Hurray for Heroditus!

Slide16

PLAY 22, DAY 22 – Hurray for Heroditus!

PROFESSOR is looking at a fragment of papyrus, using tweezers  and a mangifier.

PROFESSOR:
Heraclitus. He was born in Ephesus, in Anatolia, to a wealthy family, sometime in the 6th century. He’s mentioned by Diogenes in relation to the 69th Olymiad. Big believer in The Logos, as he called it. Panta rhei – “Everything flows.”

Potamoisi toisin autoisin embainousin, hetera kai hetera hudata epirrei

“Ever-newer waters flow on those who step into the same rivers.”

Pretty good Greek, for an Anatolian.

There’s only fragments of his work –that is, references to him in Diogenes and others. Plato, notably. If this piece proves to be his, to be authentic…

DEVIL enters from the shadows.

DEVIL:
Yes, that’s the deal, Professor.

PROFESSOR:
And I get to discover it. I’ll be the discoverer.

DEVIL:
That’s the deal.

PROFESSOR:
My name goes down in history as the discoverer of a lone document of Heraclitus.

DEVIL produces a pen with which to sign.

DEVIL:
Yes. Fine feather in your cap for a lifetime dedicated to scholastic drudgery.

PROFESSSOR:
Otherwise?

DEVIL:
All you’ve achieved in a lifetime: The charmingly illustrated children’s book, Hurray for Heroditus! I believe the illustrations even won some sort of prize.

PROFESSOR:
My son. Won a Caldecott Medal.

DEVIL:
But an authenticated text by Heraclitus?

PROFESSOR:
It would do well.

DEVIL:
A Pulitzer, perhaps a Nobel.

PROFESSOR:
What happens if I don’t take it?

DEVIL:
Understandable. A certain moral quibble. Scruple, what-have-you. There’s never any penalty for not signing. That would be unethical. There are others; that’s our method.

PROFESSOR:
Others?

DEVIL:
Others that would love to publish this. Professor Crawford, for example, would be keen on it.

PROFESSOR:
That charlatan!

DEVIL:
I’m sure.

PROFESSOR:
A monstrous mountebank!

DEVIL:
I’m quite sure of it. How can you doubt it? A scholar of his obviously inferior qualities, both social and academic, making such dizzying successes of his rather meager mind? Who did you think was responsible? And popular with the ladies. Yes, a charmer.

I’d much rather give this to you. A real plumb, this is.

PROEFESSOR:
Are you saying, I’d be saving it from his hands by taking it?

DEVIL:
Yes. He’s actually much more easily bought. But you, you deserve to be  the Great Discoverer. He gets your leavings. Not the other way around.

PROFESSOR:
No, no I don’t want to be the Great Discoverer—

DEVIL:
Good Professor, you deserve this.

PROFESSOR:
No. I want no credit. Just don’t let it go to— or rather, let Crawford   get whatever profit he can get from it. His own deal with the Devil.      I congratulate him. His price just went up.

DEVIL:
What if I just burn it?

DEVIL burns some flash paper.

PROFESSOR:
That fragment of Heraclitus. You wouldn’t dare! Then no one will ever know of it, know it existed.

DEVIL snaps his fingers, and there’s another paper.

DEVIL:
What if it gets revealed to be a fraud of your invention?

This paper also catches fire, singes PROFESSOR’s beard.

PROFESSOR:
You are an exacting devil, but I don’t believe you can visit that on me. If so, like Job, I suppose I would be disgraced of the Lord. That would be my burden to bear.

DEVIL:
You’re an exacting client, Professor.

PROFESSOR:
I’ll see you again, then?

DEVIL:
Nightly, in your dreams.

PROFESSOR:
Will I remember this dream, or just have it again?

DEVIL:
Whichever one is more exacting. We’ll decide later.

PROFESSOR:
I shan’t give in to you. I pray nightly.

DEVIL:
And yet I continue to appear in yours dreams, shall we say unbidden?

PROFFESOR:
Do you appear like this to everybody?

DEVIL:
No, different every time. You, you’re a tough one. Usually it’s just        a lass a fellow would sell himself for, or a sack of coin. Maybe they assigned the wrong devil. I don’t really understand what drives you, do I?

PROFESSOR:
Close.

DEVIL:
Oh I will. I’ll figure it out.

PROFESSOR:
No, I don’t think you will.

DEVIL exits. PROFESSOR smiles, for the first time.

PROFESSOR:
Perhaps if you read the book. Hurray for Heroditus!

LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK. END OF PLAY.

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