Author: qwertytimes

Two Weeks in Roswell – Arthur Fogg

The Gravity Works, Inc. – Levitation Division – Employee Lunch Room

Arthur sat across from Michael during their lunch break. Both men were introverts who typically ate lunch in silence, preferring to read work-related documents while eating rather than engage in chit-chat or sports talk. Arthur looked up and stared at Michael for several seconds.

Michael sensed he was being stared at and looked up.

“What?” asked Michael.

“Do you ever worry you might be losing touch with your family?” Arthur said.

Michael set aside his document and rubbed his hairless chin for a moment as he contemplated how to best answer in the remaining time they had for lunch. As a scientist talking to a fellow scientist, he usually answered in one of two ways: he either replied with a simple affirmative or negative, or he elaborated and filled his answer with authoritative citations, copious examples, a few sidebar hypotheticals, and obscure footnotes, droning on until everyone had left the room. This time, he felt he needed a different way to answer, especially since Arthur’s question was clearly very sincere and from the heart. He didn’t have to be telepathic to know his friend was troubled.

“Let me ask a question, Arthur. You go home early and there’s no family there. Right?” said Michael.

“Precisely,” answered Arthur, then quickly corrected himself. “Eventually they’re there, of course, just not when I expect them to be. Or maybe they’re asleep when I expect them to be awake.”

“Are they avoiding you?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Aha. So, they’re busy doing other things and have filled up the hours of the day, essentially their lives, without you.”

“Sounds about right. How’d you know?” asked Arthur.

“Been there, experienced that. It seemed the more time I spent away from my family, the less familiar they became to me.”

“You mean like Spencer in Sales?”

“What happened to Spencer?” asked Michael.

“He was on the road all the time and spent so much time away from his family, his wife had him arrested for breaking and entering when he finally returned home. By that point, some other guy had moved in to his house and his kids were calling the stranger Dad.”

“Well, that’s certainly sad. But understandable, from what I know of Spencer,” said Michael. “My situation was not nearly as extreme. Of course, I needed a way to test my hypothesis.”

“Interesting. What were the parameters of your test?” ask Arthur.

“Spending more time with my family,” said Michael.

“That’s all? Sounds simple.”

“Yes. It was as simple as that.”

“Sometimes the simplest things can be the most complicated,” said Arthur.

“True,” agreed Michael. “Did you ever think maybe what you could use is a family bonding experience?”

“What do you mean?” asked Arthur.

“A vacation.”

“We already take a vacation every year.”

“Let me guess. You stay on planet. Go to the southern district. Visit the same sites, eat at the same restaurants–so on and so forth. Sound familiar?” asked Michael.

“There’s something to be said for consistency,” countered Arthur.

“Yes, and it’s called boring. Look, Arthur, how long have we worked together?”

“Seven years, three months, and twenty-two days.”

“Right. We’ve been sitting here eating our lunches together and you’re always eating the same thing. You eat the same lunch every day. Every. Single. Day. The same meal for seven years. That’s the very definition of boring,” said Michael.

“I happen to like my lunch. Why should I risk changing it for something I might not like?”

“If all you ever do are things you’ve done before, how will you ever experience anything new?”

“Hmm,” said Arthur, unable to form a more intelligent response. He hated to concede that Michael had a point.

“Have you ever heard of a travel company called Small Universe?

Michael pointed an index finger at his briefcase nearby on the table. The briefcase unlocked itself, and Michael wiggled his finger again, retrieving a travel brochure from “Small Universe.” The brochure slid over the table and landed in front of Arthur, who gave it a quick glance and read the cover aloud.

“’The family that vacations together stays together.’ Sounds too corny and too expensive.” Arthur pointed an index finger at the brochure, sending it back to Michael.

“It’s a lot cheaper than you think. They make it up at the other end, so they keep the customer cost down.” Michael wagged a finger and the brochure went back to Arthur.

“No thanks.” Arthur waved the brochure back to Michael, who waved it back to Arthur.

“How many times in your life will you get a chance to show your family another planet?”

