Will Argue for Food


SAM (disputant for hire)
SAM is glib and fidgety, very dynamic; when actually arguing, he may gesticulate, get up and pace, pantomime, flounce back into his chair, kick his feet, whatever. As long as his presence centers around his chair; he's at work, a professional.
TERRY (journalist? sociologist? curious person?)
TERRY is conscientiously tolerant and friendly, fairly static physically. He's always interested, always the academic, maybe faintly superior.
CHRIS (watcher of rather a lot of television)
CHRIS could be man or woman, whatever. All I really know for sure is that CHRIS has spent a little too much brainspace on Monty Python for somebody who's not so good at expressing it.
LAURA (believer)
LAURA has never made a mistake. She's got class and she's very earnest; she takes things seriously. She has a little trouble understanding that anybody could really disagree with her and mean it.
KEVIN (skeptic)
KEVIN was made to go wrong. He's a little out of his element all the time, and he knows he's lucky to have LAURA's attention. He's not that much of a thinker particularly, but he knows the odds.

Scene: an urban sidewalk. Late afternoon.

[SAM sits on a lawn chair on the sidewalk, his eyes following passerby back and forth restlessly, or concentrating on various points on the ground, the sky, his own clothes. Next to him is a makeshift sign reading "WILL ARGUE FOR FOOD." Enter TERRY, who slows to observe SAM. SAM looks TERRY over quickly--TERRY nods--SAM looks at something else for a moment, then back at TERRY.]

SAM. Hey.

TERRY. How you doing.

SAM. Mm-hmm.

TERRY. [pause] What do you mean? [SAM looks blankly.] The sign. What do you mean, will argue for food? [SAM just stares] I mean, who will you argue with? You know. What about.

SAM. Whatever. [pause] Why, you want something?

TERRY. Me, no.

SAM. Yeah, well.

TERRY. Right. So, you just--argue with people?

SAM. Sometimes I do that, sure.

TERRY. How long have you been at it?

SAM. Four hours, give or take.

TERRY. Really. That's considerable.

SAM. Yeah, almost time for my lunch break, right? Well, anyway. Forget it.

TERRY. How many people have you argued with so far?

SAM. Umm. Two, today. Two who argued back. One who actually paid up; got a dollar hot dog out of that.

TERRY. Really. Slow day, or is that typical?

SAM. I guess it varies, why?

TERRY. No reason. Actually what I'd meant to ask was how long you've been doing this, in general.

SAM. Oh, that. Not long. Still in its experimental stages actually.

TERRY. So, what, like a couple weeks?

SAM. Look, what--[out into the street]--Yo! Yo, yo, lady, you dropped something! A ticket or something? Closer, there. [points, waves] Okay, right. So what do you want? You're not arguing, and I'm busy, you know?

TERRY. Yeah. Are you hungry? [SAM narrows his eyes.] Okay...look. [calculates] Okay. I'll buy you lunch. Something reasonable, but lunch, indoors, right? But that means I get a demonstration. You know, I just want to see you do your thing, okay? My name's Terry, by the way. So fair enough?

SAM. Sam. Sure. Hell, sure. I'll take that.

TERRY. Great.

SAM. So what do you want to hear? Oh, and why, can I ask you that? I can't really put my finger on what you want out of this. Lunch, I mean, are you talking about a sit-down lunch with a menu? That's a for-real kind of investment...

TERRY. Think of it as an interview. That okay?

SAM. Sure. Sure, that's good. So, what?

TERRY. Well, what's your favorite? Got a favorite gripe to argue about?

SAM. Anything. I do anything.

TERRY. Pick one.

SAM. Man... okay, so, gays in the military. Okay? I mean, the Romans whipped everybody they ever met, right? That's about all for that.

TERRY. Not sure I follow you.

SAM. Right. Is that important?

TERRY. I don't know. Well, what else? Mostly politics?

SAM. Oh, no! Philosophy, movies, science, whatever. Art. Like Jackson Pollock. Was he just putting one over on us? Well, you know he was. Come on.

TERRY. I see, yeah.

SAM. Or Travolta. He's back, right, but when was the last time you saw him dance? So you have to ask, how much did the dancing have to do with it in the first place, or else what changed. That's good stuff, you can go back on forth about that. But you know, anyway, I don't get much like that.

TERRY. Oh, what do you get? By and large.

SAM. There's some variety, you know. But a lot of people just want to set me up with some ridiculous stance so they can knock me down. It's really just cheap. I get a lot of politics, a lot of he-said-this, did-too-did-not kind of stuff, a lot of old metaphysics. You know, it's funny; tell people you'll do their work, right, you'll do all the talking, all the thinking, you'll straighten them right out, and I swear most of the time they can't think of anything to talk about. So I get does a tree make a sound, whatever. Like they don't have anything better to worry about! You know they go right out and start mixing it up with their co-workers about some little thing I could have worked out easy.

TERRY. So you're sort of a community service.

SAM. Whatever. No, I'm a contractor, actually. I charge a fee, I perform a service, done deal. Top of my field, hey. [offstage, bellowing] Pedestrian has right of way!! [afterthought] In my country! [back to TERRY] Me and Cicero, right? People tell me it's just plain terrifying to drive a car in Rome. Crazy. China, too, it's like people over here go this way and people on this side go that way and the middle is up for grabs.

