View Full Version : Mrs Robinson Returns

27-08-06, 18:53
Source: http://women.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,17909-2160200.html

An extract from a sequel to the original classic The Graduate, by Charles Webb

The ending of The Graduate left readers and filmgoers wondering about Benjamin's fate. In this exclusive extract from his new novel, the original author takes up the story a decade later .

The Graduate told the story of Benjamin Braddock, an idealistic but aimless graduate who is seduced by an older woman — the infamous Mrs Robinson. Benjamin finds a sense of purpose when he falls in love with Mrs Robinson’s daughter, Elaine, who becomes engaged to another man. In the final scenes Benjamin interrupts Elaine’s wedding by pounding on the church windows. He and Elaine escape their pursuers, including the furious Mrs Robinson, by sliding a crucifix through the handles of the church doors and fleeing on a bus. Home School picks up the story about a decade after Benjamin and Elaine escaped from California. They are married with two chidren and have settled in upstate New York — to be as far away as possible from Elaine’s mother. Mrs Robinson has been such a pest that the Braddocks have obtained a restricted-access order to keep her away. Benjamin and Elaine are also at odds with the local education authority, having withdrawn their children from school to educate them at home.

(Benjamin meets the school principal.)

Besides Benjamin, there were just two others at the meeting in White Plains. One was Frank Anello, superintendent of schools for the district in which the Braddocks lived. The other was Ralph Champion, the principal of Hillside Elementary School, which Matt and Jason Braddock had attended until three years ago. They were waiting for Benjamin in Superintendent Anello’s office. After a secretary in the outer office had shown him in, the others rose and shook his hand, then resumed the chairs they had occupied before his arrival.

“We were just commenting on that terrible flood in Iowa,” the principal said as Benjamin took the remaining chair. “Have you been watching that on the news?” “I have.”

“Devastation on that scale,” the principal said, “breaks your heart.”

Superintendent Anello cleared his throat and nodded at the principal, who pulled his chair closer to Benjamin’s and, looking with a slight frown at the carpet, said: “Ben, we’ve had some reaction in the community to the home-education experiment you and your wife are conducting.” Benjamin nodded. “I guess your wife — Elaine, is it?” “Elaine.”

“I guess she reviewed the conversation I had with her.”

“What were the reactions?” Benjamin said.

“Of the community?” “If you could be specific.”

Principal Champion pursed his lips, then unpursed them. “Well Ben, I’m afraid some of our parents — and our boys and girls — are having a little trouble adjusting to the home schooling.”

“Why do they have to adjust to it?” “Excuse me?” “What seems to be their problem with it?” The principal glanced at his superior, then continued. “It’s not so much a problem, Ben — and by the way, don’t take this as a criticism of the wonderful, responsible way you and your wife have gone about it — but they just don’t know how to explain to their youngsters why one family in the community doesn’t have to send their boys to . . .”

Benjamin raised his hand slightly. “If I may suggest this, what I think we should do is meet the families having the problems so my wife and I can answer their questions.”

Again the principal glanced at the superintendent before proceeding. “I wish we could do it that way, Ben. But unfortunately they have asked us to keep their names out of it.”

“And this is just coming up now?” “I’m sorry?” “We’ve had them at home for three years, but this is just now coming up?” “It’s been simmering,” the superintendent interjected. The other two waited to see if he would say more, but he didn’t.

“OK,” Benjamin said, “what you should do is tell them Elaine and I would like to host a discussion group at our home — bring their children along so they can ask questions, too — and I’m sure they’ll be happy to reveal their identies if they know it’s going to be a positive and informative occasion.”

The door to the office opened and the secretary looked in. The superintendent gave a shake of his head and she disappeared.

“Why don’t we plan to do that?” Benjamin said.

“Don’t I wish we could,” the principal said. “Boy, don’t I wish things were that simple.”

“Why aren’t they?” “As I said, they’ve requested anonymity.”

“So say they can come if they choose to.”

“Boy oh boy, don’t I wish it was that simple.”

“It is.”

The superintendent rolled a few inches forward. “Mr Braddock, the boys need to be back in class in ten days. That’s the Monday morning after Spring Break.” There was a long silence, the two men looking at Benjamin as he sat studying one of his knees.

