The Last Great Radio Magician
A dark comedy
(A beach. The stage is empty, except for two canvas beach chairs, one stage left, one stage right. In one sits a man, dressed casually, although not in bathing attire—his name is Justin; in the other sits a woman, also dressed casually, although also not in bathing attire—her name is Naomi. They both wear dark glasses, which they remove after a minute or so. Downstage is the sea, lapping slowly and rhythmically, represented perhaps by the sounds of waves softly rolling in and out and represented also perhaps with an ebbing and flowing of blue-green light on the stage floor. Justin and Naomi sit quietly for a time, watching the sea.)
JUSTIN: In or out, do you suppose?
JUSTIN: In…the tide? Or out? Do you suppose?
(Pause. They study the softly lapping water before them, then speak simultaneously.)
JUSTIN: (a beat while they glance at each other, perhaps they share a chuckle) Ebbing? Flowing? Coming? Going? Wouldn’t you say it’s important to know? To decide?
NAOMI: (the next few lines might be a bit…flirtatious, two reasonably attractive strangers sniffling a bit) Well, since you insist. (pause) I see the tide as always, eternally rolling in, which is…. (pauses)
JUSTIN: Which is?
NAOMI: I know, impossible. If, that is, we admit to the limitations of…
JUSTIN: Time? Space? Reality?
NAOMI: Overrated, reality. Time and space too, if you ask me.
JUSTIN: Then, if it were always rolling in, the tide, there’d be no…sea shells, no…tidal pools. If it were always coming in? Rolling in, well then we’d be inundated.
NAOMI: Inundated, I like the sound of that. We’d be caught up…swept away. Isn’t that what we all really want?
JUSTIN: (wistful, thoughtful) What we all really want. Well. I didn’t expect this. All this time passing, with so little actually happening. Actually verifiably happening. Sand gets in everything. The wind…
NAOMI: Yes? Blows it? Scatters it? Defies gravity, even? Saltation, they call that, the bouncing of the grains of sand as the wind blows it hither and thither.
JUSTIN: (points at the lapping water) There. Look. Going out. I knew it! That little stone was not visible just a moment ago! And now it is!
NAOMI: (sighs) All right. Let me give you an example. When I was just a little kid we had a goat, a big, strong, smelly goat, and my pa would put me into the goat cart that he made for me, and attach the goat to it, and turn the goat loose to pull the goat cart all over the olive orchard behind our house, dodging between the trees, bouncing over the rough ground, and I couldn’t steer the goat in any way, or stop it until it finally got tired and slowed down, and I jumped out and walked home.
JUSTIN: (beat) That’s your example?
JUSTIN: But what’s it an example of? Exactly? We were talking about the…
NAOMI: Nature. Man’s hubris. For example. Our perennial, or…perpetual…which is it, I don’t know…but lack of control, the animal in all of us and how it, after all, drags us around until it gets tired, like the goat, or, if you prefer, pre-postmodern transportation as seen through the eyes of a child—a tale told by the classic unreliable narrator, the child. Worthy themes for fiction, for drama, don’t you think?
JUSTIN: (smirks…he is a good smirker) I think your parents were just trying to get rid of you.
NAOMI: Or the goat.
JUSTIN: And the goat.
NAOMI: I told that story, really, in order to win your trust, and I intend to follow it up with unasked for acts of kindness.
JUSTIN: Win my trust? Why do you want to win my trust? We don’t really know each other, you know. Beach chairs, placed at a distance that is, by the standards of society, wouldn’t you say, a distance that is…neutral, implying no…relationship.
NAOMI: Well, if we’re going to be swept away together, engulfed by the tide, swirled around in the salty water of the advancing, rolling, rolling tide like frolicking seals, well, I think we should have developed some level of trust by now. In order to go on.
JUSTIN: But don’t you think it possible that we’ve been going on…together…for, what would it be, millions of years? That we climbed up out of the murk right here on this beach millions of years ago, felt for the first time the sand between our toes?
NAOMI: We wouldn’t have had toes, we’d have had gills, or vestigial lungs, making the evolutionary leap…or crawl…or whatever, up out of the murk.
JUSTIN: I don’t think so. I don’t think we were ever in the murk, except perhaps symbolically or…and I think we got here much more recently, taking the train out of the city, or driving.
NAOMI: You have no imagination. Taking a train or driving. No imagination.(There is a pause.)
JUSTIN: You mentioned an unasked for act of kindness. (with a touch of lasciviousness, perhaps he waggles his eyebrows) What did you, er, have in mind?
