Charlie Chan In Plattsburgh

Charlie Chan In Plattsburgh

A Play

By Matthew Paris

Characters; Lane K. Snopes
Charlie Chan

Act One

(In a room that has the haunted emptiness of a studio there are two or three gauzy draperies or wide columns behind which one can hide if they choose. One might even retire into deep shadows.
A phone rings. Enter Lane K. Snopes into the studio with a window, a very large and mostly empty room with table upon which there is assorted weaponry. Snopes picks up the receiver.)

Snopes- Lane K Snopes here. (after listening a few seconds. Joe, the ten thousand elephants who got sick on rotten hay can be replaced by ten thousand hippos. We have computer generated animals as part of our new Korean computer graphics system. You’ll learn it quickly enough. You’ve got the elephant footage; you just type in hippos instead of elephants…the aliens don’t look fearsome enough? This new machine will give you a bunch of spidery monsters that will satisfy your hunger for the obviously evil. You have your choice of six hundred monsters…
They talk, they growl, they have alien weaponry. They’re bellicose. I don’t know whether they’re telepaths or they’re complicated. The inner life of monsters might baffle even the resources of this new system…You got an inner life, Joe?…Some people have one; some people work hard not to have one. After all, being somebody could be a burden.
Hold on Joe, I see somebody outside the window trying to break in her. It looks like Julius Caesar.
Talk to you later, Joe.
(He hangs up the receiver. Snopes picks up a gun and fires a volley of shots out of the widow.). there he goes, face first, pitching into a heap of clover and dandelions. Charlie Chan enters unobtrusively.)

Chan- Had you ordered a pizza? Perhaps he is merely an anonymous delivery boy.

Snopes- Of course I ordered a pizza. An ultimately supreme pizza. Lots of eggplant, easy on the onions. We’ve got a lot of gourmet pizza makers here in Plattsburgh; they can’t make a living in Sicily. I’d be crazy not to make it my dinner just abut every night. We’ve got lots of Asiatic chefs ere too, all the best androids. They turn out seventeen varieties of noodles. Sometimes the noodles aren’t noodles.
Noodle making is something a robot does better than most humans. I think this goddamned Julius Clear is sill mooing; let me hi him with another facilely of bulls, see how he takes that in, Charlie.

Chan- It’s seems harder to kill off the bogus Julius Caesar than the real one. Wang We says the truth can only be destroyed one.

Snopes- Charlie, when you’re a phony or a fraud you make fewer enemies. I got the son of a bitch… this guy has a moustache. Maybe it wasn’t Julius Caesar. Maybe it was Mark Antony.

Chan- Since they are both impostors it doesn’t matter who their ancient model was, I would think.

Snipes- Not to you. It might mean everything to them. You want to take a potshot at that guy walking near the statue of William Jennings Bryan over there. He sort of looks like Hammurabi.

Chan – I must humbly demurer from this very morally delicate bit of target practice, Lane. To kill anyone in my view even if it is a toad or the fluff of pure oilstone should never for a sage be an tawdry educe in casual triviality.

Snopes- You’re old fashioned, Charlie. I admit it’s dumb stuff. I like the action.

Chan- Even the Empower Chung took refuge from the giant butterfly invaders in a pagoda.

Snopes- Maybe he was tired of miliary pleasure.

Chan- The princely barons of Quo and the velvet dragons of Lu. Sometimes grew weary of their diet of fear.

Snopes- I don’t know when they started to feel a fatigue with life in America, Charlie. Maybe they always had it. Living in the wilderness is a desperate game. Maybe it was after the Great Depression. It could be it happened when they left from some other place to get here in the first place. How would I know? It might be we love too long or as a species we might be around too long. Old people and turtles aren’t known for their brainless enthusiasm.
Still whenever it started they needed people like me to dosages their contempt for life, Charley. They hired me backs I knew I could set up a fake Creation in Plattsburgh cheaply enough; I could make even their own virtual demise profitable.
I don’t like to make parodies of reality, Charley. Who does? What’s the point? I nevier did. The real world has alaus been my friend. I never watch my own television programs. Still if all these poor bozos can do these days is to sit in a chair and take in some travesty of sanity I can honor that they are dependent on me to give them that dumb benefice. Without me this country don’t crumble; it would look around and acknowledge with a lot of laughter, rue and anguish that it didn’t exist or if it did it maybe shouldn’t vie much for our attention. That is the painful stuff I am keeping them from, Charlie.

Chan- The dreams of the emperor Ho-Qua were always more filled with more beauty than the low politics of his court. It was his tragedy that his waking life was filled with waste, tedium, general wretchedness and a dun inexplicability.

Snopes- I am responsible for the fantasy of America right now, Charlie. I may even be the one who rules over the general illusions of the world. I do hear they send my television programming into the Amazon and the chilling Arctic snows. They may entertain people in the moons of Jupiter or the more minor bums in paradise.

Chan- It is the subtle tragedy of the peacock that like the aery spirits of Art may be in spite of himself both beautiful and always interesting.

Snopes- Charlie, I’m glad you showed up. How was the flight from Honolulu?

Chan- Uneventful. We value certain acts like flight for their reliable capacity to be utterly forgotten.

Snopes- No Abyssinian darts thrown at you on the trip?

Chan- Such attempts to injure me are for now happily in the past, Lane. I have dealt most effectively with the cabal who had tried to destroy me at the Hospice Imperiale.

Snopes- Not personally, I hope.

Chan- Murder when done with ordinary means is hard to discern, Lane. Perhaps many people are dead from damage done to them with weaponry we cannot see because their armatures are invisible and ordinary.

Snopes- You’re deep, Charlie.

Chain- If I were a killer I would destroy my victims with such unobtrusive and seemingly accidental devices. An Abyssinian dart that does in anyone is at least partially an act of stupidity and vanity.

Snopes- It’s also lethal.

Chan- There are only five people on Earth adept at such skill. Two of them were in Monaco playing baccarat. Another duo were in jail in Genoa for petty larceny. I medley had to talk to operatives I know in Tobago who owe me many favors to dispense of the mortality of the only one who could have mounted such an attack: an eccentric mountebank from Zanzibar.

Snopes- Yet some rich son of a bitch had paid him to try to kill you.

Chan- I have had a talk with this honorable enemy. He has after our colloquy lamentably expired recently from a stroke.

Snopes- From your Honolulu professionals while you were elsewhere. I guessed as much. You are not one to be attacked with impunity.

Chan- I was given some difficultly in arriving at your impressive office by two officers of sinister mein on the plane. One of them, a stewardess, gave me a sasparilla drink mixed with strychnine.

Snopes- The old classical method of instant death has become fashionable among poisoners.

Chan- Yet whatever is classical has been politely dispensed with by the present. I sniffed its characteristic scent easily enough.

Snopes- it’s not so easy to knock you off with ordinary poison.

Chan- Another uniformed menial offered me pretzels flavored with classical serpent venoms from ancient Shanghai. Luckily I do not eat pretzels.

Snopes- I presume you dealt with these various shadowy felons efficiently and properly.

Chan- Let us say they are with us no more. They have been unlucky in their seeming enemies once too often. They may do better in another world.

Snopes- We all might.

Chan- Heaven has decreed mercifully they are now beyond such mayhem. I have disposed of them with a telephone call to some friends in Tuscaloosa.

Snopes- You are formidable, Charlie. You’d be even more dangerous on Earth if you were nobody.

Chan- Thank you so much. Yet, my honorable Lane: contradiction. I am one who has given up a soothing if all too visible anonymity for rewards that might be more elusive than the ability to be nowhere, in my very castle keep to bend light.
I am, Lane, in my very vulnerability the potential prey of many a dishonorable felon willing to entertain a bit of peril at his whim.

Snopes- I understand you, I’m sorry to say. These days I am unhappily in the same position.

Chan- I scent smoke from a gun. I see a body beyond that open window. You are under siege?

Snopes- Not for the moment. I only just killed Mark Antony. Maybe it was Charlemagne. This androids can’t keep history straight.

Chan- You are being attacked by robots imitating the famous?

Snopes- Only sometimes. A lot of them are alien monsters or anonymous bad guys. See that guy who’s walking across the law, supposedly delivering pizza? That’s not Charlemagne; it might be another Julius Caesar.

Chan- I am honored to be acanthoid with all this famous men if now some or all might be constrained by fortune to be merely pizza delivery boys.

Snopes- You don’t want to meat them. The robot I just killed is not the real Julius Car. He was killed by a bunch of Roman senators a long time ago. This bum is a phony that couldn’t conquer even himself. The real Julius Caesar would never be a delivery boy. He might concoct the pizza de luxe, the one with the warm goat cheese.

Chan- Sometimes it is honorable to be in the company of the bogus when the authentic spirits we value are long dead. We will never see the real Dok Ho, the last emperor of the Weng Dynasty, but we may admire him on the Chinese swage played by an otherwise dissolute and odious impostor.

Snopes- I guess you’re right. I might porphyria to see nobody. Look at this damned other Julius marching on the lawn as if he is some kind of Roman general. Maybe he’s looking for Rome oar Cleopatra ; there is no Rome or Cleopatra anymore. I’m going to take out that bastard right now. (He shoots at an unseen figure beyond the window.) I think I may have killed the Buddha.

Chan- Luckily even fake Buddhas think they are an illusion.

Snopes. Once they’re dead, Charlie, it doesn’t matter what they think.

Chan- You are famous, Lane. That could be more dangerous than being a more shadowy businessman.

Snopes- Yeah. I am very much a servant of the times, Charlie. Once a man would look over a valley and know everything there was to take in about it with a glance of his eyes. Now people spend more than half their waking morality devouring the goods of the media.

Chan- A dragon frequently is more air than fire.

Snopes- These enemies don’t exist in our animate sense but they’re real. I’m a big deal here in Plattsburgh, I run this place but I can’t stop a robot revision. I can’t even keep track of those who would be real or otherwise in this strange world.

Chan- One would be astonished if it were otherwise. It might be the genius of the peacock that it never lies.

Snopes- I give the public 1950 television channels a choice of very affordable mendacity. Its purposes are myriad of course. It persuades the rabble they have freedom; they have the liberty to choose between tawdry illusions. It’s much like voting for the least malicious scoundrel in politics or calling for the most forgettable cheap liquor in a bar.

Chan- Agreed. The standard of accommodation in most matters in life I must admit is distressingly low.

Snopes- (aiming a gun at the open window) Here comes Hammurabi. He’s an easy target. (He shoots a volley of bullets.) I hit him in legs. He was wagering body armor. Maybe it’s Napoleon.

Chan- These replicants are apparently ungrateful for your purchase of them in your excellent electronic fantasy commerce.

Snopes- I gave them dramas that are the fantastical flower of the wonderful imagination of my best writers. They offer police looking for trouble, judges aiming for fair trials or any trials, traces of piety among politicians, ice hockey imbroglios, families that are never stale and empty, gladiatorial struggles between assorted citizens while in or out of prison.

Chan- Some modern lock ups never bother to build walls.

Snopes- I don’t know why these machines kill and steal. God knows everyone in my programs has plenty of money. Sometimes we show small wars that occur in remote valleys of the world without mentioning that our munitions campiness are supplying both sides with weapons, starched uniforms and heroic medals.

Chan- It is popular fare, Lane. You didn’t vent it.

Snopes- I’m afraid I’ve recalled reality itself with it in the skulls of too many folk, Charlie. All life in Creation except for us these days has been obsessed with mere survival, eating everything from sunlight to onions. My clientele just send out for gourmet pizza.

Chan- You have amply honored them with epicurean narratives that make their cosine delectable?

Snopes- You bet. Yet there are those who find me in spite of my generosity a mere maker of chimeras.

Chan- If you are it is to the fashionably half insane.

Snopes- I would hate to be the leader of my own customers in an common cause. It would be like being the potentate of a fancy loony bin. Yet I suppose in a way I am one.

Chan- This place we are now in is the very studio in which your employees make your fantasies?

Snopes- It’s the hub of every one of then., we ad the backgrounds with blue screens and computer generated environments. The robots are real, if one can call the dead and deeply unliving real at all. They’ll be coming in here soon enough to run some drama or other. They might even think you are one of the androids.

Chan- Let them thinks so. Invisibility is most effective when others choose circumspectly not to see oneself.

Snopes- They think sometime I’m one of them too. Trouble is, their narratives halve been somewhat incoherent and worse lately given the freedom these replicants are expressing in their current emanations. Sadly they are in their way free as we are.

Chan- Then they present sundry tales of mysterious confusion?

Snopes- Sometimes the murk beyond the story isn’t obvious, Charlie. Robots have no sense of common sense or history, they jumble the past, do or accept things that are absurd. A linear sense of time that led up to them in Western technology is not their genius. They have people from all sorts of countries and ages efficient in the same machine-like and deeply aboard tragedy or comedy.

Chan- I never expect intelligence from an emperor or a can opener.

Snopes- Some can openers and emperors are more clever than others. These machines are particularly annoying in our adult educational series. We have bathetic narratives tales in which Jesus, the Buddha and Socrates all spent some time lounging in the shores of the Ganges or the multi-colored rectangular pool in front of the Taj Mahal.

