a play in Two Acts
by Paul Charles Griffin
“I made a pillow of my mother’s bones and remained in an undistracted state of tranquility, in clear and deep meditation, whereby I realized that it was indeed possible to save both my father and mother from the pain and miseries of existence.”
-Milarepa, from “Life and Hymns of Milarepa”
FATHER. A former high ranking Marine, fifty.
SON. A young man, teens.
CORPSE. The charred corpse of a suicidal soldier.
WANDERER. A former Marine, AWOL, wandering the countryside.
GOVERNMENT AGENT ONE.
GOVERNMENT AGENT TWO.
Post socio-economic collapse America. East coast, perhaps New Jersey, or South Carolina. A totalitarian government rules the land, but its power is largely centered in the cities, as the ravaged countryside proves difficult to govern. The woods and beaches, the mountains and caves, are pure anarchy. Great plumes of smoke along the horizon, a crumbled city skyline, a passing vulture.
Morning, sunrise. The sound of gulls.
FATHER and SON sit meditating on a hillside. Before them, the scorched dead body of a soldier and a back pack. As the sun rises, the two sit perfectly still, absorbing the sun, for a few minutes. The tempo of the play is slow, mindful, patient. Pure Zen hilarity. Open spaces and pregnant silences predominate.
SON opens his eyes and peeks at FATHER, still absorbed in his meditation. SON returns to meditation, for about ten seconds or so. SON peeks again; same result; returns to meditation. FATHER peeks, sees SON is meditating, returns to meditation. SON peeks; same result. FATHER peeks; same result. They peek at the same time. Ha. They smile and bow to one another.
They adjust themselves, remain sitting.
FATHER (luxuriously). Ah, space.
FATHER. Yes, son?
SON. I feel miserable.
FATHER. Do you?
SON. Yes, I do.
FATHER. How miserable? — on the scale of one to seven?
FATHER (disbelieving). Oh, come on.
SON (looking down at the scorched body). For God’s sake, the soldier burned himself alive yesterday right in front of us.
FATHER. Yes, that was tough... and so we learn to die.
SON. That’s all we ever do.
FATHER looks hard at SON.
SON. Fine, four and a half.
FATHER (smiling, making the fist strong sign, a gesture of high morale shared between FATHER and SON, fingers of the right hand curled tightly into a fist, the fist up in the air to the right of the face, the right elbow at a right angle). That’s the spirit! What, bad dreams again?
SON. Yes, hellish nightmares.
FATHER. Ah yes, hellish nightmares. The one with the Great Meteor rushing toward the earth to annihilate us?
FATHER. The one with the Great Dragon eating the innards of seven thousand newborn babies?
FATHER. Hmm. The one with Great Men and Women gnawing on their own tongues in agony and cursing God and refusing to repent for what they have done?
SON. No, but I like that one.
FATHER. It’s a classic.
SON. A new one.
FATHER. Any nuclear bombs?
SON. No, but there was a cockroach.
SON. That’s all I remember.
FATHER. These dreams, too, shall pass, my son.
SON. So you say.
FATHER (reciting a fragment of the Heart Sutra). Om, gate gate.
SON (translating). Gone, gone.
FATHER (enthusiastically). If the dream was terrifying, then it should have felt great to wake up.
SON. Yes, it did. For a second.
FATHER. Well, now, give it a minute.
FATHER. Any better now?
SON. A touch.
FATHER (again making the fist strong sign). You see — the fluctuations of consciousness! Just keep breathing.
SON. If you insist.
A rustle in the leaves is heard. FATHER turns quickly towards the sound, the threat.
SON. What was that?
FATHER listens intently. The rustle is heard again.
SON (frightened). Dad?
FATHER and SON listen intently. The rustle is heard a third time. FATHER quickly rises to his feet, at attention. SON follows suit.
SON. They’re coming.
SON (hysterical). The agents!
SON. Then who?
FATHER (listening intently). Nobody.
SON. Then what?
SON. Nothing’s coming?
FATHER (thinking of death). Precisely.
SON (listening). No, it’s not nothing.
FATHER. Maybe a squirrel then.
FATHER and SON listen and look around intently. They hear and see nothing more.
SON. What happens next?
FATHER. We stay on the path.
SON (in mock obedience). Yes, sir.
FATHER gives SON a punishing look.
FATHER (enthusiastically). We keep moving and we find the man who murdered your mother.
SON. But will we really?
SON. We didn’t yesterday.
FATHER. No, we didn’t.
SON. And you thought we would.
FATHER. Soon enough, we will.
SON (cynically). It's been soon enough for two years now.
FATHER. Yes, I know. Two long years — but a mere fragment of time in eternity.
SON. Things take time.
FATHER. Eons and eons.
Pause, in the nature of eons.
FATHER. Where what?
SON. Where will we find him?
FATHER. Where ever he is.
SON. And what will we do with him when we find him?
FATHER. We’ll punish him.
FATHER. That depends.
SON. On what?
FATHER. On his level of repentance.
SON (sincerely). I want to tear his eyes out.
FATHER. Do you?
SON. Yes, very much so.
SON. I’ve had dreams about it.
FATHER. About tearing his eyes out.
FATHER. Why do you want to tear his eyes out?
SON. To balance things out.
FATHER. We’ll do that then, if it comes to that.
SON. You’ll hold him down, will you?
FATHER. Yes, if it comes to that, I will hold him down for you.
SON. You’re the best, Pop.
FATHER. Okay, we’ll see.
FATHER (evenly, then enthusiastically). For now, put all of that out of mind, and let’s do our singing practice.
FATHER and SON sit again. FATHER hums a note. SON hums the first verse of Loch Lomond, beautifully. FATHER joins for the chorus. They sing the words in harmony.
"O ye'll take the high road and I'll take the low road,
An' I'll be in Scotland afore ye;
But me and my true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomon'."
Pause. FATHER is sad. FATHER sighs gently.
FATHER. Yes, son?
SON. What is “bonnie”?
FATHER. It’s a silly, Scottish word.
SON. But what does it mean?
FATHER. You already know what it means.
SON. No, I don’t.
FATHER. Look at the root.
SON. So bonnie means good?
FATHER. Look at the suffix.
SON. “Y” — Having the quality of the thing mentioned.
FATHER. Also spelled “ie”.
SON. The diminutive.
SON. So bonnie means a slight degree of good, or the endearment or affection thereof.
FATHER. Close. Bonnie means attractive or beautiful.
SON. Why not good?
FATHER. Good, beautiful, true — at a point, they’re all the same.
FATHER (chuckling). Also because language is horrible and imprecise and the source of much confusion. If words were physical entities I would strangle them... with all due respect to the things.
SON. With all due respect.
FATHER. They’re all right.
SON. They’re bon.
FATHER. Yes, son?
SON. Did the Scottish have a lot of silly words?
FATHER. Yes, they did.
SON. What’s another one?
FATHER is sad.
FATHER. Yes, son?
SON. Tell me about Loch Lomond again.
FATHER. It’s a place.
SON. A beautiful place, right?
SON. What else?
FATHER. Loch Lomond is a place that existed long ago and far away. A gorgeous, pure place of banks and glens and freshwater. An enlightened kingdom. And in fact, Loch Lomond still exists, only now it’s hidden away.
SON. And we’re always looking for it, right, Dad?
SON. And, in a way, it exists right here and right now, right?
They look around at the rubble and the wasteland, and at the dead body before them.
FATHER (breathing in, out). Yes.
FATHER. Yes, son?
SON. Why do you always get sad after we sing Loch Lomond in the morning?
FATHER. Because the song is so beautiful.
SON. But shouldn’t that make you happy?
FATHER. Does it make you happy?
SON. Yes, the song makes me happy.
FATHER. That’s good.
SON. That’s bon!
SON. But why does the song make me happy and you sad?
FATHER. Because my dopamine levels are lower than yours.
SON. Oh, chemistry and whatnot.
FATHER. That’s one way of looking at it.
SON. Are there other ways?
FATHER. There is always more than one way of looking at something.
SON. I could look at you while sitting or I could look at you while standing on my head.
FATHER. Or you could look at me from outer space.
SON. Or I could look at you with my eyes closed.
FATHER (pointing to SON’S hands). Or with the eyeballs in your hands.
SON (making a joke, pointing to his own head). Or with the eyeballs in my mind!
SON. So what’s the other way?
FATHER. What other way?
SON. The other way to look at why you get sad when the song ends.
FATHER. The song is beautiful, and then it ends. The fleeting nature of beauty is sad.
SON. Oh... Is it the same with ugly things?
SON. Can we sing an ugly song and experiment?
FATHER. Of course. Always experiment.
SON. Always experiment!
FATHER. But later.
SON. Okay, later.
FATHER. Let’s do our exercises first.
They stand up and situate themselves, facing one another, five feet apart. They begin with Chinese splits.
FATHER. Get back on your heels... breathe...
They stand up and do twenty jumping jacks in perfect unison, taking turns calling out the count.
FATHER. Knuckle push-ups.
SON (shouting, with a mock toughness). KNUCKLE PUSH-UPS!
They do twenty knuckle push-ups facing each other, breathing only twice, five push-ups on each in-breath and five push-ups on each out-breath. They stand up.
FATHER (gung-ho). There are thieves and robbers along the path, son.
SON. And liars and murderers and government agents, too.
FATHER. Indeed. Defensive stance — ready, hut!
They both assume a defensive stance. Feet two shoulder widths apart, parallel to one another. Knees over the feet. Thighs parallel to the ground, horizontal. Back straight as a rod, vertical. Fists tucked up be- hind the chest. Shoulders relaxed. They breath deliberately, five seconds in, five seconds out.
As they hold this stance, SON speaks.
SON. My quads hurt.
FATHER. Go beyond the pain.
SON (mocking his FATHER). “Go beyond the pain.”
FATHER gives SON a stern look.
FATHER. Back straight.
SON straightens his stance.
FATHER. Focus on your breathing.
