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THE DOGS OF PEACE
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A Playlet
by
Will de Kypia



DRAMATIS PERSONAE ET CANES

Minister for Reconciliation
Crony of the King

Deputy Minister for Reconciliation
Royal minion

Special Assistant to the Deputy
Minister for Reconciliation
Court flunky

Palace Attendant
Elderly retainer

Toby Gale

American human remains
detection specialist


Toto and Tut
Human remains search dogs

Two Guards
Ruritanians

Three Prisoners
Graustarkians


TIME
The near future


PLACE
The Office of the Ruritanian Minister for Reconciliation
The Royal Palace, Streslau, Ruritania



SETTING

An elegant 19th-century room with crown molding, mirrored brass sconces, wainscoting, and a fireplace. The room’s furnishings combine antique grandeur with modern technology. Two computer monitors rest upon a Louis XIV walnut desk; an Italian rococo gilt cabinet contains several pieces of electronic equipment. The curtains on the lead glass windows are lace, the carpets on the fumed oak floor are Persian.

The Minister for Reconciliation, the Deputy Minister for Reconciliation, and the Special Assistant to the Deputy Minister for Reconciliation are standing stage left.


NARRATOR

It is a bright spring morning shortly after the end of the Ruritanian Civil War. The long and bloody conflict is over, officially. Ruritanian loyalists defeated the Graustarkian secessionists. Casualties were high on both sides. Many corpses lie where they fell, concealed beneath mounds of war debris. The situation is repugnant to all Ruritanians, who have great respect for their dead. The war cannot truly end until they have laid to rest the bodies of their parents and children, their spouses and siblings, friends and neighbors.

The Royal Government is committed to locating and properly burying all remains as swiftly as possible. Trained cadaver dogs are needed to begin the process; Ruritania requested international assistance for that phase of the effort. American trainer Toby Gale has just arrived from Kansas to meet with officials of the Ministry for Reconciliation in Streslau, Ruritania.


(Enter PALACE ATTENDANT followed by TOBY GALE with TOTO and TUT.)



PALACE ATTENDANT

Minister, Deputy Minister, the American dog wrangler and the dogs.

TOBY GALE

Minister, Deputy Minister, it is wonderful to be here. Finally.

MINISTER

Mucher happy too now come death dogs are we. Talk American let all we. Ruritanian peoples know good. Hooray for Hollywood!

TOBY GALE

It is of course much easier to work together if we do not require interpreters.

DEPUTY MINISTER

Welcome to Ruritania. You will find that many Ruritanians are comfortable with English. I hope that the formalities required for your trip were not too onerous.

TOBY GALE

Only at the other end. I had an incredible hassle with our State Department people trying to get the special passport validation we still need for Ruritania. Ran from this bureau to that bureau, talked to bevies of minor officials who all raised their concerns about “continued ethnic tensions” and “residual threats in a recent conflict zone.” Their mantra was “If you choose to travel to this country at this time we cannot possibly guarantee your safety.” That way if anything happened to me they could say they had warned me so it was my own fault.

Eventually they relented, but then they wanted me to “wear a wire.” Be a spy. Nowadays there’s no real wire, the techies implant some kind of microchip in you; it transmits to a satellite hovering up there. I refused, no cyber gizmos in my bod.

DEPUTY MINISTER

We know. You were scanned upon your arrival at the airport.

TOBY GALE

Let me say what an honor it is to be part of this enterprise, helping a proud nation to bind up its wounds and move on. I have a personal connection as well. One of my ancestors emigrated from Ruritania. Or was it Ruthenia? Wherever Andy Warhol’s family came from.

DEPUTY MINISTER

Welcome home, then.

If you require anything during your visit my Special Assistant here will obtain it for you. Special Assistant?

SPECIAL ASSISTANT

Of course, Deputy Minister.

Perhaps our guest should be taken to the hotel, to relax and freshen up a bit after such a long journey.

TOBY GALE

Thank you both. I slept very soundly on the plane, as did Toby and Toto. They were in first class with me of course. So if you are ready we can start right now.

The actual detection process is fairly simple. The dogs do all the work and their accuracy rate is phenomenal. They are Salukis, ancient royal Egyptian hunting dogs with a natural dignity that’s perfect for their work. Salukis have a highly developed sense of smell and are very clever as well. They’re air-scenters, much too fast for me to keep up with so they work off-lead. I’m mostly around to handle the remains appropriately.

