William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

All Men Are Mortal: A New, Award Eligible Mini Play

wind

All Men Are Mortal

SCENE:

A windfarm in Absolute County, a dry patch of land out west.

CAST OF CHARACTERS:

BRANDON, a speechwriter for Earth Is It!
RUSS, Sheriff of Absolute County
BERT, a jovial retired country doctor
JAMES, employee of Green Wind
HJ, a mysterious dyslexic billionaire, owner of Green Wind
GEORGE, an illegal alien
BAMBI FREEDOM, a professional activist with Earth Is It!
DAV, an EPA bureaucrat
SCOTIAN, an EPA bureaucrat
LUIS, an EPA bureaucrat
SYLVAIN, an EPA bureaucrat
MIKE, the manager of the EPA bureaucrats

SCENE ONE

DAV AND SCOTIAN IN A FIELD STAND UNDER AN IMMOBILE TURBINE.

DAV: The serial number on this one’s sun bleached. Can you make it out?

SCOTIAN: No, I left my glasses back in the car.

DAV: Go get ‘em. We can’t leave until these forms are filled out. You know what Mike’s like.


SCOTIAN TRUDGES THROUGH THE FIELD. AFTER A FEW PACES, HE CLUTCHES HIS CHEST, CALLS OUT, AND DROPS STONE COLD DEAD, ONLY HIS FEET VISIBLE STAGE RIGHT. DAV PULLS OUT HIS BLACKBERRY.

DAV: It’s me. Remember what I told you would happen? Well, it happened. Yeah. Better send him. No, I won’t touch him.


DAV HANGS UP.

DAV: These Canadians just can’t take the heat.


ENTER STAGE LEFT, BRANDON AND BAMBI.

BAMBI: Excuse me, sir. Do you have a minute to save the planet?


BRANDON PULLS OUT HIS SMARTYPHONE.

BRANDON: Wait a minute. Here. Walk up to him again. I wanna get this…Hold on, let me answer this first.

BAMBI: Never mind him. Let me give you our brochure on the sustainability of wind.

DAV: No need, ma’am. I work for the government. If there’s one thing we understand, it’s the endlessness of wind.

BAMBI: You work for the government? Why that’s so wonderful!

DAV: It’s a noble cause, ma’am. Citizens need directing, and I’m just the man to direct ‘em. But you’ll have to excuse me. I have to check the serial numbers of these turbines.

BAMBI: Serial numbers?

DAV: Yes, ma’am. We have a master list of all turbines which companies are required to submit quarterly. After we receive them, we send armed agents into the field to ensure the serial numbers match. Those teams send their counts to field offices, which forward them on to DC. And then my team comes along to run a second-level verification of the numbers. We submit both the originals and our duplicates to our boss—who shares an office with an Office of the Interior functionary—who runs occasional triplicate checks. If fact, I’m expecting him here today. My boss, I mean.

BAMBI: But how can he check your work before you’ve even submitted it. I know the government is efficient, but it can’t be that efficient.

DAV: Ha ha. No, he’ll be checking last quarter’s results. That shows you the kind of intense time pressure we’re under. No sooner than have all the numbers have been verified for the past quarter, than we have to start all over again on the next.

BAMBI: Have any of the serial numbers not matched?

DAV: Not on my watch, ma’am. And if they did, the companies wouldn’t legally be able to sell the electricity generated from the mismatching units.

BAMBI: Why’s that?

DAV: For safety, ma’am. Our motto is: you can never be too sure.

BRANDON: Sorry about that. I had to respond to a tweet. We’re thinking of changing our catch line from “Do you have a minute to save the planet?” to “Do you have a minute to save the Earth?” Quite a controversy raging. Mind if I ask a question? Why aren’t any of the turbines spinning?

DAV: Because there’s no wind.

BRANDON: So how do you know if they work?

DAV: That’s a good question, sir. Each of them has a maintenance mode that switches them on. It draws electricity from the grid and spins the turbines.

BRANDON: Say, good idea. Let’s do it. I can get a few pictures. Use them for the blog. “Your EPA in action”, that sort of thing.

BAMBI: But won’t the blades disturb the eagles and other birds which are nesting on top of the posts?

DAV: No, ma’am. Eagles like to live in high places. And when the turbines are on, it gives them a chance to get some exercise. Here, let me show you.

BAMBI: Oooh! It’s so exciting! You’re right! Look! They’re taking off! But aren’t they flying too close to—eek!

BRANDON LOOKS UP JUST AS TWO BIRDS CRASH INTO HIS FACE, CRUSHING HIS SKULL.

BAMBI: Brandon! Oh, poor Brandon! How could it have happened!

DAV: Simple enough, ma’am. Each of these birds weighs about 7 kilograms, and each fell 150 meters or so. That generates 103 thousand Newtons of force, which is roughly—let me think—yes, about 76,000 foot pounds. More than enough to crush ten skulls.

