Saturday, October 30, 2010

Douglas Messerli | "Service" (on Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter)

by Douglas Messerli

Harold Pinter The Dumb Waiter / first performed at the Hampstead Theatre Club, London on January 21, 1960 / subsequently performed at the Royal Court Theater, London, on March 8, 1960

Harold Pinter The Caretaker and The Dumb Waiter (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1961)

The "dumb waiter" of Pinter's play of the same name is, of course, Gus, who with his partner Ben murders unknown individuals they are assigned. Each time they meet in a room and wait for the arrival of the victim, accomplish the dark deed, and leave. This time around they are holed up in a small room that appears it may once have been a kitchen for a restaurant or bar above, a presumption they must accept since there is a dumb waiter and a speaking-tube between the floors.

Gus is dumb not only in his inability to fully express himself but in his choice of career—although unlike his partner, Ben, he seems to have some sort of sense of guilt, at least, for their last job, the murder of a girl:

GUS: I was just thinking about that girl, that's all.

GUS sits on the bed.

She wasn't much to look at, but still. It was a mess though, wasn't
it? What a mess. Honest, I can't remember a mess like that one.
They don't seem to hold together like men, women. A looser
texture, like. Didn't she spread, eh? She didn't half spread. Kaw! But
I've been meaning to ask you.

BEN sits up and clenches his eyes.

Who clears up after we've gone?

It is perhaps these second thoughts, emanating from the horrible memory of the body obviously torn asunder by their gunshots, that threatens the end of his service. For what character and audience simultaneously discover in the final moments is that he is the victim this time around; as he goes out for a drink of water, he returns to find himself facing Ben with gun in hand.
Yet the dumb waiter is also an object with which the two men become hilariously involved when they began receiving orders for various dishes, including Macaroni Pastitsio and Ormitha Macarounada. The stove has no gas, and the men have little in the way of sustenance, except for Gus' biscuits, a bar of chocolate, a half pint of milk, and one Eccles cake, stale. Yet, despite his own hunger he gives up these precious objects as replacements for the foods they cannot provide. In short, in remains in service not only to his dreadful job of murdering unknown beings, but attempts to obey any demand they make of him. He is a born lackey, a man who was determined from birth to act out the demands of those in control, whether they be of some nefarious upper class or of the criminal underground. It hardly matters for Gus. And given the absurdity of the demands for the various dishes ordered up, he might as well have been murdered for his inability to live up to the demands.

At least he questions, wonders if those in charge are not toying with them, giving them matches, for example, when they know there is nothing to light. Ben, although more literate—he reads the newspaper over and over, commenting on the ordinary events it describes as if they were more horrendous than the murders he commits—but he does not ever challenge the authority of what he describes as the "organisation." For him it is a large system with "departments for everything."

Ben, in fact, although smarter than Gus, may be a sort of dumber waiter, about which the men's final staredown at the end of the play hints. This time he must kill Gus; but next time might it not be himself who is called upon to unknowingly pass through the doorway?

Los Angeles, January 5, 2009

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Gertrude Stein

Lew Welch

Aram Saroyan

Press on the link below to read Aram Saroyan's two plays, Gertrude Stein Lectures in America and
A Tender Mind: The Life and Times of Lew Welch, Beat Poet

Copyright (c) 2010 by Aram Saroyan

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Douglas Messerli "What America Abandons Abandons America" (on Mac Wellman's Two September)

by Douglas Messerli

Mac Wellman Two September, New York, The Flea Theater / November 29-December 16, 2006 (The performance I saw was on December 7, 2006)

Over the years I have probably seen more plays by the noted American playwright Mac Wellman than any other writer. Beginning as early as 1986, I saw Mac’s play Cleveland performed as a BACA downtown production at, of all places, Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan. In 1992, I attended the first of his famed Crowtet series, The Murder of Crows, at Primary Stages in New York. At the first production of the reconstructed Victory Theater on 42nd Street, I witnessed the 1994 En Garde Arts production of his Crowbar, which won two Obie Awards. The same year I saw both Swoop and Dracula at the Soho Repetory Theatre. The Los Angeles theater company, Bottom's Dream—with whom I co-produced a series of readings that included Mac’s Second-Hand Smoke, the third play in his Crowtet series—premiered the final play of that series, The Lesser Magoo, in Los Angeles in 1997. A year later I sat in on a reading of his Cats-Paw while visiting New York. I saw Terminal Hip performed in Los Angeles by Bottom's Dream in 2000, and witnessed his dance-drama Antigone in New York at the Big Dance Company/Classic Stage Company in 2001.

Beyond these numerous play productions, I published his plays The Professional Frenchman (1990) and Bad Penny (1990) on my Blue Corner Drama series (the precursor to my later publishing house, Green Integer), printed his influential anthology Theatre of Wonders: Six Contemporary Plays on my Sun & Moon Press in 1985, published the first two Crowtet plays as Two Plays in 1994 on Sun & Moon and reprinted those plays as Crowtet 1 on the Green Integer imprint in 2000, following up with Crowtet 2 in 2003. Wellman’s two Dracula plays, The Land Beyond the Forest: Dracula and Swoop (1994) appeared on my Sun & Moon Press, as did his novels The Fortuneteller (1991) and Annie Salem (1996) and his collection of poetry, A Shelf in Woop’s Clothing (1990). More recently, I published his novel Q’s Q: An Arboreal Narrative on my Green Integer press. Together we co-edited the significant anthology of American drama, From the Other Side of the Century: A New American Drama 1960-1995, which included 38 American plays since 1960, including Wellman’s own The Hyacinth Macaw.

Accordingly, I presume that it will be understood as no disparagement of Wellman’s great talent to suggest that the newest play I witnessed, Two September, at The Flea Theater on
December 7, 2006, was not my favorite of his works. Basically a political statement, the play seemed without much of the linguistic energy of his other works, despite the interweaving of texts by American writer Josephine Herbst, from whom he quotes a long passage that might be read as a thematic entry into this work:

Today the point of gravity for responsibility has shifted from the small community to the relationship between things. Experiences have even made themselves independent of men… Over the air ways, in movies, experiences come to be dogmatized to certain kinds of experiences at the cost of all others… The world comes second hand—or fifth hand—to us and the illusion that it is fresh because it is shown as a picture of an actual place by some reporter divides man into incalculable parts of any true center. (from New Green World, 1954)

Although I have difficulty with what I perceive as a romanticized notion of “the center”—a harkening back to an order of small town America and the social priorities of another age—I think there may be no better direct statement of what I began to explore in the 2006 volume of My Year: the simulacrum we now seem to desire in place of the “real” because it remains, in its imitation of dangerous reality, at a safer distance than the actual events. But, of course, in that preference we often have no way of knowing whether what we are witnessing is something that has been manipulated to look like the real thing or an accurate image of it. Truth thus becomes so separated from reality, from what might have really happened, that we have no way of unweaving it from someone’s fabricated warp and weft. As Herbst has argued, coming as it has from one or perhaps six degrees of separation, the real becomes disconnected from us, and, accordingly, is indeterminable and often indecipherable.

Herbst’s statements seem even more prescient in the context of later wars in Vietnam, the first Iraq invasion (when even news reporters were kept at a distance from significant events) and our current occupation of Iraq. Only yesterday—through the simulacrum of my choice, a CNN television report—the young soldier, Staff Sgt. Roy Starbeck, interviewed from Baghdad, expressed precisely these issues: "It's just...really just aggravating," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "People saying that they don't support the war because they don't like the president or saying they don't support the war because they are Democrats or saying they support the war because they are Republicans. None of them are taking the time or energy to find out what is actually going on over here."

Obviously, with the rise of virtual realities in our computerized age, it becomes even more difficult to separate any notion of “real” from what is imagined or simulated.

Iowa writer Herbst, former friend to Ernest Hemingway and Robert MacAlmon, experienced these problems first hand when she was summarily dismissed from her position at the Office of Strategic Services—precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency—an organization that helped to arm, train, and supply anti-German and anti-Japanese groups, including Mao Tse Tung’s Communist Forces in China and Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh, the Vietnamese National Liberation Movement. Herbst was released from her position, evidently, on the basis of classified reports, thus allowing her no opportunity to even know the charges or defend herself from them.

Sound familiar? It is precisely what President Bush is advocating for individuals who today are arrested on terrorist charges, that such people—defined by the government as terrorists—should have no access to normal legal procedures, that because of the need for governmental secrecy they have no right to know all the charges against them, and, accordingly, no possibility of a knowledgeable defense. Herbst was later to discover that the source of information that named her as a political radical (in fact, her second marriage was to John Herrmann, the writer who introduced Whittaker Chambers to Alger Hiss, and Herbst did embrace various Marxist ideas of the time)—information that was filled with lies and exaggeration—had come from her supposed friend, Texas fiction writer Katherine Anne Porter. Although Herbst was later cleared of all charges, her reputation and career basically ended with her dismissal in the early 1940s.
Against this backdrop Wellman portrays larger world-wide political events, particularly those relating to the young Ho Chi Minh, who had lived in and traveled throughout the United States in the first decade of the 20th century, and was highly influenced in his own attempts to free Indochina from the French colonialist regimes by the American Declaration of Independence and other such documents. His September 2nd, 1945 declaration of Vietnamese Independence in Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi began:

All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with
certain inalienable rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness….”

Wellman presents the man as having sympathetic allies on the American front in China and Vietnam in 1945, individuals who attempted to explain to American higher-ups that it was in our better interest to support the Vietnamese National Liberation. OSS chief, William J. Donovan—the same man who fired Herbst—finally notified the local American forces to have no more connections with Ho Chi Minh, and in 1946 the first Indochina War (the Franco-Vietnamese war) began, resulting in the division of South and North Vietnam, and, ultimately, in the American military involvement in that country.

The only actual link between Herbst and Ho Chi Minh is the figure of Donovan, and that fact, perhaps, is what weakens this play’s claim to our moral outrage. Donovan, moreover, later became assistant to the chief prosecutor, Telford Taylor, at the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal and received the Distinguished Service Medal.*

What continues to haunt me, long after Wellman’s play, however, has less specifically to do with Donovan or his role in these two seemingly unconnected events, but relates to what might be perceived as the American inability to separate our fears from listening to the voices of people who, caring about our values and ideals, represent opposing viewpoints. And it is in this matrix of events—even more than our misunderstandings of Indochinese politics, it seems to me—that we reveal our ready acceptance of the simulacrum over truth. The same blindness that Wellman speaks of in the post-World War II politics were continued in the Nixon-era slogans such as “Love it or leave it,” declarations of hatred to anybody who even questioned American military decisions in the Vietnam War, perpetuating the absurd confusion that disagreeing with governmental policies and decisions necessarily means opposition to or hatred of our country or—to bring it into today’s context—represents terrorist attitudes. It is strange that in a country founded on individual freedoms—a country that was created by individuals speaking out against what was perceived as unfair governmental authority—is so fearful of embracing those who question and challenge political monotheism. In fact, by dismissing figures as radically different as Ho Chi Minh and Josephine Herbst we threaten our existence. Had we heard and followed the enthusiasms and admonitions of that Vietnamese leader, we might have saved ourselves from years of painful political turmoil and rescued the lives of thousands of American and Vietnamese men and women. Had we listened to a voice like Josephine Herbst, we might have recognized that the truths we believed we held were imitations of—indeed were false presentations of—the real thing. By abandoning figures such as Herbst and the hundreds of falsely accused liberals and even communist sympathizers within our own country, we forced them to abandon America; their insights and percipient warnings were no longer heard. That some of them remained to advocate alternative views speaks not to the greatness of our country but to their own unswerving beliefs in the truth.

*Of more interest, however, is the fact that Donovan was later the chairman of the American Committee on United Europe which, with funding from the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations—secretly supported by CIA monies channeled through the Fairchild Foundation—fought against what was perceived as the omnipresent Communist force by attempting to unify Europe, which, in turn, led not only to the establishment of America’s cold war policies, but helped to fuel the cauldron of Communist fears brewed by the Senate Committee for Un-American Activities investigations and those meetings by house member Joseph McCarthy (part of the larger series of events related to the experiences of Josephine Herbst)—and indirectly led to today’s European Union.

Los Angeles, January 11, 2007

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Douglas Messerli "Tigers Got to Hunt" (on Reverend Billy and the After Shopping Gospel Choir)

by Douglas Messerli

Bill Talen, Savitri D., and the Life After Shopping Choir Reverand Billy and the Life After Shopping Gospel Choir: The Earth-a-Llujah Earth-a-Llujah Revival! / October 21, 2010 at Redcat (the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) in the Walt Disney Concert Hall Complex

There I was, dressed down and all hyped up, credit cards in pocket in preparation for the invocation that we rid ourselves of some, impatiently awaiting the start of the revival—in two performances back to back—of the Rev. Billy and his rabble-rousing "life after shopping" gospel choir. "Changealujah!" was surely in the air.

I'd read of this performance artist's transformation from Bill Talen over the last years into a monologue-ing, prayer-invoking, anti-capitalist-preaching, left-leaning version of Billy Graham-Jimmy Swaggart-and Ted Haggard all rolled into one Brechtian being. May the theater-walls of ritual realism come tumbling down upon our ears, I secretly prayed.

