Fatal Purr (Part 2)

Part 1

The ENGINEERS back into the new wall and spin around in horror as another begins to lower behind the stack of toys. As it hits the ground with a thud, a third and fourth wall descend, trapping the scene from sight. The ENGINEERS begin to scream above the sirenesque chant of the TOYS before all sound is lost beneath another orchestral flourish. The fourth wall collapses forward, revealing an office empty of life but now fully-furnished. The door swings back on its hinges, and CLANK and SCUFFLE usher in SERAGLIO, a garishly-dressed man in cheap sunglasses and an oily comb-over. SERAGLIO carries a small white box wrapped in pink ribbon.

SCUFFLE: And this will be your office.

SERAGLIO: The tour, he was so short! The sum of your tiny strides was greater than the whole of him.

CLANK: We showed you the warehouse.

SCUFFLE: What more do you want?

SERAGLIO: What about the workers? If you wish me to advertise this product, I must first soak in the sweat and musk of the men who made him! Qué tal!

CLANK: The workers…

SCUFFLE: Are…

CLANK: Very ill.

SERAGLIO: All of them?

SCUFFLE: Hideously ill.

SERAGLIO: Tostadas y salsa! Don’t they get sick leave?

CLANK: Chronically hideous.

SCUFFLE: A disfiguring disease.

CLANK: They won’t be seen.

SERAGLIO: I see.

SCUFFLE: No, you can’t.

CLANK: You’d be better off just talking with Mr. Commission.

SERAGLIO: This is my employer, yes?

SCUFFLE: Yes.

SERAGLIO: When can I meet this great man?

CLANK: You can’t.

SCUFFLE: Directly.

CLANK: You can communicate with him through us.

SCUFFLE: Or through this Mr. Commission Personal Desktop Fetish.

SCUFFLE produces a scale model statuette of Mr. Commission and places it on the desk in an overarching manner reminiscent of cracked skulls. Even in reduced size, the statuette dominates the scene.

CLANK: Any more questions?

SERAGLIO: I have only as many questions of you as you must have of me. Nevertheless, many have known me as baffling or mysterious, so I must ask: this sample you gave me in the warehouse…

SERAGLIO unwraps the white box and pulls out a lump of wood with a spring stuck on one end and a bright yellow smiley-face sticker slapped on the other.

SERAGLIO: What is he?

SCUFFLE: That’s a sample of our product. Okay?

CLANK: Okay.

SCUFFLE: Good day.

CLANK and SCUFFLE exit, locking the door behind them. SERAGLIO holds the wooden thing aloft quizzically.

SERAGLIO: Yes, but what is he? What does he do?

A quickly-scribbled label hangs from the end of the spring. SERAGLIO finds this and reads it.

SERAGLIO: “Patches, domestic shorthair.” This is a cat? Where are the legs? How will he ignite the fire in young hearts without the legs? You disgust me, you mangy plague-carrying beast of pine! You are no cat!

SERAGLIO throws the thing down in disgust. As it hits the desk, the statuette’s eyes light up, and a staticky voice rises from within its foreshortened depths.

MR. COMMISSION: You’ve finally arrived.

SERAGLIO: Queremos pagar separado! The truncated hell-breed speaks!

MR. COMMISSION: I assume you’ve already met my associates, Clank and Scuffle.

SERAGLIO: The dark one may have granted you the gift of tongues, but see how far your knotty stumps can carry you! My soul is safe from your wiles!

SERAGLIO leaps atop a chair.

MR. COMMISSION: Enjoy your time here, while it lasts. You’ll find I treat this particular department with special care.

SERAGLIO: This cat is my employer?

SERAGLIO scoops up the “toy” and dusts it off gingerly.

SERAGLIO: I apologize from the deepest oceans of blood in my heart. If I had understood…

MR. COMMISSION: You might say that, of all the toys in this factory, you’re my new favorite. What shall I call you?

SERAGLIO: I am Seraglio, Public Relations Deity! No intiendo!

SERAGLIO strikes a romance-novel pose, causing the spring to detach from the poorly constructed toy. He immediately drops to his knees and begins crawling around the floor in search.

MR. COMMISSION: Now, how am I supposed to remember that? I can barely pronounce it. No, rather I will call you…Captain Hippopotamus.

SERAGLIO finds the spring and jams it back into the toy. When he holds it up to inspect his handiwork, he realizes that he has punctured its vacant black eye. In his hasty attempt to remove the erronious spring, he accidentally flings the entire mess over his shoulder and into the wastebasket, which is inexplicably filled with dirty-looking tissues.

