L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 904, January 1, 2017
Cult Of the Individual; A play in One Egoistic Act
by J. Neil Schulman
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
This play was performed in a table reading at Samuel Edward Konkin III’s Agorist Institute in Long Beach, California, with Konkin reading Dan Conrad, J. Neil Schulman reading Joel Rosenbaum, Victor Koman reading Vincent Andrews, Bob Cohen reading Mark Levy, and J. Kent Hastings reading Peter Braun.
SCENE: Four furnished but as-yet-unoccupied one-room
apartments in a low-rent district, one implied stage-
right of and two implied above the set we see, with a
backdrop showing a Palm-tree-lined street and the Queen
Mary in harbor–visible through open windows and doors
upstage–establishing this as Long Beach, California.
A door from upstage, kitchen appliances, and a dividing
wall establishes this as a separate apartment, with an
“outside” walkway behind the apartments connecting
them. The usual apartment accoutrements: dining table,
couch, desk, etc. A door off left represents a
bathroom door. Morning light is flooding in the
apartment through uncurtained windows.
When first we will meet him, PETER BRAUN looks
like a typical muscular California beach bum–T-shirt,
shorts, and sneakers–and talks with a California drawl
that’s got the cadence of John Wayne thrown in. He’s
Three of the others whom we are about to meet–JOEL
ROSENBAUM, DANIEL CONRAD and MARK LEVY–are dressed in
black turtleneck sweaters and black slacks, cowboy
boots, with gold medallions on gold chains hanging down
their chests. In contrast to PETER BRAUN and VINCENT
ANDREWS, they look as if they’ve stepped into this
world from the Twilight Zone. But, physically, they
run the gamut.
MARK is 29, short, wiry-thin, with curly black hair,
thick glasses, and a permanent Five O’clock Shadow.
Outwardly he’s a shzlub. This takes three words if you
don’t know Yiddish–“slob,” “jerk,” and “loser.” His
clothes don’t quite fit him, he speaks hesitantly with
lots of pauses, and his Queens, New York Jewish accent
is so thick you could spread it on rye bread. He is,
perhaps, not anywhere near as bright as the others–and
is treated patronizingly by them–but underneath
ineptitude and uncertainty lies–somewhere–the sort of
man whom women refer to as “sweet,” and an innocence
that cuts through social conventions like a knife.
Nevertheless, he fancies himself to be an intellectual
and “cool.” He has got to be kidding.
Both JOEL and DANIEL are tall–the six-two range–and
both are geniuses, but the resemblance stops there.
JOEL is 22, overweight, light-brown haired with
mustache and beard–a New York-Jew without portfolio–
he has the New York personality without the New York
accent, though he speaks with the speed and
overcrispness of the New Yorker. He fancies himself a
But DAN CONRAD is older–the oldest of the arriving
four at 30. He is an inveterate smoker of a pipe which
only leaves his hands when he is eating–it is his
crucial and favorite prop. He wears glasses and has a
paunch, balding with long brown hair hanging down to
his shoulders and a bushy mustache–no beard. And, he
talks with an Anglicized accent–perhaps an American
accent with occasional Anglicisms creeping in; in any
case, he speaks with the pedantry of a recent Teaching
Fellow in Theoretical Physics. It is obvious right off
that he is the leader of this motley crew.
VINCE ANDREWS is the youngest–20–about five-ten,
slim, blond, clean-shaven, a native Californian, and
the best-looking of the bunch–perhaps a Chris Reeve
before he did the Superman body-building bit. VINCE is
also dressed in a casual California style–perhaps an
open-collar shirt and designer jeans. It is obvious
that VINCE is in awe of the three new arrivals–
particularly DAN–wishes to be considered one of them,
but doesn’t know them very well yet. VINCE is just as
bright as DAN or JOEL, and with his good looks should
be a lady-killer, but he’s too nervous and insecure to
We hear footsteps, and the California drawl of PETER
It’s just lucky for you guys that the place emptied out the way
[A key is inserted into the door of the apartment and
as the door opens, PETER BRAUN–wielding the key–steps
in first, followed close order by JOEL ROSENBAUM, DAN
CONRAD, MARK LEVY, and VINCE ANDREWS. JOEL, DAN, MARK,
and VINCE start looking around, inspecting this
[A long pause as what he sees does not particularly impress him;
proclaiming:] There is no such thing as luck. [Producing cloud
of smoke] Why did the last tenants in these apartments leave,
[Reacting to smoke] They were Gypsies. And I mentioned that
back in the great Long Beach Earthquake of 1933, some guy had a
heart-attack in one of these apartments and died. The next thing
you know, the Gypsies are out of here so fast you could hear the
wind rush in.
You mean these apartments are haunted by the ghost of the guy who
[CONRAD shoots JOEL a sharp glance.]
Nah. They were just superstitious.
Of course they were just superstitious, Joel. The only ghost is
the Spirit of the Times which is leading us into revolution.
[To DAN] Can’t you go five minutes without mentioning
revolution? From the moment we left New York–for 3,000 miles–
you haven’t talked about anything but revolution. It’s
[DAN blows a jet of smoke in JOEL’S direction]
Gosh, that sounds exciting. I wish I could’ve driven out here
with you guys.
[JOEL looks at VINCE: you’ll learn.]
You see, Joel? Now Vincent’s a man who’s got the anarchist
[Defensively] Don’t give me that, Dan. I’ve got the anarchist
spirit. I’m loaded with anarchist spirit. I’ve got anarchist
ectoplasm coming out my ears. [Gestures toward MARK] What
else–if not anarchist spirit–could have induced me to climb
into his Demon Datsun?
Uh, what–uh–is wrong with my–uh–Datsun? [MARK doesn’t have a
speech impediment; he just drives everybody crazy with his “uhs”
What’s wrong with your Datsun, Mark? What’s wrong with three
grown men moving across country in a car that’s about the size of
a moped? What’s wrong with a car that blows out three tires on
one trip? What’s wrong with a car the hood of which flies open
at 55 miles per hour in the Rocky Mountains? What’s wrong with a
car that–because it hasn’t had an oil change since you bought it
two years ago–can’t even break the 55 mile an hour speed limit?
