Monday, November 5, 2007

On the Earth…

A short script I'm working on, on a lark.

Mostly Two-Way Dialogues on the Earth
and off the Wall

by Elliot Bougis

Bertus: What is this I hear about wasting water?

Ernius: What do you mean?

Bertus: Well, these people… these Fangoreans…

Ernius: What is a Fangorean?

Bertus: It's a fan of Gore.

Ernius: Brother.

Bertus: These people… they tell me… I hear on the news, in those posters, not to waste water.

Ernius: Yes.

Bertus: Not to flush the toilet and wash your hands.

Ernius: Well, no, just not to waste water when doing those things.

Bertus: Waste water?

Ernius: Yes. We need water to live.

Bertus: Who's wasting water? Where does it go? Does it stop being water? Am I really to blame?

Ernius: Well, okay, yes, the water is still there, but…

Bertus: …but?

Ernius: But if you waste it, if you flush it and use too much in the sink, it puts a burden on the water company.

Bertus: Water is a burden on the water company? They're the water company!

Ernius: Yes, but they have to handle it and that's the ecological burden.

Bertus: Since when has handling water been such a bad thing? Give me a sieve, lots of bleach, huge boiling kettles and lots of paper towels, and I'll handle the water. I know poo and the pee in the water ups the handling aspect, but it's still water. Just in a funk.

Ernius: That's disgusting. Haven't you heard of economics before?

Bertus: What does my college background have to do with Ma Earth? I may not be good with money but I'm 70% water and I've made it this far, so give my hydrocybernetic hunches some credit.


Bertus: And all this garbage, what's the worry?

Ernius: Are you joking? Garbage is an obvious problem. It rots on the ground, ruins the surroundings, and poisons the soil for centuries to come.

Bertus: I'd be honored to do anything for centuries. Here's to garbage!

Ernius: On top of that, landfills take up huge amounts of land. Even if it weren't pollution, it's still horribly inefficient.

Bertus: Well, if space is a problem, I know just the place–––

Ernius: You're opening a restaurant?

Bertus: –––space!

Ernius: Right. Space. We're probably decades, even centuries, from living in space.

Bertus: Which is exactly my point: we let the garbage live there first.

Ernius: You want to just throw our garbage in to outer space?

Bertus: No, no, no, who's talking about just throwing? I've got aims. Send it straight to the sun. Why are we spending all this money on sending men into outer space?

Ernius: That's one of the frontiers of space science.

Bertus: Why send men into space when they just want to come right back? I say, send the garbage up and it won't bother us again. One man's garbage is another man's gold. I say we make one planet's garbage some star's aperitif. One big rocket of garbage and the landfills are as good as golf courses. If we can outsource operators, can't we outsource their McDonald's wrappers?

Ernius: Well what if the rocket blows up in the atmosphere?

Bertus: Are you always this negative? We're talking about NASA. It is exactly rocket science! If you can think of it, they can plan for it too. Launching from the sea–––we'll christen it the SS Muck–––should keep any bad spills safely off of people's heads.

Ernius: And then you've polluted the entire ocean!

Bertus: Ah, but would the fish really mind? After all, they evolved all this way on to land just for a taste of stationary garbage. If you're trashy doomsday scenario did ever happen, we just lay out a biggish net to catch the fallen and try again for the next election. We could take bets on if rocket would blow up. And when. And over what country. The gamble of a generation.

Ernius: Typically human–––

Bertus: Said the human.

Ernius: –––saving your own neck by sweeping your garbage under the rug.

Bertus: It's the rug. It's the universe. I don't think it will gulge when guests come over. Besides, if the garbage insisted on hurtling back down upon us in an apocalypse most unsanitary, I know it would sell like hot cakes on eBay. "Space Garbage! High enough and it may float again!"

Ernius: You're not happy we've polluted the earth, you also want to pollute space?

Bertus: Now, now, you shouldn't worry so. Infinite voids have a way of staying clean. At least nothing would rot out there. It would be a Kubrickian epic of man's past lives tumbling in a subzero sea of radiation. Just what the likes of garbage deserves.


Ernius: So that's your solution for the garbage problem? Do you know how many rockets it would take to remove all the garbage we've accumulated so far?

Bertus: No.

Ernius: Well, then…

Bertus: Do you?