SON. My nightmare is coming back to me.
SON stares down at the dead body of the soldier for a moment. While still in defensive stance, FATHER steals a nip from his hip flask.
FATHER. Any clues?
SON. I think so.
FATHER. Let’s hear it, every detail.
SON. There were two parts. (Indicating the dead body) In the first part, the soldier set himself on fire.
FATHER. Just like yesterday?
As SON recounts his dream, CORPSE rises and acts out the scene described.
SON. Not exactly. It was different from what we saw. In my dream, the soldier poured gasoline all over himself, just like he did yesterday. But then he poured it all over me. And then he poured it all over you. And he lit a big match and just held it out there in front of him.
FATHER. That’s tough.
SON. He held the match there throughout the entire dream.
FATHER. Nothing else happened?
SON. He made faces.
FATHER. Scary faces?
SON (sarcastically). No, funny faces.
SON makes a funny-looking scary face. FATHER laughs.
FATHER. But he didn’t set anybody on fire?
SON. No, he just threatened to.
FATHER. What do you think this dream means?
SON (laughing). That I’m going to fucking die.
FATHER (the following sung to the joyful “Olay” melody). “Don’t die, don’t die, don’t die, don’t die. Don’t die, don’t die. Don’t die, don’t die, don’t die, don’t die. Don’t die, don’t die.”
SON. Yeah, that doesn’t help.
FATHER (referring to SON’S stance). Drop lower.
SON drops lower. CORPSE resumes his position on the ground.
SON. That’s a disturbing song.
FATHER. I suppose so.
SON. I hate when you sing that song.
SON. Do you feel sad now, after that ugly song?
SON. How sad? On the scale of one to seven?
FATHER. Now? Or right after the song was over?
SON. Right after the song was over.
FATHER. Four and a half.
SON. That’s pretty sad. So it does happen for you after both ugly and beautiful songs.
SON. I wouldn’t have expected that.
Pause. Both FATHER and SON are still in defensive stance.
FATHER. Okay, using your breathing, return to ready stance.
They breath together and resume a normal stance, arms at their side, feet a shoulder width apart. They shake their legs out.
FATHER. You said there was a clue?
SON. I think so.
FATHER (eagerly). What happened next?
SON. There was a sailor. With a peg leg, a patch over one eye, and that sailor’s voice. He said (in sailor’s voice), A barrel is buried down by the beach, beneath the willow tree. (In a normal voice) He continued, An old thirty gallon gasoline barrel, emptied out, and filled with bitter tobacco and strong whiskey. He said, I myself buried this barrel on the beach, six feet below the surface, beneath the willow tree, close to the hot sun and the salty water. Using this method, he said (in the sailor’s voice), I have brewed the strongest, finest whiskey known to man.
FATHER. What else?
SON. He said, And at the bottom of this barrel of whiskey is a cockroach, soaked in the good stuff.
SON works a bad taste out of his mouth.
SON. And then the sailor said (in sailor’s voice), Eat the cockroach.
SON. He said it over and over again, Eat the cockroach, eat the cockroach, eat the cockroach.
SON is deeply disturbed.
FATHER. That’s good stuff, son. That’s a clue.
FATHER. Of course — the cockroach lives forever.
SON. I’m going to have to eat a cockroach, aren’t I?
FATHER. Looks like it.
FATHER makes fist strong sign. SON returns the sign, but half-heartedly, at an angle. FATHER makes the sign again, in good form. SON returns the sign, in good form.
FATHER looks to SON and breathes, then they begin a series of fifty punches, tight fists, straight out in front of them, towards the audience.
FATHER. Focus on your form, son.
A few more punches.
SON. Something else’s been bothering me.
FATHER. Besides the cockroach?
FATHER. What’s that?
SON (looking down again at the soldier at their feet). I can’t figure out why the soldier killed himself yesterday.
FATHER. He made the decision. He had abandoned his military post, they were after him.
SON. Just like they’re after you.
FATHER (still punching). Yes. And maybe they were too close.
SON. And he got scared?
SON. He fell into a deep despair, didn’t he?
FATHER. Yes, he succumbed to despair.
SON. How does one keep that from happening?
FATHER. With practice.
SON (still punching). Yeah, that doesn’t really explain it for me.
FATHER (stopping punching). Do we need to talk about this?
SON (stopping punching). Yes.
FATHER. Okay, first, let’s think a minute.
FATHER stands silent for one minute, comically ruminating, stroking his chin, enthusiastically nodding his head, gesticulating with his pointer finger, in a word — thinking.
FATHER (grandly, moving peripatetically across the stage). Okay, I got it. A man goes to the movies. (An aside.) I mean, a man went to the movies, back before the wars, before the bombs, before the collapse. (Preachy.) Back when a man could still live in the city and enjoy its culture without sacrificing his basic freedoms to an oppressive totalitarian government. (Overdoing it, gesturing to his surroundings.) Back before signs of the end of the world, before poisoned waters and world annihilating weapons, before rampant materialism, moral bankruptcy and spiritual nihilism, spread out across the face of the earth —
SON (exasperated). Okay, Dad, okay.
FATHER (grandly again, pacing to and fro). Right. So. A man goes to the movies. You were young, but surely you remember how that worked. Our man sits near the back and eats his buttery popcorn and drinks his sugary cola. Soon he realizes he hates the movie he’s watching. He loathes every last bit of it. The main character, the supporting character, the main plot, the subplot. He despises the directing, the acting, the script, the cinematography, the soundtrack, the lighting, the editing, the sound effects, the special effects, the costumes, the key grip, yes, he even hates the gaffer!
SON. He hates the catering company.
FATHER. Precisely! So he decides to end his misery right then and there and walk out. He stands up, brushes the popcorn off his lap, steps over the other people enjoying the film — imbeciles! mindless automatons! every last one of them! he thinks to himself — and he exits the theater. Then, and only then, as he steps outdoors into the blinding daylight, the glorious noonday sun — it was a matinee — then, finally, at last, he experiences a shock of enlightenment. He looks around him, and lo and behold, he’s still in the movie! He’s standing on 23rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues in Manhattan. What does he see? That the movie is his life. The same crappy main character and supporting character, the same blasted main plot and subplot. He despises the directing, the acting, the script, the cinematography, the soundtrack, the lighting, the editing, the sound effects, the special effects, the costumes, the key grip, yes, he even hates the gaffer!
SON. He hates the catering company.
FATHER (crying out). Yes! So what does he do?
SON (exasperated). I don’t know. He goes back into the movie.
FATHER (deadpan with the punchline). No — he kills himself.
SON. Yeah, that doesn’t help.
FATHER. No? Don’t you see the point?
SON. Even if he kills himself, he’ll end up back in the movie.
FATHER. Yes, in some movie or another.
SON. What movie?
FATHER. Hard to say.
SON. A Hollywood movie or an art-house movie?
FATHER. Some movie or another, some body or another.
SON. So it’s a metaphor for reincarnation?
FATHER. Yes, for metempsychosis — transmigration of the soul.
SON. You’re holding pretty firm to that view.
FATHER. Of course.
SON (skeptically). The soul?
SON. I thought we didn’t believe in the soul.
FATHER. If you desire more precision, then you could call that which transmigrates karmic formulations.
SON (skeptically). Karmic formulations?
SON. That’s ambiguous to me.
FATHER. Then call it the soul.
SON. But do I really have a soul?
FATHER hesitates a moment, then proceeds to put his SON in a choke hold. SON flails about.
SON. I see, I see!
FATHER releases his choke hold.
SON. There’s something there.
SON (feeling his neck). Jesus, I thought the whole idea was not to be afraid of death.
FATHER. It is. Everybody’s died thousands and thousands of times. It’s no big deal.
SON. I don’t see it that way.
FATHER. Give it time.
SON. Then what happens?
FATHER. Eons and eons of heaven and earth.
SON. Are you sure?
SON. I thought the end was near.
FATHER. It is, relatively speaking, quite near. The urgency for spiritual development has never been greater.
SON. Then what?
FATHER. At the end?
SON. Yes, at the end of everything.
FATHER. Then, as the poet says, “the orient and immortal air was ash.”
SON. That’s the rub.
SON. It’s a white-out?
SON. Or complete darkness?
FATHER. In a way.
FATHER. Maybe a burst, or a series of bursts.
SON. You’re sure?
FATHER. Yes. Certainty grows with time. Keep meditating. You’ll be all right.
SON. The orient and immortal air was ash.
SON. Why did we let the soldier kill himself?
FATHER. Because he was free to do as he saw fit. It was his choice.
SON. But didn’t we help?
FATHER. We watched.
SON. Isn’t that helping?
FATHER. In a way.
FATHER. Bah! These thoughts — but ripples in the river! Let’s finish our punches.
They resume their punching exercise. Shouting out the numbers. They finish and stand in ready stance, feet a shoulder width apart, arms hanging loosely at their sides. They breathe in unison three times.
FATHER. Yes, son?
SON. What’s happens next?
FATHER. The idea is to allow that which is next to flow naturally, fluidly, without self-consciousness.
SON. You always say things like that.
FATHER. Like what?
SON (with a mock mysticism). “Allow that which is next to flow naturally.”
FATHER. Only that which is completely self-arising is good.
SON. Yeah, that kind of stuff.
FATHER. What about it?
SON (stammering). Well, you say those things, you use certain words, but the problem is I don’t really know what they mean. Like ‘self-arising’?
FATHER. That which arises without ego.
SON (unconvinced, almost sarcastically). Yeah... And you say, “Allow that which is next to flow naturally,” but then we pretty much do the same crap every day.
FATHER. Of course we do.
SON. Isn’t that, like, a contradiction? Or a paradox?
SON. Yesterday, I wrote the schedule on my arm.
SON regards his arm on which is written the day’s schedule.
SON (reading). Wake.
FATHER (as if just then remembering). Ah yes, of course, tea is next. What else?
SON. Practice philosophy.
