How Postosuchus kirkpatricki, Arguably The Most Brutal, Vicious, And Ruthless Ambush Predator To Have Ever Walked The Earth (I Mean, Check Out Those Teeth!) Was Inadvertently Reincarnated As The Hindbrain Of Mr. Gregory Q. Whimple, A Mild-Mannered Complaints Officer With The Small Croydon-Based Electronics And Household Appliance Firm Of Bettavolt Industries, Ltd.
(Originally published in Murky Depths issue 9, 2009)
A Play, in Several Unspeakable Acts,
by Simon Petrie
Gregory Q. Whimple, a Complaints Officer
Samantha Jimpson, a Representative from Bettavolt Head Office
Francis J. Throgmorton, a Janitor
Narrator, a Narrator
Bradley Hasdock, Esther Chang, Claudia McClafferty, Hermann McClafferty, Joan Blumenfeld, Jimmy Benzel, Steven Griffen, Alfred Solomon-Baird, Katy O’Shaughnessy, Fred Boyd, Marcia Allenborough, Iris Featherstone, John Atkinson, and Ronnie Snipe, Customers and Victims
SCENE: A basement COMPLAINTS DEPARTMENT, equipped with COUNTER, ineffectual ROPE BARRIER and (behind COUNTER) Mr. WHIMPLE. A SPOT illuminates Mr. Whimple.
WHIMPLE (sotto voce): Want. Food. Want now.
BRADLEY HASDOCK enters the room via a small flight of steps.
HASDOCK: Hello, is this Complaints?
WHIMPLE: That’s me, yes, sir. How can I help you this morning?
HASDOCK: It’s this toaster. I bought it last month, and last week it started –
WHIMPLE moves around counter, grapples HASDOCK, and attempts to bite him.
HASDOCK: Ow! Please, that’s my arm! Stop! Oh, God, no! Stop! Hel–
WHIMPLE has now succeeded in inflicting a lethal bite on HASDOCK, severing his victim’s carotid artery. He then devours his victim.
WHIMPLE (sotto voce): Huh. Easy.
Pause; then, ESTHER CHANG enters Whimple’s lair and approaches the counter.
WHIMPLE (sotto voce): Food, yes. More. Good.
CHANG: This curling iron –
WHIMPLE has quickly moved around the counter to close on CHANG, who he despatches with cruel efficiency via his now-practised carotid-severing bite. He devours the new victim. Another pause; then, CLAUDIA McCLAFFERTY descends the steps and approaches the counter.
WHIMPLE (sotto voce): Food.
C. McCLAFFERTY: My heater –
WHIMPLE has now perfected his killing technique, as he demonstrates with this latest victim. He begins to feed, but is interrupted by the sound of descending footsteps. Hastily he pushes the body behind the counter, as HERMANN McCLAFFERTY steps into the room.
H. McCLAFFERTY: Excuse me, did my wife just co–
You get the picture, by now, I’m sure.
WHIMPLE (sotto voce): Not even scaly. Sweet. (Belches.)
Pause. JOAN BLUMENFELD approaches the counter.
WHIMPLE (sotto voce): More food. Too easy.
BLUMENFELD: Can you please have a look at this kettle?
WHIMPLE: Certainly, Miss. What seems to be the problem?
BLUMENFELD: It says in the instruction manual that it’s supposed to have an auto-shutoff feature, but it doesn’t seem to be operating. And also, I have to say, the whistle is a bit shri– excuse me, hope I don’t seem rude or anything, but what’s with all the bones?
WHIMPLE: Rude? Most certainly not, Miss. But bones?
BLUMENFELD: Those. There. (Points, at a PILE OF BONES illuminated by a helpful SPOT)
WHIMPLE: Oh. Yes, of course. Nothing to worry about. Just last month’s floor display. Janitor’s been called – twice, already – to clean up, but he must be flat off his feet somewhere. Excuse me one moment, Miss.
