Dramatic Texts >> Arman Vartanyan >> The Picklock
THE PICKLOCK by Arman Vartanyan, translated by Arpi Civan
 
Vanents Mamigonian
Haig Missakian
Mary Missakian
Toros Aramian
Levon Aramian
Arusiag Markarian
Mekhitar Sepasdatsi
Pakarad Garabedian
Seta Seropian
Ara
 
The Picklock
(A small square in a neighbourhood. A path, narrow enough to be a lane, exactly bisects the square. To the left of the lane is a two-storey house whose only window is to the left of the door. Adjacent to that house there is a more modest-looking single-storey house. To the right of the lane there is another wooden single-storey house. A discoloured wall extends from this house to the right of the stage with a fountain next to it.
It is a summer evening. On the left side of the path, next to the door of the house, Ara is sitting in a wicker chair near the corner; he has his back to the wall. He is unassuming in appearance, short, with thinning hair, wearing a clean blue shirt. His manner is casual, his arm loosely folded, and his head tilted forward. Although he is a little over thirty he looks considerably older.
From behind the wall on the right the voices of children playing can be heard now and again. A few seconds later a short, thirty-three-year old man, Vanents Mamigonian, comes along the path with his hands in his pockets. He is wearing a pair of trousers, short enough for his socks to show, and a coloured shirt, worn but clean. He is considerably bald, has a high forehead and a small nose; a rather unattractive man on the whole. He has a habit of keeping both hands in his pockets and when he talks he removes one or the other hand from his pocket and waves it around. He stops in the middle of the square and looks around, sees Ara, and approaches him. Ara, feeling someone's presence, lifts up his head and stares at Vanets Mamigonian with a face lacking any expression.)
 
 
VANENTS (Removes his right hand from his pocket in a saluting gesture)
Hello! (Ara does not answer but continues to stare stupidly at Vanents Mamigonian.) I guess you can't talk. (Ara, wanting to let him know that he has understood, opens his lips a little and grins.) I see, you can hear but you cannot talk.
(He looks around once more, goes to the right, leans against the wall and sits down beside the fountain in the shade. A little later Haig Missakian, carrying a bag, enters the stage along the same path. He is thirtyish, barefoot, of medium height, fair, and with square shoulders; in short, an attractive young man. He generally speaks in a loud voice.)
 
HAIG (To Ara)
How are you, you good-for-nothing? (Ara lifts up his head and stares at Haig without any expression on his face. Haig continues slowly and firmly.) You're looking well, you're very well indeed. You'll have fish for dinner tonight. (Points at the bag he is holding) I wonder if your ancestors had ever seen a fish in their lifetime! Did they even know what it was? You should be glad. This bag is full of fish and you'll have some tonight. (Dumbfounded, Ara stares at the bag of fish. Haig opens the door behind Ara and puts down the bag inside the door. He looks up and raises his voice) Mary, come here for a minute! (Walks away from the door and towards Ara in a self-assured and proud manner) Fate has been unkind to me and has given me a toothache. (Holding up his hand) But I am as strong as a rock. (Ara gapes and listens without any expression on his face) No matter how much pain I happen to be in I tell myself not to feel any pain. (Disdainfully) It becomes non-existent. (Sharply) Even the most severe pain immediately turns to pleasure and actually smiles instead of glaring at me. (In an unnatural voice and still pompous) That's my nature. I can curb my passions in a second whenever I want. I can put an end to my cravings right away if I so will it. I have will-power. Indeed, so strong is my will-power that if I want to I can even stop myself from feeling any passion or craving. I know what I want and in order to achieve my goals I resolutely step forward. That's the way I was made. A person cannot be anything other than what he is made to be; it's all a matter of creation. One has to be both born and built that way; there is no other way. I was born brave and sturdy. My body is like a rock and my heart is as light as air. (Turns towards the house and raises his voice) Mary! Can you come out for a minute? (Back to Ara, in his previous tone of voice) Well, here I am! Of course it's hard for you to understand all this. How would you understand? You can neither hear properly nor even speak. Nevertheless even there I have great talent. (Still proudly) I can get across whatever is necessary even to the stupidest and the slowest people. Sometimes it takes a while but at the end I can make every thing clear and feel triumphant. That's also a matter of creation. It cannot be achieved by any amount of effort, education, or social standing. One has to be born with it. (Towards the door, a little louder) Mary! (To Ara) Now you have understood everything I told you. I'm sure you grasped that I am in pain but I have forced it, the pain that is, not to bother me. You got that. (Ara opens his mouth slightly and hardly smiles) There you are! I even got myself across to a deaf-mute.
 
MARY (Comes out of the door carrying Haig's shoes. She is a very young-looking woman, healthy, and plump. She is of medium height, dark, and is cleanly dressed. She offers the shoes to Haig)
What do you want? Where are we going?
 
HAIG (Takes the shoes from Mary and starts putting them on.)
The man is waiting.
 
MARY
Who's waiting?
 
HAIG (Baring his teeth)
These.
 
MARY.
Since he is waiting go and have them extracted.
 
HAIG (Sharply)
I can't go. (Softly) Not so loud! (Pointing at Ara) He might understand.
 
MARY.
You're a big man now; why do I have to go with you?
 
HAIG (Softly)
Not so loud, I said! (Sharply) I’ll never go by myself.
 
MARY.
Aren't you ashamed?
 
HAIG (Terrified)
The man is going to extract my tooth! Can you picture that for a minute?
 
MARY.
You mean to say that no one else has had an extraction before; that you're the only person in this world with that problem.
 
HAIG.
Probably.
 
MARY.
People will laugh at you. Go on and get it over with!
 
HAIG (Softly)
Not so loud! He might understand. Well, I can't. The man is waiting and you must come with me.
 
MARY.
Well, for shame! I'm not going with you for a petty thing like that.
 
HAIG.
I am brave and strong but after all you must know that I am also delicate.
 
MARY.
What good is my coming going to do? Don't be ridiculous!
 
HAIG (Softly)
This toothache is getting worse. Please have pity on me...
 
(Levon Aramian, a short, thin man, getting on to seventy, comes out of the house on the left. He is carrying a chair with one hand and a waistcoat with the other. He puts the chair down beside the door and sits down still holding the waistcoat. He is bald but nimble despite his age. Haig Misakian notices him and immediately changes both his voice and the way he stands. Loudly) Good evening, father!
 
LEVON (Taking no particular notice)
Good evening.
 
HAIG (Stands a little further from Levon Aramian facing him. In a cheerful voice)
How are you?
 
LEVON.
I am fine.
 
HAIG (Takes a step towards him and examines his face)
You’re not well, father.
LEVON (Surprised)
I'm all right, son.
 
HAIG (Further examines his face, then in a firm voice)
No father, you don't look well.
 
LEVON (Convinced)
Why shouldn't I be? I'm fine. HAIG. Something is wrong with you.
 
LEVON.
There’s nothing wrong with me.
 
HAIG.
There must be something wrong and you’re keeping it from me.
 
LEVON.
Why should I hide anything? I’m feeling fine.
 
HAIG (Convincingly)
I don't find you well. You're pale and your eyes are sunk. There is no doubt that you're ill.
 
LEVON.
Who says so? I'm not sick at all.
 
HAIG.
Let's call a doctor for you.
 
LEVON (Horrified)
O no, son, never! I don't want a doctor.
 
HAIG (Persuasively)
But you're ill.
 
LEVON.
Not at all.
 
HAIG.
You're in pain.
 
LEVON.
No, I'm not. ;
 
HAIG.
Something's upsetting you.
 
LEVON.
No, nothing at all.
 
HAIG.
You're worried about something.
 
LEVON (Firmly)
No, I said.
 
HAIG.
But I see a change in you. You certainly need a doctor.
 
LEVON.
No, I don't need anybody.
 
HAIG (Firm and loud)
Yes, father is sick and needs a doctor. He needs special care considering his advanced years.
 
LEVON (Pleading)
I am fine, I don't need anyone.
 
HAIG.
I don't see you healthy enough and that means everyone else sees you the same way. So you need help.
 
MARY.
The man says he is not sick. Why are you trying to make him
sick?
 
