Sheets

A play in one act

Characters

MAN, in pajamas
WOMAN, read, knits, sits
ANALYST, with asthma bulb
ASSISTANT, with note pad and pen
PERSON-IN-WHITE, with white lensed glasses

The Scene

A hospital bed centre stage. On a small table next to it is a large notebook and several books. On the other side of the bed a rubber plant is on the floor. Stage right is the Woman’s location with an easy chair, stool and small a cabinet which is piled with the clean, folded white sheets. Stage left is the Analyst’s and Assistant’s bench, blackboard, and the Analyst’s small suitcase filled with papers and books. Behind the bench is a white chair, raised slightly, used later as a throne.

The play begins with the MAN flat in bed and the PERSON-IN-WHITE looking at a clipboard and then returning it to the end of MAN’S bed. PERSON then exits. Simultaneously WOMAN is folding up several sheets that are lying on her easy chair. When this task is completed, she crosses to MAN’S bed and clears up sheets of paper that are scattered on and around the bed. ANALYST and ASSISTANT are sitting on their bench, facing the bed with their backs to the audience.

ASSISTANT (rising to face audience, gestures to MAN in bed) What did all that mean? The point of it.
(to himself) That business with his ears.

ANALYST (startled) What’s that you say?

ASSISTANT I said, what did all that mean…the main point…the business with…

ANALYST Do you mean what did he mean (ASSISTANT begins to respond) or do you mean what
you said?

ASSISTANT The latter, of course. (thinks) No, the former. (confused) I’m not certain now.

ANALYST I see. Well, if it’s not one, it’s the other. Our business here will fail if the necessary distinctions aren’t observed. The question, which refers to the person-as-phenomenon, namely ‘What did that mean?’

ASSISTANT (ignores the remark) Whereas the question ‘what did he mean’ involves the person qua person (pulls out asthma bulb and uses it taking deep breaths) which for our purpose is a dubious category.

ASSISTANT (confused) Not the latter. It can’t be a qua person. I don’t think I mean that.

ANALYST (impatiently dismissive) What you think you mean doesn’t matter. What we have here is straightforward enough. The libido…

ASSISTANT (starts flicking through his notebook) Libido? Ah. Here it is. ‘The libido….

ANALYST The life urge…

ASSISTANT (still looking at notebook) Yes, the very thing.

ANALYST The life urge is returning on itself. The sexual act…

ASSISTANT Oh, yes!

ANALYST …as prehensile movement (prevents ASSISTANT interrupting) is frozen at the very moment it recognizes the desire that creates it.

ASSISTANT Marvellous. You are the master. (starts to scribble madly in notebook, to himself) That could mean all sorts of things. Impotence, for example. Or the very opposite – couples every hour for ten seconds like a monkey. But why? Spite perhaps? Clearly not self-abuse. No, certainly not. From envy then? Pride? Sexual sloth, most likely. Sloth and boredom. (louder) Yes, that’s certainly it.

ANALYST We are agreed on the diagnosis then. Now, what of the cure? What is your opinion there?

ASSISTANT Of course, the cure.

ANALYST Evidently the course taken by the cure will depend on our (looks blankly at ASSISTANT then at MAN)…my interpretation. Before that there is the treatment. A surgical one is called for. The operation I have in mind is basically simple…

ASSISTANT (trying to be alert) Surgical type operational cure?

ANALYST …to perform and it has an extremely high clinical success rate. Any questions?

ASSISTANT Would the patient (ANALYST suddenly faces ASSISTANT with a frown)…would the…the person (ANALYST glares)…er, the phenomenon (ANALYST relaxes into knowing smile)…would the phenomenon be prepared?

(WOMAN has finished folding sheets. At the word patient’ she crosses to inspect MAN, tidies his bedside table, clears away loose sheets of paper, picks up one of his books, reads title, puts it down. She picks up another book and starts to read it. She begins to shake her head, then looks and stares into space. Abruptly she snaps the book shut. Startled, ANALYST and ASSISTANT look at her.)

WOMAN Curious. Really very curious

ANALYST (to WOMAN) The clinical success rate? Are you in some sense questioning my estimate?

ASSISTANT (to ANALYST) I think she was just…

ANALYST Or is it the nature of the cure – or indeed the very notion of a cure – that you find so
‘curious’?

WOMAN Very curious indeed. No story. Two whole pages and no evidence whatsoever of any
story. (She puts the book back, crosses to blackboard, looks at what is written there and
immediately starts to erase it. She then sits down. ASSISTANT rushes over with notebook and furiously copies down what remains)

ASSISTANT (to WOMAN) Probably a good thing cleaning the board like that. I write them down for
his sake really (nods to ANALYST). Its all down here already (taps notebook). One must
be prepared though (taps head).

ANALYST Prepared?

ASSISTANT (remembers) Er, yes (stutters) patient….the phenomenon. Would (pause) it be prepared?

ANALYST That’s quite unimportant. Old-fashioned nonsense.

ASSISTANT (pretends to understand) Yes, of course. That must be so.

ASSISTANT (uses asthma bulb) The operation. After the necessary preliminary procedures have been carried out, a silicon bulb or ball 3.5 cms in diameter, filled with a somatically inert liquid…

ASSISTANT (writing down carefully)…inert liquid…

ANALYST ….and equipped with an exit tube of a suitable – previously estimated length is implanted…

ASSISTANT (writing)…suitable length…

ANALYST …is implanted into the scrotum…

ASSISTANT Into the scrotum. That can’t be right. No room. Surely. About this size (splays thumb and squints) would it be? (examines thumb and first two fingers) In my case it would be too crowded. In fact, in any case…

ANALYST (impatiently)…implanted into the scrotum in precisely the position previously occupied (prevents imagined interruption) previously occupied by the right testicle. The tube is fed into the member alongside the urethral canal. (carries on silently, giving forth to an imaginary audience)

ASSISTANT (moves agitatedly between his notebook and the blackboard; writes “previously occupied” on the board, then to himself) Which is bigger? The left one, isn’t it? Master and slave, are they? Certainly not. Male and female. Which one is the master, though? Could be either. More secure that way. In case one goes adrift – gets lost – homeless. Security. Security of tenure. He must mean that.