“OK,” he said finally, looking up at the superintendent, “first of all, if I’m not mistaken, our agreement with the School Board is that as long as we abide by the conditions that were established . . .”

“It’s a discretionary agreement,” Frank Anello said.


“Wasn’t that clear?” “It was.”

“And we’re exercising our discretion.”

Benjamin nodded. “OK. All right.”

It was silent as the two school officials continued watching him.

“OK,” he said again. “Because of these parents that complained you’re exercising it. So may I find out a little more about them?” “Let me just add something here,” the principal said, “to put Ben’s mind at ease. You know, Ben, all that learning and new thinking you’ve invested in those boys of yours — that love of education you and your wife have instilled in them — is going to come back up to school with them as a source of inspiration and enrichment not only to our other boys and girls, but to every last member of our teaching staff as well.”

“Exactly how did they approach you?” Benjamin said to the superintendent.

Principal Champion patted Benjamin’s knee. “Ben.”

“I’m asking him. May I ask him?” The principal returned his hand to his lap as Benjamin continued looking at Superintendent Anello.

“These parents. Did they show up at your office as a group? How did they happen to get together? Did they have a spokesperson?” After a few more moments the superintendent reached forward to straighten a sheet of paper on his blotter. “Mr Braddock, I’ll repeat what I said before. From the outset it’s been crystal clear both to you and your wife that the agreement you have with the District is 100 per cent discretionary.”

“That wasn’t my question.”

“But that was my answer.”

“But who were these parents?” Again the secretary opened the door and looked in. The superintendent nodded. “Come in, Martha. We’re finished.”

(Benjamin blackmails the principal.)

The instructional tape had been delivered to the motel on Tuesday, so it would be waiting for Elaine’s mother when she checked in on Wednesday. The baseball game was held on the afternoon of the following day, Thursday, and the plan was that if she was successful, Elaine’s mother was to send her own tape off by special delivery on Friday, so it would arrive at the Braddocks’ home on Saturday, two days before the boys were expected back in class.

In fact, the postman did bring the tape on Saturday morning, and after Benjamin had signed for it, he took it to the car to listen to in the cassette player under the dashboard, since he didn’t want it to be overheard in the house. As he listened he kept shaking his head and saying “Jesus Christ” over and over, but after only seven or eight minutes he turned it off again and took the cassette up to his and Elaine’s bedroom and after locking the door (even though there was a family policy against locking doors), he took out the larger tape recorder he had purchased and made several copies of the cassette the postman had brought, continuing to take the Lord’s name in vain every few minutes.

Benjamin kept waking up all that night, and every few hours he woke his wife up to tell her he couldn’t go through with it. Elaine’s response was always the same, which was to say, “So don’t”, and go back to sleep. One time he asked her what she thought he should say when he confronted Principal Champion, but by the time he finished the question she was asleep again.

He still hadn’t decided on his speech, even after the meeting had been set up by phone on Sunday morning, and though he always found particularly unconvincing those scenes in films where the hero is rehearsing out loud to himself difficult things he was preparing to say, that is exactly what Benjamin found himself doing as he circled three times the block on which the principal lived. “Principal Champion,” he said, “for reasons known only to yourself and the School Board, you chose to provoke a showdown with our family. You know as well as I do that no parents came to you with complaints. I guess you just decided it was too much nuisance for you to go on the way we were, and gave us the axe. Well, I’m afraid I can hit below the belt, too, if pushed to the wall. And though this is by far the grubbiest caper I’ve ever taken part in . . .”

They’d agreed on the phone that Principal Champion would see Benjamin in his car for a few minutes, so after pulling up to the closed door of the garage Benjamin gave a toot and in less than a minute the front door of the house opened and Principal Champion came out on to the porch, closed the door and walked over to Benjamin’s car.

“Ben,” he said, getting in, “as I said the other day, I’m always there for our parents, but these breaks are the one time Doris and I get to spend quality time together. So I hope we can resolve whatever you have on your mind without taking up any more time than we have to.”

“We can,” Benjamin said, nodding. “We can definitely resolve it in a short time.” He put his hands on the steering wheel. It was quiet as he studied the wedding band on one of his fingers.

“Something about your boys going back tomorrow?” the principal said. “Some wrinkle you want me to help to iron out?”

“It is about that.” Benjamin had stopped nodding, but began again.

