Very Unimportant Person

Episode #77
Aired 1948-12-05
Length: 29:35
Size: 6.77 MB
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CHAPPELL: Quiet, please.


CHAPPELL: Quiet, please.


ANNOUNCER: The American Broadcasting Company presents "Quiet, Please!" which is written and directed by Wyllis Cooper, and which features Ernest Chappell. "Quiet, Please!" for today is called "Very Unimportant Person."


TOM: "The Hollow Men."

Ever read it?

Lot of people were very fond o' quoting from it when T. S. Eliot got the Nobel Prize. Especially that part, "This is how the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper."

Well, it wasn't so, Mr. Eliot, you were wrong.

Me? How do I know?

I was there.


TOM: I don't know how it happened. Maybe somebody dropped something. Maybe one of our own people pushed the wrong button. Maybe the thing got tired of being in one piece and just went off by itself.

All I know is, I was standing outside the operations office at Boeing that morning and I heard a funny noise and I looked up. I just happened to be looking north, in the direction of Baltimore, and I knew what it was the minute I saw it.

I was at Bikini and I saw both Test Abel and Test Baker. You couldn't fool me for a minute.

So, there's an airplane standing there and I saw Ruth alongside the doorway to the office. And I grabbed her by the arm and I boosted her into that airplane and I took off.

Because when you see that pink and cream-colored mushroom cloud, you don't wait. If you do, you might be part of the next one. So Ruth didn't put up much of an argument after I pointed at the thing. She couldn't argue -- her mouth was hanging open a foot.

And, me, I was too busy to talk for a couple o' minutes.

I got to ten thousand feet awful fast.



TOM: We got ourselves a good twenty miles away from Washington. I was noticing that, for a miracle, both fuel tanks were full. Then, Ruth just about jumped out of her safety belt. "What?" I said, "What's the matter now?" And, as I said it, I felt the blast.

RUTH: Washington! Washington! It - it isn't there any more, Tom!

TOM: ... I see what you mean. ... Well, we asked for it.

RUTH: I was just looking at the Capitol. And the Washington Monument! And the Pentagon! Oh, Tom, Tom, what's happened?!

TOM: What everybody's been waiting for, honey.

RUTH: Is it -- war?

TOM: Well, if it was, it's all over now if anybody dropped a couple o' more of those bombs.

RUTH: What are we going to do?


TOM: We're going get out of here as fast as this airplane'll take us. Hope we won't fly right into one of those things.

RUTH: Oh, Tom, it's so terrible. Where can we go?

TOM: Give me the microphone there. I'm gonna see who's still alive. ... Thanks. (AT A LOSS) I don't know who to call. (INTO THE MIKE) Hello, CQ? ... Hello, CQ? CQ, this is USAF plane, uh, nine-oh-nine-three-four-four calling CQ. ... CQ, CQ? ... If you hear me, anybody, give me a call. ... Speak up somebody. Over.

RUTH: Do you - hear anybody?

TOM: (INTO THE MIKE) Hello, CQ, CQ? From USAF plane nine-oh-nine-three-four-four! Do you hear me? Over. (TO RUTH) I don't expect--

RUTH: What is it?

TOM: Wait... (INTO THE MIKE) Philadelphia, this is Army nine-oh-nine-three-four-four. I hear you very well. Is everything all right there? ... I say again, is everything all right? Over. ... Hello, Philadelphia, this is USAF nine-oh-nine-three-four-four. ... Hello, Philadelphia? Answer me! Over. ... Hello, Philadelphia, this is USAF nine-oh-nine-three-four-four! Over. ... (TO RUTH) No Philadelphia.

RUTH: Oh, Tom.

TOM: Wait. ... I had Philadelphia but -- he stopped. ... Who's this?


TOM: (INTO THE MIKE) Pittsburgh, this is USAF nine-oh-nine-three-four-four. I hear you very well. What is the situation there? ... I say again, what is the situation there? Over. ... Hello, Pittsburgh?!

RUTH: Does he answer you?

TOM: Darling, nobody answers.

RUTH: (STARTS TO LOSE IT) Oh, no. No. It can't be.

TOM: It's happened -- and just like the man said, honey, there's no place to hide.



