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CSFMB Shakespeare in the Park: A Tragedy in Three Acts


Lights up, stage right. CAIRO is sitting in his room, forlorn. He looks up, and stares off into the night sky.

CAIRO: Why hast thou forsaken all that I am? How the breadth of mine life seems taken away, and anguish prevails. Lo, there is no one of whom I take brotherhood with. Campsio hast not returned my letters; I fear that the night doth take a form, a shape, of the demon that shalt consume my soul, forever.

Enter PANTHERIO, cloaked and holding a large bowl of fruit.

PANTHERIO: How now, Cairo?

CAIRO: [sullen] How now, Pantherio.

PANTHERIO: But, ist thou troubled? On this, such a fine eve?

CAIRO: The night has been anything but! But, O! I shalt not burden thine own night. I must have my own moon tonight, alone. Am I a wolf on such a night? Have I been cast out so easily? So frail, as a pawn on a board with a king staring at me; and t’other side, a queen ready to slash me.

PANTHERIO: But! This is nonsense, Cairo. O but if I could entice thee with wine. But here, all I have is this fruit.

CAIRO: On a night such as this, something as sweet as fruit cannot be accepted.

PANTHERIO: But, Cairo…if thou shalt not take the fruit, then what ever shalt I do with it?

CAIRO: Perhaps there is someone who would need it more than I?

PANTHERIO: But who? Where would this stranger lurking in the dark be found?

CAIRO: Sparkio has trouble with funds lately--or perhaps Don Tinio, who has not had employment for some time.

PANTHERIO: But, are they not friends of yours?

CAIRO: Some may’f speculated.

PANTHERIO: And where are these friends of thee?

CAIRO: I know not.

PANTHERIO: Surely friends would comfort thee in thy struggle on this night?

CAIRO: If these friends be around, where doth thou see them? Look around thyself and show me my friends!

PANTHERIO: There, now, Cairo. Brave Cairo--calm thyself! Why, now I wish’t so deeply for that wine, to calm thee.

CAIRO: No. The comfort of wine would not suffice.

PANTHERIO: But the comfort of friends would exhume thy exuberance?

CAIRO: Art thou asking me or art thou declaring this to be truth? For the truth cannot be a question.

PANTHERIO: Thou art very wise, Cairo. I shalt take this bowl of fruit with me, as thou hast declined the offering. But lo, I shalt find a soul much more wanting.

CAIRO: A soul more wanting than myself is a soul I would not like to meet on a night such as this.

PANTHERIO: So dark a soul as yours, Cairo; I shan’t touch it.



Lights up, center stage. In an alley outside Cairo’s abode, Pantherio paces.

PANTHERIO: My poison bowl, he did not take! How clever is he, mine enemy who believes me to be a dear friend, to discuss his loneliness? I now must take this bowl to a fool, and say it was a gift! A gift from that Moor, who believes me to be an ally!

COZTANSIO appears, loud and brash, drinking mead.

COZTANSIO: But who is this man speaking so loudly in such an ally? Someone I have ignored in the past, to be sure?

PANTHERIO: How now, Coztansio. On a night so beautiful and dripping with lovely stars, how hast thou attempted to ruin it? Ignoring me quite loudly aren’t we?

COZTANSIO: Hast thou seen Stevio? He, too, I was to be ignoring on this eve.

PANTHERIO: Thy queries are quite uproarious, Coztansio. Tell me, hast thou spoken with the Moor, Cairo?

COZTANSIO: He hast not called upon me on this eve, nor for a fortnight.

PANTHERIO: Not for such a long time--yet art thou not a friend of Cairo?

COZTANSIO: I would not identify him as friend nor foe. Alas, for thee, I have the latter.

PANTHERIO: Such strong condemnation from a man carrying around a large flask full of mead! Thou art such a drunkard, can I take thine words so seriously?

COZTANSIO: Can or don’t, may or won’t, I care not a feather off a dead chicken.

PANTHERIO: Not a villain, not a friend. A drunkard, to be sure! Have this bowl of fruit, if thou wishes. Else I shall leave it in front of Cairo’s abode, for a stranger to pick up and eat!

COZTANSIO: I need no fruit, Pantherio.

COZTANSIO leaves. PANTHERIO paces again.

PANTHERIO: No. Not at this time! But the eater of this bowl shalt certainly be linked to the demise of such a brat as Cairo! And my perfect alibi, the one I shalt entice next…Campsio. Another Moor! What more luck might I have on this enchanting eve?


Lights up, stage right. The market place at night. SPAULDIMONA is purchasing bread from a merchant. Pantherio approaches.

PANTHERIO: What a beautiful night for such a beautiful sight!

SPAULDIMONA: How now, Pantherio. What can a dutiful woman do for thee on such a night as this?

PANTHERIO: Hast thou seen the brave Moor, Cairo lately? The one who hast talked much about thee in recent times.

SPAULDIMONA: I have heard nothing from him. Is this bowl of fruit a gift from him? Was it meant for me?

PANTHERIO: Ah, how brazen of thee! To assume such a gift belongs to thee. No, this is my bowl of fruit. Its recipient may look at is it as a gift from myself. Would thou care to be as such?

SPAULDIMONA: I have enough fruit. Perhaps thou shalt make an announcement here in this marketplace, as the moon kisses the night? With a mouth as big as yours, shalt we expect it?

PANTHERIO: Harsh harsh, m’lady. But I shant be making an announcement on this eve. No, I am a hound tonight--a tracker. Always searching. When I find who I am looking for, my quest is at its end, and I am at peace. Good eve to thee, madam.

SPAULDIMONA: And to thee, Pantherio. A good eve would not involve seeing the likes of thee for the remainder.

PANTHERIO: Mistress of the virtuous tongue art thou! Oh, blessed, blessed…take pity on me!

He bows and walks away.


SPAULDIMONA: And now how Bagelo and Douchebaggio. Ist there a second moon tonight to spy on thee?

BAGELO: Hast thou seen Sparkio?

SPAULDIMONA: Sparkio, Sparkio! Where art thou Sparkio?

She laughs and walks away.

DOUCHEBAGGIO: Tis my pleasure to not be a husband of hers.

BAGELO: Just one?

DOUCHEBAGGIO: Shall she torture an entire army perhaps?

BAGELO: An army of husbands--to be sure. One to be married to her, must be armed at all times!

DOUCHEBAGGIO: What a night to spend at the Coliseum tonight; such a spectacle!

BAGELO: Aye, aye. But lo, no one appreciates the art the way that it was, when it was precious--now, not precious, but still a delight! And yet there is no one to cheer or bemoan?

DOUCHEBAGGIO: Mayhaps Bigfannio will step into the arena, would thou like that?

BAGELO: Art thou speaking of mine involvement--alleged--in a protest a few suns past?

DOUCHEBAGGIO: Twas not even a fortnight and hast thou forgotten? What a ruse!

BAGELO: Aye the day was ours!

DOUCHEBAGGIO: Now hush! Must not allow ears to hear. We are a ball of wax, to be certain.

BAGELO: The secret continues to be kept among us.

They laugh, and walk away.




Lights up, Bigfannio’s throne. He is being fanned, appropriately. NASHOVIO, a slave, kneels before him.