“This one’s just fine.” Arthur pushed the brochure back still again.

“Arthur, you’re a scientist. Since when do you lack scientific curiosity?” Michael pushed the brochure back.

“I don’t lack curiosity. It’s the money I’m lacking.”

Arthur pushed the brochure back.

“They’re running a fifty-percent-off special. It’s a last-minute offer. Apparently, they’re under booked and need to fill seats. But you have to commit soon.”

“How soon?”

“Very soon. Like today.”

Michael pushed the brochure back for the last time.

“Did you say fifty percent off?” asked Arthur, who grabbed the brochure and quickly scanned its contents.

“Yes. Plus, if I refer you and you sign up for a tour, we will both get an additional five percent off on our next tour with them as part of their referral program. Jamison of Accounting is going. He’s the one who turned me on to Small Universe, and he can’t get enough of their tours. He must own stock in the company.”

Their lunch over, Arthur and Michael donned their respective white coats, disposed of whatever remained of their lunch, and walked down a clean, white corridor to the Levitation Lab.

“I almost forgot to give you the brochure back,” said Arthur, as he pushed the door open.

“Keep it,” said Michael. “Jamison has a supply cabinet full of them.”

Arthur and Michael entered the QA lab, ducking in time to avoid a small chair flying in their direction.

“Sorry,” said a co-worker.

(more soon)

Two Weeks in Roswell – Arthur Fogg

Chapter 2 – Arthur Fogg

EARTHNOT – The Gravity Works, Inc. – Late at Night

Levitation and psychokinetic scientist Arthur Fogg was the last to leave the Quality Assurance lab that night. On the nearly-empty shuttle ride back to his home in the suburbs, he closed his eyes to rest for just a second and almost ended up missing his stop. He was exhausted. Arthur had been putting in so many long hours recently that he wouldn’t know what a regular shift looked like if HR showed it to him in colorful charts and graphs. Nobody asked him to work these long hours, of course. He just did. Once he faced a problem, he didn’t know how to let go; his personality liked to hang out at the corner of Obsessive and Compulsive.

It was perhaps one reason why, whenever Arthur was offered a promotion to a management level position he declined. Arthur told HR he preferred to work in the trenches, as a principal contributor, and not get stuck in endless mid-management meetings that took a lot of time but went nowhere. The truth was a bit deeper, however. Arthur lacked confidence in his own decisions and did not believe he had the creative mindset to be a leader. He could execute someone else’s vision, true, but felt he lacked the visionary gene himself to be a leader. Or so he rationalized.

The Fogg Family Residence – Late at Night

As soon as Arthur arrived home, he looked in on his sleeping son, Danny, eight years old; four times worth of terrible twos packed in a rebellious body. Arthur dreaded the boy’s approaching teen years. Still, he loved his son and especially admired the boy’s spunk and directness, which he must have inherited from his mother’s side since Arthur was generally non-confrontational.

Next, Arthur checked in on fifteen-year-old Sara, a beauty destined to break many a young man’s heart. She, too, was sleeping. If Danny took after his mother, Sara was more like Arthur. A bit too passive or deferential at times, perhaps, but a hard worker who always tried to please others. Without a doubt, she was a team player and could be counted on in a pinch.

Finally, Arthur walked into his bedroom and looked at his wife, Doris, sleeping soundly. In many ways, they were complete opposites. Where Arthur was cautious, Doris was adventurous. Arthur considered himself a classic introvert, the nerdy scientist type; Doris was outgoing and a reliable presence on school boards and community action teams. No matter where they went, they always seemed to bump into someone Doris knew. They never seemed to remember Arthur’s name and she’d always have to re-introduce him as her husband, which was okay with Arthur. He preferred not sticking out and preferred anonymity to attention.

Arthur walked to the kitchen, removed his dinner from the fridge, warmed it up. He carried the plate of food to the dining room table, where he sat alone and began to eat. He looked at the three empty chairs around the table and decided he’d leave work early tomorrow and be home in time to have dinner with the entire family. He’d catch them by surprise. The thought made him smile.

