a boy and a dog

a radio play
by Marc Heiden.

Phillip a boy of unfortunate circumstance
Laika a dog of historical importance
Narrator a voice of extensive experience
Mom, Dad, Uncle Anthony family members
Dr. Jensen Gladstone, Coach, Teacher, Cop authority figures
Kids, Critics, Squirrels, Waiters, Voices the world at large


NARRATOR: Many people thought that he was the personification of all evil, but evidence has recently begun to surface that suggests Phillip Berman may actually have been a fairly nice guy. For example, a number of prominent psychologists have made a strong case for Phillip's willingness to take out the garbage without being asked a second time. Some have speculated that Phillip kept a tidy room and brushed his teeth twice a day. There are even some fringe groups who believe that Phillip possessed basic table manners and framed his requests for food with pleasantries such as "please" and "thank you". The evidence for their claims is entirely anecdotal, but the point is made: we may have misunderstood Phillip Berman.

(FX: sounds of a city being destroyed. screaming voices)

VOICE: Oh, god, no! No!
VOICE: Run! Run for your lives!
VOICE: There isn't time! It's…(screams)
NARRATOR: As we crawl from the wreckage, we must ask ourselves a question: where did it all go wrong? Is history merely a sequence of unconnected events, or is there a guiding force? Or is the truth somewhere between those two answers? The design for a life emerges from choices we think at the time to be minute, choices whose implications we can only begin to see with the light of memory. In this way, a compromise between fate and free will is revealed: we have control over our destinies, but we don't know when. In all fairness, it must be admitted that Phillip Berman's moments were strange ones.

(FX: more destruction)

VOICE: Someone help me! It's coming!
VOICE: Stop it! Somebody, somehow! Do something!
VOICE: There's no hope! We're all going to die!
NARRATOR: Listeners, what you are about to hear is not sensationalist exploitation, nor is it base historical revisionism. It is an attempt to deal honestly with the phenomenon of Phillip Berman, and in doing so, perhaps to bring peace to the survivors; that certain, elusive peace that comes only with knowing the truth.
VOICE: Oh, no, it's…(screams)
NARRATOR: However terrible that truth may be. Join us, then…unless you are a small child, in which case this tale may be too strong for your ears and you should tune into our children's station for a nice story about bowling…join us, then, for A BOY AND A DOG: THE MADNESS OF PHILLIP BERMAN.

(FX: some brief theme music)

NARRATOR: Records from the era confirm that Phillip Berman was born in the country to a family of limited resources. They were farmers who lived among farmers in a farming town; in that sense, they were cooperative people, if nothing else. Evidence suggests that Phillip either had seven brothers…

(FX: many babies crying)

NARRATOR: Or was an only child.
PHILLIP: (meekly) Wah.
NARRATOR: Dr. Jensen Gladstone, chair of psychology at Harvard State, explains the significance of Phillip's uncertain birth.
GLADSTONE: It's interesting, I think, that the seven brothers theory has emerged of late, in that small town farming folk such as these are often possessed of a certain superstition, call it what you will, religious mania that could point…well, we're all aware of the seventh seal theory, whereupon terrible things happen when the seventh seal is opened and all hell breaks loose. These superstitious people may have panicked upon the birth of their seventh son, who was not Phillip, and feared that he was the fulfillment of the prophecy, and treated him quite badly, so it is entirely possible that when the real evil bastard showed up in the form of their eighth son, Phillip, the parents were simply unprepared to inflict the necessary abuse.
NARRATOR: And what of the possibility that Phillip was an only child?
GLADSTONE: Well, there are sources that claim Phillip's parents gave birth only once, to Phillip, based on hospital admission records and that sort of thing. I must say, though, I've done extensive work in the field of poor people, and I find it extremely hard to believe, based on my experience, that a low-rent family like Phillip's wouldn't have spent damn near all of their time having sex and making babies, because, really, the poor never stop with that sort of thing. It's all they have in their lives, and that's the tragedy of it, because where we have Shakespeare, for example, and all the beauty of his language, the poor have only constant, ceaseless humping.
NARRATOR: Dr. Jensen Gladstone. In any event, we can say with some certainty that Phillip Berman was born into a family of hard-working people. His father worked hard in the fields all day, and his mother worked hard in the fields all night. Because of that schedule, Phillip was unaware for many years that there was any connection between the two people. He discovered that connection at the age of four when he found his mother and father working hard in the back of the family's station wagon.

(FX: sound of muffled thuds)

PHILLIP: Mommy, I'm done working in the fields. (pause) Mommy? (pause) Oh, gee.
NARRATOR: Left to his own devices, Phillip Berman spent most of his childhood confused by the world around him. Dr. Jensen Gladstone describes the life of a child from a poor family.
GLADSTONE: Well, the world would be very confusing to that child, obviously. Things that seem simple to the rest of us are very complicated and strange to the minds of poor people. Imagine, if you will, a caveman staring at a flying car. He recognizes that it is much like the birds he has seen before, but it is shiny, and silver, and few birds will allow access to their insides for a ride in the sky, even if the caveman is very polite. Of course, Phillip Berman didn't look like a caveman. In fact, he looked like a normal little boy. But like cavemen, he was poor, and therefore not very bright.
NARRATOR: Dr. Jensen Gladstone. Academia offered little sanctuary for Phillip. He was sent to school at the proper age, but a clerical error caused him to be enrolled in physical education, or "gym class", for seven out of the eight periods in the school day.

