Arleta Blue

Zach Vega(Arleta Blue enters the playing area briskly, looking distracted & mildly nervous. She approaches a speaker’s podium, clears her throat & speaks directly to the audience, as a soccer mom might wax eloquently on a subject she feels passionately towards, at say a City Council meeting.)

Arleta Blue: Good afternoon ladies & gentlemen. Ya’ll will have to forgive me for being a little…breathless but I’m on the digital fly these days it seems & I’m starting to realize, stupid me, that I’m not exactly at my best when rushing around like this. Speaking to that, I’d like to invite everyone. . . oh, hush up!

(Arleta is distracted by something in her pocket. She removes a vibrating smart phone.)

What in hell does this damn thing want now?

(Arleta flips opens the phone, checks the screen, then slams the device shut. She replaces it to her pocket, then immediately removes it & considers placing it on the podium. Instead, she changes her mind & puts the Blackberry back into a pocket.)

Oh my stars, the grip of that thing. You must truly forgive me, but I do think it’s time to get to the point of why y’all are being so kind to let me speak here today. Normally, I am a level-headed gal, good-in-a-pinch & always a steady shoulder to cry on but lately? I have not been myself, for months now really & I suppose the best way to explain why is to just come right out & say that my husband… got addicted to the Internet. Not booze or drugs, mind you but a computer & he went at it like people take the church into extremes. I can still hardly believe it myself & have whiled away many an hour trying to figure how this all came about to challenge what was once a model home.

(Arleta feels her pocket, to connect with the smart phone for strength & inspiration.)

I come from a small town in Alabama & as a result of what I consider to be a very fortunate upbringing—I pray I am never without its comfort & protection—I have nevertheless kind of missed-out on this whole Digital Revolution. We just never got interested in bringing a computer into our home when the boys were younger—I mean…the damn things are everywhere these day but like every parent, I realized my kids were eventually going to want this Internet-thing. People talk about it everywhere & they spend half their time at school online, it seems & they are supposed to need it for research & help with homework but I have to admit…that initially? I was skeptical as to it’s actual uses. Like all mothers, I know y’all out there who are parents will understand me when I tell you that I did not want to see my kids left in the Dark Ages but at the same time, I do not want them to grow-up with a head full of razzle-dazzle, mistaking daydreams for reality & do not even get me started on the sexual material they can be so easily exposed to—all the perverts of the world gathered-up in one place. I was really torn on what was the right choice until one morning, I read a quote in the newspaper from the late President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who said that ‘libraries should be open to everyone–except the censors.’ I didn’t really understand what he meant by that at first but once I had reasoned it all out, I saw his point that I was being like some unfair censor & I am not the kind of woman who goes against the word of a former president.

(Arleta smooths her hair back & settles more deeply into her story.)

I worry about my boys. They are growing up in a generation on the edge—with drugs & gangs & all of that poisonous sex & all the violence in their schools & the threat of being bullied but what is it that encourages all of this? If you said ‘the media,’ then you got it right. Can you believe all the belly-aching about why people are picking up guns & killing each other? Not that I mean to be callous about all the deaths & all the terrible suffering & grief the poor families suffer. All of that terrible sadness but what really worries me is that there is only going to be more of it. So I worry & worry & suppression of concern is difficult for any parent. Being protective, you need to ban things— it’s a common & normal because the desire to guide your child through the rapids of popular culture, far from bad influence is our responsibility. It is understandable why parents are over-protective but then I thought that perhaps I was taking things too far. Albert Einstein said that a new thinking was needed if we were to evolve to higher levels. ‘Never mind,’ I said to that nagging worry. ‘The Internet is going to get it all right.’ That’s when I allowed the house to go on-line. The boys would have an advantage in the research available to them, so they could excel in their schoolwork. People are connecting socially, exchanging all types of things in this controlled, digital world, all peacefully & efficiently. We were thinking like dreamers so I really felt this would be good for the family.

(Arleta checks the Blackberry silently, then replaces it.)

I have not been a woman with an unbending intent for electronics but I do know how to get things done. A few phone calls & a MasterCard number later? We were in business. Naturally, there were ground rules: One-hour daily time limit, longer on the weekends if they kept their grades up; the Internet had to be used for research & schoolwork, before any chatting or games & most important of all—absolutely no porn & I meant it. I was not going to subject my children to potentially dangerous sexual predators & policed their usage diligently. Funny thing is? Turns out, that after months of negotiation on my older son’s part, he decided he didn’t want to spend his free time sitting in front of a computer screen & lost all interest in Facebook after three days. ‘Are you not using the computer anymore?’ I asked him one morning at breakfast. ‘I get enough of the Internet at school,’ was his reply. I could hardly believe it! ‘What about Twitter? You were all excited about that the other day.’ ‘Who wants everyone to know where they are all the time?’ By this time I was getting pretty steamed. ‘You begged me for that computer. What happened to ‘we can’t live without one’?’ Know what he does then? He looks at me real sly-like & says, ‘You tell me to go outside to play, all the time & now you’re trying to make me stay in? What kind of a mother are you?’ He had me there, & out the door he went to play soccer. A week later, his little brother followed suit & the computer sat there collecting dust.

(Arleta removes the vibrating Blackberry from her pocket but replaces it without checking.)

I tell you—kids these days have the attention spans of fruit flies. They may have made a point but I was still pissed & so turned to my husband to ask him what to do with that white elephant. His solution, as always—set by example, so Darryl—that’s my husband’s name—Darryl figured that if he used that computer in a healthy-minded manner, the boys would follow his lead. So online he went & at first he had no idea what to do because he was as computer illiterate as I was. We’re kind of backward people, I guess. In our generation, computers that were smart & talked to you were only gonna tell you to do bad things & try to take over the world but Darryl was brave—a little surfing here, a little browsing there & soon he was having a ball. He set up a Facebook account for the whole family & downloaded vacation pictures & I was really glad to see him having some fun ‘cause he works real hard at his job down at the plant. I even forgot how angry I was at the boys.

(Arleta checks the vibrating Blackberry in a quick glance.)

The weeks went by & the kids were showing no more interest in using the computer than when they walked away but I couldn’t help but notice being online was becoming a bit of an obsession for Darryl. When I tried to talk to him about that, he pooh-poohed by concerns. ‘Great things are afoot, Arleta,’ he promised. ‘Minds are loose the world over.’ Darryl can be a real stubborn prick when he sets his mind to something & I was getting pretty sick & tired of seeing the back of his head while he shared in this global celebration. It was that wilful withdrawal of his personality that was starting to bother me but I kept quiet about it, hoping he would run through some part of himself in this obsessive process & come back to the table & eat meals with his family again. But the time he spent ‘philosophizing,’ in the chat rooms & researching some thing or another grew longer & longer still & eventually he stopped talking to me altogether, stopped looking me in the eye & it’s not like we had a wild sex life in the first place but there was nothing happening between the sheets. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I knew something was wrong. Now… I know this might not be the right thing to do but I made the decision to spy on him. I didn’t hire a private investigator or anything expensive like they do on the television when they think a spouse might be cheating. Darryl has a terrible memory & has to write anything down to remember so I went to the place where I knew he kept his passwords & then checked his email account. I broke his privacy, yes. I went into his private business & big surprise—it didn’t take long to figure out exactly what had been going on behind my back.

(Arleta pulls out the Blackberry & sends a text message.)

Sam WolffSometimes? I can get as hot as a Texas pistol when I’m angry but that day—at that particular moment when my world had been so completely rocked—I didn’t get upset. ‘You’re having an affair,’ I said quite plainly, considering the shock I was in. Naturally, he played dumb. ‘I went into your email, Darryl. I read the letters you sent to her.’ ‘Who?’ he says, still pretending not to follow. ‘Stormy Weather?’ I enjoyed the look of guilt that spread across his face. ‘Now Arleta,’ he pleaded weakly. ‘It’s just electric masturbation.’ He threw me a real line about how he had never met her in person and it was just an Internet-thing & you know what happened? I decided to believe him.

(Arleta inhales deeply, smoothing back shiny hair.)

It all kind of made sense: If he hadn’t actually touched this ‘Stormy Weather’ how could it be considered a real affair? Besides, if a former first lady of our country could overlook a little sexual indiscretion on her husband’s part, then I should be able too, right? He is a man after all, & every woman in this world has to wrestle her worry about whether the dog is going to stray, so I backed off. I decided to turn a blind eye & let him have his fun.

(Smirking to herself, Arleta slams the phone open& shut.)

Call it a sense of adventure; call it stupid denial—I might even agree with you. I couldn’t get past it—how forbidding him was only going to make the matter worse—the irresistible lure of forbidden fruit. God alone knows how big a fool I’ve been in the past, trying to get blood from a stone. I watched my mama grind my daddy down into a stub, so I well understood that a big ‘ole hissy fit will only fan the fires of any curiosity. I didn’t want a divorce from him—I wanted the man I had pre-Internet. I always knew Daryl would stray one day; any woman who thinks her husband won’t is an old-fashioned idiot. It wasn’t like I’d caught them in bed together, for Jeepers sake. Besides, ‘Stormy Weather’ looked quite a bit like me, which was kind of flattering so why not let him have this harmless little fling in the non-physical world of cyberspace.

(Arleta closes her eyes & sighs deeply.)

I had done everything I could to make my home proper & correct so I played along, turned that blind eye & allowed him to carry on with whatever he was doing in the spare bedroom. Yet rather than appreciate this noble understanding of the male psyche—none of my other friends would have ever dreamed to put up with that nonsense, believe you me—Darryl didn’t appreciate a thing I did for him. He just kept pushing it & pushing it further still, until one morning after he’d been on the frickin’ computer the whole night long, he comes down to the kitchen to say he’s decided this whole ‘family thing’—the very ‘thing’ we’d dreamt of & created together, at great sacrifice & effort—this whole ‘family thing’ was now ‘obsolete.’ Lord have mercy—that was when I lost my mind.

(Arleta pauses a moment in reflection.)

When I was a bartender, just before I met Daryl, I worked with this woman who had a nervous breakdown. She was a tad weird normally but one morning, she came into worked all dressed-up in her wedding dress. It was quite a pathetic site actually, because she had been married many years before or I should say many pounds before & she must have really fought her way into that old gown. It had ripped all along the sleeves & the zipper in the back was torn pretty much wide open—fat squeezing out everywhere—it wasn’t a pretty site, let me tell you. She came into the bar & acted as normal as she could. Like she wasn’t bursting out of her wedding dress, until someone went up & asked if everything was alright & then she burst into tears. Right in the middle of the room, bawling like a baby. Crying, sobbing—couldn’t seem to stop. People were laughing & I felt sorry for her at the time but I thought at the time— come on! If you’re having that bad of a day, maybe it’s better to call in sick?

(She pauses for dramatic effect.)

woman_depressed - www.alternet.orgI feel differently about that woman today.

(Arleta fights back a few tears.)

The truth—that’s what made my husband leave me & the boys for Miss Stormy Weather, a.k.a Beth Chapman. I was taught to chose your battles wisely in this world & there was no way I was taking this dirty shit lying down! If my family wasn’t worth fighting for, what the hell was? The problem remained: after Darryl left? I was lost at sea—broken & humiliated like a drowned surfer or a skier caught in an avalanche. I never in my wildest dreams saw this coming & didn’t know where to turn. I lay on the couch watching terrible television for weeks, the will to fight draining out of me, all the while looking for something on television to make sense of the endless chattering in my mind. Then suddenly—through all of that pain & confusion, mine as well as everyone else’s I was absorbing on the television, I suddenly remembered a piece of scripture from Sunday school. ‘Faith which may not be understood now might reveal itself tomorrow.’ I can’t recall if it was Jesus himself who said that but it got stuck in my head, that’s for damn sure. One morning, I woke up & instead of being angry & full of that terrible, burning shame for having lost my husband to another woman, I knew my next move.

(Arleta sends another text message while continuing the story)

Rage should not be wasted on revenge. It can serve as a rudder to navigate a course through rough waters—into some new frontier for adventure & excitement. I’d always secretly felt sorry for those Internet people, spending all their time in a phony electronic world but if that bastard Darryl insisted on eating, smelling, listening, watching, feeling, tasting & screwing anything he wanted—then why couldn’t I? According to him, there was a whole electronic frontier just waiting to be conquered so why the hell should I sit getting fat on the couch when I could be the creator of my own destiny? Let him walk in the sun with Stormy Weather—I went out & bought myself a laptop.

(Arleta snaps the phone closed.)

It was just the beginning of summer vacation for the boys & I decided to give them a break from their mother’s nervous breakdown. I’d tried to make it easy for them, to be strong when they were around & say it was all gonna be okay, but my boys are wise beyond their years. In a funny way, I think they felt responsible for what happened by insisting the computer be brought into the house in the first place. They noticed how their mother was really suffering & were so sweet but they needed a chance to get over what had happened too. I decided to send them to their grandparents for the summer—they couldn’t pack their bags fast enough & after tearful goodbyes at the airport, after I promised them a new mommy when they returned, I drove back home fixing to connect to this infamous world wide web.

(Arleta eyes the Blackberry.)

Now y’all need to understand— I knew absolutely nothing about computers. I’d been the stay-at-home, traditional kind of wife & the www-thing had taken place in a world far away from cleaning toilets & making brownies for a church bake sale. I marvelled at how it all so suddenly became completely accepted. Twenty years ago this thing would have sounded like science fiction & I was clueless about how to get in on it myself. To solve this predicament, I did what any smart American woman does when she needs help—I called customer service. There I found the good people at Dell support both courteous & patient. Soon I was all ready to log on.

(Arleta opens the phone & types something on the keypad.)

Brian KerriganBeing online felt like the first time I went water skiing—shaky, exhilarating but completely out of control. It felt like trying to read your watch, in a tidal wave. There were a lot of re-starts & back tracking & a few tears of frustration. I hadn’t typed since high school & all of those confusing abbreviations in the chat rooms & those tedious registration screens— I tell you—but once I got used to the cyber world, I was clacking away at that gizmo like a guinea hen picking scratch.

(Arleta looks at her Blackberry, then laughs at something on the screen.)

The reward for my effort was the completion of a challenging task but I was still pretty angry with Darryl back then, so I happily chatted with other men. I got the feeling that anyone I’d meet online was either crazy or soon would be. After several missteps, I finally met someone who asked me out for a nice dinner instead of a naked picture & descriptions of what I wanted to do to him in bed.

(Arleta laughs to herself.)

The guy had said to me he had a ‘football players build’ & I have to admit, I was kind of excited by that. It had been a long while since I’d actually enjoyed sex & thinking about this guy really got my juices going. Well—after one big whoopty–doo buffet meal at ‘Foody Goody,’ I regretted not asking him which position he played on that football team because it definitely wasn’t the quarterback.

(Arleta adjusts her dress.)

So that was it for the romance idea. I started shopping online & it was like a big old tornado sucking that money up so I put away the credit card & rather than get discouraged, I decided to spread out into international waters, something outside my own backyard. Soon I was chatting with people I never knew existed: A person who explained how crop circles are actually made by a whole team of people, for instance & a nurse who had tragically applied the wrong medicine to a patient. All of these fascinating people online—a former member of some boy band I’d never heard of—there seemed to be a website for anything & everything.

(Arleta clutches the Blackberry to her breast.)

I discovered that being online was good for you, like daily aspirin. Everything we need to know about the modern world is right in here. So strange to say this now but it seemed like I’d been waiting, just passing time doing things that didn’t seem as vital as being online. I could not for the life of me understand why I hadn’t done this sooner. Finally, I was starting to enjoy the notion of being free.

(Arleta wipes the screen of the Blackberry with the sleeve.)

Those people who imagine themselves from a different time because they don’t understand technology? You know the types who wander around in historical garb, experiencing the excitement of life in another century? I was once like them but not any more. If the digital culture is like a wave, then I was riding the wave on a broken ironing board—a fierce, bright light shining from my eyes. I’m sure y’all realize that information carries fast in the undercurrents of that world—the speed of conception, plus & feeling like an ancient navigator, from a more luminous dimension, I flowed through the currents of the Internet, preparing for destiny.

