Dramatic Texts >> Bianca Bagatourian >> The Scent of Jasmine
The Scent of Jasmine By Bianca Bagatourian

 

Characters:

LITTLE MARAL- 6/MARAL- 29

NATASHA/NATASHA’S GHOST- 80, Maral’s Grandmother

EDITOR- 50

GRANDMOTHER- 78, John’s Grandmother

SAMUEL MESSNER- 55, John’s Business Partner

ARLEN ANTOYAN- 57, John’s Best Friend

DANIELLE HAROUSTIAN- 50, John’s Wife

LARA- 34, John’s Mistress

CORONER- 65

JOHN HAROUSTIAN- 58

OFFSTAGE VOICES:

LANDLADY

NEWSCASTER

 

ACT I

SCENE 1-

An Armenian folk song stops. Lights.

NATASHA, age 60, is seated on a stool. Little Maral, age 7, with long braids, runs on stage excitedly...

LITTLE MARAL

Daddy, Daddy! Where are you?

NATASHA

He's not here, Maral jan.

LITTLE MARAL

I know you're here.

NATASHA

I told you-

LITTLE MARAL

Are you behind the curtains? Are you under the bed? You’re behind the door!!!

NATASHA

Maral. Listen! Your father had to leave.

MARAL

But...But he just got here.

NATASHA

He had to go out again. You'll see him tomorrow.

LITTLE MARAL

He promised me a story.

NATASHA

How about Grandma Natasha tells you a story instead?

LITTLE MARAL

I want Daddy.

NATASHA

Come sit here, my little Douschka and let me braid your hair for you. Hmmmmm...Let's see now. Which story shall I tell you tonight? How about the one about Nasreddin and his stolen donkey?

LITTLE MARAL

No!

NATASHA

I'll tell you the one about little Vartanik-

LITTLE MARAL

No!!!

NATASHA

There must be a story you like-

LITTLE MARAL

The one about the pigeons and the helicopters and...and the little boy.

NATASHA

The John Haroustian story? Again?

LITTLE MARAL

Yes. The Harou-tian story. Again!

NATASHA

Alright. Now, listen carefully. It was his tenth birthday and John Haroustian had come all the way to America to visit his uncle’s family from the old country. They took him to see the Statue of Liberty and he instantly fell in love with it. It was so big and strong and glorious, it was like the Madonna to him. When it came time to leave, he was nowhere to be found. They formed search parties but he had just plain disappeared. The boats were leaving the harbor and the security guards didn't know where else to look, when suddenly...They looked up! There was a loud noise and hundreds of pigeons took flight. There...at the top of the statue, right above the crown, where no one had ever been before, where all the pigeons sit...sat John Haroustian. He had climbed out of the observation booth and made it to the top. Everyone was amazed. He had done the impossible!

And he wouldn't come down. Fire men with tall ladders were called, helicopters arrived, crowds gathered. But still, little John Haroustian would not budge.

They threw down all kinds of ropes and ladders but he threw them right back. They used loud speakers but he blocked his ears. They tried to climb up to him, but each time he went further out on the ledge. This went on for hours. Finally, at midnight, to everyone's great relief, he came down on his own. And can you guess why?

LITTLE MARAL

Why? Why?

NATASHA

He said he was hungry.

LITTLE MARAL

He should have stayed there! He should have stayed at the top...Tell me...Tell me how when he grew up, he built the biggest buildings and jet planes and boats and-

NATASHA

Let's save the rest for tomorrow. It's time for you to go to bed now, little Doushechka.

LITTLE MARAL

Natasha, will I go to America one day just like John Harou-tian?

NATASHA

Of course you will, child. Of course you will.

NATASHA exits.

MARAL takes off her wig. Without the braids she is grown-up MARAL, 28. She speaks:

MARAL

When I was a little girl, I thought John Haroustian was God.

Lights out.

 

 

SCENE 2-

Lights come up on a newspaper office. EDITOR ( Danny DeVito) sits behind a desk.  Grown-up MARAL opens the door gingerly. She hands him a piece of paper. He smokes a cigar. The smoke is thick.

EDITOR

This better not be another dead-end story.

MARAL

No, sir. This is good.

EDITOR glances over it.

EDITOR

A SCANDAL IN A GLENDALE TRAVEL AGENCY?!? Last week it was the pastry shop. Before that, the grocery store. Thrillllllling! Did you research this?

MARAL

I listened in on a conversation-

EDITOR

You eavesdropped?

MARAL

I-

EDITOR

That was your research? Another demonstration of your profound investigative prowess? Your talents as a top-notch sleuth? WAKE UP! That's no way to get a story. How many times do I have to drum it into your head? You gotta dig! Spend endless hours...Make phone calls...Follow people...Check bank accounts...Hospital records...Credit card history...Tap phones. Did you do any of this? Huh, did you...Did you?

MARAL

I-I...

EDITOR

You what? You listened to idle chit-chat? Gossip?

MARAL

It's only Glendale...

He corners her...

EDITOR

"ONLY GLENDALE?" That is precisely your problem!!!