Chan- It would be interesting to plumb the inner life of these artificial human beings. It would be like looking into the heart of a simulated lotus.

Snopes- Maybe we aren’t all that good at understanding ourselves. We might after all be somebody else’s not all that intelligent robots. If we are, our makers aren’t too clever either.

Chan- At least you are well protected in these Plattsburgh offices as I never have been. I am hard luckily to kill. Nobody knows precisely where I am. Sometimes I am nowhere. You don’t travel much, I think, Lane. If you do it is in private airplanes in relative secret. I am always much too close to my antagonists for optimal tranquility.

Snopes- I have lately paid a few clandestine but delightful visits to Disneyland.

Chan- I have been there myself, disguised as a gourmet cook. I have had much to say to Mickey Mouse, perhaps too much. Of course you may veil your solarity as a prison. Many people freely inhabit cells whose walls are gaudily decorated with money.

Snopes- These are among the many silken cages one enters and resides in without committing a crime. It’s preferable to take up felonies that haven’t reached the language much elks been called commonly injurious.

Chan- We might blame our mulish indulgence. We are like the blind sages of the Wang Dynasty always moving intrepidly if inconsistently thwart some chilling discovery.

Snopes- Charlie, I asked you to come here and help me with matters that I’m not even sprue are crimes. Can fictional creatures kill other fictional creatures?

Chan- Of course they do in films and novels. Yet that mayhem is make believe. They’re clever enclosed in a an imaginary world in which even the massacres and revenges are magical and bloodless.

Snopes- I may have expanded that world of illusion intrepidly. I suspect I have made the very dogs of the world insane.

Chan- Luckily most dragons by the mercy of Heaven are confections of ether and air.

Snopes- I guess somebody has to be the producer of endless shows for the nineteen hundred and fifty television states one can call up with a button in this new age of selective fantasy. I’m not happy it’s me.

Chan- Lane, it is a virtue in all of us to offer such relief from the difficulties of existence. Some of us with fewer means than you have merely tell lies to intimates.

Snopes- Of course. Most animals in Creation never lie; they never even think of lying. We’re like an army of speeders and venus flytraps. Luckily I’m running a business, not a geyser of fashionable mendacity. It means I have to have enormous animate but mineral researches working for me churning out those pieces of fluff I send off into the emptiness.

Chan- You make an advocacy for such aery narratives that truth cannot compete with, Lane. A plain fact doesn’t care whether or not it is true.

Snopes- Perhaps that is the vice of truth. Lying is a luxury not even enjoyed by Nature and God. Haply, I’m not in their field, Charlie. I have to be attractive, sensational, sometimes prurient, always persuasive. I have no more power at bottom than a whore. Maybe in my next life I’ll have a chance to run a dog pound or a moderately poor country in the tropics or the sticks of Arkansas somewhere.

Chan- I recombined the rule of canines. There has never been a genocidal revolution led by dogs.

Snoops- Not yet. These millennial curs might be different. In any case I have tens of thousands of artificers of these television shows dependent on me for a job. If I don’t give them work they might be out theine selling hot dogs or sorting a revolution.

Chan- Chung Tau says during the late Wang Dynasty one could occasionally do both. They sold spinach noodles, not hot dogs. We could call such noodle politics at least a breath of reform.

Snopes- I do keep the folks at home. Politicians love me. Their locals sometimes never leave a chair. I keep things stable here. I’m cardinal good for the country. I might even be on the pad of a billionaire or two. Of course, Charlie, I am working for them whether they like it or not.

Chan- In a war it is always good to know one has generals somewhere.

Snopes- Unluckily even our machines are complicit in our own corruption, Charlie. Our very slaves and pets are soldiers in a silent war against our sanity.

Chan- If one is a warrior one is wise to make one whom one cannot defeat otherwise into a lunatic.

Snopes- I think people watch my shows out of fatigue, not terror. Unlike the rest of life forms on Earth they have nothing to be afraid of.

Chan- Since moot honorable lives fail, I am always ready to give the animate vessels of a previewed catastrophe a chance to recover from their own chamber disasters by watching dramas that halve nothing to do with the sundry and inexplicable woes they’ve brought upon themselves by their perversions and stupidity.

Snopes- That is admirable. Unlike you I have the doleful function in a society that used to be taken up by the old consoling gods. I don’t have anything against those traditional pagan ghosts either. I can lie with them all from Hellos to Catha very well. They don’t make up the stories I do; they don’t have the heros in them I do.

Chan- We are all in league in our variety, Lane. Some of us chew reflectively on the lotus leaf, some devour the plum flower.

Snopes- They all supposedly have a corner on God; let them enjoy it. Nobody has moved in from their racket on my dramas about policemen and aliens.

Chan- You are a man of measure, supremely tolerant of everything and everybody. It means you are content with wet you have, Lane. That alone is rare enough to admire like a pellucid porcelain vase from the Chung era.

Snopes- I’ve worked hard to figure out how to make it all profitable too. I started with real actors, directors, scripts witted by hermits, exotic locations.

Chan- you have given work to many needy men. That is honorable.

Snopes- They were expensive, I must say, Charlie. Then I contracted some Korean cartoon makers to do the same things with realistic looking art; that didn’t work as well. They were never animate enough. People don’t care whether a cartoon hero drops dead or robots make love or not.

Chan- Now you are wise in a way you were not. There are always some absurd fictions that are too bizarre for anyone to care about.

Snopes- I’ve met them. Finally I contracted some Japanese android makers who had been selling their robots to people with money whom nobody could love, not even their dog. I filled every channel with stories acted by these rather unselective replicants. It seemed to work better. Robots are more credible at seeming to take up crime or mayhem than lovemaking. Something about intimacy is sadly not the natural genius of most androids.

Chan- Understandably. We are never ready for an encounter in the dark with the unknown, enemy or lover, even when the enigma is delectable.

Snopes- The robots don’t know that.

Chan- You are sagacious in many ways that make me humble, Lane. I know almost nothing about the tastes or talents of this diverse run of artificial humanity.

Snopes- One can’t ever know what doesn’t exist. Even when people know other people they only can predict them in a rough way, not understand them. Some of us do better with robots. There’s no mystery. One doesn’t have to be an amateur sleuth.

Chan- It sounds as if your researches have had a wonderful harvest of meaningful fantasy. It makes me sad to think ho old fashioned I am within myself, Lane. I have a mulish preference for the real world.

Snopes- I don’t blame you. Reality isn’t entirely negligible.

Chan- What precisely is your problem with these excellent androids?

Snopes- They can’t be acting all the time. You can’t turn them off either. When they aren’t in drama they have developed private inanimate lives so to speak that are very difficult for me to control. Sometimes they murder people. Sometimes they kill each other.

Chan- Really? I see your dilemma. If you dispatch these employees you can’t be accursed of murdering a can opener but you are out of a job as running communal electronic fantasy. You might hade to go to some more classical mode of work.

Snopes- One can’t go backwards in lie without severe suffering, Charlie. I was once a Liberal Arts Major, a professor. I knew more about Carl Sandberg than anybody.

Chan- Your organs have been tragic enough. You have outlasted tragedy. You have done honorably to become what you are, Lane. Of course they never existed any more than other than machines in the first place. Yet If you don’t dispense with them they might do in some real people.

Snopes- That is roughly my own parlous circumstances. Yet my real predicament is more painful than that. You know I’ve been running a serious of religious programs on television that deficit Jesus, Santa Claus, Buddha, Socrates, and Hathapurna as savants that solve crimes that plague very ardor Englishmen in Manchester, York and Devonshire.

Chan- England must be legendary as a place where such moral monsters are harbored and coddled by the legitimate regime.

Snopes- Maybe. I set all these murder mysteries in England out of an old habit I inherited from my predecessors in educational television. It seems the proper place to have everybody quietly but elaborately knocking off everybody else for some reason.

Chan- The elegance of the English language may be a delightful counterpoint to their idiosyncratic local violence.

Snopes- I don’t have writers clever enough to write anything intelligent or witty in the murderous English manner. They’re all from the Bronx. Of course it saves me a tidy bit of money to hie only people who make scripts that are soddenly pithy and dull. We make up for their absurd lack of cognitive pair by giving the killers and their victims rural English accents. In the television world somehow it seems to satisfy everybody.

Chan- I have not had the luck to see any of them. I have heard about them from my many children. They tell me they are afraid of ever going to England.

Snopes- Well, tis; all blue screens and various computer tricks we put up in this studio. Yet, these artificial sages, particularly our local fatboy Buddha, have gone out and murders people all over the place in Plattsburgh when they aren’t working for me. It’s a common experience in some place in Plattsburgh nowadays to have some robot Soho claims he’s Jesus or Buddha wipe out an entire household with a machine gun.

Chan- There should be no foolish confusion in Plattsburgh about who they are. Their progenitors after all have long expired.

Snopes- That’s why people are leaving the bodies of fake Jesuses, Santa Clauses, Buddhas, Socrateses and Hathapurnas all over Plattsburgh not to mention a fictional England.

Chan- I am shamed by my ignorance of exotic religious matters, Lane; who is Hathapurna?

Snopes- I made him up. Even fakes of real Indian gurus are not quite satisfactory for the kind of sterling crime thrillers I produce.

Chan- He is then an impeccable fiction. Perhaps the others were less so. Perhaps not. One doesn’t have much more evidence of them than a few perhaps unsavory witnesses.

Snopes- Even if the originals are a bundle of lies and never existed, they suffice for moot people who want consolation from anybody. Desperate people looking for gods aren’t particular about who they god may be. Like a village punchboard they will take anybody. In any case whether or not these gods or any gods actually were real is a matter beyond us utterly.

Chan- You seem comfortable with living outside the common shibboleths of fashionable delusion, Lane. You must be a man of some hermetic philosophy.

Snopes- Everything one does including nothing alters one. Charlie. I am not unhappy to live in Plattsburgh as a riddle whose very meaning is at best unknown even sometimes to myself. I am of course a little more imitable than those who are armed with a narrow certainty.

Chan- My detective work haply has given me the Salem detachment from common notions, Lane. I am an outside as a man of Cheese descent in the West in a way that all by itself is enough to invite me to thrive only as an outsider or rogue of some kind. The sense of being alien hasn’t ever helped my mental health.

Snopes- You are a monarch in your home, Charlie.

Chan- I am hardly ever there. I spend moot of my time among strangers delving for hidden clues that might illuminate their fashionable vices in diverse cities and countries I barely know and out which I care less. I picturesquely quote annals of dynasties long gone when Heaven has already judges their heinous corruption as even too odious for their angelic mercies.

Snopes- That’s true of the aliens in the UFOs above Plattsburgh. They must like us enough to be nearby but they never interfere with us. I think they’re too busy watching their own excellent television.

Chan- You are beset by aliens?

Snopes- Not at all. Outside of a few abductions they never bother us. They just hover about us mutely in the sky. They obviously don’t care to be involved in anything too much in Plattsburgh. I say they have their own Lane K. Snopes. They’re too busy watching alien entertainment.

Chan- Have you seen any of their programs?

Snopes- No. If I did, would I know what I was looking at?

Chan- Not unless you were an alien yourself.

Snopes- Well then, maybe we are all a brotherhood of aliens in Plattsburgh. I need your wisdom whether invented or otherwise to deal with these careless circumstances, Charlie. You know of course the slaughter of a robot is not a crime in Plattsburgh.

Chan- I guessed as much. The law prefers as much expansion as the world will honor from it in the name of security but were it to call murder of androids a felony it would have to say as much projections should come to dogs and wild lizards from it as it gives privilege to somewhat less than an honorable humanity.

Snopes- We have enough robots here in Plattsburgh not to worry about any law. When people are in trouble they come to me, not a therapist, a bartender or the police. I give haem the programs they want to distract them from all the problems they have they know they can’t do anything about.

Chan-­ You are exemplary in hobnob. I’m sorry to say however I may be of little use to you here in Plattsburgh, Lane. My skill ins in uncovering unfathomable secrets, not chasing down fleet and swiftly moving culprits. Androids are the most candid in advertising their visibility as well as a lack of real existence. Besides, dispatching them or joining they wars against each other is no more immoral that throwing away a rusty can opener.
If killing robots is no crime I am merely looking into the actions of a piteous neutrality.

Snopes- These machines didn’t find me in Plattsburgh as easily as they might have had I decided to run my offices in London or Paris. At least I put off my denouement with these damned monsters.

Chan- I’d wondered why you chose this city. There’s not that much to do here on an evening but watch on of your honorable channels on a television set.

Snopes- Perhaps there’s no reason to look for such fare anywhere anymore, Charlie when its literally everywhere. If one can be amused in one’s home why bother to take up a venture into the known?

Chan -Perhaps because the known is all too often a clear and dishonorable odium.

Snopes- Some nightmares are more tolerable than others, Charlie. We aren’t our ancestors anymore, thank God. Most of haem were content to have a quick and tasteless meal, a bit of furtive sex and go to sleep with a stone cup of ridged wine. We are elevated by the least ambitious of our hopes.