EARTHNOT – The Gravity Works, Inc.

The next day, his regular shift over, Arthur joined a mass of employees leaving The Gravity Works building, a wavy metal structure that looked like something Frank Gehry would have designed on peyote. It fit right in, since all the office buildings in the central part of the city looked the same.

Arthur was taken aback by how crowded it was on his shuttle ride back to the suburbs, and reminded himself of another reason why he liked working late. To avoid the rush. This time he didn’t almost miss his stop.

As soon as Arthur entered his home, he announced his presence.

“Guess who’s home early?” he asked, to nobody in particular.

A post-it-note in the form of a hologram of Doris appeared instead. “Hologram for Arthur Fogg from Doris,” a robotic voice announced. The image of Doris spoke.

“Hello, Dear, I’m at the school weekly committee meeting. The rest of us had an early dinner. Just heat up the leftovers and I’ll be home soon. Love you,” said the hologram, which disappeared in a flash.

Before Arthur could send Doris a reply, a second hologram post-it-note appeared.

“Hologram for Arthur Fogg from Sara,” the robotic voice announced. “Hi, Dad. I’m studying late at the library. You and Mom don’t wait up. Love ya both,” said Sara’s post-it hologram. Truth be told, Sara was out partying with friends.

“Studying? That’s my girl,” he said. “Danny? Are you home?”

“Hologram for Arthur Fogg from Danny,” the same robotic voice announced. “Mom said I could sleep over at Ray’s. See you tomorrow,” said Danny’s hologram, which promptly disappeared into the ether.

“No. Wait. Did you clear that with your mother? A sleep over on a school night?” replied Arthur.

It wasn’t a school night, a minor detail that escaped Arthur’s notice. But what didn’t escape his notice were the three empty chairs around the dining room table as he ate his dinner alone.

[more next time]

Two Weeks in Roswell – Chapter 1.03

There are other differences, of course. Their language can neither be easily understood nor easily transcribed. They don’t read left-to-right or right-to-left or top-to-bottom but all at once, meaning whatever is in their field of vision can be read instantly. All of it. This skill can be very handy for anyone putting together IKEA furniture.

[Nota bene: The publisher of this novel spent a large amount of tax-deductible money securing an English-language translation of all alien-languages appearing in this book. Alien-languages in the audio version of this book will be subtitled]

They have limited telepathic skills and, especially in times of stress, can communicate with each other over short distances through their thoughts, a skill that makes idyll conversation and chit-chat unnecessary, and their lives, on the whole, much more meaningful and interesting.

Above all, Earthnothians are very literal. In fact, if they have any single flaw it is in their lack of a sense of humor. Tell them the joke about two termites walking into a bar where one termite asks “Is the bar tender here?” and they’ll want to know where the termites came from or how come nobody stepped on them or if the termites are related or married or co-workers and, hey, why did they choose that particular bar in the first place– of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world why did they step into that one? The joke’s punchline would fly unnoticed over their head like cosmic dust from Bode’s Galaxy.

Truth be told, this tell-it-like-it-is-just-the-facts-ma’am approach is the chief reason why stand-up comedy never took off on their planet in the first place. Certainly, they have been known to laugh on occasion. But when they do, it is typically as a nervous reaction to a stressful situation, something of a vestigial remain left deeply inside them. Where we might gasp or scream, they would most likely giggle or bray. Such unexpected and inopportune laughter can be awkward.

Although they have matured beyond the need to understand puns or strut one’s stuff, beat one’s chest, and wage war on perceived enemies for misunderstood slights, they are still subject to the basic laws of physics that skim along and bump into each other throughout the universe like a game of air hockey. They’re conceived, born, receive an education, work at boring jobs, start families, get sick, and eventually die. Yadda-yadda-yadda. Badda bing, badda boom. Repeat spin cycle.

That’s not to say they don’t have their fair share of arguments and oopsies. They are remarkedly accident prone, to a fault, and have no sense of direction whatsoever. If turning left is the correct move, they are just as likely to turn right—or proceed ahead without turning.