MARAL

If...if I could just work on a big story and show you-

EDITOR

A BIG STORY?!? Are you joking? You can't even write a small story about anything, how can I trust you with a big one?

MARAL

If it was only important-

EDITOR

You don't get it do you? It’s not the size of the story, it’s not the geography of it, it’s none of those things. It’s about caring! And that's what good reporters do. They care! About people, events, facts...No matter how small! Those are the things that make a good story. (Bites his cigar and spits) Look, Maral, you're a nice kid. But it takes a lot more than that to make a decent reporter.

MARAL

What’re you saying?

EDITOR

I’m saying I’m afraid the Armenian Messenger New Weekly Sun Life News of Glendale can't afford to keep you on any longer. Goodbye!

MARAL

But-but-

EDITOR

You're just not good at reporting facts. Your heart’s not in it, kiddo. Go! Take some time off. Look around...Look inside! Find out what it is you really do care about.

He slams door.

Lights out.

SCENE 3-

Interior of MARAL'S apartment.A bed. A TV. Open boxes.

Knock. Knock. ....... Knock. Knock. Knock.

LANDLADY (OFF STAGE)

I’m here for the rent!

MARAL

It's not due 'til next week.

LANDLADY (OFF STAGE)

I’m talking about LAST MONTH’S RENT. And don’t act as if you didn’t know! If you don't have it all by next week- and I don't care if you're sick again...Pay up or get out.

MARAL

But where will I go?

Silence. MARAL throws a book at the door.

MARAL

I’m done. I'm through here.

She opens a suitcase.

I've tried so hard.

She starts throwing clothes in.

I want to go home. Lies...

Sobbing. She grabs a large box.

They were all a pack of lies. I hate it here...

She starts rummaging through a box.

White picket fences...Neatly trimmed lawns... Where?

Still looking through the box.

I’m going home.

MARAL fishes out a record player and carries it to the front of the stage. The background goes dark as she puts on an old scratchy record:

"When you sing you begin with Do-re-mi, Do-re-“

MARAL

(Singing) When you read you begin with A-b-c, A-b-c...

She takes the record off.

MARAL

A-b-c-d-e-f-g-h-i-j-k-l-m-n-o-p-q-r-s-t-u-v-w-x-y-z. There, now I've said it all. It's all within that combination. What's left? Things that cannot be spelled, extraneous, superfluous things. Things that exist above the everyday and yet are what make every single day.

She stands.

My name is Maral with a hard rolled "r" in the middle. When I was six, I was given a snow globe with a Las Vegas sign that teeter-tottered as the liquid bubbled before my eyes.

Snow begins to fall only where she stands.

There, in a corner of my room stood this souvenir that had come millions of miles, over oceans and seas, and now decorated a corner of my mind.

"I am going to live in America one day. Teeter totter on the see-saw from Las Vegas and dance in the Florida sun," I repeated night after night before I went to bed. And I did. I danced in Las Vegas and rode a see-saw in Florida. Then my granny Natasha would ask me-

NATASHA walks through.

NATASHA

What do you want to be when you grow up?

MARAL

“I want to be a blonde Hollywood film star.”

NATASHA

Yes, of course you will. You can be sure of it. Whatever you want, you will become.

NATASHA exits.

MARAL

And I was sure of it. It was so far away. We would watch America on the television and never imagine it real. The things that happened there were so different from the things that happened to us. They were shiny and pretty and fun. They had nothing to do with us, tucked away in a corner of the third, fourth or fifth world. Beyond...lay the untouchable, the unreachable, the ultimate, protected by a screen of glass. And if you reach inside, will it shatter, this illusion made of lights and a tube? I want to put my hands inside the glass and grab the little people. I want to enter this sublime. Go through the glass. Come out the other side. How could I enter the competitions in the comic books I read? Would they even know where to send my prize? (Beat)

What does that imply to the mind of a six-year-old trying to make sense of the world? Your arc of imagining becomes so limited. After all, you can only go as far as you can see. And then one day it happened. A broken dream of a far-away place. A paradise now shattered, the surface has cracked, the water seeps through. My snow-globe broke.

The falling snow stops.

Bits of glass crunch beneath my size three feet. My fingers ooze with the vital blood of this new world. So glossy, so gay, so por-tr-ayed. Tell-tale signs of a liquid world. And when it shatters, a six-year-old girl learns early on what can become of dreams. The fragility imprints crystal clear on her brain the stuff that dreams are made of. Tears in her eyes, remnant liquid of a dream disintegrated, mists of time, vapors of reality like pixie-dust glimmer here and there. Glints of glass, hints of existence. Shimmers of being and then... (long pause) Gone.

Instantaneously, one world crumbles into another. One disappears as the other appears. Simultaneity smudges.

MARAL picks up her suitcase and puts it by the door. She returns and sits on her bed.

MARAL

That is where I come from. And that is where I'm going back to.

Lights out.

SCENE 4-

A huge screen drops down. We watch a TV news report.

NEWS NARRATOR VO.

