Dramatic Texts >> Raffi Arzoomanian >> The Moths

THE MOTHS by Raffi Aroomanian
 
Characters
Alexandre Zanikyan, an old patriarch
Anise Zanikyan, his daughter
Sophie, his mistress
Father Nikos, a priest
Auntie, his aunt
Marco, his friend
 
A simple, single set representing ALEX’s home. A royal metal frame bed, a contraption resembling a beautician's hair dryer, and a lavatory door comprise the usable set. Ethnic realism is prohibited. A large oriental rug hung upstage might be all the decoration required. ALEXANDRE’s bed sits on a pedestal which revolves. He is able to change his angle manually. A casket sits adjacent to the bed along with a number of suitcases and a large shopping bag.
 
The eve of ALEXANDRE ZANIKYAN’s death.
 
ACT I
 
A tableau is struck. All the characters focus on ALEXANDRE ZANIKYAN who lies motionless in his bed. As each character utters his first line, natural movement takes over.
 
SOPHIE
What do I do? He told us what the doctor said! If I wait any longer he might be dead while I've gone off. No, there's no way out. I must capitulate, I must condescend, I must use the nearest toilet and make a public show in front of these savages. God give me strength, Father Nikos.
 
NIKOS
It's within my grasp to father a grandchild of Alexandre Zanikyan! When will he consent, Anise? Will he consent? I'm an orthodox priest with no parish! What if he doesn't consent, Anise?
 
ANISE
If only he'd use that machine by his bed. The radiation would add precious minutes, precious hours, but I believe he's afraid it will sterilize him. Perhaps my father will listen to you, Auntie.
 
AUNTIE
I watched this dying old bastard born feet first while his mother bled and howled at the moon. I had some paper with me that night and I remember writing, "They're crazy, they're not so crazy, that's the Zanikyan story."
 
MARCO takes her cue and screams.
 
MARCO
Aaaaahhhhhh!
 
The band begins playing a rapid, gay number as MARCO and AUNTIE dance wildly, NIKOS and ANISE join them.
 
SOPHIE
None of you could begin to understand what went on between this man and me.
 
She makes a grand derogatory gesture at the dancers and their band.
 
You beasts! Alexandre Zanikyan is dying and you dance! Oh my God, Alexandre Zanikyan is dying!
 
Everything comes to a dead stop.
 
ALEX
Slut.
 
SOPHIE
No, please, my Alex, don't scold me.
 
ALEX
You're killing the party, you bitch!
 
SOPHIE
Dance, Marco - Auntie - Nikos, please!
 
ALEX
What's this I see?
 
ANISE
What's that, papa?
 
ALEX
Suitcases? One, two, three, four, does that shopping bag count as a suitcase?
 
MARCO
It's mine, Alex.
 
ALEX
Five, six, seven suitcases, really?
 
SOPHIE
We can't stand one another, Alex.
 
NIKOS
We break up the moment you die!
 
ALEX
You've lived together some ten to fifteen years . . . you've a common sound. Does it matter that you don't get along?
 
SOPHIE
I was meant for better stuff, Alex, not this vulgarity, not this constant harassment of one another. I sacrificed my dignity for you, Alex, and now that you're going I must have it.
 
ALEX
And where will you find this dignity, Sophie?
 
MARCO
Same place she always find it - on her back!
 
MARCO and band have a good laugh, SOPHIE gestures this as proof of her argument.
 

SOPHIE
So you see, Alex.
 
ALEX
Suitcases, they hover like vultures about my bed. (He slams the cone on the bed.) I want them out of this house! Let the band help, that's right, and be quick.
 
All the men hustle the suitcases out.

 
Out of this house! As I told you before, if one of you goes, all of you go. Either it stays the way it was or no way at all.
 
ANISE
Let them go, papa, what does it matter once you're dead.
 
ALEX
It matters even after I'm dead. That's why the wake! Now who's in charge?
 
SOPHIE
No talk of wakes -I can't bear it!
 
ANISE
I am, papa.
 
ALEX
Tell the sonofabitch undertaker I want a smile, big smile . . . but not too big. I don't want to look like a dead jackass.
 
MARCO
They puffed up Charlie Nougas so he looked like he had a mouthful of marbles.
 
ALEX
No mouthful of marbles! Marco, on each of the three evenings when the funeral home is most full I want you to come up to the coffin and pull on my teeth.
 
SOPHIE
Please, no, no...
 
ALEX
Let the world know that these are the teeth I was born with!
 
SOPHIE
I couldn't bear them pulling —
 
ALEX
And make sure Sophie keeps her clothes on.
 
SOPHIE
My life and my womanhood began and ended with you, Alex.
 
ALEX
She was not a virgin when I first took up with her! Write that down, Auntie.
 
AUNTIE
It's been down, Alex.
 
ALEX
So my friends, Sophie's life hardly began with me-and please, no stories about falling off bicycles!
 
MARCO
With big black handles!
 
AUNTIE
And a nice round hard leather seat, ey?
 
NIKOS
And two bouncy tires that go up and down, up and down! (Catches self.) Sorry, very sorry. (Crosses self.)
 
Then laugh at the PRIEST who shrinks off.
 