Nothing’s wrong with it.
[Sarcasm going right over his head] Yeah, I–uh–thought it did
pretty good on the trip, too.
So which of you guys wants which apartment?
How much–uh–did you say the rent–uh–was?
Eighty-five dollars a month for the upper apartments and ninety
for the lower ones–plus utilities.
[No hesitation this time] I’ll take an upper.
I’ll take this apartment because it’s facing the street. It
might give me several minutes warning when they come to arrest
The cops are after you? For what?
[Ashamed] Well, nothing, yet. But I’m working on it.
[To JOEL] That leaves us. Do you want the back lower apartment
or one above it?
The lower one. I never climb stairs when it can be avoided.
As I told my physics students when I was a teaching fellow,
“Always observe the Law of the Conservation of Energy.”
DAN AND JOEL
[In chorus] “Never run when you can walk. Never walk when you
can stand. Never stand when you can sit. And never sit when you
can lie down.”
You guys wouldn’t’ve lasted a day in my Air Force outfit in ‘Nam.
You were in Vietnam?
In the Air Force?
Yep. Still am … Air Force Reserve.
But, Braun, in your letter you told me you were a fellow
Best place for an anarchist to be is in the military. They give
you all sorts of weapons, train you how to use them, and aren’t
too good at keeping track of them … if you catch my drift.
I do, indeed. Feeding the dragon’s tail back into its mouth,
while simultaneously providing the knights with leather armor.
Sound revolutionary doctrine.
[Translating] Taking arms away from the government and giving
them to revolutionaries.
Nah. I don’t give it away to anyone. I just sell the stuff to
Hard core! Taking resources stolen from the private sector out
of the public sector, where they are used for further predations,
and reintroducing them into the private sector.
[Translating again] The government uses tax money to buy guns,
then uses the guns as a threat to collect more taxes. By taking
the guns away from the government, you reverse the process, and
help the revolution.
[Dan and Joel both nod.]
Well I don’t know about that. I admit, I haven’t been paying
much taxes, but if there’s gonna be a revolution I wouldn’t want
the commies to take over.
The inefficient communist economies are utilizing the maximum of
their resources oppressing their own people. How, then, should
we expect them successfully to extend their economic resources
invading the far-more developed capitalist economies of the West?
What he means is–
[Interrupting] I got it that time. [To DAN] Capitalism didn’t
stop the commies from taking over ‘Nam.
Not an equivalent case at all. The American puppet regimes in
South Vietnam did not have the loyalty of the Vietnamese people
because they were more corrupt than the communist regime in North
Vietnam which–though more oppressive than the South–co-opted
nationalistic idealism to focus a poor people’s envy against the
wealthy Americans who occupied their country.
I don’t know about that. It seemed to me that if we just stopped
fighting with one hand tied behind our backs we could’ve won that
war. And if I’m weakening our military to make it easier for the
commies to take over here, too, I guess I just better stop
ripping off the Air Force, and start paying taxes again. [BRAUN
starts toward the door.] If you guys are all set, I’d better go
get the keys. [BRAUN exits.]
Well, Dan, we’ve converted another anarchist. To statism. When
are we going to start converting statists to anarchism?
[DAN takes a long drag on his pipe, blows smoke, and
You guys–uh–converted me. I used to be a welfare worker.
[JOEL raises his eyes to Heaven.]
No kidding, Mark? What are you now?
[Like Clint Eastwood] Yah.
[Starting a speech] My friends, this is an important day to mark.
[Interrupting] Why, is it his birthday?
[Annoyed] Whose birthday?
[Pointing at Mark] Him.
What does Levy have to do with this?
You said, “This is an important day to Mark.”
[Resuming] And so it is, for today–
[Interrupting] It’s–uh–not my birthday.
[Losing his patience] Nobody said it’s your birthday.
Vince–uh–said it was.
No, I was just asking if it was.
Why should you ask if it’s Levy’s birthday?
He asked because you said it’s an important day to mark. To
Mark, get it? Mark?
[DAN gets it. VINCE gets it.]
I didn’t say anything to you. I was talking to Dan. Dan was
starting to say that this is an important day to mark.
[Trying once more] And so it is, for today–
[Interrupting] But I’m Mark.
[Exploding] We fucking well know who you are.
You–uh–could’ve fooled me.
[DAN, JOEL, and VINCE all raise their eyes to heaven.]
May I please continue? [MARK nods. Proclaiming:] This is an
auspicious day, which should be marked well. [Glares at MARK just
to make sure.] We three–Joel Rosenbaum, Mark Levy, and
[Interrupting] My–uh–birthday is in February.
Nobody cares when your birthday is!
Is there something going on between you two that we don’t know
[Into the routine] I just met him.
Let’s hear it for Marx and Lennon.
Groucho and John.
[JOEL and VINCE shake hands triumphantly.]
[Clearing his throat very loudly] Gentlemen, might I continue?
[JOEL and VINCE look innocent and nod. MARK continues to look
confused but doesn’t say anything. Proclaiming:] We three–Joel
Rosenbaum, Mark Levy, and myself–have made a hazardous journey
West to the frontiers of freedom, leaving the decadent East
behind, to join our Western ally Vincent Andrews in a noble
enterprise. Today we four begin here the nucleus of a new
society–a free society. By integrating theory and practice–
through both word and deed–we shall cast off the yoke of the
State, first from ourselves, later from the entire world–nay,
the inhabited universe–and future generations will look back at
what we do here today as the beginning. It is in this spirit
that I dub these apartments: “Anarchy Village.”
VINCE AND MARK
[Not quite together] Huzzah!
JOEL, VINCE, AND MARK
[In chorus] HUZZAH!
[All four shake hands all around.
PETER BRAUN enters again]
[Handing keys to each in sequence] Dan Conrad, Apartment One.
Joel Rosenbaum, Number Two. Vincent Andrews, Apartment Three.