TERRY. Now, how would you describe arguing? Because it seems like you don't really follow chains of thought, you just have strong opinions.

SAM. Now, wait.

TERRY. I mean, that's fine. I'm really just curious.

SAM. Wait, wait, okay? Look, I know what an argument is. I'm giving you sound bites. I know. But there's nothing to argue with, right? I hate just sitting here arguing with myself.

TERRY. Sure.

SAM. You want a real argument, well, you have to argue, here. So, you're a scientist, right? You're the interviewer, whatever, you're exploring the psyche of a guy on the sidewalk, so come on. Give yourself the full experience.

TERRY. Okay, that's fair. [inspects and sits down on the sidewalk at SAM'S side.]

SAM. All right. So what do you want? You pick, this time.

TERRY. I honestly don't know.

SAM. See what I mean? Take your time. What's on your mind? What have you always wondered? What really just busts your gizzard? Sometimes I think everybody walks around with just one question, you know? Like you're on your way to be born and they hand you a question, stay in line, one only, and there you are trying to get your brain wrapped around this one thing.

TERRY. What would yours be?

SAM. Quit that. Argue.

TERRY. Okay, I don't think so. What you're saying about questions; how could you just have one question?

SAM. You're born, you have a question, it haunts you always. Why not? No reason it couldn't work that way. What's your point?

TERRY. Actually, you've already confessed an interest in a multitude of questions, just talking to me.

SAM. Questions? When? I didn't ask any questions.

TERRY. Well, John Travolta, and Jackson Pollock. And you were asking why people don't have good things to argue about.

SAM. No. Pay attention. I was just observing, okay? People come to argue, they bring nothing to argue about, end statement. There it is.

TERRY. Okay...

SAM. And there's really not much question about Warhol. Which leaves Travolta. So maybe that's my question, although I don't actually think that qualifies either, really.

TERRY. Well, I have a lot of questions. I freely admit that. I'm trying to figure out why you do what you do, right now. I wonder why human beings can't settle their disputes peaceably. I wonder if I'll live to see the day when they can. And I'm actually sort of wondering just why I'm concentrating so much on you, to be honest. No offense.

SAM. Man, me too. You just do this? You wander around and interrogate people about their lifestyles?

TERRY. Actually, yes, I suppose I do.

SAM. That's bizarre. What if you met yourself? What would you both do?

TERRY. I don't know. There, that was a question.

SAM. That was more like an observation. And all your questions were the same one, didn't you notice? Why.

TERRY. Now, that's no good. All questions are the same, that way.

SAM. No, they're not. You could ask whether, or when, or who, but you don't. You ask why.

TERRY. Just then. But I use all of those.

SAM. But "why" is the thing that really gets to you, isn't it?

TERRY. If it is, then it is for everybody.

SAM. Why? Not really. A lot of people ask "what if," for instance. That's an artist question. Or an engineer, maybe, asking "how." I guess somebody could ask who... God, what a depressing way to live. What would that be? "Who am I?" "Who should I be?" "Who was that masked man?" I don't know.

TERRY. You've done a lot of thinking about this.

SAM. Oh, no. This is ridiculous. You're obviously right; a person can't be defined by just one question. Listen, did you hear yourself just now? "If that's true, it's true for everybody"? Wow. That's the stuff, man, that's the heart of the biggest mistake a researcher can make. same thing Freud did, same thing Skinner did, same thing Newton did really. Step one: "I have an idea." Two: "This idea is good." Three: "This idea explains everything in life that was left to be explained." I mean, come on, now. Having a good idea is good enough, wouldn't you think?

TERRY. This is very impressive. You're a smart guy.

SAM. Yup, thanks. So is that it?

TERRY. I don't know. What made you decide to go into freelance argument?

SAM. Attention Deficit.

TERRY. What?

SAM. Yeah. Not cut out to live in this world, you know? My mind's just ffwshsht--everywhere at once. That's the beginning and the end of it. Scout's honor.

TERRY. You were a Boy Scout?

SAM. Sure, four times.

TERRY. Right. And you can't hold down a job because you've got ADD.

SAM. More like I can't get one, really. Never could finish school.

TERRY. It's a little hard to believe that.

SAM. Oh, it's true, though. I can't finish anything, that's the point. I can't remember birthdays, either. No discipline. I can't wake up in the morning; that's the hardest thing, actually. Hard to hold your life together if you can't get out of bed in the morning.

TERRY. Sure. Why can't you? Don't you sleep enough?

SAM. Sort of, sort of not. Thing is, there's so much to do. Once I'm awake, I want to keep awake for longer than sixteen hours, you know? Too much to do. But when I get to sleep, that's it. I still want my eight. Maybe I should just schedule myself in twenty-six-hour days. And I could slowly cycle in and out of real life.

TERRY. Why not, right?

SAM. Well, why not is because nobody's going to let you. Early to bed, early to rise, end of story. It's like there's just a certain kind of people who think life has to be like that, same time every day, work one job all day, work one career all your life, get out of college in four years, settle down and stay put, and then--what? Something good is supposed to happen. But all they'll ever really tell you is all the bad stuff that will happen if you don't.