MARCO
How bout a mouth full of toothpaste and eyes open look, Alex? Please, Alex, for your best friend Marco!
 
ANISE
I won't have his eyes open.
 
MARCO
Why not? It make funnier wake, right?
 
ANISE
So you can have a laugh at his expense? Watch yourself, Marco.
 
MARCO
But think of what everybody say! They come in - kneel down - then stand up and see Alex. "How come his eyes still open?" I jump up and say he's still alive! Alex Zanikyan is still alive!
 
With a wave of MARCO's hand the band starts playing and MARCO dances about the room with his two index fingers pulling his mouth wide and his eyes popped open.
 
ANISE
I'm his daughter - No.
 
SOPHIE
I'm his woman - No.
 
NIKOS
I'm his priest - No.
 
AUNTIE
I'm his Auntie - Yes.
 
MARCO
I'm his best friend - Yes.
 
BAND
Yes!
 
ALEX
The tiebreaker says everything else yes, eyes open no! No human will ever say he could look Alex Zanikyan in the eye for over five seconds.
 
SOPHIE
I must, must go to the bathroom!
 
ALEX
Not yet. There's still this unfinished funeral business. Are the bricks loaded, Nikos?
 
NIKOS
Exactly two hundred pounds, Papa Zanikyan.
 
SOPHIE
But you don't weigh two hundred pounds, Alex.
 
ALEX
I did in my prime.
 
SOPHIE
But we're bearing you now, not as you were in your prime.
 
ALEX
Woman, do you know what you're saying?
 
ANISE
Papa, it's customary to have professional bearers.
 
ALEX
Ha! Professional bearers. Do you think I'll be taken to my grave by a bunch of waltzing faggots who don't even know me? Sophie wants me buried as I am now - but do you know what the undertaker will take from me? My lungs, my heart, my intestines, my spleen, and liver and anything else they can feed their dogs!
 
SOPHIE
Aaaaahhh! (She faints.)
 
NIKOS
Not as long as I commit your soul, Papa Zanikyan.
 
ALEX
Whatever I lack towards two hundred pounds will be made up with bricks to be placed around my body. Or would you rather have me carried as an inconsequential package of sawdust! You will stagger, you will groan. Yes, Nikos, you'll not only commit my soul but bear it as well!
 
NIKOS
(Nearly in tears.) But priests do not bear, Papa Zanikyan, they pre¬cede.
 
ALEX
(Threateningly.) Precede?
 
NIKOS
But for you I'll walk behind . . . okay?
 
ALEX
This must be a procession fit for a Mephistopheles and what would delight a Mephistopheles more than a priest straining and suffering under the weight of his sacred body.
 
NIKOS
I remind you, Papa Zanikyan, that Mephistopheles was an agent of hell. I would hardly commit a devil's soul to paradise.
 
ALEX
Your place is to carry! To carry and to stagger with everything you've got!
 
NIKOS
(Whines.) But I'm supposed to shake incense, Papa Zanikyan!
 
ALEX
Very good, then, shake it while you carry and you'll stagger more. Now as Hamlet gave instructions to his players, you have yours. Let's begin. The band will follow you about the room.
 
They assemble around the casket as ALEX directs from his bed.
 
Nikos on the left of the head, Anise on the right, Marco at her rear, and Sophie at Nikos' rear. Now lift it up.
 
The casket is extremely heavy and they fully exert themselves in getting up.
 
Very well done.
 
SOPHIE
Done . . . we've done nothing yet...
 
ALEX
Drums! (A drum roll starts.) Begin moving me. No, no, no, this is no parade. Not in step. I said not in step! Stagger, skip a step, drag your feet more - not you, drummer, I want a crisp drum. Now it's shaping up. Tongue out of your mouth, Marco - well done with the breasts, Sophie!
 
SOPHIE
But. . . I've . . . done . . . nothing, Alex. It's heavy. I must go to the bathroom.
 
ALEX
And the star of the show, Nikos. Vibrate, Nikos, quiver, Nikos, tremble. That's the way to send off my soul, Nikos! Anise, maintain your carriage and your grace. Let Marco take up your burden if you must. Now music.
 
The instrumentalist begins.
 
A masterpiece.
 
The staggering becomes worse and the bearers are in distress.
 
AUNTIE
I do believe they're in difficulty, Alex.
 
NIKOS
Papa . . . the bricks seem to be shifting. Sophie, let down your end, I beg you!
 
SOPHIE
I can't.
 
NIKOS
Marco, please.
 
MARCO
Help! Help!
 
NIKOS
Marco and Sophie, please!
 
MARCO
Go to hell, I'm doing enough. Enough!
 
SOPHIE
It does seem lighter now . . . strange.

NIKOS ends up half under the casket with most of the weight shifted over to his side. Amid groans and exclamations the casket falls heavily to the floor.
 
ALEX
What do you think, Auntie?
 
AUNTIE
First rate, Alex. You've nothing to worry about.
 
NIKOS
We're sorry, Papa Zanikyan ... so sorry.
 
ANISE
It will never do.
 
ALEX
On the contrary, Anise, it will do. And so handsomely. To be thrown into my grave like a bolt of lightning? It'll do, Anise. How it will do!
 
SOPHIE
Another second and I'll be disgraced! I must go to the bathroom!
 
