Tragedy A La Mode

(An old man and a youth enter Louise's Toast of the Town on a overcast Saturday morning. The home-style restaurant is crowded like most small town diners are at such times but the pair manage to secure a booth by a grimy window. A young waitress, wearing her drab burgundy work shift too short and tight, saunters over to the table and pulls a notepad out of the stained apron tied around her waist.)

Roxanne: Welcome to Louise's, y'all! My name's Roxanne and I'll be happy to serve you on this blessed morning. Can I start you gentlemen off with something hot to drink?

Mr. Gaurta: Do you have black decaf coffee, Roxanne? Thank you.

Cyd: I don't get it. What's the purpose of decaf coffee? I'll just have a glass of water when you get a chance, thank you, ma'am.

Roxanne: My that would be a black decaf and water--coming right up!

(Roxanne sashays off and Cyd whistles softly.)

Cyd: What's beautiful girl like Roxy doing--going out with a freak like Ralph Thompson? He's an office aide that volunteers at the library on the weekends for the love of God! It's a tragedy when suave juniors like me have to compete for girls like her with sophomores like him!

Mr. Gaurta: Suave, is that how you would describe yourself? In my day, punks in baggy jeans and glittering shirts didn't sit around wondering why slutty waitresses passed them over for mice and call themselves "suave". Do you know what a tragedy is?

Cyd: Whatever. Just keep telling yourself that those khakis belted just beneath your nipples are so much better. Is this what you dragged me out of bed to ask me about? Every dumbass with a week of English Lit knows what a tragedy is. Didn't the ancient Greeks write them, stories like Eddy-pus? Man! That would suck to do that stuff with your own mother!

(The two men shudder at the thought.)

Mr. Gaurta: Yes, but what is tragedy in the modern context?

Cyd: Starving orphans in Africa! (he laughs but clears his throat at Mr. Gaurta's disapproving gaze) No, okay…poverty? Hatred? Ignorance?

Mr. Gaurta: But how bad are those things really?

Cyd: (incredulous) When people can't afford the things they need to live, they die. When one man hates another enough that he hurts him or something, the second man dies. When people don't know enough to stay alive, they die.

Mr. Gaurta: Yes, but what is about dying that makes it so bad a thing to do?

Cyd: You make it sound like death is a trivial decision. I don't know, but there's so much to live for, it would kind of suck to die before you get to, you know, experience it all.

Mr. Gaurta: Well, who says that life after death is worse? Or that there isn't plenty to experience there? Or that we even stay there?

Cyd: Well, nobody knows. But why do you get to ask all the questions? After walking uphill to school both ways in the snows aren't you, the fossil supposed to know more than young bucks like me?

Mr. Gaurta: Fossils and bucks, you are a character. But who says I'm wise?

Cyd: Well, age entails a degree of experience and you're really old…so you should be whit wiser than me.

Mr. Gaurta: Does experience equate wisdom?

Cyd: (growing frustrated) If equate means what I think it does, then yeah.

Mr. Gaurta: But why was the Greek philosopher, Socrates, who declared he knew nothing except for the fact that he knew nothing considered the wisest man in all of Athens?

Cyd: What is it with you and the Greeks? Geez.

Mr. Gaurta: Weren't you the one talking down hatred just a moment ago.

Cyd: You know what I mean.

Mr. Gaurta: What if I told you that I, like Socrates, know that I know nothing?

Cyd: I'd say you were full of it.

Mr. Gaurta: What do you mean?

Cyd: Well, when I say you're full of it I mean you're well, full of shit (as an afterthought) and a hypocrite.

Mr. Gaurta: Like someone who says they aren't something but really are?

Cyd: You know what a hypocrite is so I don't know why you're asking me.

Mr. Gaurta: Ahh but because I might know what a hypocrite is does that mean that I know what a tragedy is in the modern context?

Cyd: I don't know how you can jump from that conclusion to the next but it beats the hell out of me.

Roxanne reappears with a laden tray. She sets the steaming decaf in front of Mr. Gaurta and the water in front of Cyd, but not before giggling as another waiter brushes her backside as he passes. After Roxanne makes her exit, Cyd and Mr. Gaurta stare at each other.

Mr. Gaurta: Now would you're situation really be considered a tragedy today?

Cyd: Well, seeing as she's stringing along two guys and I'm sad 'cause I'm not one of them…yeah?

Cue Side-splitting laughter