The Kids Are Alright (2018) s01e02 Episode Script

Timmy's Poem

1 ADULT TIMMY: The 1970s were an awesome time to be a kid.
It was the Wild West.
Bike helmets hadn't been invented yet or car seatbelts or even normal adult supervision.
Dads weren't around as much as they are now.
And my mom was busy running the house.
She had a lot on her plate and no time for tomfoolery whatever that is.
There were eight of us boys, including my oldest brother, just home from college.
That's a lot of testosterone under one roof.
[Clank, projector clicking.]
Mouse, you'll do.
When I was a kid, nothing bugged my mom more than seeing us happy and relaxed.
You're not gonna spend the summer lounging around like it's some filthy mud-pit at Woodstock.
- [Drapes rattle.]
- Outside.
We were expected to get summer jobs, and since I was the creative type, I always sought work which allowed me to express myself as an artist.
Tell me did you go to school, stupid? Yeah.
And I came out the same way! [Laughter.]
Unfortunately, a mysterious basement fire compromised my co-star.
So, Knuckles, do you have a girlfriend? Yeah.
- Unfortunately - [Children screaming.]
- she's a dummy.
- [Girl crying.]
Uh uh The guy at the shoe repair said he can fix Knuckles' face, but he wants 20 bucks.
You could help me on my newspaper route.
I need someone to protect me from dogs and some of the bigger cats.
I'm holding off for something more suited to my artistic temperament.
You know, when you say things like that, people don't like you.
Hey, guys, Dad's pulling in with - [Screams.]
- [Horn honks.]
He has feelings, you know! In our house, Dad handled the grocery shopping 20 bags, eight half-gallons of milk, two or three times a week.
And if we expected to eat any of it, we had to help load it in.
Let's go, people! Move! Schnell! These frozen pot pies they are ticking time bombs! I'm coming! I was in the bathroom! Oh, at last, Eddie deigns to join us.
Meat first, then milk! Look at all this processed food.
You know, at the seminary, we ate more fruits and vegetables.
We eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Grape jelly.
And every kind of potato chips, flakes, and tots.
I mean fresh food that gets to us before Dow Chemical has their way with it.
I mean, seriously, do we even know what's in this stuff? Look, I don't know what's in the polio vaccine.
I'm still glad some of you kids got it.
Your father works real hard to pay for $32?! Holy moly! Something might have to go back.
Imitation SPAM? We don't even get real SPAM anymore? Oh, big opinions from the guy who got to the car last.
Hey, don't bury that imitation SPAM.
It's on the menu for breakfast.
Dad, I was actually just asking Mom about maybe adding some produce to our diet.
Ooh, then maybe you should produce some money to pay for it.
Rabbit food ain't cheap.
Yeah, but this stuff isn't healthy.
I mean, seriously, is Pat even growing? He's growing enough.
We certainly don't want him growing any faster.
He'll catch up to William before William's done with his clothes.
- Give me that.
- Fresh fruit is a crapshoot.
You need to eat it right away, when they tell you to.
With this stuff? Ho ho! You are not my boss, broccoli.
Lawrence, we're just not fresh-vegetable people.
I mean, who we trying to impress? I don't know.
Our colons? There we go my newspaper.
The Parks Department is holding a kids' poetry contest.
First prize is 25 bucks! I can get a new face for Knuckles! Knuckles! Listen to this! Can, uh, other people see Knuckles? - All right.
- [Refrigerator door opens.]
All right, buddy, we're gonna win the prize money and score you a new face.
I'm so creative.
I'm a shoo-in.
So many ideas.
Too many.
They're popping in my head, like popcorn.
Maybe I'll make some popcorn.
[TV plays indistinctly.]
The topic is nature.
I could go outside and look at a lamppost.
Or fire hydrant.
Have I ever seen nature? - [Door opens.]
- PEGGY: You're thinking too hard.
Don't make a federal case out of it, like you always do.
It's like the time Aunt Alice asked you for ideas for what to name her baby, and you just kept saying "puppy" and then had diarrhea.
The deadline is tomorrow.
You can do this.
I wrote plenty of poems in school.
Easy peasy, lemon-squeezy.
Did you just do that?! Did I just watch that happen?! You're not the only creative one around here.
A poem's much easier than some story that has to make sense.
If your poem confuses people, they just think you're deep and they're dumb.
And that's the whole point of poetry making other people feel dumb.
Ah, here it is.
My old rhyming dictionary.
Maybe it'll help.
But honestly, rhyming doesn't even matter.
I'm telling you poetry's a racket.
