A True History of Prince Prospero: a variant text from the Isle of Caliban

Slide4

 

SCENE 1: IN THE BLACK, waves and seagulls. LIGHTS UP on a lone, stunted pine.

Enter GONZALO, dressed out of Holbein, laden with over-sized atlas, map and sextant.

He is followed by MATE, a roguish seaman bearing a pennant. Both wear black armbands.

GONZALO speaks Oxford English, MATE has a Latin lilt.

 

GONZALO:

What name is given to this island, mate?

These Southern Seas prove not to navigate

As easily as I have read upon the matter.

 

MATE:

Senor Vespucci never sailed these waters.

You’ll find maps here are difficult to follow,

Senor… Gonzago, is it?

 

GONZALO:

It’s Gonzalo.

 

MATE:

This “island,” sir, is not on any chart,

For it defies the navigator’s art

To steer a wandering bark unto these shores,

Or learn’d astronomer to find it by the stars.

No, you’ll not find this isle on any map.

Serendip-like, we find it by mishap.

 

GONZALO: (aside)

A nameless rock far from a nameless coast, eh?

It’s perfect for the purpose of my master.

 

MATE:

I did not say, sir, that the isle is nameless.

The ancients called this rock Old Setebos.

The mariner’s myth is that it disappears

In fogbanks, then magically reappears

At some other longitude and latitude.

 

GONZALO:

Enchanted, then?

 

MATE 2:

Bewitched’s a better word.

 

GONZALO:

A legend I recall, about a sea-witch—

Like Circe, or the Sirens… Sycorax?

 

MATE:

Exactly. Some say this her island is.

 

GONZALO:

Heraclitus, he called it Caliban, yes?

 

MATE:

And is Heraclitus a name that I should know?

 

GONZALO:

Poet. Third Century BC.

 

MATE:

I didn’t think so.

But Setebos or Sycorax, it’s all the same.

It’s just a rock, and a rock it will remain.

To give the rock a name? Here’s what I think:

I vote for Caliban. It sounds more Greek.

 

MATE plants the pennant. Offstage, a hautboy plays John Dowland’s “Flow My Tears.”

Enter PRINCE PROSPERO, wearing a black Doge’s cap and robes, in either arm

clutching his infant daughter, swaddled in white, and a silver urn, resting on a red pillow.

 

GONZALO:

My good Prince Prospero, I did as I was bid.

You said to find a place remote. I did.

This formal dirge and burial detail owing

Unto the Duchess Ariel notwithstanding,

I must protest that we delay our voyage

When swords are drawn and at an edge

Of readiness, to be brought down upon

Your brother the Usurper.

 

MATE: (with pennant)

“Free the homeland.”

 

GONZALO:

Your Grace well knows the customs maritime

Observable throughout recorded time

That serve in such a melancholy case.

When pressing matters make pressing need of haste,

Sagacious sailors do not make for port.

 

PROSPERO:

Just dump my Duchess’ ashes from the starboard poop,

And put us out to sea in a leaky cask?

 

GONZALO:

A caravel was all I dare to ask

When not an admiral I found but he

Was suspect in your brother’s mutiny.

 

PROSPERO:

Go! Private grief is not for public scrutiny.

My duchess is dead. I have no power.

I’ll never see the son she carried inside her.

Our infant daughter pines for her mother.

I have no power. Tell His Grace my brother

That I wish him well, and leave me here.

What awaits me, awaits me. What’s past is past.

 

 

 

GONZALO:

Is that a command, your Grace?

 

PROSPERO:

My last.

 

GONZALO bows, MATE kneels. Exuent. Manet PROSPERO, who kneels at the foot of the pine, laying both his burdens to either side. He weeps, beats the earth in frustration, and cries to Heaven.

 

Oh Angel, high or fallen, whatsoe’er

By this Rough Magic or by simple prayer

Can be so summoned, come and aid me now.

I’ve lost my love, my light. I do not know

If I possess the strength to raise our child

Alone, without her. I find I am beguiled

By grief, waylaid by woe. Even the will

Is wanting that would have me end it all.

Oh, gladly I’d change place to be entombed

Instead of he who died within his mother’s womb.

Or die he, if in dying he did not take

My dear beloved Ariel in his wake.

                       

                        LIGHTS SHIFT. The wind comes up. We hear the recorder playing Dowland’s

                        “Come again, sweet love.” The urn’s lid flies open, releasing a cloud of ash

                        which materializes into an exotic blue-skinned jinn in a masque by Inigo Jones.

                        This is the spirit we’ll call ARIEL.

 

ARIEL:

I am a jinn, a spirit bound in service

Unto thou, thou who has freed me, Magus.

 

PROSPERO:

What, Ariel?

 

ARIEL:

My history, false or true:

It has been a dozen long and languid years

Since I appeared. What is it that placed me here?

Old Sycorax, they used to call her,

The demons who paraded ‘round her fire,

For generation after generation.

A spell was cast that cleft this pine, encasing

My poor spirit there. Now Sycorax is fled.

 

PROSPERO:

But you are Ariel, my wife who’s dead.

 

ARIEL:

Before the time of Sycorax, I was a maid

Who never aged; at other times, the bawd

Of Setebos, this isle’s ancestral god,

Our father, our son, and our unholy lover.

A slave appears as their master sees them.

What to you, Magus, will I be or seem?

 

PROSPERO:

My Ariel, the wife I thought was gone.

 

ARIEL:

Pity. That will not make you free me soon.

And yet, one day, you’ll see me for who I am.

 

                                    ARIEL kisses PROSPERO. From the place where PROSPERO struck the earth,

                                    a figure sits up –the manifestation we call CALIBAN.

 

CALIBAN:

Oh many years of study it shall take

Before thou shouldst a proper human make.

 

ARIEL:

It lies not in our power, but in his sympathies.

 

CALIBAN:

Damnation ! Oh, we’ll be here centuries!

 

                                    CALIBAN falls back to earth, frustrated. PROSPERO rises appalled.

 

PROSPERO:

What thing is that?

 

CALIBAN:

Yo ho, what thing is this ?

A perfect poesy, all innocence!

 

CALIBAN sees the baby-bundle between him and PROSPERO. ARIEL retrieves it, staring at PROSPERO, shaking her head, and holding a finger to her pursed lips.

 

PROSPERO:

I’ll ask again, what thing are you?

 

CALIBAN:

Ha-HA!

I’m Caliban. Doest thou not know me, Da?

 

CALIBAN hugs PROSPERO, who freezes. ARIEL hugs the baby, who cries. BLACKOUT. END OF SCENE 1.

 

                                    SCENE 2. LIGHTS UP. INTERIOR OF A CAVE. ARIEL stands center, wearing

an apron and nursing the baby, quieter now. In her other hand, she holds a mirror, in which she admires herself. PROSPERO kneels at her feet, consulting a book and working with flash paper. After a poor effect, he checks his text; after a good one, he makes a note. ARIEL flashes reflected light from the mirror on him. 