Mark Levy, Four. Bring your first month’s rent to my apartment–
Number Five–and you’re all set.
[Amazed] No credit check? No rental agreement? No last month’s
rent? No security deposit? Not even a key deposit?
My friend, you’re in California now.
[BRAUN starts to exit again. DAN stops him.]
Oh, Braun. [BRAUN pauses.] If you’re against communism so much,
why do you think the United States military–which is organized
like a communist heirarchy–is the best way to defend the
country? And if free private enterprise is the exact opposite of
communism, then wouldn’t private companies do a better job of
defending us against the Russians than the military?
[Examining the idea] Well, I don’t know …
[Going in for the kill] Wouldn’t you say, Braun, that it’s the
God-given right of self-defense for every American to have a
nuclear-missile silo in his back yard?
[Delighted by the idea] Well … I never thought about it that
way. But, come to think of it, I don’t think the commies would
be too quick on the draw if they had to worry about everybody
shooting back at them. [Points his finger like a gun at DAN and
makes a clicking sound. Like John Wayne:] Thanks for setting me
straight, Pilgrim. [As he exits] I wonder what Fred would pay
for one of those babies …
[To DAN: Cockney accent, miming action] Me ‘at’s off to the Duke.
[Puffing] All in a day’s work. [Flips key in his hand] Shall we
start unloading, gentlemen?
Need help with your stuff?
Well, we might need a hand with our pamphlets and back issues of
We only took the stuff we could fit into the Datsun–we shipped
Where are you parked?
[They exit, and we hear their voices off right.]
Mark, help me get the one off the roof rack while Vince helps
Joel with the one in the back seat.
[We hear the sound of metal scraping against metal,
assorted grunting, and cursing.]
[Grunting] Where’s your stuff, Vince?
[Grunting] In the hall of my old dorm at U.C.L.A. It’s just
lucky these apartments opened up when they did–next week they’re
turning the dorm into a sorority.
[Grunting, carrying in a preposterously large trunk with VINCE]
And you call moving in here lucky?
[Grunting, dropping trunk] Well, yeah. I mean, they wouldn’t
let me stay anyway after I dropped out.
[JOEL gives VINCE a look of wonder. Then DAN and MARK
enter Dan’s apartment carrying an equally large trunk.]
You need any help with the other two trunks?
A Week Later
Lights come up in DAN’S apartment, which has now been settled
into. This is the apartment of a hip, but right-wing, anarchist
intellectual. Books are everywhere. There are radical pamphlets
and magazines cluttering the place. Revolutionary posters–SMASH
THE STATE! & OFF THE PIGS!–are pinned up next to a poster of
Howard the Duck and one sexy one of Linda Ronstadt. A black flag
is on a pole, fluttering in the breeze provided by a standing
room fan. On tables, chairs, and floor are things needed for
mass-mailings–rubber stamps, postage guns, sealers, labels,
saddle stapler, stacks of envelopes, stacks of unfolded and
unstapled offset magazines.
As lights come up, DAN is alone in his apartment–dressed as
before in black turtleneck, slacks, boots, medallion, etc.–his
pipe in his mouth, making preparations for mailing.
He stops, for a moment, to look at the poster of Linda Ronstadt.
[Wistfully, to poster] Ah, Linda! How can you corrupt your
sweet soul by dating that granola-eating statist in Sacramento?
[Knock at the door] Come in!
[JOEL and MARK enter–both still wearing black
turtlenecks, slacks, boots, medallions, etc.]
The ‘zine is back from the printer?
[Nodding] New Individual Notes Number Thirty-seven is ready to
course into the ideological bloodstream of an anemic world.
[Sees one copy already put together and reaches for it] Great!
Let me just see if our new printer eliminated the cut-lines in my
paste-up. [Flips pages, starts to read.]
You’re not looking at cut-lines–you’re reading your own article
on C.B. radio. [Snatches it away] Collate first, read later.
Aw, c’mon, Dan, I haven’t even had supper yet.
Are you going to put your stomach before the needs of the
Damn straight! [Quoting] “The needs of others are never a claim
check upon one’s own life.” From “Moral Imperatives–Do They
Exist?” Editorial by Daniel Albert Conrad the Fourth, New
Individual Notes Number Two, October, 1970.
[Putting his arm on JOEL’S shoulder; like a Taoist Master:] “You
have learned the Way of the Self truly, my son. You have done
well.” But I got in a new subscription and two renewals today.
If we get this mailing out tonight that should just about pay for
a late supper at Hamburger Henry’s.
[Grabbing some unfolded pages] Why didn’t you say so in the
[Reluctantly] Oh, why not?
[From walkway] Hi, guys, what’s going on? [VINCE enters through
the open door. He is now dressed exactly like the others–black
turtleneck, slacks, boots, medallion, etc.]
We’re mailing out En-Eye-En then I’m taking the loyal workers out
to Hamburger Henry’s.
I never said my loyalty couldn’t be bought.
Splendid. We have five hundred copies that need to be collated,
folded, stapled, shoved in envelopes, sealed, rubber stamped with
return addresses, address labelled, postage-stamped, and mailed
You want to save the world? [Extends VINCE a stack of 11? X 17?
JOEL, DAN & MARK
[In chorus] FOLD!
[They quickly organize themselves into a production
line on the couch with JOEL collating, VINCE folding,
and MARK saddle-stapling on the coffee table. DAN is
at his dining table rubber-stamping 9? X 12? manila
envelopes. The rhythms of their work punctuate their
conversation, and should be choreographed for as much
physical comedy as possible to contrast the cerebral
dryness of the following discussion.]
[To DAN] I still can’t get over the way you turned Peter Braun
around so fast. I’ve been arguing anarchy for a year and I never
It was simple, really. I merely had to make my argumentation to
Braun even more right-wing than he was used to. He’s worried
about communists taking over so I started using his own right-
wing thinking against him. You can use the same basic technique
Okay, how would I turn around a Marxist?