The team basically does the training too. The way they can communicate with other dogs is eerie, it’s like canine ESP. And they are absolutely respectful during a search. That is one of the prime points of the training. My team know that when remains are found only the handler touches them.


This is Toto and this is Tut. I call them my Team TNT.

(to TOTO & TUT)

Hey, team, show ‘em how smart you are.

TOTO
(barks)

TUT
(whistles)

(TOBY GALE smiles.)



(MINISTER claps hands. Enter Two GUARDS with three PRISONERS.)


TOBY GALE

Ah, these must be our trainees.

MINISTER

Trainees! Railroad! Choo-choo!


TOBY GALE

That is, these are the people I will teach to locate cadavers. To find dead people.

MINISTER

They meat.

TOBY GALE

They meet…they meet with…?

MINISTER

Meat, dog meat. For you death dogs. They bits. No, they baits. They bits of baits.

TOBY GALE

Baits? Actually, the training exercise involves detection, not some type of trapping.

DEPUTY MINISTER

The Minister is aware of the purpose of the training and we have already selected several trainees from the staff of the Royal Zoo. They and our Ruritanian shrew hounds await us now in the Royal Forest.

These three are Graustarkians who work in our production facilities. One of them will provide the “bait,” as it were, for the dogs to seek out and find. You will pick your favorite, whom we will execute and dismember. You and your beasts can then train our beasts how to locate the…various bits of bait.

That is even more important than the work these three have been doing in our production facilities.

TOBY GALE

Execute? Dismember? You mean…you intend to kill one of these people? Here? Now?



(DEPUTY MINISTER waves dismissively.)


DEPUTY MINISTER

The fortunate unselected prisoners will be returned to their production facilities to die there. Not now, but very soon.

Our industrial base was nearly annihilated in the war these abominable Graustarkians waged against us. We need many workers to re-build the economy and to develop an export sector so that Ruritania may again prosper and assume its proper significant role upon the world stage. These are three of the workers.

The term “production facilities” is a euphemism. The facilities are labor camps where everyone dies, eventually. And eventually arrives rather quickly.

MINISTER

YU-FUH-MIZ-UHM. American he good talk, school America.

DEPUTY MINISTER

In Britain, actually. I read law. At Oxford.

You are the expert on dead people. Please select the most winsome corpse-to-be.

TOBY GALE

No. No, I, I can’t pick someone to be killed. I mean, it isn’t….

MINISTER

Then all many now kill we. You one point. After. Not make die choose. Good?

TOBY GALE

No! Not good. Not good!

DEPUTY MINISTER

Minister, that would not be good. We would lose three workers instead of one. Our production facilities need every worker they can obtain and retain. The one on the left looks suitable.


(MINISTER points to prisoner on left, holds nose, laughs.)


MINISTER

Him Eastie stink peoples. Good bait, dogs easy smell.


(PRISONER grimaces at MINISTER, sniffs underarm, sticks out tongue.)


DEPUTY MINISTER

The inhabitants of the eastern portion of Graustark are renowned for their pungency.

TOBY GALE

But…then…easy to smell means easy to locate as well, not a good bait, a fake bait, and we don’t want that…we must do this…thing correctly.

MINISTER

Eastie stink peoples easy fake bait, no good.

DEPUTY MINISTER

The Minister agrees with you, we cannot compromise the training. Please choose another prisoner.


(DEPUTY MINISTER motions GUARD to remove Eastie PRISONER.)

(Exit GUARD and PRISONER.)


TOBY GALE

Don’t they stink too?

DEPUTY MINISTER

They are Graustarkians but not Easties.


(off) (gunshot)

(TOBY GALE looks at DEPUTY MINISTER.)


DEPUTY MINISTER

All Easties are insolent. Lazy as well. No loss.

TOBY GALE

You just…you…I can’t believe…Then we will use…yeah, that’s it, use him…already dead…

MINISTER

No Eastie stink peoples. No fake bait.

DEPUTY MINISTER

The Minister has said that we will not use an Eastie in the training.

TOBY GALE

There has to be…Look, people still die here, war or no war. We can use someone who has died a natural death, someone with no family to claim the body. Or we could disinter a corpse. Already decomposed, that would be excellent.


(TOBY GALE mimes digging.)


MINISTER

Dig up dead us peoples for dogs find? Not good.