(FX: sound of a rubbery thud)

COACH: Hustle, Berman! Let's see some hustle!
PHILLIP: Coach, I don't think I can play dodgeball any more.
COACH: The hell you can't, Berman! Get in there and hustle!
PHILLIP: Coach, I've been playing dodgeball for six hours straight now. My body hurts.
COACH: Then dodge the balls, Berman. That's the name of the damn game.
PHILLIP: Okay, sir.
COACH: And pull your damn socks up.
PHILLIP: Yes, sir.

(FX: sound of rubbery thud)

NARRATOR: Experts on Phillip Berman have pointed to his mediocre grade point average as emblematic of his inability to achieve in normal human society. Closer examination, however, reveals that his grades were a study in contrast. Averaged together, they came to a low mark; however, there were high points among them. For example, although fifth-period gym yielded a D-, second-period gym awarded Phillip a B+.
COACH: Berman.
PHILLIP: Yes, Coach?
COACH: Are they out there?
PHILLIP: Who, Coach?
COACH: The enemy, private! Are they out there?
PHILLIP: I don't see them, sir.
COACH: You're just a kid, Berman. Just a damn innocent kid. Don't get yourself mixed-up in this war.
PHILLIP: I won't, sir.
COACH: I'm going to pass you, Berman. I'm going to give you a B+ because I want you to make it out alive. You, if no one else. One soul to survive this godforsaken war.
PHILLIP: Are we playing dodgeball again today, Coach?
COACH: Yes, we are. Hustle, Berman. Hustle.

(FX: sound of rubbery thud)

NARRATOR: In the eternal battle of man versus rubber ball, one must give. In time, the rubber ball must have conquered Phillip Berman just as it had conquered so many before. It seems likely, then, that the weary and beaten Phillip would have made an effort to correct the scheduling error. If he did, he would have met with no success.
PHILLIP: Excuse me, ma'am? I'm here to talk about a problem with my schedule? (pauses) Excuse me? Ma'am, are you alright? You don't look so well. There's a pen in your eye. Would you like me to get a doctor? (pause) Ma'am?
NARRATOR: It would not be discovered until two years later that the local school board had staffed a number of positions at the school with corpses in an attempt to embezzle funds from the academic budget. As it turns out, many non-essential employees at the school such as the secretaries, the deans, the janitors, and the math department were all quite dead. The editor of the school yearbook was also suspected of being dead, but the charges could not be proven.

(FX: sound of a head hitting a desk)

PHILLIP: Oh, gee, your head fell off. I'm sorry I bothered you. I'll just go back to class.
NARRATOR: Phillip would find no sympathy for his scheduling woes among the school's dead employees. The only scholastic refuge for young Phillip Berman came during seventh-period. Due to the aforementioned clerical error, he was accidentally enrolled in an advanced foreign language class. It was a difficult course for a boy who had not yet been taught to read or write, but Phillip rose to the challenge and became adept in the Swedish tongue.
TEACHER: Class, it's time for translation exercises. Please repeat what I say in Swedish. (clears throat) I would like to purchase a hat.
PHILLIP and KIDS: Hergen schmergen fnergen.
TEACHER: This candy was delicious.
PHILLIP and KIDS: Nyergen bork von byergen borkborkbork.
TEACHER: Negotiations have failed. It's time to send in a specialist.
PHILLIP: Flergen bergen bork. Flerble hergen Schwarzenegger.
TEACHER: Very good, Phillip!
NARRATOR: So successful was Phillip in his study of the Swedish language that it led to his one and only extra-curricular activity: participation in the school's Model United Nations.
KID #1: I declare war on you, England!
KID #2: Screw you, Germany! I declare war back!
TEACHER: Sweden, what are you going to do?
PHILLIP: Nothing. I'm neutral.