ANALYST When the ball is compressed manually three or four times (ASSISTANT and ANALYST mime squeezing), the liquid is forced into the tube to produce an enlargement of the erectile tissue…

ASSISTANT (writing in notebook) Erectile tissue. Yes. I think I’ve got that.

ANALYST …surrounding it, thus producing a functional erection…(WOMAN, who has been reading, perks up at this)

ASSISTANT Functional – that’s a useful word. A functional erection. Would that be…

ANALYST …erection, which would maintain itself over an indefinite period. (WOMAN shakes her head and returns to her reading)

ASSISTANT (glory in his eye) Amazing.

ANALYST (accepts this tribute) Yes, but it is wise to be cautious here. It is not known what effect prolonged induced erectio will have on self-initiated states of excitation, that is, on the occurrence of erecting naturalis…

ASSISTANT (interrupts) Which is this present case doesn’t…

ANALYST (annoyed) Which is the present case and similar cases doesn’t ever arise. It is the absence of naturalis…(continues in silence)

ASSISTANT Naturalis? Ah, that would be the mechanism of the body machine. How does it…or really why does it do it normally? Is that the question? (louder) Perhaps it’s a question of self-regulation. (during this the ANALYST takes a tape measure from his pocket and starts measuring his brief case mumbling arithmetical calculations as he does so.) Subtle, very subtle. Feedback. Negative and positive and neutral. All kinds would happen. Well, could happen. It’s the same with the organs of hearing. Or in the masculine case, the nose. Moving your ears or just wiggling one ear. Or not being able to move them when you could move them before. Or not feeling your ears – complete lack of ear sensation. No ears at all? Ha. But in that case glasses wouldn’t work. No spectacles possible. It would have to be goggles. (to ANALYST) Negative ears. (corrects himself) Negative feedback. (MAN wakes up and is agitated.)

ANALYST The negative half of the cycle? You refer to detumescence, I suppose. Just as erectio naturalis if followed by detumescence simplex, so…

MAN (loudly) It seems to be very noisy in here. (feels ears) Where are my glasses?

ASSISTANT (to ANALYST excitedly) Glasses, ah! He’s coming to again. (whispers significantly) He’s put on his glasses. On his ears. And got his book. (readies own notebook, finds pen and positions blackboard busily)

ANALYST (stares at blackboard) An open book? Very well. (uses asthma bulb) The subject of the book is…

ASSISTANT Yes, that’s right. It’s in his hand.

ANALYST …of the book is not one that can be handled easily. It should certainly not be confused with He Who Speaks or with He Who Writes.

ASSISTANT (whispers) Don’t you see it? He’s holding it in his hand. A manual of some sort.

ANALYST Or to put it otherwise: the subject of the text is in the text. Thus, reading the text aloud, or if…

MAN It’s still very noisy in here. (ANALYST freezes into silence, ASSISTANT puts hand over mouth. MAN nods satisfaction, puts on his glasses, and starts to read aloud.) Read aloud the following. OK. (disclaims, hamming it) Why do we do it? Why do we want to do it? (breaks off reading) Oh, questions about questions. It’s too much to ask. It makes me hollow. (to ASSISTANT) Is it necessary to be so curious all the time about everything? (WOMAN looks up sharply at the word ‘curious’ as ASSISTANT copies it on the board.)

ASSISTANT Exactly the same word she used. (to WOMAN) Didn’t you?

WOMAN Didn’t I what?

ANALYST (breaks in) She most certainly used it in a different sense.

ASSISTANT Oh…(erases word from the board)…I see. (to WOMAN) It seems you didn’t. (WOMAN dismisses this and goes back to her reading.) So it’s not ‘curious.’ (to MAN) What did you say?

MAN What did he say is more to the point. (holds up the book) You might at least have asked me who the author was. Or even how he was. Why don’t you ask me that. No, of course you won’t. His genius for concealment is lost on you.

ASSISTANT (copies down) ‘Genius,’ eh? What I would like to ask you…

ANALYST That’s enough. (to MAN) Thank you, we have no further questions for you at this point.

ASSISTANT (conspiratorially to ANALYST) He’s reading his book again.

ANALYST (glares at ASSISTANT and sits stiffly on bench) Its time for answers not questions. There’s no change in the diagnosis. Or are you suggesting there should be? Is that what this apparent ‘curiousity’ of yours is hiding behind? There’s definitely no question of a change.

ASSISTANT (startled) Questions? Which questions would those be? (looks at notebook) Questions about questions? (to himself) He can’t mean those. (has an idea) The original question!

ANALYST So it is a question of diagnosis. Just what I thought.

ASSISTANT Well, yes, diagnostic questions.

ANALYST Obviously.

ASSISTANT Oh, yes, certainly.

MAN (starts to laugh. WOMAN startled looks at her watch, fetches a watering can and waters the rubber plant. ASSISTANT fiddles with his pad, ready to write.) What a superfluous statement. Or is it? (reads) “The grass would be just as green and the milky way just as starry if the author had fallen under a bus…(looks up, then continues reading)…when he was very young.” (muses) Now why would anyone bother to write that? (puts books back on table) It would have been better to put the bones in a glass case and label it ‘bones of the author as a child.’ No, that’s no good. It’s been done before. So what. It can’t be all new. There are times when a twist here, a quote there, an extra word or two, are all that’s possible. How very discouraging. Depressing almost. (WOMAN finishes watering the rubber plant. She fetches a smaller plant which she places on top of MAN’s book. MAN regards it vacantly) Just as green, eh? Yes, but who would know it? Why do plants have to be green? Green – the colour of envy, seasickness. No that’s not it – plants can’t vomit. (puts small plant under his bed) Always the same old thing with them. Roots down, leaves up, seeds away, roots down, leaves up, seeds away…(sees WOMAN approaching with watering can) This won’t do. (quickly puts plant back, extracts his book from under it. WOMAN looks at him, then at plant, and waters the plant.) Plants spread. That’s what they do and that’s what they are supposed to do.

