WADE BASCOM, twenty-six, is sitting at the table doing the crossword puzzle in the evening paper. CAROL HARDIE, twenty-four, is at the stove preparing another of her organic dinners.
WADE: Let's see...a five-letter word for "crook," and I've already got O-N; it's either "felon" or "Nixon"...
Carol takes a taste from the saucepot on the stove.
CAROL: Needs another lentil.
WADE: I swear, half the words in the English language occur only in crossword puzzles! They ought to constitute a ninth part of speech. Carol, would you want to be caught dead slicing cheese with a "snee?"
CAROL (off guard): What? Oh, God, no, we can't afford cheese.
She looks down at the stove burner.
CAROL: I hope you like vichyssoise, because the pilot light just went out.
She looks into the pot again, then picks up a ladle.
CAROL: Oh, I guess it's as ready as we'll ever be.
WADE (thinking): Goose genus.
Carol carries the bowls of soup to the table.
CAROL (with dignity): This is yet another recipe from the Hardie archives, under the heading of "How to Work Rice, Okra and Beefalo Tips Into the Same Dish and Not Be Able to Tell One From the Other." There you go, sir, tickle your tonsils with a spoonful of Carol's own.
Wade tastes it.
WADE (caustic): Boy, this is a taste sensation! Are you sure this is out of that pot?
CAROL (seated): You think I used too much almond extract?
WADE (back with puzzle): That could be. Say, where is our dictionary? I know it's cheating, but I've reached an impasse here.
CAROL: It's propping up your stereo receiver.
WADE: As well it should be. Well, so much for familiarity with the language.
He tosses the section of newspaper over his shoulder and reaches for another. As he reads, occasionally he takes a spoonful of soup.
WADE: And now, let's move on to the headlines. "California Sends Relief Supplies to La Paz." Sure, why not? They always send us a card at Christmas.
CAROL: Funny you should say that; I was just thinking about Christmas today.
WADE: "Jews Trample on the Koran." If they really wanted to be nasty, they should have pulled out the bookmarker.
CAROL (not amused): That's terrible. But no, I was thinking about what Christmas all boils down to. It's kind of a religious melting pot...you know what I mean?
WADE: "Temple Baptist Church Brings Four Congregations Under One Roof." Well, that makes them easier to avoid.
CAROL (continuing): It's like all the religious barriers break down and everyone's really believing in the same thing. Of course, that's assuming you've got a religion...
WADE: "Muhammad Ali Won't Retire, Says His Minister." I'd like to see him take a few swings at Allah.
CAROL: Wade! Are you just going to sit there and put down everything you read?
He leans back in his chair with the paper.
WADE: No, I'm picking it up—see?
CAROL: At least all those people in the paper have some kind of spiritual goal, something they're reaching for. What have we got to hang our hopes on, besides what we're doing just sitting here?
WADE: I dunno, I'd kinda like to see the old "King Kong" back on TV again.
CAROL: You see? You can't even give me a straight answer to such an important question. I've done a lot of thinking about this...Wade, we need a religion!
WADE: So make up your mind. Do you want to think or do you want a religion?
CAROL: I'm serious. If we can just find some kind of idol, something bigger than both of us, something outside ourselves, so we can turn our energies toward it...it would put meaning into our lives! Don't you think so?
WADE (finally putting down paper): Carol, I haven't been inside a church since I was twelve! I choked on the wafer and said, "Good-BYE!"
CAROL: There's other kinds of religions, you know. We can find the one that's just right for us. Somewhere out there there's a god looking for you!
WADE: Well, here I am. Maybe if I opened the curtains.
CAROL: I don't care what you say now. I'm going to start searching right away. We're going to become spiritually fulfilled people!
Wade goes back to reading the paper and holds up his empty bowl.
WADE: How about spiritually fulfilling my soup bowl?
Wade and Carol are in bed asleep. The clock radio goes off on Carol's side, waking her. She reaches to turn down the volume and lies slumped over the edge of the bed.