(Arleta stares off into the distance.)

Being online had helped push back the walls that had closed in on me. Going from site to site, like some wet hen trying to find a place to roost—no story is too insignificant—a galaxy of voices out there to shine alongside but that turbo-speed, digital pace is draining. I didn’t feel like I had any opportunity to reflect on anything. It was just a constant stream of fresh material. From the millions of online possibilities, I knew there had to be a focus to my journey. I must have logged into countless databases to read what seemed like a million clever online suggestions. Everyone wants to somehow make a difference in this crazy world, but I was feeling overwhelmed by the sheer possibilities. I needed to make a statement about our broken home—that much was clear, but was still frustrated by the inability to come up with a good idea for a blog—until all suddenly, I got inspiration as clearly as if it had been a direct message. Something political in nature was required but something that would highlight the positive emotional aspects of a demoralizing situation. That was the original vision—build an integrated community for Internet widows. All those who have been abandoned because of online extracurriculars, both men & women, young or old—my website would be a refuge to those trying to recover from the selfish acts of other.

(Arleta calmly studies her Blackberry.)

Lente ScuraOn land, it is the business of physical construction—the need for bridges, solid frameworks & borders clearly marked, which then form the paths allowing the flow between all the many opposites. In cyberspace, the connection is less permanent, more transitional, like the flowing of electric water. Inside that flood of information, my blog would serve as a port in the storm for those who had traveled into the same self-disgust as I had. I needed to massage my anger—work it out like a knotted muscle. The website would make a difference & even poor-little-old me had to admit I might have tapped into something significant.

(Arleta is suddenly quite serious.)

This world can be a shit-stained place—sadly, we all know that. Understanding this, I wanted my online representation to be a safe harbour for people looking for the relief of answers to questions they couldn’t figure out for themselves. I put my thinking cap on & set to work constructing a blog targeted at Internet widows—all the many people who lost a spouse due to the cowardly convenience of meeting someone so easily online. I figured there had to be legions of this type of folks & in confirmation of my hunch, once I had launched & worked out all the kinks, I had a thousand hits the very first day it was live—thank you, Google!

(Arleta does a fist pump in the air.)

I just could not believe the response—people not only cared, they responded by telling their own stories & we found comfort in each other‘s similar disgrace. A digital band of good people, decent people who believed in family values & would speak for injustice everywhere because of the pain of their own experience. The same force which brought us together, would also return our stolen happiness through the private beauty of this amazing technology.

(Arleta flips the hair from her face with her Blackberry.)

Being, having & doing—all possible modes of existence. My weird little online world quickly expanded into a pulsating congregation of new-media activists. As a untied front, this anonymous group of hopeful dreamers, unique & beautiful visionaries, each one aiming to show the world they are dressed in a colour of the rainbow that has yet to be discovered. A world, a flood of information— this was the world after that flood.

(Arleta scrolls down her Blackberry.)

Then about a month in, the oddest thing happened. Almost overnight, the tone of the postings shifted. While everyone had once been so sympathetic & positive, so supportive, it suddenly became like when the family gets together & engages in that game of competitive bitching. ‘Who’s the worst off?’ Sob sister stuff, wallowing in the same bitter sentiment I’d desperately tried to escape. It was at this point, if I am to remain truly honest with y’all? It started to feel anti-climactic, in that Peggy Lee, ‘Is That All There Is?’ kind of way. People were sharing electric tears & frustration, that’s for sure but the personal pain from each family; that nitty-gritty bad news from each crumbling home stopped seeming to matter once it had been unburdened. We were supposed to be helping each other heal but the blog didn’t seem to heading in that direction anymore.

(Arleta replaces the phone.)

Postings began to appear advising how to best ruin somebody’s life—how to web-stalk someone & even though I’d remove them daily, they’d be back up there in no time. Did you know that to successfully annihilate someone in the internet world, all you need is a Social security number & a credit card? I didn’t & soon, companies like ‘Spy Whip’ started asking if they could advertise on the site, telling me there was big money to be made for all the online traffic &…I was so torn. I needed the extra income, believe you me but how could the site remain an active healing force if it was encouraging people to be so petty & cruel?

(Arleta looks sadly at her phone.)

All of that negative paranoia—it makes me cringe when I remember. I was starting to feel that this new digital age had brought with it an era of spiritual darkness, illuminated only by a glowing screens. There were crazy postings by the hundreds, arriving daily, ranging from explanations on how to spy on lost ‘loved’ ones to postings either bragging about destroying an unfaithful spouse or justifying their intrusions. The site had lost its focus & I started to feel that sense of sick depression that had ground my life to a halt after Daryl abandoned ship.

(Arleta checks the Blackberry, frowning at what she sees on the screen.)

I had beat my drum to gather the broken from around the world & now all we did was exchange links for the newest satellite spyware? It was too crazy— how was revenge going to make things better? It’s as if we’d all somehow clicked on through a link to a bad place & we needed to change course, lickety-split. I needed to backtrack & re-connect with the original intention.

(Arleta takes a drink from a bottle of water.)

It’s hard to keep the facts straight here & now, talking with y’all but I’m pretty sure it was right after that when I started wondering if maybe I wasn’t spending too much time on my dashboard. Maybe visiting other forums would give me an idea of how to improve my own. I visited several. Once you figured out the specific jargons & abbreviations, I couldn’t help but see that there was a similar shallowness & defensiveness from people who were supposed to have at least one thing in common & the smugness—like a preacher delivering his sermon to the choir.

(Arleta looks coyly at the audience.)

‘Course I eventually had to visit the sex sites & while that whole exploration wasn’t entirely unpleasant, the world of cyber-porn, though vast & all-too-easy to access, is really nothing more than a screen of pretty narrow horizons. It didn’t take long to turn-off to that sleazy exploitation of what seemed mostly good looking, well-endowed, well-paid, desperate people. I needed to give myself an old–fashioned, southern-style slow-down. This Internet thing was happening way too fast. I was finding it hard to think straight once I started swimming through those dirty waters & seeing as how I was no closer to figuring out how to return my site back to a forum for positive–thinking people, maybe this whole wild idea was something I’d cooked-up just to cover the pain of being dumped?

(Arleta looks thoughtfully at her Blackberry.)

Give, take; absorb, reject. Back & forth, on & offline, coating over any practical sense of personal history or any real purpose in the physical world. I had surrendered to all of this but was free to re-negotiate anytime. It was my life, my choices & making them all inside that Digital Forrest seemed not only selfish, but foolish as well. Maybe it was time to get to know that tired looking woman reflecting back from the monitor screen? Maybe I’d learned all I needed from that experience. It all moves so damn fast but still—I saw the problem—the problem in all of that frantic business, & all of that fast, careless money. I saw the pain in those sex sites, with broken dreamers getting bought like meat at a butcher shop. I saw all of it blinking & swirling in that never-ending steam of expression—it was greed so magnificent, it had opened a whole dimension of anarchy.

(Arleta waves her Blackberry in the air.)

There is so much expression but no one is taking anything seriously. All of my chat-friends wanted to know why the sudden change of heart? ‘This is the future, ‘angrymom’ — that’s my chat nickname, by the way—‘If you really wanna make a difference, this is the cutting edge.’ That seemed to be the consensus. Trouble was? I didn’t believe it. Feeling like a fool, I said my hasty goodbyes & was one step away from logging off that damn computer cold-turkey & boxing it up forever when one day, in my junk mail folder, I received an email that not only changed the setting of my inbox but my outlook towards the future, as well.

(Arleta speaks directly to the audience, very serious.)

HansPieselTurns out that innocent email was nothing short of revolutionary. I opened it & something changed inside of me as I read about Barack Obama. I don’t mean to sound like one of those people with their eye on the meter in life, because those people are rarely heroes. The last Republican years had been like playing Monopoly with my younger son—the rules kept changing & more & more money disappeared from the bank as the game went along. I’m talking about the Republican Bush Clan, that elite that took everybody’s retirement money & stretched their greed so wide it broke like a fan belt running the world. During those years, my ‘fine’ kept shifting, further & further from what I actually stood for. I love America & I know America loves me but things have drifted from what my grandparents built their lives upon.

(Arleta places the Blackberry to her chest.)

As far as W. Bush is concerned? I was raised to have respect for the office of the President but I was a fervent believer that America needed a change. The GOP were behaving like kids blaming someone else for breaking the toy but it wasn’t a toy they broke—it was our country. Somebody was going to save us from the uglier side of our society & while I have always been an ardent Hilary Clinton supporter, identifying with her courage & strength many a ’ time during my own troubled period, but I had to change allegiance & put my faith in a man who seemed to be in touch with a different soul force. His campaign included dignity & harmony for all—not just a blind eye & a pity party for the losers.

(Arleta stares at the phone in a moment of reverie.)

Choice is the hinge of destiny. Once that voice for change surfaced in the gathering momentum of the Obama campaign, I was thunderstruck with excitement. There was actually a candidate to fight for people who were drowning in a sense of powerlessness. For me, Barack Obama seemed like a presidential hero, in composite: the affectations of Lincoln, the social vision of FDR, the moxy of John Kennedy & he has Bill Clinton’s brains.

(Arleta’s speech grows in quiet intensity.)

Obama was the ideal synthesis of both sexy & smart & I don’t care what people say about overblown propaganda & over-exposure & all the rest of that ‘critical analysis.’ Until my campaign work for Barack Obama started, I’d been waiting for something. It is difficult to explain—I had worried so much about their being good influences in the world for my boys & when my husband Daryl walked–out, that notion was a real laugh-riot so I was desperately seeking to re-define myself on the Internet as some artificial substitute for real courage.

(Arleta speaks intently.)

I had found some truth of my own & this was what permitted my broken home to mend in common purpose. Barack Obama became a role model for a fractured family & I know this is going to sound like too-much, but I thank the Lord Above for that. If a skinny, big-eared boy from a single parent family married such a Goddess & then became President of the United States? Well then…we had nothing to worry about because there is a force helping even things out in the Universe. As the dreamers of ‘now’, we shall assist everyone to whatever safe, wholesome, sustainable destiny that awaits them. We can make this country better not just for our children but for their grandchildren, as well.
I had so missed that feeling of day dreaming & loving visions & ignoring my fear—it was like being a child again, so strong did faith re-fill my empty heart. The vehicle for positive change had been re-captured & was now heading in the direction of salvation & hope.

(Arleta stands to attention, military style.)

Albert Einstein said it is easier to break down an atom that a prejudice. The Obama-factor: globalization as cleansing force.

(Arleta studies her Blackberry sceptically.)

We’re still humming from the backspin. Obama’s first presidential victory solidified the Internet as something more than just a portal to escapism. From screen to screen the word traveled, enough to put him in power politically & support his visionary notions. It was not that I felt proud to be an American again all of a sudden—it was that I felt safe, so y’all keep believing in President Obama—Golden Child of the social networking scene, making a concrete contribution to America the Republic, not the global monster the rest of the world thinks we are. I’ll do the same & let’s none of us regret that.

{Images by Zach Vega & Sam Wolff & www.alternet.org & Brian Kerrigan & Lente Scura & Hans Piesel}

 

 

Fresh Poetry ~ “In Sacred Groves”

www.ukcolumn.org

To perceive is to immobilize;
to freeze.
Stuck in this time warp of tradition,
a war dance sublime
can be heard through yonder
protected forest, with
solid roots in Gnosticism & the influences
of dynasty on leadership skills—how hard that whip
must crack for a team to stay
in line; the very human cost
of war.

It has been reported that
after violence, there is
affinity
between the parties involved, as prior
motives explode into a
shared jungle sensitivity,
which disregards all that is
common or generic.
Travel instead
into fanaticism mixed with blind devotion.
Everyone into the compound
for the practice
of pagan rites;
priests are instructed with specific penitentials,
for it is the glory of the vain
never
to yield to proof of divinity
without trickery.

Are tallest poppies
fertilized
in yonder fields alone?

Fire must burn hot
to illuminate the brighter minds.
Duties are directed; the brethren
assist
with concentrations compiled free
from interruption;
exercises specifically designed
to produce
a narcotizing effect.
Channelled through a rigorous
vetting process which permits males
to bond
behind
a leafy veil;
secretive lore is shared around
roaring campfires;
every nasty thing ever said
in the mountains of memory,
where the air is thin
& participants wait for Shiva
to dance a curative experience.

Repeat periods
of conflict & reconciliation,
when favourite disciples, the best practitioners
of their fields
receive
transference of power through a witch
dispensing eternal justice,
without compass or direction,
energy descends
down
through
the realms of mortal passions,
where oceans teem with life & the mysterious
concepts addressed—power behind
the power; rare pieces of that jigsaw connected;
top conductors of rituals
highlighting
sodomy & semenancy,
bathing in rivers of blood
while ranting, screaming maniacs
complete sycophantic transcendence & ascension
projects,
loaded with alchemical connotations
to establish power
of symbolic behaviour—what shade is evil,
creaking like a cicada
in the fallen palms?

{Photograph from www.ukcolumn.org}

 

 

Baby Doll

CBS - 3(Baby Doll flirtatiously enters the playing area; carrying an old-fashioned portable transistor radio. She is wearing a one-piece bating suit, a beauty pageant sash and a sparkling tiara. She totters around the perimeter of the stage, making sure everyone sees what a groovy dancer she is and can read what is written on her pretty sash. When she is satisfied with her performance, she switches off the radio.)

Baby Doll: A platinum blonde, a dizzy blonde, a sexy blonde. ‘Blondes have more fun,’ you know. Blondes for every day of the week but eventually you’re gonna come to the conclusion that there’s only one real blonde and that’s Baby Doll blonde. That’s me, you guys—a spoiled, naughty, pig-tailed former beauty queen who loves to screw! Do I need a spanking for saying that? Have I been a bad girl?

(Baby Doll bends over to reveal her panties to the crowd.)

What turns the motor of your mind, honey? Bet I could figure it out, if you gave me half a chance. I’m a professional at doing that and it makes me kind of goofy how much easier these big tits have made life. It’s kind of like I’m a royal queen or something. Every evening, I paint my bee-stung lips to match the shade of the muted trumpets in a swing band; I pluck my eyebrows clean and sexy, then shake my Pilates-toned ass into some slinky little dress that I know is going to turn every eye in the room.

(Baby Doll adjusts her tiara and smiles brightly at the crowd.)

Don’t be fooled by appearances folks. I might not walk it but I am a wise Babydoll. Some people will find it hard to believe that a bright, empowered young woman could fall into such a trap. This story is not for them. It’ll be aimed at people who like seeing successful people suffer. There’s something in that for you—I’d bet on it. I used to be smart, you know? Won the gold medal in freshman English. It hung there cheap and plastic between budding breasts. Back before the time when I knew how to do amazing things with my tongue. Right around that famed night when my cherry burst in a sweaty frenzy—when I thought I’d met my prince. I told him sex would spoil what we had & what we had was very special. What happened to him? Gone—they all go. So sad. The saddest thing of all is that I learned a very important lesson but I forgot it straight away.

(Baby Doll pauses to reflect.)

At what point does the past become history? I even went to college for a few semesters. That’s when the whole pageant thing got going and I was a pretty good student but one thing leads to another… you know how it is. It was my heyday—arms spread wide, showing a little leg on the parade float. Sassy, but never over-eager. I don’t understand why sex has such a bad rap. I just love boys. Boys are fascinated with holes—digging them, filling them up—mechanical sex, in & out, building to a single combustion. Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me! You boys think you have it all figured out, don’t you? A few of your best years in a pack, riding high and free but one by one you get picked up by those high school spiders—hungry for husbands and matching china. Who’s trophy are you today, bitch? I’m nothing like those girls. I’m real to the tits, baby. Well, not really but you know what I mean.

(Baby Doll adjusts her ample cleavage.)