 

ARIEL:

I could make fire for you easier.

 

 

PROSPERO:

Fire is a man’s work, though I thank you, wife.

 

ARIEL:

Her name was Ariel.

 

PROSPERO:

Yes, Ariel.

 

ARIEL:

What would the boy’s name be, had he seen life?

 

                                    CALIBAN enters, a good boy, eager to help, and deposits a bundle of logs.

CALIBAN:

Caliban! Look, mother, I found firewood.

What, haven’t got the fire started quite yet, Dad?

 

PROSPERO:

No, boy, I lack your mother’s patient skill.

Don’t you have something else to do?

(to ARIEL:) Your son’s a pill!

 

ARIEL:

Isn’t he your son too?

 

                        PROSPERO ignores them, busy with his spells. CALIBAN scowls, now a sullen teen.

 

CALIBAN:

There’s naught but meanness I can see in him.

 

ARIEL:

He’s lost his love. Love is what makes them human.

I know that it is hard to understand.

He loves you, but he thinks he lost you –Caliban!

 

                        CALIBAN exits, muttering to himself. PROSPERO continues with his spells, oblivious.

                        ARIEL flicks the cloth, and the infant disappears, the cloth now a prop for the following

                        —by turns a face-towel and shoulder wrap for MIRANDA, who enters as a petite girl

                        carrying a teddy bear larger than she is. With ARIEL’s help, she transforms before us

                         from toddler to teen.

 

Our children grow –What is she, two?— so quick!

She’s taking solid food, she’s walking, talking.

Before you know it, now she is six.

She’s off to school, she’s eight, she’s ten, a gawking

Adolescent. She’s twelve already. So quick.

To keep them at that age, now that’s a trick!

 

                        ARIEL spreads the cloth on the ground for a picnic. MIRANDA sits with the teddy bear.                                   

                        CALIBAN enters, bearing a tea-service. PROSPERO works with flash paper, oblivious.

 

 

ARIEL:

You really only need the one, you know.

The one spell. I await your bidding.

Where is Miranda?

 

PROSPERO:

Oh, I let her go

Collecting shells with Caliban.

 

ARIEL:

You’re kidding.

 

PROSPERO:

With scores of spells, I’ve got that rascal bound –

Enough to render even Caliban obedient.

 

ARIEL:

Ah! “Give him boundaries.” Haven’t you found

That’s less effective than it is expedient?

 

ARIEL watches as MIRANDA places a bandana on the teddy bear as bib.

                        CALIBAN puts a bandana on his own head and sits cross-legged on the cloth

                        as MIRANDA takes out flash cards, holding them up for CALIBAN.

 

CALIBAN:

“A.” “A” is for At One Ment.

 

MIRANDA:

It’s “Atonement.”

 

CALIBAN:

“Atonement.” What’s Atonement?

 

MIRANDA:

It says the moment

Of Grace that we derive from Worldy Acts.

 

CALIBAN:

Oh. Worldly acts, eh?

 

MIRANDA:

Yes. Of Grace.

 

CALIBAN:

That sucks.

“B.” “B” is for Beat It, Dude.

 

MIRANDA:

“Beatitude.”

 

CALIBAN:

beeby-beeby-beeby-beeb!— “Attitude.”

 

 

MIRANDA:

Cal! Be serious. “C.”

 

CALIBAN:

“C” is for Caliban!

 

                        MIRANDA glares at CALIBAN. It does no good. He does a little dance.

 

Can-Can Caliban! Stole a kiss and away he ran! Can-Can Caliban!

 

MIRANDA:

Cal! You’re not playing right!

 

CALIBAN:

I’m sorry, Randy.

…Not speaking to us now? Oh that’s just dandy!

 

MIRANDA:

My name’s Miranda.

 

CALIBAN:

But you call me Cal!

What’s up with that, Ted? It’s just you and me, pal.

 

MIRANDA:

Don’t call him Ted! Don’t try to make me laugh!

You with your attitude, that stupid scarf!

An artless jackanapes, a tart-tongued knave,

The ape of fashion and a willful slave!

You’re nothing but a— You’re ridiculous!

 

                                    CALIBAN, hurt to the quick, takes this with dignity.

 

CALIBAN:

That doesn’t make you more. It only makes me less.

I’m not your slave, and you’re the one who’s willful.

 

                                    MIRANDA melts into CALIBAN’s awkward arms.

 

MIRANDA:

I’ve not shamed you. I’ve only shamed myself, Cal.

I’m sorry. Cal! I love you so. I do.

 

                                    MIRANDA kisses CALIBAN.

 

CALIBAN:

You hurt me with your words, but kiss me too?

Oh, so that is love. But it’s not sublime.

It’s painful. If that’s what Father feels, I pity him.

 

MIRANDA:

I’m sorry, Cal. I love you.

 

 

CALIBAN:

Do you, Half Sis?

 

MIRANDA:

Why do you call me that?

 

CALIBAN:

Because… of… THIS!

 

                        CALIBAN jumps on MIRANDA and tickles her. Frisky turns amorous. CAL stops.

 

MIRANDA:

It’s alright, Cal. It’s alright. You don’t have to stop.

 

ARIEL:

She’s what, fifteen now? Sixteen? All grown up.

 

CALIBAN:

But me, I can’t. I can’t. If I were human,

Why, I would fill this isle with Calibans.

 

                        Roused by the tussle, PROSPERO discovers the two kids.

 

PROSPERO:

Unhand my daughter, fiend!

 

MIRANDA:

But father, we—

 

PROSPERO:

Be silent, girl! I trusted you, but now I see

You’re not the son I lost! You’re nothing to me!

You’re worse than nothing! You’re—

 

CALIBAN:

I’m Caliban.

 

PROSPERO:

A monstrous fiend! A wretch! A thing! Inhuman!

 

CALIBAN:

You’d rather see her topped by some young gentleman?

 

PROSPERO:

A sharp-tongued monster! Well, monster, learn your place.

I’ll master you! I’ll scar your back and brand your face

To make you look the monster that you are.

 

                                    ARIEL steps forward, holding the mirror. It glints in the light.

 

ARIEL:

With all this smoke, great Magus, where is the mirror?

 

 

PROSPERO:

Mirror? Behold what thou has monstered forth.

 

ARIEL:

Behold what you have brought forth for yourself.

If he’s a monster, I’m a monster, too.

 

PROSPERO:

I don’t know what you’re talking about.

 

ARIEL:

You do.

 

A flash of lightening, no sound yet.

 

If you don’t see it yet, you really ought to know.

I told you when you came here, Prospero.

I’m not your wife, your Ariel.

 

PROSPERO:

Who are you, then?

 

ARIEL:

My name was sometime Sycorax.

 

PROSPERO:

And him?

 

CALIBAN:

Some call me Setebos. But you can call me Cal.

 

MIRANDA:

And I am your grown daughter, your Miranda.

 

                                    There is a distant roll of thunder.

 

ARIEL:

Fate intervenes. The time has come for candor.