EYEWITNESS NEWS. WE INTERRUPT OUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING TO BRING YOU THIS BREAKING NEWS. JOHN HAROUSTIAN, INTERNATIONAL LEADER OF INDUSTRY AND WORLD FAMOUS MOGUL, WAS FOUND DEAD IN THE GUEST-HOUSE OF HIS LA MANSION. AT 11:00 AM THIS MORNING HIS BODY WAS DISCOVERED BY HIS WIFE, DANIELLE, ALONG WITH WHAT APPEARS TO BE A SUICIDE NOTE, THE CONTENTS OF WHICH HAVE NOT YET BEEN DISCLOSED. REPORTS OF WHAT LED UP TO THIS ARE CONFLICTING. WE WILL BRING YOU UP-TO-THE-MINUTE NEWS AS IT COMES IN. STAY WITH EYEWITNESS NEWS.

In the following video report, camera pans the Haroustian mansion...

NO IMMIGRANT BEFORE, HAS RISEN TO SUCH GLOBAL HEIGHTS, SOARED WITH THE STARS, AMASSED SUCH INCREDIBLE WEALTH. BUT THEN, JOHN HAROUSTIAN WAS NO ORDINARY IMMIGRANT.

Shots of Haroustian Headquarters...

REPRESENTATIVES FROM ALL FIELDS OF INDUSTRY WILL BE PAYING THEIR RESPECTS ON FRIDAY. THE PRESIDENT HAS REARRANGED HIS SCHEDULE TO ATTEND. HOLLYWOOD CELEBRITIES, THE LIST TOO LONG TO MENTION, ARE PREPARING THEIR BLACK FROCKS.

Shots of various Hollywood celebrities...

AMERICA'S OWN MASTER BUILDER, HIS BUILDINGS DOMINATE THE SKYLINES OF EVERY MAJOR CITY. THE EYE CANNOT SEE FAR WITHOUT COMING UPON ANOTHER HAROUSTIAN SKYSCRAPER.

Shots of various big-city skylines...

A VISIONARY, AHEAD OF HIS TIME, HIS WEALTH COULD NOT HELP BUT GROW. THERE WAS SO MUCH MONEY, THERE WEREN'T ENOUGH BANKS TO HOLD IT ALL.

Camera pans various Swiss and International banks...

RUMOR HAS IT, HE BUILT A VAULT TWO MILES LONG UNDERNEATH THE HUDSON RIVER, JUST TO STASH HIS CASH.

Shots of the Hudson river...

AN IMMIGRANT DECLARED A NATIONAL HERO BY HIS COUNTRY OF ORIGIN, A MAN WHOM STREETS HAVE BEEN NAMED AFTER, DEAD, TODAY,  AT THE AGE OF 58, A NATION MOURNS FOR BILLIONAIRE, JOHN HAROUSTIAN.

News report ends.

Screen rolls up.

SCENE 5-

MARAL's apartment.

MARAL sits up in her bed in shock.

MARAL

No! No! It can't be true! He can't be dead...He can't be dead!

She lays back down.

(Pause)

MARAL (SINGING)

“Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea

And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,

Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff,

And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. “

MARAL falls asleep. Bright lights flash. A ghost walks on stage. This is NATASHA, MARAL'S grandmother, 80, with her long white hair flowing behind.

NATASHA’S GHOST

Doushka? My Doushechka. My little Maral, where are you?

MARAL sits up.

MARAL

Who’s there?

NATASHA’S GHOST

Douschka, it's me, Oh there you are, Maral jan.

MARAL

Who's there? Who is it? Who is it?

NATASHA’S GHOST

It’s me. Your grandmother, Maral.

MARAL

What? How? My grandmother? Stay away from me. You're dead!

NATASHA’S GHOST

Yes. Yes. But, I've come back to help you. Come here. Let me take a good look at you.

MARAL

Am I dead? Oh my God! Is it me? Did I die? Did I die in my sleep?

NATASHA’S GHOST

Maral! Listen to me. You're not dead. I am. And I have come here to help you so be quiet and let me do my work!

MARAL

This is crazy.

NATASHA’S GHOST

Don't be scared, Douscheka. Crazier things happen all the time on this earth.

MARAL

It really is you?

NATASHA’S GHOST

Yes, yes.. Come give me a hug.

MARAL

I can touch you?

They embrace.

MARAL

I have missed you so much. Why are you here? How?

 

MARAL starts to cry.

NATASHA’S GHOST

Calm yourself. I have come to help you. We all need a little help sometimes.

MARAL

You're a...ghost. Do you always see me? Do you see my father? My mother? All dead people? Tell me everything. No. No, Just tell me this. Tell me, is it true? Is John Haroustian really dead? Can you see him? Is he up there with you? Look...Please look ook around for me and tell me it isn't true. Tell me, Natasha. Please. TELL ME YOU DON'T SEE HIM!

NATASHA’S GHOST shakes her head.

MARAL

John Haroustina was like a father figure to me. I never knew him you know...But just knowing about him gave me strength. Knowing that he made it in this country made me want to stay. Remember the stories you used to tell me about him? The one with all the pigeons? That was my favorite. My father used to say “He made it in America so that we can make it there.”

NATASHA’S GHOST

Come, Doushechka. He's gone now. Forget those stories. I’ll tell you some new ones. Sit down here and let me braid your hair like I used to. "They say this way...so the story goes...that when you want a thing, something, anything, for forty days you wake up every morning and go out on your porch and sweep it for a whole hour, concentrating that entire hour on the thing that you want. After forty days of sweeping, your wish will come true."

MARAL

I have missed your old tales.

NATASHA’S GHOST

Go on, Maral. Go grab that broom there and start sweeping. It will help, I promise.

MARAL returns with a broom from off stage. She talks while she sweeps.

MARAL

Why would he kill himself? It makes no sense. No sense at all.

NATASHA’S GHOST

Everything will be fine. Keep sweeping.

MARAL

How can it be? Today I was fired. I don't have my rent.  And now this. I want to go back to where life was simple. I want to go home...To the old country.

NATASHA’S GHOST

Liste, Doushka. What is home? Is it where you were born? Is it the language you speak? Or the blood that runs through your veins? Or is it the place where you finally arrive?

MARAL

I just want to go back to where things felt right...To where I was happy...Where I could smell the sweet scent of the blossoms on a spring morning.

NATASHA’S GHOST

Things have changed in the old country. The people have changed. Places have changed. Even street names have changed. Time has gone on. You'll be a foreigner there, too.

MARAL

It was the only home I had.

MARAL stops sweeping.

NATASHA’S GHOST

You'd be surprised. Even feelings can change. Don’t stop!

MARAL

How do you know?

NATASHA’S GHOST

Maral, happiness is not in a geographical location. It's in the geography of the soul. You can be happy anywhere.

MARAL

If John Haroustian couldn't be happy here, what hope is there for me?

NATASHA’S GHOST

You can be happy...And you can do anything else you want. Like be a great reporter.

MARAL

You know Natasha. I’ve never cared for a single story I ever wrote.

NATASHA’S GHOST

Well, perhaps that’s it. Maybe it's time you looked inside yourself...Found something you really cared about, and wrote about that.

MARAL stops sweeping!

Lights out.

SCENE 6 -

A funeral. Shadow of a large cross is projected onto the back wall. A coffin sits center stage, covered with white flowers. We hear an elegy in a foreign tongue being recited in the background.  Everyone is here. Spotlight shines on two men. The first is ARLEN ANTOYAN, 67, a heavy-set, dark haired man who speaks in a thick, foreign accent. The second is SAMUEL MESSNER, 65, a short, skinny, chisel-faced man. MARAL joins them.

MARAL

What a crowd!

ARLEN

Ve never have az many friends az de day ve die.

SAMUEL

How many are here because of his money?

ARLEN

How many vood be here if he vaz poor?

SAMUEL

Look! A delegation from the White house.

ARLEN

And look dere! Our President himself. All de vay from de old country.

MARAL

Did you know John Haroustian?

ARLEN

I loved him, vonce.

SAM

I hated him.

ARLEN

He vaz my best friend, vonce.

SAM

He was my worst enemy.

ARLEN

He save me from preezon.

SAM

He put me in prison.

ARLEN

Vy are you here?

SAM

To make sure he's dead.

MARAL

Does anyone here really mourn him?

A pretty woman steps forward. She looks sad. This is LARA, 34, JOHN HAROUSTIAN'S mistress.

LARA

A finer man never walked the face of this earth. I mourn him very much.

SAM

Neither did a worse one.

MARAL

Really?

LARA

Can we all agree to be quiet for a moment?

ARLEN

He voodn't have vanted dat.

LARA

He would have loved that.

MARAL

Did anyone here really know him?

LARA

I knew a side of him.

SAM

God knows there were many of those.

MARAL

I never even met him.

ARLEN

Den vy  are you here?

MARAL

Because I heard about him.

SAMUEL

Why was it a closed casket ceremony?

ARLEN

You didn't heer? He blew hiz head off. Vazn't a pretty sight.

LARA

That handsome face. Gone forever.

LARA walks away.

MARAL

Who's the woman?

SAMUEL

His mistress. Lara.

MARAL

And the old lady?

ARLEN

De Grandmudder. She raize him after heez parents die. And de von in vite, dat's de vife.

MARAL

What's her name?

ARLEN

Danielle Haroustian. Not even Armenian!

MARAL

He had everything. And he wanted this?

DANIELLE HAROUSTIAN, 48, wearing a white dress with turquoise high heels shuffles to the front of the crowd.

DANIELLE HAROUSTIAN

These were my husband's last words:"My life was over a long time ago. Perhaps in death, I will again unite with the smell that has haunted me throughout my life, the sweet scent of jasmine."

DANIELLE steps away.

ARLEN

De fucker turned into a poet on his dying day.

SAMUEL

Where will all his money go?

ARLEN

To vaste!

SAMUEL

Isn't it funny? In the end, you and I are going to exactly the same place as him.

ARLEN

De legendary John Haroustian.

All exit except John’s GRANDMOTHER. MARAL approaches her gingerly.

MARAL

He was your grandson?

GRANDMOTHER

Yes. My grandson. Are you another reporter?

MARAL

Yes. An unemployed one. But I was also an admirer of your grandson.

GRANDMOTHER starts walking away.

MARAL

Neroghochoun. Kareli-a tser het khosam?

GRANDMOTHER stops.

MARAL

Erkoo bar. Khentroomem.

GRANDMOTHER

An Armenian reporter. From the old country?

MARAL

Yes. And I believe you knew my grandmother. Natasha. She was from Siberia. She came to Armenia...

GRANDMOTHER

Yes, yes. Natasha. (Chuckles) We all knew her Piroshkis...They were of great fame.

MARAL

She taught me how to make them, too...I still do sometimes, but not like her. She would spend an entire day in the kitchen, just making piroshkis stuffed with cabbage...and potatoes and eggs. It’s been fourteen years now since she’s been gone, but it feels like she never left me.

GRANDMOTHER

The people you love never really leave you. My Johnny will always be with me. You know, these past few years he only visited me once or twice a year...A bit like going to church. I think it made him feel better.

MARAL

Can you tell me a little about him? I want to hear about the real John. I want to get past the legend.

GRANDMOTHER

Why I couldn't tell you that in a couple of minutes.

GRANDMA starts walking away. MARAL takes her arm.

MARAL

Then just tell me a few things. The things you remember best about him.

Pause. They walk to the front of the stage.

GRANDMOTHER

Aaaah, he was a beautiful baby. He was all I had, you know. And he was only three when his parents died. Then I was all he had.

MARAL

Was he really as smart as they say?

GRANDMOTHER

Oh, yes. He was so curious. Always questioning. Always examining, inspecting, wanting to know everything. And you couldn’t get anything past him which was annoying at times. But he was such a kind boy. Liked to help people. He had a light his eye that everyone noticed. Until he came to America. Then, part of that light went out. He changed...Slowly First he changed his name. He was Hovaness Haroustian one day and John Haroustian the next. Little by little at first, and then more and more. When I asked him about it he said "Mez-mom! This is America. Life is different here. You have to be tougher, harder, stronger."

MARAL

He was right about that.

GRANDMOTHER

He was always tough. Even when he was little...Here's something no one ever knew. In the second grade, he wanted to be a boxer.

MARAL

A boxer?

GRANDMOTHER

Ayo! He was serious, too.

MARAL

What happened?

 

GRANDMOTHER

It didn't work out. He tried and tried so hard but the big boys always beat him up. I told him it wasn’t his fault. That big guys always win. And he said he was going to be the biggest one day.

 

MARAL

And he was-

GRANDMOTHER

He had a rough time when he was little. His parents died and then we had no money. There were nights we would go to bed hungry. Can you believe that? John Haroustian hungry. But he was always full of dreams and that's what fed him. He seemed to know he was going to be big...to do big things. And now, well, now, he has left all this money to charity... How much did they say it was?

MARAL

Forty two billion.

GRANDMOTHER

Forty two billion dollars. That's big, isn't it?

MARAL

It certainly is.

GRANDMOTHER

And now, I am all alone...All alone in the world. We are all alone in the end, no? I should go. If you want to know any more about my grandson, talk to Samuel, his old business partner, I met him once, seemed like a nice guy...Samuel Messner. That’s his name. He was at the funeral. Tell him I sent you.

MARAL helps GRANDMOTHER exit.

She comes forward.

MARAL

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I'm talking, talking a different language from the day and it doesn't matter if there's someone there who doesn't understand. I'm adamantly trying to say something, convey a message and I'm convinced that this is the way to talk.

In my disoriented, disgruntled, disobedient state I chatter pieces of a dream, unfinished thoughts, ideas that I am sure are news, I hurriedly talk. I have so much to say and I am sure I must say it all very fast. The words are pouring out so quickly, from in so deep, so far away, ten, twenty years, even before, maybe from the womb. It was there I first heard my mother tongue, the tongue she, my mother, spoke. There I heard it, inhaled it, and learned it. There it became me and I became it. There it gave me birth and I gave it life. And there...was my beginning.

(In Armenian)

Endegheetz er vor yes eskesam.

MARAL

In the middle of the night when I wake up I've been dreaming in this language. One hundred thousand suns cannot take it away. You may cut off one's tongue, but there will never be a way to change the silent language of the soul. Oh Maral, what will become of you now, left all alone in the world, too?

Lights fade.

SCENE 7-

MARAL enters a shabby office.

SAMUEL MESSNER sits behind a desk.

MARAL

Mr. Samuel Messner, sir? I saw you at the funeral, John’s grandmother sent me. I'm a reporter-

SAM

Ah, the funeral..

MARAL

Could we talk a few minutes, sir? Would you mind-

SAM

Do I mind? For thirty years, that's all anyone wants to talk to me about. I am sick to death of that-

MARAL

Actually...I wanted to talk about you. The great John Haroustian's partner, Samuel Messner. I want to hear your side of the story. They say he cheated you. Is that what happened to all your money? Is that how did you ended up...here?

