Now the stage lightens again, perhaps it is brighter than before. Another rumble is heard. Dark again, then light only on the plateau. Dad enters, shell-shocked. Mom rushes to him, grabbing the stick with toast and offering it.
MOM (totally re-perked): Toast?
DAD (waving it away): Five-thousand men showed up to write one line of ad copy. It started raining. They wouldn’t open up the gates. Fights broke out. They sent in the dogs. It got ugly. I left.
A beat as Mom, Janey, and Joey frown.
DAD (not liking their frowns, attempting to re-perk): But I didn’t miss our phone call, did I?
Mom, Janey, and Joey now exchange angry, sullen looks.
DAD (now deflated again): Don’t tell me. Correctly assuming that I would return jobless, Mom did a hoochie-koochie dance for the highway patrol, Joey broke down and sold his Mark McGwire rookie card, and Janey was tied up and tongue-kissed by that roving band of inner-city youths.
JOEY (well-meaning): We couldn’t help it, Dad –
MOM (quickly cutting Joey off): – The point is, honey, I’ve got some good news…
MOM: …And some bad news.
MOM: The good news is…
MOM: …they did phone, so that means we still count…
Dad does an end-zone victory dance.
DAD: Team Doakes!
MOM: And the bad news is…
Dad stops dancing, then frowns.
MOM: …they only wanted to talk to the head of the household and you weren’t here…
DAD (disbelieving): Well, couldn’t you get them to phone back? They’ve never asked specifically for me…
JANEY: Maybe that’s because you always answer the phone.
MOM: Zip your lip, young lady. I won’t have any of that smart talk in this house.
Janey “zips” her lip and exchanges a look with Joey. Dad starts pacing around the camp. Mom plants the stick with the toast over the fire.
DAD: I suppose I didn’t have to go off on another wild goose-chase job hunt.
MOM: Sure you did, honey, because that’s the kind of guy you are.
Dad re-perks, as Mom begins to deflate.
MOM: …I suppose I could have disguised my voice and said I was the head of the household…
DAD: But, honey, that would have been dishonest, and that’s not the kind of gal you are.
Mom re-perks, as Dad deflates again.
DAD: Well, I suppose if I had a real head on my shoulders, I would have taken our family nest egg out of the bank, and put it in our king-size Serta sleeper and then removed it before the bank collapsed, some beggar in India got my telemarketing job, and the bed was repossessed. But thanks to my famous short-sightedness, I didn’t do that.
MOM: Hey, hey, hey, honey, you’re not Nostradamus!
Dad does not re-perk. Mom begins a cartwheel.
DAD: Well, I should have read Nostradamus. He predicted this whole shebang, didn’t he?
MOM (completing the cartwheel): Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but one thing’s for sure. Back in his day, they didn’t have toast.
Dad immediately re-perks, and the two of them move happily to the fire. The family huddles around.
DAD (picking up the toast stick and examining the toast): Mmmm…medium brown…Number four on the toaster. If you want my opinion, I like it!
Everyone agrees, anxiously waiting for Dad to start eating so they can follow.
DAD (shouting into the void): The Doakes Family loves medium-brown toast! Did you hear that, National Focus Group Survey? (Now sheepishly, to family). In case they’re listening.
JANEY/JOEY: We’re listening, Dad. We like to hear your opinions.
MOM (under her breath): I’m not so sure that the Coopers in the blue Honda are as interested as we are, but that’s okay…
The phone rings down below.
MOM: Oh my God! There it is!
The lights follow the Doakes as they leap for it. Dad tries to keep the toast stick clear of the jumble.
DAD (from under the jumble, excitedly): Head of the household. What can I do you for…(Not quite assimilating this as he repeats the Survey Group question). Do I think retina scans will improve homeland security?…Well, let me quickly poll my family…Doakeses, what do we think?
Now the lights come up on the full group, the “power animal” workshop, as seen before. Everyone is still dancing his or her power animal, very intensely now. Mike is still playing the tom-tom. But now he has found his power animal. He’s the San Diego Padres’ chicken (the team mascot, for these purposes, actually Chicken Little). He imitates a chicken, with everything he’s got.
WORKSHOP LEADER: Well…I guess a chicken is as noble as any other creature…although, people generally do not derive power from barnyard animals, but on the other hand, the egg is all there is to know, so to dance the dance of the chicken is a very ancient and important act, and they haven’t always been fryers, so I would say you’ve tapped into a powerful source…
The Man squawks in response for a moment too long, making the workshop leader uncomfortable.
WORKSHOP LEADER (humoring him): Oh, you’re not telling us that the sky is falling, are you?
He continues squawking and playing the tom-tom, more furiously now.
WORKSHOP LEADER: Because if you’re saying that your power animal is Chicken Little, then I would have to reply that you have contacted a very negative spirit and you are in great danger to yourself and the other workshop participants…
The other workshop participants are oblivious to his squawking. She reaches into a pouch which dangles from her neck, removes a crystal, and begins to move it around his body, attempting to keep up with his frantic dance.
WORKSHOP LEADER: …this ought to stabilize the toxic force temporarily…
There is another thunderclap now, much louder than the others. The stage goes dark; there are lightning bolts, tumbleweeds that blow into the audience, the freight train sound of a barreling earthquake…A few pathetic squawks…Some howling wind…A sportscaster’s booming voice is now heard.
VOICE: And so the Padres go down swinging…
The lights come up. The set has been blown bare. All that remains are the bodies and the phone, and there is now a TV set that sits on top of one of the rocks. It’s tuned to a dour but energetic anchorman.
ANCHORMAN: A shaker rolled through the Southland this morning and Sandra Bullock, as well as thousands of others, may have perished…Let’s check in with our news van –
As he speaks, a female hand reaches from behind the TV and somersaults on to the stage, leading her class in the void (no music here).