The chorus of eighteen marched forward robbed all in—what other color could it be?—green, singing up a storm about American consumption: "forgivealujah." How terrible, they proclaimed, "the supermarket is now our neighborhood!" "Monopoly is not democracy," etc. etc. "This town ain't no supermarket!" they announced.

Rev. Billy strutted behind, gradually getting into the feel of things before he could come before us with the testimonial that, despite his previous messages, he had accepted the money from his recent award of the Herb Alpert Foundation connected to CalArts, as well as their invitation to perform in the Disney Hall. The Reverend had come down very hard in past sermons on Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Hypocrisy some might call it, but hardly something new when it comes to spiritual zealots of either the left or right.

The chorus rolled out another sprightly tune: "Push back—stop that Starbucks," or something to that effect—and another and another yet. The chorus gave each song a lot of energy, despite the fact that I could not always hear the lyrics, although I sat in the fourth row.

It was time for Rev. Billy's sermon. But tonight he seemed, well, I must admit, quite muted, quietly ruminating on his recent experiences with the people of the Appalachian Mountains where he and they had been working with environmental activists to stop coal mining. You know, he confided, as if this might be the very first time we had heard it, this "rip up and extract mentality," along with the destruction and sludge it reaps, brings "cancer to the promised land."

The earth is inarticulate, he explained. People must speak. And he spoke quite beautifully about the power of these poor Appalachian people, bound together by mountain after mountain for several generations. It was a very sweet sermon, if not so very original. Although different in tenor, he was similar to the tone of all the ministers I had heard in my youth. Which is why I stopped going to church.

There was a lot of "good feeling" in the room, as if we had found a congregation of one mind, and joined together just for this night only to celebrate the changes he and we together sought. Like most such ministers, he encouraged us to reach out and touch our neighbors: the couple who sat nearest me were from Torrence, having joined the congregation because her brother was in the chorus. I don't know, accordingly, whether they shared the same sensibility as most of the audience clearly did. For a few minutes even I forgot about the Tea Partyers, having left them behind in this temporary Left-leaning heaven. Thankalujah!

"Tigers got to hunt," sang the chorus. "Tigers got to eat. Birds got to fly. Humans try to understand."

I was confused. Were the tigers good in their necessities or simply dangerous? Or both? Perhaps that's what we humans couldn't understand. As Reverend Billy argued: "Nobody knows what to do."

That's certainly true. But when you go to theater you expect the performers at least to suggest a temporary answer or to more profoundly question you about things than he and his chorus had. This was, clearly, less a revival, a renewal of faith or belief, than it was a repetition of what I think we all had known for some time, a kind of celebration of our good aspirations. Entertaining enough surely, but something that left me, like the tigers, hungry for more.

Ex-porn star Annie Sprinkle and her "wife" Dr. Beth Stephens, sitting in the audience (Rev. Billy would officiate their "marrying the moon" a day later), were brought onto stage, where the chorus sang out in support of gay marriage as "A way to say I do."

As Mae West might have queried, "And what did you do?"

Los Angeles, October 23, 2010

Copyright (c) 2010 by Douglas Messerli

Friday, October 15, 2010

John Guare "On Red Eye of Love"

On Red Eye of Love
by John Guare

In the summer of 1958 a young lawyer named Sam Cohn, out in Easthampton for a weekend, went to a road-house on the Montauk Highway, the Summer Five Spot, the honestly named home of the great village jazz joint, The Five Spot. In 1958, Easthampton had not yet become The Hamptons but was still a sleepy Long Island town a hundred miles out of New York City with some big homes by the sea and a lot of small ones where artists found a haven. Jackson Pollock had deified the place by dying there in a car crash a few years before. Willem de Kooning was there. Franz Kline. Larry Rivers lived (and still does) over in Southampton in a house he bought for the enormous sum of $10,000 lent him by the poet James Merrill. Everybody hung out in the Summer Five Spot which featured poetry and jazz. A typical evening would be Mose Allison on piano, Elvin Jones on drums, Larry Rivers, a young painter, on sax. The New York poets Frank O'Hara and Arnold Weinstein would read their work as the jazz played. The night that Sam went, the attraction was Arnold's first play: Red Eye of Love. Sam loved what he saw that night so much he decided to change his life. He would produce the play. But Arnold was not available to work on the play. Arnold was sail­ing off to Italy on a double Fulbright. Two years in Flo­rence. I asked Arnold recently: "To study what?" Arnold: "There are two arts. There's art and then there's great art, the kind of art that makes your hair stand on end. What's the difference? I thought I could find out."
     He returned to New York in 1960 with no answers and called Sam and said he was ready. Sam brought Red Eye to a woman he had met named Julia Miles who ran a theater in St. Ann's Church in Brooklyn Heights. They would tryout the play. Julia, who later would be one of the founders of the American Place Theater and now runs the production company, Woman's Project, sent me a copy of the 1961 budget. Scenery: $37.57. Costumes: $31.00. Rental of lights: $36.57. Use of theater: $50.00. Author's royalty: $100. Actors' rehearsal & performance pay: $655.00. Stage Manager: $30.00. Box Office personnel: $5.00. Opening night party: $18.74. Unknown miscella­neous: $10.11. When all the expenses came in they totaled $1207.72. The play had a happy response.
     Among the people who came to Brooklyn to see Red Eye was a painter and playwright named John Wulp who wanted to produce it and design it. Wulp had made an avant-garde name for himself by photographing Judith Malina's and Julian Beck's fabled Living Theater pro­ductions such as Jack Gelber's The Connection and Ken­neth Brown's The Brig. Wulp held a day job as an editor at This Week magazine, the Sunday supplement of the New York Herald Tribune, in the days when New York had a lot of daily papers. Sam who by now had married Julia took Wulp along as a partner. Arnold had fallen in love with a wonderful actress named Jane Romano who at an early age had understudied Ethel Merman in Gypsy and was clearly lined up for a great future. Jane would play Selma. A young composer named William Bolcom would write his first theater music for the play. Red Eye seemed to be a play that changed people's lives.
     Realities set in. The budget for a first class Off-Broad­way production in 1961 skyrocketed the costs from $1200 in Brooklyn to an astronomical $7500. How would they raise the cash? Sam and John each called twenty-five friends, among them, Jerry Lieber (of rock 'n' roll's Lieber and Stoller), the young producer, Hal Prince (Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, West Side Story) and the producer Roger Stevens (West Side Story), persuading them to in­vest $100. Arnold went to his buddies, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Philip Guston, and Jane Frielicher. They had no cash so each gave Arnold a painting to sell. That con­glomerate produced Arnold's necessary $2,500 share.
     In June 1961, the Living Theater, off on a summer tour, leased their premises on the second floor at 14th Street and Sixth Avenue to the Red Eye Company. Wulp who had never directed before decided he would direct it as well as design it. The building inspector for the city came to look at the space. Forget it, the building isn't safe. The producers made the necessary changes to get to the open­ing. Opening night, in June, 1961, just before the performance began, the curtain locked. It had to be forced and then held open during the performance by Sam and John. It was a hot night. Heat is death to comedy. Wulp turned up the air conditioner. The owner of the pet store below ran up in a rage. The overactive air conditioning had sprung a leak, pouring water down on all the animals. "You're drowning my pets!" Wulp spent the rest of the opening night performance bailing water out of the pet shop while the show went on above. Since Arnold had never written a play, he didn't know how to read the reviews. They didn't say Red Eye was the greatest play ever written so that disappointed him. But Sam and John were happy. So what if the Times was so so. Walter Kerr in the Tribune was very good; the New York Post had a headline "Avant-garde with laughs" making Red Eye le­gitimate and bourgeois at the same time. Life magazine did an article on Red Eye: "The woes of Wulp [and Weinstein] produce a wow!"
     The show was perceived of as a hit, but did not make money. Was it the hot summer that kept people away? On Mondays, the show's dark night, Sam and John and Arnold showed avant-garde Stan Vanderbeek movies or Charlie Chaplin's silents to make the weekly rent. When the Living Theater wanted to come back home in the fall, Jane Romano in full costume and Sam and Julia and John and Bolcom and the musicians and Arnold formed a parade and led the cast across Greenwich Village to the Provincetown Playhouse on MacDougal Street where they set up shop. Yes! the theater where Eugene O'Neill had made his fame as a playwright more than a genera­tion before and where Edward Albee and Samuel Beckett's double bill of The Zoo Story and Krapp's Last Tape had made theater history only the year before. And now here was Red Eye. It was a new generation. The 6os were not yet the 6os, but the 6os had begun.
     In the September 1961 issue of Plays and Players, the London theater magazine, Saul Colin wrote that "Red Eye of Love became an immediate success with the crit­ics and the public because and 'becount' of many rea­sons—being original, witty, topical and general, anecdotic and episodic alike, alternately farcical, deeply moving and slapstick, poetical and prosaic. Furthermore, it is extremely healthy in our sick world... this play should be given in London as soon as possible. I just learned that Audrey Wood who is the agent of Tennessee Will­iams has just signed up Arnold Weinstein. Under her able guidance, he should go far for our exquisite plea­sure and for the good of theatre."
     Red Eye never reached London.
     The producers had one theater party scheduled for November and kept hanging on through the fall to make that date. Red Eye closed in New York in November 1961.
     Jane Romano died in 1962.
     Arnold wrote a musical in 1962 with the composer Francis Thorne called Fortuna based on a play of the great Italian playwright Eduardo de Fillippo. Sam Cohn and John Wulp produced it. It did not do well. Sam Cohn produced no more but went on to become the artists' rep whose name is now always preceded by the adjective "legendary." Flash forwards: Julia Miles would go on to found the American Place Theater with Wynn Handman and currently, The Woman's Project. Wulp would pro­duce Dracula with designs by Edward Corey, first at his theater on Nantucket and later on Broadway, starring Frank Langella. Today he lives on an island in Maine where he paints.
     But go back in time.
     In 1964, Arnold wrote an extraordinary opera called Dynamite Tonight with the Red Eye composer William Bolcom. The Actors' Studio production was directed by Paul Sills, Lee Strasberg, Arnold himself and Mike Nichols. Dynamite was the first play Mike Nichols ever directed. It starred the great Barbara Harris and Gene Wilder. It opened and closed not once, but in four sepa­rate incarnations in the next few years.
     At the end of the 6os, John Gruen published a book called Close Up in which he interviewed the august likes of Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall, Samuel Beckett and—Arnold Weinstein. Gruen interviewed Arnold on the eve of the opening of the fifth revival of Dynamite Tonight.
     In this book of fame, Arnold was present as the world's foremost expert on the art of failure. Among his credits, Arnold was president of ffof, that is, Foul Fumes of Failure, a worldwide subsidiary of itof, the Interna­tional Theater of Failure
     Did Arnold have any worries?
     "I should miss ffof and itof if the revival proves a hit. Failure fans have a hunger for immortality and they like to rub against other failures because that way they have a little contact against death and are as it were inoculated against it.
     "I suppose failure has gone to my head. You see, fail­ure excites me. It gets me hot. I like to roll in it. Tousle its hair. Pinch it out of shape. I like to kick it around the room for laughs. It helps me dress well. It makes me devilishly attractive. And, oh, the reading I get done—a) because I run out of money and b) because I have to teach, prepare and hang around in the company of Ben Jonson and other failures... think of the tedium, predict­ability and impersonality of reviving a success. Life is too short! Great failures never die! They won't even fade away."
     The fifth revival did not work.
     Except it was great.
     I had met Arnold in 1966 at Yale, that annus mirabile when Robert Brustein took over the Yale school of Drama. Brustein brought the likes of Irene Worth, Jonathan Miller, Robert Lowell, André Gregory, Linda Lavin, Ron Leibman, Kenneth Haigh to be in residence. I was a fellow along with Sam Shepard and Kenneth Brown (of the afore-mentioned Living Theater who wrote The Brig) and Barbara Garson who had just writ­ten the scandalous political bombshell MacBird. Arnold taught playwriting. He asked me one night to stop by for a drink at his rooms in one of the colleges. I climbed up the stone steps and opened the door to the smoky room. A remarkable hawk-nosed man stood on his head playing the saxophone. Was that Larry Rivers? A beauti­ful young woman seemed to be in a state of slumber on a pile of pillows. The poet Honor Moore. Someone played drums in the dark part of the room. I was finally here! This was Bohemia! Rent? La Boheme? Eat your heart out.
    I remember the dazzlement of sitting in one of Arnold's classes. Robert Lowell's adaptation of Prometheus was about to open. I loved the fact that Arnold had served in the Navy with the rank of Fireman, but I had forgot­ten the fact that Fireman Weinstein received his Harvard degree in the classics. That day at the Yale School of Drama, Arnold had the original Greek text strewn in front of him and Lowell seated beside him. Arnold spot-translated the two texts, comparing the Aeschylus to the Lowell and then having Lowell explain his choices. It was a thrilling lesson in the art of translation and the­ater. I can still see Arnold pounding out the Greek rhythms to Lowell's amazement and delight as they talked about Aeschylus as the original Marxist.
     Brustein also revived Dynamite that year in New Ha­ven and I saw it 14 times. Its spirit seemed indestructible as it transferred to New York in its aforementioned fifth incarnation. It wilted in New York. What happened? Its indominable spirit had vanished. Was the theater that ephemeral that a small masterpiece could not weather a journey from New Haven to New York?
    What of Arnold since then? Remember the line in Red Eye: "Have you failed in your several chosen fields?" Hardly. Arnold has had and is having a glorious and typi­cal life in the theater. He did an adaptation of Brecht and Weill's Mahoganny which did not succeed commer­cially. David Merrick optioned a brilliant play of his called The Party which never got produced. Arnold wrote an opera called McTeague with Bolcom, now a composer of international renown, based on the Von Stroheim film Greed that was directed and co-authored by Robert Altman, produced at the Chicago Lyric Opera and has yet to be heard in New York. He and Bolcom have just finished their opera of Arthur Miller's A View From The Bridge for Chicago Lyric. Arnold also has written a new joyous piece of magic called Shlemiel with traditional klezmer music which is about to have its third incarna­tion at Brustein's American Conservatory Theater at Harvard. When it appeared in 1995 at the Lincoln Cen­ter Theater's Serious Fun Festival, it received a rave in The New York Times and a four-page rave by John Lahr in the New Yorker. So why is Shlemiel still looking for a New York home? It's called life in the theater. You hang in there because it still contains the possibility of the most fun anywhere. And what about Red Eye? In 1996, it was read at Milan's great Piccolo Teatro by members of that august theater, translated into Italian as L'Occio Rosso d'Amore in a benefit to raise money for the rebuilding of the burnt La Fenice opera house in Venice. I asked Arnold, no insult, but why out of all the plays in the world, they picked this play? He said "Obviously some­one in Milan thought it was more famous than it was." La Fenice—Italian for phoenix. Talk about phoenixes.
     Red Eye of Love is back finally back in print for which we should be eternally grateful to Sun & Moon Press. Red Eye is no longer lost. The ink is still wet on it. It may not be on stage where it belongs but at least Red Eye is in print where it will bring people together who will fall in love with it all over again for the first time and each other and produce it all over again only this time—this time—everything will have a happy ending.
     Red Eye belongs to that timeless place, sometimes called Paris in the 20s or New York in the 50s or London in the 60s, that time and place where everyone is always young, the music is new, careers are being born in road­side bars and an eviction notice only means a parade. Read Red Eye and find its spirit. It'll be the best part of you.