BIGFANNIO: Again, thou wishes to be fair, as I am to be fair to a lion! Thou art stealing many loaves of bread, I am told!

NASHOVIO: I beg thee, a second chance! These loaves of bread, they mean nothing to thee!

BIGFANNIO: Thou art an imposter. Nashovio is not known for such a weak posture as this. Is this my slave? Guards?

NASHOVIO: Tis me, tis true. Many Moors thou hast seen.

BIGFANNIO: Ah yes, and ye be the latest in trading secrets with those who wish to overthrow me. True?


PANTHERIO: Good Caesar!

BIGFANNIO: How now, Pantherio! Thou brings me a bowl of fruit? What laughable gift is this?

PANTHERIO: No! But, no! This be not for thee. Nor is it for thy slave.

NASHOVIO: Fools! I am no slave! I laugh and spit at thee! Hah! I mock the Caesar! Hail, hail! Twenty thousand scrolls have been forsaken!

NASHOVIO spins and twirls, and dances away. Bigfannio shakes his head.

BIGFANNIO: This, I cannot stomach much longer. He is a different person every day. Much like Hoffio. Fortunately I sent him to Cyprus for a time. What bring thee, then, Pantherio? To such a busy man as myself?

PANTHERIO: But Great Bigfannio, am I expected to bring forth something for thee? Art mine hands to be great ships carrying bounty from another land?

BIGFANNIO: Thou hands are to be placed cupping thy mouth, if I am to be voicing my preferences.

PANTHERIO: Hast thou seen Cairo lately, speaking of Moors?

BIGFANNIO: He hath not shown his person around my quarters, no. Doth thou wish to speak to him? Go to his house and see him then!

PANTHERIO: Oh but I have! And so forlorn was he. Lonely and depraved. For a soldier such as he, part of your army--has he nothing to do?

BIGFANNIO: Darksidio is returning from his campaign, and there is nothing else.


DARKSIDIO: And I return now.

BIGFANNIO: How now, Darksidio.

DARKSIDIO: What is this I hear of Cairo? Is the lonely soldier something groomed by thee, Bigfannio? Shall I be worried?

BIGFANNIO: Thou may worry only about thine own purse and family whose hands must be open to accept the payment I give to thee. Worry not about older soldiers.

DARKSIDIO: Perhaps I shalt see Cairo, so as to show him his loneliness is warmed by my presence?

PANTHERIO: It was not warmed by mine, to be sure.

DARKSIDIO: The stench of thee cannot be tolerated by the foulest rat on earth; how shalt Cairo react?

PANTHERIO: Thou art a great warrior, Darksidio. But not a friend of mine, to be sure.

DARKSIDIO: Any collection of yours I would want no part of.

PANTHERIO: Take this bowl of fruit, then, as a parting gift. May we never see each other’s glance again.

DARKSIDIO: Fruit? I was on my way to the market--can this really be a gift from such a rodent?

PANTHERIO: If a mouse offered thee a bag of gold, would thou turn thy head and walk away?

DARKSIDIO: Perhaps I take this bowl…and give it to Cairo. As a gift of friendship.

PANTHERIO: But I tried that already, dear Darksidio. And he stiffened and declined vehemently.

DARKSIDIO: An elephant may try to fornicate with a baboon; but the two shalt never make an offspring. Thine offer to Cairo was just such an imaginary progeny.

PANTHERIO: Thou makest haste of thine disliking of me; and here be thy bowl. A gift to thee, Prince Darksidio. [He bows.]

DARKSIDIO: Do not bow to me; thou art a king among peasants, but a skunk among royalty. The last I saw, skunks can not bow.

PANTHERIO: Then I simply bid adieu. And good day to thee, Darksidio.

DARKSIDIO: And may the sun hide behind clouds at your approach.



Lights up, stage right. The marketplace. CAMPSIO and SPARKIO look on as DARKSIDIO shops at the marketplace, carrying the basket of fruit.

CAMPSIO: How now, Sparkio. Can this be Prince Darksidio, carrying a basket of fruit? While at the marketplace? How the sun shines on him.

SPARKIO: A special soldier indeed!

DARKSIDIO: Ah, how now Campsio. This basket is not for me; twas a gift from Pantherio, a foul man who wanted to discard this basket of fine fruit. And I shalt deliver it to Cairo, my fellow soldier.

CAMPSIO: Cairo! Now there is a hearty laugh! Cairo, the weak soldier who has shut himself into his home, afraid of sunlight?

DARKSIDIO: Why must thou be so hard on Cairo? Has he not provided for this empire?

CAMPSIO: This empire was better two fortnights ago; when Cairo was off in his little adventures. Now all I hear is his bemoaning. Like a dog barking at the moon, nightly. So much desperation!

DARKSIDIO: But he has seen much, Campsio! He hath not had a woman in some time, either, as I’m aware.

CAMPSIO: No, how could he be? As he spends his time following the scent of Spauldimona, who has shown no interest time after time? And he chases her still! He is a dog, to be sure! A Labrador!

DARKSIDIO: What happened to the times when the two of you shared a lodge? Were not these times grand and bountiful?

CAMPSIO: He decided to leave it all behind when he became such a tramp. He is no longer a friend of mine, it is true! And that keeps him in his home, bemoaning this and that! Sparkio cannot even see him.

SPARKIO: He has not called on me. I’ve tried multiple times to rhyme with him, but he takes no time with me.

DARKSIDIO: Oh yes, thou lovest thine Sonnets to spray all over town! Well I’ll be kindly leaving thee and visiting a true friend now.

CAMPSIO: May he find you well, Prince Darksidio!

DARKSIDIO: An oak tree is softer than thy heart, Campsio.

CAMPSIO laughs, and DARKSIDIO leaves.


Lights up, center stage. Cairo is sitting in his room once again.

CAIRO: And again I sit…for my legs cannot withstand anymore use. Shall I amputate them? Shall I simply take my sword, that needs no use any longer, and slash them off?


DARKSIDIO: How now, Cairo. How can thou speak this way?

CAIRO: Darksidio! Thou hast returned…a fortuitous campaign, I gather?

DARKSIDIO: Yes. But as Bigfannio loves his taxes, I cannot offer my family more coin as he loves to take them from me.

CAIRO: Aye. Ah--thou hast been speaking to Pantherio, I see.

DARKSIDIO: Yes, that rogue had given me this bowl of fruit to give to you as he could not successfully cede.

CAIRO: Tis true, I could not accept. And yet thou wants to be the second gifter?

DARKSIDIO: Only for thine own health. Fruit may help thine bleak outlook on life lately. I have heard news…

CAIRO: It is true! Have I friends?

DARKSIDIO: Am I not a friend to thee?

CAIRO: Art thou?

DARKSIDIO: Friends do not ask each other if they art friends. They simply embrace and share their thoughts and emotions, and laughter.

CAIRO: My questioning is my demise! O, how can thou consider me a friend? Who questions thee?

DARKSIDIO: Why must thou abate friendships so? Is it this woman thou pines for? Art thou worried about thine acture?

CAIRO: Thou speaketh of Spauldimona. I wish not to hear her name…for each letter of her name represents a needle entering my soul.