LEVON (Relieved)
That's right. I don't feel sick. (Interested) Why
do you want me to be sick at all costs?
 
HAIG.
You look tired.
 
LEVON.
Go on, boy! Don't bother me. (He begins to take the waistcoat apart and then to sew it together again.)
 
HAIG.
But you do look tired. I can see that you're pale, your eyes are sunken and your back is more bent than before, and I conclude that you're sick.
 
MARY (To Haig)
You had a toothache.
HAIG (Uncomprehending)
What did you say?
 
MARY.
I said you were in pain.
 
HAIG (Condescending)
What on earth is a pain? An unimportant thing like that can't possibly survive inside me. Whatever is hard (Breaks an imaginary stick across his knee) I break in two like this. If it's soft (Rolls an imaginary object between his palms) I roll it like this and throw it away. (Pretends to step on the imaginary object) I stamp on it and make it disappear. (Proudly) Undoubtedly this is a matter of creation. What can you do? I am made this way.
(From the left Toros approaches quickly. He is a tall young man, slim, dark, with delicate features, and curly black hair. He is twenty-seven years old, and very likeable. His clothes are simple and clean.)
 
TOROS (A bit confused)
There is a man lying on the ground over there.
 
HAIG.
Where?
(Mary goes into the house.)
 
TOROS
(Points at the opposite direction from the wall.) Behind the house, over there.
 
HAIG (Indifferently)
You don't say! I didn't see anybody like that.
 
TOROS.
He is lying on the ground on the left hand side of the street.
 
HAIG.
There is nothing to worry about. If he is really dead, they'll come and pick him up soon enough. If he isn't dead yet, Providence will take care of him in a few days and straighten everything out. (Imitates Toros’s facial expression) What are you looking at me like that for?
 
TOROS (Confused)
There is someone over there who might be dead I tell you!
 
HAIG.
I know, but what can I do? If he has been killed, I cannot find the killer. If he died of natural causes, I can't determine the cause of his death. Smile a little, laugh, do as I do. (Orders) Half-close your eyes. (Demonstrates) Pull your lips back towards your ears and there you are, already smiling. Look happy! Let your face shine! Try to be pleasant to others!
 
TOROS.
Every time I see you I am ashamed to be born human.
 
HAIG (Astonished)
What have you to be ashamed of? Thank God I'm an honorable citizen. (Pounds his chest lightly) Most of all I am young and healthy. I'm not a burden on the government. If necessary I am ready to risk my life for it. So far I haven't paid any taxes but that's nothing significant. I'm aware of my debts and some day I'll pay them all as a lump sun. I obey the law word for word. I am always useful and never do any harm.
 
TOROS (Impatient)
The man is on the ground over there.
 
HAIG (Holds up his fingers, not paying any attention to Toros)
I have ten different skills. Each finger has a speciality of its own. My appearance is extremely presentable. I don't cause despair in others. I have a job to work at, a house to live in, a wife and children. I am open-minded and truthful, and because of that the only advantage I take is to breathe air.
 
TOROS.
Anybody listening to him would think he was telling the truth. (Points at the area behind the house. Emphatic) The man is lying his whole length on the ground!
 
HAIG (Takes a deep breath)
I breathe air; my chest and my entire body fill with air. (Exhaling) Out come sayings, wisdom; and ideas. (Commands) Give a little smile!
 
TOROS.
I am sorry to be here with you.
 
HAIG (Serious)
You make me sick! Always sorry, always embarrassed. But in any case you can be sure it's not my fault.
 
TOROS (With emphasis)
Whose fault is it?
 
HAIG.
Yours.
 
TOROS.
How's that?
 
HAIG.
Because you don't see how perfect I am.
 
TOROS.
You mean you're perfect and you also mean I don't want to see you perfect?
 
LEVON (From his seat, without looking up)
Stop arguing. Soon everything will settle down.
 
HAIG (Without hearing Levon)
Certainly! Let's take you for example. In reality you're an idiot, but in spite of your extreme stupidity I see you as an intelligent human being because I am well disposed towards you. Of course there is a reason for this. (Waves his arm)
I am healthy and bright; therefore everything looks good to me. In spite of your unbearable presence I find you most bearable, and when I see you I am not embarrassed at all.
 
TOROS.
When I see you I feel sick to the stomach.
 
HAIG (Sharply)
Don't look at me then!
 
TOROS.
As if I want to look at you.
 
HAIG.
Don't look at me if you don't want to. It's not may fault.
 
VANENTS (Without getting up)
There is a guilty party but you may rest assured that neither one of you is it. It's all the fault of the monkeys. Yes, that's right, because they ignored the fact that they were monkeys. (Stands up and takes a few steps forward) Once upon a time a group of monkeys were unhappy about themselves; they repudiated their nature and broke away from the rest. By doing so they brought a terrible disaster to the whole world. (Takes a breath) You see, that was the beginning of everything that afterwards grew so out of proportion that (To Toros) now you regret and feel embarrassed.
 
HAIG (To Toros)
You see now what a terrible thing it is to riot.
 
TOROS.
I assure you, it's a shade better than you are.
 
LEVON. (To Vanents)
I have never seen you before, who are you?
 
VANENTS (Moves his hand)
A human being just like any other. As you can see I am just another individual with a head, a pair of arms, and a body.
 
HAIG (To Levon)
He doesn't want to give his name.
 
LEVON.
Sounds suspicious to me.
 
VANENTS.
Why shouldn't I want to tell you my name? It's Vanents, Vanents Mamigonian.
 
HAIG.
What do you do?
 
VANENTS (Opening and closing his hands)
Chestnuts.
 
HAIG.
You mean a vendor?
(Vanents nods affirmatively)
 
HAIG (Pretends to introduce him to the people on the stage)
There you are! A chestnut vendor!
 
VANENTS.
Is there a disagreement between you?
 
HAIG.
Absolutely not! We have been neighbours for years. We are friends and very fond of each other.
 
TOROS.
Not at all! We're neither friends nor fond of each other. I'm just unfortunate enough to be your neighbour.
 
HAIG (Moves. Convincingly)
Who says so? You're my friend. I love you as a brother.
 
VANENTS.
Obviously you have no brothers.
 
HAIG.
No, I don't.
 
VANENTS.
If you had, you wouldn't love anyone as a brother. (Toros, with his hands clasped behind him, walks back and forth in front of the fountain) Are there financial difficulties between you?
 
HAIG.
Of course not!
 
VANENTS.
Wherever material expectations and a backward mentality do not exist, there should be no problems, because those are the only reasons behind any disagreement.
 
HAIG (In agreement)
Exactly! I tell him the same thing myself. But unfortunately my friend is both obstinate and lacking in understanding. It seems to me he makes a special effort to disagree with me, to belittle me, and to scorn me. I don't know why. He has made a habit of it, a necessity even.
 
TOROS (Still slowly pacing back and forth)
Everything you say and everything you do are false. Even divorcing a woman is easier than believing you.
 
HAIG (To Vanents)
Did you hear what he said? Anybody listening to him would think he'd been married and divorced several times, already. Whereas (Lifts his finger) he hasn't even been married once. The truth of the matter is that I have many more talents and skills than he has. That's an undeniable truth. (To Levon, loudly) Isn't that so, father?
 
LEVON (Without looking up)
I was born at night.
 
HAIG (Continuing, to Vanents)
Therefore he should accept the fact that a talented man is more intelligent and can speak more logically. (To Toros) You'd better accept this fact in good humour with no arguments in order to have an easier time in life.
 
TOROS.
And if I don't, will I have a harder time?
 
HAIG.
Of course you will. (Vanents stands between Toros and Haig and looks at whomever happens to be speaking) First of all you have to see a friend in me instead of an enemy. Do you think it's easy to be in perpetual conflict with an enemy throughout life? It makes life hell. (Pityingly) In other words, I wish a happy life for you with all my heart, and I want to help you to achieve one. But you must admit that I am brighter and more receptive than you, that's all. Anyway, it's obvious how brilliant my ideas are, and how beautiful my style is in expressing these ideas. Words tumble out of me in such a graceful manner! The sentences I form are so coherent and harmonious! (Condescendingly) Anyone must accept the fact that I do them with air alone. (Pushes his chest forward) Only with plain air. (Taps his forehead) Only with brains and fresh air.
 