CAROL (sleepily, to radio): Good morning, Lohman and Barkley.
As she sits up, Wade opens his eyes and yanks on her hair twice to get her attention. Annoyed, she turns sharply.
WADE: If you hurry you can catch "Sunrise Semester" on Channel 3. It'll prepare you for the harder stuff.
CAROL (still waking up): Huh?
WADE: Exactly. I did some dreaming about what you said yesterday, you know, about us becoming a couple of sniveling religious scumbags?
CAROL: I remember...
WADE: Well, I decided we might fit in. I was convinced during the course of the night that it's worth a try.
CAROL (suspicious): Really?
WADE: I knew there must be something to it because this dream was in Pathé color and I usually get my dreams from Fotomat. This spectre was standing before me, yelling , "Redemption! Redemption!" We got into a semantic argument, and that was when I had to get up and go look in the dictionary. When I came back, I was sold.
CAROL: I never know whether to believe you or not!
WADE: Yeah, it's a bitch. Anyway, if you want to do some research while you're out today, I'll go out and sop up a few influences myself.
CAROL: What have you got in mind?
WADE: I don't want any dip religion! It's got to measure up. I'm not burning my Each records for anybody, and I'm not living on any mountains. No, it's got to be perfect.
CAROL: What, you want me to come home with a series of bar graphs for you?
WADE: That shouldn't be necessary at this point. We'll talk about it this afternoon. I'd like each credo submitted in quintuplicate, please. That is all, carry on.
He rolls over and goes back to sleep.
Carol is seated at a long folding table, conducting a telephone survey for her senatorial candidate. Around her are posters reading, "Larch for Senator — Why Not?"
CAROL (on phone): Hello, I'm calling on behalf of the Committee to elect Alexander Larch to the Senate. We'd like to know if you have decided who you will be voting for in the next election? (makes tally mark) Nobody. All right, sir, thank you very much; you're a peasant and a true coward! (hangs up) I don't need this, that's what I need.
She picks up the papers on which she has been writing and takes them over to a desk, sighing as she crosses.
CAROL: Work, work, work, blah, blah, blah, dull, dull, dull...
DARLENE SIMMS is standing at the desk as Carol approaches.
DARLENE: Political enough for you?
CAROL: Oh, sure. Always room for a few more voters on the old bandwagon. Too bad we're the new one.
DARLENE: Thank God the election will be over soon!
CAROL: Oh, I'm glad you brought that up, Darlene. That's what I wanted to talk to you about.
DARLENE: What's what?
CAROL: You know, God and thanking and all that. You're a Christian, right?
DARLENE: You know that. Why, What's up?
CAROL: Well, Wade and I were thinking of joining a religion, and I figured with you we might have an in.
CAROL: I told Wade I would find out something about Christianity from you, and then he could weigh it for himself. You know, pit one God against the other. Oh, that sounds scary, doesn't it?
DARLENE: Well, Carol, uh, you know you're always welcome to attend church with me. It's the First Lutheran Church of Fair Oaks.
CAROL: Oh, that's cute. Just like First National Bank. When would be a convenient time for us to show up?
DARLENE: Try Sunday morning, there's usually somebody there.
Carol takes a pen and note pad from the desk.
CAROL: Let me write that down ... How is this God of yours? Is He pretty together, as gods go?
DARLENE: Carol...1 know you naturally want to be businesslike, but please don't do this to me. There is only one God, whatever you may eventually choose to call Him. Just remember that, okay?
CAROL: Sure, Darlene, I'm sorry. Just one other thing ... will we have to take notes during the lecture?
Wade, seeking information on religions, walks out of Tower Books with paper bag in hand.
WADE: Religious books cost too much; thank God for the public library! (looks up) I guess that's who I should thank.
He pulls a comic book out of the bag.
WADE: Millions of illiterates are starving, and I spend 30 cents on "Howard the Duck."
He stops to read a sign on the community bulletin board.
