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.

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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.