A tempest is now rising, which will bring

The past come sailing back to you, to fling

Your enemies upon the rocky verge

You’ve built around yourself. Now Fate will urge

The issue of forgiveness, not just of others,

Of faithless councilors, usurping brothers,

The men who took your kingdom, stole your wealth,

But of that hatred in you –you, yourself.

 

                        Lightning flashes once, again. The mirror glints in PROSPERO’s eyes.

 

PROSPERO:

Myself?

 

 

 

ARIEL:

Your loss was grievous, and it made you hard.

A hermit in a cave, obsessed with an arcane art,

Without a thought to your poor daughter’s love

For strange new worlds that you’ve grown weary of.

 

MIRANDA: (putting her arm around CAL)

Made you deny the boy that you’d called son.

Made you reject a love that you’d once won.

 

CALIBAN: (putting his arm around ARIEL)

Made you neglect the woman you adored.

Made you abuse her, treat her like a chore.

 

ARIEL: (holding the mirror up to PROSPERO)

Made you do terrible things, while you decried

The monster in the glass you darkly scried.

 

Thunder, growing louder. The mirror glints in PROSPERO’s eyes.

 

PROSPERO:

I see a powerful magic raised against me.

But you’ve not reckoned with my potency.

 

Lightning, closer now. PROSPERO pushes ARIEL and CALIBAN.

 

Chant spells, make signs, do what you can.

Do your worst, I’ll stand it, as I am a man.

 

                                    Thunder, closer now. PROSPERO draws a whip from his belt.

 

MIRANDA:

Father!

 

ARIEL & CALIBAN:

No!

 

ARIEL hands the mirror to MIRANDA. She holds it toward the audience,

beyond which she has just sighted something. Thunder and lightning.

 

PROSPERO:

Think you that ought will stay me in my rage?

Bethink you, what can spare you from my whip?

 

ARIEL:

What turns an angry man into a sage?

 

MIRANDA:

A ship!

 

                                    THUNDER. LIGHTNING. RAIN.

BLACKOUT. END OF PLAY.

One Last Thought

 [Originally written in August, 2013 for 31 Plays in 31 Days (all posted on this site) this play was adapted for The Lacuna Works LEXiCON Festival in Faversham, Kent (between London and Canterbury) and won first prize among six finalists at the event on March 16, 2014.]

One Last Thought

At LIGHTS UP, we discover PROFESSOR GEOFFREY dictating to  his amanuensis, TIMMS. GEOFFREY stands, like a lecturer at a university (which he is) at a table, set with a couple of convenient volumes of reference, a pitcher with a half-full glass of water, and a vase of flowers. TIMMS is taking dictation in a notebook, as fast as he can.

GEOFFREY: (dictating)
“…that afternoon when he had discovered the surprising import of a tea in Tottenham, for it was this chance encounter that occasioned the next phase of John Aubrey’s extraordinary academic career.”

TIMMS labors to catch up, and after a moment of scribbling, with GEOFFREY waiting patiently, he does so.

TIMMS:
“…extraordinary academic career.” Got it.

GEOFFREY:
Well, that finishes out the chapter. And that should do it for today, Timms. You’ll type that up and bring me the proofs this evening?

TIMMS:
Yes, Professor.

TIMMS rises to go. GEOFFREY forestalls him.

GEOFFREY:
Stay a moment, Timms.

TIMMS:
Certainly, Professor.

TIMMS sits back down.

GEOFFREY:
You’ll forgive me, Timms, but you seem… distracted this afternoon. Are you feeling quite right?

TIMMS:
Oh, quite alright, sir. I got a bit of exercise this morning, a walk in the gardens, and then got in a bit of gardening myself, in my own little…

GEOFFREY:
“Domain.” If I may.

TIMMS:
“Domain” is a word would do nicely, sir, for the thought I had in my head. That’s why you’re the professor.

GEOFFREY:
And may I enquire after Mrs. Timms?

TIMMS:
Oh, Mrs. Timms is grand, sir. A bit of the rheumatism, now and then, since the accident, but she committed herself to a walk in the garden this morning, and though I often enjoy the solitude I was certainly grateful for her company.

GEOFFREY:
She’s a tad young for rheumatism, if you don’t mind the observation.

TIMMS:
Oh, no sir. And yes, I don’t know if that’s the proper medical term for it. Aches and pains still, since the accident, you know, but I don’t have that from a doctor.

GEOFFREY:
I see.

TIMMS:
She’s taken up needlepoint. It helps with the rheumatism. She sews flowers, while I pot and plant ‘em.

GEOFFREY:
“When Adam delved / And Eve spun / Who then was / the gentleman?”

TIMMS:
I beg pardon, sir?

GEOFFREY:
An old aphorism. Horn-book wisdom from centuries past. Might make a good embroidery.

TIMMS:
Can you elucidate, sir? I lack your scholarship.

GEOFFREY:
An old style saying, for the needlepoint. It would parse out something like this: “When the first man was    a farmer, digging in the earth to feed his wife and sons, and the first woman was a domestic worker in her own cottage industry, plaiting fibers to make fabric with which to clothe the couple –which person, in that situation, occupied the exalted status of the upper class?”

TIMMS:
I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that, sir.

GEOFFREY:
It’s a rhetorical question, Timms. There’s really no answer to it. No one, really. That’s the point, isn’t it?

TIMMS:
I’m sure I don’t know, sir. May I go now, sir?

GEOFFREY:
Yes.

TIMMS starts to go, but GEOFFREY catches him
before TIMMS is well out of his seat.

One last thought. Take this down.

TIMMS:
Of course, sir.

GEOFFREY: (dictating)
Dash. “A phase of Aubrey’s career that would lead him to question the very foundations of his life’s work, an epoch marked by bitter disappointment and, perhaps because of it, to a renewed commitment that enlivened and enlightened Aubrey’s latter days and lent new meaning to his… his…

TIMMS:
You’ve already used “life,” sir.

GEOFFREY:
Yes, I know.

TIMMS: (reading it back)
Leading him to “…question the very foundations of his life’s work.”

GEOFFREY:
Yes, yes, I know.

TIMMS:
I’ve annoyed you, sir. I’m terribly sorry.

GEOFFREY:
No, Timms, it’s not you. I simply can’t think of a word. A man who has given his life to the life of words, and I can’t think of a simple synonym.

TIMMS:
Well, sir, I’m no scholar, sir, but… there’s really no synonym for life, is there.

GEOFFREY:
Well, of course there is, Timms!

TIMMS:
I’m sorry, sir. I spoke out of turn.

GEOFFREY:
No, no. I apologize.

TIMMS:
Oh, no sir. I’m sorry, I’m sure. There’s no two ways about it. Perhaps the thesaurus?

GEOFFREY consults the thesaurus. He thumbs through the index, muttering to himself, before he finds the entry and reads it.

GEOFFREY:
Life, life… Life of the party… Life of Riley… lifeless, life-giving, life’s blood… Ah! Life! Life: A being, affairs, biography… Existence 1.1

(looking at the first page of the book)

No help.