DARKSIDIO: But, good Cairo! Why doth thou speak this way? Sure, thou hast something to give her?

He offers the fruit.

DARKSIDIO: Give to her this fruit, for it represents the sweet nature of thy soul; and its nectar proves her to be the alderliefest!

CAIRO: This basket of fruit? A gift from a gift, from a gift. Is this to be considered heartfelt? It is passed down…it is an heirloom.

DARKSIDIO: But an heirloom may mean something deeper! This is a part of thee, Sir Cairo! Take this fruit to her, and say nothing more! Do not look for her approof! Merely offer it, and be done with it!

CAIRO: Thou hast convinced me…of merely giving an offer. A symbol of hope, to be sure.

DARKSIDIO: To be sure indeed.

CAIRO: Trusteth friends.

DARKSIDIO: True words, Good Cairo.




Lights up, stage right. Spauldimona’s front yard. She is gardening. CAIRO approaches, with the basket of fruit.

CAIRO: The ripest tomato could not be as sweet as thou art shining in the sun.

SPAULDIMONA: Ah! How now, Cairo! Warrior of the east, brave Cairo! What brings thee to my garen on such a day?

CAIRO: I have brought thee a gift…

SPAULDIMONA: A basket…that devil Pantherio tried to bribe me with this gift--

CAIRO: Then may I hang my head and go?

SPAULDIMONA: But of course not! Please, the gift is an actual gift if it comes from the hands of thee.

CAIRO: But thine own hands may dig the earth and find such fruit and vegetables from thy garden patch.

SPAULDIMONA: Oh, difficult Cairo! Thine hands acute with the supple ripe fruit mean so much more than the fingers of the earth, coldly displaying their offerings!

CAIRO: Then thou shalt accept mine gift?

SPAULDIMONA: I shall! Now, doth thou wish to take in this basket with me? Perhaps under this very sun, which warms the forest surrounding us?

CAIRO: O to be sure, that would send me into the throes of heaven’s open arms! But lo, I must report to Bigfannio, if there be any news for a soldier’s plot.

SPAULDIMONA: Then I shall pretend thee with me, and the fruit shalt taste more lovely!

She kisses him on the cheek. Cairo embraces her, and then he leaves.


Lights up, center stage. BIGFANNIO is being hounded by PARKRIDGETTE, and SPARKIO.

PARKRIDGETTE: May there be the arms of babies upon thine chest, suckling at thy teet! While thou spay these poor children and slay into a garden of lust and have the temerity to do so with eyes of laughter!

SPARKIO: Ah, my favorite sermon from my favorite spinster, yes Bigfannio?

BIGFANNIO: I do not wish again to see this person be brought before me. Peasants do not belong in my presence!

CAIRO enters.

CAIRO: Bigfannio!

BIGFANNIO: How now, Cairo. What doth bringeth thee to me on this day?

CAIRO: But is there not news? As I’ve seen Darksidio return from a campaign. Is there nothing thou needst from me?

BIGFANNIO: I needst thou to keep this socialization going, Good Cairo! We had not seen thy presence for some time. I had thought perhaps the devil had finally taken thee.

CAIRO: No, not the devil! An angel…an angel whose bosom ignites my soul and heart alike!

BIGFANNIO: Then take this angel and consummate if thou wishst. And Sparkio, bring this squawking quail to my doorstep again, and I’ll see both of thee hanged!

PARKRIDGETTE: Surely thou wants to see the centurions burn, and those Cyprus demons win the war! Thou doth pray every night to see a centurion burn, a baby dissected by garbage cretins, and insects from Troy to devour us all!

SPARKIO: Come, Parkridgette, I shall take thee to a wonderful lunch!

They leave.


Lights up, center stage. The marketplace. BOYDIO, DROPIO and AGENTIO all sing and sway together drunkenly.

BOYDIO: But point me to the cirque, good Dropio! We are running low on mead!

DROPIO: Sing, O sing my Caesar of Swill!

AGENTIO: Are there wed madams here, or shall I abate?

CAIRO enters.

CAIRO: Good men! The news today is wondrous! No news of war, and my woman awaits with a basket of fruit to enjoy!

AGENTIO: How now Cairo! Is she but a maiden? Or doth she have a husband?

BOYDIO: Hear not his words, Cairo. But come! Join us! For a drink! Only once! We shall make sure the wine is sweeter than the fruit thou wisht to eat!

CAIRO: Oh, but to be among friends. For one drink? Surely…the sun drips into the night as we speak.

DROPIO: The night takes its time devouring the day today, Good Cairo. Come!

CAIRO joins them, and they all lock arms and sway.

PANTHERIO enters, rubbing his hands.

PANTHERIO: What luck on such a day when truly the sun shines down! No news of war! Certainly, Cairo’s time shalt be pruned whilst wasting away in this tavern of travesty…and Fair, Fair Spauldimona…what of her?


Lights up, center stage. The marketplace is full of horror! SPARKIO and DARKSIDIO are all in the middle of the marketplace.

CAIRO enters, with AGENTIO and DROPIO, all drunk.

CAIRO: Hark! I feel as though one drink somehow drank its way into more…

DROPIO: Apologies, sir! Now, to thy woman!

DARKSIDIO: Woman? The fair Spauldimona thou speaketh of!

CAIRO: How now Darksidio! What brings thee all to this setting?

DARKSIDIO: News, good sir, news! But not good news indeed.

CAIRO: Not good news now? But only just today, the news was great!

SPARKIO: Then bad news follows…for Spauldimona is dead!

CAIRO: What words are these…to break a man’s heart, smash it to pieces?

DARKSIDIO: Hast thou not heard then…whilst the three of thee wasted away gurgling the devil’s elixir…the maiden Spauldimona has been poisoned!

CAIRO: Poisoned? But who…who could do this?

SPARKIO: Why it was THEE!

DARKSIDIO: NO! The fruit, it came from…Pantherio!

CAIRO: But this cannot be true! Where is my Spauldimona!

SEACRESTIO appears, carrying her body.

SEACRESTIO: Why here, how now Cairo. Is it not so shocking…look upon the dead eyes of this fair maiden, eating from your gift.

DARKSIDIO: I say, it was Pantherio who did this.


PANTHERIO: Never shall I take this sort of blaming from thou, Darksidio, who hast wish’d my death for some time. Calling me rodent! Calling me a disease!

DARKSIDIO: Thou art a disease! And now Cairo has befallen thy wretched stench of leprosy upon this day!

SEACRESTIO: The basket surely came from Cairo and not Pantherio. I take thee to Bigfannio, for judgment and punishment. But nothing could be more damning than the look of this heavenly body, now whose soul belongs with God…

CAIRO: Pantherio, is this true? Did thou poison the fruit?

PANTHERIO: The fruit passed into other hands after mine, Good Cairo. Why not look to Darksidio, instead of myself to blame?

DARKSIDIO: Dark thief! Pestilence!

CAIRO: Pantherio is the one who comforted me in the night, Darksidio! Who am I to trust! What have I done…how hath I been forsaken! Do I have no friends now!

DROPIO: We are but poor men, Cairo…friends, do not call us that.

CAIRO: I cannot weep…my eyes are in too much pain.