NAOMI: Nothing along those lines. No, I was thinking that you could tell me an outrageous lie, a hyperbolic exaggeration, something you’ve always wanted someone to believe. But, you know, something that no one has ever believed.
NAOMI: And I’d believe you. Really. Or at least I’d act, behave in such a manner that you’d believe me…or you’d believe that I believed you, which is to say we’re working on a relationship here…or you’d at least feel comfortable in acting, behaving in such a way as to make me believe that you believed me.
JUSTIN: It sounds like religion.
NAOMI: If you like. Do I detect the tiniest crack in your faith?
JUSTIN: I still believe. I still believe in…
(But he is interrupted by two small people, each about a foot tall, a man and a woman, entering stage left. Perhaps they are marionettes or stick-puppets operated by the actors who speak for them, dressed in black. The two little people walk to center stage, between the two beach chairs, and set up beach chairs of their own, small ones. These two new characters are an old man and an old woman. They are old but plenty feisty. Their names are Bert and Lucy. They set down on their beach chairs and, as Justin and Naomi watch them, begin to speak, perhaps sotto voce so that Justin and Naomi won’t hear them.)
BERT: I’ve heard enough of that crap. All that crap about…
LUCY: (mocking) The tide, unasked for acts of kindness. Is it rolling in? Is it rolling out? What a load of…
BERT: Horse shit, I’d say. Absolute, undiluted…
LUCY: Crappa. Drivel. Shall we set them straight?
BERT: Do you think we could? At least, I guess, we have to…
LUCY: Give it a go. The old whoop dee doo, eh?
BERT: The old whoop…wait a minute, wait a…my dentures are loose. (straightens them) Okay. Now then…
JUSTIN: Wait a minute! Who the hell are you?
LUCY: What a stupid question. Shouldn’t you start with…
BERT: What are we? And why? We’re not just here for…
LUCY: Shock value. To titillate your…I love that word…we’re not here to…
BERT: What she’s trying to say is that we’re not here to wait for someone who never shows up, like in that play, that famous play. Lucy and I…my name’s Bert, by the way…Lucy and I have been around the block a time or two. There’s hardly any asshole pseudo-philosophical nattering we haven’t heard and gotten the hell rid of long ago.
LUCY: So don’t try to put one over on us!
NAOMI: All right. All right. This is a public beach. You have as much right to sit in beach chairs and share in the ambience as we do, but…. But you’re…the two of you, you’re…
BERT: Funny little people, only a foot tall. Is that what you’re going to say? But, you great galumphing ox, maybe it’s Lucy and I who are, what shall we say, normal size, and it’s you two who are giants. Fit for a freak show, eh?
LUCY: Did you ever think of that?
JUSTIN: (to Naomi, after a pause, nonchalant) Perhaps we should wander up to the boardwalk, Naomi, and leave the beach to (big, friendly smile to Bert and Lucy) these two? Have a hot dog or a flavored ice?
BERT: There are no more flavored ices. There are no more hot dogs.
LUCY: There is no more boardwalk, for that matter. All gone. All smasho. All boom-boom. Didn’t you notice? Don’t even bother. There is only.
BERT: She’s right. Only. And we have to stay here, the four of us. All of us, you might say. And figure out, decide, whether the tide is, as you say, coming in or going out. And, once having that knowledge…
LUCY: (reciting) “To come in or not to come in, that’s the question. Alas, Bert, I knew him well.” That one. The big one.
BERT: All right. Let me give you an example. (In this speech, he does quite a good imitation of W.C. Fields.) I was on tour on the Keith-Albee circuit, vaudeville, you know, years ago, salad days, doing my juggling act, world famous juggling act, juggling four balls, and then as the audiences in small towns and big cities all across the land began to become bored with four balls, moving on to five balls, then six, and seven, and…. Well, no one had ever juggled more than seven balls, but I did, (working himself into a bit of a frenzy) I juggled eight balls, and then nine and then ten and twelve and thirteen, and all the world’s jugglers were suddenly at my feet, audiences cheered deliriously, men wept and ladies wet their pants. Still, I juggled on, but it was all a mystery, you see, because I didn’t know how I did it. It was a mystery. All those balls, mystery, but what did it mean?
(There is a pause.)
NAOMI: That’s your example? Do you want to hear my example?
JUSTIN: (quick to jump in) No! We’ve heard your example.
NAOMI: Well, I don’t hear you coming up with any examples! And you, you little squirt, what’s that an example of, I’d like to know?