TOM: Wherever we turned, we saw the towering great clouds, starting now to blow away and getting ragged around the edges and clearing enough so we could see the ground once in a while.

There'd be little towns, sure, but we couldn't tell what was going on down there and I knew what might be happening and I didn't choose to land.

Because the ragged edges of those clouds would be across those little towns down there that hadn't been hammered into nothing yet -- and the pretty little towns with the elm trees along the streets, the pleasant little towns sitting on the edges of the river, river banks, nice little towns -- they'd get theirs pretty quick. I didn't want to be there.

"Yeah, if I can just keep this airplane flying long enough," I thought.



TOM: And I guess I must have said it aloud because Ruth answered me.

RUTH: But where'll we go?

TOM: Well, I think if I can get through, maybe the woods up in Canada'd be safe enough. I can find an airstrip somewhere, I hope. We can set down there.

RUTH: Tom, can we make it?

TOM: We can try, that's all. This looks like a pretty good airplane. And we've got gas.

RUTH: Oh, just look. The beautiful country.

TOM: Yeah. ... Well -- it's done now.

RUTH: Do you suppose it's like this - everywhere?

TOM: I don't know. I have an idea if somebody dumped these things on us, there's more than one country like this by now.

RUTH: It's the - end of the world.

TOM: Here, let me try that radio again.



TOM: I tried the radio for an hour. I tried Pittsburgh again. Detroit and Chicago. I didn't get any answer at all. I listened till my ears hurt. The only single thing I heard was the leader of a jet fighter squadron somewhere over Lake Erie. His voice was so faint. He was talking to his pilots and he said: "There isn't any field left to go back to." And then there was static. And he faded out.

And we flew on, heading north for the snows and the wilderness of Canada -- whatever kind of sanctuary that might be.

I'd often wondered what people would say to each other in the face of an awful catastrophe. Would they pray?, I wondered. Or would they try to comfort each other? Or would they try to reason their way out of disaster or what? I found out. We didn't say anything. And there wasn't anything to say.

It got dark. And, all around us on the horizon, there was the glow of fires. And the luminous clouds. The clouds that a few hours ago had been cities - great industries - and people.

The fuel tank I was using ran dry and I switched to a second one. We flew along at twenty thousand feet. I could hardly see, I was so tired and wrought up. I saw Ruth had just given up. She was lying back in the seat. Not snoring but makin' the kind of sound that a sick animal makes. Then she sat up suddenly, opened her eyes.



RUTH: Tom?!


RUTH: Oh. Ohhh, I was dreaming.

TOM: You better go back to sleep.

RUTH: Where are we?

TOM: Canada somewhere.

RUTH: Still see the fires.

TOM: I don't know if I made a wrong guess coming up here or not. Don't seem to be getting away from anything.

RUTH: Are you afraid, Tom?

TOM: Me? Yes.

RUTH: What do you supposed happened -- back in Washington?

TOM: I'm trying not to think about it.

RUTH: Flames. Fire. Dust.

TOM: And nothing.

RUTH: Oh, Tom, do you think anybody else got away?

TOM: I don't know. I doubt it.

RUTH: I wonder whose plane this is. It was waiting for somebody.

TOM: Some V.I.P.

RUTH: A V.U.P. now.

TOM: What?

RUTH: "Very Unimportant Person" now.


RUTH: Well, whoever he is, we ought to be awful grateful to him.

TOM: Yeah?

V.U.P.: I - I'm sure you're both very welcome.


TOM: What--? Who--? Who --? Who--?

V.U.P.: Why, I'm afraid I'm the Very Unimportant Person.



TOM: The only thing I remember about him is his eyes. The light wasn't very good, naturally, and I had to twist my head over my right shoulder to see him at all, standing between the cockpit seats behind us. So, about all I could see was his eyes. And I couldn't see them very well. He didn't have any hat. He sounded so tired, I felt sorry for him. Sorrier than I felt for myself or Ruth. I must have said something like that because he put his hand on my shoulder.



V.U.P.: Thanks, son. I am tired. It's been a long drag.

TOM: Yeah. This your airplane, sir?

V.U.P.: I was under the impression that it belonged to the Air Force.

TOM: I have a fair hunch there isn't any Air Force, sir.