EXERCISE INSTRUCTOR: Hut, hut, hey, let’s see a little hustle here, the holidays are around the corner and you know what that means…(ominously)…relatives! You don’t want your sister-in-law to have less flab than you do, so let’s get into our abs right away…(Lying down on the floor). Okay, put the weights on top of your chest. (Looking around at class). I don’t see any of you putting that little weight on top of your chest, come on, think “sister-in-law” and pile it on, that’s right, now knees bent, legs apart, heels up, tilt that pelvis and lift for three, one, two, three, and down one, lift, one, two, three, and down one…(Continuing to do this). Okay, we’re doing these forever, by the way, the results of my deodorant survey are in, in case you haven’t heard, and many of you use Mitchum but a surprising number just use good old soap and water. Personally, I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed but I need something stronger, like Pine-Sol…just kidding, okay let’s roll over on to our left sides and get into that turbo-flair…(Starting to do leg lifts, picking up coin tossed by derelict). Point up and flex down, point up and flex down, don’t forget to strap your weights around your ankles because I’m going to be doing my thigh measure on Wednesday, and I will give this lucky penny to the person with the thinnest thighs, now let’s do thirty-two of these, it’s always important to work toward a goal, and then after that we’ll rest. (Looking at someone). Joanne, you look fabulous, are you having an affair? Just kidding, okay, last eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, hold it right there…okay, other side (turning over and resuming), hut, hut, point and flex, point and flex, by the way, am I the only one in here who showers after sex? Come on, I’m serious. I just can’t stand lying there all sticky and smelly so I always get up and wash off before going to sleep…I can’t be the only one who does that, girls, sixteen more to go, make your last ones the best ones, it’s all in the mind, and if you’re planning to give into a little eggnog over the holidays, brisket if you’re Jewish – aren’t your holidays coming up too?, you’ve got to make sure that your body is sculpted enough to take the punishment, four, three, two, one, okay (excitedly), mule kicks!…(On all fours, starting the exercise with one leg). Weakest leg first, for eight, seven, six – I don’t care what anyone says, Lady Gaga is not a lady, she’s a hermaphro whatever it is – and one, other leg (switching). No one really dances any more, okay, that’s six, five, four, and how come she never got that gap between her teeth fixed?…Okay, that’s it for today, let’s inhale and take the arms up, by the way, do you know how lucky we are not to have a son in the army reserve, have you ever thought about that, because it’s a real powder keg out there, now let’s stand up and shake it out, I mean any day now the world could blow, does everyone know where their gas line is in case they have to shut it off?…Great class, everyone. See you tomorrow. Remember, it’s rubber bands!
The music fades as the instructor disappears into a cave. There is another aftershock, and a few more rocks are heaved forth as the earth splits in yet another direction. There is silence for a few moments, then the sound of a rapidly moving mountain of water, barreling in and consuming everything in its wake. A gnarled and dripping surfer, in wetsuit and with longboard, enters, breathless from his ride.
SURFER: Whoa…killer close-out set…(Surveying scene). This place really got worked. (Loudly). Knock, knock. Anybody home? (No response; phone rings; he picks it up). Hello?…(Repeating, incredulous)…Is this the head of the household? (Looking around)…Well, I’m all alone here…(Now almost a swagger)…Guess that makes me the head of the household…Yeah, I’m ready for today’s question. Fire away…(Repeating, incredulous)…Does my household have a two- or four-slice toaster?…(Trying to explain). Hey, man, I don’t actually have a household…
Now the Exercise Instructor jumps out of her cave.
EXERCISE INSTRUCTOR (cheerfully): But you could…
He drops the phone.
SURFER: You the only one left?
EXERCISE INSTRUCTOR: Did something happen?
SURFER (wistfully, to audience): Yeah, I knew a lot of chicks, could have had a lot of households, could have made an ocean of money…But then the waves were always calling…Didn’t take long to remember why I went amphibian…(To instructor). I ride in on the last wave and what happens? I get a call from a polling organization.
EXERCISE INSTRUCTOR (cheerfully): It’s just a bunch of people without friends who get paid to stay on the phone all day. But I’m sure they hear the waves. Everyone hears the waves…Some people just don’t want to be seen in a bathing suit.
SURFER: I don’t know. (A moment, as he looks at the sky). Sun seems to have permanently disappeared. (Exchanging a look with the instructor). Well, gotta go. (Starting to head back to sea, then stopping). Wanna be part of my household?
EXERCISE INSTRUCTOR (lovestruck): Oh yes!
The pair starts to leave. As the Surfer steps over the two dead derelicts, they rouse.
MAN: Can you spare some change?
The Exercise Instructor tosses him the penny.
MAN (reacting to coin): Hey, it’s a lucky penny. (To surfer). Do you think men really walked on the moon?
Now one of the Hispanic men rushes toward the surfer.
HISPANIC MAN: Yo, wet guy! Wait for me.
SURFER: Whoa! Fernando Valenzuela!
HISPANIC MAN: They say you ride the healing waters. Will you take me there?
The Surfer checks the sky again. The light is starting to fade.
SURFER: This old board’s handled a lot of situations. Let’s go.
He picks up his board and starts to leave, beckoning for everyone to follow. Their exit is accompanied by the guitar rapture of Dick Dale’s “Nitroglycerine,” the once-and-future surf anthem.
SURFER (to Hispanic Man): It was a long time ago, my friend, but men really did walk on the moon…The surf was very big that day, not angry like today, but very big…
The guitars of “Nitro” now thunder loudly, cranking their beat across the land and sea. The surviving group follows the surfer offstage, fading into starry night.