DEPUTY MINISTER

As the Minister points out, we are Ruritanians, of the same blood, almost the same family. We shall not consider using one of our own. Certainly, we would never disinter a body. The idea is grotesque.

TOBY GALE

Then we’ll use a deceased Graustarkian, not from the East. Graustarkians die too, right?

DEPUTY MINISTER

I told you about the production facilities. A significant number of Graustarkians expire in them every week. However, the facilities are located far from Streslau and in a remote area. Much of our infrastructure has been destroyed, pockets of resistance persist throughout the countryside, movement within the hinterland is very difficult. It required nearly a fortnight to procure these three. Searching out the bodies of the missing is our highest national priority and we intend to begin today, using whatever bait we have at hand. Select please.

TOBY GALE

We don’t need to kill anyone, we don’t even need a body. I brought some Pseudo Omega with me, just in case. That’s a very fine artificial cadaver scent, fake bait that’s even better than the real thing.

(TO MINISTER)

I have good fake bait. Dogs like.

MINISTER

Not good! Not eat fake meat, not use fake-meat bait!

DEPUTY MINISTER

The Minister means that we Ruritanians are rather traditional and very much prefer real meat to any of its various imitations. No tofu in other words.

Whom do we kill, now, to permit us to begin the training?

TOBY GALE

In Kansas we do not kill human beings to acquire training material for our dogs.

DEPUTY MINISTER

You are not in Kansas anymore. You should be more flexible.

TOBY GALE

I only wanted to help out, how did everything get so twisted? Let’s just stop arguing, I’m going back to the States, there are other cadaver dog trainers, you can find someone…more flexible.

SPECIAL ASSISTANT

You are putting us in a difficult position. Everyone in Ruritania knows that an American expert is here to assist us in locating the bodies of our war dead. Explaining your sudden departure would be difficult. News of the event could distress the citizenry, which might then raise impertinent inquiries and thereby cause awkwardness for the Government. We cannot possibly permit such a senseless muddle at this critical juncture in our nation’s history.

As for these two, put them out of your mind. They are of absolutely no consequence. Today one becomes dog bait, one returns to the labor camp, but as I explained both are going to die.

TOBY GALE

Die? Of course they’re going to die. They’re human beings. Everyone in this room is going to die!


(SPECIAL ASSISTANT looks at TOBY GALE, then at
DEPUTY MINISTER. PRISONERS appear to be pleased.)


DEPUTY MINISTER

That is an excellent point. There is a solution to our quandary, a simple, even elegant solution acceptable to…nearly everyone. Let the two of us retire to the operations center. You can examine the equipment and material that we have prepared for the training exercise, advise us if anything else is required.

And I will offer a modest proposal that should settle the contentious matter of “bait” for the dogs.

TOBY GALE

Golly, that’s wonderful, for a while it seemed…but there had to be a way. I was a scout, made it all the way to Eagle and still believe that remaining true to your values is what really counts. Then everything else will fall into place. Were you a scout too?

DEPUTY MINISTER

In my youth I belonged to the Machiavelli Society, and was in fact the first Ruritanian ever to achieve the rank of Il Principe. Values did not constitute a significant component of our program.

(fondles TOBY GALE’S shoulder.)

You seem to be in very good physical condition. Do you follow a regular exercise regimen?

TOBY GALE

Yes, I work out at least a couple times a week. The searches, scrambling about with the dogs in rough territory, on-the-go for hours. Quite strenuous, at times even dangerous.


(Exit DEPUTY MINISTER, TOBY GALE, and GUARD.)

(off) (gunshot, then sound of chain saw)

(Enter DEPUTY MINISTER with rolled parchment.)
(Enter GUARD with two large red-stained canvas bags.)

(DEPUTY MINISTER hands parchment to SPECIAL ASSISTANT.)


DEPUTY MINISTER

(Gestures at bags)

(to SPECIAL ASSISTANT)

In those bags are the mortal remains of the late Toby Gale. Have the parts distributed to the locations within the Royal Forest indicated on the map. Then the trainees, human and canine, depart with Toto and Tut. They are clever dogs, as are our Ruritanian shrew hounds. I am confident that the two breeds will collaborate very well and our hounds will swiftly become proficient in the detection process. Do you concur, Special Assistant?

SPECIAL ASSISTANT

You are of course correct, Deputy Minister.

