The Last Sane Man
A Play in One Act

 

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by Phil Slattery

 

Abstractions

Characters: 

Eric -- a former board member

The Chairman

Jack -- a current board member

Stan -- a current board member

Two or three other board members

 

Scene:  A boardroom containing a conference table and a podium.  A podium is stage left.  The chairman stands behind the podium with several papers before him.   The other board members sit at the table.  A door is stage right.

As the curtain opens, the chairman and board members are engaged in conversation.   A minute later, Eric enters through the door and locks it.   He constantly stares at the chairman, occasionally changing his stare to another board member or dropping it to non-verbally interact with another board member.

            

CHAIRMAN:  Eric, it’s a pleasure to see you again.  I—that is, we thought you were still in the hospital.

 

Eric sits at the end of the conference table opposite the chairman.

 

Chairman:   I—I just want to say, Eric, that I am truly sorry that I could not give you the vice president’s slot.  Your application was evaluated fairly and, unfortunately for you, we had to give the position to someone with a broader range of experience.  There were no personal feelings or animosities involved.  Ours is a competitive business at every level.  You understand, of course.

 

Eric draws an automatic pistol from inside his jacket and lays it on the table with his hand on top guarding it from anyone who might try to grab it. 

 

Chairman:    Eric, let’s be reasonable. After all, we are all reasonable adults.  I know you don’t want to do anything hasty.  You have always been such a quiet, contemplative, studious sort of man.  In your fifteen years with this company I never knew you to do anything that wasn’t thoroughly considered from all perspectives. 

 

Eric tenses.

 

Chairman:   Eric, I can understand how you must feel.  After all, I have, on occasion, failed to get the position I wanted—

 

Eric twitches. 

 

Chairman:  Uh, that is — there have been a few positions, which I have been denied in my climb up the corporate ladder.  There are few things more disheartening than to be denied a position for which one firmly believes himself to be eminently qualified and especially if one believes himself to be qualified far and beyond any of his peers.   Truly, I sympathize with you, Eric.

 

Eric reacts as if struggling to maintain self-control. . 

  

Chairman:   What is it you want, Eric?

 

Eric again struggles to maintain self-control.

  

Chairman:  You have to tell us something.  What do you want?  For God’s sake, say something.

 

Eric:   You know what I want.

 

Chairman:   I know.  You want me to confess.  Okay.  I will confess.  I did have an affair with your wife. But the break-up of your marriage had nothing to do with me.  It was already breaking up by the time I came along.  I wasn’t the first.  She did not leave you for me.  At least, that is what she told me.  I left her after you were — hospitalized.  There, I have said it. Is that what you wanted to hear?  Is that it?

 

Eric again struggles to maintain self-control.

 

Chairman:   You want more?  Do you want me to continue?  Say something, man, for God’s sake!

 

Eric:  Go on.  Continue with your confession.  Bring it all out.  You know what you’ve done.

 

Chairman:  Okay! Okay.  Your wife was not the first.   [The chairman glances to boardmember.]  Jack, I hate to tell you this, but I also slept with your wife.

 

Jack:  For how long?

 

Chairman:  Six months, but it is over now.  It ended almost a year ago.

 

Eric:  Go on. You’re not finished yet.

 

Chairman [looking at another boardmember]:  I had yours too, Stan, for eight months.  As a matter of fact, the affair is still going on.

 

Stan weeps. 

 

Eric:  Go on! Enough of your penny-ante sins!  Get to the heart of the matter.  Go on!

 

Chairman:  I—I set you up.  The books weren’t your fault.  I embezzled the money and set you up to take the blame.

 

The board members are surprised.

 

Chairman:   I must confess that I knew jail was a possibility for you, but I had no idea that you would have a breakdown.  In hindsight, I can see that the strain of the investigation must have been incredible, but I never meant to do you any physical harm — much less anything psychological.

 

Eric:  Go on.

 

Chairman:  The money is in a Swiss bank.

 

Eric:  Go on.

 

Chairman:  And in two in the Bahamas.

 

Eric:  Go on.

 

Chairman:  Go on? Go on with what? That’s it. That is all I have done. Do you want me to confess to stealing office supplies?

 

Eric bolts upright, moves closer to the chairman, and levels the pistol at the tip of the chairman’s nose:  Go on with your confession!  Enough of this crap!  Confess your real sin! Confess it!

 

Chairman:  I don’t know what you are talking about!  Honest to God, I don’t know what you are talking about!  That is all I have done.

 

Eric [threatening with the pistol]:  You lie!  Now confess it!

