Cpl. Wildey led his squad through a clearing and into a wooded thicket toward enemy lines on a reconnaissance mission to ascertain troop locations. The trail they were on approached an enemy headquarters in the distance. Cpl. Wildey thought he saw movement ahead, so he ordered his troops to sneak up by crawling through a high grass area. He carefully maneuvered them without notice when he suddenly came face to face with a pair of the enemy’s boots standing squarely and menacingly. Fear shot through him, until he looked up and saw that no one was wearing the boots.
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!”
(Originally written as a short play during the summer of this year, posting it here after failing to get it staged.)
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.
Thank you having us, Charlene.
The Congressman’s governmental advisor, Harvey Cheswick.
A pleasure to be here, Ms. Beaumont!
And also with us is…(Looks at her notes), Director of Special Operations Rex Paulson
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?
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.
And where was that?
Customer service for United Airlines.
I see. And have the rest of you readjusted to your new positions?
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.
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?
Ha! Oh my, you are so naive. Congressman Fowler never makes mistakes. He told me so himself.
Okay. And you, Mr. Paulson? Have you acclimated yourself to your new position?
All right. Now Ms. Kirby, how has the Congressman reacted to the slew of protests that have plagued him since he took office?
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.
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.
Now protesters claim assiduously that they are local, and they contend that Congressman Fowler only won through voter intimidation.
Sore losers, ha ha!
They’re making that all up. I have yet to hear any examples of this so called intimidation.
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.
Mr. Fowler denies knowledge or involvement in any of these alleged activities.
They’re not alleged, there’s plenty of video footage. All the local TV stations and many online sources have already shown footage.
They’ll be dealt with.
I beg your pardon. What do you mean by that?
Uh, Mr. Paulson was merely being sarcastic.
Of course! Rex is very well known for his sarcasm.
Is that true, Mr. Paulson?
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.
Are you accusing Mr. Fowler of meeting with Reds?
No, (Enunciates) a constituent. It means someone who lives in the Congressman’s district.
I knew that.
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.
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.
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.
Yes, the Congressman’s opponent during the election. Why would he still be angry with her?
Because she said some mean things about Arnie.
She sure did.
But since Fowler won and became Congressman, it seems rather unnecessary to harbor bitter feelings toward Mrs. Brown.
But she never apologized for her mean comments.
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.
But can you prove that it didn’t happen?
You can’t prove a negative.
Aha! More pseudo intellectual hooey!
No, it’s just common logic. You do understand the basic tenets of logic, right?
(The guests stare back at Charlene blankly.)
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.
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.
Is anything substantive said at these briefings?
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.
It does seem alarming that the Congressman has a hard time controlling himself.
But would you rather have some cold blooded, unemotional leader who doesn’t have feelings and only does things calmly, and rationally?
But how do you deal with Congressman Fowler when he acts in such an emotionally unhinged way?
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.
I’d like to state for the record that Mr. Fowler does not inject tranquilizers or any other drugs. He just says no.
I believe that was a metaphor.
That’s my fault. I should have been more plain speaking, like our beloved Congressman, instead of relying on the crutch of metaphor.
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.
He is merely reacting to the wishes of the people.
Actually public opinion is going against those policies.
Not really. And many speculate that these policy opinions are because the private prison industry was a major donor to Fowler’s campaign.
But they are merely supporters who are showing their appreciation by donating to Congressman Fowler’s campaign. It’s really all quite innocent.
But donations give the appearance of influence.
Might I remind you that money is speech?
Citizen’s United, sweetie.
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.
Well maybe the public needs to pull itself up by its own bootstraps instead of asking for a handout.
I’m not sure how taking issue with moneyed interests having a disproportionate influence on elected office holders makes one a seeker handouts.
You see? You just answered your own question.
That doesn’t make sense.
You need to stop thinking and just go with how you feel.
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.
Oh please! Congress are the real criminals.
But Mr. Fowler is now a Congressman.
A new kind of Congressman, without that Washington taint.
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.
But as you can see Congressman Fowler has very diverse friends.
You think the pointy headed elites would at least give him credit for that.
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.
Those charges are baseless!
And there’s Congressman Fowler’s insistence that climate change is a hoax despite all scientific evidence to the contrary.
The Earth is still around last time I checked.
But the Congressman is at odds with most of his constituency. Isn’t he afraid of a backlash?
If Arnie took his critics seriously he would have given up long ago.
And he knows how to deal with his critics.
How does he?
Oh, he has a plan.
A little thing called martial law.
REX (Jumps up)
You’re not supposed to mention that!
No! I didn’t say anything!
That does it!
(Rex grabs Harvey and drags him off stage.)
What’s going on here?!
You didn’t see a thing!
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)
©2017 Robert Kirkendall
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.
(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.”
“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.
“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.”
“Because,” Sterling began, “you’re an agitator.”
“And a druggie,” Damian reminded.
©2017 Robert Kirkendall