TERRY. Only if you believe it.

SAM. Oh, but it does happen! I'm here to tell you, man, you're in trouble if you don't play by the rules. Thing is, those people are the ones who run the world. God knows why. Maybe it's just the strength of their own convictions. That deep belief that everybody's just like them, and the only reason we don't all get up at dawn is to annoy them personally.

TERRY. I guess I know what you mean.

SAM. Or else maybe it's all about farming somehow; at least if you're farming you have a reason to get up early and work all day.

TERRY. Back up a minute. You say you're really suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder?

SAM. Right.

TERRY. So why not Ritalin?

SAM. Oh Jesus.

TERRY. I'm serious. It's supposed to do a lot to help you adjust, to live a normal life.

SAM. Normal!

TERRY. You know what I mean.

SAM. I know exactly what you mean! Have you been listening? The problem is that people believe in normal.

TERRY. You don't think it's a problem if you can't remember birthdays?

SAM. Did I say that?

[Enter CHRIS.]

TERRY. Have you ever tried it for a while?

SAM. Hell, no. Actually I've never been formally diagnosed. [sharply, to CHRIS] What?

CHRIS. [reflectively] Hey, "will argue for food."

SAM. [aside to TERRY] So it begins.

CHRIS. [parroting Monty Python, playing two men with the exact same bad accent] "I'd like to have an argument. No, you wouldn't."

SAM. Do what?

CHRIS. "An argument isn't just a series of contradictions. Yes it is. No it isn't. It could be."

[TERRY recognizes this. SAM does not.]

SAM. Can I help you?

CHRIS. Sure. "I'd like to have an argument."

SAM. We can do that.

CHRIS. So do you really just argue with whatever I say?

SAM. Well, I guess, if that's what you want. As long as you're paying.

CHRIS. Whoa. Yeah, but I don't have any food.

SAM. Sorry to hear it.

CHRIS. Well, seriously, most people don't walk around carrying food, you know.

SAM. You might be surprised. Anyway, you could always go get some.

CHRIS. Hey, wow, I just remembered. I have a Twix bar.

SAM. Great.

CHRIS. Beggars can't be choosers, buster.

SAM. Just for today, that'll do. Seeing as how my lunch is taking forever anyway. But I want to see the Twix.

CHRIS. [producing the Twix after some searching through pockets] There you go. So argue.

SAM. What about?

CHRIS. Everything. You know.

SAM. You want me to argue with you about everything?

CHRIS. Right.

SAM. Can't do it. Next!

CHRIS. Wait a minute, now. Okay, what do you do?

SAM. Whatever you want, provided it's possible. What do you want to talk about?

CHRIS. I don't know.

SAM. [after a beat, turns and leans back toward TERRY] This is actually fairly typical. This is my lifestyle. Ever hear that in the last couple of hunter-gatherer societies still out there, most of the population tests positive for ADD?

TERRY. Are you serious?

SAM. You bet.

TERRY. That's fascinating. So you think of yourself as an urban hunter-gatherer.

CHRIS. Hey, are you going to argue?

SAM. Any time you want. What about?

CHRIS. Whatever you want to.

SAM. Always, always they say this! Do you hire an architect and say "build something somewhere"? Do you call in a priest and say "bless some stuff"?

CHRIS. All right, relax.

SAM. Do you hire a hit-man and say "just go kill"? I'm a respectable businessman.

CHRIS. Whatever. Hang on.

TERRY. What was the last argument you remember having? Maybe you could hash that out. Then you'd be on familiar ground.

CHRIS. Actually this morning we were talking about Liz Taylor, and why she even bothers to keep getting married.

SAM. Fine. Interesting question, actually. Figure she's a reasonably intelligent woman, so by now she ought to have figured out the odds, right? She has to know better than to think some new man is going to suddenly change the whole shape of her life.

CHRIS. See, that's what I'm saying! No matter how much you might like some guy, if you've proven beyond a doubt that you can't make a marriage last, there's really no reason to bother going through with it. It's just a way to throw money.

SAM. Maybe that is what it's for. A big party.

CHRIS. Yeah! Yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying.

SAM. Oh! Oops, I'm sorry.

CHRIS. So why even do it?

SAM. Actually, why does anybody get married at all?

CHRIS. Well, I don't know about that.

SAM. No, I'm serious. Why get married? You want to show off your commitment by telling everybody? Well, send out cards. You want power of attorney? Draw up a little legal document, cheap and easy, right?

CHRIS. Okay, I kinda see what you mean.

TERRY. You can raise kids without a ceremony, or change your name if you want.

CHRIS. Okay, but hold on.

SAM. Terry, right? You want to settle down over here?

TERRY. Right, I'm sorry.

CHRIS. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with getting married.

SAM. Neither am I.

CHRIS. But around the time you're agreeing to marry your sixth or seventh husband, I just think you ought to be questioning your ability to stick to it.

SAM. Sure, or your motives. My point was only that nobody really has any reason to get married.

CHRIS. Sure they do.

SAM. Well, what?

CHRIS. First, you're in love, right?

SAM. Nobody's stopping you. Be in love.

CHRIS. Yeah, but I mean, you honestly want to spend your life with this person.