SON. And avenge.
FATHER (with gravity). Avenge... hmm... maybe “Seek Justice” is better.
SON. You think?
FATHER (pondering). Yes, “Seek Justice” has a ring to it, doesn’t it?
SON (getting a pen out of the back pack and writing on his arm). Capital J?
FATHER (grandly, with irony, or even better, with a kind of double irony, a kind of way of saying the phrase with both humorous irony and genuine authenticity). Definitely — SEEK JUSTICE!
SON (looking around). So, which way today?
FATHER (pulling a map out of the back pack, spreading it out on the ground, pointing). To the beach, of course. To the willow tree. To the cockroach! (Consulting the map) Let’s see… we know for certain that the sailor buried the barrel beneath a willow tree, down by the beach. (Looking forward, pointing). The beach must be off in this direction. (Sniffing). Yes, the sands are this way. I believe I smell the sea. You?
SON. I don’t know.
FATHER (sniffing). Definitely this way. To the barrel.
FATHER. Anything else on the list on your arm there?
FATHER. Yes, dance!
SON. And sleep.
FATHER. What about take it easy?
SON. Not on the list.
FATHER. Perhaps we should add take it easy to the list.
SON. You think?
FATHER. Taking it easy is important.
SON. How does one “take it easy”?
FATHER. It’s not my specialty. Your mother was good at it. She taught me... (Briefly reminiscent)... It’s very difficult. We’ll try later. First, tea. Go fetch some kindling.
SON scurries off to gather kindling. He makes a circle around the campsite in search of twigs. FATHER steals a nip from his hip flask, coughs a terrible cough, then straightens out the circle of stones in which the fire will be made.
SON (returning with kindling). Dad, do you think they’ll find us here today?
SON. The robbers and thieves.
FATHER. The liars and murderers?
FATHER smells the air, considers.
FATHER. No. I don’t think so.
SON (fearfully). How about the agents?
FATHER smells the air again, considers.
SON. How do you know?
FATHER. Because I smelled the air.
SON. That’s not a very scientific method.
FATHER. No, it’s based on intuition.
SON. How reliable is intuition?
FATHER (again with his signature enthusiasm). Quite reliable. It’s like when you remember your dreams and they lead us to the next clue. We must remain in touch with our unconscious selves. Try it. Smell the air.
SON quickly smells the air.
FATHER. Smell again. Smell longer. Smell harder.
SON smells longer and harder.
FATHER. Now put your ear on the ground and listen to the earth.
SON puts his ear on the ground and listens to the earth.
FATHER. Now gaze off into the horizon.
SON half-heartedly gazes off into the horizon.
FATHER. Gaze more intently.
SON gazes more intently.
FATHER. Gaze harder.
SON gazes harder.
FATHER. Now gaze more loosely. Let go of your gaze. Let the gaze itself... just... gaze...
SON lets the gaze itself gaze.
FATHER. Well, do you think they’ll find us here today?
SON shrugs his shoulders.
FATHER. We’ll work on that. Let’s start the fire.
SON piles the kindling in the middle of the circle of rocks, then tries to start the fire by striking two sticks together. He fails. FATHER kneels down.
FATHER. Like this. It’s all in the wrists.
FATHER starts the fire by striking two sticks together, then puts it out.
FATHER. You try.
SON tries again, fails, tries again, fails, tries again, succeeds.
From a small back pack, FATHER pulls out a pot and a bag of loose tea leaves. FATHER hands the pot to SON.
FATHER. Go fetch some water from the stream.
SON (hesitating). Do you think the water is too polluted today?
FATHER. Did we drink the water, after boiling it, yesterday?
FATHER. Did we wake up alive and well today?
SON (unconvinced). Alive, yes.
SON. But you told me that just because something happens once, or even over and over and over again, such as the sun rising each morning, this doesn’t mean that we can expect the same event to happen again?
FATHER (exasperated). Do you want some tea or not?
SON. I want tea.
FATHER. Me too. I want tea very badly.
SON. Me too.
FATHER. I love tea.
SON (giving a fist strong sign). Me too.
FATHER. Go fetch some water.
FATHER returns the fist strong sign. SON runs to the stream to fetch water.
FATHER takes a nip of whiskey, coughs his ugly, dying cough. SON returns with the water and hangs it over the fire. They look at each other, absolutely nothing to say. They watch the water boil.
FATHER. Oup, here it comes.
FATHER. Yes, son?
SON. Do you think the soldier could join us for tea?
FATHER (looking at the soldier, making a joke). He doesn’t look well, son.
SON. Yes, he’s dead.
FATHER. Quite dead.
SON. But if we prop him up just so, perhaps he’d like that.
FATHER (considering, then enthusiastically). Yes, you’re right! I think he’d like that.
SON goes about sitting CORPSE up. He fumbles with the arms, they fall down, he gathers them up again. He meticulously positions the head, hands and neck just right. Stands back, admires his work. The body again crumbles to the ground. SON puts CORPSE back together in the sitting position, as FATHER puts the tea leaves into the pot and sets the pot on the ground.
SON. There we go.
FATHER. Let it steep.
FATHER (seriously, cheerfully, to CORPSE). Morning, soldier.
FATHER (in soldier’s voice). Morning, sir.
FATHER and SON nod at one another.
SON (to CORPSE). How are you feeling?
SON (in soldier’s voice). Can’t complain.
A loud explosion is heard.
SON. What was that?
FATHER. What did it sound like?
SON. It sounded like an MGK missile... (tentatively guessing at the number) ... a #25.
FATHER. Yes, or the 27.
FATHER. And how far off?
SON (pointing backward). Across the river back that way. Say 10 miles.
FATHER. 15 to 20.
FATHER. Relax into it.
From the back pack, FATHER fetches two gas masks. FATHER and SON put on masks.
FATHER (cheerfully). Tea’s ready!
FATHER passes the pot to SON, who drinks by laboriously pushing his mask up and sipping from the pot. SON passes pot back to FATHER, who drinks in the same manner and then passes the pot back. SON drinks and passes pot to CORPSE, pours some through his mouth. So on and so forth.
SON. Good tea, today.
FATHER. When it comes to tea, nobody beats Earl Grey.
SON (rapping). All the others just pale and run out of the way.
They drink tea, look around. SON raps.
SON. When it comes to tea, nobody beats Earl Grey. / All the others just pale and run out of the way. / So at the end of time, when the world’s a’boil / I’ll be sipping on the tea made with orange rind oil! / Ye-ah, uh-huh. Ye-ah, uh-huh.
SON. I’m hungry.
FATHER. I’m speechless.
FATHER (with his signature enthusiasm). Time to practice philosophy!
SON (ho-humly). Okay.
FATHER. Why do we practice philosophy?
SON. To prepare for death.
FATHER. Do we ever tire of practicing philosophy?
FATHER gives SON a hard look.
FATHER gives SON a harder look.
SON. In principal, no; in reality, yes, fuck yes.
FATHER. Fair enough. Let’s do the cathartic technique today.
FATHER. Okay... go.
SON stands, inhales and exhales deliberately, in preparation for something. Then he grandly acts out his own death, in a ridiculously over-the-top manner, taking his last breath and falling to the ground in a spasm. In the process, he takes his gas mask off. FATHER, also relieving himself of his gas mask (in a gesture blending reality and fiction), kneels beside SON and gently closes SON’S eyes with his hands. FATHER is sad, or play-acting sad.
FATHER. Not bad. Funny. But you need more realism. Always more realism. Realism is a tyrant because everything is real. Try it again.
SON stands, repeats his bombastic death scene, only slightly more subdued, with minor improvements in terms of added realism, but still essentially melodramatic. FATHER again kneels beside SON and gently closes SON’S eyes with his hands. FATHER is sad, or play-acting sad.
FATHER. Mmmm... not bad, but too... too Shakespearian. And you’re still not getting fully behind it. You have to believe this is the real deal. What you just did — Would you really want to die that way?
FATHER. So let’s see it again.
SON stands, breathes, considers, takes a moment. Then he performs a subtle and tender rendition of his own death. At the last moment, he looks FATHER in the eye and mutters, “I... love...”, only then to pass away to the other side. A very affecting performance. FATHER again kneels beside SON and gently closes SON’S eyes with his hands. FATHER is sad, genuinely saddened by the performance. He looks longingly at his play-dead SON.
FATHER (quickly gathering himself). Much better! Did you feel the difference?
SON (coming to). Yes.
FATHER (excitedly). Good. Remember what that felt like. Wow, that was a breakthrough!
FATHER. I think that’s enough philosophy practice for the day.
Long, philosophical pause. They stand still, breathing conspicuously.
SON. Maybe we should just take it easy now?
FATHER. Sure, good idea. Would you like to take it easy? Okay, we could try that. Let’s see, okay... like I said, I don’t really know how it works... it’s quite tricky... okay, so, let’s just sit here, all right?... and, well — using no technique at all — just... relax...
They sit and take it easy for ten seconds or so.
SON. Am I doing it right?
FATHER looks at SON.
FATHER. I don’t know — sure. Yeah, that looks like taking it easy.
FATHER. How about me?
SON. Yeah, that’s not half bad.
Brief pause. FATHER grows anxious to move, looks up at the sky.
FATHER. Whoa, look at that sun! We best get on the road. Find that fucking willow tree!
SON (quickly, relieved). Okay.
FATHER. We’ll take it easy later.
FATHER. That taking it easy shit is hard.
SON. Yeah, it feels weird.
FATHER. Best to keep moving forward. Let’s go.
In a flurry of action, they pack up the pot and tea, reorder the rocks, do some quick stretches. SON fetches a hammer from the back pack. He begins knocking out the teeth of CORPSE and putting them in his pocket. He knocks at the jaw in a disturbing manner.
FATHER. Whoa! What the fuck are you doing?
SON. I’m knocking his teeth out.
FATHER. Why on earth?
SON. So I can save them.
SON. Because I liked the solider.