JUSTIN: (Bert starts to speak but is interrupted by Justin who seems a bit miffed.) All right, all right. You told your ridiculous story of the goat and the goat cart and your family’s attempts to get rid of you by having you pulled out into the olive orchard by the mad goat. Dripping with symbolism—goats and olive orchards and nature and all that nonsense. Well, my story, my example, is at least true and peopled with fascinating characters. My grandfather, for example, was the last of the radio magicians.
BERT: Radio magicians? Who ever heard of a radio magician?
JUSTIN: My grandfather…
BERT: Yes, so you say. I think it’s a…
LUCY: Let him tell his story, Bert, his example. It’ll be my turn soon.
JUSTIN: Thank you, er, Lucy, is it? Well, as I was saying…
NAOMI: (examining her nails) Go ahead, Justin. We’re all ears. Can’t wait. Get on with it.
JUSTIN: All right. Here’s my example. It starts with my grandfather, wonderful man, warmhearted, tall, handsome, graying temples, one of the greatest magicians of his time. Toured the country to great acclaim, played before the crowned heads of Europe. But then radio came along. The great stage shows were over. So he took advantage of the new technology. He turned to radio. He performed his magic on his own radio show. Well, he performed amazing feats with cards and silks and linking rings, great escapes, sawed ladies in two without shedding a drop of blood. The linking rings worked best because it was, you see, my grandmother who did the sound effects. Silks didn’t work so well on the radio, but the linking rings were a big hit. She did the sound effects, you see, and described what my grandfather was doing. And bit by bit, he…
BERT: I’m waiting for this to be an example of something.
LUCY: Shut up, Bert.
BERT: Hey, whose side are you on, anyway?
LUCY: The side of truth, as always. Truth and beauty, all we know and all we are likely to know. Etcetera. He may be leading up to an example of truth. That couldn’t be so bad, could it? Go on, Justin.
JUSTIN: Thank you. Anyway, bit by bit my grandfather stopped actually doing the tricks that my grandmother was describing, narrating we might say, for the radio audience. He must have thought: what’s the difference, why waste my wonderful talent, my cunning legerdemain, the magical apparatus I’d spent my whole life constructing? He began to become disillusioned with his life, with life in general. He took to drink. He chased floozies. Sometimes he didn’t even show up at the radio station, and my grandmother was on her own. And here’s where we’re getting to the example. She described the tricks even more amazingly, more astonishingly when he wasn’t there. The show was a big hit, got great ratings.
BERT: That’s it! That’s a very good example. First one yet.
LUCY: But an example of what? You’re too easily taken in by a slick story, a little emotion, a magic trick or two. Always have been.
BERT: It’s clearly an example of the chasm that grows between belief and truth, between lies and truth. Here is this magician performing on the radio. At first he’s really doing his magic tricks there in the radio studio, and his wife describes the tricks to the radio audience. So far so good. There’s truth, and there’s belief. But then, don’t you see, he stops doing the tricks. So the woman is just lying. She’s lying, and all those people who believed her when she was telling the truth believe her when she’s lying.
LUCY: Bert, you’ve done it again. What’s the difference? They never get to see any magic tricks in the first place. Why does it matter that they’re being lied to?
JUSTIN: It sounds like politics.
NAOMI: Or religion.
BERT: (exasperated) I thought I explained that. No more politics. Smasho boom boom, and so forth. Try to get up to some politics after that! Or some religion.
(There is a pause.)
NAOMI: (little-girl sad) Are you sure there’s no more boardwalk? No more ICEEs? No more hot dogs?
BERT: Smasho. Bango. Boom boom.
LUCY: This just in to our newsroom. There is nothing left. It’s all gone.
BERT: Except us. It’s left to us to repopulate the earth. And to come up with some sort of plausible explanation to pass on to future generations.
LUCY: All right. Who wants to hear my example? Or, put another way, I’m going to give you my example now, like it or not. It’s much better than any of yours, much more telling, much more meaningful.
NAOMI: We’re waiting. Politely if not patiently.
LUCY: (She seems uncomfortable.) On second thought, I’m not going to tell it, I’m going to, er, dance it. It is beyond words anyway.
BERT: (sarcastic) You need any music, or hand clapping or foot stomping or whistling, or anything? You need me to whip out my pocket comb and wax paper?
(Lucy elaborately ignores Bert and begins her dance. It might remind the audience of one of those old Jules Feiffer cartoon dances. It’s life, her dance, in the form of twisting and turning, hopping and gyrating, a bit grotesque, but with a certain indescribable beauty and tenderness.)
