“Formaldehyde is commonly found in a broad range of consumer products and can show up in practically every room of the house. — NYT, “When Wrinkle-Free Clothing Also Means Formaldehyde Fumes,” by TARA SIEGEL BERNARD, December 10, 2010
MITCH TYRANNICAL, CEO MegaPetroLith Corp., a giant conglomerate of consumer goods brands. A 46-year-old, handsome megalomaniac with slicked-back hair, square jaw, Cheney-esque sneer, in a dark three-piece suit. A cloud of thick white smoke encircles his head, though no cigar is seen.
DR. NIGEL HEALTHYCAUTION, Senior Especially Diligent Head Manager of the Department of Safety, Concern, Well-Being, Environmental Responsibility, and Non-Mutant-Forming Product Ensuring Division, MegaPetroLith Corp. A calm, slender man in a white lab coat and smart spectacles, a brilliant scientist whose natural conservatism and tendency to “err on the side of the safer thing” has been bred out of him via monstrous cash bonuses, stock options, luxury sedans, Fijian holidays, and a company-fed penchant for mink-lined undergarments.
Act 1, Scene 1: Meeting room, 51stfloor MegaPetroLith Building. A long table flanked by austere chairs. The room’s many vast windows overlook a teeming metropolis. ENTER Tyrannical and Healthycaution. They sit at the table.
TYRANNICAL: This better be important, Healthycaution.
DR. H.C.: It is, sir. We’ve got some shocking results from the latest lab tests. Many of our top-selling and most lucrative brands are under threat, and we need to know what to do.
TYRANNICAL: My tee-time approaches. Let’s hear it.
DR. H.C.: Very well. On that note, starting with our line of golf clubs. It seems the ethoxylated sulfates in the grips enter the bloodstream via the palms and cause disintegration of eyelashes, eyebrows, and cilia—those are hairs in the nose.
TYRANNICAL: How many cases?
DR. H.C.: About 200.
TYRANNICAL: No recall. Claim ignorance. Settle the class action out of court. Change the brand name if the sum exceeds $80 million. Next.
DR. H.C.: Our smash-hit breakfast cereal, Vampire-O’s… bad news about the red dye coating the tip of each incisor-shaped rice puff.
DR. H.C.: Turns out it’s real blood.
TYRANNICAL: [groans] Ugh.
DR. H.C.: It gets worse. It’s monkey blood.
TYRANNICAL: Christ! Tinkerman?
DR. H.C.: We think so. He got it on the cheap from an Australian zoo.
TYRANNICAL: Can we spin it to “all-natural”?
DR. H.C.: It’s diseased.
DR. H.C.: Children are bleeding from the eyeballs, fingernails, and anus.
TYRANNICAL: “Just like your favorite movie vamp”?
DR. H.C.: Don’t think so.
TYRANNICAL: All right. Press release: the blood buyer was a contractor, no affiliation with MegaPetroLith, suspected terrorist, currently being waterboarded. Revamp the recipe—ha ha, get it?
DR. H.C.: Very good, sir.
TYRANNICAL: New recipe, bring in a tie-in entity, someone trustworthy like Betty Crocker or Aunt Jemmima. Change the blood to strawberry.
DR. H.C.: Got it.
TYRANNICAL: What else?
DR. H.C.: Carcinogenic dioxins in the bubble gum.
TYRANNICAL: Wait and see.
DR. H.C.: Methyl paraben in the toothpaste inhibits microbial growth, invites infection. 80 people with Ebola.
TYRANNICAL: It’s fine.
DR. H.C.: Aluminum in underarm deodorant causes Alzheimer’s.
TYRANNICAL: No, it doesn’t.
DR. H.C.: Liver failure in “Happy Chunks Cheese Snak Paks” eaters.
TYRANNICAL: Can’t be proven.
DR. H.C.: Direct and irrefutable correlation between potassium hydroxide in our shampoos and corrosion of brain matter.
TYRANNICAL: I CAN’T HEAR YOU! LA LA LA LA!
DR. H.C.: Padamate-O, a.k.a. octyl dimethyl, in our HealthyBloc sunscreens react with ultraviolet rays to create free radicals which cause skin cancer at an alarmingly accelerated rate.
[Tyrannical gets out of his chair, climbs atop the table, dances upon it with fingers in his ears.]
TYRANNICAL: “I CAN’T HEAR YOU, LA LA LA LA!”
[Healthycaution stands, follows TYRANNICAL, continuing to read reports until TYRANNICAL leaps through the window, shattering the glass, and plummeting out of view. His horrific scream fades to silence.]
DR. H.C.: [To the audience, in a Groucho Marx-fashion cheeky aside] I made that last one up!
Band plays happy tune, a bloodied, half-mutilated Tyrannical returns for a song and dance number about organic produce.