FATHER. Yeah, he was a good sort.
SON. And he was our friend.
FATHER. A good and trusted friend.
SON. And I miss him.
FATHER. Do you?
SON begins knocking CORPSE’S teeth out again.
FATHER. But what on earth do you want with his teeth?
SON. To remember him by.
SON knocks more teeth out. FATHER puts his hand on SON’S shoulder.
FATHER. Son, I realize this is a sensitive subject, but I don’t think you should keep those teeth.
SON (pausing, holding the hammer in the air, upset). Why not?
FATHER. Well, frankly, it’s morbid.
SON (petulantly). So what? Everything we do is morbid.
FATHER. It’s just not a good habit — saving dead people’s teeth. That’s all I’m saying.
FATHER holds out his hand, asking for the teeth.
FATHER. Just let go.
FATHER and SON quickly drop into their fighting stances, fists raised, facing WANDERER.
FATHER. Who goes there?
WANDERER. I come in peace.
FATHER looks to his SON.
FATHER. Where are you from?
THEIF. I am a Westerner.
FATHER. We are Easterners.
FATHER. I have met many fine Westerners.
WANDERER (laughing). All Westerners are liars.
FATHER (To SON, in a whisper). The liar’s paradox! If it’s true, it’s false; if it’s false, it’s true.
SON. Should I sniff the air?
FATHER nods yes. SON sniffs the air, shrugs his shoulders. FATHER sniffs the air, then attacks WANDERER. In a single swift kung fu-like move, FATHER puts WANDERER on his back, holds him in a death choke.
WANDERER (begging). Don’t kill me!
FATHER. You’re from the government!
SON. Kill him!
WANDERER. I’m on the run! I used to be in government, but now I’m on the run.
WANDERER. I know who you are, sir. I know that you too are on the run.
FATHER (tightening his choke hold). How would you know something like that?
WANDERER. Everybody knows about you, sir. You were famous, you were tortured.
FATHER. What are you talking about?
WANDERER. You rewrote the codes, then kept them a secret. You still have the codes.
This is the right answer. FATHER is upset, distrustful.
SON. What codes?
WANDERER. The weapons codes.
SON. What’s he talking about, Dad?
FATHER. Nothing. (To WANDERER) You keep quiet.
WANDERER. Only your father knows the release codes to the worst self-destruct weapons on the planet. In case of infiltration of the military by the enemy, only your father —
FATHER punches WANDERER across the face. WANDERER absorbs the blows.
WANDERER (to SON). Your father is a hero. He’s very well trained, a highly enlightened person. Do you know that? He’s written a treatise on scientific ethics. They say he knows things, about life and death. Tricks, magic, freaky stuff. He was a legend in the Marines. Shot at fifty times. They say he never dies. Your father! Did you have any idea?
FATHER punches WANDERER again.
FATHER. Quiet! — or I’ll kill you right now.
WANDERER. Yes, sir.
SON. Dad, why are they after you?
FATHER. Because I have information, son. Information that would help the State kill people, and this is what the State wants to do. This is what States in their very nature do best — kill people, reduce numbers, manage populations. The individual, by definition, does not exist to the State; only the State exists to the State. The State by nature is stupid, selfish, and unfathomably ruthless. It wants me because I turned my back on it, it wants me because I was cunning and disloyal. I fooled it into allowing me to safeguard certain information, and then I betrayed it, I stole away with the knowledge, because I disagreed with the State and its intentions. To the State, I am the cruelest, vilest, most manipulative beast on the face of the earth. This is why they are after me.
Pause. The new information sinks in.
FATHER (to WANDERER). How long have you been on the run?
WANDERER. Two years.
FATHER. Where are you headed?
SON. I’m scared.
FATHER. Don’t be.
SON. I’m scared that the agents will find you and kill you.
FATHER. That won’t happen.
SON. Will they catch you?
SON. Will they kill you?
SON. How do you know?
FATHER. I just know.
WANDERER. Sir, let me help you.
FATHER. How could you possibly help us?
WANDERER. I know this terrain. Where are you headed?
FATHER stares hard at WANDERER. SON sniffs the air around WANDERER again.
FATHER. The beach.
FATHER looks WANDERER in the eye, WANDERER returns the hard look.
WANDERER. I can lead you to the beach, sir.
FATHER stares hard. They have a prolonged stare-off.
FATHER. Two years?
WANDERER. Yes, sir. When I left, the state had begun killing civilians in the city. They’re drastically reducing numbers, randomly gassing innocents. Indiscriminately. Water is low. Help me, please.
FATHER. We live in the slime and the muck of the dark ages.
SON. The slime and the muck, indeed.
WANDERER. Please, please help me.
FATHER. Where is the beach?
WANDERER (proudly, pointing in the direction FATHER and SON had been walking). This way.
FATHER. What do you say, son?
SON (looking squarely at WANDERER). I don’t know about this guy, but let’s give him a chance.
FATHER (releasing his death grip). You will lead us to the beach. That is all.
FATHER helps WANDERER up. They shake hands.
WANDERER. Thank you. I cannot thank you enough for your kindness. My name is —
FATHER. Quiet! Let’s go. No time to waste.
They begin their trek together, walking very slowly across the stage. WANDERER, then FATHER, then SON. They move very, very slowly. They reach the end of the stage, turn around, walk towards the back of the stage. They walk slowly in an extended silence.
WANDERER (calling back behind him). Know any good jokes?
SON. Of course. We love jokes.
FATHER. Only the jokes matter now.
WANDERER. Let’s hear one.
SON. Which category would you prefer: wife jokes, bestiality jokes, or Zen jokes?
SON. Interesting. We find this is not a popular category. Too foreign for most. We find most people ask for the bestiality jokes.
WANDERER. I already know all the cow fucking jokes.
FATHER. Oh, but they’re the best ones.
SON. Okay, so, the Emperor asks the master Gudo, What happens to a man of enlightenment after death? Gudo replies, How should I know? The Emperor says, Why? Because you are a master. And Gudo says, Yes, sir, but not a dead one!
FATHER and SON chuckle.
WANDERER. I don’t get it.
FATHER. Yeah, it takes a while.
SON. Are we there yet?
SON. To the beach.
Walking. Trekking. FATHER takes a nip of whiskey, coughs.
FATHER (gazing up). Look at that sun!
SON. The great noonday sun.
WANDERER (excitedly, pointing across the stage). There it is!
They increase their pace to a funny looking slow walk; it looks as though they are moving fast, but they are not.
FATHER. Let’s get digging.
They drop to their knees and dig furiously into the earth with their hands. Dirt flies everywhere.
FATHER. Deeper! Deeper!
SON. Where is it?
FATHER. Deeper! Six feet! Ten feet! Dig!
SON. My hands hurt.
FATHER. Dig, my boy! Dig, dig!
They dig for a while, taking turns taking breaks, getting into a small dirt throwing fight , all the while digging deeper and deeper. Time passes, like it always does. The sun sets.
WANDERER (exasperated). God damn it!
SON. Ah ha!
WANDERER. What? Where?
SON. I found it!
By this point, they’ve dug a hole roughly the size of a grave. SON hauls a thirty gallon barrel from out of the hole, wipes sweat from his brow. FATHER and WANDERER gaze at the treasure in awe.
FATHER. Open it up.
SON pries the barrel open, looks inside, smells the stuff.
SON. It’s full of whiskey!
WANDERER. Praise God!
FATHER. Praise whiskey!
SON takes a drink from the barrel, coughs, spits up what he had tried to drink.
SON. It’s strong, Pop.
WANDERER. Let me try.
WANDERER drinks from the barrel, coughs, spits up what he tried to drink.
WANDERER passes barrel to FATHER, who take a long, deep drink. Wipes his mouth.
FATHER. That’s the most fucked-up whiskey I have ever tasted. Absolutely delicious.
WANDERER takes another drink.
WANDERER (with a cough). Really makes you feel like you’ve lived fully.
FATHER takes his flask out of his pocket, dips it into the barrel, takes another drink.
FATHER. Ahhh. I... feel... better. Mmm, sweet nectar! (Licks his lips.) I believe there’s a hint of tabasco in there. You taste that?
FATHER hands flask to SON, who drinks.
SON. Mmm, yes. Fully-aged red pepper. Really gets the qi flowing.
SON begins to float and dance and move about the stage.
FATHER (drinking). This is some good shit.
WANDERER (drinking). It’s doing funny things to my eyes.
FATHER (drinking). Let’s camp here for the night.
WANDERER, FATHER and SON settle to the ground. FATHER passes flask to SON, who drinks and passes it back.
SON (gazing upward). Beautiful stars tonight.
WANDERER and FATHER lie back, look up.
FATHER. Can’t tell where the fireflies end and the stars begin.
WANDERER. A lovely sky.
FATHER (sitting up). Let’s have a show, eh? What do you say, son?
SON. A dance?
FATHER. A dance.
WANDERER. A dance?
FATHER. Yes, my son is working on a new dance piece. He’s an artist. Are you up to it, son?
SON. Of course.
WANDERER. A dance piece? Isn’t that kind of, I don’t know, girly?
FATHER. We believe the masculine and feminine are energies —
SON. Everything is energy.
FATHER. Yes, the masculine and feminine are energies which any human body, male or female, can chose to or happen to embody at any given time.
SON. I love dance.
WANDERER. Do you?
FATHER (enthusiastically, taking a swig) Showtime!
SON stands and assumes his dancer persona. Good breath-control, form, grace, etc. FATHER settles more comfortably into his seat on the ground, drinks his whiskey. WANDERER looks on. SON nods to FATHER, signaling his readiness. FATHER clears his throat.
FATHER (grandly, like a showman). Ladies, well, gentlemen, for your viewing pleasure this evening, a highly acclaimed new dance performance by, well, (proudly) by my son. The piece, of which we will see only a fragment, as it is a work-in-progress, is entitled, “Nothingness.”
SON begins his dance routine. WANDERER and FATHER watch.