Arnold Weinstein | RED EYE OF LOVE

by Arnold Weinstein

Red Eye of Love was presented at The Living Theatre in New York on June 12, 1961 by Sam Cohn, John Wulp, and Julia Miles. It was directed and designed by Mr. Wulp, with incidental score by William Bolcom, costumes by Willa Kim, and lighting by Nicola Cernovich. The cast was as follows:

WILMER FLANGE, George Latchford
a poor young fool
O.O. MARTINAS, Michael Vale
richer, older
a loving young thing
a music lover
a people hater
CAB DRIVER Barry Primus
VENDOR Jerry DeLuise
FRANCES K.C. Townsend
WAITRESS Julia Miles
YOUNG BEZ, six years sold Gregory Deutsch
SCRUB LADY Sarah Braveman
TOUGH Barry Primus
BIG BEZ, twelve years old Benjamin Hayeem
(to be played by an adult)
ALUM Barry Primus
UNCLE SAM Jerry DeLuise
ENEMY SOLDIER Benjamin Hayeem
A BOY Gregory Deutsch
WOMAN, Sarah Braveman
his mother
THE MIMES Robert World and Martha Shaw

Most of the minor roles are interchangeable.
The play takes place over a period of many years. Some of the characters age, some do not.


The New York production was extremely simple, utilizing as few props and as little furniture as possible.

In the New York production, projections were flashed on the front curtain prior to the beginning of several scenes. Subsequent productions used the music of Jan Warner.
The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of John Wulp, Sam Cohn, Audrey Wood, Jeannette Hirsch, Nancy Grome, and Libby Edwards.

Photographs from the New York production by John Wulp.



Projection on Curtain: "The beginning: In which it all begins."

A street. A spotlight reveals SELMA CHARGESSE, dancing. People pass by without noticing her. Then another spotlight goes on and reveals a shoeshine man, O.O. MARTINAS, sitting in a shoeshine chair and staring in the direction of the girl, seemingly transfixed by her dancing. Later we discover that he is actually watching the thirteen-story department store directly behind her. Enter NEWSBOY, VENDOR, CAB DRIVER, and WOMAN. WILMER enters, watches people pass girl by, turns to admire girl, then speaks to MARTINAS, who gets out of the shoeshine chair. WILMER sits down in the chair and MARTINAS begins to shine his shoes.
WILMER: Answer: What would the world do without our type of people, people who stop to watch a girl dance in the street like this.
MARTINAS: Like what?
WILMER: Can't you see her arms and legs moving the daylight this way and that?
MARTINAS: By God! Why didn't anyone tell me she was dancing there? Look at her legs moving the daylight this way and that.
WILMER: Couldn't you see her before?
MARTINAS: See who?
WILMER: The girl dancing there.
MARTINAS: What girl? I was looking at that beautiful department store which will one day be the O.O. Martinas Department Store, named after O.O. Martinas. Who's O.O. Martinas? I'm O.O. Martinas. Who did you think he was? And I was?
WILMER: That silver and stucco thirteen-story building will be yours? Because your name is O.O. Martinas?
SELMA stops dancing
MARTINAS: Yes and no. Yes, the building will be mine becount of my name is O.O. Martinas; becount of when O.O. Martinas wants something, it will be his. I wanted this shoeshine job. It's now mine.
WILMER: That's yes. What's no?
MARTINAS: No, don't stick your nose into my affairs.
SELMA exits.
MARTINAS tries to regain WILMER'S attention.
My building will be my department store!
WILMER: How does one come by a thirteen-story department store?
MARTINAS: It's simple. You get in on the ground floor. You buy a delicatessen concession—on the ground floor—and before you know it, it's a delicatessen department. Just think! A whole floor of nothing but meat.
WILMER: Nothing but meat?
MARTINAS: Yes, I'm a man who believes in meat. Anything on the hoof! I wouldn't shine your shoes unless they were made of cowhide. I hate those who eat innocent vegetables. You never see a lettuce pluck a man.
WILMER: A delicatessen department?
MARTINAS: Yes, you young fool. I'll revolutionize department storedom! What this country needs is a revolution. Today, a delicatessen concession, tomorrow, the whole store—
WILMER: [interrupting] Is that your key?
MARTINAS: Key? What's that?
WILMER: You mean you open up a thirteen-story department store and it's not your key to the universe?
MARTINAS: We will have livers, all kinds of livers. Have you ever heard of whooping crane livers? No, you young fool, what do you know about the liver field?
SELMA starts dancing by. WILMER, frightened, turns to the girl.
MARTINAS immediately becomes pleasant. Taking out a piece of paper.
A poem—mine!
Tinkle, tinkle, little life,
how I wish I had a wife.
Deep within my soul so blue
how come you do me like you do?
Do you like my beautiful words? [Hands WILMER the paper which is painted black.] Of course there's nothing on it, young fool! Why should there be? I cannot read. Nor write. But I can count! Grant me that! I can count, becount of....Look: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13! and a half, if you consider the basement, which I consider. It will be mine. The venison, mine; the pig snouts, the bunnies, the tails of oxen, mine; mine the men and women, the heads and guts of all forms of the animal kingdom, mine. All this talk makes me thirsty. Mine! I could use a nice refreshing glass of blood. Mine!
WOMAN VENDOR: [turns and sees dancing SELMA] Hey, everyone! A girl dancing!
MARTINAS: Of course. Where?
CAB DRIVER: [who had seen her and paid no attention] By God, the boy here is right!
Other passers-by now begin to notice her as a crowd gathers.
WOMAN VENDOR: Her hands, she's using hands!
CAB DRIVER: My God! Her leg is moving!
WOMAN VENDOR: Slow spinning, did you ever...?
WILMER: I don't dance. Strange, my mother was a good dancer, very fat but a good dancer.
CAB DRIVER: They say the fat are light on their feet.
WOMAN VENDOR: Let me see. Don't hog.
M ARTINAS: I'll sell hog and loin of yak.
WILMER: It's like watching a baby's dream. I've never seen anyone dance in this street.
MARTINAS: I've never seen anyone dance in any street. You don't acquire delicatessen departments watching people dance in the street. I will sell hearts. I will hold thousands of hearts in these hands of mine!
WILMER: I had a friend named Cohn, used to dance—with his face. He used to grin and your eyes would wiggle.
WOMAN VENDOR: I'd like to see her dance barefoot at my house. Naked!
MARTINAS: Are you an artist?
WOMAN VENDOR: No, I'm well off, I have a very expensive rug. Nobody's ever danced on that rug. Naked! I can't leave, although I have important appointments uptown. I'm in neckties.
M ARTINAS: I never wear ties: I believe in freedom of the neck.
Two policemen come on the scene from opposite side.
FIRST POLICEMAN: Break it up. Break what up?
FIRST POLICEMAN: [to SECOND POLICEMAN] Are you new on this beat? Can we be partners?
SECOND POLICE MAN: We've got to get her out of here.
MARTINAS: Efficient police. The world is good to me. Thank God I deserve it. Beautiful girl. Take her away, becount of she's blocking the entrance to the future O.O. Martinas Department Store.
FIRST POLICEMAN: [to SELMA] Lady, you're disturbing the peace of the entrance to the future O.O. Martinas Department Store.
WILMER: Officer, mind if I tell you something? It's nothing personal. It's about your life.
SECOND POLICEMAN approaches menacingly.
MARTINAS: Let the boy rave on.
WILMER: Thank you. That girl has to dance, just as you have to stop her from dancing. [To SECOND PO-LICEMAN] Just as you [affectionately puts arm on shoulder of cop] have to punch people in the guts and be an officer of the law, just as Martinas here wants to own meats and dollars and peoples. Just as I, just as I—I don't know. I don't know what I have to do. I have no key to the universe. So let her dance.
SELMA starts dancing in appreciation.
SECOND POLICEMAN is terrified: he doesn't know what to do. He turns on WILMER roughly with his club.
WILMER runs off and makes a ballet leap into the wings. A crash of garbage cans is heard off-stage.
FIRST POLICEMAN has been watching dancing girl. The SECOND POLICEMAN slyly takes SELMA, still dancing, and is slyly about to escort her in the direction of the patrol car, when FIRST POLICEMAN gently, as her dancing slows down, takes her arm and waves toward stage left.
WILMER: [re-enters holding his head]: Dancing girl, if ever you need me, I'll be waiting. Here. [Reaches into pocket, finds no money.] I'll get a job!
SECOND POLICEMAN threatens him. WILMER exits into wings with garbage can crash.
FIRST POLICEMAN: [to CAB DRIVER] Here! Five dollars. Take her where she wants. Keep the change. Don't look so sneaky suspicious. I'm the law. I arrest. Stop staring!
CAB DRIVER: [disapproving] And I wanted to be a priest!
CAB DRIVER and girl leave. Sound of cab leaving.
SECOND POLICEMAN slyly watches the FIRST POLICEMAN. They walk off together.
FIRST POLICEMAN: [apologetic, to SECOND POLICE¬MAN] I like you. Let's be partners! Let's forever walk this beat together—ever!
SECOND POLICEMAN: [slyly and disdainfully] Yes.
WILMER: [enter bedraggled] You still have another shoe of mine to shine.
MARTINAS: I've given up the shining of shoes. I must make real money. I'm going into butcher delivery. I can see it now.
WILMER: The delivery list?
MARTINAS: The delicatessen department!


Projection on Curtain: "Years Later"

A street. The FIRST POLICEMAN is conducting traffic in front of the curtain. He pretends he is leading a symphony orchestra with his club. He is carried away, about to reach a magnificent crescendo when the SECOND POLICEMAN blows his whistle and stops it all
SECOND POLICEMAN: OK, OK, break it up.
FIRST POLICEMAN: Break what up? I'm one of you. [Indicates shoe shine stand] Hey, shine my shoes?
SECOND POLICEMAN: It would be cheating. Policemen have to police, not shine shoes. I hate cheating.
FIRST POLICEMAN: I like the slapping on leather. I love music. I love rhythm.
A holdup occurs directly behind them. This is the HIGH HAT ROBBER who tiptoes up to the woman VICTIM and steals her purse. The two policemen are facing front.
SECOND POLICEMAN: Look! [Not seeing the robbery] We've no time for music, [HIGH HAT ROBBER and VICTIM leave] we've got to guard the O.O. Martinas Emporium. What a revolution in department storedom. It's an honor to guard those genuine thirteen stories.
FIRST POLICEMAN: It's an honor to conduct—traffic. [Starts conducting his symphony of cars again. Again the SECOND POLICEMAN'S whistle stops him.] My cars...
SECOND POLICEMAN: Cars! Let 'em drop dead! Long live genuine department stores!
FIRST POLICEMAN: Long live genuine America! Accept no substitutes.
They exit through the following park scene.


