[OLD MAN, SON I and SON II are gathered in a kitchen, which is sparsely decorated and drab. In the middle of the room is a small kitchen table with three chairs, and in the corner, a grey refrigerator and a white stove. There is one window over the sink with a drab curtain over it.]
OLD MAN is sitting and looking down at the table with his head in his hand, obviously pondering something. SON I stands across from his father, pacing while talking. SON II is in the corner of the stage, seemingly distracted)
SON I: I’m sorry, dad. It is just the decision we have to make.
OLD MAN: Easy for you to make, isn’t it?
SON I: Oh, come on! It isn’t like this is something that I can just decide, the decision was made for us.
OLD MAN: Right, the decision was made for you. I didn’t decide on shit, but you insist that this is the way it is. When I was your age, we—
SON II: Hello? What? No! I didn’t call you! What are you talking about??
OLD MAN: What? What the hell is he talking about?
SON II: (getting louder) No! I said I didn’t call you! You have to stop this nonsense! I want to talk to your supervisor!! (Old Man looks up at SON I perplexed. SON II wanders off stage talking to himself.)
SON I: Oh, that’s just his Cerebral Phone.
OLD MAN: His what?
SON I: His Cerebral Phone. You know, kind of like a cell phone, only they implanted the technology into his brain.
OLD MAN: The technology these days, just ridiculous. They can put a cell phone in your brain, yet—
SON I: Cerebral Phone.
OLD MAN: Yeah, right… Cerebral Phone. They can put a Cerebral Phone in your brain, but you can’t feed the people.
SON I: Oh dad, get off it!
OLD MAN: I’m just saying! Don’t get mad at me, you know my opinion.
SON I: Yes Dad, I’ve known your opinion for the last 50 years.
(Awkward silence overtakes the characters, SON II walks back in.)
SON II: (addressing the others) Boy, you would think they could have worked out the kinks of this software by now. So, what did we decide?
SON I: Well, we decided—
OLD MAN: (cutting off SON I) We didn’t decide nothing.
SON II: Dad, we knew this day was coming. You knew to expect it at some point.
SON I: I’m going to have to make the same decision with my son when I get to your age, it’s just the way it is.
SON II: Yeah. Plus, how do you expect us to maintain anything with you around?
OLD MAN: What happened to your guys’ manners? Didn’t I teach you better? Just because my birth certificate has an expiration date don’t mean nothing! Don’t you think we’re better off with me around?!
SON I: Dad, you know the law. The government makes the laws, not me. I can’t do anything about it.
OLD MAN: This is ridiculous. Here I am, healthy as an ox, and I have to be put to death because the damn government can’t produce no more food! Well, what the hell is a matter with that? They can’t get their shit straight, so now I have to be punished?
SON I: Dad…
SON II: (interrupts) Hey, can I call you back? In the middle of something important here.
OLD MAN: Really, son? You’re going to take a phone call when we’re in the middle of talking about me dying? What the hell have I taught you?
SON II: Listen dad, it’s not my fault, it’s the Cerebral Phone’s fault. I can’t help that it answers and calls people without my knowledge, it has a glitch.
OLD MAN: What the hell you want a cell phone in your brain for—
SON II: Cerebral Phone.
OLD MAN: Right, whatever. What the hell you want that for anyway?
SON II: Quit being a fogie, dad. Everyone is getting them. It is a great convenience, too. All I need to do is think about calling someone… (OLD MAN’s phone rings) Oops.
OLD MAN: That’s nonsense! Can’t even hold a phone up to your ear? Ridiculous.
SON I: Hey!! Back to the discussion at hand, please. I don’t feel like talking about a damn cell phone.
SON II and OLD MAN: Cerebral Phone.
SON I: Right, whatever. Listen dad, we need you to do this, and I know it isn’t an easy decision. But look, we could use the food, and plus they offer you plenty of options on how you can do it. You can take some pills, get an injection, breathe in gas… It’s like you don’t even have to feel it.
OLD MAN: How do you know you can’t feel it?
SON I: Well… I guess… I guess I don’t…
OLD MAN: Exactly.
(Another awkward silence fills the room for one to two beats)
OLD MAN: So, what we going to do, boys?
SON I: Dad, you know we really have no choice. We can’t challenge what they say. These are the rules we were given to follow, and we must follow them. You understand, don’t you? We still love you dad, but it is just too much for us, for the country, to keep everyone going. You have to do this, and you know it is right.