(back to the index, reading)

Lifetime. 110.5

(flipping to that page)

Existence.

(looking a tad embarrassed, but hiding it well)

Let’s try that one, shall we?

TIMMS:
Yes, sir.

GEOFFREY:
Would you read that back to me, Timms?

TIMMS:
Yes sir: “…enlightened and enlivened Aubrey’s latter days, and lent new meaning to his… existence.

GEOFFREY holds out his hand for the notebook
which TIMMS gives him. He stares at the page.

GEOFFREY:
That’s not quite the same, is it.

TIMMS:
No, sir.

GEOFFREY:
A bit flat, that is.

TIMMS:
Yes, sir.

GEOFFREY tosses the thesaurus on the table in disgust.

GEOFFREY:
Roget, you’re damn useless.

TIMMS:
Well, sir, he was a Frenchman.

GEOFFREY stares at TIMMS for a moment, for this
unexpected temerity. Then he bursts out laughing,
quite enjoying the unexpected humor.

GEOFFREY:
Very good, Timms! Yes, a fine scholar, but not without his limitations.

TIMMS:
Perhaps, sir, if I may, the fault is not with Monsieur Roget, but with Mister Aubrey.

GEOFFREY:
Eh? What do you mean?

TIMMS:
Well, sir… You’re attempting to delineate the life a man who encountered… frustrations, I suppose.  Or disappointments, as you said. And then went on to assimilate that… that lesson –that life gave him. Before he went to his Maker. Having learned what he’d been put on earth to do.

GEOFFREY:
Yes?

TIMMS:
So, sir, perhaps the gift was not in the realization, but in the travail that produced it. Life being not the result of living, but the engine of it. If you see what I mean.

GEOFFREY:
Yes.

TIMMS:
Mister Aubrey was –like you, sir— a brilliant scholar. But, perhaps, like all men, he came to question…

GEOFFERY:
Yes?

TIMMS:
Well, sir, forgive me, but –What’s the point?

GEOFFREY:
I beg your pardon.

TIMMS:
I’m speaking for myself here, sir. This morning, walking with the missus in the gardens, I felt so— so very small. I mean, I’m only a clerk to a man who’s a magnificent scholar, acknowledged by all as a brilliant man, the brilliant biographer of a brilliant man.

GEOFFREY: (blushing, false modesty)
Well…

TIMMS:
Himself a brilliant biographer of brilliant men. But when I expressed this thought to Mrs. Timms on our walk today, she said: Well, who’s he when he’s at home? She gets a bit querulous when she’s particularly ailing, but for all that, she has a point. I mean, you yourself are beholden to Mister Aubrey for your life’s work, its inspiration and even much of its substance, and Mister Aubrey before you, beholden to Bacon and Shakespeare and so forth, who also sat at the feet of another, and they at another’s, and so on, back to old Cain and Abel, and Adam himself.

GEOFFREY:
Well?

TIMMS:
So if I’m just a small period, a punctuation mark, in the book of another man’s life, so is he, and he before him –Mister Aubrey, I mean. And all before him, back to Adam, who was just a bit of a part in the book of the Almighty Himself.

GEOFFREY:
Get to the point, Timms.

TIMMS:
Well, sir, I’m no scholar, but I had a bit of learning at school, and I believe Mrs. Timms, in her plain way, expressed it. There’s a difference between life and existence, isn’t there. Life is growth, like flowers in the garden. And each phase of that growth requires the acknowledgement that we’re not there yet. That no thought is our last thought, really, until our final thought. Until the Great Gardener deems us worthy of a place at his table, perfectly formed.

GEOFFREY is speechless for a moment.

GEOFFREY:
Good God, Timms. You’re a poet.

TIMMS:
No sir. This was all Mrs. Timms on the subject. She has quite a lot of time to think on things, you see.

GEOFFREY hands the notebook back to TIMMS.

GEOFFREY:
Let’s hold off on transcribing that last chapter, Timms. I’d like some time to consider it.

TIMMS:
Yes, sir.

TIMMS rises to go. GEOFFREY forestalls him.

GEOFFREY:
One last thought.

TIMMS conceals a sigh as he drops gently back in his chair,
prepared for further dictation when he’d like to get home
to his garden and his missus.

TIMMS:
Yes, sir?

GEOFFREY:
Would you do me the honor of joining me for tea tomorrow? You and Mrs. Timms.

TIMMS:

Why, yes sir. Yes sir, we’d be delighted.

 

GEOFFREY:

If it doesn’t impose on Mrs. Timms too much.

 

TIMMS:

Oh no, sir. I’m sure she’d quite enjoy it.

 

GEOFFREY:

Well, then.

 

TIMMS:

Thank you, sir.

 

GEOFFREY:

No, no, Timms. Thank you. Until tomorrow?

 

TIMMS:

Yes sir. Good night, then.

 

GEOFFREY:

Yes. Good night.

 

TIMMS exits. GEOFFREY remains standing by the table. He starts to pick up a book, but his hand strays to the flowers.

TABLEAUX. LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK. END OF PLAY.

Water on Stone

Water on Stone

 

IN THE BLACK, we hear water dripping in an echo chamber. Then we hear the sound of a man laboring and breathing.  The first light we see is a flashlight, upstage and down low.

 

 LIGHTS UP slowly as we discern it is on the helmet of DAVE VAN FLEET, dragging himself along the floor of a narrow passage and into a subterranean cavern.

As he stands, we see him more clearly: A man in his 50s,  fairly fit, equipped for caving, with a colored utility suit,  detachable tool belt,     coil of rope, grappling hooks, etc.

DAVE:

You alright?

 

CHRIS: (off)

Right behind you. Give me a minute.

 

DAVE:

If I can get through, you certainly can.

 

CHRIS: (off)

Give me a minute, Dad. This is tight!

 

 We see a second flashlight now as CHRIS VAN FLEET enters  in the same manner. He’s in early 20s, similarly equipped.  DAVE steps back as CHRIS looks out into the chamber, downstage.

 

CHRIS:

Whoa!

 

DAVE:

What’d I tell you?

 

CHRIS:

Shhh.

 

CHRIS steps downstage and snaps his fingers. We hear it reverberate as an echo. Then he claps his hands. Again, it echoes.

 

CHRIS:

Daaamn. How big is it?

 

DAVE:

We haven’t mapped it yet. The cartographic team is on their way from the Czech Republic.

 

CHRIS:

It must be immense!

 

DAVE:

Pretty darned impressive, huh?

 

CHRIS:

Look at those speleothems!

 

DAVE:

Yeah.

 

CHRIS: (pointing up)

Soda straws. Helictites.

 

DAVE: (pointing down)

Look down. Rimstone. Calcite rafts. Cave pearls.

 

CHRIS:

It’s got it all.

 

DAVE:

I told you.

 

CHRIS:

How big’s your team?

 

DAVE:

At any one time? Forty, fifty people. Well, you know how it goes. People fly in and fly out. The government puts limits on the number of visitors to the karst at any one time.

