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But for One Man: The Day the World Stood Still

Or, The Old Man and the Ape

A drama for the stage by Scott

© 2001 September 20


Dramatis Personae


MASTREHART, a rich American, owner of the large and esteemed vessel Lady Killer.


CAPTAIN, pilots the Lady Killer.




PM OF CANADA, is the Prime Minister of Canada.




QUEEN OF ENGLAND, does things only a queen could do.


DOCK MASTER, in charge of all ships in London Harbour.


APE, a lower primate.


POPE, the current pope, the holiest man in all of Christianity.


ACT IIt is the year 1910.  MASTREHART is in his living room with his family and a suitcase.


MASTREHART:  My family!  I must leave immediately for England on important business.  My wife:  I trust you will keep the children orderly and disciplined.  My sons:  You must do well in your studies to keep fast the standing of our esteemed surname!  My daughter Penelope:  You shall continue to develop into a young woman so that one day some gentleman of venerated heritage may sow his seed in your womb.  My faithful man-servant butler:  Be sure my wife does not imbibe heavily the whiskey nor the opium, which she is wont to do in my absence.


ACT II – Aboard Lady Killer, MASTREHART dines with the CAPTAIN and the very few other passengers.


MASTREHART:  Captain, are you certain we are sailing eastward?


CAPTAIN:  Most certain, sir.  I hope you are enjoying the steak your new chef has prepared.


MASTREHART:  Yes, it is very much to my liking.


MATILDA:  Mummph mummph blooh hallah humph.


MASTREHART:  My dear!  I had nearly forgotten about you!  Come out from under the table, replace my manhood in my pants, and join us in our repast!


(Having done as asked, MATILDA sits at the table to the left of MASTREHART.)


MATILDA:  Thank you, sir.  I was trying to say that the new chef is a woman with enormous mammaries, and may have interest in joining us at your cabin after the meal.


MASTREHART:  This meal is over.  I shall now adjourn to my cabin.  (Whispers to Matilda):  Fetch the chef, dear.


CAPTAIN:  Excellent, sir.


ACT III – Many days later, the chef has been assigned a new title as MASTREHART’s mistress and the CAPTAIN has taken ward of MATILDA.  The ship sails on and MATILDA mysteriously dies of the clap.  Her body is thrown overboard and she is never spoken of again.  The ex-chef with the enormous mammaries remains unnamed in this play, as her role is incidental at best.  The ship arrives in England, the CAPTAIN dies of venereal disease, and MASTREHART is escorted into the QUEEN OF ENGLAND’s reception hall where the PM OF CANADA is already waiting.


PM OF CANADA:  (Speaking formally) Hey buddy, my name is Gordon Veston.  I’m the Prime Minister of Canada.  We’ve never met, ey?


MASTREHART:  No, in fact I would never go to Canada.  Pardon me, but it is rumoured that your people molest goats and water foul.


PM OF CANADA:  (Speaking angrily)  Hey buddy, I’ve never heard some one talk like this to me.


GUARD:  (Whispering) Shhhh, Her Majesty is about to enter..


(The QUEEN OF ENGLAND enters from grand doors.  A fanfare plays and all the guards stand at attention.  She sits upon her throne.)


QUEEN OF ENGLAND:  Welcome ambassadors of commerce!  This need not be a formal session; we may speak of anything that comes to mind.


MASTREHART: Your majesty, how can you remain dignified even whilst sneezing?




PM OF CANADA: (Speaking in surprise and horror)  Hey buddy, now you’ve made the Queen swoon.


MASTREHART:  I suppose then this meeting is over!  Let us go grab a pint.  No hard feelings there, eh Canada?


PM OF CANADA:  (Speaking in a cautiously friendly manner)  Hey buddy, we all have rough days sometimes, right.  Forgive and forget aboot it, is what I always say.


MASTREHART:  Yes!  A good philosophy..


MASTREHART and the PM OF CANADA depart together, leaving the guards crowded about the QUEEN OF ENGLAND, alternately guarding and fretting over her.