OLD MAN: (sigh) I guess you’re right, son. Still, I feel like I got a hell of a lot more living to do here. I don’t think I’m done just yet.
SON I: That’s why we love you, dad, and that’s why this is so difficult for us to decide. Still, we need to do what’s best.
SON II: Plus, they give you a free dinner at IHOP every time you decide to die! It’s a great deal, dad. I know how much you love those short stacks with the melted butter and the golden brown syru—Hello? Huh? No no, I didn’t want to put in the order yet. I will call you when I do. (back to OLD MAN and SON I)
OLD MAN: That damn phone. What the hell you mean they give you a free dinner every time you decide to die?
SON II: The government and IHOP. Remember when IHOP ended up sponsoring the government’s “Food for Death” program? When IHOP bailed out the government, they ended up also agreeing to supply all people who agreed to die by the expiration date on their birth certificate with a free meal at any of their 30,000 locations.
OLD MAN: Oh, right right. I forgot about that. So, if we’re going to get a free meal, why don’t we just go there and say I’m going to die, and then we can leave after we eat our pancakes?
SON I: Dad…
OLD MAN: What? I’m just saying, maybe we can try it! Maybe we can get a meal and let me live, we just need to pull a few strings.
SON II: Dad, we can’t do that. Did you even read the pamphlet I gave you?
OLD MAN: Bah. Which one? I don’t read any of that government garbage they hand out.
SON II: The “IHOP, The Bailout and You” pamphlet. It tells you all about IHOP’s purchasing of the government’s debt, and the agreement to put expiration dates on birth certificates. In it they explain the penalties incurred for attempting to get around the system. Dad, IHOP is no joke… They are big time. IHOP saved us and the government, but they needed to make sure there was enough food for the country, so they put an expiration date on everyone and everything.
OLD MAN: Oh, to hell with IHOP.
SON I: Dad, dad, dad. IHOP helped all of us, okay? If they didn’t bail out the government, we would all be slaves to some other nation or starving to death and jobless. The least we can do is make sure we follow the plans they set for us.
SON II: Plus, we get a free meal!
SON I: (Sigh) Yes, and we get a free meal.
OLD MAN: Great, so I won’t die hungry. At least there’s that if I ain’t got nothing else.
SON I: Dad, you’re making it seem worse than it has to be. Think about what you’re doing for us. The family appreciates it, we really do.
SON II: Yeah, we do. Trust us, dad.
OLD MAN: This damn government, this whole damn world is screwy, sons. (goes to window above sink and looks out while speaking) The whole lot of it is screwed up. We were all people with freedoms, with free will, and now here we are being tethered to decisions that are made by a damn pancake house. We may as well have become slaves or been hungry and jobless because we don’t have any of them freedoms we had before! Sons, I did what I could with you two, and I did what I could to protect you and provide for you, and dammit all if I had to die for both of you—and I guess now I have to do exactly that. They say a father’s work is never done, and I guess I’m going to be doing it even in my death. (goes back to the table with his sons, standing over them now) What else can I do but do this for you boys? Just remember one thing, boys: when I was told I had an expiration date on my birth certificate, I thought that was okay. I had the rest of my life ahead of me. Now I realize that the rest of my life came and went way too fast, and there ain’t no slowing down life once it starts.
SON I: Thanks, dad. I will make sure to remember that when I have this talk with my son. Just know it isn’t easy and we love you, and we respect and appreciate what you’re doing for us. Now, how about I go over a few things with you and tidy you up before we head out?
SON II: And I will put on some coffee for us and set up everything for you.
OLD MAN: Alright boys, sounds good to me. Still can’t believe it will all be over soon… I will miss all this. I will miss you two.
SON I: We’ll miss you too, dad. Come on, let’s get this stuff started.
(SON I and OLD MAN leave the kitchen and go off-stage, leaving just SON II by himself. SON II looks down at the table and seems to be thinking)
SON II: Hi. IHOP? Yeah, I’d like to set up an appointment. Yeah, I got a death order, expiration date is today. We’d like to have three short stacks for us, and then we’d like to have our dad made into some short loins, a roast and grind him up, as well. I suppose the rest we can use for a stew or something. Oh, his number? Yes, his IHOP identification number is 2BR02B. Okay, we’ll see you around five, thank you!