Quote Karl Marx’s Das Kapital where Marx said capitalism must
produce wealth before the communist society can be achieved. So
why aren’t good communists backing capitalist investment in the
Third World to make them rich enough for a communist revolution?
Not bad. Whad’dya say to a liberal?
I just say that my favorite Jane Fonda movie is Barbarella.
I just hit liberals with the other side of the argument I used
against Braun. [Enacting] “You say you want a society that can
provide education, health care, clean air, help for the poor.
Well, since a State produces nothing itself, how can it provide
any of these things without first taxing the people–after
setting up a self-serving bureaucracy which gives out only a
fraction of the taxes it takes in?”
[MARK–bored by this conversation–is stapling more and
I’ve used that argument. Liberals just say that we need
regulation otherwise corporations would take over everything.
Then who shall guard the guardians? [Enacting] “The agencies you
set up were taken over by industrialists who used the agencies to
regulate their competitors out of business.”
Then you get over to their left–you can always intimidate a
liberal by being more left-wing than they are–by telling them to
read the Marxist historian Gabriel Kolko, who gives historical
proof that monopolies only arose when private companies used the
State to create them.
[MARK is dozing off.]
Okay, so you convert people using all these different arguments.
But, if you’re saying different things to different people, isn’t
this all–I don’t know–manipulative? Debate tactics? Making a
case not because you think it’s true but only because you want to
win the debate?
Not in the least. The weaknesses we’re pointing out are inherent
in the inconsistencies of each of these other ideologies. Once
you’ve logically demonstrated why their viewpoint isn’t self-
consistent, then you can start arguing that our ideology is self-
consistent–a logically self-consistent ideological map.
[MARK is now asleep–nobody notices.]
What if the ideological “map” doesn’t accurately describe the
You can either change the map so it matches the real world, or
try to change the world so that it matches the map. Most
ideologues try to force everyone to act the way their map says
they’re supposed to act. Once it’s clear that won’t work, they
give up their ideology and become pragmatic powermongers.
Since we draw our basic premises by observing reality, we have to
make sure we’re being both self-consistent and consistent to the
real world, or reality will prove our ideology–like it has with
communism–to be nothing but a beautifully described, but
What do you do with someone who doesn’t believe in the concept of
ideology–someone who thinks ideology is the problem in the first
You point out to them that being against ideology per se is an
implicit ideology itself–the ideology of preserving the status
But what most people mean when they say they’re against ideology
is that they’re afraid that anyone with strong ideas wants to set
themselves up as some sort of new dictatorship. They’ve got
history on their side to give them a lot of good examples.
Napoleon, Lenin, Hitler.
All we can do is try to demonstrate, by practicing what we
preach, that we’re not interested in power–that power is,
itself, the evil we’re trying to eliminate.
[MARK lets out a loud snore.]
I think the only evil power we’ve eliminated so far is his
ability to stay awake.
Why is that? I mean, I’ve spent a week with you guys now, and
we’ve spent most of that time just arguing politics and
philosophy. I haven’t been bored once. I’ve been waiting years
to find someone who I can have these kinds of discussions with.
[Gesturing at the sleeping MARK] Most people are as bored
arguing about ideas as he is. You try to talk about ideas with
most people, and they either spout something they heard in a
Channel Seven editorial, or they insult you and walk away. All
they want to talk about is cars, or movies, or who’s fucking who.
Whom. It gets so I feel like I’m a freak–or worse, that I’m
normal and everyone else is a freak. [Angry] Do you know how
many conversations I’ve had which consisted of someone telling me
the entire plot of some TV show?
[Softly] It’s even worse the other way. You mention some of
your ideals to a relative or a friend and you can never talk
about anything else with them–all they want to do is convert you
back to “the real world”–and it’s for your own good, too. It
finally gets to the point where you start hanging around with
other anarchists simply because they’re the only people you don’t
have to argue with all the time.
You seem to like arguing with me.
[Smiling] That’s because you argue logically, and you’re actually
willing to do something based on the logical conclusions of an
It’s paradoxical. We’re individualists, but we end up having to
form a cult simply so we can have someone rational to talk to.
We are driven by our passionate interest in abstract ideas.
These bore most people, because they are things which cannot be
killed, or eaten, or copulated with. Without planning it, we
become what the Marxists accuse us of being: the Cult of the
But after a while–when we’ve argued everything out three or four
times and you’ve heard everything we’ve had to say–you’ll get as
bored with repeating the same arguments over and over again as I
am, and you’ll be happy to talk about cars, and movies, and who’s
[Puffing pipe] Soft core, Joel. I’m willing to argue with anyone
until we have enough allies to defend a free society from the
remnants of the State.
Isn’t he amazing? After Dan comes the deluge. Me, I’m writing a
science fiction novel so I can show people what we’re talking
about, instead of having to argue about it twenty million times.
[Excited] You’re a science fiction writer? Me, too!
Fantastic! You publish anything yet?
One short story. I wish I hadn’t now. I wrote it before I
became an anarchist, when I was still an ecological fascist. I
ended my story with my hero blasting off into space after the
Earth has been made unlivable by pollution. As he’s taking off,
he broadcasts a speech to Earth that goes, “People of Earth! You
can eat your sewage, drink your radioactive milk, breathe the
stink of your effluvia, mainline drugs into your disease-ridden
flesh! As for me, I’ll have none of it!”
[Amused] That sounds a lot like my first story, in New Individual
Notes Number Nine. Only, before my hero blasts off, he gives a
speech against John Cage and Jackson Pollock.
Why did you guys come out here?
I came out here because the movement back East was dying. Most
of the anarchists we knew were getting involved in elections just
so they felt they were doing something. Never mind that you
can’t bring about the absence of a State by participating in the
very ritual that justifies its continued existence. Anarchists
out here tend to know better than that.
You wrote in an editorial that were getting your doctorate in
theoretical physics. Did you get it?
No. I finished all my course work, completed my Ph.D. thesis,
had the thesis approved by my faculty advisor, then refused to
turn it in.
For Chrissake, why?
