Feb 062015

BraddBradd Allen Saunders. Photo by Dana Saunders.


THE CURTAIN RISES. We see a sparse, police-interrogation room with a wooden table and two chairs center stage. Over the empty chair is draped a sport jacket. A bright, hot, swinging light with a naked bulb is hanging overhead. There is a small table in a far corner which holds a coffee pot and some styrofoam cups. In the middle of the stage center sits a small cassette tape recorder. Under the table, nearly out of sight, is a briefcase.


CARILLO is sitting directly under the hot light next to the table looking a bit edgy. At first glance, he appears to be a charter member of society’s fringe — a trifle thugish, hair unkempt, beard heavy. Further scrutiny reveals a deceptively intelligent, almost civil look in his eyes. He’s made a stab at respectability here: wears a tie, loud, plaid pants which don’t match and a shirt that couldn’t possibly go with anything — his Sunday best.

CARGNISCENTI is pot-bellied, balding, 50ish, ulcerish, wears a blue shirt, cuffs rolled back, down to business, shoulder holster with gun, double-knit, sale at K-Mart pants, loafers. He sweats profusely.

CARNISCENTI stands in the corner, his back to the audience drawing coffee from the machine.

CARGNISCENTI takes a drink and then motions to CARILLO.





(shaking head)



CARGNISCENTI downs the coffee in a quick gulp and walks to the center table facing CARILLO. CARGNISCENTI pulls a cigarette from a shirt pocket, lights it up, then offers one to CARILLO.




(shaking head)



CARGNISCENTI pulls a stick of gum from a pocket and motions to CARILLO.










(a beat)

Why not?







(a beat)




Not really.



Don’t blame me.


CARGNISCENTI turns away and starts to pace absentmindedly.



You have waived the right to have an attorney present.

(a beat)



CARILLO shrugs.



I guess you know what you’re doing.

(a beat)

You are John Anthony Cardillo, right?






No? … Sure you are.



No, I’m not … Carillo.



That’s what I said.



No, you said Cardillo.




No I didn’t. I said Carillo.



You said, Cardillo.



Did I? … I don’t think so.


CARGNISCENTI pushes a button on the tape player. A tape pops out. He holds it in front of CARILLO.



I have here a blank tape, John. Is it all right if I call you John?






I have here a blank tape, Tony. Nothing. Blank. When we’re done, the tape will be full and what we’ll have on it is the truth … Simple …We’re gonna know the extent of your knowledge and involvement in the murder of detective Nicky Carruthers. When you’ve told us everything you know, and we’re both satisfied as to the truth, this little bit of unpleasantness will be over. How does that sound?


CARILLO shrugs, noncommittally.



(turning on tape)

Good. So … Tony … Tell me about the 23rd of April, 2014, roughly between the hours of eight and ten.



Ah … I watched television with my girlfriend and then I fell asleep. When I woke up it was the 24th.


CARGNISCENTI reaches over and turns off the tape.



You want to know about the 24th too?



No. I want to know about the 23rd.



Oh, I read the newspaper too. I forgot I read the paper.




And what did you read?






Well … It’s good to keep informed, Tony. TELL ME the truth.



That’s what happened.


Suddenly CARGNISCENTI grabs the empty chair next to the table and throws it angrily across the room.



You son-of-a-bitch! You could at least have the fucking decency to be consistent! The last time you were here, Carillo, you went to a movie.The time before that you went out to dinner with some friend nobody can find. And now, now you simply spent a relaxing evening at home in front of the TV!


I read the paper too.



Tony? Do you have any idea why we think you’re lying?

(a beat)

We think you’re lying because you’re not telling us the truth. That’s why we think you’re lying.



I’m not lyin’. It happened.



What! Which!



What I told ‘ya before.









How can that be?



I did go to a movie.



Now you went to a movie.






Just a minute ago you watched television.



I did. I watched TV, but that was later.



Did you go out and eat?






So you lied.



I ordered a pizza. I went to pick it up.



I see … So … Let me get this straight. You went to a movie, you picked up a pizza. I presume you ate it. Did you eat it?






Was it good?



Not bad.



You ate an average pizza, watched television, fell asleep with your girlfriend.



That’s right.



All of this between the hours of eight and ten.





CARGNISCENTI pauses for a moment digesting things. He turns to Carillo.



What d’ya think’s goin’ on here, Carillo? You think we’re playin’ some kinda game? ‘Ya think we’re just jokin’ around here? This is serious.We’re tryin’ to get to the bottom of things here.We’re tryin’ to find out what happened, you and I … What we’re after is the truth. It’s no joke. It’s fucking serious.You get it?


CARILLO does not reply. CARGNISCENTI sighs, then continues.



Carillo … John…






Whatever the hell … Let’s speak hypothetically for a minute … What if I offered you this stick of gum

(pulls out gum)

and I said ‘Why don’t you have a stick of this gum, Carillo? It’s so good, it’s loaded with sugar.’ And you said ‘No thank you, Detective. I don’t like sugar; it’s bad for my teeth.’ And I said ‘That’s okay, Tony. Here, take it. It’s sugar free.’

(a beat)

Would you think maybe I was jerkin’ you around?






There ain’t no fuckin’ maybe’s about it, Carillo. The damn things either got sugar in it or it don’t. Right? Am I right? I have to be right.



Not necessarily.



(extremely frustrated)

You …You’re … Why don’t you explain this to me … I … Frankly, I’m stumped.



Okay. Maybe it’s loaded with sugar, but maybe the sugar comes from honey instead of regular white sugar so it’s loaded with sugar from the honey but it doesn’t have any artificial sugar which is bad for ‘ya. You shouldn’t eat that stuff you know.




(a beat)

Just answer me this … Sugar is sugar, right? Go with me that far. Sugar is sugar. I have to be right.






It depends on NOTHING! Sugar is sugar! THAT’S IT!



Say I’m allergic to sugar and maybe even honey. I could still have gum that is fruit sweetened — which is a kind of sugar but it’s not the same molecularly — so, I’m allergic to sugar, but then I’m not. It depends.



(keeping calm, but ready to break)

It’s still sugar.



Depends on how you look at it.






Tony …



What does this have to do with anything?



I don’t know. You ask the questions. I answer ’em.



Okay … Tell me this … Is it possible to be in two places at the same time? … Huh?



(a beat)




You know, thirty years on the force I never hit anybody before, but you’re close … That’s not possible … All right? … I don’t know shit about sugar and fruit juice, but I do know, I do know that no human being alive can be two places at one time … I know that … I know that.



What if you asked me a bunch of questions and I wasn’t answering and I said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m just not here. I’m worryin’ about my wife. She’s havin’ a hysterectomy.’



You’d still be here.



Part of me; part of me’d be at the hospital.



Thirty years and you’re damn close.



You go to somebody who saw something — a murder. You ask him, ‘What did you see?’ and he says, ‘Actually, officer, nothing. I was here watchin’ it, but I didn’t see it.’



He was still there. Do you understand me? He was actually, physically there. Physically.



So you’re a positivist. That’s just another philosophy.



You cannot be in two places physically at one time you asshole!



What if I was standin’ on the border and had one foot in California and the other in Arizona?



You would still be in the U.S., Carillo.



What if I had one foot in California and the other in Mexico?



You would still be on the earth.



What if I had a spaceship and I —


Suddenly, CARGNESCENTI leaps upon CARILLO in a wild fury choking him by the neck.





CARGNISCENTI stops suddenly, coming back to earth. He tucks his shirt, takes a deep breath, collects himself. He turns on the tape.



Let’s back it up. You went to a movie first, right?





When did it start?



Around eight.



Eight … 8:05, 8:15, when?






How long did it last?



Around two hours.



How long did it last — exactly.



An hour and forty-eight minutes.



Let’s see … 8:07… an hour and forty-eight minutes …9:55. That gives you just five minutes to go out, eat a pizza, watch TV, read a newspaper, and go to bed …

(a beat)

I hate to even ask this, Tony, but is that possible? … Humanly?





CARGNISCENTI reaches over and turns off the tape.



I have a blank tape here, John …






I have a tape and I have a lot of time … More time than you got. Do you understand? I can sit here for hours: hours, days, months, years if have to, and I will. I will stay here till the end of time. Do you understand?


CARILLO looks bored and distracted.



(very deliberate)

The movie was one hour and forty-eight minutes long. It started at 8:07. That means — based on real time — it was over at 9:55. I asked you what you did between eight and ten and you told me you also went to a pizza parlor, ate pizza, went home, watched television, and fell asleep with you girlfriend by ten o’clock.

(a beat)

Five minutes is not enough time to do all those things. Is it?



You’re right.



(cynical relief)

I can’t tell you how good it makes me feel to hear you say that, Carillo. For a moment there I was beginning to wonder about everything.

(a beat)

So. Tony. If we both agree that it’s impossible, then you couldn’t have done all that. Right?



Sure I could.



We were making progress … All right you bastard! I give up! You tell me HOW! I WANT TO KNOW HOW!

(quiet rage)

And it better be good. It better be so good … It better be like a miracle it’s so good.

(backing off, more objective)

You’re trying to make a jackass outta me.

(pause — turns on tape again)

You went to a movie. What did you see?



The Flying Wallendas.



We can check that.



It was really awful too.



Was it?









So I only watched about an hour, then I left.



I see. The Flying Wallendas. Okay. Then?



‘Bout fifteen minutes before I left, I ordered a pizza from my phone in the lobby. Then I went to pick it up.



And what time was this?



‘Round nine.



Nine what?



Ah …Yeah … All right … It was a … I saw a clock. It was seven after nine.



How long did it take to get to the pizza parlor?




Twenty… twenty-five seconds I’d say.




How long?



It was next door.



So you met a friend there.



Yeah. We both had some spaghetti.




(a beat)

You ate spaghetti.



Spaghetti. Yeah.



You said you had pizza.



Yeah, I did. I had spaghetti and then I had pizza.



So you had pizza and spaghetti that night.






Just you and your friend.



No. It was just me.



Just you.



Yeah, it was just me.



You just said you met somebody.



I did.



How could it be just you then?



It wasn’t.



It wasn’t just you?






You just said, “It was just me.”



It was. It was just me that had the spaghetti and pizza. My friend, he just had spaghetti.



(pausing to understand)

I see …

(a beat)

So … You were with a friend, but you, and you only had both pizza and spaghetti that night.



That’s right.



I see … That must of been pretty filling, Carillo. Two meals.



No, I just had one.



Pizza and spaghetti — that’s two. Right? One, two.



Yeah, but I just had one.


CARGNISCENTI is quiet for a moment fighting confusion and irritation.



So you ate with this guy.



Yeah. I don’t remember his name; we went to school together, I think.



We can check that.



Or we may have worked together. I don’t know.



We can check that too.



Then again, he may have been somebody I just met someplace. I don’t remember.



He was eating spaghetti.



He was eating spaghetti and asked me if I wanted some. So I said, yeah, cause my pizza wasn’t ready. So I had some.



Uh-huh. Till the pizza was done.






How long did it take?



Thirty minutes.



Thirty minutes.



Yeah, usually a pizza takes about fifteen, but …



No! How long did it take after you first came in, after you met your friend, after you ate spaghetti, after the pizza was ready and then you left? How long did all that take?! Just that!



Ten, fifteen minutes.



Which one?






Which was it? Ten or fifteen?






That makes it 9:22 and twenty-five seconds.

(a beat)




Ah …



What about the guy?



Oh … He said a …”See you later,” and I said, “See ‘ya later,” and then I left.



You guys exchange numbers?












How’d you expect to see him again, Carillo?



I didn’t.






Got in my car and went home.



How long did it take you to get home?



Eight, ten minutes.


CARGNISCENTI stares at CARILLO in a way that suggests he wants a more definitive answer.



Nine minutes.



Nine. Let’s see, that’s approximately 9:31.

(a beat)

Took say a minute to get to your car…


CARILLO shrugs.





CARGNISCENTI motions for CARILLO to continue.



I ate the pizza.




An average pizza.



It was pepperoni. I had a couple pieces and then threw the rest out.



It sounds to me like you just lied, Carillo. It doesn’t sound like an average pizza to me. Sounds to me like it must of been a bad pizza.



It was the mushrooms.


CARGNISCENTI just stares at CARILLO, obviously irritated at the apparent incongruity.



Pepperoni and mushroom pizza. The mushrooms, they bother my stomach.



What time was it when you threw out the pizza?



I don’t know.



How long did it take?




I don’t know!






Look, I don’t carry a stopwatch! I don’t —






I don’t —





There is a long pause as they both calm themselves.



Fifteen minutes.












Then I went to bed.



Took off your clothes, brushed your teeth, etc.


CARGNISCENTI stares at CARILLO for the conditioned response.



Five minutes.






And that’s it.



And that’s it.






I see. What about the television, Carillo? Didn’t I hear you say earlier that you just watched television then went to bed?



Oh, yeah. I turned on the TV, watched the end of a show, and then went to sleep.



The newspaper …



There was a newspaper lyin’ around that I read while I watched TV, then I slept.



And that’s it.



And that’s it.



The girl, Carillo? … Didn’t I hear something about watching television, reading a newspaper, and then falling asleep with someone?



Oh, yeah.

(a beat)

My girlfriend.



Where is she?



I don’t know.



You don’t know.



We split up.



You split up?






Where is she living?



I don’t know.



In the city?



I don’t know.



Somewhere in the state, perhaps?



I don’t know.



Somewhere is the country … The United States?



I don’t know!



You two must have been pretty close.

(a beat)

What’s her name?






Jane … Jane what?





CARGNISCENTI’S face begins to turn color.



(extreme irritation)

Jane Doe?



Hey! It’s common! It’s a common name! People are named that! They are!


CARGNISCENTI begins to pace with great agitation.



Jane Doe. … Somewhere out there is a woman named Jane Doe. We don’t know where she is; she could be living or dead, but from ten ‘o clock and for the rest of the night she’s your alibi.






I see …I see … So that’s how it all happened … Well it’s all come together now, Carillo …Clear … Clear as mud … Makes me feel like a fool for even doubting you.



That’ all right.


CARGNISCENTI pauses for a moment manipulating the mood. He turns off the tape.




(a beat)

I’m going to prove to you, now, how you can’t be two places at the same time.


CARGNISCENTI pulls out a briefcase from under the table then opens it.



First, I’d like to ask you something. You are just a regular person, right? You’re not some kind of god or anything. Are you?







I just wanted to be sure.


CARGNISCENTI pulls a tape from the briefcase.



What I’m going to introduce to you now, John, is what we in the business call evidence. It’s sort of an accumulation of facts and relevant circumstances which point to the likelihood of how certain events transpired.


CARGNISCENTI ejects the previous tape from the machine and sets it aside. He points the new tape at CARILLO.



You know what this is?



A tape.



A tape. Not just any tape, not a blank tape. This one has evidence recorded on it … Carruthers was wired when he died. You didn’t know that did you.






You knew that?







Then you know what’s on it.





CARGNISCENTI flashes quick irritation, then calms.



I’ll play you the tape.


CARGNISCENTI puts the tape in the machine and turns it on.The MACHINE plays. Two voices can be made out but they are difficult to distinguish the sound quality is so poor.



I’m puttin’ an end to this Carruthers. The game’s over.



That’s you.



This ain’t no game, Carillo, this is real. And you’re finished.






You want real? I’ll show you real…



You drew your gun.



… This is real.



That’s not real, that’s crazy.



Whatever you call it …



Don’t be a fool, Carillo. This’ll only make it worse. You can’t run from the facts.



Neither can you.





There is the rustling of footsteps, the sounds of a brief, but intense struggle, then a LOUD GUNSHOT.

The tape is immediately silent. BOTH MEN just sit and listen to the silence a moment, looking distant.



Sound familiar?






You wanta hear it again?






That was at 9:53 on the evening of April 23rd, 2014. This tape, Carillo, is corroborated by three eyewitnesses who have identified you in a line-up as the assailant.


A nun, a priest, and a thirteen year old boy.


CARGNISCENTI pulls some papers from the briefcase.



They have each signed a sworn affidavit. Each story corroborates the other to the slightest detail. They are in complete agreement on the facts. And those facts are: that you shot Detective Nicky Carruthers on the 23rd of April, at 9:53 p.m.


CARGNISCENTI pauses for a moment to let the full weight of things sink in.





CARGNISCENTI ejects the tape with the evidence and replaces it with the blank one. He turns on the machine.



Why don’t you tell me what really happened.



I told ‘ya.



Tell me again.



I went to a movie, then I…



(sudden fury)

GOD DAMN IT, CARILLO! GOD DAMN IT! THIS IS SERIOUS! WE’RE SERIOUS NOW! … I’ve got facts here. I’ve got witnesses, signed affidavits, a tape. You’ve got no alibi, nobody corroborates your story, no witnesses, no friend, no girlfriend. Nothing! You understand? You’ve got nothing! You’re dead! Unless you open you mouth soon and start speaking the truth, you’re going to die. A man is dead and you will also be. It’s serious stuff here! Serious stuff!


CARGNISCENTI cools down. There is a long silence as CARILLO appears to be coming to a decision.



Okay. I met Carruthers.






At 10:53.




(a beat)

You admit, now, that you saw him though.






At 10:53.






How do you explain the fact that we know he died at 9:53?



He didn’t.






He didn’t die at 9:53.



I have affidavits, I —



I saw him at 10:53.



Then how do you explain —



It was a set-up.







I saw Detective Carruthers at 10:53 on the 23rd … He called me some time after ten. I was in bed. He said he had to see me about something. He was in serious trouble. It was a little before eleven when we —



Hold it. Why would he want to see you?



We were working together. Carruthers was undercover. He was working on a special project under an assumed name. Nobody knew who he really was. I was supplying information … for a fee. He trusted me. But there was a problem. See, Carruthers was a crook. He was diggin’ up evidence against people on the street then usin’ the information as blackmail. But, his big mistake — where he really got into trouble — was he was doin’ the same thing to the department. He had at least a dozen cops payin’ him to keep his mouth shut about different things he knew.


When I met with him, he was lookin’ for protection — place to hide. He was scared. Said he had to disappear. Said somebody was gonna kill him.

(a beat)

Some cop. He said some cop was gonna kill him.



(completely unconvinced)

So this tape …






And the witnesses …



Same thing.



One of the witnesses was a nun, Carillo.



His ex-wife.






His ex-wife’s a nun. She hated him.



… And a priest.



Dealer. Carruthers was puttin’ the squeeze on him.



And the kid?



A drug addict. Doin’ it for the money.


CARGNISCENTI gives a cynical pause. He feigns sincere confusion.



So, ah … Let me get this straight. The tape is a lie, the witnesses are paid liars, the evidence is planted, and Carruthers was alive and well and speaking to you at 10:53.



That’s right.



Well, somebody better tell the coroner.We found a body at 9:53.Coroner says it was undoubtedly Carruthers.



Coroner’s in on it.



Looks like we have the makings of a fucking conspiracy here! Is there anything you don’t know, Carillo? The coroner’s in on it …Jesus. Next thing you know, you’ll be saying the pope!




He had connections.



Well, you’re still going to burn. You know why? Because your story sucks. You have a vivid imagination, Carillo. Exceptional. But do you wanta know what the big difference is between you and me? My theory and your theory?

(a beat)

You’ve got no proof! Nothing! You have nothing! Not one god damn leg to stand on! Nothing but allegations and fantasy!


Carruthers is dead and you’re in trouble, so you better start making sense — quick. Because there will be a trial and there will be those witnesses and this tape and after a judge and jury and lawyers have spent a lot of time and money determining your guilt, they’re gonna be angry you make them go to so much trouble and they’re gonna flip the switch on you. They’re gonna put you away! For good!


I can save your life, if you just tell me … If you just say, ‘I killed him.’ Say, ‘I killed him’ and I can save you.

(a beat)

Say it.

(no response)

Say it.

(still no response)

Say it!!



You killed him.


CARGNISCENTI stares, stupefied at CARILLO.






You killed him, Cargniscenti.


CARGNISCENTI erupts into mad laughter.



You killed him. He was always talkin’ about you: “Cargniscenti knows I’m here. Cargniscenti is after me. I pushed Cargniscenti too far. If anybody gets me it’ll be Cargniscenti … Cargniscenti is trying to kill me!”


You killed him.



(still laughing)

That’s rich!


CARILLO gets to his feet.



He knew everything about you: drugs, the payoffs, that hooker you were screwing, the whole ball of wax. Everything. And he was charging you exorbitantly for the details. Information is expensive isn’t it, Cargniscenti? Expensive to get, even more expensive to get rid of.


CARGNISCENTI is beside himself with laughter. He manages to calm himself a moment.



You’re a lunatic!



So you made up your mind to kill him.



Completely crazy!



And then decided to dump it on me.



Babbling! You are babbling like a completely crazy lunatic!



Those witnesses …


CARGNISCENTI now sits in the chair vacated by CARILLO, completely exhausted.



The ones who saw me at the movies, pizza parlor, on the street; you paid them to keep quiet, just like you paid the other ones to talk …




That’s enough …



You met Carruthers exactly one hour after I did … At 11:53.



Do you hear me?



You told him you’d had enough …



I said that’s enough!



You told him that he’d pushed things too far …



Don’t push me!



You said you were gonna bury him.



I’m gonna get you.



Then you drew your gun …






And pulled the trigger …






…And you shot h —


CARGNISCENTI leaps forward and grabs CARILLO by the neck. BOTH MEN fall to the ground, choking and punching one another. CARILLO releases himself from CARGNISCENIT’S grip, struggles to his feet and moves to the far side of the room. CARGNISCENTI is lying prostrate, completely exhausted. Finally, after recovering his breath, he gets to his knees.



Carillo …Carillo … I like you… I like you … You’re amusing … You have a very amusing sense of humor. You do … I like you.


CARGNISCENTI finally gets to his feet and stumbles to the table. He grabs the tape with the recording on it and waves it at CARILLO.



(waving tape)

Your funeral… See it? … This is it … I gave you your chance, but this … boom, boom, boom, is the nail in the coffin … Listen to it. Boom! … Boom! … Boom! … It’s the last sound you’ll hear … Nail in the coffin.



I don’t think so.


CARILLO says nothing. Quietly he reaches into his coat pocket and removes a tape. CARGNISCENIT stares at him.



What’s that?



(motioning to tape recorder)



CARGNISCENTI shrugs. CARILLO walks to the table, ejects the tape in the machine, and replaces it with his tape. He presses the button. The MACHINE plays. Two voices can be made out, but they are difficult to distinguish the sound quality is so poor.



I’m puttin’ an end to this, Carruthers. The game’s over.




That’s you.



This ain’t no game, Cargniscenti, this is real. And your finished.






You want real? I’ll show you real…



You drew your gun.



… This is real.



That’s not real, that’s crazy.



Whatever you call it …



Don’t be a fool, Cargniscenti. This’ll only make it worse. You can’t run from the facts.



Neither can you.




There is the rustling of footsteps, the sounds of a brief, but intense, struggle, then a LOUD GUNSHOT. The tape is immediately silent. BOTH MEN just sit and listen to the silence a moment, looking distant.



Sound familiar?



(shocked, but recovering)

No one’s gonna buy that.



Boom, boom, boom.



Gimme that!


CARGNISCENTI lunges for the tape, but CARILLO jumps out of the way just in time.



Last sound you’ll hear. Boom, boom, boom.



That thing is outright blasphemy.






If you think anybody’s gonna believe that, you’ve lost your mind. It’s just gonna make it worse for you.



I don’t think so, Cargniscenti. You see, there are witnesses: nuns, rabbis, paperboys; they’re gonna come forward; they all saw something. As soon as this story breaks, as soon as it begins to excite and inflame their little minds, they’ll come outta the woodwork, one by one. And they’ll remember things, some of which will have actually happened, just fragments at first. Then someone, somewhere, will rearrange all the fragments and put ’em together to make a story, and bury you.



You know, Carillo, I’m coming to the conclusion that you’re stupid. They won’t remember anything because they didn’t see anything.



How do you know?



Because I didn’t do it.



What’re you going to do if they say you did?


Impulsively, CARGNISCENTI lunges again for the tape.



Gimme that thing!


CARILLO jumps out of the way and removes himself at a safe distance.



Look, Carillo, I’m not scared because I know you killed Carruthers. And I have proof. Do you understand? I have the proof you did it.



You did it, Cargniscenti.



You did it, Carillo.









You did it.





CARGNISCENTI lunges at CARILLO again. CARILLO puts the table between him and CARGNISCENTI.



Cargniscenti, when the shit starts flying and they begin to dig and they start finding out things, nobody’s gonna have any trouble believing you killed Carruthers. The department will be more than happy to bring this on you just to get rid of it. It’ll be just another shovelful of shit they wont’ have to deal with . A simple matter of convenience.



I have a reputation. I’ve been on the force for thirty years.



So much has happened in thirty years, too.



Not a single blemish.



But so many things under the surface.



I have two citations for extraordinary valor …



And a host of betrayals as long as your arm.



Four medals for good conduct …



A sordid personal history of illicit activity.



Three public service awards.



Ties to the underworld.