A park. A park bench with a single tree standing nearby. Lights come back up to reveal O. O. MARTINAS, who looks the same, WILMER enters, he has aged slightly.
MARTINAS: Good late afternoon.
WILMER: Good late afternoon.
MARTINAS: Have we met before?
WILMER: No. You look familiar, and since I always forget a face and never remember a name, we cannot have met.
MARTINAS: O.O. Martinas is the name. How do you do, young man?
WILMER: I'm old. I'm twenty-five.
MARTINAS: Yes, sneaks up on you, old age. Hits before you're ready and you're old before you're ready. Life is always one step ahead of you. You get ready to be a child when Bong! Adolescence hits you. Begin to put up with adolescence and Bong! You're an adult. Finally realize you're an adult. Plop! Middle age. And you only believe you're really middle-aged when Plop! Old age comes limping by and grabs your bony hand. On your death bed, as you laugh your last sob, finally you say "Plop bong! I'm old!" But too late, you're dead. But you've finally caught up. You're dead and you know you're double plop double bong dead.
WILMER: [disgusted] Very nice.
MARTINAS: Not bad for teatime. You should hear me in the office. Eloquent, mystical—
WILMER is staring out at something.
Do you like that department store?
WILMER: I was not looking at the department store. I was looking at that girl going in it.
MARTINAS: That's my love.
WILMER: She's a little young.
MARTINAS: The building is my love. I own it. Thirteen floors of department store.
WILMER: What's your favorite department?
MARTINAS: Lamb! It's a meat department store. Thirteen floors of meat—nothing else.
WILMER: Do you need a bookkeeper?
MARTINAS: Not only do I own that building, I bought a foreign English bicycle.
WILMER: Do you own a good bookkeeper?
MARTINAS: Would you believe I worked my way up from delivering Italian salami? I used to sit staring with envy at everyone: now I sit staring at my building, my love. First floor, loins of beef; second floor, veal; third floor, lamb! fourth floor, me, a large apartment, right behind the chopping room. Do I sleep!
WILMER is making a horrible grimace.
What are you doing with your face? Smile! People like to see the bookkeeper smile.
WILMER: I'm smiling. Can't you read my eyes?
MARTINAS: I can't read. A lovely meat department store and I can't read or write! Thing I love about me, I never stop being amazed by my own achievements. Do me a favor? Write down the following:
WILMER pulls a pencil and a roll of adding-machine paper from his pocket.
I'm in the mood for building poetry.
Recites the poem.
Death, you old schoolteacher,
don't take away your books,
death, you old schoolteacher
don't ask me to die.
Death, you old professor,
I don't want to graduate.
I want to wear a cap and gown and sock
you in the eye.
You big fat witch, death, you.
WILMER: You do this to bookkeepers?
MARTINAS: I can count too! That's why I own meats and monies.
WILMER: Bookkeeping: key to the universe.
Can a man die happy without a key to the universe?
MARTINAS: Can a man die happy with one? Don't talk about death. Read my poem about death.
MARTINAS: I go: my meat building needs me. You're making that awful face again! Stop!
WILMER: I'm smiling. I'm on vacation.
MARTINAS: Prove it!
WILMER: I went to a party yesterday.
MARTINAS: Why wasn't I invited? Who gave it? Your dad? Your dear old mom?
WILMER: No one I know. I saw a group of people and followed them to a party.
MARTINAS: I cater to the best parties.
WILMER: Then a terrible thing. I went to the bathroom and was very impressed with the odor of soap, per¬fume, bath oil, underarm deodorant, shaving cream, and toothpaste in the new press-down container.
MARTINAS: I like a good smell—lamb.
WILMER: I took hair tonic, gave myself a good brushing and rejoined the festivities. The hostess said, "Pooh! what a smell." The host said, "Yes dear." I went back to the bathroom and took a shave, put on more hair tonic, after-shave lotion, underarm deodorant, for revenge.
MARTINAS: Well done!
WILMER: Then took a shower to get rid of the smell. A, I did not need their scent. B, I was ashamed of myself. Is that stealing?
MARTINAS: My boy, Time, which is forever being born and forever dying, has no time for distinctions. What kind of a party was it?
WILMER: A funeral party. That group of people was outside a funeral parlor. I had nothing to do and they were all hugging, chatting, waving, meeting relatives for the FIRST time, vowing to see more of one another, looking at the time, trying not to talk business, or do business; they looked so cheerful and inviting that I couldn't resist following the crowd to the coffin. When I wept over the body they thought I was a long-lost lover of the deceased, a woman of sixty with beautiful blue hair. They invited me to the party afterwards. Was I moved. Vacations are lonely! The food was good.
MARTINAS: I cater to the best funeral parties. Goombye!
WILMER watches a group of MOURNERS behind a coffin. He is about to join them when they follow a woman ice-cream VENDOR and her cart. MOURNERS exit.
Enter the dancing girl SELMA, aged somewhat. She sits down on the bench. WILMER looks at her. She looks at him. They like each other. WILMER does not know what to do. He decides. He stands up, looks determinedly toward her and walks to ice-cream VENDOR, who has just re-entered.
WILMER: Two ice creams. One pistachio...and one pistachio,
VENDOR: No pistachio and no pistachio. [Digs into cart and comes up with:] A tuna fish sandwich?
WILMER: Cut in half?
VENDOR gives him sandwich. WILMER pays with a bill.
[Angrily.] A hundred dollar bill is the smallest you have?
WILMER: I'm on vacation.
VENDOR: Nobody makes a fool of me and gets away with it! Except God. I'll show you. All pennies!
Drops bag of change on WILMER'S toe.
WILMER: No, there's one nickel shining through it all.
VENDOR: You deserve it.
Puts bill in her pocket. Exits.
WILMER goes to SELMA, gives her half a sandwich, sits beside her, and they eat in silence on the bench.
SELMA: Let's not tell each other our names. It's more romantic.
WILMER: I believe in no names. Makes forgetting much more beautiful.
They eat in silence.
I'm on vacation, spending it in the city.
SELMA: Where do you live?
WILMER: In the city. Up there in my bookkeeping office. You live in the city year in, year out, and forget what sights there are. I have two weeks off, each day to a place I haven't seen in years. Old Cohn and I always went to a museum of natural art or some place. Now, I like my job, but getting up in the morning, going to work, coming home, the result is you don't go anywhere else because you're just nervous. You're tangled, you're twisted, and the result is you think that going anywhere is going to work. Morning becomes night, week becomes weekend, yesterday becomes today. Whatever's happened has not had time to matter. The result is I spend my vacation in the city going places, trying to catch up. The result is I've seen twelve movies in three days.
SELMA: The key?
WILMER: What is it? I know you know. Bookkeeping, right?
SELMA: Movies.
WILMER: [sad] I knew she knew.
SELMA: It's the only way out.
WILMER: The only?
SELMA: In the movies, no world falls on you.
WILMER: Yes, no world!
They look at each other and kiss.
SELMA: [breaks from the embrace suddenly] What movies?
WILMER: [still reacting to the kiss] "Alexander the Great."
SELMA: Saw it.
WILMER: "The Good Earth."
SELMA: Saw it.
WILMER: "The Ten Commandments."
SELMA: Saw them.
WILMER: The key!
SELMA: I think I saw it.
WILMER: No. Movies as key to the universe. Along with bookkeeping. Not that I want to take any glory and responsibility away from movies.
SELMA: Exactly. Bookkeeping is the other key to the universe.
WILMER: Say that again!
SELMA: Bookkeeping: other key to universe.
WILMER stares, moved to tears. He forces himself to speak.
WILMER: Why are you so lonely?
SELMA: Did I say I was lonely?
SELMA: That's a lie, but I am lonely.
She is staring in the direction of Martinas' building.
WILMER: I was staring at that building before, but you were in front of it. Why are you staring at it? Is it yours too?
SELMA: Of course not! But it will be. I'm engaged to the owner, O.O. Martinas. We're to be married soon. A week or two or three years.
WILMER: Lonely!! [Pause.] Old Cohn, crazy fool, last night married some girl who had eyes that went all the way in, dark. Dark dark. I was invited to the wedding. I don't drink: just last night a few; I kept eating not to get sick from the booze. I got sick from the eating. [Pause.] This morning I got sick from the booze. I bit his bride when I was drunk. Old Cohn laughed. [He laughs.] I fail to see what's funny.
SELMA: Who is Old Cohn?
WILMER: Old Cohn. My best friend till the eighth grade. We used to go everywhere together and he used to sing on top of the open-air bus. We lost touch.
SELMA: Lost touch. You talk about lost touch! I've lost such touch! I never go to sleep without thinking of Geraldine, the greatest friend you'd ever want to find in the fourth grade. We used to walk the streets for hours identifying automobiles. We saw them all; we could guess the year from two blocks away. And you talk about lost touch! I can't bear it. She moved out of the neighborhood. At the wrongest time: we had seen all the cars, except one, the Lincoln Zephyr. It was our dream to see the Lincoln Zephyr zooming down the street; I saw it a week after she moved away. I didn't know where she lived. Her father must have got poorer or richer; they didn't let anyone know where they went. And here I was, completely unable to let Geraldine know I had seen the Lincoln Zephyr. I'm haunted with that. I think her name was Geraldine.
WILMER: Today I tried singing on top of the open-air bus like Old Cohn, there in the open, the wind and noise all around. I always turned red, red red, made believe I didn't know him. "Stop making fools of the two of us," singing at the top of his voice on the open-air bus.
SELMA: Today you wanted to sing. I once wanted to dance to all the city. And I did. Look what it got me. Money and wealth.
WILMER: I couldn't sing today.
WILMER: No more open-air buses.
WILMER: I don't remember any songs.
SELMA: Everywhere you turn—a wall.
WILMER: I can hum. [He hums two notes, then stops.] No, I can't. There were boys—Cohn was one—could memorize anything. "Stardust," "The Star-Spangled Banner," "The Declaration of Independence," any¬thing. Where did it get them? Those boys memorizing, what do they become? Memorizers? Heasly, sev¬enth grade, won the elocution prize; sells lawn furniture in the A & P. My motto is let people do what they want. Only, take up something that can be the key. Bookkeeping's no drudgery either, it's interesting, responsible too. Think of the chaos the world would be in today if we had no bookkeeping. [Pause.] Is bookkeeping the key?
SELMA: Soft people interest me. I like you.
WILMER: Do you love me?
SELMA: As a matter of fact, I do.
WILMER: What about Mr. Martinas?
SELMA: Was he here? O.O. was here?
SELMA: O.O. and I, we don't get along.
WILMER: Why are you going to marry him?
SELMA: Was I going to marry him? I was going to marry him, I guess. But O.O. and I don't get along and I love you.
WILMER: This is the thing, I don't go around breaking up love affairs.
SELMA: Shake. I'm the same way. [Kisses him passionately as they shake hands.] I don't like O.O. Him for¬ever talking about his accomplishments, owner of thirteen stories of store. So what, I ask you, so what?
WILMER: [joyfully] Yes, so what!
SELMA: So it's my duty to marry money. He can be very kind.
WILMER: I suppose.
SELMA: He can be very cruel.
Shows WILMER her arm.
WILMER: I don't see anything.
SELMA: Yes, well, anyway, O.O. and I, we just don't hit it off, in any manner or form, if you know what I mean.
WILMER: You mean—
SELMA: In any manner or form. I mean—
WILMER: In any manner or form. We mean—
BOTH: In any manner or form.
SELMA: The result is, I pick you. You're nice, soft: you know I like that. I'm blunt.
WILMER: [growing more and more elated] Yes!
SELMA: You be blunt.
WILMER: Yes! Yes!
SELMA: If you don't like the idea, get up and walk away.
SELMA: Fast get up and walk away. I see you hate me, you think I'm a terrible person. Go, I don't blame you, you're nice, you're soft,
WILMER: I cry in the movies.
Romantic music is heard.
SELMA: You cry in the movies? [She kisses him.] What movies?
WILMER: "Possessed"—Gable and Crawford.
SELMA: Saw it.
WILMER: "Rhapsody," starring Elizabeth Taylor.
SELMA: Saw it.
WILMER: Cowboy films.
SELMA: You cry in cowboy films?
SELMA: Which cowboy films?
WILMER: All cowboy films.
SELMA: Saw them.
Music stops.
WILMER: You feel soft to me.
SELMA: My name is Selma Chargesse.
WILMER: My name is Wilmer Flange. But you said no names.
SELMA: Names, now that we're in love...names.
WILMER: [embracing her] Not only in love, good friends.
MARTINAS enters in a fury.
MARTINAS: Behind the back! Why is it always behind the back?
WILMER: Sit down, O.O., we'll talk it over.
MARTINAS: I'll give you a good job as bookkeeper.
WILMER: This is the thing, O.O. The girl here loves me and is a little too young for you. Personally, I don't want to get involved. I'm on vacation. But it's not often you meet someone who's nice and soft and loves you.
MARTINAS: I'll make you my bookkeeper.
WILMER shakes his head "no."
I will put my hand in my pocket and take out green paper with a picture of one of the leading leaders of our nation on it.
WILMER shakes his head "no"
SELMA: You're quite a guy, Wilmer.
WILMER: My name isn't Wilmer Flange, it's William Flinge. I lied about my name. I wasn't sure then; now that I've made a sacrifice I know you must be worth it.
SELMA: I am, William, I am!
MARTINAS: [to WILMER] Glad you can't be bribed: you'll be true to her. Head bookkeeper?
WILMER shakes his head "no."
Would you mind leaving us together a minute, Sel?
SELMA: Everyone loves me. [Exits.]
MARTINAS: [weeps] Pity an old man, becount of she's all I have.
WILMER: Would she be happy, O.O.?
MARTINAS: I can buy and sell you! No, forget I said that. We must be kind.
WILMER: Strange how I don't mind anything when someone loves me.
MARTINAS: Forgive an old man, may I extend my heart¬felt felicitations?
WILMER: You're crying, O.O.
MARTINAS: Yes, these illiterate eyes.... But what did I do? [Angry.] An empire! The O.O. Martinas build-ing! I can buy and sell you! Without knowing how to read! An empire of meat I built, and mine eyes have never lain in locked embrace with the written word! What have you done with your learning? Stolen my fiancée! Keep your reading, keep your writing. Give me arithmetic. One plus one equals one and one all alone by itself will forever equal none. Who needs reading and writing!
He sobs.
WILMER: Why are you crying?
MARTINAS: Becount of I can't read or write.
WILMER: [holding MARTINAS' quaking shoulders] There are other things.
MARTINAS: Like money! I can buy and sell you!
He grabs WILMER by the throat.
WILMER: What did I do? I'm nice and soft and getting killed. On my vacation.
MARTINAS: Come on, Sel.
Enter SELMA.
WILMER: Stick with me, Selma.
SELMA: I need O.O.'s apartment,
WILMER: I have a hot plate in my office.
MARTINAS: Selma! To the O.O. Martinas building and have an O.O. Special.
WILMER: [to SELMA] Go! Do you want to get me killed? Don't answer. Run away with me. No!
MARTINAS: [simultaneously] Corned beef, liverwurst, pastrami, Italian salami, turkey and tongue on two nice thick...slices of...baloney!
SELMA: Is there any of that Russian dressing left?
MARTINAS: I'm a gentleman and a butcher, am I not?
SELMA: Oh, O.O., OK.
WILMER: Please Selma!
SELMA: Please what?
WILMER: I don't know.
MARTINAS takes SELMA'S arm as if nothing had happened. They mark time ready to march.
MARTINAS: Good-by, William Flinge. I'm taking Selma home now. I'd offer you a job as head bookkeeper; the atmosphere would be too tense, don't you think?
SELMA: Good-by, Wilmer Flange, for that's the way I'll always remember you.
WILMER: Good-by, Selma Chargesse, for that's the way I'll always remember you.
MARTINAS: Pardon an old sentimental man, William, may I say something before I go?
WILMER: Sure, O.O.
MARTINAS: [violent] I'll kill you if you ever see Selma again!
SELMA: You're jealous, O.O.
WILMER: If ever you need me, Selma, I'll be waiting.
MARTINAS marches her away. WILMER sits miserable.
If bookkeeping cannot change the human side of existence, can movies? The only way out! The only key! I'm going to see "Bhowani Junction" starring Ava Gardner and Stewart Granger, with Bill Travers and Abraham Sofaer, directed by George Cukor and produced by Pandro S. Berman!
He smiles, then breaks into the awful grimace.