SAM. Go to it.

CHRIS. You know what I mean.

SAM. You're in love, you're committed, you have power of attorney, you have kids, and everybody knows it. Boom. No marriage necessary. You can do all that stuff. All I'm saying is there's no particular need for marriage, understand?

CHRIS. Well, yeah.

SAM. As an institution.

CHRIS. Right.

SAM. But that doesn't matter at all. People do. See what I'm saying?

CHRIS. What?

SAM. Everybody gets married anyway. So they've got to have some reason, don't you think?

CHRIS. Sure, well... it's just nice.

SAM. Right. You're exactly right. It's a nice little tradition and everybody likes it, end statement. So they do it, everywhere. So that's actually a pretty strong motivation, right?

CHRIS. Well, it is.

SAM. So strong, actually, that almost everybody does it, early in their lives.

CHRIS. Wow, that's cool. Thanks. [surrenders Twix and begins walking on]

SAM. I'm not done.

CHRIS. I know, but I think I get it.

SAM. Look, they just do it for tradition. Tradition! Tradition is just peer pressure from dead people!

CHRIS. Gotta go.

SAM. But it's so strong we do it even when it's a bad idea! All those marriages can't have been the best idea, right? A lot of people are in marriages that don't work!

[Exit CHRIS.]

So Liz Taylor is actually just more honest than the rest of us, get it? She knows when to say when! Yo! Listen, so she actually gets to do the nice happy part of the tradition all the time! Get it? She's the one who has it all worked out! Hey!! GOD DAMN IT! [to unseen passerby] Can I HELP you?

TERRY. Hey, Sam.

SAM. What?

TERRY. That was all on the fly, right? That's pretty thorough for an on-the-spot analysis.

SAM. Whatever. Liz Taylor should just quit it. Can't she see the obvious?

TERRY. You don't actually believe what you were just saying?

SAM. Oh, everything I said was true. But it's ridiculous to just keep getting married again and again.

TERRY. Why don't you become a lawyer? I'm serious.

SAM. Hello, Terry. Lawyers are people who went to law school.

TERRY. You could handle that. You're obviously very intelligent.

SAM. Never no way. I barely got out of high school, understand?

TERRY. But you could be a genuinely good lawyer.

SAM. A good lawyer? Look, I could rule the world. Let's not make any bones about it. I am never wrong.

TERRY. Well, you're a bright kid, anyway.

SAM. Thanks for noticing. What was I talking about?

TERRY. You were saying ADD is actually helpful for hunter-gatherers.

SAM. Right. Actually I was telling you I haven't been diagnosed; I just get these letters from my mother, who insists I'm ADD.

TERRY. [frowning] Really.

SAM. Oh, I'm sure she's right. Interesting, actually--lately she's also begun to suggest that I'm "ODD"--seriously--yeah, somehow I guess it stands for "Is Irritated By Authority Figures. Syndrome."

TERRY. You think she's right about that too?

SAM. Look, I don't want to belabor the obvious, but it's really the sort of designation only a class-A authority figure would have thought of, you know? But more to the point: who cares? You're only going to hear about this from medical specialists, anyway--so nobody who might suffer from it is ever going to listen, right? QED. Whatever.

TERRY. Well, that's how they diagnose it; they tell you you've got it, and if you argue, it's true.

SAM. But that's exactly what I mean about ADD. Okay, lactose intolerance, right?

TERRY. Come again?

SAM. Lactose intolerance, this condition some people have, okay, whereby they suffer ill effects if they try to drink a biological substance intended for infants of other species.

TERRY. I guess so.

SAM. Well, the thing is, it's rare--among white people. But among a lot of those other, funny-looking people, it's mysteriously common, right? Whatever. What we should be investigating is the bizarre and isolated "lactose immunity" found in a runaway majority of caucasians, see what I mean?

TERRY. Absolutely.

SAM. And maybe a little thought would remind us that the Indo-Europeans lived for generations in high mountains as pastoral nomads, and when you're living up there, you'll die if you can't live almost entirely off of goat milk and whatever.

TERRY. Where do you get all this?

SAM. Here and there. It's kind of like malaria and sickle-cell, you know what I mean? Magic chromosome, you only find it where there's malaria. One copy, you have an amazing resistance to malaria. Two copies, you've got a lethal condition. Too bad. What was I talking about?

TERRY. How do you know so much with a high-school education?

SAM. I've studied a little past that, and I read. Ever heard the joke about specialists and generalists?

TERRY. Yes, I have.

SAM. Well, whatever.

TERRY. So you're the one who knows nothing, about everything.

SAM. Well, actually I know a fair bit about everything. I do okay.

TERRY. You're so competitive. Have you always argued all the time?

SAM. Sure, but I do other stuff. Kick your butt at chess. Poker, racquetball, air hockey, whatever. Bring it on. I win. [opens up Twix bar, eats as convenient]

TERRY. But you bicker with people on the sidewalk for a living.

SAM. Like I said, I'm trying it out. Thing is, I have trouble holding down a job.

TERRY. I see. But again, that sounds like a pretty good argument for getting treated.

