99 Word Prompt: Busy

September 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

Silvio the waiter moved from table to table taking customer’s orders and answering their many questions about the menu. He then ran back to the kitchen, quickly arranged various plates of food onto a serving tray, and ran back out with the tray on his upturned palm. He adroitly sidestepped other servers and bussers on his way to table.

“Waiter!” an obnoxious customer screeched.

Silvio halted and looked down at the customer contemptuously.

“What’s this fly doing in my soup?” the customer demanded as he pointed down at his soup bowl.

Silvio glanced down at the bowl. “The backstroke!”

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Ailurophobia – A 10 Minute Play

CHARACTERS

DARCY – A tenant

ROSEANNE – A tenant

TABITHA – A tenant

GEORGE – A tenant

WHISKERS – A tuxedo cat

Scene: Darcy’s apartment

Time: Early evening, Present

(The living room of DARCY’S apartment. DARCY is seated on the stage right side of a couch that’s at upstage center and facing the audience. ROSEANNE is seated to her left on other side of couch. At stage left is TABITHA sitting on a chair or a love seat. At stage right is GEORGE sitting in a chair. At center stage is a coffee table with some glasses of water and a pile of papers. There is a back wall upstage with two large windows on either side. Everyone has a sheet of paper or two that were printed by DARCY.)

DARCY

Thank you all for volunteering for the steering committee. We’ll be considering and discussing the new proposed rules for the Glenwood Complex. Let me begin by saying that I take our responsibility to our fellow tenants very serious. These are problems that we all want to be addressed, and I will give this all my attention without distraction.

(Everyone else nods in approval.)

DARCY

Now some of these new rules attempt to deal with complaints about parking availability, the lack of night time lighting for certain parts of the complex, as well as the recent worries about transients intruding onto our property.

(WHISKERS, DARCY’S tuxedo cat, enters.)

DARCY

Now I share everyone’s concern when it come to unwanted intruders, and I believe something needs to be done about it, but I also believe we need to be cautious in how we approach this problem.

(Whiskers starts rubbing up against DARCY and meowing.)

DARCY (To WHISKERS)

Not now, Whiskers. Can’t you see I’m busy?

(To tenants)

You’ll have to excuse my cat. He does love being the center of attention.

ROSEANNE

Oh that’s all right. I just love cats!

(Pets WHISKERS)

And you’re just an adorable little kitty!

(WHISKERS starts rubbing up against ROSEANNE and purring.)

ROSEANNE

Aw, how cute!

TABITHA

He is one handsome looking cat. Where did you get him?

DARCY

He was a stray. He just showed up one day when I was down in the laundry room. Poor thing was

starving, probably an orphan. I couldn’t resist, I had to have him.

TABITHA

Well cats are my favorite.

(WHISKERS goes over to TABITHA.)

TABITHA

(Pets WHISKERS)

Aw, you’re such a pretty little kitty!

GEORGE

I have to admit I’m not much of a cat person myself.

DARCY (Concerned)

If it’s a problem I can put him in my room.

GEORGE

Well, as long as he doesn’t disturb our meeting I don’t see a problem.

DARCY

You don’t have to worry about Whiskers. He’s actually very well behaved.

GEORGE

Oh, okay.

DARCY

So, back to the meeting. I’ve proposed that more security cameras be installed.

ROSEANNE

Good idea.

GEORGE

But before we do that we should fix the cameras we already have. A couple of them don’t work

anymore, which I know is more of a maintenance issue, but…

(WHISKERS walks up to GEORGE and starts rubbing up against him. GEORGE is a bit uncomfortable.)

DARCY

Whiskers! Leaver George alone!

(To GEORGE)

I’m really sorry about this. He’s friendly to everybody.

TABITHA (Humorously)

Cats always find the non-cat person.

DARCY

(To GEORGE)

Want me to get him away from you?

GEORGE

Well, as long as he’s not biting or clawing or endangering me in any way it should be all right.

ROSEANNE (Affectionately)

He’s marking you!

DARCY

You can go ahead and pet him. He won’t bite.

GEORGE

(Pets WHISKERS carefully)

I’ve never lived with cats, half my family is allergic.

ROSEANNE

He’s helping you with your ailurophobia.

GEORGE

Ailuro what?

ROSEANNE

Ailurophobia, it’s an irrational fear of cats.

GEORGE

Well I don’t know if it’s an irrational fear, more like unfamiliarity.

TABITHA

You’ve made a new friend.

(To GEORGE, jokingly)

And so have you.

GEORGE

Um, yeah. Can continue with the meeting?

(Stops petting WHISKERS)

DARCY

Of course, let’s back to it.

TABITHA

George does make a good point about the cameras we have now that aren’t working. If we get those fixed, maybe we won’t need new ones.

DARCY

I agree, we should save expenses where we can.

(WHISKERS walks over to coffee table, peers at a pile of papers, starts batting at them.)

ROSEANNE

And while we’re at it, we should really do something about the lighting.

DARCY

Oh, definitely. Better lighting would keep away the trouble makers.

TABITHA

Yeah, like one of those spotlights that turns on automatically when you trigger a sensor.

(WHISKERS knocks pile of papers onto the floor.)

DARCY

Whiskers!

ROSEANNE (Laughs)

Cats sure do like knocking stuff over.

DARCY

(Picks up papers)

Especially this one. Bad kitty!

(WHISKERS meows back.)

DARCY

We’ll play with your cat toy later. Right now momma has company.

(WHISKERS mews some more, then sulks away. He slowly makes his way to window next to GEORGE.)

DARCY

For a male cat he can be a real diva.

ROSEANNE

My mom’s cat is the same way, a real attention magnet.

TABITHA

So was my old cat. Maybe I should get a new one.

DARCY

There’s plenty up for adoption.

TABITHA

Yeah, I just need to find the right cat. One who’s adorable as this one!

GEORGE

I hate to interrupt but shouldn’t we be discussing the agenda of this meeting?

DARCY

(Sits back down and lays papers on table)

Yes, yes we should. I believe we were discussing security cameras?

ROSEANNE

Yeah, as well as lighting.

(To WHISKERS, unctuously)

We just got a little distracted to adorable little kitty!

GEORGE

Okay. Like I was saying, if we fix the cameras we already have, or even replace them with advanced cameras, that could solve our problem.

TABITHA

You know, looking into new cameras would be a good idea. The new ones have such a better resolution.

GEORGE

Exactly. I’ve been looking around online and the prices of 2K cameras is starting to come down. They might actually now be in the range of our budget.

(WHISKERS look downward out window at stage right, then raises his hackles and hisses.)

GEORGE (Nervously)

Uh, what’s going on here?

DARCY

Oh it’s just another cat that lives in the complex. They’re having one of their territorial wars again.

GEORGE

He won’t attack me on accident, will he?