ASSISTANT (catching end of this, repeats) Supposed to do…what was that?

MAN (rising anger) Supposed to. That doesn’t leave much room for manoeuvre. Supposed to? Is that an injunction, a command, an order? Who says it? (frantically looks in the index of his book and read out) ‘Piano, piss, pizza, placents, plankton, play, no wrong way, plan, plants. Plants, see Life. Life L. M – N – L Life, see Evolution. Yes, that’s what it is (closes book). Ev-ol-ut-ion. Evo-lution. (turns to ASSISTANT) Who invented that?

ASSISTANT Necessity is the mother of invention.

MAN Oh well said, well said. Nature the great necessity. (assumes a lecturing voice and delivers the following very quickly) Ladies and gentleman of science an experiment: one transfers snails with a small number of twists in their shells from smooth water to rough water. Needing to cling onto the rocks against the waves they develop more twists as they get older. One then puts their descendants back into smooth water, and if in turn their descendants have a larger number of twists…..well then: a point has been established. One theory is right the other wrong. The godless machine is vanquished – down Darwin. Long live the life force – up Lamarck (bows low in supplication to plant).
ANALYST (to MAN suspiciously) Were these fresh water snails?

MAN However but but however. Is this good enough? Sitting up there inside the wizardarium, lifting stones, counting stars, measuring snails, and equinting at his sperms through a microscope. Looking for what? What is it that he’s looking for exactly? The origin of all life? He thinks he’s found the beginning of it all. No that’s just a scratch on the lens, a hairline crack I wouldn’t wonder. Scratches and cracks? Scratches his crack?? Crack crack crack crack crack……(falls flat on bed. WOMAN starts toward him, MAN suddenly sits up.) What if he had fallen under a bus? The young Darwin underneath the wheels. Cause of death total flatness. Grand theory gone, great loss, much to accomplish.

ASSISTANT How it happen?

MAN Under a bus. Offends your sense of the unities does it? Very well. let it be overboard on the Beagle then, if that feels any better. No. leave it as it was. Pushed under the wheels of a bus by an ape masquerading as a blind wizard. It’ll be the same in the end.

ASSISTANT What was the name of the wizard?

MAN Name??

ASSISTANT Label reference origin? Location in history. Geography then. The Himalayas? Or perhaps the Alps. Or down on the Savannah – that sort of thing.

MAN (ignores this) Of course, it wouldn’t have made any difference. There would have been someone else. There was. Same theory, different man. Give or take a scientist, life would still have to evolve.

ASSISTANT (copies on blackboard) Evolve….

MAN Totally different with Shakespeare though. If he’d fallen under a bus that would definitely have been that. Of course its possible to imagine some Elizabethan gent stepping forward and offering to stand in for him. Test him out first – give him all the sonnets to write. See how he manages it…..(muses) falling under a bus would finish off a lot of fictions. Probably the same with essays…… no doubt about it (sings) you say mountain, I say Montaigne, mountain, Montaigne, Montaigne mountain, let’s call the whole thing off…. The matter. Back to the matter in hand. What is the matter?

ANALYST (with MAN’S singing ANALYST breaks his Rodin pose, wanders up to blackboard and readsit. He then addresses MAN with attempt at authority.) Now then about this wizard metter.

MAN Wizard? (remembers) Ah yes, pushed under a bus. Evolution. That was part of the matter. Life evolving. The great experiment (shakes his head)…. all those snails. I suppose they do their job (yawns) what a tiring business it is – evolving (looks at his bedside plant and lies down).

ANALYST Most interesting. A most interesting manifestation. Observe in particular how he concealed the wizard’s name.

ASSISTANT (joining in) Yes, and what’s more it was most likely a pseudonym that he was hiding – plagiarized I shouldn’t wonder. (to himself) No trouble with his hearing. Both ears intact. Wearing glasses. Should definitely note that down (scribbles with a flourish).

ANALYST (airily) As to the wizard’s thesis (goes and stares at board) it is merely a special case of …..of…..work what I am about to complete in the future. Nonetheless (puffs up using asthma bulb) the thesis is also (coughs violently) because of its imprisonment within the metaphysics of talking. In short the thesis. Certainly, in short.

ASSISTANT (jerks to attention) Thesis? Hypothesis. Synthesis perhaps.

ANALYST In short. In fact in very short. Indeed in the beginning. Silence. No language to speak of. The rational mind….

ASSISTANT Yes yes, yes….

ANALYST is a self-governing biological machine….

(During the following PERSON enters as a librarian, first picks up MAN’S book, stamps it on inside cover, puts it down, and then moves to WOMAN. The WOMAN, upon seeing PERSON, hastily checks the inside cover of her own book, then flicks to the end in an attempt to read the last page. When PERSON reaches her, she surrenders the book to PERSON. PERSON stamps another book, gives it to her to replace the surrendered book, then crosses to the bench, picks up ANALYST’S suitcase, tests its weight, then stamps the whole case several times and exits.)

ASSISTANT Ah, yes. Interesting. Very interesting sort of thesis. But could you elaborate. How would it…how does it ? Why? How effect reality? How would it impinge? Impinge on – say – well – anything. What does it mean?

ANALYST (stung) Meaning what?

ASSISTANT Yes, precisely. What does it mean – exactly?

ANALYST Ridiculous. It cannot mean ‘exactly’ or ‘precisely’. What I mean, I intend to mean. An intention and its expression cannot coincide. Conceptually separate. When I mean – to use it as a verb…

ASSISTANT (trying to be helpful) Verbalize?

ANALYST In effect what I mean is what – finally – I manage to mean, no more and obviously no less.

ASSISTANT In effect?

ANALYST Actually.

ASSISTANT Actually?

ANALYST No not ‘actually’. That is an unfortunate facon de parler. What should actually have been said is ‘really’.

ASSISTANT (lost) I mean what I really mean really?

ANALYST Precisely. (pause. ASSISTANT copies down his own last remark) Unless of course you were quoting what you said. In which case you would have meant it really qua quote but not unquotedly….

