MONEY MEANS EVERYTHING

Eric Ferguson 1997
5732 Bossen Terr.#2
Minneapolis, MN 55417
voice/fax: (612)726-6364
eric@celticfringe.net
http://www.celticfringe.net


CHARACTERS
Mr. Ripple
Mr. Slogothy

(The scene is the U.S. Mint. Mr. RIPPLE is using a magnifying glass to compare the plate for the new $100 bill with a fresh copy. He is a short, squirrelish man in appearance, but considerably less chatty than Mr. SLOGOTHY. By contrast, Mr. SLOGOTHY is larger and louder if not downright blustery, though RIPPLE pays him scant attention.)

RIPPLE
Though almost indistinguishable to the naked eye, the 14 lines in this spot are quite apparent at closer examination, Mr. Slogothy.

(RIPPLE hands the bill to SLOGOTHY and picks up another to examine.)

SLOGOTHY
15 lines, Mr. Ripple.

RIPPLE
14 lines, Mr. Slogothy.

SLOGOTHY
It's ugly money, Mr. Ripple, which is the problem with all American currency, even this new $100 Federal Reserve note, with it's new design and altered coloration, yet still an improvement over the old hundred, or the five, or the twenty, or the one. Other countries have much more colorful money Mr. Ripple, a mixture of colors on one bill, varying design, large enough sizes that you feel you're holding something substantial, something of substance, something with meat to it, not this vegetarian money of ours. Have you ever examined a piece of foreign currency, Mr. Ripple?

RIPPLE
I have, Mr. Slogothy. See, I even happen to have this British note with me.

(RIPPLE hands the note to SLOGOTHY.)

SLOGOTHY
Now this is money, this is a note, this is craftsmanship to make a man ashamed to use plastic, this is something designed by people who must have cared deeply how their work would look hauled out of a wallet, held momentarily in the hand, and forthrightly handed to a cashier with a manner that both parties know means, "this, now this is truly a transaction". Do you know what that is worth, Mr. Ripple?

RIPPLE
A British pound is worth $2.02, and over the past month has fluctuated between $1.93 and $2.06.

SLOGOTHY
Which means a dollar is worth a measly half a pound! It is worth so little because it is so plain a thing. Look at them together, the dollar can use the pound for camouflage, it disappears so completely.

RIPPLE
Here's an Italian Lira.

SLOGOTHY
A thing of little value in an economic sense, yet look at how again we Americans are bested. Even the large number of zeros these Lira notes require to have substantial worth gives them a thick quality. I think this is what stones would look like if they were money. Perhaps we should just trade rocks instead of paper, then we could use gravel for parking meters and boulders for executive bonuses, and stone masons would be forever safe from layoffs. Looters would ignore the televisions and fur coats, and strip buildings of their granite facades. I tell you sir, the road to Hell is paved with crushed rock.

RIPPLE
I never had much interest in geology, Mr. Slogothy.

SLOGOTHY
Then you shouldn't have brought it up, Mr. Ripple.

RIPPLE
14 lines here also, Mr. Slogothy.

(RIPPLE hands the bill to SLOGOTHY, who declines to study it.)

SLOGOTHY
15 lines, Mr. Ripple.

RIPPLE
Here's a Japanese Yen.

SLOGOTHY
It's as plain as the nose on the face of this man who is unknown to me that even the far East appreciates my point. A cornocopaic currency from a digitized, computerized, technophilic economy which yet sees it's paper as something valuable. It is something simple you see, not merely abstract numbers on a spreadsheet's abstract, the substantiation of ones and zeros transmitted through the processors, RAMs, and floppy drives of myriad financial networks. Show me the ones and zeros if you can, if anyone can, even the people who make it work. Years of study it takes to understand the new technology, yet a mere moment's tactilism explains this simple note to me in all its finite detail. Imagine that I proclaim to you my great wealth, or paucity thereof, based upon the electronic form, which you must take at my word which my be as accurate as the average CIA intelligence report, yet I can bring forth my billfold and prove that I have precisely $32, American. That is undeniably a superior means of conveying to you or anyone else any amount of $32 or less. Certainly for the bigger transactions, sheer practical necessity requires the use of electronics, or else we imitate Hollywood with its beloved and dramatic suitcase of cash, an approach fraught with risk of loss and theft, and requiring insurance and guards, or at least uncomfortable vigilance with a wallet stuffed more full than is safe picnicing with a pair of pickpockets. These cybernetic currency shifts have cheapened this one aspect of life, even as they have cheapened it.

RIPPLE
You just changed sides in your argument, Mr. Slogothy.

SLOGOTHY
Believing contradictory things is the sign of an open mind Mr. Ripple. The contradiction in this case is that everything that is simplified is simultaneously made more complex. Is it not simpler to cook in a microwave oven than over a fire, Mr. Ripple? Yet which would you rather explain the workings of if you were speaking to someone who could catch you in a lie? The production and use of manure is readily apparent by comparison to chemical fertilizers, yet I know which I would rather go collecting. I may avoid some of that if I planted the right seeds, should I go farming or gardening, or truck gardening, or hobby farming, and now gene splicing is being used to developed seeds that have the unique trait of resisting certain brands of pesticides and herbicides, allowing enormous quantities to be dumped all over my food, and by happy coincidence these seeds are being developed by the same people who make the herbicides and pesticides. We must pray it all goes for export. Did you hear me, Mr. Ripple?