DARCY

Of course not, you have nothing to worry about. You’re not a rival cat.

(WHISKERS continues to howl and hiss, then runs over everyone and knocks some of the papers off of table again on his way to other window. He continues to howl and hiss out other window.)

DARCY

Whiskers! That’s enough!

TABITHA (Affectionately)

He’s just a little bundle of energy!

DARCY

Well he is a stray so he still has a lot of wild still in him.

GEORGE

I’ll say.

ROSEANNE

I think it’s cute.

DARCY

He can be a handful, but I wouldn’t have him any other way.

(To WHISKERS)

Whiskers! Get away from that window and behave yourself!

(WHISKERS finally stops howling and hissing, then walks to front of coffee table down stage.)

TABITHA

That does it, I’m adopting a new cat! There must be cats waiting for homes who are just as adorable as this little guy.

ROSEANNE

And you’ll be saving a cat’s life.

DARCY

That’s right.

TABITHA

The thought of all those poor kittens waiting for loving homes just gets to me.

(TABITHA fights back tears, DARCY and ROSEANNE console her.)

GEORGE

Um, the meeting?

DARCY

Oh, of course. Once again distracted by the feline.

(WHISKERS meows back at DARCY.)

DARCY

(To WHISKERS)

Not now, the people are talking.

(To GEORGE)

You were saying?

GEORGE

Good. Now in addition to new cameras we should also consider other security measures.

DARCY

Oh, agreed.

ROSEANNE

Maybe we can hire a security guard.

TABITHA

Yeah, the police don’t patrol this area nearly enough.

ROSEANNE

I know, it’s like we’re on our own out here.

DARCY

But can we afford a security guard?

(A fly starts buzzing around and WHISKERS follows it intently with his eyes.)

GEORGE

We can shop around, but I think we really need to look at that option. It’ll help keep out the criminal element.

ROSEANNE

Okay, but I’d hate for this place to become a fortress. One of the things I like about living here is all the friendly neighbors. I wouldn’t want it to feel too authoritarian.

GEORGE

Of course not. We need just enough security to protect us from dangerous types and the trouble makers.

(WHISKERS starts to go after fly, knocks over a glass of water off of coffee table, water spills on GEORGE.)

GEORGE (Stands up angrily)

Hey!

DARCY

Whiskers! Get a hold of yourself!

(To GEORGE)

I’m really sorry, I’ll get a towel.

GEORGE

Your cat is a menace!

DARCY

I’m so sorry, George! He didn’t mean it, really he didn’t!

(WHISKERS continues to chase after fly, then bumps against GEORGE causing him to stumble toward window and teeter over the window sill.)

GEORGE

Oh no!

(Falls out of window)

Aaaaaaaahhh!

(WHISKERS looks out window, then stars preening himself. Sound of GEORGE crashing outside.)

DARCY (Hands on hips)

Whiskers! Bad kitty!

(WHISKERS meows back innocently, then goes back to preening himself.)

©2017 Robert Kirkendall

Current Affairs: A Fake Interview Show – Episode 2

(Originally written as a short play during the summer of this year, posting it here after failing to get it staged.)

CHARACTERS

CHARLENE BEAUMONT

AMELIA KIRBY

HARVEY CHESWICK

REX PAULSON

Scene: A local television station

(A local television studio where an afternoon talk show is about to air. The host and the three guests are seated around a coffee table. The host, Charlene Beaumont, is seated at stage right. She is intelligent and informed. To her left is Amelia Kirby, an officious but dense person. Next to Amelia is Harvey Cheswick, obsequious and two faced. Seated at stage left is Rex Paulson, a menacing heavy.)

CHARLENE (Addresses audience)

Good afternoon, and welcome to Current Affairs. I am your host, Charlene Beaumont. Since the election of Arnie Fowler to Congress, things have been very different for District 7. In addition to an increased emphasis on security measures and a decrease on social spending, there has been a very concerted effort to go after immigrants, both documented and undocumented, environmentalists, human rights observers, women’s groups, minority groups, LGBTQ groups, civil libertarians, unionized workers, teachers, intellectuals, journalists from all forms of media, the entire county board of supervisors, people who speak with accents, appear too swarthy, and have last names that are, quote, funny sounding. With me to discuss his new administration is Congressman Fowler’s chief of staff Amelia Kirby.

AMELIA

Thank you having us, Charlene.

CHARLENE

The Congressman’s governmental advisor, Harvey Cheswick.

HARVEY

A pleasure to be here, Ms. Beaumont!

CHARLENE

And also with us is…(Looks at her notes), Director of Special Operations Rex Paulson

REX

Hi.

CHARLENE

Well, it’s been a hectic time in District 7 since the election. How have you all adjusted to your new positions as well as your sudden presence in the public spotlight?

AMELIA

Well I’ve adjusted just fine, and I really don’t know what all the controversy is about. Congressman

Fowler was very expressive about his vision during his campaign so for me there were no surprises. Plus I’ve had plenty of experience when it comes to dealing with an upset public.

CHARLENE

And where was that?

AMELIA

Customer service for United Airlines.

CHARLENE

I see. And have the rest of you readjusted to your new positions?

HARVEY

Like a hand in glove! When Mr. Fowler tells me to jump, I don’t even bother to ask him how high, I just jump.

CHARLENE

But as his governmental advisor aren’t you supposed to inform him of the duties of his job? Especially if he’s about to do something illegal or make some other kind of mistake?

HARVEY

Ha! Oh my, you are so naive. Congressman Fowler never makes mistakes. He told me so himself.

CHARLENE

Okay. And you, Mr. Paulson? Have you acclimated yourself to your new position?

REX

Yeah.

CHARLENE

All right. Now Ms. Kirby, how has the Congressman reacted to the slew of protests that have plagued him since he took office?

AMELIA

Well I just remind Congressman Fowler, and the rest of us, that the protesters represent only a small minority of voters and doesn’t reflect the majority of opinions.

HARVEY

And I have it on good authority that all these so called protesters are bussed in from out of state and are funded by George Soros.

REX

A conspiracy.

CHARLENE

Now protesters claim assiduously that they are local, and they contend that Congressman Fowler only won through voter intimidation.

HARVEY

Sore losers, ha ha!

AMELIA

They’re making that all up. I have yet to hear any examples of this so called intimidation.

CHARLENE

Well, some of the voter disenfranchisement techniques cited by protesters include closed polling stations, voter intimidation by brown shirted protesters at other polling stations, and one instance of a man in a security guard uniform who claimed to be a ballot inspector, and went around looking at filled out ballots looking for irregularities. He ended up throwing away hundreds of ballots.

REX

Mr. Fowler denies knowledge or involvement in any of these alleged activities.

CHARLENE

They’re not alleged, there’s plenty of video footage. All the local TV stations and many online sources have already shown footage.