SAM

That’s a long story.

MARAL

I’ve got nothing but time.

SAM

Are you going to write down what I tell you?

MARAL

If you like.

SAM

Yes. I like. I want it written down. Here. Take a seat. (Beat) I walked out on John Haroustian because I wanted to show the world that I could do it again, from scratch, on my own. No one knew about me the first time round. All those damn stories...All those articles about the Haroustian empire. Not one mention of me. I was the one that history forgot. Why? Because he couldn't stand to share the limelight. He had to be the star! But that wasn't enough to make me leave. There was more to it. You wanna know the real reason I left? I'll tell you why. Write this down. The SONOVABITCH was sleeping with my wife! That's right. While I was putting in all those hours working on our business...our business, building it, running it, working it, barely sleeping, he was sleeping... with my wife. You got that down?

MARAL

What!!!

SAM

Write it down! The bastard could have had anyone he wanted. And he chose my wife. That's why I hated him. I Never married again. Never cared for much after that.

The motherfucker was laying bricks 'til I came along. I put him on the map. I had the business degree. I made the initial investment. He didn't know shit about the steel industry. They were all my contacts! Then he goes and does that. In one instant, he went from the best person I knew to the worst person I knew. I never saw him after that. Are you writing...

MARAL

They say you walked away without a dime?

SAM

That’s right. Get this. You know what he said to me a long time ago when we were still struggling? I caught him scribbling in a corner once and he said “I’m practicing my autograph. When I’m a nobody, nobody talks to me. Nobody even pretends I exist. You know who my friends are? The paper boy. The janitor. They talk to me. Not those people in their expensive clothes and expensive parties and their pretended elation at seeing each other. Those people that ignore me...One day they will come and ask for my respect. You'll see. One day they will remember the name "Haroustian". It's a big name, and it's gonna get bigger.” Then he handed me his autograph. “Hold on to this Sammy,” he said. “They’re going to beg for my autograph one day.” And then he became one of those people he was talking about. He was the stuff legend are made of...before he went all sour.

MARAL

So, then you started your own business again?

SAM

Yeah, I got a bad start. There was a recession. Business was real slow. At first, I didn't think anything of it, but I soon started to see what was going on. The bastard wasn't through with me. He screwed my wife and then he screwed me again. The sonovabitch got me black listed in the industry. Made up some cock-and-bull story that I stole from him when all along, it was the other way around. HE STOLE FROM ME! Write that down! The steel industry’s a tight community. Everyone was scared to work with me. All it took was a few words from the great Haroustian and people I'd known for years turned their back on me.

SAM starts to cry.

SAM

The bastard was MADE of steel. Got that? It was all a game to him. Bottom lines...Pay-rolls...Kick backs. People didn’t matter. I got small tidbits from whoever would throw things my way...From far away states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I used to build airports and shopping malls and now it's been staircases and fences for fifteen years. And you wonder if I care that he's dead? I don’t. Write that in your article.

MARAL

I never knew this side of him. Did he have friends?

SAM

One. Arlen Antoyan. Known each other since childhood. He’s from the old country. The only person who might say a nice word about him.

MARAL

I’m sorry. I have your side of the story now. I will write it down. I'll write it all down.

SAM

In the end, the truth always wins, doesn’t it? Well, it’s supposed to, anyway.

SAM exits. MARAL picks up a newspaper from SAM'S desk. Background goes dark.

MARAL

"Ruthless business man always got exactly what he wanted. His power grew and grew until it rivaled heads of countries. He was often called to the White House and to lesser known kitchen cabinets of dignitaries for crucial world decisions. His donations were an added bonus." So much is written about him and his empire, but what about real John Haroustian? What made him tick? What did he like to read, to eat, to drink? What was his favorite movie? When was the last time he had danced?

Lights out.

SCENE 8-

A trailer stage left. Knock. Knock.

A poorly dressed man with a thick accent opens the door.

MARAL

Arlen Antoyan?

ARLEN ANTOYAN

Who vants to know?

MARAL

I'm doing a story on John Haroustian.

ARLEN

Ey, a reporter?

MARAL

Sort of.

ARLEN

Vat's your name?

MARAL

Maral Baronian.

ARLEN

An Armenian. I hate Armenians. A reporter, too? I hate reporters, more.

MARAL

Yeah. Me too.

ARLEN

I taut you said you are von?

MARAL

Not a very good one.

ARLEN

I can see dat. Goodbye.

ARLEN slams the door. MARAL sticks her foot in.

MARAL

Your daughter said you would be like this.

ARLEN

My daughter? You knov my daughter?

MARAL

Uh-huh.

ARLEN

Ven you talk vit my daughter?

MARAL

She told me where to find you.

ARLEN

She knows vere I am? Tventy years I live here. She never been to see me and she knovs vere I am?

MARAL

She says you've never been to see her.

ARLEN

How can I go to see her? I ran avay ven she vas born.