WADE: "Looking for an evening of obscene relationships? Come one, come all this Friday night! Wild time guaranteed. Prepare for sensuous delight in the night as we all spray ourselves with Crazy Foam and crabwalk across the room under black light. Then we will form a pyramid of human bodies and experience the utmost in erotic ecstasy as someone tosses a feather pillow into the fan. Kinky people are out! Take the address below and we'll feel you later." — 1508 O Street, Apartment 4, 8:30 P.M.
He turns to make sure no one is looking, then tears off one of the strips at the bottom with the address.
WADE: Carol will try anything...
He puts the paper in his shirt pocket and proceeds down the sidewalk of the shopping center, but is stopped by a man with a backpack and books in hand.
HINDU: Hi, how's your day going?
WADE: I'll let you know in a minute.
HINDU: Hey, listen, are you familiar with the teachings of Krishna?
WADE: Sorry, we must be from different high schools.
HINDU: You probably know it as the Hare Krishna "movement" ... it's a part of Hinduism.
WADE (feigning interest): Oh, that Krishna. Say, I'm on my way to the library right now to read up on your friend. Would that be under K or H?
HINDU: I can save you a trip, if you would like to take this copy of "Bhagavad-Gita as It Is." I know you'll find it fascinating, it's totally unlike any philosophy you've ever read.
WADE (looking at book): Pretty flaky, huh?
HINDU: Not at all. It deals with the soul's independence of the body. By placing oneself on a higher level it is possible to attain total separation of the two.
WADE: Oh yeah, I know lots of people who've experienced that, only they're all dead.
HINDU: The followers of Krishna don't believe in death; to us it's meaningless. Wouldn't you like to take the Gita home with you and just read about how the philosophy works, and maybe give some small donation in exchange?
Wade reaches in his pocket and pulls out a coin.
WADE: All I've got left is a dime.
HINDU: Oh. (uncomfortable pause) Well, listen, that's cool, the book is yours for a dime.
Wade puts the dime back in his pocket, but takes the book anyway.
WADE: I better not, that's my gas money. I tell you what, if I decide I don't want to keep the book, I'll buzz Krishna and have him return it. I'm sure he'll know where to find you.
Wade continues walking.
WADE: Well, now I can get the dictionary out from under my receiver.
He looks at the portrait on the book cover.
WADE: Looks like our mailman.
He is stopped again by a man carrying a clipboard.
ATHEIST: Sir, sir, excuse me...
WADE: Mr. Sir to you.
ATHEIST: I'm a spokesman for PANT; that's "Pledge Allegiance, Not Theism." We're circulating a petition to remove the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance in our schools.
WADE: Why not remove the schools instead?
ATHEIST: Now, we are not denouncing the concept of God. But we oppose what amounts to religious indoctrination of our children.
WADE: I've never met you before, and already you're talking about our children?
ATHEIST: I and my fellow PANTers feel that all such references to a religious figure should be handled in the home and church, and kept out of the classroom. Madalyn Murray O'Hair has been quite outspoken on this; Ms. O'Hair wants to keep the educational system down to earth.
WADE: Then why'd they name an airport after her?
ATHEIST: Will you sign our petition?
WADE: Now wait a minute. You and I both made it through grade school—well, I did—and I don't think I ever felt religious during the Pledge of Allegiance. I was too busy wondering why everyone was clutching their hearts. Besides, the name "God" got its fair share of denunciation out on the whiffleball field. That's down to earth enough for me. Don't you guys ever miss having a Lord's name to take in vain?
ATHEIST: You're missing the point. We don't—
WADE: I think you need your points cleaned. Here's a book that may clear things up for you...
He hands the man the Hindu literature.
WADE: It's all about a mailman in Citrus Heights who takes a Special Delivery letter to Tibet and ends up becoming a Sherpa. Good reading. But it's a Book-of-the-Month Club Alternate, so you should only read the even-numbered pages. Those are the ones with the pictures, so your lips shouldn't get tired. Well, see you in hell!
Wade continues walking, leaving the Atheist holding the book.
WADE: All these weirdos in the parking lots, and not one of them ever gets hit by a Mercedes.