ASSISTANT Really qua quote qua qua (turns into a yawn. ASSISTANT acts bored and restless and turns to WOMAN) Madam? Maam? Madame? Miss? Ma? Missus? (pause) Mother??? (clears throat) Uhmmmmmmmmmm (this wakes WOMAN) What do you make of all this? (gestures vaguely about him)

WOMAN I have no idea at all. I was reading my book. A story about someone escaping from a wizard who was driving a bus somewhere in the mountains I think it was.

ASSISTANT (excitedly) The alps. Almost certainly the Alps. I knew it couldn’t be the Himalyas. Too cold. Its beginning to make sense.

WOMAN And there was a man. A sort of scientist. He was also dresses as a doctor. He was always listening to his heart through a stethoscope. Sometimes he used a microscope. He kept snails in a pond….

ANALYST (becomes interested) You didn’t happen to notice whether they were fresh-water snails….

WOMAN ….and when they got comfortable and settled in life he moved them somewhere else. A place where anybody wanting to eat them could see them. But they weren’t allowed to eat them. This was because the wizard had explained that the snails were special. He told them how the man had been giving the snails lessons. He taught them biology – about the evolution of life on earth. This increased their intelligence – the snails.’ that is. And that’s why nobody was allowed to eat them. (gestures to MAN) Is he ill?

ASSISTANT Ill? Haven’t actually really discussed ‘ill’. ill. Ill. Ill patient? Yes an ill patient would certainly….

ANALYST (warningly) Patient?

ASSISTANT ….phenomenon. An ill phenomenon. (thinks hard) Like an ill wind? (pause) No. (thinks again) Ill health? Of course, health and sanity. Sanity and illity. Illity? Illity and nullity. No there’s nothing there. Ill ill ill (gives up defensively) You certainly can’t make a verb out of it. Not from ill.

WOMAN and ANALYST (together) What? Why not?

ASSISTANT (rising self-confidence) Try it. He illed me. I illed myself? Illing through the world. Yesterday he was severely be-illed. The old are certainly illified. You see. It can’t be done. Now if it had been wellifying….

WOMAN (exasperated) Is he sick then?

ANALYST (takes over) That is precisely as bad. The old are sickifying? (to ASSISTANT dismissively) We are wasting time….

ASSISTANT (to ANALYST with a note of triumph) The old are sickening.

ANALYST Yes, but that is completely beside the point. In any case I don’t believe that was your own phrase. You were therefore merely quoting it, which makes the whole discussion indirect. One might just as well carry it out in Chinese or German or….

ASSISTANT Kranking the old?

ANALYST …..or indeed in any language other than the one we are speaking. Furthermore….

WOMAN FUCK. (ANALYST and ASSISTANT turn to face her) What is he then?

MAN (sits bolt upright, shivering feverishly) Nature. Nature? (spots fly, chases it, and swats it savagely) So much for uncle Toby. Nature. Where is nature? Life-breathing mother earth. Fecund teaming source of the living mystery. Corn gods and the spirit of animals. Praying for the soothing rain, fearful of the moon, bending low before the great gold circular sun god. Inspiration from the wind. Wondrous variety of the live ghost of things. Food flowers horses and creatures of the moving air. (ASSISTANT chalks key words on the board: nature – Toby – rain – moon?. ANALYST stares upward lost to it all. WOMAN moves near MAN and sprays plant.

ANALYST (starts to search himself and surroundings, finds asthma bulb. Addresses ASSISTANT) It has become necessary to demonstrate the operational basis for the cure. The smallest details are not without interest in view of the ….. (ANALYST and ASSISTANT go into a mimed business with the asthma bulb: positioning it in the air, squeezing it and so on).

MAN How does nature start? Brought into being. From where? From nothing. Chicken-egg. Egg-chicken. Chicken-egg chicken-egg chicken-egg chicken (pause) egg-chicken egg-chicken egg-chicken egg(pause). Leave out the chicken. Egg egg egg egg ga ga ga ga……(ASSISTANT copies this last down carefully. WOMAN takes out a large dummy from her apron and tries to feed MAN. MAN resists as his gag a ga changes to womb womb womb womb. He then breaks free of WOMAN’S hold. During the rest of MAN’S speech the ANALYST and ASSISTANT try via suitable business to fit the asthma bulb over the MAN’S genitals.) No that’s backwards, back to foetus being a fish and before that…. back to the dead stones and the wind. Go the other way. Move forward. Think a creature What is it? What does it do? Where does it go? Why should it? (pause, then very slowly) All it has to do is to make a copy of itself. Nothing else. Nothing else existence. Just creature creature creature. Jelly begetting jelly. First one then another then another…. telling itself into the future. Mechanical replication. Token after token. Cliché cliché cliché cliché cliché. Pure repetition. Infinite iteration without end. Terrible and awful. Zero. (PERSON-IN-WHITE appears carrying an abacus. PERSON holds abacus out to MAN who puts one hand over his eyes, hesitates, then slowly and blindly moves one token.) No. no terror, no awe. Nothing. (MAN collapse face down on the bed moaning slightly. ANALYST and ASSISTANT are left holding the asthma bulb. PERSON offers abacus to WOMAN who refuses it, and instead goes and fetches a large pair of garden shears. When she has done this PERSON exits. WOMAN dismisses ANALYST and ASSISTANT and then very deliberately moves towards MAN with shears at the ready. She stops at the plant, snips off a large leaf, and then lays it over MAN’S arse.)

WOMAN (to MAN) A story? Would you prefer that instead?

MAN (gets up, holding hands over ears) My ears. I can’t use my ears – everything is out of balance. (turns his back on WOMAN, ANALYST, ASSISTANT, audience. WOMAN shrugs and returns to her chair, starts to read her book and knit at the same time)

ASSISTANT (reads words on board, looks at MAN’S clipboard at foot of bed) Why would he….. the patient…..

