Enlightenment 

CAST

Old McGann (MCGANN): A smart old cockroach who has learned all the survival techniques passed down over the last 300 million years by the wiser roaches.  Given its age, it’s a long list.  One that can’t be read in a single sitting, or in many, many sittings.  Because of this, McGann is working on a kind of Cliffs Notes version in order to condense it, boiling everything down to a greatest hits list of survival advice.

Icarus (ICKY): McGann’s one-day-old son.

SETTING

A kitchen in Anywhere, Honolulu.  Underneath a dishwasher.

TIME

Right now, while you’re reading or watching this.  Real, real time.  Maybe this scene is actually going on in your own kitchen — like when you find out the murderer is calling you from inside your own house — as we speak.  Unless you don’t have a dishwasher.

MCGANN

Icky, you have reached the age, after your birth last night, where it is time for me to teach you everything you need to know in order to survive in this world.

ICKY

Gee, thanks, Dad.  You’re the best.

MCGANN

Don’t mention it, Son, you are too kind.  Really, it’s what a father or mother who cares must do for a child.  And if you were a girl, I’d give you the same instruction.

ICKY

But I’m not, right, Dad?

MCGANN

(looks askance at Icky)

A girl? No, you’re a boy.

ICKY

No, I meant a child, Dad, sorry.  My apologies for the confusion.

MCGANN

My, you are very polite, Icky.  And no, we roaches grow up fast.  You left childhood behind around noon.  As to your instruction, we roaches have compiled a list over the past 300 million years of things you must know in order to survive.

ICKY

Is it a long list, Dad?

MCGANN

(looks askance at Icky, clears throat)

Yes, Icky, over a period of three hundred million years, the list of dos and don’ts has grown to a considerable length.  The last time I counted, there were some seven hundred thousand items, give or take.

ICKY

That’s a lot, huh Dad?

MCGANN

(looks askance at Icky, shakes head)

Well it’s certainly not a little, Son.

ICKY

Can you tell them to me fast.  I’m meeting my friends over at the dog food bowl.

MCGANN

(rolls eyeballs)

Fortunately for you, Icky, I have spent the last few years editing the list down to just the very most important survival rules.

ICKY

That’s great, Dad, is this going to take long?

MCGANN

(exasperated)

Son, as I say, this is a short list, so hang in there for a few minutes.  Now, first on the list is to fear light.

ICKY

You mean like daylight?  Like the sun?

MCGANN

(nodding approvingly)

Yes, that’s right.  Like daylight, like the sun.

ICKY

(impatient)

Gee, Dad, even I knew that already.  And I’m only one day old.  If I flew too close to the sun I’d die, right?

MCGANN

(rolls eyeballs again)

Well yes, good, that’s good, Son, yes, you would die. Like a moth to a flame as we say about our suicidal winged friends.   But Icky, sunlight is not the only light that is dangerous.

ICKY

(even more impatient)

Dad, hurry up.  My friends are calling me from the bowl.  They’re saying it’s Purina.  That’s your favorite, right, Dad?

MCGANN

(irritated)

Yes, Icky, Purina has nice chunks.  But that’s exactly what I’m trying to tell you here, Son.  What time is it?

ICKY

(takes a beat)

Dinnertime?

MCGANN

(exhaling noisily)

Icky, for us, of course, yes, it’s always dinnertime.  We’re hungry, always hungry.  But you know who waits to eat, who controls that constant urge to eat, eat, eat?

(waits for Icky to answer)

ICKY

(silent, thinking)

MCGANN

(head drooping forward)

Icky, who waits is everyone who’s lived.  Son, what time is it?  It’s nighttime.  It’s eight p.m.   You see that light out there?  That’s the kitchen light.  If you can see that light, and it’s night, you know the light’s turned on.  And if it’s on, Son, that means humans are still awake.  And if humans are still awake, Icky, that means –

(McGann is interrupted by a loud human scream.  Immediately we hear the sound of a rubber slipper pounding like a machinegun on the floor.  There are sounds of bodies being splattered.  Deafening – for roaches – tiny cockroach screams can be heard.  Suddenly all sound stops.  The only thing we hear is a human panting.  The panting gradually subsides.  The sound of cleaning the floor is heard.  Then the light goes off.  McGann and Icky have held their breath through all of this.  They are both blue in the face.)

