The Cone

By Christian Pfeiffer, Editor-in-Chief originally published in Issue 1, Volume 30 of the University Register on Friday, September 22, 2017.

(Scene begins with the metallic click of a doorknob cutting through a pitch-black stage.)

Tim: You’re gonna love this, I know it.

(A light switch flicks, and suddenly the stage is illuminated. Margaret squints at the sudden brightness, enhanced by the room’s exclusively neon-orange color scheme. Tim observes Margaret’s face intently; he’s clearly already familiar with the room’s decor.)

Tim (Timid, but keen): …do you like it?

(A long pause, Margaret is dumbstruck)

Margaret: So, like… when we were joking on Tinder about you showing me your secret lair, I thought… well, that’s just it. I thought we were joking, Tim.

Tim (Not skipping a beat): Nope!

Margaret (unsure of whether she should be fearful): So then, when you mentioned fighting crime in the rough-and-tumble streets of Portland… you weren’t joking then, either?

Tim (suddenly becoming more serious): …No, I wasn’t…. Our city needs something… new to help keep it safe, and I feel like I’m meant to be that something. (breathes) I know there will be people who will dismiss me as some kind of back-alley nut job… people who won’t understand why I do what I do… people who will laugh at me, but, as The Cone, I’ll have a real chance to—

Margaret (interrupts with laughter): The cone!?! (continues laughing until it’s out of her system) You’ve gotta be joking, you couldn’t possibl— (seeing Tim nod slightly) (dumbstruck again) …like a GODDAMN TRAFFIC CONE!?!…Ughhh, why, Tim? You seemed so cool; your profile didn’t have any pictures of your truck in it, you didn’t ask me to send you nudes, and you were a ratio of not-handsome to not-ugly that I could have worked with, but… (passionately) Dammit, Tim, I let my hopes up again, only to find myself face-to-face with, with (deflated) …“the cone.” (a pause) Oh, and his solid-orange lair. (snorts derisively)

Tim (defensively): Okay, well I don’t know what exactly you from me; I mean, what symbolizes Order more than a traffic cone? (a pause) …And the orange is just to make sure I’m visible, okay? I don’t want to be chasing after a mugger, only to be struck down by some Prius barreling down Stanton; what kind of beacon of hope would I be then? I mean, I always look left, right, and left again before I cross a street, but if it’s dark outside and my adrenaline is rushing, I can’t pretend my ability to sense oncoming traffic won’t be compromised.

Margaret (sarcastically): And d’you get a lot of traffic down here, too? (gesturing to the orange room at large) You probably had subway trains crashing through your south wall like the Kool-Aid man every other week until you got smart and invested in that orange upholstery.

Tim: What, I’m not allowed to have a favorite color? Ha. And you’re making me out to be the crazy Tinder date. You’re definitely not 160 pounds, would you like to talk about that? If you got knocked unconscious in an emergency situation, I don’t know if I could physically carry you to safety.

Margaret: (laughs) Y’know, somehow, I don’t think that’s ever gonna come up. (rubbing temples) …I think I’m gonna go now. And by the way (pointing), your lamp’s a slightly darker orange than everything else in here. (Without a word, Tim walks over to the lamp and clicks it on with a deadpan expression. In the light cast from the bulb, it becomes a perfect match.)

Margaret: Of course. (Margaret turns around and exits the room. The door closes behind her, just as Tim shuts off the lamp. Walking around his orange end table, he plops heavily onto his orange couch, exhausted and holding back tears.)

Tim (to self): Maybe this is a sign I shouldn’t be doing this after all.

(a moment passes)

Tim (to self): OkCupid actually beats Tinder in a number of side-by-side comparisons.

(scene fades to black)

Narrator: It was not long after The Cone’s epiphany that only about a mile away, Rear Admiral Roundabout received a text message to his burner phone. Not much brought Roundabout true joy anymore—not after he had lost everything dear to him from that terrible plague on society, Order—but his eyes lit up just the same, like mirrors of his lock screen, when the word “done” flashed before him. In his own Roundabout way, the Rear Admiral would take down the Cone, one lash to the heart at a time.