I vaguely remember getting the idea and mulling it until the ending came to me. I wrote it up. Presented (I believe) to a workshop I was part of at the time. I think that's what brought the idea up, sitting in a workshop seeing people present their stage plays and all I ever brought in was my little comedy skits, so this was me trying to be a mature writer...kind of. Anyway, I had not business sending it to PHC. I didn't even try to set it up as a typical PHC bit. I can't say I was surprised when I checked the website that Monday to discover it failed to make the cut....
Milton vs. the System
(Door opens. Happy whistling.)
MT: Hello? Honey, you home? Kids? Anyone? Looks like I'm on my own for dinner. Let's see what's microwavable.
(Ding is heard. Whistling.)
SY: (softly) Milton.
SY: (little louder) Milton.
MT: Honey, is that you? You back from the courts already?
SY: (echo) Milton.
MT: Who's there?
SY: Are you happy?
MT: Hello? Who is that?
SY: Me. Are you happy?
MT: Am I what? Happy? Who's there?
SY: Just answer the question, Milt.
MT: Who is this? Am I on a reality TV show?
ST: No, this isn't a reality TV show. Stop asking so many questions and just answer mine. Are you happy?
MT: Harry, you crazy nut, come out of that closet.
ST: For Pete's sake, it's not Harry.
MT: Maybe the house is built over an old cemetery.
ST: Focus up, Milton. Answer the question.
MT: What was the question?
ST: Are you happy?
MT: Yeah, I'm happy. What of it?
ST: What's your rating?
MT: My what?
ST: Your rating. Your standing. Income bracket. What class are you?
MT: I'm doing okay.
ST: Come on, come on. I don't need your opinion. Where does the government rate you?
MT: Middle class. Are you CIA?
ST: No. Where in the middle class?
MT: Middle class. You know, in the middle.
ST: No one is middle class. Are you upper middle class?
MT: Not exactly---
ST: Middle middle class?
MT: We've got money in the bank---
ST: You're lower middle class, aren't you?
MT: So what? Who cares?
ST: I do.
MT: Are you God?
ST: Does God care what you earn? Of course I'm not God. You didn't think I was God, did you?
MT: A little bit, with that disembodied voice thing. Wait, if you're not God, who are you?
ST: The system.
ST: Not who. What. I'm the system.
MT: You're the system. The system-system?
ST: None other.
MT: I know a lot of people who want to get their hands on you.
ST: They can't. I'm not tangible.
MT: But you're here. You're talking.
ST: Yeah, I know. Weird, isn't it?
MT: You don't mind if I become bewildered for a moment, do you?
ST: No, go right ahead.
MT: So. The system. You're not exactly what I had in mind.
ST: Why? What were you expecting?
MT: I don't know. If anyone had ever asked me to draw a picture of the system, it would be something like an Erector set, I guess. Not that anyone's ever asked, but if they had.
ST: I get that a lot. Are you all right? You look a little pale.
MT: That's okay, all the blood usually rushes to my feet when I'm bewildered. The system. Wow. What do you want with me? I mean, you sure you're the system, and not, say, Death in disguise?
ST: What is this, a Ingmar Bergman film? Geez, I'm the system. Is that so hard to believe?
MT: As a matter of fact---
ST: Why don't you get a drink or something?
MT: Yeah, maybe I will.
(liquid pours, spoon in glass stirring)
ST: You know I don't do this a lot but I felt yours was a special case. Reports just keep seeping back to me, so I thought it best to come a see what's going on. We need to have a man-to-system talk.
MT: This drink is helping.
MT: Bosco. I like mine nice and chocolate-y. You have to stir it real good---
ST: This is it exactly. You stand there and get a major rush from a glass of chocolate milk. You honestly enjoy that. You're really content.
MT: I guess.
ST: You're happy. What's this nonsense all about? Don't your realize you're lower middle class?
MT: I never made an issue of it. what do I care what class they say I am? I'm doing all right.
ST: You're barely scraping an existence in this cold cruel world.
MT: We get by. You know, I remember my folks talking about what it was like during the Depression. Talk about tough---
ST: I'm really not into nostalgia, Milt. What I am going to do is try to straighten you out. Now, this job of yours--
MT: Good, honest work. It's interesting.
ST: Reality check, guy. You're an assistance manager at K-Mart.
MT: It's one of those jobs where you get to deal with people. That can be pretty interesting.
ST: Don't tell me you're a people person. Look, I'm dealing in facts; concrete, viable, bounce off your skull data. Your job does a one and a half gainer into Lake Boredom.
MT: The job's not my life, you know.
ST: Run that by me again.
MT: I have a life outside that job. Friends, family, hobbies.
ST: I'm not hearing this.
MT: Want I should talk louder?
ST: No, I want you should stop talking like a dip. Family, friends, hobbies. That don't pay the bulldog my friend.
MT: Is that even an expression?
ST: You can't live on your take-home pay. You can't support a family.
MT: But I do. I have a wife and two kids. They're doing fine, thank you.
ST: Wait a second, I have a chart here...yes...at your income, you're only supposed to have 1.3 children.
MT: I admit, Johnny is a little short for his age, but he's still in his wonder years.
ST: That's what the chart says.
MT: How can I possibly have 1.3 kids?
ST: Hey, I'm the system, I give you the guidelines and you follow them.
MT: It seems rather inane to me.
ST: That's the problem, your heart's not in this at all. So, where's your wife?
MT: She's playing tennis with the girls.
ST: Are you insane? You can't afford that! Housing costs are up 37%! Food is up 25%! Fuel is up 103%. She shouldn't be playing tennis, she should be out looking for a job!
MT: She only plays a couple of times a month at the public courts. Look, we made a decision that once we had children that she would stay home with them. Sure we had to make some sacrifices, but I think the kids are the better for it. We're happy.
ST: I don't believe you! Again with the happy! You people can't be happy! You're not living the way I tell you!
MT: What? What do you mean I'm not living the way you tell me? The system was created by man to serve him, not for him to serve you!
ST: I know. Ironic, isn't it?
MT: Get out of my house now! Look, I never bucked the system before. In fact, I always did my best to remain commonplace. I've always been happy at it and you're not going to come in here and tell me I can't be happy. Now get out.
ST: Hey, look, man, I'm sorry. It's just that I can't leave you in this state of mind. You're living in a fool's paradise. You're miserable and you don't even know it.
MT: Then I don't want to know it.
ST: You don't realize what you're dealing with. I'm the system, the man, red tape, them, the establishment, the bureaucracy, the powers that be...I am everything. I am you.
MT: You're not me. I'm me. You can't get me either. I'll fight you.
ST: You can't fight the system.
MT: Yeah, well, I've heard that. I'll do it anyway.
ST: I'm intangible. You can't harm me. Nothing you can do or say will affect me.
MT: Fight intangibles with intangibles. For everything you are there's something you're not.
ST: (muttering) The kid's brighter than I thought.
MT: Individualism. Love.
ST: Now cut that out.
MT: Charity, peace, goodwill towards man.
ST: Ow. Stop, please.
MT: This is it! It's all over, here comes the big one.
ST: No! Don't!
MT: Maybe the system is not as invincible as you think. Maybe if I can get some simple enjoyment from life, I can. Maybe a sunset does stand for something. Or a pretty flower. Or a running brook. Yes, and if I want to enjoy this glass of extra-chocolately Bosco, you can't stop me...Hello? System? You there? Sys? Whoa. I beat the system. Way to go, Milt. A special occasion like this calls for a corndog.