A Play in One Act
A luxurious penthouse.
Should we wake him, Laurent? It’s nearly noon.
Leave him be and let snoring be his tune.
We can hope he falls into a coma.
On this planet, he’s a melanoma.
You take him too seriously, I’m afraid.
When all he does is get drunk and get laid.
I don’t care that he drinks himself blotto
While pretending to pray in a grotto.
It’s when he claims that his frivolities
Are the result of innate qualities
That I want to drag him from this gilded cage
And make him live on our pay, minimum wage.
He thinks poverty is self-inflicted,
And with hard work, we wouldn’t be afflicted.
I wouldn’t mind if his wealth was merited,
But he did nothing; it was inherited.
It’s his self-serving hallucination
That wealth is its own justification.
And the extent of his introspection
Is that character’s bought, like an election.
Shh! I hear him waking in the bedroom.
As if birthed again from his mother’s womb.
Oh, my back is aching and my head splitting
From endless redesign and retrofitting.
Others have weekends and long vacations
While my life is full of obligations.
TARTUFFE sits at the table.
(aside) He claims to be working like a coal miner
While he’s passed out drunk on his recliner.
I work so hard driving this economy
That I must indulge in gastronomy.
My beggar’s breakfast won’t be restricted.
Fetch me bacon and eggs benedicted.
I see that your mind’s mush and mouth’s a paste.
So into the kitchen I’ll go with haste.
I believe the vagabond’s meal prescribed
Will relieve all the strong work you imbibed.
What’s that noise? I hope there’ll be an arrest.
In the streets, thousands engaged in protest.
Well, you only get mud from the mire.
Protesting what this time, dare I inquire?
Inequality and racism, to be short.
The marches are resistance and retort.
Ah, why am I subjected to craziness
Resulting from decadence and laziness?
Don’t they know they’ll get more from employment
Than by producing public annoyment?
The solutions aren’t so academic
To problems structural and systemic.
And here is something you may not have guessed,
Dorine and I sympathize with the oppressed.
DORINE enters, puts a breakfast on the table.
That just shows your lack of understanding
Of those who keep this economy expanding.
Men like me are engines of prosperity.
You and Dorine depend on my charity.
It’s pay, not charity, that you’re dealing
For work that can be most unappealing.
And it’s when you’re counting your dividends,
That I often have to change your Depends.
Enough of your insubordination!
I will take that as your resignation.
Dorine, accompany him out the door,
And I’ll see you two ingrates nevermore.
Then you’ll come to learn what’s always been true
That you both need me more than I need you.
TARTUFFE starts to eat.
From you, Sir, I will gladly take my leave
And take to the streets for what I believe.
Keep your self-righteousness and prodigality.
I’ll protest racism and inequality.
We are the pillars of society.
People like you just profess piety.
And the result of your hypocrisy
Will be the death of our democracy.
LAURENT and DORINE lock arms and exit.
Now I can eat without their inanities
About injustice and such insanities.
They’ll beg for jobs in a moment or two
When they learn for the last time who needs who.
(He starts choking on his breakfast.)
Ah! Ah! No!
Ah! Ah! Oh!
Alas, fate has pulled a most dirty trick.
The ingrates leave, and I need the Heimlich.
TARTUFFE falls to the floor.
As always, my novel is available here: The Last Island