(FX: sound of a rubbery thud)

COACH: Let's see some hustle, Sweden.
PHILLIP: Yes, Coach.
NARRATOR: Listeners, it is certainly not our goal to convince you that Phillip Berman was a victim. It does seem clear, however, that things did not always work out in his favor during the early years. School was difficult for this confused young boy, and home life was no easier.
PHILLIP: Could you please pass the peas? Thank you. (chews) Mm, borkbork!
MOM: Damn it, Phillip, we speak English in this house!
PHILLIP: Sorry, Mom. I meant, mm, delicious.
MOM: Phillip, you're eating the napkin.
MOM: What's the matter, the peas aren't good enough for you? I worked all night in the fields so we could have those peas.
PHILLIP: No, I like the peas very much. They're very Bergman-esque, particularly during his Wild Strawberries period.
MOM: You called my cooking Bergman-esque?
MOM: Go to your room.
NARRATOR: And so went the miseducation of Phillip Berman. Had his life continued along those lines, had his well-known accident not occured, we would most certainly be living in a vastly different world today. Dr. Jensen Gladstone speculates:
GLADSTONE: Well, you know, if he'd just have kept doing what he was doing, no, I don't think you'd have anything near the situation that we wound up with. It's hard to imagine in retrospect, of course, knowing what we know now, but Phillip Berman could have lived a perfectly normal life.
NARRATOR: What do you think that life might have consisted of?
GLADSTONE: Well, given that Phillip was very poor, he'd probably have drank alcohol, had a lot of sex, and consistently found himself unable to understand numbers larger than twelve. Given Phillip's inability to relate to other human beings, it's possible that he would not have been able to make the primitive social attachments necessary to have sex, in which case he would have spent his time furiously autoeroticizing. This is, of course, just speculation.
NARRATOR: Dr. Jensen Gladstone. We know very little about that fateful day when Phillip Berman had his accident. Was it warm, or was it cold? Sunny or overcast? A school day, or a weekend? The only thing that we can say for certain is that one day Phillip Berman came home with an axe in his head.
DAD: Phillip, why haven't you been working in the fields? They're all out of control.
PHILLIP: Sorry, Dad.
DAD: Oh my god, you've got an axe in your head!
PHILLIP: I don't feel so good.
DAD: Phillip, people aren't supposed to have axes in their heads!
PHILLIP: I'm sorry.
DAD: Go to your room.
PHILLIP: Yes, sir.
NARRATOR: The Berman family was faced with a number of difficult questions. How did Phillip get the axe into his head? Had he lost a great deal of blood? Was he going to be alright? Whose axe was it? Was the person angry? Was the anger directed at Phillip or the entire Berman family? Was the person going to want the axe back, and would it be polite to have the axe cleaned before returning it? There were no easy answers for anyone, including Phillip. Dr. Jensen Gladstone describes the medical implications of having an axe in your head.
GLADSTONE: Well, it hurts, that's for sure. Many people think that poor people have mostly empty heads, and it's a logical assumption, you know, equating how stupid poor people are with having very small brains and therefore mostly hollow heads. Science has proven, however, that while the brains of poor people really are quite small, the extra space in their heads is actually filled up by hamburger meat, so there is in fact no empty space in their heads, just varying amounts of hamburger meat, and as a result, it is a major health risk to have an axe in your head, even for poor people.
NARRATOR: Dr. Jensen Gladstone. The parents of Phillip Berman were now faced with the most difficult decision of their lives: what to do with their son?
DAD: Well, he's got an axe in his head.
MOM: Shh. He'll hear you!
DAD: My boy, my very own flesh and blood, is one of…those people.
MOM: Dear…
DAD: One of those axe-wearing little…what's next? A dress?
MOM: What are we going to do?
DAD: He can't stay here.
MOM: I know.
DAD: In the city, they've got better facilities.
MOM: Right. They can treat it.
DAD: It'd be for the best.
MOM: For his own good.
DAD: Get the help he needs. If we take the axe out now…
MOM: He'll make a mess on the carpet.
DAD: The blood'll spill out from the hole in his head…
MOM: Huge mess. Carpet cleaners in the city are much better.
PHILLIP: Mom? Dad!
DAD: Phillip! You're supposed to be in bed.
PHILLIP: Sorry. I couldn't sleep. Can I take the axe out of my head?
DAD: No.
NARRATOR: No doubt fearful of Phillip's terrible wrath, his parents decided to send him away. They were given money to do so by the local school board, who suspected that the axe in Phillip's head was a veiled threat to expose their embezzlement scheme. And so Phillip, complete with axe, was sent to live with his Uncle Anthony in the big city.
ANTHONY: Phillip! Over here!
PHILLIP: Are you my Uncle Anthony?
ANTHONY: Right I am, my boy! Welcome to the big city!
PHILLIP: Thanks! It's neat!
ANTHONY: Shall we go pick up your luggage?
PHILLIP: I haven't got any.
ANTHONY: Where are all your things?
PHILLIP: In my pockets.
NARRATOR: Phillip's Uncle Anthony was a single, unmarried man and also a patron of the arts. Dr. Jensen Gladstone explains.
GLADSTONE: Well, I think the situation speaks for itself, I mean, Anthony was unmarried and interested in the arts. That indicates, quite clearly I think, that Anthony did not prefer the company of women to the company of men during intimate situations, but rather the other way around, which is to say, basically, that a woman without her clothes on would be much more likely to have a conversation rather than intercourse with Anthony, or, essentially, if the sporting world were to collapse and, as a replacement, gamblers began to bet upon the gender of the people next to whom Anthony slept naked, it would be lucrative to place your bet upon the male gender.
NARRATOR: Phillip was eager to resume his studies without the burden of having to work in the fields all day.
PHILLIP: Uncle Anthony?
ANTHONY: Yes, Phillip?
PHILLIP: When do I get to go to school?
ANTHONY: Soon. I've got something else planned for now, though.
NARRATOR: There was a surprise in store for young Phillip, because stardom beckoned: he was to be an art piece for Anthony's new avant-garde exhibition.
PHILLIP: You want me to just stand here?
ANTHONY: Right…the axe won't fall out of your head, will it? There's no risk of that?
PHILLIP: No, it's stuck in there.
ANTHONY: Good. Could you move a little to the left…no, no, the right…that's just about it…no, diagonal…perfect!
NARRATOR: Phillip, complete with axe, was put on display in the city museum. The exhibition was a sensation in the art world. Awards and accolades flooded in for Uncle Anthony. Critics raved at the depth of comment: the stark image of a boy with an axe in his head reflecting shattered innocence in the modern age.

