Being an Ad Hoc Enquiry into Human Motivation
and the Will to Power
In line at the grocery store, I noticed a set of "Touch and See" books for children. They had bits of cloth and so forth embedded in the pages, so that a picture of a child wearing a sweater had a little bit of sweater embedded in it, and so on. One of those books was about a puppy. I thought about that (touch the puppy) while standing there in line (touch the puppy) and while walking (touch the puppy, son) out to my car, and driving (TOUCH THE PUPPY, LITTLE BOY!) away.
And this is what came of it.
Scene: 1948. The lazy Main Street of a small Midwestern town, on a sunny Sunday morning in late spring. A MAN, his WIFE, and their young SON stand on the sidewalk, grouped around a PUPPY. The MAN, wearing a gray flannel suit and a snap-brim hat, is down on one knee with his hand on his SON's shoulder. His WIFE clutches her purse, nervously. The MAN looks into his SON's eyes and speaks earnestly.
MAN: I'm not asking for much, Son.
SON: But daddy...
MAN: I'm not asking for much. It's really a small thing, even though it's very, very important.
SON: But I already touched him! I did, you saw me!
MAN: I know you patted his head, Son, and I saw how you scratched him behind his little ears. But that's not good enough.
MAN: Those things don't count. You didn't really touch the puppy. You didn't touch him in the right place, and you didn't touch him like... [leans forward] like you meant it.
WIFE: He's only a boy, dear. And it's only his first puppy.
MAN: [Stands up] SILENCE, WOMAN! SILENCE!
A POLICEMAN approaches.
POLICEMAN: Sir? May I ask... I mean, what are you doing to that boy, sir?
The MAN gives the POLICEMAN a long cold look.
MAN: Do you know who I am, officer? Do you understand my importance in this community?
POLICEMAN: I... [looks at BOY, turns back to MAN; BOY looks at POLICEMAN with desperate pleading in his eyes] Yes, sir. You're J. Blrfl Flermalerma.
MAN: [Expectantly, inquisitively] J. Blrfl Flermalerma... ?
POLICEMAN: J. Blrfl Flermalerma Senior. Sir. The Mayor speaks of you often, sir.
MAN: Yes, that's correct. That's exactly who I am. I let the Mayor touch my puppy sometimes. And this boy here is J. Blrfl Flermalerma Junior, and he's going to touch this puppy. [Long pause] Is that understood?
POLICEMAN: [Defeated] Yes, sir.
MAN: And you are... ? [ignoring the POLICEMAN's name tag].
POLICEMAN: I'm Officer...
MAN: [Cuts POLICEMAN off] Do people like you even have names? Never mind, it's uninteresting. I can't be expected to humor your vanity. You can go now.
His WIFE looks stricken.
POLICEMAN: I... [Collects himself] But sir, sir, it's just... wrong, sir. It's wrong to make a boy touch a puppy like that!
MAN: [With a dreamy, faraway look in his eyes]. Oh, but Officer Sasquatch... [Ah-ha! He read the name tag after all!] It feels so... right. It feels so good to touch the puppy there, officer. It makes me feel so very, very good when I touch the puppy... right... [Touches the puppy] THERE!
SON: [In mortal terror] DADDY, NO! NOOOO!
MAN: [Turns to SON, laughing] Oh, you'll learn to do it too, Son -- you'll be touching that puppy yourself before long -- and you'll be touching him right... [Touches the puppy] THERE!
SON, sobbing, buries head in WIFE's skirt.
WIFE: [Brightly] Now see here, darling, he can touch the puppy tomorrow, or... or... or the next day! Any time is fine. Of course he'll touch the puppy! It's the best thing... but why must he do it now?
POLICEMAN: [Aghast] Ma'am! Am I to understand that you... you approve?!
WIFE: [Suddenly nervous] I... yes. Yes, I do approve. I approve very much.
POLICEMAN: But how could you... ? He... he's just a boy!
WIFE: [Eyes downcast] What does it matter? What difference does it make if he's... just a boy! Just a boy?! If you only knew... !
POLICEMAN: If I knew... what?
The MAN's eyes brighten! He looks on proudly!
WIFE: [Suddenly defiant] I, yes, yes, I'll say it -- I'll say it out loud! I'm proud of what I've done! I...
WIFE: ... I touched the puppy too!
Exeunt, pursued by the audience, as the Andrews Sisters break into song:
We're off to touch the puppy -- one two three!
We're gonna touch the puppy -- wait and see!
Oh, it'll be grand (doo do-do do!)
With both of our hands (doo do-do do!)
When we touch -- [quick drum fill, à la Buddy Rich]
Oh, you'll touch -- [longer drum fill]
That puppy! -- [fanfare, the whole horn section goes nuts]