“What is it? Everything’s on track as far as I can see.” Benjamin turned to look at him. But instead of speaking he pursed his lips and slowly drew in a deep breath. It whistled slightly as it passed between his nearly closed lips. The principal frowned. Benjamin tipped his head back slightly, letting his mouth fall open so that the next intake of air occurred soundlessly.

“You OK, Ben?”

He nodded, taking several sharp but shallow breaths.

“Do you need a doctor?”

Benjamin shook his head.

“You sure?”

“I don’t.”

The principal watched him as Benjamin blew in and out several times and then took an extremely deep breath. “Here’s what we’ll do, Ben,” the principal said, reaching for the door handle. “I’ll go back inside. You sit and think about things for a few minutes. If there’s something you still want to talk about, give a toot and I’ll come back out.” He pushed the handle down to open the door and put his foot out on to the driveway.

Benjamin reached towards a button of the cassette player under the dashboard. “Wait.” He placed his finger on the button, then again the two of them sat silently.

“I’m going in now, Ben.” The principal turned to put his other leg out of the car. Benjamin pushed in the button and suddenly Principal Champion’s voice came loudly out of a speaker on the dashboard.

“Oh look at these pretty pink nipples of yours.” There were several moments of silence. “May I touch your pretty pink nipples with my pee-pee?” Benjamin’s breathing had stopped altogether. He pushed the button again and the recorded voice ended.

Sitting beside Benjamin, staring through the windscreen at the door of his garage,Principal Champion remained motionless.Finally, Benjamin pressed a second button. A cassette popped partially out of a slot below his hand and he removed it. “Here,” he said, holding it in front of the principal. The principal looked down at it.

“Sir, I did not know what else to do. But I am so sorry. I am so, so sorry, Sir.”

“More?” the man beside him said.


“More copies?”

“Yes.” Suddenly they turned to look at the house as the front door opened and Doris Champion stepped out on to the porch, calling towards Benjamin’s car. “Ralph? Don’t you and Mr Braddock want to come inside to talk?”

The principal grabbed the cassette from Benjamin’s hand and quickly got the rest of the way out of the car. As he hurried across the grass towards his wife, pushing the cassette down into his back pocket, Benjamin started his engine then sped backwards, passenger door still open and one of his tyres spinning along on the grass beside the driveway till he reached the street.

(Mrs Robinson describes the seduction.)

When they arrived at the motel coffee shop Gran had already found a table. She rose, opening her arms as they approached then putting an arm around each of them, holding them tightly for several seconds before stepping back and saying: “My God, but the two of you look terrific.”

Elaine nodded. “Mother.”

Benjamin glanced at the table beside them. “So Gran. You found us a table.”

“And I promise I won’t embarrass you by saying it again,” she said, returning to her chair, “but I really have never seen either of you looking so relaxed and happy. Sit. Sit.” When they had taken the chairs opposite hers she reached across the table to take Benjamin’s hand in one of hers and Elaine’s in the other, then sat smiling at them.

“You look good,” Benjamin said finally. “Doesn’t she?” “You do, Mother. Wonderful.”

“You’re so sweet.” She released their hands and picked up a menu. “I’m so excited I don’t think I can eat anything.”

“Just coffee for me,” Elaine said.

“Same,” Benjamin said.

Gran looked over at a waitress behind the counter, nodding for her to come.

“The first thing Elaine and I need to say,” Benjamin said as the girl started toward them, “is how very much we appreciate that you . . . that you . . .”

“What you did for us,” Elaine said.

“Oh darling, you know I’d walk over burning coals for those two little sweethearts.” The waitress was standing beside the table with her pad. “Now,” Gran said, “why don’t we all have something silly like a piece of cake.”

“Fine,” Benjamin said.

“Elaine?” her mother said.

“Piece of cake — sure.”

“Do you have chocolate?” Gran said, looking up at the girl.

“Belgian chocolate.”

“Three pieces of Belgian chocolate — whatever the hell that is — and three coffees.” The girl walked away.

“Ben,” Gran said, “in case I don’t say it again, I just have to tell you how absolutely thrilled I was the other night when you called to say, Gran could do something to help her little angels.”

“Oh no, it was our . . .”

“Thrilled to the core.” She opened her purse, then looked at her daughter. “Dear, I know how you feel about my smoking . . .”

“Go ahead.”