 

CHRIS:

You haven’t greased the right palms?

 

DAVE:

No, not graft. They’ve got rebels in the hills here. Not enough to mount an offensive, but they occasionally kidnap tourists for ransom. The government’s pretty serious about it. No tourism in the karst. Which is a good thing. But it was work getting permission to fly you in.

CHRIS:

So, I’m the only tourist here.

 

DAVE:

No, son. You’re part of the team.

 

Something lower down captures CHRIS’ attention.

 

CHRIS:

Look at that rimstone. Layers of it.

 

DAVE:

The hydrology people are all over this. We got several of those. Americans, from Indiana.

 

CHRIS:

I can imagine.

 

DAVE:

The biology is a little thin. Your mother was disappointed. Hardly any arthropods at all so far. Some pretty interesting chemotrophic bacteria. The chemists are having a field day!

 

CHRIS:

And you?

 

DAVE:

Yeah, son. I’m pretty happy. I think I may have stumbled onto something pretty special here.

 

CHRIS:

Look at those draperies.

 

DAVE:

We get some lights down here, you wouldn’t believe their colors. But I didn’t want to bring a whole team. Just you and me.

 

CHRIS:

It’s beautiful. Thank you.

 

A pause as CHRIS admires the cavern in silence, and DAVE looks at CHRIS.

 

DAVE:

How’s school?

 

 

CHRIS:

Oh, you know.

 

DAVE:

No, I don’t. I didn’t go to Harvard. Declared a major yet?

 

CHRIS:

I got to soon. Next year.

 

DAVE:

What are you thinking?

 

CHRIS:

I haven’t decided yet.

 

DAVE:

Archeology?

 

CHRIS:

I haven’t decided yet.

 

DAVE:

Maybe Physical Anthropology.

 

                                                            CHRIS says nothing, stares at the cave.

 

DAVE:

Well, you know, whatever you pick, that’s fine by me. As long as you’re happy.

 

CHRIS:

Yeah.

 

DAVE:

What’s wrong?

 

CHRIS:

Nothing, I just… Well, I don’t deal well with pressure.

 

DAVE:

Hey, nobody’s pressuring you. Whatever you decide.

 

CHRIS:

Yeah.

 

A pause. We hear a drip reverberate.

 

DAVE:

The draperies are so delicate. The calcium carbonite content has to be just so, balanced against the limestone in solution, and all at just the right inclination. Somewhere between twenty and sixty. The colors come from the amount of iron in it. It’s just beautiful, isn’t it?

 

A pause.

 

CHRIS:

What if I didn’t pick a science?

 

DAVE:

Well, son, everything’s a science. I hear you need statistical analysis to get an advanced degree in just about anything. Political Science, Sociology, History…

 

CHRIS:

What about Art.

 

DAVE:

Art?

 

CHRIS:

Or Art History.

 

DAVE:

Wow.

 

CHRIS:

Yeah.

 

DAVE:

Art History.

 

CHRIS:

Yeah.

 

A beat.

 

DAVE:

Why?

 

 

 

CHRIS:

I took a course in it. You said explore, I explored. I was telling my professor about all the places I’d visited, that you took me to when I little –Lascaux, and Altamira— and about the work you did at Arnhem. And… and I was more excited about that than I ever was about any metrics or statistical analysis.

 

DAVE:

Well, that’s science too. Parietal images.

 

CHRIS:

“Parietal images.” Nobody ever talks about it as art. These people, the men who made those images, they experienced the same wonder you do. They came down into these places, places few people or none had ever been, and left a mark to show they’d been there. It’s awesome. It’s… it’s what I want to do.

 

A pause. We hear the drip reverberate.

 

DAVE:

And you think I won’t understand that?

 

CHRIS says nothing, just nods.

 

DAVE:

You know how I got into caving?

 

CHRIS smiles, shakes his head.

 

DAVE:

I was taking a class in political science, and we were reading Plato. God awful boring stuff, the Greeks. But we read this one Dialogue, The Allegory of the Cave. All about how most of us go through life watching shadows on the wall, but the philosophers –the scientists, I thought— are the ones who see the forms behind the shapes, can look directly at the essence of reality.

 

Spring Break, a bunch of us drove down from Palo Alto to stay in a cabin in the foothills. There are caves all over the Sierras, of course. And I started going to them. At first, because I was curious, then because I was interested, then because I was obsessed. Like an artist.

 

CHRIS:

Like your father.

 

DAVE:

We’re not that different.

 

CHRIS:

You and your father?

 

DAVE:

You and me. Or, yeah, me and my dad. Music was everything to him.      What a pair we made. The artist and the scientist. But he understood,      you know?

Scientists flatter ourselves that we’re not looking at shadows, but right at the heart of reality. But a real scientist will tell you, it’s all projections.

We’re all part of a process, bigger than ourselves. It’s an accretion. Like water on stone. In terms of what makes you happy, science or art, it’s the same as anything else.

You delve. You see what’s down there. You pay attention ‘til you find something special.

 

A pause. We hear the drip reverberate.

 

CHRIS:

You missed your calling, Dad. You should have been a psychologist.

 

DAVE:

Naw. I’m right where I need to be. We both are.

 

The two men smile, put their arms around each other, look out at the cavern.  We hear the drip reverberate.

 

                                                            LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK. END OF PLAY.

Arch de Triomphe

Day 30, Play 30: Arch de Triomphe

LIGHTS UP. JANE is up, watching The Daily Show.
Sounds, off, are TOM, fumbling with the key.

JANE:
Hi!

TOM:
I’m home!

JANE:
Yay!

TOM:
Thank god!

JANE:
I was beginning to worry.

TOM:
What a day!

JANE:
Quite a day, yes.

TOM:
Got the car working.

JANE:
The Volkswagon? How?

TOM:
Solenoid, not starter. $20 spare part compared $200 special order.    Worth a try, anyway.

JANE:
But—

TOM:
Bought a flashlight and monkey wrench at the auto parts store along    with a solenoid.

JANE:
For $20?

TOM:
Not counting the flashlight and monkey wrench.

JANE:
Still.

TOM:
I saved the 75 bucks for a tow.

JANE:
Mein Held! That’s German for “My hero!”

TOM collapses onto the bed.

JANE:
How was your mom’s surgery?

TOM:
Was that today?

JANE:
This morning, yes.

TOM:
Fine. She was fine when I left her at, what, eight? Visiting hours were over.

JANE:
Was she awake?

TOM:
In and out.

JANE:
But it went okay.

TOM:
Doctor Borelli said it couldn’t have gone better.

JANE:
Is she still talking about Dr. Borelli?

TOM:
Said he ate yellow jello at the foot of her bad last night. Around 2am,      she said.

JANE:
Jeez! What does her real doctor say?

TOM:
The appropriately named Doctor Hunt? Ironically, I still haven’t seen him. I’d think he was as much a phantom as Borelli if I hadn’t seen his name on her charts.

