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The Car




THE CAR


by Eric Ferguson

Copyright © 1995 by Eric Ferguson.
All rights reserved.
5732 Bossen Terrace #2
Minneapolis, MN 55417
voice/fax: (612)726-6364
<fergie@pioneerplanet.infi.net>


(Blackout. Engine noises are heard. Sound of a car engine stalling. Lights come up. There are four chairs, arranged as the front and back seats of a car. No other set or props are used. Driver is sitting in the driver's seat. He wears a neat, well fitting business suit. Passenger is seated in the back seat. He or she wears a suit similar to Driver's but it is unkempt and too large, with the jacket unbuttoned, shirt hanging out etc.)


DRIVER

Oh no, what now?


PASSENGER

Why are we stopped, did you hit another bump or get another flat?


DRIVER

Be quiet and close your eyes. I'll make some engine noises with my mouth and you'll think we're moving again. ( He makes some engine noises. He coughs.)


PASSENGER

What happened to your rhetoric?


DRIVER

Just see what's wrong.


PASSENGER

You see what's wrong. It's your car.


DRIVER

I let you share it, don't I?


PASSENGER

Share it? You never let me drive. I'm always stuck in the back somewhere.


DRIVER

Well, it's very nice of me to carry you along.


PASSENGER

Carry me along! I fix the flats, I pay for the gas to keep this thing going. I give you more than you deserve.


DRIVER

You don't give me more than I deserve. I have earned everything I am given by virtue of being the driver.


PASSENGER

Who made you the driver? I didn't vote for you.


DRIVER

This car isn't a democracy. I was born a driver. By virtue of having been born into a certain place, I have earned everything that's given to me or that I can lay my hands on.


PASSENGER

This is absurd. So what now?


DRIVER

Get out and see what's wrong.


PASSENGER

You're the driver. You see what's wrong.


DRIVER

I've been in the driver's seat, what, about a hundred and fifty years now? I'm not getting out.


PASSENGER

Oh all right. (Gets out of car.) So what do I do now?


DRIVER

Look at the tires.


PASSENGER

(Looks at the tires.) Yeah?


DRIVER

Look at the taillights.


PASSENGER

Why the taillights?


DRIVER

They're at the surface. I don't want to bother digging down into anything.


PASSENGER

Ok, what's next?


DRIVER

The license plate.


PASSENGER

Well, most of the plate is covered with mud, but the motto "the state of prosperity" is still readable. Must be for the filthy rich. (Laughs. Driver doesn't join in.)


DRIVER

Check the brakeline.


PASSENGER

The what?


DRIVER

The brakeline.


PASSENGER

We've never bothered with the brakeline before.


DRIVER

We're bothering with it this time.


PASSENGER

Where is the the brakeline?


DRIVER

Well, uh, let me think.


PASSENGER

It's your thinking that got us into this mess.


DRIVER

My thinking?!


PASSENGER

Yes, your thinking.


DRIVER

You don't really think so.


PASSENGER

I don't do the thinking, you do.


DRIVER

That's how it ought to be.


PASSENGER

Perhaps it's time I started driving a car. A car with room in the front for everybody .


DRIVER

Perhaps I ought to let you touch the steering wheel.


PASSENGER

Of course you may do the thinking and driving as long as you like. That is the natural order of things.


DRIVER

I'm glad you realize it. Now check the brakeline.


PASSENGER

Well, where the heck is the brakeline?


DRIVER

Look under the car.


PASSENGER

Under?!


DRIVER

Yes.


PASSENGER

But you said, and I quote, "I don't want to bother digging down into anything."


DRIVER

At the time I meant digging down wouldn't be worth it. Now I think I shall change it to mean that I don't want to dig down into it. Now get down there.


PASSENGER

All right. (Passenger looks under the car and gets up again.) Oh, hey, there's some guy stuck under the car.


DRIVER

Yeah, I think I might have heard about that. How's the brakeline?


PASSENGER

Fine.


DRIVER

Look at the engine. (Passenger pokes around in the engine, burns a finger, and gets back in the car.) Did you look at the engine?


PASSENGER

Yeah.


DRIVER

Is it still there?


PASSENGER

Yeah.