WANDERER. I don’t get it.
FATHER. Get what?
WANDERER. What he’s doing?
FATHER. He’s doing what he’s doing. What’s to get?
WANDERER. I mean, what’s it about?
FATHER. Yes, nothing, nothingness, emptiness — clear open space.
WANDERER (drinking). Hmm.
Pause. SON dances on. FATHER takes a deep drink.
WANDERER. Easy there, fellow. You’ll kill yourself.
WANDERER. Where’s his mother?
FATHER is upset by the question. He takes a deep drink. He pulls a handful of teeth from his pocket.
FATHER (indicating the teeth). Here.
WANDERER. Are those teeth?
WANDERER. Wow, nice teeth. Precious commodity these days.
FATHER. They’re not for sale.
FATHER caresses the teeth.
SON drops into an imaginary well, falls down through imaginary infinite space.
FATHER. I love this part. He’s free-falling down a well. You see that?
SON finishes his dance. FATHER and WANDERER clap.
FATHER. Beautiful, son. Really, it’s looking wonderful. Love that well part.
WANDERER. Yeah, it was real curvy.
SON. I’m thirsty.
FATHER. Have a drink.
FATHER hands SON the flask. SON drinks, coughs.
SON. That shit is strong!
WANDERER. Yeah, I’m tripping.
FATHER. I’ve lost myself.
SON (Goes to barrel, looks inside). How will we ever drink this much?
FATHER. No worries.
WANDERER. Give it time.
SON. I can’t wait.
SON sticks his hand down into the barrel, pulls up the cockroach.
SON. I’ve got it!
SON shows cockroach to FATHER, who stands.
FATHER. Well, son, now is the time. Let's say a prayer. (Praying) Forgive my boy for eating sentient life. Okay.
SON eats the cockroach.
SON. Tastes like chicken.
SON goes into a vision fit. WANDERER and FATHER watch.
SON. Ma? Is that you? Ma? ... You look translucent ... What’s that? Dad and I were just having a drink ... Oh, he’s okay... No, he’s not drinking too much... It’s just that we found this great whiskey — what’s that? Yes, the sailor showed me ... the seven seas... and omphalos, okay ... you’re where? ... in the charnel grounds?... not for long ... how long, Ma? ... then where do you go, Ma? ... Ma, then what happens!? ... is there a white-out? ... No? ... are there bonnie banks? ... Ma? ... Did I eat it? ... Of course I ate it... okay, Ma... Ma, I always pay attention! ... Give me a break! ... Okay, will do, Ma ... Ma? ...
SON falls to the ground, writhes around a bit. FATHER comforts him.
FATHER. Son? Son?
SON (coming to). I’m tired, Pop.
FATHER. It’s been a long night.
FATHER. It’s late.
SON (looking longingly at the hole). I was thinking maybe I’d sleep down in the hole.
SON. Good practice.
FATHER (smiling). The best. Go for it.
SON. Goodnight, then, Pop.
FATHER and SON embrace.
FATHER. Goodnight, son. I love you.
SON. I love you, too, Pop.
FATHER. Sweet dreams.
SON. Not likely.
WANDERER. Goodnight, kid.
SON (to WANDERER). Goodnight.
SON climbs into the hole and goes to sleep.
FATHER and WANDERER sit a moment, drinking.
WANDERER. You know, there’s another barrel of this stuff buried in the mountains.
FATHER (drunkenly). I don’t believe you, you bastard.
WANDERER. Suit yourself.
FATHER. You’re a fucking thief, aren’t you?
WANDERER. No. I’m not.
FATHER. Don’t kid me. I know exactly who you are.
FATHER sniffs at WANDERER, takes one last swig from his flask, then begins to nod off. He tries hard to stay awake, to stay alert, but he has had too much to drink. He drops off into sleep.
WANDERER rises, checks to be sure FATHER is asleep, then steels the teeth from his pocket. He drops into the hole and checks SON’S pockets, stealing the SOLDIER’S teeth as well. He jiggles the teeth a moment, for the audience.
FATHER revives from his sleep. WANDERER quickly takes out a gun and shoots FATHER in the chest as he struggles to his feet. FATHER falls to the ground. THIEF then begins to bury the boy alive, kicking dirt into the grave. A moment passes.
FATHER wakes from his brief sojourn to the other side — he was wearing a bullet proof vest — and observes the scene. He rises and, with kung-fu awesomeness, strikes WANDERER from behind in the head. FATHER quickly subdues his foe, taking him to the ground. As WANDERER struggles to main tain consciousness, FATHER speaks to him.
FATHER. You’ll be all right, fellow. I’m not even going to kill you. That’s my son’s job. He’s got it out for you. He’ll get you. When the end comes, my man, all I can say is follow the white light. Stay on the path and follow the light.
FATHER takes the teeth back from WANDERER. WANDERER gets up and runs off stage.
FATHER fills his flask and a canteen from the book bag with whiskey. He drinks. He takes a hearty sniff of the air and looks around, gauging the next move. He wakes SON up and helps him out of the hole, brushing dirt off him. SON is in a dreamlike trance.
FATHER. This way, son.
SON. Is this the way to the charnel grounds?
FATHER. Yes, son. We’re on our way.
FATHER pulls the mother’s teeth out of his pocket, hands them to SON.
FATHER. Here you are.
SON takes the teeth and puts them in his pocket. They walk on.
SON. Do you see her, Dad?
FATHER. No. Do you?
SON (looking intently ahead, pointing). Yes, I do. I see her now. She’s right there, Dad. She’s right there, in the meadow.
FATHER. Yes, she’s with us, isn’t she, son? She’s still with us, isn’t she?
They trek onward in the night. FATHER drinks from his flask, passes it to SON, who drinks. And so on as they trek.
The following morning.
FATHER and SON asleep amidst an apocalyptic charnel grounds. A graveyard covered with tombstones, human bones, half or whole skeletons, putrefying corpses, detached limbs and popped-out eyeballs. Comically horrifying. A fire burns in a metal pit toward the back of the stage. Perhaps a mangy dog wanders the scene. Vultures, crows and ravens, or the sound thereof. The stuff of nightmares.
FATHER and SON sit beside MOTHER’S gravestone. The epitaph reads,
“Here lies our Mother, A Loving and Compassionate Christian Woman, Though Moody at Times”
FATHER sits up.
FATHER (holding his head, terribly hung over). Good God, fuck me.
FATHER flops back down.
FATHER (sits up, grandly). I’ll never drink again!
FATHER reaches for his flask, makes to empty it out, then changes his mind, takes a nip, coughs his ugly cough.
FATHER tries to crawl towards SON, fails.
FATHER. You alive?
SON. I think so. You?
SON. How can you tell?
FATHER. Images. I’m receiving images.
SON. Of the phenomenal world?
FATHER. I believe so.
SON. Of our particular space-time continuum?
SON. The same one from yesterday?
FATHER. From what I recall, yes. You?
SON. I never know for sure, but I assume so.
FATHER. How else could one go on?
SON. If I knew I had awoken in an alternate universe —
FATHER. Or in the thirteenth dimension of string theory—
SON. Then I could not go on.
FATHER. Nor I. So, for the sake of onward-going, one assumes it’s the same.
SON. One does.
FATHER. A lovely space-time continuum, ours.
SON. Relatively speaking.
FATHER. Of course, always relatively speaking.
SON. How would one speak absolutely anymore?
FATHER. I don’t know. I suppose one could say “God”.
SON (testing it out). “God.”
FATHER. Yes, like that.
SON. Oh God.
SON (with emotion). Oh dear God!
FATHER. You have a knack for that. Go on!
SON. Save us, God! Save us!
FATHER (with his signature enthusiasm). Yes!
Pause. They look up expectantly. God does not save them.
SON. Maybe later.
SON. One can hope.
FATHER. Though it’s not advisable.
SON. Dad, do you ever sometimes, even for a flash, for a brief flicker of consciousness, as you would say, still believe in God?
FATHER (breathing in, out). No.
They sigh. Pause.
FATHER. You know, your mother believed in God.
SON. She did?
FATHER. Yes, every Tuesday.
SON. So, how miserable do you feel today, on the scale of one to seven?
FATHER (clutching his head). I’m afraid my current state renders our scale completely meaningless.
SON. Should we make a new scale then?
SON. Say from negative seven to positive seven?
FATHER. Including zero?
SON. No. No, yes.
FATHER. That may work.
SON. The added negative values would provide a way to express the increasing misery of our situation, while still maintaining the integrity of the previous range.
FATHER. So I could register, say, a negative three this morning, a new low, to be sure, yet simultaneously allowing for still lower states.
FATHER. Brilliant. So then, today, right now, negative three.
SON. Me, negative four.
FATHER. Oh come on. I drank more.
SON. I ate a whiskey-soaked cockroach that gave me visions of dead people.
FATHER. True — but I’m old!
FATHER gives son a hard look.
SON. Fine, negative two and half.
FATHER. Very well, then, the new scale is established.
SON. The new scale is genius.
FATHER. If you don’t say so yourself.
FATHER. Yes, son?
SON (sniffing). Do you smell something terrible?
FATHER. Oh God, yes, what is that?
SON. I don’t know.
FATHER (sniffing). Oh God, that’s terrible.
FATHER crawls backstage toward the metal pit in which a fire burns. He looks in.
FATHER. Here we are.
SON (crawling toward the pit). What is it?
FATHER. Son, that’s the smell of burning human flesh.
SON (holding his nose). Gives me a headache.
FATHER (looking into the pit). Come here and take a good look.
SON struggles to peer in, watches a moment, then falls over and vomits.
FATHER kneels beside SON.
FATHER. You see, this fire isn’t even hot enough. The bones will not burn, only the flesh. Cremation furnaces burn at temperatures ranging from 1600 to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s what you really want. That’s what I want.
SON (wiping himself clean). A hot fire in the end.
