There’s No Heaven for Unplugged Toasters
By Lucas Cox
INT. MRS. ALTERMAN’S LEGAL OFFICE – MORNING
CHERRY: Ronnie Riverson?! You want Ronnie Riverson to perform his foul-mouthed shtick at your funeral? You really are crazy aren’t you Gary?
GARY: Cherry. Baby. He’s like a brother to me.
CHERRY: I don’t care if he’s “like” a brother to you! He’s not your brother! You have a brother and Ronnie Riverson is not your brother!
GARY: My brother’s an asshole Cherry! You know that. Don’t even start with that crap.
CHERRY: Look, Gary, all I am trying to say is that it is inappropriate. No. It is absolutely ridiculous… it is asinine to want Ronnie Riverson to use your funeral as a means of personal promotion.
GARY: But it’s not a means of personal promotion. Well, it is a little bit, but I just don’t want my funeral to be some cry-fest where my friends stare at my casket and worry about their own mortality while creating phony memories of me being a nice guy. I am not a nice guy honey.
CHERRY: Oh tell me something I don’t know Gary.
MRS. ALTERMAN: If you don’t mind me asking Mr. Salzman, I believe your wife mentioned that you have a brother. Would it be intrusive of me to ask the name of this-
CHERRY: Shawn. Our son Shawn. Now what is so wrong with having your own son give the sermon at your funeral? Hmm?
GARY: Shawn? He’s not even Jewish anymore and you want my son to be the pastor or whatever at my funeral? I don’t even want a pastor, I’m Jewish remember? I don’t even want a rabbi or any of that sad mushy crap at my funeral.
CHERRY: Shawn is your son. How can you favor that shmuck Ronnie over your very own son.
GARY: Well, let’s see. Shawn hasn’t called me in two years and seven months. It’ll be eight months next week. And he hasn’t even-
CHERRY: Oh here we go. It is always HIS fault isn’t it Gary? You do know that phones go both ways don’t you? Besides, with Shawn’s family situation you know that he could use the money more than Ronnie.
GARY: He doesn’t even e-mail me. And not only did he stop being a practicing Jew but he became a coach for the other team. He falls in love with the first Christian girl he meets and all of the sudden he just has to become a Catholic or Protestant or whatever part of the Bible he thinks he understands better. Not just a member, but a preacher.
CHERRY: Gary Salzman he is your son. And you need to treat him-
GARY: And I am his father Charlotte. I raised him the best that I could and I gave him everything that a kid could ever want. Spoiled him rotten. Why would he turn his back on me the moment he started a life of his own? Was he just spending all of those years in college… spending all of my money in college just planning and waiting to stab me in the back as soon as he graduated?
CHERRY: Do not bring this up again Gary.
GARY: What do you mean don’t bring it up? He was raised Jewish. Then he marries some Christian simpleton and now, not only has he magically converted himself into a Christian but he’s a damn speaker for their cause?
CHERRY: You’re not even a practicing Jew yourself! Besides, you’re the one that wanted to send him to Notre Dame.
GARY: Oh don’t you dare lecture me ab-
MRS. ALTERMAN: Forgive me for my interruption Mr. And Mrs. Salzman. But it is already eleven-thirty and I have an important lunch date this afternoon. I think that we should shift our attention back to completing your last will and testament. Now Mr. Salzman, although it is primarily up to you as to how the ceremonies of your funeral are, um, performed. You have given your wife power of attorney and that does allow her some authority over the coordination of your funeral in terms of funding. Now someone stated that your son has some sort of family situation right now. May I ask what that-
GARY: He’s about to have a child. His holiness is about to have his first kid.
CHERRY: Today in fact. We should be in the hospital but instead Gary here wants to focus on his own death today. So now I’m waiting for a phone call.
GARY: He calls his step mom but not me. And for Christ’s sake Cherry, I’ve got cancer! I don’t have time to doddle and smoke cigars in the hospital. I’m sick of hospitals and I don’t want to spend one of my few days without chemo sitting in a damn hospital.
MRS. ALTERMAN: Well yes Mr. Salzman, I can understand that. Now you told me over the phone that you had (reading from a sticky note, struggling with the words) “stage 4 pancreatticobiliary adenocar-”
GARY: It’s liver cancer. You don’t need to use the fancy words to describe it. It’s liver cancer. I’ve got a year left to live, tops.
CHERRY: And why can’t you just honor your son and humor me by having a traditional funeral with a priest and what have you?
GARY: Because it isn’t me Cherry.
CHERRY: What isn’t you?
GARY: The whole stuffy religious thing. I’ve been a comedian my entire life and there is no way that on the last day that my body remains above the dirt, everyone is going to be crying over my body while a magician reads and recites from a bullshit book.
CHERRY: Oh for God’s sake Gary! He is a Pastor, not a magician or a witch doctor or a circumcision salesman or any of the crazy names that you call him. He is a-
GARY: I don’t believe in it Cherry! I think it’s all a bunch of garbage and I don’t want anyone spouting out some ancient marble garble at my own funeral. I want it to be a roast, not a ritual.
CHERRY: What Gary? What is it that you don’t believe?
GARY: There’s no heaven for unplugged toasters honey.
CHERRY: Oy vey. Do you hear this Mrs. Alterman? We are discussing his funeral and now he’s going on about kitchen appliances.
GARY: Kitchen appliances? No, I am talking about heaven. Do you think that when you unplug a toaster, when that spark of electricity leaves a toaster, that toaster goes to some mystical heaven where all the good toasters receive bird wings and fly around on clouds playing harps and singing about Toaster Strudels?