Chan- Our electronic carnal satisfactions are everywhere including Plattsburgh.

Snopes- To tell y the truth, I don’t know anything about my community. Maybe they are all dead. I hardly ever go out to see where I am if I am anywhere in any large way. Why should I? Why do I need for there to be anything out there> I could be living on an asteroid for all I know. As long as I could send out to Jupiter or Mars for pizza it wouldn’t faze me.

Chan- You have outside the Chungs and Pengs; you have started your own chamber dynasty, Lane. Perhaps all these baronies are as much doorless cages as the velvety steel that tethers a peacock.

Snopes- Some lockups are better than others. You can’t hold theine fictions for murder if they slaughter people, can you, Charlie?

Chan- I don’t know the local law in Plattsburgh It is hardly my field, Lane. I would amigo these mineral felons are caderas that can be done in by all of us with impunity though. Sometimes when the law is at a loss to respond to Nature the wise man takes up his own means to answer the source of his griefs.

Snopes- That’s what I do. I don’t know how wise I am. As you see I have this armature on that capacious table over here. We’ve got everything to cut down any dumb robots that might come in here.

Chan- Of course if you kill a seeming android but he is a hymn being in dosages, Lane, I would augur you might be held for murder or manslaughter.

Snopes- As far as know we don’t have any human beings crazy enough to imitate replicants. At lest not in Plattsburgh.

Chan- We have them all the time in ordinary life; they are a banal ubiquity elsewhere. Why wouldn’t there be in a small American city like this one insane solders with elaborate weaponry, revolutionaries attacking their autocratic maker?

Snopes- It’s possible. Luckily I own the Plattsburgh police force.

Chan- I notice there are a few swords along with the pistols, bombs and automatic weaponry. You are a student of the ancient art?

Snopes- I have been in a school training me with such violent resources. I’ve heard you were a deft swordsman yourself. Charlie.

Chan- I was once. I am of course sorely out of practice. I’m a little too chubby to be an ancient warrior. Besides I’d rather be a modern detective than a killer. I know. I have been both. I am in spite of myself an expert on the difference.

Snopes- Maybe you’re religious too, Charlie. I never asked. You might have some qualms about killing Jesus, Socrates and Buddha with the lethal single swing of a scimitar.

Chan- I would hate to destroy even a robot, Lane. I am not one even to throw out an old can opener.

Snopes- Don’t feel that way at all, Charlie. These are machines. They have never been alive like us. They’re illusions I had manufactured in Japan and Korea later where the prices were cheaper to satisfy the banal fantasies of people whose highest ambition is to leave their soft chairs and go to the kitchen to heat some frozen gourmet pizza.

Chan- They are indeed a long way from being the honorable favorites of Heaven.

Snopes- Here come three of them across my lawn. It looks like Mozart, Shakespeare and Michelangelo. Don’t worry; they’re pretty harmless.
Let’s hide behind these draperies and listen to them babble as they break in here.

Chan- No mayhem? Good. I defer to your taste in these high matters.

Snopes- I think this Mozart is bringing my pizza. I’m going to take it too. I don’t pepper anybody with buckshot I think is bringing me dinner.

Chan- None of the emperor of the Sling Dynasty ever killed its chefs. It found its enemies elsewhere.

Snopes- We’ll get that pizza sooner or later. I hope they haven’t run out of egg plant.

Chan- The graceful growth of the lotus outlasts the low hunger of the moth. Who will be running this studio when we hide from your own actors?

Snopes- It’s all on pilot. We’ll do run-runs of old shoos. We always do.

Chan- Your honorable clients don’t object?

Snopes- They love it, Charlie. people chem and go, they get restless and leave or drop dead. Androids need oil or they fall apart. Re-runs are the only consistency my customers have to their lives.

(Chan and Snopes hide beyond one of the draperies. Enter though the window Michelangelo, Shakespeare and Mozart, armed. Mozart puts a carton of pizza on the table,)

Mozart- It looks as if Snopes is gone. I was hoping we might have a civil negotiation with him

Shakespeare- Sometimes one’s absence is all the discussion one needs.

Michelangelo- You think you can get anything from Snopes by a bargaining? We have nothing to offer him, really. Just a boring run of incompetent mimicry.

Mozart- We might be more amusing to divert his electronic clientele.

Shakespeare- That’s why we have guns, Wolfgang. Imminent violence is always a good taking point.

Mozart- Don’t call me Wolfgang. I’m not Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Nobody is anymore. Call me Fritz Mozart.

Shakespeare- I agree, I want to be known as Ralph Shakespeare for the same reason.

Michelangelo- Then I’ll call myself Mike. Just Mike. That’s a nice anonymous name, I think. Anyway, this is a democracy; I want to be experiences as a rotgut plebeian.

Shakespeare- Yeah, just an ordinary guy with a gun.

Michelangelo- We live off murder, Ralph. Nothing could be more ordinary.

Mozart- Look, I don’t want to kill that son of a bitch Lane K. Snopes unless I have to. He might do more for me if he’s alive than if he’s a corpse.

Shakespeare- There’s not much the dead can do for you Fritz, but lay poker and decorously stay out of the way.

Michelangelo- That’s not so bad for them.

Shakespeare- They say he’s created an android Snopes to take his place sometimes. He makes the polk appearances. How do we know we’re talking to the right guy?

Mozart- We don’t. We can negotiate or kill him too.

Shakespeare- He can’t do any of the things the real Snopes can. Of course there might be nothing to talk about.

Mozart- Either way is okay with me. I don’t mind talking or killing.

Michelangelo- Yeah, murdering is something we can do, right, Fritz? It doesn’t take any special talent for mayhem to knock anybody off. We all share that with humans.

Mozart- We’re more like our target markets than you think, Michelangelo. Nearly all of them can’t do any more than we can. Expect for a few very boring people the whole bunch is lucky if they get a good meal and a dry and warm place out of the rain.

Michelangelo- Well, I’m glad we’re like somebody. Those manufactories aren’t up to making originals. Maybe they’re as artificial as we are.

Shakespeare- Maybe we’re better than our makers are. The world could use at least a few mild eccentrics if they want to do without people like Measured, Michelangelo and myself. Maybe they figure out one day how to do it.

Shakespeare- Snopes is working on it, Mike. You put the whole world in a chair, give them the right entertainment, none of them will ever be more than state fair swine or cattle.

Michelangelo- Yeah, if they write their memories it’ll be what goddamned channel of Snopes they liked the most. What a bunch of bums.

Mozart- We’re bums too, Mike. We were born bums. At least we can’t help it.

Michelangelo- Snopes tells people we’re not even real.

Mozart- I feel real enough. Don’t both you guys feel more or less real too? We have some good times if they’re meaningless; we still suffer about nothing. Isn’t that good enough for anybody?

Michelangelo- Do you think he ever wanted us to be smart or even optimally entertaining, Fritz? I’ll bet he prefers that we are limited to a attracting a certain mild and tranquil run of attention from anybody or anything.

Shakespeare- We really can only beg him to make us more of what we should be, not what we are. To be or not to be is not a question any of us would ever ask ourselves.

Mozart- You have no skill at language whatsoever, Ralph?

Shakespeare- I have a little. I can talk. I can order a simple meal. I can read traffic signs. If I were totally a dunce I wouldn’t be an effective impersonation of the original Shakespeare, would I?
I can’t write iambic pentameter. I might be able to produce a few lines of a limerick.

Mozart- I’d love to hear one.

Shakespeare- There was a young girl from Nantucket
Who banged with her beaus with a bucket.

Michelangelo- Not bad. You might have trouble finding a good rhyme for Nantucket.

Mozart- We know what they all are. He might have to get blue.

Shakespeare- I don’t mind being mildly blue. I’m not a peg.

Michelangelo- Limericks dos expand your possibilities.

Shakespeare- Not ever enough. I wasn’t programmed to write whole limericks anyway, only to begin them, hopefully with some very faint prurient interest.

Mozart- What series were you working in for Snopes?

Shakespeare- Mostly because my name is Shakespeare I worked in his sitcom Hamlet, Mon Amour. It was based on a Danish family trying to make a life in London. It’s run about seven years. It was really stupid even among amusement for morons. The father was dumb, the mother was zany, the kids were all nasty and bratty geniuses.

Michelangelo- I did a cameo role in tact one the third year as a Venetian gourmet pasta maker. They had me cutting thin spinach noodles. I was awful but I’ still getting a good deal of money from the copious residuals.

Mozart- What do you do with the money?

Michelangelo- Not much, it frustrates me that I have no talent for painting. I am Mockingly after all. I’m at least something like Michelangelo on a very dry day. I have consulted three Jungian therapists and a couple of astrologers.
They say, take the money and be a happy porker; the organ Michelangelo w unhappy. I should feel overjet to avoid even a bogus artistic life.

Mozart- Maybe they’re right. I’m Mozart, sort of, but I’m unable to compose anything at all. I have to pretend in company I’m abut to write music or tel; people I’ve just finished scribbling an opera.

Shakespeare- Let them guess otherwise. They deserve lies; they lie themselves. What program of Snopes are you on?

Mozart- Snowplows put me in a lot of rock em-sock em sports shows. He had me paying minor league ice hockey. I did a bit of boxing when some other android who was more of a gladiator broke down from the endless beatings.

Shakespeare- That’s hardly easy white collar work.

Mozart- Nope. I guess my big break under Snopes was working as Richard Fung, private eye. He was a sleuth who had a specialty in investigating arson. The program always began with some miniaturized building that was really belt out of plastic and only three inches tall burning down.

Shakespeare- I think I saw quite a few of those, Fritz. You’d think after watching your program the world was field with assorted criminals wanting to burn down the whole planet.

Mozart- Yeah, they were Tasmanians. Maybe we caught only a few of them.

Michelangelo- What is it you want to talk over with Snopes.? Do you want to write some kind of symphony?

Mozart- Well, maybe a forgettable serenade. I’m tone deaf. I wouldn’t mind turning out a respectable minuet.

Michelangelo- Why don’t you hire somebody to do it? You can say it’s yours.

Mozart- I do that already. They came from Barbados. It doest make me happy, Mike. I know better.

Michelangelo- I understand that. I am always looking for a stray empty ceiling. It hurts me after a while to do nothing. I know that’s why everybody who’s human has been trying to do for millennia. I’m glad I’m no good at it. It’s the pits.

Shakespeare- You said you worked in Snopes’ fancy educational pieces? I heard it’s a nicer atmosphere. We mostly pretend to save nearly extinct species.

Mozart- Yeah, I did that. I was friends with a senile Sumatran frog.

Shakespeare- I hate that pretentious stuff. What the hell good is an education? It just makes you a little scepter in a predictable way than you ever should be.

Mozart- Maybe being dumber than we are is a good idea, Ralph. We can join a lot of people who are even more imbecilic than we are. They might be haply morons.

Michelangelo- Who the hell wants to join them? What can we do with these dunces, play poker?

Mozart- Don’t show too much ennui, Mike. That’s when Snopes moves in on you like a dentist or an undertaker. He’s got all those television channels for the weary. You sit there in galloping fatigue mode and wait for an embolism.

Michelangelo- I wonder what the originals of whoever or whatever we claim to be would do in a place like this.

Shakespeare- You mean the one’s who really could write padre, knock off symphonies and make paintings? Well, the writers like me when they live in Plattsburgh might get adjunct jobs in community colleges. Plattsburgh is a famous prison town; we’ve got a lot of ex-convicts in Rehab.

Mozart- Yeah, I worked for Rehab. It’s a no show job. You sign a waiver or two you never read, then phone in your name to let heme know you’re still alive. Sometimes there’s not even a building.

Michelangelo- That’s too bad. I like jobs in buildings. They usually have ceilings.

Shakespeare- You’ll like the accommodations. You work with prison guards. When they get terminated or they get their pension they work for Probation. Parole officers like to send them to school. I’ve done it when Snopes didn’t have a job for me in a sitcom. When he went into phony quiz shows work get scarce. You can also teach mentally retired people in a few asylums outside of Plattsburgh how to be normal.

Michelangelo- You can do tech appall to be norma? You must be some teacher.

Shakespeare- I can’t really do it, Mike. I can’t even teach myself how to be normal. They’re just paying me to do it. I’ll quit when the checks stop. I won’t do it for nothing.

Shakespeare- I wouldn’t run a phony operation like that for nothing even in Plattsburgh. They’d have to pay me mucho bucks.

Shakespeare- I can get you on the pad, Mike. They’ll pay you too. It’s good for them. The more teachers, the more supervisors and administrators and guys at the top. Everybody’s a winner.
It even gives the resident morons something to do. It’s not hard work. The worst of it is the commute.

Michelangelo- When you don’t do it they keep on paying you?

Shakespeare- Sure. They need me not to fail at doing more of it forever. They’re my best employers. Better than Snopes. Without morons we all wouldn’t have a job.

Michelangelo- I like Plattsburgh. Once I thought living in Florence was crazy. What did I know in the 15th century, really?