VANENTS (Points all around)
Yes, I can see that you talk far too well for a place like this.
 
HAIG (To Toros)
You heard him.
 
TOROS (Modestly)
In reality none of us talk well at all. Our style of speaking is very ordinary, even vulgar. After all, as you say, you would be extremely naive to expect more from this neighbourhood. But can't you see where we are? (Points at the ceiling with out looking up) There are thousands of candles and lanterns burning up above. So much work, so much preparation. (Points at the audience without glancing at them) Apart from that, hundreds of people are watching us. They not only hear us but want to record every word we utter, everything we say. If nothing else, we could at least perform for them in a decent language. Our words should at least have some grace. (A twenty-two-year-old woman approaches the square by the path. She is not beautiful but pretty, lively, slim, of medium height, and with a bright and youthful face. She is plainly dressed but with good taste. She enters the house on the right without looking around her too much. The people there see her arrive. Toros stops talking for a moment but continues again) If you analyze our conversations sentence by sentence, you'll find that each sentence is incomplete, even meaningless (points at Haig) especially his sentences.
 
HAIG.
He couldn't go on without involving me again.
 
TOROS.
What can you do though? That's all we've been taught and that's all we're accustomed to. But it seems to me we're brazenly happy and proud of our weaknesses.
 
VANENTS.
Show me somebody who isn't proud of what he does, be
it good or bad.
 
HAIG.
You are right! I am pleased with everything I do.
 
TOROS.
I'm not. That's the whole problem. I can write it in capitals and shout it from the rooftops. (Spells out) I AM N-O-T.
 
HAIG.
You should be, my dear friend. First of all you should be happy. Because if you aren't pleased with yourself, then nobody around you will be pleased with himself, and that will greatly reduce the state of their happiness. Don't be so selfish. Do not forget that the happiness of a Society depends on the happiness of each individual in it. Only when an individual is pleased with himself can he cause happiness in others.
 
TOROS.
I am sick and tired of listening to nonsense. It's the same every night. Fancy words, elaborate phrases, high-faluting ideas, philanthropic feelings, and all this for Society.
 
HAIG (Loud and clear)
I am human, not a ghost like you. A human being is everything. (Demonstrates) He may be good or bad, big or small, right or wrong, short or tall. (To Vanents) Don't you think so?
 
VANENTS (Resigned)
Yes, I think so.
 
HAIG (Indicating Toros to Vanents)
This man wasn't like this before. He used to laugh. Even if he didn't laugh, he knew how to smile. He used to talk. But now (imitates Toros) he goes around with knitted brows, sulking and quiet, just like a ghost. He used to be much better looking, but now I think his face has grown haggard, dark and taut. As if there's nothing else to do, (condescendingly) he just makes a laughing stock of himself (points at the area behind the wall) playing marbles with the urchins, feeding stray cats, and (indicates Ara) bringing home useless idiots like this. Besides, I used to be highly esteemed by him, but he began to dislike me, and look down on me.
 
TOROS.
That's enough!
 
HAIG (Nonchalantly)
I am not saying anything bad, only the truth. (Toros rolls his eyes while Haig talks) If I lie, you get angry; if I tell the truth, you get annoyed. I don't know what to do! I am confused! (To Vanents)No matter what I did or said, I couldn't be agreeable to him.
 
TOROS.
Enough said!
 
HAIG (Raising his arms)
I couldn't win his favour. As if it was my fault that the girl left, or as if I sent her away!
 
TOROS.
Cut it out, I said!
 
HAIG.
You can't please everyone. That I know. But he considers me an enemy. Whereas I have done nothing to win his hostility. (To Toros) Would you have the nerve to tell me what I have done?
 
TOROS.
It isn't anything you have done, since you never do anything anyway.
 
HAIG.
I am always thinking about him.
 
TOROS (To Vanents, sarcastically)
Even if everything else he said was a lie, this is the truth. He neither talks nor even thinks about himself or his gains. All his thoughts and actions are geared towards others, towards the public towards me. He lives for our well-being, our happiness, and our comfort. But it's a pity that we don't realize how priceless this superhuman creature is, nor do we know how to appreciate him.
 
HAIG (Fascinated)
You've uttered the most beautiful and the most truthful words of the month! But you left out ingratitude, and, above all, ignorance. But my generosity has no limits. I am receptive and understanding by nature. Therefore I can always forgive you.
 
TOROS (Desperately)
How many times do I have to repeat that there's sprawled on the ground over there.
 
HAIG (Impatiently)
Well, what can I do? I didn't get him into that state. If he is lying on the ground, he can go on lying there.
 
TOROS.
The man might be dead.
 
HAIG (Surprised, to Vanents)
To listen to him you'd think I'd killed him. What am I supposed to do? If he is dead, that means he should have been dead.
 
MARY (Opens the door of the house and calls Haig from inside)
Come in; you have work to do.
 
HAIG (Irritably)
This is no time for work! Can't you see that I have company?
 
MARY.
Come in, I said, there is work to be done.
 
HAIG (More irritably)
Oh, for God's sake! I have company, I tell you. We're having a discussion right now.
 
VANENTS.
Don't let me stop you. Go and finish your work.
 
TOROS (To Mary, with a straight face)
What right have you to interfere with his happy moments? You can see that he has company, so he can't come in. He still has a lot to say. Especially now that there is someone new, he has to tell him all about his different kinds of virtues. (Mary sits down on the steps beside Ara)
 
HAIG.
It's very simple. If a person has an outstanding feature, and if he feels that deep down he has an exceptional insight, he must bring it out and communicate it to others. This way he'll establish communication among people. Otherwise he will have sinned against himself.
 
TOROS (Amazed)
What kindness!
 
HAIG (Proudly)
Yes, I have a particularly great admiration for this feeling of mine, too.
 
TOROS.
Just as you have for all your other feelings.
 
HAIG.
Yes, for all the others as well. A person has to get his ideas across without wasting any time, so that other people can benefit from them.
 
TOROS.
I wonder if other people need your ideas.
 
HAIG (Momentarily puzzled)
What other people?
 
TOROS.
Those who are supposed to benefit from your ideas.
 
HAIG.
Why shouldn't they? People always need each other and help each other. As I said, a person must always create an opportunity to pass his knowledge and talents on to others without wasting time.
 
TOROS.
But he should also be aware of what his talents are and what he is good at. (Toros laughs silently, so does Ara with slightly parted lips)
 
HAIG (Looks at both of them, surprised)
Good for you! (To both) Good for you both! You finally found something to laugh at, something to amuse you. (Seriously) How strange! It didn't make me laugh. Are you implying that lam an utter fool with no talents at all? (Indicates Ara) He is a deaf-mute, he's supposed to be crazy as well. (Ara follows the conversation closely)
 
TOROS.
That's your imagination. As long as he can differentiate the meaning of the words he's not crazy. He isn't deaf either, just unable to talk. (To Vanents) I have explained this to him several times already, but he still doesn't understand it. Animals are much smarter than humans. Any beast can tell you that.
 
HAIG (To himself)
As if cretins weren't enough I am now surrounded by the mentally-retarded too. (Indicates Ara to Vanents) We don't even know who he is. (Indicates Toros) He brought him here. He's been here for about a year now and nobody has even asked for him all this time.
 
TOROS.
The urchins were pinching his legs. He wasn't able to defend himself, so I brought him here. We don't even know his name. He could only make the sound 'A', so we called him Ara.
 
HAIG (Scornfully)
How many times have I told him that this man can't be called Ara because he is circumcised. He doesn't seem to understand.
 
TOROS.
Supposing what you say is true and we call him by another name instead of Ara, will that serve the purpose any better?
 
HAIG (Raises his arms)
O God! I couldn't do it! You give your mortals the wisdom to go through life without any deadlocks or digressions, and without disturbing others.
 
TOROS (Surprised)
God's name is being very much honoured tonight.
 
HAIG (Ignoring him, to Vanents)
There was a time when he would constantly use their names, but since that creep dressed in a surplice took away the girl he loved, he has turned against the Holy Family.
 
