tatemae



[A large stage. The curtain opens - stepping from stage left, a man wearing a bowling shirt, khaki shorts, and a straw hat enters. Strings loosely dangle from his appendages and stretch towards the fly rails. A second later, a woman wearing a flowing white robe enters stage right. She also has strings stretching above her, emulating those of a puppet. As they meet in the center, the cords go taut.]

WAFFLES: Do you want to hear a joke?

[Waffles and Ariel’s body’s face each other, however, their heads are still turned towards the audience.]

ARIEL: You’ve done this bit before.

WAFFLES: You don’t go see the Stones and not expect to get some Satisfaction.

ARIEL: I don’t go see the Stones, period.

[Canned laughter.]

WAFFLES: When you stop to look, you can always see me. But if you try to touch me, you can never feel me. Although you walk towards me, I remain the same distance from you. What am I?

ARIEL: Is this a riddle?

WAFFLES: A joke

ARIEL: Will it make me laugh?

[Genuinely perplexed, Waffles head tilts to the side. A string raises his eyebrow.]

WAFFLES: Do you laugh at jokes?

[Ariel sighs as the canned laughter plays once more.]

ARIEL: I’ll bite. A star.

WAFFLES: Explain.

ARIEL: Elementary really: if you stop and look, you can see a star in the sky. If you try to touch it, you can never feel it because it's too far away. And although you walk towards it, it always remains at a constant distance from you because it's millions, if not billions, of miles away.

WAFFLES: You can’t see a star during the day.

ARIEL: Maybe you should look harder?

[Her hand moves upwards followed by the string.]

ARIEL: The sun.

[Far longer than he should, Waffles stares into the sky.]

WAFFLES: Maybe you should try harder. What is to stop someone from flying into a star?

ARIEL: They’re not walking.

[Waffles shakes his head.]

WAFFLES: Semantics. Try again

ARIEL: Fine! A memory.

WAFFLES: A memory? You can’t even see that.

[The cords lift him into the air, spinning him in a circle before setting him down, arm outstretched towards the heavens.

ARIEL: You can see it if you close your eyes and sometimes if the memory is vivid enough, you can almost relive it. However, try as you might, you can never truly touch those moments and they remain the same distance away: in the past.

WAFFLES: I could argue that memories can touch you.

ARIEL: Not physically.

WAFFLES: Is emotional pain not the same as physical?

ARIEL: Pain and perception are two different things.

WAFFLES: But do those memories stay the same distance away or do they grow more distant with time. Memories fade and even fall away.

[Irritated, she frowns, cupping her chin in her. The piped in laughter plays once more.]

ARIEL: Okay, then it’s simple: the future.

WAFFLES: Go on.

ARIEL: Though you can always envision the future, you can never reach it cause it’s a set standard in time.

WAFFLES: But you can reach the future.

ARIEL: When?

WAFFLES: Soon.

ARIEL: Now?

[Waffles glares towards his companion]

WAFFLES: Are you doing a bit from Spaceballs?

ARIEL: Just trying to show you what a joke actually is. So tell me…what is it?

WAFFLES: Does this mean you give up?

ARIEL: On the punchline? 

WAFFLES: On the joke.

ARIEL: I gave up on you long ago.

[Waffles blinks her way, anticipating her response to which, reluctantly, Ariel nods her head. Looking around himself to make sure they are alone, Waffles whispers into her ear. She scoffs.]

ARIEL: Mine were better.

[Waffles sighs, shaking his head, his eyes staring outward and onward towards the horizon. Recorded audience applause plays as the curtain is drawn and the scene fades to black.]






The Zamphour Corporation

Tokyo Japan

“Ya think they got taffy?”

Jaclyn Pierrot’s golden eyes gaze up at the towering structure, its windows blacked out with a foreboding crimson ‘Z’ looming near the top. It was the headquarters for the Zamphour Corporation - one of the key stakeholders in the international beverage market. Despite herself, the clown has donned a fashionable pink pinstriped pantsuit, though she couldn't bear to part with her trusty black Tims.

Margarine Tambourine Gold, a tall, bleach-blonde woman with a haughty air, interrupts Jaclyn's train of thought by rudely pushing past her. Her stiletto heels click judgmentally on the cold concrete, further conveying her disdain. Dressed in a standard, boring business suit, Marge-in-Charge embodies the epitome of corporate conformity

A former state senator from the third district of New Jersey, the fierce Margarine has fought her way up to the Federal stage, platforming heavily with right-wing conspiracies - going so far as to claim that Buddhist Space Lasers cause Earthquakes and vaccines contain microchips -  and 2nd Amendment rights. Marge was a controversial figure, often seen with the poster boy for mass shootings, the AR-15 in hand. If human shit was loosely shaped into a person and jammed into an ill-fitting human suit, chances are there would be trouble in differentiating them from Marge.

"Why on earth would they have taffy?" She scoffs as she strides ahead.

“Why wouldn’t they?” counters the clown. Shoving two-fingers into the faux pockets, Jacky follows behind - doing her best to mimic the stern woman’s stride as she strolls through the sliding glass door.

The lobby is a grandiose exhibition of design, with two cascading waterfalls adorning its fa├žade and a sizable koi pond taking center stage. The pond is so large that it encompasses a significant portion of the room, providing a tranquil ambiance. A raised bridge spans across the koi pond, leading visitors towards the main desk where they are greeted by a pair of metal detectors. Two watchful guards stand just past, keeping a close eye on incoming traffic, while a third person sits behind the desk, presumably monitoring live surveillance footage.