After I got my Master’s degree I realized that the only
employment for which I could have used my doctorate would have
been paid for by defense contracts. I would have spent my life
serving the very system I wish to destroy.
So “Atlas Shrugged.”
“Atlas” started to practice what he was preaching–make a new
start out West and try to turn New Individual Notes into
something that could support me. Until that happens, I’m
typesetting a porno paper out here. And I can use the
typesetting equipment to typeset my magazines.
[VINCE turns to JOEL]
I came out here because my parents were kicking me out. Besides,
Hollywood is out here–maybe I can turn my novel into a script.
How are you going to support yourself in the meantime?
[Sheepishly] My parents are sending me money. What about you?
I started out majoring in engineering on a Navy Rot-see
scholarship, figuring that would be a way into the Astronaut
Corps. The Navy thought it was training me to command ships, so
I quit. Then I switched majors to TV-film, until I found out
that the only way you learn anything is by doing it. I want to
write novels and screenplays, same as you.
And in the meantime?
In the meantime, I’m working as a security guard. [Gesturing
toward the sleeping MARK] Where does he fit in?
Oh. He showed up at one of our meetings back East. He came
hoping to meet girls, and switched from being a Democrat to an
Yeah, but why did you bring him out here with you?
I should think that’s obvious. The only one of us with a car was
[Awakening at the sound of his name] Did–uh–somebody call me?
[Not unkindly] Yeah. You’re holding up the production line.
Don’t you ever want to eat?
[As they start collating, folding, stapling, and
stamping again, we BLACK OUT]
A Month Later–September, 1975
Early afternoon, but the apartment shades are down–doing the
best they can to block out the sun–and lights are off. The
couch is open as a fold-a-bed, and DAN is asleep, buried under
There is a loud knock at the door. The covers move–as DAN tries
to ignore whoever is knocking. Then the knock gets more
[From under covers, loudly] Piss off–I’m trying to sleep.
[Through door] Dan, it’s me–Peter Braun.
I’ll give you the rent later! Now go away–I haven’t slept in
Dan, it’s not about the rent. Come on, pardner–let me in. It’s
Oh, for God’s sake. [Throwing off covers. DAN is wearing only
men’s designer nylon underpants and a black sleeping mask, but is
too sleepy–and hung over–to know he has the mask on. He
stumbles out of bed and puts on a bathrobe, then puts on his
glasses over the mask. Muttering] Everything’s always important
to someone. [Mask still over his eyes, he stumbles toward the
door, and stubs his toe on his coffee table. In agony] Jeee-
sus! [He hops the rest of the way to the door, mask still on,
and opens it. We don’t see BRAUN yet.] Christ, it’s dark. What
time is it?
[Opening door. He is now wearing a U.S. Air Force uniform.]
It’s two in the afternoon, pardner. Up and at ‘em.
I can’t even see ‘em, it’s so bloody dark. Are you sure it isn’t
two in the morning?
[Removing DAN’S glasses and sleeping mask, then putting the
glasses back on DAN’S face.] This any better?
[The shock of the blinding light] Jeee-sus! [DAN covers his eyes
again, and stumbles back into his apartment.]
[Following] How come you’re sleeping so late?
[Closes door, turns on an inside lamp, plops down on bed, holds
head, rubs eyes. Still not looking at BRAUN] I just spent the
past three days at the North American Science Fiction Convention.
Yeah? What’d you do there?
Stayed up for three nights. Drank Guinness Stout. Watched The
Day the Earth Stood Still. Drank tequila and lime. Went to a
panel discussion on orgies in the thirty-first century. Drank
Jack Daniels. Got into an argument with some fascist science
fiction writer who threatened to stab me if I didn’t recant my
anarchism. Drank the bastard under the table!
No wonder you look like a rattlesnake got to you.
It was wonderful! Best con’ I ever attended. [Finally notices
BRAUN] That’s a better costume than the ones in the masquerade.
That’s no costume, pardner–that’s the uniform of the United
States Air Force!
Same thing, if you ask me. Why are you wearing it?
I’ve been called back to active duty. I’m leaving in half an
But why? We haven’t gone to war in the past three days, have we?
I’ve been bombed for three days, but surely somebody would have
mentioned it. That fascist writer never would have let a
rhetorical opportunity like a war pass unused.
Nah. We’re not at war. The Air Force just has a special project
they want to send me on.
What is it?
My friend, that’s classified information.
Well, if you’ve already chosen to abandon your principles and
serve the Rockefeller empire, I suppose there’s little I can say
to stop you. How long will you be gone?
Don’t know yet. Possibly a long time. That’s why I need a
couple of favors from you. For one thing, can you take over
being the apartment manager? All you really have to do is take
the rent every month and give it to Mrs. Wellman, show an
apartment if it opens up, call a repairman if anything breaks
down. You get forty-five a month off your rent.
I can certainly use that. All right. What else?
I need you to keep something for me until I get back.
If it’s something I’ll have to feed or clean up after, the answer
Nothing like that. You won’t have to do anything with it at all
except store it for me. It’s sort of valuable, and I want to
make sure nobody rips it off.
Well, what is it, Braun?
You remember the day you moved in, you were telling me how it was
the right of every American to have a nuclear missile silo in his
back yard? Well, I got to thinking that I had a friend in Orange
County who would agree with you on that. So I started looking
around, and found out that there were a bunch of H-bomb warheads
from the early sixties that the Air Force wasn’t using anymore–
fifty megaton jobs–very dirty. The Air Force doesn’t need them
that big anymore, now that electronics make missiles pretty
accurate. Anyway, the Air Force had decommissioned a bunch of
these things, and some clerk had listed them as military surplus.
So I bought one to sell to my friend. Cost me two hundred bucks,
then my friend said he didn’t want it. So I’m stuck with it.
It wouldn’t still work, would it?
Depends how long ago they replaced the plutonium in the fission
trigger. My guess is it’s good for another five or six years at
You mean it’s got plutonium, deuterium–everything?
