Wireless

Sticking a fork in a toaster never hurt anyone

 

 

by K. Brian Neel 

© 2007, all rights reserved

 

 

 

CHARACTERS:

Tesla

Edison

Husband

Wife 

Edison's Assistant 

 

SCENE 1: TESLA and EDISON are on opposite sides of the stage. 

Edison is on a slightly raised platform, preaching his 

technology to the crowd. TESLA sits in a wooden chair

speaking modestly in a thick Serbian accent.

 

EDISON: Personally, I enjoy working about eighteen hours a day. Besides the short catnaps I take, I average about four to five hours sleep per night. I work hard and have much stick-to-it-iv-ness, which has allowed me to invent various telegraphic devices and the musical phonograph...

 

TESLA: Invention is the most important product of man's creative brain. The ultimate  purpose is the complete mastery of mind over the material world, the harnessing of human nature to human needs.  

 

EDISON: Now, I don't want to get too technical on you, but direct current electricity is the continuous movement of power from one area to another through a conducting material such as a metal wire. 

 

TESLA: Direct current electrical powerhouses that have been built up and down the Atlantic seaboard are inefficient. Alternating current, like all energies is cyclic. 

 

EDISON: Our lives will be more enjoyable and more valuable with direct current. There will be no darkness. No more dangerous gas lamps. My incandescent electric lamps...

 

TESLA: Edison’s lamps are weak and inefficient when supplied by direct current. This system has a severe disadvantage in that it can not be transported more than two miles due to its inability to step up to high voltage levels necessary for long distance transmission. 

 

EDISON: With direct current powering America, we will have more time for family, more time for homework, more time for music and art, but not cubist art, that's hideous. 

 

TESLA: Alternating current is a superior technology. 

 

 

SCENE 2:  In darkness, we hear WIFE walking down steps, counting them.

 

WIFE: ... twenty five, twenty six, twenty seven. (Stumbling) Aah! I thought you said there were twenty seven steps.

 

HUSBAND: There are.

 

WIFE: So that last one doesn't count? 

 

HUSBAND: That's the floor. 

 

WIFE: It's still a step.

 

HUSBAND: Did you bring the bulb? 

 

WIFE: Got it. Talk and I'll find you. 

 

HUSBAND: I'm over here... by the crap... in boxes that will soon be off to Goodwill... 

 

(She finds him.)

 

WIFE: Hello.

 

HUSBAND: Hello

 

(They get frisky while she hands him the bulb, he screws it in. 

light comes on.) 

 

WIFE: What have you found to get rid of? 

 

HUSBAND: Lots of old clothes, some baseball stuff, camping crap. 

 

WIFE: Aah, memory lane. 

 

HUSBAND:  Memory basement. (Pulling out a ratty pillow) What's this?

 

WIFE: My hug pillow! 

 

HUSBAND: Trash. 

 

WIFE: It was my first one.

 

HUSBAND: How may hug pillows have you had in your life? 

 

WIFE: I don't count everything like you, dear. 

 

HUSBAND: That wasn't counting, it was a question. And this isn't treasure, it's (smelling it) jesus! It's festering! You have a fresh hugging pillow upstairs. And the question was to warn me as to how many festering pillows I'm going to unearth down here. 

 

WIFE: Just the one, Mr. Mathematician. Fine, get rid of it. (pulling out a toaster.) Now, I didn't save this. 

 

HUSBAND: Oh, yea, I was going to fix that a couple years ago. The spring kept sticking. 

 

WIFE: You have a fresh toaster upstairs, dear. 

 

HUSBAND: Yea, yea. It's crap. Put it in the to-go box over there. 

 

SCENE 3:  EDISON enters TESLA's warehouse. TESLA is scrubbing 

his hands and arms with fervor. 

 

EDISON: I remember when you worked at my lab, you asked me to pay you for all the time you spent cleaning. 

 

TESLA: You live in utter disregard for the most elementary rules of hygiene.

 

EDISON: Did you quit because I refused to pay you twenty five a week? 

 

TESLA: I improved your current and you didn't pay what you promised. 

 

EDISON: When you become a full-fledged American you'll appreciate an American joke.

 

TESLA: Your methods are inefficient in the extreme. A little theory and calculation would save you ninety percent of your labor. But you have a veritable contempt for book learning and mathematical knowledge, trusting yourself entirely to inventor's instinct and practical American sense. 

 

EDISON: I'm doing fine, Tes.

 

TESLA: You are bankrupt. As is Westinghouse. I'm releasing them from contract to alleviate my patient royalties. You now have no need to compete further. 

 

EDISON: The World's Columbian Exposition isn't everything. I've got New York. The subway will always run on my current.

 

TESLA: Take your wires and take my wires. The ground's telluric current transverse waves and longitudinal waves are the earth's conductor. Power and energy will transmit through the Kennelly-Heaviside layer... 

 

EDISON: You're a babbling lunatic. You think you're doing me a favor? You call me here, invite me to your secret lab, tell me you're helping an old pal. It's too late for that. You became my enemy, in business sense of course, when I was like a father to you. I brought you to America, I raised you to the place you are now. I tried to help you become American, but you're a foreigner, Tesla. America sees that. And America writes history. 