ALEX
And do you know what'll be said of you, Sophie?
 
SOPHIE
What's that, my love?
 
ALEX
It'll be said that I died while you were taking a —
 
A drumbeat and uproar cuts him off. SOPHIE hastens inside the bathroom and the others return good naturedly to ALEX’s bedside.
 
MARCO
The band and me, we got new songs, Alex! We're gonna play at the wake, all day, all night, until midnight of the day you buried. We promise to stay awake three days for you, Alex.
 
ALEX
My best friend, Marco.
 
NIKOS
I implore you, not during the burial service.
 
MARCO
Why not?
 
NIKOS
I cannot commend Alexandre Zanikyan's soul if you're screaming in front of me and that drunken band is playing goat music behind me.
 
MARCO
Drunkbum goat music?
 
He has the band play for a few seconds and then stops them.
 
Does that sound like goat music? What kind of church you got anyway? You never down there. Always up here. If my best friend tell you, "Nikos, get me a pillow," you get the pillow. If he send you for a bottle of milk - you back in five minutes. And everybody knows why - because all your life you look for God and there's more God in Alex than you got down in your church. Here's God in bed and God going to die tonight and my band gonna play when God buried because God my best friend! (The band starts.) God my best friend! God my best friend! (He stops the band with a downward wave.
MARCO is elated and proud. The band is overjoyed with its novel gig.)
 
NIKOS
(Terribly unnerved and visibly shaking.)
Marco, he speaks blasphemy . . . he's trying to ruin me. It's true I've spent much time here ... I love Anise, right? So what's wrong if I take care of her father . . . run errands?
 
AUNTIE
Clean the house and fix the beds . . .
 
NIKOS
Yes, what's wrong with that? I'm proud to serve a man like Alexandre Zanikyan. I have no life of my own. I made a promise to God to serve my people and my people always have a church if they need it. I can't help it if they only need it when they're born or married or dead. And . . . and . . . Alexandre Zanikyan is the last man of his family ... he is the center of our community. I am his priest, yes, I — Nikos - am Alexandre Zanikyan's priest and all who go to his funeral will see it. I shall be the last on earth to touch his skin. I shall be the last on earth to see his face! I am his priest!
 
ANISE
Well put, Father Nikos.
 
ALEX
Go on, Nikos.
 
NIKOS
Alexandre Zanikyan, dignity and restraint will characterize your funeral!
 
ALEX
And what about Marco and his band?
 
NIKOS
They will be relegated to the barrooms, picnics, and back alleys where they belong.
 
MARCO
I'll give him ten minutes, Alex. If he's not done with the burial after ten minutes, the music and dance start. No ifs, ands, no buts!
 
NIKOS
I accept, Marco.
 
ALEX
One request, Marco. The first song you play is Yarus.
 
AUNTIE
Aaah, Yarus.
 
AUNTIE sings a verse from the song. The moment she's finished, they notice the lavatory lock open.
 
MARCO
Sophie's finished.
 
They gather around the door, ALEX waves them aside.
 
ALEX
I want to see my sweet lily debutante at her coming out.
 
There is a long pause before she shyly comes out smoothing her dress, fixing her bosom. When she does come out and they've had a good laugh, the band plays a happy number and she's jostled about.
 
Sophie, sweet sweet Sophie. I've got things to settle not only with you but with the rest of my people. I would like to be with each of you alone . . . one last time. This audience is my final homage to each of you. Sophie, you first, the rest of you out . . . out . . . before I have my mouth full of toothpaste.
 
They exit except for SOPHIE.
 
SOPHIE
Our final meeting, Alex. (She begins to automatically unbutton.)
 

ALEX
Keep your clothes on, Sophie, you forget I'm nearly dead, you slut.
 
SOPHIE
Please don't say that word, Alex - especially now. I beg you.
 
ALEX
All right, my Sophie.
 
SOPHIE
The swelling is ...
 
ALEX
Worse. -
 
SOPHIE
I see.
 
ALEX
Sophie, we've carried on now some twenty-five, twenty-six years. I was married to Anise's mother only eighteen months before she died.
 
SOPHIE
But she left you Anise.
 
ALEX
She not only left me Anise but she was a better lay than you.
 
SOPHIE
(Taken aback.) Impossible. You say that only because she had Anise.
 
ALEX
No, she was better. She loved, you devour-and that's the truth. I'm not going to argue! (He sits up and falls back, SOPHIE is temporarily frightened.) People have been one step ahead of you all your life. Watch for that from now on. It's no satisfaction for me to leave a dumbbell behind. Think before you open your mouth and once your mouth is open watch what you say! Your clothes are too loud. Don't advertise what you are in neon lights and whatever you do wear a bra and stop bouncing all over the place.
 
SOPHIE
I'm wearing one, Alex.
 
ALEX
Then get a metal one.
 
SOPHIE
They don't sell metal ones, Alex.
 
ALEX
Then go see a blacksmith!
 
SOPHIE
These jewels are not for some blacksmith to see.
 
ALEX
Stop this damned arguing!
 
SOPHIE
You've been the only man in my life - on my mother's soul, Alex!
 
ALEX
By the way, Charlie Nougas had your mother.
 
SOPHIE
No.
 