MCGANN

(inhaling hard)

Well, Icky, looks like you got plenty of time to listen to me now.

ICKY

(breathing hard)

Yes, Dad.

MCGANN

You know you won’t be hearing any of those friends calling for you to come out anymore.

ICKY

No, Dad.

MCGANN

That was a very real-life demonstration of my point.

ICKY

Boy, Dad, was it ever.  I will never forget that light kills.

MCGANN

And slippers, Icky, don’t forget slippers.

ICKY

Slippers don’t kill, Dad, only people kill.  Right?

MCGANN

Well, yes, of course, Son.  A perceptive observation.

ICKY

Am I wise beyond my hours, Dad?

MCGANN

(ignoring this)

Which brings up another rule to live by:  Control your appetite, don’t let it control you.

ICKY

You mean as in don’t live to eat, eat to live?

MCGANN

(impressed)

Yes, that’s right.  Very good, Icky.  So besides fearing light, we must fear unrestrained appetite.  Third, and this one is equally important, we must always clean ourselves.  And by always, I mean constantly.  With us, hygiene is a twenty-four seven job.  It is of such critical importance, in fact, that we should make that twenty-five eight.

ICKY

Why do cockroaches have to be so clean, Dad?

MCGANN

Son, you have no idea how filthy human beings are.  And their pets.  Dogs, cats, mice, rats, guinea pigs, birds, turtles.  You name it.  All of them.  They are germ factories, Icky.  Living, breathing petri dishes.  So clean yourself all the time.  Be sanitary at always.  In fact, let’s practice cleaning ourselves right now.  Remember, bend that feeler down, bend it, bend it.  Good.  Now the other one.  And the legs.  All six.  Not four or five.  All of them.  That’s good.  Good boy, Icky.

ICKY

Thank you, Dad.  You’re a good teacher.

MCGANN

Thank you, Icky.  You are very, very polite.  I like that in a roach.

ICKY 

Wow, Dad, so humans are real dirty, huh.  I would have never guessed.  Okay, are those the three most important things all us roaches need to know?

MCGANN

Icky, there are more.  But here’s a another big one.  I don’t want to say it is more important than the others.  Light avoidance, prudent eating habits, and obsessive-compulsive sanitation practice are critical to the survival of our species, Son.  But it is also extremely important that you do not wax your wings.

ICKY

Huh?  Wax my wings?  You mean like a surfboard?

MCGANN

(nodding contemplatively)

You know, Icky, I’d never thought of it that way.  That’s very astute of you.  Yes.  Surfers wax their boards in order to get a better grip, right?  Well, in a parallel vein, this is why cockroaches should never wax their wings.

ICKY

So humans won’t use us for surfboards?

MCGANN

(reconsidering his comment about Icky’s astuteness)

Icky, when was the last time you heard of a human surfing a cockroach?

ICKY

(take a beat)

Not yet?

MCGANN

(shaking head again)

No, not yet, Icky.  And probably not ever would be a good guess.  No, Son, we must never wax our wings because that would be a sign of vanity.

ICKY

Vanity?  What’s vanity, Dad.

MCGANN

Ah, a very good question, son.  Vanity is excessive pride. It’s tooting your own horn about something you’ve done.  It’s waiting until the cashier is watching for you to put money in the tip jar at L&L Drive In, and worse, taking the tip out of the jar if you think he wasn’t looking, then putting it back in when you’re one-hundred percent sure he is looking this time.  It’s telling everyone you were published in a literary journal when in fact you only posted your poems on the journal’s website.  It’s, well, you get the picture, right? 

ICKY

Yes, Dad, I understand.  Wow, some guys, huh?  Have you ever been published in a literary journal?

MCGANN

Well, in a way, but, hey, I don’t want to talk about that.  That would smack of vanity.

ICKY

Dad, are you a writer?

