Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Chad and Darfur

[SCENE: We open in an apartment which is obviously not a lair of the Taliban. On one wall is a framed jockstrap with a rubric which attributes its ownership to Michael Jackson. This attribution is false.

[The big calendar on the opposite wall is of beach babes, prime Californian flesh, and the calendar cues us to the fact that it is August. The windows are open to the night, and the sound of a midnight saxophone can be heard. Also, traffic noise, at a distance. And, occasionally, gunfire. It's a highly desirable rent-controlled apartment in a central city area, but you do have to get used to the fact that drive-by shootings are a nightly occurrence.

[Sitting at a computer screen is SOCRATES, very serious, muttering as he clicks away. Sprawled on a couch is MELISSA, who is smoking a joint. She has dropped by without invitation and has now been in the apartment for six hours.

[So far, these two have not yet had sex. Not this evening, at any rate. Having twice divorced MELISSA, SOCRATES is firmly determined that the relationship is over, and there will be neither another shot at the dating game. Nor will there be a third marriage.]

MELISSA: What are you doing?

SOCRATES: Worrying.

MELISSA: What about?

SOCRATES: The guy who lives just across the hall.

MELISSA: Why? You think he might be cheating on you?

SOCRATES: I already told you, he's a narcotics cop.

MELISSA: Oh, Mister Serious! Come on, Socks, what are you chewing on over there?

SOCRATES: Chad.

MELISSA: Chad? I didn't know you were into autosport.

SOCRATES: No, Chad and Darfur. The rape of Darfur.

MELISSA: Chad raped Darfur? A nice guy like that? He raped someone? I can't believe it, you're putting me on. Chad is the motorsport guy, right?

SOCRATES: I'm reading a road diary online.

MELISSA: [stubbing out exhausted spliff] A road diary? A kind of Jack Kerouish thingy?

SOCRATES: This guy's on the road in Chad.

MELISSA: He's in Chad? Socks, are you at a porn site?

At this point, the door opens and COPERNICUS enters. He, like SOCRATES and MELISSA, does not appear to be a member of the Taliban. He is wearing a T-shirt which says "Born to Party, Forced to Do Time," and has a bottle of whiskey in his hand. From the light insouciance with which he swings it about, you gather it is mostly empty. COPERNICUS'S stance and gait indicates that some (or possibly all) of the whiskey is inside him.

SOCRATES: You explain it to her.

COPERNICUS: Explain what?

SOCRATES: [Handing COPERNICUS a newspaper.] Read it an explain it to her.

[COPERNICUS takes the paper, seats himself on a folding picnic stool, which is the only remaining seat in the room, and begins to read the newspaper in silence. There is a knock at the door. SOCRATES ignores it.
[The knock is repeated, and someone can be heard talking outside, loud but incoherent. SOCRATES gets up, walks to the beer fridge, opens it, and takes out his Glock. MELISSA fumbles in her once-chic backpack, yesterday's fashion, unfortunately, and pulls out her digital camera in case something interesting is about to happen. SOCRATES stalks toward the door, his personal High Noon fantasy evidently playing in his head. The voice outside the door falls silent.

[SOCRATES abruptly throws the door open and leaps through, disappearing from sight.

SOCRATES: [Loudly] Ha!

[Gunshot off. Very close and very loud. MELISSA gets up off the couch and dreamwalks toward the door, camera in hand, paparazzi fantasies evidently in her head. To her evident disappointment, SOCRATES returns, the Glock still in his hand.]

MELISSA: Who did you shoot at?

SOCRATES: Safety catch wasn't on.

MELISSA: You mean, it just went off? The guy was gone? There was nobody there?

[COPERNICUS abruptly bursts into a howl of laughter.]

COPERNICUS: This is priceless!

MELISSA: What's funny about Chad raping Darfur?

SOCRATES: He evidently wasn't looking at what he was supposed to be looking at. What we're talking about is a very, very serious situation with a lot of people having their lives totally devastated.

MELISSA: This is, uh, the collapsed bridge thing? Did you see the service in the church thingy?

COPERNICUS: It was a cathedral, I think. Say, did you see the news about that rich guy's dog which ate a worker?

MELISSA: No, the dog didn't eat him. It just killed him.

SOCRATES: And that's major news, huh?

MELISSA: Socks is angry with me. Okay, Socks boy, you can have me a thrill. Give me another of your oh so manly I-explain-politics lectures. You can't believe how wonderfully they turn me on.

[SOCRATES does not respond. He has refocused himself on the computer screen. The Glock is still sitting where SOCRATES left it, on the beer fridge. COPERNICUS takes another hit from the whiskey bottle, puts down the paper and walks out of the room. En route, he uplifts the Glock from the top of the beer fridge. MELISSA scoops up her digital camera and follows. SOCRATES is alone in the room. The agonies of Chad and the ongoing rape of Darfur play out, but not on stage. Nobody is interested, certainly not MELISSA or COPERNICUS.]

Footnotes:

#1. What Socrates has been reading online is a page which has the following URL:

http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/article.aspx?id=991

It is Day 17 of a kind of blog which has the title "Among Darfur Rebels and Refugees: A Road Diary."

#2 What Copernicus was supposed to be looking at was a prominent article on the developing crisis in Africa which is spilling over into Chad. After leafing through the paper, what he has found, instead, is a Dilbert cartoon, which he finds screamingly funny.

This strip is about the comedy of dysfunctional companies, and it's online at www.dilbert.com.

In frame one, we see Dilbert, the expressionless engineer, sitting next to his point-haired boss. The boss is talking to Wally, the ultimate dysfunctional employee, and says "Are you wearing noise cancellation headphones?" Wally replies with an uncomprehending "What?"

In fame two, the boss shouts, VERY LOUDLY, "I said, are you wearing noise cancellation headphones?"

Dilbert, being an engineer, would be able to find a practical solution to the fact that Wally is obviously doing exactly that. But the boss, now at screaming pitch, stars over again: "I said - "

And Dilbert thinks to himself "This will not end well."

#3. Melissa is right. The dog didn't eat the worker. It merely killed him. One hopes that the worker was properly insured, and it would be nice to imagine that his boss splashed out and gave him a nice funeral as a kind of sayonara present.

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