The street again. WILMER enters from movie, carrying a bag of money and a box of popcorn. Eats last piece of popcorn and spits it out.
WILMER: What a rotten movie!
FIRST POLICEMAN: I love you madly.
FRANCES: You don't even remember my name. It's Frances.
FIRST POLICEMAN: I love you madly, Frances.
WILMER smiles the awful grimace.
FRANCES: Hey, that guy's looking funny at me.
WILMER: I was smiling because you look so happy. But hit me, I don't care about anything any more. Hit me! Hit me! I don't care.
That's enough! Now, I go. Nice of you to chat with me. I have no one, not even parents! That's a lie. I have parents. Lonely and alone enough to lie!
FIRST POLICEMAN: I ought to lock you up, but I and Gertrude will be late for the concert. Music! Rhythm I love!
They exit.
WILMER: I was only making faces at myself.
Enter WOMAN VENDOR with two suitcases.
WOMAN VENDOR: Dolls! I'm selling dolls! They laugh, they cry, they do everything but die. Why are you crying?
WILMER: I'm laughing. I'm glad Selma Chargesse, a ca¬sual acquaintance I happen to love, has left me for security. What meals she can eat! Steaks smothered with lamb chops, liver on the side. I'm glad, happy!
Starts to leave.
VENDOR: Where are you going?
WILMER: To kill myself.
VENDOR: That's no key to the situation.
WILMER: What is?
VENDOR: [snapping open suitcase with stand] Dolls! They understand. Twenty-five cents, thirty-five cents, five cents.
WILMER: I'll take one.
VENDOR: One what?
WILMER: One suitcase of dolls. How much?
VENDOR: [assessing WILMER'S moneybag] How much do you have?
WILMER: One hundred dollars in change.
VENDOR: Sold! I'll give it to you for one hundred dollars—in change.
WILMER: [giving her moneybag] Are you sure this is the key?
VENDOR: [leaving quickly] It is for me!
WILMER: [calls to empty street] Dolls! I'm selling pretty dolls, dolls that never leave you for another person or another doll. They laugh, they cry, they do everything but die; dolls do not need first cut meats like certain Selma Chargesses. Which reminds me, I'm hungry. Hunger always hunts for misery. [Sets up suitcase.] I'm angry, hurt and angry and hungry. Selma, if ever you need me, I'll be waiting. I'm selling dolls that never leave you for another person, or another doll.. .they laugh, they cry, they do everything but die.
Lights fade to blackout.


Projection on Curtain: "Two Days Later. The O.O. Martinas apartment in the O.O. Martinas Meat De-partment Store."

SELMA is sitting reading in negligee. MARTINAS is on other side of wall in bedroom during entire scene. SELMA is reading in an armchair. She dozes, but snaps herself awake and returns to her magazine with a struggle.
MARTINAS: [in bedroom] Selma, coming to bed? It's one o'clock. [Waits. No reaction.] You're tired too. You worked hard in the cutlet department this morning. [Waits. No reaction.] You need sleep. I saw you slaving away in assorted gizzards. [Waits. No reaction.] I'm worn out and I can't go to sleep. It's so lonely in here.
SELMA: That's why I don't want to go in there.
She is shocked by her own words.
SELMA is still shocked, but proud.
SELMA still does not answer, smiling.
Were you talking to yourself?
SELMA: Everyone talks to herself sometime or another. Or don't you know that?
MARTINAS: I tell you truly, Selma, I don't.
SELMA: Don't you ever talk to yourself?
MARTINAS: To tell you truly, Selma, I don't. And though I have never truly believed honesty is the best policy, I am speaking truly. Wait! No! I remember, once I spoke to myself.
MARTINAS: Nobody listened. I concluded that man doesn't acquire meat department stores by talking to himself; I concluded that meat department stores come to him who talks out loud and says: "World, you old sneak thief, work for me, or I will put you in solitary confinement by committing suicide." And that's all it takes to be rich, that—and money! Money! Selma, please, come to sleep becount of my severe case of loneliness.
SELMA Puts coat over her negligee, quietly leaves, doing her old dance. MARTINAS is not aware.
Selma? Are you mad becount of I refuse to talk to myself?
MARTINAS enters in pajamas with pork chop pattern.
Selma.... Selma?
Stares in teary dismay at her disappearance.
Lights dim in MARTINAS' apartment.


The street. It is raining.
Lights go up beneath lamppost where WILMER is selling his dolls to no one late in the night, his suitcase open.
SELMA enters. WILMER does not see her.
WILMER: Dolls that never leave you for another person or another doll.
SELMA: Can you believe who is back?
WILMER: [without turning to her] Selma Chargesse, my former casual acquaintance and sweetheart!
SELMA: Right the first time.
Several people with umbrellas pass between them.
WILMER: Selma. Why did you leave me two days ago for the sake of dollars?
SELMA: I did it for the money.
WILMER: Why did you go off with a man much less your type than my type?
SELMA: Can you forgive me?
WILMER: No, but I will.
SELMA: Oh, William.
WILMER: I've changed my name to Wilmer Flange, officially.
SELMA: Wilmer, let's go to the movies. Where we belong.
WILMER: Selma, movies are not the key, nor bookkeeping.
SELMA: What is the key?
WILMER: [shows suitcase] Dolls.
SELMA: Dolls!!? You're right.
WILMER: Then promise me one thing.
SELMA: Almost anything! Almost anything!
WILMER: Promise me your next man will be your type and my type.
SELMA: But you're more your type and my type than any type.
WILMER: Selma, I got married.
SELMA: Married? Two days and you forgot me?
WILMER: It was more like three, Selma.
SELMA: Two days and three nights.
WILMER: How long can a guy wait? I only married Marguerite for the dolls of it anyway. She owned a doll warehouse.
SELMA: Why, why?
WILMER: I needed spare parts for my experiments. I am trying to invent a doll that sneezes.
SELMA: Good-by. I would wish happiness to you and Marguerite Flange; my heart is not in it mainly because of my extreme love for you. I wish you both a drop of joy.
WILMER: Don't forget my son, Bez, a fine boy of one year of age.
SELMA: Married three days—you have a son?
WILMER: Yes, by my wife's husband, Rocky!
SELMA: Good-by, William Flinge, for that's the way I'll always remember you.
Starts to leave.
WILMER: Good-by, Selma Chargesse, for that's the way I'll always remember you. [Begins to hawk dolls.] They laugh, they cry, they do everything but die.
SELMA: [stops suddenly] She had a husband when she married you?
WILMER: Don't worry, she left me yesterday. Said I was obsessed with dolls. Said I never came home. Said I spent all the time inventing dolls. Said the truth.
SELMA: You're a free man, Wilmer! My man! With me you'll be a happy doll inventor.
WILMER: What I've wanted since yesterday.
A baby cries.
WILMER takes a baby from suitcase.
She said I could have Bez, the child; he's grown to love me in these two days.
SELMA: Three days. Let's go home.
WILMER: One of my dolls already has a runny nose.
They march toward WILMER'S house.



Projection on Curtain: "Years later. The Street. The Night. The Depression."

Street, late at night, years later, near shoeshine stand. The policemen have aged.

FIRST POLICEMAN: I hate when the country is in a depression; poor Wilmer and Selma! Together all these years. No money, lack of funds, poverty, second-run movies. Shine my shoes?
FIRST POLICEMAN: Don't you want my big boots to glow in the darkness like a bright and beautiful gun? After all, the cows hanging there in O.O.'s window upside down see nothing but shoes.
SECOND POLICEMAN: Cows! Big shots hanging there upside down!
FIRST POLICEMAN: Today they're happy on display with their bellies open, showing how beautiful they are inside; the next day they're gone, forgotten, and new cows take their place in the window, showing off their bright red guts, one generation to the next.
SECOND POLICEMAN: Cows, hanging there upside down! Let 'em drop dead!
Another robbery occurs behind them. It is the same HIGH HAT ROBBER and his VICTIM, now both a little older.
BOTH: Look!
SECOND POLICEMAN: Again the late light in Wilmer's doll invention studio, formerly his furnished room, formerly his bookkeeping office.
FIRST POLICEMAN: Wilmer day and night invents new dolls.
SECOND POLICE MAN: Nobody buys them.
FIRST POLICEMAN: After years of failure—
SECOND POLICEMAN:—real failure.
FIRST POLICEMAN: And poor O.O. Martinas.
Enter MARTINAS who sits at a cafe table.
Five new stories added to his meat department store. Two new bone departments. Has money, but you can't get love for money.
SECOND POLICEMAN: Not for love or money.
They exit.


MARTINAS at café table studying menu. WAITRESS approaches.
MARTINAS: Uhm, how much for the brandy?
WAITRESS: Seventy cents.
MARTINAS: Uhm, how much for the bourbon?
WAITRESS: Seventy cents. Everything here is seventy cents.
MARTINAS: Uhm, how much for the cognac?
WAITRESS: Listen, are you a wise guy?
MARTINAS: Uhm, how much for you?
WAITRESS: [looks angry, then decides] Ten dollars.
WAITRESS: Ten dollars isn't much. I don't do this for a living. I raise money to send my fifteen-year-old daughter through school. I want her to have the advantages I never had, I want her to be pure.
MARTINAS: [studies the menu a moment then] Uhm, how much for the Shirley Temple?