The conflicted confessions of a desperate beauty—that could be my story. Don’t worry about me—I come from a long line of crazy broads but my own search for stardom began once I experienced its effects. The plan was: I’d take acting classes, not for the craft but for the contacts and when I finally landed a role, I’d dive into it with such gusto and commitment that the critics would notice, even though the role wasn’t that big. I’d get a better agent, a more powerful one, shuffle my friends around, all the while pouring through scripts, hunting, tirelessly hunting for that breakthrough role until it finally arrives and I earn a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress and then on to win the Oscar! During the acceptance speech, I say something wacky and make it into the annals of Oscar history trivia. I was to become a legend in my own time.

(Baby Doll takes out a compact.)

Pat, pat, pat and the blackheads vanish.

(She laughs at her reflection and snaps the compact closed.)

All those men who date jack-in-the-box girls? The ones whose cranks you have to turn and turn until—bingo! The sweet spot? Know what I’m saying? I am not one of those girls. Between you and me, I love the way someone looks at you once you’ve popped their corks. Men like girls like me ‘cause they don’t have to waste any time guessing how its all gonna turn out at the end of the night. There’s no suspense with Baby Doll cause she puts it right up front. It reminds me of how when I was a kid, my mom used to read those boring historical romances and she was always trying to get me to read them too but I could never get past those hunks on the covers. It was decided very early that when I grew up, I was gonna be the chick in the ripped bodice—beautiful, bent-back by some muscular stud and loving every second of it!

(Baby Doll puts the make up back in her purse and removes a lovely silver flask.)

There all sorts of blondes—Cadillac blondes, with their leashes and fancy jewels; Jacuzzi blondes with their velvet mouths and fried split ends; blondes on blondes rolling together in tangled, sweaty sheets.

(Baby Doll checks her reflection in the flask.)

Meadham KirchoffOne thing about being this hot? It takes a lot of energy. More than you might think. That’s why pretty girls needs to be fluffed like pillows—those good looks have to come from somewhere and if you’re expected to keep your mouth shut all the time, I don’t care how blonde your Baby Doll roots are, eventually? You start catching on to the ways things really are. Girls like me always know what’s going on. Put it this way: a successful evening for a girl like me is all about finding the secret fetish. If I am able to unlock the unmet desire in a man’s heart, I’ll be the new drug and that’s what it’s all about in my world. I’m an expert at reading between the lines.

(Baby Doll toasts the audience with her flask.)

Actually? I kinda enjoy being misread. I like the feeling of being able to rip the rug out from under people whenever I wanted to but will sit around looking sexy and let everybody underestimate me. Pretty and pert I watch the room and the weird thing is that the more I listen to tricks talk about me like I wasn’t actually a real person—like I don’t actually have feelings and am only into this for the dirty shit and enjoy it all as much as they do—the more I play along with that bullshit, the more I become this horrible, Frankenstein-like creature—cheery but grotesque. You wouldn’t believe the garbage my ‘customers’ talk and then having to smile at them and the other working girls, the other whores, with their competitive small talk, all smart-pretending-to-be-stupid; all stupid, pretending–to-be smart? My people and what we all have in common is that we know we’ll leave each other in the gutter, in a flash when the time comes but for the time being, we’ll smile and play along.

(Baby Doll swigs again.)

Pretty girls aren’t always dumb, you know. We’re just not allowed to be heavy so it’s kinda hard to dig into a deep conversation. That’s probably why I’m a bitch sometimes. It so obvious when I think about it that way. I have to tweak and tease my everything; make myself one of those plucked, moisturized and lip-sticked packages. One of the ‘pretty girls’ When did that happen? ‘cause it wasn’t always like that. My pretty face promised nothing but it did open some doors so why not cash in when you’ve got the chance. Show affection, get rejection. That’s my motto, proven time and time again to be true and there are a lot of people out there that enjoy wasting someone else’s love. So what if I happen to be one of them? It’s not my fault that little tidbit of self-knowledge changed my life. I knew my good looks were a mask I hid behind. Who wouldn’t?

(Baby Doll takes another swig and swishes it around inside her mouth before swallowing.)

Masks are expensive to the true person behind them because they both excuse you but prevent you from being anything else. Once you dress as the slutty French maid and everybody thinks you’re fierce, it’s hard to give that up. What else could I do? I had little to offer suburbia ‘cause I knew there was more to me than domestic drudgery. Keeping quiet helped.

(Baby Doll drinks thoughtfully.)

Rachel DevineThere are scheming blondes, bottle blondes and ditsy blondes who walk away with all the gold. I don’t know about you but my Oscar acceptance speech is graceful and steady— none of that cry-baby blubbering and thanking everyone you ever met. Being an escort gives me this calm alter ego and going on dates and acting is that way where no one ever says ‘cut’ means I have to think on my feet. Fortunately, the story is the same each time so you get good at improvising. It’s kind of crazy actually.

(Baby Doll adjusts her sash.)

When I’m loaded, I can still hear the applause, smell the bouquet of roses in my arms and feel the pinch of that tiara on my perfectly coifed head. Those were the days when winning seemed inevitable.

(Suddenly quite serious.)

Where do we get the idea that holding down anger is a good idea? Some nights, I could set my chair on fire from the heat of pushing down what can’t be said out loud but a job is a pay check, if you follow. It’s all about the right pair of tits. For most men, straight men I should say, dating is nothing more than a tit-hunt. They weed through the sea of possibilities, looking for that magical pair that will fill the birthday lingerie and if he’s really lucky? Remind him of his mama. People say I’m the kind of girl who lights up a room with my headlights. It’s all about confidence versus attitude and we glamour girls walk that line every day. I spend most of my daydreams trying to think of new ways to delight men who are already sticky from eating too much honey.

(Baby Doll takes a long drink from the flask.)

Sometimes? In the middle of the night, when I’m lying there in the dark, waiting for the pills to kick in, I think about the movie somebody is going to make about this wild ‘ole life of mine. Stories? I’ve got a whole bag of stories, full of triple-X details, trickling down the chin of a tarnished glamour girl. Everyone said I could’ve been an actress for real but I didn’t believe them so I come up with cool movie ideas instead but lately, all I can think about is the smut that’s in my head and I don’t think anybody is gonna give me an academy award for that stuff. There’ve been plenty of freaky experiences, believe you me and I’m sticky in my own juices. ‘Rinse me off?’ I coyly asked. Boy! Did they ever. Might as well have stuck a sign around my neck that said: ‘food.’

(Baby Doll adjusts her coiffured hair.)

A tipsy blonde, a broken blonde—don’t want to go there. A bright, blue-eyed blonde, a chipped blonde, a dishy blonde, every-year-sees- a-few-new-blondes. Fresh blondes, hot, horny blondes with too much eye makeup—you wouldn’t believe the trouble I go to making flesh feel fine. Pretty? Meet fresh but that rarely adds up to the truth. If women like me were treated with more respect and just accepted as we actually are? There would be no need for therapy. There’s not much that can’t be healed in a post-coital embrace. It’s what keeps a lot of them from the Void.

(Baby Doll holds back a sob.)

Something I hadn’t counted on though—I got tired. A little magic to those around me but nothing changes—what d’ya do then? Don’t worry about me though. I smile through the pain and laugh through the tears but there’s still this . . . how can I describe it? It’s this snivelling, clutching part of myself that I despise. It’s like she’s a different model of me— like an entirely different, weaker chick and when I surrender to her ways and actually try to get close to someone, that weak bitch always loses out. Not in the short-term, mind you because Lame Chick isn’t very bright and only wants what’s easy to take and the weirdest thing? I actually know better but can’t seem to stop myself once she kicks in. Outside of all of that—I am claimed and safe, all those warm hands and sweaty bodies protecting me, keeping everything away that is dark and nasty. Nothing dangerous can come near.

(Baby Doll comes to her senses.)

Embarrassed? That’s been a while. ‘I blush, therefore I am.’

(Baby Doll takes a swig to wipe the slate clean.)

I shoulda stopped right there. Shoulda just followed my Number One rule and kept my Big Mouth shut but this guy was so fucking smug. He said I’d never get any media coverage on my own and everyone thought I was just some porno chick trying to get a SAG card. Maybe I am but I’ll be the judge of that. That asshole was really pissing me off and I told that motherfucker he was just jealous. That’s when he told the driver to pull over and he threw me out of the car and that’s why I’m here, getting drunk with you. I don’t always realize the limits of my own pussy power and seeing as how I’m the type of girl who’s at their best when someone adores them, I was kinda shit out of luck.

(Baby Doll drinks for courage.)

That’s life. Everyone is cool and easy during the sweet times but how will they behave when the chips are down? That’s the million-dollar question.

(Baby Doll drinks to make her point.)

A pink blonde, a filthy, dirty blonde—keep ‘em coming, I can handle anything. Let me tell you something for nothing, ‘cause we’re talking here, am I right?

(Baby Doll spills some of the booze down the front of her.)

Shit! Don’t you hate when that happens? Like I was saying, I started thinking about my biopic last night and it was all that dirty stuff but with you people here? Right now?

(Baby Doll, now quite tipsy, pulls a Polaroid camera from the suitcase.)

Like some plastered stranger next to you on a train, I have a story to tell. It’ll be all about what happens to people when they let their freak flag fly—they pay a price and I don’t really give a shit if you wanna hear it or not. People are always telling us ‘be original, be yourself.’ Ha! Try it and see what happens. Do you have any idea what this world does to its heroes?

(Baby Doll takes a picture of the audience and shakes it as it is developing.)

Bet that doesn’t turn out.

(She throws the photo aside.)

A blonde with a story, a blonde with a terribly sad story actually but does that mean shit to any of you people?! When somebody falls apart, you could care less, right? Well I’m a dying breed—a hooker with a heart. Forget about the gold part. That’s only in the wallet or in the high-count threads of the sheets where the dirty deeds go down but not in the sex. Magic is extra and not for sale extra, but win-your-heart, by-your-side extra— forever extra and that ain’t exactly round the corner when you sell it. I just gotta say this one more thing—I told the truth. They fired my heart-shaped ass for it but I didn’t lie and I could have—easily and now the images flash through my mind—I just can’t seem to get a pen to write them down before I forget them. There’s been many a crazy night

(She fishes some Polaroid pictures from the suitcase.)

Believe you me this is pulling out some pretty ragged credentials. Orange bed spread. . . a naked girl, somehow trying to keep her insides from spilling out. That orange bedspread—fuck that!

(She throws the photo to the ground.)

Michael WhiteheadWe all know how that story ends.

(Baby Doll drinks to keep rolling.)

This all reminds me of one time, back in high school. I was dating this guy—some loser by most accounts but I was still in my shell back then and had to take it where I could get it. Anyway—this guy who’s name I can’t even remember right now, he leans over to his buddies at this pizzeria, he leans right over me and by way of a compliment he says to his buddies, ‘People are going to think I picked-up a hooker.’ He meant it to be sweet and I guess it kinda stuck with me. Later on, like some beaten-down dog who remembers each of his abusers, I screwed every one of the guys at that table, then dropped them on the spot! It was quite a triumph in the girl’s locker room and that was when my star started to rise. How was I going to top that?

(Baby Doll drinks to remember.)

Like every teenage girl who grows up paying the price of pretending to be okay when you know you’re not, but no one around you can do a damn thing about it, survival becomes a matter of learning to use a puckered mouth, smeared in Dr. Pepper lip-gloss. How to re-capture all those forgotten moments when I was blitzed? (She holds up the photos) Highlights include: a photo of me rubbing my tatas; look—a discarded dress, the empty champagne glasses. There I am drinking the champagne. Ken. Whoa—Ken. He sat in the corner of the room where I took my dates. He represented a line—a line crossed repeatedly mind you, but Ken tried his best to remind me of that corn-fed, redneck line of decency I grew up with. My little knight-in-shining armour. Thanks Ken.

(Baby Doll kisses the photo, holding it to her chest.)

The worst is yet to come and if I haven’t lost your sympathies yet, I might with this little gem. Here’s the final Polaroid: I’m taking it from behind, with my eyes on a glass of half-full champagne, the cocaine has been gone too long and I’m starting to feel the dread that some one who is used to having their hopes dashed feels. A dull, sickening ache. Let’s not go there. Look at me… (tries to laugh.) …trying to explain my past through a pile of scattered snapshots, some frickin’ Polaroids. I was looking . . . at these fucking things, hoping. . . they might spark some. . . ohm dear. . . spark some raunchy best seller hiding in me. (pause.) How was I gonna love myself and everyone else too?

(Baby Doll tosses the Polaroids aside.)

Somebody’s gonna make a movie about my life you know, even if no one believes me when I say that. Have you seen ‘The Breakfast Club?’ Remember that part where they’re all in the library, smoking a joint and opening up? That was so powerful for me when I was a kid. It gave me this hope that everyone could get along, if they tried and had the right drugs.

(Baby Doll laughs and drinks.)

Adolph B. Rice StudioI met this producer a while back, at this big Hollywood party—a real score and he wanted to see me on a regular basis. Everybody loved me and he could tell. It just so happened he was casting for his next picture and I was exactly the type of girl he needed. It wasn’t a staring role but it would show how talented I was. He said that if we all got along real well, he’d open some doors for me.

(Baby Doll remembers fondly, smiling for happier times.)

I whipped his Hollywood ego creamy and at first it was great. He made me feel so special, like I was a big star myself. I got to meet all kinds of people and everyone was so sexy and beautiful but things would only go so far. Know what I mean? One night, I got this brilliant idea of making a horror movie but you know how the slutty ones always get knocked-off right away? In my movie, the whore would be the star! She fucks who she wants but has the brains to save her ass in the end. It was a total twist on the classic structure for horror films and I told the producer guy about it, who for now shall remain nameless, and he thought it was a great idea but we never talked about it again. Every time I tried to bring it up, he’d say ‘These things take time. Be patient.’ Then things started to get weird and he ended up taking whatever self-esteem I had, despite my job description and made a fool of me, right in front of everyone. Accused me of stealing from his wallet and that was and still is a great big fucking lie!

(Baby Doll drinks angrily.)

Part of me wants the same front row seat for their humiliation they had for mine; the other part doesn’t give a shit. Let’s face it—mine are the mistakes of every loser. Giving unconditional love and expecting it returned the same. That’s a fool’s gold. If someone has no power over you and they try to control you? Laugh in their face! God—he was the worst sex—cock the size of a child’s and I had to fake each and every orgasm, which is not usually a problem but with him? It would make my head ache for hours afterwards. God! Just thinking about him now makes me want to puke! It’s like pulling some plug inside my head and covering every memory with the shit of that rotten time. Like any good drunk, mine is the story of some bastard who screwed me. On one hand we have shallow and blind, the other? Unmanly and poisonous. Guess who won? Fuck it! What’re you gonna do? When you fuck-up, you fuck-up and blame isn’t gonna fix a thing.

(Baby Doll reflects.)

It‘s easy to be nice when things are going great but most people turn into scum bags pretty quick once the chips are down.

(Baby Doll leans towards the crowd.)

Let me tell you something for nothing: men use their feeling like women use sex—for control. Sex is different for women—we like it but aren’t controlled by it. Well. . . maybe some of us are but most women aren’t. They just do it to get what they want and men are the same, regardless to what those bastards will tell you.

(Baby Doll decides to collect the pictures scattered around her.)

Fire: Will it fuel you or fry you? Turns out I was left to fend for myself and there wasn’t much to take care of business in the style I was accustomed. Need proof? Why just this morning I awoke next to some pock-faced trucker who looked a hell-of-a lot-better the night before, in the sparkle of sixteen gin and tonics than he did in the grey dawn light, in those piss-soaked sheets, the room still smelling of stale poppers and rancid sweat. I’m sure you don’t think ‘those kind of things,’ happen to girls like me but they do—all the time, in fact.

(Baby Doll tries not to laugh.)

That’s when it stopped. When my pussy. . . collapsed, like a worn-out stock market. Oh, that’s crass. I mean my vagina. Is that better? Allow me to introduce you to my ‘vagina.’ We’ve been through a lot together, this old snatch of mine and I. Notice how when I talk about my pussy or my ‘vagina’ it lacks some of the humour some women get by saying ‘vagina’ in public? Hey! If I wanna get creative with my kootch, I outta be allowed ‘cause there’s lots of people out there doing the exact same thing. Do I know no shame? Honey? What blows most people out of the water barely makes me flinch. I was a young girl when first stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey.