ANALYST (glares at ASSISTANT) Again the patient. I think you are in need of instruction here. (goes to board, pumps himself up with asthma bulb, assumes a professional attitude, cleans board, pulls at his cuffs and starts to address ASSISTANT as audience.) One must observe that the phenomenon of resistance is characteristic at this stage. The hostility of denial when repression….when repression….(the thought is blocked. He starts shuffling through his suitcase getting out folders, papers, books which he arranges in some elaborate system of order. He consults first one then another, twice coming across asthma bulb and using it without thinking, mumbles and then reads out key items.) No…. not….. negation…. intellectual substitute for repression…. disaffirmation disavowal repudiation….in the language of the oldest faculties is spitting out and rejecting….that is voiding.

ASSISTANT Avoiding the issue….the real issue?

ANALYST Or there is (reads again) external negation….reality ego…..reality testing (stops reading and peers at his feet angrily). Something outside the self is not there which was thought to be there. But if the symptom is itself denied…..(to ASSISTANT) Thus the impossible to utter utterance ‘this is not a symptom’.

ASSISTANT (peers at ANALYST) What isn’t?

ANALYST (carrying on) In which case denying the symptom is itself a symptom of….

ASSISTANT Ah so there is a symptom.

ANALYST ….whose ultimate expression would be silence. A silence (pauses significantly a significant absence of sound.

ASSISTANT (excited) A silent symptom (puts hands over ears and listens). It’s a clue. That’s a good sign. Must lead somewhere.

ANALYST Such a silence is of course signified in language by ‘nothing’.

ASSISTANT A clue in the language? (searches through notebook, scrutinizes blackboard, goes back to notebook) In the language eh. Would that be linguistic language? (finds something in notebook and mutters) eggeggeggegggagagage. Yes that must be it. (WOMAN is startled by this)

ANALYST (grudgingly impressed by eggegg…..) Yes that is almost not unhelpful. But it goes without saying that it is necessary to distinguish between silence and silence. A silence that was not a significant utterance would be no more than…..

ASSISTANT (very excited) Just what I thought. The significant utterance is…..

ANALYST (gathering steam) Thus, when properly de-constructed, the text would be punctuated by gaps not previously visible, or rather audible. The silence utterance would become audible….

ASSISTANT (boldly) eggeggeggegggagagaga

ANALYST ….through the very process of de-construction it sought – by being silent – to deny.

WOMAN (startled by ASSISTANT’S last eggegg….steps forward rather absently with large dummy as if to feed MAN. She sees him to be asleep, and stops) Oh. I thought I heard something.

ASSISTANT Did you? Well it was probably the symptom (tries to take dummy away from WOMAN). Its no good trying to feed a symptom – they are self-feeding. They ought to be (defensively) A large number are (points to MAN) this one might be. Wait and see. We are following a clue. A clue – that can’t be denied.

ANALYST (continuing) …..as for the undeconstructed text…..

WOMAN But I think he needs exercise.

ANALYST (with a flourish) the denial of the symptom is the very condition for its existence.

ASSISTANT (to WOMAN) Not wise. Not in this situation.

WOMAN (pounces) What is his condition? (pause) The patient?

ASSISTANT (looks at ANALYST warily) The patient – the phenomenon – the – I meant my condition.

WOMAN (losing interest fast) Him? Squeezing his bulb (mimes squeezing in front of mouth).

ASSISTANT (consults notebook) Yes that’s right – erectio something – three or four times manually. Its part of the cure.

WOMAN The cure? What could the bulb possibly accomplish?

ASSISTANT The fluid…..(frantically looks in notebook)…..

WOMAN Yes but what does it cure?

ASSISTANT Its functional.

WOMAN Squeezing his bulb?

ASSISTANT That’s correct – he pumps it up. (mimes bicycle pump)

WOMAN Must be very tiring.

ASSISTANT No no a small ball of fluid.

WOMAN Does he swallow it?

ASSISTANT (taken aback) Swallow it?

WOMAN The fluid.

ASSISTANT Not unless he …..(checks in notebook) you see the fluid is forced into the ….

WOMAN Oh never mind (returns to her book).

MAN (starts to moan) Oh ohohoh ooooooh.
(ANALYST and ASSISTANT turn to face MAN. ASSISTANT copies down several ‘oh’ sounds, ANALYST puts a hand over his right ear, WOMAN crosses to MAN, examines him carefully, and then solemnly pulls the sheet over MAN’S head. ANALYST and ASSISTANT become agitated).

ANALYST (aghast) The phenomenon is terminal….

ASSISTANT But the symptom – the condition – the patient can’t just (corrects himself) the phenomenon…..

ANALYST ….prior to complete expiry it is often noticed that….(stops speaking as WOMAN pulls sheet back and nurse-like tucks it in)….noticed that….(fades away confused).

ASSISTANT (great relief) Nearly lost everything there…..our whole job finished before the cure….

ANALYST (to WOMAN puffing himself up) This is outright interference with the natural condition of the phenomenon. We cannot be expected to….

WOMAN Natural condition?

ANALYST That is correct. The natural condition.

WOMAN Condition. You did say condition. Well what is it? What is his condition?

ANALYST (ruffled) Far too complex a question…..too multiplex a deconstruction….too polysemic a phenomenon…no single response could be articulated. Before all else the question attracts to….

WOMAN The question. Exactly. What condition is being cured by all this business of yours.

ANALYST (hides behind ASSISTANT)……attracts to itself….

WOMAN Never mind any more of that. Answer it.

ANALYST (lost, turns to ASSISTANT) The question ‘answer it’. What is it?

ASSISTANT (whispers) Natural condition (ANALYST is blank, ASSISTANT prompts after checking his notebook) interference with the natural condition.

ANALYST (self-assurance returning) Interference with the natural condition of the phenomenon….(falters).

WOMAN (losing patience) Do you understand the question?

ANALYST (pushes ASSISTANT forward to face WOMAN and starts to mutter)….the question – the answer – the symptom – the phenomenon – the treatment – the condition….the condition the condition (grabs ASSISTANT) the condition?

ASSISTANT Natural. Natural.

ANALYST (tries again) The natural condition. The natural condition of …. The interference with the condition of natural….the natural nature of condition of….

