MISFIT DOC: Grainspiracy [A rockumentary]

[Scene 23.]

[Camera scans the front of a large glass building. The day is California bright. Pedestrians fill the busy city street. Camera zooms in on a man eating a hotdog as he walks by. He shoos away camera.]

[Camera cuts to an office door with the words All Kinds of Animals Welcome! Camera zooms in on interviewer’s black t-shirt, which sports the sparkly logo Minerals Rock. Interviewer turns to address camera.]


Mr. Slaughter: [in a loud whisper] “I’m Charles Slaughter and today we’re visiting the offices of Mr. Elmer Ritejak, President of the Go Vegan or Go Home campaign. Let’s see what he has to say about his foundation’s work.”


[Interviewer knocks on the door. The door opens.]


Mr. Slaughter: “Mr. Ritejak?”


[Mr. Ritejak reaches out to shake hands with interviewer.]


Mr. Ritejak: “Mr. Slaughter.”

Mr. Slaughter: “Mr. Ritejak. Thank you for agreeing to this interview. We’d like to keep the film rolling, if you don’t mind. To use as part of our documentary.”


[Mr. Ritejak straightens his tie, smooths hair.]


Mr. Ritejak: “Of course, of course. I want as many people as possible to hear about our groundbreaking work.”


[Interviewer settles himself across the desk from the interviewee as camera scans the desk of Mr. Ritejak. On the desk is an assortment of small statues of farmyard animals. A papier-mâché carrot dominates one side of the desk. Etched in the carrot is the name “Elmer Ritejak” above the words The Proud Home of Veganism. A large gold-framed family portrait hangs on the wall behind the desk. In the portrait are the faces of a man, a woman, a dog, a cat, and a hamster. Camera scans the many gold-framed pictures on the wall, mostly of sheep in fields.]


Mr. Slaughter: “To start, why don’t you tell me more about your foundation’s mission.”

Mr. Ritejak: “Let’s just say I love this world and I’m determined to save it. Save it for my children and my children’s children and every single one of our animal friends too. And we’ve found the way. The one true path.”

Mr. Slaughter: “And what is that?”

Mr. Ritejak: “Plain and simple: eat only things that grow from the earth.”


[Mr. Slaughter glances at camera.]


Mr. Slaughter: “I see.”

Mr. Ritejak: “For far too long we’ve been committing atrocious crimes to animals and to our planet too. It’s time we all went vegan. It’s time we all stopped the horrific murder of animals and help ourselves live longer too. My company’s mission is to get as many people on board the veganism train as possible to help achieve that goal. We’re here to educate. To inform. To save lives.”

Mr. Slaughter: “People hate giving things up, though, don’t they, Mr. Ritejak?”

Mr. Ritejak: “You’re right about that. And, yes, people think it’s hard giving up steak and fish and bacon and eggs and yogurt and cheese and chocolate and ice cream and butter and milk but it’s not. Maybe it helps to know that if they do, we could turn this whole climate ship around. A plant-based diet. That simple.”


[Mr. Ritejak smiles at camera, tousles hair.]


Mr. Slaughter: “That simple.”

Mr. Ritejak: “Yes. We should have been worrying about all the animals long ago. I mean, cows have been getting all the glory for a while now. But did you know birds are now believed to be directly linked to humans in our earliest evolutionary form? Dr. Jarvis at Duke University Medical School says that birds and humans not only share speech patterns but brain circuitry too. He says—and I quote—‘birds and humans use essentially the same genes to speak.’ How exciting is that!”


[Mr. Slaughter scribbles on a pad of paper.]


Mr. Ritejak: “That means chickens. Think about it. The way they bawk and bawk at each other. Their dietary needs. Their concerns in life. Not so unlike our own lives, right? And wow. The way they live in small communities. They way they walk and walk and spend their days in such glorious simplicity, the way humans used to. Talk about minimalism. Talk about a life free of worldly concerns. We need to follow their lead!”

Mr. Slaughter: “The chicken’s lead.”