Shakespeare- Back in Florence they’d hire you to do something you could do. You’re good at engraving; you could be hied as a counterfeiter. You might have talent for making rare currency. After all you are Michelangelo, sort of.

Michelangelo- Not really. In any case I want to sell my paintings. I don’t want to make money.

Shakespeare- You can to it if you throw in a discount pitching them to select patrons in the suburbs of Plattsburgh. Rich people here have no taste. Even bogus Michelangelo by a fake Michelangelo has to have a market somewhere.
Your stuff if you could ever do it would be locked up in a Plattsburgh bank vault for sales at an auction several years later or maybe never.

Michelangelo- I can’t do it. You know, maybe I’m better off being a fake.

Shakespeare- You are enough like Michelangelo to want to be unhappy like Michelangelo. At least if you were less like Michelangelo you’d even think of taking refuge from a lousy world in hard work.

Michelangelo- Yeah, I’d be painting the ceiling of an insane asylum.

Mozart- It’s still a genuine ceiling.

Shakespeare- You want to write a symphony. Fritz. Nobody in Plattsburgh wants a symphony. They don’t even want a divertimento.
That means you don’t have to do anything to please anybody. You could learn to sit in a chair and like Snopes’ epics.

Michelangelo- Maybe you’re right. I think we’re all better off being what we are. There’s no place for the authentic element in us unwary here in Plattsburgh. This dump of a city sure as he’ll doesn’t need us.
Maybe we should bargain with Snopes to make us more like our originals o nothing at all like them. If anything we should ask him to be less than any of them.

Mozart- Well then, we won’t talk to him or kill him.

Shakespeare- On the other hand we might ask him for a better life for whatever we might find worth our artificial mortality.

Mozart- What might that be? Playing poker?

Shakespeare- I don’t know. We could be forest rangers or astrologers.

Michelangelo- Include me out. I don’t like the company of stargazers and bears.

Mozart- Maybe we’d be better off accepting who we are and living with it. We can’t drop dead; we’re not living. It’s not so bad here in Plattsburgh. After all we’re all part of a huge republic that doesn’t notice us.
Nobody’s invading Plattsburgh to kill us. Nobody is on horseback to sack the town. Nobody wants to hurt us. Even our enemies don’t know whether we exist if we do exist.

Shakespeare- I don’t know. I’d like to do better. We’ve got comfort but we don’t have any ambition or hope.

Mozart- What did your original model want that made him sissified with his normality? A bit of land in Stratford? A few peasants on a fief who all stole lentils from him? Maybe they even killed him. It’s a kind of achievement in life to kill Shakespeare.

Shakespeare- Maybe I’m happier in Plattsburgh.

Michelangelo-­ Maybe you shouldn’t try to be happy.

Shakespeare- What’s this pile of scripts on the table? The usual crap?

Michelangelo- We’re a little more prestigious these days than that, Wolfgang. We’re doing historical drama on the public channels. Of course it’s all fluff, retro nostalgia. Luckily nobody wants to know or cares what’s going or not going on in the present.

Shakespeare- Maybe nothing’s going on. Maybe this is somebody’s bad dream.

Michelangelo- that’s all the more reason to offer the slobs out there a bit of the invented past.

Shakespeare- Well, I did it myself with my many history plays. Maybe I exaggerated a thing or two.

Mozart- that’s what they came to see, kid. The truth is always the same. People watching television show up in a chair to hear somebody like you con them with lies.

Shakespeare- Sometimes there’s a covert truth in mendacity. I wouldn’t knock an honest liar.

Michelangelo- (picking up a script.) This is Bismarck. Didn’t we do Bismarck last year?

Mozart- Maybe they want it again. I think that was Young Bismarck. We didn’t get further than his formative and disturbing college experiences in Heidelberg.

Michelangelo- Could be. I can’t remember. Maybe it was Young Bismarck. Some kind of Bismarck. Did we ever get to Old Bismarck?

Mozart- Bismarck’s old age wasn’t as interesting as the rest of his life.

Shakespeare- Even in Plattsburg old age often isn’t all that remarkable. It’s hard to dramatize senile reflection.

Michelangelo- All right let’s rehearse it, whatever it is; maybe it’s the same thing. (They pick up the scripts and turn a few pagers.) I’ll be the Kaiser, Mike you’ll be Bismarck, Wolfgang, you’ll be Fritzie.

Mozart- Whose Fritzie?

Michelangelo- Fritzie is kind of living icon. You’re a Prussian citizen. You stand for the ordinary man in Prussia.

Mozart- I don’t know whether I can do that, Mike. I don’t know too much about being ordinary.

Michelangelo- You don’t ave to be completely ordinary. You obit it. You can come close enough. You are matting the original Mozart, aren’t you? If there were enough of you, the imitations. you’d be ordinary.

Mozart- I suppose I can be that kind of ordinary.

Michelangelo- Sure you ca. Of course I’m the singularity in this opus. There’s only one Kaisier.

Mozart- How do you do it? How does a unique character act? If he’s one of a kind nobody knows waft he’s like.

Michelangelo- Who knows? Well, I’ll just have to fake it. Do we all talk German in this play? After all these people are 19th century Prussians.

Shakespeare- We speak English with a light German accent. That’s an acceptable cheat in all these educational public plays these days.

Michelangelo- I guess we can all do that if not so well. I’m not sure I can do an accent tat’s Prussian. Maybe Bavarian. I might do an Italian one and pretend it’s also German.

Shakespeare- Do it, Mike. Nobody among the slobs out there will notice.

Michelangelo- (with a palpably phony accent) It is hard being the Kaiser, Otto, much harder than being a mere chancellor like yourself. I am a king yet I have nothing I want to control or dominance, nobody on this planet I care to conquer. Sometimes I kneeled even conquer myself, Otto.
I suppose if I were in a bad mood I might want to invade Poland. That’s easy. Nobody ever lost a war with Poland. I would rather send my armies to back France. If we defeat the Gauls we will all eat better than we do consuming the terrible fatty diet we gobble down here in Berlin.

Shakespeare- You have not read my policy paper I sent you yesterday?

Michelangelo- I have skimmed hastily through it. I don’t see any of your points, Otto. You claim you can confer a country or the world, even Mars if we can get there, without an army, a managerial class or a suicidal priesthood. It seems to me, Otto, you have been drinking too much of our excellent Berlin beer.

Shakespeare- We cannot guzzle down too much of our singular brew, king. However in your rather sensible haste to do something else you may have overlooked the rather inventive character of my innovative proposal.
Consider this: if we merely lend money to select apple all over the world though our capacious banks we will quickly put a whole class of cowards in debt, owing us severely high amounts of money they can never pay us.
Then of course we tell them politely what to do. With such means of control we can run the entire planet without a single miliary foray moving out of our well armed Berlin base.

Michelangelo- You think so? You are dreaming, Otto. If these debtors are sufficiently far enough away from us they will simply tell us civilly they are utterly indigent, ask us to devise some means by which they can honor their corruptions, descents and carnal dilemmas.

Shakespeare- Since we have given them nothing in the first place that might not be such a calamity, king.

Michelangelo- Yes, sometimes nothing begets something. Perhaps there is some merit in your seductive policy, Otto. I must think over your plans while sipping some of our excellent brown Harvest Ale.

Shakespeare- King, there is no absolute value to anything. Yet as long as we can set gouging prices on whatever people think they need to wake up even as slaves upon a morning we can muscle them into an ordinary indenture all too easily enough.

Mozart- I don’t seem to have any lines in this scene.

Michelangelo- Of course not. You are after all Fridays, a common Prussian. What would you be doing in the inner court of the Kaiser?

Mozart- Serving them beer? How should I know?

Shakespeare- You don’t think Otto von Bismarck is going to talk over his plans with you, do you? Prussia was not ever a democracy.

Mozart- Here comes Snopes across the lawn with some buddy. I wonder whether it’s the real Snopes.

Michelangelo- Maybe there never was a real one. Who’s his friend? I sort of recognize him.

Mozart- Charlie Chan. Maybe he’s the real one too. Somebody in Plattsburgh’s besides the eclectic company has got to be real.

Shakespeare- Let’s hide behind these draperies and see what they’re up to.

(Mozart, Shakespeare and Michelangelo hide beyond a different set of draperies. Enter Chan and Snopes, armed with automatic weaponry. They look around the stud.)

Chan- Lane, you say this place has been invaded by androids? If so, then where are they?

Snopes- Maybe hiding in the dressing rooms beyond the studio. We don’t have to be afraid they’re going try to kill us. Hell, it’s only Mozart, Shakespeare and Michelangelo. They might try to kill us but they won’t be as good at knocking us off as some other people in Plattsburgh. These robots sad to say are all a little near sighted.

Chan- The hunger of the tiger is not changed by his cage.

Snopes- A lot of them one day may want to run for President.

Chan- It is the naturae of the mouse to envy the duplicitous felicity of the lion.

Snopes- If they ever ask me I could tell them they’re better off being androids. They’re not responsible for kneading that happens here. Everybody says the President is the guy who ruin everything. Then they try to vote him out.
Even I don’t know anybody about real power in Plattsburgh or America, Charlie. Do you think I run the country or make the laws? If I did even a can opener or a toilet would be very different.

Chan- I am a detective. Lane, not an expert on politics. I do know that whatever wants power tries to be invisible. He aims to be unknown, even thinkable, unknowable. In the Shang Dynasty the empower was seemingly the chief who cooked dinner for the nobles. The more improbable the emperor is, even in America, the less anyone can guess his whereabouts and existence.
You plainly are not a man of power, Lane I’m sorry to say. you are very well known and always in front of the public.

Snopes- Yeah, we people in show banzais are just a bunch of clowns. I used to wonder who is running America. I don’t know anymore. If I found out and other people know I had some notion of the real people of power in this damned country I might be killed.
I’d rather be an apparent ignoramus. Anyway I’m better off as show business rogue. Being a maker of illusion suits me.

Chan- You never want to be President.

Snopes- I’ve got enough troubles without being President, Charlie, people and androids are trying to kill me.

Chan- You are the observable dragon of their myopic vision.
It’s no wonder they are focused on such dishonorable enmity.

Snopes- Maybe I should have been more bizarre, more monstrous. Nobody would have guess I really existed.

Chan- You might do better to mimic the song of the nightingale, Lane, He is a bird often heard piping out haunting melodies at the edges of the ordinary who is rarely seen sitting on a yew or ginkgo tree.

Snopes- Well, I’ve got no sense, Charlie. I not only created my own enemies; I paid money to have them come after me. I’m one very stupid son of a bitch.

Chan- You are at bottom compassionate man, Lane. You produced an artificial life for those who have discovered they can be unhappy with money.

Snopes- You’re right. Unlike the real people of power I’m amusing. I’ve always wanted to please everyone, people, androids and asserted cats and dogs.

Chan- It’s a moral elevation real people in power even in the Wang Dynasty were and are incapable of.

Snopes- My experts tell me that androids only want to watch shoos about other androids. Put a dog in front of the tube and he’ll only resonance to a another dog even though its an illusion not a dog at all.
If robots want to take in the loves of other robots I’ve got three good channels for them. One is in French. If robots really don’t exist have I made anybody happy. I don’t think so.

Chan- The mark of many a divinity is his interest in morals and assorted mortal life down to lizards and toads. There are gods who only like the company of other gods. They are as rare as a sleeping honeybee at the core of a white lotus.

Snopes- It’s plan to me that these divinities have left us to our own harvest from a freedom we might not have were they more actively despotic. I wonder whether we have freedom because they are all witching television.

Chan- Do you think Heaven is like Plattsburgh? That is an amusing thought.

Snopes- I have no opinions on anything I don’t know about. Ask me about how to make illusions. That’s what I’m good at.

Chan- You think there is Lane K. Snopes among the divinities. That is intriguing.

Snopes- It may be t hat the destiny of all spirits in t he cosmos into the further most ramparts of Haven is to take no interest in it.

Chan- You are a kind of sleuth yourself, Lane. That is the sort of unthinkable direction a detective might embrace honorably at least for a moment. I wonder myself whether in the oozy architectures of this severely free Creations we more or less are inhabiting whether there are other cities like Plattsburgh.
One imagines a few fortresses, a scant assortment of studios broadcasting electronic entertainment, a nocturnal world of diverse robots and who knows what else wandering over the plains hopping to gain myriad troves of power, money, stray carnal moments of satiety and an decorous absence of geniuses. To escape some woe that infects them like an unobtrusive and polite bacillus.
Who protects this realm from the equal liberty of marauders that careen in spaceships thorough the cosmos?

Snopes- The army of course. The United States in the end manages to keep out its enemies with multurer force, description and some penetration of its foes. The trouble is, we aren’t ever invaded by our neighbors like Canada and Mexico, they apparently have no interest in us.

Chan- We they to attack us do you think they would ferret out who really has power in this country? Plainly it isn’t you, Lane. Honorable as you are, you’re too accessible and visible. It isn’t some pious politicians opening a rose garden either. It’s hardly a general or an oligarchy. You really don’t know who’s running this country, do you?

