Surge: A Play in One Act

INTERIOR, the Presidential Bedroom. THE PRESIDENT lays on top of the bed taking a nap. His shoes are off. A DEAD IRAQI INSURGENT lies next to him, on top of his arm. The dead man is dressed in brown polyester pants and a long-sleeved shirt perforated by several bloody holes.

PRESIDENT, yawning, tries to sit up, but his arm is trapped by corpse. He slides his arm free and gets out of bed. He picks up the phone.

PRESIDENT: Hey there, Luce! I’ve got an insurgent here. [He ties his shoes while cradling the handset.] Could you be a doll and send in the cleaning folks? Maybe some new sheets. Good deal.

[PRESIDENT hangs up and pulls on his jacket. He opens his door to reveal the CHIEF OF STAFF.]

CHIEF OF STAFF: Right on time, Mr. President! The Vice-President and the Press Secretary are waiting in the oval office. [They start walking.] Oh, and we’ve received some very encouraging news.


[SECRET SERVICE AGENT drags a DEAD IRAQI INSURGENT, about 12 years old, out of their way.]

CHIEF OF STAFF: We took down an insurgent stronghold this afternoon. The figures are just rolling in.

PRESIDENT: Hold up a sec, Ricardo. Did the First Lady call?

CHIEF OF STAFF: A half hour ago. She says she-watch the puddle, sir-she can’t make it back to the White House tonight. In fact, it may be a few weeks.

[They pick their way over the body of a DEAD IRAQI INSURGENT. The dead man is wearing the top half of a police uniform. The bottom half of the uniform is missing, along with the rest of the man.]

PRESIDENT: Oh my God, that’s awful.

CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, sir, I apologize. I’ll get the crew-

PRESIDENT: She hates hotel rooms. So where am I eating tonight? I thought we could order in, maybe some Chinese. I like those little short ribs, with the duck sauce. What kind of sauce is that?

CHIEF OF STAFF: Unfortunately, sir, you’re flying out to Arizona right after this meeting. Two fundraising stops, then tonight you’re scheduled to dine with the governor of Arizona and the president of Venezuela.

PRESIDENT: Venezuela? Huh. Too bad it’s not the Chinese!

CHIEF OF STAFF: Maybe for lunch tomorrow, sir?

PRESIDENT: Good thinking, Ricko! [Claps the man on the back.]

[The hallway to the oval office is log-jammed with 40 or 50 DEAD IRAQI INSURGENTS. The landscaping staff, a five-person crew of happy, hardworking Mexican-Americans, is quickly clearing the obstruction.]

PRESIDENT: Que Pasa, Mary? Bobby, how’s that new baby?

[The men and women smile and nod, but their arms are full. They haul the bodies out of the clump and stack them along the walls. In no time they clear a path.]

INTERIOR: The Oval Office. 20-25 DEAD IRAQI INSURGENTS are scattered around the room. Approximately 60% are women and children.

PRESIDENT: [Entering] Sorry I’m late, boys. Hope you didn’t start without me.

[VICE-PRESIDENT and PRESS SECRETARY laugh good-naturedly.]

PRESIDENT: Rikki Tikki Tavi here tells me we’ve taken down a stronghold.

VICE-PRESIDENT: At least fifty insurgents killed. Some of them high up in the organization. Very high up.


PRESS SEC.: [He pushes a DEAD IRAQI INSURGENT from his chair and sits down] We’re getting some squawk from Congress again. Evidently they feel the latest figures are pretty hard to ignore.

PRESIDENT: What figures?

PRESS SEC.: Several conference rooms are filled, and they’ve had to stop meeting in the senate chamber, which I don’t have to tell you, looks bad on C-SPAN.

VICE-PRESIDENT: Nobody watches C-SPAN.

[VICE-PRESIDENT leans back in his chair and rests his feet on the body of a DEAD IRAQI INSURGENT wrapped in a black burka.]

Tell ’em to put down a tarp and get back to work. Cry-babies.

PRESS SEC.: I think we need a strong statement.


PRESIDENT: [Chuckling] Not that strong!

[PRESIDENT lapses into thought.]



PRESS SEC.: Citrus…

PRESIDENT: Something orange-y in it, I think. That duck sauce is pretty tangy.

CHIEF OF STAFF: [Flipping open cell phone.] I’m looking into it, sir.

PRESIDENT: Here’s the deal. It’s very simple. It’s a simple idea. We double our efforts.

VICE-PRESIDENT: Double down!

PRESIDENT: The problem, see, isn’t too many dead insurgents. That’s not the problem. The problem is that we don’t have enough of them. We can’t rest until we get every last insurgent. America will not be safe until we’ve filled every hallway, every bedroom-

VICE-PRESIDENT: A corpse in every living room. It’s proof that we’re winning.

PRESIDENT: Like that shampoo commercial. The one with the tingling. That’s how you know it’s working.

PRESS SEC.: Okay, I’m liking this. I can sell this.

CHIEF OF STAFF: Mr. President, I’m afraid we’re out of time. The helicopter is waiting.

PRESIDENT: Nice work today, gents.

INTERIOR, the hallway. The sound of chainsaws in the background. PRESIDENT and CHIEF OF STAFF stop in front of elevator. THE CHIEF OF STAFF pushes the elevator button, and then his cell phone rings. He puts the phone to his ear.

PRESIDENT: I think that went well, Rocky. We’re getting somewhere.

CHIEF OF STAFF: [Talking into phone.] Yes, I’m with him now… Yes. How many? Oh my. Oh dear god.

PRESIDENT: So was I right? Is there citrus in it?

CHIEF OF STAFF: [Looking pale.] Sir, we need to talk about Darfur.

[The elevator dings, and the door opens. The cabin is crammed floor to ceiling with DEAD AFRICAN REFUGEES.]

PRESIDENT: I’ll wait for the next one.


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