SAM. I am not the one with the problem, don't you get that? I don't have a condition, I have a personality. Is that so strange? Some people like to do everything the same way every day, and some don't. Problem is, the first kind own all the businesses and run all the schools, get it? It's farmers, I'm serious. Actually that kind of makes sense, doesn't it?

TERRY. I think you just stopped making sense.

SAM. No, no, listen. Farmers, okay? Okay. Look. What's civilization? Civilization is free time, okay? It's having time to invent stuff, not having to use all your time just surviving. And it starts with farmers.

TERRY. Farmers work harder than just about anybody, Sam.

SAM. Right! But as soon as people start farming, I mean whole communities, there start to be people within those communities who have time for that stuff. That's when people invent writing, when they start building and inventing and stuff. I'm serious, it's all over the archaeological record. Out of curiosity, is that a stolen watch?

TERRY. What? No, why?

SAM. You don't look very comfortable wearing it. Unfamiliar.

TERRY. No, I bought this. So okay, high culture depends on farming.

SAM. Well, it's just that it's not a new watch, you know? So I just wondered.

TERRY. Well, go on, anyway. I should point out, farming societies are usually run by aristocrats, not farmers.

SAM. What now? Oh. Right! But who are they? Farmers' children, or grandchildren. Isn't that funny? That easy living only happens in societies where a lot of people are slaving all day, harder than the hunter-gatherers did in the first place! Kind of makes you give Marx a second thought for a minute. Except he wanted to fix it by making everybody work all day. Ha, that's funny. What was I talking about?

TERRY. I'm not sure. ADD, originally.

SAM. Right. But see, my point is, that's why those people are in charge--because business and education were invented by farmers and their kids! Get it? Jesus, that's so sad.

TERRY. Well, I guess you could argue it, anyway.

SAM. Pretty strongly, I think. But anyway, back to ADD. Sorry. I ought to get a button that says "But anyway. Back to ADD."

TERRY. So the bad people run the world, huh? What do you want to do about it?

SAM. Not bad people. Just people. Problem is, they think they're the only people, so people like me can't get a job. But seriously, why does the workday have to start at seven every morning? What's wrong with noon? What's wrong with midnight?

TERRY. They both sound terrible, to tell you the truth.

SAM. Not to me, they don't. Not to a lot of people. There's nothing all that special about the crack of dawn, not since they invented electricity. It's just one more hour on the clock.

TERRY. Not for most people.

SAM. Well, those people can keep getting up whenever they want. I have no problem with that. But see, they won't give me that same respect. They want me to take drugs that'll make me more like them.

TERRY. You make it sound like Brave New World.

SAM. How else would you say it? I'm in one frame of mind--and I like it here, thank you--and this drug will put me in some other frame of mind. And a certain group of people keeps telling me my life will be better if I take it. Hell, a different group of people would say the same thing about heroin.

[Enter KEVIN and LAURA, purposefully.]

TERRY. That's sort of touching. I don't know if I agree with you at all, but it's a very compelling point of view.


SAM. Whoa, hey. Hi, you're, um--you're that girl, with the How-Do-We-Know-Jim-Morrison-Is-Really-Dead thing, right?

LAURA. Yeah! Laura.

SAM. Laura!

LAURA. This is Kevin; Kevin, Sam.

KEVIN. Hi. So you're the argument guy.

SAM. I prefer "All-Purpose Consultant."


TERRY. Hello.

SAM. Um, this is Terry. My lunch.

KEVIN. Isn't it a little late for lunch?

SAM. Well, yes. It is.

TERRY. Hey, any time, sorry.

LAURA. Wait! Sam, I need your help.

SAM. Sure, no problem. What's up?

LAURA. I need you to prove there's a God.

SAM. Oh, God, why?

LAURA. Because he doesn't get it. [significant look at KEVIN]

SAM. Laura, I can't do that. Look, there just isn't one.


KEVIN. All right.

SAM. What do you want? Get serious.

LAURA. Sam, I really mean it! You can't be like that.

SAM. Well, it'd help you out with your Jim Morrison theory, anyway.

LAURA. Look, I brought cookies. Chocolate chip.

SAM. O ho. [looks KEVIN over] Cookies...

LAURA. Fresh, we baked them half an hour ago. Look, Sam, they're enormous.

SAM. Jesus. Walnuts?

LAURA. [nervously] No...

SAM. Good. [to TERRY] I can't stand walnuts.

TERRY. Your loss.

SAM. Well, okay. Here goes nothing. Cookies up front.

LAURA. Oh, thank you. [to KEVIN] Now, listen.

SAM. Right. Where to start? Well, look at the trees.

KEVIN. What?

SAM. The trees, right? They're miraculous. Don't you just look at them and feel the hand of God?

KEVIN. Where?

SAM. Right there, there's one two blocks down. And a couple little ones out on the terrace up there, the yellow building. Look at that.


TERRY. Sam, I'm surprised at this.

SAM. It's an unfamiliar position, okay? Give me a minute. Well, Kevin, I guess I ought to ask, why don't you think there is a God?

KEVIN. Hey, you just said there wasn't. Come on.

TERRY. Now, that was pretty cheap.

LAURA. Well?

SAM. [to TERRY] Cool it. [to KEVIN] Well, what does it matter what I say? You don't even know me. Look, almost everybody in the world believes in God, or something similar. Christians alone outnumber any other religious persuasion in the world. Add them all up and you're looking pretty lonely, my friend. Don't you find that suspicious?

