Dramatic Texts >> Aleksandr Shirvanzade >> Evil Spirit

EVIL SPIRIT by Aleksandr Shirvanzade

A drama in Four Acts adapted by the author from the novel of the same name.


Characters

VOSGAN, 41 then 49, a blacksmith, bulbous-nosed, boastful, self-indulgent
SHOOSHAN, 30 then 38, his wife, a bread baker, a woman aged before her time, with coarse hands and a face deeply lined by the heat of the bread-oven
SONA, 9 then 17, their daughter, transparently fair, blue-eyed and, later, graciously tall
KIJH-TANIEL (Mad Daniel) , 41 then 49, father of the dead Manishag (Violet); weather-beaten, poetic
ZARNISHAN, 55, Sona's mother-in-law, withered, shiny-eyed
CHOPOOR GARABED (Pock-marked Garabed), 36, Zarnishan's elder son, Sona's brother-in-law
MURAD, 32, younger son of Zarnisban and Sona's husband, benign, youthful-looking
CHAVAHIR, 30, Garabed's wife, eagle-beaked, assertive
MIANSAZ, 55, a crippled, hook-nosed, mannish Persian woman with a disheveled, witch-like hair
ZARIG, Sona's childhood friend
MANAN, Sona's childhood friend
KHATCHIG, Sona's childhood friend

Eight years pass between the first and second act.


Act I


Sona's childhood or the first seizure.

The scene depicts the yard of Vosgan 's house. At right, ruins, at center an earthen mound. At left, Vosgan's cottage with one door and window. Upstage for the entire width of the scene, an unpainted wooden fence. In the middle of it, a shaky gate. Behind the fence a street, right to left. In the distance, green hills. On the left, in front of the cottage, a large and wide couch—the traditional takht—that serves also as a table. On it an old worn cover, a cushion and pillow. On stage, several large rocks which serve apparently as seats. Sunlight on the earthen mound. Other areas of the stage are in shadow.


Scene I

Shooshan and Sona.

SHOOSHAN
(Enters yard from door on left, putting a shawl over her head. A woman aged before her time, she has coarse hands and a face lined by oven heat. She wears a worn jacket, wide pantaloons and sandals.) I'm going across the street. It's time I took Metchloomen's bread out of the oven. Sona? Don't go running off. Play in the yard.

SONA
(Nine years old. A pretty-faced, large blue-eyed and golden-haired girl. She wears a short plain cloth jacket, wide pantaloons, and sandals.) How can I play by myself?

SHOOSHAN
Let your friends come here. If I see them outside, I'll tell them.

SONA
(Excitedly.) But I can play in the street.

SHOOSHAN
(Sadly.) No, dear, you can't go in the street. You have to play in our yard.

SONA
Why, Mama?

SHOOSHAN
Because you're a big girl, now.

SONA
(She lightly strikes her cheek with her hand.)
Big girl! Nine years is big? Oh, Mama, it isn't true and you know it.

SHOOSHAN
(Scolding.) Shush. Daughters don't talk like that to their mothers.

SONA
(Sorry) But Mama, why is it that Zarig and Manan can go wherever they want?

SHOOSHAN
(Sadly.) Ah, my sweet. Things are different for them. I'm going. Play carefully.
(She kisses Sona and goes out the fence gate, to the right, shaking her head sadly.)

Scene II
Zarig, Manan, and Khatchig.

SONA
(After Shooshan leaves, thinks for several seconds holding her chin in her right hand. Then runs toward the right, climbs the earthen mound and calls out in a loud voice.) Zarig! Manan! I'm here. Come on over! (Returns to center stage.)

MANAN
(From backstage.) We're coming! We're coming! (Runs to stage right. Plump, about Sona's age, dressed like her and bare-headed. Dark-complexioned with red cheeks.)

ZARIG
(From backstage.
) Here we are! (Runs on stage after Manan, of the same age and dressed like her. Lame.)

KHATCHIG
(Runs on stage from right through the fence gate. An eight-or nine-year-old boy with a healthy vivacious look. Wears a jacket, tight pants, sandals, and a red hat.
) I'm here, too. Your mother told me.

SONA
Come on, let's play.

ALL
(Together.) Let's play. Let's play.