REX

They’ll be dealt with.

CHARLENE

I beg your pardon. What do you mean by that?

HARVEY

Uh, Mr. Paulson was merely being sarcastic.

AMELIA

Of course! Rex is very well known for his sarcasm.

CHARLENE

Is that true, Mr. Paulson?

REX

Yeah, sure.

CHARLENE

Moving on. Another complaint from citizens is that the Congressman is rarely at his office. They accuse him of spending too much time golfing, bowling, playing poker, and when he does meet with constituents, it’s usually at a strip bar.

REX (Agitated)

Are you accusing Mr. Fowler of meeting with Reds?

CHARLENE

No, (Enunciates) a constituent. It means someone who lives in the Congressman’s district.

REX (Beat)

I knew that.

CHARLENE

Back to voter concerns. Many are worried that the Congressman is not only shirking his duties, he doesn’t take seriously the very responsibilities of his job.

HARVEY

Now I think I can put those worries into perspective and ultimately to rest by pointing out that candidate Fowler ran a very unique campaign. So of course after winning he going to be a unique, outside the mainstream congressman.

AMELIA

And let me add that no one takes his job more seriously that Congressman Fowler. You should see the passion with which he yells at the TV when he sees a news item he disagrees with, especially when Sylvia Brown is on.

CHARLENE

Yes, the Congressman’s opponent during the election. Why would he still be angry with her?

AMELIA

Because she said some mean things about Arnie.

HARVEY

She sure did.

CHARLENE

But since Fowler won and became Congressman, it seems rather unnecessary to harbor bitter feelings toward Mrs. Brown.

AMELIA

But she never apologized for her mean comments.

CHARLENE

Actually Sylvia Brown said very little about Fowler, especially toward the end of the campaign. Most of her ads were just clips Fowler’s more outrageous accusations, especially the obviously false claim that Mrs. Brown killed Vince Foster for the Clinton’s, and that they paid her in heroin.

HARVEY

But can you prove that it didn’t happen?

CHARLENE

You can’t prove a negative.

HARVEY

Aha! More pseudo intellectual hooey!

CHARLENE

No, it’s just common logic. You do understand the basic tenets of logic, right?

(The guests stare back at Charlene blankly.)

CHARLENE

Okay, let’s move on. Another area of concern is the shroud of secrecy that surrounds the office of Congressman Fowler. Access to him has become more restricted, and most people have no idea what happens during a typical day at the Congressman’s office.

AMELIA

Well then let me explain it to all those anxious, worried people. In the morning we put together his briefing. We keep it simple. He likes it when they have pictures and lots of color graphs.

CHARLENE

Is anything substantive said at these briefings?

HARVEY

Of course! Mr. Fowler is a very complex man who takes his job very seriously. Just the other day I attempted to bring up an important issue that I referred to as an elephant in the room. But when I said it that way, Congressman Fowler jumped to his feet and said, where’s the elephant? where’s the elephant? Then he excitedly ran around the office looking for an elephant. When we finally explained to him that it was a figure of speech and not a real elephant, he was extremely upset. He even broke down in tears.

CHARLENE

It does seem alarming that the Congressman has a hard time controlling himself.

AMELIA

But would you rather have some cold blooded, unemotional leader who doesn’t have feelings and only does things calmly, and rationally?

CHARLENE

But how do you deal with Congressman Fowler when he acts in such an emotionally unhinged way?

HARVEY (Reassuringly)

Oh, we know how to handle him when he gets in one of his special moods. A box of crayons, some paper, and he relaxes like a tranquilized animal.

CHARLENE

I see.

REX

I’d like to state for the record that Mr. Fowler does not inject tranquilizers or any other drugs. He just says no.

CHARLENE

I believe that was a metaphor.

HARVEY

That’s my fault. I should have been more plain speaking, like our beloved Congressman, instead of relying on the crutch of metaphor.

CHARLENE

Okay. Well one thing Congressman Fowler has been open about is his desire to return to policies that are fading, like mandatory minimums, suspension of civil liberties, and general prison expansion.

AMELIA

He is merely reacting to the wishes of the people.

CHARLENE

Actually public opinion is going against those policies.

HARVEY

That’s absurd!

CHARLENE

Not really. And many speculate that these policy opinions are because the private prison industry was a major donor to Fowler’s campaign.

AMELIA

But they are merely supporters who are showing their appreciation by donating to Congressman Fowler’s campaign. It’s really all quite innocent.

CHARLENE

But donations give the appearance of influence.

HARVEY

Might I remind you that money is speech?

REX

Citizen’s United, sweetie.

CHARLENE

Okay, currently money is considered speech, but that decision has been steeped in controversy, so just saying money is speech doesn’t seem to satisfy the public.

AMELIA

Well maybe the public needs to pull itself up by its own bootstraps instead of asking for a handout.

CHARLENE

I’m not sure how taking issue with moneyed interests having a disproportionate influence on elected office holders makes one a seeker handouts.

AMELIA

You see? You just answered your own question.

CHARLENE

That doesn’t make sense.

HARVEY

You need to stop thinking and just go with how you feel.

CHARLENE

Okay, I think we’re going off course here. Now I want to bring up the nagging and persistent questions that continue to surround the last election. More specifically, Fowler’s connections to figures in the criminal world.

AMELIA

Oh please! Congress are the real criminals.

CHARLENE

But Mr. Fowler is now a Congressman.

HARVEY

A new kind of Congressman, without that Washington taint.

CHARLENE

But these connections between Fowler and the criminal underworld go back years, long before he got into politics. He plays golf with members of various South American drug cartels, is suspected of having ties with members of the Yakuza, and has been accused of brokering money laundering for Russian oligarchs.

AMELIA

But as you can see Congressman Fowler has very diverse friends.

HARVEY

You think the pointy headed elites would at least give him credit for that.

CHARLENE

Uh, I think you’re missing the big picture. Now that Mr. Fowler is a congressman he is under greater scrutiny, so all those connections to criminals that he was able to hide when he was a private citizen are now in the public arena.

AMELIA

Those charges are baseless!

CHARLENE

And there’s Congressman Fowler’s insistence that climate change is a hoax despite all scientific evidence to the contrary.

HARVEY

The Earth is still around last time I checked.

CHARLENE

But the Congressman is at odds with most of his constituency. Isn’t he afraid of a backlash?

AMELIA

If Arnie took his critics seriously he would have given up long ago.

HARVEY

And he knows how to deal with his critics.

CHARLENE

How does he?

HARVEY

Oh, he has a plan.

CHARLENE

What plan?

HARVEY

A little thing called martial law.

REX (Jumps up)

You’re not supposed to mention that!

CHARLENE

What??

HARVEY

No! I didn’t say anything!

REX

That does it!

HARVEY

Noooooo!