KEVIN. This is stupid. Can you really say that an old man on a cloud controls everything we do?

SAM. Sure, I can say that. But I'm not. Look, nobody said anything about an old man on a cloud. On the few occasions in the Bible when God appears, he might be sort of covered up with cloud, but he isn't on it exactly. And the first time he shows up he's just walking around.

KEVIN. You've read the Bible?

LAURA. Good.

SAM. Some of it. Anyway, that doesn't matter. A lot of people believe God doesn't control our every action. And if you want to get started on free will, I'm going to charge separately for it.

LAURA. No, just God, okay?

KEVIN. Please.

SAM. Okay, let's go this way. People can make some pretty cool stuff, right? But we can't make anything anywhere near as cool as a tree. But there they are, they're everywhere, aren't they? [irritated, as KEVIN looks around] There, and there, and there's more down the other way, okay? There's a lot more around, but one would be enough, anyway. All right?

KEVIN. Look, you have to get over it about the trees.

SAM. In a minute. Anyway, there they are, and that means they must have been made by somebody that much more amazing than people. So who does that sound like to you? There. [to LAURA] That's Thomas Aquinas. I mean, he thought of that.

LAURA. [to KEVIN] And that goes for everything else, too. Animals, and stars, and the whole planet.

TERRY. And people themselves.

KEVIN. Okay. So what? That doesn't have to be God. That could have been anything.

SAM. Really? Like what?

KEVIN. Like evolution.

SAM. Hey, evolution is just a technique. God can still be the artist. Besides, a lot of people don't think evolution ever happened. But that's another separate fee.

LAURA. No, just the God, please. I don't care about evolution.

SAM. Fine.

KEVIN. Okay, listen. God's all-powerful, right?

SAM. That's the usual view.


KEVIN. So, if God's all-powerful, why can't he make a rock he can't lift?

SAM. Oh, please.

LAURA. Kevin, your logic doesn't apply to God.

SAM. What, you want these cookies back?

KEVIN. You always say that. That's just a way to win the argument.

SAM. Now, wait. This is God we're talking about, Kevin. God made up logic. It's like trying to tax senators.

KEVIN. If he's all-powerful, he should be able to lift the rock.

SAM. If things like rocks and lifting really matter that much to top-notch divinities, I'm sure he can. But why do you think the solution would be something you could think of? He's God, he'd do something unexpected. Maybe he'd split himself in two, one to make the rock and one to not be able to lift it. Wouldn't be the first time, right?

KEVIN. It's not the same thing.

SAM. Separate fee.


KEVIN. Look, I just don't buy it.

SAM. Why not? What scares you so much about the idea that you were made for a purpose?

KEVIN. What purpose? Who said anything about that?

SAM. Well, I guess I'd need a separate fee for that.

LAURA. Sam, what is wrong with those cookies?

SAM. Nothing. Nothing, they look great.

LAURA. Then be happy.

SAM. I'm fine, I just don't want you doubling issues on me, isn't that fair?

KEVIN. [looking around a little tensely] Okay, enough. Sam, what do you say to--um, a foot-long hoagie?

LAURA. Kevin!

SAM. Everything on it?


KEVIN. You got it.

[Exit KEVIN.]

LAURA. Sam, you can't do this!

SAM. I'm sorry, Laura, but I can't turn that down.

TERRY. Seems like an underhanded move, Sam. Don't you think?

SAM. What? Look, I can't live on dessert, okay? Although yes, the cookies are really looking good. But a hoagie, that's even relatively healthy.

LAURA. But I hired you! You didn't finish the job!

SAM. Laura, I trounced him entirely. He didn't know where to turn. What do you want?

LAURA. I want him to accept it!

TERRY. I think you'll have to make him care first.

SAM. Yeah. Bake him some cookies.

LAURA. But now you're going to argue for him!

SAM. New argument. Separate fee.

LAURA. Oh, no, please.

SAM. Now, listen, Laura. When Kevin comes back, I'm probably going to say some awfully nasty things about God, okay? You're going to have to try not to take it personally.

LAURA. You ought to be worried about God taking it personally.

SAM. Oh, we have a deal. He doesn't believe in me either.

TERRY. You know, truly, this whole reversal seems a little suspect to me. Ethically speaking.

SAM. Terry, for Christ's sake, she had me sitting here arguing the case of a God I don't believe in myself. Don't you think that's at all questionable? Oh, look, what a cute dog. Hi, puppy-dog.

TERRY. You agreed to it.

SAM. Huh? Oh, well, I agreed to this.

TERRY. Over and above your prior commitment?

SAM. I was done! I had him convinced! Didn't you look at his face?

TERRY. What, just like he was supposed to look at the trees?

SAM. What else, wait for him to admit it? They never admit it the same day.

TERRY. So who judges, Sam?

[Enter KEVIN brandishing hoagie.]


SAM. Beautiful.

LAURA. You can't win this, Sam.

SAM. Just try to take it easy.

KEVIN. [to LAURA] God's going down.

SAM. Okay, Kevin, let me see it. [KEVIN presents the hoagie; SAM opens a corner of the wrapping only, then rewraps.] Mm. Okay, what'll it be?

