TR (PONDEROUS): THE FALL GUY......brought to you by the Associated Federation of Organizations. (MUSIC UNDER....)

GK: Once upon a time, there was an immense corporation worth billions of dollars, its world headquarters in a forty-story building that resembled a milk carton, a company built on a kind of microchip called a "meeber" that nobody exactly understood what it did or how it worked but it was considered crucial....(VOICES, IN QUICK SUCCESSION)

TR: Absolutely crucial.

SS: No computer work station can be without it and be considered reliable.

TK: It's the defining detail in any data processing system.

TR: The defining detail....absolutely....

SS: The linchpin...

TK: It's the bottom line. That's all there is to it.

SS: Absolutely.

GK: And, since nobody could say in one clear sentence what a meeber does, the corporation produced immense reports, reams of paper, which circulated to all of the executive poobahs, who read them and initialed them and returned them to the emperor, and the reports were then carried (FOOTSTEPS ON MARBLE IN ECHOING HALL)to the 39th floor into the Temple of The South Wind and left there (BIG DOOR CLANGS SHUT).

SS: The emperor was at the top of the organization, and after him the Exalted Poobah, and then the executive poobahs, each of whom had a Head Peon, a Yes Man, a dozen Administrative Lackeys, a hundred minions and each of the minions had a staff of henchmen and stooges, and the main business of each employee's day was to find someone at his or her own level or higher, to eat lunch with.

TR (MEALY MOUTHED MAN): How about lunch today?

SS: I can't. I'm having lunch with a couple of poobahs. Sorry.

TR: How about tomorrow? My treat----

SS: Tomorrow is Sunday.

TR: Monday then.

SS: Monday is the emperor's birthday. I'll be going to the luncheon, of course.

TR: Oh. Of course. Tuesday? you free?

SS: Let me check my calendar.

TR: Okay.

SS: Have one of your minions talk to my peon.

TR: Okay. (FADING) If Tuesday's not good, any day next week is fine---- (MUSIC)

GK: The emperor was the man whom everyone was desperate to lunch with, so he ate six lunches a day, and grew to the size of a compact car (CREAKING OF CABLE, METAL STRESS) so the elevator groaned under his weight as it lifted him and his Exalted Poobah up to the 40th floor.

TR: O benevolent, O masterful, O radiant one, source of all wisdom and giver of bonuses---- (TK JOWLY MAN GIBBERISH) O keeper of all secrets, caster of a broad shadow....

GK: The exalted poobah was the emperor's right-hand man, a very delicate position because the emperor was not easy to interpret, due to his immense cheeks and jowls. (TK JOWLY GIBBERISH) He talked and he sounded as if he were trying to get a hair out of his throat (TK JOWLY GIBBERISH). So the exalted poobah had to guess what the great man wanted. (TK JOWLY GIBBERISH)

TR: The Emperor commands ever greater dedication on the part of each and every one! (CROWD MURMURS) (TK JOWLY GIBBERISH) There must be no slackening of our grand campaign---- (TK JOWLY GIBBERISH)---- of our grand campaign to---- to----- (TK JOWLY GIBBERISH) to achieve ever more dazzling glories---- (TK JOWLY GIBBERISH)---- We must perform our duties so that at the end of each and every day we are astonished at what we have accomplished! (CROWD MURMUR) (TK JOWLY GIBBERISH) It is not enough to be capable! There must be ---- astonishment! We must dazzle! We must stupefy! (TK JOWLY GIBBERISH) There must be more stupefaction! (CROWD MURMUR)

SS: The Exalted Poobah was in charge of all of the Executive Poobahs, their Head Peons, their Yes Men, the lackeys, minions, henchmen and stooges, and at the very bottom of the organization was the fall guy.

GK: That's me. As if you couldn't tell.

TR: Idiot!

GK: I'm afraid you're right, sir.

TR: Numbskull! Nincompoop!

GK: I've thought the same myself, many times.