“Ben?” “Go ahead.”

“But he was so mysterious,” she said, removing a pack of cigarettes from her purse. “ ‘There’s something we want you to do, and if you go to such-and-such a motel a tape will be waiting with instructions’. I mean, I was just sure you were going to have me bump someone off.”

She shook a cigarette out of the pack, putting the end of it between her lips. “And then when I got here,” she said, reaching into the purse for a lighter, “the management left the package on my bed.” She lit her cigarette and dropped the lighter back in the purse. “I was sitting there listening to it — Elaine, I was sure I’d stepped into an episode of Mission: Impossible.”

Elaine reached across the table to pat her mother’s hand. “Mom, we know what a bizarre thing it was to ask. But the boys are still at home, thanks to you, and their education is proceeding in the best way for them.”

“Ben, slide that ashtray over here, can you?” “We’ll never forget how you came through for the four of us at this crucial time,” he said, pushing it across the table.

‘‘ ‘My God, can I bring this off?’ I mean, that’s the first thing I said after listening to the tape. ‘Walk up to this man I’ve never seen before, in the middle of a baseball game, and cart him off to bed?’ ” “Let’s see,” Elaine said, frowning slightly, “I’m trying to think. The boys have their schedules. But seeing you is what they’re most excited about right now.”

‘Oh, by the way, Ben, I didn’t tell your principal I was looking for clerical work in the area. When I got to the ball game that just didn’t seem . . . me really, so I did depart from your script on that point.” She took a drag from her cigarette. “I said I was passing through on my way to a funeral in Maine — of a distant relative, I didn’t want him to think I was too grief-stricken — and was looking for something to do after checking into my motel, and I saw the game in progress and wondered if it would be all right to watch it for a while.” She blew a stream of smoke over their heads. “Well, he offers me a sightseeing tour even before I’ve finished my spiel, and as God is my witness we were between the sheets in less than 45 minutes.”

The waitress appeared holding a tray. They were quiet watching her set a plate of cake and a cup of coffee in front of each of them. “What we were thinking,” Benjamin said as the girl walked away, “to give you a feeling of how home education differs from the traditional school model, is why not come over tomorrow and sit in on one of our. . .”

“But a weirdo?” Gran fitted her cigarette into an indentation in the ashtray, then shook her head. “Unless you’d sent along that picture from the school yearbook, there is no way you could have convinced me that man was an elementary school principal. Ben, I really don’t think he should be working with children.”

Benjamin took a bite of cake.

“For one thing he could not keep his ***** out of my armpit.”

Benjamin coughed, spraying bits of the cake out on to the table, as Elaine glanced at the people at the next table. “Mother.”

“Well, he was,” she said.

“A total weirdo.”

“OK. But I think we’ve talked about it enough.”

“Now listen to me, darling,” Gran said, reaching across the table to put her hand on her daughter’s arm. “You know how terribly much I’ve wanted to help your little family for so long in whatever way I possibly could. And I was thrilled to tears to be given this opportunity. But dear, it was not your usual favour from Granny — far above and beyond the call of duty, as Ben so eloquently put it in his tape — so I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t traumatised by the experience. Because whatever else you may think of me I do not drag strange men away from sporting events and into bed on a daily basis.”

Elaine patted her mother’s hand, still resting on her arm. “But maybe we’ve talked enough about the details.”

“But please don’t censor me for needing to get it out of my system. Are you all right, Ben?”

He was cleaning flecks of cake off the table with his napkin. “I don’t think Elaine was censoring you. It’s just that while we’re . . . you know . . . enjoying our snack.’

“And here I sit going on about *****es in armpits.” She put her cigarette to her lips to take a quick drag, then replaced it on the ashtray. “You’re right. How gross can I be?” She cut herself a bite of the cake.

“Now. What I want to hear is every last little thing my two sweet darling precious little angels have been up to all this time their Gran has been kept away from them.”

27-08-06, 18:59
Can you quote your source by linking to the original TRL?

27-08-06, 19:01
Can you quote your source by linking to the original TRL?
Do you want me to edit my post, delete it and add the link?

27-08-06, 19:03
Just edit and add the link.

27-08-06, 19:04
Just edit and add the link.

27-08-06, 19:07
:tmb: In future, if you are quoting an article in whole or part, please link to it. Copyright usually requires it. :wve: