Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dido revisited

I have a question about this one. Do you know the story I have decided to re-tell? I only ask because, apparently, my teacher does not, this concerns me. Should it?

This is not finished, no, not at all.

The lock sounds like an explosion1 in her head as it slides into place. She rests on the coolness of the door waiting for the pain to pass. Long ago the queen ordered the conversion of this cave into her own place of retreat. One brass door opening into the mountain, double doors lead outside to the cliff, fire and sea. Hundreds of hours she has spent here. Watching the water vainly attempt to break down the rocks below is the only meditation she knows.

Slowly she makes her way to where Anna has lit candles, their light casting shadows on wall and floor. Her feet strike the damp mosiac floor, slow beating drums. Smoke from the fire outside creeps through the opening and into the cave, crawling up the walls only to dissipate high above leaving behind its bitter sweet smell. Dark, spicy and masculine.

She finds a hastily written parchment near the candles:

“My sister, my queen,

You will find some theriac on the table next to the pitcher of water. I noticed your pain when we met in your rooms earlier today. My potion should only be taken in small amounts, too much could prove fatal.

Everything you requested, all that I found, is near the fire, as you desired. Perhaps here you will find some comfort and closure.

I hope you will stay, one day forgive me.

Your sister, your servant,


She knows that she will not take the medicine, this needs to be felt, cherished even. Dido smiles. Anna always searched for comfort, even in the darkest of moments, especially for her beloved sister.

Her sister has done well. Next to the fire she has placed his effects in an orderly fashion. Sandals and sheets, his capes, cloaks and armor all separated and on display. At the end of the bench are his dagger and sword. The painting, commissioned by the queen herself, a man with his back to the sea, leans against the rock wall.

His dagger she places in her belt and absently fondles through the night as the fire burns and the piles, pieces of Aeneas, evaporate into smoke.

The fire is low, soft even. The moon is high, bright and almost full. Sailors would be safe on such an evening, if sailors there be. She feeds the fire long into the night; relishing the destruction of each item. Only while the pieces burn is there relief, then it is gone. Nothing remains where there once was flame.

As the painting turns to ash in the fire, her beautiful lover melting before her eyes, Dido removes the dagger from her belt and tosses it in the fire. Only now do the tears begin to silently roll down her face.

Once she was the flame, now, the nothing.

Revisions of an old one...

This is the metamorphosis of the opening scene from a short play that I wrote several years ago, and never finished. I started working with these characters, among others, after reading a small news blurb online about authorities in Columbia arresting the worlds most prolific serial killer. I became fascinated with the idea of an ordinary man hiding a much darker side, and what happens to that man, and those he loves, when his dark side is brought into the light. These questions and I are not yet finished.

“Good morning. My name is Angela Gonzalez.” Angela stands in the small room, at the edge of the table, holding out her right hand, giving him a few seconds, then places her hand on the table. “I'm your court appointed attorney.” Still nothing, the man in the chair does not even look up at her.
She decides to allow the silence to grow. Retrieving from her briefcase a pad of paper and pencil, the tools of the trade, Angela allows the seconds to stretch onto themselves, she is in no hurry and her actions are designed to relay this information.
“And you are Luis Ui?” She says absent mindedly, as she shuffles through the complaint. This is not an uncommon occurrence for Angela, the initial silence, at least with the pro-bono clients. She already knows the name he has given the authorities is an alias, she even knows his real name, these things will take time for him to recognize, if at all, and only if necessary.
Putting down complaint, Angela takes a minute to examine the man sitting in front of her. She is not looking for the specifics, no, hair color, eye color, age, height, weight, these things she already knows from his processing paperwork. “May I call you Luis?”
As it is with all of her clients, he is poor, which is almost always a synonym for uneducated. Along with a lack of education often comes a lack of trust, a lack of faith in their fellow man. His real name, Garivito, not the alias he still claims as his own, suggests Latino descent.
He is small, not just short, but small, there is no fat surrounding his small frame, yet muscular, just on a smaller scale.
“Are they feeding you well enough? Is there anything I can get for you?” Slowly he looks up, no longer is the corner demanding all of his attention. There are tears in his eyes, he is not crying though, nor will he allow himself to blink, not until the moisture is no longer a threat.
Their eyes lock for only a second, it is Angela who looks away. Somehow the combination of strength and weakness in that one look has taken her breath away. Unexplainable, yet, undeniable.
“Do you know why you're here?”
Luis holds his hands to his chest, covering the “Property of Fulton County” patch on the front of his jumpsuit and sighs. “Do I know why I'm here? Do you know why I'm here? Porque estoy aqui? Saves porque estoy aqui?“ As if holding a small child he begins to rock himself back and forth in the chair. His eyes are now staring in the direction of the corner, yet, unfocused. “Te dan sufficiamente comida? Sufficiamente? Well enough?”
Looking straight at him, both hands flat on the table, leaning down towards the chair where he is seated. A stance of power is necessary. A show of fear, even in the slightest, would escalate the situation. “I'm here to help you.”
He suddenly stops rocking and speaks plainly. “Don't patronize me.” Slowly he turns his head towards Angela, and smiles.
The smile is contagious “I'm sorry” she says with a lilt in her voice. “How old are you Mr. Ui? May I call you Luis?”
Enunciating each word, giving them purpose and meaning like never before. As though he were speaking to a ghost, looking in every direction of the cinderblock room. “Will you stop with the questions? Questions, questions, questions.” Slowly, purposefully, exquisitely he begins to sway in his chair once again.
She takes a minute to sit, shuffling through the pages of the complaint, searching her mind, her training, for the next step. Seeking the right combination of authority and curiosity, hoping to keep any trace of her previous condescending tone from showing through in her voice. “Answer one question for me and I'll ask no more today. Simple enough. Do you agree?”
Like an actor in a role far superior to her ability Angela finds that her hands have little minds of their own, attempting to convey meaning with their movements, fluttering above the table, in front of her face and shoving themselves into her jacket pockets.
The rocking simply continues.
“Do you know why you're here?”
“Do I know why I'm here?” He quietly returns the question and resumes his rocking, refusing to look at her.
“Well, do you?”
Slamming his right hand on the table, his hand glides along the rim as if searching for an imperfection. He then begins tapping his palm on the edge. Luis continues to rock, matching the rhythm of his rocking with the tapping of his palm.
“I'm frightened.” there is no inflection, real or perceived, in his words. “When I get frightened people get hurt.”
Rather than tears this time Angela notices a bead of sweat rolling down his face, tracing his hair line and becoming lost below his chin. She is suddenly cold and can not help but pull her jacket closer to her body. Perhaps for warmth, perhaps for security? The only trace of her fear is shown in a quick glance towards the door.
Slowing his rocking motion “Two plus two is four, that's what God is for. I know that one.” Again, he slowly turns his gaze to Angela. There is something disturbing in the purposefulness with which he produces this slight action.
“Do you remember that one?” Once more his lips slowly turn into a smile, this time the smile reaches his eyes where there is a glint of genius quickly glimpsed by Angela. “My turn to ask the questions.”
Desperately trying to stay on topic, attempting to reestablish control of the conversation, Angela asks once more. “Do you know why you're here?”
“Two plus two is four, that's what God is for. I can never remember the rest. Tell me how it ends.” Luis asks in earnest.
“How it ends?” The words forming the question come out of her mouth before she realizes they are gone.
Her loss of control, giving him the lead in the conversation, allows Luis to smile, with a nod of appreciation to Angela. “What comes next? After God? I can't remember.”
Hands flat on the table, knuckles quickly turning white from the pressure she repeats her question. “Do you know why you are here?”
“Will you tell me? Why are you here?” She says as she breathes a, hopefully, silent sigh of relief.
His eyes drift off back into the corner of the room, the rocking begins again, as if the past several minutes had not happened, any signs of playfulness from him are long gone.
“Because men with hats and guns and those, what do you call them? Those black stick looking things, they hang on their belts. I don't know how, but they do, they hang there until someone needs a good bashing. That's what they call it, you know, a good bashing."
“A billy club?” Damn, she did it again!
“Yes, a billy club. You win the prize!” With that he turns to fully face Angela, elbows barely toughing the table he clasps his hands together. “I'm afraid I don't have much to offer you. Limited funds and all.” He has returned to that playful character, the one which Angela is quickly finding irresistible in a repulsive sort of way.
“O.K., so, they brought me in here. Lovely room, don't you think?” He pauses, waiting for Angela’s reply, daring her to look at the room with the swipe of his hand. “Well, it may not be up to your standards but, compared to the rest of this hotel, this room is lovely, simple and lovely.” Their eyes meet once again. This time Angela focuses on the details, the length of his eyelashes, his clean shaven face, all in an attempt to calm something within herself. “Yes, simple and lovely, like you.”
Angela shakes her head, stepping back, trying to escape his touch as he reaches out for her. “Not this room, this is a jail. Do you know why you're in jail?”
Impulsively she begins packing her items back into the briefcase where they came from. Quietly, almost to herself. “I'm not a therapist. I don't think I can help you. You need a psychiatrist not a lawyer.”
“Lawyers get psychiatrists.” Luis states this as a he begins to stand, forcefully spitting out each word.
For a second there is no movement, no sound, only two people, each standing at opposite ends of a table, neither wanting to move first, neither able to stand still.
Angela resumes her packing, throwing a pen into the briefcase, not caring where it lands. “I sent one. You refused to talk to him.”
“I like talking to you. Your psychiatrist is, is” as if searching for the right word, while searching her eyes “well he’s a quack.”
“Quack?” Is all she can manage in reply.
His eyes are searching for something from her, her expression is left intentionally blank. “I like talking to you.” His words glide through the air, attempting to seduce her, pleading for tenderness.
Finding the anger within her boiling, rapidly rising to the surface. “That is not the point. I am a lawyer not a psychiatrist.”
Luis sits and once again resumes rocking in his chair, his eyes once again, staring blankly in the corner. “Two plus two is four, that’s what God is for. Two plus two is four, that’s what God is for.” The words slowly turn into a low humming emitting from the back of his throat, no longer words, yet the meaning remains.
“You do know. Don't you? Why you're in jail.” Angela asks as she sinks back into her chair, once again pulling her jacket tight against her chest.
Again, as if stating the obvious. “Yes.”
Digging through her briefcase in search of a pen. “Tell me about it.”
Suddenly, the rocking motion stops and all is still.
“You're not a therapist.” As Angela turns from her briefcase to look at Luis, knowing before her eyes see, there is a smile, no, a smirk, there is a smirk on his face, and there is.
Perhaps if she will let down her walls, shows him something more than a struggle for power, perhaps then he will begin to trust. “No, I think we agree on that much, I'm not a therapist.
I am, however, your lawyer and if I'm to come up with a defense for you I need to know what happened.”
“What are the charges?”
“You know what the charges are.” She waits, one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand. “Why am I wasting my time?” More to herself than the man sitting across from her.
“You have something better to do?” He asks as, in one graceful move, he puts his right foot up on the corner of the table, hands crossed in his lap.
Angela sinks into her chair, almost defeated. “I'm not sure. I mean, I do have other things to do.” Leaning forward she asks. “Will you talk to the psychiatrist if I send him back here?”
With his left hand he traces the arch of his nose all the way down and to his lips, slowly circling his mouth, deep within his own thoughts. “Questions, questions. I suppose that is what lawyers are for. Yes, I will speak with your quack. Under one condition.”
Angela snatches her briefcase off the chair, steps toward the door, quickly swings around to face Luis. Then, cautiously, she moves back to the table where she sets her briefcase in the chair and hisses at Luis. “You still don't get it! This is not a game.”
“Oh, but it is a game. All of this. Just one big game.” His voice booming across the table at her. Then gently now, “Just ask the Quack, Pedro, was that his name? Pedro the Quack. This is, we are, simply something to have fun with, something to make you laugh. Life, life is just a game. The more you enjoy it the more you do it, the more you do it the better your score. Are you ready for my condition?”
Angela can only nod.
“You will be here. That's all. You will sit right here next to me while I talk to that man. Do we have a deal?” He slowly rises from his chair holding his right hand out across the table toward Angela.
As if acting on its own volition Angela watches as her right hand slowly raises to shake the hand of a murderer. “Deal. Now will you answer my question?”
“Question?” He tilts his head to the side. “Two plus two is four.”
“Why are you in jail Luis?”
“Because, as your psychiatrist will inform you, I am insane. Nutty as a fruitcake. Nothing more, nothing less.” With that he sits in his chair, propping his foot on the edge of the table.
“What happened?” She can’t help but ask. Searching his face for some sort of answer.
“You'll know. Soon enough, you'll know.” That look, as if he sees straight into her soul. “Will you still love me?”
“Love has nothing to do with it.” As she straightens her jacket, retrieving her briefcase, as if it were a shield. “Listen, you are my client. Nothing more, nothing less.”
That smile again, no wonder so many people trusted this man. “Good girl. You're learning. When will I see you again?” He asks with a subtle pout and tilt of his head.
Angela again turns, this time motioning to the guard that they are finished. “With the psychiatrist. Soon. Good day Mr. Ui.” She says as the guard opens the door and she exits.
“Wrong again, my lovely friend, wrong again.” Luis whispers to himself, his eyes focusing on the corner of the room.