DRIVER

That's not it then. Let's just sit here a while and maybe something will happen (They sit.)


PASSENGER

Can I come up front now?


DRIVER

No.


PASSENGER

Why not?


DRIVER

Because I'm not giving up my place as the driver.


PASSENGER

You could just let me touch the steering wheel.


DRIVER

It's not safe for you to come up here while the car is moving.


PASSENGER

But it's not moving.


DRIVER

Well that's the problem, isn't it.


PASSENGER

Then why can't I come up there?


DRIVER

Don't worry about that until we get moving again.


PASSENGER

But you said it's not safe for me to move up there while the car is moving.


DRIVER

It's not. We might have an accident. You might throw things out of whack.


PASSENGER

I can't move while we're still because we have to get moving again, and I can't move while we're moving because it's not safe.


DRIVER

It's not my fault.


PASSENGER

Just why isn't it safe?


DRIVER

You all have to make sacrifices.


PASSENGER

Don't you mean we all?


DRIVER

No, I don't.


PASSENGER

Don't you have to make sacrifices?


DRIVER

Of course not.


PASSENGER

Why not?


DRIVER

Well, you make sacrifices so I can have more room to work with, so I can keep the car going. That's why you must stay behind me, so I can get the car running again.


PASSENGER

But I still stay behind you when we're moving.


DRIVER

You don't want to upset things once the car is recovering.


PASSENGER

What's the point if I'm still back here?


DRIVER

Well if you can't compete it's your own fault. The driver's seat is reserved for those who win it.


PASSENGER

You didn't win it. You inherited that seat.


DRIVER

Some people are just lucky.


PASSENGER

I think we might be overdoing this competition thing a bit.


DRIVER

Be careful. You're sounding like some commie socialist wimp.


PASSENGER

What I'm trying to tell you is...


DRIVER

Maybe I'll let you honk the horn.


PASSENGER

Of course, competition can only help us along.


DRIVER

I knew you'd see it my way. (pause)


PASSENGER

Let's call a mechanic now.


DRIVER

Let's give the car time to straighten itself out.


PASSENGER

Let's talk about the election.


DRIVER

Let's do that.


PASSENGER

Let's think about who to vote for.


DRIVER

Let's examine the issues in order to pretend we're making an intelligent decision.


PASSENGER

Let's stop all this let-letting.


DRIVER

The important thing is getting the rock-kicking problems straightened out.


PASSENGER

Yeah, the way rocks are kicked these days, it's getting out of hand.


DRIVER

At least there's a choice this time around.


PASSENGER

Do you usually vote for the lumper party or the sumper party?


DRIVER

Oh, well, the lumper party of course. Usually there's not a great deal of difference, though the lumper party leans a little more in my direction.


PASSENGER

There's a good difference this year though.


DRIVER

Oh yeah, the lumper candidate is adamant about straight-on kicking, while the sumper feels it's more progressive to kick rocks soccer-style.


PASSENGER

That pretty well covers everything. There's still some of those extremist parties who say we shouldn't be kicking rocks at all, we should be spending our time helping mankind, as if helping mankind wouldn't lower our standard of living. But we've got as wide a choice as you could ask for. You say you're voting lumper.


DRIVER

Definitely.


PASSENGER

I've been kind of wavering. The sumpers do have some good points.


DRIVER

If the lumpers get elected you might be able to move up to the front.


PASSENGER

You're right, we better stick with the lumpers awhile.


DRIVER

Sure. Besides, the lumpers have a good point. Are people better off after kicking soccer-style a few years?


PASSENGER

People have a right to expect that they will automatically get richer and richer. Though maybe we shouldn't worry so much about material things.


DRIVER

Don't be ridiculous. Everything runs on material self-interest.


PASSENGER

But you and I don't do everything out of material self-interest.


DRIVER

Oh no, we're not selfish. As much. But life's never going to be good if everyone stops looking out for number one.


PASSENGER

Well, I wouldn't go quite that far.


DRIVER

What do you mean you wouldn't go that far?! You're not going to start being one of those pipe-dreaming types, are you?!


PASSENGER

I'm not a pipe-dreamer! I never dreamt about pipes in my life!