ALEX
That's where he got that mouth full of marbles look, ey Sophie?
 
SOPHIE
Not my mother!
 
ALEX
Yes, your mother.
 
SOPHIE
You're lying - you would have said something before. Why now?
 
ALEX
I'm a dying man, Sophie.
 
SOPHJE
No!
 
ALEX
I never lie, Sophie.
 
SOPHIE
My poor mother...
 
ALEX
Charlie said she was lousy.
 
SOPHIE
Alex, is this any way to -
 
ALEX
But you've been loyal, my sweet lily, and I've shared a great part of my life with you and your sexuality. What can I say? You pleased me.
 
SOPHIE
If only the others could hear you say this, Alex.
 
ALEX
(Takes a tint; white envelope from under his pillow.)
My last gesture, Sophie.
 
SOPHIE
A gift, Alex! (She begins to break down.)
 
ALEX
A tiny gift, Sophie. I kiss it. (He kisses a pill he has taken from the envelope. He puts it back in and gives it to SOPHIE.) This gift is the result of much thought, Sophie.
 
SOPHIE
But... it looks like a pill, Alex.
 
ALEX
It is a pill, Sophie.
 
SOPHIE
A pill, you say?
 
ALEX
With a kiss on it, yes.
 
SOPHIE
(Peers at him oddly - then tries to humor him.) I'm grateful, Alexandre Zanikyan.
 
ALEX
(Getting hokey.) Have you ever so despaired, Sophie, that you wished to die with me?
 
SOPHIE
I've had thoughts, Alex, of us lying together eternally. Just we too. Not any of the others.
 
ALEX
Perhaps beginning tonight?
 
SOPHIE
If it were only possible, Alex!
 
ALEX
If you despair, take that pill and we'll sleep as you dreamed.
 
SOPHIE
No!
 
ALEX
It's up to you.
 
SOPHIE
Have you told anyone? Anise?
 
ALEX
No one.
 
SOPHIE
But the funeral procession, Alex, I'm supposed to help carry you!


ALEX
Simply a decoy, Sophie. This mustn't seem planned.


SOPHIE
Then this... this is my death night, too?


ALEX
If you wish.


SOPHIE
Oh my Alex! (She falls on him and busses him ravenously.)


ALEX
Get off me! Will you get off me!


SOPHIE
(Overjoyed.) Your words mean nothing, Alexandre Zanikyan. They mean nothing as long as I have this pill!


ALEX
Out, out, I told you it mustn't seem planned!

SOPHIE
I can't believe it's happening, Alex. I'm not at all afraid!

ALEX
Send in Marco!

SOPHIE
I'll put it right next to my heart, Alex.

ALEX
How like yo u, Sophie, to stuff your dreams between your knockers.

SOPHIE
Call them what you will, Alex, but if there's any pleasure to be found in the grave, don't fear, we'll find it. (Exits.)


Enter MARCO with great energy.

ALEX
My best friend, Marco!

MARCO
Are we having a time or aren't we having a time?

ALEX
Hypocrite charlatan, don't you know you've been eating my food, wearing my clothes, and sucking my hear for thirty years? First it was coal heat, then it was oil heat, then it was gas heat, and finally electric heat!

MARCO
What are you saying, Alex.

ALEX
Weren't you the one who told me about Charlie Nougas and Sophie's mother?

MARCO
That was years ago, Alex!

ALEX
I can't stand gossips in my home. Look at you, you wretch, isn't that my suit you're wearing?

MARCO
Yes, Alex.

ALEX
The shirt!

MARCO
Yes.

ALEX
Those are my summer mesh shoes!


MARCO
We wear the same size, Alex.


ALEX
The socks?


MARCO
I mend the ones you throw away.


ALEX
And finally the underwear.


MARCO
Not the underwear, you can't say the underwear. Charlie Nougas' widow gave it to me - it's mine and Charlie's underwear!


ALEX
Who's been stealing the silverware?


MARCO
I'd like to find out myself, Alex!


ALEX
You leech, you tick, you dog!


MARCO
Dog?


ALEX
Yes, dog. When I say beg, don't you beg like a dog? When I say drink, don't you drink like a dog? Don't you roam the town and sniff bitches like a dog? But like a dog you're cheerful, Marco, good to have around. I've never seen you sad. Too stupid, perhaps. At any rate, you're a gay old dog.


MARCO
How can you say such things, especially tonight, Alex?


ALEX
Because I see a parasite surviving his host. Because I fear your prospects without me ... so take this. (He hands MARCO an envelope.)


MARCO
What's inside, Alex?


ALEX
A pill. When I die, you take it.


MARCO
This pill make me happy, Alex? Party, Alex? Keep me up for the wake and funeral? Yippee, Alex?



ALEX
No, it'll kill you.



MARCO looks away confused and then suddenly looks back at alex to make sure he is seeing and hearing right.



MARCO
Looks like aspirin.



ALEX
Poison.



MARCO
This little white thing, eh?


ALEX
And we'll share death as we've shared life, Marco. And people will say, "Brave Marco, he spared his best friend a lonely grave."



MARCO
You believe that little speech about God that I tell Nikos?



ALEX
I believe that you're doomed without me, Marco the bug, and your taking that pill will prove it. The supply of warmth, food and cheer is cut with my death. No one else will take care of a noisy man and you're too old to work.