(Baby Doll takes a deep swig from her flask.)

Full-tilt, in all the wrong ways—that me for sure. Fuck it! Sensible is only gonna get you so far. Gotta crank it up once in a while, don‘t I?

(Baby Doll sings to herself, swaying from side to side.)

A broken blonde, a disposable blonde… (she laughs) Disposable. (She coughs and laughs.) Disposable, like a whore’s love.

(Baby Doll lights a cigarette & inhales deeply.)

It’s a market of good taste out there and this lady wants in. She’s got love to give and there are buyers everywhere. Trouble is, I always seem to be meeting people who are too good for what I’ve been.

(She drinks, then cries out.)

I lost some terrific friends along the way! People who looked at me with hurt and confusion. Know how like. . . when things are more embarrassing when you have to face them? At the time, they seem hilarious and alive but when you sober up? When you sober up, all those decisions seem so much more embarrassing in the light of day. In that light there’s no magic—no powder working through that mess. Guess I don’t have the shame that makes most people change their minds. Where is disgrace when you need it?

(Baby Doll empties the flask dry.)

Fuel for those last few inches. Soak the depression in alcohol; light it on fire.

(Baby Doll takes a long swallow, finishes the contents and throws the flask down.)

That feeling of being screwed-down too tight between a fake smile? Not a great feeling. The last thing I remember laughing at, really laughing at—like when something that’s been locked inside breaks loose and you can finally think straight again? The last time I laughed like that was when someone said I had a brain like a bowl of chip dip. It was at this late-night coke party and I was really high. I’d gone there with some guy I’d snorted lines with at the club, and I was sitting there starting to feel the booze and wonder how the evening was going to shape-up, when this guy next to me, some rumpled business-type—weekend warrior—he leans over and tells me my brain is like a bowl of chip dip. I laughed my fuckin’ ass of at that. I have a much better idea of what he meant by that right now.

(Baby Doll picks the flask back up and shakes it upside down.)

Poor, sad girl—can’t fly her kite ‘cause there’s no wind. Someone wanna get me a drink? It’s true what they say about Peter Pan not wanting to grow up but what gets forgotten is that once Wendy got up in the air, she never wanted to come down.

(Baby Doll tries for one last swig from the flask.)

The dawn of a sobering drunk—it can be a real sad thing or it can be a miracle. Which is it gonna be, girlfriend? I shared my abundance and it got me nowhere. You’d better watch yourselves, folks.

(Baby Doll coughs.)

Who the fuck am I to be giving advice? I shouldn’t even be drinking, actually. Someone as screwed up as I am should just learn to keep their mouths shut—maybe take some notes.

(Baby Doll blows the crowd a big show-biz style kiss)

I love you all!

{Artwork by CBS-3 & Meadham Kirchoff & Rachel Devine & Michael Whitehead & Adolph B. Rice Studios & Anna Bauer}

Maggie

Russell Lee(Maggie enters the playing area slowly — someone peacefully yet intensely lost in thought. In her hand, she carries two dog leads. She reaches the centre of the stage, where almost as an afterthought, she remembers and searches off into the horizon. Maggie whistles expertly, and a moment of anxiety arises, which she suppresses immediately. It is now she notices the audience and smiles a shy look before speaking directly to them.)

Maggie: Mother once said that wonder should be like Christmas decorations or playing cards — it should come out only at appropriate times. In spite of this sentiment, which I never fully accepted, I have been wondering lately about humankind. We hear so many stories concerning noble, heroic folk but is that truly an accurate representation of our species? Are we always so honourable and fair?

(Maggie pauses to whistle into the distance once more.)

My thing is dogs. I have never mixed well with people so have remained apart mostly. ‘Stick with the dogs,’ I remind myself and the loyalty I expect will return in kind.

(Maggie looks down at her muddy boots and makes a small show of cleaning them off.)

I love taking my girls our for a run in the fields but it is spring. Forget renewal, and the majesty of rebirth — all the poetic nonsense. Spring means mud — more than you can bear. Always makes such a terrible mess in the house.

(Maggie stops fussing with her boots.)

As I watch my girls till the empty fields with their racing paws, they raise ghosts along with the occasional jack rabbit. Easter is coming and that will make me think of family. Even though it’s been years since the girls and I celebrated a meaningful holiday together, it still takes me back. We’re all scattered now, across the country so it’s not always convenient to get together. They have their own lives now and I was no different with my mother — worse perhaps but I was quite unprepared for marriage. I didn’t watch much television or see many movies so I had what would be called a rather narrow view of the world. Things are different now, of course and I realize today that if my life had been like a television program, I would have been the one who cleared-up after the pigs and we called ourselves a family. I know animals — understand?

(Maggie call for her dogs again.)

If Mother were a dog it would have been a chow — she was fattish, fiercely loyal but easily confused by the expectations of responsibility for her position at the head of the pack. That was Mother in a nutshell — she didn’t have the guts to do it herself, but then attacked you for being uncertain. I had little support in my early life so I drew from animals, you see and what could be learned from their true natures. Cat or dog — what’s the difference? One is waiting, the other is not. With cats, it’s either love or hate; that endless game of approval and disapproval they’re so fond of. Cats take what they want and off they go. With dogs? Loyalty, all the way. I am loyal that way, like my dogs. This is the animal inheritance accepted at my wedding — dominion and the legacy of slavery that comes from following my husband’s impression of God’s word. My husband also gave me my first dog and I called her Sasha. What a beautiful Irish setter she was, and I fell in love with her instantly but honestly? The most surprising things was that I’d actually been given a gift. Looking back, I think my husband was the type of man who would give me things in his mind and I believe he was often very generous in his imagination but then he would take credit for it as if he’d actually given me the present he’d only thought about. It was a confusing marriage and I spent most of it not moving, waiting for his approval. Reflecting on it leaves me feeling rather baffled, though that is nothing new.

(Maggie calls to the dogs, promising treats if they return.)

More often now, loneliness sends my mind drifting out upon the sea of time, where it flows into the undertow of the past, pulling me to places where I am dared to remember. My memories are mostly a collection of facts best justifying a lot of foolish mistakes and what is slowly surfacing from these reflections is how utterly blind I’ve been. How could I have passed a pathetic existence, ruined by violence, with worry as my only shield? Who can be blamed for that? I took few risks in life and received little in return. Wisdom doesn’t automatically accompany old age and like my mother, any attempt I made to build a family ended in a failure for reasons I couldn’t see at the time. I never knew to ask for help. When did I stop praying? When did I stop asking God to listen and prevail?

(Maggie paces slowly.)

It was after my first communion but before the rage. Rage — you can ask me anything about that. Gentle as a mother’s caress, then roaring up to burn away love and patience. Bet I know as much as anyone could about that. The Bible tells us that inside the four walls of a home, Christian values are best cultivated. Honesty, patience, love of neighbour but nothing sears a family together like rage. Only problem is — too much and eventually you stop fighting back. ‘Don’t be so unreasonable!’ he would yell at me. ‘It shows how stupid you are!’

(Maggie rubs her eyes, as if trying to dissolve something.)

Bad memories. Sometimes on will come along and rip the breath from my lungs.

(Maggie composes herself.)

When I first met my husband, I thought it was a case of animal attraction. The instinctive pull of two separate forces. I saw myself through his eyes and the walls fell. ‘Think of Frank Sinatra,’ he whispered to me at a church dance. ‘I’m just like him.’ If I’d been raised to have my wits about me, I would have realized he was more the last stop on the bus but we are so often at our most desperate when reaping overdue rewards. I was lonely even then and he sent some big plans in my direction — plans for a future I could have barely imagined. He was older and understood the ‘Bigger Picture,’ with an eye for the finer things in life. He seemed loaded with insights into how the world worked and he promised this would give us that extra edge for the finer things in life. He must have seen me as someone who was dying for structure — limp, passive and pretty, with years of slack to give and no aggressive ego to tame. To a certain type of man, a married woman is a hothouse bloom, delicate and in need of careful maintenance. The more precise the conditions of her care, the sweeter the scent of her bloom and no word wets a woman like ‘forever.’

(Maggie calls to the dogs, saying she is getting tired.)

My husband had options — lots of them and it used to make me nervous, all those other women buzzing around. In the end, he chose me and it was my youth — where space seemed open and fine and I revelled in the sense of escaping to something more than I could ever hope to find watching my own horrible family age. He kissed me that night at the dance. A hard, deep kiss that smeared my Woolworth s five-and-dime lipstick. Actually, there was more that a kiss but I never speak about that. What did Mother say? ‘Some secrets live.’ I guess that’s the way it goes. As far as ‘sex,’ I’d been given the impression there was more behind it all but that wasn’t important anyway Mother assured me. ‘Love, honour and obey.’ That’s what counted and Leonard was right there to train me along the many steps of my domestication.

(Maggie laughs quietly to herself.)

Edgar DegasThat feeling doesn’t last long — the one of listening to the radio and thinking every love song is about you. Living it was supposed to be what we were doing — skilled living, where we understood the rules of the game and made them work for us. For that to have happened, Leonard had to remain the same as on the night we met, then grown and matured like a dance hall crooner — shy at first, respectful of the band that lead his pure, clear voice to greater effect but then growing in confidence, until he became a roustabout cowboy, flying over the notes of the music, leaving the band panting to catch-up! My own Frank Sinatra.

(Maggie chuckles to herself.)

If this were an ideal world, the music would never have stopped but early on in our marriage, I became this sputtering, fussing Edith Bunker kind of wife and I hated myself but didn’t know what else to do. You see, my husband could never have respect for anyone who respected him. That was his problem. He demanded loyalty as a condition of his affection but once he had it? He’d turn and that’s why I love my dogs.

(Maggie pleads with the dogs to return, telling them it’s going to rain.)

Men like Leonard always know the rules, the real rules—how cards should be played and how a life should be lived. Leonard was one of those men who was also privileged to know the ‘truth.’ Truth with a hard, capital ‘t’ — truth meant to correct, meant to straighten and I accepted this unconditionally. Everything my husband said was an explanation. I never knew how to do things properly and his approval meant a great deal to me so I allowed myself to become completely devoted to a bad-tempered man. I had been raised devoutly Catholic and my family attended mass dutifully but once we were married — hardly went to church again. Leonard demanded all my faith. Demanded it and then mocked it by saying it wasn’t enough. Is it love that makes one hold all that down? All that pain and humiliation from boiling a heart in the anger one calls injustice? Rage: hot and fierce. It needs to come out but when it does tends to make a mess. In time, I learned to see the violence as renewal. Fresh vows would always fall after the worst attacks and restored faith would erase all doubt. ‘Don’t get yourself so worked up,’ he’d say. ‘Think of the baby,’ he’d say when I would cry after a beating.

(Maggie pauses.)

My daughter — she’s a good girl.

(Maggie takes a picture from her breast pocket and passes it to an audience member.)

That’s her on her wedding day — Emily is her name. Looks beautiful, doesn’t she in her off-white dress? Beautiful but afraid to think for herself. It’s hard to tell form that photograph that she is slipping on a banana peel — a fool in flight. She married a splinter of a man but she has always been eager to learn the hard way. Her demons sent the first husband packing and I felt sorry for him. I truly did. He was a good dancer but it drove Leonard crazy and he was hard on her. Mistakes are the land mines of any adolescence but each one Emily made blew Leonard’s confidence in her more and more apart. She was even too frightened to tell her father to go to hell and he deserved it, he really did that pushy bastard — with his fear and the flimsy nightgown he thought would make a good wedding present. It made her sick when she unwrapped it, the poor child. May I have the picture back, please?

(Maggie smiles weakly and replaces the photo into her pocket.)

That’s one daughter. She is remarried now and the new one barely says two words. My other daughter was never the same after she discovered there was no Santa Claus. I’m serious — she never trusted Leonard or I again once she figured out we were the ones putting the gifts under the tree and got out of the house as fast as she could and married a man completely supportive of her flat, embittered personality. She believed we only loved a part of her and I don’t know about Leonard or if he was even capable of loving but I loved her. Still do but she doesn’t believe that. She went off to school and became the first in the family to graduate from college. The only one to win anything, much less a scholarship to study chemistry. It was there she found the man she believes could give her the love we couldn’t. Perhaps one day she will see differently, but for now at least, she has made enough peace with me to open the path to my first grandchild.

(Maggie holds up a photo of her granddaughter.)

I was occasionally allowed to go for visits and help take care of that precious child. It was like an oasis in the desert of a barren marriage.

(Maggie kisses the photo, replaces it and removes another photo. She holds it for the audience to see.)

A picture of Leonard relaxing on a break from work. He enjoyed his job at the psychiatric hospital and I believe from the little he told me he was good at his work. Being an orderly is no cakewalk but a real man should be self-employed, Leonard always said and when he was laid-off from his job at the hospital, I agreed with him. That’s when the shed went up in the backyard. The shed — the head quarters of what was to be his ‘industry.’ He would go back to his shed to create what was going to be the source of our bread and butter once the unemployment cheques ran out and run out they did. ‘So what’s the business?’ I’d ask him after he come inside from hours of ‘meditating’ in the shed and he’d growl it was beyond my understanding and demand his dinner. You see, the shed was off-limits. No one was ever allowed inside and the girls were, naturally curious but he defended his selfish stand with anger that was like a sledgehammer.

(Maggie put the picture of Leonard away.)

Year after year I waited in the darkness, believing in his dreams. ‘Where is thy faith?’ Leonard would demand and to that cupboard in my mind I’d go, one more time to pour another cup. Faith — I’d write the word, then finger the paper raw. It is difficult to count the years that were chewed through by the weight of regular disappointment but I aimed to show him I was loyal. I met his violence with an open heart. ‘It’s what Mother did,’ I’d remind myself, while the pillow soaked with buried tears. I learned the rules soon after the wedding. ‘You’re the wife. You do as I say.’ ‘Who says?’ I challenged back. Oh — you’d have been proud of me. In those days, I still felt entitled to an explanation. ‘It says so in the bible!’ Out it would come from its place on the shelf, thick and dusty. On the inside cover, written in shaky hand was where it all began: ‘To Effie, Love Grandmother Phelps. Christmas Day, 1923.’ The dawn of time as far as Leonard was concerned and who could argue with great grandmother Effie? Over the years the bible came out more and more. Leonard would make the girls swear before God, with their hands flat on the cover when he wished to test their truth. I would object and Leonard would lash-out. ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.’ Job’s lot, too. Poor Job. I used to pronounce his name like the place you go to work. ‘It’s Job!’ Leonard shouted from the dining room table. He and some friends were having a poker night. ‘What an idiot! Calls him job. Can you believe how ignorant she is?’ They laughed at that — Leonard liked to have a good time and we had a terrible fight about it afterwards. I was proud for a long while after that evening because it was the last time he ever hit me in front of his friends.

(Maggie draws out a crucifix from the inside of her blouse.)

Christ said to turn the other cheek when someone strikes out but what if that cheek is still stinging from an earlier slap? It confused me terribly, and in this violent climate, I built a home plagued by paralysis and fear — paralysis that wove it’s way through the minds of my children, binding us like an invisible elastic of terror. Brutality is a hammer, anger the leveller, the bulldozer of emotions but that was Leonard’s way. Once he got sick though — once he got sick, I started remembering. Then he got sick. It was just a bruise or so he kept saying and he refused to mention it to the doctor when I urged him to. That time, his arrogance got the better of him and that blemish became the site of a long-suffering, devastating illness. When did he start getting sick? When did weakness and depression take possession of his heart?

John Morgan(Maggie looks into the horizon but does not call for the dogs.)