Again he is approached, this time by an attractive young woman.
MEDITATOR: Hello, my name is Rhonda; what's yours?
MEDITATOR: I've just become tuned in to Transcendental Meditation.
WADE (feigning interest): Is that so? I had a water bagel for breakfast this morning. Gained four pounds.
MEDITATOR: Do any of your friends meditate?
WADE: Generally not transcendentally. They try to keep things pretty scendental.
MEDITATOR: Oh, you really should try it! It puts your mind on a whole new plane. It adds to your empirically-derived knowledge those thoughts that cannot be perceived directly through experience, and brings out modes of being and principles of existence beyond the reach of mundane experience and manipulation!
MEDITATOR: Would you be interested in attending a meeting?
WADE: Wait a second...did you say your name was Rhonda?
MEDITATOR: That's right.
WADE: I thought I recognized you. I'm in your TM group.
MEDITATOR: Are you really?
WADE: In fact, I was supposed to try to get in touch with you this week...the meeting place has been changed. Let's see, I've got it here somewhere...He takes the slip of paper out of his shirt pocket.
WADE: Here it is; 1508 O Street, Apartment 4. You can't miss it, it's right across from a swamp.
MEDITATOR: Oh, thank you. I guess I'll see you there then, huh?
WADE: Yeah, that's Friday night, eight-thirty. Bring a can of Crazy Foam to contemplate; it's part of the Maharishi's new "Keep TM Clean" campaign.
MEDITATOR (laughing): Okay...Wade continues down the sidewalk, leaving the girl holding the slip of paper.
MEDITATOR: I'm sorry, what did you say your name was?
WADE (calling back): Judas.
WADE (off scene): Next!The CAMERA PANS to show Wade lying on his back on the sofa, a can of potato chips at his side. There is a high stack of books on the floor within his reach. He takes the next book from the top of the stack.
WADE: "Toward a More Picturesque Eternity," by the Rev. Ichabod X. Bumstead...I hope it's got pictures.Carol enters the apartment wearing a bead necklace and carrying a bag of groceries.
CAROL (delighted): Since when do you say "Hi" to anyone?
WADE: See? There you go making me self-conscious again. Just for that, I'll never say Hi to you again! Ever! (Pause, then vindictively) Hello!Carol crosses to put the bag on the kitchen counter.
CAROL: I stopped at a roadside stand and got some zucchini to bake into bread.
WADE: It's not enough we've got fluoridated water, now you've got to have zucchiniated bread?Carol notices the books strewn on the floor.
CAROL: What is all this?
WADE: Hey, I'll have you know I've been furthering my religious pursuits all afternoon. Right here on this sofa, I'm expanding my spiritual horizon and bringing myself ever-closer to true enlightenment! You want some newfangled potato chips?
CAROL: You don't seem to have expanded very far, judging from your discard pile here.
WADE: Well, I'm having my ups and downs, you know, genuflecting and all.
CAROL: All right, Mr. Jack-in-the-Pulpit, what are you reading about now?
WADE (off guard): Oh, uh, this is one man's story of how he was guided to the land of enchantment by following someone with an "I Found It!" bumper sticker out to a rest area near Willits.Carol lowers the book in Wade's hands, revealing his comic book inside. He is caught "cheating."
CAROL: That's Howard the Duck.
WADE: He's the church mascot.
CAROL: I suppose you read all those books that way?
WADE: No! I'd reached my limit about the time you walked in, that's all. I just can't seem to get into any of these established faiths, Carol. As soon as I start reading about one, I start noticing all these things I can't do! They think they're God or something.
CAROL: So you can't take a little discipline in your life?
WADE: Hey, look, for example, if you're a Catholic, you. have to eat fish; if you're Jewish, you can't eat pork; if you're Hindu, you can't eat beef; if you're a Mormon, you starve...I mean, I'm sure there's a way to eat and be religious!
CAROL (sitting on sofa): Well, I think I may have found something that won't put any of those agonizing restrictions on you.