WILMER'S toy invention studio at night, a tiny room, with boxes, toys, parts of toys in disarray. WILMER is sitting behind the desk-worktable, taking the temperature of a doll, feeling its pulse, using a stethoscope on its chest.
WILMER looks tired, older.
SELMA walks in, carrying a suitcase. BEZ (in a sailor suit), their six-year-old son, follows. During the scene, BEZ keeps hitting WILMER with a rubber glove. No reaction from WILMER.
WILMER: Hello, Selma, hello, Bez, my son. Look at this doll, Bez. Does he look sad enough to make people happy? Oh, if I could only make a doll that dies: five years of walking and jumping, then the little doll gets sick and dies, a beautiful doll death.
SELMA: Wilmer—
WILMER: We could sell doll coffins, doll tombstones, doll cemeteries. Kids would love that. Real live death to play with.
SELMA: Wilmer—
WILMER: Doll germs! Each doll with little doll symp¬toms built in. It's the key of keys—the life key. What's the matter, Selma, don't you like the idea? [Takes tem¬perature of doll] 98.6—it should be 101 at least.
SELMA: Wilmer, I'm leaving you, you know that, don't you?
WILMER: Be back before the first to handle the bookkeeping? You're good at it, you know that, don't you? I love you, you know that, don't you?
SELMA: I'm taking Bez and not coming back, Wilmer, you know that, don't you?
WILMER: I love you, Selma, you know that, don't you?
SELMA: You haven't been home for three days, Wilmer, you know that, don't you?
WILMER: It was only two.
SELMA: Two days and three nights.
WILMER: One more little old chance?
SELMA: You'd be home a week, then back here, again, forgetting Bez, me, yourself—did you eat today? Of course not, you know that, don't you?
WILMER: Of course not. I was happy, didn't need food, you know that, don't you?
SELMA takes a sandwich from handbag.
SELMA: Eat now, or you never will, you know that, don't you?
WILMER: [eating] It's not for myself I spend time here. If I develop a doll that shrivels up, wastes away and dies, we'll have security and securities. We'll spend so much time together you'll throw me out of the house. You know that, don't you? Hahaha!
With his mouth full of sandwich he weepingly laughs, chokes, drinks water, spills some on her accidentally.
He tries to brush her dress, bends down rubbing the skirt.
SELMA: [hysterically] Get off your knees!
WILMER: [hugs her legs] Am I so wrong?
SELMA: [weeping] Not wrong but what can we do? It would be wrong if you changed for my sake. Wrong for both of us, you know that, don't you?
WILMER: I'll see you downstairs at least, you know that, don't you?
BEZ bursts into tears.
BEZ: I don't want to leave my daddy! You know that, don't you?
WILMER: Go, Bez, our son. Protect Mother.
WILMER is about to escort SELMA out when phone rings.
Oh, that's about some important springs. Springs that will make my dolls sick, Selma.
SELMA: I'll write from my mother's.
WILMER: Try to make Bez understand.
SELMA: Understand what?
WILMER: I don't know—you know that, don't you?
Exit SELMA and BEZ.
And remember—if ever you need me, I'll be waiting. You know that—
Phone rings again. He rushes in to answer it. Too late. Takes doll's temperature and bursts into tears. Door opens and an elegantly dressed SCRUB LADY [WOMAN VENDOR] enters.
SCRUB LADY: Still here? Go home to your wife and kid, rat! All the time here.
WILMER: My wife left me.
Works on doll.
SCRUB LADY: All the time your hands on doll people. Not at home where good men bring hands.
She brings in a pail and begins to scrub the floor.
WILMER: A man has no right to invent dolls that die?
SCRUB LADY: Not that I'm a bargain, but I want a man home. Even if we knock each other around.
WILMER is weeping.
Hey, what's the matter? Did someone pass away? I hate it. All my friends are red in the eyes. Everyone passes away nowadays,
WILMER: My wife left me.
SCRUB LADY: [holding his head and liking it] Ah, you should have told me.
WILMER: I need her the way I need—dolls.
SCRUB LADY: Me, I like a man home.
Phone rings, WILMER rushes, speaks into it.
WILMER: Hello. My wife left me. Life without her is like life without dolls.—Yes, the springs! Send them—
Hangs up, obviously cut off. Looks at temperature of doll, shakes his head in disappointment.
SCRUB LADY: What's the fun of being sad if you can't turn to your friends?
NIGHT WATCHMAN: [enters, with time clock, drunk] Oh, still here, huh?
WILMER: I'm here!
NIGHT WATCHMAN: There have been burglaries, but don't worry—I'm making my rounds. Not meaning a drop of harm. Speaking of a drop—
WILMER: Another thing. Did I drink? No.
WILMER: Go out with other women?
WILMER: [grabs NIGHT WATCHMAN] Why did she leave me? Answer. Why?
NIGHT WATCHMAN: Let me go. I've got to take care of this building.
NIGHT WATCHMAN, frightened, is about to leave when WILMER holds him back, imploringly and angrily.
My heart's not strong. I have this drinking problem based on alcohol.
WILMER: [looks at thermometer in doll] 98.6! Still no good. I'd settle for a mild 100, just a touch of the flu.
NIGHT WATCHMAN: I'm not a well watchman.
Sound of footsteps. All are terrified.
SCRUB LADY: Burglars!
WILMER: Lord, don't let the burglars get me until one of my dolls comes down with a toy disease. I can't go on without the key.
SCRUB LADY: Lord, I'll never ever again.
WILMER: Lord, I will always.
NIGHT WATCHMAN: Lord, could I have a drink?
Door opens and a TOUGH enters. He carries a violin case. He opens the case as all freeze with fear. TOUGH takes out a violin, then a package.
TOUGH: Mr. Wilmer Flange? I have some springs.
WILMER: A delivery boy comes bearing springs.
NIGHT WATCHMAN: No burglary in his soul.
TOUGH: I'm a music student. I work from six to twelve delivering springs; I don't mind; it doesn't conflict with my real work, house painting. Eight hours a day. This is my violin practice hour, but I'm delivering overtime to buy brushes for a new paint job. My masterpiece. A twelve-room basement flat. The rent is twelve bucks a month, but what a job those guys are doing: twelve thousand dollars in decorating it all up. Twelve different shades of off-beige.
WILMER: [to TOUGH] But springs make the dolls live and, with luck, die. Springs round out their little personalities. I need springs. You're not listening. Nobody listens. Can't you hear me? Are you deaf?
TOUGH: I'm sorry, sir, I can't hear you. I'm deaf.
NIGHT WATCHMAN: What about my problem? I'm sober!
WILMER: I'll give you a drink.
NIGHT WATCHMAN hops back on table.
SCRUB LADY: I thought you were not a drinking thing,
WILMER: A man has a right.
NIGHT WATCHMAN: Sheer psychology.
TOUGH: You folks sure do fool around and have fun.
The two policemen enter.
FIRST POLICEMAN: Who screamed? What's going on here?
SECOND POLICE MAN: OK, OK, break it up. Break what up? What's the trouble? Who screamed?
FIRST POLICEMAN: [pointing to toy tom-toms] May I—you know what?
FIRST POLICEMAN: Please let me do it.
SCRUB LADY: Take me away.
SECOND POLICEMAN: Did you scream?
SCRUB LADY: Take me away. I'm lonely.
WILMER takes sandwich, eats and weeps.
FIRST POLICEMAN: I'm going to do it!
SCRUB LADY: Going to take me away?
FIRST POLICEMAN: [takes a toy tom-tom and beats it, TOUGH joins in on his violin] Going to play the toy tom-tom.
FIRST POLICEMAN and TOUGH play a duet for violin and toy tom-tom. SCRUB LADY sings beautiful vocalise.
Enter SELMA and BEZ. SECOND POLICEMAN sees them and blows his whistle. Music stops.
SELMA: I, Bez, all two of us crying at the station while you cavort here and have fun. I'm going to stay.
WILMER: I'm eating a sandwich of tears.
SELMA: I can't stand it at my mother's. And it's a long trip.
WILMER: Life, you've come through again!
Embraces SELMA.
SELMA: These ten minutes seemed like an hour!
WILMER: [rushes to TOUGH and shakes him] Give me springs! My little dolls will shrivel up, waste away, and die. They don't want to be left out. They want to be the key. The springs!
Searches TOUGH. TOUGH points to table. WILMER takes spring and picks up a doll. Puts on surgical mask.
SELMA: Could Bez and I have a kiss and a dollar fifty to pay the cab?
SCRUB LADY: He's busy! Think of someone but yourself! You all the time want nothing but a man home. Here's a guy changing the world of toys!
WILMER: In all fairness, Selma, the lady on my left is right.
BEZ: Who can I hit? Who can I hit?
WILMER keeps working in laboratory light; he is a scientist probing the unknown, a surgeon. Drum roll from FIRST POLICEMAN'S tom-tom.
WILMER: Scissors.
SCRUB LADY, nurse-like, gives scissors.
SCRUB LADY gives glue.
BEZ: You're not glad I'm back. I'm taking mother away. You know that, don't you?
WILMER: This is it! Thermometer.
SCRUB LADY: Here you are, darling.
As WILMER concentrates, he does not notice SELMA writing a note. She and BEZ quietly march off just as WILMER inserts thermometer in doll's behind. He turns to where he thinks SELMA is standing.
WILMER: A whole chapter in the encyclopedia of dolls will be devoted to us in this room on this day.
The two policemen stand at attention.
Selma—[Sees she has left.] SELMA! [Picks up note, reads aloud.] "If ever you need me. I'll be waiting. Love, Selma Chargesse, former casual acquaintance and mother of your former wife's son, Bez." [Pause.] Darn it! My wife and child have left me again!
Takes out stethoscope and puts it on doll's chest hopefully.
Sound of feet. Everyone in the room is frightened again. They huddle together: they await their doom. The door opens, in walks O.O. MARTINAS, unchanged by years.
MARTINAS: [to WILMER] Forgive an old fool, but haven't I seen you somewhere before? Give me Selma, to take away to a more attractive, permissive and lucrative life—if you know what those words mean, you'll hand her over.
WILMER: I don't know what the words mean, I know what you mean. You can't have her. She's mine. I wouldn't give her away for all the dolls in China. She loves me. She left me.
MARTINAS: Then she must be at my house, loving me.
WILMER: She's at her mother's house not loving her.
MARTINAS: Her mother died when Selma was a girl of thirty-eight.
WILMER: That's right! She must be at your house.
MARTINAS: How do you think you lived all these years? My meat department store, twenty-five floors. I sent you free meat. Becount of her.
MARTINAS: What's wrong with my meat? I sent the second best cuts!
MARTINAS: Here I kept him in oxtails and entrails!
MARTINAS: But the second best!
MARTINAS: Yet he scorns me and won't give me his wife I deserve.
WILMER: And my dear son, Bez!
MARTINAS: All right, I'll take him too.
WILMER: Go. I don't need anyone! My dolls will get feverish and die, and make people happy. The Key! The Key! The thermometer.
MARTINAS: Goombye!
WILMER takes thermometer from doll. He looks at thermometer and bows his head in defeat.
WILMER: 98.6.
TOUGH: I can't hear them. I'm deaf. You know that, don't you?
As WILMER, crying, eats his sandwich.

End Act One



Projection on Curtain: "Years Later. Merry Christmas."

The dark silent street, empty except for the aging policemen, counting money.
FIRST POLICEMAN: [gives SECOND POLICEMAN a dollar bill wrapped in ribbon] Merry Christmas.
SECOND POLICEMAN: [gives FIRST POLICEMAN a dollar bill in exchange] Merry Christmas.
FIRST POLICEMAN: Just what I've always wanted—a dollar bill.
SECOND POLICEMAN: Good times in the nation! Dollar again buys dollar.
FIRST POLICEMAN: Shine my shoes? Just let me feel that beat on my feet.
FIRST POLICEMAN: I'm tired of playing scrabble. André—
HIGH HAT ROBBER, older, robs his VICTIM in background.
BOTH POLICEMEN: [not seeing robbery] Look!
FIRST POLICEMAN: Again the late light in the O.O. Martinas Meat Mart. Ten new stories added, a used meat department, and Selma back in her bloody apron. After years...
SECOND POLICEMAN: Let the years drop dead.
FIRST POLICEMAN: Oh, André, don't be that way. What do you want to do?
WILMER enters with suitcase open, hawking.
WILMER: Dolls!
SECOND POLICEMAN: I know, let's arrest that bum.
WILMER: Dolls! I'm selling pretty dolls that refuse to get sick and die and leave you for another person or another doll. One dollar. Christmas is marching on us, Christmas. Can't you taste the snowdrops?
Policemen walk to him.
FIRST POLICEMAN: Come along with us.
WILMER: I'm an enterprising young bum.
SECOND POLICEMAN: You young bum.
WILMER: Merry Christmas.
SECOND POLICEMAN: Merry Christmas, you bum.
FIRST POLICEMAN: Let's give the bum a break.
SECOND POLICEMAN: True. It's Christmas. [To WILMER.] Do you see that sign? Santa Claus needed. Why don't you get a position as a saint? You bum.
WILMER: What does a saint do in the O.O. Martinas Meat Mart?
SECOND POLICEMAN: Gives away meat tidbits for tots.
FIRST POLICEMAN: For Christmas' sake! Come along, André. Snow will be on the lot covering the dead cars and the building that never got past the framework. It would have been some pretty building, André. The girders were orange! Come along! If we hurry we'll make dawn.
They leave.
Dawn breaks.
WILMER looks at sign. BEZ enters. He wears same sailor suit he wore as little BEZ years before.
BEZ: Excuse me, I live here and work here. Today I help my Dad O.O. choose a Santa. [Looks in WILMER'S suitcase.] Nice dolls. I'd buy your dolls, but I'm low on cash. My money's tied up in the business,
WILMER: [gives BEZ the suitcase] Take them, all of them.
BEZ [takes toys] You should, becount of it's Christmas,
WILMER: What do you want to be when you grow up?
BEZ: A butcher. Becount of I'm a butcher now.
WILMER: Bez, remember me? Your former dad?
BEZ You're not my former dad. My former dad was a bum. Goombye!
WILMER: Merry Christmas.
Both exit into store
Lights dim on street and brighten in MARTINAS' office.