V.U.P.: That's probably right.

RUTH: Were you back there all the time, sir?

V.U.P.: Yes.

TOM: It's - pretty rugged.

V.U.P.: Yes, it is. It's very rugged. I heard you say you're going to try to set down somewhere in the Canadian woods.

TOM: Yes, sir. I'm gonna try.

V.U.P.: Don't try it.

TOM: Well, I haven't got much choice.

V.U.P.: Don't try it.

TOM: Well, sir, if I run out of fuel--

V.U.P.: Just keep right on going.

TOM: I - I said, if I run out of gas, I--

V.U.P.: The point I was making is that there may not BE any Canada by the time you run out of gas.

TOM: Well, in that case--

RUTH: Sir?

V.U.P.: Yes?

RUTH: Do you think that this is the - end of the world?

V.U.P.: I wouldn't be surprised.

RUTH: Oh, no.

V.U.P.: I - wouldn't be surprised.

RUTH: You really think EVERYBODY is going to die?

V.U.P.: Everybody DOES die, my dear.

TOM: No kidding, you - you think this IS the finish?

V.U.P.: Well, scientists have warned what would happen. The destructive power of these things is, well, look at your world.

TOM: I see what you mean.

RUTH: Oh, it can't be. It can't be!

TOM: Think anybody'll survive?

V.U.P.: I - think so, yes.

RUTH: Oh, I hope so!

TOM: What do you base that on, sir?

V.U.P.: You're not a very observant pilot, young man.

TOM: Well, what do you mean?

V.U.P.: Well, if you'll look out your window, you'll - you'll see another airplane flying right along with us.



TOM: And I looked. And not half a mile away, little behind us, was a Constellation with TWA markings on it. And I grabbed the microphone and yelled at him.

PILOT: (ON THE RADIO) I've been trying to raise somebody for the last two hours, Air Force. Why didn't you get your radio on? Over.

TOM: Where'd you come from? Over.

PILOT: (ON THE RADIO) Los Angeles to New York. We were just over Anton Chico, New Mexico when we heard from Tucson what was happening. And I decided to head for Canada. What reports do you hear? What happened? Over.

TOM: We don't know. I haven't heard anything since this afternoon. I can't raise anybody. I thought everybody else was dead. Over.

PILOT: (ON THE RADIO) So did I. What are you going to do? Over.

TOM: Fly till I run out of gas. You got passengers? Over.

PILOT: (ON THE RADIO) Whole planeload. You? Over.

TOM: A V.I.P., my girlfriend and me. Over.

PILOT: (ON THE RADIO, AMUSED) A "V.U.P.," you mean. Over.

TOM: That's what he says. We're all V.U.P.'s, bud. Over.

PILOT: (ON THE RADIO) Yeah. ... I'll stick with ya till my gas runs out. Incidentally, we better save our radios. We may need 'em. Over.

TOM: You're right, kid. Over and out.


RUTH: Tom? Do you suppose there are other airplanes anywhere?

TOM: Well, I don't know, honey. What do you think, sir?

V.U.P.: I think there are.

TOM: Really?

V.U.P.: Yes.

TOM: Well, if they can fly far enough--

RUTH: How much gas have WE got left?

TOM: Well, uh-- Can you read that gauge, sir?

V.U.P.: Er, yes. Ah, it says, ah, little more than half full.

TOM: I just wanted to be sure. That's what I read, too.

RUTH: (HATES TO ASK IT) How long is that good for, Tom?

TOM: Well, honey, that's good for about another - three hours.

RUTH: Three hours. And then what?

TOM: Well-- The Lord'll provide, baby. I hope.

V.U.P.: You really think He will?

TOM: Sir?

V.U.P.: I - I said, do you believe that?

TOM: Well, yes, sir. He always has up to now, sir.

RUTH: (BITTERLY) He's provided fire and destruction and the end of the world.

V.U.P.: Well, the Lord didn't do that, child. That was the people of the Earth thought THAT up.

RUTH: Yes, but everyone on Earth isn't wicked.

V.U.P.: That's right. That's why - some of them have got to escape.

TOM: Well, yes, but how?

