HomeArchivesSubmissionsCorpse CafeCorpse MallOur GangHot SitesSearch
Exquisite Corpse
Issue 8A Journal of Letters and Life

A Question of Character
by Kathleen Welch
Author's Links


(Bill Gates and Lu Cypher come from the back of the theater and hand out butterfly ballots to the audience, while whispering, "Vote Dick, Vote Harry, No chads! Be my butterfly!" They look menacing, wearing Eye-Trek glasses for eyes and computer mice for hands. After handing out the ballots, they sit downstage and watch the presidential debate of dumb puppets. Plato and Jesus watch the debate from their living room, center stage.)

Shirley: Hi, everyone! I'm Shirley Jones and I'm so excited to be hosting the first presidential debate of the season. Live at ringside, we have our two drop dead candidates, Dick and Harry. Harry represents the "Do Nothing Party." And Dick represents...What party is it, Dick?

Dick: Oh, I don't do much either. We're running together you know.

Harry: Dick, I thought we were running separately.

Dick: No, no you got it all wrong, we got to run together. That's the only way we're gonna win.

Harry: Ok Dick, whatever you say. I'm your man. You know I love you Dick.

Dick: (Cackles sleazily) I love you too, Shirley.

Harry: (Laughs insanely) No, I'm Harry...

Dick: Oh, sorry. Harry, I love you, too.

Shirley: (Laughs nervously) Oh, you're making me blush. Oh, this is just too much. Ok. First question. Harry, you're much smaller than Dick and you seem to have some developmental problems (Ha, Ha) I'd like to know what you would do as far as helping people who are on SSI (Turns to Dick for help) SSDI? Yes, SSDI. Those people who have psychiatric problems, etc. etc. Do you think we need to make more budget cuts in these areas? Or perhaps we've let too many people out?

Harry: (Long pause) What do you mean Shirley? You think something is wrong with me.

Shirley: No, no, no, no. Nothing is wrong with you. I'm just asking a political question.

Harry: Well, uhm. I don't care. You know I just try to get through the day without...(sighs) slashing my wrists. I'd like to tell you one more time. I love you Dick.

Dick: Well, I love you, too. And you know you probably don't remember Harry but we did talk about this topic yesterday. I know due to your depression, you don't hold thoughts in your head too long. But we were talking about this very topic and we figured that we'd just kind of clear out the state of Kansas and put them all in there. It would be centrally located. And we could all keep an eye on them. And you know they'd have rubber money and shit.

Harry: Dick, I don't like Kansas. It's too flat, too hot.

Dick: Oh no Harry, you're the VP.

Harry: But where do I go?

Dick: You'd be in the White House, in the basement, in the rubber room.

Harry: (Laughs insanely) Thanks, Dick!

Dick: No problem. They got room service.

Shirley: OK. (Laughing) Oh, you are something, you two. All right. Our last question--and I'm sure our voters will want to know about this--Foreign Policy. Big, big, big question. What do we do about this new Russian...I guess he's called a premier or a president. Putin! Poo-teen! Should we continue to try to democratize Russia or should we follow a hard line? (Staring intently at Dick) A HARD line...Dick?

Dick: Well, first off Rasputin, he reminds me a lot of this kid Jerry in the second grade. He used to pull wings off of flies and shit and shoot beans up on the ceiling and stick girls in the butt with his pencil and stuff. You know I just don't think I can trust him at all.

Harry: Yea, I wanted to say. I think Dick's right. And Dick I love you. And I do want to say I don't really care.

Dick: I love you too.

Harry: (laughs) I don't really care what happens outside my small world. All I know is that I'm really glad I'm going to have that special room in the White House.

  Dick: All right. Hey, Shirley, thanks for having us on your show and we'll be back.

Harry: Remember our slogan!! What is it Dick?

Dick: I don't know. What is it? (Laughing)

Harry: I don't know. (Laughing) Something about we don't really care. We don't give a damn.

Dick: "We don't care but we'll be there."

Harry: That's good!! AMEN.

Dick: Vote for us.

Harry: Vote for us.

Shirley: Well this is exciting! Let's officially launch the Dick and Harry campaign for the 2000 presidential race!

Lu and Bill: We don't care but we'll be there. Let the thousand points of blight begin! (Lu and Bill walk into the audience and throw cockroaches, locusts and other creepy crawlies. They then exit backstage.)