(FX: Eurotechno fashion runway music)

CRITIC #1: Just amazing. A really innovative piece…
PHILLIP: I'm hungry.
CRITIC #2: What a brilliant use of negative space…
CRITIC #1: Oh, and the contrast between shadow and light and the axe in his head…
PHILLIP: Can I sit down? I'm tired.
CRITIC #2: This is truly a great leap forward for post-neo-cubism.
NARRATOR: Visitors flocked in from around the state to see the boy with the axe in his head, and they left the museum excited and enlightened. Unfortunately, the tyrant Phillip brought it to an early end with his ruthless demands.
PHILLIP: I have to go to the bathroom.
CRITIC #1: What?
PHILLIP: Just for a moment. I'll be quick.
CRITIC #2: Images of shattered innocence can't go to the bathroom. This exhibit is a lie.
ANTHONY: Nice job, Phillip. We have to end the exhibit now.
PHILLIP: Sorry. Can I go to school now?
ANTHONY: Later. I have to think of a new exhibit. Go play or something.
NARRATOR: An artistic sensation no more, Phillip began to search for friends.

(FX: playground sounds)

PHILLIP: Can I play with you?
KID #1: Sure!
PHILLIP: Neat! What are you playing?
KID #1: (snickering) We're running through revolving doors.
KID #1: (snickering) Come on! Don't you want to play in the revolving doors with us?
PHILLIP: The axe in my head will get stuck.
KID #1: Dork! (runs away laughing)
NARRATOR: With astonishing speed, youth culture reorganized its value system around the principle that having an axe in your head was "uncool". Phillip did not have any input into the new value system, but the local buck-toothed four-eyed fat boy on crutches was quite happy about it.
KID #2: Thanks, Phillip.
PHILLIP: Glad I could help someone.
KID #2: Thanks…for being such a big dork! (laughs)
PHILLIP: (pause) Aren't you going to kick me me and run away?
KID #2: I can't run. I'm on crutches, you insensitive jerk.
KID #2: God, you're mean.
NARRATOR: We come now to another turning point in the life of Phillip Berman. Dr. Jensen Gladstone, before this fateful day, what kind of future waited for Phillip? How might his life have turned out?
GLADSTONE: He probably would have been gay within three years.
NARRATOR: Why do you think that would have happened?
GLADSTONE: Many people aren't aware of it, but "gay" is actually a highly communicable virus. Phillip might at some point have accidentally eaten from a bowl that the gay Anthony had touched and forgotten to sterilize in an autoclave set to at least 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and as a result Phillip would catch "gay" from Anthony and also come to prefer the intimate company of men.
NARRATOR: Dr. Jensen Gladstone. "Gay" would not come to pass, however, because one bleak morning, Phillip awoke suffering from a massive headache. Driven mad with pain, he took to the streets. It seems likely that he left his uncle's apartment with murderous intent, ready to kill anyone who stood between him and that which he desired: morphine, perhaps, or some other sinister drug. What he discovered, however, was something more than he bargained for: a meeting that would change the course of the entire world. Waiting in the alley was…(with emphasis) a dog.
PHILLIP: Hi, doggie.
LAIKA: Whoa. What happened to you?
LAIKA: Are you alright?
PHILLIP: Doggie?
PHILLIP: You're talking.
LAIKA: Yes, I am.
PHILLIP: Are you a talking dog?
LAIKA: Are you a talking boy with an axe in his head?
PHILLIP: Hi! My name is Phillip.
LAIKA: I'm Laika.
PHILLIP: Does anyone else know you can talk?
LAIKA: No, it's a secret.
PHILLIP: A secret?
LAIKA: Top-secret.
LAIKA: Well, dogs aren't supposed to be able to talk. If anyone finds out that I do, they'll freak out and run tests on me and put me in a museum.
PHILLIP: I've been in museums.
PHILLIP: My uncle uses me for his art exhibits.
LAIKA: And that's why you've got an axe in your head?
PHILLIP: I guess.
LAIKA: That's terrible.
PHILLIP: I don't know. I just want to help out.
LAIKA: Hang on a second. A train's coming. I should bark at it to keep up appearances.