MR. COMMISSION: We will have such fun together, Captain Hippopotamus. Talking into the night, sharing ideas for jingles and tag-lines…I’ve been working on a jingle, you know. I’m not much of a singer, but…

As SERAGLIO finishes sifting through the tissues and pulls out the battered toy, a few tinkling notes come through the statuette, and MR. COMMISSION begins to sing.

MR. COMMISSION: Boys and girls, it’s time to cheer

Here’s the answer to your fears

The joy to end all joys is here

So scream and shout

They never…

The music stops abruptly.

MR. COMMISSION: This piano sounds like a chihuahua giving birth. I hope it wasn’t like that when I wrote the thing, or the whole song’s bound to be out of tune.

SERAGLIO shakes the toy and holds it to his ear. Bewildered, he slides along on his knees and puts his ear to the desk. He looks at the statuette as if just becoming aware of its presence.

SERAGLIO: You are speaking with the aid of a radio that is broadly casting your voice to me?

MR. COMMISSION: Yes, a radio. We can’t speak in person, you know. It’s really too bad about that piano. It’s a very catchy little ditty. All about what we’re really all about here.

SERAGLIO: That is the question I have been wondering. What exactly do you make?

MR. COMMISSION: Minimally Invasive Toys: we don’t just make diversions; we build machines.

SERAGLIO: But what are these machines? What do they do?

MR. COMMISSION: Oh, we manufacture Feline Replacement Products. I thought you knew already.

SERAGLIO: Feline…

MR. COMMISSION: Prosthetic pets. Cats, precisely. The main line is called Kit-N-Ex, but we also make a number of upgrades and accessories.

SERAGLIO: What accessories could a lifeless animal need?

MR. COMMISSION: We prefer not to make distinctions between the living and the dead, here. As far as accessories go, ours need the same things as any pet: food, toys, embarassing halloween costumes..

SERAGLIO: A toy needs toys?

MR. COMMISSION: Why not? People need people, don’t they?

SERAGLIO: And it is my job to make people want this…Kit-N-Ex.

MR. COMMISSION: Oh, people want it already. It’s your job to remind them how much they want it.

SERAGLIO: The task, he is far greater than my imagination of him. However, do not wet your cheeks with tears just yet. I know that I can accomplish this thing that you have asked of me. I will advertize this product! And to do this thing, I will call upon the secret and ancient power that dwells within me. You see, I have a way with men.

The orchestra parades into the heroic melody of “The Way Of The Seraglio.”SERAGLIO begins narcissistically to sing.

SERAGLIO: Why wouldn’t they be

Quite naturally

Entrancéd by me

When all they can see

Is my valiant stare

My shimmering hair

And let’s not forget

My gallons of chest-hair

Yes! I have a way with men

They swarm me like flies

Just to look in my eyes

So deep and so wise

That it gives them a rise

I’m gracious

Inflatious

But do not dare call me flirtatious

I just have a way with men

When I’m walking down the street

Angry mobs of wives surround me

Kick and punch and bite me ‘til I bleed

They think I steal their men away

But I just help those poor boys stay

With those who can not satisfy their needs

SERAGLIO begins a bizarre, auto-erotic dance. The silence coming through the statuette seems to ooze discomfort. SERAGLIO resumes singing, obviously out of breath.

SERAGLIO: It does not take a special man

To do the tango or the can-can

But my forbidden dance is seldom done

For I know that my powers could

Be used toward the greater good

Or, at least, be good for everyone

From inside his shirt, SERAGLIO draws a thick, stained bundle of papers, which he flips through zealously as he sings.

SERAGLIO: My conquests:

In Italy

Six hundred and forty

In Germany

Or France, Or Turkey

Numerously

Voluminously

But in Spain, oh in Spain

One thousand and three

Oh! I have a way with them

I’m a god in my field

For the prowess I wield

Great nations must yield

To my masculine build

My father’s so proud

He squeals out loud

That his son could be one

To stand out from the crowd

Such is my way with men

My sexual esprit

Is a manatee

Yes it’s plain to see

That even I want me!

I have a way with men

The song concludes, leaving the sweaty, panting SERAGLIO in silence. The statuette emits a few crackles.

MR. COMMISSION: Okay. I have to make an announcement on the main intercom. I’ll be right back.

The statuette’s eyes die down, leaving the room in silence. SERAGLIO begins to pace, mumbling to himself in Spanish. An idea hits him. He dives into the chair, launching it sideways. However, he catches himself on a corner of the desk, pulls himself back into position, grabs a pen, and realizes he has no paper. He searches the drawers, but finds nothing to write on. Another idea hits him, and he grabs the box of tissues off the desk, pulls one out, and jots something down. When finished, he reads it out to himself.