JANE:
Did you get a hold of her doctor? What’s his name, Dunn?

TOM:
No, I left a message with his service. I don’t think he gets ‘em.

JANE:
Anything else?

TOM:
Talked to Marv about the website. He seemed confident we could swing it for what we can afford.

JANE:
I meant about your ma.

TOM:
No. She looked good when I left her.

(beat)

JANE:
That’s good about the website.

TOM:
Yeah.

(beat)

You know, you get through a rough patch, with an over dose of stress, gnawing uncertainty and herculean effort, and your reward is… well, that you got through. There’s no ticker-tape parade.

JANE:
No.

TOM:
And sometimes I just feel like—

The telephone rings, interrupting him. TOM looks at his cell,
sighs, and looks at JANE. JANE backs gracefully out of the room to give TOM some privacy.

JANE:
I’ll be right back.

TOM:
Hi mom! …Yeah, they didn’t used to let patients have phones by their beds, that’s right. … So, you know where you’re at? … I didn’t mean anything by it , Mom, I just— He was. Did he have some more lemon jello? … No, I don’t think even doctors are allowed to smoke there. … No, not even after hours. … No, that’s right, you’d have smelled it, and it would’ve set off the alarms. … Well, because— I don’t know, Mom. It’s a way for immigrants to advance, I guess. Yeah, she’s— No, not Filipino, I think she’s
Sudanese or something. … Well, even if she were Filipino, she wouldn’t speak Chinese. … No, you’re probably right there. Listen, I gotta get off of here, I’m exhausted. … Yeah, in the morning. First thing.
Okay, good night. I love you too.

TOM hangs up, sighs, relaxes. The instant he does so,
the phone rings again. TOM answers.

TOM:
Yeah, whadja forget, Mom? … In Paris? … That’s called the Arc d’ Triumph. … Yeah, there was a famous photo or something, of the Nazis marching through it. … Okay, maybe it was the American army. … You were alive then, I wasn’t. … Well, that one was from the French Revolution, I think, but the Romans built them all over Europe. … Yeah, whenever they conquered a new province, they’d erect on the road to Rome. … Yeah, like your own National Geographic. … Sure, I’ll see you then.

TOM hangs up. JANE enters, ripping pieces of scrap paper
into small pieces, which she sprinkles over TOM head.
TOM smiles broadly as LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK.

END OF PLAY.

Day 31, Play 31

Slide31

“31 Plays in 31 Days”: Day 31, Play 31:

STEWART is at the PC. LIZBETH enters.
She reads over his shoulder.

LIZBETH:
Last Day.

STEWART:
Last Day.

LIZBETH:
What’s this one about?

STEWART:
I’m not sure yet. I’m never sure.

LIZBETH:
Did you ever write the verse play you were talking about with a sword duel in it?

STEWART:
No.

LIZBETH:
Kids trap a zombie in the basement?

STEWART:
Nope.

LIZBETH:
“Piddles, the Cat Who Could Fly?”

STEWART:
I wasn’t going to call it that. That was the name of the sketch the two writers were working on.

LIZBETH:
Oh. That’s too bad. I liked that title.

STEWART:
Never wrote it.

LIZBETH:
“Steward for the King Beyond the Waters”?

STEWART:
No. I liked that tile.

LIZBETH:
Couldn’t you write it?

STEWART:
Maybe one of these days.

LIZBETH:
The Cox Airplane Incident?

STEWART:
Someday.

LIZBETH:
The two guys on the raft?

STEWART:
Perhaps.

LIZBETH:
Logan at the Airport.

STEWART:
I hope to.

LIZBETH:
The one about the Dudley Brothers.

STEWART:
The Duddings. Maybe

LIZBETH:
That’s more than a week’s worth, right there. You gonna shoot for another month?

STEWART:
Are you serious?

LIZBETH:
Are you?

BLACKOUT. END OF PLAY.

The Rules of Scrabble

Slide29

Day 29 Play 29: The Rules of Scrabble

TED and DENISE are playing Scrabble. TED shifts tiles.

TED:
You didn’t shake the letters up enough.

DENISE:
You shook them.

TED:
I got the same letters as last time.

DENISE:
All the I’s?

TED:
None of your business.

DENISE:
I though ibid was a good play. The B on the triple letter.

TED:
That was last game. I don’t have I’s now.

TED places tiles.

Your turn.

DENISE:
What’s that?

TED:
Ibex. It’s a… African bird, or… or antelope or something.

DENISE:
Eight, nine, twelve: fourteen. And the B is doubled. Had to get rid of that X, eh?

TED:
I’ve been holding it a while.

DENISE stares at her tiles. TED stares at her.

TED:
How many tiles do you have?

DENISE:
I don’t know. Why?

TED:
You have eight.

DENISE:
So?

TED:
You’re supposed to have seven.

DENISE:
Why does it have space for eight?

TED:
How long have you been drawing eight tiles?

DENISE:
Why?

TED:
You won the last two games.

DENISE:
Would having an extra tile be an advantage?

TED:
It could be.

DENISE closes her eyes, selects a tile, and places it in the box,
face down.

TED:
What do you think you’re doing?

DENISE:
Putting back the extra tile.

TED:
But you saw what it was.

DENISE:
No I didn’t. I closed my eyes.

TED:
But you know which one it was when you look at your tiles. You see which one you put back.

DENISE:
So?

TED:
So, it’s not right. Now you know that that letter is out there. That I don’t have it.

DENISE:
What difference does that make?

TED:
It takes out the strategy! You might feel safe to play something because you know I don’t have a…

DENISE:
P, for example.

TED:
Don’t tell me!

DENISE:
Why not? Now we both know.

TED:
Now I know you don’t have a P.

DENISE:
So we’re even.

TED:
No, we’re not! You’re destroying the whole game!

DENISE:
Destroying? You’re over-reacting.

TED:
There are rules, Denise.

DENISE:
Oh, no! Here we go. The Rules of Scrabble.

TED:
There are Rules of Scrabble.

DENISE:
They’re—

TED:
They’re written in the box.

DENISE:
Where?

DENISE picks up the box to read the rules on the inside.

TED:
Don’t!

DENISE:
This is worse than when you play Trivial Pursuit.

TED:
Scrabble isn’t Trivial Pursuit! Scrabble is serious. Trivial Pursuit has no rules. That’s the problem. You have to make up your own.

DENISE:
This is why I hate game night.

TED:
Because you don’t like rules.

DENISE:
Because I don’t like your version of them.

DENISE picks up the box again.

TED:
You’re not going to—

DENISE:
I’m sick of this.

TED:
No.

DENISE:
I don’t want to play anymore.

DENISE upsets the box, letters falling on the board.
A beat. Will TED become angry?

TED:
You’re only allowed to do that in Monopoly.

DENISE:
Well played.

LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK. END OF PLAY.

Any Friend of Tookey

Slide28

Day 28, Play 28: Any Friend of Tookey…

Two men sit at a bar, facing the audience. They are
MATT GOTTSHALK and DOUG MALLARD, drinking
quietly and talking low.