MARCO
You left me no money, Alex?



ALEX
I left you the pill.



MARCO
Okay, I'm a parasite, I'll take it-I'll take anything you give me. I'll suck the gold from your teeth, the blood from your, veins, the food from your stomach!



ALEX
Get out...



MARCO
You damn right I get out. Anybody going to play like this when I die, Alex? (He begins singing as he exits and we hear him offstage saying, "My best friend, Alexandre Zanikyan, a quiet song for him, please." A song offstage follows.)



ALEX
Auntie.



She appears at the door.



Come in, Auntie.



AUNTIE
So this, Alex, is our last meeting.


ALEX
I see you've still got pen and paper.



AUNTIE
And my story will end as it began. They're crazy, they're not so crazy -



AUNTIE AND ALEX TOGETHER
That's the Zanikyan story! (They laugh together.)



ALEX
I must tell you what I've thought for some time, Auntie. No one will ever want to read your story. For one thing, it's too long.


AUNTIE
No, some one will read it. As soon as you're dead, someone will miss you. That someone will read it. The first part ended when your father was massacred, the second part -



ALEX
Ends tonight.


AUNTIE
Yes . . . and so damned happily. You know I stand as deputy for your mother, you know that?



ALEX
I do.


AUNTIE
Good. Now then, Alex, I must have you know something before you're gone.



ALEX
Go on.


AUNTIE
Marco, Sophie, and Anise don't make for much of a story. Bad finish
and all that. Not for me. I'm thinking of calling it quits after you're
dead.



ALEX
All of you are in such a hurry to go your own ways! They'll need someone with your sense, Auntie. You can't -



AUNTIE
Christ, don't give me that. My whole life has been a reaction to yours. Once you're gone so'm I. Besides, they're not Zanikyans, excepting Anise.



ALEX
Then write about Anise.



AUNTIE
No woman's story for me. Their words have the snap but not the bite. Nope.



ALEX
Then how . . . what will -



AUNTIE
Oh, I thought about jumping off a bridge but I can swim . . . even at my age ... for miles. I'd hit that water and I'd ... well, I'd swim. I'm a neat woman, Alex, you know that, I'd never jump from a building. And no guns, enough of our people have died by guns . . . and rocks . . . and starvation. Now gas has elegance, Alex, but I'd be taking Anise and the rest with me and I won't have them killing my act. So ...


ALEX
So...



AUNTIE
I bought a pill.



ALEX
A pill? No!



AUNTIE
After I witness your own death, I'll write in your last words and all that stuff. Then I'll wait a while, while they sentimentalize and feel sorry for themselves . . . then, bingo!



ALEX
There's nothing I can do to stop you?



AUNTIE
I don't think so.



ALEX
If I told you that you were ruining my very last moments, Auntie?



AUNTIE
I'm sorry. I've no right to do that.



ALEX
Auntie, do you have your pill with you?



AUNTIE
Right here.



ALEX
Let's trade.



AUNTIE
Huh?



ALEX
I got one for you myself, Auntie. See how well I'm tuned in to you? Yours arsenic?



She nods.



Mine's much pleasanter. Give me yours.



AUNTIE
You astound me, Alex. (They trade pills.)



ALEX
You never did understand how important you were to the others, Auntie, how much they drew from your candor. So I bought you this pill. Now send me my daughter.



AUNTIE
One more thing, Alex. I want to thank you for letting me swear in your home. I would have never forgiven myself if I hadn't thanked you for that.


Exit AUNTIE and enter ANISE.



ANISE
Papa, you've worsened a bit.



ALEX
That's not what I wanted to talk about.



ANISE
The doctor had the machine brought over, why the hell don't you use it!



ALEX
I'm not going to spend the last few minutes of my life turning that damned thing on and off!



ANISE
But it'll prolong your . . . your. . .



ALEX
It will not.


ANISE
The radiation -



ALEX
What radiation -



ANISE
The radiation the doctor said would -



ALEX
Anise, Anise, why do you always stick your nose into things you don't understand? If you look under the base of that thing, just as I did when he left, you'll see it's a heat lamp. Not radium, not cobalt, just ultra violet. The chances of that thing preserving me are one in a million.



ANISE
Then he was just trying to pacify you . . . and me ...



ALEX
One in a million so forget about it. Unless you want me to have a nice tan when they box me up. (Pause.) Now this isn't why I called you in here.



ANISE
And I had hopes of you reaching morning. Tch, tch, tch.



ALEX
In a sentence, Anise, I wanted a son, not you. You represent the final success of the Turkish campaign against the Zanikyan family.



ANISE slowly picks up his cue.



You'll leave the blood behind you but not the name. I want the name!



ANISE
So that's what this is all about!



ALEX
You're everything I could want in a daughter - if I wanted a daughter - which I did not!



ANISE
I'll never believe that, papa!


ALEX
At any rate, I'll never consent to have you marry Nikos. Where are all the men of this town?



ANISE
Hell, I don't know.



ALEX
They should be ripping down our doors! Go to Europe, try Russia -you'll find someone there. Get someone with a name like ours. Bring him over to this country and when you fill out his papers, place a strategic letter here, another letter there - the dumb illiterate bastard doesn't know how to read anyway and before he knows it, he's a Zanikyan!