V.U.P.: Aren't you the one who said the Lord would provide? You just go ahead and fly your airplane, son.



TOM: So I flew my airplane. I flew it and flew it and flew it. And the Constellation flew right alongside us. He throttled back so he wouldn't outrun us. Every once in a while, I'd flip the radio on and ask him how he was doing. He was doing all right, he said.

And then it got light. We were pretty far north, I suppose, and it got light quicker, I thought. But it wasn't long till I discovered that the light wasn't from the sun. It was coming from the wrong direction. Behind us. South.

Our passenger was asleep. At least, he wasn't in the cockpit. But he came up when I swung our head around a little and looked back. He and I just looked out the window. We didn't say a word.


TOM: What would you say to a whole rolling world, full of fire? Flames leaping a mile in the air? Flames and smoke and destruction chasing you, consuming everything in their path? What would you say to the solid rock boiling like water in a kettle, the world vaporizing horribly behind you? And coming on and on and on so that we, flying at two hundred miles an hour, could see it overtaking us? What would you say?



TOM: Ruth had fallen asleep again and she couldn't see it. But I saw it. And the pilot of the other ship saw it. I heard his voice in my ears.

PILOT: (ON THE RADIO) Ya see that, Air Force? Over.

TOM: I see it. Over.

PILOT: (ON THE RADIO) How's your gas? Over.

TOM: I'm squeezing out the bottom of the tank. Over.

PILOT: (ON THE RADIO) Wish I could give you some. Over.

TOM: Thanks. ... It's over, all right. Isn't it?

PILOT: (ON THE RADIO) Probably catch up with us before your gas runs out.

TOM: Well ... we tried.

PILOT: (ON THE RADIO) God help us all. Over and out.

TOM: And I flipped the radio off and I swung us back on course again -- on a course that all of a sudden didn't mean anything any more.

And I woke up Ruth because I didn't want all this to end without saying goodbye to her. After all, I've loved Ruth all these years and there comes a time--

And I glanced at our passenger, the Very Unimportant Person. He was turned, still looking back at the terrible sea of flames that followed us. He didn't look scared at all. He - he looked sad. He was crying. I had to strain my ears to hear what he said:

V.U.P.: (QUIETLY) And it - was such a - beautiful world.


TOM: And then the engine started to spit and I looked at the fuel gauge.

RUTH: It's empty!

TOM: Well, so long, honey. Don't think it hasn't been swell.

RUTH: [?] darling, no, no, I love you!

TOM: I love you, honey!

RUTH: Darling, hold me tight.


TOM: I put my arms around her and I felt the plane slip out from under us as we lost flying speed and I thought, "Well, this it -- now, the fireworks." Ruth was squeezing me so hard. All of a sudden I said, "Hey, what's this?" Because the plane had her nose up again and we were flying along just as good as new. You know what?


TOM: Our passenger, our V.I.P. -- our V.U.P. -- had hold of the wheel and he was pulling it back and we were climbing like mad. And I looked at the fuel gauge -- it still said "Empty" -- I said, "Say, there must be some sort of emergency tank I don't know about. We're good for another couple of hours. ... Well, thank God!" I said.

And then I looked out the window.

And the propellers were standing still.


PILOT: (ON THE RADIO) What happened, Air Force? Over.

TOM: I don't know. I don't know. My fuel gauges show both tanks are empty but I'm flyin'. Over.

PILOT: (ON THE RADIO) Well, I'll tell you what. Just for your own information, the same thing happened to me twenty minutes ago. Look, mama -- no engines! Look, mama -- no gas! No nothin', mama! But I'm flyin'! Whaddya make o' that?! Over.


TOM: And that was when I looked at my altimeter. Or rather, when Ruth poked and prodded at it and I bent over and looked at it. The needle had gone on around the dial past the thirty thousand feet at the end and on around again and it was starting the third revolution. That meant we must be at least seventy thousand feet high. And nobody in all the world has ever been up that high.

I looked out the window again. The flames were so far, so far below us, they extended back to the farthest horizon that any man has ever seen. A horizon that was a definite arc of a circle, the edge of a great sphere. As far as we could see below us, the world was in flames.

And, man, how close the stars were! Ruth was pointing out the window again. I looked, too. And, above us, to each side of us, airplanes -- a hundred, a thousand, a long, shining river of airplanes.

