THE CAR



by Eric Ferguson


1991 Eric Ferguson
5732 Bossen Terrace #2
Minneapolis, MN 55417
voice/fax: (612)726-6364
eric@celticfringe.net
http://www.celticfringe.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.

MECHANICS
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.)

Go back to plays.