On their planet, just as on ours, the universal laws of physics are matched by the universal laws of parenting. Parents constantly worry about their off-spring, and children don’t want anything to do with their parents. In other words …

Family vacations suck.

Mostly.

[End of Chapter 1. Chapter 2 will begin after a short break]

###

Two Weeks in Roswell – Chapter 1.02

In short, Planet Earthnot is a planet that doesn’t have the patience or desire to repeat mistakes. They do not suffer fools lightly, and learn quickly from life’s lessons. Take war, for example. As soon as experience taught them that war was a lose-lose proposition, it went away.

Mostly.

Interestingly enough, what we have in common is they look just like us. They only have one head and that human-like head comes equipped as standard issue with two eyes, one set of nostrils, a pair of ears, and the usual accouterments of upright walking man. Their arms and hands and legs and feet resemble ours and act much the same way. Fingers point, toes wiggle, knees creak.

It goes without saying—which is why it is now being said—that their brains are much more evolved that ours.

There is one notable other difference, however: they lack hair. Everywhere and anywhere. No hair on the scalp, arms, legs, nose, ears, and areas where the sun never shines. The residents of Earthnot are as smooth as a cue ball. If you were to dress an Earthnothian in orange swaddling and put him in a line-up with a bunch of Hare Krishnas, you wouldn’t be able to pick him out from the crowd. That is, until you noticed he was the only one not beating a drum or begging for nickels and dimes.

The reason they don’t have any hair is simple: they don’t need it. The temperature on their planet remains at a consistent and very comfortable level. Those who want to experience colder weather in winter travel to the north, while those seeking to feel more heat in winter go south. In-between, however, the weather is spot-on perfect. Their sun shines daily and it only rains at night.

To compensate for their lack of hair and as a matter of fashionable style, they wear hats. Lots and lots of hats. Not all at once, which would be silly. But there is no shortage of hats on Planet Earthnot. It’s common knowledge that if you need a hat, the only place to go in the universe is Earthnot, where the expression “My hat’s on to you” is a compliment, “My hat’s off to you” is an insult, and “Nice hat” is how they greet each other when they pass in the streets. Adult males usually prefer to wear manly fisherman caps or wide-brim hats, such as boaters and fedoras, while adult females are particularly fond of colorful yet delicate cloche hats, known to us as a flapper hat, and, for special occasions, a shade-providing, flower-festooned concoction. Very chic. All government officials wear what could best be described as a cross between a small office trash can and a turban, complete with dangling tassel. Children, on the other hand, wear whatever damn hat they please.

[to be, you know, continued]

Two Weeks in Roswell – 1.01

While sheltering in place, I thought now might be a good time to exercise some nouns, verbs, and other parts of speech. So, I decided to rewrite one of my screenplays, Two Weeks in Roswell, as a novel. Here’s the TWIR script pitch: “When an alien Dad takes his family on a vacation to planet Earth and his son is kidnapped by tabloid journalists, the rest of the family must leave the safety of their tour and work together to rescue the kid. The aliens have landed and they’re on vacation!”

I hope to post more chapters as I go along, in 500-word chunks. Without further ado, here’s the first part of Chapter 1…

Chapter 1.01 – Planet Earthnot

In the words of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Which shouldn’t surprise any of us, since Horatio barely scored a C- in his Philosophy of All Things Great and Small midterm exam.

Let’s face it, you don’t have to be Shakespeare or one of his characters to realize that with a radius estimated to be in the neighborhood of 45 billion light years, the universe holds many surprises. Which is why …

Fourteen-thousand feet above the surfers, the W.M. Keck Observatory on the big island of Hawaii searches for cosmic surprises. The world’s largest telescopes at the Mauna Kea Summit work in harmony to probe the sky, regularly blasting signals through the twinkling stars, scouring a vast and seemingly endless universe looking for any signs of life: Cassiopeia, Betelgeuse, the Pleiades, the Andromeda Galaxy, the Whirlpool Galaxy, the Sombrero Galaxy, car headlights on the L.A. Freeway, fireflies. These powerful telescopes—each visually a cross between a giant golf ball and a cyclops—are never-ending in their pursuit of extraterrestrial life.

