Act I, Section Eight of An American Book of the Dead - The Game Show. . .


ABOD-TGS Act I, Sect. 7

. . . . Tonya’s booth starts to glow. Lights rise on three people riding in a carriage. Randolph Witherspoon takes up one bench with his bulk, and sits facing his wife Isabel and John Carver seated on the opposite bench.)

WITHERSPOON: Isabel, my belle, what do you think of Mr. Carver?

ISABEL: Oh for pity’s sake, Randy.

WITHERSPOON: I’ll have you know, Izzy, you are currently riding next to one of the greatest legal minds in the U.S. history.

ISABEL: Indeed, I have no cause to doubt Mr. Carver’s forensic excellence.

WITHERSPOON: My dearest dollop, people will be lecturing on this man’s lawyering for centuries to come.

CARVER: The gracious Mr. Witherspoon exaggerates egregiously.

WITHERSPOON: Not a jot. You, sir, took the coon’s law and turned it to work for the industrialist.

ISABEL: Fascinating.

CARVER: Hardly. In actuality, it’s all quite dull.

ISABEL: No, Mr. Carver. This false modesty won’t do. I really must insist that you explain to me your lawyerly genius.

CARVER: No, really.

ISABEL: Really, yes.

CARVER: Well, Madame, your insistence commands my obeisance.

A few years after the war, back in ‘68, Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, stating that no state shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person the constitution’s equal protection.

ISABEL: Thus abolishing slavery once and for all.

CARVER: Indeed this is certainly one very popular interpretation.

ISABEL: There is another?

CARVER: There is.

ISABEL: And pray tell what is that?

CARVER: That the definition of the word “persons” can be reasonably expanded to include corporations such as those owned and operated by enterprising men like Mr. Witherspoon.

ISABEL: And of what benefit is that?

WITHERSPOON: Only enormous, buttercup, only just enormous.

CARVER: For one, it prevents a state like California from regulating what railroad companies can charge to ship goods through its jurisdiction.

ISABEL: I see... I think.

CARVER: Essentially, my colleagues and I argued-- successfully I’m happy to add--that properly chartered corporations should enjoy the same rights and privileges as quote-unquote persons.

ISABEL: Wait. I think I’ve lost you now. Are you saying that in the eyes of our constitution, corporations are people?

CARVER: Technically it’s “persons”, but that’s the gist of it.

ISABEL: That’s utterly horrible.

WITHERSPOON: Horrible bought the landau you’re riding in, my sugar cane.

CARVER: There’s nothing horrible about it whatsoever. It’s simply another forward step in the march of reason.

ISABEL: Reason? And how is that reasonable?

CARVER: When people speak of the “the people”, what do they mean?

ISABEL: They mean the people.

CARVER: Exactly. A vague, largely imaginary, largely artificial collection of individuals, usually with anarchistic tendencies. Now what is a corporation but a specific, i.e. not vague, not imagined-- albeit artificial-- collection of intelligent men inclined towards order and self-betterment. Why shouldn’t such an organization be granted the same rights as a common pipe fitter?

ISABEL: Indeed, why shouldn’t we then grant such rights and privileges to Randy’s pack of hunting dogs, or the horses drawing this carriage, or the carriage itself?

CARVER: Forgive me, Mrs. Witherspoon. But such is willful nonsense, and I cannot doubt that you fully know it to be so.

ISABEL: Nonsense, Mr. Carver, is the hope that a sow’s ear will become a silk purse through jurisprudential prestidigitation.

CARVER: Well, said. Perhaps if you had been the opposing counsel in this case, things might have turned out differently.

ISABEL: Perhaps if women, and not corporations, were accorded the same rights as men, such a scenario as my opposing you in court would not seem so laughably fantastic.

CARVER: Indeed.

WITHERSPOON: I told you she was a wonder, did I not, John.

CARVER: Indeed you did, sir.

(The three ride in silence. Suddenly Surge appears at the window of the carriage, and shouts:)

SURGE: BEAUTY!

(She lofts a small bomb, fuse burning, onto the lap of Randolph Witherspoon. Carver quickly snatches it and flings it back out the window. He then leans out the other side and hollers up at the coachman:)

CARVER: Get us the hell off this bridge! Now!

(Horse hooves clatter at a gallop; then blackout.

Lights up on Blink Bodie and the game show.)

HOST: Wow! Now we’re cooking. Donny-boy, tell us about that!

ANNOUNCER: Well, Blink, Tonya just lived a long and prosperous life as corporate attorney John Carver, finally dying of prostate cancer at the age of 68 in a Providence, Rhode Island nursing home.

HOST: Ain’t that something else! Shoot! What say we get her on out here?

ALL: SOUNDS GREAT, BLINK!

(A Spokesmodel opens Tonya’s isolation booth and guides John Carver out.)

HOST: Hi’ya, Tonya. How ya feeling?

CARVER: Impossible.

HOST: How ‘bout that Karma Inverter-- gizmo’s got some kick, huh?

CARVER: I...

HOST: What are the odds that you’d toss a bomb at yourself and then toss it back out the window?

CARVER: Absolutely... impossible.

HOST: Don, tell us again what happened with that bomb.

ANNOUNCER: It rolled under the bridge, Blink. And exploded in the middle of a children’s squatter camp, killing a six-year old mongoloid boy named Milo.

(Sound of an explosion. The blue light on Barry’s booth surges, then blinks out.)

HOST: Uh-oh!

ANNOUNCER: Uh-oh’s right, Blink. Guess who was Milo.

HOST: Oh, for crying out loud. That’s it. Get him out here.

(Spokesmodel 2 helps Barry out of his booth.)

Barry, it almost seems like you’re not trying here.

BARRY: I’m sorry, uh...

HOST: Blink.

BARRY: I’m sorry, Blink.

HOST: It’s alright, Barry. You’re still in the game, barely. Lucky for you, if I’m not mistaken, it’s your turn to take a shot at the Bardo Wheel.

Ain’t that right, Don?

ANNOUNCER: That’s right, Blink.

HOST: All right, Tonya. Let’s get you to scoot back into your booth while Barry plays the wheel.

(Blink escorts Carver into Tonya’s booth. The Bardo Wheel lights and the Spokesmodels roll out a cannon. They blindfold Barry, place a tri-corner hat on his head, and hand him a cannoneer’s linstock with a burning match on its end.)

ANNOUNCER: Barry, you hold in your hand a cannoneer’s linstock.

BARRY: Unh-hunh.

ANNOUNCER: Just to your right is an 18th Century six-pounder field piece from the American Revolutionary War.

BARRY: Okay.

HOST: This oughta be old hat for you, Barry, what with all that dress-up soldier you used to play oh so many lives ago.

BARRY: Well um, actually, Blink: by the time of the Civil War, cannons were fired by tugging a length of cord called a lanyard.

HOST: Barry?

BARRY: Yeah, Blink.

HOST: Shut it and shoot it.

BARRY: Okay.

HOST: Sweethearts, spin that wheel!

(The wheel is spun. Barry fires the cannon blowing a hole through the panel reading: “The Bardo of American Heroes of Violence.” These letters glow while everything else fades to black. . . .

ABOD-TGS Act I, Sect. 9

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