NAOMI: (in tears) Oh, my God. It’s beautiful. It’s…so…so…I just can’t find the words.
BERT: You want to see a dance, you should see her trying to get comfortable on a bar stool with her hemorrhoids! Now there’s a…
JUSTIN: (also a bit teary-eyed) No, I agree with Naomi. It was…beyond words.
NAOMI: It’s all so sad, so hopeless.
BERT: Don’t get her started on hopeless. She’ll go on for hours, and it won’t be a dance, let me tell you.
NAOMI: Oh my God, I just had an awful thought. What if we’re in one of those plays where everybody is dead, and they just don’t know it?
LUCY: What an optimist. No, my dear, we’re not dead.
JUSTIN: She’s an optimist. She’s always been that way, optimistic.
BERT: Wait a minute. I thought you two just met each other.
JUSTIN: I just feel like I’ve always known her. Or at least for a long time. Like we’re…we’re…
NAOMI: I want to go back to Manhattan. I’ve had enough of the beach. The tide. Who the hell cares if it’s coming in or going out? I want to go back to my apartment in…
LUCY: No more Manhattan. No more hot dogs and flavored ices, no more boardwalk, and definitely no more Manhattan.
NAOMI: You mean?BERT: Smasho bango boom boom.
JUSTIN: You just love saying that, don’t you? (sarcastic) “Smasho bango boom boom.” Well, I didn’t hear anything. I’ve been sitting here in my beach chair for…well, a long time, and I didn’t hear a thing. You might say I’ve been listening all my life for a good explosion. And I’ve never heard one.
NAOMI: Nor did I. And I think you two…charming little people…made it all up, all this smasho bango boom boom business. In order to have something important and frightening to say, in order to make yourselves feel important.
LUCY: So go back. Who’s keeping you? The trains aren’t running, of course, so you’d have to walk. But that’s doable. Show a little pioneer spirit, which, by the way, you’re going to need anyway. It would take a hell of a long time, but it’s…
BERT: What she’s saying is, what would you go back to anyway?
NAOMI: I have a very important position in a big company that…er…a company that makes…that produces…. I wear pantyhose to work every day, and I have an office with a door and a window, and the people who work in the cubicles report to me about…er…important matters.
LUCY: What important matters?
NAOMI: (starting to get angry and frightened too) Important matters! The fact that I don’t quite remember is just an indication of how important they are, how…stressful it is to even think about these matters, which causes my memory to…my memory to…
JUSTIN: Don’t let them get to you, darling.
NAOMI: (explodes) Darling? What the hell is this darling business? I just met you, and I don’t even like you that much. In fact I don’t like you at all. In fact you…that ridiculous story about your grandfather being a radio magician! Who ever heard of such a stupid…
BERT: No, no, it was a good story! The Houdini of the airwaves! The Blackstone of broadcasting!
JUSTIN: You’ve never liked my family, have you? Never, not from the beginning!
NAOMI: (really angry now) I just met you, you pompous, bombastic, narrow-minded, delusional…I don’t know your family, except for that ridiculous radio magician story. What a crock of…. (suddenly cheerful) My family, now, there’s a family. My uncle was…
LUCY: Oh, boy, another story! Is this going to be an example of something? Because I’ve got some more examples I could…
NAOMI: No. It’s not an example of anything. It’s a free-standing, unique, one-of-a-kind story of familial relationships and love and…and…literature. It’s a literary story, and a true one too. My Uncle Buddy, it’s about my Uncle Buddy. He wrote the Stop Sign.
JUSTIN: He…wrote the…? That’s ridiculous! How could anybody…
BERT: Not ridiculous at all! Somebody had to write it. Got quite a wide distribution, too. I’ve seen them all over the place and never on the bargain shelf at Barnes & Noble.
LUCY: There’s no more…
BERT: Oh, that’s right. No more Barnes & Noble.
NAOMI: Do you want to hear my story, or not? Anyway. My uncle…the Stop Sign. It made him famous, or should have. Of course, the Stop Sign was much longer when he wrote it. “Linger,” he wrote, “grasp respite in the busy turmoil of this our o’er-trafficked world, our existence of eternal dissatisfaction with not just who we are but where we are. Stop! Loiter in the succulent satisfaction of this special moment here and now before rushing on to you know not what, you know not where, and you know not when!” Well, some idiot editor of the Highway Department got a hold of it and started slashing with a blue pencil…until all that was left was “Stop!” They even cut his exclamation point.