He opens door and let’s her in.

ARLEN

I left her mudder and her tirty years ago...Vat do I say now? "So sorry I don't see you for tirty years?" It's a big problem. Not so easy. She should come to see me.

He tightens his fist and opens door to let her out.

ARLEN

Vy you bring all dis up? I don't like tinking about past. You get hell out of here.

MARAL turns to go.

ARLEN

Hov is she...my daughter?

MARAL

Tired. She just had a baby.

ARLEN

I have grandchild?

MARAL

A little girl.

ARLEN

A little girl? You know her name?

MARAL

Hmmmmmmmmm...It's on the tip of my tongue...Let’s talk, perhaps it’ll come to me.

ARLEN

For almost a reporter, you sure are sneaky like one. Vat you vant to know, young lady?

MARAL

Can you tell me about the real John Haroustian?

ARLEN

Real John Haroustian? Pah!

MARAL

Or at least...Who he was to you?

ARLEN

He vas a bastard. Iz dat vhat you vant to know? A big bastard. Von night he told me...He varned me, and I should have listened. I taut he vaz just drunk, I didn't take serious. I regret dat night ven John came to my house for dinner. But I don’t talk about dis.

MARAL

Please. It’s important to me.

ARLEN

Who cares? It is all over now.

MARAL

I care. I really care, for once.

 

ARLEN

My vife, she prepared the favorite meal. Stuff cabbages with the sour cream. It vaz great night. Ve drank Vodka to new baby. Cheers! He sayz.  God bless America! Ve sing Armenian songs. He say some stoopid tings too. I keep saying: "Johnny, you don't mean that," but he say “Ven I vas a kid, I thought this place was land of opportunity. Vere is it? Vite picket fence...Neatly trim lawns...Lies...Lies-“ I tell him “Johnny, Iz vonderful vat you made here.”  I tell him our market shares going up every day. Ve buying new companies...Ve growing in lips and bonds. “You on cover of Inc. Magazeene for most millionaire of de year. You can do anyting in dis county, my friend. You genus! Ten years from now, you make ‘Ten Top Rich Man in America’ list in that Forbe magazine.” He sayz “Ten years from now, you'll hate me”. But I say no, Johnny. You my best friend in de whole vorld. Den, de next day-  I’m fired!

MARAL

Just like that?

ARLEN

Dat’s vat I say. Just like that ? “You're finish. Go home. I can't keep you around anymore. You dead veight” he tell me. De bastard. “Pleeze” I beg, “Pleeze Johnny, pleeze. Ve just had baby. You can't do dis. You have meellions. You have tvelve homes...You drive seven Mercedes-” “Don't make scene” he sayz.. Just pack and go home. Dis iz America, I can do what I vant. Remember, You told me dat, friend.”

I say, “What kind of friend you are? Tventy five years! And now you do this.” Den he even make fun of me. “You can't even speak English. You embarass me!” he shouts. “Are you listening? Or do I have to speak like dis for you to understand, friend?" Dis iz too much for me. “You are not my friend, Johnny.” I tell him. Den I left.

MARAL

I can’t believe it.

ARLEN

Ve never speak after dat. He alvays promised he vould give me shares. I tink ve are brothers. But ve are not! You know...I tink if Johnny never come to America, he vould behave better. He vaz good boy vonce. But he get vorse and vorse. I vaz mizerable. So, I go avay..

MARAL

You left everything?

ARLEN

I vaz embarass. Embarass. You understand? Without him, I had noting. Yes, I left...My vife. My child...How I suppozed to support them? Ten years I have great job vit John Haroustian den, POOF! Not-ting! My vife have to live like poor vife. I cannot face her. She tink I veak man. She compare me to John Haroustian all de time. I know she can go back to her father. She live comfortable vit baby. I never see them again. It vaz all his fault.

MARAL

And now he's dead.

ARLEN

And now he's dead.

MARAL

Just wait til’ everyone reads this story.

ARLEN

Yes. Dey should know the story, yes.

MARAL

They'll see. They’ll all see exactly what a bastard he really was...What he did to you!

ARLEN turns around.

ARLEN

But you cannot vrite dis story.

MARAL

What?

ARLEN

Dis iz de true story, but you can’t write it. No von can vrite about Johnny like dis!

MARAL

You said...You-

ARLEN

Yes. I sed. But you don’t run off vit your mouth, lady. Not to odder people. You vant more truth, the whole truth...De truth iz, he vas a rootless business man. Yes. Dere's many of dose in dis vorld, no? But, dis z problem. Jonny vas not all bad. He did good tings too. You never knev him. He build many yoot center. He make college funds for poor kids. He donate his money now to charity. Dis iz de big picture. He did some good and he did some bad, Jonny. Sure, de small picture is not so good....He scroo me, he scroo his wife. But I scroo plenty people myself. And vat I give to de vorld? Vat do ve give?

