Play #70: The Compact Car

The play is set at a gas station in the desert.  The gas station is, in fact, the very same one we see in Archie Mayo’s film, The Petrified Forest (1936).  It has been a quiet day in the badlands, but, suddenly, the silence is rudely shattered by the approach of an exceedingly noisy car—all bangs and pops and snorts and bronchial wheezings.  The gas jockey reluctantly gets up from his rocking chair and saunters towards the pump.  He gazes down the highway for the source of the clatter and sees nothing but a rapidly approaching—if surprisingly tiny—cloud of dust.  The dust coughs up to the pump and shivers to a halt.  The gas jockey is astounded to see—when the wind has urged the dust to move along—that sitting right at his feet is the smallest (if the noisiest) car he has ever seen.  It a brightly painted little tin vehicle—more toy than car—about three feet tall.  It scarcely comes up to his knees.  Suddenly the car stops throbbing and out of it, bit by bit, gradually unfolding himself limb by limb, comes an exceedingly tall man in clown makeup.

Clown (wiping his white-painted forehead and smiling a wide red smile):  Hot day!

Gas Jockey (lost in amazement):  What’s that?

Clown (genially):  Hot!!

Gas Jockey (suspiciously):  How tall are you?

Clown (agreeable):  Six two.

Gas Jockey:  Well, I don’t see how you can fit into that toy car.

Clown (genially affronted):  Well, you just saw me climb out if it.  And it’s not a toy car.  It’s a real car!  And as for how I can fit myself into it, I don’t know either!

Gas Jockey:  Why don’t you get a bigger car?

Clown: Because a bigger car wouldn’t get any laughs!

Gas Jockey: What do you need laughs for?

Clown: I’m a clown.  I need laughs the way you need customers low on gas.

Gas Jockey (spitting in the dust):  Well, I just don’t think your little car is very funny.

Clown (quietly):  I know.  [catching fire] But you should see it in the centre ring of the big circus tent, in the spotlights, with the music playing, and me clambering out of it and the crowds laughing so they can hardly breathe!!

Gas Jockey (unimpressed):  Funnier then, huh?