located next to a wet market. The hawker centre is noisy and busy. There are some people queueing up for food. Some are eating hurriedly. The weather is hot and humid. Zaleha and Hadijah are sitting at the corner of the hawker centre. Zaleha (35 years old, a Supervising Writer) and Hadijah (38 years old, a clerical officer) are office colleagues. They chat while taking their lunch.
I’m so glad you are back from Iowa now. Our boss has given me the number of hours for television dramas for the next financial year. He wants you to come out with drama proposals the soonest you can.
Then he wants me to look into the welfare of the staff under my care. There are contracts to be renewed, staff appraisals to be submitted, the issue of freelance writers to be dealt with and many others.
You can put aside all that matters. (Pause) Boss wants you to focus on the course. He wants you to conduct a course. He wants you to impart the knowledge that you have learnt from Iowa to our budding writers.
I don’t have any problem with the staff contracts, appraisals. (Hesitates) But …. I .. …. I’m not sure about the course he is talking about.
You are not sure? What do you mean?
I’ve no idea if I gained any knowledge from Iowa.
Come on, Zaleha. You have spent two and a half months in Iowa. You left your husband. You left your daughters for Iowa. Don’t tell me you didn’t bring back anything from Iowa.
Hmmm…… let me think…..
Iowa is a great city especially for writers. I still remember the YouTube we watched together before you leave for Iowa. Paul Engle said “All writers in the world should come to Iowa.” In 2008, UNESCO conferred the City of Literature designation on Iowa City.
You are perfectly right.
I wish I have the opportunity to visit Iowa. I wish I were a writer like you.
(Surprise) Oh…. Do you dream to be a writer too?
Oh… no !!! I am happy with what I’m now, a clerical officer. But it should not stop me from liking a writer or for that matter, loving a writer.
Wow…. someone is thinking of the past.
You know, right, I couldn’t helpfalling in love with a writer. My first boyfriend was a writer. My second boyfriend was a writer. My third boyfriend was also a writer. (Pause) But I ended up marrying an underwriter.
You should not regret marrying him. At least, he earns so much more than a writer. You know, in Singapore, it is hard to make a living by becoming a writer.
But writers have something that money can’t buy. They are romantic, sentimental, expressive and generous with their words.
I am a writer but I never dreamed of marrying a writer.
How can you look down on a writer?
(Stern voice) Never wrong a writer. They get their revenge in print.
Hadijah is unperturbed by what she just heard.
If your husband is a writer, he can earn by sitting at home. Don’t you think, it is rewarding ?And the best thing, you can get him to do all the household chores.
Both of them chuckle.
Since I can’t marry one, I decided to make my son to be one. I dream one day my son will be like Orhan Pamuk, the famous writer from Turkey.
He was the IWP writer in 1985 and received the Nobel Prize in 2006.
(Excited) Zaleha, I plan to send my son to Iowa.
You must be kidding. Your son is already 15 years old but he can’t even spell the word ‘necessary’ correctly. He hates reading. He can’t even write a full sentence with proper grammar correctly!
That is the whole point of mesending him to Iowa.
What do you mean?
Can’t any Tom, Dick and Harry turn out to be a Nobel Prize winner if he lives in Iowa?
Zaleha looks at Hadijah with a great shock. Zaleha is speechless. Hadijah simply grins and gives a nonchalant shrug.