Ready to go. The whole shebang. And I do mean “bang.” This
baby goes up, it takes the Southland with it–from San Diego to
the San Fernando Valley, if the Santa Ana winds are blowing.
Anyway, I can’t leave it in my apartment–and there’s a law
against keeping explosives in a public storage locker. So I
figured you’d be a good man to hold onto it for me, you being a
physicist and all.
It’s not leaking radiation? I’d rather not get cancer.
All checked out. It’s less radioactive than the water we drink
from the reservoir. Beside, there are some dosimeters with it
that I also picked up surplus. Okay?
Sure, Braun. Okay. I’d be happy to.
You’re really doin’ a buddy a favor, Conrad. [Punches DAN on the
shoulder.] Can you give me a hand getting it in here?
[They go out to walkway and, working together, wheel in
a large crate on a hand dolly.]
Easy does it!
Don’t worry–I’ve got it.
[They leave the crate in the middle of the room.
Well, that’s that. [Takes an envelope out of his jacket, hands
it to DAN] Here are the duplicate apartment keys, and all the
phone numbers you need.
I’ll remember this, Conrad. What goes around, comes around, I
always say. Hasta la vista, amigo. [Starts to leave.]
Oh, Braun. [BRAUN pauses.] Why didn’t your friend in Orange
County want an H-bomb warhead in his back yard?
Oh. He did. But he already had one. [BRAUN exits, taking hand
dolly with him.]
[DAN closes the door, and looks at the crate curiously
for a few seconds. Then he puts his eye-shades back
on, climbs back into bed–pulling the covers over his
head–and his hand reaches out to turn off his lamp.
As he turns it off, we BLACK OUT.]
A few hours later
Dan is now awake, in his bathrobe, and cooking breakfast. The
fold-a-bed is a couch again. The Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK
is playing on Dan’s stereo. The crate is still in the middle of
the living room.
There is a knock at the door.
[JOEL enters, leaving the door open.]
Hangover gone yet?
Mostly. How come you never come back from cons hung over?
Because while you’re at the room parties getting drunk, I’m down
in the film room watching movies all night.
What a waste of a good con. Want some breakfast?
Thanks, but I had breakfast this morning.
You’re turning down a free meal?
I didn’t say that. Since I already had breakfast, this will be
–um–late-afternoon high tea.
That’s more like it.
[DAN gets out additional food and continues cooking.]
[Noticing the crate] What’s in the crate?
A fifty-megaton nuclear missile warhead. One egg or two?
Right. Mind my own damn business. Two eggs, thanks.
Actually, it’s Peter Braun’s business. He’s been called back to
active duty in the Air Force–poor bastard. Made me the new
apartment manager on his way out.
Yeah, I know. I ran into him.
[There’s another knock at the door.]
[Still cooking] Enter!
[VINCE enters, holding an empty salt shaker.]
Dan, you have any spare salt? I used my last shaker on supper
Sure. [DAN gets salt from cupboard, tosses it to VINCE.] I’m
preparing us some breakfast. Care to join us?
[Pouring salt into shaker] Thanks, don’t mind if I do. Saves me
[Looks at VINCE strangely.] Didn’t you get up nine hours ago?
[Still pouring] Uh-huh.
And you haven’t eaten yet today?
[Screwing lid back on] Uh-uh.
For heaven’ sake, why not?
[Looks up] I forgot.
[JOEL and DAN exchange glances, look down at their own
bulging middles, then across at VINCE’s perfect
DAN AND JOEL
[In unison] He forgot.
[Noticing the crate] What you got in the crate?
A fifty-megaton nuclear missile warhead. One egg or two?
Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer. One egg.
[There’s still another knock at the door.]
[Still cooking] Cross my threshhold!
You having a–uh–party?
Just breakfast. You hungry?
One egg or two?
Can I have–uh–three?
I suppose my generosity can be stretched that far.
But not that far.
Then okay–uh–three eggs is fine.
[To MARK, amazed] Didn’t you just finish dinner?
[Thinks a long second] Yeah.
[Looking at MARK’s wiry frame] And you’re hungry again?
[To DAN] There is some fundamental metabolic principle which has
it in for the two of us.
[Noticing the crate] What’s in the–uh–crate?
A fifty-megaton nuclear missile warhead.
[MARK thinks about this for a second.] Can I–uh–see it?
[JOEL and VINCE exchange glances: “what a sucker.”]
Oh, very well. Just be careful opening it.
[While VINCE and JOEL watch in amazement, MARK goes to
the crate, looks at it a few seconds, then lifts off
the lid. The sides drop down, revealing the Warhead.
MARK begins looking at it. After a few seconds, JOEL
and VINCE go over and begin looking at it. VINCE sees
a technical manual and picks it up.]
[Reading aloud] “United States Air Force Maintenance Manual
309,576, Thermonuclear Missile Warhead, Air Burst Type, Megaton
Yield: Fifty.” [To DAN] Boy, this is terrific!
Who makes it? Mattel? Revell?
I don’t know. Does it say on the manual?
[Scanning manual] Let’s see … okay, here we go. [Reading]
“If unable to effect on-site repairs to Warhead, return post-paid
to the manufacturer, Lockheed Corporation, Nuclear Weapons
Division, Seal Beach, California.” Huh! I didn’t know that
Lockheed has a toys division.
[Laughing lightly] Vince. You didn’t say “Toys” Division. You
said “Nuclear Weapons” Division.
Right. That’s what the manual says.
[Starting to get nervous] Er, correct me if I’m missing
something. But … wouldn’t a division of a company devoted to
making toys be called the “Toys” Division?
I’d think so.
And let me take this one one logical step further. Wouldn’t a
division of a company called the “Nuclear Weapons” Division be
devoted to making not toys but, say, nuclear weapons?
I’d have to agree with you on that.
[Both JOEL and VINCE stand there, blankly, for a few
JOEL AND VINCE
[Shouting simultaneously] It’s a fifty-megaton nuclear bomb!
Right, tell the whole neighborhood, why don’t you?
[JOEL and VINCE start making shushing sounds to each
other. JOEL creeps over to the door and shuts it.]