TOROS (Determined, to Vanents)
I am going to get a dog. (Demonstrates) A big, black, hairy dog who will pant, stink, sweat, and eat constantly. An ugly, gluttonous dog. And I am going to call him Haig.
 
HAIG (Horrified, to Mary, Ara, and Levon)
Did you hear what he said? He is going to get a dog and name it after me!
 
LEVON.
There are dogs all over the place! I don't want one in the house with so many dogs around here already.
 
HAIG (Still horrified, to Vanents)
Did you hear what he said?
 
VANENTS (Trapped)
Yes, I heard it.
 
HAIG (Loudly, to Toros)
I’d love to curse and swear at you, but unfortunately my position and my social status don't allow me to have my wish and clear my chest. You are a miserable, brazen creature.
 
TOROS (Indifferently)
You’re more brazen than I am.
 
HAIG.
What have I done to you that you want to name your dog after me?
 
TOROS (To himself)
What haven't you done?
 
HAIG (To Mary)
Tell me please, do I look like a dog?
 
MARY.
No, you don't.
 
HAIG (To everyone)
Did you hear that? The person who knows me best says I don't. (To Mary) Do I look like any other animal?
 
MARY.
Who'd ever say a thing like that? Of course you don't!
 
HAIG (To everyone)
You see? (To Toros)Do you know what I think you are my dear friend? You are rodent: a useless, harmful rodent. (Proudly) But I am such a great, big, hardened rock that even if eighty rodents like you gnawed at me for eight years, I still wouldn't be destroyed. (Changes his tone, more softly) I'll tell you something else. You have no charm and no attraction whatsoever. You can't charm anybody! Take me now! I can attract anybody immediately. You're just like hay: dry, colourless. If you had ever been some kind of food instead of a human being, even the animals wouldn't have touched you. But the biggest misfortune is that you're not even aware of your own insipidity.
 
TOROS.
You have such a hairy body! Do you think your father may
have been a forester?
 
HAIG (Deploringly)
If in spite of being the son of a forester, I have
become what I am, I'd like to know what I'd be if he had been
something else.
 
LEVON.
Everything will be over within two months. There isn't much time left. According to my latest calculations we'll be saved in two months. All our difficulties will be over in two months.
 
HAIG (Loudly)
You'd better believe him. All our troubles will be over. (To Vanents)Do you know anything about electricity?
 
VANENTS (Considers the question irrelevant)
I haven't been acquainted with Thomas Edison.
 
HAIG (Does not understand his reply)
You're right! I haven't had the opportunity to meet Thomas the Apostle either.
 
MARY (To Haig)
I have been waiting for you for half an hour. HAIG. I am not finished yet.
 
MARY.
You had a toothache.
 
HAIG (To Mary)
Okay, I'm coming. (To Vanents) I am the head of the family after all, and I have some responsibilities, but I'll be back soon. You're not leaving, are you?
 
VANENTS.
No.
 
HAIG.
I'll be right back.
 
VANENTS.
All right.
 
HAIG.
There is still a lot more to be said.
 
VANENTS.
Evidently.
 
HAIG.
Will I find you here again?
 
VANENTS.
You sure will.
(Haig and Mary enter their house)
 
TOROS (To Vanents)
Nobody understands me even though I don't think I am beyond reach or even hard to understand. Sometimes I feel that I must deserve to be ignored, since people run away from me without even understanding me. Yes, they push me around and turn me down, so I must deserve that, too. It's not possible to explain this any other way. I need to go to a place where I won't be pushed around anymore. (With a decisive movement of his hand) Yes! It's all over! I'll go away.
 
VANENTS (Points with his head)
Go!
 
TOROS.
I'll go to a place where nobody will push me around, where sometimes people might even listen to me.
 
VANENTS.
You're too late even for that.
 
TOROS.
I'll go to a place where I won't have to argue, a place where no one will say “it's impossible” or “it can't be done.”
 
VANENTS.
Wonderful!
 
TOROS.
I have made up my mind. (Mysteriously) I’ll go to the centre of the earth.
 
VANENTS.
That's excellent.
 
TOROS.
But I don't know how to get there.
 
VANENTS.
That's easy.
 
TOROS.
Do you know how to get there? VANENTS (Very simply)
Of course.
 
TOROS.
I often lose hope. (Disgusted) I don't like anything I have. I don't feel confident in anything I do. I can't stand my nose, or my height, or the way I walk, or even the way I talk. (Showing his hands) You may be surprised but the only thing I like are my two rough-looking hands. They are the only things that please me, nothing else does. Everything I have makes me ill except for my hands. I want to pull off whatever I have and get rid of them, but (Shakes his head) that's impossible. I am disgusted with my house and the neighbourhood I live in. My neighbours and my acquaintances bore me. I can't tolerate my job. There is nothing around me that I like.
 
LEVON (Without interrupting his stitching)
His mother was the same. She didn't like herself and she didn't like what was around her. What had her surroundings done to her? Did they sit on the top of her head? Did they usurp her rights? No! But that was her nature. I used to advise her all the time, but I could never be of any use to her. The more I tried to comfort her the more she seemed to feel disgusted with her surroundings. Whereas I have been the exact opposite, I have always had a love for myself which could sometimes be called worship. (Ara gets up, and with his own peculiar short steps, slowly disappears through the path)
 
TOROS.
Just what likeable qualities did you have?
 
LEVON.
What do you mean? Considering the modest, if not poor, origins of my ancestors, also considering my very minor successes, of course I should like and admire myself. It's my basic right. Did I do anybody any harm by being what I was?
 
TOROS.
What could you offer besides advice?
 
LEVON.
One cannot give what one hasn't got. I gave what I had. Did I harm anybody by doing so?
 
TOROS (To Vanents)
I listened to him for years. There was nothing else to do. But the strange thing is that I never believed anything he said.
 
LEVON.
Is that my fault?
 
TOROS.
You could never make me believe your utter nonsense.
 
LEVON.
So long as there is no love in you what could I do?
 
TOROS (Condescendingly)
Who says there isn't, and why shouldn't I have any love?
 
VANENTS (Confidentially)
What was her name?
 
TOROS (Not understanding)
Whose name?
 
VANENTS (Motions with his head)
The one who ran off with the choirboy?
 
TOROS.
Arpi.
 
VANENTS.
Was she pretty?
 
TOROS (With a faint smile points at the door Arusiag had gone through)
She wasn't like her. She had bright eyes and a fair skin.
 
VANENTS.
She had no other features?
 
TOROS.
I don't know.
 
VANENTS (Hands in his pockets)
You prefer fair skin then.
 
TOROS (More confidentially)
White bread and fair skin. (Shows his hands, modestly) I scrabble in dirt all day long, that's probably why I like the colour white, especially anything shiny. I never want to see the sky cloud over, I want it so stay bright all the time. I like to see everything shining, white, and clean.
 
VANENTS.
Did she leave unexpectedly?
 
TOROS (Sadly, snapping his fingers)
Just like that.
 
VANENTS.
So suddenly that even you didn't realize it, right?
 
TOROS.
Exactly.
 
VANENTS.
And she never returned.
 
TOROS.
No, never. She didn't even come back once.
 
VANENTS.
Haven't you seen her at all since then?
 
TOROS.
I met her once in the street.
 
VANENTS.
Did you get a chance to talk to her?
 
TOROS.
No. I tried but it was useless.
 
VANENTS.
It's a fact of life. Those you love don't love you, and you don't care for those who love you.
 
TOROS.
I wonder if anyone has ever loved me...
 
VANENTS (Points at himself)
Here, have a look at me! I have been loved. You're a very presentable man, so I am sure you have been loved too.
 
TOROS.
But I am not aware of it.
 
VANENTS.
A lot of things happen to you without your knowledge. They may or may not be in your favour. You needn't even be aware of them. (Changes the subject) Have you done anything important in your life?
 
TOROS.
What do you mean?
 
VANENTS.
I mean have you ever said anything that would be of the utmost importance?
 
TOROS (Sarcastically)
No. I have heard more shiny, empty words and great ideas than I can digest. As a result I have avoided uttering any such words.
 
VANENTS.
You may have avoided them but you might have uttered some all the same.
 
TOROS.
I don't think so.
 
