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Goat Plague

A One-Act Play Written By Diane Heaton

Directed by Lewis Powell

Co-directed by Diane Heaton

(Ted and Mary are sitting on a wide bench. Horace is standing by, somewhat agitated. The three of them are in the middle of a conversation. They're all wearing ugly hats of different kinds.)

Horace: If there were a plague caused by goats, they'd call it the Goat Plague.

Ted: Maybe so, but if there were a plague that only affected goats, they'd call it that too.

Horace: That's not as significant. Even if a plague were caused by goats but only killed chickens, they'd call it the Goat Plague. That's my point.

Ted: If it exclusively killed chickens, they'd call it Chicken Plague. The effects are what matter.

Horace: Chicken Plague? That's absurd! People want to know the cause.

Ted: I don't think you know what people want.

Horace: Look, let's see what Mary thinks.

(Horace and Ted turn to Mary)

Horace: Mary, if a plague were caused by goats but killed chickens, would you call it the Goat Plague or the Chicken Plague?

Mary: What do you mean by "caused by goats"?

Ted: Chickens get the plague if they touch a goat.

Horace: Or if it sneezes on them.

Mary: Why are you asking me this?

Horace: Why are you asking me that?

Mary: Why are you —

Ted: You guys are boring. I'm going to go find someone else.

Mary: Good idea.

(Ted walks up to Dan. Dan has no hat.)

Ted: Dan, you're an epidemiologist. I have a question that's right up your alley.

Dan: I'm not an epidemiologist. I mean, I took a biology class in high school, but that's about it.

Ted: If you owned a farm, and the goats carried a deadly plague that only killed chickens, would you call it Goat Plague or Chicken Plague?

Dan: Why did you call me an epidemiologist?

Ted: It gave me a reason to ask you the question.

Dan: I notice you didn't say "a good reason".

Ted: Look, would you call it Goat Plague or Chicken Plague?

Dan: Yes.

Ted: Good. Now come over here.

(Ted walks back to Horace and Mary. Dan follows somewhat apprehensively.)

Dan: You know, I think I'd like to change my answer.

Ted: Your answer was yes.

Dan: Now it's no.

Mary: No to what?

Dan: Whether I would call it Goat Plague or Chicken Plague.

Horace: So what would you call it?

Dan: Well, since it's first seen in my farm, I'd just name it after myself. Instant fame.

Mary: Who said anything about it starting in your farm?

Horace: Yeah! I'd imagined it originating among wild goats!

Ted: Wait, there are way more domesticated goats than wild ones. It's likely that the plague would start with them.

Mary: Also, domesticated goats are in more crowded conditions. I think that might help a plague outbreak.

Horace: It wouldn't help, it would make it worse.

Mary: You know what I mean.

Dan: The way I heard the question, it definitely began on my farm, but I can assure you I wouldn't subject my goats to overcrowding.

Horace: Sounds like Ted didn't explain the question properly.

Ted: Well, it shouldn't matter where the plague starts.

Mary: Dan, what if we just assume it started on your farm, but you see so many new plagues — your farm sucks — that you can't name them all after yourself?

Dan: If my farm were that plague-ridden, I'd get rid of it as fast as I could.

Ted: And leave all the farm animals to die from the Chicken Plague?

Horace: It's the Goat Plague, and it wouldn't kill all the animals. Just the chickens.

Ted: It's ridiculous that you can say that and still not realize that it should be called Chicken Plague.

(Lights go out)

Narrator: And then they all died from the plague.