TR: Yoyo! Peabrain!

GK: I don't know why I just can't seem to get the hang of things.

SS: Everytime there was a problem ---- whenever meeber sales went down ---- whenever a furrow appeared on the emperor's brow (TK JOWLY GIBBERISH), the Exalted Poobah assembled the Poobah Council (CLEARING OF THROATS), and the fall guy was brought in.

GK: Hi everybody. Sorry. Afraid I messed up again.

TR: Look at you! You're a disgrace! I'm embarrassed to be in the same room with you! The Emperor has made it crystal clear that the entire corporation must double its level of astonishment this month, and you---- You haven't astonished anyone in years! Do you hear me?

GK: I know. I don't know what's wrong. I've let everyone down and what can I say? It's my fault.

TR: You are the most incompetent idiot I've ever seen in my life!

GK: I feel so ashamed. I am truly unworthy of the privilege of associating with people of your stature ---- if you were to hurl me naked onto the street without a shred of severance pay, it would be no more than I deserve.

TR: We'll give you one more chance and then that's it, you're out of here! Go! Do your job! Try!

GK: Yes, sir. Thank you. God bless you. I'll try to do better. (SCORNFUL MURMURS, FOOTSTEPS, DOOR OPEN, CLOSE) (MUSIC)

SS: And the fall guy, after doing his cringing and snivelling, went down to his tiny office in the basement, which he shared with his whipping boy.

TK (TEEN): How was the meeting, Chief? What'd they say?

GK: They said that it's all your fault that the corporation has fallen short on astonishment, Wendell, and if you don't shape up, they're going to tie you to a post and whip you until you're dog meat. (TK TEEN WEEPING: Oh no. No. Please. No.) I did my best to stand up for you, but the truth is out: you've brought this corporation to its knees, Wendell. You're a disgrace and a blight upon us all. And they're not going to excuse your stupidity anymore. The days of forgiveness are over. This is your last chance. You must improve, or else out on the trash heap you go.

TK (TEEN): Oh they're right. I feel terrible. I should have done something about thing a long time ago.

SS: And the poor little whipping boy went to his squalid dungeon cell where he lived, along with his scapegoat. (GOAT)

TK (TEEN, TEARFUL): You never lift a finger to help me. Why? Why do I go on protecting you? It's your fault, not mine. (GOAT) You're the problem here. Not me. (GOAT)


GK: It was a good job, being the fall guy. Once you learned how to cringe, you had complete job security. More so than guys at the top. Ever so often, the Emperor would point at his Exalted Poobah and shake his head (TK SHAKING HEAD, JOWLS WAGGLING) and immediately all the Executive Poobahs (CROWD SURLY, THEN VICIOUS) and minions and peons would rush forward as one (FURY) and throw the Exalted Poobah to the dogs. (DOGS BAYING. TR PLEADING: No! please! Not to the dogs! Aiiiiiiiieeeeeeeee! VICIOUS DOG SNARLING) And the next day, the blood would be mopped up from the floor, and there would be a new Exalted Poobah.....

SS: O benevolent, O masterful, O radiant one, source of all light, keeper of all secrets, to come into your presence, to savor your aroma, to bask in the reflected glory of your intelligence, this is the apex of my career. (TK JOWLY MAN) ---


GK: Big guys came and went, but I was never in danger of losing my job ever. I was too important.

SS: You're a dead weight around the neck of this corporation, you miserable wretch, and I'll fire you if it's the last thing I do. You hear me???

GK: I'm afraid you're right, Excellency. I've been nothing but a disappointment.

SS: Why do we go on enduring your mediocrity....your stupidity.....your ineptitude???

GK: I've held you back long enough. Now I'll simply have to improve my performance. That's all there is to it.

SS: Then why don't you??? what is your problem????

GK: I will. I promise. I'll make a new start. I'm going to become brilliant. You'll see.

SS: This is your last chance. Do you hear?? After this, we shoot you and send you to the glue factory!!!!