Shirley: (Out of breath) And we are so fortunate that Dick and Harry are here to answer any questions you might have. But first, Dick and Harry want to know what you think, too!

Harry: All right. If we're going to win, we need your opinions so we can then change ours. Just stab your butterfly ballots. But no pregnant chads!

Dick: Chad! Ain't that kind of like mackerel?



Jesus and Plato have been lying in bed, eating cake and watching the debate on TV. Jesus bears a striking resemblance to John Lennon and Plato to Yoko Ono. Jesus, sitting cross-legged, is strumming his guitar and patting his belly. He is eight-months pregnant. Plato is trying to sing her new song, "Shadows in the Cave, Shadows in my Brain", while throwing playdo on canvas. Her singing is so bad that Jesus turns the other ear.

Jesus: Plato let's get out of bed! Or they'll just crucify me! I mean what a debate! Dick and Harry could win! The people love the defective and unprotected. I think I said once, "Blessed are the ugly for they shall see God." (To Plato) Is that squirrelly guy from Texas still in the race? (In pain) Plato, my love, do you have to sing? It might hurt the baby. (He pats his belly.)

Plato: (Still throwing playdo, nearly hitting Jesus) Jesus, we need to work on "Shadows in the Cave, Shadows in My Brain". (She kisses Jesus.) We need an opening song when Dick and Harry speak at our Meeting of the Minds Symposium. (Plato starts to sing, "Shadows in my Brain". The lyrics are sung to a rendition of "Strangers in the Night." Jesus mocks her, but in a gentle way.)

Plato: Shadows in my brain.

Jesus: They're kind of scary.

Plato: Shadows in my brain.

Jesus: And sometimes hairy.

Plato: Shadows in my brain.

Jesus: And sometimes you're there, too.

Plato: Shadows in the cave.

Jesus: Where do they come from?

Plato: Shadows in the cave.

Jesus: I've just been struck dumb.

Plato: Shadows in the cave.

Jesus: And sometimes you're there, too.

Plato: Shadows in the cave, shadows in my brain, shadows in the cave, shadows in my brain...AH!!!
(Plato starts to lose it. Jesus realizes she needs help and holds her tight until she regains control.)

Plato: Harry and Dick really need our help. They are searching in their own troubled way and are modern-day philosophers with all their talk about death. My beloved Socrates said philosophy is "melete thanatou", the practice of death, and the true philosopher should rejoice when he is about to die, for it releases him from the prison house of the body and frees his immortal soul. VP Harry might be a modern day philosopher king. He's ready to die but for nothing it seems.

Jesus: At least Socrates and I had our principles, give peace a chance, save mankind, search for virtue, beget the Beautiful (pats his swollen belly.)

Plato: I agree, dear. And two thousand years later you are still "Number 1". George W. considers you his "favorite political philosopher" and Al looks to his "What would Jesus do" bracelet for advice. But we should give Harry and Dick a chance. You know, Harry may not be what he seems. Perhaps he is just a poet, and would rather suffer than inflict suffering on others.

Jesus: But I thought you feared poets. Didn't you want to confine them to caves?

Plato: Only bad poets. Did you know they're a very serious health hazard. Yesterday I read a study from the CDC which showed that men who attend open mike poetry nights are twice as likely to suffer from premature ejaculation than men who don't. (Looking at her watch) Oh, love, we don't have time. Harry and Dick will be here any minute. Could you give me some advice on my opening address for the Symposium?

Jesus: Can I show you my new magic trick while you philosophize?

Plato: (With some hesitation and fear) I guess so.

(During Plato's speech, Jesus performs a magic trick that leads to temporary dismemberment. He dons a top hat and "pretends" to saw off Plato's hand. Plato tries to remain calm and shows a series of slides with one hand, while Jesus "works" on the other. The slides include Escher's paintings, "Relativity" and "Another World".)

Plato: Welcome to the Meeting of the Minds. Before we introduce our candidates, I would like to say a few words. Friends, what we see in this world is a pale reflection of the true reality. You think the earth is flat, it's round. You think it's round, it's modular. You think it's three-dimensional, it's four. Are you really sure that a floor can't be a ceiling? That you will be on a higher plane when you walk up a staircase? That a pregnant chad is a pregnant chad? That you are cutting off my hand?...AHHH! (Jesus has finished sawing.)