BAMBI: But it’s so awful!

DAV: It’s just physics, ma’am. But don’t worry. I see the help I called for has finally arrived.

ENTER SYLVAIN, STAGE LEFT.

SYLVAIN: Another one?

DAV: Ma’am, if you’d help my colleague move the body over to the car, I’d sure appreciate it. Like I said, we’re expecting our boss, and he likes to see things in order.

SYLVAIN: You can get the legs, ma’am.

SYLVAIN AND BAMBI CARRY THE BODY STAGE RIGHT. AT THE EDGE, SYLVAIN SUDDENLY DROPS THE BODY, WIPES HIS BROW, MOANS AUDIBLY, CLUTCHES HIS CHEST, AND KEELS OVER, ONLY HIS FEET SHOWING.

DAV: SOTTO VOCE Canadians.

SCENE TWO

RUSS STANDS TALKING TO DAV, JAMES, AND BERT UPSTAGE, BAMBI SITS NEAR THE BODIES SILENTLY WEEPING.

DAV: Just like I said, Sheriff. The heat got to ‘em.

BERT: Could happen, Rusty. It’s a hot one, and these fellows from the north are prone to apoplexy. Of course, we won’t know for sure until the autopsy.

JAMES: Sheriff, if it’s all right with you, I’d like to switch off the turbine.

RUSS: Okay with me. I can’t see as we need it.

DAV: Just a second, Sheriff. EPA regulations forbid the switching off of a turbine until an environmental impact assessment is performed.

RUSS: But didn’t you just switch it on?

DAV: Yes, sir, I did. But the impact assessment for switching these on has already been done.

JAMES: I can tell you HJ won’t like it. Green Wind has already paid all the fees—

DAV: —You have no choice. None of us does. The regulation exists. The regulation is all you need know.

JAMES: Yeah, well, she won’t be happy.

DAV: You needn’t worry. While you were attending to the bodies, I called the regional office and asked for an impact team. They should be here with the forms shortly.

JAMES: I don’t think you understand just how angry she can be. Hell to pay isn’t in it. Why I remember one time…wait. Forms?

DAV: Certainly, forms. We need to file an Environmental Impacts Assessment request. That’s submitted to the regional office for approval, which is usually granted, as long as the serial numbers match. If they don’t, we have to file for an exception. That goes right to headquarters for expedited processing.

JAMES: Expedited?

DAV: A joint meeting of the assessment and maintenance group meets every three weeks—

JAMES: —Three weeks!

DAV: I know. Fast, isn’t it? But don’t forget the EPA has always prided itself on efficiency. Anyway, if the joint committee gives its okay, their recommendation is sent on to the Third Second Secretary of Regulations who has to give it the final stamp of approval—

JAMES: —Finally we reach finally—

DAV: —And then all such stamped recommendations are passed to the First Second Secretary. If she says okay, then the whole process works in reverse and then the Impacts Assessment can be said to have passed. As soon as the paperwork gets back to your hands, you can switch off the turbine. That is…

JAMES: I can’t wait to hear.

DAV: As long as you have a Turbine Toggle Training Certification from OSHA, of course.

RUSS: Enough of this. I’m more concerned with those bodies in this heat than this d—d turbine. Bert?

BERT: Let’s just say that if there were a wind, we’d be glad to have it at our back. As it is…Say, why are these things in this valley, anyway? Hardly ever windy here.

JAMES: We applied to locate them on the crest over there, where there’s a steady breeze, but the EPA said a rare type of forked swallow sometimes once a decade might use the route along one of the ridges for their migration. So we decided to scrap the whole plan and invest in solar. But the contract we had to sign with the government said we had to build or pay daily fines of tens of thousands of dollars. It was cheaper to build and take the loss on the turbines.

DAV: The Endangered Species Act is there for your protection, sir.

BERT: Anyway, why don’t we put a tarp over the bodies until the ambulance gets here.

RUSS: I think I have something in the trunk.

RUSS EXITS STAGE LEFT, COMES BACK LATER WITH A BLANKET.

BERT: Meanwhile, I’ll see what I can do for that young woman.

DAV: That ambulance better hurry, doctor. You know the regulation. If the bodies lie in any one place for more than sixty-five minutes, they are considered to have been buried. And then we have to a ground water contamination assessment before they can be moved.

BERT: Regulation be…

JAMES: What’s taking those forms so long? We can’t stand out here all day.

DAV: I emphasized the need for haste, sir. He said he’d run. It’s only about four miles to the field office.

JAMES: Run! Why didn’t he drive!