KHATCHIG
Okay. What'll we play?

MANAN
We can't play here. Let's go out in the street.

SONA
No, no. My mother said I can't in the street. She won't let me.

ZARIG
Okay then, if you can't. We'll play here and have fun.

KHATCHIG
But what'll we play?

They think for a moment.

ZARIG
How about hide and seek? Hide and seek! (She claps and leaps in the air.)

KHATCHIG
Okay. Who's going to be it? Who's going to be it?

MANAN
I'll be it. (Claps and leaps in the air.)

ZARIG
(Arguing.) No. I'll be it. Me. Me.

MANAN
You're a peg leg. You can't. I'll be it. Me. Me.

ZARIG
You're fat. You can't. I'll be it. Me. Me.

MANAN
No, me.

ZARIG
No, me.

MANAN
You're going to get it. (Hits Zarig s shoulder.)

ZARIG
Look out. (Hits Manan s shoulder.)

MANAN
(Grabs Zarig's hair.) I'll pull out your hair.

ZARIG
(Jumps on Manan.)
I'll scratch your eyes out.

KHATCHIG
(Runs between Zarig and Manan separating them.
) Hey, that's not nice. Stop it or I'll fix both of you. Okay, not you, not you and not me. Let Ovsannah be it. Sweet Sona, Ovsannah. It's her yard.

SONA
I don't want to. I can't.

KHATCHIG
Why? Why can't you?

SONA
I'll get a headache. My feet and hands might go numb.

MANAN
Stop making excuses, blue eyes.

KHATCHIG
You can run and hide better than any of us.

ZARIG
You're hard to find.

MANAN
You're not so easy to catch.

ZARIG
Fatty Manan is going to sweat.

MANAN
Peg leg Zarig is going to get tired.

KHATCHIG
Hurry up. Hurry. Turn around and cover your eyes tight.

They cover their eyes with their hands, laughing.


SONA
(Runs among her friends.) I'm here. I'm there. Look how I go! Look, look, I'm sitting down. In the snow. But it's cold. I have a white bird with a blue bill. Too- wit, twit, twit she sings. And the dogs bark at her. (Abruptly becomes silent. With muted steps tip-toes away, taking considerable time to find a hiding place. Finally hides behind the fence left.) Okay, you can open your eyes. Come on, come on. Run and find me if you can.

They uncover their eyes. They don't move for a few seconds, looking left and right. They then spread out in various directions searching for Sona.


ZARIG
(Goes left.)
She's not here.

MANAN
(Goes right.)
She's not here.

KHATCHIG
(Opens door of cottage, left, looks in and walks away.)
She's not there.

ZARIG
(Going up center.
) She's not here.

MANAN
Not here.

KHATCHIG
Not here.

SONA
Awoo. Awoo.

MANAN
(Stopping to listen.) You can hear her, but you can't see her.

ZARIG
(Running to center.)
Aih, I found her. Watch me grab her! (Trips and falls; the others laugh.)

MANAN
Look at gimpy!

KHATCHIG
(Laughing loudly.
) You got her, all right.

SONA
(Imitating a cat.
) Meow, meow.

ZARIG
(Getting up.)
Pisho, pisho, here, pussy.

MANAN
Here, pussy! Pisho.

ZARIG
(Hitting Manan's shoulder.
) Fatty Manan, did you find her yet?

MANAN
(Hitting Zarig's shoulder.
) Gimpy Zarig, did you find her yet?

SONA
Meow, meow.

Zarig, Manan, and Khatchig search for a few minutes here and there, laughing and shoving each other.


SONA
(Suddenly appears stage right on the ruins)

You didn't find me, didn't find me. I saw you all the time. Try to catch me if you can.

ALL
(Chase Sona; run around a few times, but can't catch her.)
This way! Get her there! Down the other side!

SONA
(Runs left, then up center, leaping over the fence twice. Then goes left.)
Chiv, chiv, chiv, big eagle, I brought seeds for you. Chiv, chiv, chiv. Ah, come on hens, eat and fill up. Chiv, chiv, chiv.

KHATCHIG
I'm tired. (Rests a moment.)

MANAN
I'm sweating. (Rests a moment.)