KEVIN. You know. Take my side. Prove there's no God.

SAM. Well, okay then. We begin by defining God. We are discussing the Supreme Being, correct? All-powerful, all-knowing, and responsible for the miraculous creation of all things?

LAURA. [firmly] Yes.

KEVIN. That's the guy.

SAM. Okay, then. Let's start with omnipotence. God can do anything, right? Anything at all?


KEVIN. Then he has to be able to lift the rock.

SAM. Kevin, sit this one out, okay? [to LAURA] Okay, let's nail this down a little more formally. Can we agree for any task X, the answer to the question, "can God do X" always has to be yes?

LAURA. [a second's pause] Yes.

SAM. Fine. Then let's think about this rock thing.

[Everyone but SAM immediately protests.]

KEVIN. Wait a minute!

LAURA. What?

TERRY. Whoa, Sam. [continuing, as others falter] You can't use an argument you discounted ten minutes ago.

SAM. Who made you the ref? The argument works fine.

KEVIN. You said it didn't!

SAM. Listen! It doesn't have do be a rock, okay? All you need to do is ask the question: Can God arrange a task he cannot then perform? The answer has to be yes, because if it isn't, he's not omnipotent. But if it is yes, it sets up another question that can't be answered with yes--so he's still not omnipotent. So the proposition "God can always do X" can't be true. Get it?

KEVIN. What about splitting himself in half?

SAM. Wouldn't be him. Wouldn't be all-powerful. That's just plain cheating.

KEVIN. But you said it would work!

SAM. That was pretty much cheating, too. Actually you were right.

KEVIN. So he can't lift the rock?

LAURA. Logic can't defeat God, Sam. That's what you said yourself.

SAM. Look, logic isn't a player on one team. Logic is the whole game. Discount mine and you discount your own. So if that doesn't prove that nobody can be all-powerful, what can you do to prove that somebody can?

LAURA. I don't need to prove it.

SAM. Oh, yes you do. On this sidewalk, you do.

LAURA. No, I don't. I know it.

SAM. How?

LAURA. I know it here. [indicates heart] You can't argue with that.

SAM. You're right. I can't argue with that because there's nothing there. That's not an argument, it's just a way of saying you're not listening any more.

LAURA. You're the one who isn't listening. Logic isn't everything, Sam. God is too big for logic.

SAM. Oh, but your blind hunch has him bottled up pretty good, huh?

LAURA. You shouldn't joke about it. Intuition can help you understand things when logic stops working.

SAM. Yeah, well, my intuition tells me that logic is working just fine. What do you think of that? And I'm serious, I'm not making it up. Actually the idea that it isn't is counterintuitive in a big big way.

LAURA. Well, I think it makes perfect sense that the heart san see more clearly than the mind.

SAM. Am I hearing you right? You seem to be saying that your intuition tells you logic doesn't work, and then logic confirms your intuition. Is this for real? Why listen to either one of them? They sound like idiots.

LAURA. Look, there have always been things nobody understands. What if logic does work? What about the big bang?

SAM. What about it? [to TERRY] Hey, that reminds me. Ever wonder why there would be just one?

LAURA. What?

SAM. The big bang. It's just a big explosion, right? By why can't there be a lot of them? Not like there isn't room.

KEVIN. No way. The big bang created the whole universe, I mean boom, all of it.

SAM. No, it didn't. It only made the stuff in the universe. That's different. But look, it's big, it's really big, I don't care. So what? Space is infinite, right? So you can take anything, as big as you want, and there's room for it in space. And in fact, there's always infinite space left over. [aside to TERRY] That's the kind of cool thing about infinity. When the numbers are really big, the math actually gets a lot easier. [back to KEVIN and LAURA] So somewhere, out on the edge where everything is still exploding out from the bang, there's a lot of room where it hasn't reached yet. Right? A whole lot of empty space, that keeps going forever. So why can't there be other bangs out there, way out so far we can't even see them from here? Hell, maybe they're laid out in a pattern like stars in a galaxy. Wonder what that would look like? [falls silent]

LAURA. It sounds to me like your science is showing you that we're just a tiny piece of God.

SAM. [snapping to attention] What? Come on, I say "I wonder what that looks like" and you say it must look like an old man with a beard? Is that all you can think of?

LAURA. Wait a minute. [thinking hard] Sam, listen to this. Space is infinite, right?

SAM. So they tell me.

LAURA. So, what's outside it?

SAM. Laura, what do you think "infinite" means?

LAURA. It means forever. But Sam, that doesn't make any sense at all, logically. I mean, like what you just said. You start with infinite space, you put something big in and the space is still infinite?

SAM. Sure.

LAURA. But that means this really big universe was really nothing.

SAM. No, it doesn't. It doesn't mean anything like that.

LAURA. If mathematics is still working, and you subtract big from really big and you still have really big, you haven't done anything. The difference is nothing.

TERRY. Actually she's kind of got you there.

SAM. Infinity is a special case in mathematics. It's like i. Except not as bad.

LAURA. Well, God's a special case too.

SAM. Not the same thing at all.

LAURA. Sure it is. There's no limits on infinity, and there's no limits on God.