"Mountain," "fountain" "countin'"? Okay, you're really cutting some corners there, rhyming dictionary.
And there it was a poem my mom had written in high school.
"Ode to a Tree.
" And I knew it was really good because it made me feel dumb.
I was a decent enough kid to know that stealing her poem was wrong.
In retrospect, I choose to blame the void in moral leadership which defined the Nixon administration.
A week and a half later, and the verdict was in.
Frank, give it to me! It's my letter! What does it say?! It says, "To the parents of Timmy Cleary.
" Thank you.
You won first prize.
" [Gasps.]
I won! I won! - I won 25 bucks! - Let me see that.
Says you'll be receiving your prize money at a special ecology and nature fair Oh, brother held at Oak Park.
- Nice! - "at which you'll read your poem aloud for assembled dignitaries, friends, and family.
" - Family? - And dignitaries.
You wear the new velour shirt I got you for your birthday.
You got that for me.
You didn't win anything.
It's his now.
I'm not buying it.
You're no poet, and I know it.
I'm in trouble.
Maybe you can help me.
You do a lot of bad things.
I keep busy.
The poem is stolen.
It's something Mom wrote in high school, and she'll recognize it the second she hears it.
I guess we don't let her hear it.
She already wrote it down.
But, unfortunately, she'll be a little late.
Cover her eyes.
That's really good! I've been turning F's into A's since 1966.
I also do Mom's signature.
I've been on field trips with schools I don't even attend.
[Door opens.]
Oh, uh, didn't hear the horn, Pop.
It's fine.
It's just the two bags.
Lawrence, get in here! I got inspired, picked up something for our eldest to shove in his mouth.
Oh, look, son, a surprise two bags of veggies and fruit.
Oh, great! Now I'm gonna have to spray for ants.
Right on, Dad.
You really listened.
Grapes and lettuce harvested here in California.
You're welcome.
You've got to be kidding me.
The grape and lettuce pickers are on strike.
Haven't you heard about the boycott? I might have heard Cronkite mention something on his nightly coverage of whiners and crybabies.
The migrant workers are picking this stuff for mere pennies an hour.
I guess that's why it's so cheap.
Let's hope the bacon workers strike next.
- [Laughs.]
- Very funny.
Well, I, for one, won't be eating any.
- Seriously? - Those are racist grapes! They are steeped in the sweat and tears of oppression.
Good! Then we don't need to wash them! Unbelievable.
No gratitude.
That clown is never happy.
What am I supposed to do with all this stuff? I have no idea, but we're not wasting it.
Throw it in a stew or something.
[Doors open.]
Hey, this would be a good moment for Pat's lost hamster to turn up.
That's not gonna happen.
The day to read my poem arrived, and, fortunately, Mom was thoroughly distracted.
Grape casserole, grape loaf grape Suzette.
- Fancy.
- Mm.
Don't it always seem to go That you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot [Applause.]
A big thank-you to Valerie for the singing.
Valerie is my niece, but she did have to audition.
And now it's my pleasure to introduce a very special guest.
He hates pollution.
We all do! Welcome, Woodsy Owl! - [Applause.]
- Give a hoot! Woodsy's appearance gave me a respite to reconsider what I was about to do.
I hadn't done anything terrible yet.
If I walked away now, refused the prize money, didn't read the poem, I could go back to being a basically decent person.
Or - You ready, kid? - Am I ever! And now, to recite his prize-winning poem, - our own Timmy Cleary! - [Applause.]
Thank you.
Thank you very much.
Thank you.
[Clears throat.]
"Ode to a Tree.
" "Your branches doth spread out, reaching like outstretched arms, welcoming morning dew" JFK, The Beatles, me.
So few had the charisma necessary to mesmerize the masses.
The audience adulation knocked the fact I didn't write the poem completely out of my head.
Was I becoming a sociopath? I actually prefer another word meaning roughly the same thing a showman! "At last, our willow shall weep no more.
" [Applause.]
Knuckles! Thank you! She heard it.
My mom heard her stolen poem.
Well, 12 years that was a decent lifespan in Roman times.
- You came.
- I almost didn't.
Somehow I wrote down the wrong time.
Luckily, Frank reminded me.
I didn't know you had such a fondness for flowering dogwood trees, which are non-native to California.
Very curious.
Don't be ridiculous.
He got it from me.
What? Your creativity.
What else would you have gotten from me? Nice poem.
TIMMY: She's got to know I copied it, right? I knew in five seconds.
You're not a big user of the word "doth.
" But then why didn't she bust me? She's being really nice, and it's freaking me out.