VANENTS.
In that case, say a word or two which would be the most important ones uttered by you so far.
 
TOROS.
Right now?
 
VANENTS.
Yes, now.
 
TOROS (Thinking a little)
What can I say?
 
VANENTS.
Anything you'd consider very important. Here's an example: human beings are too weak to bear the burden of their guilt.
 
TOROS.
What you just said was so beautiful that I didn't even understand it.
 
VANENTS.
Now you say something like that!
 
TOROS (Bothered)
I can't.
 
VANENTS.
Who knows how many times you have done so.... But if you can't think of one right now, just tell me about an important event.
 
TOROS.
An important event... (Starts slowly, searching for words, then gradually speeds up) One day I was at home. My mother was asleep. A little mouse crawled out of a hole in the wall. I looked around and ran back. A little later it came out again and started to wander around, unaware of my presence. It was a very small animal. I watched it quietly, without moving. It had tiny eyes and long teeth. I noticed for the first time how ugly a mouse could be. It was so ugly I wanted to kill it, but it ran away. I suffered for hours and for days. I suffered not because of the mouse not getting killed but because of my failure to kill it. Two weeks later I saw a big, beautiful, white hen on the street behind ours. I had a stone in my hand. (Demonstrates) I wanted to throw it at the hen like this. But the stone caught the hen in the head and the bird died.
 
VANENTS (Surprised)
It died immediately?
 
TOROS.
Yes. But against my wish. (Very unhappily) I didn't want to kill the bird. On the contrary, it was such a beautiful hen. Do you know what I mean? (Arusiag opens the door of the house. She is still wearing the same dress. She comes out carrying a wicker chair and closes the door. She puts the chair down beside
the door and sits on it. From time to time she follows the conversation between Vanents and Toros. Occasionally she reads the book she has in her hands
) Later on, one day I was playing ball. Without my making any false moves — I don't know how — but my friend who was beside me at the time broke his leg. Do you know what I mean?
 
VANENTS.
Yes, you hit him and broke his leg.
 
TOROS (Indignantly)
Of course not! I didn't even touch him. But since I was near him I had to take the blame. Another day I set a small fire in the corner of a field to burn some papers and other trash. I don't know how it happened but I burned the two-storey house beside the field.
 
VANENTS (Simply)
So it burned down.
 
TOROS.
Yes, it burned down. The house turned into ashes within three hours. But I didn't want to burn it, in fact I had no such purpose in mind. All I wanted to do was to burn some rubbish which was there and to watch the flames for a while. That's why I set the fire. Do you see what I mean?
 
VANENTS (Assuring)
What you've been saying is neither philosophy nor poetry, but don't worry, I understand. You killed a hen, the mouse escaped, you broke someone's leg, and burned a house down.
 
TOROS (Sorry)
But I didn't want them to happen.
 
VANENTS.
All accidents.
 
TOROS.
Right! I didn't want any of these to happen. That's what happens all the time anyway. My wishes never come true and whatever I don't want to happen, the things that I haven't the slightest intention of doing, unexpectedly happen. Everything comes to me as a surprise. Things that are supposed to arrive in two days get delayed and arrive in twelve days instead. Whatever should remain black unexpectedly turns white. All lines converge (demonstrates) that are supposed to be parallel. Faces
which should grow more beautiful turn ugly for no reason at all. When I think about it I get so confused I don't want to live anymore.
 
VANENTS.
Since thinking doesn't do you any good, (abruptly) don't think! Don't ponder! Let others think for you. People never do other people's work for them, but they always do their thinking for them. So you see what a superfluity it is to think for others?
 
TOROS.
What's a superfluity?
 
VANENTS.
It's something which isn't needed but exists in abundance.
 
TOROS (Surprised)
Existing in abundance… Am I really a superfluity?
 
VANENTS.
If your existing is not vitally important, you are.
 
TOROS.
They say I am mad, but so far no one ever asked me how I became mad. They never examined my heart, which is like a volcano, my stormy liver, my kidneys, or my bloody lungs. Let them come and see! (Quickly unbuttoning his shirt, he violently takes it off, and shows his bare torso) Let them come and examine! (Raises his arms) Let them find out how I went mad and how I was reduced to this state!
 
LEVON.
My son isn't crazy. (Louder) Put your shirt on! You'll be cold.
 
TOROS (Without hearing Levon)
But no one comes. No one cares. They just go on saying that I am mad. (Lowers his arms)
 
VANENTS.
You may seem crazy, but that doesn't mean that you are.
 
TOROS.
I am not going to think about other people's sorrows. I am not even going to worry about the man lying down over there. I am sure that my own suffering is greater than theirs.
 
VANENTS.
Of course it is. You're the beginning of the world, and therefore you may even be the end of it.
 
TOROS.
I am confused. (Desperately) I don't know how to behave with people around me. I'm really confused. If I am too soft with them, they walk all over me and pluck the hair off me. On the other hand if I am too hard, I am considered crazy, they turn against me, and I make enemies.
 
VANENTS.
Be thankful that you're not a hunchback, and don't forget that you live by chance. Besides, I can assure you that hundreds of people would want to look like you.
 
TOROS (With an unhappy smile)
Say something a little closer to the truth.
 
VANENTS.
This is not entirely untrue. (Persuasively) Besides, a lie shouldn't terrify you too much. Because, on the contrary, a lie isn't really so bad. There is no such thing as absolute truth in any discipline. Anyhow, during a lifetime one cannot go far relying on truth alone. It's imagination rather than truth which makes people go far. For instance, what we have just been saying is not the absolute truth, but it's appropriate. No one is beautiful in a state of total nakedness. Nature is not at its best during the day under the strong sun. It is necessary to have a veil or a cover, because the truth is hard and strong like a slap in the face. Contrary to all these, a lie is very gentle. (Gesturing as he talks)It caresses you gently, it fondles and flatters you. What could be more pleasant? Don't you get the impression that we do all these on purpose? We only feel that we should have some qualifications which we unfortunately lack. The whole problem is to acquire these missing qualifications. Every single lie is used for that purpose alone and nothing else.
 
(Mekhitar Sepasdatsi approaches along the central path with his hands clasped behind him. He walks back and forth slowly, often looking at the ground. He is of medium height, has chestnut hair, fair skin, and a largish head. He is about thirty years of age. He usually cuts his words short while talking. He has a slow but generally nervous way of speaking. The others see his arrival but pay no particular attention)
 
TOROS (Shows his fists)
Sometimes I feel exceptionally strong.
 
VANENTS.
Sometimes.
 
TOROS.
I feel that I'll be able to lift the world with both my hands and do anything I want. My heart swells and is ready to burst.
 
VANENTS.
But only sometimes.
 
TOROS.
Yes, sometimes.
 
VANENTS.
The problem isn't what you want or would like to do, but to like whatever you do. (To Levon) What do you think of all this, old chap?
 
LEVON.
First of all, please don't call me by that name, because despite my advanced age I still feel strong. Besides, at this point I consider all these arguments irrelevant, for we shall soon be saved. According to my calculations, in two months we shall have a new life —in only two months!
 
MEKHITAR.
Your calculations are often wrong.
 
LEVON.
When was I wrong?
 
MEKHITAR.
Yesterday you said four, today you say two. You were saying five the other day, now you're saying one. And then, every month you say something new because you forget what you've said the previous month. And each time what you say is sillier and more nonsensical than the previous one, instead of making more sense and being more logical.
 
LEVON.
Who has been able to prove that so far?
 
MEKHITAR (Sarcastically, to Levon)
I wonder when the great war is going to start?
 
LEVON.
According to may latest calculations, in a year at the latest.
 
MEKHITAR (To Toros)
This man has gone completely batty.
 
LEVON (Offended)
Who's gone batty? When you were on your way I was coming back, did you know that?
 
VANENTS.
That's probably the minor war you're talking about. He’s referring to the major one.
 
TOROS.
Don’t ask him any more questions, I beg you!
 
VANENTS.
If our debate is bothering you, by all means we won’t. But we’re enjoying it.
 
LEVON (To Vanents)
Thank you very much. (To Toros) We’re enjoying ourselves.
 