WOMAN Enough of this. Both of you are useless…badly imagined fictions. This is empty business. (points to MAN) If he is no condition, then what are you two doing here? Mere play acting, putting on a show, pretending to be concerned with a condition when you think there isn’t one or can’t say there is one. Go away. Out. Exit.

MAN Badly imagined fictions eh. What an absurd thing to tell them – especially if its true.

ANALYST (puffs up) This is ridiculous. Outrageous. You have no authority here.

ASSISTANT (bravado) No, you do not. Absolutely not. No more than we do. Less.

ANALYST and ASSISTANT (look at each other and say together) We were sent for.

WOMAN Yes, that’s very common around here. We all were. So what does it prove?

ASSISTANT (pushed forward by ANALYST to answer) It proves that…. it proves (thinks hard, tries to turn away from WOMAN but is prevented by ANALYST)….. it proves that we have a purpose (looks pleased with himself. ANALYST nods in agreement).

WOMAN A purpose? Like what?

ANALYST (from behind ASSISTANT) We have an experimental mission…of a theoretical nature.

ASSISTANT We are useful….we have a job to do.

WOMAN Yes yes how very convenient for you. What a comforting belief. How will you know when job – as you call it – is finished?

ASSISTANT (perplexed, turns to ANALYST who is sunk in Rodin thought, refusing to respond) Finished? The job’s finished….after the cure. Yes, then its finished (appeals to ANALYST) isn’t it?

WOMAN No it hasn’t even started to finish. Finished? Over? Emission complete Mechanical nonsense. Enough of it. Out. (she points off stage. ASSISTANT and ANALYST start to obey her but freeze as PERSON enters).

MAN (to ANALYST and ASSISTANT, without seeing PERSON) Wait! There may be a use for you when…. (stops when he sees PERSON switching books on WOMAN’S table, using librarian stamp again, and walking off).

ASSISTANT (eagerly to MAN) Yes go on. A use for us when?

ANALYST (pompously) Exactly as I thought.

MAN (staring after PERSON transfixed, then to WOMAN) But it wasn’t finished was it?

WOMAN Of course it wasn’t. They never are. (gestures to ANALYST and ASSISTANT) But those two useless fictions are definitely finished. They are lifeless – played out.

MAN Lifeless? Round here? Not at all. The air is thick with it. The variety of it embarrasses me. Ever-present urging itself onwards. I feel sick and giddy. The brute insistence of it. The nausea of a form among forms. Held in its sway. Trapped. Caught wriggling. Much worse when I move. More and more of it. The blind machine….. No. Not that. Not there. That goes back to nothing. Back to…. Stop. Hold still. Don’t move. Be calm. Get a grip. Separate. Make distinctions. Delay. Think.

WOMAN (slowly) I feel….

MAN Think! What is it that is wrong with it? Its not oblique. Its not aware. No distance from itself. Not art. No irony. Just the message. Its so over-stated. (loud) Its so loud (louder still) And insistent. Saying itself – the one thing – over and over again.
WOMAN Again I feel something. (ANALYST and ASSISTANT are giving out a low hum of conspiratorial talk which becomes more noticeable when MAN pauses. MAN regards them vacantly). Something is coming to life. Emerging into being. Can’t you hear it? All around you. Something new is being born.

MAN Insects. Just take insects. A very successful invention. Concentrate on flies – forget all the others. Flies. Fly? One at a time? (picks something off the wall).

WOMAN Oh – its uncle Toby again.

MAN Certainly not. The entire breed, all of them, the whole of fly life. (examines finger) Squashed fly (flicks it of finger) organic junk. Wait (moves to retrieve fly) compost – use the little bugger. (squats over it, peering. PERSON enters and offers MAN a rubber glove which he refuses, PERSON exits) Germ-ridden legs, tiny brainless heads, nasty low crude….things. Wings, eggs, and more flies, filthy unnecessary nuisance. Get rid of them. Shoot them full of rays and strilise them.

WOMAN (humours him) What about frogs? They are said to be delicious.

MAN Feed them on something else. Likewise toads. One big pestorama. Diseases of the air. Wert on nature’s face. Pimple on God’s bum. God’s bum? (leaps off the bad and looks upward) A shadow over the land – that’s certain. (gets more agitated, he begins to march about. WOMAN defensively moves large rubber plant out of his way. ANALYST and ASSISTANT scuttle out of his way.) And then there’s crabs. Always off to the side, sliding under the nearest rock. Scuttle scuttle. Across the floors of silent seas. Catch digest excrete scuttle hide. In the mud, in the noise, in the slime, then on the land. Carrying the sea around in their blood.

WOMAN Ah, but the food. Crack the outside and split their parts. Juicy, succulent fish meat. I’ll have crab legs – with lemon. Or melted butter, garlic, snails. Or octopus in white wine. Prawn and orange salad…

MAN Food? Who do snails eat? Must be small and stupid. Lettuce leaves? Well, certainly stupid. Water insects? No. It would have to be stupid and slow. Being eaten by a giant snail.

WOMAN (looks offstage) Our food should be next. It must be here soon.

MAN Snails eat plants – plants eat (pause) plants eat chemicals – chemicals eat energy. So there it is. Everything fits. The great chain of being.

WOMAN (encouragingly) That’s more like it.

MAN Cows – stones – chickens – sunlight – eggs – plants – goats – fish – monkeys – frogs…

WOMAN (prompts him) Frogs. Yes?

MAN Frogs. Frogs? (remembers) Frogs – flies – insects. And all the other
WOMAN What about bees? Honey….?

MAN Bees ants gnats spiders mosquitos locusts and flies. (WOMAN deliberately obscures the fly on the floor from MAN). Forging on, evolving, feeding on life everywhere.

WOMAN Some food. You always get hungry for something when you do a lot of evolving. (goes and fetches feeding bottle/enema and holds it ready near MAN) .

