Sunday, February 16, 2003

Atlas Flushed

If Ayn Rand had written the biography of Thomas Crapper and King Vidor had filmed it.

Title: LONDON, 1886

INT - MR. SQUISHY'S COLLECTIVIST PLUMBING EMPORIUM
Thomas Crapper is showing Mr. Squishy his blueprint for a flush toilet.

THOMAS CRAPPER: What do you think of my design Mr. Squishy?

SQUISHY: Well, Mr. Crapper. It's radical. It could quite possibly transform the world.

CRAPPER: Will you back me, Mr. Squishy?

SQUISHY: No. I shall block you with every fiber of my being.

CRAPPER: It will work, Mr. Squishy.

SQUISHY: I know. That's why I shall block you! You have very dangerous ideas for a plumber. You think too much. Why improve upon the humble chamberpot, the noble outhouse?

CRAPPER: Because I can.

SQUISHY: Why?

CRAPPER: Man was meant for something better.

SQUISHY: Meant by whom? The mind of God?

CRAPPER: Meant by me, Mr. Squishy. The idea was born in my own mind.

SQUISHY: How dare you! Ideas exist to serve the community!

CRAPPER: Not mine.

SQUISHY: There's no such thing as an original idea!

CRAPPER: You have seen one. Ideas originate in the minds of individuals and individuals alone. There is no collective mind.

SQUISHY: That is where you are wrong! There is a collective mind, and I am the one who speaks for it! We don't need your dangerous ideas!

He tosses blueprint in furnace.

SQUISHY: Furthermore, we don't need you! You shall never work again as a plumber in this community! In all of England! I shall see to it personally! You'll be shoveling horse dung before the week is through! You're through, Crapper! Get out!

CRAPPER: Thank you, Mr. Squishy.

INT, LADY SPANKNY RAGNAROK'S HORSE STABLE

Spankny, dressed in riding pants two sizes too small, contemplates sweaty, bare-chested CRAPPER shoveling horse manure.

RAGNAROK: Who are you, Thomas Crapper?

CRAPPER: I am a plumber, Miss Ragnarok.

RAGNAROK: Not anymore. Who are you really?

CRAPPER: I am what I am, Miss Ragnarok.

RAGNAROK: That's what Popeye said.

CRAPPER: Aristotle said it first, Miss Ragnarok.

She slaps him across the face with her riding crop.

CRAPPER: Thank you, Miss Ragnarok.

RAGNAROK: You're welcome. Make love to me.

CRAPPER: No, Miss Ragnarok.

RAGNAROK: Why? Something wrong with your willy?

CRAPPER: No. Sex begins in the mind and ends in bed. My willy is an extension of my mind, Miss Ragnarok. It is the purest expression of my basic values. My willy and my mind will compromise for no one.

RAGNAROK: Let me see if I follow your logic ... I'm not good enough for you?

CRAPPER: No, Miss Ragnarok.

She turns away pouting.


RAGNAROK: Fine. Don't make love to me.

CRAPPER: I changed my mind.

RAGNAROK: Why?

CRAPPER: Your rejection of me has changed my estimation of your worth as a human being. You are not a second-rater. I should have known. Your name is filled with harsh consonants and flat vowels. On that basis, I want to rape you.

RAGNAROK: Then rape me!

CRAPPER: I don't want to anymore.

They make love. As this is a 1950s movie, it's not explicit. The action takes place in the dark with loud, swelling string music. We only hear voices.

RAGNAROK: Say it again, Tom. Say it.

CRAPPER: A is A.

RAGNAROK: Oh God! More!

CRAPPER: If A = B and B = C, then A = C.

RAGNAROK: Oh God, Tom. Yes, yes!

CRAPPER: Thank you, Miss Ragnarok. My mind is suddenly inspired.

He spends the night wanging away in a blacksmith shop on a new steel toilet while she admires his sweaty chest. The morning dawns.


CRAPPER: There it is.

RAGNAROK: It is beautiful Thomas. The world will destroy you.

CRAPPER: I do not care.

He opens his own shop: THOMAS CRAPPER'S FREE THINKING TOILET FIXTURES.

There is immediate public outrage.

A Socialist stands on a soapbox ranting in Hyde Square.


MONTAGE --

SOCIALIST: Thomas Crapper's so-called "flush toilet" ignores centuries of culture and tradition in this community! It destroys basic human rights -- and puts thousands of workers out of work!

RABBLE: Rabble, rabble, rabble!