SERAGLIO: “For making lights in the eyes of children, these things that are not cats are much better than living cats or ones that have been stuffed.”

Apparently not satisfied, SERAGLIO crumples the tissue and tosses it into the wastebasket. He draws another from the box, unaware that this is the last one, and writes something else, this time with more consideration. Again, he reads it out.

SERAGLIO: “The cat, he is the most graceful of all things, of which only men and swans are in possession of more grace. So why would you want to replace him? This is a mystery of life.”

SERAGLIO rejects this as well. However, when he reaches for another tissue, he realizes that the box is empty. With a shudder, he reaches into the wastebasket and pulls out a used one, only to discover that this has writing on it already. He reads aloud.

SERAGLIO: “Day seven: I have become convinced that I’m going to die here. The tiny people bring me food and water, but they never forget to lock the door behind them.”

SERAGLIO stands and checks the door, finding it locked. He continues to read.

SERAGLIO: “Meanwhile, this statue babbles constantly, vanquishing any hope of sleep. I’ve decided that this is no factory, but instead a sadistic laboratory run by evil leprochauns. The statue must be the key to their spell. If I break the statue, I may have a chance.” Signed by Matt Maddigan.

SERAGLIO reaches into the wastebasket and unfolds another tissue. Instead of writing, however, this one is soaked through with blood. He unfolds another, and another, all spattered with blood. With a roar, the office’s ventilation begins spewing bloody tissues into the room. They form a dense red cloud around SERAGLIO as he becomes more and more frantic. As the orchestra flourishes, a row of bathroom stalls extends across the stage, hiding the scene from sight. The orchestra dies away, leaving the stage in an irreverent hush. A voice rises tentatively from the leftmost stall.

ENGINEER #1: Are you sure it’s okay to hide in the men’s room?

Another voice responds from the adjacent stall.

ENGINEER #24: I told you: we’re not hiding, we’re on break.

From the rightmost stall, a voice seems nonplussed.

ENGINEER #108: We’re not hiding?

ENGINEER #24: No!

ENGINEER #108: Why the hell not?

ENGINEER #24: Okay, we’ll hide a little bit for your benefit.

ENGINEER #1: I’m pretty sure hiding during work hours is against company policy.

The voice of reason drifts up from the center stall.

ENGINEER #57: Listen, nobody can call it hiding if we open our doors, right? And we’re still a safe distance from those…toys.

Murmuring agreement, the ENGINEERS open the doors to their stalls but stay seated on their shiny chrome toilets.

ENGINEER #1: Now I’m just bored.

ENGINEER #24: That’s it! Do you want me to come over there?

ENGINEER #1: What, like in the stall with me?

ENGINEER #24: Yes!

ENGINEER #1: Wouldn’t that be kind of awkward? I mean, I’m on the toilet here.

ENGINEER #108: As are we all, kid. As are we all.

ENGINEER #57: Number one’s right, though. We’re in a place of meditation and relief; let’s not foul the air with our base divisions.

ENGINEER #24: Wait, are you calling me a butt?

ENGINEER #57: Of course not.

ENGINEER #24: Yes you are! You called me a base division!

ENGINEER #1: I know you are, but what am I?

ENGINEER #24: I wasn’t talking to you!

ENGINEER #1: I know you weren’t, but what wasn’t…I…being talked…you’re still a butt.

ENGINEER #24: You’ll pay for that…through the nose!

ENGINEER #1: What are you, like some kind of rhinophile?

ENGINEER #24: That’s my personal business!

ENGINEER #108: Shh!

The ENGINEERS immediately quieten.

ENGINEER #108: Listen! Do you smell tuna fish?

ENGINEER #24: Oh, don’t be paranoid.

ENGINEER #57: No, he’s right. I can smell it too.

ENGINEER #1: Where do you think it’s coming from?

ENGINEER #57: My pants.

ENGINEER #1: The men’s room is no place for crude jokes.

ENGINEER #57: No, really. It’s my lunch.

ENGINEER #24: Now that’s taking it a little too far, don’t you think?

ENGINEER #108: But…we haven’t had lunch yet.

ENGINEER #24: My point exactly. The implications are many and varied and guaranteed to turn your stomach. Think about it, long and hard.

The ENGINEERS follow this advice, which follows through on its guarantee.

ENGINEER #57: No, you really don’t understand. I didn’t know how long we’d be in here, so I stowed my lunch away in the crotch of my jumpsuit. There’s plenty for everybody, in fact.

ENGINEER #24: No, thank you. I don’t eat crotch-baggage.

ENGINEER #108: What do you got?

ENGINEER #57: A few cans of tuna.