MAN (jumps from bed) So what? In and out. Here and not here. In you go. Move about. Out you come. Wake up start again always new. Wears you out. (bends over) Eat and excrete. (straightens up. When WOMAN tries to feed him, he bends over. She changes track and starts to give him an enema. He straightens up. The business happens several times until MAN repeats ‘eat eat…..’ when WOMAN finally manages to push the bottle into his mouth. She then tucks him in bed, settles his pillow, and sits down beside him).

WOMAN Why are you battling so? There’s no enemy. There’s only you being here

MAN (struggling to speak with the bottle in mouth) MMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmm.

WOMAN Yes yes. All right. But you must eat.

MAN Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmgammmmmmmmgammmmmmmgm.

WOMAN Otherwise you won’t be able to talk.

WOMAN That’s better. Perhaps you should sleep?

MAN Mmmmmmmmmmdremmmmmmmmm.

WOMAN OK no sleep. (looks at bottle and takes it out of MAN’S mouth. Gestures to ANALYST and ASSISTANT) Shall I send them away now? Tell them to go off. They disturb you.

MAN No let them stay. I need them. We disturb each other. They are part of it.

WOMAN Part of what?

MAN The whole (gestures about) business.

WOMAN You should let them be. They should allow you to come to terms with things by yourself.

MAN I don’t want to come to terms – they are the last resort – for after the words.

WOMAN Afterwords?

MAN After I’ve changed things. Altered the movement, made a perturbation, left a stain (pause) on the silence.

WOMAN But how?

MAN All the books, all the poems, all the music (throws books and papers on floor), all the theories (throws more books etc on floor), all the essays, all the images, all the stories, all the pictures. Don’t they alter things? They must change what it is like. Make a difference. (starts to get agitated) If they don’t ather things then its back (tears sheet of paper in half) to (puts the halves together and tears these) nature and endless (keeps on halving) repetition.

WOMAN (slowly with emphasis) Calm yourself. Be still. Quiet. No more nature – I shall tell you a story. Are you ready? (Prevents MAN’S interruption) No. You must listen:
Once, a woman heard a priest in the market place telling the people a tale. He told of leopards breaking into the temple and drinking what was in the sacrificial pitchers. This act of theft happened repeatedly until eventually it could be reckoned in advance and became part of the ceremony. The woman pondered the theft and supposed that even the temple priests had once entered by stealth.
She thought she saw the ceremony quicken
reaching out beyond itself.
The tribe spreading the fire
changing noise into music
movement into dance
gold into white
painting taling writing
talking.
But what of those who drank so
blind and tenacisous?
Her leopard children sprang before her
consuming busy rapacious
then all their fire
in one instant falme
flickered
and she wept.
Just born to die so soon
when they die
I long dead will die once more
each of us
me in you
mine yours
the lines of imaginary games
time making imaginary signs
the milk of nurture
wild flowers
all the ways of our enter-knowing
will submerge.
And so it will be
And so it will be
begetting and getting
snatched from oblivion
and rocked into future’s sleep.
The woman felt these things and she sang them to the people of the tribe when they danced in their ceremony.

MAN Why did the priest tell the people what happened in the temple?

WOMAN He foresaw other leopards and could keep silent no longer.

MAN Ah….And the people – they were not angry to discover that their ceremony was a sham?

WOMAN They were relieved that it was so empty.

MAN The woman’s song – did it move the people?

WOMAN Only during the ceremony.

MAN Yes, but did the song and dance alter things?

WOMAN In what way?

MAN Did it change the nature of things for the people?

WOMAN It was things. It changed itself. It became things.

MAN (stands on bed and disclaims) But who celebrates before the truth is clear…?

WOMAN I never mentioned truth. I only told a story about the ceremony.

MAN I was moved by…..(fades away)

WOMAN You seem unmoved.

MAN I was moved. Wait. I shall show you. (to ANALYST and ASSISTANT) You there. (louder) You two there.

ANALYST and ASSISTANT Who us?

MAN Yes. The both of you. Do you want to be of some use.

ANALYST Yes.

ASSISTANT Oh, certainly yes.

MAN Can you play the Murder of God and Ego?

ANALYST In the circumstances I’m afraid not. It’s a question of….

ASSISTANT Yes, we can but only if we are allowed to….

MAN (cuts them short) Come now. You’ve played it often enough.

ASSISTANT (doubtful) Yes.

ANALYST (boasts) Many many times. Once in a large cave when the part of…..

MAN And you yourselves are skilled performers….

ANALYST and ASSISTANT (rising to this) Certainly. Oh yes.

MAN …..each with unique talents…..

ANALYST Well, yes. I suppose that is apparent. But one must thank you all the same. (steps away
From ASSISTANT, who is preening himself.)

MAN …..and an extraordinary range of styles. (ASSISTANT embarrassed by this praise turns
away; ANALYST looks noble.) Admittedly the Murder of God and Ego does present a
challenge – many refuse to play it – they can’t, it seems, portray…..

ANALYST We can I assure you.

ASSISTANT (excitedly) Yes, we most certainly can.

MAN (gestures them to him) Good. You will play it then? (doesn’t wait for a reply) Excellent. I have set down some extra business (scribbles rapidly) to be inserted into it. (hands a
sheet to each) You will play Oestrogen and you, Testosterone. (ANALYST and ASSISTANT exit. MAN waits expectantly for them to appear. WOMAN stares after them sighing and
looking satisfied. During the following she settles into her position eating popcorn from a large container. Enter OESTROGEN with a tambourine and TESTOSTERONE with a fools cap. Their ‘play’ is to be fast, especially the second half.)

OESTROGEN We have been here before.

TESTOSTERONE Repeatedly.

O. (tries to calculate) How many is repeatedly?

T. Again and over again.

O. More than twice?

T. Three is you count the first one.

O. Like re-iterate?

T. The same.

O. We should settle for three then.
T. Done.

O. Is that why there are so many…..

T. (gets in first) Repetitions?

O. …..repetitions.

T. Repetitions.

O. Beginning, middle and …..and so on.

T. End. That seems to have settled that.

WOMAN (yawns) I’ve seen all this before. Why isn’t there some music?

MAN They haven’t reached the new part yet. Be patient.