MARTINAS sits at a chopping table-desk. Behind him hangs a huge side of beef as if ready to pounce on him, or hug him.
MARTINAS: [into intercom] Professor Alum will be here in ten minutes. Don't disturb me. Professor Alum is a philosopher, philologist, critic, and halfback for Heidelberg in '34. He will give me my first lesson.
Enter a threadbare studious man of forty, ALUM.
ALUM: Thirty-five floors. Shouldn't you put in elevators?
MARTINAS: Ah, Doctor Professor. Enchanted. Always admired your books. Teach me to read.
ALUM: [picks up three volumes on MARTINAS' desk] Dante, Shelley, Keats? Have you trouble reading Dante, Shelley, and Keats? Is it the symbolism, the metaphor, the syntax?
MARTINAS: The reading. I can't read. It's ruining my career as a well-rounded fellow. I'm what cruel people call illiterate.
ALUM: You're a beginner?
MARTINAS: I'm not exactly a beginner: I build poems.
Tho' I lack education,
In my estimation
There's no other poet
Like that Irish poet,
Kelly of Kelly and Sheats.
ALUM What about Dante?
MARTINAS: There's nothing more Dante,
Except a lace pantie,
Than reading the poems of,
Those Irish poems of,
Kelly of Kelly and Sheats.
ALUM: Oh yes, your sense of humor. Get rid of it.
MARTINAS: My poem?
ALUM Not bad.
MARTINAS: Not bad! You academic low-grade moron! Can't you say more about it?
ALUM: Not with your butcher knife on the table.
MARTINAS: Charlatan, Svengali, cheapskate!
ALUM: Cheapskate?
MARTINAS: Charging so little.
ALUM: Little?
MARTINAS: Three dollars, that's all you're getting so that's all you're charging.
ALUM: It's been a pleasure hating you; learn to read, so I can write you a scathing note of thanks. You beginner!
MARTINAS: Me? Learn to read? Catch your disease? Never. Goombye, Doctor Professor.
ALUM: Take your three dollars and shove it—in an envelope and send it to me—Archilochus Shemasky, c/o the Home for Homeless Men.
MARTINAS: Why are you disguised as brilliant Professor Alum, philosopher, philologist, critic, and halfback for Heidelberg in '34?
ALUM: Do I look like brilliant Professor Alum?
MARTINAS: I've never seen the fool.
ALUM: I never heard of Alum. I'm a poet. I came for a Santa Claus position, dispatched here by the Jeffrey Freedom Employment Agency. And I'll make a good Santa, Mr. Martinas. I've never owned anything.
MARTINAS: So you want to be a Santa? My Santas have to give away meats to the kiddies, teeny wieners, liverwurst cones, chocolate chicken feet: we call them tidbits for tots.
ALUM: Lovely.
MARTINAS: You don't mind kids yelling, grabbing for snacks, stuffing their little faces with food?
ALUM: Lovely.
MARTINAS: You're fired. Goombye. You'd give away all my profits. A man doesn't build thirty-five floors of meat by giving all his food to kiddies. First floor, loins of beef; second floor, veal; third, lamb; fourth, me, a large apartment, French provincial iceboxes, blood cocktail bar [Drinks one himself]; fifth floor, the various mar rows...
ALUM: Goombye.
MARTINAS: [into intercom] Get me the Jeffrey Freedom Employment Agency. The real Professor Alum, philosopher, philologist, critic, and halfback for Heidel¬berg in '34 should be here any minute. Throw him out. [Picks up phone, talks into it.] Jeffrey Freedom? What kind of employment agency are you running? I wanted a Santa Claus with heart, savoir-faire, gusto, and a private income. I wanted a red-blooded, red-nosed, red-cheeked, red-flanneled man for the job. What did you send me? A red. A bolshevik. And if I wanted to get him in trouble I'd call him a Communist, the commie. Goombye!
Enter WILMER and BEZ. BEZ sits on the chopping table-desk and begins tearing a doll apart as MARTINAS looks over two Santa masks and puts them aside together.
BEZ: I found us a Santa!
WILMER: [having climbed thirty-five flights]: Thirty-five floors of meat, what a marvel!
MARTINAS: Stop criticizing! Haven't I seen you before? What qualifies you as beloved Santa of the Martinas Meat Mart?
WILMER: I used to make and sell dolls. Dolls were the key.
BEZ chops doll with meat cleaver.
WILMER: [takes tidbit from a Santa Claus bag, eats.] This is the best tidbit for tots I've ever had.
MARTINAS: I'm glad. Stop eating. You're on my time.
WILMER: I'm in?
MARTINAS: Put on this Santa mask and hat. I had another mask somewhere.
WILMER puts on mask and hat; tries to steal a tidbit, but BEZ slaps it out of his hand. Santa mask is fully adjusted.
MARTINAS: [indicates WILMER'S masked face] Bez, my son, what do you think? Where's the other mask? Did he eat it?
BEZ: Let's hear him laugh.
WILMER sobs behind mask.
Beautiful. He'll make an authentic Santa.
MARTINAS: [giving rest of uniform to WILMER] You're in! Put on the rest of the uniform.
WILMER: [weeping, arms outstretched]: Bez, my Bez—
MARTINAS: Oh Santa, you're on my time!
BEZ: He should double the gross intake this week, Dad.
WILMER puts on Santa uniform.
MARTINAS: Bez can't read, but he sure can count!
WILMER: Please, may I hear him count.
MARTINAS: Count, Bez, my child.
BEZ: One, two, three, three-fifty, four, four and a quarter...
BEZ: One chop plus one chop is two chops. Dad, what an advertising stunt! The Santa scheme cost fifty dollars tops, but it should net us somewhere in the neighborhood of—
WILMER has finished changing into Santa uniform.
Santa! Santa! [Sits on WILMER'S lap.] What am I going to get for Christmas?
WILMER: I don't know. Does that qualify me as a non-Santa? O Bez, Bez...
BEZ leaps off WILMER'S lap. WILMER reaches out, weeping, one hand toward BEZ, one hand toward the food.
MARTINAS: Bez, did you see my other Santa mask? It was younger looking. I had them both together. [Looking for mask.] Hey, what's this filthy suitcase?
BEZ: Some bum gave it to me.
WILMER sobs.
MARTINAS: You're on my time, Santa. Now get out there and give! [Gives WILMER bag of tidbits.]


The street.
WILMER in Santa uniform leaves MARTINAS' building, calls to passers-by laden with Christmas pack¬ages and dressed as if they themselves were gift-wrapped.
WILMER: Tidbits for tots! Compliments of the O.O. Martinas Meat Mart. Bring them home to the kiddies. Candied sweetbreads, chocolate chicken feet.
SELMA approaches. She is wearing a suit that looks as if it is made of Christmas wrapping of silk and tinsel. WILMER expresses shock, then grief, SELMA walks to him and WILMER joyfully opens his arms.
SELMA: Uniform's too big. I'll speak to O.O. about it.
WILMER: Don't you know me?
SELMA: Of course. You're Santa Glaus. Merry Christmas. That uniform makes you pathetic and poor, Santa. Anyone would think you're a bum.
She goes toward building.
WILMER: Selma...
Romantic music.
SELMA: A voice I've known.
WILMER rushes to her and triumphantly takes off his mask. Beneath it is the other Santa Claus mask.
WILMER: Selma!
SELMA: I was right. You are Santa Claus.
WILMER tries to take other mask off. SELMA helps him and when she sees his face, she weeps.
WILMER: Yes, it's Wilmer Flange, your former casual acquaintance and husband.
SELMA: You don't look well. Have you failed in your several chosen fields?
WILMER: I'm all right. I'll be a traveling Santa. The key? America in the winter: Argentina in the summer. Santas down there don't have the know-how. I'll be in demand. I'll be loved. And in Spanish. Come with me.
SELMA: I'm OK with O.O.
WILMER: Some men would plead and beg. I'm one of them.
SELMA: Kiss me.
WILMER: On the street?
SELMA: On the mouth.
They kiss.
WILMER: I knew it! I knew we were really the type for each other. I knew you hated that ignorant old man, knew you didn't need him, him when you had me, me.
SELMA: Yes, yes! Kiss. Kiss.
They kiss, kiss. Music stops.
And now good-by. I realize I said I'll be waiting whenever you need me, so I hope there are no hard feelings that I've grown used to O.O. And I need money for when I become rich. I'll thank you not to call him an ignorant old, useless old, impotent old man.
WILMER: I didn't say he was impotent,
SELMA: Yes, well, anyway. Don't you see, Wilmer, life isn't everything.
WILMER: If ever you need me, Selma—
WILMER puts on one Santa Claus mask and holds the other in his hands. Gloom settles around him, but a ray of light picks out still another bearded—though thinner—face.
WILMER: A fellow Santa! If I can't have love, I want com¬panionship.
The other "Santa" steps into the light and is revealed as no Santa at all. He is UNCLE SAM. He points at WILMER as in the famous poster.
UNCLE SAM: I want you!
UNCLE SAM helps WILMER into army uniform from Santa uniform and WILMER marches off with rifle.


Projection on Curtain: "WAR"

The slide is cracked to give the impression of barbed wire. Another projection follows: An exclamation point all by itself.
A battlefield. Night. WILMER is advancing, rifle in hand. Battle noises, smoke. Occasional flares. Other soldiers are dimly seen in the background.
FIRST SOLDIER: Do we advance?
WILMER: I don't know.
SECOND SOLDIER: Where are we heading?
WILMER: I don't know.
THIRD SOLDIER: What will we do after we get there?
WILMER: I don't know.
FIRST SOLDIER: Say, who are you?
WILMER: I'm in Central Intelligence.
SECOND SOLDIER: Let's retreat!
ALL: Swell!
THIRD SOLDIER: [to SECOND SOLDIER] Which way is back?
WILMER: I don't know.
The three SOLDIERS exit in confusion, bumping into each other as they go. The flares have died out and the stage is completely black.
After a few moments, the glow of a lit cigarette becomes visible on one side of the stage.
WILMER, unseen, moves toward the lit cigarette.
WILMER: I beg your pardon. Could I bother you for a light?
WILMER takes a light from the other cigarette.
I'm tired of being drafted. I didn't mind those two wars last year, but now I'm highly involved in a project which leaves me no time for war—namely: military history. It's the key, you know. For example, people learn from military history how to avoid war. Think of the chaos the world would be in today if it had no military history. My motto is: Be nice to history and history will be nice to you.
Other soldier snores.
Don't fall asleep. Please.
ENEMY SOLDIER: [in thick German accent] Shh! A zoldier cannot zome zleep around here get?
WILMER: Where did you get that accent?
WILMER: That's a German accent. Are you of German descent?
WILMER: You're not my enemy by any chance?
WILMER: Wilmer Flange is the name. Happy to meet one of you. I like your work. I admire your military strategy.
Bomb explodes with enormous noise. Livid green light takes the stage.
ENEMY SOLDIER: [In the light he is seen to be a wild-looking Japanese soldier with sword.] Vat a boom!
WILMER: No offense, but you're very Japanese.
ENEMY SOLDIER: Only on mein father's side. Mom vas German.
WILMER: Must we fight each other to the death?
ENEMY SOLDIER: Zilence! The enemy will hear.
WILMER: The enemy?
ENEMY SOLDIER: Our superior officers.
WILMER: Are you like me? A pacifist fighting to end war?
ENEMY SOLDIER: Ja vohl. I was shot in the head.
WILMER: Hope I didn't do it.
ENEMY SOLDIER: Today for surgery I'm leaving.
WILMER: Tokyo?
WILMER: Berlin?
WILMER: Boston? Ha ha ha—
ENEMY SOLDIER: Nein. New York. I go now to dem dere United States. I have a psychiatrist uncle in the Vest Eighties.
WILMER: Selma lives there in the O.O. Martinas Meat Emporium, she's the former mother of my ex-wife's child, Bez. [Taking out pencil and paper.] Give her this note. I haven't seen her in many a war. [Writing] "If ever you need me, I'll be waiting..."
Hands him letter. ENEMY SOLDIER swallows it.
ENEMY SOLDIER: [leaving] It's been a pleasure. Auf wiedersehn.
WILMER: [waving] Banzai. Here's hoping we see each other again—maybe through a pair of binoculars.
A blast. Exit ENEMY SOLDIER who takes WILMER'S rifle by mistake.
WILMER: [holding sword] Another shot heard round the world.


Projection on Curtain: "MORE WAR"

Another projection follows: Two exclamation points by themselves. The street. Years later. Shoeshine stand. Night.
SECOND POLICEMAN: The wars roll by like cherry pits down the City Hall steps. The cows hanging in the O.O. Martinas window upside down see nothing but marching shoes war after war after war.
FIRST POLICEMAN: I don't like animals to see me upside down. I look funny upside down. My smile looks too sad. This is a depressing war.
SECOND POLICEMAN: It's a fun war for some. O.O. has the joy of donating fat steaks under that juicy gov¬ernment contract.
FIRST POLICEMAN: A dollar-a-year man.
SECOND POLICEMAN: A dollar-a-pound man. Little wonder he was made honorary President.
FIRST POLICEMAN: Another six stories added to the building. Young Bez grown older, a chip off the old chopping block, graduated from sculpture school with a BC—Bachelor of Carving, now an airborne army butcher.
SECOND POLICEMAN: While his former dad, Wilmer—
FIRST POLICEMAN: A mere private, slowly rising to the rank of conscientious objector.
SECOND POLICEMAN: Nowadays people do everything they don't want. It was better before the war when they had no more money. Now they have more money. That's why they have to rob to keep up their standard of living. Look, for instance. There's a robber robbing.
A woman is robbed by HIGH HAT ROBBER. SECOND POLICEMAN draws gun, ROBBER shoots and runs off. SECOND POLICEMAN holds his heart, falls to the ground. FIRST POLICEMAN and robbery VICTIM rush to SECOND POLICEMAN'S aid.
FIRST POLICEMAN: André, André! Your life's not over.
SECOND POLICEMAN: [jumps up healthily] Not my life. My career as a policeman. I'm going to retire from the force.
FIRST POLICE MAN: Weren't you shot?
SECOND POLICEMAN: No. I made believe, so he would run away and never shoot again. The war made him nervous.
FIRST POLICEMAN: Now maybe we can become partners in the music business. And...
They tiptoe off into darkness. Both snapping their fingers in rhythm. The VICTIM watches and wonders.
The HIGH HAT ROBBER is advancing on VICTIM from behind, gun in hand, as stage darkens to blackout.