Jacky follows the senator through the metal detector, smiling as she steps through. The alarm begins to blare, causing the guards to rise to their feet. With a look of sheer annoyance on her face, Marge stops, turning toward the guard to flash her badge.

Nervously, the closest guard looks over the paperwork, then over to the clown before reluctantly waving them on. Beaming up at the tall, giraffe-faced woman, Jaclyn pirouettes around her, feeling a sudden burst of energy. She skips towards the elevator, her black Tims slapping against the shiny, marble floor. As she reaches the doors, she turns to face Marge, her smile widening.

Marge follows her into the elevator, and Jaclyn's high-pitched voice rings out once more, asking about the possibility of taffy in the building. But her question is met with an audible groan from the senator, who clearly had more pressing matters on her mind. As the elevator doors slide shut, Jaclyn's carefree smile fades for a moment - replaced instead with a venomous glare as her golden eyes bore a hole into the back of the senator's head.

The elevator door slides shut just as the corner of her lip rises once again, in a somewhat more sinister smile.





“Taffy?”

Kazuo Tanaka peers skeptically across the large table at the pair of black boots bouncing, causing the items on his desk to vibrate violently. He puts his hand on top of a snow globe, pulling it towards himself gingerly.

“Ignore her,” Marge hisses, shoving the clown's feet from the tabletop. “She's a buffoon.

Kazou watches Jacky bounce to her feet before practically skipping towards the window to his right. Her fingers press into the glass as she peers through the window at the high rise towers, offset by the beautiful and intimidating Mt. Fuji lurking in the horizon. Unintentionally, he flinches as her fingers squeal as she slides along the wall.

“Jesus Christ,” Marge mutters to herself, “I’m sorry, Mister Tanaka - believe it or not she is actually very popular in the United States.

Kazou nods his head. He had heard of the clown - not because of anything she had ever done in the ring. The trial of Jaclyn Pierrot had made international news. After all, it’s not every day someone tries to gun down a journalist while in police custody. With a world of evidence, it was a wonder she was still walking around today, but one misstep in the process saw the clown go free, but her reputation remained.

“So I’ve heard,” he says, leaning back in his chair. The clown slipped out of his peripheral, but if it made him nervous, he didn’t show it.

“As I was saying, we would like to offer you exclusive distribution rights for all of the products Jersey Water has to offer.

“Yes, we have spoken at length about this through email missus Gold. You have gone into explicit detail on how this partnership would help you and…” he gestures over his shoulder at the clown-faced woman who has now begun to thumb through the library of books neatly organized behind him, “yours. You have yet to explain to me how we will benefit from this endeavor.

“Surely you have seen the figures?” Marge asks, receiving only a nod. “Within the first year alone, you stand to gain a 33% increase in your revenue.

“We have seen the numbers,” Kazou confirms. “This is all speculative. Right now we are the top distributor for most of Southeast Asia.

“Second. Does the name Tawagoto mean anything to you?” There is a pause. Kiti Tawagoto, once a small, fledgling conglomerate had rapidly grown to become one of their fiercest competitors. “Are you aware that they are right now at this very moment in negotiations with Diageo?”

“I was not,” he says, scrawling a note onto a yellow sticky note before carefully setting the pen down.

“Then you are also not aware that this partnership would place them almost in direct competition with Anheuser-Busch and PepsiCo. With their combined distribution reach, I would imagine that even a company as secure in the region as yours, might give pause to consider the long term implications.

“This I can agree with you on, but if what you say is true, tell me: how would you propose that we address this problem.

“With force!” the high pitched voice squeals from behind him. Jacky steps back around the desk, plopping once more into her seat.

“We are not going to participate in anything illegal, Miss Pierrot,” he warns, leaning back in his plus leather seat.

“Nothing illegal, I can assure you. What we offer instead is to do the grunt work for you - fighting the good fight while you do exactly what you’re doing now - only with us, while becoming much, much.

“Talk is cheap, no matter the amount of zeros you include,” he says.

“Miracle Galaxy Pro - you’ve surely heard of them?” He nods his head; his daughter had insisted that he buy tickets for the upcoming Princess Cup. “Well, what if I was to tell you that we can secure you exclusive rights to become their official drink of choice.

“How is that?” he asks, skeptically.

“I’m gonna beat it out of ‘em!” Jaclyn giggles.

“We are no-“ Kazou begins

“It’s all above board, I assure you mister Tanaka. A legitimate competition for exclusive rights.

Taking a moment to consider her words, Kazou sets his hands on his lap. Finally, he nods his head.

“Thank you for your proposal, however, we will, of course, need to review the contract for Miracle Galaxy before making a decision. We take our partnerships seriously and want to ensure it's a good fit for both parties." his hand slips beneath the desk, flipping a switch which causes the door to his office to open. "Thank you for coming, and please send us the contract as soon as possible. We will be in touch."

He stands, extending his hand to signal the end of the meeting. Marge and Jacky exchange a glance before the senator slowly stands, straightening out the folds on her blazer before extending her hand.

“Of course,” Marge says, turning towards the door.

“That’s it?” Jacky asks, popping to her feet. Marge storms away as she chases after her, calling after her, “I thought you said you were good at this sorta thing!”

Kazou watches them walk down the hall, waiting until they turn the corner before he picks up the phone.

“Risa,” he says, spinning in his chair to discover the books have been arranged like dominos as his foot clips his copy of the Art of War. His eyes follow as they fall, the final book toppling off the desk and onto the floor. He picks it up and a small slip of paper falls free. Kazou flips it open and begins to read. His eyes narrow.

“Mister Tanaka?”

“Yes, sorry,” he says, slipping the note into his pocket. “Get me Tetsu.