(Rex grabs Harvey and drags him off stage.)

CHARLENE

What’s going on here?!

AMELIA

You didn’t see a thing!

CHARLENE

We’re on live TV!

AMELIA (To audience)

You! At home! You didn’t see or hear a thing! Got it?

(Runs off stage after Rex and Harvey)

CHARLENE (Pause, to audience)

Well this is flabbergasting. When we come back from break we’ll try to straighten out this mess and then discuss the Congressman’s voting record.

(Harvey runs back on stage screaming for help and then runs down the center aisle while being chased by Rex, who holds a pair and manacles or a large net, and Amelia.)

CHARLENE (To offstage)

Security!

©2017 Robert Kirkendall

99 Word Prompt: Lighthouse

July 6: Flash Fiction Challenge

Wendy and Jack approached the old lighthouse with other tourists.

“I just love these old buildings!” Wendy gushed.  “Don’t you, dear?”

“They’re okay, I guess,” Jack replied.

“But it’s so grand looking!  They knew how to build things then.”

“It’s just an archaic brick building with no more use.  Modern ships rely on more advanced technology.”

“But it’s historical!” Wendy reminded.

“It’s useless,” Jack insisted.  “There is no more need for it.”

Just then the long, ugly sound of a ship crashing upon rocks and resulting screams filled the air.

“Okay,” Jack admitted, “maybe this lighthouse is still useful.”

Sketch For Community TV Mixer

This is a short video of a sketch I wrote and appeared in for Community Television of Santa Cruz.  The event was a social mixer that was held last Friday March 17.  The sketch is a humorous look at challenges that a CTV producer may face.  I hadn’t planned on appearing in sketch, but I couldn’t find an actor in time.  Looking at this I realize that I could definitely lose a few pounds.

Power Play

(This is the second installment of the Andrew chronicles; a hapless, comical figure trying to get through life. In the first installment, Diridon Station, Andrew runs into an old flame that he has a hard time remembering. In this story, we see Andrew at his workplace.)

Andrew left the break room after lunch feeling sated and slightly caffeinated then a hand grabbed him and pulled him into an empty office. He was face to face with three of his coworkers.

“Can we trust you?” Sterling demanded.

“Uh, what’s going on?” Andrew wondered.

“We ask the questions here!” Damien barked. “First you must swear not to betray us,”

“But what’s going on?” Andrew asked worriedly.

“I don’t think we can trust him,” Gwen said suspiciously.

“Dammit, you must swear!” Damien ordered. “You don’t want to piss off this one,” he warned as he pointed to Gwen.

“Okay, I swear,” Andy promised hoping to reduce the tension.

The three workers eyed Andrew intently. “I think we can trust him,” Sterling finally said.

“What’s happening?” Andrew finally managed to say.

“So how do you like working here?” Damien asked leadingly.

Andrew thought for a moment. “I can’t complain.”

“Hmmm,” Sterling pondered. “Interesting.”

“He doesn’t complain about anything,” Gwen mocked. “When we got a cake for him for his birthday, he took so long getting to the break room that we ended up eating the entire cake before he showed up. Remember?” she said to Andrew.

“Well, total strangers do walk up to me and tell me that I should lose a few pounds,” Andrew placated as he looked around his waist.

“That’s why we call him No Cake Andy,” Gwen continued.

“Oh,” Sterling said with enlightenedness. “I thought it was because of the hazing incident of ‘05.”

“Guys, I think we need to get back on track here,” Damien advised.

“Of course,” Sterling agreed. “Now to the business at hand.” He placed his hands on his hips.

We’ve decided to stage a coup,” he announced as he looked directly at Andrew.

“A coup?” Andrew puzzled. “Where?”

“Here!” Damien added. “Aren’t you sick and tired of slaving for Mr. Weatherby?”

“Well, he’s not that bad,” Andrew replied.

“He is a dangerous, out of control demagogue!” Sterling declared.

“A dictator drunk on his own power!” Damien yelled.

“A multi-headed hydra that must be slain!” Gwen rallied.

“Figuratively of course, right?” Andrew queried.

Gwen appeared amused by Andrew’s question. “Of course.”

“So what brought all this on?” Andrew asked sincerely.

“Increased hours!” Sterling began.

“Stagnant wages!” Damien followed.

“Oppressive and uninspired work environment!” Gwen completed.

“But don’t some of those things have to do with the current world economy and are out of the control of Mr. Weatherby?”

“Don’t those things have to do with world economy?” Gwen mimicked sarcastically. “He’s the one in charge, he’s the one that needs to be taken down!”

“Have you thought this through?” Andrew cautioned.

“Yes,” Sterling answered. “With strength in numbers we’ll confront him and he’ll have no choice but to give in to our demands!”

“Which are what?” Andrew wondered. “That he depart into exile like an overthrown junta?”

“That he let’s us sit in on the board meetings,” Sterling answered.

“Oh, I thought you would’ve had a bigger plan than that.”

“Dammit, you have to start somewhere!” Sterling vociferated.

“So here’s the plan,” Damian began conspiratorially. “We’ll all march in together, shoulder to shoulder!”

“That way Weatherby can’t get around us!” Gwen informed.

“Let me finish,” Damian demanded.

“Who died and made you king?” Gwen shot back.

“Let’s stay on point, guys,” Sterling counseled. “Now here’s the plan. We’ll all walk up together. I’ll start in on him with how we have to work too many hours. When I’m done, Damian,” he said to Damian, “you address how we’re all underpaid. And Gwen, finish him off! By expressing how ugly and uninspired the workplace is.”

“What about me?” Andrew wondered.

Sterling grabbed him by the shoulders. “You’re the point man.”

“Me?”

“Of course,” Gwen answered. “You’re shorter than us.”

“You’ll go in for the first attack,” Sterling continued.

“I can’t do that,” Andrew argued. “I don’t want any involvement in this!” He pulled away from Sterling’s grip.

“You’re already involved,” Damian reminded.

“In deep!” Gwen added.

“But this is all your idea!” Andrew protested. “You dragged me in here against my will then told me all about your plan without me asking to know about it!”

“Ha!” Sterling laughed as he placed his hand on Andrew’s shoulder in a fatherly way. “Well you know all about it now.”

“And if I say no?” Andrew queried.

“Then you’ll be going airborne ,” Damian warned menacingly as he nodded his head toward a window.

“We’re on the ground floor,” Andrew reminded.

“It’ll still hurt!” Damian shot back.

*                     *                     *                      *                     *                     *                     *

They all stood forebodingly in the cramped elevator as it rose up through the building. Everyone looked straight ahead without saying anything. Andrew watched the floor number display count upward as his apprehension grew.

“Everybody remember what they’re going to say?” Sterling pierced the silence.

“I make the demand for increased pay,” Damian said importantly.

“I point out what a junk heap this once proud company has become,” Gwen declared.