SEACRESTIO: And thy pain will not be washed away with tears of a reptile, “Good” Cairo. Come.


Lights up, center stage. The gallows. CAIRO, BIGFANNIO, DARKSIDIO, PANTHERIO, and SEACRESTIO are there. The others look on.

CAIRO: Death is the only fair punishment given to me…

SEACRESTIO: Death is thy gift today, Cairo. For thy real punishment would be to live for the rest of thy life, knowing that thou took an innocent life just to satisfy thine own selfishness. To justify this bane, to sit upon thy throne of demons and devils, who crave souls and eat away at innocence; this wrath thou hast brought upon this town…that is the curse, that is the punishment. We all suffer through your death while thou can only suffer once the devil hast kissed thee as thou falls into the pits of hell. But we here on earth can never know the real punishment thou shalt endure.

DARKSIDIO: I claim again this was not Cairo; but that foul Pantherio, who stands before us all, smirking and laughing inside. His soul is the eater of worlds!

PANTHERIO: Good Darksidio, can thou not see the anguish for my friend Cairo here? Cairo, we shalt never know why thou poisoned the fruit, to give to thy love…but we are all saddened to lose thee…to the devil.

CAIRO: All has forsaken me. I sit upon this rock of shame, and I allow this noose around my neck to hold me, coddle me, and embrace me. Let the tendrils of the rope constrict and take my life, for I have no use here on earth any longer!

SEACRESTIO: Ah, and the purpose of life is somehow only in the eyes of thee! What of our lives? What of the life of the blessed Spauldimona! Whose life thou took, only for thine own amusement! O stifle thy self pity! It is the devil speaking today! And thou shalt meet him soon enough! Coward! Coward be thee!

CAIRO: Coward I am not! I look upon thee and spit! But only if I could. If my throat could muster such a liquid to thrust in thy direction…

SEACRESTIO: Speak no more, thou art weak and cowardly. Thou shalt be judged in hell as well, and here on earth thy body will wither and rot.

CAIRO is hanged, and dies. DARKSIDIO draws his sword.

DARKSIDIO: Then no morals stand today, and no one look upon me! Gabriel, forgive! But this rodent is the death of sanity today!

He slays PANTHERIO. He looks upon SEACRESTIO.

SEACRESTIO: Death is welcome today! Look, a reunion of demons have come!

DARKSIDIO: The death of Pantherio should be celebrated as a victory of good and the Lord’s doing!

SEACRESTIO: Thou doth not hold sacred life. Art there not fields of horses and sheep for thou to slay next? This bloodshed doth not prove anything to God, except that man is willing to shed so much for his own perverse lust!

DARKSIDIO: Shall I slay thee next, with such a sour tongue spewing such lies?

SEACRESTIO: O I throw myself at thee, Good Darksidio! Come, take my heart and crush it like a tin box! Destroy me! And thou shalt be released!

BIGFANNIO: Enough of this! What is done is done. Darksidio, either thou must campaign elsewhere or thou shalt be judged here as well, for murder.

DARKSIDIO: Then I take my own life, and join my only friend here…

He takes the sword, and kills himself.

SEACRESTIO: May the Lord look upon this day as black. The sun is an imposter on a day such as this. More life taken…and none given. That is the sermon today, from the tongue of the devil. These men live in the orgasm of Lucifer…sit upon a throne of lies and ulcers and disease. May they all be judged today. For me, it is enough for my eyes to bear. I must go.

The two leave, and the night descends…


The People Vs. Grammar

   The wind sweeps the dried leaves from the ground in front of New Haven High School, signaling the arrival of early autumn. In a few days, students will fill its halls and classrooms, slinging bookbags and studying homework. They won't discuss what had happened the previous year. The faculty won't mention it, and the townspeople in this quiet little suburban town will not be attending the film due out in November. No, the case of The People v. Grammar is closed here. But one year ago, this school that stands proudly at two stories high, and is firmly made of brick and stone, was ground zero for one of America's greatest controversies. The school is empty now; but the echoes of conflict and debate still swirl inside its walls.  


   It was a cold, brisk day in October. The skies were blandly painted gray and white, and children piled into New Haven High School to learn their reading, writing, arithmetic, and team sports as usual. It was a Monday. Warren P. Bates, an English teacher, was reading from the book The Literate Companion for English Students by Patterson Freid and Margarat Block. His class was learning about the agreement between pronouns and their antecedents. Bates was going through a sentence that had a shift in numbers.  The sentence read as follows:


Alice and Tommy were at the park. Alice took her time tying her shoes; but Tommy was already on the swing set. Tommy grew impatient and Alice declared, When a person is tying their shoes, let their time be respected!


   Bates pointed out that their should have been replaced with his or her to keep the agreement in numbers. The class nodded, and began to scribble down notes until a hand shot up in the air. The hand belonged to Billy Belgar, a portly, unsure freshman who argued that the sentence seemed all right the way it was. Bates immediately corrected him, but Belgar continued pushing the issue. When Bates threatened to give Belgar detention, Billy finally stopped questioning the teacher. The class resumed its lesson. But it was far from over.


   "Billy wasn't a bad student," recalls Bates, "but when he didn't understand something he was very vocal about it. He didn't seem to want to leave the issue alone. I really wish he would have, especially now."


   After school, Billy told his father, William Belgar, about the lecture. William Belgar, husband to Kathy Belgar, was also on the school board and, according to sources, was vocal like Billy.


   "William was one of those parents who was so defensive when it came to his children that it was sometimes frightening," said Barb Woundstah, a fellow board member. 


   The following night William Belgar presented the board with his concern at the weekly PTC meeting. The boards agenda consisted of discussing the induction of the Hugh L. Poe collection at the New Haven High Scool Public Library; but William Belgar had other plans. He began the meeting with mentioning that his son was humiliated in class for standing up for his beliefs. Not every PTA member was aware of what Belgar was talking about, so he explained the situation. Most of the other board members were either unsympathetic or apathetic to Belgar's disposition. They wanted to move on, and discuss the library issue.  But, according to the board members, Belgar was persistent. Finally, the board members agreed they would discuss it at the end of the conference. But they did not, according to Belgar. Belgar decided to take things into his own hands. The following day, he contacted Continental Printing Press, the publishers of Block and Freid's textbook. 


   The publisher's representative, whose name will not be revealed for legal consideration, asked Belgar to provide them with the evidence that something was wrong. Five days later, Continental Printing Press received an envelope in the mail addressed to Patterson Freid or Margarat Block. Enclosed was a ripped out page from the book containing the sentence Billy had questioned. Belgar never received a response from Continental, and according to the publishers representative, it wasn't necessary. The Belgars were beside themselves. For the weeks to follow, Billy was teased and picked on for being such a "grammar nerd" because he challenged something that everybody else had immediately accepted. William was released from the PTA board, being labeled a boatrocker and a separatist. Billy decided he would give up challenging the teachers and the textbooks given to him, but William demanded that he continue to fight. 