But the best we’ve got is still not good enough, for we have yet to discover a very special planet that is much like Earth but, at the same time, is not Earth. We shall call it, ahem, Planet Earthnot.

Earthnot is a planet far, far beyond our galaxy and far, far more socially sophisticated and far, far more technologically advanced and far, far more just about anything else than our own simple gee-whiz planet. Simply put, that particular spinning rock way out there in space, a planet that even our greatest telescopes can’t see, billions of light years from our own spinning rock, is everything Earth is not.

Mostly.

So, why is Earthnot unlike our planet? For starters, it’s a planet of quick learners. The Great Insurance Scandal made them understand how nobody should get rich from someone else’s fears or anguish or accidents, which is why they decided to cover everyone—from cradle to grave. Ditto lessons they learned from The Great Pharmaceutical Drug Scandal, The Great Climate Destruction Scandal, The Great Corrupt Politicians Scandal, The Great Game Show Scandal, The Great What’s that Floating in My Water Scandal. They have 250 words for “great” and 115 words for “scandal,” but prefer to use “great” and “scandal” instead of their many other options, a reflection of their natural frugal tendencies. And they may be right, too. Why spend 250 words when one word will do, especially when that one word means the same thing?

[okay, it’s not a cliff-hanger, but, as they say, to be continued]

Happy Valentine’s Day – Be My Ghoul

I’m posting one of my short plays (“Be My Ghoul”) that kinda-sorta is about Valentine’s Day.  Cheers and Cheerios!

 

BE M Y GHOUL

Synopsis: A struggling boutique ad agency pitches an unusual account with surprising results.

Cast of Characters

Oliver … 30-something male, high-energy and confident; Allegra’s business partner and in love with her.

Allegra … 30-something female, a bit shy and conservative; Oliver’s business partner and in love with him.

Mr. Romero … An “ageless” well-dressed zombie in a suit

Place: Contemporary small ad agency board room. Conference table, with bottled water, coffee thermos and mugs on it; three chairs in the room; a flip chart with paper on it near the table. The first page of the flip chart is blank.

Time: Afternoon of a work day

AT RISE: Oliver and Allegra scurry about, setting up the conference room table for their next pitch meeting with a client.

 

OLIVER

How do I look?

ALLEGRA

Killer, as always. You’ll knock ‘em dead.

OLIVER

Not sure that’s necessary with this client. Or even possible.

ALLEGRA

You’re so talented.

OLIVER

Why should that stop us?

ALLEGRA

What?

OLIVER

You know what. The money. Do I have to ask again?

ALLEGRA

I won’t start off in debt. Financial problems are the leading cause of failed marriages. I’ve seen the stats.

OLIVER

Statistics have nothing to do with the heart.

ALLEGRA

The heart has nothing to do with paying the bills. Let me put it this way, if we don’t land this account, we’re goners.

OLIVER

As in dead meat?

ALLEGRA

The deadest. … Don’t worry. He’ll love the campaign.

OLIVER

My dear, you inspired the campaign.

ALLEGRA

You did such a great job with the nail biters conference.

OLIVER

I did, didn’t I?

ALLEGRA

Getting Nine Inch Nails to perform at the closing ceremony was brilliant.

OLIVER

I didn’t do so well with the Hemlock Society.

ALLEGRA

What do you mean? Reusable membership cards is saving them thousands of dollars each year. And those Hemlock action toys for seniors you placed in the fast food hamburger chain boxes? Big hit. Huge.

OLIVER

Perhaps. But organizing their Christmas Party was a disaster.

ALLEGRA

Guests should have known better than to drink from the punch bowl. I mean it was the Hemlock Society. Hello!

OLIVER

Allegra?

ALLEGRA

Yes?

OLIVER

Would you help me with the pitch?