ANISE
Even if he's a crummy tramp, a doer of little children, a -



ALEX
As long as he can't read - marry him!



ANISE
(Becomes pensive.) Hopeless. I've looked at a thousand men for vital, steely eyes and all I've seen is fear, papa. The blind will never get me. I'm the daughter of Alexandre Zanikyan and his eyes, even on the eve of his death, are vital, steely, and full of mischief. (Pause.) Now tell me that business about your wanting a son was a lie.



ALEX
I meant it.



ANISE
It was a lie.



ALEX
All right.



ANISE
I'll die before I believe I've been unsatisfactory!



ALEX
Good, it's settled - send me Nikos.



ANISE
All right, I've got a plan!



ALEX
What kind of plan?



ANISE
To perpetuate the name. I'll be both your son and daughter at once!



ALEX
How's that?



ANISE
I never marry -



ALEX
Try the Russians, I said!



ANISE
And then I sneak out some evening when I'm sure that I'm fertile and I screw around with a stranger. When I have a son he gets our name.


ALEX
Good, it's settled!



ANISE
But that makes me a whore!



ALEX
That's every woman's curse, Anise.



ANISE
And it makes my son a bastard.



ALEX
No chaff - no wheat.

ANISE
The gutter for the two of us. I'll never do it!



ALEX
Then don't - it's settled! It's settled! It's settled!



ANISE
Don't you care, papa?



ALEX
I'm weak, Anise, and can't think that far ahead.



ANISE
I see. Now weak, half dead or not, I've some last matters to get off my chest. How dare you sit me in the hall with the others. I'm your daughter, your blood, and I don't wait in line with the cattle. I come first!



ALEX
All right - it's settled, go back and sit closest to the door.



ANISE
Was this any way to bring up a daughter? This house has never been empty. Always some damned drunk crawling around until morning, always that damned band playing out back, always that damned Sophie running around half nude. Does she always pant, papa?



ALEX
Like a buffalo.



ANISE
I'm sick of them. As soon as you're buried, out they go. The door's locked, except for Auntie. The rest of them outside with the garbage!


ALEX
Watch your mouth! These are my people you're talking about; they may wish to stay or they may even wish to die with me!



ANISE
Wishing's one thing. Doing's another.




ALEX
For me they'll do it, Anise, they have the means!



ANISE
Now what's that mean?



ALEX
I've told you a hundred times - it's settled!



ANISE
What do you mean they have the means?



ALEX
Get me Nikos!



ANISE
Never! What have you done, papa? Out with it!



ALEX
So you use your lousy persistency against your dying father.



ANISE
I said out with it.



ALEX
Keep it a secret?



ANISE
On mama's soul.



ALEX
I've given each a pill. They understand that the pill, once taken, will kill them. Each assumes that he has the only pill.


ANISE
My pill, please.


ALEX
Anise!



ANISE
So I'm to be the only one in the hall without a pill! My pill, I said, my pill - or the secret's out!



ALEX
On your mother's soul -



ANISE
If s settled!



He hands an envelope over.



AIEX
My last envelope . . . oh, well.



ANISE
I want another pill. Two pills. Double. Twice as much. I'm your daughter. Thafs right. (She takes a second pill.)



Exit ANISE and enter NIKOS hurriedly.



ALEX
Closer, my son. (ALEX leaps up on the bed and grips the back of NIKOS' neck, NIKOS'face faces the floor.) Tell the world that Alexan-dre Zanikyan still possessed his famous grip while on his deathbed! (NIKOS is immobile and in obvious distress.) For years I dared anyone to break away from this grip. Do you want me to snap your neck!



NIKOS
I think . . . you already have, Papa Zanikyan.



ALEX
Take me for a ride. Get on your feet! (NIKOS struggles to his feet.) One sneaky move and you get the cane. (In his left hand he holds a hand-carved cane.) Instant death in each hand. If the grip doesn't snap the neck, a blow in the throat with the cane will. Now my ride.


NIKOS
Yes, papa . . . (Begins trudging in a circle and as he does the bed revolves.)


ALEX
A bit faster, (NIKOS goes a bit faster.) There seems to be a breeze from that direction. Lefs stop here for a moment, (ALEX takes a deep breath.) Fresh air-just added minutes to my life. Continue. (They circle again.) If Anise accepts you-you have my consent, Nikos. (NIKOS emits a half-gasp laugh of delight.) You don't mind this, do you? (NIKOS shakes his head.) You wouldn't even mind if I struck you with my cane, would you? (NIKOS gasps with joy.) If I gouged out your eyes!


NIKOS
Ohhh!



ALEX
Decapitated you! (ALEX lets go of nikos for an answer.)



NIKOS
I'd rather die by your hand, Alexandre Zanikyan, than by a stranger's car or some reeking disease! (NIKOS then sticks his neck into ALEX's open grip, ALEX regrips him.)


ALEX
How would you like to die now, you skinny bastard? (NIKOS nods
violently.)
Are you trying to break my grip! (NIKOS shakes head
violently.)
You say you're not trying to break my grip! (NIKOS nods head violently.) You are trying to break my grip! (NIKOS both shakes and nods violently.) We're not communicating, Nikos.