   As the Belgars battled with their moral dilemmas, the Hugh L. Poe collection was presented to New Haven High School patrons. Poe happened to be in town on a book tour while the celebration was taking place, and according to his publicist, he decided to greet the town by adding the library to his book tour. When word spread, William Belgar promised his son he would ask the novelist about his opinion on the matter. Poe, unfortunately for Belgar, was unavailable; but, there was a Congressman who had attended the book signing as well, and overheard Belgar's plea to Poes publicist personally. Senator George Nathan, a Democrat, approached Belgar and asked Belgar what the problem was. After Belgar explained, Nathan promised the issue would not die here, and met with Hugh L. Poe afterward for a cup of coffee and a night of jazz and dance clubs.


   Nathan, who had recently been having problems being more vocal in the Senate, decided he should tell Poe about it. Poe was interested in the story. 


   "What's wrong with saying 'their'?" Poe had asked Nathan. Nathan agreed, and said it was just an example of "conservative pedantry". Poe encouraged him to pursue the issue in the Senate.


   Nathan, following Poe's advice, deemed what happened to the Belgars as unconstitutional, and decided to take it to the federal court. This brought the attention of the news media. Interest sparked when he brought up Hugh L. Poe's name. 


   In La Jolla, California, a small beautiful town in San Diego, lived Patterson Freid. He had just been released from the hospital after suffering a minor heart attack, and upon returning home, he discovered that he had received a letter from Billy Belgar that was very poorly written regarding the discarding of his fathers letter to Continental Press. Though Freid had no prior knowledge of the grammar problem, he had decided to write back to Billy Belgar. He explained that using the word "their" in that particular sentence was grammatically wrong and he insisted that Belgar spend more time listening to his teacher and reading his [Freid's] book. Billy Belgar never reported if this advice helped him in any way, however. Nor did he continue any exchange with Freid.


   Meanwhile, Nathan had landed Poe a spot on a nationally televised news/interview program called Night Wire, in which Poe would be discussing his latest book, The Pen and the Sword . Poe hadn't mentioned the scuffle at New Haven High School, but rather spoke about his book until the host, Lath Bratkus, brought it up. He asked Poe about the importance of grammar in literature. Poe declared, "Sometimes grammar isn't that important if the story is good enough." Bratkus agreed.


   The producer of the show, Mark Michaels, who was under pressure by the network to beef up ratings, approached Poe after the segment and asked him to come back to do another interview. Poe contacted Nathan, and the next day, Nathan began campaigning for popular support on the New Haven High School incident. It would be only a matter of time for this volcano of political gunpowder to erupt.


   Billy Belgar, meanwhile, was allegedly an outcast at school, and was under a one-week suspension for hitting a peer at lunch time that repeatedly called him a nerd. The school board was outraged at this, and spokesperson Peg Blanchard moved for him to be expelled.


   "Billy Belgar represents the problems of New Haven High School," she said to reporters.  "He is violent, unconventional, just like his father. I have three girls who are wonderful Lacrosse players and a son who is on the Junior Varsity basketball team and is going to be a freshman next year at this great high school. I don't want students like Billy Belgar there to infect them with that awful behavior."


   The media swarmed around the case, and later that week, an anonymous person allegedly sent a VHS tape to Patterson Freid's house containing some of the Hugh L. Poe interview on Night Wire. After viewing the tape, Freid contacted his publisher about where Hugh L. Poe could be found to have a discussion. His publisher reported to Freid that Poe was unreachable because he was still on a book tour.  Unwilling to give up, Freid decided to use his free time to speak in defense of Billy Belgar, after reading what had happened to him. 


    Broken, tired, and exasperated, Billy Belgar declined any comments to the press, along with his father who claimed he just wanted some peace. But the media was far from finished with this. The ubiquitous media would not leave the Belgar's front door, until Patterson Freid parted them like the Red Sea and visited Billy personally. Freid was not recognized by papers or magazines or news shows before, but now they wanted to know who this mystery figure was and why he was sympathetic to Billy and his family. When Patterson Freid finally spoke to the press, he explained to them that he was the one who co-wrote the book The Literate Companion for English Students, and more precisely, wrote the specific line that Billy had a problem with. This turned the tides.  While Freid didn't want the public attention, he was inadvertently drawn to it. He was invited to appear on Night Wire with Lath Bratkus, and Bratkus wasnt going to go easy on him.


   "A famous author of our modern times says that, and I quote, People make grammatical errors all the time.  It doesn't matter.  It's the story that counts," said Bratkus. Freid laughed and shook his head.


   "What ignorant author said that?" he queried.


   "Hugh L. Poe," Bratkus replied. The words lifted off his tongue like ten thousand jets carrying hundreds of pounds of ammunition. "You think hes ignorant?"


   "Anyone who says something like that is either ignorant, arrogant, or both," replied Freid.


   On a particularly windy and rainy Saturday afternoon, Mark Michaels at his home read that there was someone named Patterson Freid who had referred to Hugh L. Poe as "ignorant" and "arrogant". Michaels immediately phoned the production company he owned to put Poe and Freid on a show following Night Wire. As soon as the call was completed, Michaels phoned Hugh L. Poe who was doing one final book signing, and Poe immediately agreed to do the show. Michaels started making phone calls to get in touch with Patterson Freid. 


   Meanwhile, George Nathan was raising ears in Congress. He and Representative Gary Alberque were lobbying against what had happened at New Haven High School, and Nathan brought the issue to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.


   "We're not saying that grammar is not important," said Nathan, "but it's unconstitutional to force someone out of a school because of their beliefs, and grammar was the cause. It should make us question just how important grammar is. Is it so important that we have to go as far as to expel our children from our schools?  Is this what education has become? A cleansing ritual?"


   "What we had, see, now, was a bit of a gray area," said Representative Gary Alberque, "but you see, we're not saying grammar isn't important, we're trying to make sure that freedom isn't at stake here. Now a boy has been expelled, a man's life ruined, all because of a grammatical error? That just don't seem like the American way."


   The position on grammar became a popular political discussion and the court had been in favor of George Nathans argument. While politicians across the nation took an interest in the matter, conservatives like Senator Dwayne Wright were calling this a "liberal movement".


   "The liberals want freedom from good writing because none of them possess that skill," said popular Conservative radio personality Lonnie Anders on the air, "that's what this is really about.  It's obvious that Hugh Poe and the liberals are going to attack the conservatives, especially Patterson Freid.  We're up to that challenge," she added.


   Freid and Poe were scheduled for a debate on a show following Night Wire called After the Fact. It was hosted by Grant Landon, an impish but charming looking man. That night, Freid and Poe finally met each other. Poe, a dashing, dark haired and handsome young man, and Freid, a withered, worn out looking man with white hair immediately began firing comments left and right. Poe's views revolved around the relevance of story, while Freid counter-pointed with his strict views on proper grammar usage.


   "No question grammar is necessary, and what happened to that kid was unfair," Poe had said, "but the fact isthere are a lot of great stories out there with grammatical errorsand who are you to attack them? And by the way, didn't the kid point out that your book had grammatical errors?"


   "That's completely untrue! This poor lad has been misled and instead of the teacher reasoning with him, the boy was ostracized. There is nothing wrong with my book!" shouted Freid.  At one point, the debate became so intense that Poe nearly threw his cup of coffee at Freid.