WADE (sitting up): Yeah, I'll bet. Wait'll you read the fine print. They'll make us use the same toothbrush or something; it's always weird!
CAROL: Now, I want you to give it a fair chance for once. I've been talking with some Buddhists; it's the fastest-growing religion in America.
WADE: Buddha...that's the guy on the record label, huh?
CAROL: It's based almost totally on individual practice; we can do it in our own home!
WADE: Can we return it in ten days?
CAROL: Oh, it's really simple, and you don't have to live on a mountain or any of those weird things you're too scared to attempt. All you have to do is chant!
WADE: Hey, that's—(double take) Aw, no! Forget it! Chanting in our apartment? With these walls? The neighbors complain every time I listen to Gesualdo!Carol removes her necklace.
CAROL: Don't worry about it, we'll work it out. Look, they even gave me some beads. (Rubbing them between her hands) You keep the rhythm with them, see?She hands him the beads.
WADE: I had a tapeworm once looked just like this.
CAROL (grossed out): Ooh!
WADE: So how do we go about breaking into this a capella group?
CAROL: There's a meeting for new members tonight, right here in Fair Oaks. Wade, let's go, please?
WADE: Let's not and say we did...I bet it's worked before.
CAROL: No, come on!
WADE: I'll take a rain check. About 40 days and 40 nights' worth.
CAROL: Come on...chicken.
WADE: I told you not to call me—
CAROL (falsetto): Chick-chick-chick-EN!
WADE: All right! All right! I'll lay my soul on the line! Anything to get you off the subject of poultry. I'll try it. But it better work fast; these library books are due on the fourteenth.
WADE (muttering): Jesus Christ...
CAROL: Come on, you're not leaving yet.
WADE (struggling): I think I just heard a voice from on high; I'd better go check it out.
CAROL: Listen to them, it's beautiful. Oh, I think I could enjoy doing this!
WADE: They're not doing it in my key; I...Carol takes off her shoes; Wade reluctantly follows suit.
CAROL: Let's sit down here, and remember, I'm between you and the door.
WADE: You're always between me and something!They sit on the floor near the back of the room, Wade looking very uncomfortable. Carol fumbles through her pocket for a slip of paper.
CAROL: I have it written down what they're saying...it's, uh...nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
WADE: No. No, I don't like that. Give me something from Column B.
CAROL: How do you suppose the mere repetition of a few simple sounds over and over can make successes out of all these people?
WADE: I don't know, they sure don't look like rock stars.The chanting comes to a close and everyone applauds the leader.
LEADER: Good evening! Before we do tonight's lesson, does anyone have any experiences they want to relate?
GIRL: Oh, I do!There is more applause as the girl stands and faces the group.
GIRL: I've been chanting for about a year now, and my life has just done a complete one-eighty. Before I came to my first meeting, I was the way a lot of us probably were: really wrapped up in myself, thinking I didn't need anything or anyone else...
WADE (aside): Right on!
GIRL: ...I thought the most important thing in my daily life was lying in my apartment listening to the stereo and reading absurdist plays.Laughter from the group.
GIRL: I actually believed I enjoyed that more than being with people, but I was stupid...
WADE: Watch it, sister!
CAROL (to Wade): Hits you where you live, doesn't it?
GIRL: ...Then one of my few friends at the time managed to turn me on to Buddhism and I naturally figured I'd try it for a little while and then go on to something else, the way I'd been running my life all along; but as Soon as I started chanting nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I could actually see things changing, that's how fast it was. I started spending less and less time wallowing in academic pursuits and putting more and more into relating with real-life people...
WADE: Traitor! Traitor!
CAROL: Down, boy.
GIRL: ...Now I've found that the only things really worth knowing are the things you learn from direct experience with others, not what you read in a book. It's hard to believe now that I might never have fully realized that without chanting; but for the first time, I have more friends than I do records. Thank you!Applause. The girl reclaims her seat on the floor.
WADE: I can't take this anti-intellectualist propaganda. Watch me freak out these pansies!
