A More Sensitive Census

The Census Man hoists his clipboard in his right hand and lays it over his extended left elbow.

THE CENSUS MAN:  Does that happen often?

FRED DRUTHERS:  Sometimes.  When I’m alone.  If I see, like, a really good commercial on TV.

THE CENSUS MAN:  Why do you think that is?

FRED DRUTHERS:  Maybe it’s ‘cause I’m dead on the inside.  Well, maybe not dead.  Just hollow.  I try to fill myself up with things, but nothing takes.

Fred shapes his hands into a circle around the center of his being.

FRED DRUTHERS:  It’s like there’s a void right… here.  Which I guess is stronger language than “hollow,” but, still, dead doesn’t seem right.

The Census Man scribbles along furiously, taking notes well after Fred has stopped speaking.  Fred shifts uncomfortably.  He cranes his neck to sneak a peek at The Census Man’s clipboard.

FRED DRUTHERS:  So what did everybody else say?

The Census Man flips through the pages on his clipboard.

THE CENSUS MAN:  A lot of your neighbors have found sustenance in organized religion, renewed nationalism, and bumper stickers.

FRED DRUTHERS:  They did?  How did it work out for them?

The Census Man consults his notes.

THE CENSUS MAN:  Quite well.  Quite well, indeed.

Fred looks stricken.

THE CENSUS MAN:  Fred?  Fred, are you okay?

FRED DRUTHERS:  It’s like a million tiny icicles just stabbed me.

Fred’s shoulders convulse with sobs.