ZARIG
I'm out of breath. (Rests a moment.)

All start after Sona again.
Sona wheels about, running here and there, and finally climbs the earthen mound, right. Pausing for a moment, she suddenly cries out and falls face down in the sun's glare.


MANAN
Why did she fall? (Going up to Sona.)

KHATCHIG
She looks knocked out. (Going up to Sona.)

ZARIG
(Going up to Sona.)
Ooh! She's getting yellow like a lemon.

MANAN
Her eyes are open, half open.

KHATCHIG
Her face is getting red.

ZARIG
No, no, now it's blue.

MANAN
Her mouth! Look at all that spit!

KHATCHIG
She's squeezing her thumbs in her fingers. Look at that.

ZARIG
I don't think she's breathing. Now she is.

KHATCHIG
She's shaking.

MANAN
It sounds like she's choking.

ZARIG
Oooh .... like a strangled chicken.

KHATCHIG
Her mother isn't home. What'll we do?

MANAN
Come on, let's get her up.

ZARIG
We'll take her home and put her in bed. (They try to lift Sona.)

KHATCHIG
(Pulling Manan and Zarig by the arms.) Eh, don't touch her, don't touch her.

From backstage the strumming of a Saz is heard.
Tableau: Lifting their heads, they all listen silently for a moment.


Scene III
The same and Kijb-Taniel. Kijh-Taniel appears behind fence, coming from left: a strongly-built man, medium height, grizzled short-cut hair, beard; wears a homemade blue linen shirt, half open, showing his curly-haired chest, and matching blue trousers that cover half his calves.

CHILDREN
Kijh-Taniel, Kijh-Taniel. (Running back and forth.)

KIJH-TANIEL
(Sings as he plays the Saz.)

Listen, good people, to the sweet song I sing:
I'm a bul-bul from the gardens of Gulistan.
Sisters and brothers, it's a sad tale I bring:
From the nightingale's gorges of Daghistan.
Somewhere under the rocks she lies,
And none can tell me where:
My dear little child with her large blue eyes,
And her wonderful golden hair.
That is the sweet song the bul-buls bring
From the gardens of Gulistan.
That is the sad tale the nightingales sing
In the gorges of Daghistan.

Sona raises head, semi-consciously.

KHATCHIG
(Approaching timidly.) Brother Taniel, Brother Taniel. Sona fell. Look.

KIJH-TANIEL
(Stops singing and playing.)
Where? Who did it? Get out of my way.

KHATCHIG
She looks awful. Help her. She's sick.

KIJH-TANIEL
(Bending over Sona.) Hah, have you fallen? (Averts his eyes.) Who are you? (Looking up now.) She fell like this on her back under the sun, her hands on her breast. (Louder.) Blood poured from her head like a fountain! (Stoops again to look at Sona's face closely, strokes her hair and then stares in silence.)

SONA
(Feebly.) My head hurts.

The children, signaling one another, all edge closer.


KIJH-TANIEL
(Beside himself.)
Manishag? (Louder.) Manishag? (Looking out of the corner of his eye at Sona.) Hah, it's you.
Eight years have passed, eight black years. Hah, you're Manishag. Talk to me, my dear.

SONA
(Coming to and looking with amazement into Kijh-Taniel's face.) My head hurts.

KIJH-TANIEL
(As though remembering.)
Her head was crushed under a rock. (To Sona.) Get up, my dear. Get up. I'll take you home. (Gestures toward the gate.)

KHATCHIG
Aih, Brother Taniel. Sona's house is here. (Points to the house.)

KIJH-TANIEL
(With tender affection.) Quiet. She is mine, mine. (Cradling Sona's head.) Aih, her wonderful golden hair, her large blue eyes like turquoises. (To Sona.) Give me your hand, stand up. (Raises Sona to her feet and putting down his Saz, dusts off her clothes.) You are sweet, my dear child, very sweet. (To the children.) Eh, friends of my Manishag, pick up my Saz.

Khatchig picks up the Saz quickly.


KIJH-TANIEL
Guard it well. Don't be afraid. There's a snake in it. But he won't bite.

Khatchig, frightened, lays the Saz on the couch.

KIJH-TANIEL
(Lifts Sona.) Come, my precious child.