CAROL: Wade!...He stands and walks to the front of the room. The group applauds again.
WADE: Before I got turned on to Gautama's peerless profundities, I wanted to break into the tie tack business, but was told to sit on it.Much to Wade's surprise and consternation, the line gets a laugh. This throws him off momentarily.
WADE: Uh, but before I could say "anthrax," this cosmic voice came to me over the phone. (miming a telephone) "Hello?" I said. (basso) "Yes, " it said, "this is the Cosmic Voice; do you know you've got your Mustang parked right in my altar?"There is more laughter. Wade, thinking the group should be insulted, can't figure it out.
WADE: And-and then the operator came on the line and said, "Mr. Voice, your millennium is up; deposit 60 fen for the next Age of Aquarius, please."Even bigger laugh. He makes a final attempt.
WADE: But we were cut off when a flaming phoenix perched on the phone lines. I thought it was an omen, but then I found out it happens all the time in this area code.The laughter doesn't stop. Wade hastily begins making for the door as the crowd applauds. Carol is standing by this time.
CAROL (at door): Where are you going? You're a hit. Isn't that what you wanted?
WADE: I'm getting out of here. This is the weirdest group I ever accosted. They're not even offended by me! My defenses are broken down!
CAROL: What do you—The girl walks up to Carol.
GIRL: Oh, hi! I'm the one you talked to this afternoon! Glad to see you made it here! How are you?
WADE: We're just leaving, that's how she is.
GIRL: Wait, I still don't know your names!
WADE: That's because you never saw us. Let's go, Frank!He pulls Carol out the door with him.
CAROL (disgusted): Chicken.She stands up and walks to the end of the sofa.
CAROL (louder): Chickener!She comes closer and shouts into his ear.
WADE (still reading): Ignore, ignored, ignoring.
CAROL: Always, whenever I think you might be on the way to discovering something, you're just looking for that earliest opportunity to alienate yourself from it, and then you figure the subject's closed.
WADE: Closed, closeder, closedest.She paces the apartment as she lectures him.
CAROL: Have you ever pursued anything to its logical end? Scraped through to its real heart and substance? Or are you just so engulfed in superficialities that that's all you look for in a thing, some little irrelevant oddity that you can blowout of proportion and make fun of, and to hell with whatever might lie underneath? Do you think you're the only object in the universe without an imperfection?
WADE: An ice cream cone comes close, unless it's Jamoca Almond Fudge.
CAROL: I really believed that this time you were halfway interested in exploring a new lifestyle with me, but you were just leading me on as usual.Wade finally looks up from his magazine and points accusingly.
WADE: Hey, can it, Hardie! I told you I'd seek out a religion for myself, and dammit, I meant it. But I also said that it had to be something extra-special, something out of the mainstream, and I don't mean the Styx. You can't rush me on a thing like this; it's a long-term investment, like double-knit slacks. We just gotta keep looking, that's all.Carol sits back down on the stool.
CAROL (sighs): It's just so hard when you don't know what you want. Where do you go to—
WADE (reading again): Hel-lo...and what have we here? This looks most entertaining.
CAROL: Will you put that magazine away?
WADE: No, no, this could be it. It's in this ad here, right next to the Rosicrucians. This just might turn out to be the Wade Bascom religion!
CAROL: Are you serious?
WADE: I'm looking right at it. "Harbingers of Armageddon. Not just another Resurrection and the Life. Shows how you can, now, during your life on this earth, foresee your confrontation with Number One in the hereafter. Learn proper methods of introducing oneself. Find out what deities look for in a first impression. Get in a good word for yourself now and they'll remember you later. Hundreds of Good Semaritans have got where they're going through Harbingers of Armageddon. Don't be half-safe; call us tonight!" (getting up) I wanna do just that; is our phone bill paid up?
CAROL: Come on, stop fooling around.
WADE: No, this is real! It's just the kind of pragmatic, formulized approach I've been searching for. And to think I found it in the back of "True Detective"...
CAROL: Wade, can't you see it's just another crackpot mail-order ripoff?