[Lecturing JOEL and VINCE] Yeah. If the neighbors find out Dan’s
got a nuclear bomb then–uuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhh–everybody will get
one and it won’t be special anymore.
[VINCE and JOEL roll their eyes.]
Dan … what in the name of God are you doing with–[whispers]–a
nuclear bomb in your living room?
[Finished cooking, now serving.] I told you already. Peter Braun
left it with me. He didn’t have anywhere else to leave it.
[VINCE is looking over the manual.]
But’s it’s a–[screamed whisper]–nuclear bomb! In your living
Since both of your statements are directly observable, they are
true … but redundant. What’s your point?
Dan. This is a nuclear bomb. They have a technical term for the
place where it goes off. They call it “Ground Zero.” They also
have a technical term for anything at Ground Zero when a nuclear
bomb goes off. The term is “ex.” If this bomb goes off, this
will be an “ex” living room, and everything within fifty miles of
this living room will also be “ex.” This will be an ex-apartment
in an ex-Anarchy Village. There will be an ex-Queen Mary, ex-7-
11’s, ex-Winchell Doughnuts, ex-freeways, ex-Disneyland, ex-
Knott’s Berry Farm and–most importantly–ex us.
[Looking up from manual, enthusiastically:] Hey, this thing is
designed to detonate at a five hundred feet above sea level.
Vince, we are at sea level now. So is the bomb. Are you trying
to tell me that it should have already gone off?
Interesting question. Let me just flip a few pages …
[VINCE begins reading, casually, while JOEL waits,
growing more agitated with each passing second.]
Ah, here it is. “Warhead must be enabled, and altimeter set,
before Warhead will be in Detonation Mode.”
–Thank God for that.
“…For Enabling Procedure, see Operations Manual.”
[MARK reaches down and picks up a second manual, hands
it to VINCE.]
“United States Air Force Operations Manual … Thermonuclear
Missile Warhead, Air Burst Type, Megaton Yield: Fifty.” Thanks,
Gentlemen, breakfast is served.
[DAN, VINCE, and MARK take their seats around Dan’s
table immediately. JOEL looks at them dumbfounded.]
Have you all gone crazy? Do you expect me to eat breakfast at
thermonuclear Ground Zero?
Joel, you’ve lived within the circle of total nuclear destruction
for your entire life. There’s no evidence it’s affected your
appetite so far.
[JOEL considers this for a moment, then joins the
So, Dan. You’re an anarchist. You’re a committed revolutionary.
You’ve got a bigger bomb now than any revolutionary or anarchist
in history. Just what do you propose doing with it?
Doing with it?
Doing with it. For example. You hide it in Washington D.C. and
demand the U.S. Government disbands … or else.
Or else what?
Or else you set off the bomb.
But Vince. While a lot of people who deserve to be dead would be
made that way by setting off the bomb, if even one innocent
person were injured, we would have violated every principle we
stand for. Even threatening to set it off would violate
individual rights. But all this is theoretical, anyway, since
it’s not my bomb. It’s Peter Braun’s bomb. And I can’t use it
without permission because that would be violation of contract.
[VINCE begins flipping through the manuals.]
[Slightly relieved] Then you’re not going to do anything with it?
Well, I’ll probably get around to moving it nearer to the wall.
It’s in the way in the middle of the living room.
Has it occurred to you that more than several people in the
government might be upset with you if they knew you had a nuclear
[Grinning widely] Yes! I’m finally doing something sufficiently
illegal to justify my revolutionary existence!
[Looking up from manual] I’ve been looking through the
maintenance log. This thing didn’t exactly pass its last
Well, it was sold as government surplus.
You mean we don’t know if it’ll even work?
[Everyone is silent, while eating, for a few seconds,
Then why don’t we–uh–try it?
[As the other three look at MARK with wonderment,
Anarchy in the UK rises in volume and we BLACK OUT.]
Two Weeks Later, Night
DAN is at his desk, typing away, puffing on his pipe. The
Warhead has been removed from its crate and placed over to one
side of the room. The door is closed. There is a single RAP at
the door, a pause, TWO RAPS, a pause, THREE RAPS, a long pause,
ONE RAP, a pause, FOUR DOUBLE-TIME RAPS, pause, TWO RAPS. DAN
gets up from his desk and goes over to the door. He RAPS TWICE.
[Behind door, after a pause] “The Horn Blows at Midnight.”
[To door] “The Emperor has No Clothes.”
[Behind door] “My Dog Has Fleas.”
[To door] “Karl Marx Wore Pink Pajamas.”
[Behind door] “The Moon is Over Poughkeepsie.”
[To door] “The Desert Sand … ” [Pauses, tries to remember] “The
Desert Sand …” –I can’t remember what the bloody sand does.
[Behind door] “The Desert Sand Blows West.”
[To door] Right, right. “The Desert Sand Blows West.”
[Behind door] “Fifty Five Saves Lives.”
[To door] “Whip Inflation Now.”
[Behind door] You missed your third counter-sign. How do I know
it’s really you?
[Puffs on his pipe, long pause. Then he opens the door.] This
[VINCE comes in, carrying a large shopping bag, but looks at DAN
suspiciously. Speaking deliberately] For all I know, you could
Vincent. The purpose of these idiotic procedures is to make me
paranoid about who’s outside, not to make you paranoid about
[Thinks a moment, then slowly] Well, I’ll let it go this time,
Conrad. But I’m watching you.
Did you bring the stuff?
Yep. [VINCE removes a small metallic device and sets it on the
coffee table.] The last set of dosimeters came up clean.
Replacement is tomorrow at thirteen hundred sharp. And Mark
better not lose his again.
If Mark isn’t worried about dying from radiation sickness, isn’t
that his business?
Are you crazy? Do you know what’d happen if a coroner determined
Mark’s cause of death as radiation poisoning? We’d have fifty
federal agents over us in minutes! He either uses his dosimeters
properly or he doesn’t get into this apartment again!
[Avuncularly] Vincent, Vincent. This is my apartment. I decide
who gets in here.
