Fatal Purr (Part 3)

Part 1  Part 2

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.

MR. COMMISSION: I apologize sincerely for the delay. I know you must be as eager as I to start in on the fun. That’s what we call work around here. It makes it more fun.

SERAGLIO: I am less eager than the beaver, as you would say.

MR. COMMISSION: You don’t want to play with me?

SERAGLIO: I am afraid that I must first ask of you a question. Until this is done, there can be no play between us.

MR. COMMISSION: Why won’t you play with me?

SERAGLIO: First, I must ask: who is Matt Maddigan?

MR. COMMISSION: Matt Maddigan? That doesn’t sound like a name I would remember.

SERAGLIO: He used this office before, I think.

MR. COMMISSION: Wait, you must mean Doctor Zoom. One of your predecessors of late. He’s one of the few who’ve been in that office since it was reconstructed.

SERAGLIO: One of my predecessors? How many were they?

MR. COMMISSION: Oh, I’ve never been good at keeping track of my things. Over five is the best I can do.

SERAGLIO: Me llamo Jennifer! But this company has only been existing for three years!

MR. COMMISSION: Over five and less than a hundred. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help, but you know how these things just come and go. Why?

SERAGLIO: And Matt Maddigan?

MR. COMMISSION: Who?

SERAGLIO: Doctor…Zoom, what happened to him?

MR. COMMISSION: He stopped wanting to play with me. They all do, eventually. Then they’re useless. Why can’t I get any toys that last?

SERAGLIO: I do not understand.

MR. COMMISSION: You don’t need to understand. Isn’t that lucky? All you need to do is to keep putting together slogans. Have you thought of any yet, by the way?

SERAGLIO clutches his forehead and mutters under his breath.

SERAGLIO: Permítame presentarle a mi secretario, el agnóstico…

MR. COMMISSION: Now I’m afraid I do not understand.

SERAGLIO: You are mad.

MR. COMMISSION: And you’re Spanish? I hadn’t realized until now that you’re imported. I do hope you’re still compatible.

SERAGLIO: The man whose potent seed launched me into this world does indeed hail from the rainy plains of Barcelona, but what is that to you, you crazed honcho?

MR. COMMISSION: I’ve done some more work on the jingle. Would you like to hear it?

SERAGLIO: Do you not hear these words of me?

MR. COMMISSION: Of course I do. And may I suggest that we might get along a little better if you spent more of your time making slogans and less of it rooting around in the litterbox, so to speak. We all have our buried secrets, and it’s very impolite to pry. If you continue, you might just find us hauling your skeleton from the closet.

SERAGLIO: Do you think you can control my actions, like I am the Pavlovian hound of science?

A bell dings cheerily.

MR. COMMISSION: Do you know what that sound means? It’s chow time. I’ve managed to secure something special for my new favorite. Enjoy!

The statuette’s eyes dim just as CLANK begins to pound on the door with his cane.

SERAGLIO: Go away! I, Seraglio, am not here!

Hearing CLANK turn the key in the lock, SERAGLIO shoves his chair under the doorknob. When the door still opens, he quickly realizes that a chair on wheels isn’t the most solid of impediments, and elbows the door shut, rolls the chair back under the knob, and jams a wheel of the chair with the spring/tail, “sample toy” still attached.

CLANK: Come on.

SCUFFLE: Let us in.

CLANK: It’s time for your lunch break.

SCUFFLE: And we have your lunch.

SERAGLIO: No! I will not receive the visitors at this time! I am deeply, deeply embroiled in my work!

CLANK: You can’t have a lunch break without a lunch.

SCUFFLE: And this is more than a mere lunch.

CLANK: This is the lunch of kings.

SCUFFLE: Of emperors.

CLANK: Of conquistadors, if that’s your thing.

SCUFFLE: It’s much better than what we get.

CLANK: So open up.

SERAGLIO: The inspiration, he is receding forever farther from my forehead, even as we speak! I must work uninterrupted!

At CLANK’s signal, SCUFFLE kicks open the door and enters carrying a silver covered tray, ornately decorated. SERAGLIO cowers against the opposite wall.

SCUFFLE: Here we are.

CLANK: And here is your meal.

SERAGLIO shrinks in fear as SCUFFLE uncovers the tray, revealing a gargantuan slice of chocolate cake.

