Celebrity Apprentice: The Ghost of Penn
The Celebrity Apprentice S12E10: "Winning by a Nose"
Dark fog rolls over the stage. Around a deep grave, described minimally by cutting a hole in the stage floor, six figures are gathered. They are AUBREY the dancing girl dressed only in a belt of coins, LISA the hag swaddled in cloaks, her face almost obscured by her hood. ARSENIO the smiling one, two goat horns apparent on his head in the manner of Pan. CLAY, lyre-player with head wreathed in beautiful flowers. DAYANA, the beauty dressed in the manner of Athena, and THERESA the mother, holding a baby upon her hip.
At the head of the grave stands Trump in a swirling robe of pale pink satin, surrounded by attendants: girls holding tall fans, several small boys holding dishes of figs and chalices of wine. His face is covered by a great mask, but sorrow seems to consume his entire figure as he stares into the grave. Trump pauses by the grave as if he would kneel, but stops himself, and instead raises his finger, pointing at each of the mourners in turn, who lower their heads.
Wordlessly, Trump returns to his entourage, four gladiators carrying a litter (one of those enclosed beds balanced on four posts, enclosed by gossamer curtains) lower it so he can enter, and then the company leaves stage right.
The hag Lisa falls to her knees, keening at the grave. Aubrey, with the movements of a snake, approaches her, as if to comfort her, and seems to whisper in her ear, pointing at Dayana, who skirts nervously away from the ensemble. Lisa looks at Dayana with rage, Aubrey continues to gesticulate toward Dayana, Lisa rises, her mass swaddled in layers of wormy cloak, and lumbers towards Dayana, Clay tries to intercede, but Lisa will not be calmed. Horrified, Dayana runs to the grave and throws herself prostrate beside it. Timpani drums beat wildly, and Penn, his hair wild, a white cloak falling from his shoulders, steps up out of the grave.
Laid low in the limousine I was carried
away from the towers of Olympus!
The company is shaking before them, he laughs heartily at their shock and distress.
But what have you to fear? Only if my my passing was unjust
would it give you such pause.
Such stirring which, dare I say
have the look of regret.
That is just it: It was unjust.
You were the greatest of us all.
Penn, how many times have we used
your skills, your wisdom, your good calm sense
and now at the moment where we might have repaid—
instead we threw you to the dogs of Trump’s bloodless war!
How ironic too, that a challenge to define
the essence of success, that you of all should fail
who arguably is the most successful of us all.
Musical laughter. Aubrey steps from the group and moves, undulating her hips like a snake, amongst the crowd.
Speak for yourself, child-woman
I am O’Day, a borderline creative genius
a one-woman team, who again claimed victory
O, the Lords of Walgreen's, the Princes of Macy’s
see how they have have laid their laurels at my feet?
Penn, you have my regards!
(she bows, almost sardonically, then shimmies around the grave, her coins clinking fantastically)
But against me, you are all hopeless
I am mini-Trump, and have already won
Apologies, Penn, for the dancing girl’s manners
she speaks in riddles whose answers are all obscene
In this challenge I felt the heat of her loins
against the back of my neck
I heard the screams of the damned issue from that hellmouth
Aubrey laughs at this and writhes around Arsenio, he looks at her with something like hate and then softens.
And yet, siren, how you do delight
more than my eyes, a borderline genius! Yes—
an imaginative slut, is there any greater prize
even if your cologne display looks like the photo background
that kids would take pictures against for the prom.
Aubrey stiffens, and hisses at Arsenio, sliding from his embrace.
How much better it would have been to see Dayana go
figuratively, although literally I would certainly kill her
and with my thick fingers how easily I could crush her throat-
Dayana, at his side, looks up at him with appreciation.
Aubrey, do you think winning this contest
proves anything but cunning, deceit, and the ability
to shield yourself from blame?
Or that in any way this game means honor?
Crowned with glory is the one who is chosen
the apprentice, the greatest, the true celebrity
And by what criteria chosen?
I could match you Clay, thought for thought
and have thoughts enough left to pave the world
two or three hundred times over
for strength I could best you
as easily as a lion steps upon a dandelion
for courage I could roar you
into a silence as deep as a closet
in which a child sits hushed,
holding its breath with fear.
There are no rules in this game, and how it is won or lost
is whim, is Trump’s pleasure
there are no actual rules for celebrity apprentice
and the best are buried alongside the worse
with equal pomp and measure
What does this fill me with such sorrow to hear?
to know despite all my running in heels
neither my kindness nor my violence can protect me
the dogs of ambition shall chase
the thrashing rabbit of my abilities
until its innards are strewn haphazardly
along the path that ends in weeds, that ends in worms
No, it cannot be!
And yet it is so. “You earned it”
was a false epitaph for success, I see now in this game
as in life, we are struggling toward a meaningless crown
a golden symbol that signifies little but envy
and it is not who at last wrests the meaningless prize
but how we have appeared in playing the game
who we have helped, and who we have chastened
on this threshing floor, the diamonds fall first, not the chaff.
He reaches for Dayana’s hand, she rises. They stand he in the grave, she upon its edge.
And if they should take you next
at week’s end, if you should lower into the abyss
of that elevator, sad-eyed receptionist whispering goodbye
will you know that you go down there
the victor of them all?
that your patience, your tolerance, your respect
they crown you with a victory
that gold will never know?
Dayana, weeping, kisses Penn’s hand.
May all the Gods
rain blessings on you, Penn.
I am only a simple trickster, an illusionist.
Dayana shakes her head but smiles with understanding.
And I a vacant beauty queen, yes?
Penn turns and addresses the audience.
No rule book shall guide you
and your worst missteps may grant you the best prizes
your weakest moments may gain the strongest applause
and yet I implore you
remember the emblem of success—
the one who is kind where there is no kindness
the one who would never weigh gold
– Is Dayana going to get voted out next week or what?
– Was Penn just too good for this show all along?
– What is going on with Aubrey and Arsenio? It's clear she pretty much hates him but isn’t he kind of doing this like, “I hate her but I want her to be into me” thing?
– Were both cologne presentations completely stupid or what?
– What’s your definition of success?
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