Steady promotions.






No one will lay a hand on me.



They’ll bury you.

(a beat)

You and I both know that once the allegations have been made you’ll never live ’em down. Even if you’re exonerated of all charges (which is highly unlikely) the lingering doubts everybody’ll have will kill ‘ya. They’ll have a life of their own. They’ll be what you are. They’ll replace you. When people look at you they won’t even see you. They’ll be seeing those doubts. And no matter what you do from now until the rest of your life, you’ll never be anything other than what they think you are, which is no different that it is for anyone else, except in your case they’ll be thinking the worst.


CARGNISCENTI sits down again. He looks shaken, distant, completely beaten. He stays for a moment slumped in his chair when suddenly he is rejuvenated as though possessed of an idea or having come to a decision.



Listen, Carillo. I couldn’t have killed Carruthers.



Sure you could of.



No I couldn’t.



But you did.



I didn’t.

(a beat)

I didn’t because I couldn’t.




Don’t tell me you have an alibi.



The best.



Alibis means nothing.



The best.

(a beat)

There’s no way I could have killed Carruthers, because — I’m Carruthers.




Insanity is a good defense if you play it right.



I’m not kidding, Carillo. I’m Carruthers. I couldn’t of killed him because I’m him.



Good. The whole trick is: if they believe that you believe …



DAMN IT! … Listen.


Nobody knew who Carruthers was; he was completely covert. Nobody even knew who hired him. The captain thought the chief hired me, the chief thought the mayor hired me, the mayor thought the governor hired me, and the governor couldn’t remember if he hired  me or not. I had access to so much information … People were terrified. They were …volunteering … money in exchange for … nothing … silence… I took advantage … Just certain people at first, then I started initiating things … It was amazing! … Money for nothing. Money for nothing but silence. I started believing that since Carruthers wasn’t real that he could do anything to anybody and get away with it. Cause he didn’t exist, see? … Nobody could hurt an imaginary character … But that’s not true. See, one day somebody beat up Carruthers and Cargniscenti came to work with a black eye! … Suddenly, Carruthers had to disappear; he was dangerous; but how?


Somebody had to kill him … He couldn’t just …vanish. So I worked this tape out … to escape … Somebody had to do it, so I used you … I made the tape, I found a body, I knew something about the coroner … You were a logical choice … And it was easy …


CARILLO laughs, greatly amused, and shakes his head.



It’s the fucking truth.


CARILLO is still laughing in disbelief.



Look. I’ll drop it if you will. Okay? We can both just walk away from this.




You’re a killer, Cargniscenti. You killed detective Nicky Carruthers at 11:53, on the 23rd of April, and you’re going to pay for that.



YOU ASS! I’m letting you go, so back off! While you still can!



I think we’re past all that now, Cargniscenti; it’s the point of no return … And the best thing is, when you come out with this cockamamie story I won’t even have to say a word.




All right, baby. I have the tape. I have the witnesses. You have a lousy reputation; everybody knows you’re a crook. I can get you. Even if you didn’t do it, you know I could get you anyway. I have all the resources at my disposal.




The nuns …the priests …the newspaperboys … They’re all going to come forward …



I have the resources and I can get you.



Fragments …bits and pieces … Somebody saw something … heard something …



You can’t do shit! Do you hear me! You can’t do anything because I’m Carruthers!



Keep it up.



I’m Carruthers … And if I have to tell the whole world I’m Carruthers I’ll do it. Even if it means getting killed!




Sincerity, Cargniscenti, but not desperation.



And I’ll tell you what; I’ll get you for murder; I’ll get you for killing me and I won’t even be dead. Boom!



No no, no, no, no.

(a beat)

I’m gonna get you for killing me and I won’t even be dead.






I’m Carruthers.



I feel sorry for you.






You have lost all contact with reality.




Reality? You don’t know the meaning of the word.



You don’t even know who you are.



I’m Carruthers. The Feds had me on serious tax evasion charges. I had no choice really but to cooperate. I became part of the governors new eyewitness and informant program. (It was a reelection year.) It was a completely covert operation; nobody really knew who hired me, even the governor. He had a policy of not knowing these kinds of things. I took the name Carruthers: title: detective … incognito. I knew about the street, but the title took me into the department itself, gave me access to information … I began to take advantage … But then things got a little out of hand. There was a cop in the department I knew everything about, and I was using it to squeeze him dry. Word was he was gonna kill me … Carruthers had to go … So I made this tape … I found a body… I knew something about the coroner … Somebody had to do it so I used you … And it was easy … Easy.


CARGNISCENTI laughs in a disjointed, slightly diabolical way that seems to have little to do with anything funny.



(curiously distracted)

Give it up … You actually think I’m going to jail for killing myself?



No. You’re going to jail for killing me.



Give me that tape, asshole!


CARGNISCENTI lunges, CARILLO dodges him easily, moving out of reach.



I’m puttin’ an end to this, Carillo. The game’s over.



This ain’t no game, Cargniscenti, this is real. And you’re finished.



You want real? I’ll show you real …


CARGNISCENTI removes his gun from his shoulder holster and points it at CARILLO.



… This is real.



That’s not real, that’s crazy.



Whatever you call it…



Don’t be a fool, Cargniscenti. This’ll only make it worse. You can’t run from the facts.



Neither can you.










CARILLO lunges at CARGNISCENTI. They struggle for control of the gun, their bodies pressed against each other. The gun is sandwiched between them, obscured from view. There is a LOUD BANG! as the gun discharges. Just who has been shot is not clear. BOTH MEN stare at each other with equal shock. A thin, slightly ironic smile emerges from each man’s lips. CARILLO drops the tape. It clatters at their feet.




—Bradd Allen Saunders


Bradd Allen Saunders is an award-winning playwright, produced in New York and Los Angeles, writer and director of the feature film, The Lounge People, starring Buck Henry and Amanda Plummer, and author of the novel Ivetha: An Airedale’s Compendium (available on Amazon.com). He is also a freelance journalist, a writing teacher and advisor at Film Connection/Film Institute in Los Angeles, and a screenplay and film lab mentor for the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (Cinephilia Productions) in Beirut Lebanon. He lives in Pasadena, California.

Detective Nicky Carruthers is Dead is a winner of the Kernodle New Play Award at the University of Arkansas and has been produced at First Stage Theater in Hollywood, California and at The Powerhouse Theater in Santa Monica, California.





Aug 172013

Cafe Angelique

There is a fine line (if any line at all) between some performance art and plain old standup comedy. John Arthur Sweet is a hugely entertaining, subversively ironic monologuist and, judging from audience reaction in this live show at Banff earlier this year, he is very, very funny. The monologue is called “Squirt,” the subject is love (sort of), Sweet’s acting is delightful. Watch the video; the script is below.




Oh, this is nice, isn’t it? That sun! It’s nice, eh? Nice.

Mmm …. ahhhhh …. (sigh) … oh, yeah.


(Throat clearing.) You know … um … there was something I wanted to ask you about. Yeah … Look, I’ll just mention this and then we can sorta move on—(Gesture.)—down the road … So I got your email, and that’s great, I’d love to do that … thing … on Saturday. So yeah.

So, like, um, at the end of that email, you inserted something that wasn’t terribly relevant, it seemed to me, to the subject matter. You said—I don’t know if you even remember this—but you typed, “I love you.” So …

Well, it’s not really a problem, it’s just that you wrote, “I love you,” at the end of this otherwise strictly, you know, administrative email about arrangements for Saturday, and I wondered what you meant. In concrete terms.

Yeah, well, okay, great! … but … I think the thing is, we haven’t really arrived at a common definition of basic language.

No, I’m not being overly analytical. I’m just saying, you typed—that is to say, I assume you typed—or did someone else add that line? Yeah, so it was you. So I’m just saying, you must have meant something when you typed that. Or did you mean nothing? You either meant something or you meant nothing. If you didn’t mean anything as you typed “I love you,” then … well, I find that really quite fascinating. You know, that the human brain can conceive language that is utterly meaningless.

(To waiter.) Oh, yeah! Two gin and tonics, please! Thanks.

Like, there’s all these people all over the place all the time, going “I love you” … I love your hair … I love that new song by Rihanna … I just love polar bears … Oh, I love diversity … I love being part of a country with such a rich multicultural fabric … I just love the First Nations peoples, with their rich and authentic this and that … I lub you … Ahh lub ya … You know, and meanwhile we’re, like, killing each other and … and poisoning people’s water supplies … So, what I’m wondering is, where’s the love?

No, I’m not being overly serious, actually. I’m just looking for information. Making conversation. As we wait for our libation. See, I’m a kind of poet, too!


Wow, it’s so nice. I’m glad we came here.


(humming “Whistle While You Work”) Dee dee dee dee dee, dee-dee dee dee dee dee dee—gna gna gna gna, gna gna gna gna, gna gna gna gna gnaaaaa—

Let me say just one more thing about that, and then that’ll be it. So last night, when you came in my mouth— No, calm down, calm down— I’m just saying, last night, when you came in my mouth, in that very instant, as I felt this warm, viscous, salty grey liquid oozing all around my teeth, I was thinking, “Is this what he meant when he wrote, ‘I love you’?” … Don’t look at me like that, please!

No, you’re not— … Look, here’s a perfect example of what I’m getting at. When that waiter came over and asked if we’d like anything, I told him, “Two gin and tonics, please.” That’s all I said. Five words. And actually, the “please” on the end was gratuitous, so … four words … And actually, did you know that in French, a gin and tonic is “gin tonic”? Not “gin et tonic.” Yeah, it’s true. So you don’t need the “and” either. So, three words. Just like your “I love you.” Now, when I said those three words to the waiter, he didn’t have to say anything, he didn’t have to interrogate me, because we have an agreed-upon definition of basic terms. He knew to go over to the bar and take two translucent beverage containers, put an agreed-upon amount of gin in each glass— I mean, all I said was “two gin and tonics,” but he’s not going to go and pour, like, half the bottle of gin in one glass and half in the other. He’s going to put a particular amount, which we both more or less know, into each glass, add ice, and then tonic up to the top. And … here’s where it gets almost creepy … I know that he is going to put a little slice of lime, cut down the middle, on the lip of each glass. I didn’t say anything about lime! Did I say anything about lime? But he knows I’m expecting it, and I know he’s going to deliver it. That, my dearest, is what is called communication.

So, what I’m saying is, and I don’t want to be vulgar or anything, but when you say, “I love you,” does that mean that subsequently you get to stick your thing in my mouth and squirt warm liquid into it?


Hey, you know what? Just forget I said anything. Let’s just enjoy these gin and tonics. Here they come! And I can see the lime wedges from here.

— John Arthur Sweet


John Arthur Sweet is a Montreal-based monologist and book editor/translator. His last full-length monologue, Waiting for André, was performed across Canada and at the Prague Fringe Festival between 2008 and 2011. He is working on a new monologue, entitled Who Waits at the Top of the Stairs, an extended love letter to his adopted hometown. John was a participant in the 2013 Spoken Word residency at the Banff Centre, which inspired him to begin creating shorter pieces, works incorporating elements of poetry, as well as French-language monologues.

Jun 122013

Donald Druick and lute

Structure is almost everything, says Peter Handke, in an epigraph to this wildly whimsical, often hilarious (“aversion” one character puns on “a virgin”), mid-life, existential love drama between a husband and a wife. Don Druick is a master of musicality. Watch the repetitions: words like scars, quagmire, diminished, love. Jack comically gathers scars as he keeps reasserting that he will not be diminished. The text shimmers. Moments of horror: Jack dropping his hands into a cooking pot full of boiling water. Moments of intense comedy: Audrey misplaces a medallion in a patient’s rectum (the patient is her neighbour, perhaps a lover; the patient gave her the medallion; the medallion bears the words “The fear of everything is love”). To communicate Jack calls his wife’s cell from bed; his wife answers; she is in bed with him. Regularly, the characters revert to speaking in the voices of animals, caws and moos; and just as regularly there are moments of trembling beauty, line after line, poignant and true.

AUDREY Did you say: kyomu?

HUMPHREY Nothingness. The Japanese have four hundred words for it.

AUDREY Really? That many?

HUMPHREY It seems necessary


Will it alter my life altogether?
O tell me the truth about love.
– W H Auden

A human being is a genius while dreaming, fearless and brave….
– Akira Kurosawa

For a work of art, material is almost nothing, structure almost everything.
– Peter Handke


 A play in eighteen scenes and two acts for six actors.

to Jane Phillips, whose own dreams fill a lifetime of shelves.


Jack, 60’s

Audrey, 50’s

Jack and Audrey are married; these actors do not double.

Four actors play the following ten characters:


Delores – Audrey’s personal assistant
Natalie – a next door neighbor; Humphrey’s wife
Curly – a bad bad dude


The Prince Mithroth – Audrey’s dearest friend
Horst – a frightening man
Old Bill – Jack and Sandy’s dead father


Humphrey – a next door neighbor; Natalie’s husband
Shlomo – a Hassidic jew


Sandy – Jack’s sister
Baby Jack – Shlomo’s precocious son

As well:

Offstage Characters

Pooky, Natalie’s dog
Talking Newspaper
Another Soldier

Chorus, as required

Note: NATALIE has a French accent; HUMPHREY has an English accent.

A visual development: JACK is progressively more scarred as the play proceeds (except: scene 18 where he is scar-free).



scene one

Jack, at home, paces the kitchen. The air is ripe with the heady odour of baking bread.

JACK  I will not be diminished

JACK at his chopping block, the knife fast and furious. He cuts himself.

JACK  Jesus, boys, that’ll be another scar. Drat.

The sink is chock-a-block full of simpering wet socks. JACK wrestles with the sodden mass, water spilling everywhere.

JACK  Shit.

Suddenly, the lentils on the stove boil over.

JACK turns; the wet socks sloosh to the floor.

JACK  Shit.

Smoke cascades from the oven.

JACK  Amazing shit, a whole bloody package of it. Drat. It’ll never be as good again. What? Yes. A package of shite. That’s it, boys, that’s it exactly.

PAUSE, as JACK ponders.

JACK  But what exactly? Man O man, I don’t understand myself….

JACK goes to the phone. Dials.

JACK (on phone)  Delores? Let me talk to Herself.


JACK (on phone)  My wife, Audrey….


JACK (on phone)  Delores, it’s me, Jack. Jesus….


JACK (on phone)  I’m not trying to be funny. Or arrogant. I’m not feeling funny. Or arrogant. Nothing’s funny anymore.


JACK (on phone)  I don’t know. A glimmer of something but I don’t get it.


JACK (on phone)  I don’t care if you don’t. Understand. Nevermind – too late, too late. There’s no more time, boy O boy, you can’t go backwards.


JACK (on phone)  Because time does not move backwards. Everybody knows that. Hey, maybe it doesn’t even move forward. Have you ever considered that?


JACK  Tell Herself I’m coming right down.


JACK (on phone)  I don’t care.

JACK hangs up the phone.

JACK   Drat, another scar.

JACK exits, slamming the door.

SFX: The sound of a car engine starting up. The screeching of tires.

A sudden vicious crash, horrendous.

SFX: Car crash, long and frightening. Shattering glass falling; a blizzard of tiny tinkles.





scene two

AUDREY’s medical office. Day.

The blinds are drawn; phone conversations are quietly everywhere.

Prominent: a large collection of colourful Eiffel Tower models.

SFX: The continuous sound of animals.

These two speeches together:

AUDREY (on phone)  A leopard, a leopard seen? No…. No no, impossible. Not in my operating room. I mean it makes no sense….. Maybe from a zoo? Maybe a pet?…. Impossible…. Well, don’t go in there – especially if you hear loud growling.

DELORES (on phone)  The book of crows? Book of crows? Book of crows? Book of crows?…. No…. No…. No no no. What can it mean? Radical surgery? It worries me. Is it about crows or just a really really good title?


AUDREY (on phone)  Anyway, I’m not a vet.

DELORES (on phone)  Do you need an appointment?

JACK enters.

JACK   Audrey. Audrey. I need to talk.

AUDREY sees JACK; she winks and waves – it’s very friendly.

DELORES   I told you, Jack, Jack, on the phone I told you, Jack – she’s busy.

JACK   You can be as jealous as you want, Delores – she’s still my wife.

Another phone rings.

DELORES (on phone)  Just a mo – the other line.

JACK  I was out underwear shopping – I made a call – you’ll never guess what happened. Never. Horrible…. horrible….

DELORES (to AUDREY)  It’s for you.

AUDREY (to JACK)  Just a minute, darling – I’ll be right with you.

JACK   Promise?

AUDREY   Promise promise.

DELORES scoffs.

JACK sneers at DELORES.

DELORES    She’s working….

These two speeches together:

AUDREY (on phone)   Ya…. Ya ya…. She’s pissed off? So? What? Hurt?…. Why? She’s weird. I was home – she could have called…. Hey, I’m not a mind reader, just a doctor…. I’m not even sure I know who she is…. I already did that. I searched a large pile of newspapers looking for someone who might actually have her number….

DELORES (on phone)   No…. No…. really?…. Simply, I push the wrong button and the x-ray thing hassles itself apart. Whirring whirring all the time. Wow…. The patients get really nervous…. Ya but now I have no idea how to put it all back together again…. Well what do I care?…. No, really…. Really….

JACK   Can I speak now?

DELORES   She’s busy.

JACK   Drat.

These two speeches together:

DELORES (on phone)   Do you think so? Do you? I’m really happy here. Really really happy really really really happy….

AUDREY (on phone)   I’m going to read it right now…. Right right now…. Promise promise. Promise promise promise….

AUDREY hangs up the phone.

AUDREY   Delores….

DELORES (on phone)   I’ve got to go.

DELORES hangs up the phone.

AUDREY (to DELORES)   Listen to this.

JACK   Am I invisible?

JACK is shushed.

JACK   Jesus, what a quagmire.

AUDREY    You too, Jack. Listen….

JACK    So unkind.

AUDREY    Please please please – it’ll be fun.

JACK    Nobody cares about me.

AUDREY, making an impatient sound, opens a magazine.

AUDREY    Jack…. Jack. Look at me. Stop it. Please wait. I’m working.

JACK    Drat.

AUDREY (to DELORES)   Here. Here it is. You read this. I’ll start. (reading) OK OK OK, you the patient, right here downstage.

DELORES (reading)   Here?

AUDREY (reading)   No, right on the lip.

DELORES (reading)   Up your moo.

AUDREY (reading, shouting)   Up your moo.

DELORES (reading)   Moo up you.

AUDREY (reading)   You too moo.

DELORES (reading)   Too moo you.

AUDREY (reading)   Fuck you moo moo.

DELORES (reading)   You fuck moo moo.

AUDREY and DELORES laugh – especially AUDREY.

AUDREY    It’s hysterical.

DELORES   I just love it, I love it.

AUDREY    I knew you would. The wise doctor in the world. Ta-taaaaa.

JACK (crow-like, loudly)   Caw.

AUDREY (calf-like)   Mmuuh.

JACK (crow-like)   Kraa caw caw.

AUDREY (calf-like)   Mmuuh mmuuh möö.

JACK (crow-like)   Kraa caw caw caw kraa….

Suddenly the sun, large very large, large very large as it sets.

AUDREY & DELORES turn to admire it.

AUDREY & DELORES   Beautiful.

JACK (quietly)   My dad died. Poor old Bill. Poor old Bill is dead. Stroke. Such a quiet word, stroke. Another scar.


scene three

Night. JACK and AUDREY in bed; asleep.

JACK is snoring, and somewhat reasonable and gentle it is. He wakes up with a start. In a panic, he opens the light. He flaps around the night table until he finds his cellphone; he dials a number.

The cell phone on AUDREY’s night table rings.

AUDREY (very sleepy, on phone) Hello

JACK (on phone) It’s me.

AUDREY (on phone) Jack? Where are you?

JACK (on phone) What a laugh, eh? I’m right here.

AUDREY turns to see him.


JACK (on phone) I woke up and there were a million little red flies swarming all over me and you too. Fucking Mithroth was there too.

AUDREY The Prince Mithroth?

JACK (on phone) My heart’s pounding – I wish you could touch it. I feel very lonely.

AUDREY puts down her phone, and reaches out to JACK.

AUDREY O, you poor thing.

JACK is restless.

JACK (on phone) I feel…. I don’t know…. edgy like….

AUDREY O relax relax relax.

JACK (on phone) Like a wild child.

AUDREY And get off the phone – it’s crazy. I’m right here.

JACK (on phone) O I have a good plan – it doesn’t cost anything.

JACK starts to fondle her.

AUDREY What are you doing?

JACK (on phone) I feel lightheaded and very…. very horny.

AUDREY O for god’s sake – stop it. Stop it.

AUDREY pushes him away.

JACK gets up; wanders about the room.

JACK (on phone) No no no. No no not now. I have a headache. My poor little head aches. What about me what about little lonely me? – I’m horny. So bloody horny. Nothing’s working anymore. Nevermind. What if I can’t write any more novels?

AUDREY sighs.

AUDREY You don’t write novels.

JACK (on phone) I can’t hear you – the connection’s bad.

AUDREY That’s cause I’m not on the bloody phone.

JACK (on phone) What did you say?

AUDREY (shouting) I said: you don’t write novels.

JACK (on phone) But I could if I wanted to. If I had any decent stories. Which I don’t. Drat. What a quagmire. What if I’ve just squandered – wasted – my talent? What if I’m just a fucking old fucking old fuck fuck fucking old sad old has been?

JACK has a penknife.

AUDREY Where did you get that?

JACK (on phone) It’s mine.

AUDREY It looks like mine.

JACK (on phone) It’s mine.

AUDREY What are you doing?

JACK (on phone) Keeping it warm. Useful little scar machine.

AUDREY O, for god’s sake, we don’t need any more scars.

AUDREY takes the penknife from JACK.

JACK Fuck that. I will not be diminished.

AUDREY Relax, for god’s sake. Relax. Please relax. Come back to bed.

JACK (on phone) Why? Are you offering any…. comfort.

AUDREY Yes, I am.

JACK (on phone) Sex would be nice. Ya, sex. Ya. Full throttled, passionate, wild and wet and horribly illegal.

AUDREY Well, I’m not offering that.

JACK (on phone) You’re so hard. Drat drat drat, I’m just a slave to my hormones and desires. And here I thought I was a Buddhist. Maybe I am a Buddhist? Anyway – and I’ve just figured this one out …. or not – something about a package. A package? You’re not listening you’re not listening to a single word I say.

AUDREY picks up her phone.

AUDREY (on phone) I’m here I’m here. I hear you. Yes yes yes, I hear you.

AUDREY gets out of bed.

AUDREY (on phone) Come back to bed.

JACK (on phone) I don’t know. I don’t know.

AUDREY There there, that’s enough telephoning for tonight.

AUDREY takes his cellphone. She tenderly takes him back to bed. She fixes the bed clothes and tucks him in.

AUDREY There there.

JACK I had a dream you had died. Horrible.

AUDREY I had a dream we had never met.

JACK & AUDREY Nightmares.

AUDREY laughs, warm and full.

They kiss. They kiss again.

JACK (crow-like) Caw…

AUDREY (calf-like) Mmuuh mmuuh….

JACK (crow-like) Caw caw….

AUDREY (calf-like) Möö mmuuh möö….

AUDREY laughs with pleasure and anticipation.

JACK & AUDREY Clang. Clang. Clang. Clang. Clang. Clang. Clang. Clang. Clang.

SFX: Moans and building sexual groans.



JACK & AUDREY (quietly) Went the trolley.



scene four

Temple Beth Shalom, a synagogue. A Friday evening in summer. Services are in progress – we hear Jewish liturgical chanting off.

JACK enters the foyer of the temple. There is a bazaar in progress. Its very active. People are dancing.

JACK looks around.

JACK People people everywhere – everywhere I look there’s new people – and I don’t know any of them.

A Hassidic Jew is sitting on a strange bench – stone and rough wood; decorated with colourful eiffel towers.

SHLOMO Are you looking for something you can’t find?

JACK I am.

SHLOMO The truth?

JACK Ha. Good. Possibly.

SHLOMO Thus you are a philosopher?

JACK But am I really actually looking?

SHLOMO Some do.

JACK Or just mumbling within myself?

SHLOMO That might be the same thing. Jewish? You’re jewish?

JACK Half.

SHLOMO Half jewish? How can this be?

JACK My father was jewish. He went here for services. Prayers.

JACK is a bit unsteady on his feet.

SHLOMO Sit sit – I made this bench myself.

JACK sits.

SHLOMO So, what do you think? Isn’t it beautiful?

JACK I love the Eiffel Towers.

SHLOMO Thank you. It was my son’s idea.

JACK You know, you remind me of my late father.

SHLOMO Is that a good thing?

JACK Eventually it was.

The BABY gurgles.

JACK Your baby?

SHLOMO My son.

SHLOMO beams.

BABY JACK I am the perfect reason to always to be happy.

JACK He talks.


JACK But he’s a baby.

BABY JACK Thus, I have the perfect reason for superannuated contentment.

JACK And smart.

SHLOMO Thank you. We are a good team, he and I.