In those times of his despair, when they told him the illness was terminal, he was relentless in his obsessions. ‘In the future,’ he insisted, delirious on the pain killers ‘after the work, there is the glow of reward.’ Not the horse before the carrot, mind you but the understanding there could be relief. If time is the true measure of luxury, when Leonard finally died I felt like a very rich woman. Someone who could finally savour the night without interruption. In the days that followed, that peace of not having to be obedient washed over me. Not have to think of someone else first? Unimaginable. What did I decide to do with this free time, this return of vital zest that had once life’s work so easy? I decided to clean. Got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed the floors he walked on and bleached the sheets he lay upon. Scrubbing fresh all the grimy layers, I needed to experience the house without him and like any cleaning, once you get started on it you have to keep going because you can see the contrast between the grime and the clean places. Once that is complete, you’ll need to start all over but it will be easier behind the power of momentum. It’s mostly a blur but I remember a moment standing at the sink. While washing the dishes from the small party we had after the funeral — just a formality really, you could hardly call it a party — while I was washing up the cups and plates, I paused to read a label on the dish detergent. As I scanned down it’s clever design, I remembered how housewives used to get wingy about grease. You never wanted any grease on your pates when I first started buying this stuff and God forbid if there was a smudge on your glasses! Today, it’s bacteria and germs that are the home makers greatest enemy and just as I was realizing this, and I forgot to tell the police this part, Leonard’s shed just popped into my head. I put down the bottle of detergent and through the empty, freshly scrubbed halls I travelled to Leonard’s room. We had mercifully slept in separate beds for the second half of our marriage but I knew he kept the keys to the shed in the top drawer of his night stand. I slid the drawer open and sure enough — there they were.

(Maggie holds up a ring of keys.)

I went immediately to find a flash light — the light that would brighten the darkness that haunted my marriage for so many years. You see, I was never to look inside the ‘hobby shed’ as Leonard called it but the crazy thing is that I did what he said. Never once went inside that rotting shack. This is probably going to sound silly or mental but there was an evil in that building. I could feel it and stayed away happily. Facing my resolve with considerable fear, I walked across the backyard, keys trembling in cold hands. Approaching the shed, I carefully slid a key into the freezing padlock, then pushed open the door on the stiff, rusty hinges.

(Maggie imagines herself back in the doorway.)

Inside the room, the flash light revealed an empty space, bare except for some odds and ends and that disgusting mattress. It lay on the floor, soiled and rotting. It was a junk yard of a room and I stood frozen, unsure of my next move in life. I poked at the mattress with a broken fishing net and imagined it burning. Destiny is specific it would appear. and in there, in the stench of that goddamned shack, I cursed the heart that lead me to such a pathetic devotion.

(Maggie reflects, the emerges from her reverie.)

Listen to me — I still get so lost in it all. ‘God hates whiners,’ Mother said and that was maybe the one thing she was right about. Why is it that humanity tends to the morbid? The dogs aren’t like that.

(Maggie once again calls the dogs and finally notices then with relief. She returns her focus to the audience, in a new more confident purpose, building through the remainder of her story.)

In the corner of the room was a gas can.

(Maggie swishes the imaginary gas can.)

Still half- full.

(An idea surfaces.)

Must faith be blind for it to count in God’s eyes? This had been my greatest delusion — waiting for strength from places where it did not exist. My husband was a weak man, who set fires loose in our family and I never called him on it. In that instant, in that icy night air, I looked to the dark sky and saw the promise of a flickering dawn on the horizon.

(Maggie mimes splashing the contents of the gas can on the floor.)

Rage — it is rage that lights the fields ablaze and rage that pumps the hating heart. Rage settles every score and when all is said and done, in that cold, damp, musty air, the pungent smell of gasoline filling my sinuses, I came to an understanding that finally ended the haunting feeling of dread.

(Maggie lights a match and drops it on the floor.)

A small fire at first, to burn the weeds of shame but soon I replaced the even, night-time sky with fire and my own rage. As the flames of the burning shed grew higher, an frozen case around my heart melted in the heat of that blaze and drained off into some invisible sea. In that space, I could finally see — and I felt so sorry for the pain I had caused in my weakness — pain that all the aspirin in the world couldn’t take away from my girls. My beautiful, innocent girls!

(Maggie irons her brow and the moment passes.)

Memory offers a bridge from where we anticipate the future; where we attempt to peer through the cracks in Time to review our choices. It is a limited vision — a ray of clarity that could be read only in the freedom of that dreadful inferno. What was to stop me from walking straight out the yard and down the street to a place where those unbearable memories were more easily digestible? Realizing that the mercy of my own salvation involved discovering what had been sacrificed would require a new vantage point. What if I walked as far as the old highway? What would it matter? There was no one to forbid me any longer.

(Maggie slowly starts to move.)

Mother always said ‘Senility in abundance. That’s the promise of Old Age.’ Mother was wrong in that regard. As I have aged, I have found the key to the chains that locked my heart to a tyrant. Certain now of a world beyond that inferno of misery, I walked away from a jubilee of flames, and this story — my story, which began in such a miserable setting, continues upon the lines that connect to form maps. A walk which leads to forks in roads, as movement provides the balm to soothe a ravaged spirit. I walked following in the footsteps of people who’d lived honourable, magical lives — people who had lead free lives and with each new step, the light brightened by a degree. To walk, is to pray — to step, to cleanse, moving steadily towards the truth.

(Maggie pauses serenely.)

Soon? It’s not like walking at all but as effortless as gliding across a bed of marshmallows. Now? I am greedy for more of this life, like a recent convert, free now to cultivate my own sense of loyalty.

(Maggie looks into the audience for a moment, respectfully and with quiet appreciation, then exits gracefully.)

Katyare

 

 

 

{Artwork by Russell Lee, Edward Degas, Katyare & John Morgan}

Sister Baffy

493px-5850_-_Milano_-_San_Nazaro_-_Dipinto_-_Foto_Giovanni_Dall'Orto_-_7-Feb-2008(Action beings on a simple, bare stage. Sister Baffy enters ceremoniously, wearing a Halloween costume version of a nun’s habit, complete with a crucifix constructed from Popsicle sticks. A white gauze bandage is taped over one of her eyes, held loosely in place with several thickly applied layers of tape. Sister Baffy pushes a shopping cart to the center of the stage, removes a suitcase and opens it to remove an empty margarine container. Circling slowly around the perimeter of the playing area, she drums lightly on the bottom of the container with a chopstick. Once full radius, she returns her drum to the case and after a  brief moment of silent prayer, addresses a woman in the audience, speaking directly to her in a British – something brogue.)

Sister Baffy: You must share the weight of your cross, dear lady. Christ had to bear the strain alone but we are blessed with the help of others. Know when to reach out.

 (Sister Baffy suddenly puts her hands over her ears and ‘lalalas’)
 
Oh — But I am an imp! My dear, you must forgive my dropping in and out of private conversations like that, but the sensitivity that has coursed through the bloodlines of my family, for centuries you must know — this inherited gene has created a psychic awareness towards the thoughts of others. Often I am simply carried away on the messages drifting by in the ethers. ‘Head like a short wave radio,’ Mother Superior always said and I will share that it can be an overwhelming experience but not tonight. In here this evening, with all of you right now? I feel the love and so swoon in response to all of this unbridled joy!
 
(Sister Baffy suddenly appears dizzy but corrects herself gracefully.)
 
Not to worry — the antidote to these harmless little spells of mine is to close my eyes, lift these hands towards the Heavenly Fathers and ask them to transport me to the land of Spirit. There my soul soars in bliss, the virtue streaming from my fingertips, caressing the lands below with a healing touch.
 
(Sister Baffy wraps her arms around herself, praying deeply)
 
As sworn enemies to the pain and suffering which cloud the reality of Divine imagination, God has placed me above the moral and physical codes. Please do not worry, for it is our time in history. Thank you to all the angels and especially to you, the Heavenly Fathers. My heart is signed lovingly, as always yours — Sister Baffy.
 
(She opens her eyes, smiling broadly.)
 
I do so love a good spiriting, for it makes a body want to laugh and sing and dance, all at the same time. Yet the soul is a curious thing. It can rejoice in the raptures, to be sure but it can sink into anguish, as quick as that. It’s always best to approach the enemy from the position of a convert, you see. I was once a ‘them and us’ kind of person, same as you. As someone who wanted to draw lines, point a finger and cry for justice — the deep, black part of my being wanted all the bastards to pay! My head, like cloudy tap water recalled time in layers, screen after screen came the visions of vengeance and I yearned to loose that terrible anxiety that wore against my soul like a pair of uncomfortable shoes. With so much pain and hatred, where was the palace of love? This is why I would lie with strangers — hard, desperate strangers who tempered the anguish but only for an instant and oh! — waking to find myself in the strangest places. Even though my heart was truly connected to Jesus, I allowed myself to burn on the altars of lust. Why did I do that? To make myself available, just as Christ instructed. I suffered as one of His devoted apostles and those memories today feel disconnected, yet somehow part of the whole. Do you see? I did. I saw the light and it revealed how I was wasting all that precious love and staining my sacred soul but the Saviour was always there to wipe it clean, re-setting my course. The lone feeder of the fire, lighting the beacon for the righteous, Jesus is the man!
 
(Sister Baffy removes a bible from the suitcase and searches for something in the well-worn pages.)
 
Remember people: an unhinged mind is forced to latch onto something to slow itself and the church does so love to give answers to Life’s difficult considerations. Mind you, time spent inside the Holy Fugue can be quite exhilarating but that is completely beside the point.
 
(Sister Baffy laughs and nervously scans the audience, suddenly pointing to a particular audience member.)
 
You there. Yes — you, the one looking like you recognize me from somewhere else. I have been struggling all this while to place your face. Do I know you? No? But I am positive I’ve seen you before. Are you perhaps a historian visiting us from the Vatican? You aren’t here to take notes? That’s a little disappointing to hear. Me? Am I a historian? Dear me, no child, I can barely read. No, no, no — my lack of formal education aside, it is worth asking if we are able to act independently of Fate, once it has been activated. Free will is an off-shoot of Divine will we are taught in our catechisms. It is not entirely ours and all I wanted to know was if there is wiggle room for error. That’s all I asked and this woman sitting here tonight, who may or may not be a spy sent by the Pope hisself — this woman is saying to her charming companion, yes hello, how do you do? She’s asking her dear friend what I’m on about.
 
(Sister Baffy sighs deeply.)
 
All I can say to these two —  sweet, complicated women is that there is no greater impulse than the desire for harmony. It is what all souls crave and sometimes that golden peace is achieved. All suddenly, the bottom of your tank opens, plunging you into power, beauty and authority. What a blend! 
 
(Sister Baffy whoops in celebration.)
681px-Egon_Schiele_033
Do they always go so well together? You there — ask your friend. A strange woman, this creature. I am certain I see her or someone who ‘looks just like her’ exercising regularly each morning. Near the convent she’ll be, on a very public promenade mind you, doing tai chi or whatever martial art she specializes in. Now, like most magnetic people she is puzzling so cautiously I approach. ‘The soul is a complex thing,’ I warn with the same protective intent as a mother panther guarding it’s young. As a Christian woman, I can appreciate that kindly advice from strangers is not everyone’s cup of tea but this woman reached out as quick as Jesus’s love and snatched a hold of my head. ‘Are you confused?’ she asked. Trembling in her grasp, I admitted  it was so. ‘Look at the pictures in your mind’s eye for clues.’ She released my head and it snapped back like a healed believer! Uncorked my brain she did, the second time that month so immediately I hurried to church to mediate over her fascinating remark. ‘Look at the pictures in your mind’s eye.’ Indeed. There in that well-worn oak pew inside St. Ignatius church at 23rd and Main, I allowed images to tumble like rocks through my feverish mind. I prayed and prayed and prayed until the beard of St. Peter scratched my nose. I prayed until all at once I saw the reason why the Catholic clergy have become a pack of degenerate pedophiles. It was as if Moses hisself had breathed it into my lungs! I went straight into the priest’s sanctuary to tell them how wrong it all was. ‘For certain we could improve on existing methods’ said the rabbity man in the vestments and I asked to speak to the superiors in the Vatican. ‘We must not dwell on the specifics’ they cried and who can ignore those bastards, hovering above the church impenetrable as God hisself!
 
(Sister Baffy shakes her head.)
 
Now that I’ve given the Lord a chance to speak, He doesn’t wish to stop. Oh sweet Jesus! Do they mention that in the bible? Nevermind — we must make do with the channels we are aligned because the human organism is capable of a great many things. There are amazing, hidden functions released through the power of faith and if channelled into the correct functions, there would be no need for hospitals or doctors. ‘We need a potluck Jesus,’ I told that priest rather brightly, considering the odds of his actually taking me seriously. ‘We need a leader who will let people bring whatever they can to the Holy party.’ Oh! I argued with him. ‘You want paradise now,’ that pervert said to me and why not I asked? Why tell people to wait for their rewards when the heavenly bounty is available now? ‘You are meddling in church business’ he said, looking at me like my name was Pandora and I was wearing a ragged cape and too much eye makeup. I only wanted to peek under the cosmic tapestry but it would appear I released an adventurous cracken. ‘There are tablets for these states,’ he said and if the young filly is foolish enough to ignore the doctor’s orders, then she gets exactly what she deserves!
 
(Sister Baffy sings and dances)
 
‘I can smell your burning engine / Yet we’ve a thousand miles to go!’
 
(She dances over to the case and pulls out her Angelscope. She surveys the audience.)
 
A gossipy, needy bunch of angels.That’s what I see before me today. Is it real or is it Memorex? Hard to say, sometimes. Can I get a  ‘Halleluiah?’
 
(She puts the Angelscope back into the case and returns to her bible.) 
 
I quote to you now from the Book of Isaiah: ‘Naked I entered, naked I will return.’ Now that there is a golden band of truth around my head — a halo of sorts, I have discovered that more than money or self — can I get another  ‘Halleluiah?’ Like a sexton releasing incense & spreading love, we must keep faith alive and the Jiminy Cricket – type says it’s fine. You — oh, yes you! Why is the snake not affected by its own venom? I can see right through you. ‘In my flesh shall I see God.’ You know that feeling of talking and talking and people are listening but they don’t understand? They just twist things? Then I will come to my point more directly. 
 
(She once again prays deeply.)
 
Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’ What can we do for the truly hopeless?  How long will this take, my Heavenly Father? Oh! Don’t bother then. As Mother Superior always said: ‘Worry is just wasted prayer and patience is a part of God’s design.’ Ultimately, it boils down to a matter of credibility. If I am to meet people and they ask what my occupation is, I am at immediate odds to tell how I struggle to pave the way for Jesus. He’s a fountain, he’s forever and I am utterly possessed with notions, high on this man Jesus and vibrating in coffee — the walls of Jericho come a’ tumbling down!
 
(Sister Baffy throws her arms into the air and slowly circles.)
 
Images within images, different layers of reality all wrapping together, ingredients gathering, the mixture stirred stiff. Time now to light the candles that will illuminate the bridge crossing the cosmic divide. Mired in misery no more, converted and regenerated — this is good people! My thoughts are expanding to the point where I am a magical thinker again. It is the basis of my whole character.
 
(Sister Baffy thumbs her nose and wiggles her backside to the audience. She returns once more to suspect audience member.) 
 
You see — she has something against me! I must always explain myself. There is a certain type of creature that does not possess power on its own. It is capable of influence only through its poison. You best watch your girlfriend there. She needs the indulgence of seeing herself as unusual, as someone who Fate has screwed. Sees herself as a victim, she does. I swear I can taste your curses! I shall have to unbewitch myself. ‘Find the ghosts in your head and tell them you love them.’
 
(Sister Baffy crosses herself, then sighs loudly, realizing she will have to explain her position more fully.)
 
My dear, poor woman — I am merely spinning for some truth. You should try it yourself and then you’d not make such a fuss when you see someone else giving it a whirl, now would you? It is our aim to stop the violence against spirit. Are you in agreement with that, at least in principle? Yes? That is a start then. Now where was I — oh yes, I remember. When I was just a wee girl, those donation boxes that swirl the coins around fascinated me. Mother Superior would allow me a shiny copper penny and I’d watch it spin round and around. That’s what praying to the Heavenly Fathers is like, you know. Round and round and around! 
 