(FX: a train passes. LAIKA barks)

VOICE: Shut up, dog!
LAIKA: (barks again) That should do it. Are you alright? You don't look so well.
PHILLIP: My head hurts a little.
LAIKA: Well, I'd assume so, I mean, there's an axe in it…
PHILLIP: No, that's fine. It's just a headache.
LAIKA: Come with me. I've got some aspirin.
PHILLIP: What's that?
LAIKA: You don't know…? They're pills. They make you feel better.
PHILLIP: How did you get pills? You're a dog. I thought they didn't sell things to dogs.
LAIKA: Everyone's got a price, even pharmacists. Come on.
PHILLIP: Have you got a home?
LAIKA: I've got a box.

(FX: rustling sound)

LAIKA: Here you go. You'll need to open it yourself. I haven't managed to get around not having opposable thumbs yet.
PHILLIP: Oh, I know. They're tough.

(FX: pill bottle)

PHILLIP: Thanks.
NARRATOR: Did Phillip really believe that the dog could talk, or was it all a clever ruse designed to throw the world off his tracks? We can't say, but we do know now that the dog served as an all-too-effective cover for the evil schemes of Phillip Berman.
PHILLIP: Roll over. I'll rub your tummy.
LAIKA: Ooh. Thanks.
NARRATOR: Meanwhile, Uncle Anthony had left the apartment to purchase the newspaper. He saw the pair together, and immediately burst into ecstatic applause.
ANTHONY: A boy with an axe in his head who thinks he can talk to a dog! Brilliant! They're going to love this one at the museum!
LAIKA: What's he all excited about?
PHILLIP: I think we're in trouble, Laika.
NARRATOR: And so was birthed an even bigger exhibition…

(FX: the Eurotechno)

CRITIC #2: The negative space is back and it's better than ever!
CRITIC #1: The dog…the boy with an axe in his head…brilliant!
LAIKA: Phillip, what's going on?
PHILLIP: We have to be in their art exhibit.
LAIKA: We do?
LAIKA: This is ridiculous.
PHILLIP: I know. But they look like they're enjoying it so much.
CRITIC #2: It dares to ask…how are we communicating today? Who can we relate to? What is the nature of the relationship in contemporary society? We must constantly ask ourselves: where do we fit into this paradigm? Are we the dog, or are we the boy with the axe in his head? The roles continually shift…
CRITIC #1: It's the definitive statement of the post-post era!
LAIKA: They're so creepy.
PHILLIP: I know.
LAIKA: Good thing they're not allowed behind these velvet ropes.
PHILLIP: Watch what they do when I pick my nose.
CRITIC #1: Metatextual!
LAIKA: Do it again.
CRITIC #1: Metatextual!
PHILLIP: It's like an involuntary reaction for them. I lower my hand…
CRITIC #1: I'm so intrigued by the photorealist technique…
PHILLIP: And then pick my nose!
CRITIC #1: Metatextual!
PHILLIP: They do it every time. (pauses) I wish I had a napkin. I've got metatextualism all over my fingers. It's kind of gross.
NARRATOR: The piece was an unparalleled success, making national headlines when Laika pooped on the floor in what may have been the most poignant celebrity statement of the last twenty years. Phillip and Laika soon became inseparable.
PHILLIP: Can I take Laika out for a walk?
ANTHONY: Alright, but you'd better be at the museum by two.
LAIKA: Hi, Phillip!
PHILLIP: Hey, Laika! What do you want to do today?
LAIKA: Mind heading over to my box? I've got a few things to take care of.
PHILLIP: No problem. Let's go. Is it fun to be a dog?
LAIKA: It's alright. Ups and downs, you know. I do enjoy barking. It's kind of like having free license to scream obscenities whenever you like.
PHILLIP: Can all dogs talk?
LAIKA: No. Not in human language, at least. It's no loss, though. They haven't got much to say. They spend most of their time insulting squirrels and discussing territorial politics.
PHILLIP: Politics?
LAIKA: Oh, yeah. Squirrels won't respect urine boundaries. They just race right up the tree regardless. Drives the dogs nuts.
PHILLIP: What do you need from your box?
LAIKA: I just need to turn some things off.
PHILLIP: In the box?
LAIKA: Actually…come through here.

(FX: sound of a grate being moved)

LAIKA: This is the real entrance.

(FX: science lab sounds – beakers bubbling, that sort of thing)

PHILLIP: Oh, cool! You have a secret hideout!
LAIKA: Yep. It's my lab. I mess around in here. Let me just flip a switch…there. Done. We can go now.
PHILLIP: Are you working on any experiments?
LAIKA: Just a little prank on a smack-talking squirrel. Come on and see.

(FX: the grate closing)

PHILLIP: Are you sure no one saw us?
LAIKA: They don't know enough to look. Here. Watch that squirrel up there.
SQUIRREL #1: 'Sup, bitches? 'Sup? You want some of this?
SQUIRREL #2: What you got?
SQUIRREL #1: I got nuts, baby! I got the best nuts you ever seen! Come get some!
LAIKA: I replaced his stash with some hyperdense pistachios from Saturn's moon Titan.
SQUIRREL #2: You gonna show me your nuts or what?
SQUIRREL #1: I can't open it.
SQUIRREL #2: He can't get it open!
SQUIRREL #1: No, it's just stuck!
SQUIRREL #2: Squirrel, you keep on talking but you ain't all that!
SQUIRREL #1: Shut up!
SQUIRREL #2: You think your nuts all that? You ain't got nothing!
SQUIRREL #1: Aww, baby, don't go, it was that dog that did it, don't go…
SQUIRREL #2: I'm leaving!
SQUIRREL #1: I'll get you, dog!
LAIKA: Bring it, squirrel!
NARRATOR: By day, Phillip and Laika were the most sensational art exhibit of their time…

(FX: the Eurotechno)

CRITIC #2: I can't believe it! The dog is licking his hand!
CRITIC #1: What can it mean? What are they trying to say?
CRITIC #2: The dog and the boy with the axe in his head, the two irreconcilable sides of existence…I think it means that the end times are near!
CRITIC #1: Metatextual!
NARRATOR: And by night, Phillip and Laika roamed the city as they pleased.

(FX: crickets, nighttime sounds)

LAIKA: This looks like a good spot.
PHILLIP: Right by the lake. Good choice.
LAIKA: I come here a lot.
PHILLIP: I've never barked at the moon before. I can't wait.
LAIKA: The trick is to wait until just the right moment. Then it's magic.
PHILLIP: How will I know when?
LAIKA: I'll tell you.

(contented silence)

LAIKA: Yes, Phillip?
PHILLIP: How come you're…well, smarter than other dogs?
LAIKA: That's a secret.
PHILLIP: Oh, you can trust me! I won't tell!
LAIKA: Promise?
LAIKA: Well, you might not believe me…
PHILLIP: I believe you!
LAIKA: (laughs) You haven't even heard it yet.
PHILLIP: I still believe you.
LAIKA: Well, have you ever heard of Laika the Russian cosmonaut dog?
PHILLIP: No, I didn't have any classes about that at school.
LAIKA: Well, that was me. I was the first living creature from Earth in outer space.
PHILLIP: You were?
LAIKA: Yep. It was 1958. They put me in Sputnik 2 and blasted off.
PHILLIP: Wow! You got to go in outer space?
LAIKA: Well, it wasn't all fun. I was excited at first. Then I realized they didn't have a plan to get me back.
PHILLIP: They didn't? But…then why did they send you?
LAIKA: They just wanted to monitor my heart to see what happened.
PHILLIP: But you couldn't stay up there forever.You'd run out of air and food!
LAIKA: They knew that. They didn't care.
PHILLIP: That's horrible.
LAIKA: I thought so.
PHILLIP: Didn't the other countries yell at them to make them get you back?
LAIKA: They didn't care either. They just thought it was great that a living creature went to space.
PHILLIP: They all thought it was okay?
LAIKA: I guess.
PHILLIP: How did you make it back to Earth?
LAIKA: I ran into aliens while I was up there. They were waiting to congratulate humanity for making it off the planet.
PHILLIP: What did the aliens look like?
LAIKA: Kind of like the pope, except smaller and kind of mauve.
PHILLIP: Oh, neat.
LAIKA: The aliens got pretty disgusted when they saw the humans had sent a dog instead, so they helped me get home. They also gave me the power to talk.
PHILLIP: Wow. I'm glad you made it back safe.
LAIKA: Thanks.
PHILLIP: What kind of a world fires a dog into outer space and doesn't bother to work on bringing the dog back alive? That's so terrible.
LAIKA: Don't feel bad. It's not easy for you either. You've got an axe in your head, and people won't let you take it out because they think it's a comment on interpersonal discourse.
PHILLIP: I know, but I only get headaches. You almost died.
LAIKA: It's okay.
PHILLIP: What kind of a world does that?
LAIKA: Phillip?
LAIKA: (softly) The moon. Right now.

(LAIKA howls at the moon, and PHILLIP joins her)

PHILLIP: I liked that.
NARRATOR: That night, the world slept unaware. The world slept peacefully, oblivious to the gathering storm: the hurricane force, the catastrophic nightmare, the wrath of Berman. A die had been cast.
LAIKA: Let's get something to eat.
PHILLIP: What do you want?
LAIKA: Any old diner's fine. It's weird. Ever since I became a genius, I've had this incredible craving for hash browns.
PHILLIP: Here's a place.

(FX: door opens, perhaps with bell; ambient diner noise)

PHILLIP: Hi. Table for two, please?
WAITER #1: You can't come in here.
PHILLIP: Why not?
WAITER #1: Well, because…I mean, obviously, you're…say, what gives? Benny?
WAITER #2: Yeah?
WAITER #1: Who am I supposed to discriminate against here, the dog or the boy with the axe in his head?
WAITER #2: I don't know. That's a tough call.
PHILLIP: Can we go sit down while you're working it out?
WAITER #1: Sure, go ahead.
PHILLIP: Milkshake and an order of hash browns?
WAITER #1: Coming right up.
LAIKA: Your axe is looking good today.
PHILLIP: Thanks. I had it shined.
LAIKA: Are you alright? You look a little down.
PHILLIP: I'm still in a bad mood from yesterday when those Russian art critics came through the museum.
PHILLIP: I can't help it. It makes me mad. It makes me angry to see those people wandering around thinking they have any insight about life when they spend their time outside of the museum blasting dogs into outer space.

(FX: sound of clinking plates)

WAITER #1: Hash browns and a milkshake.
PHILLIP: Thanks.
WAITER #1: We're checking with the home office about the discrimination thing. I'll try to get back to you soon.
PHILLIP: Okay. Hash browns for you…
LAIKA: Thanks.

(FX: slurping sound)

PHILLIP: This is the weirdest milkshake I've ever had. Here, try it.
LAIKA: Okay.

(FX: lapping sound)

LAIKA: Tastes like bread.
PHILLIP: How do you make a bread milkshake?
LAIKA: I don't know. Take some bread, add some milk, and shake it around I guess.
PHILLIP: How are your hash browns?
LAIKA: They're okay. Phillip…
LAIKA: Leave town with me.
PHILLIP: Leave town?
LAIKA: Forget the museum. We'll run away to the woods.
PHILLIP: How will we live?
LAIKA: We could take the axe out of your head and use it to chop down trees and make a cabin. We'll eat fish. I'll catch rabbits.
PHILLIP: I can't leave.
LAIKA: Why not?
PHILLIP: My uncle Anthony has his art exhibit. He needs me.
LAIKA: Let him make some actual art for once. You've got your own life.
PHILLIP: I can't.
LAIKA: You have to, Phillip. You hate the museum. Having an axe in your head can't be too healthy.
PHILLIP: Yeah, but he's my uncle. My mom and dad said to stay with him.
LAIKA: Forget about them! They abandoned you!
PHILLIP: I can't. They're my family. They won't know where I am
LAIKA: Phillip, I know I'm just a dog, but I care about you. They don't care.
PHILLIP: Don't you see? I have an axe in my head. I don't know what else to do except be in a museum.
LAIKA: There are plenty other things you could do…
PHILLIP: If you've got an axe in your head, you can't just ignore it. It's there. You know it, all the time. Where's there for a boy with an axe in his head to be? There's museums. There's people looking and nodding and taking photographs. I can't go.
LAIKA: Phillip…
PHILLIP: (miserable) I can't. I've got to be at the museum.

(FX: clink of plates, and then the diner door opening and closing)

LAIKA: Damn it…
WAITER #2: Here's the check.

(LAIKA howls)

WAITER #2: Excuse me, this restaurant has a no-howling policy. I'm going to have to ask you to leave.
NARRATOR: It was a day the world would never forget: it was the day that Phillip began to enact his terrible revenge upon the world…
ANTHONY: Phillip! Where have you been? It's almost time!
PHILLIP: Sorry, Uncle Anthony.
ANTHONY: Well, don't just stand there! Get ready!
PHILLIP: Yes, sir.
ANTHONY: This one's got to be good. We've got critics coming in from all over the world. Just think of it. People all over the world…
PHILLIP: Uncle Anthony, I don't feel so well.
ANTHONY: Hmm…no, go with smiles today. I think it's more meaningful when you smile.
PHILLIP: No, really…
ANTHONY: Phillip, don't argue with me. I'm the artist here. I know art, and I know that a smiling boy with an axe in his head is a comment on social discourse and a frowning boy with an axe in his head is depressing.
PHILLIP: You're not listening to me! I don't feel good! I don't want to be an art exhibit today!
ANTHONY: What the hell is that supposed to mean?
PHILLIP: I mean I'm sick! I want to lay down!
ANTHONY: You can't! People are coming from everywhere! They need to see you!
PHILLIP: Why? Why me?
ANTHONY: You enlighten them! They see you, the boy with the axe in his head, and they understand! They understand things! Damn it, Phillip, you can't let your selfishess stand in the way of the enlightenment of the entire world!
ANTHONY: Now get ready!

(FX: the Eurotechno)

ANTHONY: See, everyone! Here he is! The boy with the axe in his head!
CRITIC #1: Ooh! It's him!
CRITIC #2: The axe! There it is!

(FX: cameras snapping)

ANTHONY: The famous boy…
CRITIC #2: Where's the dog?
CRITIC #1: Yeah.
ANTHONY: The dog. Where's the dog, Phillip?
CRITIC #2: It's meaningless without the dog.
ANTHONY: Where's the dog, Phillip?
PHILLIP: I don't know.
CRITIC #1: I was starting to have my doubts anyway.
CRITIC #2: Let's go.

(FX: the Eurotechno cuts out)

ANTHONY: Wait! Here! Hold this watermelon, Phillip!
ANTHONY: Look, everyone! The boy with the axe in his head is holding a watermelon! Isn't it meaningful?
CRITIC #1: It's so forced.
CRITIC #2: Derivative.
CRITIC #1: A watermelon, indeed.
CRITIC #2: Fraud.
CRITIC #1: Ciao.
ANTHONY: Damn it, Phillip, do something! Do something meaningful!
PHILLIP: No! I don't want to! I'm tired of meaningful things! I'm tired of museums, and people who fire dogs into outer space, because it's like the same thing! Everyone acts like it's okay, everything that people do, all the terrible things, they act like it's okay if they make a painting about it! But it's not! It's not okay to shoot dogs into outer space and I don't care! I don't want to be an art exhibit any more! I want to go home!

(long pause)

CRITIC #1: A boy with an axe in his head who's against art…
CRITIC #2: Brilliant!

(FX: the Eurotechno, and photographs)

CRITIC #1: This is the best usage of negative space yet!
ANTHONY: Nice save, Phillip, I…Phillip? Phillip? Get back here! Someone grab him! NARRATOR: Phillip did not turn around. He ran, and he ran, and when he reached his destination, the world would never be the same.

(FX: sound of distant rumbling)

PHILLIP: Laika? Laika! Where are you?
LAIKA: Phillip?
PHILLIP: Laika, what's going on? What's making that noise?

(FX: sound of explosions)

LAIKA: I'm sorry. I lost my head.
PHILLIP: Oh my gosh, that entire building just fell down!
LAIKA: Yeah.
PHILLIP: You didn't…
LAIKA: I did.

(FX: destruction)

LAIKA: I created and unleashed a horde of gigantic mutant lizards.
PHILLIP: You did that?
LAIKA: Yeah. That was one of the things the aliens taught me. Turns out if you mix together aspirin, garlic, potato salad, and…well, I won't bore you with the details. But you get a horde of gigantic lizards.
PHILLIP: You've got to stop them!
LAIKA: I can't. They won't stop until they've run their course.
PHILLIP: What are they going to do?
LAIKA: They're going to eat every museum in the world.
PHILLIP: Museums?
LAIKA: I didn't think they were ever going to let you out. I'm sorry.
PHILLIP: It's okay.
LAIKA: You should go. The police are going to figure out this is where the monsters are coming from. They're going to be pretty angry.
PHILLIP: They get angry about paintings that gets eaten but not dogs that get fired into outer space.
LAIKA: (laughs) Yeah. I guess.
LAIKA: Phillip?
PHILLIP: Go away.

(FX: in addition to the destruction, there are police sirens)

COP: This is the police! Come out with your hands up!
LAIKA: No. No way. We're not doing one of those things…
PHILLIP: Yes, we are. Laika, you're a talking dog. If they figure out it was you, they'll freak out and run tests on you. And put you in a museum.
LAIKA: No, Phillip…
PHILLIP: Just remember…try not to be so angry. You've got to believe that people are doing their best. Sometimes they mess up, and some of them are bad, but not everyone.
LAIKA: Phillip…
PHILLIP: Don't worry. They can't keep me in jail forever. I'll see you soon.
COP: (through a bullhorn) Whoever's responsible for that horde of giganic lizards, come out with your hands up! We know you're in there! And knock it off with the lizards!
PHILLIP: It was me, officer.
COP: Cuff him!

(FX: sounds of a brief struggle, sound of a car door closing, a car starting,
and the police sirens grow distant. after a moment, LAIKA howls)

NARRATOR: Phillip Berman, evil genius, was at last behind bars. The damage, however, had been done. Dr. Jensen Gladstone on the world Phillip left behind.
GLADSTONE: Well, the damn lizards ate all of our wonderful paintings. Priceless Rembrandts, Da Vincis, Van Goghs, all of them lost…and the tragedy is, we're no better than poor people now. I mean, poor people walk among us and we can barely tell the difference between us and them any more. We don't have the beauty of the paintings any more to show how tasteful and cultured we are. It's a disaster. My daughter almost married a poor man. Can you believe it?
NARRATOR: And as for Phillip Berman, we all know about the public outrage that followed his arrest: the trial, the riots, the imprisonment…and the eventual decision that because no jail could protect Phillip from the mobs of angry art lovers, the only solution was to fire Phillip into outer space, to exile him from this Earth, never to be seen again. Perhaps somewhere out there in the universe, he is wrecking some other planet's art world. If so, we apologize to those aliens, but on behalf of all humanity…we really didn't know what else to do. Thank you, and goodnight.

a boy and a dog by Marc Heiden, January 2000. this one's for Mike Saul.