   "It was amazing television," said Mark Michaels, executive producer and creator of the show, "you just sat there and watched this energy and thought... my God...this is history in the making."


   The following week, ratings showed that over ten million people watched the show. Jerry Archer, a leading on-line poll analyst and fantasy web site host reported that 84% of the American public would watch this spectacle again if it were on.


   "People like to see drama, they like to see fire, and passion," said Archer, "at least, 84% of people do," he added, laughing.  But were people drawn to the fire and passion or was this really a raised awareness of grammar?


   It was at least obvious that the grammar issue was now recognized nationally, and Poe and Freid were constantly being quoted in newspapers. In the Saratoga Times, Freid was interviewed by college students about the importance of textbooks and Freid defended his book again, though it was now under scrutiny by teachers and school boards across the nation.


   "What's shocking is the amount of effort put in to debunk my book and I," Freid had said.


   "My book and me," the interviewer, Ponce Sheridan, corrected.


   "We need to get back to basics is the point," Freid concluded.  "I truly hope this university, or any school for that matter, does not teach the likes of Hugh L. Poe."


   The final words of Freid's interview were the only ones printed initially because they became the headline of the segment. Friend and political ally George Nathan was the first one to notify Poe about the headline.  Poe fired back quickly during an interview with Press Release, a leading newsletter at the time. The interview was supposed to be about Poe's book tour wrap up; but it soon became about grammar, and more specifically, Patterson Freid.


   "[Freid] is just digging his hole deeper," said Poe, "and I don't see where he thinks his support is.  I don't see anybody siding with him. I'd almost feel bad for the guy if he didn't spend so much time being so condescending."


   But Freid did have allies. Numerous teachers began supporting Freid's position publicly, unafraid and ignorant of the consequences. Caryn Charrock, a respected English teacher from Kenosha, Wisconsin, had sided with Patterson [Freid]'s position on grammar.


   "He's [Freid] absolutely right. [Grammar] is absolutely essential for the growth of any student, especially one who wants to become a writer. It's like arithmetic. It's elementary. But for some reason, most of my classmates don't even have a good grasp on it, let alone nationally recognized fiction writers [Poe]."


   Ratings for After the Fact had shot up. Mark Michaels asked Poe and Freid to return. Countless message boards, on-line polls, and call-in radio shows were cluttered with discussions of the grammar issue. Democratic Representative Albert Hughes called it a revolution: "We have to be aware now that youre either with Poe or you're with Freid. There's no middle ground here. We as liberals absolutely must lead this revolution with Poe. He's changing the world of writing as we know it." 


   Conversely, Senator Dwayne Wright declared, "The liberals get all of the press while poor Patterson Freid is tossed aside. We as conservatives have to preserve the tradition of strong writing and do whatever we can to protect Patterson Freid and his book." In some conservative circles, however, the preservation went as far as burning works of fiction that contained countless grammatical errors. Senator George Nathan blamed this on Wright, and called the conservatives "savages".


   "The liberals would blame this act of vandalism on good people like Dwayne Wright who has done nothing wrong here. Everything is about blame with the liberals," said Lonnie Anders appearing as a guest on Night Wire. "And if any of those books burned were Hugh Poes, I'd say, 'Good riddance'."


   On top of the stories of book burnings, reports of violence between students saturated the media. Although no reports about Billy Belgars school beatings were specifically presented nationally, reports of children from the ages of eleven to eighteen taking extreme measures to signify whether they believed in grammar or not began to surface. At this time, both Poe and Freid had agreed to do one more show; only Poe demanded a payment of at least a million dollars. Freid did not ask for money but received a comfortable amount, sources said. At the end of the month of November, there were more people talking about the grammar issue than what they were going to do for Thanksgiving. The night that Poe and Freid appeared on After the Fact for the second time became one of the highest rated television events in history, beating half a dozen celebrity awards shows and sports championships combined.


   As the lights dimmed, Freid and Poe were introduced. Poe cited the recent book burnings and immediately threw an insult Freids way, blaming him directly. Poe tried to make it into a spectacle; but Freid did not argue, or fight back. Instead he looked down at the floor sadly.  According to 65% of the American public, the show was unfair to Freid.


   On the following day, a headline in a reliable daily newspaper read:




   Patterson Freid declined any interviews, and retreated from the press. Sources said that he visited Margarat Block at her home in Utica. She had known about the goings-on and had nearly gotten involved, but decided she didn't want the press. Before leaving, Freid offered to co-author another book with her, but she had long been retired and, according to Freid, just wanted some rest. Freid seemed to want it as well. 


   But people were still interested in the grammar issue. Schools across the nation were feuding over how much grammar is actually essential in childrens learning. Jason Kleinman, an elementary school teacher in Petaluma, California, went as far as skipping certain chapters in the book, and one English teacher at the Petaluma high school decided to teach Hugh L. Poe to the class. Kleinman's argument was that there was too much emphasis on grammar and that most people weren't going to use in their daily life anyway, and there were more interesting and creative ways to express yourself than through grammar. Kleinmans proposal to allow the teachers to dictate how much grammar they will teach their classes was denied by the school board, but Senator George Nathan publicly commended Kleinmans efforts. While Kleinman did not make any public comments, according to his colleagues he felt he was doing the right thing.


   "It's these conservatives that are enforcing tradition and they're not listening to the whole story," said Nathan on Newsline, a nationally broadcast television news journal. "It's time for America to wake up and start paying attention."


   Other teachers began to teach Hugh L. Poe in classrooms, and soon it became part of many schools curriculumsbut not all.


   "It's called grammar school for a reason," said Grace Betilsta, a Freid supporter who was promoting The Literate Companion for English Students. "We cannot let these radical liberals dictate how our children are going to learn!"


   Statistics were already showing, however, that education in America began sliding again, and 63% less Americans could grasp intermediate grammar skills (grades 5-9). Nathan v. The Education Board, or The People v. Grammar, was rejected by the Supreme Court; but George Nathan had another idea. He proposed the Learning Curve Bill. Using Kleinman's idea of teachers dictating grammar education to their students, Nathan argued in the bill that if certain school boards allowed teachers to teach certain parts of textbooks, whatever was not taught could not be held against the students. For instance, if a child scored less on their grammar tests because their teacher decided not to teach a certain chapter the child's score would be adjusted to fit someones who had been taught the chapter. The child's score would not be affected, and this would bring the statistics up. Not only that, it would be a cheaper, and more effective way to run schools, according to Nathan, because "we wouldn't have to spend so much money on unnecessary textbooks [The Literate Companion for English Students]."  He proposed it to the Senate, and not to his surprise, it received popular support.


   Meanwhile, Patterson Freid was once again dragged into the media. He and Poe were to meet on national television again, and though Freid didn't want to be a part of another Mark Michaels show, Poe was bound by contract. For the third time, they would be on After the Fact, drawing in millions of viewers again. This time they discussed the Learning Curve Bill. Landon began with comparing a list of each of the writers credits. Freid was immediately offended.


FREID:             Is this intended to make me feel inferior?


LANDON:         Not at all, Mister Freid, it was just a formal introduction.


FREID:             Everyone's aware of Mister Poe and I's credits.


LANDON:         Mister Poe and me.