ZARIG
(Sees Sona's mother Shooshan approaching.) Aih, Sister Shooshan's here.

KIJH-TANIEL
(Carries Sona to center stage.) When I had sung my song, I held her just so.

Scene IV
The same and Shooshan.


SHOOSHAN
(Entering right with a sack full of baked loaves on her shoulder, sees the children and Sona.) My God, what's happened to my child? (Runs forward'.)

KHATCHIG
We were playing. She fell.

SHOOSHAN
(Trembling.) Fell?

ZARIG
(Pointing to the mound.) Aih, over there.

MANAN
She turned all blue. Her face was like a violet.

ZARIG
When she fell, she was like a chicken with its head cut off.

MANAN
Her mouth was foaming.

SHOOSHAN
(Alarmed, lets the loaves of bread slip from her shoulder and then hopelessly.) Her mother should have fallen into the oven and not seen this day. (Hushed.) Bring her here, Brother Taniel. Put her on the couch.

KIJH-TANIEL
(Carries Sona to the wooden couch and gently puts her down.)
Let our sweet Manishag rest.

SHOOSHAN
Her name is Sona.

SONA
(While Shooshan sets a cushion under her head.
) Mama, what happened?

SHOOSHAN
Nothing my dear, nothing.

KIJH-TANIEL
You were sleeping, Manishag. Under the sun, on the ground. Eh, my Saz.

Khatchig, from opposite side of couch, picks up Saz and gives it to Kijh-Taniel; then gathers up bread and places it on the couch beside Sona.


SHOOSHAN
(To children.) Go home, my children, go to your homes. Sona hasn't turned blue and she's not watering at the mouth. That would be wrong to say. She tripped on a stone. Haven't you fallen, too? Isn't that right, Brother Taniel?

KIJH-TANIEL
Rocks had fallen on her. Stone and earth had fallen on scorched. I saw and I roared like an animal. The us crashed down upon my head. The earth tore open at my feet.

SHOOSHAN
(To the children.
) Go, please. All of you go home.

The children, sadly and slowly, exit right.

Scene V

The same without the children.


SHOOSHAN
Brother Taniel, you know me. I'm Blacksmith Vosgan's wife, Shooshan, the baker. For the love of God, keep what you've seen to yourself.

KIJH-TANIEL
(Musing.) Quiet, my Manishag is going to sleep. Let me play my Saz for her. (Plays a little while still seated. Then rises and continues to play as he moves toward the gate.)
Listen, good people, to the sweet song I sing:
I'm a bul-bul from the gardens of Gulistan.

From backstage, the Saz and the song are heard for a considerable time receding in the distance.


SHOOSHAN
It was a sad day for all of us when you were born. (To Sona.) Does your head hurt?

SONA
No, my back. Mama, what happened? Why did you send all my friends away?

SHOOSHAN
(Sighing.) Eh, my child. They're not your friends. Let them go to their lucky parents.

SONA
I don't hear the Saz. (Listening.) Aih, Brother Taniel is gone. Mama, is he crazy?

SHOOSHAN
That's what they say. Who knows, really?

SONA
Was he always crazy?

SHOOSHAN
No, he wasn't always that way.

SONA
What happened to him, Mama?

SHOOSHAN
This is no time to talk about him.

SONA
Mama, tell me. I want to know.

SHOOSHAN
All right. (Sighs.) I'll tell you the story. (Sits beside Sona and cradles her head.) They say that before his troubles started Taniel was a sane man, a good husband and father. He had a four-year-old boy. But one day that poor boy got sick and within a week he was dead. Poor Taniel became so sad he couldn't sleep or rest. Two years later, God gave him a daughter. Taniel was thankful and consoled. But troubles come in threes. His wife, when she went for water one morning, lost her footing at the edge of well and fell in. They brought her out dead—her head had been crushed. It was an unlucky day for Taniel.

SONA
(Distracted.) Poor Brother Taniel.

SHOOSHAN
The only consolation left in life was his child. He gave his heart and soul to her. Every day as she grew she looked more and more like her mother.

SONA
Did you ever see her?

SHOOSHAN
Did I ever. She was a beautiful girl. She had golden hair and big blue eyes.

