Noah, Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, Sir Walter Raleigh and Marco Polo have been travelling aboard the Ark for many days. They spend their time waiting on the deck, each trying to spy land. Supplies are low, blood pressure is high.
“I didn’t sign up for this.”
One of Noah’s parrots: LAND HO!
Columbus: Whazzat? Where is it? I saw it first! I claim this land in the name of –
Vespucci: (rushes to deck, pushes him to one side) Vespucci!
Columbus: Why you little – that’s my island, mine, you hear! You keep your grubby paws off it.
Vespucci: (ignoring him as he extends a telescope in the direction of land) Ah, the sweet smell of a new territory. What say you, Marco? Maybe it’s another new continent! Like Asia! Or AMERICA.
Columbus: (kicking him away) This is not America, you thieving low-life. Go hunt for your own land.
Noah: Come now, come now! There’s no need for that sort of abuse. Get away from the bridge Columbus. Put a raincoat on, for goodness’ sake.
Columbus: No! He’s not doing this again, Noah. I’ve had it. I do the work, he gets the credit.
Vespucci: Can I help it if my name is more attractive than yours? It rolls off the tongue – Amerigo. A-mer-ica. Much nicer.
Columbus grabs the telescope and brandishes it like a baseball bat.
Noah: Stop it, Columbus. We’ve talked about this.
Columbus: But it’s not fair! Everyone knows I did all the work. Why does he get all the praise?
Marco Polo: You do get a Christopher Columbus Day.
Raleigh: And I read a poem about you once.
Columbus: But I don’t get a song! Or a mention every three seconds! Or a dollar! Nada! I gave so much and I got nothing in return.
Noah: It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Columbus: Oh yeah? Well you got the boat when no-one else was going fishing, Noah, if you catch my drift?
Vespucci: It’s alright everybody. I understand where CC is coming from. Who knows, if I was in his shoes, I might feel the same. Or…I might just accept things as they are and go on to discover another new land – (motions towards the distant shore) - like I’ve just done.
Columbus: (through gritted teeth) I told you. This is Columbus-Land. And don’t call me “CC”.
It takes one to know one.
Vespucci: Sorry, sorry. Old habits. One of my friends used to call me AV when we met for lunch. It just made it easier. Kept the autograph hunters away.
Columbus: (to Marco) I heard “AV” was named after his mother’s pet pug America, who stowed away on board. They named the land after the dog, not the Captain.
Vespucci: You, sir, are a spiteful, greedy man who doesn’t deserve the honour of having the Land of the Brave named after you!
Columbus: (smiling) Do you know, I really think Columbus-Land might be a new continent! Doesn’t it look lovely – all big and shiny and new!
Marco: (shaking his head) Doesn’t look like a continent to me. But then, it’s hard to tell with such a small piece of land. Asia is so big.
Raleigh: (somewhat wistfully) Do you think potatoes grow there? I’d love a baked potato round about now.
Marco: Always with the potatoes Raleigh! You need to spread your wings. Try some rice.
Raleigh: Rice? What’s that? Is it a new way of cooking potato? It makes no difference; I can’t try anything new since Noah made me hand over the last of my supplies to feed the dodos.
Noah: Future generations will be grateful for your sacrifice, Walter.
“I may regret allowing my name to be so associated with potatoes”.
Marco: Rice isn’t a way of cooking potatoes! It’s much more interesting. When we were in China –
Vespucci: Oh here we go…
Noah: Manners, Amerigo. Let Marco tell his story.
Vespucci: Sorry Noah.
Noah: Columbus! Marco, go on.
Marco: (ignoring him) When we were in China we saw all sorts of things –
Vespucci: Did you see pirates?
Marco: Well, no.
Vespucci: Well how about mermaids? You must have seen mermaids?
Marco: Not in the parts of Asia where we travelled to. We mainly met noblemen with their entourages and then we gathered precious cargoes and new information.
No mermaids here.