And I could read the identification on the sides of some of them. G for Britain, NC for the United States. H for Switzerland. X for Mexico. Russian planes, Swedish and Austrian. Every nation in the world -- at least one plane for each country. And my heart jumped because I knew that all the world WASN'T coming to an end now.

And I looked back at our passenger. He was smiling as he looked back out the window.


TOM: And I said, "Look, sir." I said, "Sir, I don't - I don't get this."

V.U.P.: Why, it's very simple, son.

TOM: Well, not to me, sir.

RUTH: But who are those people? Those other airplanes?

TOM: Where'd they come from? Where're they going?

RUTH: Isn't the world REALLY destroyed?

V.U.P.: I - I'm afraid it is, child.

RUTH: But where--?

V.U.P.: It was a very - wicked world, wasn't it?

TOM: Well, uh--

V.U.P.: I suppose something HAS to happen to the world - every time it gets too wicked.

TOM: Ah, well--

V.U.P.: Once upon a time, Adam and Eve sinned and - they got punished. I suppose the reason the world wasn't destroyed then was-- Well, they HAD their world taken away from them, didn't they?

RUTH: That's right.

V.U.P.: And then there was the time when they had the big flood because everybody was so wicked.

RUTH: But Noah and his family escaped.

V.U.P.: That's right. They're the only good people in the world -- they escaped.

TOM: But -- the world wasn't completely bad. Not now, I mean.

V.U.P.: (WITH QUIET ANGER) They've set upon each other and they've murdered and burned and destroyed. They have denied their Creator. They have been warned.

TOM: But, sir, they--

V.U.P.: This thing that has happened and destroyed the world -- they dug it out of the forbidden blackness to give them a more terrible weapon against their brothers. They have plotted among themselves and forgotten charity and love and brotherhood. Isn't that sin enough? Isn't that wickedness enough to merit this punishment?

TOM: Well--

RUTH: Not the whole world--

TOM: But the whole world--?

V.U.P.: (CONCEDES) Not all. There are some -- few good people.

RUTH: (SUDDENLY REALIZES) The ones in those airplanes out there?

TOM: Us, too?

V.U.P.: That's right.

TOM: Do you believe that?

V.U.P.: What I've told you?

TOM: Yes.

V.U.P.: Why, of course I believe it. Don't you?

TOM: I-- I don't know.

RUTH: (ANGRY) I don't either. I think it's terrible. I think it's an awful punishment.


TOM: Yes, sir.

V.U.P.: (TO TOM) Do you?

TOM: (HESITANT) Well, in some ways, it was a pretty good world. I had lots of fun--

V.U.P.: (INTERRUPTS GENIALLY) Wha - wha - what about a brand new world?

TOM: I don't get it.

V.U.P.: What if all these people -- these - these good people, these saved ones -- are going to a new world where - where they can start life all over again and find the real happiness that it was intended they should have? The - the true goodness, the--

TOM: I - I don't know. I - I liked the old one. Of course--

RUTH: That's right, Tom. There isn't any way out.

TOM: Yeah, I suppose. Well, whatever world we go to will be better than that one down there -- fire and destruction and ashes.

RUTH: Yes.

TOM: But will it be better than the old world we had before this?

V.U.P.: It's up to you. And the others.

TOM: Well ... it's nice to believe that we're going to hit a better world but ... (SIGHS DEEPLY)

V.U.P.: But what?

TOM: Well, look at the flood. The world was destroyed then and Noah, and all the others that were saved, rebuilt it.

V.U.P.: Yes?

TOM: Yeah, look at it. They did a fine job rebuilding it, didn't they? Three or four thousand years, it has to be destroyed all over again.

V.U.P.: But this will be a NEW world.

TOM: Well, I hope it'll be all right. Say, how--? Well, I mean, this is all a very pretty theory but-- What if doesn't work out that way?

V.U.P.: (CHUCKLES) Oh, it'll work out that way. I'm confident of it.

TOM: Just for fun, give me the radio, Ruth.

RUTH: Here.

TOM: (INTO THE MIKE) Hey, there, Constellation? Over.