  

Chairman:   Okay! Okay! I launder drug money for the Columbians.  They will kill me when they find out I told this.

 

Eric:  What’s the account?

 

Chairman:  There are three accounts: one is called Montoya Investments, another is Vasquez Imports, and the last is Barnes Enterprises.  Go ahead and kill me now.  My life is worthless when the Columbians find out.

 

Eric:   Do you think I will let you off that easy?  Do you know what crap I had to put up with because of you?  I took pride in my job.  I loved my job.  I loved my wife.  Now all that is gone.  Everything that meant anything to me in life is gone because of you.  What kind of human being are you that you would destroy someone that worked his butt off for you and for this bank just so you could get your rocks off with my wife and the money I controlled for you?  I had a lot of time to think about you and this company while I was banging my head against the wall in that padded cell.  I thought for a long time that I was the one who was going crazy.  Then one day it came to me that it wasn’t me who was crazy.  It was the world that was going crazy.  I look back on that moment when I was standing naked on my desk throwing parts of my computer at anyone who came near and screaming obscenities at God while the SWAT team closed in around me and I realized that that was a moment of revelation.  For once I saw the world in all its foolishness.  I have spent a lot of time with crazy people over the last several years.  I have come to know them quite well.  And one thing I have come to know is that each of us lives in his own world and whatever acts a man commits make perfect sense in the world in which he lives.  In your world it’s perfectly rational to have sex with another man’s wife and frame him for something he didn’t do.  Just as it is for another man in whose world it is perfectly rational to go from car to car in a parking lot and scream out the license plate numbers at the top of his lungs.  Now, in my world, at the moment of my revelation, it made perfect sense to throw my hard drive at the janitor, who I saw as just another brainless minion of the system.  But, you see, I no longer throw things because I now understand how things work.  I see the world for what it is.  And I have been in the system for so long that I know how to play it.  When the rest of the world goes crazy and locks you in a cell, the only thing a sane man can do is to act crazy and they will let you out of the cell.  That’s not easy to do.  That takes a lot of discipline.  That takes a lot of self-control.  That takes a lot more self-control than you had when you decided to nail my wife! But I digress.  The point of this little tirade is that as the last sane man on earth, I have come to realize a very important fact. It took me months of staring at blank walls, months of lying awake staring at a dark ceiling for hours after lights out, months of kneeling in the asylum chapel until I came to an inescapable conclusion.  But these are all just words and you know how meaningless words can be.  You’ve used words as your toys and your slaves to lead me into believing that my job was secure, my wife was faithful, my future with the bank was assured.  But true meaning lies only in action.  Only in action can we come to know the true character of those around us, both of those in front of the gun and of those behind it.  It is when the pressure is on and the heat intensifies, melting away all that is not steel, all that is not tempered, all that is not true in every sense of the word, that we come to see each other for what we truly are.  And now with a single act I shall reveal what we both are and you shall come to recognize in a single heartbeat the fact that it took me months to uncover.  One.  Two.  Three.

 

Board members scream and take cover under the table.

 

Eric squeezes the trigger, but a thin red line of liquid comes out and splashes against the chairman’s face as the chairman screams.

 

Chairman:  Mercy! Mercy! Mercy! Mercy!

 

Eric [smiles]:  That inescapable fact is that I shouldn’t take life so seriously.  There’s a much bigger world out there than I could ever find in this stinking little career.  [fires the liquid twice into his own mouth] Mmmm, Cherry kool-aid.  My favorite. Leaving here was the best thing to ever happen to me.  It got me out of the middle-class mindset that all there is to life is work and success at all costs. I have learned that I can do other things, that there are ways to enjoy life, that I do not need to be a slave to an unspoken system that dictates I shall have one career my entire life and shall retire from it and have failed as a man if I am anything other than wildly successful. Now all I do is run a little bookshop and make love to a woman of average beauty, but I am happier than I ever thought I could be and I shall continue to be so until the end of my life.  [Eric puts the pistol into his pocket.]  Well, my work here is done.  It has been great talking to you.  Take care now. [He turns to leave.]

 

Chairman: Stop! How did you know about all the things I did?

 

Eric:  I didn’t.  When I was sitting in the asylum, I realized that only a person of weak character could enjoy destroying another man’s life and if you were of weak character, you would fold under sufficient pressure and confess everything you ever did in front of God and everybody.  [Eric produces a small voice recorder from inside his jacket.]  Oh, and by the way, don’t worry.  All interested law enforcement agencies, investors, and anyone even remotely interested in this bank will get a copy of our conversation, as will each board member here. Gentlemen, have a nice day.   [Eric exits.]

Curtain