ACT IV – The DOCK MASTER’s office, London, England.  The DOCK MASTER and an APE stand behind a counter, already in conversation with MASTREHART on the other side.  The APE wears a white uniform and cap.


MASTREHART:  An ape may NOT pilot my vessel.  I don’t care how well trained it is!


DOCK MASTER:  Sir, if you would just pay attention for a moment, I will explain.


MASTREHART:  Very well, I’ll humour you.


DOCK MASTER:  Very good, sir.  Understand that England is an island, and as such its primary means of trade is by sea.  Unfortunately, our ship’s captains have, as of late, been experimenting in unimaginable forms of sexual congress with prostitutes of the lowest denominator.  (Low tones, confidentially:) Sir, our captains have been dying of venereal disease at an alarming rate.  There are very few left in the country.  Very few.  (Brief pause, resume normal voice:) So you see, sir, we have hence imported and trained primates to maneuver our vessels.  These apes are extraordinarily gifted and are trained to the highest standards of English sailing.  This one here even has the capacity to use a sextant!


APE:  (Grunt)  (Lifts sextant to eye, makes precise adjustments)


MASTREHART:  (To APE:)  Well.  You can really do all that, can you?


APE:  (To MASTREHART:)  (Emphatic grunt)  (Removes cap and salutes professionally)

MASTREHART:  (To DOCK MASTER:)  And you say these creatures are, as we speak, captaining many of the Queen’s own ships and vessels?


MASTREHART:  And it would be impossible to obtain a more .. ahem .. human captain?

(The APE looks sullen)

DOCK MASTER:  Not for another month or more, no sir.

MASTREHART:  As I need to get back to America with the utmost of urgent haste, I will take your monkey, but only with protest.

DOCK MASTER:  I thought you would see it my way, sir.  Good day.

(MASTREHART departs with the APE)

ACT V – Aboard the Lady Killer.  The esteemed vessel is rapidly sinking into the waves.  The APE and MASTREHART are on the fore-deck, looking beleaguered.

MASTREHART:  You idiot!  I can’t believe you don’t know your port from your starboard!

APE:  (Points insistently to the right as MASTREHART says “port”, then to the left as he says “starboard”)  Oooo oooo, wuuunnghhh waaa wuuuunghhh!!

MASTREHART:  NO!  IDIOT!  You have it the wrong way around!

APE:  (Slumps shoulders, looks down) Wuuunnnhhhh…

ACT VI – On the shore of England.  MASTREHART is lying on his back in the sand. A wave washes ashore, bringing with it the APE.  The APE washes abreast of MASTREHART so the two are lying on their backs side-by-side.  MASTREHART’s head is listing towards the APE, likewise, the APE’s towards his.

MASTREHART: (Eyes fluttering open, speaking weakly:)  You again!  Damn fool!  Where are we?

(Gradually MASTREHART and the APE sit up and look around.  They see bluffs behind them and the sea in front).

MASTREHART:  We must have washed ashore of some secluded isle.  (Pause)  No one will ever find us…

APE: (Shakes head in the negative, talks insistently:)  Wuh wuh wuh, woo woo.  Woooo!

MASTREHART:  How would you know, you idiot?  You sank my ship!

(The APE raises his sextant to the sky, makes precise adjustments.  This lasts about 20 seconds while MASTREHART looks on in fascinated irritation).

MASTREHART:  (Incredulous)  Good god man!  You’re not even doing anything, are you?!  Those things are completely useless during the day!

(MASTREHART grabs the sextant and casts it into the sea.  The APE leaps up and runs after it, slowing down gradually.  He stops, turns to MASTREHART and shrugs his shoulders).

APE:  (Conceding to MASTREHART)  Wuhhh.



ANNOUNCER steps out to the forecurtain and addresses the audience.

ANNOUNCER: Thank you all for attending!

ANNOUNCER drops his pants and urinates towards the crowd.  He is only successful in moistening the orchestra who begins playing “Man Upon the Sea with Ape” in D Minor (see attached score).

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