SONA
Golden hair? (Looks at her own hair.) Like mine?

SHOOSHAN
Yes, my dear. Blond, like yours. (Looking closely at Sona.) Wait, my dear. How shall I put it? She looked just like you. You are she. From the top of your head to your feet. (Shakes her head.) Yes, now I see it's so.

SONA
More, Mama, tell me more.

SHOOSHAN
His daughter's name was Manishag. (Smiles.) Taniel worshipped her like a saint. But God had other plans. When Manishag was eight years old, just like you, there was a great earthquake.

SONA
Oh, Mama!

SHOOSHAN
And she was trapped under a falling building.

SONA
(Putting her hands to her lips.
) Did she die?

SHOOSHAN
(Sighing.) She died.

SONA
What did Brother Taniel do?

SHOOSHAN
What could he do? What do you do when you lose an only child?

SONA
(Emotionally.) Poor Brother Taniel. Poor Brother Taniel.

SHOOSHAN
When the earth began to shake, he was in his store. What can he do? He runs home—just like that—no hat, no shoes and sees the crushed body of his child.

SONA
(Getting more emotional.
) And then, then?

SHOOSHAN
People who were there say that Taniel roared so loud that everybody trembled. Then he threw himself down and hugged his daughter. All day they couldn't lift him from the body. When it was dark he got up. But his mind was gone. It happened eight years ago. Poor man. He forgot all about house and home and began wandering the streets weeping for his child. He's always walking among the ruins making up songs and singing them all the time.

Sona cries quietly.

SHOOSHAN
(Strokes her hair.
) Don't cry, my dear. Don't hurt your mother. I'm as unlucky as he is.

SONA
(Wiping her eyes.
) Mama, is it true I look like his daughter?

SHOOSHAN
Yes, you look like her, Sona. Very much. When I try to think of her now, I see you.

SONA
Her name was Manishag?

SHOOSHAN
Manishag.

SONA
Manishag. What a pretty name.

SHOOSHAN
Yes, my sweet. Shh. (After a moment, she picks up the loaves of bread and goes out the door left.)

Scene VI
Sona and Vosgan.
Sona, still lying on the couch, stares fixedly; then rubs her forehead.
Vosgan enters by gate from right. He is medium height, homely; hands, face, and neck are black from charcoal smoke; nose is bulbous covered with pimples. A blueish creased line runs from under his eyes to his ears. His mustache and hair are matted. He wears a long woolen jacket with large pockets and leather belt, cap and boots. As he approaches, he pulls something out of his pocket and tosses it on the couch. It is a colorful handkerchief in which he has wrapped several pieces of meat. He sings dazedly to himself.
Sona, seeing her father, gets off the couch.

VOSGAN
Is your mother inside?

SONA
Yes. (Pleased to see he is sober.)

VOSGAN
Take that meat in to your mother and tell her to barbecue it. (He takes a large bottle oghi (vodka) out of another pocket.)

SONA
All right, Papa. (Takes up the handkerchief, starts for the cottage.)

VOSGAN
(Calling after.) And bring me a glass. (Sings to himself.) Eh, pie, popeye, tie, tatie ....

SONA
(Sees oghi bottle, frowns.
) Uh, uh. (Enters cottage.)

Scene VII
The same and Shooshan.

VOSGAN
(Alone for a moment. Lifts bottle to admire it, uncorks it, takes a swallow.
) It's got no taste without a glass. (Sits on the couch, puts hat aside, sings to himself.) Eh, popeye, pie, toteye, tie.

SHOOSHAN
(Enters from cottage, looks reproachfully.) No one died, is that right, so you could have gone to a wake for a bowl of soup and gotten drunk.

VOSGAN
(Shows her the bottle.
) Shooshan, my dear, today the dead are all in this and the living, too.

Sona enters from the cottage with a glass, sets it before her father.


VOSGAN
And bring some sour pickles. (Pours and finishes off a glass.)

SHOOSHAN
We don't have pickles.

VOSGAN
All right. Get me a piece of cheese.

SHOOSHAN
We don't have any cheese.

VOSGAN
Hey, do we have to go through this again? What do you mean have, have not? When I tell you to bring something, bring something.

SHOOSHAN
Sona, get the scallions near the cupboard.