NIKOS
You . . . may . . . kill me ... if you wish.



ALEX finally lets go of NIKOS. The bed should be facing audience.


ALEX
I'll not kill you with my hand, Nikos, but I've arranged for you to die by my hand. (He takes out a bottle from under the pillow and shakes out a pill.) Sorry, I'm out of envelopes, Nikos.


NIKOS
That's all right, Papa Zanikyan.



ALEX
Take this - it's poison. I give it to you with my blessing.



NIKOS
I treasure this symbol of your esteem.



ALEX
Esteem for you? For a houseboy!



NIKOS
Your houseboy, Papa Zanikyan.



ALEX
For a priest with no parish!



NIKOS
You're my parish, Papa Zanikyan, and thafs enough for the town to know.



ALEX
Only the clothes you've got on keep you from falling apart.


NIKOS
I eat little so as not to make a nuisance of myself at your table.



ALEX
You forgot the Lord's Prayer at Charlie Nougas' funeral.



NIKOS
You and Marco got me drunk, Papa Zanikyan.



ALEX
Sex maniac!


NIKOS
I desire your daughter, true.



ALEX
You're not to conduct my funeral.



NIKOS
You didn't say that, Papa Zanikyan . . .


ALEX
I don't even want to see you at the burial.



NIKOS
You didn't say that either.


ALEX
A houseboy the last to touch me - Never!


NIKOS
Not that either!


ALEX
Maybe I should get a Roman Catholic priest!


NIKOS
Not that! No! (As he says this, he fumbles in his pocket for the pill and attempts to take it.)


ALEX
Hey, are you trying to ruin everything! (ALEX grips nikos by the hand that holds the pill.) You take that pill after I'm dead! Not before!



NIKOS submits by dropping the hand with the pill in it.



I should give you the cane for trying something like - (As ALEX says this, he lifts his cane in warning, but when the cane points to the ceiling,ALEX is suddenly seized and falls back on his bed.)



NIKOS
Papa Zan -



ALEX
You've exhausted me with your tricks, Nikos, now be good enough to let me rest. And let the others in -I miss . . . them.



ALEX dozes off. NIKOS seems puzzled and bereft. He looks about the room surreptitiously, takes out a cross and begins mumbling a la funeral service. The mumbling is brief and then he suddenly breaks out into The Lord's Prayer in song - but it must appear to culminate a brief funeral service. As soon as NIKOS' song has rebounded about the room sufficiently, the hall door opens and SOPHIE crashes through folled by the others.



SOPHIE
(Grieved.) He's dead!

 

ANISE
(Shocked.) He's dead!

 

AUNTIE
(Nostalgically.) Ah, he's dead...



MARCO
(Gaily.) He's dead! (He strikes up the band.)

 

NIKOS
He's not dead! No! No!

 

SOPHIE
Not dead!

 

NIKOS
No.

 

SOPHIE
But you were -



ANISE
Singing-



AUNTIE
The Lord's Prayer!



MARCO
Only to be sung at funeral!



SOPHIE
Why were you singing if he's not dead, you rascal!



ANISE
(Grabbing his throat in the manner of alex.) Answer, Nikos!



NIKOS
Practicing ... I was practicing . . . sorry to have alarmed you . . .



MARCO
He forgot the same song at Charlie Nougas' funeral. That's all right, Nikos, if you forget this time we help you! (MARCO and the band sing a couple of lines from the Lord's Prayer in their typical raucous fashion.)



NIKOS
At this very moment, there's a fifty-fifty chance that God is listening in on this. (They sing louder.) Blasphemers!



MARCO, band, and AUNTIE break up laughing.



SOPHIE
I've no stomach for it, either, Father Nikos.



NIKOS
Just remember, all of you, in case I'm unable to ... to make it, I have already held a brief ceremony for Alexandre Zanikyan.



ANISE
But papa's still alive!



NIKOS
Pray God he never wakes again!



ANISE
Nikos!



NIKOS
I can't bear to see him suffer, Anise!



AUNTIE
It seems to me that we're doing the suffering.


SOPHIE
He seems so pale ...



MARCO
Don't look good ...



AUNTIE
Handsome, so handsome ...



ANISE
Resting ...



NIKOS
My ceremony has left him at peace.



SOPHIE
Now. (She sits at left side of ALEX's head.)



ANISE
To sit (She sits at left side parallel with ALEX's knee and rotates bed so that ALEX's head is closest to her-which, of course, leaves SOPHIE looking through the back of the steel frame bed.)



SOPHIE
And watch (She pulls the bed back to its original position.)



ANISE
My father die. (She rotates the bed back to its secondary position.)



MARCO
(Rotates the bed so that ALEX's head is closest to him.) We spend so much time together, maybe more than all of you put together.



NIKOS
(Moves the bed to his point.) He seems to have left this world for the other. Perhaps it's best if he remains with me.



AUNTIE
(Moves the bed to her point.) This is where I stood at his birth ... He was born under an apricot tree where his mother fell on her way from market. I wonder if the tree still stands. I suppose not . . . apricot trees are such delicate things . . .



From this point on, each dialogue follows a turning of the bed towards the speaker.


SOPHIE
I'd always kiss him . . . right here. The bone is so strong on this part
of his face.



