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Gracie Goes to College by Stephen Masty

BurnsGracie Goes to College

by Stephen Masty

George Burns: (to camera) Since she grew up in vaudeville, I thought maybe Gracie would start making more sense if she enrolled at Pitzer College here in California. They offered her a place in Mathematics but you know what Gracie does with her checking account, so they let her major in their new Secular Studies Department, whatever that means. Wait a minute, here she comes now. (to Gracie) Hi, honey! Why are you home so early?

Gracie Allen: Hello, George! No reason. I’m just here, that’s all. I learned to say that in class today.

George: What do you mean, no reason? Don’t you like college?

Gracie: College is just fine, but this is your night to play poker with Jack Benny and your other friends, so I came home early to make your dinner but I’m not supposed to say that. Professor Zuckerman is our Atheism teacher and he gets upset if we talk about why. Things just are. So I’m going to make a meatloaf because it’s your favourite, but I’m not supposed to tell you that because meatloaf just is.

George: This is what they teach in college?

Gracie: That’s right. Originally everything was nothing, then for no reason the everything that was nothing decided to become something and, for no reason, it organised itself into atoms and molecules and galaxies and solar systems and planets. Then for no reason it split up into oceans and plants and dinosaurs. It all leads to meatloaf.

George: Why meatloaf?

Gracie: Maybe because it’s your favourite, but Professor Zuckerman hasn’t explained that yet. Oh, and I forgot the part about plankton.

George: You’ve changed the recipe?

Gracie: No, I still use hamburger. But originally we were all plankton. Then for no reason we decided to grow gills, and then for no reason we sprouted arms and legs and climbed up onto dry land. I think it’s because we got bored in the water and wanted to drive around in DeSoto motor-cars.

George: DeSoto was last year’s sponsor. This year’s sponsor is Carnation Evaporated Milk.

Gracie: How could we buy Carnation Evaporated Milk if we couldn’t drive to the store? But I shouldn’t really say that.

George: I don’t think I get it.

Gracie: That’s because you grew up in vaudeville and never went to college. Remember how our Third Grade teachers said that whenever we write anything we have to explain Who, What, When, Where, Why and How?

George: Sure.

Gracie: Professor Zuckerman says we shouldn’t ask Why. The other Secular Studies students figure that reduces our workload by one-sixth so there’s more time to watch college basketball games. Except basketball has been cancelled because all the cheerleaders are pregnant.

George: If they’re pregnant I think we can work out Why and How, and since nobody wants to ask Who that cuts your curriculum by more like one-half. I hope you’re getting a discount on tuition fees. Did you come home with Martha from next door?

Gracie: She dropped out. We went to collect our term-papers and when Martha got a B-plus she said ‘Oh, thank God,’ but Professor Zuckerman heard her and changed her grade to a D-minus.

George: What was Martha supposed to say?

Gracie: I think we’re supposed to thank Science, but Professor Zuckerman hasn’t explained that yet.

George: Who is this Professor Zuckerman anyway?

Gracie: He’s really famous. He has a website called Phil Zuckerman’s 65 Greatest Songs for Atheists and Agnostics.

George: I used to know an agnostic song called “You Say You Love Me and I Don’t Believe You,” but that’s when I was working with Henderson’s Dancing Seals and Henderson wouldn’t let me sing.

Gracie: Quite sensible too.   Professor Zuckerman is such a nice man. He only gets upset if we believe in God but we can believe in other things like UFOs.

George: Look, let’s eat and go together. Then while I play poker with Jack and the boys, you can visit with Mary Livingstone.

Gracie: I can’t, George! The other students are picking me up in half an hour, so you’ll have to take the meatloaf out of the oven when the timer rings. Will you remember that?

George: Sure. What are you students going to do? Study Atheism?

Gracie: No, it’s a Holy Day of Obligation so we’re all going to Mass at St. Mary’s, but we can’t tell Professor Zuckerman or he’d be upset.

George: (to camera) That’s my girl! (applause).

Announcer: Housewives, your families love meals prepared with Carnation Evaporated Milk but you don’t need to ask why. Carnation Evaporated Milk exists, it just is. So buy some today! (theme music up, roll credits).


Books on the people and topics discussed in this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. Essays by Stephen Masty may be found here.

Stephen Masty is a Senior Contributor to The Imaginative Conservative and has been a journalist, a development expert, and a speechwriter for three US presidents, British royalty and heads of government in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. He has spent most of his adulthood working in South Asia including Afghanistan, and he is presently a writer, poet and artist in Kathmandu.

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