WADE (at telephone): I've got to try it. What's there to lose? At the worst, I'll get connected with Bombay by mistake.
CAROL (throwing up her hands): This is your trip, not mine. I have nothing to do with this!
WADE (dialing): What a strange phone number; it's only got two digits.
CAROL: I'm going to start my zucchini bread.As Carol gets up, there is a knock at the door and she turns to answer it. Wade, facing away from the door, did not hear the knock.
WADE: Oh boy, I'm gonna talk to God. I wonder if it's like talking to Santa Claus... (childishly) "Dear God, I want a Sterling silver harp, a paisley toga, gossamer wings..."Revealed in the door is a small white-bearded man in a black cloak, carrying some kindling.
SAGE: Harbingers of Armageddon.
WADE (into phone): Ah, good evening! I just got through perusing your ad in "True Detective, the one with the scissors marks?The man steps inside. Carol stands aghast, and Wade continues to talk into the phone.
SAGE: How you came to know of us is of no concern to me.
WADE: Uh...yeah, well, it sounded pretty trick, so I thought I'd call and find out how I can sign up.The man is standing right behind him.
SAGE: Are you certain that you are prepared to face your future?
WADE: Hey, man, I'm analyzing my future all the time, but when it comes it's never much scarier than the present. For all I know, I'm already dead!
SAGE: It is never too late to gain back eternal life.
WADE: Far out! Sure, I'm prepared. What could possibly happen, besides maybe getting God out of the shower?
SAGE: As you wish.
WADE: Well, so, what's involved? Will you be sending a representative over here or what?
SAGE: I am already here.Wade turns and sees the sage. He stares wide-eyed, frightened, and slowly hangs up the phone.
SAGE: My time with you shall be brief. Once I have you face-to-face with the Supreme Judge, only you will be able to determine what must be changed between now and the end of your earthly life. I am merely the middleman. And now, my work begins.The sage drops the kindling on the floor and lights it with a disposable lighter.
CAROL: What are you doing?!
SAGE: The fires of Prometheus will bring about the transformation in your mind. All that is before you now will change into the scene of your final judgment, and only when you have found The Answer will you be returned to finish this life.The flame grows and fills the room with smoke.
WADE (waving his arms): Somebody turn on the kitchen fan!
SAGE: I wish you luck in your confrontation with the powers that be. And remember...you asked for it!Carol runs over to Wade and they clutch each other, horror-struck. WE SEE only them, as the room becomes obscured by thick smoke.
WADE: Carol.. .something tells me this isn't going to be funny!
CAROL: What's happening to the room?!
WADE: I've got my eyes closed.
CAROL: Everything's turning vermilion!
WADE (opens eyes): Oh, yeah? That's bad news.
CAROL: Oh, you don't suppose...
DEVIL'S VOICE: Wade Bascom, I presume!
WADE: I'm sure I can't fool you, whoever you are!
DEVIL: Hello there.
WADE (nervous): Hi.
DEVIL: Do you know where you are, Wade?
WADE: Is it contained in the word "hello?"
DEVIL (aside): He knows.
WADE: You must have me confused with some other Wade Bascom; there's one in every phone book.
DEVIL: There is no mistake, and there is nothing to discuss. It is time for you to meet your eternal fate, and I must say, I don't envy you.
WADE: I don't believe this. Why am I here? What does it all mean? What did I do to deserve this?
CAROL: Oh, dear God, this is serious...Wade's talking in clichés!
DEVIL: It's not what you did, but what you didn't do. You grew fearful of the world of humanity around you and withdrew. Not once did you attempt to reach out to your fellow man, nor did you seek to improve yourself for the benefit of the kindred souls near you. Instead you sought to create your own self-contained existence, evading the purpose of your placement on Earth, fighting against the natural social needs created in you by your very humanness. Heartwise, you were an all-around underachiever!
CAROL (to Wade): What did I tell you?