Vespucci: Oh. (turns his telecope back towards the ocean)
Marco: So anyway –
Columbus: Well hang on, didn’t these entourages have anyone with them besides noblemen?
Marco: Like beautiful women, exciting storytellers, amazing magicians?
Columbus: Yes! That, exactly!
Vespucci: Now you’re talking!
Columbus: (frowns) Oh.
Marco: (sensing disillusionment with Asia and, more importantly, the prospect of a fall in his status aboard the Ark) Well there was this really exciting adventure this one time when my father left me behind when he went to see The Great Khan and I nearly got beheaded because of an administrative mix-up!
Noah: Your father left you behind to get killed?
Vespucci: That doesn’t sound very safe.
Marco: It wasn’t like that. He was on important business. He got distracted.
Columbus: Important business! What’s more important than making sure your son doesn’t have his head lopped off?
Noah: Columbus, using that exact tone last night is the reason why you’re on elephant duty for the next two weeks.
Columbus: I’ve smelt worse. My bunk is below Vespucci’s isn’t it?
“I knew we should have separated them”
Raleigh: (interjecting) A potato.
Everyone looks at him.
Raleigh: A potato could be that distracting. When I was on the first of my potato expeditions, coming across a good specimen could send me into such a fever! Why, I remember on one such occasion, I had to be carried home because I thought I was a potato and insisted on planting myself up to my shoulders.
An awkward silence descends.
Noah: Walter, maybe you should get out of the rain for a while?
Marco: Maybe I could finish my story!
“He’s having a bad hair day – so he’ll probably have you beheaded. Sorry.”
Vespucci: Oh yes, you were telling us how you father left you to die.
Marco: It wasn’t like that – I didn’t actually get killed. I’m here talking to you, aren’t I? I made it out alive.
Vespucci: No, but you nearly did. I mean, it wasn’t down to anything your father did that saved you.
Marco: He came back in time.
Columbus: Wow, give the man a medal!
Marco: (coldly, as he turns away to the ocean) He received lots of medals actually.
Noah: (softly) Not from the Child Safety Bureau he didn’t.
Columbus: You said it, Ark-man.
For a few minutes there is peace as they gaze at the far-off sand.
Raleigh: (clearing his throat to draw everyone’s attention) Can we talk about where there might be potatoes growing on the new territory?
Columbus: No we bloody well can’t. I’m hungry enough without you yammering on about food.
Vespucci: I hate to admit it but you’ve got a point there. I’d love some red meat. Nice steak….red wine….
Marco: I could whip up some creamed rice…(steals a look at Noah).
Noah: (takes a step backwards towards the door leading to the lower level) Oh no you don’t…
What happens on the Ark stays on the Ark #nom
Marco: (innocently) What? I didn’t say anything.
Noah: I can see it in your eyes. All of you. (points at Columbus) I heard you last night. “Walking Steaks” you called them. Well I’m warning you – one move down there and I’m setting the tiger loose.
Columbus: (makes a face) He’s not scary. He’s just a big pussy cat.
Noah: Oh really? Well that’s what you think. I don’t know… (shakes his head) There was nothing wrong with any of those animals before this trip. I could wrestle the tigers, play gin rummy with the silverbacks, catch a ride with an eagle… Two days on board with you lot and they’re half mad. I’ll never have any say over them again.
Marco: It’s Columbus’ fault. He went down the first night and ran a stick along the cages. And he told them all he was Vespucci. I heard him, Noah.
Columbus: Why, you little snitch –
Marco: I’m only surprised the rest of you didn’t wake up. I find it useful to stay awake. These things must be reported, like the way Columbus kept saying “He can have the credit for this too”. Especially at the crocodile pit.
Vespucci: (to Columbus) You are one angry little man.
Noah: Christopher Columbus, I don’t even know what to say.
Columbus: Oh, don’t start, Noah! You’re not going to believe Marco! The animals love me. If Vespucci is eaten while he’s on board, it’ll be good taste on their part, that’s all. Although, that said, I can’t imagine he tastes very good.