ENGINEER #1: You were planning to eat it from the can?

ENGINEER #57: A sandwich would never keep. It gets mighty humid down there.

ENGINEER #1: That’s still sick. You’re a sick man, you know that?

ENGINEER #108: Anything to drink?

ENGINEER #57: Well, tuna-juice.

ENGINEER #108: Toss it over.

ENGINEER #57 extracts a can of tuna from the dank recesses of his jumpsuit. ENGINEER #1 shakes his head in disgust.

ENGINEER #1: You’re both sick. You’re a few sick men.

ENGINEER #57: The only problem is, I left the can-opener back at my post. Didn’t feel comfortable with a kitchen tool of that versatility swimming around in such a delicate area.

ENGINEER #108: A can of tuna’s no good if it’s all can and no tuna.

ENGINEER #24: You could crack it against the seat, like an oyster on a rock.

ENGINEER #57 gives the can a few clanging whacks against the side of his toilet bowl.

ENGINEER #1: Okay. You’re lucky I’m already in a bathroom stall, because now the only one left to be sick is me.

The tanks of all the toilets flip open suddenly, and Mr. Commission statuettes rise from within, eyes already glowing. Tendrils of steam curl up as a by-now-familiar voice fills the room in surround sound, multiplied even more by public-restroom echoes.

MR. COMMISSION: Announcement: the Public Relations Replacement Head has been secured. All teams resume normal function. In compensation for the unfortunate delay, a recreational activity has been added to today’s schedule. The team to yield the greatest output during the next hour wins increased job security and a sense of pride. Participation is mandatory; idle teams will be penalized. Minimally Invasive Toys: because fun, like life, should come with a price tag.

The statuettes recede back into the steamy tanks.

ENGINEER #57: I guess it’s back to work.

ENGINEER #108: No way. I’m not going back there until we know those things are gone.

ENGINEER #24: You talk as if they want to hurt us. You helped build them; they can’t be that dangerous.

ENGINEER #108: They scare you too. Admit it.

ENGINEER #57: They scare us all. Nonetheless, I’m sure that nothing they can accomplish from within their packaging could compare to what will happen to us if we don’t get back to work.

ENGINEER #108: You’re sure?

ENGINEER #57: Reasonably confident. At least fifty percent.

ENGINEER #108: I’m still not going back.

ENGINEER #1: Right! They can’t just order us back and forth like this. What are we, minimum wage slaves?

ENGINEER #57: Come on, or Clank and Scuffle will have our heads.

ENGINEER #108: They can’t. We’re hiding.

ENGINEER #1: They couldn’t reach anyway.

ENGINEER #57: They’ll have our kneecaps.

ENGINEER #24: Look, you’re screwing us all over here. What can we do to convince you to get back to work?

ENGINEER #108: I have no problem with doing my job. I love my job. It’s the work environment that bothers me. Hey, maybe you could bring the equipment in here!

ENGINEER #24: How about if one of us were to go back in there and remove those crates personally?

ENGINEER #108: Sure, that would work too.

ENGINEER #24: Great! Now, who’s going to do it?

ENGINEER #57: I’ll go.

ENGINEER #24: You’re a brave man, number fifty-seven. Oh…but…

ENGINEER #57: What?

ENGINEER #24: Watch your nose, alright?

ENGINEER #57: I’ll be fine. At least I know if we don’t get back to work, that’s certain death. This way it’s a little iffy.

ENGINEER #24: No, I really mean it. You’ve taught me a lot, and…well…

The orchestra jumps without warning into “L’Odeur,a manic little carnivalesque ditty. ENGINEER #24 begins to sing.

ENGINEER #24: Because a nose is a many-splendored thing

Fit to treasure with a golden ring

When you’re breathing in it sucks

And when you’re…

ENGINEER #1: I’m sick of hearing you talk about noses. Can’t you sing about some other body part?

The music stops abruptly.

ENGINEER #24: But…I had the song all ready, and it rhymes really well.

ENGINEER #1: Too bad.

ENGINEER #24: Fine…

The music begins again, and ENGINEER #24 sings rather irately.

ENGINEER #24: Because toes are many splendored things

Fit to treasure with golden rings

When you’re breathing in it sucks

And when you’re breathing out it blows

But it’s still great to have toes

Oh it’s divine, the way that it can smell

No other body part does it so well

When baking cookies, toeses’re really swell

Try cutting yours off, that’s how Oedipus fell!

Well…

You should touch your toes every day

In a very very special way

Now I’m feeling perky

From my toes to my toes

But my perkiest part is my toes

Oh it’s a sin, the way that it can feel

When your nasty sunburn starts to heal

And then your toeses’ skin begins to peel

You should slather on sunblock, that’s part of the deal!