Mr. Ritejak: “Yes. And the pigs too. It breaks my heart to think of those unwashed little fellows. It’s criminal how they’ve been treated. We’re pushing to get a law passed that will require farmers to give their pigs a bath every day. And to meet their basic animal needs, such as an organic—hormone free!—diet, separate family quarters, and a weekly check to make sure they’re getting enough sleep like any decent civilization would. And that’s just the beginning.”

Mr. Slaughter: “You care a lot, don’t you, Mr. Ritejak?”

Mr. Ritejak: “About the world, yes. About the animals, yes.” [laughs] “But man, if you’d seen me five years ago, you never would’ve guessed I’d be sitting here running this enterprise. I mean I was gulping down the sloppy organs of pigs at breakfast, devouring the crunchy skin of chickens at lunch, and munching on bloodied cow’s meat at dinner like some kind of cannibal. Boy. Those were the days.”

Mr. Slaughter: “Mmm. So what other changes have you made in your own life since you started this foundation?”

Mr. Ritejak: “In my everyday life?”

Mr. Slaughter: “Sure. Yes.”

Mr. Ritejak: “Well, I’ve learned how to cook some amazing vegan dishes for my pets and wife too. And our nutrition team created a mega-grass smoothie that I make for the whole family to drink every night before bedtime. Eight fresh ingredients and boom. You can get recipes on our website. My dog is so happy, gulping down his dinner each night, slurping up his smoothie before bed. But [laughs] I have to admit my cat is not yet convinced. If I’m honest, she’s lost a lot of weight since she became vegan. But she’ll come around. I rearrange my schedule to make sure I’m at her every psychotherapy appointment.”

Mr. Slaughter: “Hmm.”

Mr. Ritejak: “At least the little guy [looks up at the hamster in the portrait, laughs, stops, and then continues with a serious tone]—he’s never been a problem.”

Mr. Slaughter: “You care about animals great and small.”

Mr. Ritejak: “You bet I do.”

Mr. Slaughter: [clears throat] “But what about our little green friends, Mr. Ritejak? How much do you care about them? Your website says nothing of plants’ well being.”

Mr. Ritejak: “Oh, we worry about pesticides, sure. We’re about to launch a world-wide campaign to stop the poisoning of our crops and fields and produce.”

Mr. Slaughter: “But have you ever thought about their pain?”

Mr. Ritejak: “Their pain?”

Mr. Slaughter: “Yes. Have you ever thought about the pain and suffering you are inflicting on plants each time one of your followers munches a lettuce leaf or puts a celery stalk into the blades of blender?”

Mr. Ritejak: “Hold up there, Mr. Slaughter. Plants don’t feel pain.”


[Mr. Slaughter pulls a large file out of bag, opens it and spins it around to Mr. Ritejak.]


Mr. Slaughter: “Are you aware of the botanical studies at the University of Missouri’s Bond Life Sciences? Specifically, the work of Jack C. Schultz who is proving that plants are in fact ‘very slow animals.’ [Flips a few pages.] And that the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich reports that plants do hear and smell. And that they communicate with other nearby plants. [Flips another page.] And the work of researchers at the Institute for Applied Physics at the University of Bonn in Germany that ‘plants release gasses that are the equivalent of crying out in pain?’ Not so unlike—a chicken’s bawk, perhaps? How do we know they aren’t feeling that pain too?”

Mr. Ritejak: “I’m not prepared to talk about that.”


[Mr. Ritejak pushes himself away from desk.]


Mr. Slaughter: “And what about the work of Fatima Cvrcková at Charles University in Prague who says she would like to see—and I quote—‘plants acknowledged more as the amazing, interesting, exotic living beings they are and less as a mere source of human nutrition and biofuels.’”

Mr. Ritejak: “End of interview, Mr. Slaughter.”


[Mr. Slaughter looks at camera, eyes wide. Turns back to interviewee.]


Mr. Slaughter: “So plants don’t deserve a chance to live a safe life, free from bias and harm, because they don’t have a mouth to tell you how they feel?”

Mr. Ritejak: “Enough with the crazy plants-have-feelings-too-flower-power crap. Turn off the camera.”


[Interviewee moves to other side of desk. Interviewer slowly stands.]