   Landon allowed the two writers to discuss the Learning Curve Bill. Poe, while being moderate on the issue, seemed to defend its logic whereas Freid vehemently criticized it.


FREID:            It's a horrendous and insulting bill. If it passes, we as Americans will be losing something preciouser, something necessary. This is a dangerous bill!


POE:                You're dangerous, Freid. You sit there and talk about perfect grammar, and you were the one who made a grammatical errorin an educational book about grammar!


FREID:             I didn't make a mistake!  It was perfect grammar!


POE:                You're a perfect idiot!


FREID:            You're telling me I'm an idiot? [laugh] You write trashy novels that end up in the paperback bin at a convenient store and I'm an idiot? [pause] You're the idiot!


POE:                Well you are what's wrong with this country. You spread this false sense of tradition around like a disease. People don't need to be told what to do all of the time, that's what makes this country great. You are a disease, Freid.


FREID:             No, Mister Poe, you are the disease, I am the cure.


   By the end of the interview, Freid concluded that the Learning Curve bill would shape the mold of America into a smashed pumpkin on a street after Halloween. It was clear to the American public who the good guy and bad buy was. When the interview was finished, Landon allegedly approached Freid and said smugly, "I think you've finally dug yourself a hole that you can't get out of." Freid scoffed at the remark and left.


   The next morning, Bert Howard, a number-one rated talk radio host, declared he'd had enough of people like Freid and Lonnie Anders and Dwayne Wright and his book burning and coined the phrase, "Down with Grammar." After a week, it was developed as a popular t-shirt. The slogan hit the market so big, in fact, that Bert Howard was reportedly being approached by Mark Michaels to replace Don Keener as the late-night talk show host of Late Nights with Don Keener.  "Down with Grammar" became such a popular slogan that even some teachers were using it to show their admiration for people such as Poe and George Nathan. A leftist high school English teacher, May Donnowood said, "I have that slogan up on my chalkboard, and every day I read it over and over, and I just think about how true it is. Grammar isn't that important when you really look at how sentences are structured. For instance, passive voice could be more useful than its given credit for." Polls indicated that using passive voice was actually a more effective way to express the emotion of a sentence. 


   The voice of the new generation was lead by passive voice. It became increasingly popular in crime novels, student theses, and news journalism. Conservatives such as Lonnie Anders, Senator Dwayne Wright, and John Patricka columnist for a popular right wing newspaper out of Missourimocked passive voice and called it liberal-speak.  Anyone who decided to use passive voice was considered a liberal. Liberals, on the other hand, called conservatives archaic and out of date. "Aggression," said liberal columnist Gene Lister, "is the center of conservatism. They have to be in everyones face all of the time. Aggression and ignorance. This is no exception."


   Patterson Freid, however, was not in anyone's face. He had gone back to La Jolla, and the parade of political and social fanfare was passing him by. Hugh L. Poe was still at the center of attention, making sure he was appearing in any interview given. He began to denounce Freid for leaving the debates behind.


   "It's important that this issue be at the forefront of America right now," Poe said on Bert Howard's morning radio show, he's being a coward and no one should support him.


   Freid, however, still had support from many people. Though the slogan "Down with Grammar" was popular, Freid's ethics and morals were valued by over 49% of the American public. Many supporters designed t-shirts that encircled Down with Grammar with a line, crossing out the words. Spokeswoman and English teacher at Baird High School, Clara Hopeman in Utica, New York, defended the shirt in the Utica Daily News.


   "The words "down with grammar" are so offensive, we wanted to make a statement about it. Grammar is very important, we need for people to understand that," she said.


   These printed words didn't help her, however. In fact, Freid's support group began to dwindle, being labeled "whiny", and grammar lessons were literally getting ripped out of textbooks and tossed aside.  Republican senator Daph Leron claimed it was a criminal act, and put together a bill entitled The Textbook Protection Bill, which would make it a crime to rip any pages out of any textbook. "That'll show these extremist liberals that here in America, we take every page and every word to heart." Unfortunately for senator Leron, there was no support going her way, especially after the alleged book burnings. The Learning Curve Bill still had popular support in the senate, and by the end of the year, it was going to The House to be reviewed. Though Hugh L. Poe was unavailable for comment, many Democratic supporters of Hugh L. Poe guaranteed he was happy about these events. Some Republicans were even in favor of the Learning Curve Bill, though the support came mostly from the Democrats and independent parties. Patterson Freid, while never stating he voted Democratic or Republican, sincerely opposed the bill. But as time went on, people began to get impatient with Freid's absence and Mark Michaels attempted to use two other authors with opposing views on grammar, but authors Rutger Winters (The House in the Steppe) and Agatha Witherspoon (Blue Hearts) were considered boring by 68% of the American public, according to a reliable on-line poll.


   Newspapers didn't stop the hype, however, or the headlines. Although weeks had passed since Freid and Poe spoke publicly on the matter, the grammar issue was still being pressed because of the Learning Curve Bill and the fact that over half of the education boards in America had begun to cease grammar teaching after grammar school. The education board in New Haven had even abandoned the grammar program after grammar school had ended, and as a result, their English teacher Warren P. Bates resigned claiming the education system was a failure. Many other teachers followed Bates's example, and within the week, some schools were on strike. By the week before Christmas break, there were reports of over two hundred schools striking. Senator George Nathan spoke out about the strikes.


   "This is not the answer," said Nathan on Night Wire, "we need our children to be in schools. Republican, Democrat, or independent, whatever your beliefs are, we must all be one hundred percent behind our education system right now. It's our only hope. Our children have to learn, they are the ones who are going to inherit the future."


   By Christmas time, many schools were in civil war. There were teachers quitting, some were being fired for their conduct, others were revolting against the school board. Brian Gilly, a teacher out of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, said in the Lancaster Bugle, "What's the point? Everything's being taken apart now. If I don't want to teach trigonometry, why should I?"


   This position became very popular among many teachers. The general feeling was that if grammar didn't have to be taught, exemptions could be made for other subjects. Miles Brooke, a drama instructor at a high school in Indiana, even spoke out against advanced placement courses in high schools, and thought they too should be abolished.


   "Advanced placement sounds so elitist," he said.  "These children need a helping hand, not a hand across a face. Elitism puts people above others, and it's not fair or right."


   Brooke's words were printed in over two hundred different newspapers, and conservatives such as Senator Dwayne Wright, chastised him for it. "[Brooke] has more red in him than a can of tomato sauce," said Wright on Lonnie Anders radio show. "He wants this perfect utopian liberal society and that just isn't gonna happen."


   Whatever conservatives said, however, made them look smaller and more desperate. Conflicts began to boil, but because school was not in session, most people focused on the holidays. It would be only two weeks until the bill would go before The House of Representatives. Though many were unsure as to its success at passing as a law, senators like George Nathan weren't worried at all.


   "I think it's going to be a merry Christmas, and a very happy New Year," he said on Night Wire, three days before Christmas.