“Great! And I’ll address his autocratic ways,” Sterling asserted.

“What am I supposed to say?” Andrew asked.

“You provide the backup,” Sterling answered.

“Why me?”

“We need a regular person,” Damian elucidated.

Andrew was puzzled. “Aren’t we all equal as employees?”

They all chuckled.

“If it’s just us exceptional people,” Sterling said as he pointed to himself, Damian, and Gwen, “Weatherby will never buy it”

“That’s right,” Gwen agreed. “The three of us are known to be above the fray and able to see the big picture, and that scares Weatherby. But if we bring just a plain, regular employee, he’ll know we have a broad base of support.”

“And I’m just a typical worker?” Andrew pondered.

“So typical that you blend in anywhere,” Damian said.

“That is so true,” Gwen added. “Just a typical, nondescript, boring, bland employee, a person who isn’t remarkable in any way.”

“That’s right,” Sterling concurred. “People may say you’re dull as dishwater, but in this instance your dullness is an advantage.”

“Oh,” Andrew said with realization. “Well, glad I can help.”

The elevator dinged when it reached its floor, and the doors slid open.

“Let’s go,” Sterling ordered and they exited the elevator. Sterling, Damian, and Gwen walked purposefully through a corridor toward Weatherby’s outer office as Andrew kept up. Weatherby’s office grew larger and more daunting as they approached. An ominous looking secretary appeared on the right. She sat her desk like a sentry.

“Is Mr. Weatherby expecting you?” the secretary demanded as they came closer. She glared at them unpenetrably.

“No time to explain!” Sterling replied. “It’s too important for you!”

“Nobody gets past me without an appointment!” The secretary picked up a heavy glass ashtray and threw it at them like a Frisbee. Sterling, Damian, and Gwen dodged out of the way of the spinning object and it struck Andrew on the forehead. He staggered back as pain shot through his head.

“We’ve been hit!” Damian shouted.

“Aw, shit!” the secretary shrieked. “Is that No Cake Andy?”

“Damn right!” Sterling said gleefully, “and his uncle is a high powered lawyer!”

“And we are witnesses!” Gwen chimed in.

Andrew held his head in pain but remained upright. “I think I’ll be okay.”

“We can’t take any chances!” Sterling declared. “You better get a first aid kit stat if you want to save this company from a lawsuit, or worse!”

“You’ll be going to the big house for assault and battery!” Gwen warned.

“You’ll be living Orange Is the New Black!” Damian added.

“Fine, I’ll look for the first aid kit.” The secretary ran off.

They waited until the secretary was out of sight. “Let’s go,” Sterling uttered. They walked up to the door leading to Weatherby’s office. Andrew was still shaking off the pain as he stood behind them.

“Wait,” Damian cautioned, “our point man.”

“That’s right,” Sterling agreed. He grabbed Andrew and placed him in front. “How’s your head?”

“Still hurting, but getting better,” Andrew answered.

“Here, have a Vicodin,” Damian offered. “I always carry these.”

“I don’t think I need a…”

“Take it,” Gwen ordered as she took the pill from Damian and stuck it into Andrew’s mouth. Andrew resisted then ended up swallowing the pill.

A second Vicodin appeared in Damian’s hand. “How about another just in case?”

“Better safe than sorry,” Gwen said as she took second pill and stuck into Andrew’s mouth. It slid down his throat and he started to feel numb.

“Now everybody remember what we’re going to say?” Sterling asked.

“Money,” Damian said.

“Work environment,” Gwen said.

“And I address the dictatorial nature of this workplace,” Sterling said.

“What am I doing here?” Andrew asked as he started to feel woozy.

“Backup and moral support,” Damian reminded.

“You’re everyman, remember?” Gwen reminded further.

“But…how do I?” Andrew’s mind started to become foggy.

“No time to answer that,” Sterling said as he pushed the door open. The spacious office was wood paneled and foreboding. The half open vertical Levolor blinds let in just enough light to show Weatherby’s face in half light and half darkness, like a heavy in a film noir. Andrew felt a shove push him forward into the lair.

“What the hell do you want?” Weatherby glowered.

“Uh, well sir.” Andrew looked behind him, and Sterling told him to say something. His impaired mind struggled to remember something to say. “I am here,” he finally began, “because I was enlisted to express grievances that some employees may have.”

“Are you the ringleader?” Weatherby accused.

“No, sir, I’m a…” Andrew struggled, and looked behind him again for an answer.

“I bet you are!” Weatherby reiterated.

“A concerned worker!” Sterling suddenly blurted and stepped in front of Andrew. “You see, Andrew here typifies the average worker who feel, how shall I say, oppressed.”

“Oppressed?” Weatherby said with shock. “This isn’t a banana republic!”

“Of course not, sir,” Sterling relented. “We live in a democratic state.”

“This isn’t a democracy!” Weatherby continued. “The only people who get a vote are the board

of directors! The rest of you are plebes who are damn lucky to have a job!”

“Of course, sir,” Damian agreed as he stepped in front of Andrew and next to Sterling. “It’s just

that lots of people are struggling, and a modest increase in pay would be very helpful. Andrew here

would like to visit his aunt in the old country, but he can’t afford to because he just makes enough to pay for his rent and bare sustenance.” Andrew tried to remember if he had an aunt somewhere in another country. “He still eats Top Ramen, it’s sad.”

“Well there’s nothing I’d like more than to give all you bums a raise,” Weatherby began as he stood up and emerged from behind his large oak desk, “But there are factors that have to do with the world economy, and are totally out of my hands! Did you ever consider that?”

“Yes, sir, that’s a good point,” Gwen agreed.

“Of course it is, I came up with it!” Weatherby proclaimed. “And what’s your beef?”

“Oh, I was just thinking about improving the overall work environment,” Gwen replied. “You know, a new coat of paint, maybe some artwork, things that would inspire the employees.”

“Artwork?” Weatherby blasted. “This isn’t a gallery!”

“No, sir, it isn’t,” Gwen concurred.

“And if you want inspiration think about your next paycheck!” Weatherby took note of Andrew’s intoxicated appearance. “What’s your problem?”

“He had a splitting headache so he took some pain pills,” Sterling jumped in.

“An agitator and a hophead,” Weatherby said accusingly. “I should’ve known!”

“He only does it out of medical necessity, sir,” Damian reassured. “We didn’t know he had taken too many.”

Andrew swayed as he tried to remain upright.

“I’ll make it simple,” Weatherby condescended, “No raises, no interior decorating, and no

democratic reforms. Now you four idiots get back to work before I fire your asses!”

*                     *                     *                    *                     *                     *                    *

Sterling, Damian, and Gwen silently exited the elevator at the ground floor as Andrew staggered along behind them. They stopped at their maze of cubicles and hesitated before entering.