DAV: The Carbon Pollution Act requires that agents travel by the mode which releases the least carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere. It depends on the weight of the agent, of course, but as a rule of thumb anything less than about six miles requires we go on foot. There’s a balance between the amount of CO2 from exhalation—running shortens the distance—and that used in the electricity plants which charge the batteries of our cars. Besides, in this heat, the cars don’t hold a charge more than four hours.

ENTER LUIS, STAGE RIGHT, OUT OF BREATH.

LUIS: Sorry I’m late, sir! GASP. But you caught me just as I came back from counting the customers leaving Happy Burger. COUGH. You were right. GASP. They exceeded their allowed number of daily customers by over thirteen. WHEW. And probably more…but I knew how urgent this was.

LUIS PULLS PAPERS FROM HIS SHIRT, HANDS THEM TO DAV, SHRIEKS, CLUTCHES HIS CHEST, AND DROPS DEAD.

DAV: Oh no! This is awful!—

RUSS, WHO HAD JUST RETURNED, TAKES OFF HIS HAT AND PUTS IT OVER HIS HEART.

RUSS: —The poor man.

JAMES: SOTTO VOCE Must have been a foreigner.

DAV: I knew that Happy Burger was breaking the law! And we had the proof needed to shut them down forever. But there was no way that Luis could have filed the proper forms before coming here. We have to start the investigation all over!

RUSS: But the man is dead! Have you no heart?

DAV: Do not think me cruel, Sheriff. Luis knew the dangers involved when he signed up for the job. The life of the EPA agent is one of continual sacrifice. But he was just one man. Whereas Happy Burger was acting in an unsustainable manner by exceeding its daily customer quota and putting us all at risk! I could almost weep, except that as part of my oath I had my tear ducts fused shut. Oh!, the horrible unsustain—

BERT: —What the heck is that?

AN EERIE HUM FILLS THE AIR, AND THE LIGHTS RAPIDLY DIM, LEAVING ALL IN BLACK SILENCE.

SCENE THREE

ALL ARE LAYING ON THE GROUND, INCLUDING GEORGE. ALL SLOWLY RISE, THEIR WITS ASTRAY.

GEORGE: What happened?

DAV: THICKLY What…must have been a rapid increase in ambient carbon dioxide—

JAMES: —Carbon dioxide my eye—

DAV: —That caused us all to pass out. Did anybody else have ringing in their ears?

RUSS: I did.

DAV: That proves it. It fortunate I was here to document it. I’ve been saying for months we need to strengthen regulations.

RUSS: Wait a minute. Who are you?

GEORGE: My name is George. I was just passing by.

JAMES: That’s a great hat, mister.

GEORGE: Thanks. I saw the crowd and wondered if I might be of any assistance.

DAV: No need, sir. The EPA is here.

GEORGE: EPA?

DAV: The Environmental Protection Agency, sir.

JAMES: You haven’t heard of the EPA?

GEORGE: I’m not from around here. Does the environment need protecting, then? Can’t it take care of itself?

JAMES: From my angle, it surely can.

DAV: He’s joking, sir. If it wasn’t for the government protecting the environment, there’d be no environment to protect. There’d be no air to breathe and no land upon which to walk. Life without regulation would be black chaos. Without the government mandating the actions of its peoples for their own good, the people might do anything.

GEORGE: It’s logically true that they might do anything that they can do, but would they do anything? I mean, would people pollute themselves out of existence? Wouldn’t the effects of any environmental damage be self-limiting?

DAV: We can’t afford to find out, sir. And though I’m sure you’re asking for the purest motives, we are coming awfully close to forbidden territory.

GEORGE: Forbidden territory?

DAV: Yes, sir. The Freedom of Speech act forbids people to interfere with the government in the performance of its duties. The government’s speech must remain free, which is only common sense.

RUSS: I’m afraid he’s right about that, mister. If there weren’t free speech, there’d be no chance of a civil society.

JAMES: Free speech, my eye.

RUSS: Careful, now. You’re just upset.

JAMES: Darn right I’m upset. You would be, too, if you knew how she could be. I just know this is going to be my fault! Wait! There she is!

SOUNDS OF A CAR ROARING UP, DOORS SLAMMING. HJ AND MIKE ENTER STAGE LEFT.

HJ: I demand to know what is here going on!

JAMES: I tried to tell, them, ma’am. But—

MIKE: TO DAV DAV.

DAV: TO MIKE Sir.

HJ: What are these bodies? Who switched the on turbine! Why is everybody around standing! Why isn’t anybody anything doing!

JAMES: We are, ma’am. I’ve already started filling out the proper forms—

HJ: Forms! Yet way another for the government to take money my! As if haven’t I paid dear enough!

AT THE SOUND OF THE WORD ‘MONEY’ BAMBI COMES TO LIFE, AND RUSHES THE TURBINE. BERT PURSUES HER.

