Written by Joe Janes
174 of 365
(We hear the sound of a cold, harsh, relentless wind. Lights come up on three men in parkas huddled together on the floor. They are in a small tent. Bigsby, the man in the middle, has a plain winter scarf wrapped around his eyes. He is flanked by Shackleton and Edmund. They surround a small lantern, which they have used to make tea. Shackleton tries to give Bigsby tea in a small metal cup. They all three speak with British dialects.)
SHACKLETONHere, Bigsby. Here. Sip this. Slowly. It’s hot.
BIGSBYNot hot enough, Sir. I wish it were hot enough to melt this dammed polar ice cap.
EDMUND (trying to warm his hands)You would rather drown than freeze to death, Bigsby?
BIGSBYMost certainly, Edmund. I would rather drown in warm water than just be another lump if ice under this Devil’s snow.
SHACKLETONEnough of this talk of death, you two. I devote every ounce of energy and every conceivable breath towards making my way back home to England. One step at a time, if need be.
EDMUNDAye. Even if it takes a hundred years.
SHACKLETONLet’s hope it doesn’t take that long.
BIGSBYSir, thank you for the tea. But I must ask that you stop wasting what is left of our dwindling supplies on me.
SHACKLETONYou are a valued member of this expedition, Bigsby. Belay such talk.
EDMUNDHe’s right, Sir.
EDMUNDHe’s right! We have to face it. And thank the Lord you brought it up, Bigsby. We have used the same tea bag for a week.
BIGSBYAnd we ran out of cream and sugar a month ago.
SHACKLETONAnd what do you suggest, then, Bigsby?
BIGSBYI am blinded from the snow. My feet are gangrened. You’ll make better progress if you simply-
BIGSBYI meant just leave me behind.
EDMUNDBut, you won’t have any need for your flesh. No need to let it go to waste.
SHACKLETONEdmund. We are not going to eat our friend.
EDMUNDIf it were me, I would let you eat me.
BIGSBYYou would not.
EDMUNDI would insist upon it.
SHACKLETONNo one is going to eat another man on my expedition. Is that clear?
EDMUNDUnless you die before me.
EDMUNDJust being practical, Sir.
SHACKLETONThe whole point is moot.
BIGSBYWhat do you mean?
SHACKLETONI wasn’t going to tell either of you, but, since we’re alone here at the end of the earth, I may as well share the news with you.
EDMUNDGood news or bad news?
SHACKLETONBad. Very bad. Not only are we out of food, we are on our last drop of oil for the lamp. Soon we will have no more light or heat. On top of that, the compass is broken. We are hopelessly lost. For all I can tell, we’ve been traveling in circles.
BIGSBYThis could very well the last night of life for all of us.
EDMUNDI never thought it would end like this. Huddled together with two other men in a small tent, thousands of miles from my wife. If we are going to die, I prefer we die a respectable distance from one another.
SHACKLETONWe are the last bit of human contact you will ever have.
BIGSBYPlease take your hand off my leg, Sir.
SHECKLETONOh, sorry. Didn’t realize.
(The light of lantern fluctuates a few times before permanently going out. It is completely dark. )
SHACKLETONI vowed to myself that some day I would go to the region of ice and snow and go on and on till I came to one of the poles of the earth, the end of the axis upon which this great round ball turns. We had seen God in His splendors, heard the text that Nature renders. We had reached the naked soul of man.
(From outside the tent, we see a flashlight. Whoever is carrying it, pulls back a tent flap and comes into the tent.)
MARJORIEBill? Are you guys calling it a night, already?
BIGSBY (pulling the scarf off his eyes, dropping his dialect)Oh, no, Marjorie. The lantern just ran out of fuel, is all. We have flashlights. (All three of them pull out flashlights.)
EDMUND (dropped dialect)Evening, Marjorie.
SHACKLETON (dropped dialect)Chilly out tonight.
MARJORIEI was thinking the same thing, Phil. So, I brought you guys some s’mores.
(They all three cheer!)
BIGSBYOh, but what will we heat them with? Raw s’mores suck.
MARJORIENot to worry. I brought out the electric hot plate and a pan. I ran an extension cord from the garage.
(Edmund takes the hot plate and pan and starts making s’mores.)
BIGSBYYou’re the best, Marjorie.
MARJORIEYou boys have a good night. (She turns to leave) Oh, and the kids wanted me remind you that they want to play in the tent tomorrow, with it being Saturday and all.
SHACKLETONNo, problem. We clear out first thing in the morning.
MARJORIEOkay, now. Have a nice expedition.
BIGSBY (back to British dialect)Those rations ready, Edmund? I’m starving!