BLUMENFELD: Floor display? And all those torn shreds of clothing. What kind of floor display uses bo–
WHIMPLE strikes, then feeds. Pause, then a Boy, JIMMY BENZEL, who cannot be any older than about eight, approaches the counter. Really, somebody should warn him.
WHIMPLE (sotto voce): Belly stretching. But. This one small. Can’t hurt.
BENZEL: Can –
WHIMPLE achieves his best time yet. Pause. FRANCIS THROGMORTON approaches Whimple’s counter.
WHIMPLE (sotto voce): Almost full.
THROGMORTON: Blimey, bit niffy! Think the air circulation must be playing up again. Never mind, guvnor, I’ll put it on me list, and we’ll see when I can be gettin’ back to it. Anyways. You called to say there was some bones you was wanting cleared away?”
WHIMPLE: Ah, yes. You’d be the janitor, then?
THROGMORTON: Cleaning and Maintenance, you don’t mind, guvnor. Name’s Frank.
WHIMPLE: Gregory. Excellent.
THROGMORTON: New here?
WHIMPLE: Yes. Just started a week or so back. But everyone’s been very accommodating.
THROGMORTON: Yeah, they’re a friendly lot, for the most part. Anyway, guvnor, mustn’t stand around all day chatting, taking up your valuable time. The bones are?
WHIMPLE: Oh, they’re right around here. (Points.) I had to sweep them round behind the counter, they were starting to unsettle the customers.
THROGMORTON: Right you are. I’ll just – Crikey! Look, sorry, guvnor, didn’t realise there was so many. Thought you just meant one or two, like. This is going to be two trips, at le–
Pause. Enter STEVEN GRIFFEN.
WHIMPLE (sotto voce): Shouldn’t.
GRIFFEN: My waffle make–
Pause. Next, ALFRED SOLOMON-BAIRD.
WHIMPLE (sotto voce): Maybe should cut back a little.
SOLOMON-BAIRD: I got this electronic music box, supposed to play all these different Beatles tunes, but all it ever plays is Maxwell’s Silver Ham–
Pause. KATY O’SHAUGHNESSY.
WHIMPLE (sotto voce): I get bloat now.
O’SHAUGHNESSY: This portable fan –
And now, FRED BOYD.
WHIMPLE (sotto voce): Really feel not so good.
BOYD: D’you know –
It’s now MARCIA ALLENBOROUGH’s turn.
WHIMPLE (sotto voce): Will regret this. Too full.
ALLENBOROUGH: My husband got me this touch-lamp, and every time I t–
Pause. IRIS FEATHERSTONE.
WHIMPLE (sotto voce): But each so more-ish.
FEATHERSTONE: I think there’s something wrong with my clock ra–
JOHN ATKINSON is on.
WHIMPLE (sotto voce): Buurrrrp. Whoops.
ATKINSON: This battery tes–
Pause, interrupted only by the disturbing sound of WHIMPLE feeding off his latest victim. The SPOT on Whimple and his counter fades slowly, and then brightens as a cheap suggestion of the passage of time.
WHIMPLE (sotto voce): All gone very quiet. Wonder why?
The SPOT fades again, then brightens.
WHIMPLE (sotto voce): Maybe door locked? (He walks around from behind the counter to investigate.) No. This no good. Me famished.
The SPOT fades again, then brightens. RONNIE SNIPE enters.
WHIMPLE (sotto voce): Ah. About bloody time.
SNIPE: Hey, mate. D’you have change for the par–
The SPOT fades again, for sufficiently long that the AUDIENCE start to wonder what is happening; then it brightens once more.
WHIMPLE (sotto voce): Hungry. So long since last food. (Indeed, he looks much thinner than the last time we saw him.)
SAMANTHA JIMPSON enters.
JIMPSON: Who left this broom lying here?
WHIMPLE: I’m sorry, Madam. I’ll have someone take care of it.
JIMPSON: Look, never mind that. I’m just down here from Head Office. Call me Samantha.