Sona enters cottage. Returns with a piece of bread, salt, and scallion stalks on a tray and puts it on the couch. Shooshan, arms folded across her breast, shakes her head sadly at her husband, sighing.

VOSGAN
Aih, that's better. You need a little something with oghi. (Passes scallions through the salt and eats.) Eikh, eikh. They're always preaching to me, "Don't drink, Vosgan, don't drink." Let them preach. One day I fixed that Father Sarkis of Madras. You know, Shooshan, when he drinks he has all the holy, legal excuses. (Fills his glass again.) He drinks the holy wine by the pitcher. So, one day I said to him, "Reverend Father, is it a sin to get drunk?" He said, "Certainly." I said, "Then, how come you're drunk?" "But I drink wine," he said, "Wine is Christ's blood." "And oghi?" I said. "Ogbi" he said, "is Satan's blood." "If that's how it is," I said, "then I'm a Christian and you're a heathen. You suck Christ's blood and I suck the devil's." I tell you, I'm a quick one, Shooshan. I squelched that Sarkis. (Empties his glass and fills it again.)

SHOOSHAN
(To Sona.) Cut the meat and start the fire.

SONA
Leave it to me. (Enters cottage.)

Scene VIII
Vosgan and Shooshan.


SHOOSHAN
(After Sona leaves, approaches Vosgan.) I want you to listen to me. I can't take this. You have to listen to me.

VOSGAN
I'm listening. Talk.

SHOOSHAN
Your daughter is ill.

VOSGAN
Huh? (Drinks.)

SHOOSHAN
(Impatiently.) Your daughter is an epileptic.

VOSGAN
An epileptic?

SHOOSHAN
Yes, an epileptic. It's your father pulling us into his grave. I saw it in my dream. He was on a yellow horse. He pulled up my child beside him. He was riding and riding. I don't know where. He's a monster. Why did he come for my child, why? (Weeps.)

VOSGAN
Was it a seizure? Did she fall?

SHOOSHAN
Yes. Since three years ago, this is the fourth time. We have to face it. She's sick like your sister.

VOSGAN
(Muttering sadly.) Well, that's it. We'll have to face it. (Drinks again.) What can we do? It's God's will.

SHOOSHAN
(Almost beside herself.) Go, get down on your knees before the church doors. Rub your head against the stones. Plead with God, beg Him. Say, "Lord, take this evil spirit out of my child. Give me her pain."

VOSGAN
(Annoyed.) Why not? Sure! I'll say it. Why shouldn't I say it? I know how to pray. You think I've forgotten. Come on! Cook the meat. I can't keep eating these damn scallions.

SHOOSHAN
My God, he has a stone for a heart. (Enters the cottage, returns, throws a blue tablecloth over the couch and sets out bread, vegetables, and dishes.)

Vosgan looks on moodily for a moment, then drinks another glass, puts it down and paces back and forth, gesturing and talking to himself.

Scene IX
The same and Kijh-Taniel.

KIJH-TANIEL
(We hear first his Saz from behind the scene and then also his singing as he enters by the gate pausing a moment.)
Barefoot I wander over these hills.
I wander all night and all day.
I'm Keyaram the singer of Asli,
But from Asli, they've turned me away.
Please tell my parents you've seen me.
Tell them you've seen me forlorn.
Tell them I've gone to the end of the world.
Tell them what pain I've borne.

VOSGAN
What a beautiful voice, Brother Taniel. Welcome, come in. Have a drink with me.

KIJH-TANIEL
(Comes forward, speaks to Shooshan.) Call her, so I can see my sweet one.

VOSGAN
Who is your sweet one, Brother Taniel? (Sits and pours himself another glass.)

KIJH-TANIEL
She had fallen where she walked, in the sun. Blood flowed from her forehead, Madam Shooshan. It was dark, rainy and cold. Eight times eight black devils fell upon us. They wanted to choke her. But lion-hearted Taniel didn't let them. Listen to me, world. She had golden hair, deep blue turquoise eyes. Kor Oghli sang from the top most tower of town, and fire poured out from the gates of Ghrat.

Scene X
The same and Sona.

SONA
(At the cottage door.)
The coals are red hot.