MCGANN

What?  A writer?  Icky, look at me, do I look like a writer?  Son, I’m a cockroach.  Cockroaches don’t waste time doing silly things like writing.  We may want to live long, and we will try our best to do so, but life is still way too short to fritter away our time on this planet in pursuit of such trivialities as writing.  Nothing comes of activities such as that.

ICKY

So you’re saying I can’t be a writer when I grow up?

MCGANN

What?  No.  Of course not.  No decent parent is ever going to tell a child what to do when he or she grows up?  That would be terrible parenting, Son.  BUT the key for us, Icky, is just that.  To grow up.  That’s the secret of life.

ICKY

Can you teach me how to type?

MCGANN

(rolls eyeballs)

So as I was saying, no wing waxing.  It’s a sign of overstepping ourselves.  If we wax our wings, every roach in the neighborhood will talk stink about how proud we are, how we are eschewing our humble natures.

ICKY

Dad, I know you like eschewing bubble gum, don’t you.

MCGANN

(sighing)

To put it another way, it is as if you are forgetting where you came from.

ICKY

You mean Mom?

MCGAN

(sighing again)

To move on, you must understand that those scornful words, Icky, will stick to our reputation like the feet of a slipperless surfer.  There is nothing a roach holds more dear than his or her reputation.  Lusterless, old, faded wings looking as if they are in need of a wax job are a sign both of wisdom and of humility.  Wisdom because it shows a roach has been too smart to slow down and be killed, has lived a good long time, and it shows humility because that roach doesn’t brag about it.  A wise and humble roach never resorts to cosmetic enhancement.  Am I proud of having survived more years than many of my friends?  Of course.  Do I put on airs about it, brag about it?  Of course not.  Never, ever wax your wings, Icky, boasting about your age or your intelligence, and denying your common roachiness.  No roach is an island, Son.  If you preen and primp, wax your wings to a glowing luster, you will, as sure as Black Flag believes roaches don’t know what a real motel looks like, go down in a fiery ball of outcast ignominy and downright disrespect.  Reputation is all, Icky.  It is everything to a roach.

ICKY

(whining)

Can we go to the bowl now?  I’m starving.

MCGANN

Icky, do you know why I named you Icky?

ICKY

(shakes head)

Was it the name of a Marvel superhero or a WWF wrestler?

MCGANN

(ignoring this)

A long time ago there was a boy named Icarus.  He and his father, even though they weren’t cockroaches, needed to fly, so his dad made him a pair of wings out of feathers held together with wax.  When they took off, Icarus was so happy he could fly, that he showed off, did loop-de-loops and figure eights.  With all of this, he forgot himself and flew too close to the sun.  The wax melted, the wings fell apart, and it was splat time for the boy.

ICKY

Ah!  No!  Why did you name me that?  You do want me to fly to the sun!  You want me to die!

MCGANN

Calm yourself, Ichy.  If I wanted you dead, I’d have let you go eat with your friends at the dog food bowl.  No, I named you Icarus because I wanted you never to overstep your bounds.  Stay humble, my son, stay roachy.  That is enough.  Promise me?

ICKY

I do.

MCGANN

Swear!

ICKY

I swear it!

MCGANN

Cross your feelers and hope to –

ICKY

I’m sooooo hungry, Dad.  Can we go eat now?

MCGANN

We’re not through the list yet, but, well, the light’s off now. However, Icky, and this is also a biggy on the must-know list, just because the lights are off, doesn’t mean that a disease-ridden human isn’t waiting in the dark for you to come out so that he can flip on the light and slipper slap you flat and gut-spewn to holy hell.

ICKY

So what do we do, Dad?  Go to McDonald’s?

MCGANN

McDonald’s?  You kids these days.  No, Son, we’re eating Purina.  But we must eat with one eye on the light switch.  Keep an eyeball-peeled for that trigger finger, as my old man used to say.  Oh, and Icarus, make sure you listen for the sound of the jingle chain.  The last thing you want is to be sucked up like whipped cream and chocolate sauce in a Fido raid.  Let’s eat.

(Exit stage left, or stage right.  Roaches are ambidextrous.)

– Finish  –

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