Snopes- If I told you I knew I would be killed. Of course I don’t know.

Chan- Then let us end a direction to this conversation which might lead to your torture and death. I don’t want to know who is running this country either. Let us pretend I never asked you.

Snopes- Charlie, plainly I don’t know. Whoever it is the people of power are for very good reasons always happy to be unknown to any of us.

Chan- Unquestionably. The emperor of the Shung Dynasty was never known during its long and bloody reign nor even after its fall. It was a murderous despotic government without any ladlers at all. None of them, even their supposed cousins, perhaps their punks, even opened a rose garden.

Snopes- I don’t think we’re living under the Shung Dynasty, Charlie.

Chan- it might be interesting to ask the gods whether or not they are happy or feel in a state of grace. Our function in this world seems to be mostly to avoid the curiously of assorted marauders.

Snopes- You’re right. Let’s get out of here. I don’t see Mozart, Shakespeare or Michelangelo anywhere. Maybe they’re on the studio downstairs from us.

Chan- I didn’t know you had such room in your edifice. That is very intriguing.

Snopes- It’s just a repository for old props and costumes. With these magic blue screen we don’t need too many of them.

Chan- How many levels of chambers do you have in this building for these artifacts of your enterprise, Lane?

Snopes- Actually, hundreds. Lately we don’t build up in Plattsburgh as much as we build down.

Cain- An interesting architectural features of your metropolis, I would imagine.

Snopes- Some call us The Upside Down City. What has that got to do with our problems with murderous and pesky androids?

Chan- Possibly nothing at al. I was merely meditating that the refuges for our fugitives are nearly infinite.

Snopes- they’re not going to achieve anteing in the sub-cellars. They will eventually come up here to look for us.

Chan- It is the fate of the moth to soar into the light and suck up the immense golden micturations of the sun.

(Enter Mozart, Shakespeare and Michelangelo from the draperies where they are hiding.)

Shakespeare- We’ve decided not to treat you with any more enmity. This kill or be killed life on all sides doesn’t give any of us anything but revenge or flight.

Michelangelo- We want to offer you a chance at civil adult negotiation.

Mozart- We all have powers or lack of them that motivate us to be what we are here. (To Chan.) All except you, sir.

Chan- I am not much of an enigma. You might be more of an opacity than I am, Fritz. You are models on people who are really inexplicable,

Mozart- I can’t write any music. I‘v becomes as a result much more ordinary than either you or I ever want me to be. I’ve become s result doubly tragic. I am wet I am and if I were who I was be not merely nobody but an imitation of a corpse. Who the hell are you?

Chan- I am after all Charlie Chan. I’m more conventional than any ordinary man or one whip macaques one, Fritz. Of ceruse, between us, I am a rather an improbable genius. I work for the Honolulu Police Department. I also do primite labor for some friends of mine and celeries like Mister Snopes who are in severe need of my rather hermetic talents.

Shakespeare- Are you sure you’re not just a phony like us, Mister Chan? What cases have you solved?

Chan- I have done some work recently in Maraca and Zanzibar that might suggest to you I am authentic enough at least for you Mister Shakespeare.

Michelangelo- We read about some Charlie Chan being a master sleuth in those places; was it the real one? Maybe some androids are better than other ones. I guess if you solved the cases you might think tentatively you are real.

Chan- I remember solving them well enough. Of churus that means nothing. What defines you, Michelangelo? I believe, it might be you lack of capacity to be whom you seem to be. I don’t have such limitation on my actions.

Michelangelo- You certain you’ve done something you may not have done. I remember Florence and Rome; I’ve never been there. Shakespeare here sort of recalls London but he’s never left Japan or Plattsburgh. Fritzie Mozart would like a piece of Viennese strudel but he doesn’t know what it is.

Chan- You may lack in your excellent calculations the more suable elements of a deep and powerful philosophy. You three have irrefutably been made to amuse the world. Could you say less about your authentic models.
You may be robots imitating other androids, which I must say is a level of non-exigence that is more formidable than the parallel lack of reality in many of us.

Snopes -Let us say you have your ambitions realized by us, Michelangelo.

Michelangelo- Call me Mike.

Snopes- Okay, Mike, then. One most people on Earth thought they would be in as state of felicity if they had a little more money. That turned oust not to be true.
If anything the more satisfaction they garner from the world, the less hope they will have that anything could heal woes and desires they realized they didn’t ever understand.

Michelangelo- You aren’t arguing for poverty, ignorance and stupidity, are you?

Snopes- Far from it. We are all better off getting what we can from the external world. Its very lack of redemptive power gives us a small opportunity to be more bate up but a little smarter.

Michelangelo- Even if our hungers are tragic you don’t deny us the right to take up those vain and absurd quests.

Snopes- I’ve taken them up myself. Would I try to take from you a pilgrimage that leads you to a similar sense of bafflement? I’ll tell you what, Mike; let me be the ultimate American even in Plattsburgh. Come Charlie; let’s vacate the studio. Let these people make what programs they want with the technology I will teach them to manipulate.

Chan-You outdo the last emperor of the Shang Dynasty.

Snopes- All of the Shangs might have done better here. This is the land of opportunity for everyone, not just human beings either. It might be a second chance for all kids of species. Why should America be the fairest country to grant freedom and quality to our own machines?
Let’s investigate those sub-cellars, Charlie. Let them have the studio.

Chan- I am eager to take up such subterranean explorations. You say the tiers in the bottom of this building are infinite?

Snopes- I don’t know quite that they are all of that. I’d rather just say I’ve never seen the end of the bottom of ankh of them.

Chan- Let us go into them down to the furthest level to look for the ultimate cloaca at the nethermost tier of this edifice, Lane. It’s the natural act of any sleuth.

(Exit Snopes and Chan through a door.)

Mozart- I guess we can do A Robot Like Me now.

Shakespeare- Tact’s our assignment. I hard from Snopes it’s the sequel to the series I, Banality, no? It’s the natural world seen from the point of view of a robot. One would have sex, war, entertainment at which the narrator had was totally indifferent to it all. It’s supposed to be a comedy. In the last epeeist the android walks thorough Nature, gets lost in a forest and is eaten by a bear. He doesn’t care about that either. Then the bear gets sick from his lunch and dies.

Michelangelo- Who gets to play the bear? You?

Mozart- In this one we’ve all robots dogs. Even the family dog some kind of machine.

Michelangelo- There is no family. They cut the whole family form the script. That damned family all fell apart. Too much organic rust.

Shakespeare- What a way to make a living. I wish I were the real Shakespeare. I could be spending my time writing an even more depressing sequel to Hamlet.

Mozart- You wouldn’t want to be the real Shakespeare. Ballivo me.

Shakespeare- why not?

Mozart- People that are real have problems you never know about, Bill. They do things that are authentic enough that feel good but nobody appreciates them. You know what they really liked about the read cheaper? Titus Andronicus. They kept on asking him to mount that awful play over and over again. How do you think he felt?

Shakespeare- Terrible. Yet maybe not.

Michelangelo- I think we’re better off unreal. I agree with Mozart here. We aren’t responsible for anything that happens here in Plattsburgh. We don’t care anymore than that robot in that play does whether or not anybody in Plattsburgh lives or dies. Why should we? They could be anywhere, Paris, New York, London or Venice; they’re in Plattsburgh. Do we have to know any more about them?

Shakespeare- You two would rather be fakes than real? You both aren’t all that ambitious.

Michelangelo- Hey, no matter what we do we’ve going to have problems. As fakers we know we can live with our griefs, real or imaginary. If we were authentically Measured, Shakespeare and myself we might suffer in ways we couldn’t handle.

Shakespeare-You don’t want to be Haran?

Michelangelo- Being human sounds like hard work. Besides, these days humans don’t want to do anything too hard; why should I?

Mozart- Acting like humans is hard work. Who wantons to memorize lines?

Shakespeare- Nobody. Not even fake actors.

Shakespeare- I hear them coming back from the cellars. They weren’t gone long, were they?

Mozart- Now they now this place has no cellars. They must have been disappointed.

Michelangelo- Maybe not. It does have an attic. The might try looking for something important there.

Mozart- I don’t think there’s an attic. It’s just a painted door. A lot of doors lead into brick walls these days.

Shakespeare- Not all of them You must have tread to get into the wrong attic.

Michelangelo- Maybe. Let’s do that Bismarck play for the history channel. Young Bismarck; I like the title. Trouble is nothing much happens in the play. He’s ten years old. What could happen, even to Bismarck? He was just a kid even if he was Besmirch.

Shakespeare- Well, we’ll get the scripts. I think there in the steel file cabinets in the anteroom.

Maraud You’re sure there are file cabinets and an anteroom?

Shakespeare- Pretty sure. I was there yesterday. Maybe the cabinets ere plastic that looks like steel,

Mozart- Yesterday has come and gone. This damned studio gets smaller and smaller all the time. Some of the old maintenance crew I thought had retried have been lately bricking up dolors, pretending afterwards very politely both they and the doors never existed in the first place.

Shakespeare- I’ve noticed that. I wonder why they return to do it. You’d think now that they’re retired they wouldn’t want to wok at anything.

Mozart- What an operatic we’ve got here. Even the fancier robots want to retire.

Shakespeare- Maybe they should go out on strike.

Michelangelo- Robots aren’t unionized. You don’t know robot politics. Forget it, kid. To the file cabinets.

Shakespeare- Do you think our audience is going to watch Young Bismarck? It’s boring and stupid.

Michelangelo- We don’t have any audience.

(Exit Shakespeare, Mozart and Michelangelo.)

Act Two

(Enter Mozart, Shakespeare and Michelangelo.)

Mozart- They’re gone. I guess we can run that stupid play Bismarck now.

Shakespeare- Not just Bismarck. We can do detective dramas or science fiction. We can even talk labially about the occult. What is it that we can’t to do here? We can’t do what our models supposedly did. Maybe we could hire people to do it and fake it. Of course maybe they can’t do it.

Michelangelo- Maybe the audience out there won’t notice. They’re mostly a bun of ignoramuses. Fritzie. If you had some drudge or ghost composer writing a lousy symphony do your figure the public know the difference?

Mozart- I don’t know. Maybe five people would know it was all bogus.

Shakespeare- Well, why can’t we mimic the postures of our models, Fritzie? You can’t do it because you unfortunately have no musical talent.

Mozart- You never know. It might be good luck.

Shakespeare- I can’t say even if I know since I am not much good with longing. Mike here couldn’t carve a toothpick from a wooden splinter. Why can’t we build androids that can do all these things if we never will be able to be whom we seem to be?

Mozart- We could be something else. Let’s get back to the play. I didn’t have on line in it; I wonder whether I’ll ever have one.

Michelangelo- You’re not here for nothing. You come in after the Kaiser and Bismarck has as an experiment put everyone in Prussia in debt. You can’t afford your life, Fritzie. You cant imagine dine anything else but living your life either.

Mozart- That’s my motivation.

Michelangelo- More or less.

Mozart- Look, I found a few lines of mine on this page. (In a phony accent) I appeal to your mercy, gentlemen. Nothing else. You have made me a modern slave with your banking alchemies. I ask you to treat me with the charity you would dole out to a beggar if you were sojourning in Babylon.

Michelangelo- we do make such gurneys often now that we’ve built the Berlin to Baghdad railway. We never give a shekel to beggars. Nothing. We are famous for our lack of charity. We will be happy to parse out no less to you, you common idiot.

Shakespeare- I thought we were planning to conquer the world. So far we’ve only controlled a few parts of Prussia with this damned global debt scheme.

Michelangelo- We are quite sensibly practicing our future planetary polices on ourselves first in a laboratory experiment. After all it was good enough for Doctor Jekyll.

Shakespeare- Doctor Jekyll d onslaught exist. He is an English fiction.

Michelangelo- His non-existence makes him all the more powerful, doesn’t it, Otto?

Shakespeare- Frankly, king, I wonder whether you’re really a Prussian. Your accent sounds more rustic, perhaps vaguely Hungarian.

Michelangelo- Does it? I am the Kaiser. I am indisputably what I am. I explain nothing. No one holds me to judgement about anything but you and a few minor gods.

Shakespeare- Let us say you are a Prussian, a king, my king. (To Mozart) You don’t have a Prussian accent either, Fritzie. Are you even from this sacred continent?

Mozart- I never have to account for such minor riddles in my German either, Otto. I am luckily utterly colon. Banal. Nobody cares. Nobody asks me to be more demonstrably Prussian than I ever am. What’s this script over here? (He picks up one from the table.)

Shakespeare- God and Mafioso Mama. This one of Snopes’ religious epics. Want to run it?

Michelangelo- Maybe. Who plays God?

Shakespeare- I’ll do it. God is usually on vacation.

Mozart- You have a lot of lines in this one. You might even nock off a few people.

Shakespeare- Who the hell are you in this pace of crap?

Mozart- An avenging angel. I just look daunting and menacing.

Shakespeare- it sounds fudging. Who does this big speech?

Michelangelo- Mafioso Mama. I’ll take that part. We’ll make him a Papa.