 

 

SCENE 3:  Basement in darkness, same as scene 1. The tone is now that 

of a couple not in a good place. 

 

WIFE: ... twenty five, twenty six, twenty seven. (Stumbling) Aah! I thought you said there were twenty seven steps.

 

HUSBAND: There are.

 

WIFE: So that last one doesn't count? 

 

HUSBAND: That's the floor. 

 

WIFE: It's still a step.

 

HUSBAND: Did you bring the bulb? 

 

WIFE: Of course. Talk. 

 

HUSBAND: I'm over here by the crap. 

 

(She finds him. He hands him the bulb. He screws it in and it turns on. 

They look at each other a second, a heaviness between them.) 

 

WIFE: What are you getting rid of? 

 

HUSBAND: Old clothes, baseball stuff, camping crap. 

 

WIFE: Aah, memory lane. 

 

HUSBAND:  Memory basement. (Pulling out a ratty pillow) What's this? 

 

WIFE: My hug pillow. You can throw it away. 

 

HUSBAND: No, no, we can save it. 

 

(She pulls out a toaster. It immediately brings to the surface 

a terrible memory.)

 

WIFE: Why did you save this? 

 

HUSBAND: I couldn't get rid of it. 

 

WIFE: I don't want this in my house. 

 

(He reaches to take it from her, but she holds on to it.) 

 

WIFE: No. 

 

(She sets the toaster on the ground, grabs a baseball bat, and clobbers it.)

 

 

SCENE 4:  EDISON mounts the platform and begins preaching to the audience

like a carnival barker. Through the course of his speech, an ASSISTANT

brings out a large square metal plate, and wires it.

 

EDISON: George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla have deceived the trust and confidence of the general public. We saw the blazing beauty of their electrified Chicago World's Fair, an illegitimate beauty disrespectfully stolen from the Edison Electric Light Company's Deadwood, North Dakota spectacle of 1882. Yes, we were amazed, yet I am ashamed to have my own invention of the monofiliment lamp powered by their monstrously dangerous and inferior technology, the true scope of horror I will prove to you here and now. 

 

(The ASSISTANT brings out a cat, and puts it on top of the metal plate.) 

 

This metal plate is connected to a 1,000 volt alternating current generator. They say it is safe. But is it? Witness the audacious abomination that is Westinghouse and Tesla's alternating current! 

 

(The lights dim and strobe, the sound of electric current combines with the high 

pitched screech of the cat. Smoke permeates from the carcass. Blackout.) 

 

 

SCENE 5:  From the darkness, a single light bulb flickers on. It is being held 

in the hands of Wife who is walking down the stairs. The bulb 

is not connected to any wire, but blazes from her fingers alone.

 

WIFE: ... twenty five, twenty six, twenty seven... Twenty eight. There are twenty eight steps, honey. 

 

HUSBAND: Twenty seven.

 

WIFE: You're not counting the last step to the floor. If you don't count that, you may as well not count the top step since technically that's part of the floor too. 

 

HUSBAND: True. You're very smart. 

 

WIFE: And you're just a mathematician. 

 

HUSBAND: You want me to hold the light? 

 

WIFE: No, I got it. That way you have to do all the work. 

 

HUSBAND: You are smart.

 

WIFE: What are we giving to Goodwill? 

 

HUSBAND: Old clothes, baseball stuff, camping crap. 

 

WIFE: Aah, memory lane. 

 

HUSBAND:  Memory basement. (Pulling out a ratty pillow) What's this? 

 

WIFE: My old hug pillow. You can throw it away. 

 

(He pulls out the toaster with no cord.)

 

HUSBAND: Hey, I wonder if this still works. 

 

(He pushes the leaver and stares into it.)

 

HUSBAND: What's Billy doing? 

 

WIFE: He's in his room reading about mold experiments. That boy's going to be a scientist someday. 

 

HUSBAND: Or a chef. Hey, this thing's getting hot. 

 

WIFE: Yea, but it doesn't pop up, remember? 

 

(HUSBAND gets a fork on the floor and puts it in the toaster.) 

 

HUSBAND: I wish Billy'd put the light on when he reads. The other day he was reading in the dark. I swear, it was completely dark. It's not like it's difficult to say, "lights: on."

 

(He suddenly pulls his hand off the fork in the toaster.) 

 

Ouch!

 

WIFE: You okay? 

 

HUSBAND: Sucker's hot. 

 

They look at the toaster a second. 

 

WIFE: Goodwill?

 

HUSBAND: Fuck yea, Goodwill. 

 

(He tosses the toaster into the to-go box. Wife takes his finger and puts it 

in her mouth, wireless bulb glowing between them.) 

 

END

 

 

alternate scene:

 

WIFE: Why did you save this? 

 

HUSBAND: I couldn't get rid of it. 

 

WIFE: I don't want this in my house. 

 

HUSBAND: I'm sorry, I should have... We have to let go of him. He's...

 

WIFE: You're telling me to let go, but you keep this thing in our house? 

 

(He reaches to take it from her, but she pulls it away from him.) 

 

WIFE: No. 

 

(She sets the toaster on the ground, grabs a baseball bat, and clobbers it.)




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