FATHER. Yes. Cremation in a very hot fire. If the fire is not hot enough, the bones will not burn. In that case, what I want you to do, son — and this is my final wish — I want you to file my bones down. Will you do that for me? However long it takes, I want you to file my bones, every last one of them, down to nothing.
SON. To nothingness.
FATHER. To dust. And then sprinkle the dust over your mother’s grave. That’s very important. I don’t want interment in the earth like your mother, God bless her Christian heart. That’s too slow for me. All these bodies gradually decaying, their karma floating through the air. No, sir, not for me. When I’m done, I want no aspect of my body still configured, I want no aspect of my soul still hanging around. Understand? I want out. Om, gate, gate.
SON. Gone, gone. Yes, sir.
FATHER. You’ll file me down then?
SON. Yes, Pop.
FATHER. Even the teeth?
SON (pausing to think, skeptically). Do I have to?
FATHER. It is my final wish.
SON (reluctantly). If you insist, then yes, of course.
SON. Can we talk about something else?
FATHER. Like what?
SON. I don’t know. Baseball.
FATHER. The Yankee’s Mariano Rivera was perhaps the best closing pitcher in the history of baseball.
SON. I agree.
FATHER. How about you? Have you decided? I mean, I don’t mean to be morbid, but I’d like to know your wishes.
SON. I’d like to be cryogenically frozen.
FATHER. Fair enough, though I don’t recommend it. You know, you’re quite the clinger. Just like your mother.
SON. I’m young yet. I still cling to life, and proudly. We’re different like that. You’re old.
FATHER. That I am.
SON. And, to be frank, you kind of have a death wish.
FATHER. I do not!
SON. No? Not a touch of the old Thanatos, you know, ever since Mom —
FATHER (offended). Don’t be ridiculous.
SON. I’m just saying.
FATHER. Not fearing death and desiring death are two different things.
SON. Jury’s still out on you.
FATHER (exasperated). Death! Everybody’s hung up on death! It’s silly!
SON. Boy, that really smells awful.
FATHER. Like burning souls.
SON. Like burning flesh.
FATHER. Same difference.
SON. I can’t stand it!
FATHER (inhaling deeply). It’s good practice.
FATHER (looking up at the sky). It’s late. Perhaps we should get right to our exercises.
SON. Sweat it out?
FATHER (making a weak fist strong sign). Yes.
FATHER and SON attempt to stand, fail. Attempt again, teeter, but manage to assume the Chinese split position. They both are in great pain, and making shoddy splits, but are trying to hide the truth from each other. The splits come undone, and they both fall to the ground, exhausted, hung-over, beaten.
FATHER. Let’s move our exercises to the afternoon.
SON. Or to tomorrow.
FATHER. There’s always tomorrow.
SON. No, there’s not.
FATHER. You’re right.
SON. Only today.
FATHER. And sometimes not even that.
SON. Sometimes only yesterday.
FATHER. Yesterday was nice.
SON. The party was fun.
FATHER. That was fine whiskey.
SON. Strong stuff.
FATHER. Transcendently strong.
SON. I can still taste that cockroach, though.
FATHER (feeling his head). And damn that whiskey now!
SON (working a bad taste from his mouth). Damn that cockroach!
SON. I’m hungry.
FATHER. I’m speechless.
FATHER (gazing up). Nice day out.
SON. Cloudy, but nice.
FATHER. Overcast, but altogether well-suited to my mood.
SON. That’s all one can ask for.
FATHER. That — and sun.
SON. Though not today.
FATHER. No, just clouds.
SON. A sky full of gloom.
FATHER (enthusiastically). Perhaps we should sing!
SON. I think we could manage that.
FATHER. We won’t even have to move.
SON. That’s true.
FATHER. And we ought to do something.
FATHER. Get the qi moving.
SON. But why?
FATHER. Just because, no why.
SON. ‘No why’?
FATHER. No why.
SON. Okay, how about “Sally Gardens”?
FATHER hums a note. SON sings the first verse, beautifully, even more expressively than the previous morning.
"Down by the Sally Gardens, my love and I did meet.
She crossed the Sally Gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree,
But I, being young and foolish, with her did not agree."
FATHER joins in for the second and final verse.
"In a field down by the river, my love and I did stand
And on my leaning shoulder, she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy , as the grass grows on the weirs,
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears."
FATHER is sad. FATHER raises his chin and they sing the last line again, “But I was young and foolish, and am now full of tears.” FATHER sighs gently. SON is sad.
FATHER (wiping away a tear). Good God, that’s a sad song.
SON. I feel worse now.
FATHER. Me too, dropped a point.
SON. Just plain miserable.
FATHER. Yes, me too.
SON. Let’s never sing that song again.
FATHER. Yes, son?
SON. What’s “sally”?
FATHER. An anglicization of a silly, Irish word.
SON. But what does it mean?
FATHER. In this case, it means a willow tree.
SON looks at FATHER expectantly, silently pleading to hear more about the history of the song.
FATHER. Far away in old times, a sally garden was a willow grove on the edge of the village. The withes of the trees were harvested for making baskets and thatch cottage roofs. This grove was also a kind of lovers lane, a place where lovers met, a paradise.
FATHER. Yes, son?
SON. I feel it now.
FATHER. What’s that?
SON. Sadness after song.
FATHER. That’s good.
FATHER. Means your growing.
SON. But it hurts, bad.
FATHER. That’s good. Pain is the path to liberation. Go beyond the pain.
They share a nip from the flask.
FATHER. Can you see what it is you’re sad about?
SON begins to cry, and weeps throughout the following scene.
FATHER (comforting SON). It’s okay, son. What is it?
SON (weeping). I don’t know.
FATHER. That’s okay.
SON. It’s everything.
FATHER. Let it out.
SON. It hurts. It hurts so fucking bad sometimes.
FATHER. I know it does. It’s okay.
SON (pulling the teeth out of his pocket). And I miss Mom.
FATHER. I know you do. I do too. It’s all right.
SON. And I feel weak. And I feel that you think I’m weak.
FATHER (grabs his boy by the shoulders). No son, you’re strong. You’re stronger than I am.
SON. That’s not true.
FATHER. Yes, it is.
SON (weeping still). And you’re dying on me, Pop. I know it! Even though you’re strong, you’re dying. That awful cough of yours!
SON cries. FATHER is silent.
SON. And I’ll be all alone — and I’m scared.
FATHER. I’m not going anywhere, son. It’s all-good.
SON. And I just don’t get it.
FATHER. Get what, son?
SON (with a sweeping motion). The whole thing. Life! Death! What happens at the end. The fucking point of everything!
FATHER. That’s all right, son.
SON (with great existential anger). But I don’t fucking get it!
FATHER. That’s all right, my boy. Sometimes there’s nothing to get.
FATHER (consoling SON). Sometimes there’s just this.
FATHER consoles SON. SON finishes his cry, sniffles, rubs his eyes. FATHER coughs his cough. The sun comes out from behind the clouds.
FATHER. Here comes the sun.
SON looks up.
SON (sniffling). Well.
FATHER. We’d better practice.
FATHER. The sinking method?
SON. All right.
SON and FATHER lie on their backs. The following part is performed patiently, like a meditation, as if FATHER is guiding the entire audience through a meditation.
FATHER. Close your eyes and breathe in the air from beneath you... Feel it come in through all the pores of your body... Feel it come in through your feet, your legs, your lower back, your shoulders, bring the air up from beneath you... Breathe up the energy of the earth... let your awareness be completely identified with the earth below... don’t come up into your head, don’t come up into your body... let your body be open space... relax and let go... and now begin sinking... sink down one foot into the earth below you... sink down another foot... and another foot, three feet now below the surface... sink even lower... six feet... sink... drop down into the infinite space of the earth below you... ten feet... one hundred feet... one thousand feet... it should be dark now... one hundred thousand feet... the dark center of the earth... sink... sink... sink... allow your awareness to drop into fundamental, primal space... there are a million ways to experience space...
FATHER. Keep dropping... release, let go, and open... eventually we arrive to a place where there is no boundary, no center... release, let go, and open... fall back into that open, unfabricated space... fall back into the primordial freshness —
SON (sitting up abruptly). Dad?
FATHER. Yes, son?
SON. What is that?
FATHER. What’s what, son?
SON (sitting up). Well, sometimes when we’re doing the sinking technique, you say things like that — “the primordial freshness” — and honestly, I don’t really know what the hell you’re talking about.
FATHER (sitting up). Hmm. Well, you know what “primordial” is, yes?
SON. Existing at the beginning of time.
FATHER. And you know what “freshness” means, yes?
SON. In this case, I believe the meaning is pure energy.
FATHER. Okay then.
SON. But what’s “primordial freshness”?
FATHER. Put it together.
SON. Pure energy existing at the beginning of time.
SON (unconvinced). Hmm.
SON lies back down. FATHER lies back down.
FATHER. Forget the words... go beyond the names... just feel... just drop... let go of yourself entirely... drop down into the darkness of the earth... into the warm, comforting, infinite space of the earth below... into its primordial freshness...
A faint, far-off rustle in the leaves is heard.
FATHER sits up, looks over at SON.
FATHER. Did you hear that?
FATHER sniffs the air, suddenly realizes the threat is near — the government agents are approaching — but knows instantly that he will do nothing about it, that he will let it come. That his time has come. FATHER then falls into a coughing fit, bringing SON out of his meditation.
SON (placing his hand on FATHER’S back). Dad, you okay?
FATHER. I’m fine.
SON. Should I fetch some water?
FATHER. Yes, do that. I’ll start a fire.
SON. No, just sit there. I’ll start the fire when I get back.
FATHER. I’ve got it.
SON rises to fetch the water, hears the faint, far-off rustle in the wood.
SON. Did you hear that?
FATHER (lying). No.
SON. You didn’t hear that? Shh, listen.
They listen in silence. No sound is heard.
SON. I swear I heard something.
FATHER. Perhaps a squirrel.