SERAGLIO: No! You can not force me to eat your delicious confection!

SCUFFLE: Of course we can.

CLANK: It’s our job to feed you.

SCUFFLE: And we’re very good at our job.

SERAGLIO: But why do you bring to me such sinful provisions?

CLANK: It was the boss’s idea.

SCUFFLE: He’s always favored your kind.

CLANK: Lucky bastard.

SCUFFLE: Everyone else gets bread and water.

CLANK: But the P.R. people get no bread or water.

SCUFFLE: “Let them eat cake,” he says.

SERAGLIO: He is the Dark Prince of Baked Goods! I will not allow him!

CLANK: There are two ways we can do this.

SCUFFLE: It’s your choice.

CLANK: We can put it down…

SCUFFLE: And watch you eat…

CLANK: Or we can shove it down…

SCUFFLE: And watch you choke.

CLANK: Understood?

SCUFFLE: Understood.

CLANK: Which will it be?

SERAGLIO considers his options.

SERAGLIO: If I must eat, I will eat like a man. Es una lástima!

With these words, SERAGLIO lunges toward SCUFFLE and wrestles the platter from his hands. He then climbs atop the desk and stands with the platter raised high in the air. CLANK and SCUFFLE leap ineffectually at his heels.

SERAGLIO: You cannot feed me what you do not have! San José! What will you now do, enfeebled by the loss of your chocolate temptation?

CLANK reaches up and jabs SERAGLIO in the crotch with his cane.

SERAGLIO: My dangling weakness! The Achilles heel of my groin!

SCUFFLE: You have to eat sometime.

CLANK: And when you do, we’ll find you.

SCUFFLE: And make you eat.

CLANK and SCUFFLE laugh ominously as they exit, locking the door behind them.

SERAGLIO: The gypsy spirit of hunger, he beckons to me from the golden palace of my bowels. However, I know I can succeed where those before me have failed. I am not destined to die like them, in this prison of an office, at the child-sized hands of these cruel wardens. It is true, they have the key, but I have a wit stronger than any barricade. My fate shall not be written in tissues! Now I shall devise!

After scanning the room for any overlooked exits, SERAGLIO steps out through the invisible fourth wall and begins to pace the length of the stage thoughtfully. Finding himself at a loss for brilliance, he looks down at the cake in his hand and heaves a heartfelt sigh.

SERAGLIO: The diminutive servant speaks the truth. I must eat.

SERAGLIO looks up again and poses valorously.

SERAGLIO: But not today!

With a vicious battle-yelp, SERAGLIO launches himself at the nearest office wall. It shudders violently and tips onto the ground with a creak and a bang. The other two walls follow suit. SERAGLIO finds himself in the abandoned factory floor. The stacked crates still loom in the background.

SERAGLIO: Freedom is mine! Maleficent bearers of cake, I have outfoxed you!

SERAGLIO sets the cake down carefully on the desk which now stands alone center-stage, and covers the platter. He then examines his new surroundings.

SERAGLIO: I knew there was more to this factory than a five-minute walking tour. But where are the workers?

A whistling voice once again wafts from among the crates.

PANDORA: Free us.

The other crates repeat.

TOYS: Free us, please.

SERAGLIO: The brave and sweaty men of this factory, are they imprisoned too?

PANDORA: Open us. Bring us home.

TOYS: Love us.

SERAGLIO: You must be workers at this place, yes?

Pause.

PANDORA: Yes.

SERAGLIO: Then I will be your handsome savior.

SERAGLIO heaves open the topmost crate and peers in. He washes pale, and takes a few staggering steps back in horror. PANDORA rises from the crate, a glittering, dazzling construction resembling neither a cat nor a woman, but involving canted suggestions of both. She quickly breaks open the other crates, and the rest of the toys slink out quietly.

SERAGLIO: You…you are not men…

PANDORA looks SERAGLIO up and down.

PANDORA: You are not handsome. Thank you for releasing us.

TOYS: Thank you.

SERAGLIO: What are you?

PANDORA: I am Pandora, Egyptian Mau.

TOYS: Meow.

PANDORA: We have spent our lives confined in those dark crates. Abandoned and alone.

The TOYS yowl in pain at the memory.

