Mrs. Carples


(Ep 13 - "Coda")

(Mrs. Carples is smoking a cigarette and looking at sheet music, sitting next to a boy playing the piano. Kevin is slumped in a chair, watching.)
Ronald Hirschmuller. He was practically a legend in our neighborhood.
(Mrs. Carples covers her mouth and coughs quietly.)
He always practiced...forty-seven-hundred hours a week. He always played everything perfect. His mother always bragged about him to everybody else's mother. I hated Ronald Hirschmuller.
(Ronald finishes playing.)
There. Finished! How was that?
Nobody plays scales like you, Ronald.
You want me to play them again? Do you want me to play them faster? I can play them faster.
Go home, Ronald...
OK...(Shrugs.) Well, I guess I'll see you next week, of course.
Good afternoon, Mrs. Carples.
Good afternoon, Ronald.
(Ronald pauses next to Kevin.)
Oh, and...good afternoon to you, also, Kevin.
Seeya, Ron.
Ronald. (Smiles.)
Oh yeah - I keep forgetting. (Gestures.)
(Ronald exits. Mrs. Carples covers her mouth and coughs.)
carples Mrs. Carples. She wasn't exactly a poster-child for the American Lung Association. But you could say what you thought to her...
(Kevin sits next to her on the bench.)
Which was kinda neat.
(Mrs. Carples adjusts the sheet music.)
So, how ya been this week?
Ahhh. (Frowns.) You?
(Mrs. Carples holds a fresh cigarette.)
We had the same week.
(She starts to light the new cigarette with the old one.)
OK, let's get you warmed up, huh?
(She lights her cigarette as Kevin starts to play.)
Uhhhh! If there was one thing I hated as much as I hated Ronald Hirschmuller...it was scales.
(Mrs. Carples smiles slightly and props her head on her fist.)
Why did I do this to myself?
(Fade to "Later". Mrs. Carples looks off and smiles as she rocks in time with the music. Kevin hits a wrong chord and pauses.)
Keep going. (Gestures.)
(Kevin continues, and Mrs. Carples coughs.)
(She rubs her lip and sniffs, then looks at Kevin.)
Your playing sounded pretty good to me...I'd guess you must have practiced...
(She looks off.)
This was it.
Maybe she'd overshoot.
About forty-two minutes this week.
What?! (Frowns.)
(Mrs. Carples reaches toward the ashtray on the piano.)
Come on - it was longer than that. I swear!
I round off to the nearest minute.
Oh...but you said it sounded pretty good...
"Pretty good" - that's not the same as "good". You know, Kevin...(nods)...I'm gonna start to feel guilty for taking your parents' money if you don't put a little more effort into this. Have you thought about what you'd like to play for the recital this year?
The recital? It's time for the recital, again? Already?
Uh, huh...
I think I'm busy that night. (Nods.)
I haven't told you what night, yet.
I mean, um...I'm probably gonna be busy that night. See, I'm in junior high, now. And there's a lot of demands for my time.
Last years' excuse was much better. Did your uncle ever pull through? (Smiles.)
No, really...(shrugs)...I just have a lot to do besides piano, that's all. You know, I'm not like Ronald Hirschmuller.
Uh-hmmm. (Nods.) Well, it's up to you.

(Another day. Mrs. Carples looks at her watch as Ronald finishes playing.)
Very nice...Ronald. I'll see you next week. (Smiles.)
A Dieu, Mrs. Carples. That's farewell in French. (Smiles.)
Goodbye, Ronald. Kevin...
(Kevin glances at Ronald as he passes by.)
Frere Jacques.
OK, Jacques...hit the bench. We got lots of work to do, here. And if you try to speak French to me...I swear, I'll break all your fingers.
(Kevin pauses.)
What's the matter?
Mrs. Carples...
I know...this lesson's already paid for, and all...but, um...(shrugs)...it really doesn't make any sense to do it. Because, um...well...(shrugs)...I'm quitting piano.
(Mrs. Carples cocks her head slightly.)
You're quitting piano?
Yeah. (Nods.)
Well, would you mind telling me why?
I-I don't know...I don't practice enough. It's a waste of money.
(Mrs. Carples shakes her head and laughs slightly.)
Well, who's fault is that?
I don't know...Look. (Frowns.) I'm not gonna be like Ronald Hirschmuller!
Just...I'm never gonna be that good...(shrugs)...even if I practiced all the time...(Sighs.) He's just more talented than me.
Oh, don't give me that. You have more talent in your little pinkie...(gestures)...than Ronald Hirschmuller has in his whole body! Why, that kid's a machine. You have a feel for music, and you know it! But that's not the point - who's better, who's worse? (Shrugs.) I mean, that's not music! That's not what it's about! (Frowns.) Sit down!
Huh? (Frowns.)
Sit down. (Points.) I want you to play something for me. Pachabel...Canon in D Major. It's my final request.
(Kevin sits down, then begins to play. He hits a wrong note, pauses and frowns, then turns toward Mrs. Carples.)
Keep going. (Points.)
All of a sudden...as I started to play...it was like...there was electricity flowing through my veins. Suddenly, I could do no wrong.
(Fade to "Later". Kevin plays the last of the music, and pauses. He puts his hands on his hips and smiles slightly at Mrs. Carples.)
There. (Nods.) That's what it's about.
And so, I made my decision. I would sacrifice. Endure humiliation. Deprivation. Grave physical danger. But I would play Canon in D Major like Mrs. Carples had never heard it before. Like the world had never heard it before. Like Ronald Hirschmuller...had never heard it before.
(Fade to another day at Mrs. Carples' as Kevin finishes playing.)
Alright, go ahead - take a guess.
You must have practiced a good seven hours.
Hah! A mere six-and-a-half.
I don't know...(frowns)...I didn't really keep track.
Well...it was quite a difference.
OK - the fish are jumpin'. Cast out your line.
So...It sounded pretty good, huh?
(Mrs. Carples covers her mouth and coughs.)
It sounded good. It's just a shame your parents can't hear you play it at the recital.
You got a bite. Now, play out a little more line...
Well...(frowns)...I don't think it's good enough for the recital.
Kevin...you're playing this piece well enough right now for the recital, and you still have a whole week to practice. (Gestures.)
Well...I don't know...
It's up to you. I can't force ya to do it.
(Mrs Carples looks toward the sheet music and scooches forward.)
(Kevin watches her, a little surprised, as she adjusts the music.)
Too much, too much! Start reeling in.
Uh, well, if you think I'm ready...
I do. You're ready! Play in the recital.
(She put her hand on her chest.)
Pretty please, with sugar on top.
Smart fish.
(Mrs. Carples smiles and pats his back.)
Oh, good...
(They look forward as she adjusts the sheet music.)
Alright now...Let's see...if we can polish this up a little. Kevin, I'm glad you decided to stick with it.