O. What now?

T. I think we ought to wait.

O. For a bit longer?

T. Wait around. Keep busy (spots imaginary fire) – the fire.

O. The fire?

T. (mimes warming hards) Yes, the fire.

O. (catching on) It keeps on flickering.

T. Does seem that way.

O. (regarding ‘fires’) Do you think it might go out?

T. May be.

MAN (impatiently to O.) More feeling. Put some sort of feeling into it.

O. (makes an effort) But if it does then….

T. Then it does.

O. Where are we?

T. Still here.

O. Is that all?

T. Do you want more? (shouts) Do you want reasons? Reasons you madman. Look at that
Tree (points to plant) What is it?

O. It’s….(PERSON walks on. crosses to plant, scruntinises it carefully, walks round it, and
exits).

MAN (excitedly to WOMAN) It’s coming now. (whispers louder) A new bit – right now.

T. (confused) Where are we”

O. (as if being prompted) Where are we?

T. Still here.

O. Is that all?

T. Do you want more. (shouts) Do you want reasons? Reasons, you madman. Look at that
Tree. (points to rubber plant) What is it?

O. It’s…..(PERSON-IN-WHITE walks on again and exits the same as before.

T. (confused) Where are we?

O. (as if being prompted) Where are we?

T. Still here.

O. Is that all?

T. Do you want more. (looks off stage as if to warn PERSON-IN-WHITE that the ‘cue’ is
soon.) Do you want reasons? Reason, you madman. Look at that tree. (shouts as if to
unseen PERSON offstage) What is it?

O. It’s…..(T. prevents him from saying anything more. They exit and return leading PERSON- IN-WHITE by a rope around his neck; PERSON’S head is covered with a large white sheet. They lead PERSON to the white chair, a throne facing the audience and seat PERSON
Down.) It’s a tree.

T. That’s right. (slowly) A tree. (picks it up, shows it carefully to O., puts it back, much
relieved) Shall we go for a walk now? (O. misses this cure, looks confusedly at MAN,
who winces. O. then looks at T., who repeats pointedly.) Shall we go for a walk now?

O. (finally understand) Yes…..certainly…..a walk. (They exit leaving PERSON-IN-WHITE
motionless on the throne.)

MAN (to WOMAN) What do you think?
WOMAN It’s not over, is it? Don’t they…..

MAN (to WOMAN) Shhhhhhhh! (O. and T. swagger back on stage.)

O. We have been here before.

T. (impatiently) Not like this.

O. Very similar.

T. That’s the difference.

O. What are we to do?

T. Just follow the text.

O. Until……

T. Yes, until.

O. This is a lot better than waiting about. (warms hands at ‘fire’)

T. It usually takes longer though.

O. It won’t happen suddenly then?

T. It might.

O. Shouldn’t we be on the alert?

T. Watch it happen?

O. Yes.

T. Anticipate it?

O. Yes.

T. In full consciousness of it?

O. Yes.

T. No element of surprise.

O. Yes.

T. No.

O. No?

T. No.

O. Why not?

T. We’d only be waiting about again.

O. Oh – like before.

T. (with sarcasm) Well, not like after.

O. (Wanders over to PERSON-IN-WHITE and addresses him) Are you waiting? (louder) Are
you waiting? (shouts with his hands over his ears, which remain there a few seconds
after his line.) Are – you—waiting? Deaf.

T. (whispers to PERSON) Are you hard of hearing?

O. (to T.) Deaf.

T. Stone.

O. Blind?

T. See for yourself.

O. Dumb?

T. What a question to voice.

O. He’s not moved.

T. By us?

O. Since we’ve been here.

T. Heartless, most probably.

O. Completely immobile.

T. Almost inhuman.

O. Do you think he’s too warm?

T. (knowingly) Or too cold.

O. He looks bored.

T. Could be the way he’s sitting.

MAN (to WOMAN) Here’s the other new bit.

O. (confused, he repeats) Could be the way he’s sitting.

MAN (as prompter, mimes writing to O.) The insertion.

O. (takes out paper, looks at it, then looks up) At this point add the following, to be spoken
with apparent solicitude….

MAN (bristling) The fool, he’s reading out my instructions. (to O.) Oh – get on with it.

O. He’s too near the fire perhaps?

T. (relieved) He’s much too warm.

O. Let’s take off his tie.

T. Remove it. (they remove rope from around PERSON’S neck)

O. Better do it all now.

T. Show just how it’s done.

O. Reveal it.

T. All the way. (they gingerly remove sheet covering PERSON’S head to reveal black goggles
over a sheeted face. They recoil into a sitting position with their backs to PERSON.
WOMAN watching intently, gasps. MAN looks at O. and T. and shakes his head. WOMAN
shrugs, gets up, and fetches some sheets).

O. That’s it then.

T. It’s done.

O. Gone.

T. Over. (as they speak these last two lines WOMAN puts a sheet over their heads. She
surveys them, looking relieved).

MAN What do you think?

WOMAN I’m not sure about the ending.

MAN He ruined it – the fool – he read out my instruction….

WOMAN Yes.
MAN He wasn’t supposed to……it was a stage direction.

WOMAN I know. But I think you should keep it in. It worked.

MAN Keep it in?

WOMAN As part of the text.

MAN (doubtful) Oh……

WOMAN But the ending. It completely changes the original. I think you should call it something
else.

MAN Something else? But it’s a perfectly good play.

WOMAN Oh it’s that all right. But a new title. A title that means something.

MAN I couldn’t do that.

WOMAN A title that comes out of the ending. People are tired of the murder of god and ego.

MAN No, I couldn’t do that. It’s like your story. It’s not finished. (yawns and stretches, then
lies down. WOMAN covers MAN with his sheet, walks to PERSON whom she recovers
with discarded sheet, returns to her position and covers herself. After a pause MAN
slowly sits up inside his sheet, his arm comes out and grabs a large pen and pad of paper
and then returns under the sheet. The lights dim to reveal a glow from under MAN’S
sheet, as if from a torch. This is held for a brief moment, then black out.)

END

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s