Ironies Inside the Fire Next Time

[Lights up on Pa and Ma, the original American Gothic couple, sitting on the porch of their ramshackle house. Ma knits; Pa is scribbling on the margins of TV Guide and chuckling to himself. He looks up.]

PA: Hey, Ma.

MA: Yeah, Pa?

PA: Why did the chicken cross the road?

MA: What chicken, Pa?

PA: Because the ho-mo-sexuals want special rights! Hee hee!

MA: We don’t have no chickens, Pa.

PA: Aww, Ma. I was just using what-you-call your “social irony.” See, it says here that all the best sit-com writers use social irony “when describing homosexuality and other hip deviances to entertain the modern viewer.” Hoowee, Ma. If’n I could learn to write sit-coms, I could earn valuable money!

MA: Well, I don’t get your chicken joke, Pa.

PA: [Snorts] You think you’re so special, Miss Prissy-Pants? You think you got special rights? [Snaps his fingers] Hoowee, that’s a good one! [He leans out] Hey, folks! Ma here’s got so many special rights, she must be a ho-mo-sexual! Ha! Git it, Ma? That line woulda sounded real funny on “Will and Grace.”

MA: Lookit me, Pa. Do I appear to you like I got special rights? Besides, them homosexuals say they want equal rights.

PA: You are a stranger to social irony, Ma. When people on society’s margins say they want equal rights, it’s because they want to be better than us. Hee hee, that’s another good one. [He jots this down] Laugher, Ma. It’s the best medicine.

MA: Why don’t you write about something you know, Pa?

PA: Because, Ma, ho-mo-sexuals are more ironic than us.

MA: Write about how you joined the army to get health care for your family and ended up at that Nevada test site with radiation poisoning. Ain’t that ironic, Pa? And how you been living hand-to-mouth with a woman who’s put up with one get-rich-quick scheme after another, because your job at the V.A. hospital was never enough. And how those kids we adopted never call or send money. And how the only comfort I got in my old age is the fact that you done willed me this house, which is mortgaged up to the rafters.

PA: But Ma, don’t you see? The right to join an amoral military? The right to hold down a stinkin’ low-payin’ job? The right to adopt ungrateful childern? To live trapped for decades in a suffocating marriage and bequeath worthless property to a domestic partner who’s let her personal appearance go to hell? Them’s all rights the ho-mo-sexuals want, Ma! That there is your social irony.

MA: [Struck] They want… what WE got? Lord, Pa. Them homosexuals must be sicker than we thought.

PA: No fair, Ma. That line was chock fulla social irony. You shoulda’ let met say that line, ‘cause I’m the man.

MA: [She rises, begins stumbling around, distractedly.] It ain’t enough for them homosexuals to flout the stifling sex-role stereotypes that WE gotta live with! It ain’t enough for them to buy up our old furniture and sell it for antiques. But if they think our pitiful entitlement to marry is gonna make them “somebody,” they don’t know the first thing about special rights. The center does not hold. It’s the Apocalypse, Pa! [Grabbing her throat, eyes wide] I see them four horsemen up yonder! They’re athundering towards us, Pa! And each and every one of ‘em’s got … SPECIAL RIGHTS.

PA: [Worried, he sits her down] Steady, Ma. Your man’s agonna protect you. I know—I’ll telephone our Attorney General. [Pulls out the Yellow Pages and rifles through them] Yessir, I’m callin’ John Ashcroft!

MA: [Clinging to sanity, she intones] Special rights… special rights…

PA: There, there, Ma. If John Ashcroft can help drain the budget to round up all them foreigners on little or no evidence, he can stop them ho-mo-sexuals.

MA: No, Pa—special rights!

PA: John Ashcroft’ll use his powers to cut off their sissified plea bargaining and habeas corpus. He’ll use state-a-the-art technology to monitor the daylights outta them suckers. He’ll use his new FBI guidelines, his—

MA: … special rights, Pa!

PA: Yeah, Ma, he’ll use his special—[He stops, begins to grasp a vast concept.] What are you sayin’, woman?

MA: Pa. I believe our attorney general is one of them people with… special rights.

PA: Hush, Ma. You want John Ashcroft to subpoena you?

MA: [Herself again] You said it yourself, Pa. He’s got bales of government money, vast power, probably a medical plan with no deductible. Hell, John Ashcroft has more special rights than any homosexual will ever have.

PA: Or us, fer that matter.

MA: Or us.

PA: That ain’t funny, Ma.

MA: But it is ironic.

PA: They shouldn’t let people like that get married.

MA: Hey, Pa.

PA: Yeah, Ma?

MA: Why did the homosexual cross the road?

PA: Why, Ma?

MA: ‘Cause John Ashcroft stole his chicken.

PA: Hee heeee! You crack me up, Ma. [They continue bantering ironically, as the curtain falls.]

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