“We tried,” Sterling finally said.

“Maybe we needed a better plan,” Damian suggested.

“We should’ve got more people involved,” Gwen said.

“Well, these things take time,” Andrew struggled to get out from his still narcosis fogged mind. “The fight for workplace equality is a long one, in which people had to overcome a lot of defeats to achieve their victories. And the struggle continues to this day.” Andrew was impressed that he was able to say all that despite his temporary impairment.

“If you don’t mind, Andy, we’d like to discuss this without you,” Sterling requested.

“But don’t you need more people?” Andrew asked feeling suddenly puzzled.

“Yes, but we just can’t trust you anymore,” Sterling answered.

“I have to agree with Sterling,” Damian said.

“Yeah,” Gwen agreed, “it was a mistake to take you in.”

“How come?”

“Because,” Sterling began, “you’re an agitator.”

“And a druggie,” Damian reminded.

©2017 Robert Kirkendall

Current Affairs: A Fake Interview Show

(Inspired by the peculiar election season of 2016)

CHARACTERS

LIONEL TROWBRIDGE – The interviewer

TANYA BICKFORD – The interviewee

Scene: An interview studio

LIONEL

Good evening, and welcome to Current Affairs. I am your host, Lionel Trowbridge.  Tonight we’ll be discussing the entertaining, if not controversial, congressional campaign of Arnie Fowler with his most recent spokesperson Tanya Bickford. Thank you for joining us, Tanya.

TANYA

Thank you for having me, Lionel.

LIONEL

So you are the the newest spokesperson.  How long have you been in the inner circle the Fowler campaign?

TANYA

Hmm, let’s see.  (THINKS) Since this morning.

LIONEL

And what happened to the previous spokesperson?

TANYA

Well the police and the FBI are still looking for him.  Hopefully they’ll catch him before he flees the country. Who would think that a former Wall Street lobbyist would turn out to be an embezzler. Sure had us fooled.

LIONEL

Yes, quite. So, Arnie Fowler.  Last week he accused his opponent, incumbent Sylvia Brown, of being not only a sympathizer of ISIS, but a doner of money and time to the cause.  He even claimed that Brown runs an ISIS training camp on her palatial estate.  Now after a through search by our staff, we determined that all these claims were beyond false.  In fact, the palatial estate Fowler claimed to be owned by brown is actually a two bedroom townhouse next to a busy freeway.  How do you explain Fowler’s apparently false claims?

TANYA

Well, Mr. Fowler didn’t actually claim these things, he was merely speculating in the spirit of debate.

LIONEL

But debate requires two opposing sides.

TANYA

Well, yes, that’s the standard, mainstream way of debating, but Mr. Fowler likes to push the envelope of what are considered the accepted definitions of reality.

LIONEL

I see.  Now let’s move on to another of Fowler’s statements. He referred to appellate court judge Margaret Tanaka as a “disgrace to the bench and women everywhere,” a “stupid broad,” and “proof that only men were capable of being judges.”  He then followed these statements with a series of stereotypical karate motions and sounds in an apparent swipe at Judge Tanaka’s heritage.  How do you explain such behavior?

TANYA

What Mr. Fowler said was taken completely out of context by a media that is obsessed with political correctness and doesn’t really care what the average middle American is thinking.  And Judge Tanaka did rule against Mr. Fowler and his business associates planned project to revitalize the city.

LIONEL

Was that the project that was going to demolish an old folks home so they could build a golf course?

TANYA

Yes, that one.

LIONEL

Back to your previous comment, are you suggesting that middle Americans are thinking the same things and feel the same way as Arnie Fowler?

TANYA

I’m just saying you can’t know until you stir things up, and Mr. Fowler has been drawing sizable crowds. Why at our last rally a bunch of supporters all showed up in white.  They were even wearing these white hoods.  Very supportive, and so many of them.

LIONEL

Now that brings me to another point.  At many of Fowler’s speeches, there have been verbal and physical assaults against peaceful protesters, a number of which were egged on by Fowler.  And at one rally Fowler handed out cattle prods and autographed ax handles to his supporters. Are you at all reticent about working on a campaign that seems to endorse violence?

TANYA

Mr. Fowler is a man of the people, and he likes to keep that relationship close.  He doesn’t need the filter of handlers and political insiders who are so called experts on campaigning.  All these high priced consultants claim that all they’re doing is trying to save their candidate from embarrassing and campaign killing situations. Mr. Fowler isn’t afraid to say what’s on his mind at all times no matter the consequences.  Some even say that Mr. Fowler is beyond embarrassment.

LIONEL

Hmm.  Another recurring theme in the criticism of Arnie Fowler is his consistent ignorance of history and today’s news events, as well as his constant disinformation.  Care to comment?

TANYA

Glad to, Lionel. People are sick and tired of being told what to do by snobby, overly educated elites.  Just because they’ve studied and learned more than most people doesn’t make them experts.  People want a candidate they can identify with, who’s just like them, humble and god-fearing, not some intimidating brainiac who knows how to read.

LIONEL

(PAUSE) Are you saying that Mr. Fowler doesn’t know how to read?

TANYA

He does know the alphabet. He just still has trouble with words longer than two letters.  But you know what?  People like an underdog.  They don’t want a candidate who claims they can solve every single problem, they want a candidate who’s willing to admit his shortcomings. That’s what makes Mr. Fowler so relatable.

LIONEL

Actually Fowler has claimed to be perfect and mistake free on many occasions, and he regularly ridicules people for their mistakes and flaws.  And his recent embrace of Christianity seems to go against past comments in which Fowler referred to church goers as (LOOKS AT NOTES), “dumb sheep who’ll believe anything.”

TANYA

Ah, but Mr. Fowler was merely being sarcastic when he was saying those things.  Certainly the people know the difference between truth and sarcasm.

LIONEL

Interesting. Any final comments on the campaign of Arnie Fowler and why people should vote for him? 

TANYA

Yes. People are tired of the same old same old.  They want a fresh perspective with a new agenda that isn’t beholden to special interests like the human rights agitators and union bosses and intellectual elites. A vote for Arnie Fowler is a vote for political honesty and against political correctness.  Mr. Fowler is candidate who always speaks his mind without concern of how those words words will affect others.  You see, deep down Mr. Fowler has the innocence of a child, and like a child there is a purity to his demands. That’s what matters to his supporters, and that’s why people should vote for Arnie Fowler.

LIONEL

Well thank you for joining us, Tanya.  (TO AUDIENCE)  And thank you for watching another edition of Current Affairs. We have been speaking with Tanya Bickford, the newest campaign manager for congressional candidate Arnie Fowler.  I’m your host, Lionel Trowbridge. Good night.