And you appointed me as Radiation Safety Officer. [Hurt] Of
course if you’re asking for my resignation …
I wouldn’t dream of it.
Well, okay then.
[There is a single RAP at the door, a pause, TWO RAPS,
a pause, THREE RAPS, a long pause, ONE RAP, a pause,
FOUR DOUBLE-TIME RAPS, pause, TWO RAPS. DAN goes over
to the door. He RAPS TWICE.]
[Behind door] “J.D. Salinger loves company.”
[To door] “The Quick Brown Fox Jumped Over the Lazy Dog.”
[Behind door] “My Mother’s Dress is Green.”
[To door] “Art Linkletter has Twelve Toes.”
[Behind door] “I buried Paul!”
[To door] “The Queen Mary sails at noon!”
[Behind door] “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain When She
[To door] “Doo-dah, doo-dah!”
[DAN opens the door and JOEL comes in.]
Well, are we dead men?
Our personal dosimeters show we haven’t been exposed to any
measurable radiation. [JOEL crosses himself.] Joel … you’re
Sure, but try doing a Star of David on your chest.
I was about to try out the Geiger Counter. Okay, Dan?
[VINCE picks up the device from the coffee table and
unclips a microphone-like sensor.]
I brought along a radium-dial wristwatch as a control. [He holds
the watch out at arm’s length then puts the sensor up close to
it. A loud burst of static results.] Okay, it’s working. Now
the moment of truth.
[VINCE takes the Geiger Counter around the apartment,
pointing at various items. Silence. He is getting
closer and closer to the Warhead until, finally, he
sticks the sensor directly toward the Warhead and scans
up, down, and all around it. Complete silence.]
[Relieved] Well, so far, so good.
[There is a single RAP at the door, a pause, TWO RAPS,
a pause, THREE RAPS, a long pause, ONE RAP, a pause,
FOUR DOUBLE-TIME RAPS, pause, TWO RAPS. DAN goes over
to the door. He RAPS TWICE.]
[Behind door, after an endless pause] “A–uuuuhhhh–black–uh–
[DAN throws open the door, grabs MARK by the arm, and
bodily yanks him inside, shutting the door after him.]
[To DAN, after a pause] A–uh–black cat has three kittens.
Mark. You don’t have to go through all that once you’re inside.
Only when you’re outside.
[MARK thinks about it, then starts toward the door
again. DAN throws himself against the door, blocking
Mark! Stay! [MARK stops.] Sit! [MARK takes a seat on the
couch. DAN sees a bowl of potato chips sitting on his coffee
table, grabs a chip, and shoves it into MARK’s mouth.] Good boy!
[MARK giggles good-humoredly.]
Dan, are you starting to get the feeling that, perhaps, that
device over there has taken over our lives?
The universe does seem to warp around it, doesn’t it?
Frankly, I’d prefer going back to a more primitive lifestyle.
I’m sick of paranoia. I long for a return to simple fanaticism.
I don’t suppose you can suggest how we can transform this longing
of yours into a practical plan?
Couldn’t we find some way to, er, give it back?
To Peter Braun? I have no way to track him down.
I wasn’t thinking of Braun. I rather had in mind–er–the folks
who made it.
Soft core! I can’t believe you could actually consider, for a
moment, arming the State.
In practical terms, returning it isn’t likely to alter the
balance of power very much.
Won’t it? How many anarchists do you know who have a nuclear
But I thought you said there’s no moral way we can use it.
Not true. I said that there’s no way we can morally explode it,
or morally threaten to explode it.
Well how else can we use the damn thing?
We can not explode it.
I beg your pardon?
He can’t pardon you–you’ll have to see the Governor.
[Ignoring the line] I said, we can “not explode” it. We can take
the explicit action of possessing a nuclear weapon which we will
not explode and which will not be exploded. Not only is this one
less nuclear weapon that the State can use for its nefarious
purposes, but by possessing a nuclear weapon which we pointedly
do not explode, we are giving the world a strong demonstration of
Some demonstration. We’ve been skulking around for two weeks,
making sure that nobody knows we have it. How are we supposed to
demonstrate anything if we keep this secret?
A point well taken. And, I think it speaks to the issue you
raised earlier. The bomb has not been interfering with our
lifestyle. Our attempts at secrecy have been doing that. I
suggest that we simply stop keeping the bomb secret.
Vince, the phone book is over there. Get the number of the FBI,
will you? I’m sure they’d be interested.
I assume you are attempting a rhetorical point?
Dan. If we don’t keep the bomb secret then–as the song says–
“the Man will come and take us a-way.”
Then don’t tell them.
Don’t tell them. The FBI and their ilk are unlikely to be
impressed by the moral significance of our demonstration anyway.
Are you seriously contending that you can keep a nuclear weapon
as an open secret and not have any of several hundred police
agencies learn of it?
And just how do you expect this to work?
Well to start off, who would be naive enough to believe that it
could possiblY be the real thing?
[JOEL and VINCE both look pointedly at MARK.]
A statistical anomaly, I assure you.
[Suddenly, there is some unmistakable rumbling.
Furniture rattles, sways, etc.]
DAN, JOEL, VINCE, AND MARK
[All together] Earthquake!
[Both VINCE and JOEL immediately try to crawl under the
coffee table. Suddenly, just about as the rumbling
stops, the STAGE LIGHTS BLACK OUT and we hear the
static crackle of the Geiger Counter going crazy. The
rest of the scene is IN BLACK OUT:]
Oh, my God.
Dan, you got a flashlight?
Hold on a second.
We’re all gonna die.
Wait–here you go.
[We see the beam of a flashlight scan around for a few
The Lord is my shepard, I shall not … shall not … what the
hell is it I shall not?
It’s okay, guys. The bomb’s still secure. The Geiger Counter
was picking up my wristwatch.
[After a long silence] Okay, which one of you guys farted?
[Another long pause] I hope one of you guys farted.
This entry was posted on December 28, 2016 at 2:31 am, and is filed under Stageplay. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.
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