DRIVER

People like you can't seem to get it through your heads that the world has always been run on self-interest. Everything runs on self-interest and the world works just fine. Everything is hunky-dory and should be left as it is. It doesn't work when I'm hampered by stop signs and traffic laws and all that rot.


PASSENGER

(Leaning on front seat) I ran into one of those radical, question authority and everything else types...


DRIVER

Pessimists you mean.


PASSENGER

Leftists, pessimists, something like that. Anyway, I ran into one back at one of those places we stopped at the other day. I tried to tell him everything works all right the way it is and he asked me what I meant by works.


DRIVER

What did you say?


PASSENGER

I told him he was a dumb commie and I left.


DRIVER

That's telling him.


PASSENGER

Now can I come up front?


DRIVER

No. (Passenger moves back. pause)


PASSENGER

See if the car will start yet.


DRIVER

(Tries to start the car.) Nope.


PASSENGER

Oh, gasp of exasperation. (pause.) Now can I call a mechanic?


DRIVER

Yes.


PASSENGER

Mechanic. (Enter Mechanic.)


MECHANIC

Yes?


PASSENGER

Could you have a look at our car?


MECHANIC

What's the matter with it?


PASSENGER

It doesn't work.


MECHANIC

What do you mean by work?


PASSENGER

(To Driver) I bet he's a communist.


DRIVER

Remember our self-interest.


PASSENGER

The engine doesn't do anything.


MECHANIC

Sounds like you called me in the nick of time. (He goes over to the car and leans against it. Passenger waits for him to do something.)


PASSENGER

Are you going to look at the car or are you going to squint into the sun all day?


MECHANIC

Oh no, mister (ma'am) I'm not going to squint into the sun all day. It's bad for your eyes. (pause) Ok, I'm ready to have a look.


PASSENGER

Good.


MECHANIC

Which car is yours?


PASSENGER

The one with the big shot in it.


MECHANIC

(Walks over to Driver and looks at him. Driver and Mechanic stare at each other from a few inches away. Mechanic turns to Passenger.) Him, eh? (Passenger nods yes. Mechanic looks again at Driver.) Looks only average sized to me. ( Mechanic moves over to engine and looks at it. He removes a part and hands it to Passenger.) Hold on to this a moment. (Passenger drops it because it is hot. Mechanic hands Passenger another part which is dropped. Repeat.)


PASSENGER

That's hotter than the rest!


MECHANIC

(Holds out another part.) Take this too.


PASSENGER

Oh no, let him take that one.


MECHANIC

Here, take this.


DRIVER

What? (Takes the part and doesn't burn himself.)


PASSENGER

Oh for heaven's sake.


DRIVER

Something wrong?


PASSENGER

Not that I can tell.


MECHANIC

(Looks around underneath car.) Hey, I think I found part of your problem. There's some guy pinned under your car.


DRIVER

Yes, I think he (she) said something about it earlier.


MECHANIC

He says he's angry and if you don't get him out he'll turn the car over.


DRIVER

How's the engine?


MECHANIC

Well, I'll tell ya, she's going to need some special tools. She's got some problems you know.


DRIVER

Do what you have to.


MECHANIC

Well, I'll tell ya, carrying those tools is a rough, hard, long, slow, tortuous, sinecurous, dirty, mean job. I could sure use some help.


DRIVER

Don't worry about it, it's no trouble at all. Go with him.


PASSENGER

Me again?!


DRIVER

When it's running again, I might be able to find some spare room in the front seat.


PASSENGER

(to Mechanic) Let's go. Time is money and there's a front seat riding on this.


MECHANIC

I'd rather have dollars and that front seat isn't riding on anything until I get the engine fixed. (They exit)


DRIVER

(Pause, then to audience.) Don't worry, they'll be back before long. They always came back in rehearsal. Of course, we always had a candy bar waiting for them. But we figured, well, it is a performance after all, they won't need any sort of prompting. Besides, the vending machine was out of order. (pause) I hope you weren't expecting me to keep you entertained. I'm not getting out of this driver's seat or I'm liable to find that little pip-squeak from back there moving into my place. How do you like that runt, wavering on who he's going to vote for. He'll vote lumper because like everyone else he votes his pocketbook. He's one of that huge group of voters who would vote for a concrete block if it promised to cut taxes. A lot of politicians are initially successful that way. (Passenger and Mechanic enter carrying a huge tool box which is very heavy. Like the car this is pantomimed.)