©2016 Robert Kirkendall

lester.jpg

Pacific Television Theater – Gateway/Reunion

The second episode of my live televised drama anthology show!  Episode 2 is two short plays.  Gateway is about a new resident to a gated community who discovers that the aberrant behavior he thought he was leaving behind in the outside world also exists within the confines of his new community.  Reunion is about two high school acquaintances who run into each other after two decades, and secret and unsettling desires are revealed.

If you enjoyed this please consider a small donation to keep my little show going.  Thank you!  http://www.gofundme.com/PacificTV

©2016 Robert Kirkendall

 

Tonight! Episode 2!

Tonight will the airing and live broadcast of the second episode of Pacific Television Theater (formerly Pacific Avenue Theater).  Tonight’s half hour episode will feature two short plays.

Gateway is about a new resident at a gated community who soon discovers that the problems he was looking to escape from the outside world also exist within his new neighborhood’s confines.

Reunion is about two former high school classmates who run into each other two decades later.  One of them has high hopes of starting a new relationship, the other not so much.

Show time is at 7:30PM PDT on Community TV of Santa Cruz, Comcast 27, Charter 73, and live streaming on communitytv.org

See you there!

That is me on the far left in the picture above, with my cast; Steve Capasso, Jackson Wolffe, Marty Lee Jones, Tiffany Cesi Cesarin, Davis Leach, Hannah Eckstein, Seth Vernon, and Nicolette Nasr.

If you enjoy tonight’s show please consider a small donation to help with costs.  gofundme.com/PacificTV

 

From The Archives – The A.P. P.R. Firm – A 10 Minute Play

(I first wrote this play seven years ago and presented it at a Santa Cruz Actors’ Theatre workshop on July 21, 2009. The events and topical references are from that time and may appear dated, but the underlying theme of disinformation from high places is still relevant.)

CAST OF CHARACTERS

CHAIRMAN

MR. CARNEY

MR. GRAMM

MS. HURTZ

MR. PHELPS

NEIL HOLTON

LEONARD (OR LEONA)

OTHER BOARD MEMBERS (OPTIONAL)

Scene: A corporate boardroom

Time: Beginning of workday

(A board of directors are sitting around the table and appear agitated. The chairman is standing at the middle of the table.)

CHAIRMAN

Now I don’t think I have to tell you that the situation is dire. Our public image has taken a severe beating since the toxic toy crisis, and because of that debacle the parents will inevitably sue us for damages, hospital bills and skin graft surgeries. Other customer complaints have piled up to the point that we had to hire more than the usual amount of temps to wade through them all. Sales are wavering to the point that the upcoming layoffs will claim people higher up than the usual drones. The masses are so up in arms over the Gulf oil spill that it could lead to the worst catastrophe possible, government regulation of corporations.

(Everyone gasps)

CHAIRMAN

Yes, I was just as shocked when I found out. And now my sources tell me that 60 Minutes wants to do an expose about us. So as you can all see, and we have to act fast or we’ll hit rock bottom.

MR. PHELPS

(Stands up)

I know! We can improve productivity, take deferred payments to allow for recovery, and tighten our belts for the good of the company.

(Everyone laughs.)

CHAIRMAN

(Chuckling at Phelps as he makes him sit back down)

My, your are precious.

(To rest of board)

What we’re going to do is hire the best public relations firm in the country to improve our image and reshape the way the public thinks of us.

MR. GRAMM

Genius!

MS. HURTZ

Anything to pacify the rabble.

CHAIRMAN

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Neil Holton of the A.P. P.R. Firm.

(Neil Holton enters and is followed by his assistant Leonard.)

NEIL

Thank you, chairman, thank you everybody. Now let’s get down to business. Your chairman tells me that you have the kind of problem that only the likes of our firm can remedy.

MS. HURTZ

Yes, we’ve heard of you, but what are your credentials?

NEIL

Credentials?

(Leonard laughs out loud.)

NEIL

Who do you think put off enormous liability costs for tobacco companies for decades with a carefully orchestrated campaign of denial and misinformation, which we’d still be continuing if it weren’t for all those weaklings dying of heart disease and lung cancer?

MS. HURTZ

So you’re no longer working for big T?

LEONARD

Au contraire.

NEIL

We rose to the challenge by engineering the new program of false piety and some very strategic T.V. name placement.

MR. GRAMM

Clever way to get around the law.

CHAIRMAN

Did I tell you these guys are good?

MR. PHELPS

(Naively)

Well their new anti-smoking campaign sure has me hooked. Who knew that the tobacco industry really is concerned about people’s health.

MR. CARNEY

That’s why they got into the food business.

NEIL

And when Shady Energy ran into interference after their privatization plan of the western power grid pissed off a few hand wringers, who saw to it that the good people of S.E. got their side of the story into the public and on every major and minor television network? And nobody went to prison.

LEONARD

And nobody important lost their fortune.

MR. GRAMM

Yes, the trickle up theory.

CHAIRMAN

And with the collapse of Building 7 and all the records contained therein, the paper trail has disappeared.

MR. PHELPS

Yeah, that sure was a stroke of luck.

NEIL

And when it came time to once again marshal America back into military warfare, who concocted the perfect story to convince the majority of Americans that it was the right thing to do?

LEONARD

And believe you me, convincing the public that a dictator we supported for years had suddenly become the enemy was no easy task.

NEIL

But we pulled it off.

LEONARD

With our most audacious campaign up to that point.

CHAIRMAN

Yes, the part about enemy soldiers setting fire to a hospital maternity ward was a nice touch.

NEIL

And now I’ve been told that you have a problem which requires the expertise of someone such as myself and my firm.

MR. CARNEY

This is where things stand. For years we were able to keep a lid on some of our more creative business practices, but now some nosy, ambulance chasing prick is making a documentary about us.

MS. HURTZ

He’s talking to a lot of our former disgruntled employees, and you know once they tell their teary eyed hard luck story that’s going to tug on some heart strings.

NEIL

Now, unlike most media, we don’t have control over what shows inside of a movie house, but we have a way to counter act that, with our “special” news releases.

LEONARD

Interviews of select members of your organization will be sent to T.V. stations all over the country and will also be broadcast internationally.

MR. CARNEY

But what’s going to happen if the reporters ask some probing questions?

NEIL

Who said anything about reporters?

(The board of directors all look around to each other quizically.)

NEIL

The interviews will be conducted by our own staff. They will look like real reporters, talk like real reporters, and ask questions like real reporters.

LEONARD

And as long it’s made to look like a real news report, that’ll be enough to fool most anybody.

MR. GRAMM

My god, that’s brilliant!

MR. CARNEY

I don’t know, sounds like a pretty bold scheme. Isn’t anybody on to it?

NEIL

Nobody who can cause us damage.

MS. HURTZ

Just the late night television clowns.

MR. GRAMM

I’d love to see all those jabbering fools in a gulag.

MR. PHELPS

Or a prison.