SON. It didn’t sound like a squirrel. Heavier. Human feet.
SON (listening, still hearing nothing more). Okay, I’ll look for water.
SON gets the pot from the backpack, then goes to fetch water. Unfortunately, there is no stream nearby. He looks around, but to no avail. FATHER starts a fire, relaxes besides it, coughs.
SON. I couldn’t find any water.
FATHER. That’s tough.
SON sighs a long sigh. FATHER gives SON a look as if to say, Don’t sigh such a long sigh.
FATHER. You want to munch on the tea leaves?
FATHER hands the bag of tea leaves to SON, who puts a handful in his mouth.
SON. You want some?
FATHER. No, I’m good.
SON (munching, his energies returning). When we were doing the sinking method, I remembered my dream.
FATHER. Good. Any clues?
FATHER. Let’s hear it. Every detail.
SON. The cockroach came back. And he laughed at me. He laughed and laughed and laughed, and then I figured out why.
SON. Because we blew it! Because that guy from yesterday, the wanderer, he was the man who murdered Mom. And we let him get away! Goddam how could we not have known! The cockroach was laughing at me for letting him get away. Damn it! If I had that son of bitch here right now, I’d tear his fucking eyes out!
FATHER. No worries. He can’t be far. Be patient.
SON. The cockroach was a real asshole, laughing and laughing, and then blabbing on and on about how radiation kills cells and how cells are most sensitive when they are dividing. He explained how radiation is used to kill cancer cells because cancer cells divide more often than do normal cells, so with the right dose of radiation, you can kill off the cancer cells while only killing some of the most rapidly dividing normal cells like the bone marrow cells of our immune system. The cockroach said he was worried about his molting cycle, when his cells would divide. And he said my cells are dividing all the time. Then his voice morphed into Mom’s voice. For a while she talked about her cells too, and their dividing. Then she told me she was looking for a place with freshwater. She said she was thirsty and tired and frightened. And she gesticulated a lot, in a wild and crazy manner. She didn’t look good, Pop.
FATHER. Well, she is dead.
SON. Yeah, but even for a dead person. She was real frazzled.
FATHER. She’ll be okay. She’s tough.
SON. Yeah, I guess.
FATHER. I mean, at this point, what’s the worst that could happen to her?
SON. Eternal damnation.
SON. Okay then, life as a cockroach over and over and over again.
FATHER. Don’t disrespect your mother, son.
SON. I’m just saying I’m worried about the fate of her soul.
FATHER. Don’t be. She’s just in a state of limbo right now. She’s a hungry ghost.
SON. Hungry for what?
SON. I’ll give it to her.
FATHER. I know you will, son.
SON. I will.
FATHER. I know you will. So then, the clues?
SON. Right. She pointed. She kept pointing. For a while, I couldn’t tell what the hell she was pointing at. You know how there’s no perspective in a dream. There’s no peripheral vision at all. It’s just what’s in front of you. There’s nothing off to the side. And there are no secondary thoughts, just first thoughts. There’s no voice-over in your head. It’s just the dream. Just the images. The strange, coded images presented directly. Nothing else.
FATHER. Entirely fluid.
SON. Yes. So she kept pointing to someplace. And every time I tried to look in the direction in which she pointed — even though I had no body and no consciousness, nothing with which to look in that direction — I lost it. I lost the whole point of why I was even trying to look off in that direction in the first place. Ultimately, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t control what came next. The dream flitted about of its own accord. In the final analysis, there was an aspect of the thing, of the whole dream, that I simply could not control. So I stopped trying. I completely let it go. Or at least that’s what I dreamt I did. Then, all of a sudden, as soon as I stopped trying so damn hard to see what she was pointing to, I saw it: her grave. She was pointing to her own grave.
SON looks fondly on his mother’s gravestone, by which they’ve been sitting all morning.
SON. That’s the weird part. She wants me to dig up her bones. I think she wants me to sleep on them, use ‘em as a pillow. That was the feeling I got.
SON. Right? They she drifted off, and the meadow came back into view.
SON. I want to find that meadow.
FATHER. I know you do, son.
SON. That’s the best dream of them all.
FATHER (indicating MOTHER’S grave). But first — to the grave robbing.
SON. It’s not grave robbing.
SON. Not if she asked us to dig her up.
FATHER. Not sure that’d hold up in court.
SON. What court?
They rise and begin digging up MOTHER’S grave.
FATHER. I feel like Jerry Cruncher.
FATHER. Jerry Cruncher, A Tale of Two Cities.
SON. Never read it.
FATHER. Great story.
They dig on.
FATHER (out of breath). You know, son, I’m not sure I’m cut out for this digging today.
SON. Take a break.
FATHER. Perhaps we could take it easy for a minute together.
SON. Take it easy? Are you sure?
FATHER. Yes, I think I’m ready for another go at that.
SON. Okay, let’s do it.
SON puts down his shovel. FATHER and SON sit down.
FATHER. Okay — using no technique at all — just, well — take it easy.
They take it easy.
SON (in a takin’ it easy pose). How’s it look?
FATHER. Good, real good. And me?
SON. Loosen up. Relax your shoulders a bit.
FATHER. Right. (Loosens his shoulders.) Better?
FATHER (inspired, with his signature enthusiasm). Yes! I think I’ve got it.
SON (looks). Yeah, that looks good.
FATHER. Seriously, I’m feeling it. I’m really feeling it! I’m taking it easy.
SON. That’s great, Pop.
FATHER lets drop a single tear. Having attained this realization about taking it easy, FATHER reaches a climax of emotionality during the following exchange.
SON. What’s wrong?
FATHER. It’s nothing. It’s just —
SON. What, Pop? What is it?
FATHER. It’s just, I can’t explain it really, it’s just, well — I get it.
SON. Get what?
FATHER. What she was trying to show me.
FATHER. Your mother.
SON. About taking it easy?
SON. What do you mean?
FATHER. How to take it easy.
FATHER (regaining his composure). I don’t know how to explain it. It's like a constant meditation, a constant prayer. But instead of thinking about it, instead of using technique, you just, well, all you have to do is — just let it all flow through.
SON. Yeah, that doesn’t really explain it for me.
FATHER. Sorry, son. That’s the best I can do.
FATHER takes it easy a moment, SON grows anxious to dig.
SON. You ready to dig?
FATHER. Not really.
SON. Come on.
FATHER. You go ahead.
FATHER sits perfectly still, in a state.
SON. What’s up with you?
FATHER. Nothing. Nothing at all.
The rustle in the woods, this time louder, closer.
SON (started). Pop, did you hear that?
SON. Well, come on. Let’s go!
FATHER. No, no, it’s okay. Let’s stay here.
SON (upset). Come on, Pop! Get up! They’re coming!
FATHER. Just let it come.
SON. No! Come on, Pop!
The rustle turns into the clear sound of footsteps. SON tries to pull FATHER to his feet.
SON. Get up, Pop. They’re coming. I can smell it. It’s the agents. Come on.
FATHER. I know it, son. You’re right. It is the agents. Very good. But they can’t hurt me. It’s okay.
SON. What are you talking about, they can’t hurt you? Come on!
FATHER. The agents can’t hurt me.
SON. Of course they can.
FATHER. No, they can’t. It’s all right, son.
SON. No, it’s not! Come on!
FATHER. Everything’s going to be okay.
SON fights with FATHER trying to get him to his feet. FATHER is passive, utterly resigned. SON’S attack devolves into crying. SON falls atop FATHER. FATHER is dying.
SON (realizing that his FATHER is dying). No, Pop. Don’t go.
FATHER. It’s okay, son. The soul lives on.
SON (crying, very angry, in a fit). No! You're wrong! This is it — this is your one life and then that’s it!
FATHER. No, the soul returns. Leaving the body is no big deal.
SON. No! How can you say that? We don’t know anything for certain!
FATHER. Sure we do, son. Sure we do.
SON. No we don’t!
FATHER. We can know everything. That’s the beauty of the thing.
SON. No we can’t! Come on, Pop. Don’t do this. Get up!
FATHER. I feel so light. Utterly free of desire.
SON. Stop, Pop. Stop!
FATHER. Lighter and lighter, son. Be ever lighter and lighter.
FATHER. I love you, son.
SON. Pop, No! (Sings) Don’t die, don’t die, don’t die, don’t die. Don’t die, don’t die. Don’t die, don’t die, don’t die, don’t die. Don’t die, don’t die.
FATHER. Ha! That brings me back. Okay, let’s have a drink, yes?
FATHER takes the flask from his pocket, drinks, passes flask to SON, who drinks.
FATHER. Tell me a joke.
SON. What category: wife, Zen, or bestiality?
SON. Of course. Two farmers, a father and a son, stand on top of the hill overlooking their herd of cows. The son gets an idea, and says to his father, “Dad, let’s walk down there and fuck one of those cows.” The father turns to his son and says, “No, son. Let’s run down there and fuck all of them.”
SON laughs. FATHER goes into a laughing fit.
Enter WANDERER. SON springs to his feet.
SON. There he is!
SON attacks WANDERER, and with kung-fu awesomeness, quickly brings WANDERER to the ground.
WANDERER. Don’t hurt me! I come with important information.
SON. You killed my mother!
WANDERER. No I didn’t!
SON. Yes you did!
WANDERER. But I was ordered to.
SON. You confess then!
WANDERER. It was not my choice.
SON. But still, you were her executioner.
WANDERER (taking his time, shamefully). Yes.
SON. Dad, hold him down! (To WANDERER) I’m going to tear your eyes out!
FATHER holds WANDERER down.
WANDERER. Wait! I have to tell you something!
WANDERER. The agents — they’re coming. I passed them on my way. I only came to warn you.
SON sniffs the air. FATHER sniffs the air. They regard one another and nod their heads.
SON (to FATHER). I have to tear his eyes out.
SON. Because — because he killed Mom!
WANDERER. I’m sorry. It was an order. I was only obeying orders. They were after your father. They were trying to hurt him. I’m sorry!
