A Simple Question
By Thorin N. Tatge

CHARACTERS

JIM
DALE

JIM, an endocrinologist, is standing center stage, fiddling with some papers.  Enter DALE.
JIM: Hey Dale?  Do you happen to know whether isopropanol alcohol is a skin toxin as well as an inhaled one?
DALE: Yes.
JIM: It is?  Youíre sure?
DALE: Huh?  Oh, no, when I said ďyesĒ I didnít mean ďyes it isĒ, I meant ďyes, I know the answer.Ē
JIM: Oh.  Well, can you tell me what it is?
DALE: No.
(Pause.)
JIM: You canít?
DALE: Nope.
JIM: Why not?
DALE: I canít tell you.
JIM: What?  Why canít you tell me?
DALE: Sorry.  Canít tell you.
JIM: But why not?
DALE: I canít tell you.
JIM: Why not?
DALE: Itís classified.
(Pause.)
JIM: Itís classified?
DALE: Yep.
JIM: Classified as what?
DALE: Top secret.  By the government.
JIM: The government?!  You mean the government classified your research on isopropanol alcohol?
DALE: Yep.
JIM: You mean to say they also classified the reason you couldnít answer my question, as well as the reason you couldnít tell me the reason and the reason you couldnít tell me the reason for not being able to tell me the reason?  But they didnít bother to classify the reason why you couldnít tell me the reason why you couldnít tell me the reason why you couldnít tell me the reason?  Do I understand you correctly?
DALE: Yep, thatís right.
JIM: How long has the government been involved in our research, anyway?
DALE: I canít tell you.
JIM: You canít?  Why not?
DALE: I canít tell you.
JIM: Why not?
DALE: I canít tell you.
JIM: Why not!?
DALE: I canít tell you.
JIM: Why not!?!
DALE: Itís classified.
JIM: As top secret?
DALE: Yep.
JIM: By the government?
DALE: Yep.
JIM: So not only is the government poking around at our laboratory, but theyíre trying to cover their tracks.
DALE: Yeah.  They said to tell you hi.
(Pause.)
JIM: They what?
DALE: The agent who talked to me said to tell you hi.
JIM: I thought theyíd classified their presence here!
DALE: Yeah, but they said if you were wearing white pants and used the phrase ďcover their tracks,Ē I should tell you hi.
JIM: Thatís ridiculous.  Why should they care about what color pants I wear?
DALE: I canít tell you.
JIM: You canít tell me?
DALE: I canít tell you.
JIM: Why not?
DALE: I canít tell you.
JIM: Why not?
DALE: I canít tell you.
JIM: Why not?
DALE: Itís classified.
JIM: As top secret?
DALE: Yep.
JIM: By the government?
DALE: No.
JIM: No?
DALE: No.
JIM: Well, who classified it, then?
DALE: I canít tell you.
JIM: You mean that information was classified too?
DALE: Yep.
JIM: As top secret?
DALE: No.
(Pause.)
JIM: Not as top secret.
DALE: No.
JIM: What was it classified as, then?
DALE: A pickle.
JIM: A pickle??
DALE: Yep.
JIM: You mean the identity of the person who classified the reason why you canít tell me the reason why you canít tell me the reason the government cares about what color pants I wear has been classifiedóby someoneóas a pickle??
DALE: Thatís right.
JIM: Can you tell me who classified it as a pickle?
DALE (pointing offstage): Sure.  It was Bill, over there.
JIM: Oh.
DALE: Yeah.
JIM: So you were allowed to tell me that?
DALE: Sure, why wouldnít I be?
JIM: Well, look, Dale.  Does Bill know whether isopropanol alcohol is a skin toxin?
DALE: No, I donít reckon he does.
JIM: But you do.
DALE: Yep.
JIM: But you canít tell me.
DALE: Nope.
JIM: But if Iíd come along and asked you yesterday whether isopropanol alcohol is a skin toxin, what would you have said?
DALE: I reckon Iíd have said ďno.Ē
JIM: Okay then.  Thank you.  (Turns to go.)
DALE: Of course, I probably would have been lying.
JIM: You what?
The End.