SOCIALIST: Crapper's vicious invention will destroy the chamberpot guild and outhouse repair workers, to say nothing of the ditch diggers! I won't hear of it! What makes him so good, eh? What makes him better than us? The good people of Londontown have been pissing and shitting in ditches, chamber pots and outhouses for a thousand years. We shall do so for a thousand more -- am I right?

RABBLE: Rabble, rabble, rabble!

INT, CATHEDRAL

A Priest lifts his eyes to heaven.


PRIEST: This "toilet" is the work of Satan! Did Jesus use a toilet? Did Adam? If God had meant for man to defecate in toilets he wouldn't have given him shovels!

A crowd gathers outside CRAPPER's shop.

PLUMBER: He dares to sell his wares without the approval of the plumbers guild!

DITCH DIGGER: Or the ditch diggers collective!

OUTHOUSE BUILDER: Or the outhouse league!

PRIEST: He defies centuries of tradition!

INSIDE SHOP --

A rich woman looks down into the toilet.


RICH WOMAN: How horrid! I might fall in and drown!

She runs away.

OUTSIDE --

TOOTHLESS MAN: What if dogs drink from our toilets?

DUMB BLONDE: What if babies drink?

RICH WOMAN: What about the children? The poor children!

A THUG runs into the shop.

INSIDE

THUG: Here's what I think of your toilet, Crapper.

He pisses in the toilet.

THUG: What do you think of that?

CRAPPER: I think that it works perfectly.

THUG: Yeah. Well what about this?

He takes a dump in the toilet.


THUG: From now on, whenever I take a dump, I'm going to call it a crap in your honor!

The crowd laughs with mindless glee. They attack the shop, throw bricks through the window, burn it down.

Montage of London. People wearing "CRAP ON CRAPPER" buttons.


CRAPPER stands alone in his burned-out shell of a shop. SQUISHY enters.

SQUISHY: Ah, Mr. Crapper. Alone at last. May I ask you a question?

CRAPPER: That is a question. You may ask more.

SQUISHY: Good. Please speak your mind. No one will hear us. What do you think of me?

CRAPPER: I do not think of you.

SQUISHY: Really?

CRAPPER: I have no idea who you are.

SQUISHY: Mr. Squishy.

CRAPPER: Oh. Right. You are the man who tried to destroy me. I could place the face but not the name.

SQUISHY: It happens all the time.

CRAPPER: What do you want?

SQUISHY: (pointing to the blackened-but-not-destroyed toilet) I would like to buy your toilet.

CRAPPER: It is not for sale.

SQUISHY: Not the toilet itself. The idea for the toilet.

CRAPPER: Ideas are not for sale.

SQUISHY: I thought you were a capitalist.

CRAPPER: Oh, right.

SQUISHY: How much do you want for it? How much money?

CRAPPER: I do not ask for money.

SQUISHY: Credit for the work.

CRAPPER: I do not ask for credit.

SQUISHY: You took out a patent, of course?

CRAPPER: The patent exists in my mind.

SQUISHY: Did you fall on your head or something?

CRAPPER: No, Mr. Squishy. I will supply you with my design. You may execute my design. But it must remain my design without alteration. My one stipulation is that no essential design element be changed. That is the full payment I desire.

SQUISHY: That's it?

CRAPPER: Yes, Mr. Squishy.

SQUISHY: I shall draw up a contract immediately.

CRAPPER: My word is my contract.

SQUISHY: What -- I mean, mine too. My words is also my, erm, contract. Shake?

He shakes limply.

A few days later

INT - MR. SQUISHY'S COLLECTIVIST PLUMBING EMPORIUM

A crowd has gathered. Something up front is covered with a sheet. SQUISHY stands there, ready to unveil it.

SQUISHY: Behold, good people. (whips back sheet) The people's toilet!

The toilet is encrusted with Corinthian columns and rocket fins.

SQUISHY: Note how it incorporates elements of the chamber pot and outhouse and is also grooved like a latrine!

RAGNAROK: Oh Thomas. It is an abomination!

CRAPPER: I must destroy it. My mind and my willy insist.

Later that night, they break in to MR. SQUISHY's shop. CRAPPER drops a cherry bomb in the toilet. RAGNAROK rolls around in the street. She smears herself with feces. The toilet explodes, loudly. CRAPPER emerges.

CRAPPER: You did not have to do that.

RAGNAROK: I wanted to.

INT, COURTROOM

JUDGE: Oyez, oyez. The state vs. Thomas Crapper. The defendant is accused of willfully blowing up the toilet of Ian Squishy resulting in damages of 16 pounds. Court is now in session. Solicitor for the prosecution, state your opening argument.