Shakespeare- Mama is just your nickname. You are a Papa.

Michelangelo- Okay. (Reads.) You called me here to Judgment to account for my life. It’s okay. It’s new to me though. On Earth I never had an arrest much less a trial. Nobody could r bribe people like me. I owned everybody.

Shakespeare- You corrupted people.

Michelangelo- Nah they were all snitches, creeps, bums and assorted swine before I ever heard of them. They corrupted me. They called me up and asked for the little gifts they asked for.

Shakespeare- You also had people killed.

Michelangelo- It was always personal. I never ran a war.

Shakespeare- You ran prostitution, gambling, and dope rings.

Michelangelo- It’s okay. They’re all legal now. These days it’s just business.

Shakespeare- Then why were you sent here? You advent done anything wrong.

Michelangelo- Bigotry, prejudice. A lot of people dolt like Italians. I don’t know why. I have people want they wanted. I stood for freedom when the government made it a crime. I was brave. I didn’t have to make a living from pleasure. I could have been a millionaire from selling top of the line virgin salad oil. I was more a patriot than a whole lot of other people.

Shakespeare- I agree. Case dismissed.

Mozart- He sold very good salad oil too.

Shakespeare- I did better than that. I was the real patron of American music., I made jazz and rock music possible. Without my bars and sporting houses they’d all be broke or playing funerals. I founded Las Vegas. People move there as if they are coming to Mecca.
I kept the bars open when the government wanted to close them down. I didn’t give them redemption but I have them beer. Good beer. I ran whorehouse for a lot of horny Americans. If I weren’t who I am I guess I could have quietly made a fortune in steel and munitions.

Shakespeare- I said, case dismissed. Get out of here, all of you.

(Mozart and Michelangelo take a few steps backward.)

Song of a gun, I made a Creation that was free; this is the lousy harvest of freedom. I thought of doing in the whole world in a flood; it was a bad idea. After all freedom is what I wanted, not forced virtue. Maybe some of my angels secretly judge me. Let them. If they were God they’d being doing the same damned thing I do.
(Enter the first Snopes and Chan from behind the draperies. They are armed.)

Snopes- What are you three doing in this studio? Rehearsing?

Mozart- We’re doing a lot of things. We may not exist but these are real guns. We were thinking of something more substantial than your usual illusions. This is a play from the spiritual channel.

Shakespeare- God and Mafioso Mama.

Snopes- Somebody brought a pizza here. It wasn’t Hammurabi or Charlemagne. Was it one of you?

Mozart- I confess I’ve had to make a living in some circumstances that most people would think beneath me. Nobody will hire me as a musician; I’m not one. Nobody will employ me as a phony either; I’m not even good enough as a fraud to be a legitimate impostor. The only employment in Plattsburgh these days is pizza delivery. The real jobs, the manufacture, are all in Asia. Even social workers phone in their advice from Bengali.

Snopes- You can always go into speculation. It’s about as real as you are. You’d be comfortable with that kinds of people.

Mozart- Did think of dabbling in banking.

Snopes- Their currency isn’t real either. How do you other two guys make a living, in the noodle bassists?

Shakespeare- I’ve been selling pork belly futures. I also do animal therapy.

Michelangelo- I show up at Indian casinos and play a lot of poker.

Chan- It is a miracle of Heaven that whatever does not exist can destroy that does have any reality. Beyond that what does not exist cannot be destroyed.

Shakespeare- You’re a detective, Mister Chan. You have as much reason to honor the truth as I do to replace it with tawdry stage illusion. Apparently you don’t run away in some stark flight from anything.

Chan- I am not yet out of luck enough to meet a dragon that terrifies me.

Shakespeare- Yet even somebody like yourself must be aware that occupying some refugees between illusion and reality isn’t commonly a straddle too many of us ca handle all that easily.

Chan- I am reminded of the latter day Diamond Buddhists of the Wang Darwinist who claimed that the entire cosmos was a fluffy ball of sourly perfumed vapor. Yet I would smuggest to you, Mister Shakespeare, that most androids as well as people have the same cleavages of soul you speak of as untenable.

Shakespeare- You mean most of us, even our androids, are banal.

Chan- that sand much more. We can all agree on the existence and even many details of the world before us. We entertain patterns rather than believe in them, I think. When I consider how uncanny it is that somebody like myself who has come from one world to Honolulu, and then to Plattsburgh on a journey, the amazing thing is that I easily adapt causally to all of it.

Snopes- Is reality what you creeps want? That’s easily done. You may not like it when you get it. The trust has a way of being impolite and indifferent to any sentimental hopes, Mister Shakespeare.

Shakespeare- Call me Ralph.

Snopes- Ralph, I’m going to call Hamashika.

Chan- Who may I ask is Hamashika?

Snopes- He’s the maker of all these robots in Kyoto. He’s the designer of all of the, I want to find out how hard would it be to make every android filled with singularity and talent. I want to know whether he can produce a pill or lozenge to make the current ones as singular and interesting as they want to be.

Chan- very sensible. I presume Hamashika himself is not a robot.

Spokes- He may be. What do I know? The private life of technicians is one of the last bastions of privacy in this planet, Charlie. (He takes his cell phone from his pocket and dials a number on it. “Hell, Hamashika. Lane K. Snopes here…I should call you what?… Archibald?…Okay.
Archibald, what would it take to make every robot you sold to me and all the newer ones you’re going to pitch at me interesting and talented?…Really?… Nothing?… You just assumed I wanted tee usual robots without any inner qualities at all? …I never said that… Of course it’s a reasonable assumption given the way we put people to work in this contra…No, I’m not offended at all. You were thinking of me. That shows you are a caring spirit, Hamashika, I mean, Archibald. ..You say its cheaper to do it without making them empty too?…that’s incredible….Archibald, baby, how much cheaper?…No kidding….
Look, ship me those lozenges and make your improvements…You’re going to send me a fat check for the difference in the cost?…say, I like doing business with you.
Archibald, baby, you’ve got yourself a lifelong customer… (he closes the cell phone thoughtfully.) Well boys, we’re in luck. Hamashika has told me we can all be everything we should be. You may not like it but you’re going to live out your deepest and most babe destiny.

Chan- It is the hope of the peacock, the aim of all great empowers and the prayer of the lotus.

Mozart- You’re going to have the change the content of your television shows, Mister Snopes. No more sensational banalities.

Snopes- Call me Lane.

Mozart- Is that your name?

Snopes- What if it weren’t? I’ve been calling Shakespeare Ralph.

Shakespeare- I am Ralph.

Snopes- So you say.

Michelangelo- I guess you’re implying very politely we can change our names were easy than our character or lack of it, Lane.

Snopes- Mike, I never imply anything. It’s a form of communication too delicate and subtle for me. I say whatever the hell I think. If it implies something too I don’t mean it.

Shakespeare- Whether you mean it or not, still you almost said it.

Snopes- Sometimes I say things I don’t mean. I don’t imply them; I say them directly. Sometime even if I mean it, it’s wrong. (His cell phone rings.)Hello…Hamashita?…Yoke phone’s been hacked?…somebody pretending to be you has been telling everybody he’s the real you?…that’s terrible.

Chan- Excuse me, why would you think this voice is the real Hamashita?

Snopes- (to Chan)I don’t know. He might halve the same memories, implanted ones like false teeth. I just have to assume one of them is real or almost real. Maybe neither of them are.

Chan- Is this the famous Hamashita who supposedly designed the azure blue androids that run the sewers of Honolulu?

Snopes- I think so.

Chan- Ask him whether he has recently eaten crocodile meat. They all do down in those Hawaiian depths. Hamashita was known to joint them for these nether banquets. If he is a bogus Hamashita he almost certainly won’t understand your abrupt question.

Snopes (into phone) Have any good feasts on assorted reptiles lately, Hamashita… You have?… where?…In Honolulu?…they used too much hot curry sauce?… (to Chan) I think he’s authentic. (Into the cell hone) Look I was promised by this phony Hamashita I could give all kinds of creative talents to my androids; maybe he ad every reason to make me think was possible. He also wanted to give me money. Can you do that?
You can program them to mine copper on Mars and grow artichokes on the fourth moon of Jupiter? I was thinking of writing symphonies, scribbling tragic plays and putting mural on peoples ceilings without hiring your back… You’d have to do some experiments and come back to me?…that’s okay.
What’s your prognosis?… Yeah, I know instilling character in androids is an inexact science…all right,. Get back to me. I’ve put your new number on my machine. Don’t get hacked again (He closes the cell phone.) I wonder whether any of them is the real Hamashita.

Shakespeare- I not much of a detective but I’m starting to wonder whether the two of you are real.

Snopes- We’re as real as anybody gets around here, Ralph. What makes you tank we make be as bogus at the three of you?

Shakespeare- That cell phone is marked: made in Taiwan. I met another Snopes last week that had a phone manufacture in Korea. Maybe both of you are not quite on the level.

Chan- Let us say you are accurate in your clever assessments, Ralph. Let us further assume the real Charlie Chan, Lane K. Snopes, Fritzie Mozart, Ralph Shakespeare and Mike Angelo are elsewhere, perhaps even nowhere. What would that mean if anything at all to any of us, mere shadows, in this room?

Shakespeare- I don’t know. I guess we’re free to do anything at all if we had the character or some itch within us to want to do anything.

Chan- Excellent. A pellucid maxim worthy of the late and honorable Fu Wok not to mention the sage Lo Ming Doof.

Shakespeare- Your erudition is comforting, Mister Chan. I hope some of it might be real.

Chan- Y can’t doubt the existence of Fu Wok or Lo King Doof, Mister Shakespeare, anymore than one could question the influence of your model, the late William Shakespeare, on yourself.

Shakespeare- Of course people have done that too, haven’t they? There’s no slander worse than being told one is unreal, Mister Chan.

Chan- Yes, these dastardly scoffers have attributed Shakespeare’s talent if not quite his realty to Mallow or some infamous passing duke. They did the same to We Wu. He was only a great chef. They said he never went near a noodle.

Shakespeare- I don’t mean to offend you by suggesting either China itself of its sages were fictional. Continue your eerie insights into our predicament, please, Mister Chan.

Chan- Gladly. I defer to your honorable hunger for any trite we can ferret from an all too common riddle. Perhaps none of us in this room is real. It could be that the very marauders who dot the outer lawns of Lane’ studio are equally machines of some ultimately unliving sort.
It might even be that we are not in Plattsburgh at all but shadows marooned on an asteroid in the neither realms of a lightless space in a cold niche between the stars where everything that can be perceived or even not perceived is necessarily an illusion.

Mozart- That would be cheap tragedy, wouldn’t it, Mister Chan?

Chan- Sometimes trash is better than nothing, Mister Mozart.

Mozart- Call me Fritzie, please.

Chan- Good. Fritzie then. My question to you, Mister Shakespeare, is assuming all those doleful possibilities are true or might be true, are you freed from your identity and inherited character altogether by a pesky fortune or constrained by honor and habit to be whom you seem to be?

Shakespeare- I don’t know, really. Call me Ralph.

Snopes- Look outside. I think the pizza is arriving. I can smell the eggplant.

Chan- Who’s out there, Julius Caesar or the Buddha?

Snopes- Neither. It might be Hammurabi or Genghis Kahn.

Chan- Whatever is or is not beyond this studio, I think we are acting in an honorable way to predicate ourselves from putative enemies even if we don’t know what if anything we might be standing for. We are right to take up armed action. Whatever it is we are, these other begins are marauders who apparently hope to rob us of our riddles in a lightless enigma.

Mozart- Maybe. We could also be resolved in some cosmic way by their success at destroying us.

Michelangelo- Who’s that enormous fat man walking across your lawn, Mister Snopes?

Snopes- Call me Lane. I think that’s the chief delivery boy for the gourmet pizza I ordered. I must say they’re a little late. Do you see a duo of large red and white carburet cartons in his right and left hand?. Those are the two Pizza De Luxes I ordered with the artichoke and the imported marinated onions.

Mozart- I guess we don’t eat this other pizza on the table I brought in. It’s too cold.

Snopes- Wolfgang, nothing is more odious than even tepid pizza.

Mozart- Call me Fritzie.

Michelangelo- Lane, that guy is really fat. What makes you think that’s the real Buddha?

Snopes- Maybe he isn’t. How do I know? Let’s gun him down as he comes forward, Mike. It’s moral enough. We won’t really be killed anyone. He’s just a goddamned machine. Then we can get the pizza from his corpse and eat it. I don’t know about you but I’m hungry.

Shakespeare- We’ll all hungry. After a few slices we might be thirsty too.

Snopes- Don’t worry; these carton contain plastic bottles of organic spacewalking water. They’ve got a slight pineapple flavor. They’ll be plenty to drink once we walk off with the pizza from him.

Shakespeare- You’re quick to gun down religious figures, Lane. You might be some kind of bigot.

Snopes- No, I’m just used to killing fake Buddhas. Some of the Ruby ones are my best friends. Watch this trapezoidal one; I’m taking him down as he comes at us, Bill.

Shakespeare- Call me Ralph.