MALLARD:
You the guy Tookey said?

GOTTSCHALK:
Yeah.

MALLARD:
Tookey said you need papers.

GOTTSCHALK:
Yeah, Took said you could hook me up.

MALLARD:
You tight with the Took?

GOTTSCHALK:
I must be. This is a solid.

(beat)

MALLARD:
Your name?

GOTTSCHALK:
Matt Gottschalk.

MALLARD:
No! I mean, in your name, or an assumed name?

GOTTSCHALK:
Assumed name.

MALLARD:
Okay. Any old name, or you got preferences?

GOTTSCHALK:
Specifically, Paul Gottschalk.

(beat)

MALLARD:
Relation?
GOTTSCHALK:
He’s my brother.

MALLARD:
Won’t he be needing his identity?

GOTTSCHALK:
He’s dead.

(beat)

MALLARD:
How’d that happen?

GOTTSCHALK:
In a way so as he won’t be needing his identity.

(beat)

MALLARD:
So: What? Standard DMV, his name, your picture? Social. You want credit cards?

GOTTSCHALK:
No, I’ll use his.

MALLARD:
But you need other gee gaws in your wallet. Spare business cards, maybe  a family picture. None of ‘em have to be functional, they’re just dressing, so to speak.

GOTTSCHALK:
Set dressing. Interesting. Yeah. Just so the document itself doesn’t come under question. I want a clear trail of him exiting the country.

MALLARD:
So you want the ID to get flagged for investigation later, but pass closer inspection now.

GOTTSCHALK:
You got it. Paper trail of his exit via Toronto. Maybe Montreal.

(beat)

MALLARD:
What really happened to him?

GOTTSCHALK:
Some bad debts and things. He shot himself.

MALLARD:
But you don’t want him to be dead.

GOTTSCHALK:
No.

MALLARD:
It won’t make trouble for the wife and kids?

GOTTSCHALK:
His? No he’s got nothing.

(beat)

MALLARD:
I can have this for you in two days.

GOTTSCHALK:
Tookie said if I paid extra, you could expedite. If an indictment is handed down before I get the ID, they’ll flag me at the border. Our friend said you might swing it, for a price.

MALLARD:
But you’re not my friend. And I want to know more about your brother.

GOTTSCHALK:
I didn’t have anything to do with it, if that’s what you mean. I mean, he suggested it. He looked at it the same way I did. We were both going to be ruined. One of us could make it look like we did it alone and hid it from the other one. Give the other guy an out.

MALLARD:
So he just elected to do that, did he?

GOTTSCHALK:
We flipped. He lost.

MALLARD:
Why didn’t he just leave the country for real?

GOTTSCHALK:
He didn’t steal enough to live abroad. Even alone.

MALLARD:
You take out an insurance policy or something?

GOTTSCHALK:
That would have been smart. Didn’t think of that.

MALLARD:
Next time, come to the professionals first. Paul Gottschalk, right?

GOTTSCHALK:
I got his information here.

GOTTSCHALK hands him a thick envelope.

MALLARD:
Two days, tops. We don’t get it in one, you pay the regular rate.

GOTTSCHALK:
How will I know?

MALLARD:
You come by in a few days and say you lost your ID. They look in the lost and found drawer. And there you are.

GOTTSCHALK:
Okay.

(beat)

MALLARD:
How’d he do it?

GOTTSCHALK:
Drove off into the desert somewhere. Took his Glock with him. They’ll never find him. If they don’t, it’ll be seven years before they declare him—

GOTTSCHALK chokes up.

MALLARD:
Dead.

GOTTSCHALK:
Yeah.

MALLARD downs his drink, rattles his ice.
sets his drink on the counter.

MALLARD:
Your brother didn’t lose that flip.

MALLARD exits. GOTTSCHALK stares out.

LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK. END OF PLAY.

Reza’s Suras

Slide27

Day 27, Play 27 – Reza’s Suras

LIGHTS UP on CAPT questioning WOMAN.

CAPT:
I understand I don’t need a translator.

WOMAN:
No, I’m Western educated. My English is not heavily accented. Occasional grammatical errors.

CAPT:
But you make your living writing in Arabic.

WOMAN:
I’m a journalist.

CAPT.
Oh, I’d call you a creative writer. Aren’t you the author of these, these tracts? “Reza’s Suras”

WOMAN:
I am the translator of them into English.

CAPT.
You’re not Reza?

WOMAN:
My name is Maryam.

CAPT:
That’s pretty. But it doesn’t rhyme with “Sura.”

WOMAN:
I believe that’s called a “happy accident.”

CAPT:
Only, it does rhyme, doesn’t it?

WOMAN:
In any language. And Reza, or his sources, rhyme in Arabic. Or the Arabic equivalent of rhyming. I don’t. I translate literally.

CAPT:
Why translate these into English at all? Who’s your audience?                       Is this supposed to scare us?

WOMAN:
These verses purport to be a kind of truth. Everyone should know            the truth.

CAPT:
These verses.

(reading)

“When the moon is in the Holy Month
The Defenders of Faith take their places.
The Sweet Feast begins, the moon in the East.
They take their revenge on the Invaders.

The Green Zone shall not shelter them
as The Green Banner of Allah is raised.
For a month the New Saracens rage
The Invaders, routed, depart for the West.”

(singing:)
“When the Moon / Is in the Seventh House / And Jupiter collides with Mars…”

Our analysts tell us that the English is crafted to appeal to the Western mind, and is not couched in terms that suggest it was translated from the Arabic at all.

WOMAN:
They are loosely translated. I assure you, these are Reza’s verses. Whether he indeed found them buried in an urn as he says in his Sura 17—

CAPT:
But who is Reza? That’s the question.

WOMAN:
I don’t know. I’m not Reza. My name is Maryam.

CAPT:
Pretty name. Meriam, in Hebrew. Marya in Greek, Maria in Latin.       What’s Reza?

WOMAN:
It’s from an Arabic word. It means the contentment between Allah          and Islam.

CAPT:
But it’s a guy’s name. Reza.

WOMAN:
It is, I think, a Farsi name.

CAPT:
That would indicate that the Iranians are involved.

WOMAN:
The man I met was not Iranian. They speak Arabic with an odd accent. And the verses are not Shiite. I’m sure your analysts informed you of that.

CAPT:

(reading:)
“The Throne of Peacocks is thrown down
Rightly guided is the Caliphate.”

“Pharoah’s doom, as the generals cry down
War upon their own. Sword or scimitar,
Steel shall rule.”

You understand, of course, why we’d want to talk to the person who wrote these “Suras.”

WOMAN:
Allah.

CAPT:
Reza.

WOMAN:
You’re threatened by him.

CAPT:
A collection of what purport to be verses written in the 15th Century predicting an Islamist uprising in the 21st Century. In, sorry, what’s that    to you?

WOMAN:
Subtract 632.

CAPT:
Your 15th Century.