JACK (to BABY) Hello, you dear little thing.

BABY JACK Hello yourself, strange troubled sad man.

SHLOMO We call him: Jack.

JACK Well, isn’t that just something else – that’s my name too. (to BABY) We have the same name, little thing. I must tell my dear darling nephew about that. His name is Bob – he’s a baby too.

BABY JACK Is that relevant here? One must not be too cloying or pathetic with respect to one’s overly rated sentimentality.


SHLOMO No no no, child, don’t abuse the man.

BABY JACK To speak the truth to a penitent, dearest father – as our great talmudic teachers say – is not without the bounds of decorum. (to JACK) You seem out of sorts, if I may be so bold as to pronounce an opinion on your obvious demeanor.

JACK I do feel disoriented – the town seems somehow different. And nothing in my life seems to make sense.

BABY JACK I know what you feel.

SHLOMO But can you know this, my darling son? These same great talmudic teachers – who are our guides in all things – preclude the knowledge of another’s suffering.

BABY JACK But do they, my father? As is said: a person is only a person when and only when she or he is known to all. (to JACK) I do know what you feel, and not just in the indisputably mystical though culturally exhausted kabbalistic connotation.

BABY JACK shrugs.

BABY JACK Change is deep within us. Yet, there are troubles.

JACK There are more mountains than there used to be.

BABY JACK That is indeed terrible.

SHLOMO And challenging.

JACK And more snow on the mountains.

SHLOMO Mountains are the same as love.

BABY JACK Yes, they are, dear father. As is death.


BABY JACK I think, I believe, please please listen to me, that you will require…. a timeshare in these mountains. It will ease your anxiety and erase your sadness.

JACK What?

BABY JACK When I grow up and I am big and wonderful, I will want to work for the Northern Winter Real Estate Association. Perhaps even as their chairman of the board.

SHLOMO Now now, child, don’t overstate your ambition.

BABY JACK But I must, my dearest father – its my destiny. Under my leadership, our product line will be extensive: chalets, time-shares, winter getaways of all sorts….

JACK Ha. Well, I’m sorry – I know that’s not what I need.

BABY JACK Ah well, yes, no, no no, you are right. I have a flash, I’m getting a clear signal. Yes yes, that’s it that’s it – you’d be much better off as a chef.

JACK O? I was – how did you know that?

BABY JACK Once a chef, always a chef.

BABY JACK smiles.

SHLOMO And why – please tell us if its not too problematic for you – so why did you stop?

BABY JACK Too too much indescribable gluttony, I would imagine.

SHLOMO Now now, let the man speak.

JACK Crazy. You wouldn’t believe the yelling, noise, chaos. Just a kitchen, you say. But…. the endless crux of my life. I had a large and succulent tendrons de veau à la provençale in the oven and twenty tarts and farts in the dining room starving for it. Its time its time, yelled my souschef, its time. Alright, fuck you, alright. I shoved my hands into that seething cauldron of an oven – and forgot the mitts.

BABY JACK Your description is startling.

SHLOMO And vivid too.

BABY JACK I actually smell your searing burning flesh.


JACK I froze, just stood there, debating quite clearly in my mind while my hands burned. White pain intense and banal. What a quagmire. I just gave it all up after I left the hospital. Haven’t worked since. Drat drat drat drat.

BABY JACK Your hands are all scared.

JACK So many scars in a life.

BABY JACK So ugly.

SHLOMO Now now, child.

JACK I’m so confused. Can you help, help me?

SHLOMO But yes, of course. We will sing an opera.

JACK Opera?

SHLOMO We like to sing. We have found, over the centuries – we jews – that it is a good cure for sadness.

BABY JACK But, dearest and beloved father, we need a woman’s voice.

SHLOMO Yes, we do.

SHLOMO looks about.

JACK My dad – old Bill – used to sing a mean countertenor. But he’s dead.

SHLOMO Hmmmmm….

JACK And there’s Audrey – my wife – she used to sing quite well back when we were young.

AUDREY appears.

AUDREY I have no time for this, Jack. I have three surgeries scheduled. And anyway, you know I hate opera.

JACK I don’t think I did.

BABY JACK Frustration and incontinent busyness – surely that will be seen – in the centuries to come – as the principle reasons for the tragic demise of our civilization, so-called.

AUDREY laughs, robust and sexy.

AUDREY You’re a funny little thing. A pity I cannot abide babies.

BABY JACK Do it, dear beauteous hostile lady, sing our opera – how much time can it take?

AUDREY laughs.

BABY JACK The story will be about you.


BABY JACK And him.


SHLOMO Do it. It will make him feel alive.

AUDREY laughs.

AUDREY O well, for old Jack, the purported love of my life.

SHLOMO Attention, everyone. Attention.

BABY JACK Please listen to my dear and much beloved father.

SHLOMO Now, we do an opera by the wondrous Giacomo Antonio Domenico Puccini….

BABY JACK Amore Abbandonato. And what can ever be wrong with the twin and harmonious notions of love and destiny?

SHLOMO It is the day after Yom Kippur. Maria, the goat girl from the village meets Feivel, the chief rabbi of Riga….

BABY JACK Who is traveling to the great rabbinical court of Torino.

SHLOMO They fall in love….

BABY JACK She with him despite his many unsightly and disfiguring scars.

SHLOMO And he with her despite the fact that she is not jewish.

BABY JACK They spend an extremely meaningful- though chaste – night together under the dining room table.

SHLOMO Locked in each other’s arms

BABY JACK But chaste.

JACK I love this opera.

AUDREY I don’t care for the story.

JACK But its marvelous.


JACK And somehow familiar. It seems…. perfect.


JACK I’m sorry you don’t like it. The opera makes me feel hopeful – I don’t know why.

AUDREY shrugs.

SHLOMO Come come, we start. This is the chorus at the beginning.

CHORUS (singing)

Now the crow may be singing
Singing singing singing
Singing singing
Instead of the calf
Calf calf calf calf


CHORUS (singing) Instead of the calf.

JACK (singing) Instead of the calf.

JACK stops singing.

BABY JACK But the chorus isn’t finished.

JACK I’m getting a bad feeling. I can’t go on.

SHLOMO But you must.

JACK I was wrong to be so hopeful. The crow and the calf, that’s what I really have. Brutality and conflict. Its the package I’m left with. Drat. Almost nothing – but I guess that’s better then absolutely nothing.


scene five

Outdoors. JACK’s building a fire.

SFX The sounds of a Georgian Bay summer night. Loons.

JACK looks up.

JACK Who’s that? (calling) Hello. Hello. I can see you. You’d better come out – I have a gun. (to himself) What a quirky quagmire. O god, is it Mithroth? Drat. Fuck. Fucking Mithroth.

MITHROTH emerges from the shadows.

JACK What the fuck are you doing here?

MITHROTH Don’t let’s quarrel, Jack.

JACK Not a week goes by when I’m not forced to remember you exist. Drat, scars everywhere I look.

MITHROTH O Jack – you’re always mumbling.

JACK – impatient gesture.

MITHROTH Well, then…. Jack, I wonder if you could enhance my thinking on you and Audrey? Is there a problem here?

JACK Fucking Mithroth – what the fuck do you care?

MITHROTH Very funny, Jack. Always witty is our Jack. Ha ha.

JACK Fortunately – there’s an easy answer….

MITHROTH And that would be?

JACK None of your business.

MITHROTH Ah. Yes, of course. Still, I continue. You and Audrey seem – so it always appeared to me and I have known you both a long long time….

JACK Too long.

MITHROTH What was that, Jack? Yes…. but…. you and Audrey seem more than ever burdened by the breath of experience.

JACK Yes. Good. Not bad. Exactly right.

MITHROTH There is a flavour – a hint – of melancholy. The past as an unbearable burden….

JACK Scars.

MITHROTH Dear O dear. As from the wing no scar the sky retains. So what happens?

JACK She denies it. She denies it but she lies.

MITHROTH puts his hand to his ear.

MITHROTH What was that?

JACK Jesus… what a quagmire.

JACK and MITHROTH are on a street.

JACK My bike is gone. Drat. I’ve had that bike since I was a kid.

MITHROTH throws garbage on the street.

JACK Stop that.

MITHROTH It’s my right. My right and privilege.

JACK It’s always about you, Mithroth….

MITHROTH It’s always me, Jack. Nevermind…. look at this….

MITHROTH points to a boat on a trailer.

MITHROTH Give us a hand. This bloody quixotic thing keeps slipping off. I’ve been at it for a week.

JACK Well the…. hmmmmm?…. we could…. hmmmmmm…. we’ll just wrap this rope around here.

JACK and MITHROTH tie and fuss.

JACK Nice little outboard.

MITHROTH Listen to it sing….

SFX: The outboard engine springs to life.

The boat starts to move.

MITHROTH O look – there’s Audrey. Grab her, will you?

AUDREY I can’t reach.

JACK Lean…. foreword…. more…. more….

AUDREY is hoisted onboard.

AUDREY Have I gained that much weight?

MITHROTH You look trim and lovely.

AUDREY Thanks, dearest.

As if an old habit, AUDREY nuzzles MITHROTH.

AUDREY O look at Jack – Jack loves boats.

JACK Those summers, ya, on Schroon Lake, had a lovely little boat. Five horsepower.

AUDREY (to JACK) You can be so sweet. Look, I’ve got some time – we could be in Paris. We always had a good time in Paris.

JACK Seems a long way.

AUDREY Jack, come on. Jack Jack Jack Jack.

MITHROTH The Bistro Papillon….

AUDREY Or Chez François – I used to go there all the time when I was at the Sorbonne.

MITHROTH Those were salad days. Lovely days.

JACK I love François. He taught me how to cook, you know.

AUDREY I think we all knew that.

They laugh.

JACK O look who’s there. It’s Sandy. (calling) Sandy…. Sandy….

The boat stops.

SANDY Jack. And also Audrey. This is a quality moment.

AUDREY Hello, Sandy. This is The Prince Mithroth.



SANDY Audrey, and prince person, this is Bob.


SANDY My baby. Bob the beloved baby Bob. Bob Bob Bobber Bobby Bob Bob Boo. He’s just so new, the dear little thing.

AUDREY We’re going to Paris.

SANDY O they all do at your age. And for the same reasons….

JACK is nuzzling BOB.

JACK O, he’s so sweet. My nephew. My darling little nephew. He looks just like you.

SANDY Really? I though he looked just like Terry.

JACK Actually he looks like Dad.

SANDY I know. I miss Dad.

JACK Me too.

AUDREY is reading a newspaper.

AUDREY Your baby thing is in the newspaper.

SANDY O let me see.

NEWSPAPER (loudly) Desperation! Poverty! Blood! Greed! Death!

AUDREY You know you’re in deep trouble when the newspaper you’re reading starts talking to you.


JACK Audrey…. Audrey, come nuzzle Bob, Audrey.


scene six

Summer evening. A lovely light. Birds chirping. JACK and AUDREY are sitting on their porch.


JACK Very hot.

AUDREY Much hot.

JACK Hot hot hot.


JACK What?

AUDREY What’s that?

JACK What’s what?


JACK Where?


SFX: Aircraft engines.

AUDREY It’s a plane. A very low plane.

JACK Right, I see it. Much too low. Wait a minute wait a minute – that’s a, that’s a Lancaster bomber. What year is this? They haven’t flown those since that war.

AUDREY They’re circling around, coming back….

JACK O my god….

AUDREY O my god….

JACK O my god….

AUDREY O my god….

SFX: A big crash.

OFF: POOKY starts barking.

AUDREY Who’s got a dog? I hate dogs.

SANDY (off) What’s the emergency number?

AUDREY O my god…. It cartwheeled, O my god….

JACK (calling off) What?

SANDY (off) The emergency number.

JACK (calling off) Nine one one.

SANDY enters, clutching BOB and joins them on the porch.

SANDY Are you sure?

AUDREY It cartwheeled. O my god….

SFX: Sirens in the distance.

JACK Somebody called it already.

SANDY Do you think they’re hurt?

SFX: another explosion

AUDREY O my god.

JACK protects BOB. BOB cries.

JACK O wait. Wait. Wait, there’s somebody.

AUDREY Jack, don’t….

SANDY We should call Terry.

JACK Wait here with Audrey. I’ve got to help….

JACK rushes off.

AUDREY & SANDY (calling off) Be careful, Jack.

AUDREY Bad, very bad.

SANDY Do you think they’re dead?

AUDREY Very very bad.

JACK enters with HUMPHREY and BILL. HUMPHREY wears a bombardier jacket; he has a beard, but only on one side of his face. BILL, very old and frail, is quite natty in a corduroy suit.

JACK They’re alive. There’ll be scars, there’ll be scars for sure.

HUMPHREY What happened?

JACK I’d better see if there’s anyone else.


JACK exits.

SANDY You crashed on our street.

HUMPHREY I crashed? Who are you?

SANDY I’m Sandy, Jack’s sister.

AUDREY And cartwheeled.

HUMPHREY I cartwheeled? What a mess. I’m so sorry.

SANDY Just as long as you’re OK. And him….

SANDY gestures to the silent BILL.


SANDY Him. He looks familiar somehow.

HUMPHREY Never saw the chap before.

SANDY (to BILL) Are you alright?

BILL is silent.

SANDY (to AUDREY) He looks a lot like Jack, do you think?


SANDY The same charming bits.

AUDREY Would you, mmmm?, would you – what? – would you like a drink?

HUMPHREY That would be tasty right now. I’d better not – no no, I’d better not – they’ll think I’d been drinking. And I would have been, you see? The manifold pressure just went. Just like that….

HUMPHREY snaps his fingers.

HUMPHREY And what does it mean? What can it all mean? Does it mean anything? Other than death, certain death raining down upon you. I could’ve crashed right on your house, right on you, right down on you. Right straight down right here on you. And you know, I’m not sure I would’ve cared. I’m not sure I would’ve cared at all.

BILL falters.

SANDY (to BILL) Here you’d better sit down. Why does he seem so familiar?

HUMPHREY I’m so happy to be alive.

AUDREY I’m glad. O my…. I’m still so shocked. Are you alight? I’m a doctor.

AUDREY fans herself with her hand.

HUMPHREY You’re so beautiful. You know, I can see your dialogue written right there – right in your eyes.

AUDREY O, everybody can do that.

HUMPHREY I knew you were going to say that.

AUDREY You sure know how to sweet talk a gal.

HUMPHREY There, there, I knew you were going to say that too.

AUDREY What a party. Yikes, I need a drink.

HUMPHREY And I knew that too….

AUDREY exits. BILL starts to follow her.

AUDREY (to BILL) You stay here.

SANDY I’ll take him. He seems just like Jack. Here…. sit sit….

BILL Gazu gazu wabaza. Gazu. Za zu zee. Wugada. Wugada. Toto was wugada. Yabugu dugubu dugada. Gaga zee zu zee za zu.


JACK enters.

JACK There’s nobody else.


JACK Wait. O wait wait wait. O my god, Sandy – its Bill, its Bill. Sandy, its Dad.


JACK Dad. Bill…. its me, Jack. And Sandy.

BILL Towns I’ve never heard of but feel as if I do. Or have.

SANDY I thought he seemed familiar. But didn’t he, you know, die?

BILL (singing) I dream of Jeannie with the light brown hair.

SANDY Hi, Dad. This is Bob. Your grandson.

AUDREY enters with a tray.

AUDREY Who wants drinks?

SFX: Loud car crash.

JACK turns, terrified, towards the sound.




scene seven

Early evening. JACK is puttering in his kitchen.

We hear barking offstage.

AUDREY (off) Shut that bloody hound up.

JACK (calling off) We don’t have a bloody hound.

AUDREY (off) Then what the fuck is that?

JACK She’s in a foul quagmire.

JACK pokes about looking for the dog.

JACK (calling off) Its definitely inside.

AUDREY (off) Kill it.

JACK shakes his head. He opens the door to the basement and goes down.


Knocking at the kitchen door.


More knocking. JACK enters from the basement and answers the door. Its the new neighbors – HUMPHREY and NATALIE.

HUMPHREY Hello. Hello. We’re the new neighbors.

JACK Neighbors?

HUMPHREY Right over there.

JACK peers – it’s the house next door.

JACK O yes, right ya, there. The old Crowe place. Hi, I’m Jack.

HUMPHREY I’m Humphrey and this is my wife, Natalie.

JACK Natalie Natalie…. and Humphrey – please come in.

NATALIE We’re not disturbing you?

JACK No. No no no no. I was just thinking about making a supper.

NATALIE Then we are disturbing you.

JACK No no. Mostly all prepped – a little fun cassoulet.

JACK smiles.

Dog barks off.

NATALIE That’s Pooky.

JACK You know that hound?

HUMPHREY It’s our dog. I thought I recognized his happy bark. (calling off) Bark. Bark bark.

POOKY (off) Bark bark.

HUMPHREY (calling off) Bark.

NATALIE (calling) Pooky. Pooky Pooky Pooky….

HUMPHREY (calling off) Bark.


JACK Come, we’ll go look see.

JACK and HUMPHREY exit to the basement.

NATALIE looks about the kitchen.

AUDREY (off) Did you kill the bloody thing?


AUDREY (off) Jack?

NATALIE (calling off) He’ll, he’ll be back in just a minute.

We hear JACK and HUMPHREY fussing in the basement.

HUMPHREY (off) Pooky…. Pooky Pooky….

AUDREY (off) What the hell’s going on?

NATALIE (calling off) I don’t know.

JACK and HUMPHREY enter from the basement.

JACK There’s a tunnel.


HUMPHREY Yes, from our place to theirs.

AUDREY enters from upstairs.

AUDREY What the bloody hell is going on?

JACK It’s the bloody new neighbors dropped by for a look see. And guess what?


JACK Their dog’s found a tunnel between our houses.

AUDREY A tunnel? A tunnel?

JACK In the furnace room. The hound popped right through it.

NATALIE Clever little Pooky. Such a hero. Is he downstairs? Let’s bring him up.

JACK He’s run back.

HUMPHREY He must been looking for rats.


AUDREY shudders.

NATALIE Pooky loves rats.

HUMPHREY Rat meat is a delicacy in China, you know.

JACK I heard that. I wonder if if there’s a recipe?

JACK goes to his cookbook library.

AUDREY Jack, I will not live in a house with rats.

JACK Well, Pooky will kill them, dear little beast, and then we can eat them. Hey look at this. (reading) rat with chestnut and duck – this is good. Black pepper rat shoulders hot pot.

JACK looks up, beaming.

JACK This is a whole new thing. (reading) And the ultimate signature tour de force: mushu steamed rat.

AUDREY Fuck the world of culinary delights. I need a drink.

JACK O I think we can manage something for you, darling….

JACK opens a large wooden cabinet – its filled with bottles.

AUDREY All grappa, all the time.

JACK Each a special sweet and succulent kiss – bocchino francoli marolo brunello candolini….

AUDREY It’s Jack’s hobby.

JACK Hard to know what to choose….

AUDREY Serve the drinks for god’s sake, Jack

AUDREY scoffs.

JACK examines a glass; he scowls.

JACK This glass has a scar.

JACK bangs about in the kitchen.

HUMPHREY So, ah…. what is it you do?

AUDREY What the fuck do you care?


NATALIE and HUMPHREY whisper and play with their noses.

AUDREY What are you doing?

HUMPHREY Nose calisthenics – we always do them when we feel stressed.

NATALIE You push the tip up and down, back and forth.


NATALIE It’s quite refreshing – let me show you.

NATALIE reaches towards AUDREY’s nose.

AUDREY Don’t touch my nose.

A painful silence.

NATALIE Perhaps it is time we go.

AUDREY Well, if you must.

AUDREY looks into HUMPHREY’s eyes.

AUDREY Wait a minute. I know you.


AUDREY Wait a minute wait a minute I know you, I do I do. You’re the pilot. (calling to JACK) He’s the pilot.

JACK Which pilot?

AUDREY The one who crashed on the street.

HUMPHREY Point in fact, I rather liked the neighborhood.

AUDREY laughs delightedly.

HUMPHREY (to JACK) How’s your father?

JACK He’s still dead.

HUMPHREY We all live by such selected fictions.


HUMPHREY Shall I explain? I feel I’d like to.

AUDREY And I’d like you to.

SANDY enters.

AUDREY O my god, not now.

JACK Hey, sissy.

SANDY Just popping by.

JACK Is Terry here?

SANDY He’s working on the car. Bob’s helping him.

JACK That’s sweet. Come meet our new neighbors. Humphrey and…. ah…. and…. ah….

NATALIE Natalie.

JACK Natalie. My sister, Sandy. (to SANDY) He’s the pilot.

SANDY is sniffing.

SANDY What’s that? Smoke. I smell smoke.

They all sniff.

HUMPHREY It’s true – smoke.

SANDY looks out the window.

SANDY The house next door is on fire.


They all rush to the windows.

SANDY Whose house is it? O goodness…. a raging inferno.

HUMPHREY It’s our house.


HUMPHREY Just moved in, point of fact.

NATALIE Our house is burning.

HUMPHREY and NATALIE exit in a panic.

SANDY Bob? I‘d better go find Terry and Bob.

SANDY exits in a rush.

SFX: Noise, shouting, melee, sirens. The roof collapses.

The room is illuminated as the flames grow larger, flare. Sparks.

AUDREY is overcome.

AUDREY O my god.

JACK puts his arms around her. AUDREY sobs.

JACK So fast.

Disheveled, covered in soot, HUMPHREY and NATALIE return.

NATALIE Horrible horrible…. we’ve lost everything.

HUMPHREY Everything.

JACK Might be a good time for grappa. Ya….


scene eight

HUMPHREY and AUDREY walk in an art museum. Bright and white. Large canvases of sublime and simple gestures.

A CHORUS sings softly in the background.

HUMPHREY I’ve fallen in love with you.

AUDREY laughs – a ripe Anna Magnani laugh.

HUMPHREY O? I didn’t want to….

AUDREY Thanks for that.

HUMPHREY Yes, but there it is. I love you, Audrey.

AUDREY Maudlin.

HUMPHREY I hope not.

AUDREY Ummmmmmm….

They stand in front of a large canvas. (JACK is the canvas.)

HUMPHREY This one means: kyomu.

AUDREY Did you say: kyomu?

HUMPHREY Nothingness. The Japanese have four hundred words for it.

AUDREY Really? That many?

HUMPHREY It seems necessary

AUDREY Well, we have ten thousand words for: dysfunctional human endeavor including body parts so I guess I understand.

HUMPHREY Give me an example.

AUDREY O? Almost anything. Oufffff. Ah…. good intentions, loyalty, betrayal, killed with a kissing knife, love….

HUMPHREY That’s very complex. You are very complex.

AUDREY I find it comforting.

HUMPHREY You’re smashing. That means: attractive.

They move to another canvas.

AUDREY This one has a faded quality…. more attractive than the last, anyway….

HUMPHREY Yes, I suppose.

AUDREY (imitating HUMPHREY) Yes, I suppose. (normal) You always seem reticent to commit yourself.

HUMPHREY Do I? I said I loved you.

AUDREY Do you say it to Natalie?

HUMPHREY Do you say it to Jack?


HUMPHREY Now you seem reticent.


HUMPHREY Yes yes yes. That’s it. Right. Exactly. You are so attractive. More than that. Beautiful. Its why I love you.

AUDREY You don’t love me. You don’t know me.

HUMPHREY I want to. Would you like to sit? You seem to be limping.

They sit.

HUMPHREY What’s, what’s this bandage?

AUDREY This old thing? I cut myself.


AUDREY Stupid.


AUDREY No, me.

AUDREY takes out her penknife.

AUDREY With this.

HUMPHREY Whittling again, were you? O, there’s a scar. Is it serious?

AUDREY O, for god’s sake, I am a doctor. I should be working now – I cancelled a surgery for this, you know.

HUMPHREY gets down on his knees; he kisses the bandage.

AUDREY Stop that.

HUMPHREY I want to make it better.

AUDREY Thank you. Now, get up.

HUMPHREY Tell me something….

AUDREY Well, I love you too.

HUMPHREY makes a face.


HUMPHREY “I love you too” is passive. “I love you” is active.


HUMPHREY More attractive.

AUDREY I…. I don’t want to be attractive.

HUMPHREY Alive and in the moment? A strong core? Compassionate above all? It seems good.

AUDREY Hmmmmm? What I want to be – alright I’ll tell you: fragile as paper, bold as the north wind. The Queen of all the demons.

HUMPHREY Well, I think you’ve succeeded admirably. And then some.

AUDREY Can I tell you what I really want? – intimacy and…. vulnerability. Can you offer me that?

HUMPHREY What about Jack?

AUDREY I never found Jack attractive. No intimacy with Jack, no vulnerability.

HUMPHREY But love?

AUDREY Of a sort. Some sort. I don’t know. I don’t want to be with Jack. He brings out the worst in me.

HUMPHREY Why did you marry?

AUDREY Stupid.


AUDREY This time – yes. At the start, who knows anything?

HUMPHREY I loved Natalie from the start.

AUDREY You keep bringing her up. Don’t. And don’t underestimate Jack, just because he seems like nothing.