(Sister Baffy laughs heartily) 
 
I’ve been on every pill you can imagine — Thorazine, Lithium, Prozac, Paxil and Valium for extra measure — round and round and round she goes! Woohooo!  I was already the perfect vessel for the Christ–light and it didn’t take long for the Mother Superior to realize that when I prayed to the Blessed Virgin, I meant it. The other lasses soon noticed this too and would sit apart from me in the masses and one afternoon, Mother Superior took me to a doctor, a special doctor Mother assured me but I have strayed from the point. Once you start accepting these holy symbols as truth, your thoughts begin running together like carefree schoolgirls, dancing through a sunny meadow and it’s the momentum carrying you along and. . . like I was saying, Mother Superior noticed this and brought me to the Doctor whose name I cannot recall and he prescribed pills, just like that. ‘Prozac’ scribble, scribble, scribble. ‘Might experience side effects.’ Scribble, scribble, scribble. ‘Drowsiness, light-headedness, fatigue, depression.’ Scribble, scribble, scribble.
 
(Sister Baffy puts her hands on her hips.)
 
I couldn’t help but laugh. ‘What do I need those for? I have Jesus in my heart.’ How could I make them understand? ‘Speak to me in the language of God!’ I cried ‘A disorder of dopamine metabolism,’ he told the Mother Superior. ‘If not treated will result in deteriorated functioning, the learning of inappropriate response and spoil her identity.’ She handed me the prescription. Later on, when no one was looking I took those poisonous tablets and threw them into the Kettle River! Oh cry your selfish tears if you must, but if the Christ himself came along tomorrow afternoon, he’d be drugged on Haloperidol and thrown into a psychiatric institution as quick as an Irish wink! This is what I said to the Doctor whose name I cannot recall, when I was committed to a ‘rest home’ after my indiscretions were discovered. ‘Aren’t you tired of being trapped in a reckless fugue?’ On a better day, I would have argued with the man but being quite buggy at the time, could hardly dispute the matter. The good thing about God’s love is that there is a miracle around every corner but to tell the truth, I would have preferred madness at the turn of the century — vintage madness, when it was passion and torrent that drove a mind to extremes, rather than chemical imbalance and self-indulgence. Mind you, the good doctor did apologize all those years later for locking me up against my will but what good is an apology without contrition? When all is said and done, it is hard to have respect for someone living a lie.
Nun's_dream_by_Karl_Briullov
(Sister Baffy pauses to test the audience reaction to her story.)
 
A bad vibe? Well, then allow me to digress once more: From their wallows of never-ending sacrifice, the leaden of conformity await thin reward. Where are the spirited cascades? Where is the glowing cheer of neighbourly proximity? Where is the payback? All that is being offered is the ascension of processed emancipation. I shouted this from every street corner until after the twenty-eight day observational period at the special hospital came to an end. All the while the doctors were trying to snap that downward spiral of boredom and futility with pharmaceuticals. I was diagnosed, treated, then released into the community but where are the miracles bursting like popcorn in the heat of this never-ending stream of Divine love?
 
(Sister Baffy moves closer to the audience.)
 
Miracles are intended to replenish faith or at least that’s how I’ve always come to understand it. Growing up, I was never certain what to make of the loaves and fishes part of the Gospels and poor Lazarus – what a legacy! A zombie into eternity so that Jesus could erase all doubt to his spiritual legitimacy once and for all. I know we are not supposed to think thoughts like that but what if they’re true? Is it a fair bargain? All that faith required to keep the warm waters flowing.
 
(Sister goes back to the woman in the audience.)
 
Miss Tight-Ship herself, is it? Love to you, madam – love to choke off the process of that ever-building hate inside of you, sitting there with the strangest expression on your face…
 
(She suddenly puts her hands over her ears.)
 
Shhh! Top of the mornin’ ladies! Wait — listen there. Those are the first words I have heard all day without that ringing in my ears. It is like someone finally tightened a dripping faucet or stopped a skipping record — it was truly distracting. What will hoist a spirit through bewildering times?
 
(She pulls a tambourine from the case and attempts to play it.)
 
How sad is a broken tambourine? Perhaps there is a message for the church in this disintegration?
 
(She lets the tambourine drop to the floor.)
 
I had a dream last night where something was spoken to me by a sincere but rabbity man. He said he needed me to understand that government is paranoid, the citizenry is paranoid —everyone seems a bit paranoid these days. Have we risked the wrath of the Universe too much? I wasn’t to get involved too directly, said the rabbity man but it made me sad just the same. He needed me to understand that solutions abound and I was to be in on the private joke too. Trouble is folks, I tend to panic in the face of too much choice and indiscreet disclosure is an indulgence that I can ill afford.
 
(Sister Baffy removes a kazoo from the folds of her habit and plays ‘Onward Christian Soldiers.’)
 
I have an especial Guardian Spirit and boy-o-boy is he hard on me. It’s none of that ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ business. He rides me like a fearless cowboy, telling me loudly when I have strayed from the right-hand path. What many people outside of the church do not realize is that angels have egos too. They don’t like to see a project sour and while I am not one of those people obsessed with doing good, I will pass through the Golden gates of the Eternal kingdom when my time comes and this woman in the audience —  this woman right here thinks I am mistaking sentiment for fact and aims to make a mockery of me! 
 
(Sister Baffy moves closer to the woman)
 
This woman right here, ladies and gentlemen thinks the whole subject of Life itself, with its multitude of practices and systems can be broken down to the old chestnut — the old academic polarity of creation versus evolution? Let me tell you something for nothing Miss Evolution, and this is not an explanation of the cosmic process but evidence of the process itself. Do you understand that? This is about unnecessary separation from God. You’re not taking this in, are you? Sweet she is but she has shit for brains.
 
(Sister Baffy covers her mouth.)
 
Did I say that aloud? I am sorry for that but she’s confusing me, this woman. She is reminding me of another woman, a dear, sweet soul herself who lost all faith in God’s mercy on the blade of a motorized propeller. It is a tragic story, really. Her family had been camping one summer, you see and Uncle Seamus and Uncle Dylan decided she should be in the water swimming instead of enjoying herself safely in the boat. They’d been drinking steadily all afternoon, like true Irishmen and when she hit the chopping waters, it was in the line of a swirling blade. One hundred and sixteen stitches later and she was trying to re-cross a burned-out bridge, the sun blinding her desperate face. ‘I am so sorry,’ she cried. ‘Can you forgive me?’ I understood her feelings exactly for I lost my faith once. I fell completely into sin and doubt, feeling all the while God watching me like a jilted lover. Oh my dears! It was a scandal for the church, let me tell you — my ‘perversions of loyalty’ they called them but what I originally wanted to ask you was do you think world events are a way of God getting our attention? I do. The confirmation of my belief in the Divine interconnectedness in things came when I realized that I was Jesus’s weathervane. By my error and omissions and on the contrary, through my glory, chastity and truth, I could make the weather act accordingly. One day I could talk to God like a sun-struck peasant, the next be crying after the church picnic was cancelled because I forgot to say morning vespers.
 
(Sister Baffy presses the bible to her forehead.)
 
How is faith restored? Tell us, sweet baby Jesus. We have been here before, where I have sinned but you are always there to remind me, in your never-ending grace that no one is perfect, except you. How shall we come to make the right decisions, my Lord? You know best and shall decide.
 
(Sister Baffy crosses herself and turns back to the ‘spy.’)
 
I was in the  middle of defusing a curse when I received the omen I was to find you again. The dead squirrel by the roadside broke the first part of the jinx, so it was safe to risk making contact. The last time I encountered this woman — the very woman who has done her best to alienate me the entire evening, preventing me from making my point clearly — the last time I encountered this wretched thing it was exactly the same situation. To discuss metaphysics with a non-believer is to begin at a serious disadvantage, for their unmoving faith is but a weight to drag down a soaring heart. You can feel them judging you, their perception passing over like a tide, soft or fierce depending on temperament behind it. I always thought I’d recognize the bad people; they would be preceded by the stench of Sodom and Gomorrah but on that sunshiny morning, before everything soured, there was a sense that some ideology of sisterhood had cultivated between a couple of daffy gals, different as Master and servant. I confessed that paranoia was lousy leverage but Sister Baffy has to work with what she’s got. The woman didn’t want to make it too personal but I couldn’t resist. I leaned in close to whisper: ‘All that is required to succeed is the activation of faith.’ You know what she does, this mesmerizing siren? She winks at me, then turns away. Not so strange perhaps, I hear you all thinking but you didn’t see that wink. In her twinkling eye, I could see how disappointed she was to discover I was just another stupid romantic. She hugged me briskly, to be polite I am sure of that, then disappeared. There goes my almost friend.
 
(Sister Baffy waves gently in the distance.)
 
You will have to forgive me stopping so abruptly like this. I will say a prayer, to change things between us.
 
(Sister Baffy prays quickly and when finished, crosses herself and smiles warmly at the audience. She curtsies, then replaces the bible into the suitcase and exits the playing area.)
{Artwork by Giovanni Dall’Orto, Egon Schiele & Kark Briullov }

Arleta Blue ~ Part Two of Three

woman_depressed - www.alternet.org(Arleta pulls out the Blackberry & sends a text message.)

Sometimes? I can get as hot as a Texas pistol when I’m angry but that day—at that particular moment when my world had been so completely rocked—I didn’t get upset. ‘You’re having an affair,’ I said quite plainly, considering the shock I was in. Naturally, he played dumb. ‘I went into your email, Daryl. I read the letters you sent to her.’ ‘Who?’ he says, still pretending not to follow. ‘Stormy Weather?’ I enjoyed the look of guilt that spread across his face. ‘Now Arleta,’ he pleaded weakly. ‘It’s just electric masturbation.’ He threw me a real line about how he had never met her in person and it was just an Internet-thing & you know what happened? I decided to believe him.

(Arleta inhales deeply, smoothing back shiny hair.)

It all kind of made sense: If he hadn’t actually touched this ‘Stormy Weather’ how could it be considered a real affair? Besides, if a former first lady of our country could overlook a little sexual indiscretion on her husband’s part, then I should be able too, right? He is a man after all, & every woman in this world has to wrestle her worry about whether the dog is going to stray, so I backed off. I decided to turn a blind eye & let him have his fun.

(Smirking to herself, Arleta slams the phone open & shut.)

Call it a sense of adventure; call it stupid denial—I might even agree with you. I couldn’t get past it—how forbidding him was only going to make the matter worse—the irresistible lure of forbidden fruit. God alone knows how big a fool I’ve been in the past, trying to get blood from a stone. I watched my mama grind my daddy down into a stub, so I well understood that a big ‘ole hissy fit will only fan the fires of any curiosity. I didn’t want a divorce from him—I wanted the man I had pre-Internet. I always knew Daryl would stray one day; any woman who thinks her husband won’t is an old-fashioned idiot. It wasn’t like I’d caught them in bed together, for Jeepers sake. Besides, ‘Stormy Weather’ looked quite a bit like me, which was kind of flattering so why not let him have this harmless little fling in the non-physical world of cyber space.

(Arleta closes her eyes & sighs deeply.)

I had done everything I could to make my home proper & correct so I played along, turned that blind eye & allowed him to carry on with whatever he was doing in the spare bedroom. Yet rather than appreciate this noble understanding of the male psyche—none of my other friends would have ever dreamed to put up with that nonsense, believe you me—Daryl didn’t appreciate a thing I did for him. He just kept pushing it & pushing it further still, until one morning after he’d been on the frickin’ computer the whole night long, he comes down to the kitchen to say he’s decided this whole ‘family thing’—the very ‘thing’ we’d dreamt of & created together, at great sacrifice & effort—this whole ‘family thing’ was now ‘obsolete.’ Lord have mercy—that was when I lost my mind.

(Arleta pauses a moment in reflection.)

When I was a bartender, just before I met Daryl, I worked with this woman who had a nervous breakdown. She was a tad weird normally but one morning, she came into worked all dressed-up in her wedding dress. It was quite a pathetic site actually, because she had been married many years before or I should say many pounds before & she must have really fought her way into that old gown. It had ripped all along the sleeves & the zipper in the back was torn pretty much wide open—fat squeezing out everywhere—it wasn’t a pretty site, let me tell you. She came into the bar & acted as normal as she could. Like she wasn’t bursting out of her wedding dress, until someone went up & asked if everything was alright & then she burst into tears. Right in the middle of the room, bawling like a baby. Crying, sobbing—couldn’t seem to stop. People were laughing & I felt sorry for her at the time but I thought—come on! If you’re having that bad a day, maybe it’s best call in sick?

(She pauses for dramatic effect.)

I feel differently about that woman today.

(Arleta fights back a few tears.)

The truth—that’s what made my husband leave me & the boys for Miss Stormy Weather, a.k.a Beth Chapman. I was taught to chose your battles wisely in this world & there was no way I was taking this dirty shit lying down! If my family wasn’t worth fighting for, what the hell was? The problem remained: after Daryl left? I was lost at sea—broken & humiliated like a drowned surfer or a skier caught in an avalanche. I never in my wildest dreams saw this coming & didn’t know where to turn. I lay on the couch watching terrible television for weeks, the will to fight draining out of me, all the while looking for something on television to make sense of the endless chattering in my mind. Then suddenly—through all of that pain & confusion, mine as well as everyone else’s I was absorbing on the television, I suddenly remembered a piece of scripture from Sunday school. ‘Faith which may not be understood now might reveal itself tomorrow.’ I can’t recall if it was Jesus himself who said that but it got stuck in my head, that’s for damn sure. One morning, I woke up & instead of being angry & full of that terrible, burning shame for having lost my husband to another woman, I knew my next move.

(Arleta sends another text message while continuing the story)

Rage should not be wasted on revenge. It can serve as a rudder to navigate a course through rough waters—into some new frontier for adventure & excitement. I’d always secretly felt sorry for those Internet people, spending all their time in a phony electronic world but if that bastard Daryl insisted on eating, smelling, listening, watching, feeling, tasting & screwing anything he wanted—then why couldn’t I? According to him, there was a whole electronic frontier just waiting to be conquered so why the hell should I sit getting fat on the couch when I could be the creator of my own destiny? Let him walk in the sun with Stormy Weather—I went out & bought myself a laptop.

(Arleta snaps the phone closed.)

It was just the beginning of summer vacation for the boys & I decided to give them a break from their mother’s nervous breakdown. I’d tried to make it easy for them, to be strong when they were around & say it was all gonna be okay, but my boys are wise beyond their years. In a funny way, I think they felt responsible for what happened by insisting the computer be brought into the house in the first place. They noticed how their mother was really suffering & were so sweet but they needed a chance to get over what had happened too. I decided to send them to their grandparents for the summer—they couldn’t pack their bags fast enough & after tearful goodbyes at the airport, after I promised them a new mommy when they returned, I drove back home fixing to connect to this infamous world wide web.

(Arleta eyes the Blackberry.)

Now y’all need to understand— I knew absolutely nothing about computers. I’d been the stay-at-home, traditional kind of wife & the www-thing had taken place in a world far away from cleaning toilets & making brownies for a church bake sale. I marvelled at how it all so suddenly became completely accepted. Twenty years ago this thing would have sounded like science fiction & I was clueless about how to get in on it myself. To solve this predicament, I did what any smart American woman does when she needs help—I called customer service. There I found the good people at Dell support both courteous & patient. Soon I was all ready to log on.

(Arleta opens the phone & types something on the keypad.)

Being online felt like the first time I went water-skiing—shaky, exhilarating but completely out of control. It felt like trying to read your watch, in a tidal wave. There were a lot of re-starts & back tracking & a few tears of frustration. I hadn’t typed since high school & all of those confusing abbreviations in the chat rooms & those tedious registration screens— I tell you—but once I got used to the cyber world, I was clacking away at that gizmo like a guinea hen picking scratch.

(Arleta looks at her Blackberry, then laughs at something on the screen.)