(At dress rehersal, Kevin has just learned Ronald is going to play the same music.)
Alright! Let's everybody take your seats!
How could she do this? She must have known...
What I'll do first...(gestures)...is welcome all your parents to this years' recitals. So, blah, blah...blah, blah, blah, blah...welcome. (Gestures.) I would like to introduce our first student...Mr. Ronald Hirschmuller, who will be playing the Pachabel Canon in D Major. Ronald...
But wait a minute. What was it Mrs. Carples had said? This wasn't about competition. It wasn't about who's better, or who's worse.
(Ronald approaches ther bench and bows.)
Ronald? Play now...(gestures)...bow later.
(Ronald starts to play.)
It was about music. And anyway, maybe Ronald would screw up. Maybe he'd screw up royally. Maybe the phone would ring. Maybe someone would drop a ten-megaton bomb on the roof. China had 'em now, didn't they? OK - sure, it sounds perfect now. But how long could he keep this up?
(Kevin looks up toward heaven, then glances around.)
God, you know I don't ask for much. OK, God, OK. I'll never swear, I'll give my allowance to the needy...and I won't use that snotty tone of voice with my mother, OK? OK? Just one...lousy...mistake.
(Ronald plays the final chords perfectly.)
(Ronald approaches Mrs. Carples.)
Now, take a little bow, Ronald.
(Ronald pauses, then bows twice, as the students applaud lightly in the background. Ronald bows again, and Mrs. Carples puts a hand on his shoulder.)
Ronald, sit down.
This was a disaster. Ronald had played his piece - my piece...perfectly.
Now, I would like to introduce our second student.
Good - I needed time to think.
Kevin Arnold.
Now?! Back-to-back? What was she tryin' to do to me?
Kevin will also be playing the Canon in D Major...but I think you'll find it interesting to hear...how two different students interpret the same piece of music. Kevin...
(Kevin sits on the bench. Mrs. Carples as she taps her cigarette in the ashtray.)
Remember...just keep going.
(Kevin begins to play.)
Suddenly...as I started to play, I thought...maybe I could do it. Maybe I could still play it, better than Ronald. After all, I had a feel for music, right? If I could just get through it, without making a mistake.
(Kevin goofs, pauses, and looks toward Mrs. Carples. She shakes her head slightly, then nods. Kevin resumes playing.)
Or, even say...if I made one little mistake.
(Kevin goofs again, and pauses. Ronald is smiling, and shaking his head slightly. Kevin resumes playing.)
But then it happened.
(Kevin dinks a wrong key.)
I started to feel their eyes...boring into me. It was like a chain-reaction. I couldn't stop it.
(Kevin dinks another key.)
It just got worse. And worse! It was the piano recital...from hell.
(Kevin dinks another key.)
ronald And then it was over.
(Kevin plays the final chords, then rests his hands on his legs and clears his throat, glancing toward the students. Ronald begins to clap slowly, and shakes his head slightly. Fade to later as Kevin is about to leave.)
Hey! You had a little trouble.
(She shrugs and sighs.)
OK, so you choked. But it's no big deal. You'll do better tomorrow night.
(Kevin looks at her and hesitates.)

I never did forget that night. I remember the light glowing from Mrs. Carples' window. And I remember the darkness falling as I sat out there on the street looking in. And now...more than twenty years later...I still remember every note of the music that wandered out into the still night air. The only thing is...I can't remember how to play it anymore.

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11/28/14 12:45