Mr.

Absurdity’s Little Shop of Morals
Richard Evans January 19, 2010

A young man (PETER) and an old man (MR. ABSURDITY) are sitting side by side at a kitchen counter over steaming cups of mulled wine. There’s a half-full pan on a hob of faintly glowing MR. ABSURDITY dabs at his split eyebrow with a cloth, The two are in

clinker.

the fabric sticking to the congealing blood. discussion, and have been for some minutes.

MR. ABSURDITY (repeating PETER’s question) Why would he go so far? Why does

he want them so badly that he’s willing to send out a man like Tyler to steal from my shop? To

give a good going over to an old codger like me?

1

2 Well, I’ve always said that the stock was valuable, but I never quite told you exactly why. Morals underpin civilisation. They’re like sculpted instincts, the stars by which human beings navigate society. We’d be

animals without them.

PETER If they’re so important, why sell them at all? shop? Why even have this

MR. ABSURDITY (quietly) Because they’re important to the right people at the right time. We sell to some unsavory We

characters, as you well know. do so because those people need morals most of all. I’m afraid Mr. though.

Aesop is different,

He wants morals for a And we can’t

different reason. allow that.

PETER is staring across at MR. ABSURDITY, wide eyed.

3 MR. ABSURDITY I’ve set out the morals in this shop in a very particular way. You may have noticed that the more elaborate morals are set low on the shelves, whereas the simpler ones are harder to reach on the top shelves, right against the walls.

PETER (eyes flickering nervously) Yes.

MR. ABSURDITY That’s because the more work that has been put into crafting a moral, the less valuable it is. Oh, the lower shelf ones’re

important for particular places and times, but the top-shelf morals are priceless. They’re

the clay from which everything else is built. Little more than

instincts really, but those are the most important things in human thinking. It’s good to

reach for your mother, It’s bad

4 to see someone in pain, a rolling meadow is more valuable than a desert, these are the fundamental values. MR. AESOP wants these He plans to subvert

primitives. them.

Think what that could mean.

By

replacing those with It’s good to see someone in pain or a desert is more valuable than a rolling meadow, by changing human values, he can make hell on earth. People will aspire to

what he chooses and destroy what he chooses. [MR. ABSURDITY grins

harshly] AESOP is a storyteller, a fitting profession for the Lord of Lies.

MR. ABSURDITY puts his hand on PETER’s head.

MR. ABSURDITY (sighs, tries to be reassuring) Well, maybe things aren’t that bad just yet [MR. ABSURDITY winces as his head gives a spectacular throb].

PETER

5 (concerned) How are you feeling now, MR A.?

MR. ABSURDITY My face feels too big, but much better, thank you. Shame about

my glasses though, bugger knocked them right off my head. We

should get back to the counter and see what’s missing.

PETER Right you are, Mr. A.

MR. ABSURDITY (sterner now) Peter, there is one other thing.

PETER Yes sir?

MR. ABSURDITY I’m still not happy about your rat. I can’t afford to have

vermin loose among the morals, eating them.

PETER

6 (exasperated by his boss’s fussiness) It’s not like they’re edible, MR. A.!

MR. ABSURDITY Tried one have you?

PETER simply bows his head and sighs in exasperation.

PETER We can’t just put him out onto the streets, he’s a clever little chap, Enrique Automobiliez.

MR. ABSURDITY Given the bloody thing a name now have you? vermin. It’s a rat - it’s

PETER He’s a mouse.

MR. ABSURDITY Vermin.

PETER But I told you, Mr. Lump-

7 MR. ABSURDITY (enunciating each syllable with great emphasis) My pet cat.

PETER -’ll have his guts for garters out there. Anyway, Enrique likes

me ever since I rescued him from Mr. Lump-

MR. ABSURDITY My pet.

PETER and let him have some of the birds’ sweetcorn.

MR. ABSURDITY (waving his hands impatiently, troubled) All this is by the by, my boy. You released vermin into my shop and it’s up to you to evict it. Rabid mice are the last thing I need with all this trouble from AESOP and his cronies.

8 MR. ABSURDITY gingerly rubs his scabbed brow.

MR. ABSURDITY You need a backbone, boy!

Do

you want to leave the world with dismal, meaningless stories? Because that’s what we’ll end up with. Robbers stabbing a deaf

girl in the eyes and profiting from it.

PETER But sir, he’s only a mouse. well behaved. Very clever.

He’s He

would have starved if I hadn’t fed him. did. That was a good deed I

MR. ABSURDITY (increasingly agitated) Well, perhaps if it had been a starving child you’d taken in, and there are plenty around, I’d look at it differently. As it

is, you’ve been a clot, as usual. If it wasn’t that your father was a damn sight smarter than his offspring I never would have taken you on here.

9 PETER looks crestfallen. MR. ABSURDITY stops to get his breath

back, caressing his scabbed brow and considering.

MR. ABSURDITY (sighing, calmer, apologetic) I didn’t mean that. I apologise. It’s

Just a mouse I suppose.

just the robbery, the assault, it’s put me on the defensive. [smiles ruefully] Bloody mouse can’t be as bad as Bob Tyler and his boss. Heheheh, you say the

mouse is clever so that already separates him from Mr. somewhat. Let’s get back to the shop floor. MR. AESOP will be calling in later. I want to be ready for Tyler

him when he does.

PETER (nodding grimly) Sure thing, Mr. A., hold onto my

arm, I’ll lead us through.