HUMPHREY He does, doesn’t he. Very kyomu.

AUDREY Ha. Jack was a great chef. His restaurant was always packed. Always. Three stars, all of that. He gave it up.


AUDREY A long story. An old story. Our story, more interesting to me now. Nevermind Jack. What’s the one single thing you would change in your life if you could?

HUMPHREY I’d have you as my wife.

AUDREY That’s sweet. Me, I wish I could have more – a bigger dollop – of the kindness gene.

JACK, the painting, sighs.

HUMPHREY The kindness gene?….

HUMPHREY laughs.

AUDREY Well, I don’t have it.

HUMPHREY Are you kind to your patients?

AUDREY Am I kind to them? I take care of their problems as best I can. Some of them survive. Is that kindness? I don’t think so.

HUMPHREY Do you mean “nice”?

AUDREY snorts.

AUDREY Do you think I’m nice?

AUDREY throws apples at HUMPHREY. She laughs – full throated and sexy.

HUMPHREY Hey, stop that.


HUMPHREY Jesus, what a bloody thing.

AUDREY laughs and poses.

HUMPHREY You are impressive.

HUMPHREY gives AUDREY a brass chain with a medallion attached.

AUDREY What’s this?

AUDREY reads the medallion.

AUDREY (reading) The fear of everything is love.

HUMPHREY Put it on.

AUDREY I don’t think so.



JACK, the canvas, falls off the wall.


scene nine

Evening. JACK and AUDREY in Chez Zuzu, a restaurant. They’ve finished dining, and wend their way to the coatcheck.

JACK Goulash? What’s suddenly so wrong with goulash? Chez Zuzu makes the best goulash in the accessible world. Fluffy, it is.


JACK Jesus, boys, I wish my goulash was that fluffy.

AUDREY O stop it.

AUDREY burps; JACK chuckles.

At the cloakroom. DELORES is helping SHLOMO on with his coat.

SHLOMO Thank you, thank you very much. You are very kind. Very kind.

SHLOMO smiles at JACK as he exits.

SHLOMO Good yom tov, good yom tov….

JACK I know him. I’m sure I know him. God, I can’t remember where. Or when. I feel so disoriented. I’m leaving my coat.


JACK I’m leaving my coat.

AUDREY snorts.

AUDREY I’m taking mine.

AUDREY hands the ticket to DELORES (She doesn’t notice DELORES).

JACK It’s not that cold out.

AUDREY It’s bloody winter.

JACK I don’t want to be dragging it around all night.

DELORES So what are you saying, Jack – you don’t want your coat?

AUDREY Delores?


AUDREY What are you doing here?

DELORES Making ends meet. So…. Jack, you want your coat?

JACK No, I’m leaving it for the evening.

DELORES That’s real dumb.

JACK Shut up.

DELORES You shut up.

JACK Or what? You’ll take me down?

DELORES I don’t want any trouble, Jack.

AUDREY So what are you saying?: I don’t pay you enough?

DELORES No one is ever paid enough.

AUDREY I could pay you more.

DELORES But would you?

JACK Hey, handle that coat carefully – do you hear me? – its cashmere.

DELORES sighs.

DELORES I don’t want any trouble, Jack – my hands are tied. If the coat stays, you pay.

JACK More money?

DELORES It’s all about money, Jack.

JACK God, that’s depressing.

DELORES It’s the way it works.

AUDREY You are crazy.


JACK Alright alright alright.

DELORES A hundred and twenty-seven dollars.

JACK A hundred and twenty-seven? Jesus, I could buy another coat for that.

DELORES The price would be optimistic, if you wished (imitating JACK) genuine cashmere.

AUDREY laughs.

JACK Please don’t laugh.

AUDREY Don’t tell me what to do.

JACK (to DELORES) What time do you close?

SANDY enters.


JACK Hey, sissy. Did you have the goulash? Good, eh?

SANDY I’m a vegetarian now.

AUDREY laughs.

JACK (to AUDREY) Please don’t laugh.

SANDY Have you seen Terry?

AUDREY Not in a rat’s age.

SANDY Is that a no?


SANDY Anyway, I think he’s in the can puking his guts out. Hey I had a nice chat with Dad today.


SANDY He sounded great. Well, you know Dad.

AUDREY But he’s dead.

SANDY shrugs.

JACK Where’s Bob?

SANDY He’s on the table.

JACK peers.

SANDY See you….

SANDY exits.

AUDREY Your sister gets on my nerves.

AUDREY rolls her eyes.

JACK Do not roll your eyes at me. I will not be diminished. Look at that, look at that.


JACK She’s dragging my coat on the floor. (calling) Stop that. Delores, stop that.

DELORES Don’t do anything, Jack…. please don’t do anything.

AUDREY Jack, take your bloody fucking coat and let’s go.

JACK I don’t want to take my coat.

AUDREY You’re driving me crazy.

DELORES Is it my turn yet?

JACK laughs.

AUDREY (to DELORES) Its embarrassing to me that you’re here. I only do what I can. We have fun.

DELORES snorts.

AUDREY We do. We laugh

DELORES You laugh – I laugh with you

JACK Is nobody listening to me? Drat.

DELORES (to AUDREY) You used to give more.

JACK (crow-like) Caw kraa caw. Caw. Caw.

AUDREY (calf-like) Mmuuh möö. Möö.

JACK (crow-like) Caw. Caw.

AUDREY (calf-like) Möö. Mmuuh.

JACK (crow-like) Kraa.

These two speeches together:

AUDREY (calf-like) Möö. Möö. Möö. Möö. Mmuuuuuuuuuuuh.

JACK (crow-like) Caw. Caw. Caw. Caw. Caw. Caw. Kraaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.


JACK I can’t do this anymore.


JACK Möö möö caw caw möööööö caaaaaaaw. That.

AUDREY You’re crazy.

JACK Be that as it may.

HORST comes over.

HORST Is there a problem here?

JACK You’re fucking right there is. Nobody’s listening to me: I resent being diminished. That coupled with a general pervasive debilitating sense of disorientation. I’d say that was a problem – wouldn’t you?

HORST I’m generally not interested – generally – in your problems.

DELORES laughs.

JACK Who are you? Wait. Wait. I know you. See? This is exactly what I’m saying.

AUDREY You’re raving.

JACK Again? What a quagmire.

DELORES I know these people, boss – they’re trouble. Scary trouble.

JACK All scarred up and nowhere to go.

DELORES whispers in HORST’s ear.

HORST O? (to AUDREY & JACK) I presume you’ve come to dine….

AUDREY We’ve already eaten. It was very fluffy.

AUDREY laughs.

JACK It was.

HORST Good. So now you wish to retrieve your coat?

JACK No, I wish to leave it here.

HORST O I see, a joke. Very funny.

HORST does something very very frightening.

JACK Jesus, stop that. You’re scaring me.

HORST Yes, exactly.

DELORES laughs.

JACK I want merely to continue leaving my coat here – and later – at some other moment – to retrieve it.

AUDREY Take the bloody coat. Let’s just go.

JACK (to HORST) You render me speechless – as you’ll all agree: a rare occurrence. Would that generally register as a concern with you?

HORST Perhaps. Perhaps not.

JACK And your sudden and imminent death?

HORST Perhaps. Perhaps not.

AUDREY Jack! You’re mad.

JACK O, I’m sorry, was I speaking out loud?

HORST Delores, give this gentleman his coat and the freedom of the street.

JACK (to AUDREY) Do you love me now?


scene ten

AUDREY’s office. AUDREY is examining HUMPHREY. He is wearing a split hospital gown.

Bending over the examination table, AUDREY is looking up HUMPHREY’s rectum with a flashlight. She is wearing the medallion he gave her in the previous scene.

Meanwhile, outside the frame, a watching JACK….

AUDREY Bend a little lower please. Lower….

HUMPHREY Is this good. Ow.

AUDREY’S robust laugh.

AUDREY Just relax. Lower please…. O?

HUMPHREY Is it bad?

AUDREY Very complex.

HUMPHREY Is that bad?

As AUDREY pokes and prods, the medallion catches in his rectum.



AUDREY Watch a minute….

HUMPHREY Ow ow ow….

AUDREY Don’t move – the bloody medallion’s gotten stuck….

HUMPHREY I gave you that medallion.

AUDREY Well, I’m taking it back….

She pulls the medallion out.



The watching JACK suddenly exits only to immediately reappear. A ruckus, as JACK breaks in, with DELORES on his back.

JACK Stop hitting me.

DELORES You can’t come in here.

JACK You’re always blocking the door.

DELORES That’s my job, honey.

JACK Don’t you dare “honey” me.


HUMPHREY tries to hide his semi-nakedness.

JACK I have to talk to you.

DELORES I could take you down. I could take you down right now.

JACK I really really doubt it.


JACK We have to talk.

AUDREY At home? Later?

JACK Ha ha. That’s cute. You’re never home. Never. And I know you’re having an affair – a dreary word and a dreary world, the two – with him.


JACK (to HUMPHREY) Don’t dare deny it, you sleazy shitey scumbag. All protests are futile.

DELORES That’s crazy talk.

JACK Sad sad sad. I’m having a bad year and even singing doesn’t work anymore. And meanwhile you’re doing what with this – tacky tacky tacky – this….

JACK sneers.

JACK This…. person.

HUMPHREY I am a person.

JACK Shit up your ass. Ha. (to AUDREY) Admit it. Admit it admit it admit it.

AUDREY and HUMPHREY, a long look. Is it true?

JACK (to DELORES) What are you looking at?

DELORES Shut up.

JACK You shut up.

DELORES You shut up.


DELORES I’m taking you down. Right now.

JACK and DELORES fight.

SFX: More crashes and bangs.

DELORES renders JACK immobile.

JACK (to DELORES) Brute.

JACK picks himself up.

JACK Jesus, my head hurts. Please, please O don’t concern yourself – I’m alright, Jack. Whatever happened to kindness?

MITHROTH enters.

AUDREY & DELORES & HUMPHREY The Prince Mithroth.

JACK Drat. Fucking Mithroth.

MITHROTH O, Jack…. I am only myself.

A vulnerable AUDREY goes to MITHROTH.

AUDREY Daddy, I’m having such a hard time

MITHROTH There, there, I’m here now.

JACK (to MITHROTH) Why is it you’re everywhere I look?….

JACK pirouettes.

JACK He’s always here? Its Paris all over again. Its never stopped, never stopped. You two living together….

MITHROTH In Paris, Jack? Do you mean in Paris? Merely friends sharing a kitchen.

JACK And a bedroom.

MITHROTH Two bedrooms.

JACK Scars.

MITHROTH I am a Prince, Jack – and a virgin as well. If that’s any consolation….

JACK Aversion?

JACK’s pun is ignored by all.

JACK Nevermind this. You want to know something? It turns out I had had a dream. So what Audrey just said to me was just exactly what I had dreamt. Amazing? It goes on. Finally, naturally, we’re in a fussy mood, she and I and self-inflict damage on ourselves.

DELORES Audrey is fabulous. Fabulous.

AUDREY smiles winningly at DELORES.

DELORES Jack is nothing. Washed up has-been. Not just my opinion – her’s too.

JACK (to AUDREY) Is that true?

AUDREY nods.

JACK Blood. Misery. Pain. Degradation. Humiliation. Misery – O I said that already.

MITHROTH I am so so sorry it has all come to this impasse. A pity. It was better at the beginning. I need more delectable and delicious detail.


MITHROTH Please, Jack, please please please. Please please please please….

JACK (to AUDREY) This has to be told. (to MITHROTH) Audrey slashes her ankle. I stick my blade into my arm – lucky me, I hit an artery. The paramedic is forthcoming and less than sympathetic. You stupid stupid people, she said. I had to agree. Scar poxed.

DELORES This is all wrong. He’s telling the story wrong.

JACK You weren’t there.

DELORES If I had been, I’d have taken you down.

JACK But you weren’t there, were you? And you didn’t, did you? You know what? It’ll never be as good again. I remember you when you were less…. unkind. We used to be friends, you and I. (to MITHROTH) Anyway, enough detail?

MITHROTH Not bad. You know, Jack, I’ve come to think despite all your ravings – this has to be said – I suspect you know nothing of truth.

JACK Ya? When I look into your eyes I can see what you’re going to say next.


JACK I can see your dialogue written right there. (as MITHROTH) You mean – what do you mean?

MITHROTH You mean – what do you mean?

AUDREY I am having an affair with Humphrey.


AUDREY I love him.



HUMPHREY I’m so so…. moved. You dear sweet person.

AUDREY You dear sweet person.


JACK What confused consternated crap. What is it?

AUDREY Humphrey is sensitive.

JACK I’m sensitive.

AUDREY He’s considerate.

JACK I’m considerate.

AUDREY He’s caring.

JACK I’m caring.

AUDREY He’s passionate.

JACK This is stupid. Don’t, for god sake, don’t. Don’t do this. Why? Tell me that at least. Stay. I’ll cook only Italian all the time. Just Italian. Classic mezzogiorno. No more experiments.

AUDREY I hate your cooking.

MITHROTH Never explain, Audrey.

JACK is beside himself.

JACK I’ll get lawyers. You’ll wish you’d never been born.

AUDREY I already do.

JACK sighs.

AUDREY We wanted too much of each other

JACK But that’s what love is. That’s exactly what love is. Its a whole package…. That’s it, a whole package. A whole bloody package. What a quagmire.

JACK silently leaves.


scene eleven

AUDREY’s office. A discrete collection of model Eiffel Towers. AUDREY stands, contemplating a large medical drawing, a cutaway of a rectum.

JACK enters.


JACK Audrey.

AUDREY How surprising to see you.

JACK Why not?

AUDREY Why not indeed.

JACK looks at the medical drawing.

JACK Interesting….

AUDREY A trifling post-conceptual rendering.

JACK But large.

AUDREY Yes. So goes the scale, so goes the mind.

JACK looks out the window.

JACK I feel so disoriented – I’ve lost my way – the town seems different somehow.

AUDREY Demonstrate, please.

JACK More mountains. And more scars on said mountains. Drat. And why is this? I am distressed, again anxious. A veritable quagmire.

AUDREY Poor dear thing.

JACK picks up an Eiffel model.

JACK This one?


JACK I believe it was the first.

AUDREY Was it?

JACK Yes. Bought on the Boulevard Saint-Jacques.

AUDREY The day François promoted you to souschef.

JACK Yes. We had such a lovely time.

AUDREY In Paris?


AUDREY Yes. My work at the Sorbonne. Life was powerful then.

JACK Yes. Now sad.


JACK I will not be diminished by anything less that the truth. I wish to be loved.

AUDREY You dear mad thing.

JACK I will hardly accept such rendering of my fragile social persona.

AUDREY is wearing the HUMPHREY medallion; JACK notices it.

JACK What is that, pray tell?

AUDREY What, dearest?

JACK That medallion – I do not recall it.

AUDREY This? It’s nothing.


JACK sighs.

JACK I know you don’t love me anymore – what am I to do?

SFX: Loud car crash.

JACK turns, terrified, towards the sound.

Suddenly, AUDREY is in great pain. She clutches her midriff.

JACK What’s this? What’s this?


JACK Digestion?

AUDREY Not. A possibility has been suggested by The Prince Mithroth…. I wish you liked The Prince Mithroth.

JACK His diagnosis, please.

AUDREY Inflamed gall bladder.

JACK Where is this gall bladder? Demonstrate please.

AUDREY Attached to the liver.

JACK How dark and confusing.

AUDREY There. There…. its passed.

JACK Good. Still….


JACK Dust, nothing but dust.

AUDREY How nice – you remember Mr Eliot. I must, I must go. A surgery to perform.

AUDREY exits.

JACK weeps.

JACK Bitter tears

SANDY appears, carrying a swaddled BOB.

SANDY You did good, Jack. You stood up to her.

JACK I will not be diminished, Sandy.

SANDY I know. Here, hold Bob.

JACK nuzzles Bob.

JACK I love this.

SANDY It’s Terry’s favourite thing too.

JACK You think I did good?

SANDY nods.

JACK Then why do I feel so bad? Poor me, poor me, ever the jealous brooder. A sink full of wet socks. What to do but wring them out and hang them to dry? Spilling the lentils. The sound of it. O fuck, I say. Well, wouldn’t you?

SANDY Jack. Dear Jack. Jack Jack Jack – I know I would.

JACK smiles.

JACK Would you?

SANDY Of course.

JACK, a sigh, a moan.

JACK I’m fading fast, sissy. Dear Jack says you, poor Jack says I, but, hey, a life definitely on the wane. O man. O man. I go to her office, I confront her, I express my pain. All the time I’ve wasted. Always Audrey. (as AUDREY) After all these years, Jack, you poor slob, what can be left between us? (as HIMSELF) Always Audrey. Only Audrey.

JACK, a small sob. BOB joins in. SANDY tries to take BOB – JACK gently but firmly holds onto the child.

JACK (to BOB) You dear little thing.

JACK looks at BOB; hugs him.

JACK (to SANDY) And I am, yes I am a poor slob – and that’s what’s left and that’s the very point. It’ll never be as good again, Sandy. Never. A package of shite. That’s it, that’s it exactly…. a package of shite.


JACK Drat.





scene twelve

A prison camp. JACK, AUDREY and HUMPHREY in the yard. Is it raining? Or just a mean and bitter drizzle?

HORST, the commandant, and CURLY, a soldier, enter.

CURLY Attention, attention prisoners. Line up for inspection. Now now now – you can do better than that mealy slugged-faced fucking moronic shit for brains beasts of the rectum fucking shites.

JACK groans.



HUMPHREY Yes, Doctor.

HORST (to HUMPHREY) Your personal hygiene is disgusting.

HUMPHREY Yes, Doctor.

HORST No food for this man for two days.


HORST (to JACK) You. I don’t like the glint in your eyes.



HORST Beat this man.

AUDREY No, Doctor, don’t.


JACK What she means is – ah….


JACK I know what – there’s been a small error.

HORST An error?

AUDREY We shouldn’t actually be here.

CURLY laughs.

HORST (to CURLY) Shut up.


HORST indicates AUDREY’s medallion.

HORST What is that?

HORST tears the medallion from her neck.


HORST (reading) The fear of everything is love.

HORST scoffs.

HORST I don’t think so. Pathetic.


HORST No, less than pathetic – pathetic would be an achievement for you.

HORST spits in AUDREY’s face.

HORST Where did you get this?

AUDREY He gave it to me.

HORST indicates JACK.

HORST This one?


AUDREY No…. him.

HORST No food – three days.


AUDREY We are not the people you think we are.

HORST No? Aha….

AUDREY We’re Audrey and Jack.

JACK Harmless.

AUDREY Perfectly harmless.

JACK A smidge complicated.

AUDREY But who isn’t.

HUMPHREY That’s so very interesting. I was thinking that very same thing earlier today. Your hospitality, Doctor, allows me much and plenty time to think. I’ve discovered my life isn’t always what I thought it was. Can you believe it?

HORST Beat this man.


JACK I hate this.


JACK And there’s always new people – everywhere I look I see new people – and I don’t know them and I don’t want to know them. Does that make me a bad person?

AUDREY If only we could get a message to The Prince Mithroth.

JACK I can’t bear this anymore. I feel so disoriented. I can’t wait, I don’t want to wait, I’d rather die. Drat. This, this is a quagmire.

The sun is large as it suddenly sets. Very large. Very stunning.

HORST and CURLY turn to admire the setting sun; they are captivated by the sight.

HORST Beautiful, simply beautiful.

CURLY So so beautiful.

JACK Here’s our chance to escape.

HUMPHREY Take me with you.

BABY JACK appears.

BABY JACK And me. Please take me – please – if you would be so gracious and forever kind.

JACK It’s Baby Jack.

BABY JACK How are you, my dear benevolent generous sir.

JACK (to HUMPHREY) Scoop up the kid and let’s boot it.

HUMPHREY scoops up little BABY JACK; they run fast and far. Eventually they are on a city street.

AUDREY Which way should we go?

JACK I don’t know. I don’t know this place. I feel so disoriented.

HUMPHREY I’m going to wait at that bus stop.

BABY JACK A most excellent plan; I agree completely.

AUDREY Bus stop?

HUMPHREY The two of us, we’ll just blend right in. What could be more natural than a man and a baby?

AUDREY A bad idea.

JACK Very bad.

BABY JACK We simply don’t concur – surely a most reasonable product of discourse? – and that is that. A pity but regrets, ah yes, regrets, I’ve had some few. Still, one must go on….

HUMPHREY The bus stop is a perfectly sensible idea.

AUDREY Jack, do something.

JACK shrugs.

Suddenly a truck screeching to a halt. SFX: truck breaks, noisy.

JACK and AUDREY hide behind a potted plant.

CURLY and HORST jump out. HUMPHREY panics, drops BABY JACK, and runs.

CURLY Hey, stop. Stop.

HORST Nevermind – kill him.

SFX: Machine gun fire.

CURLY shoots the fleeing HUMPHREY who falls horribly dead.

AUDREY & JACK O my god.

BABY JACK And me? What of me? What of poor dear little innocent me? Am I to die in the street as if a impoverished persecuted plague ridden god-forsaken rodent?

HORST (to CURLY) This one, this one I want to keep.

AUDREY & JACK O my god.

JACK and AUDREY turn and run.

JACK Which way?

AUDREY What about those woods?

JACK Where?


JACK O you are clever.

AUDREY Act natural.

JACK O ya, like I’m feeling really natural.

AUDREY Let’s not run.

JACK But I want to run.

AUDREY Put your arm around me.

JACK I’ve forgotten how.

AUDREY Shush….

JACK and AUDREY reach the woods and hide.

JACK O my god – look.

HORST is lurking about at the fringes of the woods.

JACK This was a stupid place to hide.

AUDREY O ya, right – and we had a whole lot of choice.

JACK Paris would’ve been a better choice.

AUDREY smiles.

AUDREY Shush….

HORST is just in front of JACK and AUDREY – he doesn’t see them.

JACK jumps out and tackles HORST. They struggle.

HORST You…. will regret…. this….

JACK Audrey…. Audrey…. kick him in the balls.

AUDREY Jack, what a horrible thought.

JACK O I’m sorry, was I speaking out loud?

AUDREY laughs as she attacks HORST. HORST falls back, gasping in pain. JACK kills him with a large rock.

JACK Wow….

JACK falls over.

AUDREY Jack, what’s wrong?

JACK He cut me. Here….

JACK points to his thigh.

JACK Is it bad?

AUDREY Pretty bad.

JACK Drat, disorientation suddenly seems a nothing problem compared to this.


JACK You are kind to me

AUDREY No I’m not. Now be quiet.

JACK Tell me a story.

AUDREY Do you remember when we met?

JACK No. Yes. No.

JACK winces in pain.

AUDREY At that party. After finals. You came up to me and said: you’re the only one here I don’t know.

JACK I did, didn’t I?

AUDREY And then we spent the night under the dining room table.


AUDREY So many years ago.

JACK A lifetime ago.

AUDREY I’ve never loved anyone else.

AUDREY & JACK (singing softly) Clang, clang, clang went the trolley
Ding, ding, ding went the bell
Zing, zing, zing went my heartstrings
From the moment I saw you I fell….

CURLY enters.

CURLY (calling off) Where’s the Commandant?

ANOTHER SOLDIER (off) I saw him go into the woods.

CURLY (calling) Hello…. Hello…. (calling off) Cover me….

CURLY enters the woods.

CURLY Hey, I see them….

JACK covers his face as explosions firestorms shrapnel as well as general impaling and uncontrollable spasms engulf the stage.


scene thirteen

JACK’s kitchen. Early morning – the sun is just about coming up.

JACK enters, carrying a goldfish bowl.

The lights go out.

JACK Drat – what happened to the lights?

JACK, flashlight in hand, looks about the kitchen.

The kitchen is filled with various and many goldfish bowls; some of the fish are quite large though this may be a distortion due to the extreme curvature of the glass.

JACK (shouting) We have to protect the fish from the cat. If we had a cat….

Suddenly JACK rushes to gently pick up a fish.

JACK How did this get here?

A tear from JACK. Is it still alive?

AUDREY enters, dressed in a power suit.

AUDREY What happens?

JACK I don’t know.

JACK puts the fish in the water – it floats on the top.


JACK I don’t think so. O wait – its mouth is moving.


JACK looks at AUDREY – a pained look.

AUDREY Good. Well, I’m off.

AUDREY exits.

JACK (quietly) Will you be home for dinner?

SFX: A slashing whirling noise off.

AUDREY laughs, off.

JACK What?

AUDREY (off) You’re going to want to deal with this.

In a flap and a flurry, JACK exits to the garden. One of the salient features: layers of giant hedges. HORST and CURLY are cutting and slashing the hedges.

JACK Excuse me.


JACK (shouting) Excuse me.


JACK (shouting) Hey….

CURLY and HORST stop.

JACK What the fuck?

HORST Please refrain from foul language, sir.

JACK I’ll say exactly what I fucking well want to.

HORST I would advise you not.

HORST advances on JACK.

JACK This is my property. I advise you to shove your tongue up you rectum.

CURLY What did he say?

HORST I won’t repeat it.

CURLY Hey, was that the wife? What a peach.

JACK is aghast; he is about to speak when SANDY enters (pulling BOB behind her in a little red wagon).

SANDY What are they doing, Jack?

JACK Just a minute – wait – I don’t know.

HORST These types of hedges, they’ll be trouble latter on.

CURLY Lovely specimens….

HORST But frankly planted too close.

CURLY Much too close together.

HORST Later this will be a problem.

CURLY A big problem.

HORST You’ll thank us for this.

CURLY They always do.

HORST You’ll thank us.

CURLY And you’ll pay us.

SANDY What should we do?

JACK shakes his head.

SANDY A hedge as old as the hills. Ugly, now. Pity….

CURLY It needed to be done.

SANDY We should do something. Should we call Audrey?

JACK No god no.

HORST and CURLY laugh and laugh.

SANDY We should do something.

JACK Stop stop stop stop what you’re doing.

CURLY Or what?

JACK pulls out his penknife.

JACK Or this.

HORST and CURLY laugh, the tears steaming down their faces.

SANDY Wait a minute. Terry has something better.

SANDY exits, with BOB.

HORST Is that the knife she stabbed you with?


HORST and CURLY laugh.

CURLY That Audrey person.


HORST Its not what we heard.

JACK I stabbed myself. Jesus….

CURLY While we’re talking we’re still on the clock.

HORST Paid by the hour.

JACK Not by me.

HORST Every second of your life that passes is gone – lost – forever.

CURLY The bill keeps getting bigger and bigger.

HORST An understanding will be required.

JACK Go. Go away. I don’t like you.

CURLY Boo hoo.

HORST Someone named The Prince Mithroth asked us to do this.

CURLY Or maybe it was the wife, eh?

JACK groans.

HORST You know this said The Prince Mithroth, do you, sir?

CURLY He told us to do this job.

HORST Then he run away.

CURLY He run far away.

HORST He run away into the night.

CURLY The deepest darkest night.

HORST Run run run run run away.

JACK I’m…. I’m I’m….

HORST sneers.

SANDY enters with a massive automatic weapon. A bazooka?

CURLY and HORST laugh.

SANDY I’ll take care of this, Jack. Stand back….

HORST More trouble, eh, Curly.

CURLY Always trouble, Horst.

HORST It follows us wherever we go.

SANDY cocks the weapon.

JACK O for god’s sake, Sandy, be careful.

HORST Yes, be careful, little woman.

SANDY Get out. Now.

SFX: SANDY fires off a burst.

CURLY The woman’s crazy.

HORST But I like her style.

CURLY We’re not finished.

HORST Not even close.

CURLY First, we’re going to do the work here.

HORST Then we’re going to do this little woman’s house.

CURLY Take it right down to the ground?

HORST That’s it – take it right down to the ground.

CURLY I’d like that. I’d really like that. I’d really really really really really like that.

HORST And then let’s crush that little baby Bob while we’re at it.

CURLY Ya, Let’s get rid of that Bob.

CURLY & HORST Oink oink oink.

CURLY and HORST laugh.

SANDY Take that…. and that….

SANDY shoots CURLY and HORST. SFX: Many gunshots. CURLY and HORST scream and fall dead. A messy affair.

SANDY You did good, Jack. You stood up to them.

JACK I don’t know.

SANDY You’re a brave man, Jack.

JACK I suppose….

SANDY I love you for it.

Police sirens in the distance.

SANDY Ugly, now. Poor hedge.

The lights come on.

JACK O, the power’s back.

The lights go out.

JACK Drat. What happened to the lights?

SFX: Loud car crash.

JACK turns, terrified, towards the sound.




scene fourteen

JACK (off) Forget it, just forget it, Sandy.

Daytime. JACK’s large sunny kitchen. A large collection of colourful Eiffel Tower models squirreled here and there.

Bowls of goldfish – there are many such now in the kitchen.

JACK enters with a goldfish bowl. He puts down the bowl, opens a window and yells outside.

JACK (calling off) OK, I’m listening.

SANDY (off) Terry took the message.

JACK (calling off) What did she want? Her freedom?

SANDY (off) The message was: no message.

BOB cries.

SANDY (off) There there, you dear little piggy poo.

JACK & SANDY Oink oink.

JACK (calling off) Is she coming back, you dear old thing?

SANDY (off) O I’m sure I don’t know, you dear old thing. That’s too complicated for me. (singing) I will not languish.

JACK joins her.

JACK & SANDY (singing) I will not laaaaaaang-guish.

BOB joins in.

JACK (calling off) Just a minute, just a minute…. when did Terry take the message?

SANDY (off) Was there a message?….

JACK (calling off) Just a minute….

JACK exits outside.


AUDREY enters with a few suitcases and a large package.


JACK enters with goldfish.

JACK Ah. You. Well. Well well – this is a surprise.

AUDREY Look what I brought you.

JACK For me?

JACK opens the package – it’s a very large skillet.

JACK O? And will it fit on the cooktop?

AUDREY I wonder….

JACK gets into the skillet. He washes the salad greens. AUDREY laughs her big laugh.

AUDREY What are you doing?

JACK I’m making a salad for dinys.

AUDREY Like that?

JACK I always make my salads like this.

JACK sighs.

JACK When I do anything. Mostly nothing I do nothing.

AUDREY O what are you talking about?

JACK And where have you been? You used to live here. Its all running down. To nothing much. Drat. What if its all like…. like a bloody uncooked haggis. I will not be diminished. (doing a Scottish voice) You lie to me, you lie to me all the time.

AUDREY O my god, you sound just like my father.

JACK (Scottish voice) You’ve been gone for months. Or is it days? I might have wanted to go with you.

AUDREY There’s my freedom to consider.

JACK Freedom…. freedom. There’s a punchline to that…. I forget it. Drat. O I remember – you used to be honest. I loved you for it. Now the crow may be singing instead of the calf.

AUDREY O shut up. If you’re looking for a reason, honey, this is it.

JACK Don’t call me “honey” if you don’t mean it.

AUDREY snorts.

JACK You used to….

AUDREY What now?

JACK Mean it. I felt that anyway.

AUDREY You used to be someone who wasn’t knock kneed crazy.

JACK O stop it. Look – my opinion….

AUDREY scoffs.

JACK Wait wait, I’m having an idea….

JACK picks up an Eiffel Tower.

JACK My opinion: Paris was a package.


JACK We were all together, of a thing, you and I and the rue Rivoli. And the metro and Chez François and everything. Every breath was a laugh.

AUDREY I don’t remember it like that.

JACK At least a chuckle? Work with me. Even fucking Mithroth had it right. Salad days. Lovely days. Paris was a package – that’s why we loved it. Its all about Paris. And the package, the whole package. That’s it – the whole package, you got to take the whole package. That’s it that’s it. There’s no substitution. The whole package. No. No no. No no no no. Don’t say anything – hear me out. I’ll lose my thread. Its like at a country auction. You bid a box, you bid on a box – its a lot. You bid on a lot – three bucks – and you take the whole box – lock stock and box. That’s it, mama. You have to take the whole package.

AUDREY I hated Paris.

JACK How could you? Paris was kindness.

AUDREY wavers, uncertain on her feet.

AUDREY What do you mean? Kindness? What do you mean?

JACK Kindness? Its the opposite of – what? – fear. What, what are you afraid of? It all started in Paris. Don’t you remember?

AUDREY I was never in Paris.

JACK The scar capital of France?….

AUDREY laughs. Suddenly, she collapses, blood dripping from the corner of her mouth.

JACK What? What?

JACK takes AUDREY in his arms.

AUDREY mumbles.

AUDREY Kindness….

JACK What?

AUDREY All those times I said I loved you…. all those times…. was I lying?


AUDREY You should’ve be kinder.

JACK Me? You, you’ve never been kind enough. No no, I can’t do this anymore.

AUDREY Dear O dear, its too late.

JACK It’s never too late.

AUDREY I think I meant it.

JACK About love?

AUDREY Or did I?

AUDREY dies.

SFX: Car crash, far in the distance.

JACK is in shock; he feeds the fish.




scene fifteen

JACK is standing in the foyer of a large art museum. We see a sign: THE LIFE OF AUDREY.

HUMPHREY and NATALIE enter. JACK rubs his hands gleefully.

JACK Humphrey and Natalie, thanks so much for coming by. I wanted you to be the first to see the exhibition.

NATALIE It’s not open yet?

JACK Not yet. Soon, though, and a jovial time it’ll be – I’m already having a good time.

HUMPHREY Well then I’m honoured. We both are….

JACK I thought it was important you see it. Give me your opinion….

NATALIE I’m sure we’ll love it – just as we loved Audrey.

JACK Thank you. (to HUMPHREY) You’ve been here before, haven’t you?

HUMPHREY Here? Yes, of course. An important art museum, this.

JACK Yes, I thought you’d say that. Come….

They enter the first room. Large photographs of a young AUDREY.

NATALIE O, she’s so young.

HUMPHREY Is it all arranged chronologically?

JACK It might be.

NATALIE So sweet…. especially this one is so sweet.

They stand in front of a photo of AUDREY; her first communion. She is dressed in white.

JACK Her first communion.

SFX: Liturgical music.

HUMPHREY Yet there is something – what is it? – something in the eyes.

JACK Excellent of you to notice. The glint. Hard light, the bride of Christ.

HUMPHREY Yes, quite….

JACK Yes, quite.

NATALIE Is that a scar under her eye?

JACK That? Just some dirt

JACK wipes the photo.

NATALIE It’s still there. It looks like a cut.

JACK Naw, it’s just a blemish on the photo. Nevermind. And this one….

They stand in front of an another photo – A teenaged AUDREY on a railroad bridge.

JACK She was obsessed with bridges.

NATALIE Was she?

JACK Yes. Afraid to be on them – afraid to ignore them. Something about juxtaposition.

HUMPHREY O? Interesting.

NATALIE Is that why she’s hanging – O my god can you believe it? – by one hand.

HUMPHREY Did she fall?

JACK Fall?

HUMPHREY After the picture was snapped.

JACK O? No. She let herself down slowly with just one arm.

HUMPHREY Impressive.

JACK A human being is a genius while truly engaged, fearless strong and brave.

NATALIE Her legs are all scared.

JACK Yes, so many scars in this life.

NATALIE Did she fall…. some other time?

JACK She never said. Well, enough of that. Come to the next room – there’s still much more.

They enter the next room. They stand in front of a picture of AUDREY and MITHROTH.

NATALIE Who’s that?

JACK Ah yes – Audrey’s long mysterious connection with Mithroth.

NATALIE The Prince Mithroth?

JACK Fucking Mithroth. She was always on about him. The Prince Mithroth wouldn’t like that. The Prince Mithroth couldn’t justify this. The Prince Mithroth always buttered his bread on the left side. The Prince Mithroth never jumped if he could hop. The Prince Mithroth was a friend of the poor and lonely. Especially the lonely.

HUMPHREY Was he an old lover of her’s? The first perhaps?

JACK I never knew for sure. I never asked. When she was working at the Sorbonne, she lived with him. Shared a flat. All I remember is tea, of course. Tea, bloody tea. Tea all the time tea. Here he’s looking for paper to write her phone number. But everything there was already used – not even a scrap available. They were so upset. Eventually he wrote it on his hand. You can just see it if you look closely.

HUMPHREY and NATALIE peer at the photo.

NATALIE Right…. you can just make it out. Regent seven, three something something two. The scar seems bigger here. From her communion, the same scar only bigger. See that penknife.

JACK Where?

NATALIE On the table. Is that what caused the scar?

JACK I don’t know. Yes. Yes, they’re over here – her’s and mine.

They move to the penknife case.

HUMPHREY And beautiful objects they are too.

JACK Not bad. They’re Croatian army issue.

NATALIE You mean: Swiss.

JACK No, we couldn’t afford those. I’m sick of this room – let’s move on. Coming, Humphrey?….


They enter the next room. They stand in front of a picture of naked AUDREY and naked HUMPHREY routinely rutting.

NATALIE is shocked.


JACK I thought you’d find it interesting. Not really porno. More like cheesecake.

JACK laughs.

JACK In and out in and out. Groaning and moaning. I love you I love you I love you. Humpty Dumpty humping Humphrey.

JACK laughs.

HUMPHREY How how did you get this picture?


JACK Being invisible can be very very advantageous.

NATALIE Invisible?

JACK I’ll teach you sometime. Old Tibetan technique. Ha.

JACK laughs.

NATALIE This is horrible.

JACK Quite right. (to HUMPHREY) Every bloody ejaculation you had scarred me. Me.


JACK And you too. Sure, why not? Why should you be exempt? All we do is give each other scars. The realization, horrible that it is, that she is lying, lies, was lying to me all all the time.

AUDREY IN MEMORY I said I was at the office, but I was at a conference.

JACK IN MEMORY And you didn’t tell me. I might have wanted to go.

AUDREY IN MEMORY I don’t have to be everywhere with you.

JACK IN MEMORY There’s a punchline somewhere here, but I forget it.


JACK What good is it?

HUMPHREY Is that the punchline?

JACK Not yet. I wanted her to accept my scars but I never would accept her’s. Drat. Unkind of me.

HUMPHREY Is that the punchline?

JACK You have to take the whole package, take your fictions – match your fantasies. That’s the punchline. God, you know, I just thought of something. I always wanted her to take the whole package – but I never did myself. What was I thinking? The whole package, taking the whole package, that thing, that thing works both ways. Its a two way street, brother. And it never occurred to me – imagine. Drat. Too late now, eh? Let’s move on, shall we?

NATALIE Is there?…. more?….

JACK Cheesecake? No, that’s done.

HUMPHREY But maybe we’ve had enough…. of this.

JACK Apparently you never do.


JACK Have enough. Ha.

NATALIE I don’t feel well.

JACK No no, finish the tour – please please please. I promise you’ll love the last room.

They enter the last room. A large photo of dead AUDREY.

JACK Just moments after.

NATALIE It’s horrible. The blood….

NATALIE falters.

JACK Death – the final scar.

AUDREY IN PHOTO Is that about kindness? About being kind? Is that what you mean?

JACK IN PHOTO Kindness? What? What are you afraid of?

Suddenly, AUDREY IN PHOTO collapses, blood dripping from the corner of her mouth.

AUDREY IN PHOTO Dear O dear. It’s too late.


JACK So…. the final question: is it worth the tour?

HUMPHREY Is any life ever worth it?

NATALIE cries.

JACK O dear. I’m so sorry, Natalie. Inadvertent scars are the worst. The very worst. I’m so sorry. Here, take my hand….


scene sixteen

In a large supermarket; everywhere lovely piles of colourful foods – parsnips, oranges, tomatoes, kale.

JACK, holding a sleeping BOB, is raving at SANDY.

JACK Who was it who always said: she’s looking for you?

SANDY That was me, Jack, me – your sister.

JACK Yes, that’s right. She was pissed off. Hurt. Why? I was at home, always at home. She knew where to reach me. She could have called. I’m not even sure I now know who she was. After all those years. And for what? Dear O dear. Regret, nothing but regret now. I feel so disoriented.

SANDY Poor Jack.

SANDY takes his hand.

JACK What I thought I would do. Books I would read. The War and Peace syndrome. Books I would write.

SANDY Cookbooks?

JACK Gushy fiction.

SANDY How clever you are. Terry thinks so too.

JACK My life is like being on the beach. Waves pounding in on me. The singing crow instead of the calf. If you could change one thing from your past, one single thing? What would you choose? Me, I’d be smarter about who I marry.

SANDY Everybody says that.

JACK shrugs.

Suddenly, across the supermarket JACK sees MITHROTH arm in arm with HUMPHREY.

JACK O my god – it’s him. And that other guy….

SANDY Who, Jack, who?

JACK Fucking Mithroth…. and bloody Humpty-Dumpty. What a quagmire.

SANDY You mean over there in front of the zucchinis?

JACK is speechless – he nods.

SANDY Didn’t I meet them somewhere?

SANDY starts to peer – JACK pulls her down behind the oranges.

JACK Don’t look, don’t look – I don’t want them to see me.

SANDY That’s so sad.

BOB wakes up; starts to cry. JACK is startled; he knocks over the oranges which roll everywhere.

JACK O god, we have to keep him quiet – I don’t want them to come over. (to BOB) There there, you dear little piggy – Uncle Jack is here.

BOB stops crying.

JACK Fucking Mithroth. I wish he would get Heartgohighhigh and be really sick and puke all over himself and bleed from his eyes. And Humphrey too, why not?

SANDY O, Jack….

JACK I am horrible.


JACK But I will not be diminished. I used to be a chef.

SANDY And a great chef.

JACK And a great chef – I’ll give you that – and then – suddenly – nothing.


JACK Audrey.

SANDY She was always difficult.

JACK Well it works both ways – I wanted her to take me as I was but did I accept everything she was? No. O my god. Wait a minute wait a minute I get it I get it. What was I thinking? I am diminished. Totally bloody fucking diminished. Drat drat drat drat drat. Diminished and scarred as bloody hell – and scary to boot. And nobody to blame but me.


scene seventeen

On a busy city street. Afternoon. A hint of snow in the air.

JACK, dressed like a conquistador, waits at a bus stop.

JACK (singing) I will not languish. I will not laaaaaaang-guish.

HUMPHREY – driving by in his car – stops when he sees JACK.

HUMPHREY Hey, great…. It’s you, right?

JACK What?

HUMPHREY That’s it – well put – what’s up? Like it, like it a lot. What’s up, Jack, what’s up? What’s up? What’s up what’s up?

JACK Do I know you?

JACK knows darn well who he is.

HUMPHREY It’s me…. Humphrey.

JACK Humphrey?

HUMPHREY The pilot. The one who crashed on your street.

JACK Right. The pilot. Right. Humping Humphrey. Humpty Dumpty Hamster Wamster Humphrey. Why should I talk to you?

HUMPHREY Saw a fellow by the side of the road – thought I’d stop.


HUMPHREY I’m sorry I’m sorry…. I am bad. I am. Bad bad bad. Nobody likes me. My life has fallen apart. Everything I touch, dies.

JACK Ya, right, well, ya, we all have problems.

HUMPHREY (between the tears) Going somewhere?

JACK What?

HUMPHREY (between the tears) You’re at a bus stop. So I figured….

JACK Got to catch a plane. If ever there was a bus, which there isn’t and anyway, got to catch a plane.

HUMPHREY Where to?

JACK Paris.


JACK Someone I was. Want to be again. Or something.

HUMPHREY I’ve been feeling like that too.

JACK Everyone does – it’s the curse.

HUMPHREY (tears) Except I don’t know where to go.

JACK I learnt how to cook in Paris. God, that was good. Those were great times.

HUMPHREY Always got to help a man get to Paris. Article of faith. Pop on in – I’ll give you a lift.

JACK Beyond salvage.

HUMPHREY Why, when’s the flight?

JACK looks at his watch.

JACK Three minutes ago. Drat. What a quagmire.


JACK You know, you can never start out too early. Man O man O man – my enthusiasm is running way down.

HUMPHREY Ha. Well then – why not? – let’s go for a coffee. Have a chat.

JACK sighs.

JACK May as well – life is shorter by the minute.

JACK gets in the car.

They drive around.

HUMPHREY You seem quiet.

JACK You don’t really know me.

HUMPHREY But I’d like to.

JACK Truth, old Humphrey, I’m feeling distracted.

HUMPHREY As if your life has become a very particular sort of unrecognizable fiction?

JACK Pretty darn accurate – how did you know that?

HUMPHREY Just lucky. Here’s a good place.

They park in front of a big complex housing a number of restaurants.

HUMPHREY That place up there.

JACK It’s a bar.

HUMPHREY Too early for you?

JACK Sure. Why not? Wait, I know this place. Its Chez Zuzu. I thought it was somewhere else.

DELORES bars the entrance.

DELORES Private party.

JACK Delores – hey it’s me, Jack.

DELORES I know it’s you, Jack. Chez Zuzu is now forever closed to you. No trouble, Jack. Please, no trouble.

HUMPHREY Bloody hell.

DELORES I’ll thank you not to be abusive.

HUMPHREY You don’t know who I am, do you?

DELORES And I’m darn sure not interested.

HUMPHREY God, you sound just like me. We could be friends.

DELORES I have more than enough friends already.

JACK laughs.

JACK Please, Delores – for old time sake? I could use a little pick-me-up this morning. Its cold – I could use my coat.

DELORES laughs.

DELORES Sorry, Jack. I wish I could.

HUMPHREY Do you? Do you? I don’t think so. You’re a bitch queen, that’s what you are – a bloody bitch queen.

DELORES cries.

JACK Jesus, Humpy – take it easy.

HUMPHREY Women and their tears – can’t take it. Never could. Reminds me too much of old Mum.

SANDY enters.

SANDY (to DELORES) O you poor thing.

SANDY puts her arm around DELORES.

JACK What’s happening, Jack?

JACK Where’s Bob?

SANDY Terry’s got him.

HUMPHREY I’ll tell you what’s happening – she won’t let us in – that’s what. Quite nasty about it.

SANDY Who are you?

JACK Humphrey, this is my sister, Sandy.

HUMPHREY But we’ve met.

SANDY I doubt it.

HUMPHREY Just like Old Mum. Buggers….

SANDY (to HUMPHREY) Be quiet. (to JACK) Is this about that damned penknife?

JACK Drat. How do you know about that?

HUMPHREY O we all know about that.

SANDY How could you, Jack?

JACK I didn’t do anything to Audrey.

HUMPHREY That’s not what I heard. I saw the scars.

SANDY You did it to yourself – its the same as doing it to her.

JACK She did it too.

HUMPHREY But did she?

SANDY Audrey can be very difficult but you all loved her. Anyway, loving isn’t owning. Look, I’ve got to go – got a date with Dad.

SANDY exits.

We see OLD BILL in the distance; BILL waves and is gone.

DELORES She’s nice, your sister.

HUMPHREY I can’t say I care much for her.

JACK Shut up.

DELORES Ya, shut up.

JACK takes DELORES’ hand

JACK It’s good to see you.

DELORES You too.

JACK We used to be good friends.


JACK What happened?

DELORES Life got in the way.

HUMPHREY It always does.


HUMPHREY I said: it always does.

They continue to ignore HUMPHREY.

DELORES I miss her. That laugh…. I loved that laugh.


JACK nods.


DELORES Sometimes I hear it on the wind.

JACK That’s sweet.

HUMPHREY Isn’t it interesting you say that. I was thinking….

DELORES: a hard look at HUMPHREY.

DELORES (to JACK) Be careful.



DELORES I don’t trust him.

HUMPHREY Me? How can you say that about me?

DELORES I got a bad feeling.

JACK Thanks, Delores. Thanks.


HUMPHREY and JACK exit to the car.

JACK Well, that was sort of good.

HUMPHREY Merely mundane. You see a lot of that these days.

JACK Look Humphrey, I’ve had just about enough of you. I’m going….

HUMPHREY O no don’t – we’re getting on so well.


JACK I don’t think so.

HUMPHREY I’m famished. We could go to L’Express. The poulet au citron is utterly fabulous these days.

JACK It’s Jean-Jacques’ secret saffron source.

HUMPHREY So I’ve been told. Uses grappa to marinate the bird….

JACK Alright, let’s go. But I have to drive.

HUMPHREY O? Can’t do that, I’m afraid. Can’t do that. This is a prototype, this is a special – a very special – automobile. I’ve promised my mechanic chap I would be the only one who drove it. Sort of a family heirloom in waiting if you get my drift. Sorry….

JACK I have to drive.

HUMPHREY But its left hand drive. You know, the opposite of the right hand drive. Which – if your stop to consider it – is dashed confusing. Cause left hand drive is on the…. right hand side of the car. Which is rum and confusing also. Dashed confusing. And then there’s the question of pedals. Because they don’t seem to be reversed. They’re the same whether they’re on the right or on the left. Or are they?

JACK I have to drive.

HUMPHREY sighs; he tosses the keys to JACK.

JACK Which one is the break pedal again?

HUMPHREY grimaces. They drive.

JACK This is fun. I can see why everybody does it. I’ll tell you something for nothing, old Humph. Revenge is never never sweet. Never never sweet. Somehow, now, there’s no point to it. All I can feel is everything I’ve lost. Drat. Could I ever get it back again?, that’s the question. That’s why I was going to Paris. And the answer is….

HUMPHREY Hey wait – can’t concentrate – this is the wrong direction to L’Express.

JACK O? No problem. Easy to fix. Today, everything’s easy to fix.

JACK does an illegal U-turn.

HUMPHREY Are you crazy?

JACK Relax…. (singing) I will not languish. I will not laaaaaaang-guish.

SFX: Screeching of breaks; a speeding car hits in the middle of the turn; an ugly nasty noisy crash.

JACK is killed; he is covered in scars and blood.

HUMPHREY O my god – he’s dead. And they’re all going to blame me. You’re all going to blame me. I didn’t cause these scars. And the blood. Blood. It wasn’t me. I wasn’t even driving. I wasn’t even driving. Dear O dear O god O god.




scene eighteen

Evening. Chez Zuzu.