BERT: That’s a touching story. The literary genius coming up against…
NAOMI: Oh, and his original version of the Yield Sign! Oh my! Romantic, sensual but not pornographic. “Yield,” he wrote…
JUSTIN: I’m leaving. I’m going back to my old life in Manhattan. I don’t believe your absurd story of smasho bango boom boom, and I don’t believe your bizarre tale of your literary Uncle. I’m going back to my luxurious apartment on…some street…er…my apartment way up on some high floor or other, with a doorman named…
NAOMI: (teasing) Nyah, nyah, nyah…. I couldn’t remember my job, and you made fun of me, and now you can’t even remember where you live.
JUSTIN: I’m on vacation. I’m relaxing. Of course, I can’t keep a grip on every piddling little detail of my life.
BERT: That’s bull wacky, Justin, and I think you know it. I can remember my job, and where I live.
JUSTIN: Oh, yeah, Mr. Smart Guy? So where do you live, and what’s your job?
BERT: It’s classified. If I told you I’d have to kill you.
LUCY: That’s malarkey. He just likes to say that to impress people. He saw it in a James Bond movie. He was a subway conductor for forty years. He’s retired now…. Hee hee, I almost said “retarded.” And we live in Queens, or rather we did live in Queens before…
JUSTIN: Shut up!
(Everyone’s attention is suddenly taken up with the entrance of a person and a strange looking object. The person is a bedraggled, worn-out man or woman in a scruffy, dusty outfit that has the feel of a uniform to it, but not military, more like someone performing some menial task on a carnival midway. The object he (or she) pushes on stage is Professor Red Dog. Seated at a chair on wheels is an automaton, a human figure who is a white-haired Professor in a tweed suit, well worn, dusty and torn as though it’s been through something explosive. He wears thick horn-rimmed glasses, perhaps with one shattered lens, and has white hair and a mustache, holds a pipe in one hand, and wears a wise and benign expression. When he “talks,” his mouth moves and words can be heard. He is, of course, an actor, not really an automaton.
On the front of the table are signs which read: “Ask Professor Red Dog” “Learn Your Future” “Will Your Luck Change?” “No Question Too Hard.” and a big “Five Cents.” The attendant looks at everyone expectantly and points to the “Five Cents” part of the signage.
PRODUCTION NOTE: Professor Red Dog need not be elaborate and difficult to “build.” The actor can be seated in an ordinary desk chair with wheels, just so the attendant can push it fairly smoothly. Draped over the chair can be a scruffy, dirty piece of canvas. The signs can be attached to the Professor, or the attendant could carry them and place them on the Professor, or lean them against his seated figure.)
JUSTIN: This is promising. I’ll ask him what the hell we’re doing here, what’s going on. (searcheshis pockets) I don’t have a nickel.
NAOMI: Maybe he takes plastic. (takes a card out of her pocket) I can ask him where I work.
JUSTIN: Yes, and I can ask him where I live, and what my damned doorman’s name is. (rummaging through his pockets) Yes, I have plastic. Will he take plastic?
(The attendant shakes his or her head vigorously “NO” to the plastic and points to the “Five Cents” sign. Bert and Lucy search their pockets.)
LUCY: Well, none of us has a nickel. Will he accept a sharp smack, do you think?
(The attendant seems pleased with this suggestion, nods “YES,” and then gives the Professor a sharp smack on the forehead, which seems to wake up the Professor. He makes some inarticulate vocal sounds and quivers a bit. The attendant gestures “ask him a question!”)
NAOMI: Well, who should ask him the first question? Is there anything any of us really wants to know?
JUSTIN: Yes. Forget about where I live. We can get to that later. I want to know what the hell’s going on here. What’s all this smasho bango business?
(The attendant seems delighted with the question and gives Professor Red Dog another smack on the forehead. He also surreptitiously, but very obviously, slips one hand into the Professor’s back, like a ventriloquist with his dummy, and Professor Red Dog immediately starts to speak, his mouth flapping away. The attendant’s mouth moves just a little, like a real but not very good ventriloquist.)
PROFESSOR: (starts out sounding like a bad, old-fashioned Shakespearean actor) The humble earthworm: memento mori extraordinaire. Remember that thou shalt die. Metaphor for the frailty of the flesh, this humble earthworm, a symbol of the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, subverter of monuments, leveler of empires…
NAOMI: Wait a minute! That’s makes no sense at all. Earthworms? Justin asked about all this ridiculous nonsense this little man has been feeding us. He wants to know about smasho boom boom!
(The attendant gives the Professor a kick.)