I suppose it's possible she doesn't remember writing it.
Mom might be senile.
She is really old.
Mom is playing you.
She enjoys tormenting us.
I don't think Mom's that twisted.
Oh, yeah? Remember the mysterious basement fire we had last Christmas? The one where Knuckles lost his face.
Mom might have certain evidence implicating me, including a bill of lading from a Mexican fireworks wholesaler, but she's never once accused me.
She just keeps sighing and saying how sad she is someone in this family can't be honest.
She's waiting for my conscience to kick in.
Good luck.
The best plan is to just come clean and take your punishment.
- That's what I doth think.
- But what if she really doesn't know? The big win for Mom here is getting you to confess.
Then she gets to punish you, pretend you learned a valuable lesson, and feel like she's a really good mother the Catholic guilt trifecta.
Just like Jesus taught us.
- What is that? - PEGGY: Waldorf salad lettuce, grapes, walnuts, and mayonnaise.
They served it at Tricia Nixon's wedding.
If it's good enough for the First Daughter, - it's good enough for us.
- Mm-hmm.
- It tastes weird.
- What you're tasting is exploitation.
Well, if that's the case, they should bottle it because it's delicious and cheap.
Hey, Timmy, I saw Reader's Digest was having a contest, too, judged by top poets, like Rod McKuen and Dr.
You win this one, millions of people will see your poem that you wrote by yourself.
That's okay.
I don't want any more attention.
Yeah, isn't there stuff to talk about other than poems and salads? I've also been thinking about the mysterious basement fire last Christmas.
Destroyed the only photograph ever taken of my great-grandfather.
My Pop-pop.
He'll always be in your heart.
- I'll have more salad, Dad.
- We all need to have more salad.
We're not eating it fast enough.
In fact, the kitchen's on lock-down till all the lettuce and grapes get consumed.
- Thank you, Lawrence.
- Yeah, thank you, Lawrence.
I'm sorry that I care about people less fortunate than us.
- Wait.
We're allowed to leave? - No.
PEGGY: Mike, you need to make a food exception for Timmy.
I baked him a cake.
I know you're not supposed to have a favorite child, but when one is this creative, who we kidding? I'll probably just e-eat it later.
- Absolutely outstanding, Peg.
- Aww.
You don't think of putting mayo on a grape, - but here it is - Mm.
a winning combination.
[Door opens, closes.]
Something is very wrong, Joey.
It's chocolate, my all-time favorite, and I feel so guilty, it just tastes bitter.
That's because Mom didn't put any sugar in it.
She's messing with you.
She wants you to think you can no longer experience joy.
Are you serious? You should have tasted the guilt meringue pie she baked for me after the basement fire.
That means she absolutely knows.
Like I'm saying, now you just wait her out, and you can win this thing.
Joey, I'm not built like you.
I have a conscience.
A disadvantage, but I believe in you.
No! I-I've got to admit to her I stole the poem! Of course you did, and I found where you stole it from, you little crook.
I camped out in the library, and look what I found "Ode to a Dogwood Tree," 1914, by David Langford Lawless.
Everyone made fun of me for laminating my library card but this is the ticket to secrets.
Whatcha doin', Mom? Oh, just a new outfit for Knuckles.
That's really nice of you.
We all express our creativity according to our own gifts.
My mom taught me to sew.
It's still making something out of nothing, but 'course, it's not at the level of your literary achievement.
But how could I even dream of ever writing a poem as good as yours? I keep thinking maybe Knuckles has a secret he wants to tell me.
If I hold him up to my ear [softly.]
maybe he'll whisper it to me.
He's a doll, Mom.
I know.
I just thought sometimes it's easier to say things that way.
There is something I wanted to tell you.
[Clicks tongue, sighs.]
Okay, then.
- About the contest.
- Mm.
The Reader's Digest contest I want to enter it.
All that's left is your signature as my parent, swearing that I am the author, legally binding under penalty of perjury [Western showdown music plays.]
and in the sight of God.
You sure you want to do this? Oh, absolutely.
I want more people to read the poem even people in Wisconsin, birthplace of David Langford Lawless.
But compared to his poetic genius, I'd only give myself an A-minus.
And that was it.
Mom knew that I knew she stole it, and I knew she knew that I knew.
But neither one of us could bust the other without admitting their own guilt.
This was crazy! If Reader's Digest printed the poem, we would both be exposed as frauds.
But Mom was not only willing to risk humiliation, she was willing to waste a six-cent stamp.
Well we should mail this.
If we hurry, we can make it to the box for the last pickup.