ALLEGRA

You know better, Oliver. You’re the creative genius around here. I’m just the bean counter. I answer the phone, order supplies, do the books. You do all the magic.

OLIVER

It’s the kind of pitch that would work better with a partner. You wouldn’t have to say much, just read a slogan or two from the comp boards. Besides, he’s not a very talkative client. He mumbles and groans a lot and feels a little insecure because of it, I suspect. Nice man, though, with a great sense of humor. They have a huge budget for the campaign and the deep pockets to back it up. This could be the break we’re looking for.

ALLEGRA

Who is it again?

OLIVER

Mr. Romero. He’s the publicity director for ZONA, Zombies of North America. They’re trying to upgrade their image.

ALLEGRA

And I inspired this campaign? I don’t know whether to be proud or to run for the door.

Three or four clumsy KNOCKS on the door.

OLIVER

He’s here. Please let him in.

Allegra opens the door and is startled by what she sees. It’s a Zombie in a business suit. He enters stiff and, well, very zombie-like.

ALLEGRA

Oh! [beat] Welcome. Please come in.

ROMERO

(Mumbles a greeting)

Mr. Romero leans in kiss her on both cheeks. She’s appalled.

OLIVER

Welcome, Mr. Romero. I trust you had an enjoyable flight?

ROMERO

(Mumbles a response)

OLIVER

I share your pain. The lines at Security can take forever.

Oliver shakes Mr. Romero’s right hand and the zombie’s arm falls off. It drops to the floor.

ROMERO

(Groans)

Allegra gasps. Oliver picks up the arm and hands it back to his client.

OLIVER

So very sorry.

ROMERO

(Moans)

OLIVER

Yes, I imagine it does happen all the time. But we all have our little embarrassments, don’t we? Sometimes I whistle when I talk. Don’t mean to. Never could as a kid.

ALLEGRA

I always spill food on my blouse.

ROMERO

(Mumbles)

OLIVER

No. The campaign’s not going to cost you an arm and a leg. Good one, though.

ALLEGRA

Could I get you something to drink, mineral water perhaps? Coffee?

ROMERO

(Mumbles)

OLIVER

I hear ya, staying awake’s not a problem for you. The last thing you need is caffeine. I’ll get right to the point.

Mr. Romero sits, puts his detached arm in front of him. Oliver stands next to the flip chart, ready to turn the first page.

OLIVER

Our market research indicates that most people associate zombies with Latin America, especially Haiti, and not the United States. I can imagine your organization is tired of living in the shadow of your cousins to the south.

ROMERO

(Moans)

OLIVER

We have found that one of the best ways to improve a group’s image is to tie the group to a holiday. Mothers have Mother’s Day. Fathers Father’s Day. There’s Veteran’s Day. Boss’ Day. Labor Day.

ALLEGRA

Groundhog Day.

OLIVER

Guy Fawkes Day.

ROMERO

(Mumbles)

OLIVER

I’m not sure who he was but he has a whole day to himself.

ROMERO

(Mumbles)

OLIVER

Well, no. I’m not proposing a Zombie’s Day per se. I suspect that would be a little too ambitious at this point. Instead, I’m proposing —

Mr. Romero raises his attached arm.

ROMERO

(Mumbles)

OLIVER

Yes. I know your group is normally associated with Halloween but that’s one day a year and there’s so much competition, what with monsters, witches, animal masks, masks of former presidents, current presidents. It’s hard for you and your fellow zombies to get the attention — and respect, I might add — you all deserve. The Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico, for example, lasts for two to three days. That’s why I’m proposing we think out of the box.

ROMERO

(Mumbles)

OLIVER

No pun intended, sir. Out of the box is, yes, well, what I recommend is that your organization actively promote zombies during …

Finally, Oliver lifts the first sheet off the flip chart to reveal the words: Valentine’s Day.

OLIVER

Valentine’s Day.

Mr. Romero grabs his severed arm and stands. He’s heard enough. Allegra jumps in.

ALLEGRA

Picture it, sir. It’s that time of year again. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. What better time —

OLIVER

What better time to crawl out of the grave and celebrate with that significant other?