MARAL

We-

ARLEN

Ve try. But how many of us succeed? Vaz he a great guy or vaz he a bastard? He vaz both. Sure, he hurt me bad, but I have good times from him, too. My life not end up so good, but maybe someting of dat haz to do vit me. Maybe I vas little lazy. I could try harder. Like Johnee. He alvays try hard. Sometimes iz eazy to blame odders for our mistake. De real Hovaness Haroustian, he vaz OK. Tink vat you vant, he vaz OK.

A confused MARAL turns to go.

MARAL

“Anoush”. Your grand daughter's name is Anoush.

MARAL approaches stage front. Background goes dark.

MARAL

Natasha. Natasha? I am so confused, I don't know what to do next. I should just pack up and leave...

Bright lights flash. NATASHA’S GHOST enters.

NATASHA’S GHOST

And give up? You must try harder, my doushka, try harder.

MARAL

I have no idea where to look next.

NATASHA’S GHOST

Remember what we say in the old country when we're cleaning house: "If a cockroach doesn't move, then it's time to look underneath."

NATASHA’S GHOST exits.

MARAL

Underneath? Underneath what? Natasha always talks in riddles from the old country...Telling me she would poke out my eye with a needle or take my father out of me. I never understood these macabre sayings. And now she’s dead she’s even worse!

I thought and I thought about what I knew so far. I did more research. I tried to look underneath. I thought some more. I dug around and around until finally, I thought of something new. I realized the last person to see John Haroustian wasn't his wife at all...

Lights out.

SCENE 9-

We see the CORONER, 66, working on a covered body. MARAL opens the door and walks in.

MARAL

You’re the coroner who was on the John Haroustian case?

CORONER

One second. There! All zipped up. What can I do for you?

MARAL

I called-

CORONER

You’re the reporter.

MARAL

Yes. You were the last person, so to speak, to see John-

He opens the fridge and shuffles around a bunch of glass jars with funny contents.

CORONER

Just getting my lunch out. You eaten? Got some extra.

MARAL

Er...No thanks. Not hungry just now.

CORONER

Suit yourself. So, what do you want?

MARAL

I need some information about John Haroustian.

CORONER

It's all in my report. Whoops!!!

He spills ketchup on the body he was working on. He starts to clean it up.

CORONER

Happens all the time. Sometimes gets mixed up with the real thing.

He laughs.

CORONER

Joke. Never mind. What did you say?

MARAL

I was saying...Maybe there's things that weren't in your report?

CORONER

What do you mean, "Weren't in your report"?

MARAL starts to circle the table.

MARAL

I'm not sure. I noticed some changes in your lifestyle recently. Your wife just quit her job.

He puts his lunch away.

CORONER

She's been planning that for years. Look, lady, I'm busy. Lots of bodies waiting in line. Anything else I can help you with?

MARAL

Yes. Yes there was. How is it that you suddenly managed... That is, were able to afford a second house in Palm Springs...On your salary?

CORONER

Where'd you hear that?

MARAL

And I heard more, that you've put in for retirement-

CORONER

I'm sixty-seven years old. Anything wrong with that?

MARAL

It all just seems rather sudden. You know, your wife retiring and you...And the house.

CORONER

You're not really allowed to be in here, lady. I think you should leave before anyone sees you.

He opens the door for her to leave. MARAL steps back.

MARAL

I wasn't quite ready to go.

CORONER

It’s time you minded your own business.

CORONER goes back to his work.

MARAL

I've seen your record, it's pretty clean. It certainly would be a shame to change all that.

He turns around.

MARAL

You got kids, right? You wouldn't want to do anything they'd be ashamed of. And your colleagues, imagine what they would say?

CORONER

What are you talking about, lady?

MARAL

Does your wife know? She doesn't, does she?

CORONER

Know about what?

MARAL

Look. I'm trying to make it easy for you. We reporters, we're a nosey bunch. We find the truth eventually. It really surprises me, a man of your stature-

CORONER

WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME???

MARAL

THE TRUTH! Hiding it is as bad as lying. Sometimes, we want to excuse ourselves for doing the wrong thing, taking a wrong turn somewhere. So, we convince ourselves we didn't tell a lie, and technically, we probably didn't. But morally, we know we did.

The CORONER shakes his head.

MARAL

You know what they call people who do that? Convince themselves they're telling the truth when they're really not? Psychopaths!

CORONER

Leave me alone.

MARAL

See, I think you took a wrong turn recently. And I'm trying to give you a chance, the opportunity to make a U-turn.

CORONER

And...how would I do that?

MARAL

Simple. Consider the humiliation, everything you would lose if you were found out. Think about the penalty. Now, imagine that by answering one question, just one question, you can set straight again where you went wrong. Judges would be much more sympathetic to the fact that you made a mistake and then repented...A bad decision made in the heat of the moment. I'm giving you that opportunity. This is your chance. All you have to do is answer one simple question. Is John Haroustian still alive?

He lets out a deep breath, pauses, looks MARAL in the eye-

CORONER

Yes.

Lights out.

 

END OF ACT 1


The Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
© Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance, 2012. All rights reserved.

No reproduction of this text is permitted. Performance rights must be secured for any performance.