SHOOSHAN
Yes, like those that have fallen on your mother's head. (To Taniel, quietly.) Don't let him drink any more. (Enters the cottage, but returns shortly.)

KIJH-TANIEL
(Seeing Sona, he is gladdened.) Come, come my daughter. Come closer. (Brings out a pomegranate from under his shirt and offers it to Sona.) I brought you a pomegranate. It's from my Manishag's garden. Here take it. If anyone harms you, I'll tear him to pieces, eat him raw.

SONA
(Taking the pomegranate.)
Thank you, Brother Taniel.

VOSGAN
I don't eat meat that way. Cook it well. (In a drunken tone.) Brother Taniel, drink up. (Fills the glass.)

KIJH-TANIEL
(Ignores Vosgan, looks at Sona with attentive delight. Taking her hand, he brings her forward.)
She looked like you. You look like her. Her hair was like yours and her eyes. Her forehead was broad, her face soft as velvet, her neck like a deer's, her fingers so delicate. (Stroking Sona's hair.) Large stones had fallen on her. Blood flowed from her head like a fountain. I kissed her. Like this, like this.(Stroking Sona's head.) She wasn't cold, no she wasn't. Then she became cold.

VOSGAN
That's your drink. Don't you want it? Fine. I'll drink yours, too. Why not? (Drinks.)

SHOOSHAN
(Watches Kijn-Taniel and listens attentively.)
Sit, brother Taniel.

KIJH-TANIEL
(Staring at Sona wrapped in thought.)
Her mother was dead and in the ground. Only I was there to weep over her. Eh, Madam Shooshan, what was this lion-hearted Taniel but a poor man? With bowed head he cut and sewed. (Turns to Sona) My sweet, they took my needle and my scissors and cut my heart to pieces like felt. Little mistress Sona, sweet Manushag, why didn't you stay? Why did you leave me? (Sobs, quietly, gasping without tears.)

SHOOSHAN
(Sighing) She fills his heart and mind, always. Poor man, his tears are dry. (Again she glances in the cottage door.)

SONA
Don't cry, Brother Taniel.

KIJH-TANIEL
If you say so, I won't. The brave don't cry. (Happily) Be strong, take heart. (Stroking Sona's hair) Good. That's the way my sweet Manushag was.

VOSGAN
(Raising his bottle in the air to examine it.
) There's still lome, quite a bit. Yes. (Pours more into the glass.)

SONA
(Aside.) Brother Taniel, don't let my father drink too much. Poor mother. He'll beat her if he gets drunk.

KIJH-TANIEL
(Angrily.) What? Beat her? No, I won't let him. Master Vosgan, don't drink so much.

SHOOSHAN
Sona, bring the meat out right away.

Sona enters cottage, but returns empty-handed.


VOSGAN
What, me drink less? You were crying, Brother Taniel. For shame. (Showing the glass of oghi) Aih, this is a man's tears. Drink, you won't cry. I used to cry before. Now my eyes are dry. Drink and play the Saz so I can enjoy myself. You too. (Presses him to take the glass of oghi.)

KIJH-TANIEL
(Takes the glass and spills its contents on the ground.)
No, My Manishag forbids it.

VOSGAN
Aah, my Manishag, my Manishag. There is no Manishag here. She's in heaven. Eh, look what you did. Shame, shame. For the price of that bottle, I shod three horses and you spilled your drink. (Lifts the bottle again to fill his glass.)

KIJH-TANIEL
No more, stop it. You've had enough.

VOSGAN
(Persisting.) No more? Heh. When did you get sane?

KIJH-TANIEL
(Grabs the bottle from Vosgan.
) I told you not to drink anymore. Manishag forbids it.

VOSGAN
(Angrily.) Who put that into your head? My wife? I'll beat the hell out of her. (Roaring.) Eh, Shooshan!

SONA
(Shuddering.) Uhff.

VOSGAN
Tell him to give me back that bottle. You told him to take it.

KIJH-TANIEL
(Pressing the bottle to his heart.) You can't have it. It's snake poison. It'll kill you.

VOSGAN
(louder.) Hey, are you deaf? Get it for me.

SHOOSHAN
Ask him. Why do you ask me?