WOMAN:
I understand why you’d want to talk to him.

CAPT:
Like talking to Nostradamus. Better poet, assuredly. Better predictor of events, I don’t know.

WOMAN:
The best predictor of events is the self-fulfilling prophecy.

CAPT:
Well, you’re the walking, talking Self-fulfilling Prophecy.

(reading:)

“When the Traducer is captured,
Her words flaming in glory,
Then will the Invader see
How words can be made to flame.”

WOMAN:
My own personal favorite.

CAPT:
You’re the Traducer.

WOMAN:
Flaming in glory. I have a bomb inside of me. Literally. Sewn into my hide. Tick. Tick. Boom.

She thumps her chest three times with her fist.

BLACKOUT. In the black, the word “boom” resonates
loudly through the theatre . END OF PLAY.

I’ll Be Mother

Slide26

Day 26, Play 26 – I’ll Be Mother

IN THE BLACK, an air-raid siren. LIGHTS FADE UP
on Margaret, 14, and Helena, 8, two waifs who’ve
returned to their neighborhood in London during
the Blitz.

MARGARET:
Oh, for Pete’s sake, Helena, come on.

HELENA:
My shoe’s untied!

MARGARET:
Haven’t I taught you how to do up your laces, young lady? Haven’t I?

HELENA:
I forget. Just tie them for me this time, Margaret. Please?

MARGARET:
We can’t stop every hour on the hour for this, Helena.

HELENA:
My feet hurt.

MARGARET:
Be a big girl, Helena!

HELENA:
I am a big girl. My feet hurt.

MARGARET:
I’ll give you a toffee if you stop complaining.

HELENA:
Can I have an Eccles cake?

MARGARET:
We’ve got two left. If you stop complaining, and don’t stop walking for    the next hour. And learn to tie your shoes. We’ll have our tea and the Eccles cakes.

HELENA:
You have tea?

MARAGRET:
I took a tin of it.

HELENA:
I’m telling Mumie. I want an Eccles cake now.

MARGARET:
Well, you can’t have one. How about a Pontefract?

HELENA:
Ew! No, they turn your teeth black.

MARGARET:
Do you still have your toothbrush?

HELENA:
What toothbrush?

MARAGRET:
The one they gave you at the home.

HELENA:
I think I lost it.

MARGARET:
You can use mine.

HELENA:
EW!

MARAGRET:
Or do without

HELENA:
I’m tired of doing without.

MARGARET:
Well, we’ve got a bit more of it, before we see Mummie again.

HELENA:
She sent us away

MARGARET:
She didn’t want to.

HELENA:
She sent us to a bad place.

MARGARET:
She sent us to Scotland.

HELENA:
Because we were bad.

MARGARET:
We weren’t bad, Helena. Other people were bad. They sent the fireworks, remember, and Mummie was afraid— Mummie didn’t want the fireworks to frighten us. So she sent us away.

HELENA:
How come we had to live with the bad children?

MARGARET:
That was a mistake. We weren’t supposed to go to the orphanage, we were supposed to go straight to a nice foster home.

HELENA:
I didn’t like the Froster home.

MARGARET:
No.

HELENA:
It was cold all the time, but they said they didn’t have any money for cold.

MARGARET:
Money for coal. No, a chilly reception that was. They must have thought they’d get posh children with extra pocket money to spend on coal.

HELENA:
Mister Froster was nice. He gave us candy.

MARGARET:
Mister Froster wasn’t really very nice at all.

HELENA:
Mrs. Froster got mad ‘cause he liked you.

MARGARET:
Yes.

HELENA:
And those other girls. They were mean.

MARGARET:
They were in a bad spot. I don’t blame them. Anyway, we got clear of that.

HELENA:
Mister Froster yelled.

MARGARET:
I’m sure it hurt him, but he’ll not be maimed by it. Thought about it, but no.

HELENA:
And I ran all the way to the train station. And you didn’t think I could do it.

MARGARET:
Good for you, Helena. Now we’ve only got a little way more before we get our flat.

HELENA:
Where is it?

MARGARET:
It’s down from the factory. But where’s the—

HELENA:
No Fractury.

MARGARET:
No, we must’ve got turned around. There’s Tyburne Street. That can’t be the—

HELENA:
It is. There’s Mummie’s gate!

MARGARET:
Then this must have been Tyburne.

MARGARET falls apart. She’s been sustaining a terrific run, getting free of foster home, training south from Scotland, navigating the city of London. She collapses.

HELENA:
Margaret! It’ll be okay. We’ll find Mummie. She went to the Tube, didn’t she? We’ll just have a cuppa and then go down to the Tube and find her.

You got them Eccles cakes? Cup of tea, we’ll feel better.

(beat)

C’mon, then. I’ll be mother.

LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK. END OF PLAY.

Presence

Slide25

Day 25, Play 25: Presence

 

JEFF is asleep, but fitful. ADRIANA lies next to him. Sitting on the end of   the bed is THE HAG, standing behind her is TOP-HAT. Neither JEFF nor ADRIANA see them. JEFF’s fitful sleep ends with him blinking awake.

                                                                                ADRIANA:

Shhh… See, I’m here. No old hag. No man with the top hat. No evil forces present in the room.

                                                                                JEFF:

They don’t always come.

                                                                                ADRIANA:

No. But about fifteen per cent of people get them at least once in their life.  They’re called night terrors. Usually involves paralysis, palpable sense of menace. It’s a phenomenon—

                                                                                JEFF:

You don’t have to tell me. I’ve been with them since I was a kid.

                                                                                ADRIANA:

So, they know their stuff when it comes to scaring you. They’ve been doing it twenty-five years.

                                                                                JEFF:

Don’t make jokes. This isn’t funny.

                                                                                ADRIANA:

I don’t mean to. I know you experience this as real terror. What I’m telling you is, they’re not here. Whatever you experienced, I understand. But do you see them in this room?

                                                                                JEFF:

Not now.

                                                                                ADRIANA:

Has any other person ever been in the room with you when you saw them?

                                                                                JEFF:

No.

                                                                                ADRIANA:

Is all I’m saying.

                                                                                JEFF:

What do you think they are?

                                                                                ADRIANA:

Jeff, honey, you kinda put me on the spot. I don’t think they’re just a figment of your imagination.

                                                                                JEFF:

They’re—

                                                                                ADRIANA:

Too many people see them and all see them the same for it to be that. But you claim you see flesh and blood people in the room.

                                                                                JEFF:
I see a flesh and blood hag and her top-hatted friend.

                                                                                ADRIANA:

Yeah, yeah, strangely, what a lot of people claim to see. But where’s        the evidence of that? They don’t show up on cameras,  no one’s ever identified them.

                                                                                JEFF:

But they’re real.

                                                                                ADRIANA:

That’s weird, though. Right?

                                                                                JEFF:

Yeah. Weird. What if they are real?

                                                                                ADRIANA:

Shhhh. What if they’re not real?

HAG and TOPHAT just sit there. LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK.