Pierre Étaix Drives

A slapstick farce after “Buster Keaton Takes a Walk” by Lorca

Characters: Pierre Étaix (in afternoon suit)
A Magic G-Shock (metal)
A 1/2 Negro Girl (tawdry, with prosthetic vitiligo)
A Station Attendant (played straight)
A Bridge Player (in porkpie hat)

Pierre Étaix’s face is slowly illuminated in the center of a black television screen. It is afternoon in the summer, and he has just stopped his pine-colored sedan at a gas station. He exits his car and walks crisply to the pump, then back to his car. The hose stretches (taffy) as he is parked a comically long distance from the machinery.
Magic Watch (to the tune of “Niggas in Paris”): Beep Boop Beep Boop.
Pierre: My poor wallet!
Something moves…peeking from the next bay over, a girl (in profile) is smiling at him.
Pierre (excitedly): Madame!
The girl turns toward him, her profiled nose rotates like a sickle until it is revealed that she has vitiligo. She is pulling a wagon filled with ice and Gatorade.
Pierre (stuttering): No… No… Madame….
Girl (wantonly): We only got blue left. This is my second job. Life too short to buy Tom Ford knockoffs.
Pierre: C’est un jardin.
Magic Watch: It’s great, riding in a car.
Pierre: I mustn’t be late for my bridge game!
At last, the trigger gives a positive click: full. Pierre adroitly walks the pump several feet back to its holster. At this moment of completion, the chrome tip rings out a clear note, an empty wine glass. When this ding sounds, Pierre checks his watch reflexively as he starts toward the waiting car. He trips over the misshapen and sagging hose.
Station Attendant (looking up from his pink food): SIR!
He returns to his meal of shrimp.
Pierre (collecting himself from his prostrate fall): I cannot be late for my bridge game!
Irritated, he guides the gas handle several feet back to his car and re-inserts it. Pierre pivots on his heels and gropes hand-over-hand to the midpoint of the hose. A mime? He leaps straight up! An acrobat!
Pierre: Yah!
Bobbing and balancing on the tightrope, he takes a few polished steps forward and then uses his legs to drive the tensed hose down. (Boing) Pierre shoots up and dives through his open sunroof. As the sedan speeds away (vacuum noise), the dislodged pump is a pigeon with its head under its wing. Cut.

Some way down the road, Pierre restarts his bridge game with a sad clean-shaven partner.
Pierre: Ugh, pass.
Sitting Indian with hips facing the stick shift, Pierre is driving blindly. His left knee guides the wheel; his left hand is pressing the gas pedal with a stick; his right hand holds the cards just above the shift knob. A long pan details this arrangement; eventually (opposite him) the bridge player in the passenger seat is shown.
Bridge Player (quickly plays a card with an angel on it): ……………..
Also seated Indian toward the center of the car, the bridge player is silent.
Pierre (defeated): Pass.
Magic Watch: Stop, my sweet!
The sedan stops loudly as the bridge player pulls the e-brake up with a suddenly-produced toy fishing rod. Dollying back, the beautiful red and amber taillights of the car are now visible. (APPLAUSE) Both Pierre and the player stand erect on the front seats, belt-lines level with the open sunroof. Everything, everywhere is flat. All four of their kneecaps are pressed flat against the seat stitching). The two men blink in time with the (clucking) tail hazards. Pierre and the player bow deeply out of the sunroof; their noses smudge the roof of the car. (APPLAUSE)

Max M. Moreno

Posted in