SON (raising his hand above the WANDERER’S face). I have to do it!
FATHER. You see how even vengeance is desire, son, how seeking justice is samsara.
SON. But I have to!
SON looks one last time at his FATHER, for approval. FATHER, reluctantly, nods yes. SON tears the WANDERER’S eyes out and holds them aloft, proudly and grotesquely.
SON. Agg! Finally!
WANDERER screams in agony. FATHER looks down in shame.
SON staggers the stage, mad with blood and vengeance.
WANDERER. They’re coming! Run, sir, they’re coming.
The rustle in the woods is heard, closer and closer, louder and louder. SON, in his blood-madness, is oblivious to the sound. FATHER perks his ears up and simply awaits his end.
WANDERER. Run, sir! They’ll kill you!
FATHER. They can’t hurt me.
Enter GOVERNMENT AGENT ONE and GOVERNMENT AGENT TWO.
SON shoves the eyeballs in his pocket and drops into his fighting stance.
FATHER stands upright, alert and calm.
Both AGENTS draw their guns and point them at FATHER.
AGENT (ONE). Put your hands where I can see them.
FATHER raises his hands into the air.
FATHER. We are unarmed.
AGENT. Who are you?
FATHER (indicating SON). I am the boy’s father.
AGENT. This is no joke, sir. Identify yourself.
FATHER (proudly). I am an Eagle Scout.
AGENT shoots at FATHER’S feet. FATHER does not budge.
AGENT. What is your name?
FATHER. What is your name?
AGENT. Agent #9, CIA.
FATHER. What do you want, Agent #9?
AGENT. I want to know: Are you or are you not Mr. Alfred Jones?
FATHER. I am the wind.
AGENT shoots at SON; the bullet grazes his arm. SON falls to ground, bleeds. FATHER makes to tend to SON.
AGENT. Don’t move, Mr. Jones. Or I’ll fire.
FATHER. Don’t shoot the boy.
AGENT. I’ll shoot whomever I want. (flashing his Agent’s badge). Mr. Jones, Agent Alfred Jones, you are hereby under arrest by order of the United States government.
FATHER. Are you all right, son?
SON (dabbing his arm, smiling). Yes. Feels good.
AGENT (angry). Did you hear me?
FATHER. Yes, I heard you. What are the charges?
AGENT ONE signals to AGENT TWO, who opens a notebook and begins to read the list.
AGENT TWO. Treason.
AGENT. Four counts.
AGENT TWO. Withholding of top-secret information.
AGENT. Twelve counts.
AGENT TWO. Public maligning of the State.
AGENT. Four hundred and seventeen counts.
AGENT TWO. Practice of the dark arts.
AGENT. Fourteen counts.
AGENT TWO. Communing with spirits.
AGENT. Thirteen counts.
AGENT TWO. Disbelieving in God.
AGENT. One count.
AGENT TWO. Corrupting the youth.
AGENT. One count.
AGENT TWO. That’s it.
SON. Jesus Christ, Dad!
FATHER. I meant to tell you about some of that, son.
AGENT. Mr. Jones, on your stomach. Now. No games.
FATHER kneels, slowly lowers himself onto his stomach. AGENT TWO removes a set of handcuffs from his belt.
AGENT. Now, Mr. Jones, we’re going to approach you. If you so much as breath, we’ll shoot the boy in the head.
FATHER. Don’t hurt the boy.
AGENTS approach FATHER and SON, handcuff both of them, sit them up, bounds their legs.
A bomb explodes in the distance.
SON. A TPZ 700!
FATHER. Very good.
AGENT cracks FATHER across the face with his gun.
FATHER. It’s coming, isn’t it, Agent #9?
AGENT. Not if I can help it.
SON. What’s coming, Dad?
FATHER. Don’t worry, son. You’ll be all right. (To AGENT) We’d better put our gas masks on.
AGENT. Quiet! I’m trying to think here!
AGENT TWO. He’s very good at that.
AGENT. Shut up!
AGENT signals to AGENT TWO for the gas masks. AGENT TWO fetches two masks for him and AGENT ONE from his bag. FATHER then signals to his own bag. AGENT TWO fetches the two masks from the bag and hands them to FATHER and SON, who put the masks on. WANDERER looks on forlornly and maskless, coughing and holding his hand over his mouth.
AGENT. Damn it, Jones, let’s get to the point. We need the codes, and we need the codes immediately.
Sound of airplanes, another bomb.
FATHER. I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to help you.
AGENT nods to AGENT TWO who cracks FATHER across the face with his gun.
AGENT. I don’t think you understand. The enemy has acquired nuclear technology. They have infiltrated our military and have hijacked three planes that are now, as we speak, airborne. These planes are en route to their targets, one of which is only mere miles from here, and if we don’t get the codes from you, we will soon see our civilization bombed into oblivion. You yourself, and your son here, will die. Do you understand, Mr. Jones?
FATHER. It all sounds very serious, but I’m afraid I can’t help you.
AGENT. Then you force us to use enhanced interrogation techniques on you, Mr. Jones. Johnson, bring me the balls.
AGENT TWO fetches two absurdly large medicine balls from his bag.
AGENT. Put him into position; his son, too.
AGENT TWO stretches out the legs of FATHER and SON, exposing their crotches. He fixes their legs to the ground by inserting metal clamps over their ankles and into the earth.
WANDERER (from his pathetic position on the ground). What’s going on?
AGENT. Shut up! (Looking at WANDERER) Jesus, what happened to you?
WANDERER. The boy tore my eyes out.
Sound of approaching planes.
AGENT (to AGENT TWO). Hurry!
FATHER. Do you know what happens when a nuclear bomb drops? Do you know what the effects are? Have you ever studied the science? If you’re close to the hypocenter, you can be vaporized immediately. The temperatures will reach 500 million degrees Fahrenheit, at ground zero. Outward from the hypocenter, most casualties are caused by burns from the heat. Fires will spawn everywhere. Then there’s the radiation to worry about —
AGENT. Shut up! I’m trying to think here. (To AGENT TWO) Hit him with the ball in the balls!
AGENT TWO strikes FATHER in the crotch with the medicine ball. FATHER is stoic and non-responsive.
AGENT. The codes, Mr. Jones! The codes! The self-destruct defensive codes! There is no time!
FATHER. In reality, time is the four dimension.
AGENT. Strike the boy!
AGENT TWO strikes SON in the crotch with the medicine ball.
SON bites his own words, swallows the pain.
FATHER. As deaths go, vaporization is not so bad.
AGENT TWO strikes. Sound of airplanes, bombs, imminent doom.
FATHER. A man could do worse.
This third strike does visibly cause FATHER immense pain in his genital area.
FATHER. It won’t be long now, son. Ten seconds. Relax into it.
AGENT (madly, loosing his cool, his focus). The codes! You fuck! They’re going to kill us!
FATHER (to SON). On the count of three, break free and roll into the grave. One, two, three.
SON breaks free of his bonds and rolls into the grave. FATHER rolls in on top of him. In the commotion, their masks fall off. Then the nuclear blast goes off, represented on stage perhaps by a great white flash, a booming sound, and the swirling of dust. When the dust settles, literally, the AGENTS and the WANDERER have been completely vaporized. Only three small piles of ash remain where they had been standing. Meanwhile, in the grave, FATHER lies atop SON, his back is on fire, and he has momentarily lost consciousness. SON, alive and well, pushes FATHER off him, and pats down the fire on FATHER’S back. The SON acts deftly, with great courage and purpose and clarity.
SON. Dad? Dad, are you alive?
FATHER (coming to). Images, I’m still receiving images.
SON (relieved). Oh, thank God!
FATHER. Everything is God.
SON. Oh, thank God, thank everything! — you’re still alive!
FATHER coughs his terrible cough.
SON (greatly distressed). No!
FATHER. It’s no big deal, son. It’s just my time.
SON. No! Don’t let go!
FATHER. Put your mask back on.
SON. No! I’ll go with you.
FATHER (sternly, authoritatively). Put your mask on.
SON puts his mask back on.
FATHER. It’s all right, my boy. I’ve known this moment for a long, long time.
SON. No! (Sings, more slowly, interrupted by tears, only makes it through half the ditty) Don’t die, don’t die, don’t die, don’t die. Don’t die, don’t die.
FATHER. Sorry, son. Not this time.
SON. Would you like to hear a joke?
FATHER. No thanks.
SON. I've got a new one. If there is no God, how come every time I look up into the clear blue sky, I see an old man with a long white beard laughing at me?
FATHER laughs, long and hard, a blissful laughing fit, he laughs himself to death.
SON. Don’t go, Pop.
FATHER (still laughing and coughing and perhaps crying; one could hardly discriminate the laugh from the cry, or the cough from the laugh). Keep practicing, son. I love you.
FATHER dies. SON closes his FATHER’S eyes with his hand then lays his head on his FATHER’S chest. SON does not cry. FATHER’S spirit rises out of his body. SON watches it, talks to it. The audience sees nothing but their own projections.
SON. Pop? Where will you go now?
The spirit, unfortunately, due to the natural laws of physics, cannot answer in straight, grammatical English. What he says comes out garbled, unheard.
SON (growing frustrated). What? What’s that? What are you saying? It’s all garbled. Speak more clearly. I can’t understand you.
SON. Okay, I’ll be quiet. I’ll listen. But damn it, Pop, tell me what happens to you now.
SON watches the spirit rise higher and higher, higher and higher. Then SON rises, goes to the barrel and starts a fire. He drags the body of his FATHER over to the barrel, measures the heat of the fire with his hands, decides it is not yet hot enough. He then resumes digging up his mother’s bones, which he pulls out of the ground and with which he makes a small pile, a pillow. He stands now and objectively observes the scene. He breathes in, out, looks up, looks down, breathes in, out. A cockroach runs across his feet.
SON. What happens now, Pop? Tell me what happens next.
SON listens intently, closes his eyes, and listens.