(Everyone stares at Phelps for a moment.)

CHAIRMAN

All things in good time, but first we must deal with the problem at hand.

MR. CARNEY

What we need are more tactics. I was thinking of an infomercial, or maybe QVC. It’s longer than a regular commercial so you can really get the word out.

MS. HURTZ

But the only people who watch that stuff are shut-ins and oddballs.

MR. PHELPS

I love those infomercials! I’m only six pieces away from a complete War of 1812 chess set.

(Awkward silence.)

CHAIRMAN

(Quietly to Neil)

Legacy.

NEIL

Infomercials and the like are not a bad idea, but not everybody believes what they see on television.

MR. GRAMM

That’s a minority.

NEIL

Perhaps, but something that is more official looking will be more convincing.

LEONARD

We can get a congressional subcommittee hearing with press coverage, send in some well rehearsed people, and use it as a vehicle to get your side of the story out.

MS. HURTZ

(Alarmed)

Washington? That’s the lion’s den!

NEIL

Never fear. The key is that our people do not testify under oath, that way nothing that is said can come back and bite you. And it’s free, official looking publicity.

MR. GRAMM

I like it.

CHAIRMAN

That all sounds very promising, Neil, but before we get to that crisis point, we were thinking about concentrating on mass advertising and some strategically placed press releases.

NEIL

Ah yes, plan A. We can plaster your logo on billboards, buses, and every public space where we’re allowed to advertise, basic but effective.

LEONARD

The public will be inundated and have no choice but to be held captive to your relentless efforts to woo them over.

MR. PHELPS

(Wistfully)

We can really be a part of people’s lives.

LEONARD

And don’t forget about the well placed campaign contributions.

MR. GRAMM

Hey, what do you think we are, amateurs?

MS. HURTZ

Despite everything we still have our fair share of paid servants who are quite reliant on us.

LEONARD

Of course you do, but we had something else in mind.

NEIL

Now, who needs money more than our schools and children?

MR. CARNEY

I don’t think I like where this is heading.

NEIL

Just bear with me. As we all know, and as we’re constantly being reminded by all the bleeding hearts, most of our public institutions are quite underfunded, and nothing makes a business look better than making a highly visible contribution to such an institution. And who needs it more than schools and children?

MR. CARNEY

(Looking around the room)

I think I know some people.

NEIL

Yes, of course, but what we had in mind is a donation program to public schools that not only looks good in the media, but it indoctrinates the youth to your brand name.

MS. HURTZ

Of course, during the crucial formative years.

LEONARD

You can become their world.

MR. PHELPS

Wow!

MR. GRAMM

They can carry around their books in our backpacks, wearing clothes their parents bought from us. You can’t beat that kind of marketing.

MR. CARNEY

We could get control of the cafeterias and our food division can feed them.

MS. HURTZ

We can give them teaching supplies with our logos. Our brand name will be everywhere.

CHAIRMAN

Glee clubs all across the nation will be singing our jingles.

MR. PHELPS

Yes!

NEIL

So as you can see, an all encompassing campaign can be quite effective.

MR. CARNEY

But what do we say to the inevitable critics? What’s our defense?

NEIL

Two words.

LEONARD

Blame game.

NEIL

Accuse your accusers, put the light back on them, and never stop. That will win you a certain amount of sympathy, and you’ll need all you can get.

MS. HURTZ

But what about 60 Minutes?

NEIL

Dan Rather tried to expose the lack a military record for our president, and now he’s finished. Nuff said.

MR. GRAMM

True, but there are other media sources.

NEIL

So what if some fringe muckraker does a story on you? Only commies and people who live in trees follows that stuff, and they have a very limited audience.

MR. CARNEY

But enough to be bothersome.

NEIL

Look, we may not be able to pull all the strings, but we still have control over the important strings, and that’s what’s important in this battle. And make no mistake, this is a battle. We at the Amalgamated Propagandists Public Relations Firm have a sacred responsibility to make sure that those in power stay in power.

LEONARD

And at a comparatively reasonable price.

CHAIRMAN

Excellent presentation, gentleman.

(To baoard)

So are we all in agreement?

MR. GRAMM

Before I say yes, I need to have some more assurances that this will work. We don’t need another fiasco like the old Howard Cosell Signature Brand Hairpiece sweatshop scandal.

LEONARD

Never fear, we do our operations in U.S. protectorates that have the best of both worlds.

NEIL

U.S. protection without U.S. standards.

MR. GRAMM

Well they’re not exactly high these days either, but I think it’s worth a chance. Count me in.

NEIL

That’s one. Who else is on board?

MS. HURTZ

Drastic times call for drastic measures. We can not fall behind in the battle for hearts and minds, and we can not be afraid to say the things that need to be said. We must now pull out all the stops because our very survival is at stake.

CHAIRMAN

Well said, Ms. Hurtz.

(To Neil)

I think you’ll find all of us here “get it” and that it won’t take much convincing to get us to do what is necessary.

MR. CARNEY

Now, before I can come on board, I have a few concerns. Let me just say that there isn’t a doubt in my mind we can pull this caper off, but there are still a couple of loose ends that need to be tied. I agree with everyone’s concerns, but with all due respect, if we put A.P. P.R. in charge of our public face, I get the uneasy feeling that we’re giving away a little too much of our power. I know we need your help and we’re all appreciative, but I do not want to give up our position on the inside track. What assurances do we have that we will not be relegated to second class status?

NEIL

Ladies and gentleman, this is the best part. As your chairman knows we have connections, very important connections, and certain people in high places want to bring certain corporate high rollers into the executive fold. Open up the case, Leonard.

(Leonard holds case in one hand and opens it with the other revealing a series of badges.)

NEIL

On behalf of the United States government as an officer of the organization Intergard I hear by deputize all of of you junior members of Intergard.

(He hands out badges to everyone.)

NEIL

As officers of Intergard you will receive advance notices of classified intelligence reports, be consulted about major policy decisions that directly affect you, and in the event of any unforeseen catastrophes that require the administration of martial law, membership entitles you to exercise the power of policing.

MR. CARNEY

You mean like law enforcement?

LEONARD

Armed and dangerous.

MR. CARNEY

Well count me in!

CHAIRMAN

Excellent.

(Looks toward Phelps)

But I’m still not sure if we all agree with your proposition.

MR. PHELPS

A cop! At last, Simon Phelps will get the respect that he deserves!

CHAIRMAN

Sounds like we’re all on board.

MS. HURTZ

(Raises glass)

A toast to Mr. Holton and his lackey! The saviors of our people!

EVERYONE

(Raising glasses)

Hooray!

NEIL

(Smiles sentimentally and graciously)

I love this job.

©2009, 2016 Robert Kirkendall

Subsequently published in The Wagon Magazine, Volume 1 – Issue 2, May 2016