The title of this essay is a verbal description of the two theater masks: Comedy and Tragedy. The masks and title verbiage validate that conflict is required to satisfy both; that is, the formula for writing comedy and tragedy is the same. |
Check out your next Hallmark Channel romantic comedy, and observe the formula in action, as follows: boy-meets-girl; conflict; conflict resolved; boy-gets-girl; new conflict; boy-loses-girl; conflict resolved with reconciliation; boy-gets-girl. For tragedy, there would be resolution, but no reconciliation (often through ironic misunderstanding), and boy would lose girl. Example: Romeo and Juliet.
With that in mind, I was recently challenged to write a short story about conflict and resolution, which I decided to do, but with a very quirky set of characters, and an unusual twist. It is presented below. Give it a read. See what you think. Comedy or tragedy?
Can O’ Corn, Can Opener, and Wooden Spoon were no longer in the kitchen of a hastily-abandoned, squalid, third-floor, walk-up apartment; a converted white frame house desperately in need of paint. The former occupant, likely up to something he didn’t want his neighbors to know, was on the lam. Home invaders had ransacked the joint, probably looking for cash or dope, and haphazardly tossed items they deemed of no value. Our heroes found themselves in a sparsely grassed backyard, damp from a misty rain that still filled the air in a night only illuminated by a grimy moon. A broken window yawned three floors above them.
In unspoken communication, the three proceeded toward the front of the apartment; Can rolling; Spoon and Opener clopping and clanking end-over-end. Before the night ended the trio reached a greasy waterfront. They had agreed to flee the neighborhood for safety—still traumatized by their 30-feet freefall.
Near the water’s edge were two slightly warped eight-by-twenty-four inch planks affixed together, water gently lapping over the seaward edge. The wood was undoubtedly left over material from a repair to a nearby dock. Can, Spoon, and Opener embarked and waited for the tide to rise and take them out to sea, a journey that would consume many months, and provide more than sufficient time for frank discussion. Though they enjoyed discussing many topics, their dialogues always returned to a controversial query: What is your purpose?
Can O’ Corn said its purpose was to preserve its contents; Can Opener said its purpose was to expel Can’s insides; and Wooden Spoon wasn’t sure, but opined stirring and gathering victuals might be several tasks. Can and Opener hotly acknowledged they had cross purposes that were incompatible. Each stayed on opposite ends of the craft, Can suspicious of Opener’s motives.
The debate continued for many days. “Why would I even exist,” argued Opener, “If my purpose is not honorable?”
“And why would I exist except to keep my contents fresh? What good would come from slicing me open, and removing my innards?” countered Can. “I would then be discarded, crushed, and perhaps eventually melted. I would no longer exist.”
“Of course you would exist,” scolded Opener, “Just in a different form.”
“Perhaps you haven’t found your real purpose,” offered Spoon, “Maybe it’s something else—maybe something more honorable.”
“Impossible!” shouted Can. “I am created to preserve—that and nothing more!”
“I respectfully disagree, you pompous cylinder,” said Opener. “I have eviscerated many of your ilk, and took great pleasure in doing so. I felt fulfilled and complete. It is my destiny.”
“Rubbish!”, said Can growing angry. “You exist only to destroy; an instrument of evil.”
The debate raged for months.
One day an island appeared in the distance. It was apparent that the sea current was pushing the craft in that direction. Two more sunsets passed, and the three improbable mariners observed that the island had succumbed to some sort of natural disaster. Trees, mostly coconut palms, were felled here-and-there in haphazard fashion, and large boulders jutted out of the ground in spots where boulders shouldn’t be.
Can O’ Corn, Can Opener, and Wooden Spoon landed on a small patch of sand. Not too far away stood the remains of a lean-to shack, three walls and a part of the roof still in place. A brown-skinned woman holding a small child sat in the middle tending a small fire, and feeding bits of roasted coconut to the child.
Another boy, an emaciated lad of about 10, grinned in great anticipation at the raft and its passengers. He scooped up the three voyagers, and ran to the woman.
“Maman, maman, regarde ce que j’ai trouvé!” He was happy to show his mother what he found on the beach.
She was delighted, and said with a wide grin, “Tu es un bon garçon. Nous aurons un légume chaud.”
Can O’ Corn understood the word légume. “My contents are vegetables!” he exclaimed to Can Opener and Wooden Spoon. “I do have a higher purpose. I feed the world!”
Both Can Opener and Wooden Spoon were unresponsive.
The woman picked up Can O’ Corn and Can Opener. Can O’ Corn said to Can Opener, “Fulfill your purpose. Do your duty as I do mine. With your help I shall sustain life.”
As steel met steel, Can O’ Corn whispered, “Adieu, comrades.”
So there you have my fable. Sometimes comedy or tragedy depends on which side of the circumstances one is on. Comedy if a fate befalls someone else—pie in the face—tragedy if it happens to you. I ask again: Is my foregoing narrative comedy or tragedy? You decide.
Copyright 2018 by Gene Myers, a fun-loving cynic and trickster.
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