Mr. Slaughter: “Why don’t you want to talk about this, Mr. Ritejak? Why don’t you want to talk about the ways you are encouraging the murder of more and more plants daily? Fields of grain are waving at you daily! They may not be as cute as baby lambs’ fluffy ears but they are beautiful in their own right! But who praises them? Who notices them? Why doesn’t anyone talk about their pain and suffering—”


[Mr. Ritejak grabs interviewer by collar.]


Mr. Slaughter:  “….all day they are dancing and whispering hello and just trying to get through another day like the rest of us—and then—in their very prime—corporate blades come along and slash million of brothers and sisters from the very stalks that feed them in some cold-hearted, noonday slaughter!”


[Mr. Ritejak pulls interviewer to the door.]


Mr. Ritejak: “Interview over.”   

Mr. Slaughter: “…Did you know a government ethics committee in Switzerland has even set guidelines—to protect—the—dignity—of plants? Did you know that? The Swiss are questioning the lives of so many plants trapped in undignified conditions! What do you say to that, Mr. Rite—”

Mr. Ritejak: “I say let them go sing the freaking The Sound of Music then! Out.”

Mr. Slaughter: “That was Austria.”

Mr. Ritejak: “What?”

Mr. Slaughter:The Sound of Music was set in Austria not Switzerland. Just—”

Mr. Ritejak: “OUT.”


[Interviewer and interviewee begin to slap each other.]


Mr. Slaughter: “Mr.—Ritejack, this is not helpful. I want to know why you won’t talk—about—the rights of—plants—Why you advocate—the senseless—slaughter—of so many mouthless—creatures! Ow. Ow.”


[Mr. Ritejak pushes interviewer to the door. Door opens.]


Mr. Ritejak: “Go freaking hug the cacti, you onion, you.”


Mr. Slaughter: “Don’t mind if I do!”


[Camera lens is covered by interviewee’s hand. Camera begins to jog up and down and then tumbles to the ground. For a few seconds, a view of the carpet accompanies the sound of a door slamming shut. The camera then shakily refocuses on interviewer. ]


Mr. Slaughter: “It’s time we recognized our complicity in these crimes against angiosperms, gymnosperms, and liverworts too, folks. Plants need love too.”


[Muffled shouting is heard inside office.]


Mr. Slaughter: [talking loudly at door] “Mineralism, folks! Rocks and minerals! Crystals! Gravel! Sand! It’s the only way to free all our living friends and be kind to our intestines too! Talk about recycling! Our only ethical answer!”


[Interviewer smooths his t-shirt as the camera refocuses on the words Minerals Rock and then moves back to interviewer’s face.]


Mr. Slaughter: [to camera] “So there you have it, folks. The words of a plant murderer allowed to operate in the cold light of day. Choose mud and beaches, folks. Don’t be part of the violence! Live and let live!”


[Scene slowly fades to the wide expanse of a beach. Children are sitting with shovels in hand, eating sand. Two have great smiles on their faces. The sound of children running and splashing in the water accompanies the image.]


Mr. Slaughter: “Want to know more? Get all the facts and the most delicious ground rock recipes you’ve ever tasted at www.mineralismisfreakingawesome.com.”


[Film fades to black.]


Mr. Slaughter: “Now. Off to the offices of Pescatarians-R-Us.”


[End Scene 23.]



FACTS & SOURCES (really)











Influenced by trees and a lifetime of vivid synesthetic dreams, Andrea Witzke Slot writes work in many genres and forms (including some that dont seem to exist yet). She is author of To find a new beauty(Gold Wake Press, 2012), a collection that combines a prose-poem narrative with traditional poems, while her second book of poetry was shortlisted for Eyewear Press's Beverly Prize. She’s won prizes with Fiction International and Able Muse, with her winning pieces described by Eugenia Kim as having “a rare and satisfying command of storytelling” and by Harold Jaffe as “meld[ing] compression, humor, keen intelligence, and social awareness.” Her work can be found in such UK and US journals as Ambit, Acumen, American Literary Review, Litro, Mid-American Review, Southeast ReviewUnder the Radar, and Amaryllis, which published her long, commemorative poem of the egregious Grenfell Tower tragedy on its one-year anniversary in June 2018. An American expat and permanent resident of the UK, Andrea lives in London but visits Chicago regularly. Her website is www.andreawitzkeslot.com.

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