PASSENGER

Ok, ok, take it easy, this box is heavy. Careful, don't want this bugger to slip.


MECHANIC

I don't know about bugging, but this stuff will fix a car.


DRIVER

You're back, eh?


PASSENGER

Yes, my back and my shoulders and my hamstrings and my ankles and my arms and just about everything else.


DRIVER

Would you like some help?


PASSENGER

(Surprised) Yes, we would.


DRIVER

Just wondering.


PASSENGER

Groan.


MECHANIC

Ok, set 'er down over here.


DRIVER

Wait, not there! Quick, move it over there! (They move to the other side of the stage.) Now turn it around, turn, turn! Now move back to the other side! Keep going, keep going! (They move around the car and back to where they originally were. ) Stop there! Lift your right legs, hold it! You two look very silly.


MECHANIC

Does he always get people to work against each other like that?


PASSENGER

You should see him handling labor relations. (Mechanic works on the car. Passenger gets into the back seat.) I'm exhausted.


DRIVER

I told you you would have to make sacrifices to get the car working again. You've given me a chance to rest up from the hard times I've been going through.


PASSENGER

What hard times?


DRIVER

Mind your manners. (They move as if the car has just been given a sudden jolt. Mechanic looks underneath the car.) What was that?


MECHANIC

It was this guy under the car here. He says he means business. Say buddy, that's really a bad deal, you being stuck down there like that. But as long as you're down there, could you just hold those twp nibs over there together? Right, those two. Great ,thanks. (to Driver) Looks like your catalytic converter's a bit worn.


DRIVER

I don't want to hear about those pollution control devices. It's just more laws and red tape. I don't know why the government doesn't stay out of my business.


PASSENGER

Suppose I come up there now?


DRIVER

No.


PASSENGER

See if the car will start.


DRIVER

(Tries to start it. Mechanic yelps and jumps back.) Nope.


MECHANIC

Hey don't do that!


DRIVER

What's the matter?


MECHANIC

That hurt!


DRIVER

Go see what he wants.


PASSENGER

Me again? Oh mumble under my breath. (to Mechanic) What is it that you want?


MECHANIC

Let me have that tool laying on top there.


PASSENGER

It's not hot, is it?


MECHANIC

No. (Passenger picks it up, yelps, and drops it.) Though you ought to be careful of those sharp edges.


PASSENGER

Picking it up carefully.) Here.


MECHANIC

Thanks. (He works. Passenger watches.) This engine looks pretty battered. What have you been running it on?


PASSENGER

Competition and material self-interest.


MECHANIC

That will do it. Looks like you haven't been paying all that much attention to maintenance either.


PASSENGER

No, we believe in laissez-faire mechanics.


MECHANIC

S You mean you've had Frenchmen working on your car?


PASSENGER

No no, laissez-faire means leave it alone. Ignore it. Leave it to itself, and the engine will run smoothly, just as nature intended.


MECHANIC

Still don't make sense somehow. I never seen an engine that worked by having all the parts banging against one another like that.


PASSENGER

It will seem like common sense if you just think about it a while.


MECHANIC

Ok, I will. (He paces alongside the car, then he paces between the front and back seats, walking through the car. Passenger stares in disbelief.) Well, I thought about it. It still doesn't seem like common sense. I'm going to get back to work. (He gets under the car. Passenger tries to walk through the car and can't. He uses the door and gets back in.)


DRIVER

What are you doing?


PASSENGER

I'm pouting.


DRIVER

Well, quit pouting. There's an election coming up and you can vote for whoever coddles you the most. (Passenger stops pouting.) What did he want?


PASSENGER

Huh?


DRIVER

I sent you out to see what he wants.


PASSENGER

He wants common sense.


DRIVER

Why do you say that?


PASSENGER

He doesn't see that laissez-faire is common sense.


DRIVER

Why, it's not even so complex as common sense, it's more like magic, as the invisible hand moves stealthily... what were you pouting about a moment ago?


PASSENGER

Why, that guy walking...didn't you see what happened?


DRIVER

Did it happen in the front seat?


PASSENGER

No.