   After the turn of the year, the issue climbed back into the media. Hugh L. Poe was said to have been working on a new novel, and was not able to do any interviews. Mark Michaels tried in vain several times to reunite the two writers for one final battle of words before the Learning Curve bill went before The House.  After the Fact was featuring a panel of senators and teachers throughout the first two weeks of January. Don Keener retired and Mark Michaels, as promised, replaced him with Bert Howard, who used the phrase Down with grammar to begin his first segment as the new host of Late Nights with Bert Howard. People cheered and applauded. Excitement surrounded the count down to the Learning Curve bill going before The House. It was only a week until it would be presented, but many grammar studies were already abandoned.  While this appealed to many teachers, some still stuck to the rigid rules of grammar.


   "I teach grammar with pride," said Alista Kopel, a freshman and senior English high school teacher, "I don't agree with this new way of thinking and I don't think it'll last."


  The majority of America did agree, however, and politicians everywhere were pushing for the Learning Curve bill. According to a reliable poll, it would be the new generation of artists, thinkers, and people in general.


   Then, three days before the Learning Curve bill would go before The House, tragedy struck. Patterson Freid was found in his town house in La Jolla by an old friend, Margarat Block, who was visiting him to see how he was doing. Upon discovering him, she rushed him to the hospital where he was pronounced dead due to a stroke. A few hours after his death, it was all over the papers. After his death was announced, newspapers, television programs, and internet web sites, seemed sympathetic.


   "[Patterson Freid] was a dear, dear friend," said senator Dwayne Wright, two days before the Learning Curve bill would go before Congress.


   The day after Patterson Freid's death, a modest memorial was made by supporters at New Haven High School in front of the school's library. Larry Brennan, the principal of New Haven High School, did not object to the memorial and in fact was seen giving his respects that morning.


   "It's important to remember someone who touched so many," said Brennan, in a statement to the New Haven High School Newsletter.


   All across America, more people spoke fondly of Patterson Freid. In an on-line poll, 75% of the American public was saddened by the loss. When asked about the impending Learning Curve bill, Dwayne Wright simply said in a solemn tone, "How can anybody think about that at a time like this?  When it comes before Congress we will discuss it.  Now it is time to remember a friend."


   Many people shared this sentiment. In fact, the day it was presented to The House, to the dismay of George Nathan and other supporters of the bill, H.R. 3034 (or the Learning Curve Bill) was rejected.  "Perhaps [Patterson Freid] would've wanted it this way," said Senator Clive Benign, a Democrat and supporter of grammar. "I guess it's the way it should be."


   Sales of "Down with Grammar" t-shirts and bumper stickers were declining. Many politicians and entertainers began pushing the education of children, and Congress exhumed the Textbook Protection Bill.


   "Let's do it for Freid," said Lonnie Anders on air, whose ratings were shooting through the roof, "he was the hero here."


   Bert Howard's ratings went down steadily. Weeks later, Patterson Freid was given a funeral that was broadcast on national television. Among the grievers were Margarat Block, Senator Dwayne Wright, Grace Betilsta, Lonnie Anders, Lath Bratkus, Grant Landon, and a variety of famous actors and poets. Ratings also showed that the funeral broadcast beat the first interview that Freid and Poe shared on Night Wire. Around the same time, Hugh L. Poe's new book, The Nation, about a utopian society in caverns, was released. It received mixed reviews, and sales were not very impressive. Silence gripped George Nathan in the Senate, and he had very little support anymore in his home state. Hugh L. Poe quickly became regarded as a hack writer and people that had originally supported his work began pointing out the flaws in his latest book.


   "You talk about grammatical errors," said Leah Litten, a book critic for The Harrisburg Times, citing an excerpt from The Nation, on page 34, chapter 37:


Came the wavering storm. Its crowd was hovering and all was said perfectly in tune with the nature of what the storm was bringing but how was it actually brought? With rain like knives. With serpents and clad in iron but they were ready for it. To embrace it not to retreat.


   After months of criticism and isolation, Hugh L. Poe was finally granted an interview on Night Wire. He spoke with a distinct quiver in his voice, and never looked at the camera.


   "I don't understand why people have turned on me," he said, "I'm alone here. It's not right. I always respected Mister [Freid], and I respected his voice. I never wanted this to happen. I'm sorry. Please forgive me."


   But no one did. People blamed Poe, Nathan, and the rest of the liberals for what they put Patterson Freid through. On-line polls showed that 87% of the American public thought that their treatment of Patterson Freid was utterly cruel and unnecessary. By the end of the year, The Nation didnt make it to any best selling lists, and was being threatened to go out of print. His publisher dropped him. Poe was finished.


   At the beginning of the next year, however, the American public, along with the politicians and entertainers, seemed to return to their lives normally, and the grammar issue was nothing but a fading memory. National news, local news, and even small zines did not mention anything about the grammar issue. Patterson Freid, even, seemed to have faded from people's thoughts. Anytime the issue was brought up, someone would drop it quickly.


   "We were tired of it," recalls Caryn Charrock, who had found herself a cushy, comfortable teaching job in Houston, Texas that year. "It was over. We just wanted to go on with our lives."


   And for a few months, most people did. But then, a small news blurb was written about a meeting between Hugh L. Poe and Mark Michaels. The meeting involved discussion over a film project. The next month, a press release stated that a screenplay entitled The People Vs. Grammar was sold to Michaels film production company. An award-winning director had even been attached. Hype and gossip surrounded the project on web sites and in newspapers. When the date was finalized as this coming fall, the media swarmed all over it. Hugh L. Poe never commented on why he chose Mark Michaels to start a film project, and Michaels never commented on why he gave it the green light. A headline ran in an entertainment gossip magazine called Look!:




   In New Haven, however, people are turning a cold shoulder to the movie. Many people still want the issue to be dropped.


   "We're still trying to recover from all of this," said mayor Tom Giltch. "Hollywood doesnt seem to respect our privacy."


   He declined the offer to film The People Vs. Grammar there, but according to sources, the producers of the film are persistent. In a final word to the media, William Belgar spoke to a local newspaper:


   "We all went through something here...I don't think people still understand. It aint that we dont want a movie about us or anything, it's just that we're not ready for it yet. We still need time. My boy Billy is doing all right now, he's being home-schooled, and his teacher says he's making progress. He's just come out of rehab for some drug and alcohol abuse. I just started a job at the mill. I think well be okay. I aint saying ya'll should stop making the movie or do what you're doing. But I just want to say, on behalf of the people of New Haven, we won't be involved."


   Two days after the story ran, protest groups marched in front of Capitol Hill, speaking out against the impending film, and speaking in defense of the Belgars. But according to polls, 89% of the American public couldn't recall who the Belgars were or what their purpose was, or why they were angry. Weeks later the protests stopped, and peace gripped Washington D.C. for the first time in over two years. The reports of the radical right book burnings had long since ceased, as had reports of student violence. After the Fact was put back on the air. Lath Bratkus left Night Wire to pursue other options. He was replaced by Lonnie Anders. 


   New Haven High School still stands proud, and the people still greet you with a smile. The events in the past two years may have changed the history of the town, but no matter how much they want to deny it, their town will always be part of history. Along with the memory of Patterson Freid, The Textbook Protection Act, The People Vs. Grammar motion picture, and of course, the Hugh L. Poe wing of the New Haven Library, New Haven will always represent one of America's most controversial and endearing storiesand will always be the symbol of grammar and reading comprehension.