a short play

courtesy TIME magazine


Joe and Vlad sit across from each other in semi-plush chairs. Joe holds both sides of his chair, while Vlad holds a glass of water. Joe is old and feeble, bound to the past. Vlad is an elegant and aging Puritan, whose only crime is he was born in the USSR at the height of the Cold War.

JOE: I didn’t say you were a killer. I didn’t say that. I agreed you were a killer, but I didn’t say you were a killer and that’s a big difference; one is agreeing and one is saying so even though I agree you are a killer, I didn’t say you were a killer and that’s a big difference. And anyway, it’s all politics. The media and politics. It’s a big circus so you agree to some things and I agree you are a killer but I didn’t say it. He did. The guy. The reporter. George, the Greek guy, Stephocockaluss or whatever, he has it out for you, not me, well I have it out for you too, we all have it out for you; I think you are an evil, evil man for all you’ve done, but I can think it without saying it. So no, no and yes, sometimes and always, things change and then they’re different, but one thing stays the same and that’s America. America. The greatest democracy in the history of the world. We’re right and you’re wrong. Period. End of story. What do you have to say to that?

Vlad nods his head and takes a sip of water. He returns the glass to a side table. His smile is enigmatic. Vlad stares at Joe with great regard before speaking.

VLAD: Yes, a circus…

JOE: Now before you go on, let me say that even though you are a killer that doesn’t mean we can’t work together on things of mutual agreement. Like Climate Change or that new ultra soccer league or whatever. There are things that don’t divide us. Not many. Most things we can’t agree on. That’s why you’re the enemy and we want to annihilate you, make no mistake about it, the CIA is working night and day to get rid of you. You’re a piece of crap. We hate you. We want you dead. You stand in the way of a uni-polar world. We’re the super power. Not you. So just stop it will ya? Put another Yeltsin in. We want another Yeltsin. We want someone we can work with. You’re not the guy so just die will you?

VLAD: You have a vein in your forehead which seems quite distressed.

JOE: Don’t tell me what I have and don’t have and how it’s feeling. I’m President of the United States. I’m the President. Not you. Me. I’m the leader of the Free World! You’re just a killer! There I said it. Now what do you say! There’s nothing you can say. We’re good and you’re evil. Period. End of story. So just give up and surrender. We have you surrounded.

VLAD: In Russia we have a saying, “If you can’t say something nice…”

JOE: Hey that’s our saying, don’t steal our saying and say it’s your saying; that’s our saying, “If you can’t saying something nice then shut the hell up.” That’s our saying. You stupid, lying killer. You Novo-choking killer. You miserable murdering menace.

VLAD: We have another saying. I think this one just belongs to us. “An old man’s throbbing vein…”

JOE: That’s ours too. That’s our saying too. We own all the sayings. All the copyrights and patents. You don’t have any sayings you didn’t get from us, and you owe us for all the times you used those sayings without paying license fees and giving attribution. You’re a killer and a pirate. Just give up, man, just give up. You can’t win. You can’t win. It’s lights out, zero sum, goodbye. And good riddance.

VLAD: Well thank you for your time. I recommend you get that throbbing vein in your forehead looked at by a specialist. At your age. So frail. You don’t want to let your emotions get the better of you. Your head might explode.

JOE: I’ve got plenty of veins to go around pal, plenty to go around. Don’t you worry about my exploding head, you worry about your exploding head, and your veins, and your throbbing all over the place. Don’t look at me, look at you!

VLAD stands to leave. He smiles down at Joe.

VLAD: They said you were like FDR. How disappointed he must be.

JOE: Well he’s dead and so am I so what are you going to do about it?

VLAD smiles sadly and leaves. Joe looks around to an invisible staff.

JOE: I told you he’d back down. We are back! America is back. So back. We are back, back, back.

LIGHTS begin to fade.

JOE: We’re back. The Leader of the Free World. First among equals. The unitary superpower. The greatest. God Bless America.





Gottlieb is a writer/actor/director. He is the author of the novel The Fourth Wall.

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M. A. Gottlieb

M. A. Gottlieb

Gottlieb is a writer/actor/director. He is the author of the novel The Fourth Wall.

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