“Vespucci said that? LOL – send him down”
Raleigh: Maybe the animals are driven wild by a sudden urge for more potato? The mash is very good and –
Noah: Oh for heaven’s sake! Raleigh, will you SHUT UP about potatoes? You’re driving me nuts! For that matter, you’re all driving me nuts! This was meant to be an Ark for animals, not preening, self-congratulating imbeciles! Yes, that’s you, Amerigo or America or whatever you’re calling yourself today. And Marco, don’t think I didn’t hear you sneaking around the bowels of the ark, pretending you’re looking for the bathroom. This is an Ark; we left in a flood. We didn’t have time to build ensuites but you’ve got a pot so stay in your room and use it! And as for you – (turns to Columbus)
Columbus: Now Noah, don’t say anything you’ll regret when the rain stops.
Noah: Don’t worry about that!
Marco: Columbus has said lots of other things Noah, I’ve been keeping a notebook if you want to see it?
Raleigh: Um, if it’s got a brown cover then I used it this morning when it was drawing plans for a machine to de-skin potatoes. I’m calling it a potato de-skinner.
Columbus: Who keeps a notebook about somebody else? I mean, who does that?
Vespucci: None of this is my fault. I wanted to be a pirate but everyone in my family said we were nobles so I had to make something of myself.
Marco: You know Raleigh, I never even liked potatoes. I just said they tasted nice so you’d leave me alone. I think they’re horrible and they’re ugly too.
The cruelest cut of all.
Columbus: There’s no need for that. The man likes a potato. So shoot him. At least he hasn’t stolen anyone else’s landmass and called it after himself.
Vespucci: For the last time –
Noah turns around. The wind whips up behind his rain-drenched face. His eyes blaze with fury as he points at each one of them in turn.
Noah: This is my Ark, and I make the rules. That piece of land behind me was discovered by Christopher Columbus and nobody else –
Columbus: Hurray for me! Let’s have a party!
Vespucci: (huffily) Hardly a fair way to decide things, Noah.
Noah: Wait! I dub it Columbus-Land and advise you to savour it Columbus for it’s about to be overthrown.
Columbus: (stops dancing) What? Wait – hang on a second.
Noah clicks his fingers. The waves swell. The Ark is tossed from side to side.
“Don’t make him angry; you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry”
Marco: He’s right, you know. Look!
The waves crash against the land. Higher and higher they go until it is quickly, finally, tragically engulfed.
Columbus: I cannot believe you sank my island.
Marco: You know, I think it might have been a continent after all.
Vespucci: (softly, with a tear in his eye) “Amerigo! Amerigo! God shed His grace on thee!”
Too little, too late.
Noah: Cheer up everyone. I think it might be a good time to let Walter try out his new recipe.
Raleigh: Potato cakes! But what about the dodos?
Noah: (shrugs) The only thing those birds are good for is extinction. They can act as a cautionary tale against abusing the environment. I won’t be making this trip again, that’s for sure.
Raleigh cheers. He goes downstairs with Noah and Marco, leaving Columbus and Vespucci standing side by side staring out to sea and the spot where the new land once lay. They look at each other.
Vespucci: (nonchalantly) I always wanted to be a pirate.
Columbus: I can convince the gorillas, the elephants and the crocodiles. The lions could be a problem but they’re very lazy. And the dodos will join us.
It’s always the quiet ones.
Vespucci: I’ve got some potatoes stashed away so we can persuade Raleigh. A truce then, for a chance to explore and step ashore?
Columbus: A truce. We take the Ark to the furthest reaches of the planet. For as long as this downpour lasts, we shall sail on for new beginnings, pooling our wits time and again, until the team Columbus-Vespucci is known the world over!
Vespucci: A truce! From sea to shining sea! (On Team Vespucci-Columbus).
They clasp hands and cheer as the first signs of a rainbow break out in the sky.
All ashore that’s going ashore.