TOROS (Puzzled)
What a world! I don't want what he wants, and what I want he doesn't want. One enjoys something that makes another suffer. And this man is always making incoherent remarks. It's beyond me to see what enjoyment one can get out of that.
 
MEKHITAR (To himself)
He also has difficulty expressing himself.
 
(A cat's mewing is heard from a distance. Toros gets up and disappears through the central path.)
 
LEVON.
I have heard all sorts of things, but it's the first time someone tells me I have difficulty expressing myself, and that from a drunkard!
 
MEKHITAR (To Vanents)
Every time I open my mouth they remind me that I drink wine. It's funny how everybody remembers and reminds you of your bad points. They never seem to notice anything favourable. (To Levon) Was it all that important to remind me of that?
 
LEVON.
Sometimes it's good to remind people where they stand.
 
MEKHITAR.
Do you know where you stand?
 
LEVON.
Of course I do. I don't want to be a nuisance by imposing my sayings on you. My intention is to pass them on to you, so that you'll have a more hopeful attitude towards life, you'll be
more modest and humble, and not have too many cravings. I used to say these all the time when we lived in worse times. I used to read and say to them, "Now don't worry, we'll be better off sometime." And now we are.
 
MEKHITAR (Surprised)
That's your idea. We've been the same for the last twenty years.
LEVON.
Have a little more patience. The freedom is near.
 
MEKHITAR (Aggressively)
Look chum! I don't want freedom. I just want to know the reason I was born. Why are we here and why have we met? Let's ponder on this question for a while, at least for an hour a day. Let's think this out and find an explanation.
 
VANENTS.
Very humane! (To Mekhitar) Do you really want to know why you exist?
 
MEKHITAR.
Naturally!
VANENTS.
Does it really interest you that much?
 
MEKHITAR.
Most certainly! That's what I have been thinking about for the last fifteen years.
 
LEVON (Persuasively)
There you are! I have been telling you to have patience to solve this question.
 
MEKHITAR (Irritably)
What good is patience going to do?
 
VANENTS.
At least you'll learn to have patience. (To Levon) Can you tell me where you have read everything you are saying?
 
LEVON.
Of course! In spiritual books. Everything is written in those books. Every secret is hidden in those letters, words, and lines.
 
MEKHITAR (To Vanents)
Do you hear that?
 
LEVON.
The only thing for anyone to do is to have enough knowledge, and to read with inspiration. (With a smile) It's a wonder that the human mind hasn't been able to bring those secrets to light before, and as a result, it hasn't acquired the necessary knowledge. (With a stress) I am the first person to have had this calling.
 
MEKHITAR (To Vanents)
The first one!
 
LEVON.
When I was young, I realized that those words, lines, and letters contained not only secondary meanings but also nuances which may be classed at the fourth or even the eighth degree.
 
VANENTS.
You mean the primary meaning was very insufficient
for you.
 
LEVON (Does not grasp it properly)
Yes, that's what happened. I worked for years in that direction and I persevered. I wasn't satisfied with the primary meanings. (Shows his fingers) On the contrary, for years I analyzed the smallest parts of the whole and was able to find all the hidden meanings. (His voice changes) I am extremely happy to tell you that I finally discovered the ultimate truths. Everything that is to happen is written in those books to the greatest detail, including places and dates. I don't want anyone to think that I've been selfish, and not wanted to pass my knowledge on to others according to some obscure Mediaeval principles.
 
MEKHITAR (To Vanents)
He has sent an advertisement to the whole community.
 
LEVON.
Yes. I advertised the fact that whoever wants to acquire this knowledge could come and be my pupil. After all, I am no ordinary emptyheaded soothsayer. Whatever I say can be proved.
 
VANENTS.
Of course you have had a great number of pupils so far.
 
MEKHITAR.
Not yet.
 
LEVON.
No, not yet. But they'll come. It's about time. Those who are present will be eyewitnesses. (More mysteriously) One of these nights, a short, nondescript man, looking somewhat like me, inspired by the gods, will come, carrying a black bag, and will say to us very clearly, "You may leave this place now, much better conditions are in store for you." That will be the end of everything.
 
MEKHITAR (Much amazed)
Then above all else you're a philospher.
 
LEVON.
Of course I am. Don't you think I deserve to be called one? MEKHITAR. You had never mentioned it before.
 
LEVON.
I had, but you always refused to believe me. You never even deigned to listen to me.
 
MEKHITAR.
I had never heard it before. It's the first time.
 
LEVON.
I have said it many times before.
 
MEKHITAR (Accusingly)
Then you're hiding some things from me.
 
LEVON.
No. Why should I? It's just that I cannot impose these things on people by force.
 
VANENTS.
He certainly has said it before.
 
MEKHITAR (Ignoring Levon)
The man is calling himself a philosopher.
 
VANENTS.
He could very well. What's philosophy anyway? Someday if whatever he says comes true, he'll become a philosopher. If not, then he'll become a clown.
 
MEKHITAR (Thoughtfully)
I have a few things planned, too. If I accomplish them I'll not become a philosopher but a hero, in spite of the fact that I have no desire whatever to become a hero. I don't like the idea of heroism. I don't want people to think or talk about me in certain ways. Nor can I imagine anyone praising me to the sky, even though I may have a few good qualities.
 
VANENTS.
You should. After all you were born human.
 
MEKHITAR.
Thank you, but I repeat what I said. I have no intention of becoming a hero. On the contrary, I am embarrassed if anyone praises me. I am surprised at people who want and need to be heroes, and appear greater than they are capable of. What I have isn't a need, just a wish. A mere wish, consisting of three words, which I can boldly declare.
 
VANENTS.
You don't have to tell me if you don't want to.
 
MEKHITAR.
Why not?
 
VANENTS.
Because I am new here and you don't know me yet. You may not want to state it in my presence.
 
MEKHITAR.
To me every acquaintance is a stranger and every stranger is an acquaintance. It doesn't make any difference. I'm not a suspicious person, therefore I have never kept things to myself. I have always expressed everything to everybody with no reservations, and have opened my heart to everyone. (Rhetori-cally) Despite the fact that it's against my principles to drink anything colourless, I have now decided not to drink at all. From now on, instead of drinking, (seriously and coquettishly) I shall love women. (Pauses for a moment) Yes, you heard me correctly, I shall love women. Let all women hear this and be prepared. I recently noticed that the wine I loved so much was damaging my health. I wasn't made for wine. I only needed it to help me to fill a void. There are no alcoholics in my family. They have all been respectable citizens. If I have done anything wrong after drinking, that means I would have done it anyway, because there was nothing else to do. But now I realize that I was made to love women. If you noticed I didn't say a woman. I already have that. (Stresses) I said women.
 
VANENTS.
They may be coloured. Black, white, yellow-skinned, or red-skinned women with different colours of hair, eyes, and lips, who look not a bit alike.
 
MEKHITAR.
Yes! Let ethereal creatures wander about me and smile at me. But I don't want them to laugh. Their laugh isn't pretty at all. Besides, they have no control over their laughter. Whenever they should be sad, they laugh, and by the same token, whenever they should be laughing, they cry. If this wish of mine ever realizes, I shan't consider myself a hero, just a mortal whose wish was to have been granted. That's all.
 
(Pakarad Garabedian and Seta Seropian quickly approach from the left. Both look upset. Pakarad Garabedian is a tall, very thin, thirty-five year-old chap. He is blond, with demonic-looking eyes, and a soft voice. He speaks quickly, but is very articulate. Seta Seropian is short and slim. She is seventeen, very attractive, vivacious, and well dressed)
 
PAKARAD (Puzzled)
What's this anyhow?
 
MEKHITAR (Coolly)
Do you notice anything strange about us?
 
PAKARAD.
I couldn't care less about you. (Points with his hand) There is a dead body on the street behind the house.
 
SETA (At least as upset as Pakarad)
Yes, there's a body!
 
PAKARAD.
The man is lying there with his whole body.
 
SETA.
At right angles to the street.
 
PAKARAD (To those on the stage)
Please don't be so indifferent! Let's think of some arrangement.
 
MEKHITAR.
You think of one, my dear friend. That's your job. SETA. Who says so? Is he an undertaker?
 
PAKARAD (Quiets Seta down)
I have nothing to do with people lying on the ground.
 