RIPPLE
Do you mean the part about the microwave ovens, or the part about exporting gene-spliced food?

SLOGOTHY
Either.

RIPPLE
My apologies Mr. Slogothy, I did not. Is it worth repeating?

SLOGOTHY
Do not ask questions when you know the answer in advance, Mr. Ripple. I have told you before how few things are worth repeating. I make a habit of not repeating myself, regardless of how much has been misunderstood or not heard at all. I would hold to this principle were I an air traffic controller or a heart patient calling 911. If I were the one who first stated half the utterances of "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations", and those utterances had been greeted with a sincere "sorry, I couldn't quite hear you," I would still not repeat myself despite the certain knowledge those utterances would be lost forever and "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations" would be a sorely lacking tome indeed.

(RIPPLE is still examining new bills.)

RIPPLE
14 lines in this corner too, Mr. Slogothy.

(SLOGOTHY again declines to look at the bill.)

15 lines, Mr. Ripple.

RIPPLE
This is a Swiss 20 Franc note.

SLOGOTHY
With a picture of some deceased chancellor or president or whatever it is they have over there. It is a good republican virtue of theirs and ours to require a leader to be dead a decent amount of time before his face goes on currency. None of this sticking live kings and queens on there like they're somebody important enough to be dead. It's a simple yet effective way of demonstrating the republican virtue this country trumpeted loudly when kings ruled the world. There are times when I long for those days when republicanism had real, potent monarchies in opposition to it, and its concepts were yet new to the masses of underlings of princes and potentates. Now if one rails against monarchs, the broad masses think you're going on about he latest rumors regarding Charles and Di, the royal family we booted out over two hundred years ago, and which the gossip mongers keep bringing back to us in a mass-media form as oppressive as the unrepresentative parliament of George III.

RIPPLE
14 lines on this one too, Mr. Slogothy.

SLOGOTHY
15 lines, Mr. Ripple. Yet this Swiss money defies the principle I expounded thus far, and carries it to an extreme of unintended consequences. Look at this little holographic do-dad. A colorful thing surely, and hard to counterfeit, wouldn't you say, Mr. Ripple.

RIPPLE
Difficult counterfeiting is a laudable thing in currency Mr. Slogothy.

SLOGOTHY
Yet it's a toy, a child's entertainment device, something found more with Barney and TV action figures beneath a shelf of Barbies than delivered through a metallic cannister at a bank drive-through with a cold wind blowing in through the open window. The purpose then is to put the money in a wallet, roll-up the window and get on to the grocery store, not look at all the pretty pictures. I predict there will be little Swiss Misses and Alpine Alices going to their fathers and asking for 20 Francs, and when father asks how the child intends to spend the money, the child will wear a quizzical look and ask "Spend?"

RIPPLE
You have a unique way of putting things, Mr. Slogothy.

SLOGOTHY
Language has been too homogenized, Mr. Ripple. It is bland, colorless, the mass production of verbiage that sounds all alike. It is language born of academia and nurtured in bureaucracy with a long apprenticeship in saying nothing.

RIPPLE
Do you have an opinion on everything, Mr. Slogothy?

SLOGOTHY
A man must have an opinion on everything Mr. Ripple, whether he cares or not. All opinions must be ventured, no matter how ill-informed, inarticulately expressed, or shallowly held. Only in this way can these opinions be cut to pieces like so much fish bait and reformed in an organized manner that may catch a bass. Baiting your fellow man is the greatest favor you can do him, and a true sign of brotherly love.

RIPPLE
Contentious confrontation is a sign of brotherly love, Mr. Slogothy?

SLOGOTHY
Continuous contentious confrontation constitutes the philosophical equivalent of push-ups and leg lifts. It is a strengthening and toning of the mental faculties, a neuronical provocation of desirable ends, Mr. Ripple.

RIPPLE
A provocation indeed Mr. Slogothy, as I feel provoked to state my opinion that continuous contentious confrontation constitutes cacophony, a spill of alliteration along a catastrophic continuum.

SLOGOTHY
What?! Continuous contentious confrontation constitutes a cacophonous catastrophic continuum? That is a blunt statement, Mr. Ripple.

RIPPLE
Indeed.

(They resume examining notes.)

RIPPLE
14 lines in this corner too, Mr. Slogothy. The new notes meet specifications exactly.

SLOGOTHY
15 lines, Mr.Ripple.

RIPPLE
14, Mr. Slogothy.

SLOGOTHY
I drew up these specifications myself, Mr. Ripple.

RIPPLE
I am due for my lunch, Mr. Slogothy.

(Ripple starts to exit.)

SLOGOTHY
There are 15 lines on that plate, Mr. Ripple.

RIPPLE
I do not care to dispute with you any further, Mr. Slogothy.

(SLOGOTHY picks up the magnifying glass and starts counting the lines aggressively and with a clear expectation of stopping at 15. RIPPLE stops at the edge of the stage and turns his head to observe him.)

SLOGOTHY
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14...

(SLOGOTHY stops and looks at RIPPLE, who turns and exits. SLOGOTHY turns back to the plate, then looks to be sure RIPPLE has left. Then he scratches a mark on the plate.)

SLOGOTHY
15. (end of play)

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