PILOT: (OVER HEAVY STATIC) Hey, there, yourself. Over.

TOM: (INTO THE MIKE) Listen, my Very Important-- Unimportant Person says he thinks we're going to another world. A nice new one. How's that with you? Over.

PILOT: (AFTER A BEAT, AMUSED) I - I tell ya, kid. If I had my way, I'd much rather be driving down Woodland Avenue in Van Nuys, California -- and turning in at Six-six-oh-five -- saying hello to my old woman -- than coming in for a landing on a trick new world that's probably not very comfortable anyway. How 'bout you? Over.

TOM: (INTO THE MIKE) Thanks. Just asking. Over and out.


TOM: Well, sir. See what I mean?

RUTH: But we don't know what's going to happen to us, Tom, dear.

TOM: (CONCEDES THE POINT, TO RUTH) Something pretty special, no doubt. (QUICKLY, TO THE V.U.P.) You see what I mean, sir?

V.U.P.: (A LITTLE SHAKEN) I - I wonder how many other people think that way.

TOM: Well, we could conduct a poll or something, if we could pick up those planes with our radio. Do you want to try? ... Ah, but what good'd it do? It's purely -- ah, what do you call it? -- academic.

V.U.P.: (TRIES TO BE REASONABLE) A bright new world, peopled by only the good in heart, the righteous, the - the ones plucked from the burning for the goodness of their souls. Doesn't it sound wonderful?

TOM: Well ...

RUTH: Well ....

V.U.P.: No wars? No unpleasantness? No troubles?

TOM: Sounds okay, too.

V.U.P.: Happiness?

TOM: Well, I'll tell you, sir. It's too late to wish but -- well, God knows where we're going to land this time.

V.U.P.: (RELENTING, WITH A CHUCKLE) Well, son, to be perfectly honest with you, I'm - really not so sure after all. Honestly, I'm not.

TOM: What?

V.U.P.: Do you think if you could go back to the world as it was before I, er, let this all happen, you might help make something out of it? Honestly, now.

TOM: Well, sir, I - I don't know. I'd need an awful lot of help.

V.U.P.: You sure would. Eh, you know what? I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to give you a chance to make up your own minds.

TOM: Well, that's fair enough.

V.U.P.: (SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY) You and Ruth decide what you're going to do. Think it over. You can have your choice. Well, we can all go on to the beautiful new world I've got all ready for you. Or, if you want all that's happened to turn out to be a dream, you say so. Is it a deal?

TOM: Sir, it's a deal.

RUTH: It's a deal.

V.U.P.: Okay, son. But you'd better get a lot of help while you're making that decision. You're going to be responsible for a lot of people, you know. And a lot of future. I know what your future will be if you take up my proposition. If you want it to be a dream, I can't promise. Okay?

TOM: Okay, sir. Okay. (TO RUTH) Well, Ruth?

RUTH: (ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN) I know what I think.

TOM: So do I. But what does everybody else think, huh? Here, Ruth, gimme that microphone. ... (SHOUTS INTO THE RADIO MIKE, TO ALL WHO MAY BE LISTENING) Shall some of us take the nice, bright, new world?! Or shall we try to fix this one up for all of us?! What do you say?! Will you tell me?! Quick?! ...



ANNOUNCER: The title of today's "Quiet, Please" story was "Very Unimportant Person." It was written and directed by Wyllis Cooper, and the man who spoke to you was Ernest Chappell.

CHAPPELL: And others heard in today's cast were Nancy Sheridan, James Monks, and Frank Thomas. As usual, music for "Quiet, Please!" is played by Albert Buhrmann. Now, for a word about next week, our writer-director Wyllis Cooper.

COOPER: Thank you for listening to "Quiet, Please!" Next Sunday, you'll hear us a half hour later, at five-thirty PM Eastern Standard Time, instead of five o'clock. Will you remember, please? Five thirty, a half hour later, and the story'll be "Rede Me This Riddle."

CHAPPELL: And so until next week at five thirty Eastern Standard Time, I am quietly yours, Ernest Chappell.


ANNOUNCER: Beginning next Sunday, as you have heard, "Quiet, Please!" will be broadcast one half hour later in all time zones. This is ABC, the American Broadcasting Company.