MEKHITAR.
Your job is to make them lie on the ground.
 
PAKARAD (Upset, stresses)
The man is lying out there and has to be removed as soon as possible.
 
SETA.
Of course he has to be removed.
 
MEKHITAR.
Why? Let him stay. Someday somebody will come and remove him.
 
PAKARAD.
Which day?
 
SETA.
When?
 
MEKHITAR.
Today or tomorrow, or even next week. Why are you so excited? Take it easy.
 
PAKARAD.
When somebody is lying in the middle of the street, I can't take it easy.
 
SETA.
At right angles to the street, too.
 
PAKARAD.
Please! Please come and see the man!
 
MEKHITAR.
Why should I particularly want to see him? I have seen enough people lying down in the streets.
 
PAKARAD.
I'll notify the municipality.
 
SETA.
Yes! You definitely should.
 
LEVON.
You'll notify the municipality?
 
PAKARAD.
Of course!
 
SETA.
Naturally!
 
VANENTS.
Why should you inform them?
 
PAKARAD.
So that they'll come and remove the man.
 
LEVON.
I wouldn't hurry if I were you.
 
VANENTS.
Municipalities like news but not informers.
 
PAKARAD.
I don't have to be liked. I just can't stand looking at the man five or ten times a day.
 
VANENTS.
Don't be in such a hurry. He might get up and quickly walk away.
 
PAKARAD.
I don't think he'll be able to get up in his condition. He looks unnatural.
 
SETA.
He looks far from natural. (To Pakarad) I told you before not to come here, but to find some other help instead.
 
VANENTS.
First of all, you should make sure whether he is alive or dead.
 
PAKARAD.
He is dead.
 
VANENTS.
Maybe he isn't.
 
SETA.
He is definitely dead.
 
PAKARAD.
He looks unnatural from a distance. Therefore it's obvious that he is dead for sure.
 
VANENTS.
Go on! Verify it once again and be sure.
 
PAKARAD.
I won't go.
 
SETA.
Right! We don't have to go again.
 
VANENTS.
But it's important. In order to be sure you must go and examine him once again.
 
PAKARAD.
Certainly not!
 
VANENTS.
If he isn't dead, try to revive him.
 
PAKARAD.
I'm not a doctor. First of all, we have to remove him.
 
MEKHITAR.
If he is dead.
 
VANENTS.
Try to revive him.
 
MEKHITAR.
Can a dead body come back to life?
 
VANENTS.
It might. It's a matter of attitude.
 
PAKARAD.
Please, stop the declamation! This is a matter requiring a solution. I tell you that the man is no more.
 
VANENTS.
We were told a little while ago that the man on the ground was not definitely dead.
 
PAKARAD.
Did you see him?
 
VANENTS.
That's what we were told.
 
SETA (Gestures)
He is lying, at right angles to the street.
 
PAKARAD.
But he's dead.
 
VANENTS.
They told us he wasn't definitely dead.
 
PAKARAD.
He is dead.
 
VANENTS.
Those who say he is alive have examined him closely.
 
PAKARAD.
I have no intention of going near him.
 
MEKHITAR (Sarcastically)
He can tell from a distance.
 
VANENTS.
If you don't go near him, how can you know what his condition is?
 
VANENTS (Sarcastically)
He can tell.
 
PAKARAD.
That's my speciality. I can tell from a distance.
 
VANENTS (Surprised)
What a remarkable speciality!
 
PAKARAD (Sharply, to Mekhitar)
You're always looking for an opportunity to mock me and to make a fool of me. This isn't like a hospital. You haven't even been in the front during the war. So it's useless for you to express an opinion.
 
MEKHITAR.
Who says I want to express an opinion? (Applauds Pakarad's words)
 
PAKARAD.
Men have been killing each other since the Day of Creation. They still continue to kill each other with the same passion. I have seen men kill their enemy with a pleasure equaling a rapture, and annihilate them, not leaving the tiniest particle.
 
MEKHITAR (To Vanents, continuing to applaud sarcastically)
Very interesting, isn't it?
 
SETA (To Pakarad)
Please continue.
 
PAKARAD (More enthusiastically)
He is right, too. If you leave even a tiny" particle behind, in due time that particle will take root, grow, and become a bigger problem than its predecessor.
 
MEKHITAR (Stops to applaud, to Vanents)
So pleasant... (Seriously, to Pakarad) Go on, Pakarad! We're listening to you with body and soul.
 
PAKARAD.
You don't have to listen to me if you don't want to, but I'll have you know that other people listen to me spellbound.
 
MEKHITAR (To Pakarad)
They always listen. (To Vanents) It's like this every night. We're all cleaned up and put away by various methods.
 
PAKARAD.
They have to listen because my stories are real and absolutely true.
 
MEKHITAR (To Vanents)
You should see the people who listen to him.
 
PAKARAD.
What more do they want? I fulfill their needs.
 
SETA.
He gives them full satisfaction.
 
PAKARAD (Points at Seta)
Here's proof for you!
 
MEKHITAR (To Vanents)
He had a dog who turned into a monster just like himself. Last month it tore apart all the cats in the neighbourhood and ate them up with a real gusto.
 
VANENTS (Surprised)
Did it eat them all up?
 
MEKHITAR.
You heard me right. It tore them all apart. What an insatiable appetite!
 
SETA.
It wasn't Pakarad who coaxed it into doing that. It already had an appetite.
 
PAKARAD.
Yes. It's all a matter of inspiration. First it got the idea, then the appetite of course, and finally did the eating.
 
VANENTS (To Mekhitar)
I have often noticed that in time all animals act like their masters and the masters act like their pets.
 
ARUSIAG (With a giggle)
Very true.
 
MEKHITAR (To Pakarad)
I can tell you right now that I don't like you.
 
SETA (To Pakarad)
Don't pay him any attention.
 
PAKARAD (Nonchalantly)
You’ve said that many times before, but I don't pay any attention, because I know that you're drunk after six o'clock every night.
 
MEKHITAR (Offended)
I'm not drunk. I can even tell you that I am living the most earnest years of my life.
 
PAKARAD.
Then why don't you like me?
 
MEKHITAR.
Because when you confront those who are stronger than you, you're very submissive. But if you come face to face with individuals weaker than yourself, you turn into a vicious monster.
 
PAKARAD.
Is that the only reason?
 
MEKHITAR.
The first of many reasons.
 
SETA (Sharply)
What did you want him to be?
 
PAKARAD (Suddenly very sharply)
We're all like that and we have to be. It's wrong to confront a stronger individual. He attacks his target directly to achieve his purpose. Whereas a weaker person lacks every kind of possibility and
opportunity. He has no strength. He is forced to decide and to judge everything by his emotions. Therefore he cannot decide what's right and what's good. He is constantly at a loss.
 
MEKHITAR.
You have stooped so often that now your back is bent.
 
SETA.
His back is straight.
 
MEKHITAR.
People see themselves on a step-ladder along with the rest of the world. Everyone looks up a step.
 
SETA.
What do you expect us to do? We all have to have a position of our own and look up from there.
 
MEKHITAR (To Pakarad)
Good for you! Full marks! You've trained her well.
 
PAKARAD (Annoyed but without raising his voice)
No one can argue with you! You're always looking for an opportunity to jump at me. You have a beef against me. What have I done to you? Did I ever claim ownership of your property? You've made a habit of insulting me!
 
SETA.
What a nerve too!
 
PAKARAD.
It seems you thrive on needling me. (Offended) I can't talk with you anymore. I'm not used to being insulted so much!
 
SETA.
You're always cutting him off. You act as if he was a wart. You don't want to accept him in your company.
 
PAKARAD.
One of these days I'll be free from your evil glances and caustic tongues. You'll never see me again. (Pakarad and Seta quickly go back the way they came)
 
LEVON (Stitches his waistcoat)
A little more patience and everything will be over in peace In two months an extremely polite individual will turn up and invite us to start a new era. My latest calculations have given positive results. Only two months left...
 
MEKHITAR (Does not let Levon finish. To Vanents, smiling)
In spite of his difficulty in expressing himself, his words amuse me.
 
LEVON (To himself)
Be amused! Be amused!
 