Bustle and noise. The occasional snatch of singing. Its all very familiar.

JACK and AUDREY enter.

JACK I don’t like this place any more.

AUDREY laughs, full and rich.

AUDREY We always come here.

JACK But now I only see its flaws: vast disconglomerated nothingness, lacking in true variety.

AUDREY Disconglomerated?

AUDREY chuckles.

JACK And brutal management and bloody hot.

AUDREY Take off your bloody coat.

JACK Ya? No. Once they almost destroyed it – I won’t give them the satisfaction.

AUDREY It’s summer, Jack.

JACK I love this coat.

AUDREY sighs.

JACK O well, it’s just a coat.

JACK takes off his coat, throws it on the floor.

AUDREY is surprised, then impressed.

They sit at a table.

A folksinger, off, croons through an early Bob Dylan song.

FOLKSINGER (HUMPHREY) (off) How many roads must a man go down
Before you call him a man?
How many roads?
How many roads?
How many roads?

AUDREY O my god – that folksinger….

JACK I hate folk music.

AUDREY It’s Humphrey.



JACK laughs.

JACK The evening is definitely picking up.

AUDREY Be nice. It’s my birthday.

JACK Don’t worry – I don’t mind if he’s out of tune.

AUDREY You’re acting strangely tonight.

JACK O, I don’t think so. Just same old bloody Jack.

JACK laughs.

AUDREY Ummmm?….

SANDY enters. She struggles to the table carrying a tray of tiny succulents and baby BOB in a carrier.

SANDY (calling) Hi there….

SANDY gives AUDREY the succulents.

SANDY Happy birthday, you dear old thing.

JACK And you brought Bob.

SANDY I brought Bob.

JACK Where’s Terry?

SANDY The poor thing – he feels crazy. (to AUDREY) He sends his love.

AUDREY That’s sweet.

JACK nuzzles BOB.

JACK Baby baby Bob, you’re such a baby baby darling.

SANDY Audrey? Would you like to nuzzle Bob?

AUDREY Ah…. ummmm….

MITHROTH enters.

AUDREY It’s The Prince Mithroth….

JACK Fu….fu…..fu….fu….


JACK Fu…. fu…. Fabulous Mithroth.

JACK laughs.


AUDREY Ha indeed. (calling) Prince Mithroth, Prince Mithroth. We’re over here.

MITHROTH waves and comes to the table.

MITHROTH Hello, hello all…. I’ve brought no gift. See? No gift. Why?, you ask. I’ll tell….

JACK Looking forward to it.

AUDREY glares at JACK.

JACK (to AUDREY) No I mean it.

MITHROTH Thank you, dear boy. First, I thought: only emeralds would do. But alas, the emerald market is deplorably depressed. Only pathetic, though admittedly greenish pebbles remain. So – instead – I brought you myself to do with as you will….


AUDREY How charming you are.

SANDY rolls her eyes and JACK laughs.

AUDREY Sit over here by me.

JACK Do you know my sister, Mithroth?

AUDREY (sotto voce to JACK) The Prince Mithroth.

JACK How could I have ever forgotten? Its The Prince Mithroth, Sandy.

MITHROTH I have not had the pleasure. O wait. O wait. I have had the pleasure. Both you and your Bob. I trust you’re both well.

SANDY I seem to remember, prince person, that you were in a boat?

MITHROTH O? Perhaps. Yes. Now, what’s the cuisine here?, might one ask.

MITHROTH raises his eyebrows.

MITHROTH Vitally continental?

SANDY I would call the menu here at Zuzu exactly standard plebeian bistro fare, prince person. Tasty…. if you’re hungry.

SANDY smiles at JACK.

MITHROTH O? Well said….

MITHROTH looks into SANDY’s eyes.

MITHROTH You know, I can see what you’re going to say next.

SANDY You mean – what do you mean?

MITHROTH I can see your dialogue written right there in your eyes.


MITHROTH I knew you were going to say that.

SANDY Did you now?

MITHROTH And that too.

SANDY Well then, in that case, apparently now the calf may be singing instead of the crow.

MITHROTH O? Wait. No. I didn’t see that.

MITHROTH peers into SANDY’s eyes.

MITHROTH No, it’s not there. Strange. What does it mean?- the crow thing what what what the singing calf.

SANDY I think Bob said it first, prince person. (to BOB) Didn’t you, little piggy.

MITHROTH Oink oink.


JACK glares at audrey.

JACK Let’s not have too many Bob jokes tonight, shall we?

MITHROTH Quite right. Now this crow thing, is it – perhaps? – the victory of violence? Better yet: the violence of hegemony?

JACK That’s very interesting, Mithroth – the crows over the calfs.

MITHROTH Exactly, dear Jack.

JACK Otherwise – dear O dear – and this becomes a revolution, it would mean it could mean: no more veal scaloppini.

MITHROTH Is that a tragedy?

SANDY Not if you’re a calf, prince person.

AUDREY laughs till tears come.

AUDREY That’s very funny, Sandy.

HUMPHREY enters, dressed in bell bottoms and carrying a guitar.

AUDREY Whatever are you wearing?

HUMPHREY Do you like it? Do you? You do, don’t you. I can tell.

JACK Humphrey, this is my sister, Sandy.

HUMPHREY We’ve already met – at your place. It was the day our house burnt down. (musing) Might have been the actual beginning of the end….

SANDY O yes…. did you rebuild?

HUMPHREY No, we just continued living in the rubble.


AUDREY And this is The Prince Mithroth.

JACK They’ve already met.

HUMPHREY The Prince Mithroth? O my goodness. This is…. so special.

JACK You’ve already met him.

MITHROTH And why not do it again, dear Jack, why not do it again? (to HUMPHREY) Now tell me – be honest now – did anything every come of that rectal business?


HUMPHREY (stammering) O, I say….

JACK O, leave him alone, you two. Let’s not have too many Humphrey jokes either.

HUMPHREY Ah, yes, thanks. Birthday time, birthday. (to AUDREY) A little birthday something.

HUMPHREY hands AUDREY a book.

HUMPHREY An autographed copy of the erotic stories of Anais Nin. Very lovely…. very – well, it must be said – erotic.


MITHROTH I knew her, of course.


SANDY What was she like?

MITHROTH Very stylish. Very vain. Very secretive. I believe one of those stories is about me.


JACK Very impressive.

MITHROTH – a little bow by way of reply.

HUMPHREY Do you like it? Is it just what you always wanted?

AUDREY’s fulsome laugh.

HUMPHREY Ah yes, funny, yes. But do you like it? Say you do.


MITHROTH So what exactly are you up to, Humphrey?

HUMPHREY I know this will sound strange, but I’ve had this vision – quite frightening really – and so I’ve decided to run away and embrace the bardic lifestyle.

SANDY What a fun idea.

AUDREY The bardic lifestyle? O, I see.

JACK Perfect. Just perfect.

MITHROTH I myself am not interested in such things. Anyway, I no longer have the voice for it.

SANDY Voice?

MITHROTH It’s all about singing, isn’t it, this bardic lifestyle? It always was when I was a lad.

MITHROTH sings Puccini, and quite good it is.

MITHROTH Best of luck, my dear fellow.

MITHROTH snaps his fingers. NATALIE comes over with champagne.

AUDREY Natalie?

NATALIE Hi everyone.

HUMPHREY Hello, Natalie.

NATALIE ignores him.

HUMPHREY Hello, Natalie.

NATALIE cries.

JACK O you poor thing. Here, sit down….

NATALIE Not only content to destroy my life and its innocent pleasures, this…. horny salacious lecherous…. hippy has given away all our money.


HUMPHREY It seemed wrong, suddenly – do you know what I mean? – to own things.

MITHROTH Dear girl, I can see we need our champagne now more than ever. I have ordered the Pol Roger – 1990. A dark vintage.

NATALIE pours the champagne.

MITHROTH Does everyone have a glass? You too, dear Natalie.


MITHROTH A toast to the Goddess – Audrey – you are more beautiful with each passing year. And also – I feel genuinely inspired to do this – also to little baby Bob – may he grow up to be worthy of his name.

SANDY (to BOB) Did you hear that, piggy-poo? Piggy-poo piggy-poo.

JACK That’s kind, Mithroth.

MITHROTH, a slight bow to JACK. They all clink and drink.


JACK and AUDREY laugh.

NATALIE And perhaps a book while you wait?….

NATALIE has a wagon filled with books. SANDY touches a few books.

SANDY I’m getting very hungry.

AUDREY Me too.

JACK Soon…. soon….

AUDREY But I’m hungry now.

JACK Wait a minute, can’t you?

AUDREY You never could plate up on time.

JACK If it’s worth waiting for….

MITHROTH Quite right, Jack.


MITHROTH Let’s have more of this fabulous champagne. Make it two more bottles, please, dear Natalie.

NATALIE Of course, Prince Mithroth….

Brushing HUMPHREY aside, NATALIE sets off.

JACK examines the books.

JACK Ah. Ha. This is a library full of scars.

AUDREY O shut up.

JACK Wait wait. I’ll show you a scar. All these books are by Anais Nin.

AUDREY Really?

MITHROTH Let me see that book.

MITHROTH examines the gift book.

MITHROTH Wait wait wait. This is decidedly not the Nin signature. I know her signature. This simply isn’t it. Wait wait wait. I know what our sly Humphrey’s done – he’s autographed the book himself, haven’t you, Humphrey?

HUMPHREY stammers.

JACK Well, when you’ve given away all your money what else can you do? (to AUDREY) That’s what I’m talking about – that’s a scar. (to HUMPHREY) You silly fool.

An embarrassed HUMPHREY looks out of the window.

HUMPHREY That big black cloud does seems rather large, doesn’t it? Or is it just me? Wait. Its…. crashed into that house. What? People running screaming. I feel very vulnerable at this moment. Very vulnerable. Its not a cloud at all. How could I have been so mistaken? Its…. its a giant fir tree and its fallen over. Now there’s fire. Flames. I shall never now never never survive.

NATALIE arrives with more champagne.

HUMPHREY That can’t be good.

NATALIE You’re a stupid stupid man.

NATALIE spits on HUMPHREY, who sobs quietly; BOB joins in.

JACK And that’s another scar….

SANDY There there, little piggy poo.

JACK Poor old Humpty-Dumpty.

JACK helps HUMPHREY to a chair.

JACK Humphrey, stop sniveling and sit down and join the party. I promise you – it’ll all be better.

HUMPHREY (between the tears) Will it?

JACK nods.

JACK Scars heal.

AUDREY rolls her eyes. In response: JACK rolls his eyes.

AUDREY Don’t you dare roll your eyes at me. I too – I too have genuine wounds and scars to show for it all.

AUDREY pulls up her pant leg.

JACK O ya, that one. Ya ya, that one – I’ve seen that one before.

AUDREY It bled.

JACK Ya, but not as much as mine.

JACK rips off his sleeve.

JACK I hit an artery – this one bled like a slaughtered bunny. The paramedic was less than sympathetic.

AUDREY I think she called us stupid.

JACK I had to agree.

AUDREY Maybe, I did too. Now this one….

AUDREY swivels to show her back.

AUDREY I did this one for you. Hard to reach….

JACK So, does that make it more important?

JACK takes off his shoe; shows the bottom of his foot.

JACK I did this one for you. Didn’t even use a mirror.

AUDREY hikes up her shirt.

AUDREY Now this – this – this one is a really ugly one.

SANDY Oooooo….

JACK What’s that?

AUDREY I fell out of a tree when I was seven.

JACK Yikes.

JACK lowers his pants.

JACK Me, this is the creme de la creme.

AUDREY That’s ugly. That’s really ugly.

JACK Is it the ugliest?

AUDREY Could be. So what is it?

JACK Can’t remember.

JACK and AUDREY laugh.

SANDY That was a Christmas scar, Jack. The tree fell on you.

JACK O goodness, I do remember. OK now, now its my turn.

JACK looks around the table, pleased. This is his place, his life.

MITHROTH More scars, Jack? Dear me, I don’t know if we’re up for it.


JACK No more scars. I propose a toast to my darling wife and her whole package – the good the bad and the ugly – you have to darn well take it all. Which is probably on a good day the kindest thing we can do. To Audrey and all that you are.

ALL To Audrey.

They clink and drink.

NATALIE Tried my best, I tried my best to be kind to the people I love…. or thought I loved.

SANDY puts her arm around NATALIE.

SANDY I’m always kind to the people I love. (to BOB) Aren’t I, little piggy poo?

BOB coos. JACK kisses SANDY on the forehead.

JACK Yes, you are.

MITHROTH Kindness is often overlooked in the fracas of our lives but it is worth something.

AUDREY I always wanted to be kinder. I did.

MITHROTH Never too late, my dear.


JACK No. Never too late.

AUDREY (to JACK) All those times I said I loved you…. all those times…. I thought I meant it – was I lying?

JACK About love?

AUDREY Or was I?

JACK Do it for me? Do it for me.

AUDREY Be kinder?

JACK Yes. It is a birthday after all – a new beginning.

AUDREY A birthday.

JACK Happy birthday.

AUDREY Thank you.

AUDREY’s full passionate laugh.

AUDREY Alright, now where’s that Bob. Give me that Bob. I’m going to nuzzle Bob.

JACK My my….

SANDY Did you hear that, little piggy? Aunt Audrey now loves you.

MITHROTH I’m – dare I say it? – I’m pleased. Can those be tears in my eyes?

JACK Prince Mithroth, you are a true hombre and a half. How could I have not seen it? Have a glass, you old thing, and let me tell you all about the life of the mind.

MITHROTH Delighted, dear boy.

AUDREY Can we eat now?….

JACK catches NATALIE’s eye; he nods.

NATALIE The menu for tonight: Oysters à la florentine, épigramme of mutton, and for dolce – our specialty – coquilles Saint-Jacques de François.

AUDREY claps her hands in delight.

AUDREY My absolute three favourite dishes. Jack. Memories of Paris…. and dear young sweet love.

JACK Happy Birthday.

AUDREY O Jack. I take it.

JACK The whole package, eh?

AUDREY Still sweet.

JACK and AUDREY kiss.


AUDREY takes JACK’s hand. Chez Zuzu to black; JACK and AUDREY to light.

JACK Look at you….

AUDREY Look at you….

SFX: Dance music. JACK and AUDREY dance.

Their waltz ends with hostilities – they pull viciously at each other’s noses.


AUDREY Stop that.

JACK You stop that.

AUDREY O shut up, and dance.

Again and again they dance.

AUDREY Zing zing.

JACK Zing zing zing zing zing….

AUDREY Went my heartstrings.

JACK & AUDREY I love you.

JACK Yes. Yes.

Falling in a heap, they laugh and laugh.

Till tears.



— Don Druick


DON DRUICK is an award winning playwright, translator & librettist, a baroque musician, and a gardener and chef.  In a career spanning more than 40 years, Don Druick’s plays have been produced on stage, radio and television in Canada, Europe, Japan, and the USA.  His publications include playtexts, translations and critical writings.  Publications of his plays, WHERE IS KABUKI? and THROUGH THE EYES, have both been shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Awards.  His current plays are: GEORGEVILLE (passion and poetry in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, 1816; the darkest night of Lord Byron), WILDEST DREAMS (a deconstructed narrative; something close to love amongst the elders), and a translation of Emmanuelle Roy’s play, LAZETTE. Druick lives in Elmira, a small Mennonite farming town near Waterloo Ontario, with artist Jane Buyers.

Mar 032013

Robert VivianAuthor photo: Tina Vivian

Numéro Cinq publishes plays; hardly any other magazine does. I suppose people imagine that it’s a kind of travesty to fix in print something that should be alive, incarnate on the stage with actors and actresses, gesture and expression. But when the play closes, the words lie dormant, unseen, unheard, inaccessible. On top of that, I think there is an audience of would-be dramatists and even ordinary readers who want to know what a play looks like written down, to get some idea of the mysterious process that runs through author to page to director to actor to stage to audience. To me plays really are mysterious, strange, stripped-down pieces of writing, for the most part minus the character thought that drives narrative fiction, often highly and obviously constructed; and with a play, one is always aware, haunted even, by the vast difference between the words on the page and the final product on the stage, re-imagined, enacted, through the minds and gestures of the actors, all those theatrical things that are not and can never be written down on the page.

So once again I am really pleased to offer NC readers a piece of theater, this time from Robert Vivian, a Nebraska boy who once played baseball in college and then turned to writing (a lot like baseball) and has produced a huge and growing oeuvre of novels, essays, and, yes, plays (actually, a lot of plays). A Little Mysterious Bleeding is a monologue and shares much with Vivian’s fiction and nonfiction prose in that he has a predilection for meditation, for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary, for large questions about existence, human nature and the puzzles of the heart. Vivian has a modernist bent; he seems to be writing about real people, but everything he writes tends to turn around a pattern of imagery. In this case, Chloe’s metonymic bleeding becomes the central image (symbol) of her struggle with the word “love.” It would be reductive to say that A Little Mysterious Bleeding is just the story of a woman trapped in a loveless marriage with a disappointed Harvard grad; rather, Vivian takes that premise and turns it inside-out like a sock and renders it mythic. But symbol and myth are equally grounded in deft characterization and precise psychological perception; the play flickers between the real and the symbolic. And the writing is mesmerizing: quotable line after quotable line.


Well, life as a playwright: Before I moved to Michigan 11 years ago, I was primarily working on plays, over 20 of which were performed in NYC. I also had several monologues in the 90s published in The Best American Monologue Series for men and women. Since moving to Michigan, though, I’ve focused primarily on creative prose in cnf and fiction. I’ve always loved theater but at a remove: I’ve never had any real interest in directing or acting. But to this day there’s nothing quite as electric as hearing one’s words spoken on stage with trained actors; it’s a kind of alchemy and music that I’ve never experienced in any other genre. I love the monologue as a form, and it has been the focal points in first three novels that are largely driven by a revolving cast of first person narrators, so I guess you could see I’ve taken what I learned from the stage and transferred it to the page. And for this I’m ineffably grateful. 

— Robert Vivian




Cast Of Characters


A tiny old woman of indeterminate age. SHE could be anywhere from 70-100. Her small, even diminutive stature gives her a quality of elusiveness, her age hard to pin down. SHE wears rather drab, gender-neutral  clothes: brown or green corduroy pants, a sweater of similar design, comfortable walking shoes. Her hair is very short, cropped close. SHE probably wears glasses, wire rimmed. Because SHE doesn’t wear makeup or accentuate her femininity in any way, SHE could almost be mistaken for a man.

Throughout the course of the play, CHLOE holds a clear glass mug of hot water from which SHE sips periodically. When SHE’S done drinking the water, the play is over.



A bare stage.


Any time.


Act I



A bare stage.


CHLOE comes out eventually, smiling to the audience and cupping her hands around the clear mug of hot water. A long pause in which SHE surveys the people SHE’S going to address.



Every morning before the sun comes up I light a candle and sit in a bare empty room on the second floor of my house. I sit down Indian-style on a rug three by four feet, of paisley design. I bought it at K-Mart. Outside I can see a stark, bare Maple tree in my neighbor’s backyard, like a map against the sky. I sit there for awhile in this position, looking at the flame and then looking out the window, and I wonder to myself how I have made it through all the days, the months, the years, pages from the calendar falling like leaves. It’s a very peaceful time, the best part of the day.

Most of the people I’ve known or cared for have gone away or are dead. They all just went away, one by one, without much fanfare. Sometimes remembering them makes me sad, and sometimes it fills me with a tranquil feeling, like I really didn’t lose them at all.

(Holds out her hand, inspecting it.)

When I look at my hands I feel like they should belong to someone else. I can imagine what they’ll look like when I’m dead, and the thought isn’t as morbid as you think, just curious.

Have you ever wondered why people are so agitated all the time, why they’re so restless? I think about it a great deal. But I don’t have an answer.

I have an ordinary life, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. I’ve really never had to work for a living. When my husband Kenneth died, I inherited his pension and life insurance. And now I work three hours a day at a junior high school cafeteria—not because I have to, but because I like the work. We have our menu set up for the week and it’s very satisfying to make hot food for growing children, though I’ve never had any of my own.

I’ve become what people tend to dismiss or overlook, not out of malice, mind you, but because our stature makes us insignificant. Someone to take for granted. Not threatening in any way. An old woman. An ancient old woman with short white hair who lives alone, by herself, with three cats, one of whom is blind.

(Pause. SHE sips.)

You see, I haven’t done anything extraordinary with my life. I didn’t have children and I didn’t write books. I didn’t travel to distant places or ride on the back of an elephant, though I did get stranded in Nebraska once. I never thought of myself as exceptional in any way, different, or really worth remarking on. And this wasn’t because I felt worthless or lacked self-esteem—wasn’t because I suffered some terrible trauma in childhood. Nothing like that at all. In fact, about the only think people have consistently remarked on about me is the small size of my hands and fingers, almost like those of a child.

But you can’t take credit for that, can you, the size of your hands or the color of your hair or the sculpture of your cheekbones. No. None of that seems to matter too much, or really at all. So I live in a small house in central Michigan and my husband’s been dead for almost thirty years now. I have a few friends, not many. I don’t want a lot of friends because then they cease to be friends. My wants are few. I listen to the radio for two hours every morning. I work in the kitchen at the junior high school. I walk. I shop. I peer over the steering wheel like other old ladies, though I’d like to believe I’m a better driver at most, more alert, someone who actually drives the speed limit. So my life is in no way remarkable, or really worth dwelling on because it’s so, well, interior, private, regular.

(Sip. Pause.)

But I do have a story to tell you. And I do have memories. They are the sum and total of a person’s life, and for that reason they probably should be mentioned. That’s why it’s so shocking for me to mention that I’ve been bleeding in my private parts for almost fifty years. Every time someone uses the word love I start to bleed. And I have a strange confession to make that I’m not too proud of related to this. Or rather that puzzles me. I do not love my fellow man. I do not love him. I have never loved him and I probably never will. I respect him, I can even work up some sympathy for him from time to time, but I do not love him. Love him. How could I, you see? The every day world with its sights and colors is far more interesting and more beautiful than my fellow man, or woman for that matter.

Did I love my husband? Did I love Kenneth all those years we were together? In the beginning, yes, maybe I did love him. It’s difficult to say now. When we were having sex, the way he would hold me very tightly. He liked to pin me down, you see. He liked to grab hold of my hair. And I went along with it. For the most part, I even enjoyed it to a point. But love? I think we should be very careful about using that word. We must approach it with dark goggles on or welding masks because the very use of it could melt us like chocolate on hot cement. Love. The word is like racing toward the sun at the speed of light, and when we get there, there will be nothing left of any of us because all of us will be consumed.

When I hear people using that word, in the supermarket, at the checkout line, I have this strange physical reaction that makes me shudder. I start to hemorrhage in my private place. I start to bleed. I can only use the word love when I’m speaking to someone like you, when I’m standing up in front of a group of people and I’m thinking out loud. But when I hear it in the mouths of others. When I read it in magazines and novels, I have the same reaction every time. First, a shudder like a cold wind passes through me, and then I get a sharp pain just beneath my abdomen. And then I start to bleed. Just a little trickle, a little clotting, usually nothing too severe. A few paw prints of blood. A little smear. And then I simply have to stop what I’m doing and go home, and close the door to the outside world. I have to get under the covers and breathe slowly, like an army of God’s angels is on its way from a distant, far-away place, coming to get me. Coming to snatch me away. Then I can start feeling normal again.

(Pause. Sip.)

This is just hot water, by the way. I don’t drink coffee or tea. Once in a great while I will have a glass of wine, but it goes right to my head and fogs my thinking. I don’t like to be befogged. From my screened-in porch I like to watch people and cars pass by.

In the morning I can hear the rending of metal of metal coming from the scrap yard eight blocks away. Great iron cranes picking up old refrigerators and cars, dumping them from one pile to the other. I see these in my mind. No one has ever said the town I live in is beautiful. The sound is horrible, of course, the smashing and breaking of worlds, so when it stops, when the scrap yard isn’t in operation for whatever reason—snow or rain—the most wonderful silence descends. It makes the sounds of crashing metal almost worth it somehow.

(Sip. Pause.)

When people use the word love, they should be very, very careful. They should be half-starved or beaten, whipped by suffering, on their knees trembling, naked and about to fall over. They must have to utter it almost despite themselves, because no other word in the world will do. They should be allotted the use of this word maybe three or four times in their whole lives. For some people, they should never use it. It should be absolutely forbidden them. If they do use it, one of their fingers should be cut off. I truly believe that.

(Pause. Sip.)

When Kenneth was alive he was only vaguely abusive, and then in a dismissive kind of way. He never actually tried to hurt or harm me physically. More than anything, I think he was just disappointed. He carried his disappointment wherever he went, like an invisible hunchback. He took out his disappointment on me in different way. Now the real problem with Kenneth’s disappointment as far as I could tell is that he could never locate the source of it, could never pin it down. It was just there with him, and he dragged it into every room he ever entered. His disappointment was elusive but all consuming.