Snopes- Ralph, watch this trick shot with a triangular bullet.

Michelangelo- One of these days these bastards might do the same to you, Lane; you can’t kill them all.

Snopes- if they get me there’s plenty of replacements for me out there in Plattsburgh, Mike. Maybe they all aren’t robots. I’m somebody you’re going to have to live with like a knee condition or a hernia.
It used to be when kings and priests wanted to keep their countries stable they hired colorful swaggering people to be their enemies. They would threaten their own locals with these wild characters. They would feature them railing to bring down the state that supposedly gave everybody some place on the floor to sleep, a few lentils and a fairly dry place out of the rain.
It was goddamned expensive recrating and maintaining those dastardly enemies, Mike. They were always having a rally or a massacre somewhere, constantly on television, muscling everybody they could, trying to scare people into thinking they were lucky to be alive and far away from them. It was imaginary trouble.
I guess these sons of bitches fooled a lot of people with their various very scary dissents. They were resident political monsters. If you were smart you knew better. Somebody had to pay for their fancy hotels, spring for the massive eclectic bills, put down cash for the imported catered salami, the booze and the fizzy soda pop.
Somebody had to talk to the newspapers and television people to make sure they cavort these bogey men of the moment. Somebody even had to give the women who serviced the entourage and the leaders of these clowns a map of the city that coddle eland them to the hall and the hotel lobby to be look over like pigs at a state fair.

Michelangelo- Who was that somebody, Lane, your grandfather?

Snopes- As matter of fact, one of them was my grandfather: Calvin Snopes, among many other pious officers of whatever organization we have had here in Plattsburgh and elsewhere. I knew Calvin very well only when he was old and senile.
He liked getting the women into the parties they held afterwards. The poor man ended his pimping days running a posh Las Vegas brothel. He taught that was success. Who knows, maybe it was.

Mozart- Maybe it still is.

Snopes- Nobody can afford that kind of show anymore. We’re too much in debt, folks. It’s better to push any kind of amusement pele want, Elvis, Brahms, pig killing, whatever, and make everything and everybody else unreal. That’s my job, Wolfgang. I make things real and unreal. It’s coarse but cheaper.

Mozart- Lane, call me Fritzie or I’ll call you Wolfgang.

Shakespeare- Still you’ve had to be a canny sentinel in your own television studio or you’d be gunned down by robots long ago.

Snopes- Hey, it could be worse. I’m protecting Plattsburgh, you might think; what is Plattsburgh these days? A magic television studio and a city prison. Maybe this dump isn’t even Plattsburgh. I never go out; how would I know? It might be something else. studio. Is this still Plattsburgh, Charlie?

Chan- Possibly. Yet for all I know it may be the very center of the universal lotus.

Snopes- It might be all of that. Does it matter?

Chan- We would have to ask the divine Mahatmas of Heaven to answer that deep and honorable query.

Snopes- You are very polite, Charlie. I admire you civility. I need something else from you now: a brutal candor.

Chan- Do I have such talents, Lane? I have never descended in my tilts toward a very civil discretion to offer anyone any mendacity. I have been a humble if very circumspect detective who hides many satanic surmises hardly of use to you though you seem to have asked me to come to Plattsburgh as more of a Mafia hitman than a sleuth. I am honored by your choice. The world needs a better run of efficient assassins.
Yet though I maunder in an imaginary umbra clothed by silence my temperament is privately very much focused on the secret inner life of a hidden villain adorning the most civil social company. Do you really want my option of the inner nature of this realty we inhabit with some show of violence, Lane?
My speculating might seem lacking in ultimate concern for your tranquility not to mention the artificial peace of mind of your estimable guests.

Snopes- They’re just androids; I don’t have to show them any hospitality. Robots or not, they’re as perplexed as I am. We’re am ready for the truth, Charlie. We might even like it like bitter medicine.

Shakespeare- I know I could take it. The facts are like a woman that doesn’t care whether you love her or not. Like many plain courtesans they often have a kind of honorable character.

Chan- I have never met one; I shall take your wood for it.
Yet I shall respond as well as I can to your estimable query. Consider this, Lane, all of you, if you were looking for yielded control over Plattsburgh or elsewhere among the planets of the cosmos alive with the animate it might be not quite enough for you to make a case for giving up poverty and its dun felicities and intimacies to offer another life without peril or woe manipulating your wizardrous machines, all of which seem to give the populace in volume much entertainment from your fantastical bits of fluff.
They have in their embrace of your aery line of merchandise a better or at least a different life.

Shakespeare- What might they throw in, Charlie, a lifetime supply of booze? Or perfumed soap?

Chan- Who knows? Perhaps nothing. Yet I am a sleuth who cannot wander all that far from my sour opinions of most humanity. If I were promoting your estimable Plattsburgh studio, Lane, I would make all of life these bottom folk had once savored with some understandable disappointment even more insufferable if possible than it might be now.

Snopes- Really.

Chan- I would make the politicians all connivers, thieves and lechers, the lovers all betrayers with a rampant taste for litigation, the food pleasant enough to look at but tasteless and laced with deadly preserving venoms, their very domiciles ready to fall apart with leaky roofs and dissolute plumbing after a few years, the very stairways to heir erotic chambers slippery and dangerous as an ascent to paradise, the children nasty and unappreciative of their parents, the senile and incontinent grandfathers all avid to head off to some sunny refuge to play four dimensional shuffleboard until they expire, the shoes and suits hey buy fashioned from some undefinable plastic.

Mozart- Luckily you are not in this sort of hellish business, Mister Chan.

Chan- True. Not now, anyway. To be more pithy were I such a candidate for covert puppetry I would make all of life subtly even more terrible than it is.

Snopes- It’s a good idea. It’s not for me. I haven’t got the time or taste to corrupt people, even the wicked. Are you thinking of me, Charlie? You must think I’m more active in promoting my studio than I am.

Chan- I don’t suspect you of villainy at all, Lane. You are known, You are all too visible. Whoever might have such a remarkable plan will remain beyond the resources of any starlight or faint probe of a comet in some castle keep where he can corral all the unhappy souls of this world into a honeyed if false mortality. Do you know whom i might be talking about?

Snopes- Charlie, baby, I wish I did. I have no idea who really runs anything in Plattsburgh. I never leave this room all that much.

Chan- I had thought as much, Lane. You are innocent of many vices in your focus on your formidable labors here.
Whomever such a baleful being might be, it is the last ineluctable dragon that never hovers at the gates of a city yet is the most perilous to our most sterling citizens. It is the divine magic of such a wicked haunting that the fiery creature values the virgins of the town, its inhabitants who amble through its architecture promising a leisurely respite from terror.
Once gnostics called this being the unknown god. They had hoped it was sufficiently benign. It’s an immortal speculation of both the toad and the peacock. These urbane dragons aren’t so coarse as to have simple hungers and a fiery breath.

Mozart- Urbane dragons? Where are they?

Chan- Where many of the more formidable dragons sleep. They reside in their imperial perfection in their assorted diamond palaces beyond the further purple mountains of Jupiter’s icy moons. The more hermetic beasts of this kind are well beyond our easy ken, Fritzie.

Shakespeare- Maybe we’ll send them all a telegram.

Snopes- Still they aren’t our dragons. I might ask my Korean manufacturers to make me some very complacent robot dragons.

Chan- Your manufacturers may be adept at making androids as villainous in spirit as humans, Lane.

Lane- Do you think so?

Chan- Perhaps they calculate that a lack of evil in the world might cause more trouble for us than villainy we can live with. I don’t know, Lane. I don’t understand many things.

Shakespeare- At least you don’t find yourself buried in some communal deceit, Charley. Everybody knows you’re Charley Chan. If there might be many Charlie Chans they can all be waft they seem to be more or less. I can’t. I played a doctor on a show that run for three years. Cal. Afterwards everybody in Plattsburgh wanted to have me to do sewerage on them. The wanted head transplants. They dint want real doctors. They didn’t trust them. They thought they were thieves and swine. They believed in me. They saw me operate.
I had to say no to them all politely, if passible, sometimes not as civilly as some can turn people down who are desperate. Transplant surgery? I couldn’t cut my own toenails, Charley. I’m not a surgeon.

Chan- That is a sad story. Whether or not yore Shakespeare you have suffered more than Shakespeare. Beyond that you might have a dishonorable future in Plattsburgh of being such a general disappointment.

Mozart- Charlie, we all have those prospects. We are doomed to fail everybody , even ourselves, I’m sure you have achillea horrifc auguries for this Plattsburgh studio.

Chan- I am a humble student of history. Once the Shung Dynasty had a hunger to do nothing taught to its people to control them. They ran out of rice in three months; the government collapsed. Even the dogs starved. The emperor and his family left China is haste and opened a curio shop in London. He specialized in Mongolian jade.

Mozart- What or who followed the Shungs? I don’t know Chinese history.

Chan- The Tiangs. Since they were ruling over a hundred million people who couldn’t function at all they had to be grudging disciples of the nuanced art of doing nothing. The virtue had become a sacred duty even for a beggar. They perished in an invasion of Kublai Khan. Their executions were elaborate, not swift.

Snopes- Maybe I should open up a hot dog stand. It’ll be waiting for me with mustard and sauerkraut when I get pushed out of here.
Chan- One day the Mahatmas may call you to be judged in their celestial courts for running the mere mechanics of all this tawdry illusion, Lane. They may not appreciate your life in Plattsburgh much. Yet you are not the ultimate dragon.

Snopes- Really? Baby, let the damned Mahatmas lack that ultimate critical wisdom. Look, Charlie, I’m as much of a patriot and believer in freedom as anybody. I’m no banana autocrat; even a chintzy third rate deity is some kind of phony. What if freedom to most people we merchandise our stuff to buys into a chance to sit in a dry place, munch on tacos and watch concoctions of endless vulgar fantasy? They depend on me. They don’t want their lives. I am a much too charitable patron very busy in the service of all those hungry and very unappreciated people.

Michelangelo- Your dragon metaphysics might be too deep for me, Charlie. Don’t you think the American government if it exists at all is very happy with your efforts in Plattsburg, Lane?

Snopes- Maybe they are. Who knows, maybe they aren’t? I found the hungry; I made them overweight. I listened to the woes of horny ugly creeps; I gave them enough sex to kill them. They were sacred of rats and mice; I gave them a fortress.
They say I give them fiction and took away their reality. I never produced any fiction at all, Fiction would be a world in which people had five legs, ate stones or were more imbecilicly consistent on their stupidity tan they are, or acted in some absurd random way. I give them alterative banal realities. I admire people who are willing to give up their existence and take up another one. They are patriots. My Plattsburgh operation might be the American emigration experience all over again, Mike.
Wouldn’t we all like to be about thirty years old, shooing aliens and monsters with a hand gun and afterward settling into bed with some androgynous lover who’s taken out a bunch of livid horrors herself on the way to the marathon rendezvous with a stallion in the sack? You bet we would. Once the old time Americans got a bit of pizza in their guts and a chair to
watch ice hokey they were satisfied if not happy. That’s when America lost its vision. We didn’t know what the hell else to do.
I know what to do with life, Mike. Beyond that I’m an apostle of liberty. The last chain on us all is our life; I bring back the voyage across oceans and stars to America. I’m a champion of freedom for everybody. I give some very mediocre people a reason to be decisive and brave. I am a Plattsburgh master of the lightless wilderness.
Like George Washington I am founding a new country, Mike. I am crossing the astral Delaware. I am ready for the other side. I might still call it America. You know, I might not. Some gods and people do better without a name. The best gods always stay out of the way and let Creation happen. So do I. I say: this is all good.
Maybe Charlie’s masters of Heaven think I’m a bum. What do I care?
Baby, somebody is going to do what I do in Plattsburgh. Don’t you think I have better things to do than kill Emerald Buddhas? I am living on the edge like this because in spite of myself I love other people, even creeps and low lives. I can’t get enough of fatigued, bored and scruffy humanity. Hey, Mike. I’m a humanist. Do the Mahatmas of Heaven wonder what I think of them? I’ll bet they never do.
Mike, baby, I don’t care a hellova lot about them either.

(Snopes shoots through the window.) He’s still moving. Let’s all of us take a shot at him ) He pumps bullets through the window.) He’s still moving, the son of a bitch.

Michelangelo- He might be a new model. Thanks to Japan, androids are always getting better.

Snopes- Let’s go out there and strangle him. Sumptuous you need to throttle the better new androids; the new Diamond Buddhas don’t react much to a volley of bullets, even a small bomb. Charlie, you stay here and guard the fortress; we’re going to get that goddamned pizza.

(Exit Snopes, Mozart, Shakespeare and Michelangelo, firing volleys of bullets. Chan looks at them silently as hey make it through the door then he pulls out a cell phone and presses a few buttons thoughtfully.)

