The Wimposium: A Socratic Dialogue
by Kurt Luchs
Persons of the DialogueSOCRATES A Greek philosopher and timeshare salesmanHERPES A slaveBIKEATHON A Spartan athleteMEDIOCRATES An affluent used chariot dealer
SceneA public bathhouse in Athens, Greece
MEDIOCRATES: Lower, a little lower...Ah, yes, 'tis good. But I pray you, Bikeathon, do be gentle with that towel. My extremities were sorely chafed in the games.
BIKEATHON: (Dropping the towel in anger) Dry yourself, then, by Zeus! A fine Spartan you would make, whining and whimpering 'til the very gods are sick of it.
(Enter Socrates. The bath attendant checks his tunic at the desk, and then he joins his comrades in the steam room.)
SOCRATES: Whatever can you mean, good Bikeathon? How can Mediocrates be a Spartan when already he is a citizen of Athens?
BIKEATHON: Oh piss off, Socrates.
MEDIOCRATES: Yes, we're in no mood for your games today.
SOCRATES: Let us look into the truth of the matter.
BIKEATHON: Let us not and say we did.
SOCRATES: By "Spartan," do you refer to a native or inhabitant of Sparta, or merely to someone who has his mail forwarded there? Or perhaps to one who has a cousin who knows of a woman whose father, it is rumored, once sent a servant on an errand there, and did not pay him? Or are you speaking rather of an ideal "Spartanness" of which all things Spartan-like must be composed in order to retain their essential Spartanhood, that is to say, their Spartaneity?
BIKEATHON: (Kneeing Socrates in the groin) Does this clarify my position, Athenian dog? (Socrates doubles over in agony)
MEDIOCRATES: That was beautiful, Bikeathon. Do it again.
BIKEATHON: With pleasure. Eat a boot, Socrates! (Kicks him savagely)
SOCRATES: (Gasping for breath) Your comment perplexes me, Mediocrates. How can you discourse of the beautiful without first inquiring into beauty itself, or that which partakes of beauteousness -- your serving boy, for example?
MEDIOCRATES: Yon Herpes?
SOCRATES: The very same.
MEDIOCRATES: He is yours for a thousand drachmas.
SOCRATES: Done. But first I would speak with the lad and define the terms of my argument. He is of lowly birth and simpleminded, no doubt, but perhaps he has a taste for true philosophy.
BIKEATHON: Bah! True buggery, you mean.
MEDIOCRATES: Herpes! Come hither. Socrates would question you.
SOCRATES: Boy, if your tunic were to fall off in the forest and there were no one but myself to hear it, truly, could it be said never to have happened?
HERPES: Very truly.
SOCRATES: And if I then ordered you to don womanish attire while I disciplined you with hot olive branches, would that, too, be a matter of the intellect only, and of no interest to the authorities?
SOCRATES: Most excellent. I have but one other question: What is that strange and horrible goblin standing behind you?
HERPES: (Turning quickly) Where?
SOCRATES: There! (Knocks him out with a small marble statuette) Thank you, Mediocrates. He is a quick-witted youth after all, but not quick enough. Again I am in your debt. (Starts to drag Herpes off)
MEDIOCRATES: Not so fast, Socrates. Have you forgotten the thousand drachmas?
SOCRATES: Er, no. That is, could you wait until Friday, so to speak?
MEDIOCRATES: The Delphic oracle has said, "He who welches must soak his dentures in the river Styx." Bikeathon, submerge our learned friend in the healing waters.
BIKEATHON: Gladly. (Dunks Socrates in the bath) Drink from the Fountain of Truth, learned sponge!
SOCRATES: (Gurgling) But what is truth?
BIKEATHON: Tell me and we will both know; that is, we shall know that we know, and in knowing, know that the knowable is known to those in the know -- know what I mean?
SOCRATES: Styx and stones may break my bones, but...Glug, glug, glug! (He disappears)
BIKEATHON: Very true.
About the author:
Kurt Luchs is General Manager of AmericanComedyNetwork.com, a comedy producer for radio and the web. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney's, The Onion, and Monkeybicycle, and he edits the literary humor site TheBigJewel.com. His screenplay for "Another Insufferably Stuttering Hugh Grant Comedy" has been described as "absurd, amusing, antic, blithe, capricious, clever, comic, comical, diverting, droll, entertaining, facetious" by Roget's.