One day he came home from work and I was preparing vegetables for dinner, Brussel sprouts of all things, which we almost never had. Kenneth looked very tired, and angry in a sullen kind of way. And I asked him, How was your day, dear? And he was a long time in answering. In fact, I don’t think he heard me so I repeated the question. But he was no more interested in answering my question than he was before. I stood there with a strainer in one hand, trying to smile through lipstick I didn’t really believe in, and after a long time, a great long time while we stood looking at each other with no other sound but boiling water and the pungent smell of Brussel sprouts, he suddenly said, Bloody. Fucking. Cunt.

(Sip. Pause. Sip.)

Naturally, in a situation like that, you wonder what you did wrong. You play back the events of the day and the recent past and the past before that and try to figure it all out, how A led to B led to C and so on. Kenneth knew perfectly well that the C-word was my least favorite word in the whole English language. I didn’t like to hear it as a girl and I never got over my repugnance. I certainly didn’t like to hear coming from my husband’s mouth.

For my part, I neither cried or asked him just why he used that language with me. Later, long after the bleeding started, I thought back to his hateful language in the kitchen and all the little details that comprised that moment. The steam and pungent odor of the sprouts. The cats slinking in and out of the kitchen. The peeling wallpaper, the burnished teakettle. The feeling of desolation, of being in some way or another in touch with the vastness of hell. The clock seemed to be smiling at me with a certain satisfied grin, and I never said, I never even thought, I will not have this. I will not tolerate this. Instead I noticed the patterns of tile on the floor from my aerial view, and I remember thinking back to my mother, whom I once discovered in a fit of hysterical weeping that seemed to come out of nowhere. And I suddenly thought I understood exactly how she felt.

(Sip. Pause.)

The problem with the word love is that it tends to spin out of control like a gyroscope, it starts to expand and rise up into the air leaving the person behind who said it anchored to the ground. Nailed down almost. And there was never any specific moment that made me feel that way about love. First came the bleeding, and then some kind of rationale lagging behind it.

Kenneth always wore black dress socks no matter what the weather or occasion and I wanted to tell him that this didn’t attract me to him in any way, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. He went to Harvard College and I don’t think he ever got over the experience. He told me many times that the four years he spent at Harvard were the best years of his life, and he couldn’t hope to bring back their glory in anything he did after graduating, certainly not at the bank where he worked in the middle of Michigan. I kept hoping and looking for evidence of his intelligence that made him smarter than other people, but I’m afraid to report that after living with him for decades I didn’t really see any. Oh, he was intelligent, don’t get me wrong, he was a smart man, but he was also kind of petty in a way. Harvard made Kenneth feel special, apart from most other people, and I could never tell him, I could never say, I know it’s a fine school and it’s enjoyed a very good reputation for a long time, but there are other good schools too and they don’t, well, they don’t create the same kind of wistful longing and even snobbery that Harvard does. I’m sorry but they don’t.

But in other ways my life with Kenneth was special. Even though he wore black dress socks every day of his life and he was very disappointed, he insisted that we have sex almost every day we lived together. Our routine developed into a very familiar and predictable pattern: Kenneth would come home at 6:00, we would talk for maybe twenty minutes, after a suitable period of silence, of course; and then he would gently push me in the direction of the staircase, his hands on my rear end, and we’d go up to the bedroom where we’d take off all our clothes. I don’t have to tell you what happened after that. None of these daily rendezvous’ ever produced children, but that didn’t bother Kenneth and it didn’t bother me.

Sometimes Kenneth would weep in bed, holding up my hands and saying, Look at them—they’re so small. And then he would nibble on my fingertips. And with my free hand I would stroke his balding head and notice the crystals of dandruff that had accumulated over the course of the day.

(Pause. Sip.)

But back to the word love. It’s a slippery slope, you see, a street widening out into eternity. I’ve heard stories of love, we all have, and they are properly called love stories, but I can honestly say that not one of them has ever measured up to that one word love. The stories really weren’t about love at all but something else. Maybe affection. Maybe revenge. Maybe a kind of fatalism.

When I hear the word love and start to bleed it’s very much like a small, gentle trickle in a dark, moist cave and the pain is very slight, almost like a shiver. No doctor has ever been able to explain why this happens to me, and I gave up trying to find a rational explanation almost right away. And I’m sorry, I don’t believe in therapists and people who make their living listening to the pain and misery of others. If it were up to me, the people who call themselves therapists would have to work hard labor digging tunnels or working out on highways. I just don’t have any patience or sympathy for therapists at all.

The thing you must do when you hear the word love is to stop what you’re doing and slowly, very slowly stand up as straight as you can. You must believe with your whole, entire heart that your very life is about to end in a few moments. And then you must very, very diligently go over the course of your life and honestly ask yourself when love was really in your heart. When it was more than a feeling and was the only reality there was. If you don’t do that when you hear the word love, then, I’m sorry, you’re fooling yourself and making a mockery of the only thing that matters.

(Sip. Pause.)

Kenneth liked to throw dinner parties every other week, and so I got very used to having guests in our small, lovely house. Kenneth was even more attracted to me in the midst of a group of people than when we were alone. I was always bustling about, laughing and interacting with them and filling up their glasses.

Some times the way he looked at me reminded me of certain nature shows I had watched, like Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, for instance, and the predators, the lions and the cheetahs and the leopards before they moved in for the kill. He was so focused on my every move. I’ve heard from other women that some men take them for granted and even ignore them in groups of people, but I have to say that Kenneth grew very conscious of me, his pupils almost dilating. It was a ritual, a dance, a ceremony. Kenneth had a long, craggy forehead and rapidly receding hair-line that could make him look formidable on occasion. One of our friends even remarked that his head resembled a bust of Gustave Mahler, whom I had never heard of before the comparison was made.

Who is Mahler? I asked, and the way that Kenneth glared at me when I asked this question was something I’ll never forget. He looked shocked, hurt, even outraged. Some times Kenneth didn’t like the guilelessness of my questions—and then other times he really seemed to find them funny, almost cute. It depended what kind of a mood he was in.

(Pause. Sip. Sip.)

Now when I get up in the morning, I sit for a time at the end of my bed. Usually the cats are on the bed covers, perked up and listening. They’re waiting for me to make the first move. I say to myself very quietly, Today I will discover what love is. Today I will discover what love is. Today I will discover what love is. Saying these words never fails to make me aware of my ignorance and failings, my own fumblings. I feel ready for a brand new day. And even though for a long time now each day resembles the next very closely, I have grown so sensitive to the slightest nuance of change that it’s quite enough for me. A patch of sunlight on the wooden floor. The dust motes floating just above it. The cats and the tiny thousands and thousands of filaments of hair that make up their fur. The sounds of the house, a squirrel running across the roof. The way my mug feels when I pick it up in the morning, solid and smooth, like something has fallen into place.

Then no single day is exactly like any other day, and then I’m glad to be alive because I’m here. And that’s all. There’s nothing else I can do or say about it because I’m a very limited creature. Do I talk to God? Sure, I do. In my own special way. But mostly it feels like I’m just waiting, I’m just sitting or standing here for something to come and collect me. Of course, I have no idea when that time will be or what it will look like, but I welcome it all the same.

(Sip. Pause.)

When Kenneth died, I wore the brightest dress I had. I didn’t cry and I didn’t try to look somber. His death came after a long battle with cancer and I was there with him every step of the way, sleeping at the hospital toward the very end, washing him, changing his clothes, helping him to go to the bathroom. I wore bright colors because I was actually happy for him, as anyone would be after all the pain and anguish.

One night when he was still at home I went out to get some groceries and when I came back there was this terrible stench in the house. I knew just what it was, of course. I put the food away very deliberately, and for some reason I’ll never understand, I started whistling as I walked up the stairs. I knew Kenneth would be waiting for me, that his intense gray eyes would burn into mine. I whistled and I found on those stairs that, under those conditions, that I was actually a very good whistler.

When I reached the top of the stairs, I saw the light on at the end of the hallway and Kenneth was looking at me. Fiery tears burned in his eyes. And then I let him tell me what I knew he was going to say, because he had to say it and it was very, very holy. I beshat myself, he said. And I went over and kneeled by the side of the bed, took his hand in mind, and kissed it on the knuckles. I beshat myself. I know it, dear. I don’t want to live this way anymore. I know that, sweetheart.

Then I started to clean him up, wiping between his legs with a warm wet cloth, going over his anus, his penis, his testicles he liked me to fondle so much when we were having sex.

(Sip. Pause.)

Even though the real issue before us was his act of soiling himself, and then being unable to do anything about it. To have to wait for me to return, lying there in his own feces, his bowels a part of himself he could no longer control. But I’ll never forget the way he said, I beshat myself, for it was the most remarkable and dignified thing he ever told me, nobler and truer than the few times he said, I love you. I felt closer to him in cleaning up his waste then I had at any other time in all the years we were together, and I’m fairly confident in believing he shared those same feelings. I don’t often use the word awe in every day experience, but I felt a sense of awe in cleaning him up. And I’ve some times thought that all those precious years were just a preparation for that one night in the bedroom, when I cleaned up his shit and we didn’t say a word to each other the whole time.

(Pause. Sip.)

You’ll want to know more about the house and how I live, why it is I’m standing in front of you and saying these rather bold things. Why it matters. How one thing leads to another and how the connections between them are some times hard to decipher.

Where I grew up, there was a field behind the back of the house. I spent a lot of time in that field, walking among the tall grass and the wild flowers. My parents encouraged me to play outside as much as I could. They wanted me to breathe the open air. As an only child I had to learn how to entertain myself, and this I learned to do quite nicely. I’m not saying that I didn’t have friends my age or that I didn’t like to be around people because I did, I did like to be around people. But just as often I preferred to be by myself, exploring the world on my own.

Something very strange happened to me when I was about twelve years old. I supposed that’s an age when a lot of strange things occur. There was a slightly retarded man who lived in the neighborhood. His name was Pat. Pat drooled a little, and when he walked he a sloping kind of gait. He must have been in his thirties when I knew him. I always thought he was interested in me, that he wanted to talk to me alone. He liked to memorize bus schedules and other numerical facts. And one it happened. I was out in the field in the late afternoon. The house looked like it was a long ways away, but it couldn’t have been. I was never more than an acre from home. When it was dinner time my mother would come out and call my name, or, even better, she would ring the dinner bell. Then I would race home, pretending that the shadows were chasing me like a tide, about to overcome me.

At the far edge of this field was a stand of trees where I some times went to be by myself. Sometimes I brought my rag doll Molly with me. Other times I just went there and sat in the lower branch of a sycamore tree. I was playing jacks in a circle in the dirt. I remember my yellow dress was dusty. I had taken off my sandals. I knew very well that my mother could see from the kitchen window, though I couldn’t see her. It was reassuring for both of us. The prospect of her watching me changed the way I played. I was a good girl and I didn’t want to disappoint her.

Well, one day Pat came out to where I was playing, and I saw him coming from a distance. I thought my mother must have seen him too. The locusts were crying out from dry, dark hiding places. I saw Pat and I wondered if my mother was watching the two of us. In retrospect, I don’t think she did. But for the life of me, I can’t say why. Pat came up to me and quickly said, Want to show you something, want to show you something. What is it, Pat, I said, what do you want to show me? Then he grabbed my hand and we started walking very quickly toward the trees. He was pulling me along. I kept looking back at the house, wondering if my mother was seeing all of this. Pat was trembling and he was very excited and I started to feel a little scared. I didn’t think he would hurt me, but Pat was much stronger than I was so pretended nothing was wrong. So we went into the trees. What do you want to show me, Pat? Then he dropped his pants and started to masturbate in front of me. I was only about five feet away. He was uncircumcised and had the largest penis I have ever seen. Then he ejaculated and his semen landed just a few inches short of my bare feet, like tiny studs of liquid pearl. And the air between us was filled with the smell of his sex.

Then Pat was crying and he was very upset. He kept saying sorry over and over again. I didn’t say anything to him and I slowly backed out of the woods and ran home as fast I could. He was a retarded man and there were some things he had no control over. But whenever I saw him after that, I did my best to stay away from him. If I saw him coming down the road, I was gone. I never let him get within ten feet of me again. Yet I felt sorry for him, and I have to say now that he taught me a valuable lesson, especially about men in particular. And that is they many of them, perhaps even the majority, are constantly looking for an opportunity to drop their pants. I have to say that his desperate act in the woods was one of the most honest and straightforward acts I have ever come across in all my years of living. He showed me a human being truly is, even though at the time I didn’t understand it. And now I’m just a little ashamed that I was so afraid of him.

(Sip. Pause.)

It does make me wonder what makes a life. And who lives it exactly, never mind why. How do you balance the terrible tension between what you truly are and what you want to be. How do you balance that. Weigh the scales. Not to mention how you want others to look at you, the worst obstacle of all. What do you shut out. How do you remember. What do you remember. What does it all add up to. Why bleed at the mention of the word love. Why do people say things they do not mean—and then fool themselves into believing their own false intensions. Famine. War. The unimaginable misery and despair of millions of people across the globe. Cruelty. Basic, every day cruelty that goes undetected, unreported, but felt all the same. Then the moments of compassion, real empathy, tenderness even. The birth of an act of love. The small, precious seedling of it. An old woman cannot tell you these. Can an old woman tell you about these? I do not know. I have my doubts. Still. Something compels. Impels us. I am not the woman I used to be.

But was she, that other woman, that other woman I used to be, was she somehow not allowed to be who and what she truly was? Or did she not allow herself? And what does it matter either way? I can only tell you that I wanted Kenneth to be strong. I only wanted him to be what he was made to be—the way he was at the very end. Not all of this dilly-dallying. That small-time despair. His Harvard degree. His general fog of disappointment. Because death is not a possibility but a certainty it would be very helpful to act as though whatever time you have been given is not truly yours but a precious loan of some kind, each one very specific to the individual. If you should waste it. That really should be unthinkable, don’t you think?

I have always had this strange feeling of the unreality of so much around me, billboards and salt shakers, advertisements in magazines, television shows, polished fingernails. And I find myself constantly asking, What is the real nature of things? And am I sound enough in heart and mind to see it? A branch against the sky. That is real. The sounds coming from the scrap yard, like the fallout from another world. That is real. Mangled and twisted metal. A child’s cry coming from the alley. A child who has hurt himself. Can I, would I say my dreams are real?

(Pause. Sip.)

Kenneth used to tell me stories about his childhood, but only under certain conditions. His story-telling followed a strange ritual, you see. First it seemed to come out of a vague sense of anger or uneasiness, like when he came home after work. He’d sit in his chair with a drink in his hand and stare off into space. Or he listened to classical music. He looked so tragic sitting in his overstuffed chair with a glass of scotch in his hand.

I learned very early on in our marriage not to talk to him too much when he first got home. He thought the bank where he worked and the people he worked with were somehow beneath him. He used to say over and over again how he had no idea how he ended up in a small town in the middle of Michigan. He used to say that quite a lot. I don’t know how I ended up here. I don’t know how I ended up here. He must have said this at least five hundred times over the years. The effect of this one sentence on me was something I could never communicate to him. Whenever he said, I don’t know how I ended up here, I would have to stifle this terrible desire to laugh out loud, laugh right in front of him and keep on laughing. Not because I thought it was funny and not to make fun of him. But because to me his saying that was just so preposterous. I don’t know how I ended up here. Maybe I should have said to him, Kenneth, I don’t think anyone know exactly why they end up in the place they do, doing a particular kind of work in a particular environment. There were many, many times in the course of our time together when I felt like laughing, but didn’t because I didn’t want to hurt him to get the wrong impression. And you know what an awful feeling that is, to try to keep from laughing. I don’t know how I ended up here. I don’t know how I ended up here.

(Laughs heartily and warmly.)

Said in the proper spirit or frame of mind, it can sound like the most amazing thing ever, the most mysterious, the most unexpected. You could learn to appreciate that one sentence more than anything else in your life.

Because I always felt that Kenneth was a riding a fence. On one side of the fence was a quiet astonishment and joy and on the other side was the most dismal and appalling sense of failure and inadequacy. And it was nothing I could ever tell him. I wanted to tell him, You’re disappointed so much because only see what you want to see and not what is. In this respect, Harvard really screwed him up because he felt at the age of twenty that he was entitled to certain things, that he was assured a certain way of life. And the odd thing is he really did have the way of life he wanted but not where he wanted to have it.

Often when Kenneth was on top of me I wondered how this lion-headed man who simply had to be inside of me at least once a day could be so witless, could be so far off the mark in terms of his own life. And when he groaned and came inside of me I wanted to hold him against the darkness of his own ignorance, the trembling flicker of my body like some small flame for him to see by. Then he really was like a little boy, a spent, exhausted little boy. And then I could protect him almost until the next time. He even said to me once, Chloe, I have to have sex with you so much because I’m basically in despair, and that was one of the few times when I did laugh out loud because I really couldn’t help it. My own husband didn’t realize how happy he was because he was so busy worrying about what he should have had rather than what he did have. He was very stupid that way. Maybe I didn’t give him enough credit because he wasn’t at all offended when I did laugh that time.

But now I’m of the opinion that you can’t tell people how stupid they are, they must realize it for themselves. They must come to it very slowly and carefully and clearly. There’s no rushing this absolutely crucial process. The light either gets brighter or it gets darker and darker, but the important thing to remember is that it’s still always there.

(Pause. Sip.)

We’re all living according to some symptoms or other. Mine just happens to be a little mysterious bleeding that happens at the mention of the word love. When I’m long past the age of menopause, when I should be, to put it quite crudely, all dried up. The trickling sensation when this occurs is just a very slight chill and tremor, like a shiver of cold wind passing through me. I never told this to Kenneth because I didn’t want to upset him.

At some point in my life or other I had heard or read about people, the vast majority of them women, who bled at certain crucial times or for religious reasons, who bled out of their palms because they loved Christ, for instance. And although I did grow up in the Presbyterian Church, I never had any mystical visions or union with God’s son. I was religious but there are limits to these things. No, my bleeding started in the second year of my marriage to Kenneth, when I was twenty-three years old. I remember it very clearly the first time it happened. My period had just ended two days before because I remember saying that to myself as a kind of reminder. Unlike some women I have never suffered particularly badly at the outset of menstruation, almost never had cramps. But this was different. This was a very personal kind of bleeding beyond the ticking of my biological clock. It had its own time zone entirely.

It was one of those rare occasions that Kenneth and I went out for dinner. Something bad had happened at the office and he just had to get out of the house, he said. We had traveled about half an hour to find a decent restaurant. Kenneth looked morose as usual, hunched over his cocktail like some kind of very intelligent ape. His eyes took in everything, but they rarely settled on me. I was chatting away amicably. The waitress finally came around to get our orders. I pointed to the menu and I said, I would love this avocado soup, and I’d love this penne pasta dish. And that’s when I felt this chill run through me, the shiver I would come to know so well.

Can a pain be sharp and dull at the same time? This one was. I excused myself from the table and went to the ladies’ room because I had white panties on. And I walked as fast as I could, like I was standing over a dam that was ready to break.

(Sip. Pause.)

Now, the question was, did I really love avocado soup? Did I really love penne pasta? Or was I just so excited to be out of the house myself that I gave over to a far-fetched exaggeration? There was no question that I liked them very much—even craved them in a way. But did I love them? No, I could honestly say I did not love them.

I remember sitting in the stall, examining myself, and suddenly it came to me how I had used to word love. If tissue paper was ever a sign of deliverance, this time it was. I saw the blood inside my panties, and it was just a paw print, a filigree almost, the stamp of my genetic code. Spotting, as it is commonly called. But it was a warning, some might even say a revelation. A herald of things to come. Suddenly I was very ashamed of myself. I knew what I had done and how I had erred. I knelt down on the cold tile as muzak flooded the room. I whispered to the toilet seat, to the water in the toilet bowl, I do not love avocado soup. I do not love penne pasta. I am sorry for how I said you.

Then I got up and my head felt like it was full of peculiar, light air, Helium almost, tinged with the fragrance of something vaguely metallic. Pennies, most likely. My own blood, my own iron. I thought my head was about to float off of my shoulders. Some people are slow learners and some people learn very quickly. I learned very quickly because my body was the proof. Without a formal education, without a mystical vision, I swore in that bathroom never to use the word love again until I felt it flood throughout my whole body, and I have been faithful to that vow ever since. But the problem was and continues to be how the word is used by others. At first it was bewildering and very upsetting. Kenneth always complained about how I was always running off to the bathroom. If a neighbor stopped by, I love your curtains, I love your blouse, then I was off to the bathroom.

If we were hosting a dinner party and someone said, I love Mexico or I love New York or I love the soprano voice, then I was gone three times, I was bleeding, I wouldn’t stop, the blood came trickling out of me, even on those rare occasions when they actually meant what they were saying. And after a few experiences like this, Kenneth began to notice, but not to the point that he actually took a real interest. He just frowned in a very disapproving way. When our guests had all left, he might ask, What was all that running around about? And I couldn’t tell him. I just couldn’t tell him what was happening to me.

(Pause. Sip.)

And you, dear children, dear people, what symptoms are you living with? What bodily signs of disaffection? The only way I could make sure that blood wasn’t coming out of me in a more or less steady stream was to be home a lot or with Kenneth. This was compounded over time. Wars came and went. Assassinations. New inventions, vaccines. Riots. I heard all about them in due time, but as a kind of after-echo. But none of these were any more real than the trickle of blood between my legs when someone used the word love.

Did I suffer from loneliness? Did I become more and more of a recluse. I would like to think not, that my life just took a different but inevitable direction and that I went with it. Hysterical bleeding. Outbursts of sorrow for the whole human condition. But no. It wasn’t like that. It was much more personal, close-fitting, like a destiny that had been waiting for me to walk into it and fill it up. Would you believe Kenneth never caught on, never once discovered me in the act of bleeding? Even if he did call that ugly word in the kitchen. Maybe a part of him knew. Maybe he understood in a way he couldn’t explain, even to himself. That didn’t make rational sense. My body became a weather vane, a lightening rod. And I remember trying to look back over my life and isolate some moment when this peculiar sensitivity was born in me, when I realized my body was meant for strange things. But I could never think of any single defining moment when such a space and sorrow were created.

The one thing I have always regretted in my years with Kenneth was pretending to be less intelligent than I was. I didn’t want to shock him too much. Or worse, let him know what I truly thought of most things. Kenneth was a history major in college and he always wanted things to be in neat little categories, stacked like crates, or he just chose to ignore them. He spent most of his life thinking about the past, his own past and what he thought of as the more glorious past before that. How could I confront him with the fact that the past he loved so much didn’t actually exist, that it was only his sentimental imagination replaying what could have been? Kenneth was well-spoken and he read a great many books and knew how to dress, and he had the most elegant handwriting of anyone I have ever seen, but beneath these, my poor dear husband was just a boy playing with sand castles, with motes he dug up with his own manicured hands. He thought he was a tragic figure, but the truth was he was only slightly ridiculous and very self-absorbed.

Did he love me? Did the word that caused me so much grief and consternation make it magically out of his mouth to find a resting place in my heart? Well, the truth is, I don’t know. I don’t know if he did love me. Or if I really loved him, for that matter. On the whole I think not. But I never strayed from him, not once in all those years.

(Sip. Pause. SHE hesitates to speak. SHE speaks.)

On the other hand, just because a little old woman with a haircut like a man bleeds at the mention of the word love doesn’t mean love doesn’t exist. Look into your lives. Look into your minds. What actual place does love have in these places? You are alive, aren’t you? Breathing, wondering about the next thing or the last thing, checking your wallet to see how much money you have, looking at your watch. Maybe you grind your teeth at night. The mirrors keep fogging up in the bathroom. And where is the love in all these places? Where is it? Not can you touch it and hold it. But where is it? Is it a property of the earth, or do we graduate to it when we die? Because I have to say I don’t see much evidence of it here. So where does it properly belong? Are you in the midst of it? Are you lashed back and forth by its invisible flames?

(Pause. Sip.)

At three o’clock every day of the week the school buses drive by my front porch. Children walk by on the sidewalk in front of my house. There’s quite a fleet of them. They’re so carefree, almost reckless. I study them. I memorize their faces, postures, the way some of the boys swing their back packs. They’ll never be this carefree again, this in-tune with the present moment. The touches, the sounds, their own impressions. They are delirious with joy, all because a bell rang in the hallway and they were free to go. And they walk out of red brick building into the sun, and they are free in that moment wherever they are gong or whatever their home life is like. Now, quickly, tell me: is that love? I think the single best thing I have done with my life is to keep the secret of my bleeding. To be in a close marriage all those years and never let on what was happening to me. I really don’t know how I did it. Was I made for this, a little mysterious bleeding I kept to myself? I think I would have to say yes.

In the morning when I sit in front of the candle, certain images come to me. I think about Kenneth and our time together. But beyond those my childhood sometimes returns to me in vivid shards and pieces, teasing me to complete a bigger picture. At the cafeteria I see these rows and rows of children lined up for food, food that I have a small part in preparing. My apron is smeared and stained. Jesus is in the back, feverishly washing dishes. There’s a general clatter and commotion like there’s no way we’ll feed all of them, that the whole endeavor day after day is held together by a single piece of invisible twine. It can be cut at any moment. To feed five hundred growing bodies is no easy task. The tiles in the kitchen are lime green, and we’re all required to wear hair nets. Three hours a day I give them.