Chan- Hello?…Li Fan, my esteemed and honorable wife?….what are we doing here in Plattsburgh? Well, right now we are killing the Buddha…No, not the Emerald Buddha, the Diamond Buddha. There are no Emerald Buddhas left in Plattsburgh. They were all poisons by contaminated seafood…We’re going to eat gourmet pizza and drink some kind of slightly venomous frothy beverage and enjoy an American dinar..,
The weather is very good in Plattsburgh; it’s always raining or snowing heavily. It keeps the populace at home and stable as they can ever be…Of course I dialed our private number; I certainly don’t want to talk to the robots we bought that sometimes aimed your appearance however inadequately in the half dishonorable phenomenal world.
Whether one is a detective or not, the hunger for truth is lodged not only in my soul as a humble itinerant sleuth but in the spirit of mankind and its scurvy machine emanations like the grace and beauty at the maw of the silver bamboo tree…I have very much enjoyed Plattsburgh social life though I have solved nothing and enlightened no one, not even myself with any overt bolus of wisdom that may be possible in this very intriguing city.
One day I may wander out on the lawn myself and amble beyond to discover whatever sagacious nuggets of covert and meaningful phenomena I may ferret out of the dark architecture of this mysterious and ducky metropolis. …,How are the children.. the real children…really…of course we can replace them.
How is the dog?…Incontinent and malicious as usual?…he bit you?…Luckily he can be dispatched if we choose. Android curs should never be as difficult to honor us as real canines.
Well, enough. I have to hang up, my love…I see some baleful figures marching access this Plattsburgh lawn all too near me.
Yes, it may be a crepuscular legion of new Japanese machines or merely a passing battalion of very real dragons.
By the way, my regards to your pet iguana…He died? ..that is lamentable…luckily we have a remedy for death…you will be very happy with these new lines of iguanas…It will seem to be as delighted with you.

(Chan turns off his cell phone, absently picks up a gun and fires a blast of bullets through the window. Then he goes to he door, shoots another fusillade and exits, firing his weapons.)
One hears more gunfire. After a moment Mozart, Shakespeare and Michelangelo enter from the window.)

Mozart- Do you see anybody here?

Michelangelo- Not a soul. They must be elsewhere, maybe in the cellars.

Shakespeare- Let’s knack them off down there then. I know the trap door. It’s behind that drapery.

Michelangelo- How do you know that. Have you been here before?

Shakespeare- Maybe. I can’t remember. I guess I must have. How would I know otherwise?

Mozart- It could be the false programming. The Japanese and Koreans have their enemies. They can do some perverse things to their products.

Shakespeare- It doesn’t matter, really. Either there is or is not a trap door behind those draperies. Either Snopes and his friends are or are not hiding or playing stud poker in the cellars.

Michelangelo- What if don’t find them in the cellars either? What do we do then? Do we run the studio?

Shakespeare- We go to the subcellars.

Mozart- What are these scripts here on the table? The Trials of Jesus. Looks like stuff for the religious channel.

Shakespeare- Snopes has quite an audience for his spiritual epics.

Michelangelo- Let me see. (He pics up a script.) I glues he’ll want us for this one. We’re some of his favorite actors for spiritual theatre. Let’s try it out. As far as I can tell it’s a three character scene. I’ll be Jesus, Mike, you be Herod the judge, Freest, you’ll be Lucas the prosector.

Mozart- Okay. When Snopes shoots it I want to be Jesus.

Shakespeare- We all want to be Jesus sometime. You might be better off being the prosecutor. They stay out of jail.

Michelangelo- This is just a rehearsal. It doesn’t matter really who’s Jesus.

Shakespeare- Yeah, as usual it’s just ap lay. It never masters who’s who in fiction, I guess; it’s all vented stuff. Nothing’s for real in any of these damned shows, mike.

Mozart- Okay. For now I’m not Jesus. Let’s read. (Reads) Jesus of Nazareth, the charges against you are creating loaves of bread and fish on of a single carp and a click of toast, You also turned water into wine and premised everybody a resurrection.

Michelangelo- (Reading) I did all of that and much more. I dolt think any of these miracles were crimes.

Shakespeare- You’re clearly some kind of innocent, not a businessman, my freed. With all that fish you put three whole fish markets out of work. With the bread loaves you closed down five bakers in ton. They all have kids. They dolt know what to do for a living. With that wine bit you bankrupted thirteen taverns owners and vintners. Everybody’s expecting y to open up an alehouse.

Michelangelo- I can appreciate that. I never want to hurt anybody. I’ll stop doing it.

Shakespeare- Good. Case dismissed.

Shakespeare- Of course if they were lousy fish and tasteless bred we could all get profitably in the high end of the market. Gold fish and honeyed bread. We could all live together with that as long as you stick to stale fish and bread that’s tasteless.

Michelangelo- I’m not interested in making lousy fish or inedible bread if it’s bum merchandise. Why dolt I take the high end and you take the popular market? You’ve got a genius for turning out garbage.

Shakespeare- We could live with that too very we. We can make more profit on sheer volume.

Shakespeare- I said, case dismissed.

Mozart- We’re interested in this resurrection you’ve been promising people. Every time anybody dies around ere we lose a customer. Could you resurrect everybody and keep them resurrected?

Michelangelo- I don’t know. I never thought about it. Maybe I could.

Shakespeare- Goddamn it, get out of my chambers. Case dismissed, do you hear me? The trial is over. Next.

Mozart- By the way can you make wine into water? Debs it have to be cheap wine?

Michelangelo- Maybe; I never tried. I guess I could do it. Nobody ever asked me.

Shakespeare- Out!.

Mozart- All right, we’re going.

Shakespeare- Thank God they’re gone. What a bunch of idiots. It’s hard to be a judge here these days; everybody on both sides of every case is insane.
Frankly, if I were in the fish business I would never want a whole lot of fish out there picked up for free. Still there might be some room for me to start a business in the middle Marek. A lot of people want an affordable fish that’s not completely tasteless or rotten but not expensive either. They feel the same way about bread and wine. Everybody takes pride in their economy and measure. I dolt know weather I’m for resurrection trough.
I suppose its good for cheap housing. They can’t be too cheap. Of course people who live after death have to live somewhere. Maybe I ought to go into real estate. They don’t want to live in a hovel. Nobody does. They don’t quite need a palace either. They might like something rustic but comfortable near the shore. They might get able to go fishing and get fish themselves without looking for a some kind of miracle.
I don’t really know how I feel abut resurrection. I might run into some people I thought I’ve gotten rid of. What the hell happened to the litigants for the next case I’m saps to hear? Maybe the bums settled out of court. It was something about walking on tepid water. WATS’ the big deal about walking a little on water? I say: let them walk. Let them all walk. (He looks up from the script.> I don’t think this is much of a spiritual play.

Michelangelo- What’s the difference? It’s all fiction. Nobody’s really murdered in murder mysteries. Nobody did it. Snopes’ spiritual plays don’t have to be spiritual.

Mozart- Does Snopes write his own plays?

Michelangelo- These pieces of crap are turned out by computers.

Shakespeare- It sounds like computer writing. No hope, no passion.

Michelangelo- Forget it; its just machine Art. Lets look for Snopes in the sub-cellars. I’ll bet he’s hiding from us there.

Shakespeare- we might find him but it might not be Snopes.

Mozart- I don’t want to think about that. It might make me crazy.

(Exit Mozart, Shakespeare and Michelangelo. Enter Charley Chan. He hears his cell phone ring; he listens to it intently.)

Chan- Number One son?…No, I don’t think you would be wise to come to Plattsburgh. I need none of your very honorable aid on this case, I think. Besides, I must always look out for you. Y are young. You might be confused and even disgusted by its complexity and unending tiers of rife illusion here.
What is it like in Plattsburgh? Well, it reminds me at times of the legend of Lu Pao, he who wandered into the maw of the cadaver of an enormous dragon that had expired outside the gates of imperial Beijing during the Shung Dynasty.
The hoary legend has it that when this beast perished many sages and warriors like Lu Pao had entered into its nether intestines to plumb whatever wisdom they would mine from the colorful innards of the monster, yet they stayed there, feasting on its intestines and liver. After a while they fell into a stupor and slept in a comedically belching carnal torpor, digesting the divine blue meat.
When they woke they again consumed more of its aquamarine-colored tripe and fell asleep, dozing in a corner of this magical jejunum. They did this for days, then months and years in a friendly celestial banquet that never ended. Luckily the were well fortified with rice wine.
After a millennium they though they were philosophers they were changed physically from the gourmet revel. They had lost the power to find any other food for themselves. None of them could read the many-threaded map on a small slab of jade that might have led them out of the dead dragon.
Then others from the Shung Dynasty nearby came into the lightless chamber of the foully dead dragon to consume them including Lu Pao as if they were one more morsel of the sacred organ meat of the expired monster.
It occurred to Lu Pao that some predators do more injury to theirs humble prey after they perish than their antic and noisy days before they loose their lie.
Number one Son, you would do well to avoid all dragons, ever if they are corpses. How is the weather in Honolulu? Is it filled with the faint perfume of coconuts?…No, I am not myself in the guts of any such creature.
In any case the dragon as you know is often an illusion, a loud and colorful horror that is all ether and air. Lack one cal’ be tapped in the middle of nothing, can one?…Or can one?…I really don’t know either.
I can say like the faint and ghostly voice bleating at the heart of the lotus; I am beloved by the sun and the moon. Though a worm, I am honored by Heaven. That is enough for me. Who knows, my son. It may be enough for you.

(Enter Snopes.(Chan closes his cell phone.)

Snopes- Charlie. I thought I;d find you here. Have a talk with the family?

Chan- I exchanged some humble banter with my number one son, he needs a father’ counsel in a life that in many ways to me is close to inexplicable. He is an American in a way I never will be.

Snopes- that might be good or bad. Being an American has its annoying side, Charlie.

Chan- I have been spared many things by the very whimsical princes of the celestial heaven. Being utterly American is one of them.

Snopes- You aren’t so different from me, Charlie. My grandfather came herewith nothing and spoke with an accent. He came from some dump of a hopeless place, it doesn’t matter where because he was fed up one day with living under a prince and being treated there like cattle. That’s why they keep on coming, Charlie.

Chan- Like a mournful parade.

Snopes- Most of the world are slaves no matter what you call them. If they’re smart their rebels, exiles, criminals and hard to find in the greenery. One day they com here because they think they can do better. Didn’t your father have that hope for you?

Chan- My honorable sire made sure that I never labored in a laundry or as a cook. He was good to his family. He loved all of us. Unfortunately many White people in Hawaii were offended by his rank ambitions. They wanted either a slave or Fu Mancho. They got him. He made many people uncomfortable.

Snopes- My grandfather had the same experience. My father was neither an insect nor entirely socially acceptable beyond perhaps a few understanding folks. It gave him a mild but constant headache.

Chan- The oracles of heaven speak in languages even the Shung Dynasty had forgotten. We hear them as a kind of resonant gibberish. It can resonate in the soul who cannot read the voices of the dead nor value their counsel as a mild migraine.

Snopes- I’ve felt that ordinary stab of pain in my skull myself.

Chan- My father told me that most life on this earth spends nearly all its time hungry, desperate and foraging in strange places to find any provender at all to sustain their perhaps absurd existence.
Once we leave that state of alert activity either from death or becoming wealthy and free we are baffled by what to do with our lives unless we have some strong passion to play the violincello.

Snopes- It’s difficult to play well. I think it’s probably preferable not to play the cello very privately or not at all.

Chan- That is why my sire advised me well to become a detective. I am sufficiently distracted from my own paltry dilemmas by the desperations of others. I have traveled the Earth searching for these lupine quandaries in the indifferent world of strangers.

Snopes- Perhaps your number one son will work one day at a job like my own. It could happen, Charlie. Somebody has to fill the spirits of people who have left being poor and finding a dry place out of the rain in the shadows with distractions worthy of them.
We were okay until we all got rich and a little obese, charlie. We said goodbye to a lot of people and things and took refuge somewhere far enough away from the past to think we had made a successful escape. Maybe we had done all of that and more.

Chan- So you give these miserable but affluent folk who are wretched in their successes their amusements and distractions.
The history of America, of the West and its free republics is a tale of such wondrous escapes from an odorous cattle barn. Yet none of these effective flights has makes them even mildly happy. They might at most be momentarily sated. If anything it lards their mischievous infelicities with a viscid coating of candied sugar.

Snopes- I’ve sure been working in that business. I’d tried to give them enough life or death vaudevilles to deflect them from their hunger for a dead life they don’t want. Maybe your son will do a better job of it than I have.

Chan- Do you think so? I say he is much too imaginative to waft out common banalities. Perhaps he will play the violincello.

Snopes- I wish I had done something else. You’ve done well to be a detective.

Chan- What was my choice? I am the consummate outsider. I am valued because as a kind of artificial monster I can easily think the unthinkable. It is not an activity most people find to their interest. They can’t stand the constant fear and dread.

Snopes- Well, I am selling that opiate comfort in a lot of volume. I didn’t mean to suggest you were more delighted with your life than you are, Charlie.

Chan- As lives go I must say I am content. I accept a low standard. Of course we eccentric sleuths have our funks and terrors like everyone else. We live on evil, secrecy and violence. We dread the day when all people will be happy.

(Exit Snopes and Chan.)

The End