Ernius: How many rockets? … No.

Bertus: Bloodied but unbowed I remain, then.

Ernius: Look, I'm not a scientist, but I know it would take hundreds of rockets, which would be extremely expensive. Besides, even if we did "outsource" all the garbage, it still wouldn't fix the long­term problem of greenhouse gases.

Bertus: You would kick a man when he's up? First you shoot down my rocket, idea, with your icy pessimism and now you put me on the rack with your clamoring for a Final Solution.

Ernius: Well, my mom always said, Don't go in the kitchen if you're not ready to cook.

Bertus: Yes, and my uncles always said, Don't assume the throne unless you're ready to deploy the troops, but that never stopped them from trying again after dessert.

Ernius: Troops? Your…

Bertus: It's a Greek thing, don't ask. Very Greco-Greco. Hold me now, I'm getting all Zorbic.

Ernius: You're getting all off the point. Rockets are a comic-book solution to a real crisis for the people of earth.

Bertus: Klaatu, barada, nikto.

Ernius: Huh?

Bertus: I fly like a bee in the bonnet of your perfectionism and sting like salt on the paper cuts of your pessimism.

Ernius: No, it's…

Bertus: Now who's off topic!

Ernius: I… You…

Bertus: Yes, where was I? Garbage. Garbage is a foul thing.

Ernius: I've known jokes more foul.

Bertus: A mere buzzing of flies I hear. … Garbage, being such a woe for the People of the Earth (patent pending), you are right, does need more than one solution. Shakespeare said the world is not enough and you tell me the sun isn't either–––

Ernius: Leave the dead in peace.

Bertus: –––which is why I have another idea. Something very domestic. And I do leave the dead in pieces.

Ernius: All right, what is your other idea?

Bertus: Garbage homes.

Ernius: All of a sudden nostalgic?

Bertus: Buzz, buzz. I see it as plain as I see the dandruff on your shoulder: homes built from processed garbage. We remove the organic matter–––banana peels, tomatoes, SPAM, wings, toupees, and the like–––sterilize the rest with some kind of spray or radiation treatment, and then crush the rest into huge blocks. We can call it post-prefab.

Ernius: I don't think they give Guggenheim** grants for "some kind of spray" proposals.

Bertus: Again with the negativity. Between us we make a magnet.

Ernius: No, but between us only one of us makes sense.

Bertus: May I go on?

Ernius: How can you?

Bertus: We can crush garbage into almost any hydraulically tortured shape and size. And then we can just dip them, the bales of waste, in recycled, hardened Styrofoam for insulation and strength.

Ernius: Do you think people would really want to live in houses made of garbage?

Bertus: Why not? At least then they'd always have an excuse for clutter around the house: there's already clutter all the way around the house. Better yet, they're stockpiling for an addition, maybe a patio.

Ernius: People in Cairo do live in garbage houses.

Bertus: Visionaries! I've been beaten to the punch. Or punched to the beatin'?

Ernius: They live there because they are poor. It's a form of necessity. They can't afford to live any where else so they retreat to the city's landfills.

Bertus: I've already explained that landfills have no place on earth in the rocket age.

Ernius: Be that as it may, your garbage-house idea is an insult to the world's poor.

Bertus: How's that? Give me their numbers and I'll be their real estate broker. My clients have already got houses, so it's just a matter of trading up. Movin' on up! I've already got the perfect slogan: "Success–––it's just over the next heap!"

Ernius: Absurd. Even if you found funding, they'd be the ugliest houses on the planet. Inside and out!

Bertus: I think your standards are too high. Have you seen some of what is happening in the suburbs? Or, worse, in federal housing?

Ernius: Are you insinuating the federally subsidized live in garbage?

Bertus: I'm simply saying, why should people already on a hard streak have to smile and sign on for houses that are in fact just the government's leftovers? Calling a dump a housing project is miles away from calling garbage a house. At least my buyers would know exactly what they were getting. As it is, they have to smile for the camera when Uncle Sam says cheese.

Ernius: Having a home is a huge step towards freedom for many, many people.

Bertus: Exactly. Which is why garbage housing gives the owner more autonomy than ever. If you don't like the house, just take it back to the dump. I'm sure they can keep a little off the weekly rocket for a new edition.

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