GK: I don't deserve it a new chance. But thank you. (LONG SERIES OF FOOTSTEPS AND STOP)

TK (TEEN): Is she angry at me?

GK: She's furious at you. She's about to kill you, Wendell. The execution papers have been drawn up. The noose is being tied even as we speak.

TK (TEEN): Oh no. I knew it. I've failed again. What can I do?

GK: It's simple. Shape up.

TK (TEEN): Okay. I promise. I will. (SERIES OF FOOTSTEPS AND STOP) (GOAT) This is it! Your last day, you stupid goat! Tomorrow you die!!! (GOAT) (MUSIC)

GK: But every emperor is somebody's peon, you know, and one day, in an office in another building far away, a man looked at a report and said----

TR: What is a meeber?

SS: I have no idea whatsoever. I never heard of it before.

TR: We're spending gazillions on meebers and we don't even know what they're for?

SS: Apparently not.

TR: Cancel the meeber order.


GK: And so the meeber business dried up. And one day the Exalted Poobah got on the elevator and there, inside the emperor's great cloak, was a little pasty-faced guy with bad breath.

TR: Emperor?

TK: Yes? Hi. How are you??

TR: You've lost a lot of weight, Emperor.

TK: That's right. I have. You noticed----

TR: You're looking good.

TK: Thanks. Would you mind doing your ---- you know ---- O benevolent and radiant, and all that----

TR: O benevolent, O masterful, O radiant one, source of all wisdom and giver of bonuses?

TK: Right. I love that. Do the rest of it.

TR: I will, soon as I get upstairs, but if you don't mind, I think I forgot something in my car---- you go ahead, and I'll be right up----

TK: Is something wrong?

TR: No. I'll meet you upstairs in two minutes. (ELEVATOR DOORS CLOSE)

GK: The elevator started up, and without all that weight, the elevator engines (MOTOR REVVING TO HIGH PITCH) were too powerful and they rammed that elevator right into the roof (CRASH, SQUISH), and the emperor was crushed as flat as a pancake, (DISTANT SIREN) and the entire meeber empire fell in about six months, (FAINT MOANING AND WAILING) and all of the poobahs and minions had to update their resumes and become supplicants again (TR: Job, please? Job? Anybody need a poobah?), and meanwhile, I, the fall guy, wrote a book, entitled THE SEVEN SACRED MYSTERIES OF CORPORATE ENLIGHTENMENT, and it sold like gangbusters. Millions of copies sold in airports. Videos. Audios. Scratch n sniff. And then we did the sequel: SEVEN MORE SACRED MYSTERIES. It sold even better.

TR: You! But you were the fall guy!

GK: That's right.

TR: What do you know about anything?

GK: It's all there in the book.

TR: What is this----- "Be patient. Accept responsibility. In humility there is strength. Always keep good notes. Never go out to lunch. At lunchtime, go around and look at what's on people's desks."???? What is this?

GK: It's the truth. Stuff I learned. Buy a copy. You might like it. (MUSIC) We started a consulting business, Wendell and I. And Greg. (GOAT) That's Greg. We made him the emperor. Greg the Great. (GOAT) Every day we bring him reports and he eats them. (GOAT, EATING PAPER)

TK (TEEN): We decided to keep the company small. I have one flunky...

SS: O worthy, O brave, O clear-thinking, O clean-smelling, O charismatic....

GK: And I have my flunky....

TR: O thou astute, thou bestower of pearls of enlightenment, thou well-tailored, thou of the excellent haircut ....

GK: And that's it. Just the four of us and the emperor. (GOAT) What did his excellency say, Wendell? (GOAT)

TK (TEEN): I think his excellency said to take the afternoon off and go bowling.

GK: I think you're right. Let's go, Wendell.

TK (TEEN): Let's go. (THEME)

TR: The Fall Guy....was brought to you by the Associated Federation of Organizations....(MUSIC UP AND OUT)
©1998 Garrison Keillor