The Horse

No worries. Incredibly busy with work, school, kids, holidays, and health.

For the past 14 months Susan has taken the dirt path leading north into the pasture beyond the mare’s barn to retrieve her horse. Even on the brightest of days this four foot wide section of beaten down earth remains in shadow. The fresh and clean fragrance of recent rain is perpetually replaced with the scent of decay. In the fall the gold, red, yellow, green and brown leaves blanketing the ground simply sink into the earth under the weight of a foot. A low sucking sound that pops, like a bursting bubble, can be heard as the boot is lifted. Susan hates this walk.

Today the barn boy, Susan thinks his name is Lucas, excitedly told her the news, his voice breaking as he addresses her “Um, Ms. Harris, I’ve got good news.” His mouth is so full of tobacco he must spit before he can continue. Susan imagines the brownish black ball of mucus must be what cancer looks like, on the inside. “Vet said she was all better, good as new, so we put her out in the field with the big horses.” Little plumes of dust are created as he shuffles his feet from side to side. “Says you can even sit on her for a few” Raising his hand to illustrate a stop sign “Sit, not ride, just sit, that's what he said.” With that he turns and leaves the barn.

Halter, lead rope, a hand full of oats in a bucket and she is ready to go. As she steps out the barn door Susan instinctively moves her sunglasses into position, protecting her eyes from the brutal sun. The walk along the roadway scattered with fall leaves is a symphony of sounds as the colors crush beneath her feet.

Show in June 2007

Show in June 2007
Daughter of the Year!