BAMBI: Money! All you bloodless capitalists care about it money! Nobody cares for the planet!

HJ: Get down here from there!

JAMES: Yes, ma’am!

HJ: I’m not going to have another lawsuit on handS my!

BAMBI HAS CLIMBED HALF WAY UP THE TURBINE, FOLLOWED BY BERT THEN JAMES.

BAMBI: I’ll show you the value of money!

BAMBI JUMPS TO TURBINE BLADES INTENDING TO CAUSE THEM DAMAGE. SHE IS SLICED NEATLY DOWN THE MIDDLE, EACH PART DEPOSITED ON EITHER SIDE OF THE STAGE.

DAV: I don’t have the forms for this…

MIKE: Now, now. No need for concern. We can sort it all out.

HJ: No concern need? Are crazy you! Sheriff, your duty do! Get off them!

RUSS CLIMBS THE TURBINE AFTER BERT AND JAMES.

RUSS: You two get down from there! Don’t make me come up after you!

JAMES: I don’t know how to get down!

HJ: TO GEORGE Something do!

GEORGE: Me? I’m only an observer.

HJ: Observer?! What kind of nonsense that is? Get them off there of!

HJ, FILLED WITH RIGHTEOUS FURY, SCALES THE TURBINE WITH THE OTHERS. ALL ARE SHOUTING. DAV STANDS CATATONIC.

DAV: Forms…forms…

GEORGE: Your colleague appears damaged.

MIKE: Yes. It happens sometimes. No need to worry.

GEORGE: No?

MIKE: No. I have plenty of agents at my disposal.

THE TURBINE, FINALLY OVERCOME BY THE WEIGHT, TILTS. THE SPINNING BLADES HIT THE GROUND, BREAKING TO PIECES, SHRAPNEL FLYING EVERYWHERE. JAMES, DISMEMBERED, ALL FOUR LIMBS, FALLS TO THE GROUND WEEPING. THE LACK OF BLADES CAUSES THE MOTOR TO OVERHEAT AND THE TURBINE CATCHES FIRE. BERT IS CAUGHT IN THE BLAZE. HE TRIES TO GRAB THE MOTOR BUT THE FORCE FLINGS HIM LIKE A COMET INTO THE DISTANCE. HJ, ENRAGED AND IN A BLIND FURY, CATCHES UP TO RUSS AND THROTTLES HIM, CHOKING THE LIFE OUT OF HIM.

HJ: Me why!

THE TURBINE POST SPINS AND FALLS TO THE GROUND, MERE INCHES FROM DAV, CRUSHING HJ.

DAV: No forms…

DAV GRABS HIS HEAD AND FALLS LIKE A PLANK ON HIS FACE. A LONG PAUSE AS WE CONSIDER THE WREAKAGE, SMOLDERING RUINS, AND BODIES.

GEORGE: PHILOSOPHICALLY Does this sort of thing happen very often here?

MIKE: From time to time.

GEORGE: Is this what your colleague meant by protecting the environment?

MIKE: Collateral damage can’t really be avoided, you know. But it’s all for the best. Consider the benefits. Why, in this small incident we have reduced the surplus population and subsequently increased sustainability by a significant percentage!

GEORGE: Most efficiently, too. I wonder if you’d mind coming with me and explaining your techniques to my leaders? We have a surplus population problem, too.

MIKE: It would be my pleasure.

GEORGE AND MIKE WALK OFF INTO THE DISTANCE. END.

7 Comments

  1. Well, I do fall on my face a lot — just ask YOS.

    Those companies with mismatching serial numbers will, of course, resort to selling their ill gotten gains pulled out of thin air on the black market (if they can ever get those things to work). As a recently deceased EPA agent I will be drawn to Ectoplasmic Prosecuting Agency (the government is Eternal, donchya know) to hunt down their enabling evil customers. Our nickname: Ghost Busters.

    Documented here. The Outlaws maybe better.

  2. Ach mon, I get knocked off twice and I dinna even pay. You are right about one thing though, I dinna like the heat.

    Dyslexic billionaire! :-)

  3. Very creative!

  4. Well done!

  5. Brandon Gates

    14 July 2014 at 3:22 am

    Briggs, you have perfectly captured both my Quixotic nature and tendency to take to a soap box and give speeches. But slave to Twitter on my smartphone? Vile heresy of the largest order of magnitude possible!!! 160 characters is barely enough to contain my utmost loquacious verbosity. Unless I’m sloganeering … which I have disturbingly been accused of being good at doing.

    These minor outrages aside, a hearty well-done is in order. I laughed most merrily reading this. Thank you.

  6. Your enemies are ever present, even in award-winning drama. Though perhaps WREAKAGE is the correct terminology? Wreaking Havoc, creating Wreakage?

  7. I’d pay even more to be the villian in the next saga…

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