MARTINAS' apartment. Years later. MARTINAS sits at one of his chopping tables: He eats a rapid meal of six meat courses, served by SELMA in a negligee.
SELMA: Hummingbirds stuffed with condor livers; ham sandwich on pork; filet mignon wrapped in filet mignon; lamb chop aspic; artichokes made of veal; and a nice glass of gravy to wash it down. For dessert, goose mousse.
MARTINAS: What a wonderful breakfast!
SELMA: You deserve it, darling, after your war effort-contributing meat and keeping it at ceiling price.
MARTINAS: What a summery winter's day. Let's go to the park and have brunch. Make a basketful of stew. Nice word, "Brunch." Sounds like a combination of two words. "Unch" for lunch and "Br" for brunch. [Cute as he can be.] Unch, Unch, I think it comes from the Flemish. Uncho, unchere, unchui, unctuous.
SELMA: That's Greek.
MARTINAS: [picking his teeth] Flemish. I had a Dutch uncle.
Doorbell rings. SELMA opens door. ENEMY SOLDIER appears. Draws WILMER'S letter out of his mouth like long piece of string. MARTINAS tips him. ENEMY SOLDIER exits bowing.
SELMA reads the note, then her romantic music is heard. Folds note carefully and puts it next to her heart.
SELMA: Take me to a movie. Let's go see "Das Kapital" by Marx.
SELMA: Then let's go see "The Critique of Pure Reason."
SELMA: Me too, but I only remember what I said about it: Melville's worst book.
MARTINAS: A good writer, for good readers.
SELMA: You can't even read!
MARTINAS: We can't even have a decent argument. Selma, the old thrill's gone. What happened to our setup?
There is a tremendous noise and the whole apartment shakes.
MARTINAS: My God! What is that implosion?
CRASH, and they rush to each other's arms.
SELMA: The end of the world. I know it. Oh, dearest of all butchers, hold me tight. Carry me gently to hell.
MARTINAS: Darling, you're not going to hell: you're intelligent.
SELMA: I'm not a well-informed person.
MARTINAS: You're fairly well read.
Another BOOM.
Before we die, one thing—recite my last poem.
They hold each other desperately as SELMA recites.
SELMA: Love is like a red red eye,
It makes you cry to see it.
Love is a bloodshot eye,
It hurts too much to cry back.
Love is like a red red eye,
It makes your eye red when you see it.
Love is like an alcoholic eye,
It makes you ashamed it can see you.
Love is like a red, red eye
Red eyeballs, red eyelids, red eyelobes, red brain lobes.
A very red, very stormy eye.
The shaking of the house has been gradually subsiding. When it stops at last SELMA and MARTINAS look unbelieving at the wonderful world still there.
SELMA: Darling, what happened? Did you hear that explosion?
MARTINAS: Sweetie, let's listen to the radio. Find out what happened. By the way, it was an implosion, not an explosion.
SELMA: An explosion! Probably a bomb, darling.
MARTINAS: [goes to radio] It was an implosion caused by the weather, sweetie.
SELMA: I think no. [Turns on radio.]
RADIO: Authorities have not determined if the implosion was another bomb to end all booms—, or if the boom was based on the weather—, or if the weather which caused the implosion was caused by the boom of the bomb—, or whether the weather—
MARTINAS: [turns off radio] See?
SELMA: See what, sweetie? He called it a boom. Bombs cause explosions.
MARTINAS: Darling, he said the weather. Ergo: implosion.
SELMA: What do you know about the weather?
MARTINAS: I may not know much about the weather,
but I know what I like, [yells] Implosion! I-M-P-L-S-H-U-N. Implosion!
SELMA starts toward door.
SELMA: Boombye!
SELMA rushes out putting coat over her negligee. She slams the door behind her.


Restaurant. High upright piano is being played: back of piano faces audience. No pianist is visible.
WILMER: [enters in civilian clothes brushing debris from shoulder] What sweet music. It should be played on a harpsichord.
Piano bumps him in consternation.
No offense, but pianos simply don't have that old-world swing.
Piano bumps him again and starts to leave.
What did I do? Please talk to me.
Piano keeps moving slowly away.
I haven't spoken to anyone in ages. Since my discharge I don't get around. My work occupies my life: musicology, it's all I have. My friends are dead or married. I married a few days ago. A lady and a musician. What bliss! She had no children, no parents. No technique. We were divorced this morning.
Piano moves sympathetically toward him.
Can you find it in your hands to forgive me for criticizing?
Piano takes pity, starts to play.
Maybe not a harpsichord after all; a clavichord.
The piano moves off-stage in disgust leaving WILMER abandoned.
SELMA in coat over negligee rushes in.
WILMER: Selma Chargesse, casual acquaintance and wife—but whose?
SELMA: Did you hear the big boom?
WILMER: Yes. E flat. Heard it passing a movie. The theater caved in.
SELMA: What was playing?
WILMER: Too sad to remember.
SELMA: Saw it. What caused the boom? Bomb or weather?
WILMER: [warily] Which do you think?
MARTINAS appears in doorway, in same clothes as previous scene, arms spread-eagle.
SELMA: I think we are each other's type!
WILMER: Selma, I need you, more than Beethoven's Piano Sonata Number 32 in C Minor, Opus III, com-posed at Mödling in the summer of 1820.
They embrace.
MARTINAS: [rushes in, throws an arm warmly around each] We're all each other's types. By the way, I've been wanting to get you kids together for a long time. Kids, listen to an old illiterate...who's done pretty well for himself in a world of misjudgment, misconception, mismanagement, Miss America—and misplosions. [Sweetly.] We three need each other like holes in the head—need patches. We can be partners in the O.O. Martinas All American, All Meat Mart. Forty-eight stories, but growing, a big silver and stucco ever-grow¬ing soul. What do you say, kids? Let's spend the rest of our lives together for the fun of it.
WILMER: [to MARTINAS] Partners? Selma, maybe we should. You spend so much time running back to O.O., I'd see more of you if I ran with you. The only time you need me is when you're with him.
SELMA: It was only the money of it.
WILMER: What money? It was the bleeding animal flesh of it. The meat of it.
SELMA: You mean meat might be the key?
WILMER: I mean...meat is the key. We mean we are all one another's types. We mean—OK, O.O.
WILMER and SELMA: [together] We'll spend the rest of our lives with you.
All three march off.
Enter piano—FIRST POLICEMAN playing, SECOND POLICEMAN turning pages.
SECOND POLICEMAN: Glad I retired from the force and took up piano?
FIRST POLICEMAN: André, don't they remind you of the three people who used to be around here always laughing and in trouble?
SECOND POLICE MAN: They cannot be the same. They haven't changed enough.



Projection on Curtain: Years later: "The Ending: In Which It Again Begins."

MARTINAS and SELMA in butcher coats behind the three chopping tables, cutting meat. WILMER enters guiltily with a towel wrapped around one hand, carry¬ing a meat cleaver in his other hand. WILMER and SELMA have aged; MARTINAS hasn't changed. Three huge sides of beef behind them, engulf them.
SELMA: Wilmer, you've cut yourself again.
MARTINAS [unwraps towel and looks at the bloody wound]: You keep cutting your hand.
WILMER: I was juggling cleavers in the refrigerator to keep warm. I read in a magazine I wrap the sweet-breads in that the Navaho country is warm.
MARTINAS: He's too human.
WILMER: You know what I want? To live way out there among the Navaho.
MARTINAS: Back to work. We've got the biggest order of our career: two tons of corned beef, two tons of roast beef, six miles of frankfurters and a sprinkling of chicken livers. Becount of they're having a party.
WILMER: Why weren't we invited?
MARTINAS: They say we're not as good as the next fellow. Selma, take over the corned beef.
SELMA: Righto, O.O.
MARTINAS: Wilmer, step up production on the roast beef.
WILMER: Righto, O.O.
They all resume their work, cutting and cleaving meat in silence. Music.
I want to live way out there among the Navaho. Selma, if you love me, come!
SELMA: Too old to begin a new life. Look at the girl you wooed and won years ago. Weak, tired. Not the gay slip of a thing I used to be—beautiful, agile, able, hopeful, and a swell dancer. How can I live way out there among the Navaho? Dearest butcher...
WILMER: I want to learn ancestral customs, primitive dances. I want to make sand paintings to send my friends on Independence Day. O.O., tell her you'll send us our fair share of the Mart each month.
MARTINAS: You know I cheat. Oh, just a little, mind you: take advantage in a small harmless way. Sort of cute, you see, [suddenly violent] the world can't kick me around, O.O. The world better watch out, O.O., or I take it between these two fingers and squeeze it like a louse, O.O.
WILMER and SELMA rush to their-work.
[Sweetly.] No, I like Wilmer near me! I don't want him way out there among the Navaho.
SELMA: Wilmer, I've always loved you, I love you still. I'll love you when I'm old, when it's difficult to love anyone or anything but proper bodily functions. I'll love you a long time after we're dead...but—
WILMER: The Navaho still worship the good old gods, I hear tell. They do not kneel before new shrines, they are not blinded by the glitter of new shrines.
MARTINAS: All that glitters is not new shrines.
They resume rhythmic cutting and cleaving. VENDING WOMAN and her small son enter.
WOMAN: Pound of lovers, please.
MARTINAS: You mean livers, Madam?
WOMAN: Didn't I say livers?
MARTINAS: You said lovers.
BOY: Phonetically speaking, the similarity between the words "Lovers" and "Livers" cannot be denied. The liver is the ancient seat of the emotions.
WOMAN: Yes. Shut up.
MARTINAS: What a brilliant butcher he'd make. Like our former son, Bez, the first Astro-butcher; lost in orbit.
They bow their heads in a moment of silent tribute.
WILMER: [with package of livers] Your livers!
WOMAN: For my cat, Wilmer.
MARTINAS: How did you know my friend's name was Wilmer?
WOMAN: I was talking about my cat, Wilmer. It's for him I buy lovers. [To BOY.] Right, Wilmer?
SELMA: Your name is Wilmer?
BOY: Yarths.
WILMER: One question.
BOY: Yarths?
WILMER: [to WOMAN]: Why does he say yarths? He has such a nice command of other words.
WOMAN: A lovely command.
MARTINAS: One of the loveliest commands I, personally, have come across. And I've come across quite a few commands in my day.
WILMER: I, personally, have come across very few commands. I have not seen much of these United States. For instance, I want to live way out there among the Navaho, a fine folk in the field of the rug and the pot.
BOY: And they worship the good old gods.
BOY: Yarths, I've lived way out there among the Navaho.
WOMAN: Yes. Shut up.
WILMER: Before you shut up, Wilmer...
BOY: Yarths, Wilmer?
WILMER: What was it like way out there among the Navaho?
BOY: Chilly at night.
WOMAN: [taking bag of livers] Let's go feed our cat, Wilmer.
WILMER: Which Wilmer did you mean?
WOMAN: Wouldn't you like to go fishing in my soul of souls!
BOY: Can't we stay? I like these people. I'm sick of intelligent and charming people.
WOMAN: No, they're not as good as the next fellow.
WILMER: Who is?
BOY: The Navajo!
WOMAN and BOY leave and WILMER, SELMA and MARTINAS chop in silence. Suddenly WILMER takes money from cash register, chops it with cleaver.
WILMER: Selma, come with me to live way out there among the Navaho?
SELMA: Yarths!
SELMA and WILMER mark time, ready to march off.
MARTINAS: [sadly chopping meat] Take me with you? I'll miss us three, the joy of enterprise troubles, the fun of raising a forty-nine story meat mart. Take me with you.
WILMER: Oh, no you don't talk us into another passage of history with you.
MARTINAS: I'm sick of this life, too. Not being as good as the next fellow, day in, day out. A business where all is butchery. World, would you like a leg to eat? Not from my hands will you buy bleeding animal flesh for dollars. [Stares at meat contritely.] Forgive me. [Turns to WILMER.] Take me with you? Maybe I'll forget you taught me how to read and write and I'll build poems once more.
WILMER: Will you give up the sale of bleeding animal flesh?
MARTINAS: I am. I will. I have.
WILMER: Am what?
MARTINAS: Am giving up the sale of meat.
WILMER: Will what?
MARTINAS: Will giving it up. Have what?
WILMER: Have been feeling older.
SELMA: What are we getting so old about?
MARTINAS: Take me with you?
WILMER: How do we know you won't drag us back into the meat business?
MARTINAS: Becount of I'm going into—the fish business, where I can live and be free. I belong in the fish business. It's what I've always wanted in my head of heads. Tomorrow we go way out there among the Navaho. The Navaho, where I buy my dream fish department store, fifty floors offish. First floor, flounder; second floor, sea bass; third floor, blubber; fourth floor, me, a large apartment, but the finest Navaho rugs and sand paintings; fifth floor, sea weed....
As they all march off.