MR. SQUISHY appears in a solicitor's robe.

JUDGE: Wait a minute. I thought you were a plumber?

SQUISHY: Night school law classes. At least two weekends.

JUDGE: Fine. Please state your opening argument.

SQUISHY: This man is a lone wolf, a threat to the community. He must be destroyed!

JUDGE: That's not exactly relevant to the charge, is it?

SQUISHY: Oh. Sorry. Prosecution will prove that John Crapper willfully blew up my toilet.

JUDGE: Solicitor for the defense, please state your opening argument.

CRAPPER: (standing up) I will act as my own solicitor, your honor.

JUDGE: You are a fool sir. Very well. What do you plead to these charges?

CRAPPER: Not guilty.

JUDGE: On what legal basis?

CRAPPER: I will make a very long speech. It's complicated.

JUDGE: Sum it up, eh?

CRAPPER: The speech is what is is. My argument is what it is. It cannot be summed up, reduced, summarized or redacted. My --

JUDGE: I get the idea. Right. Prosecuting solicitor may proceed.

SQUISHY: I will call my first witness. Richard Urchin.

JUDGE: Richard Urchin to the stand!

URCHIN: Yeah. He blew up the toilet. He put a cherry bomb in it.

JUDGE: Thank you. Cross-examine?

CRAPPER: No.

JUDGE: Am I the only one in this courtroom who went to proper law school? Anyone else? Squishy?

SQUISHY: No, your honor. Prosecution rests.

JUDGE: Defending solicitor may call the first witness.

CRAPPER: I will call no witnesses, your honor. I am my own witness.

JUDGE: Christ. Then you're a witness, eh?

CRAPPER: I am not on trial here.

JUDGE: What? (looking at Squishy) You're not going to object? Well, if you won't I will. Mr. Crapper. Sorry to but in, but in point of fact you are on trial here. Just pointing it out. Please continue with your farcical argument.

CRAPPER: Thank you your honor. As I was saying ... Thousands of years ago, one man stood up and said "Let us stop taking dumps in the cave. Let us dig a ditch outside and crap there." His brothers probably shoved him in the ditch that he had helped to dig. I, also, have created a new idea. I also am the subject of collective rage. What is the basis? By what charge?

SQUISHY: He blew up my toilet!

JUDGE: Silence in the court, all right? Please continue.

CRAPPER: Yes, your honor. Regardless of any laws which many or may not be violated, in terms of the inviolate laws of physics and chemistry, I have destroyed a porcelain and metal object. This I do not deny. But the toilet itself is irrelevant. But I state, unequivocally and proudly, that the key nature of my act was my intent: the idea behind the act. On that basis, I did not destroy Mr. Squishy's toilet. I destroyed the idea behind his toilet. That negation is also an affirmation! To erase an idea is in itself an idea.

JUDGE: Bit of a stretch, eh?

CRAPPER: I assert that, by judging me, this court is also blowing up an idea. Not the idea itself but the idea of a negation of an idea: the idea of the free mind. What could be more crystal clear? To you, the free men and women of this jury, I assert that Mr. Squishy's toilet stands for something: it is an embodiment of an idea: the idea of collectivism, conformity and the herd mentality: a nightmare dystopia in which second-raters like Mr. Squishy hold the whip hand. I also stand for an idea: the idea of freedom, the freedom of the unfettered mind. The choice between freedom and slavery is yours to make.

JUDGE: That's it, then? You done?

CRAPPER: No, your honor. My speech goes on for another 27,000 words.

JUDGE: (sighs) Proceed.

CRAPPER: I will, your honor. I do not compromise. I do not use contractions. I ...

SIX HOURS LATER

CRAPPER: ... I and every man. Without apology and without fear.

The jury is asleep.

JUDGE: (slamming gavel) Wake up! He's done!

JURY FOREMAN: Oh.

JUDGE: Jury may --

JURY FOREMAN: Eh, forget it. He's innocent your honor! We want to go home!

JUDGE: Fine. Not guilty. Charges dismissed.

INT - MR. SQUISHY'S COLLECTIVIST PLUMBING EMPORIUM

Mr Squishy flushes himself down toilet.

EXT - CRYSTAL PALACE, LONDON - DAY

CRAPPER is at work on this latest creation. RAGNORAK runs up to him. They kiss. The toilet is inside an elevator.

Music swells.

CRAPPER and RAGNAROK ride up into the sky.

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