The reward for my effort was the completion of a challenging task but I was still pretty angry with Daryl back then, so I happily chatted with other men. I got the feeling that anyone I’d meet online was either crazy or soon would be. After several missteps, I finally met someone who asked me out for a nice dinner instead of a naked picture & descriptions of what I wanted to do to him in bed.

(Arleta laughs to herself.)

The guy had said to me he had a ‘football players build’ & I have to admit, I was kind of excited by that. It had been a long while since I’d actually enjoyed sex & thinking about this guy really got my juices going. Well—after one big whoopty–doo buffet meal at ‘Foody Goody,’ I regretted not asking him which position he played on that football team because it definitely wasn’t the quarterback.

(Arleta adjusts her dress.)

So that was it for the romance idea. I started shopping online & it was like a big old tornado sucking that money up so I put away the credit card & rather than get discouraged, I decided to spread out into international waters, something outside my own backyard. Soon I was chatting with people I never knew existed: A person who explained how crop circles are actually made by a whole team of people, for instance & a nurse who had tragically applied the wrong medicine to a patient. All of these fascinating people online—a former member of some boy band I’d never heard of—there seemed to be a website for anything & everything.

(Arleta clutches the Blackberry to her breast.)

I discovered that being online was good for you, like daily aspirin. Everything we need to know about the modern world is right in here. So strange to say this now but it seemed like I’d been waiting, just passing time doing things that didn’t seem as vital as being online. I could not for the life of me understand why I hadn’t done this sooner. Finally, I was starting to enjoy the notion of being free.

(Arleta wipes the screen of the Blackberry with the sleeve.)

Those people who imagine themselves from a different time because they don’t understand technology? You know the types who wander around in historical garb, experiencing the excitement of life in another century? I was once like them but not any more. If the digital culture is like a wave, then I was riding the wave on a broken ironing board—a fierce, bright light shining from my eyes. I’m sure y’all realize that information carries fast in the undercurrents of that world—the speed of conception, plus & feeling like an ancient navigator, from a more luminous dimension, I flowed through the currents of the Internet, preparing for destiny.

(Arleta stares off into the distance.)

Being online had helped push back the walls that had closed in on me. Going from site to site, like some wet hen trying to find a place to roost—no story is too insignificant—a galaxy of voices out there to shine alongside but that turbo-speed, digital pace is draining. I didn’t feel like I had any opportunity to reflect on anything. It was just a constant stream of fresh material. From the millions of online possibilities, I knew there had to be a focus to my journey. I must have logged into countless databases to read what seemed like a million clever online suggestions. Everyone wants to somehow make a difference in this crazy world, but I was feeling overwhelmed by the sheer possibilities. I needed to make a statement about our broken home—that much was clear, but was still frustrated by the inability to come up with a good idea for a blog—until all suddenly, I got inspiration as clearly as if it had been a direct message. Something political in nature was required but something that would highlight the positive emotional aspects of a demoralizing situation. That was the original vision—build an integrated community for Internet widows. All those who have been abandoned because of online extracurriculars, both men & women, young or old—my website would be a refuge to those trying to recover from the selfish acts of others.

Brian Kerrigan
{Artwork: woman_depressed ~ www.alternet.org & Brian Kerrigan}

Arleta Blue ~ Part One of Three

Zach Vega(Arleta Blue enters the playing area briskly, looking distracted & mildly nervous. She approaches a speaker’s podium, clears her throat & speaks directly to the audience, as a soccer mom might wax eloquently on a subject she feels passionately towards, at say a City Council meeting.)

Arleta Blue: Good afternoon ladies & gentlemen. Ya’ll will have to forgive me for being a little…breathless but I’m on the digital fly these days it seems & I’m starting to realize, stupid me, that I’m not exactly at my best when rushing around like this. Speaking to that, I’d like to invite everyone. . . oh, hush up!

(Arleta is distracted by something in her pocket. She removes a vibrating smart phone.)

What in hell does this damn thing want now?

(Arleta flips opens the phone, checks the screen, then slams the device shut. She replaces it to her pocket, then immediately removes it & considers placing it on the podium. Instead, she changes her mind & puts the Blackberry back into a pocket.)

Oh my stars, the grip of that thing. You must truly forgive me, but I do think it’s time to get to the point of why y’all are being so kind to let me speak here today. Normally, I am a level-headed gal, good-in-a-pinch & always a steady shoulder to cry on but lately? I have not been myself, for months now really & I suppose the best way to explain why is to just come right out & say that my husband… got addicted to the Internet. Not booze or drugs, mind you but a computer & he went at it like people take the church into extremes. I can still hardly believe it myself & have whiled away many an hour trying to figure how this all came about to challenge what was once a model home.

(Arleta feels her pocket, to connect with the smart phone for strength & inspiration.)

I come from a small town in Alabama & as a result of what I consider to be a very fortunate upbringing—I pray I am never without its comfort & protection—I have nevertheless kind of missed-out on this whole Digital Revolution. We just never got interested in bringing a computer into our home when the boys were younger—I mean…the damn things are everywhere these day but like every parent, I realized my kids were eventually going to want this Internet-thing. People talk about it all the damn time & they spend half their time at school online, it seems & they are supposed to need it for research & help with homework but I have to admit…that initially? I was sceptical as to it’s actual uses. Like all mothers, I know y’all out there who are parents will understand me when I tell you that I did not want to see my kids left in the Dark Ages but at the same time, I do not want them to grow-up with a head full of razzle-dazzle, mistaking daydreams for reality & do not even get me started on the sexual material they can be so easily exposed to—all the perverts of the world gathered-up in one place. I was really torn on what was the right choice until one morning, I read a quote in the newspaper from the late President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who said that ‘libraries should be open to everyone–except the censors.’ I didn’t really understand what he meant by that at first but once I had reasoned it all out, I saw his point, that I was being like some unfair censor & I am not the kind of woman who goes against the word of a former president.

(Arleta smooths her hair back & settles more deeply into her story.)

I worry about my boys. They are growing up in a generation on the edge—with drugs & gangs & all of that poisonous sex & all the violence in their schools & the threat of being bullied but what is it that encourages all of this? If you said ‘the media,’ then you got it right. Can you believe all the belly-aching about why people are picking up guns & killing each other? Not that I mean to be callous about all the deaths & all the terrible suffering & grief the poor families suffer. All of that terrible sadness but what really worries me is that there is only going to be more of it. So I worry & worry & suppression of that concern is difficult for any parent. Being protective, you need to ban things— it’s a common & normal practice because the desire to guide your child through the rapids of popular culture, far from bad influences is our responsibility. It is understandable why parents are over-protective but then I thought that perhaps I was taking things too far. Albert Einstein said that a new thinking was needed if we were to evolve to higher levels. ‘Never mind,’ I said to that nagging worry. ‘The Internet is going to get it all right.’ That’s when I allowed the house to go on-line. The boys would have an advantage in the research available to them, so they could excel in their school work. People are connecting socially, exchanging all types of things in this controlled, digital world, all peacefully & efficiently. We were thinking like dreamers so I really felt this would be good for the family.

(Arleta checks the Blackberry silently, then replaces it.)

I have not been a woman with an unbending intent for electronics but I do know how to get things done. A few phone calls & a MasterCard number later? We were in business. Naturally, there were ground rules: One-hour daily time limit, longer on the weekends if they kept their grades up; the Internet had to be used for research & school work, before any chatting or games & most important of all—absolutely no porn & I meant it. I was not going to subject my children to potentially dangerous sexual predators & policed their usage diligently. Funny thing is? Turns out, that after months of negotiation on my older son’s part, he decided he didn’t want to spend his free time sitting in front of a computer screen & lost all interest in Facebook after three days. ‘Are you not using the computer any more?’ I asked him one morning at breakfast. ‘I get enough of the Internet at school,’ was his reply. I could hardly believe it! ‘What about Twitter? You were all excited about that the other day.’ ‘Who wants everyone to know where they are all the time?’ By this time I was getting pretty steamed. ‘You begged me for that computer. What happened to ‘we can’t live without one’?’ Know what he does then? He looks at me real sly-like & says, ‘You tell me to go outside to play, all the time & now you’re trying to make me stay in? What kind of a mother are you?’ He had me there, & out the door he went to play soccer. A week later, his little brother followed suit & the computer sat there collecting dust.

(Arleta removes the vibrating Blackberry from her pocket but replaces it without checking.)

I tell you—kids these days have the attention spans of fruit flies. They may have made a point but I was still pissed & so turned to my husband to ask him what to do with that white elephant. His solution, as always—set by example, so Daryl—that’s my husband’s name—Daryl figured that if he used that computer in a healthy-minded manner, the boys would follow his lead. So online he went & at first he had no idea what to do because he was as computer illiterate as I was. We’re kind of backward people, I guess. In our generation, computers that were smart & talked to you were only gonna tell you to do bad things & try to take over the world but Daryl was brave—a little surfing here, a little browsing there & soon he was having a ball. He set up a Facebook account for the whole family & downloaded vacation pictures & I was really glad to see him having some fun ‘cause he works real hard at his job down at the plant. I even forgot how angry I was at the boys.

(Arleta checks the vibrating Blackberry in a quick glance.)

The weeks went by & the kids were showing no more interest in using the computer than when they walked away but I couldn’t help but notice being online was becoming a bit of an obsession for Daryl. When I tried to talk to him about that, he pooh-poohed by concerns. ‘Great things are afoot, Arleta,’ he promised. ‘Minds are loose the world over.’ Daryl can be a real stubborn prick when he sets his mind to something & I was getting pretty sick & tired of seeing the back of his head while he shared in this global celebration. It was that wilful withdrawal of his personality that was starting to bother me but I kept quiet about it, hoping he would run through some part of himself in this obsessive process & come back to the table & eat meals with his family again. But the time he spent ‘philosophizing,’ in the chat rooms & researching some thing or another grew longer & longer still & eventually he stopped talking to me altogether, stopped looking me in the eye & it’s not like we had a wild sex life in the first place but there was nothing happening between the sheets. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I knew something was wrong. Now… I know this might not be the right thing to do but I made the decision to spy on him. I didn’t hire a private investigator or anything expensive like they do on the television when they think a spouse might be cheating. Daryl has a terrible memory & has to write anything down to remember so I went to the place where I knew he kept his passwords & then checked his email account. I broke his privacy, yes. I went into his private business & big surprise—it didn’t take long to figure out exactly what had been going on behind my back.

Sam Wolff

 

{Images by Zach Vega & Sam Wolff}

Baby Doll ~ Part Three of Three

Adolph B. Rice Studio(Baby Doll drinks to keep rolling.)

This all reminds me of one time, back in high school. I was dating this guy—some loser by most accounts but I was still in my shell back then and had to take it where I could get it. Anyway—this guy who’s name I can’t even remember right now, he leans over to his buddies at this pizzeria, he leans right over me and by way of a compliment he says to his buddies, ‘People are going to think I picked-up a hooker.’ He meant it to be sweet and I guess it kinda stuck with me. Later on, like some beaten-down dog who remembers each of its abusers, I screwed every one of the guys at that table, then dropped them on the spot! It was quite a triumph in the girl’s locker room and that was when my star started to rise. How was I going to top that?

(Baby Doll drinks to remember.)

Like every teenage girl who grows up paying the price of pretending to be okay when you know you’re not, but no one around you can do a damn thing about it, survival becomes a matter of learning to use a puckered mouth, smeared in Dr. Pepper lip-gloss. How to re-capture all those forgotten moments when I was blitzed? (She holds up the photos) Highlights include: a photo of me rubbing my tatas; look—a discarded dress, the empty champagne glasses. There I am drinking the champagne. Ken. Whoa—Ken. He sat in the corner of the room where I took my dates. He represented a line—a line crossed repeatedly mind you, but Ken tried his best to remind me of that corn-fed, red neck line of decency I grew up with. My little knight-in-shining armour. Thanks Ken.

(Baby Doll kisses the photo, holding it to her chest.)

The worst is yet to come and if I haven’t lost your sympathies yet, I might with this little gem. Here’s the final Polaroid: I’m taking it from behind, with my eyes on a glass of half-full champagne, the cocaine has been gone too long and I’m starting to feel the dread that some one who is used to having their hopes dashed feels. A dull, sickening ache. Let’s not go there. Look at me… (tries to laugh.) …trying to explain my past through a pile of scattered snapshots, some frickin’ Polaroids. I was looking . . . at these fucking things, hoping. . . they might spark some. . . oh dear. . . spark some raunchy best seller hiding in me. (pause.) How was I gonna love myself and everyone else too?

(Baby Doll tosses the Polaroids aside.)

Somebody’s gonna make a movie about my life you know, even if no one believes me when I say that. Have you seen ‘The Breakfast Club?’ Remember that part where they’re all in the library, smoking a joint and opening up? That was so powerful for me when I was a kid. It gave me this hope that everyone could get along, if they really tried and had the right drugs.

(Baby Doll laughs and drinks.)

I met this producer a while back, at this big Hollywood party—a real score and he wanted to see me on a regular basis. Everybody loved me and he could tell. It just so happened he was casting for his next picture and I was exactly the type of girl he needed. It wasn’t a staring role but it would show how talented I was. He said that if we all got along real well, he’d open some doors for me.

(Baby Doll remembers fondly, smiling for happier times.)

I whipped his Hollywood ego creamy and at first it was great. He made me feel so special, like I was a big star myself. I got to meet all kinds of people and everyone was so sexy and beautiful but things would only go so far. Know what I mean? One night, I got this brilliant idea of making a horror movie but you know how the slutty ones always get knocked-off right away? In my movie, the whore would be the star! She fucks who she wants but has the brains to save her ass in the end. It was a total twist on the classic structure for horror films and I told the producer guy about it, who for now shall remain nameless, and he thought it was a great idea but we never talked about it again. Every time I tried to bring it up, he’d say ‘These things take time. Be patient.’ Then things started to get weird and he ended up taking whatever self-esteem I had, despite my job description and made a fool of me, right in front of everyone. Accused me of stealing from his wallet and that was and still is a great big fucking lie!

(Baby Doll drinks angrily.)

Part of me wants the same front row seat for their humiliation they had for mine; the other part doesn’t give a shit. Let’s face it—mine are the mistakes of every loser. Giving unconditional love and expecting it returned the same. That’s a fool’s gold. If someone has no power over you and they try to control you? Laugh in their face! God—he was the worst sex—cock the size of a child’s and I had to fake each and every orgasm, which is not usually a problem but with him? It would make my head ache for hours afterwards. God! Just thinking about him now makes me want to puke! It’s like pulling some plug inside my head and covering every memory with the shit of that rotten time. Like any good drunk, mine is the story of some bastard who screwed me. On one hand we have shallow and blind, the other? Unmanly and poisonous. Guess who won? Fuck it! What’re you gonna do? When you fuck-up, you fuck-up and blame isn’t gonna fix a thing.

(Baby Doll reflects.)

It‘s easy to be nice when things are going great but most people turn into scum bags pretty quick once the chips are down.

(Baby Doll leans towards the crowd.)

Let me tell you something for nothing: men use their feeling like women use sex—for control. Sex is different for women—we like it but aren’t controlled by it. Well. . . maybe some of us are but most women aren’t. They just do it to get what they want and men are the same with emotional things, regardless to what those bastards will tell you.

(Baby Doll decides to collect the pictures scattered around her.)

Fire: Will it fuel you or fry you? Turns out I was left to fend for myself and there wasn’t much to take care of business in the style I was accustomed. Need proof? Why just this morning I awoke next to some pock-faced trucker who looked a hell-of-a lot-better the night before, in the sparkle of sixteen gin and tonics than he did in the grey dawn light, in those piss-soaked sheets, the room still smelling of stale poppers and rancid sweat. I’m sure you don’t think ‘those kind of things,’ happen to girls like me but they do—all the time, in fact.

(Baby Doll tries not to laugh.)

That’s when it stopped. When my pussy. . . collapsed, like a worn-out stock market. Oh, that’s crass. I mean my vagina. Is that better? Allow me to introduce you to my ‘vagina.’ We’ve been through a lot together, this old snatch of mine and I. Notice how when I talk about my pussy or my ‘vagina’ it lacks some of the humour some women get by saying ‘vagina’ in public? Hey! If I wanna get creative with my kootch, I outta be allowed ‘cause there’s lots of people out there doing the exact same thing. Do I know no shame? Honey? What blows most people out of the water barely makes me flinch. I was a young girl when first stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey.

(Baby Doll takes a deep swig from her flask.)

Full-tilt, in all the wrong ways—that me for sure. Fuck it! Sensible is only gonna get you so far. Gotta crank it up once in a while, don‘t I?

(Baby Doll sings to herself, swaying from side to side.)

A broken blonde, a disposable blonde… (she laughs) Disposable. (She coughs and laughs.) Disposable, like a whore’s love.

(Baby Doll lights a cigarette & inhales deeply.)

It’s a market of good taste out there and this lady wants in. She’s got love to give and there are buyers everywhere. Trouble is: I always seem to be meeting people who are too good for what I’ve been.

(She drinks, then cries out.)

I lost some terrific friends along the way! People who looked at me with hurt and confusion. Know how like. . . when things are more embarrassing when you have to face them? At the time, they seem hilarious and alive but when you sober up? When you sober up, all those decisions seem so much more humiliating in the light of day. In that light there’s no magic—no powder working through that mess. Guess I don’t have the shame that makes most people change their minds. Where is disgrace when you need it?

(Baby Doll looks into the flask.)

Fuel for those last few inches. Soak the depression in alcohol; light it on fire.

(Baby Doll takes a long swallow, finishes the contents and throws the flask down.)

That feeling of being screwed-down too tight between a fake smile? Not a great feeling. The last thing I remember laughing at, really laughing at—like when something that’s been locked inside breaks loose and you can finally think straight again? The last time I laughed like that was when someone said I had a brain like a bowl of chip dip. It was at this late-night coke party and I was really high. I’d gone there with some guy I’d snorted lines with at the club, and I was sitting there starting to feel the booze and wonder how the evening was going to shape-up, when this guy next to me, some rumpled business-type—weekend warrior—he leans over and tells me my brain is like a bowl of chip dip. I laughed my fuckin’ ass of at that. I have a much better idea of what he meant right now.

(Baby Doll picks the flask back up and shakes it upside down.)

Poor, sad girl—can’t fly her kite ‘cause there’s no wind. Someone wanna get me a drink? It’s true what they say about Peter Pan not wanting to grow up but what gets forgotten is that once Wendy got up in the air, she never wanted to come down.

(Baby Doll tries for one last swig from the flask.)

The dawn of a sobering drunk—it can be a real sad thing or it can be a miracle. Which is it gonna be, girlfriend? I shared my abundance and it got me nowhere. You’d better watch yourselves, folks.

(Baby Doll coughs.)

Who the fuck am I to be giving advice? I shouldn’t even be drinking, actually. Someone as screwed up as I am should just learn to keep their mouths shut—maybe take some notes.

(Baby Doll blows the crowd a big show-biz style kiss)

I love you all!

Anna Bauer

{Images by Adolph B Rice Studio & Anna Bauer}

Baby Doll ~ Part One of Three

CBS - 3(Baby Doll flirtatiously enters the playing area, carrying an old-fashioned portable transistor radio. She is wearing a one-piece bathing suit, a beauty pageant sash and a sparkling tiara. She totters around the perimeter of the stage, making sure everyone sees what a groovy dancer she is and can read what is written on her pretty sash. When she is satisfied with her performance, she switches off the radio.)

Baby Doll: A platinum blonde, a dizzy blonde, a sexy blonde. ‘Blondes have more fun,’ you know. Blondes for every day of the week but eventually you’re gonna come to the conclusion that there’s only one real  blonde and that’s Baby Doll blonde. That’s me, you guys—a spoiled, naughty, pig-tailed former beauty queen who loves to screw! Do I need a spanking for saying that? Have I been a bad girl?

(Baby Doll bends over to reveal her panties to the crowd.)

What turns the motor of your mind, honey? Bet I could figure it out, if you gave me half a chance. I’m a professional at doing that and it makes me kind of goofy how much easier these big tits have made my life. It’s kind of like I’m a royal queen or something. Every evening, I paint my bee-sting lips to match the shade of the muted trumpets in a swing band; I pluck my eyebrows clean and sexy, then shake my Pilates-toned ass into some slinky little dress that I know is going to turn every eye in the room.

(Baby Doll adjusts her tiara and smiles brightly at the crowd.)

Don’t be fooled by appearances, folks. I might not walk it but I am a wise Baby Doll. Some people will find it hard to believe that a bright, empowered young woman could fall into such a trap. This story is not for them. It’ll be aimed at people who like seeing successful people suffer. There’s something in that for you—I’d bet on it. I used to be smart, you know? Won the gold medal in freshman English. It hung there cheap and plastic between budding breasts. Back before the time when I knew how to do amazing things with my tongue. Right around that famed night when my cherry burst in a sweaty frenzy—when I thought I’d met my prince. I told him sex would spoil what we had & what we had was very special. What happened to him? Gone—they all go. So sad. The saddest thing of all is that I learned a very important lesson but I forgot it straight away.

(Baby Doll pauses to reflect.)

I even went to college for a few semesters. That’s when the whole pageant thing got going and I was a pretty good student but one thing leads to another… you know how it is. It was my heyday—arms spread wide, showing a little leg on the parade float. Sassy, but never over-eager. I don’t understand why sex has such a bad rap. I just love boys. Boys are fascinated with holes—digging them, filling them up—mechanical sex, in & out, building to a single combustion. Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me! You boys think you have it all figured out, don’t you? A few of your best years in a pack, riding high and free but one by one you get picked up by those high school spiders—hungry for husbands and matching china. Who’s trophy are you today, bitch? I’m nothing like those girls. I’m real to the tits, baby. Well, not really but you know what I mean.

(Baby Doll adjusts her ample cleavage.)

At what point does the past become history? The conflicted confessions of a desperate beauty—that could be my story. Don’t worry about me—I come from a long line of crazy broads but my own search for stardom began once I experienced its effects. The plan was: I’d take acting classes, not for the craft but for the contacts and when I finally landed a role, I’d dive into it with such gusto and commitment that the critics would notice, even though the role wasn’t that big. I’d get a better agent, a more powerful one, shuffle my friends around, all the while pouring through scripts, hunting, tirelessly hunting for that breakthrough role until it finally arrives and I earn a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress and then on to win the Oscar! During the acceptance speech, I say something wacky and make it into the annals of Oscar history trivia. I was to become a legend in my own time.

(Baby Doll takes out a compact.)

Pat, pat, pat and the blackheads vanish.

(She laughs at her reflection and snaps the compact closed.)

All those men who date jack-in-the-box girls? The ones whose cranks you have to turn and turn until—bingo! The sweet spot? Know what I’m saying? I am not one of those girls. Between you and me, I love the way someone looks at you once you’ve popped their cork. Men like girls like me ‘cause they don’t have to waste any time guessing how its all gonna turn out at the end of the night. There’s no suspense with Baby Doll cause she puts it right up front. It reminds me of how when I was a kid, my mom used to read those boring historical romances and she was always trying to get me to read them too but I could never get past those hunks on the covers. It was decided very early that when I grew up, I was gonna be the chick in the ripped bodice—beautiful, bent-back by some muscular stud and loving every second of it!

(Baby Doll put the makeup back in her purse and removes a lovely silver flask.)

There are all sorts of blondes—Cadillac blondes, with their leashes and fancy jewels; Jacuzzi blondes with their velvet mouths and fried split ends; blondes on blondes rolling together in tangled, sweaty sheets. . .

(Baby Doll checks her reflection in the flask.)

One thing about being this hot? It takes a lot of energy. More than you might think. That’s why pretty girls needs to be fluffed like pillows—those good looks have to come from somewhere and if you’re expected to keep your mouth shut all the time, I don’t care how blonde your Baby Doll roots are, eventually? You start catching on to the ways things really are. Girls like me always know what’s going on. Put it this way: a successful evening for a girl like me is all about finding the secret fetish. If I am able to unlock the unmet desire in a man’s heart, I’ll be the new drug and that’s what it’s all about in my world. I’m an expert at reading between the lines.

(Baby Doll toasts the audience with her flask.)

Actually? I kinda enjoy being misread. I like the feeling of being able to rip the rug out from under people whenever I want to but will sit around looking sexy and let everybody underestimate me. Pretty and pert I watch the room and the weird thing is that the more I listen to tricks talk about me like I wasn’t actually a real person—like I don’t actually have feelings and am only into this for the dirty shit and enjoy it all as much as they do—the more I play along with that bullshit, the more I become this horrible, Frankenstein-like creature—cheery but grotesque. You wouldn’t believe the garbage my ‘customers’ talk and then having to smile at them and the other working girls, the other whores, with their competitive small talk, all smart-pretending-to-be-stupid; all stupid, pretending–to-be smart? My people and what we all have in common is that we know we’ll leave each other in the gutter, in a flash when the time comes but for the time being, we’ll smile and play along.

(Baby Doll swigs again.)

Pretty girls aren’t always dumb, you know. We’re just not allowed to be heavy so it’s kinda hard to dig into a deep conversation. That’s probably why I’m a bitch sometimes. It so obvious when I think about it that way. I have to tweak and tease my everything; make myself one of those plucked, moisturized and lip-sticked packages. One of the ‘pretty girls.’ When did that happen? ‘cause it wasn’t always like that. My pretty face promised nothing but it did open some doors so why not cash in when you’ve got the chance. Show affection, get rejection. That’s my motto, proven time and time again to be true and there are a lot of people out there that enjoy wasting someone else’s love. So what if I happen to be one of them? It’s not my fault that little tidbit of self-knowledge changed my life. I knew my good looks were a mask I hid behind. Who wouldn’t?

(Baby Doll takes another swig and swishes it around inside her mouth before swallowing.)

Masks are expensive to the true person behind them because they both excuse you but prevent you from being anything else. Once you dress as the slutty French maid and everybody thinks you’re fierce, it’s hard to give that up. What else could I do? I had little to offer suburbia ‘cause I knew there was more to me than domestic drudgery. Keeping quiet helped.

Meadham Kirchoff

{Images by CBS-3 & Meadham Kirchoff}

Maggie ~ Part Three of Three

Katyare


(Maggie looks into the horizon but does not call for the dogs.)

In those times of despair, when they told him the illness was terminal, he was relentless in his obsessions. ‘In the future,’ he insisted, delirious on the pain killers, ‘after the work, there is the glow of reward.’ Not the horse before the carrot, mind you but the understanding there could be relief. If time is the true measure of luxury, when Leonard finally died I felt like a very rich woman. Someone who could finally savour the night without interruption. In the days that followed, that peace of not having to be obedient washed over me. Not have to think of someone else first? Unimaginable. What did I decide to do with this free time, this return of vital zest that had once life’s work so easy? I decided to clean. Got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed the floors he walked on and bleached the sheets he lay upon. Scrubbing fresh all the grimy layers, I needed to experience the house without him and like any cleaning, once you get started on it you have to keep going because you can see the contrast between the grime and the clean places. Once that is complete, you’ll need to start all over but it will be easier behind the power of momentum. It’s mostly a blur but I remember a moment standing at the sink. While washing the dishes from the small party we had after the funeral — just a formality really, you could hardly call it a party — while I was washing up the cups and plates, I paused to read a label on the dish detergent. As I scanned down it’s clever design, I remembered how housewives used to get wingy about grease. You never wanted any grease on your pates when I first started buying this stuff and God forbid if there was a smudge on your glasses! Today, it’s bacteria and germs that are the homemakers greatest enemy and just as I was realizing this, and I forgot to tell the police this part, Leonard’s shed just popped into my head. I put down the bottle of detergent and through the empty, freshly scrubbed halls I traveled to Leonard’s room. We had mercifully slept in separate beds for the second half of our marriage but I knew he kept the keys to the shed in the top drawer of his nightstand. I slid the drawer open and sure enough — there they were.

(Maggie holds up a ring of keys.)

I went immediately to find a flashlight — the light that would brighten the darkness that haunted my marriage for so many years. You see, I was never to look inside the ‘hobby shed’ as Leonard called it but the crazy thing is that I did what he said. Never once went inside that rotting shack. This is probably going to sound silly or mental but there was an evil in that building. I could feel it and stayed away happily. Facing my resolve with considerable fear, I walked across the backyard, keys trembling in cold hands. Approaching the shed, I carefully slid a key into the freezing padlock, then pushed open the door on the stiff, rusty hinges.

(Maggie imagines herself back in the doorway.)

Inside the room, the flashlight revealed an empty space, bare except for some odds and ends and that disgusting mattress. It lay on the floor, soiled and rotting. It was a junkyard of a room and I stood frozen, unsure of my next move in life. I poked at the mattress with a broken fishing net and imagined it burning. Destiny is specific it would appear. and in there, in the stench of that goddamned shack, I cursed the heart that lead me to such a pathetic devotion.

(Maggie reflects, the emerges from her reverie.)

Listen to me — I still get so lost in it all. ‘God hates whiners,’ Mother said and that was maybe the one thing she was right about. Why is it that humanity tends to the morbid? The dogs aren’t like that.

(Maggie once again calls the dogs and finally notices then with relief. She returns her focus to the audience, in a new more confident purpose, building through the remainder of her story.)

In the corner of the room was a gas can.

(Maggie swishes the imaginary gas can.)

Still half-full.

(An idea surfaces.)

Must faith be blind for it to count in God’s eyes? This had been my greatest delusion — waiting for strength from places where it did not exist. My husband was a weak man, who set fires loose in our family and I never called him on it. In that instant, in that icy night air, I looked to the dark sky and saw the promise of a flickering dawn on the horizon.

(Maggie mimes splashing the contents of the gas can on the floor.)

Rage — it is rage that lights the fields ablaze and rage that pumps the hating heart. Rage settles every score and when all is said and done, in that cold, damp, musty air, the pungent smell of gasoline filling my sinuses, I came to an understanding that finally ended the haunting feeling of dread.

(Maggie lights a match and drops it on the floor.)

A small fire at first, to burn the weeds of shame but soon I replaced the even, night-time sky with fire and my own rage. As the flames of the burning shed grew higher, an frozen case around my heart melted in the heat of that blaze and drained off into some invisible sea. In that space, I could finally see — and I felt so sorry for the pain I had caused in my weakness — pain that all the aspirin in the world couldn’t take away from my girls. My beautiful, innocent girls!

(Maggie irons her brow and the moment passes.)

Memory offers a bridge from where we anticipate the future; where we attempt to peer through the cracks in Time to review our choices. It is a limited vision — a ray of clarity that could be read only in the freedom of that dreadful inferno. What was to stop me from walking straight out the yard and down the street to a place where those unbearable memories were more easily digestible? Realizing that the mercy of my own salvation involved discovering what had been sacrificed would require a new vantage point. What if I walked as far as the old highway? What would it matter? There was no one to forbid me any longer.

(Maggie slowly starts to move.)

Mother always said ‘Senility in abundance. That’s the promise of Old Age.’ Mother was wrong in that regard. As I have aged, I have found the key to the chains that locked my heart to a tyrant. Certain now of a world beyond that inferno of misery, I walked away from a jubilee of flames, and this story — my story, which began in such a miserable setting, continues upon the lines that connect to form maps. A walk which leads to forks in roads, as movement provides the balm to soothe a ravaged spirit. I walked following in the footsteps of people who’d lived honourable, magical lives — people who had lead free lives and with each new step, the light brightened by a degree. To walk is to pray — to step, to cleanse, moving steadily towards the truth.

(Maggie pauses serenely.)

Soon? It’s not like walking at all but as effortless as gliding across a bed of marshmallows. Now? I am greedy for more of this life, like a recent convert, free now to cultivate my own sense of loyalty.

(Maggie looks into the audience for a moment, respectfully and with quiet appreciation, then exits gracefully.)

John Morgan

 

{Artwork by Katyare & John Morgan}