VOSGAN
(To Taniel.)
Eh? You! Give me back that bottle. It's mine. Come on, I'm thirsty.

SHOOSHAN
Haven't you lapped up enough of it?

VOSGAN
What do you mean lapped up? Am I a dog? Is that what you're saying? (Stands unsteadily.)

SHOOSHAN
A dog? In his nature a dog doesn't do what you do.

VOSGAN
You insult me in front of others? Don't you dare. I'm a respectable man.. Who doesn't know Master Vosgan. Tell him to give me that bottle. I have to have it.

SHOOSHAN
Give it to him, Brother Taniel. Shove it in his face.

VOSGAN
You heard her, come on.

KIJH-TANIEL
I won't give it to I; to him. My Manishag is afraid.

Sona comes closer to Kijh-Taniel.


VOSGAN
(Ridiculing.) Haa? So you won't give it to me? Now, I understand. (Brings together the index fingers of his two hands.) You two are like this, uh? Like this. (To Shooshan.) Kissing eh, the whole business.

SHOOSHAN
(Extremely angry.
) Shut your mouth. Have you no shame? A baptized Christian.

VOSGAN
You whore. (He moves to strike Shooshan.)

KIJH-TANIEL
(Seizes Vosgan.) I won't let him. I won't let him.

VOSGAN
(Struggling.) Let go, you madman. Who do you think you are?

KIJH-TANIEL
(Still protecting Shooshan.
) Enough, stop it. My Manushag is crying.

VOSGAN
(Freeing himself.
) Get out of here. I curse you and your Manishag's name. (Spits in Taniel's face.)

KIJH-TANIEL
(Pushes him back on the couch, starts to choke him.)
You left my Manishag under the rocks. Lion-hearted Taniel should have pounded your head with them. King Julian of Byzantium, shame on you, shame on you.

VOSGAN
(Gasping, yelling.) Aih, vaih, I can't breathe; get him off me.

SONA
(Terrified, clings to her mother.
) Mama, he's choking him.

SHOOSHAN
Let him choke him. We'll be saved and so will he.

SONA
(Leaves her mother's side and pulls at Kijh-Taniel's shirt tails, pleading.
) No, Brother Taniel. He's pitiable. Don't do it. Let go. Don't you hear me? It's me, Manishag, Manishag.

KIJH-TANIEL
(At the name of Manishag, comes to his senses and lets go of Vosgan.)
Hah, it's you. All right, all right, I won't choke him. (To Vosgan.) Out of my sight. (In a tearful voice.) Poor Manishag. Poor Manishag. What a torture it is for you. Your father's no good. (Getting excited again.) Eh, Master Vosgan, why do you do it? Why don't you stop?(Cradles Sona's head.) Don't cry, sweet child. You're my Manishag. Yes. I won't let them torture you. I'll come every day, every day. (Lets go of Sona's head. Approaches the couch calmly and picks up his Saz.)

VOSGAN
(Slowly revives, sits up.
) Hey, blessed one, if you're going to choke me, do it decently. Did you think you were just slaughtering a lamb or something? (Looks for his bottle, finds it and grins.) Hey, at least it's not broken. Sit, Brother Taniel. Have some food. Let's eat some kebab.

KIJH-TANIEL
I don't want your food. (Goes out by the fence gate playing his Saz gently.)

Scene XI

The same without Kijh-Taniel. A moment passes. Shooshan fixes her hair. Sona dries her tears, glances at her mother and father fearfully.

VOSGAN
(Lifts bottle examining it again.)
Enough for the kebab. (Fills his glass.)

SHOOSHAN
(Hopelessly.) Nothing will help. Nothing.

VOSGAN
Has he gone, that madman? Good, I'm safe.

SHOOSHAN
One day he's going to be your judge. You'll see. God sends him for her. (Exits through the cottage door.)

VOSGAN
(Calling after her.
) Bring out the kebab. (Drinks. To Sona.) He's mad. Watch out for him.

SONA
I'm not afraid of him. I'm afraid of you. (Tired, she sits on a stone, looks off with glassy eyes.)

SHOOSHAN
(Returns with two spits of barbecued meat. To Sona, forlornly
.)
My dear unlucky child, come. You have to eat something.

END OF ACT I


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