There’s a little boy named Sean—I don’t know his last name—who walks with a terrible, rocking limp. I think one leg is shorter than the other. He wears very thick glasses. And when you look at the food we prepare, where quantity is elevated above quality, the rumors of cafeteria food and mystery meat not unfounded—you see that the portions of the food are almost identical. If you have a wedge of green jello with a slice of pear on top, you can be sure each dish is almost exactly the same. Same with the apple crisp and so on down the line. Uniformity is important because it’s one of the few things we can control.

When Sean enters the line—I can see him from my corner in the kitchen—I wait for him to make it up to the serving line. I even get a little nervous, if you can believe that. I so want him to be happy. To like his meal. I don’t know why exactly. It’s important that I see him make his way among the heating plates and bright lamps. Some times I can’t see his eyes for the glare off his glasses. People live like this all the time. More private secrets. If I could make his food anything other than what it actually is, mediocre, full of starch, heavily processed, heavily sugared, I would do it all for him. I would change our menu and prepare him something extraordinary. Mussels over pasta. Risotto. But the reality is, I can only do my part in this vast preparation. I can only oversee the preparation of the vegetables, usually some anemic beans or carrots. If I had a choice though, if I controlled the whole process, things would be different. If only for him.

(Sip. Pause.)

But is this love? Some times Kenneth liked to take me for long drives out on the highway. Let’s go for a drive, he’d say. And usually we’d travel two, three hours without saying a word to each other. I didn’t mind. There was never an awkward silence between us. He would reach over and put his right hand on my thigh. He had very strong hands and he would squeeze my leg just above the kneecap. We would travel at 60 mph this way, his hand on my leg, watching the patchwork design of the dismal farms pass by.

If Kenneth could have had a job where he drove most days, I think he would have been happier. Not much, but a little. There was something about the open road that appealed to him, that made his heart expand with possibility. He relaxed his normally grave expression, became almost serene in his thoughtfulness. I never asked him, Are you happy with me? I didn’t ask him questions like that at all. With Kenneth I had great confidence that he needed me, needed something only I give him. And I never had to worry too much about bleeding when it was just the two of us. I had ways to manage it.

With his hands on the steering wheel, looking out over the horizon, Kenneth was as happy as he could possibly ever be. And that was enough for me. As I came to discover the problem with my bleeding was that it was rooted in a sense of injustice that ran through me like a river. You grow up believing that there are simple truths, right and wrong. But when they break down, something else more troubling and more real must take their place. I have never wanted to take my own life, but there have been times when I wished I were dead. Slowly bleeding to death if necessary. I love your hair. I love your dress. I love my country. (beat) No. No. I’m afraid not. It doesn’t work that way. People have been saying such things since the birth of language. But you know, it’s almost never true. It can’t be true. Because of the bleeding I was forced to examine these things, to live them out in a sense. I never had the luxury of dismissing them either way. I just bled. I had to ask myself difficult questions, cosmic questions, and I couldn’t just stop there. With accepted truths and facts. My body would not let me. It forced me to keep on going. It put the pressure on. My body did not let me ease into these things.

(Sip. Pause.)

Some times I would watch Kenneth sleeping. I would go to the bathroom and relieve myself or drink a glass of water. Then I would come back and stand in the doorway, often silvered in the moonlight. Where we live in Michigan the night is often gray so everything takes on a somber tone, like a black and white movie. The first thing you need to know about Kenneth’s sleeping was that it was very deep and peaceful—his sleep seeped into the woodwork, into the covers of the bed. In the moonlight sleeping with his noble forehead he looked very impressive.

I had hoped on a few occasions that this was how he would look on his deathbed. I was rehearsing for his death, counting the days, marking its far-off approach. I remember reading somewhere that only drama without movement was truly beautiful. Here it was. And I would think how strange it was that he had to be inside me once or twice a day, and if that was at all related to the quality of his slumber. On the whole I didn’t think so. His deep sleep was a fluke, a gift from God. And watching someone sleep when you yourself are wide awake can lead to strange thoughts and feelings. I would stand in the dark and I would whisper the same thing over and over again, I’m bleeding, Kenneth. I’m bleeding. I wanted him to hear it, to know it in a subconscious way. The burden of a secret is that some times makes you feel unreal, unsubstantial, like a ghost passing through walls. I’m bleeding, Kenneth. I thought if I could share even a small part of this mystery with him, then I would not be alone to struggle with it myself.

You get up in the middle of the night, your husband is off in a profound sleep, and you say these things. You utter them with perfect clarity just below a whisper. I’m bleeding. I’m bleeding. To make the bleeding real. And if you press a warm washcloth between your legs to staunch the flow when it isn’t your time, you want to tell at least one person in the world about it.

(Pause. Sip.)

I never regretted not having children. But that lack of regret can come up and bite you. If you are trying to figure out why your body behaves in a certain way that no one can really explain, the last thing in the world you think about is having children. It simply doesn’t occur to you. If you yourself don’t quite work properly, why would you want to pass that on to someone else? Besides, Kenneth wanted me all to himself. He cornered me in every room I ever entered with him, like a knee-jerk reaction.

If you start bleeding and you cannot stop it in any way other than removing yourself from a certain situation, then, why, that’s exactly what you do. You take yourself out of the equation. And if in addition to that your husband hovers over your every move in mixed company, then you are fleeing almost all the time, trying to get away from the thing you can’t, yourself and the strange vessel your own body has become. My own quiet life therefore had a feverish intensity to it, it glowed and burned me whenever I tried to touch it myself. My life. My life. The one that was give to me by so many complex factors it beggars the imagination.

To stand outside of your life and watch it happening, while at the same time being right in the middle of it is a condition that only suggests to me that my life, my precious, personal life, isn’t even mine. It’s somebody else’s. Otherwise, why would I bleed at the mention of the word love? And this singular, burning question has never left me alone. I either bled because love was misused, or it was the only thing there is and I was pouring myself out to meet it. Or love is only blood. Can only be blood. Unmixed and problematic. Or it’s all of these things. Oh, I talked to God on numerous occasions. I asked him questions and I didn’t mince my words. I was direct and I was hurting and I was bewildered. Only later did peace come, flooding me in the morning. Opening up inside of me in front of the candle, watching the world come awake.

(Pause. Sip.)

Bleeding was the most mysterious, unaccountable thing that ever happened to me. In all other areas of my life, I was normal. Normal house. Normal upbringing. Middle-class all the way. Even Kenneth’s passion for me my body, his insatiable need of it, was normal. How could it not be? But the bleeding. Ah, that was special. And I’d read the papers. I’d watch the news. I’d hear of people getting killed in car accidents, fires, murders. Incurable diseases. I would watch people come and go in the neighborhood, friends who stopped being friends, though nothing really happened to bring about the end of friendship. They just stopped being friends. And I’d hear of catastrophes in far-off lands, places I had never been, earthquakes, genocide, mass starvation. Was my bleeding connected to any of it? Was my bleeding the world and the world was my bleeding? And I came to a remarkable answer in response to that question, which was, yes, it must be. Because when you really think about, if you are really alive, it can’t be any other way, though the circumstances of my exterior life were perfectly normal.

You are going along in your life, and you are dissatisfied or miserable—and you want to be somewhere, anywhere else, and you everything you do or say is just dust, it’s all just dust. Then that gray period suddenly changes and you realize, no, I’ve known real joy, real happiness, and it’s not anywhere else because there is nowhere else. It’s here. It’s right here, like looking for spare change under the sofa cushions only to realize you have a twenty dollar bill in your pocket. I mean, why all the fuss? If you want to change, stay where you are. Observe what’s going on around you. Listen. Pay attention. And you will change. Change will run its course through you.

(Sip. Pause.)

I only saw one act of violence in my life. I pulled into the parking lot at the supermarket. I think we were out of eggs. I was a very inefficient shopper, always having to go back because I had forgotten something. It used to aggravate Kenneth very much. Anyway, I pulled into the parking lot and I noticed a man in another car. His wife or girlfriend was with him. I could tell they were having an argument just by their body language. People were coming in and out of the store, walking by their car, pushing their shopping carts. I think it was two o’clock in the afternoon, a rare sunny day. And he suddenly just lashes out and hits her with the back of his hand. Her head snapped back, and then she bowed her head and leaned it against the dash board.

I looked around to see if anyone had witnessed what I had just seen, but nobody seemed to notice. It was inconceivable that I had been the only one to witness this violent abuse. By this time the man had seen me watching him. We locked eyes. He knew I had watched him. A small, almost undetectable smile came across his face. What should I do? Should I go into the supermarket and act like nothing had happened? Should I call the police, Kenneth, someone? Instead I found myself walking toward his car on legs that were really not my own. Scraps of bright litter like confetti were blowing by my ankles, and I sincerely wished I could be one of them. The truth was in that instant that I did not really want to be alive. But I walked toward him anyway and he watched me come on, waiting for me.

I went to her side of the car. I leaned in. I touched her on the shoulder, and when she looked up at me I could see that she had a bloody nose. Leave him, I said. Just leave him. And his hand shot out across her body and held my arm. Like a steel cable. It was a very tense moment. Then she breathed out and cried, I got no place to go. The man let go of me. He was laughing. I wanted her to listen to me. To hear my voice. My voice was high and raspy, like a kite stuck in a tree. Then the man peeled out of the parking lot, and I could see that he didn’t even have license plats. So she was gone, and I never saw her again. Though I still wonder about her from time to time. I wonder if she’s still alive.

(Sip. Pause.)

My bleeding took on different shapes over the years, in slightly different colors and moods and degrees of intensity. Some times it came on like a slow movement in music. Other times the pangs were quite sharp, and I doubled over. I tried different herbs and remedies. I went out of my way to consult obscure, even esoteric sources. For the symptoms. For the bleeding that was mine. The slow undertow of it was pulling me outward, sweeping me away. My body was like a life raft or a piece of floating Styrofoam, riding down an invisible current. Kenneth clamored for my body, he wanted to be inside of me as much as he possibly could. Between my bleeding and our intercourse I was very busy, beset even.

I wanted to be a good wife. I thought I was. But the bleeding proved to me that I had other responses, other things that made their way through me. Some times you just want to be left alone, but I couldn’t tell Kenneth that. At the very worst of it I was bleeding almost continuously, a slow stream that made its way through the dark center of my body. I stayed inside the house more and more. I didn’t want to see any body. There was no one’s face I felt I had to see. Please don’t misunderstand. It wasn’t that I disliked people. I didn’t turn my back on humanity, only if I heard the word love, if they said it in a certain way, the river would break in me. That’s all I have to tell you. All this time Kenneth did not know. It was fine for him that I stayed at home, that I pass the majority of my days in a deep silence. His catastrophic disappointment blinded him to anything else that was going on. And I was thankful for that, deeply and truly thankful because it gave me the space and time to keep asking, What is happening to me?

I didn’t fear death because unlike some people I have never for a second considered that it would not happen to me or that I could delay its arrival. The house grew around me like a warm animal. I developed a routine. After Kenneth left in the morning, I would light a candle and sit in the empty room. Waiting in a way. Beyond violence. Beyond redemption. Just watching. Listening. Some times I said a few words, Some day the bleeding will stop. Some day the bleeding will stop. And some times I rocked back and forth, keening to some grief that ran throughout my body. And if I ever came across the word love in a magazine or a book, I was careful to cut it and burn it over the candle. I didn’t want it to come back and haunt me.

I had most of the day to myself, or some times I went for a walk. I thought of running away once or twice, leaving a note tapped to the refrigerator door. But I knew in my heart that I would never leave him, my dear husband who had become the embodiment of evil.

What did he ever do, you say? What did he ever take? Did he ever beat me? Some people walk through doorways, and they fill up the space with something that’s not very wholesome. When you get to be my age, you no longer feel the need to explain or justify your deepest convictions, because they’re only there. They are only just there. I don’t want to be young again. I don’t want to live forever. Maybe once in a while I wish I could move the way I used to, but even that fades in and out. What I’m really interested in is the next phase of this strange journey, the aftermath of living these many years.

Do you understand that? Do you? There are the vows you make, and then there are the vows you grow into, that become you. If I could have stopped the bleeding, if I could have made it go away, if it had been within my power, then everything could have been different. I would be different. I wouldn’t regard this world and my life in the same way. I might have been more optimistic, more light-hearted in a way. I would have believed the things that people tell themselves, that I control this or that, that this is my choice, that I hold my own destiny in my hands, that I can make anything of my life that I want it to be. But I couldn’t stop the bleeding and I couldn’t understand it so all of those self-empowering notions just flew away—or were out into darkest space.

What did my bleeding teach me, other than the terrible and trembling power of the word love? Well, I learned that how I am made and what I respond to isn’t a question of choice. I didn’t choose it. And I learned endurance, or as a famous poet once said, Endurance only comes from enduring. The world is beautiful, but I could never experience it directly. I could never grab hold of my life and say, Yes, this is what I want, and I will go out and get it.

Some nights I would dream that the stream of my blood was rising all around me like a dark lake and I was not sinking but rising with it while everything else, the house, Kenneth’s noble forehead in sleep, became slowly submerged. Covered up by a pool of this darkness.

(Pause. Sip. Sip.)

Then one day, miraculously, the bleeding just stopped. I felt the pain of that dark river just suddenly leave my body, as mysteriously as it had come. Two years after the day Kenneth died, the bleeding completely stopped. In its place I felt a great cleansing barrenness, like grains of sand sweeping throughout a desert. Was I happy? Elated? Afraid that it would come back? I suppose all of these—or none of them. I really don’t remember. I had lived for so long with this strange affliction that I no longer had any hope of curing it. And though I don’t remember exactly how I felt when the bleeding left me—Happy? Sad? Full of misgivings?—I do remember quite clearly the arrangement of things around me and where I was.

—Robert Vivian

ROBERT VIVIAN’s first book, Cold Snap As Yearning, won the Society of Midland Authors Award in Nonfiction and the Nebraska Center for the Book in 2002. His first novel, The Mover Of Bones, was published in 2006 and is Part I of The Tall Grass Trilogy. The second part of the trilogy was the novel Lamb Bright Saviors; and Part III, Another Burning Kingdom, was published in 2011. His collection of essays, The Least Cricket Of Evening, was also published in 2011. Vivian’s most recent novel, Water And Abandon, appeared in 2012; and he’s just completed another novel, The Long Fall To Dirt Heaven. He also writes plays, over twenty of which have been produced in NYC. Many of his monologues have been published in Best Men’s Stage Monologues and Best Women’s Stage Monologues. His most recent foray into playwriting was an adaptation of Ibsen’s Ghosts that premiered at Studio Arena Theatre in Buffalo in 2006. His stories, poems, and essays have been published in Harper’s, Georgia Review, Ecotone, Numéro Cinq, Creative Non!fiction, Glimmer Train, and dozens of others. He is Associate Professor of English at Alma College in Michigan and a member of the faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

You can also read Robert Vivian’s earlier contributions to NC, two essays on essays: “Thoughts on the Meditative Essay” and “The Essay as an Open Field.”

Jan 232012

Okay—I think if you cross Aristophanes with Samuel Beckett or Eugene Ionesco, you might end up with something like Lynn Coady’s irreverent fringe play Mark. Or, if you cross tag-team wrestling with the Battle of the Sexes—the play actually has a club called the “slap-stick” and a very large phallus. Mark is a delight and a lovely addition to Numéro Cinq‘s growing collection of plays and screenplays, a section of the magazine that is unique as far as I can tell.

Lynn Coady‘s is an amazing novelist, also deservedly popular. Her fiction has been garnering acclaim since her first novel, Strange Heaven, was published and was nominated for the Governor-General’s Award for Fiction when she was 28. Strange Heaven was followed up by a best-selling short story collection, Play the Monster Blind (2000) as well as the award-winning novels Saints of Big Harbour (2002) and Mean Boy 2006). Lynn Coady grew up on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia and now lives in Edmonton. Her most recent novel is The Antagonist, which was short-listed for this year’s Giller Prize. Mark will be published with another of Lynn’s one-act plays called Skydiving by Scirocco Drama later this year. Mark ran at the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival in the summer of 2009 in a production directed by Rob Appleford. The photographs herein are rehearsal photos from that production.




By Lynn Coady






One JUDGE, hooded


Actors: Bradley Bishop & Tom Blazejewicz



Two large plinth-boxes, DSL and DSR, two stools DSR, one stool UCS with two GONGS on either side, with a single MALLET and a SLAP-STICK on either side of the stool.

The DRUMMER enters with DRUM: louche, Upper East Side, too cool to be in this play. He ambles to a DSR stools and sets up


Enter Two WOMEN from SR, one bearing BASKET: they are dressed in canvas shifts tied at the waist with a rope. High Energy! Rite-of-Springy pirouettes! Rose petals! Prom dance excitement! They settle at the DSL plinth-box.


Enter Two MEN, from SL, one bearing BASKET: they are dressed in canvas jockstraps tied to a rope around their waists, with canvas sweatbands around their heads. Macho strut! WWF Smackdown! Calisthenics! Dynamic Tension Stretches! High Fives! They set up at the DSR plinth-box.


Enter JUDGE, hobbling on the supporting arm of the ATTENDANT. The JUDGE is slowly led to the UCS stool. The ATTENDANT puts the MALLET in the JUDGE’S palsied hand and picks up the SLAP-STICK.  The ATTENDANT wears a silver WHISTLE around his neck.

The JUDGE bangs the DSL GONG (henceforth known as the WOMEN’S GONG) ONCE.

The WOMEN pull out a GARLAND from their BASKET which is placed on the head of BELINDA.

Much girlish excitement.

The JUDGE bangs the DSR GONG (henceforth known as the MEN’S GONG) ONCE.

The MEN pull out a large PHALLUS with a hook on the base from their BASKET.  DEXTER  hooks the PHALLUS on his belt. Much macho celebration and admiration of length/width/tumescence.

The ATTENDANT cuts the frivolity short with a loud THWACK of the SLAP-STICK on his open palm.

Both teams get ready to rumble. BATTLE FARFARE from the DRUMMER..

Another THWACK! FANFARE stops.

BELINDA and DEXTER approach each other CS and begin to circle each other menacingly in a clockwise direction, looking for an opening.

Continue reading »

Nov 152011

Here is a little street theater, a charming bijou, something concocted out of the air for the delectation of passers-by. Lipstick and Cigarettes was originally performed last year, June, 2010, at Asphalt Jungle Shorts VI, a drama festival in Kitchener, Ontario (the place where they invented the Blackberry, in case you didn’t know). Lipstick and Cigarettes, like all good theater, rises in silence and resolves itself in silence, and in between it seems, on a tenuous line of dialogue and the slightest of actions, to imply epic motions of the spirit—the drama of age and youth, a girl’s passage into womanhood, temptation and the Fall, and the joyful exuberance of life.

Dwight Storring is an old friend from dg’s newspaper days. In the mid-1970s, he was a photographer at the Peterborough Examiner when dg was the sports editor (a place and time immortalized in dg’s novel Precious). Now Dwight lives in Kitchener (did I tell you about the Blackberry), about a 50-minute drive from the farm where dg grew up. He is a digital media artist and producer who dabbles in many disciplines including playwriting. The photo above shows Jessalyn Broadfoot playing Angel. Dwight was a resident artist playwright at Theatre and Company during the 2005-06 season. He is currently exploring the connection between story and place through the Latitudes and Longitudes Digital Storytelling Project and his work with community agencies where he teaches the creation of personal narratives as a fundamental part of daily life.


Lipstick and Cigarettes

By Dwight Storring



Evelyn – a woman, approaching 60.

Angel – a girl in her early teens or at least appears to be.


The play opens in a small green space in downtown Kitchener. The space nestles up against the spiraling ramps of a parking garage – Kitchener’s Guggenheim.

Angel perches in the tree that arches over the benches in the park. She is dressed crisply in a gingham dress with a white apron over top, her hair in braids. She is iconic.

Angel sings an old jazz standard to herself, perhaps “It Amazes Me” or “I Walk a Little Faster.”

Evelyn, dressed in her housecoat and slippers, trudges into the parkette lugging a cheap, battered suitcase.

Evelyn places the suitcase on a bench and starts unpacking it. She joins Angel in the song. She removes a slinky red dress and drapes it gently over the bushes followed by a slip. She sets out a pair of matching shoes. The clothes have all seen better days.

She carefully sets out a bottle of wine and two glasses. She opens the wine, pours a glass and takes a drink.



Took you long enough.

Evelyn ignores her and continues to sing.


Took you long enough!

Evelyn continues to ignore her while she waltzes her glass of wine around the park.


Hey you. Evelyn, remember me?

I’ve been waiting here forever.

Evelyn bursts into loud peels of laughter as she dances.


Are you laughing at me … Stop … stop it, come on. Where have you been?


Trying to bring her laughing under control.



Stop it, stop it, stop it … Stop it … right now! Momma’s probably crying her eyes out wondering where I am and you’re laughing your ass off!


Still laughing.

Poor Momma. As if.

If you’re so worried about Momma, what’re you doing here?

Continue reading »

Jul 012011


Here is another first for Numéro Cinq: A full length film script from R. W. Gray (who earlier appeared on these pages as the author of the stunning short story “Crisp”). Not only do we have the original film script for Alice & Huck (who else publishes movie scripts these days?) but we also have an excerpt from the movie, teaser and fan videos. This is a wonderful chance for readers to compare script and the made movie (you can get the complete DVD here; the IMDB movie page is here), a chance to see words embodied in the actors’ gestures and words (a transformation of text to stage that is always a mystery to me). Alice and Huck is a delightful, whimsically romantic love story of close encounters, near misses and second chances.

Robert Gray was born and raised on the northwest coast of BC, and received a PhD in Poetry and Psychoanalysis from the University of Alberta in 2003. He is the author of two serialized novels in Xtra West magazine and has published poetry in various journals and anthologies, including Arc, Grain, Event, and dANDelion. He also has had ten short screenplays produced, including Alice & Huck and Blink. He currently teaches Film at the University of New Brunswick in Frederiction.



What is Alice & Huck about?


Alice & Huck Fan Video

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May 262011

It’s a pleasure to introduce the first play ever published on Numéro Cinq, God’s Flea by Diane Lefer (wise friend, former colleague at Vermont College of Fine Arts—in the mid-1990s, when I had a radio show, I interviewed her, still have that tape). God’s Flea is an uproarious piece of political folk theater. Set on the Arizona-Mexico border, it borrows from the tradition of carpa, a Mexican popular theatrical form something like vaudeville, full of stock characters, slapstick, broad comedy and topical comment. But it also draws plot inspiration from a 19th century Colombian short story which, in turn, draws its inspiration from folktale and legend. This is the kind of theater you don’t see on Broadway, but it makes you think about what theater is and should be. It speaks to the people, the impoverished (lots of those around these days) and oppressed; it speaks of miracles and saintliness; it tells a joke, reveals horrors, pronounces a moral lesson. Jesus and Death and Sheriff Arpaio are characters; the good man at the center of the story is a gambling addict. The staging is quick and breathless, using lighting to switch scenes; actors change costumes onstage, on-the-fly. It’s a treat. (And don’t miss Diane’s earlier contributions to the magazine: her story “The Tangerine Quandary” and her “What it’s like living here [Los Angeles]” essay.)


Tomás Carrasquilla Naranjo was a 19th-century Colombian author and his story “En la diestra de Dios Padre” (In the right hand of God the Father) became a classic. It’s about a humble and saintly man whose generosity to Jesus and St. Peter (in disguise, of course) earns him five wishes. I love it that the story is written in rural vernacular. I don’t relate to its piety. So when Fernando Castro asked me to create a contemporary adaptation in English, I was relieved when he agreed with my plan to transfer the action to the US-Mexico border, make the greedy sister the main character, and create a version atheists could accept while retaining the underlying values of Catholic social justice teachings. Instead of Sunday School lesson, my genre model was carpa, or Mexican vaudeville, a style known for using comedy, stock characters, and physical humor to address sociopolitical issues. In this case, immigrant rights—a movement I’ve been involved in for years.

—Diane Lefer


God’s Flea

a play by Diane Lefer



inspired by the classic Colombian short story,
“En la diestra de Dios Padre” by Tomás Carrasquilla Naranjo


DOÑA GOLOSITA, greedy middleaged woman, played by a cross-dressed male, and not an attractive sight in spite of her oversize chichis

PERALTA, her brother, humble and pious, played by a cross-dressed woman

Two INTERROGATORS in ski masks

Note: INTERROGATOR, played by female, also plays SHERIFF ARPAIO, JESUS, DEATH; the other, male, also plays ST. PETER, MARUCHENGA (the maid), DIEGO (the gardener), CABBIE, CONGRESSWOMAN

Time and Place: Today. The Arizona-Mexico border.

Set: A swivel chair (the torture chair). A trunk. A kitchen counter or shelf upstage.

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