ALLEGRA

And now y ou can. With… with …

Allegra flips the next page and it has the word “Zombieseez” on it. She stares at it for a moment. Confused.

ALLEGRA

… with Zombieseez. [pause] Oliver?

OLIVER

Zombieseez. The love candy created by Zombies for Zombies. Just for you and what’s left of yours on that special Night of the Living Dead.

Mr. Romero sits.

ALLEGRA

Remember, anyone can give decaying flowers —

OLIVER

— But it takes a special someone to give rotten candy. Zombieseez. When you care enough to say, “Because you’re dead and I’m grateful.” Now with sixteen decomposing colors!

ROMERO

(Mumbles)

OLIVER

Yes, we took into account the special dental problems of your membership. I assure you, these candies, unlike the typical hard Valentine’s Day message candies, will be soft and chewy, almost fleshy in texture.

They’re on a roll. When one flips, the other reads. On each page is a different saying for a piece of candy, similar to Valentine’s Day heart-shaped message candy.

OLIVER

Be My Corpse!

Oliver flips another sheet. Allegra reads.

ALLEGRA

You Look Like Death Warmed Over.

Allegra flips, Oliver reads.

OLIVER

You Make My Skin Fall Off.

Oliver flips, Allegra reads.

ALLEGRA

Let’s Go Gnaw On Someone.

Allegra flips, Oliver reads.

OLIVER

I’ll Be Your Ghoul Fool.

Oliver flips, Allegra reads.

ALLEGRA

Let’s Share Some Worms.

Allegra flips, Oliver reads.

OLIVER

Be My Mummy.

Oliver flips, Allegra reads.

ALLEGRA

Zombies Rule The Night.

Allegra flips. They read the words together.

OLIVER / ALLEGRA

Your teeth are rotten.

Your eyes are missing.

Your limbs are forgotten.

Let’s do some kissing.

Oliver and Allegra embrace and kiss. In their excitement, they knock over the chart.

ROMERO

(Coughs)

OLIVER

My apologies, Mr. Romero. But do you understand where we’re going with this, sir? The campaign? Love conquers all. Love and Death. It’s as simple as that. Love.

ROMERO

(Grunts and nods in approval)

OLIVER

It’s nothing less than Romeo and Juliet.

Mr. Romero stands, walks over to Oliver.

ROMERO

(Mumbles)

OLIVER

I’m very pleased to hear that, sir.

Oliver extends his hand to Mr. Romero’s as if to shake on it. Mr. Romero shakes his head No and holds up his severed arm as a reminder.

OLIVER

Of course. How silly of me. It’s a deal then?

Mr. Romero nods Yes and shuffles off. Oliver opens and closes the door for him and returns to the room. He’s expressionless. Beat.

ALLEGRA

Oliver?

OLIVER

We did it! What a team! We got the account!

They kiss, then separate.

ALLEGRA

If love can conquer everything, even death, it can surely conquer our financial problems.

OLIVER

It’s just money.

ALLEGRA

And not much of it at that. Now it’s my turn to ask. Will you marry me?

OLIVER

You mean be together forever?

ALLEGRA

For better or for worse.

OLIVER

In sickness and in health.

ALLEGRA

Til death do us part.

OLIVER

We’ll stay together even after death.

ALLEGRA

Yes. Yes. Yes. I’ll be your ghoul.

ROMERO

(O.S. Groans)

OLIVER

And I’ll be yours.

Lights down.

(End of Play)

Where have all my punchlines gone?

I should have seen it coming. Twenty-five years ago, I was a marketing manager and leading a department meeting when the first sign unexpectedly reared its head. All my direct reports were under 30—I was not. During cross-talk, one of them said she had never been to Spain. Of course, not one to let an obvious opening close without comment, I piped up: “But I kind of like the music.”

My remark was met with confused stares and a long stretch of awkward silence. I was thinking they just didn’t get it; they were thinking I was showing early signs of mental decline.