NIKOS
A mask should be made of him just as he is now.



ANISE
If you want to see his face, look into mine.



MARCO
A man is his music, not his face. Tell me what he like to do most! Lick his blood? Make love? Yawn with priest? Or go raise hell with booze and Marco! Don't make me laugh! (MARCO starts the music.)



SOPHIE
Don't you make me laugh!



MARCO
He stays with me!



SOPHIE
Stop the music!


ANISE
Stop the damned music!



NIKOS
That music must stop. I can't think!



They all hold onto a corner of the bed and the bed moves no more.



ANISE
(Panting slightly.) Disgraceful, for this to happen in my father's home.



SOPHIE
It's my home as well as yours!



ANISE
If only you knew how he speaks of you! I couldn't say the words, I'd have to spit them!



NIKOS
Papa Zanikyan just said the other day, filthy Marco always leaves a manure pile behind him everywhere he goes!



MARCO
He told me if you don't get Anise, you start looking for little boys.



NIKOS
No!



SOPHIE
My daughter, he said, has the heart and nature of a man. The sexless bitch will never satisfy anybody.



ANISE
When Sophie dies, he said, they should bury her in the dog cemetery with the rest of the old bitches.


MARCO
And I was here when he said it! And to top it off he said that Charlie Nougas had your mother inside your old icebox and that your mother was (Makes a raspberry sound.) lousy!( MARCO and the band have a good laugh.)


SOPHIE
She was good! My mother was always good! I know!


MARCO
(Suggestively.) You see? Ha! Her and her mother, thafs the kind of people she comes from, (MARCO and the band roar at SOPHIE.)


ANISE
Big boobied buffalo!


NIKOS
Papa Zanikyan called her that?


MARCO
Hey priest, he called you his "private orthodox yo-yo!"


AUNTIE
Nail the bastard priest to the porch and burn him down, that's what he said!


Band members begin fighting - they are separated by MARCO.


NIKOS
I... I worked for my food!


MARCO
I made jokes for mine!


AUNTIE
I wrote history for mine!


ANISE
I renewed his strain for mine!

SOPHIE
And I - (Clears throat.) for mine.



Everybody has a good laugh on sophie.



Jealous, pompous, the whole lot of you. I've heard enough insults. Call me slut? Buffalo? Manure pile?



MARCO
No, I'm manure pile - you're the dead bitch in the cemetery.


SOPHIE
Well, I don't believe it and I've proof of his loyalty and his love. In this hand!


AUNTIE
If it's a message I must enter it in my book.


Long pause as they watch.



SOPHIE
Not a message, a pact. I have been chosen from all the people in his life to lie by his side in death. This pill will unite us. (She proudly stands and awaits their reaction.)



MARCO
You, too?


NIKOS
You, too?


AUNTIE
You, too?


NIKOS
And you, too?


SOPHIE
And you and you, too?

MARCO
You, too?


ANISE
And I have two! t-w-o two. (They stare at each other in dumb shock.)

AUNTIE


But mine's yellow . . . how strange . . . yellow from age, perhaps, how fitting.


SOPHIE
Despicable man ... I'm ruined!


MARCO
Everything he say about me ... true, all true . . . best friend, nothing . . . put me to sleep like an old dog.


NIKOS
Mass murdered . . . none of us meant anything to him!


SOPHIE
I never believed his insults, his brutality. It didn't matter that I was seen at art shows and outdoor concerts. He meant all of it!


ANISE
If any of you wish to leave ...


MARCO
Never!


NIKOS
Old Testament revenge burns in my soul!


SOPHIE
Twenty-five years of my life cheated. My end - a common grave!


MARCO
Me, too!


NIKOS
Buried standing up without the sacraments of the church!


AUNTIE
And I thought the Zanikyan story had ended!


ANISE
Get out... let him die in peace!


MARCO
Now let's get him!


SOPHIE
Quickly, before he dies!


MARCO
Yarus! Aha, Yarus!


SOPHIE
A song?


MARCO
Only a song can reach his sleep. But Marco style - not Auntie style.


(The band takes MARCOs cue and begins playing the song horribly. MARCO's singing is joined by SOPHIE, NIKOS and the playful AUNTIE. They moan and groan and meow through the song. It is both macabre and boisterous, ANISE tends to her father who stirs slightly but doesn't wake.)


SOPHIE
It didn't work.


MARCO
How you wake a dead man from his sleep?


NIKOS
Wake him! He must know we've found him out!


ANISE
Stay away, I warn you!


NIKOS
Get him, Marco!


MARCO
Alllleeeeex! Aaaallllleeeeexxxxx! Alex!


NIKOS restrains ANISE as MARCO shakes ALEX in the bed-but ALEX doesn't wake.


SOPHIE
I know how to wake him! (She begins mounting the bed but stops when the others turn away in disgust. She changes her mind and begins turning the bed around and around, MARCO and NIKOS take her cue and help out. The bed moves faster.)


AUNTIE
This makes much more sense!


(AUNTIE joins in, ANISE observes helplessly. The bed whirls about rapidly. When it reaches a dizzying speed, ALEX rolls out violently and takes several turns on the floor towards downstage - the participants scream - LIGHTS OUT!)

 


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