DEPUTY MINISTER

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will notify the American Embassy of the accidental death of American citizen Toby Gale during a training exercise. An unexploded Graustarkian munitions device hidden in the rubble was the instrument of death. Happily, the dogs were not injured.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will then prepare a full official report on the
unfortunate event, which the Minister will personally deliver to the American Embassy.

The Ministry of Transportation will arrange the Minister of Foreign Affair’s arrival at dusk in the coronation coach. The driver will be attired in formal livery, the outriders in full regalia, and the horses tacked up in ceremonial harness and saddlery. The coach itself will be illuminated by both carriage lanterns and Bengal lights.

The Ministry of Public Works will extinguish street lamps throughout the diplomatic quarter, thereby demonstrating respect for the deceased as well as providing an appropriate ambience for the Minister’s appearance. That always dazzles the Yanks.

SPECIAL ASSISTANT

Perhaps the Americans will not accept the report immediately; they might insist upon further investigation and explanations.

DEPUTY MINISTER

The Embassy must accept our report without quibble. Searching out death inevitably places the searcher’s own life at risk of the same, as an expert in the matter recently informed us.

The Minister will explain that delivery of the report was delayed due to a failed assassination attempt against the Sovereign. Perpetrated by a crazed Graustarkian, who was of course killed by the royal guards before any harm was done.

The Minister of Culture will report the assassination attempt on Royal Radio Ruri, and announce the Ministry for Reunification’s decision to utilize the assass
in’s treacherous body as bait for the search dogs, thereby providing a fitting symbol of Ruritania’s reunification.

SPECIAL ASSISTANT

Minister, I propose that the Minister of Culture also direct Royal Radio Ruri to play only the most mournful dirges from noon until midnight in memory of our good friend.


(DEPUTY MINISTER nods at MINISTER, who nods at SPECIAL ASSISTANT.)


DEPUTY MINISTER


The Ministry of Cute will produce a document expressing our condolences for the demise of Toby Gale. Replete with the customary ribbons, stamps, wax seals of many colors, and a plethora of signatures. Including the Sovereign’s.

SPECIAL ASSISTANT

Minister, perhaps the Sovereign’s signature might be added by autopen, so that the royal schedule is not disrupted by this trivial unpleasantry.


(DEPUTY MINISTER nods at MINISTER, who nods at SPECIAL ASSISTANT.)


MINISTER

Personnel from the Ministry of Health will harvest the Eastie’s useable organs, incinerate the remainder of the remains, and place the ashes in a funerary urn from the collection of the Royal Museum for presentation to the Gale family. We will apprise them of the ancient Ruritanian custom that requires the immediate cremation of all deceased persons.



SPECIAL ASSISTANT

Minister, rather than waste a real urn, we might use one of the replicas produced by the Ministry of Historical Artifacts and Touristic Trinkets; that should suffice for Americans.


(DEPUTY MINISTER nods at MINISTER, who nods at SPECIAL ASSISTANT.)

Minister, may I further suggest that we tell the family that Ruritania, a thoroughly modern nation, requires the immediate cremation of all deceased for reasons of hygiene, and has done so ever since COVID-29.


(DEPUTY MINISTER nods at MINISTER, who nods at SPECIAL ASSISTANT.)


(DEPUTY MINISTER

Tomorrow the Royal Cabinet’s Honors Committee will recommend to the Sovereign that our esteemed colleague, Toby Gale, be created a Companion of the Order of Zenda, 3rd Class without Garland, the first American to be so honored. After the Sovereign approves, the award shall be proclaimed in the Royal Square.

(He regards the bags.)

The posthumous nature of the honor eliminates the need for an actual ceremony.

The Royal Mail will assemble these items—condolences, urn, Star of Zenda, 3rd Class without Garland—and dispatch a royal courier to present them to the Gale family in Kansas.

(He gazes at SPECIAL ASSISTANT who looks down.)

DEPUTY MINISTER
(to MINISTER)

Minister, is there anything that you wish to add before we commence the reunification of our glorious nation?

MINISTER
(to ALL)

War bad long suffer. New normal bright good glam. Soonly Ruritania high-up country return. Every peoples world we honorful and civilize being understand.


(to PRISONERS)

Bigly production happy campers make. Mucher hardly work before soonly die.

DEPUTY MINISTER

Make Ruritania Great Again!

ALL

Ruritania!


(BLACKOUT)
(END OF PLAYLET)



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