Our Crucible

IS THE AMERICA WE KNEW GONE?

by OPOVV, ©2014

(Apr. 28, 2014) — ACT I

The curtain rises on a typical grocery store check-out line. The cashier is on the right of the stage with the line of customers extending beyond stage left. The customers are a cross-section of America, each pushing a grocery cart filled with cases of bottled water.

Jean, a gum-chewing young lady in her late teens, is the cashier: “How many you got?”

Mr. Ewert, an elderly gentleman, replies: “Why, I’ve got the limit: ten. Your name tag says ‘Jean’. Well, Jean, my name is Bob. Pleased to meet you. I’ve got ten cases; makes 240 bottles. Looks like I’m not the only one buying water here today.”

Jean: “No, you’re not. And pleased to meet you, too. Yes, the proverbial you-know-what has hit the fan, so everyone is stocking up. Used to be the first item to go was batteries and candy: now it’s water. I guess people are getting smarter or else the crisis is worse than I thought.”

Mr. Gaunt, the portly, thinning-hair store manager, comes up to Jean: “Excuse me, Jean, but we’re closing. I’ve locked the front doors so you people in line, after you pay, please exit by the side emergency exit. We’re running out of water and what’s left we’ll divide among the employees.” Mr. Gaunt exits stage right.

Just then the power goes out. The store lights flicker and then the emergency lighting comes on. Mr. Gaunt comes back: “Not to worry, folks, we’ve got you covered with this old-fashioned credit card processing machine. And we take cash.”

Peter, a young man in the middle of the line: “An EMP burst! We’re under attack! We gotta get outta here!”

Mr. Ewert: “Calm down. We don’t know that. Let’s just pay for our water nice and quietly. Everybody just take their turn.”

Mr. Gaunt: “That’s my line. But he’s right. I’m sure everything will be okay. I hope.”

Mrs. Averill, an elderly lady near the end of the line: “They said it would happen this way. People trapped in a building, fighting for their lives.”

Mr. Ewert: “Lady, we’re not trapped in any building and there are no flying saucers out there. We’re here buying water because someone dumped something in the reservoir, that’s all. There’s no conspiracy. We’re not trapped. Why, you can just leave your cart and walk out now if you’ve a mind to.”

Peter: “Oh, the ‘Voice of Reason’ speaks.”

Mrs. Averill: “Leave my water, will you? So you can take it? So you don’t have to fight an old lady for her last drop of water, making me lie here in a pool of blood, right here in the grocery store? Stepping over my dead body so you can steal my water. If my husband were still alive, he’d tell you a thing or two, that’s what.”

Mr. Ewert: “You crazy, lady? No one wants your damn water. There’s no riot. Everyone is calm except you and the crazy kid.”

Peter: “Who you calling crazy, old man? All the doors are locked: people can’t get in. Look around; everything is falling apart.”

Mr. Ewert: “Look, you punk kid, and you, you batty old lady, there’s nothing wrong here except your mouths. Just shut up and we’ll all make it back home in peace.”

Mr. Gaunt: “This man is right. There’s nothing wrong. All we need to do is remain calm. I think.”

At this point Mrs. Averill pulls out a rusty revolver from her purse: “Nobody is taking my water! I’ll shoot anybody who tries. You, young man, stand over next to me so no one sneaks up on us.”

Peter moves his cart next to Mrs. Averill’s and stands behind her.

Peter: “I’ve got your back, lady.”

Mr. Gaunt: “Lady, tell you what. Just take the water and leave. You, too, kid.”

Just then a policeman comes in from the side emergency exit, located in the back wall. He walks up to the store manager.

Mr. Gaunt: “Hey, Sam, what’s going on?”

Policeman: “Hi. The ‘toxic’ stuff in the reservoir was nothing but a prank by the Betterman brothers. Just food coloring. No harm done.”

Jean: “What made the power go out?”

Policeman: “Some drunk ran into the pole on the corner. They’re working on it now.”

Mr. Gaunt: “See, everyone, everything is fine. Now just let Jean here take you credit or debit cards or cash and we’ll send you on your way.”

Mrs. Averill: “How do we know he’s telling the truth? We don’t, that’s what. Young man, watch our backs.”

Policeman: “What’s going on here?”

Mr. Ewert: “It’s the clash between reason and insanity; between Obots and the rest of us; between believing what the Muslims say about forcing Sharia Law down our throats and being deaf.”

Policeman: “‘This ain’t America no more’, old man.”

The policeman draws his gun and shoots Mr. Ewert dead.

Curtain lowers.

FINI

OPOVV

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