The Pyramid Scheme

The below story forms part of a sketch I wrote in 2007 when for some reason I thought that comedy was going to be my calling.

[Enter a slightly greasy looking man in a dishevelled suit. He enters with a briefcase, which he puts down on a table. There is a flipchart onstage, with a picture of a pyramid, signs indicating big money, and the heading ACON. He directly addresses the audience]

Good evening ladies and gents, and might I be the first to congratulate you in chosing to take the first step on the path to riches. We here at Acon are offering you a genuine chance to increase your household income by up to 500%, by partaking in our already highly successful pyramid scheme. I myself have been an Acon representative now for 2 years and I’m currently earning two thousand pounds a week from good, honest salesmanship.

You may be asking yourselves, “can someone like me really earn that much money? I came from a poor background, I didn’t finish school, I live in a hovel and I had kids at 16”. Well, I’m here to tell you YES. Here at Acon we’re not worried about your academic credentials, we don’t care about your credit rating, hell, we’re not even bothered if you have a permanent address. All we want is your dedication and hard work. Are you a driven person? Are you good with other people? Do you think you could sell door-to-door? If you answered YES to any of these questions, we WANT you! Are you ready to earn big cash?

You may well be wondering right now, what does this highly reputable company want from me and my time in order for me to earn so much money? Well, my friends, let me introduce to you the wonder that is Acon’s success.

[shuffles over to a briefcase, which he opens. The briefcase is full of assorted powders and liquids, along with some needles and tournequets.]

This, ladies and gents, is the heart of Acon’s success: opiates, marijuana,  cocaine, LSD, meth-amphetamines, and purest heroin. For the small investment of two hundred pounds, we give you our starter set of assorted medicines, with a street retail value of a thousand pounds.

Toymaker

He is poised over his workbench. Every detail of his craft is meticulously planned. He agonises over the perfect placement of the eyes, of the strings. He will spend hours, days, making sure the shade of paint is absolutely correct. There are scattered scraps of wood where he has tested the different ways of sanding and painting, to make sure that he has chosen the exact right one. He has spent his life honing his craft. When he makes something, he puts every ounce of love and care he can into the creation. When you receive something he has made you feel a great sense of being the most special person in the world, to know that someone has put so much care and affection into something built just to make you smile.

Many women, in his youth, fell deeply in love with him. They mistook the care he invests in his craft for a sweet romantic gesture. They saw themselves in his work, and loved him. Soon they realised that his craft absorbs him entirely, and that there was no room for human misadventure, no space for creation away from his workbench.

He is not a lonely man. He is a man with a purpose, and with a greater calling. He is a man who has found serenity in his work. He nears the end of his life, and he knows his craft will live on, and bring happiness for years to follow.

Coffee

We first met in a coffee shop, 6 years ago, around the middle of august. It was painted red, filled with cheerful chintz. There were cheap wooden tables and uncomfortable chairs. The floor was decorated in mismatched tiles, and dusty in the corners. The menu was on a chalkboard, printed in faux handwriting. They used the most inauthentic Italian names for their drinks. The lights were diffuse, and wall-mounted. I remember slyly catching your gaze, and the sudden tension that gathered when our eyes locked. I remember your hand on my knee under the table. I remember kissing you when the waitress wasn’t watching.  I’m going to burn the place down. I want to watch it go up in flames. I’m going to raze every last fucking place that reminds me of you to the ground and till the soil with salt. I won’t stop until each memory of us together is cleansed in fire. I’m sick of living with your ghost. I’m sick of this fucking town.

Outlines

The gang are not malevolent. They are acting out the will of the universe. At night, the leader takes the chalk from the safe place, and blindfolds the chosen one. They are given the chalk and spun around in an anonymous alley, and then they draw.

Each time, they draw an outline.

They walk away solemnly. In a few days the outline will claim a victim. It is rarely, if never in the same place. Somewhere in the universe a body appears in the same sprawl. A murder. A heart attack. A suicide. It doesn’t matter. When the police draw their outline, it is exactly the same as the one the gang drew.

Crocodile tears

There are little things you do because you don’t know how to hide your guilt. I see right through you. I watch you and wait for something to break and give, and I wonder if it ever will. Your little rituals for placating someone who doesn’t yet realise you have a knife in their back. Your little dance of self pity, a sleight of hand trick to disguise the bigger crime you’re in the act of committing. Oh, you are the perfect performer. You are a method actor of deceit. You really make people believe your gestures and gesticulations, and sometimes I wonder if you fool yourself too. And when the crocodile tears run down your face, and when you confide that you feel you can no longer stand the stress, I smile like a crocodile, and act the perfect picture of understanding while I plot my perfect execution. We are not so dissimilar. I am teeth and smiles. I will hunt you down and make you pay.

Salt

You are a being beyond age and time. We cling together, afraid. I will draw a salt circle around us and it will keep out the demons, but it cannot keep out the evil within you.  I will hold you together through your inner turmoil as long as it takes, until my bones protrude through my thinning skin, until my eyes rot away and the decaying jelly rolls down my putrid cheeks.  I know that many others will come to love you as I do, and that they will stay in this salt circle and protect you from yourself.