It was poetry-contest chicken, each of us refusing to blink.
[Door opens.]
[Door closes, rattles.]
- Well, that's that.
- Yes, it is.
I realized then that my mom and I were more alike than I'd ever thought, both sharing the same self-destructive, stubborn streak.
And I suddenly felt very close with her.
MIKE: I'll take that bologna.
Oh, hey.
I wasn't gonna eat that.
It was just in the way as I was reaching for more salad.
I really developed a taste for this.
Have a seat.
[Drawer opens, closes.]
[Exhales heavily.]
[Chair creaks.]
It's all kind of slippery now.
Slides right down.
[Door opens.]
How was your dinner out? Met some friends, ate, uh, a lovely meal at a at a vegetarian place.
Who are these friends a rabbit, a turtle, and a bird? It was actually really tasty, although I was starving again by the time I hit the parking lot.
- You can have most of this.
- Oh, no, that's all yours.
Eat up.
That mayonnaise isn't getting any younger.
Have a slice.
- Thank you.
- Oh, see? That wasn't so hard, a "thank you.
" Where was that when I picked up the lettuce and the grapes? I guess I was taken aback that you didn't care about the farm workers.
I mean, you say you admire hard work, but somehow that doesn't seem to apply with people of any shade darker than No.
This isn't about color.
You said you wanted produce.
I saw a good price, and I jumped at it.
I don't care if the guy who picked it is as white as that mayonnaise or brown as that other mayonnaise on the edge there.
- You can eat around that, son.
- [Groans.]
You just enjoy a good bargain? I like providing for my family and nobody going to bed hungry.
I'd give anything to go to bed hungry.
Dad, nobody's going to bed hungry in this house.
It's not something any of us have to worry about.
Because I worry about it every day and every single night since that morning in 1952 when I walked into that room in St.
Vincent's Hospital and met my firstborn son, premature and needing all sorts of expensive medicine.
That was a long time ago.
You're not struggling now.
I mean, nothing's gonna happen.
But a man can't just turn off the worry.
You'll see someday, when it's your responsibility to fill that box up three times a week.
I've been where your farm worker fella has been.
I feel like I should apologize for calling you a racist.
Up to me, your friends Paco and Pablo would get every peso they're worth.
And then you say stuff like that.
All right, how about this? I promise, no more green food in this house again once Eddie finishes that.
So, what do we got here? [Forks clanking.]
- [Laughter.]
- Knuckles got his new face and threads, and we got back on the party circuit.
I even updated my act with topical references.
So, Knuckles, why did the lifeguard not save the drowning hippie? Because he was too far out, man.
- [Laughter.]
- Weeks passed.
Mom and I didn't speak of the poem again, until Mail's here.
This came from Reader's Digest.
Our only hope for not being publicly shamed was losing that contest.
- Crap.
- Darn it.
And yet when it happened, we were both strangely disappointed.
This makes no sense.
That poem is wonderful.
Yeah, but Timmy didn't write it.
Oh, be quiet.
You wouldn't understand.
You're not creative, like me and Mom.
Timmy's not creative.
- Oh, really, Frank? Where's your poem? - Yeah, Frank.
Where's his? I can show you in a book.
Oh, books! I once read a book about dragons.
They don't exist.
You know, these poetry big shots are always threatened by fresh talent.
Fresh? The guy wrote it in 1914.
Who are these people to judge us? They're the judges.
There's something else.
"Dear poet, your poem was super groovy.
You have lots of potential, which will only get better as you work at it, so keep on truckin'.
Peace and love.
" Rod McKuen sees potential.
I know I act like a cool customer, but it is nice to get encouragement from a fellow poet.
Nobody in this room is a poet.
Rod McKuen disagrees.
Thank you, Timmy.
[Sighs heavily.]
[Exhales sharply.]
Rod McKuen.
My mom and I together had committed the perfect crime.
We stole a poem and somehow convinced ourselves we hadn't.
That might be why she cherished that letter so much.
It connected us in a true act of creativity reinventing a frustrating world and insisting that others play along.
My mom taught me that a small amount of cheerful self-delusion is sometimes necessary in nurturing a gentle and artistic soul.
Keep on truckin', Peggy.
Joey, be a dear and run down and get me that bolt of dark green corduroy - from the basement, hmm? - Sure, Mom.
Ah, wait.
Darn it all.
That fabric got destroyed in the mysterious basement fire.
- That's too bad.
- Mm.
That corduroy was very special to me.
The same fabric as the dress I wore to my grandmother's funeral, God rest her soul.
You win some, you lose some.
That kid's going places.