WADE (to Carol): Shut up! (to Devil) Beelzebub, baby, you got me all wrong. I mean, maybe I didn't hang around with people much, but am I as bad as the one who spends a lifetime actively hurting others? I'm really a decent guy...He pulls a card out of his wallet.
WADE: See, I even joined Friends of Animals.
DEVIL: Yet in withholding the good you could have actively done for mankind, in effect you did hurt, not only others, but yourself. So don't give me that bull! The time for talking is over. Prepare to meet thy bummer!
CAROL: No! You can't do this! Hasn't our time together meant anything? Hasn't he made any progress at all?
WADE: Can't she at least make me a final piece of zucchini bread before I go?
DEVIL: I'll have your ferryboat here right away.The Devil punches up a number on a Touch-Tone telephone.
CAROL: Wade! This is your last chance. Fight him with religion. Chant something. Anything!
DEVIL (on phone): Hello, Charon? You got room for one more today?
WADE: I don't remember anything. AUM! That's all I can think of. AUM!
CAROL: That won't do. Here, I've still got the Buddhist chant in my pocket. Try that!
DEVIL: Okay, good deal, see you in a minute or two.The Devil punches up another extension.
DEVIL: Hello, Prince of Darkness? Yeah, it's about your successor. He says he's afraid of the dark.
WADE: Wait a second, I think I wrote down a couple of chants myself this afternoon. (reaches in pocket) They're right here.
CAROL: Oh, quick!
DEVIL: Yeah, I guess you're right. A little Lethe water'll make him forget all about it!
WADE: Hare Rama! Et cetera...
DEVIL: I think I'll call Dial-a-Devotion.
CAROL: Isn't there anything else?
WADE (groping): I'm sure I had one other chant written down someplace...1 don't know if Iíve got it on me or not.
CAROL: Please say you've got it. This one has to work!
WADE: Hold it—aha, here it is. Geez, I don't even remember this one...sno-ino-zo-pon!Suddenly, all the lights in the columns explode at once.
DEVIL (looking around): What the hell?
WADE: All ri-i-ight! Sno-ino-zo-PON!The Devil's necktie begins winding around his neck, strangling him.
WADE: I wanna get outta here...sno-ino-zo-pon!There is the SOUND OF AN EXPLOSION. Smoke obscures everything again.
WADE (elated): We're back, safe in our own bed! And I'm no longer condemned to Hades, because I've found the religion that's going to save my life! It's all here in this little chant: sno-ino-zo-pon!He tosses the slip of paper aside. She picks it up and looks at it.
WADE: Gee! Golly! Wow! Carol, I'm a satisfied customer. Anything that can do what I just saw is nothing to take lightly. It's a force greater than all the ages...
WADE: ...and I'm becoming a disciple of it, whatever it is.
CAROL: Wade, this is not a chant.
CAROL: It's not a chant. Look, you were reading it upside-down. It's your grocery list. See? No-Doz and onions!
WADE: No-Doz and onions?
CAROL: You were chanting something of your own creation.
WADE: No kidding?. .Of course! I saved myself with my own chant. It was me all along. That means I'm my own God! I don't need any organized religion to get me where I'm going...the power is all here in my own thought!
CAROL: Wonderful. So where does that leave me? Suppose I don't have your infinite power?
WADE: What have you got to worry about? You're God's old lady. You've got it made! You and me together...we'll rank up there with all the other great teams! Zeus and Hera! Jupiter and Juno! Odin and Frigg! Say, uh, speaking of Frigg...He snuggles up to her and rolls his eyes.
WADE: Fourteen down...century plant.
CAROL: It's going to take a while to get used to living with God.
WADE: Aw, Carol, I'm not God, I'm Wade. I've just got a little piece of God floating around in me, that's all. You've got it, too.
CAROL: So how come I'm not good at crossword puzzles?
WADE: What's this? A five-letter word for "cook?" It's gotta be "Carol."She observes him writing her name.
CAROL: You're writing it in the black squares.
WADE: I know!
FREEZE FRAME as they look at each other. CREDITS APPEAR OVER SCENE. CUT TO BLACK.
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