PROFESSOR: (now a veddy, veddy cultured upper crust lady with a bit of Julia Childs) A quarter of a century ago, any silver-haired Southern gentleman would have told you that the carving of a chicken or a duck was an art, and an art that every gentleman should possess. But today, oh, today, today, sadly, in 99 families out of a hundred…
JUSTIN: Kick him again!
(The attendant kicks him again.)
PROFESSOR: (different voices. He’s quickly beginning to lose it, and the attendant is losing control of him.) The earthworm, emblem of vanity, the evanescence, and the end of all. (now like a political speech) However, Pakistan has never admitted that it could build a nuclear device on short notice. As a matter of fact it, realized (etiquette voice again) that if you dress differently you attract attention to yourself, but many people actually revel in being considered eccentric just as it is not accidental that (political voice) America is the home of the brave and the land of alienable rights, the home of the complacent leading the confused, endowed by a President with (etiquette voice) a hat half raised is a courtesy without charm, the custom of touching the hat, instead of lifting is unmannerly and (melodramatic Shakespeare voice) paradoxically, the great earthworm destroyer is a builder too of fertile topsoil, itself the sustainer of civilization…. (The Professor keeps talking, and he is joined by voices from a small tape recorder that he has upon his person. The attendant reaches over and turns it on, trying well to hide his actions from the others. The tape recorder supplies extra voices in a scratchy recording. All this builds to a climax as the Professor blows a gasket, his mouth moving with noting coming out but the sound of static from the hidden tape recorder. The attendant is beside himself/herself.)
NAOMI: This is very promising. He seems to lack some organizational skill. He needs a good editor, but what he’s been saying seems quite sensible to me.
JUSTIN: Absolutely. Very promising. Kick him again, harder this time.
(The attendant kicks Professor Red Dog, seeming quite happy to do it. Now Professor Red Dog lurches to life and speaks live and from the tape recorder, in increasingly rapid-fire, mixed-up, confusing fashion, mixing, overlapping, with voices saying three or four or five things at the same time…and with more themes added until it quickly turns into a frightening, aggressive, angry verbal collage. All this with a deep chant of the words “Smasho Boom Boom” As this happens, the attendant becomes more distressed, physically and emotionally, until he or she is panting and sobbing and collapses on the ground next to the Professor. The Professor quivers and vibrates as his speech becomes more and more insane. Perhaps smoke comes out of his ears, maybe his eyes roll, perhaps his white hair stands on end and his hands go up and down in meaningless gestures, until he goes suddenly silent and slumps forward.)
JUSTIN: (after a pause) Well.
BERT: Bravo! That’s something you don’t get to hear on cable!
NAOMI: Yes. I mean…no. (pause, draws a deep breath) You know, I feel like all of that was meant to be an example of something. You know, like our examples earlier, but much more eloquent. He was trying to tell us something. Something important about the world we live in. But I don’t quite know what.
BERT: Well, I’m just glad he finally shut up. He started out just fine; he was making perfect sense there for a while, but I think he was a little confused there at the end.
LUCY: But it was nice. It had a nostalgic quality to it. Professor Red Dog…I like his name. He reminded me of a nice doggie. Red Doggy. I like doggies, even if there are no more doggies. (pause, then slyly) We had a doggy once, Bert.
BERT: (gently) I don’t think so, my dear. No, I don’t think that’s worth dwelling on. (looks at the attendant crumpled on the ground) Do you think that one’s dead?
JUSTIN: Please. Be serious. He wasn’t alive to begin with, not real to begin with. Neither of them were. Strings and wires. Ventriloquism, a hidden tape recorder and not very high quality, at that. Please. A total fabrication meant to add confusion where none is needed. You people are too easily taken in by appearances, and by (as though he has the answer to something important) the illusion of reality.
(Pause. Everyone returns to their beach chairs. They stare at the tide.)
NAOMI: The illusion of reality. (pauses, sighs, seems amused by the phrase, ponders the ocean before her) In, do you suppose? Or out?
LUCY: They’re at it again, Bert.
BERT: That’s all right, my dear. Let them. It gives them something to think about. You must admit, that would be comforting. I wish I had something to think about.
JUSTIN: I’d say, yes, I’d say…either…yes, either in or out.
NAOMI: Bert’s right. It would be comforting to know for sure.
JUSTIN: Comforting. To know for sure. To know something for sure. Yes, I suppose it would.
(The tide continues to go in…or out. Perhaps there is a last gasp from Professor Red Dog as the lights slowly dim to black.)