WHIMPLE: Gregory. Pleased to meet you. What can I do for you?
JIMPSON: Bit – er – close in here, isn’t it?
WHIMPLE: Is it? I hadn’t noticed, sorry.
JIMPSON: Anyway, that’s not the purpose of my visit. Look, Gregory, you’ve put us in a bit of a spot. When was the last time you had a face-to-face with a customer?
WHIMPLE: Beg pardon?
JIMPSON: I mean, when was the last time a customer came down here to complain over an appliance?
WHIMPLE: It’d be last week, I think. Tuesday. Skinny runt, too, if I remember right. Why?
JIMPSON: Well. This is awkward, and I don’t fully understand it, but our other branches are typically running at about sixteen complaints a day. So did this branch, until –
WHIMPLE: But if I’m not receiving complaints, that’s a good thing, surely? I mean for the company? I mean, I always strive to give satisfaction –
JIMPSON: Good thing. Yes. But. Gregory, you’re –
WHIMPLE: Call me Greg.
JIMPSON: Alright. Greg. Thing is, you’re employed as a complaints officer. If you’re not actually taking complaints, then – what was that noise?
WHIMPLE: Stomach rumbling. Sorry.
JIMPSON: Anyway, the point is, as I was saying, if you’re not actually –
WHIMPLE: Look, Samantha, I think I see where you’re going with this. Can’t you just change my job description to ‘customer care’? I’ve taken care of more customers than I can count, after all.
JIMPSON: It doesn’t work that way, Gregory, and y–
WHIMPLE: Excuse me. Stop. Just realised something. Haven’t we met before?
JIMPSON: Well, yes, of course, Gregory. I saw you at Induction, six weeks back. But –
WHIMPLE: No, I don’t mean that. I mean – Scar, wasn’t it?
JIMPSON: Samantha. Look, Greg, you’re not making this any –
WHIMPLE: No, listen. I’m sure of it. Late Triassic. Monument Valley, southern Utah. It was lush, back in those days. I miss it terribly. We used to meet at the watering hole, that nice sunny spot just near the Oligokyphus burrow. And you were very territorial back them, Scar, I seem to recall. I remember you almost took my leg off in a squabble over a Placerias carcass. You –
JIMPSON: Gregory, you’re really not helping yourself with this ridic– (She pauses, as if realising something profound.) Wait. Oh. Goodness. My God, you’re right! This is extraordinary! Fang! Huh! My word, it really is you. Fancy me, well I never. Fang. After all those years. I think I need to sit down. Amazing, just amazing! But I think you’re mistaken about the Placerias. My recollection –
WHIMPLE: Oh look, Scar, it really doesn’t matter. It’s just wonderful to see you after all this time. I always thought, back then, that you and me, we could ha–
JIMPSON: Could have what?
WHIMPLE: Well. You know. Me and you. Only young once, and all that. You had such wonderfully patterned flanks, back then. Just gorgeous, the way the sunlight used to reflect off your haunches. It was probably my one big regret from back then, that I never really thought to – you know. Us. We could – Wait. Stop! My arm! Aaarrgh! Mercy, woman, for pity’s sake! That suit cost three weeks’ wages! Help!
JIMPSON: Huh! Fang, you cheap bastard. I’ll teach you to muscle in on my Placerias kill!
WHIMPLE: What? But Scar, that was two hundred and ten million years ago! Scar, please! Have you gone cra–
JIMPSON (sotto voce): Hmm. So that’s what they taste like. Bit bland. Not bad, though. Could get used to this.
The SPOT fades again, then brightens. It has shifted position, and now illuminates the NARRATOR as he walks onto the set in his best suit.
NARRATOR: So. Postosuchus kirkpatricki. There you have it. Arguably the most brutal, vicious, and ruthless ambush predator to have ever walked the Earth. (He walks around behind the counter.)
NARRATOR: Also, apparently, the longest to hold a grud–