And therein lies the rub: how does someone navigate in a world where nobody understands his or her reference points? What happens to a lifetime of handy pop cultural callbacks that no longer resonate? Let’s face it, it’s not as if you can easily drop a Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney or Sonny and Cher reference and replace it with Beyonce and Jay Z. Okay, maybe the Sonny and Cher swap would work. But that’s an exception.

The truth is, all those wonderful and witty comebacks you’ve saved over a lifetime of making smart-ass comments are about as useful as Monopoly money in a casino. So, the next time you’re with your grandchildren — or with anyone from a post-Boomer generation — try using Maxwell Smart’s “He missed it by that much” or Sergeant Schultz’ refrain of “I see Nothing. I know Nothing!” or Desi Arnaz’ trademark “Lucy! I’m home!” and see where that gets you.

Sadly, when you have to start explaining your punchlines, it’s time to settle in a comfortable armchair and turn on a game show. Case in point, my mom’s mother loved game shows. In her late 80s, she was watching a TV game show. The question asked was embarrassingly simple: “Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?” My grandmother blurted out: “Gary Grant.”

What brought all this to mind was indeed a game show. I enjoy watching “Jeopardy” but found a recent episode disturbing. The three contestants, many years my junior, were shown an image of the star playing Mister Rogers in the new movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” They were asked to name the movie star.

Not one of the contestants answered. I was stunned. They stood there with blank expressions and empty tablets and watched as an equally stunned Alex Trebek told them the answer. But before he could, I jumped up and shouted at the screen: “Tom Hanks. You idiots, Tom Hanks!”

Suddenly, I felt untethered and adrift. It was as if Francis the Talking Mule had quit talking to Mister Ed.

Now try explaining that analogy to a millennial. Go ahead, make my day.

If music be the food of insomnia

Where have you gone, Sheb Wooley? I suppose every generation venerates the music of its youth. As a Boomer, I am particularly grateful for the music I grew up with. We had folk songs and surfer music, Country and Motown, not to mention the British Invasion; gentle pop tunes from the 50s eventually gave way to more radical songs of the 60s. An embarrassment of riches for growing minds.

Even before we fell in love with the poetic songs and wretched voice of Bob Dylan, we were fed a steady diet of inane lyrics: “The Purple People Eater,” “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” and just about anything by that genius of silliness Allan Sherman.

And therein lies my problem. I have what’s known as an earworm. Fortunately – or unfortunately — I am not alone. Something like 90 percent of us suffer through the pangs and arrows of an earworm on a regular basis.

In case you fall into the 10 percent group and are unfamiliar with the concept of an earworm, it’s simple: an earworm is a song that gets stuck in your head. Sounds harmless enough, until it happens to you, especially when you’re trying to sleep and can’t because your mind plays that stupid song in a loop, over and over and over, and you have an important presentation to make at work later that same day and know you’re going to feel crappy during the presentation and most likely blow it.

Researchers, of course, can explain an earworm. They even have other names for it: cognitive itch, sticky music, stuck-song syndrome. Most often, the culprit is a song you recently heard. It might replay itself because you’re under stress. Or, as one theory holds, it’s directly tied to the human oral storytelling tradition, where memorization was critical to survival. As a human you’re stuck with this earworm thing, like it or not, as if it’s some kind of vestigial remain, and must learn to take your lumps and roll with the lyrics.

I’m sharing this information with you because, innocently enough, a couple of evenings ago I was streaming Amazon Music in the comfort of my home. I wanted something upbeat and uncomplicated, so I chose an album of the top 100 songs from the 1950-60s. That was my first mistake.

My second mistake was listening to “The Witch Doctor” by David Seville. I first became familiar with that song when I was almost ten, in 1958, sixty years ago, and I don’t recall hearing it much, if at all, since. Now if I had my wits about me and better reflexes, I would have raced over and put the remote on mute before the song started. But I didn’t. All night long, unable to reach inside my head and turn my brain off, all I could hear was: “Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang / Walla walla, bing bang.”

I guess it could have turned out worse. Seville also gave us “The Chipmunk Song.”