Jesus: (Patching Plato up with duct tape) You are right, my Plato. Remember when I helped Timothy Leary with some of his experiments and I saw order, regularity, cyclical repetitions and renewals. I remember one such experiment in '68. All the surfaces in my kitchen were covered with vibrating, iridescent snowflakes of a unique crystalline shape and pattern. (Lost in reverie) I say snowflakes because they resembled snowflakes, but unlike snowflakes they were not different but exactly the same. Beautiful crystals... I see what you see, Plato. The beauty of the idea, the abstract, the good, the SNOWFLAKE!

Plato: (Still in pain) Yes! For even though I feel like chopping off your hand for chopping off mine, the idea of the good curbs my appetites.

Jesus: Well, I hate to admit this but I'm sure glad you came up with my so-called "Christian" ideas first! Saves me a hand!

Plato: Jesus, I could never hurt you. (With controlled anger, she misses the canvas and hits Jesus with playdo. He groans.) But, sweetheart, my worst fear is coming true--the new god is the info screen, the computer king, the vacant dream. Injected and infected with information, even our dreams are becoming infomercials. We have to tell the world that information is not knowledge or wisdom. Knowledge is recalling the past to find the soul, the Divine Reality. Too much information is constipation, annihilation and no time for contemplation. Jesus, I'm scared.

Jesus: (Frightened) I am too. I heard the two notorious info kings, Lu Cypher and Bill Gates, are coming to the symposium to woo Harry and Dick and extend their empire. They want Dick and Harry to back their new products, Ultimate TV and Eye-Trek!

Plato: And what's worse, they are the founders of the Bad Poets Society, a terrorist group that infiltrates open mike poetry nights. I don't know what to do. Dick and Harry are weak. They may be swayed. Perhaps we can help them to reflect and deflect the info blows. (Picking up a USA Today paper.) This is how USA Today, a news rage of infospeak, describes Lu Cypher's and Gates new products, Utimate TV and Eye-Trek.

(While she pretends to read, Bill Gates and Lu Cypher enter and cross downstage. They maniacally perform the various info functions described in the paper. At the end of their speeches, they lie exalted on the floor enraptured in their high tech wires.)

Bill Gates: (to the audience) Hello USA Today! Lu Cypher and I would like to inform you about our latest products, Ultimate TV and Eye-Trek. Ultimate TV gives you the capability to tune into two channels at once, record either or both shows on a hard drive, send e-mail, shop and call up additional data--such as stock prices--using your remote controls. And if you want more, buy the Eye-Trek. They may look like sun glasses but who needs the sun when you can watch TV and play video games with Eye-Trek!

Lu: (to the audience) So instead of flooding the consumer with a huge amount of information (laughs insanely), our products are designed to enhance your entertainment. Take these Eye-Trek. They're interactive! With these, you can inflict suffering on others by interacting with other bad poets at open mike poetry nights. And if your poem is bad enough that is it causes erectile dysfunction, you can become an honorary member of the Bad Poets Society for only $9.99.

Lu and Bill: So buy! buy! buy! (They exit off stage.)

Plato: Jesus, I think our only strategy against our enemies is a poem worse than theirs--Battle of the Bad Poets. We'll attack with the poem I wrote yesterday while multi-tasking--answering the phone, using the computer, eating dinner, and meditating.

(Harry enters and there are cheers.)

Jesus: Harry, welcome! Where's Dick?

Harry: (lost and despondent)

Jesus: Oops! (Discretely takes a razor blade from Harry.)

Plato: Vice Presidential candidate Harry is here with us. And his talk will be about the lost art of reflection and the danger of multi-tasking. Insidious information, sensory overload, is limiting our perception, dulling our reasoning. When we multi-task, how can we reflect and reason? Our memories and dreams may soon become impotent infomercials, sterile suburban nightmares. Harry is here to speak out against Ultimate TV, Eye-Trek, and other forms of info-tation.

(During the above speech, Jesus shows Harry another magic trick. He stands in front of Plato and pretends to poke his eye out, by holding a creamer over his eye and poking it with his fork. Cream and screams erupt. Jesus kindly shows Plato that his eye is intact, but it's too late.)

Jesus: Harry, let me show you a magic trick. You'll get a kick out of it. So will my wife! (laughs)

Plato: Jesus! Your tricks are driving me mad! Oh, no! More shadows in my brain! The 1980 Christmas Dustbuster Flashback! Jesus, help me! I'm back in suburbia with the family...Ah! And my mother is dustbusting everything, my dad, the plants and the cat! Oh, no! She's aiming the dustbuster at me!