The pair walk through a door from the kitchen to reveal an antiquated shop floor whose walls are lined with deep towering shelves. Old wooden stepladders rest against the shelves at

10 various points. There is a counter and facing the counter

is a lit fireplace with metal bucketsful of coals, tongs, and pokers. ceiling. Despite the loss of his glasses, MR. ABSURDITY strides to the relevant shelves with confidence, perfectly familiar with the layout of the shop. The shelves are stacked with tatty cardboard boxes arranged vertically, oldest at the top, most recent at the bottom. Horizontally, they are arranged alphabetically. The shelves Lamps hang from beams that cross the room under the

are a jumble, stepping very close to them, MR. ABSURDITY peers at their contents as he shuffles about the shop. at a central portion at the midlevelEventually,

MR. ABSURDITY (mumbling) Honesty’s the best policy... It’s absurd to ape our betters... Liars are never believed, even when they tell the truth ... Little liberties are great offences..? Mmmmmhmm. There’s There

something missing here.

should be one about friends...

PETER Little friends may prove great friends?

11 MR. ABSURDITY Yes, that one. Hmmm. Still, at

least he hasn’t taken any from the higher shelves. I suppose he

ignored the scruffy looking ones up there. Serves AESOP right for

sending an oaf like Tyler.

Something catches MR. ABSURDITY’s ear, he cocks his head like a cat in the gloom.

MR. ABSURDITY Oooh, I can hear your flaming rodent. It’s got a free run of

the upper shelves...

PETER (earnestly) He’s fine up there, he won’t eat anything.

MR. ABSURDITY I don’t like it, what if he decides to chew up the morals to make himself a nest up there..?

PETER I’ll get some corn and straw for him.

12 MR. ABSURDITY (considers for a moment, then purposefully) Right, PETER, back to business get the musket under the counter and load it. there. Wait! Lead me

PETER Don’t be absurd, you can’t shoot without your glasses!

MR. ABSURDITY PETER, walk to the front door. Now stay still. I’m going to

point my finger over here [MR. ABSURDITY flings his arm out in a random direction, index finger sticking out]. Wait there.

MR. ABSURDITY Now move, but don’t tell me where.

As Peter moves, MR. ABSURDITY turns to track him with his finger with perfect accuracy.

MR. ABSURDITY

13 My eyes have had it without my glasses, but I can still hear, I can feel the boards moving when you do. I know this shop like Once MR.

the back of my hand.

AESOP is in here, I know where he is. Now get the musket and shot

under the counter, and lead me over there.

PETER does this. MR. ABSURDITY opens the musket and pours gunpowder into the firing chamber.

MR. ABSURDITY I’ll need some warning for when MR. AESOP comes in, so I want you to stand watch by the front door. See anything, let me know

and go through to the kitchen. Too confusing to have both of you moving around in here.

MR. ABSURDITY turns his head again as Enrique Automobiliez scurries higher to one of the upper shelves.

PETER Sure thing, Mr. A.

14 MR. ABSURDITY You know I can hear that thing scurrying around up there. now where’s it going..? PETER I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t think you’d mind. Actually, I mean, I Oh,

I thought you’d be pleased.

thought caring for animals was a very moral thing to do... MR. ABSURDITY We’ll be lucky to have any morals left the way you’re going. The mouse scampers off the top shelf, making his way along one of the beams. disturbs it. One of the hanging lamps sways as the mouse

MR. ABSURDITY looks up then PETER (urgently) He’s coming! So fast, God!

The door slams open, hitting PETER in the head. knocked cold.

PETER is

The open door lets in a blast of blustery winter The large presence of

wind that sparkles with snow flakes. AESOP strides into the shop.

He is wearing old armour with

steel gauntlets and a wolfskin cape. MR. ABSURDITY fumbles to load shot into the musket. ENRIQUE AUTOMOBILIEZ scurries along the beam, directly over AESOP’s head.

15 MR. ABSURDITY (still loading the musket, frantically, covered in gunpowder, lead shot rolling over the top of the counter) Don’t you move, you bastard. You’ve done enough for one day!

AESOP draws a field amputation knife.

AESOP Not quite, but soon I will have.

AESOP kicks the boy as he passes, adopting the weaving, boxer’s stance of an accomplished blade artist. underneath ENRIQUE AUTOMOBILIEZ. He is now directly

AESOP You never quite knew what to do with these morals did you? I do know. ...

As AESOP advances, MR. ABSURDITY desperately fumbles with the musket, finally he closes it. ENRIQUE AUTOMOBILIEZ lets out

a piercing squeak and dives down towards AESOP. AESOP catches him in one gauntleted fist, crushes him to a pulp, and throws

16 him at MR. ABSURDITY. MR. ABSURDITY’s shot goes in a wild direction. The gunpowder covering MR. ABSURDITY ignites with AESOP is on MR. ABSURDITY and has opened his MR. ABSURDITY gurgles, clutching his throat

firecracker pops. neck in a flash.

as though scalded there with hot fat. AESOP picks up by the tail, the limp, flattened body of ENRIQUE AUTOMOBILIEZ.

AESOP (sneering) Little friends may prove great friends - but not today. That

little gem is mine now, thanks to Tyler. Stealing that moral

from the story of your life has served me well. (Surveying the

shop) I’m sure I’ll find a use for these morals, too.

With the knife, AESOP walks over to PETER. Fade to black and the sound of sawing.

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