There are those who say there’s magic in ‘em

If you can learn to wiggle them about

The immortal sphinx lives with his missin’

But me, I’d rather die than go without

But your toes can be as fragile as an egg

Excessive heat can be a bloody plague

Plug up the holes and elevate

Until the bleeding slows

And then you’ve fixed your toes

It’s easy!

Oh it’s absurd, the way that it can please

Without the slightest hint of filth or sleaze

They say an orgasm is like a sneeze

Except you can wear clothes, so your nipples won’t freeze!

Also, this you can do on a crowded subway train, but not on the kitchen table.

Yes I really really really really like them

I really really really really really really really really really like them

A rose by any other name

Would still smell like a rose

And the same goes for your nose

Oh it’s pure crap, the way that I can sing

For bars and bars about some stupid thing

That isn’t even worth a penguin’s wing

It’s nose, not toes, you bloody fucking…

The music trails off.

ENGINEER #24: Anyway…be careful…it would suck for all of us if you came back hideously mutilated and dead and everything…

ENGINEER #57: Well, if you put it that way, I think I’ll stay here. I happen to like my toes.

ENGINEER #108 wails in dismay.

ENGINEER #108: Then who’ll move the boxes for me?

ENGINEER #1: Why don’t you, number twenty-four?

ENGINEER #24: I can’t; I came up with the plan.

ENGINEER #1: Well, I can’t do it. I’m on strike.

ENGINEER #24: Since when?

ENGINEER #1: Since the time came to stand up for our rights as workers. I think I’ll organize a sit-in.

ENGINEER #108: Where?

ENGINEER #1: Right here.

ENGINEER #57: I really don’t think that would be a good move. This could cost us far more than our jobs.

ENGINEER #1: Well, they should have thought of that before they messed with us, am I right?

ENGINEER #57: What?

ENGINEER #24: For once, I think I agree with you. I’m tired of being treated like an interchangeable part.

ENGINEER #1: No regard, no work hard, am I right?

ENGINEER #57: What?

ENGINEER #108 begins to chant.

ENGINEER #108: No Regard, No Work Hard! No Regard, No Work Hard!

ENGINEER #24 joins the chant as both men begin stomping their feet in rhythm.

ENGINEER #24: No Regard, No Work Hard!

ENGINEER #1: Yeah, but keep it down because we still don’t want them to know we’re here.

ENGINEER #57: I can’t believe we’re doing this.

All four ENGINEERS continue the chant at a whisper. Suddenly, ENGINEER #108 stands and freezes.

ENGINEER #108: Wait! This must stop!

ENGINEER #1: What could be important enough to halt our steadfast shuffle toward justice?

ENGINEER #108: I never got my tuna.

ENGINEER #57 realizes that he still holds a dripping, cracked tuna can in one hand.

ENGINEER #57: Oh yeah, I forgot about that. It’s lost most of its juice; do you still want it?

ENGINEER #108: Dry tuna? That’s sick!

ENGINEER #57: Are you sure? I could squeeze out my sleeve over it; that ought to help.

ENGINEER #108: No thanks, the mood’s gone now.

ENGINEER #24: What are you going to do with it now?

ENGINEER #57: I’d better flush it. I don’t really feel like tuna today.

ENGINEER #1: You can’t flush a tin can down the toilet.

ENGINEER #57: Sure you can. Built-in incinerator, saves on plumbing. Watch.

ENGINEER #57 lifts the lid of the toilet and drops the can into the bowl. Then, he steps back and pushes the handle. After a short inverted noise, the bowl emits a brilliant flash and a hollow snap, then shoots a geyser of steam upward a minimum of three feet.

ENGINEER #24: Now I remember why I only use the urinal around here.

ENGINEER #1: What’s with the steam, though?

ENGINEER #57 shrugs.

ENGINEER #57: Saves on toilet paper.

ENGINEER #24: At least it’s not microwaves.

ENGINEER #108: Weren’t we in the middle of something?

ENGINEER #1: That’s right, the sit-in! If we don’t take this seriously, our murmurs of protest may never be answered. The time to unite is as good as any, am I right?

ENGINEER #57: What?

The row of stalls gives a jerk, throwing the ENGINEERS against the walls and slamming the doors shut. Against yet another orchestral flourish, the bathroom set proceeds to retract back into the wings, revealing SERAGLIO still hunched shaking in his office, buried in crimson-blotched tissues. As the desktop statuette’s eyes light up, he jumps, creating a small cardinal-spotted flurry around his shoulders. An easily-predicted personage speaks from the statuette.

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