Jesus: Hang on, Plato. You don't have to go back there. But if you do remember there's a way out.

Plato: What's that! (She's slipping fast.)

Jesus: Life is more than busting dust!!!

(Lu Cypher and Bill enter, carrying their high-tech arsenal)

Lu: We're tired of your philosophizing. Bill and I have come on a mission.

Jesus: What's that? (While holding a napkin over his eye.)

Lu: Bill, let's multi-task them!

Bill: Sure boss. Whatever you say. I'm your man. (Bill and Lu force Plato and Jesus to wear Eye-Trek glasses, computer mice, cellular phones and other high tech. Bill then ties them up with computer wires. Plato and Jesus scream, "I can't think!")

Lu: We have decided to take over the world by making you process so much information, you have no time to reflect, to remember, to feel and most of all, to create. In that way we will enslave you since you will be basically zombies. I can then program you into MY DESIGNS. No more searching for the good! You will remain in the cave of vacancy and apathy. Satisfied with nothing but emptiness--the existential nightmare fulfilled! Your unexamined life will be the only life you choose to live. And you will embrace it. Bloated with high tech's images, satisfied with ignorance, you will follow me.

Jesus: (pulling a crown of thorns out of his robe and putting them on) Let only me suffer for the others! Free Plato!

Plato:(throwing off her damaged, duct-taped hand) No, Jesus. Let me! Socrates and I thought of that first--to suffer for others. Socrates said, "To cause injury to another is worse than suffering it, since one is harming one's own soul." I hate to say this and I do love you but sometimes you're just a copycat!

Jesus: You call me a copycat! All you can do is quote Socrates.

Plato: Sweetheart, let's not argue. Our only hope is that bad poem I wrote yesterday. It will certainly immobilize them! (To Lu and Bill) It's time! We challenge you to a bad poem! See if you can survive this!

Plato: I Left My Lunchbox Out in the Rain!

Love is a picnic basket
filled with ham sandwiches
and sometimes bologna
that we eat together
under the old oak tree

Plato and Jesus: Oh, I left my lunch box out in the rain!
(Lu and Bill start to laugh. They even start to accompany Jesus on Jesus' guitar.)

Jesus: Pretty bonnets
and nice flowers
dot my landscape
of love
that makes
me want
to kiss
your white teeth.

(Lu and Bill join in the refrain.)

All: Oh, I left my lunch box out in the rain!

(Lu and Bill are hysterical.)

Lu: Weak! Weak! Weak! (To Bill) Terrorists of open mike poetry nights--unite! Bill, let's hit these two with "Lucky Penny Man", the poem that strikes all men with fear!

Lu and Bill: And premature ejaculation!

Jesus: Oh, we really blew it. Of course, they're going to like what's bad.

Lu: Lucky Penny Man
He walked the streets of New Orleans
in tattered clothes of gabardine
He searched for only one lost thing
the pennies thrown by latrines. (He throws a few pennies at Jesus and Plato.)

His job in life
was to feel no strife
to sing to birds
and love the herds
that stomped the streets of New Orleans
and threw their pennies near latrines. (He throws a few pennies at Jesus and Plato.)

(Plato and Jesus are in agony. At the same time, Jesus starts to go into early labor. During the chaos, they free themselves. Plato attends Jesus. Lu and Bill are terrified since Jesus gives birth to a baby philosopher-king. After a tiny whelp, the baby begins to speak.)

Baby: Lu and Bill, you should be ashamed of yourselves. Multi-tasking us to death. Your punishment will be to change my diapers every day for the rest of eternity. And they aren't Pampers. And since the upcoming election is only a question of character, you will have no choice but to become Al and George W, until you learn from a baby philosopher king, what true character is.

(Plato and Jesus kiss each other and the baby.)

Lu and Bill: (Screaming while Bach is played and Escher's "Symmetry" is shown.) Ah! Bach and Escher! Our nemesis! Simplicity and timelessness! Ah! I can't stand it--multi-task me! I'm melting!

(Plato and Jesus then force Lu and Bill to wear masks of Al and George W, covered with pregnant chads and butterfly ballots.)


Images by Dan Nielson.

HomeArchivesSubmissionsCorpse CafeCorpse MallOur GangHot SitesSearch
Exquisite Corpse Mailing List Subscribe Unsubscribe

©1999-2002 Exquisite Corpse - If you experience difficulties with this site, please contact the webmistress.