DRIVER

I didn't see it.


PASSENGER

Don't you notice the rest of the world?


DRIVER

No, I don't. I think special interests are given too much attention these days.


PASSENGER

What are you but a special interest? That pessimist might have had a point. I never have really thought the whole thing through.


DRIVER

I might have to think about sharing some of this space up here.


PASSENGER

What am I saying, of course you know what is best.


DRIVER

Of course I do. (The car takes another jolt.) What was that?


MECHANIC

It's that guy down here again. He says you're really starting to radicalize him now.


DRIVER

The car doesn't run right when I have to be responsible for other people.


MECHANIC

(to man under the car.) Oh hey mister, you can let go of those two nibs now. Really appreciate it.


DRIVER

Well doctor, what's the prognosis?


MECHANIC

(Looks around realizes the doctor is him.) I'm not a doctor, I'm a mechanic.


DRIVER

Mechanic then. How's the prognosis?


MECHANIC

Well, it was bothering me pretty good a couple weeks ago, but I just got a prescription for it and it ain't been too bad. Yeah, I'm feeling pretty good right now.


DRIVER

Yippee. How's the car?


MECHANIC

Well, I'll tell ya, it's seen better days, getting toward the end of the line if you know what I mean.


PASSENGER

That's ridiculous. This car has provided the most speed and the highest standard of comfort the world has ever known.


MECHANIC

Yeah, well, I've worked on a few cars that had the most speed or comfort or whatever it was you said. They all wore out and became obsolete eventually.


PASSENGER

This one won't. It was made by God and will last forever.


MECHANIC

Well, I'll tell ya, God doesn't build cars, and as for forever, don't you think that might be wishful thinking?


DRIVER

Don't underestimate wishful thinking. Presidents have been elected upon it.


MECHANIC

Maybe you can elect a president out of wishful thinking but you can't build a car out of it. Now I patched it back together, but sometime you're going to have to junk it, or else get such a drastic overhaul it won't really be the same car. If you don't, you better find somebody to push this car of yours, cause it won't run. (He puts his tools away.)


DRIVER

How are your legs? And your back?


PASSENGER

I hope you're joking.


DRIVER

That's just wishful thinking on your part.


PASSENGER

Can I come up front now?


DRIVER

No. (Another jolt.) What was that? Those jolts keep getting worse.


MECHANIC

(Looking under the car.) This guy's still under here.


PASSENGER

When can I come up front then?


MECHANIC

And he's still stuck.


PASSENGER

When for crying out loud?


MECHANIC

He says he's getting tired of this.


PASSENGER

You can't stay in the driver's seat forever. I ought to have a chance! It's my turn!


MECHANIC

He says he's tired of laying in the grease and grime and grit.


PASSENGER

Why do I have to have things so rough?!


DRIVER

(to Mechanic) You don't have to be paid immediately, do you?


MECHANIC

Oh no, I'm keeping track of all repairs.


DRIVER

Good.


MECHANIC

Don't worry, you'll pay in full for each patch up job on this old beater.


DRIVER

I don't have to pay myself, do I?


MECHANIC

Who else?


DRIVER

Why the government of course. I can't be expected to take care of my own debts.


MECHANIC

I thought you wanted government to stay out of your business.


DRIVER

That's only when I'm making money.


MECHANIC

(aside) I bet his favorite car is a Chrysler. (exits)


DRIVER

He forgot to close the hood. Go close it.


PASSENGER

No. I've had it. I'm not your lackey anymore. You can get out and close it yourself.


DRIVER

It just might be time to let you dim the headlights.


PASSENGER

(Closes the hood) Can I move up now?


DRIVER

It's not safe now.


PASSENGER

What's the problem?


DRIVER

What's the problem? I'll tell you what the problem is. I can't drive this car the way I want to anymore. First it's pollution controls, then it's street signs. Then it's more laws, ordinances, regulations, bureaucracy, and restrictions piled up on each other. They're telling me how fast I can go, what part of the road I can drive on, now I have to start watching out for pedestrians. It's a shame if people are getting run over but if they can't compete it's not my fault. This car doesn't run smoothly and efficiently if I can't drive any way I please. Everything is easier when you don't have to be responsible. (Engine noises and blackout.)

 

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