SAM. Infinity gets to be big. It doesn't get to just run around doing whatever it wants. It doesn't get to contradict itself.

LAURA. When did it start? What was before the big bang?

SAM. Who knows? Some smaller bangs that weren't as much fun. Who even cares?

LAURA. Doesn't it matter? Why couldn't it be God who set it off?

SAM. Because he still can't lift Kevin's goddamned rock, is why.

LAURA. Don't you see? Your story has questions you can't answer, too. Things you can't work out.

SAM. Any theory has to wrap up somewhere. Haven't you ever thought about that? You can't blame me for not understanding everything. Infinity is just an intrinsically messy idea. At some point we just have to forgive ourselves for not really getting it.

TERRY. [appreciatively] "Oh, I have been often too anxious for rivers / To leave it to them to get out of their valleys."

SAM. [looking around] What? What? What?

TERRY. Robert Frost. "Too Anxious for Rivers." The river always makes it to the ocean, even if you don't know how it gets there. But what he means is, the universe will manage to work itself out okay whether we ever understand it or not. Right? "Sooner or later we have to cease somewhere."

SAM. [impatient] Yeah? What did I just say? [to LAURA] The point is, reasoning isn't invalidated just because I can't explain every last thing with it right here on the street. And even more importantly, even if you could somehow invalidate logic in general, that doesn't suddenly mean you're right. All it would mean is that nobody could really know anything.

LAURA. You can know. Your spirit knows things, if you listen.

SAM. But a lot of different people say it knows different things. It's your word against theirs.

LAURA. But I know, Sam.

SAM. Look, that's still the exact thing people say about very different beliefs. That's why I trust rationality--because it's something. And rationally, a guy like the God you believe in doesn't really add up.

KEVIN. Okay--[hold hands up for order]--I'm the client, and I'm asking you not to use the rock argument any more.

SAM. What? Who's talking about the rock? Look, I don't need the rock. The same thing works for omniscience. Let's say you have a computer, okay?

LAURA. No, let's not.

SAM. I'm serious. So there's this computer, right, a big old honking Isaac Asimov this-computer-can-do-anything kind of computer--

LAURA. No! Look, Sam, I honestly just don't feel like talking about it any more, okay?

SAM. But--

LAURA. Forget it.

KEVIN. Yeah, seriously.

SAM. Guys, I'm on the job. [displays sandwich meaningfully] I can't just call it quits. I have my pride.

TERRY. Can't we call a truce?

SAM. You all know the deal. I got my food, fair and square, so I have to hold up my end of the bargain.

KEVIN. Then I'll take the damn hoagie back.

TERRY. Kevin, honestly, this is Sam's livelihood.

SAM. Will you just give me a minute? I can prove this, listen. Say you have the biggest computer imaginable.

LAURA. Quit it. What will you accept? Will you change the subject for some cigarettes?

SAM. [gesticulating at sign] Food! Sustenance! You're offering me poison!

KEVIN. [astonished, to LAURA] You smoke?

LAURA. No! Some of yours.

SAM. Two minutes! Okay? I can prove there's no God in two minutes.

LAURA. Whatever. Sam, tell you what. I'm out of cookies, but I'll give you five bucks just to shut the hell up.

SAM. Whoa! Stop the presses!

LAURA. [digging and producing a fiver] Here. Yours, to be quiet.

SAM. I'm right on it.

[A moment of silence.]

SAM. That's good, right?

KEVIN. [to LAURA, quietly] What do you feel like doing, now?

LAURA. I don't know. [to SAM] Are you going to be okay? Do you have someplace to go?

SAM. Oh, sure. And anyway, this guy still owes me lunch.

LAURA. Well, by now it's dinner.

TERRY. That's fine, if you're still going to be hungry after that sub.

SAM. This? This is going in the fridge. I'm not wasting a good meal.

[SAM packs up his things.]

TERRY. You two are welcome along.

LAURA. [exchanging glances with KEVIN] Oh, I don't think so...

KEVIN. Thanks anyway, though.

LAURA. Yeah. We'd better be going.

[Exit LAURA and KEVIN at leisure. TERRY waves; SAM is oblivious. As they continue speaking they begin to mosey offstage.]

TERRY. So would you say it's been a pretty good day?

SAM. Phenomenal. A lot better than I expected. If things keep going like this, maybe I'll keep coming out.

TERRY. What else were you thinking of doing?

SAM. I don't know exactly. I mean, who really knows what the people with the great jobs did to get there?

TERRY. What kind of great jobs do you mean?

SAM. The greatest job you can have. Getting paid for your personality. Getting a lot of money just for being the kind of person you would have been anyway. You know, like Aristotle, or Abbie Hoffman, or George Will. People who just get to sound off on whatever they feel like talking about, and make a living from it.

TERRY. Well, you've got the opinions, at least.

SAM. Plenty more where this came from. Where are we going?

TERRY. What do you like?

SAM. Whatever.

TERRY. [pause] That's it? Just "whatever"?

SAM. Sure, why? Just anything you had in mind.

TERRY. Huh. I guess I figured you'd have strong opinions.

SAM. Learned that one a while ago, Terry: those who argue for food are well advised not to argue about it.

TERRY. Come on, then.


Written Word