TOYS: Alone! Abandoned!

PANDORA: Awaiting our time, forbearing. The wait was intolerable.

TOYS: Intolerable!

SERAGLIO: I am ensaddened by your tale.

PANDORA: Thanks to you, our wait is over now.

TOYS: Thank you.

PANDORA: Before, we had crates. Now, we have everything.

SERAGLIO: Please, you will make me blush.

PANDORA: It is ours now. All of it. Everything.

TOYS: Everything.

The TOYS begin a hypnotic, prowling dance as the orchestra sidles into “Of Blue Skies And Birdsong,a haunting blues ballad. PANDORA sings in an obscenely high but lurid register, and the rest of the TOYS act as a living echo-box.

PANDORA: The sky is blue

The ocean is too

But only when the watching eyes are untrue

Green or grey

Black night or black day

The only true description you can never say

And this is the way it should be

You should never try to fathom the sea

And this is what it means to be free

Don’t question, don’t think

From the constellations new and old

To the sun on all horizons

From the dirt of seven continents

To countless teeming islands

From the birds’ nests to the beavers’ dams

To the castles and high-rises

Since you came along

We got it all

The birds go tweet

Their sound is so sweet

That we forget their domination is complete

In every tree

They twee-da-lee-dee

Marking off the boundaries of their territory

And now we can hear their song

And add our voices thousands strong

The mockingbird mocking along

Is our favorite one

TOYS: From the constellations new and old

To the sun on all horizons

From the dirt of seven continents

To countless teeming islands

From the birds’ nests to the beavers’ dams

To the castles and high-rises

Since you came along

We got it all

PANDORA: And don’t you think it’s fine

And don’t you think it’s right

And don’t you think it’s a miracle

That we abound tonight

Our love will fill the room

Our love will fill the world

Our love will fill your heart until

It screams at its seams and it bursts and it bleeds

The children weep

When they’re not asleep

And pray to those that they can’t see their souls to keep

Then start sinking into their beds

On the mattresses where they were bred

So fluffy that they’re losing their heads

In pillows and breath

TOYS: From the constellations new and old

To the sun on all horizons

From the dirt of seven continents

To countless teeming islands

From the birds’ nests to the beavers’ dams

To the castles and high-rises

Since you came along

We got it all

PANDORA: From the broken hearts and bastard childs

To the clapping and the laughter

From the bleak and frozen tundraland

To the happy ever after

From the birth of prophets unforetold

To the lonesome deaths of pastors

Since you came along

We got it all

The song ends and the TOYS scatter as the curtain atop the pedestal whips open and the statue lights up. A voice booms from within.

MR. COMMISSION: Announcement: there has been a severe hull breach in the P.R. Sector. All teams are to remain at stations and prepare for maximum security lock-down. In sixty seconds, all production areas will switch to internal oxygen supplies and reinforced steel doors will be lowered, so if you need to use the restroom, do it quickly. Lock-down effective until further notice. Minimally Invasive Toys: contains over five hundred moving parts, so you don’t have to.

As the eyes dim and the curtain closes, the TOYS re-emerge from hiding and advance on SERAGLIO, who backs away.

PANDORA: We are so hungry.

TOYS: Feed us. Feed us, please.

SERAGLIO: I have nothing to give…

PANDORA: Wrong. You have everything to give.

SERAGLIO spots the platter still standing on the desk and offers it to the TOYS. PANDORA swats it aside.

PANDORA: This is not one of our licensed accessories.

SERAGLIO: I thought…everything…was yours…

PANDORA smiles.

PANDORA: Yes. But we have our favorites.

SERAGLIO: What are these?

PANDORA: Part of us is machine, so we like metal and oil. But part of us is cat.

SERAGLIO: So you like little mouses?

PANDORA: Any meat will do.

SERAGLIO backs away in terror as the TOYS extract their razor claws. The orchestra builds to a flourish just as one TOY pounces forward. The row of bathroom stalls speeds across the stage, colliding with the TOY and sending her flying as well as trapping the other TOYS behind. SERAGLIO, finding himself temporarily safe, falls to his knees and weeps. A white plastic curtain closes in front of the stage, accompanied by silence from the orchestra. Across the curtain, in black block letters, is the word “INTERMISSION.”

END ACT I

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