CHERRY: Oh come on Gary-
GARY: Or maybe all of the bad toasters go to a toaster hell where forks are jammed into them and they’re forced to toast onion bread for eternity because they either burnt too many Pop Tarts or they didn’t accept the teachings of the almighty toaster in the sky.
MRS. ALTERMAN: Once again Mr. Salzman, I am sorry to interrupt. But as a Christian woman myself I must say that I disagree with you and-
GARY: Oh shut up! Now I’ve been your age before but you’ve never been mine. I have witnessed enough miracles and tragedies in life to make my own conclusions rather than consulting a book written by uneducated nomads thousands of years ago.
CHERRY: And what is your grand conclusion Gary?
GARY: You are alive for a little while and then you’re dead forever.
(a cellphone rings in CHERRY’s purse. Everyone quiets as she removes it and answers it)
CHERRY: Hello. Oh yes Shawnsy-baby, we were just running out the door to go there right now! Already? Is it a boy or a girl? No wait! Don’t tell me! I don’t want to know yet! I want it to be a surprise.
(Pause as she listens on the phone)
Yes. Your father will be there. Okay baby. Bye. Oooooooh!
(CHERRY closes the phone and places it back into her purse)
GARY: Well what is it?
CHERRY: It’s a baby you idiot! Now let’s go!
GARY: I know it’s a baby you frigging dolt! Is it a boy or a-
CHERRY: (Hits Gary with her purse) I told you to never call me that name again you assho-
MRS. ALTERMAN: Alright just calm down Mrs. Salzman! Now Mr. Salzman. Something important has come up for you and I suggest that we reschedule this-
GARY: No! We are finishing this right now!
CHERRY: Oh for god’s sake Gary. Let’s just go already.
GARY: No! I want to wipe all of the religious bullshit out of my funeral before I go to some hospital where I’ll be forced to hear more religious bullshit about the miracle of a baby being born. It’s a baby. It’s got a lot of life left to live, but I don’t.
MRS. ALTERMAN: I know that you are a comedian Mr. Salzman, and that makes me wonder as to how you can have such a grim outlook-
GARY: It’s not a grim outlook. It’s a fact. Find any science or religion that can disprove the fact that you’re able to walk around on this Earth for a small unpredictable amount of time, and then you just disappear forever.
CHERRY: My god Gary. Here we are talking about your death when we should be celebrating the birth of your grandchild and now you’re trying to make it worse by depressing us with your stupid pessimism.
GARY: That spark. That spark of life. It isn’t my brain, it isn’t my achy cancer ridden body, it isn’t anything physical. When I die I will not be some miserable 68 year old fart shmutzing around in heaven or hell. Just that spark leaves and goes somewhere. Nothing else. And what’s left behind is my body, an unplugged toaster.
CHERRY: You hear that Mrs. Alterman? Apparently I’m married to a philosopher. Now let’s-
GARY: Ronnie Riverson is performing at my funeral and that’s all there is to it. It’s final.
MRS. ALTERMAN: Mrs. Salzman. Do you approve of-
CHERRY: Gary you selfish son of a bitch! You are having a traditional funeral and we are going to see your newborn grandchild right this minute!
MRS. ALTERMAN: Um, Mr. Salzman. If you wouldn’t mind me interjecting with a little bit of my own philosophy here. I would like to add that-
GARY: Oh for Christ sake kid. Everyone’s a philosopher when it comes to death and religion. Can we just put Ronnie Riverson on my damn will so I can get to the hospital already?
MRS. ALTERMAN: Funerals are for the living, Mr. Salzman. And I think you should consider that before you-
CHERRY: Shut up Mrs. Alterman! I just want to get out of here so I can go to the-
GARY: Holy shit. The girl said something smart for once. Quiet down honey, I wanna hear this.
CHERRY: Sweet Jesus. My step son is celebrating the birth of my grandchild and I’m stuck between Gandhi and Nietzsche while they ponder their existence. Could we just-
GARY: No Cherry. She’s right. I’m not going to give a rat’s ass about my funeral after I’m dead.
MRS. ALTERMAN: That isn’t what I was saying Mr. Salzman. What I was trying to say is that funerals are merely a time for the celebration of one’s life and a time to lament their passing. You should view it as-
GARY: Well yeah, exactly. People always talk about how their dead loved ones are watching over them and I’ve always thought: Now how selfish is that. My dead parents’ reward for raising me is to spend their days watching me eating and sitting on the toilet and then spending their nights watching me try to fall asleep. That sounds like hell if you ask me.
CHERRY: So are we done here? Are you going to let your son preach at your funeral?
GARY: Oh what the hell, why not? Put Shawn on that piece of paper there Mrs. Alterman. Let’s get out of here.
MRS. ALTERMAN: Now you’re sure about this Mr. Salzman? We could always arrange another meeting to discuss-
CHERRY: Write it down you twit! We have to get to the hospital to see my new grandson!
GARY: A son?! They had a boy?
CHERRY: Yes! It’s a boy. Now let’s go meet him instead of crying about your cancer and funeral and such.
GARY: Alright let’s go. You know what would be a good name for a boy?
CHERRY: Anthony. I have always loved the name Anthony. We can call him Tony, you know like Tony Curtis. Or maybe-
MRS. ALTERMAN: Well thank you for coming to a conclusion on this matter Mr. Salz-
GARY: Ronnie. They’re naming the kid Ronnie.
CHERRY: Goddammit Gary!