VANENTS (To Levon)
What are you going to do after you leave here?
 
LEVON.
That's been decided, too. I'll tell you before I leave.
 
VANENTS (To Mekhitar)
Everyone has found a way to console himself. Some sing or listen to music, others wear new clothes and new shoes. Some dream of buying new furniture, others constantly think about eating good food. Some collect money all their lives, others travel for a change in scenery. Some let their hair grow, others cut it short. Some prefer shapes, others prefer colours, and so on.
 
(Pakarad and Seta reappear from the left and walk back and forth on the same side of the stage)
 
PAKARAD (To Seta, with rapid movements)
I am a man of battle. I was born to fight and have been trained and brought up for it. A place where there is no fighting is lifeless to me. I must fight, and in order to do so, I must have a full stomach. That's my way.
 
SETA (Assures him)
You should always eat.
 
PAKARAD.
Yes, I have to be full in order to think about fighting. (Suddenly alters his stance) There were two of us going ahead in a car.
 
MEKHITAR (Speaking at the same time as Pakarad, to Vanents)
I'm not interested in owning property. In fact; the reverse is true. (Points at Pakarad) However, I'd love to own the place where he lives, in order to get him out of there as soon as possible.
 
PAKARAD.
I should have been wary. I was expecting an attack. Suddenly they started firing on my left. My partner was shot right away. I stopped the car. (Demonstrates) With a quick and well trained movement I got out of the car and lay on the ground... (Continues)
 
MEKHITAR (To Vanents)
Now picture him lying on the ground.
 
SETA (Interrupts Mekhitar and begs)
Please don't interrupt. Let him continue. (She listens with admiration)
 
MEKHITAR.
I know all these by heart.
 
PAKARAD (More and more enthusiastic)
I slithered through the bushes quietly, still clutching my gun. I was aware of them hiding in wait for me. I slithered for a long time. Finally the bushes stopped. (Still demonstrating his movements) I continued to go ahead without getting up. I went around a big circle and came to the end of the road... (Continues)
 
MEKHITAR (To Vanents)
He hasn't done any of these himself. He just watched them from a distance, but you'd better pretend to believe it. (More seriously) Now, the time has come for him to become a hero.
 
PAKARAD.
The enemy was positioned in the trenches, waiting for me with its back towards me. Without wasting any time, from where I was... (With an imaginary rifle he fires from left to right and from right to left enthusiastically and passionately) Bang! Bang! Bang! I killed them all. (As if hit by a bullet from the rifle, Mekhitar screams, and grasping his abdomen with both hands, falls)
 
PAKARAD (Frightened, goes up to Mekhitar with Seta. Both look at Mekhitar's body for a moment. In a quiet and frightened voice)
What happened to you?
 
MEKHITAR (Without moving, grasps an imaginary wound and sighs)
You've wounded me.
 
PAKARAD (More astonished and scared)
Where did I wound you?
 
MEKHITAR (Sighs again)
You've killed me! (More puzzled, Pakarad goes near Mekhitar) I'm dying.
 
SETA.
How's that?
 
MEKHITAR (Still sighing)
You shot me! I'm trembling already.
 
PAKARAD (Stupefied)
I didn't mean to shoot you.
 
MEKHITAR (In the same position, without moving)
You've finished me.
 
PAKARAD (More stupefied)
I didn't mean to kill you.
 
MEKHITAR.
Then who did you want to kill?
 
PAKARAD.
This is not possible.
 
MEKHITAR.
I can't see anymore! Light! I need light! Light the torches! Hurry up! I need light!
 
PAKARAD (With the same tone of voice)
It can't be! I didn't mean to shoot you. (Without changing his position, Mekhitar starts to laugh. Pakarad is extremely hurt) I consider this a conspiracy against me! (Angry and upset, he starts to walk towards the left exit. Seta follows him. Mekhitar, still laughing, gets up and makes several obscene gestures behind Pakarad's back) You'll drop dead without any faith. You'll drop dead.
 
MEKHITAR (Laughs)
I thought it was the reverse. (Seriously) Why don't you admit that your mind is ruined and your soul is corrupt?
 
PAKARAD (From a distance)
You'll die without any feeling of intimacy.
 
MEKHITAR (Loudly, to Pakarad)
I came into this world without any feeling of intimacy, so I can jolly well die without any. (In his usual voice, to Vanents) Births and deaths are the same for everybody. In the course of my profession I've been present at thousands of deliveries. I've always watched carefully. Every newborn infant (imitates the movements) comes out in an identical manner, and as soon as they are born, with no exception they all scream and move in an identical manner. It's the same with death. I have seen hundreds of deaths and they all go out in the same fashion. It's the same glorious tale that comes to an end. (Mysteriously) Now we come to the most essential question. Since people are born and die in an identical manner, logically speaking they should also live in the same fashion, but they don't. (Stresses the point with his forefinger) Now you watch it carefully. Everybody lives differently from everybody else. This is Nature's contradiction. Since we're all born and die the same way, why do we live so differently? (Touches his temples with his forefingers, and stresses) Why? Oh, why do we live, and what are we supposed to be doing in this life?
 
LEVON.
Everything in this world is the result of a need. Nothing takes place without a reason, nor is anything created for no reason. Everything is created to satisfy a need. Everything has a meaning, a divine meaning. (Smiles to himself) He'll show up without letting on his identity. Soon he'll come and bring the good news. (Demonstrates) A short, simple man, with no distinguishing features.
 
MEKHITAR.
Supposing some day he turned up as you've been predicting, what part is he going to play?
 
LEVON.
He'll come to me, not to you.
 
MEKHITAR (Without listening to Levon, sharply)
I don't want him to come! I don't need either his presence or his existence. I have everything planned. At my age I can't take other people's advice. So far I have inadvertently taken almost every important step against my will. But from now on I know what to do. I'll remedy all my mistakes. (To Vanents) In other words I won't do things I don't want to do, and I'll definitely do whatever I want to do.
 
VANENTS.
You shouldn't have done what was suggested to you up to now.
 
MEKHITAR.
Easier said than done! People stood above me and made me do things. They even forced me. The surprising thing is that only after I did what I'd been coaxed to do that I realized I'd done things I didn't want to do. Everything was done at my family's will: namely, my mother's, my father's, my older brother's and especially my uncle's. My education first of all.
 
VANENTS.
Were you given poor guidance?
 
MEKHITAR.
Not at all. I wanted to remain uneducated, but my uncle stood in my way. Secondly, moving to this neighbourhood.
 
VANENTS.
Didn't you want to move here?
 
MEKHITAR.
Absolutely not. Where I used to live was probably poorer district, but I was happy, I never even noticed how modest it was.
 
VANENTS.
They kept repeating until you were convinced that it was a bad neighbourhood.
 
MEKHITAR.
Yes, they kept on and on until I began to notice faults with it. But in spite of that I wasn't unhappy there. At my older brother's suggestion I had a son.
 
VANENTS.
Whereas you wanted to have twin daughters.
 
MEKHITAR (Surprised) How did you guess?
 
VANENTS. That's usually the case.
 
MEKHITAR (Still surprised)
I didn't know that. (Searches for words) Where was I? (Thinks for a few seconds) I remember. I didn't marry of my own will. My father made me.
 
VANENTS.
In other words your father put you in bed with her.
 
MEKHITAR.
Just about. I'd only seen her once before. I said, (points at an imaginary person with his finger) "If you insist, then I want her and I'll marry her".
 
VANENTS.
And you married her.
 
MEKHITAR.
Yes. Just like going to the butcher, saying to him, "Give me ten pounds of meat", taking the meat, and bringing it home. (With the same tone but a little desperate) Perhaps it’s the only thing that you cannot share with anyone else. If you want something, the other person won't. (With emphasis) Just to make you suffer and bite your head. (Definitely) But I need neither direction nor a helper. First I'll find the truth and then I'll know what to do. (Pakarad and Seta appear on the left. They don't come to the centre of the stage, but walk back and forth in the background and talk. Pakarad makes abrupt movements while he talks)
 
VANENTS.
In order to do that one has to think, not work. People have discovered the truth by thinking and watching, not by working. You watch the earth during the day and the sky at night. You carefully follow the changes in both in order to discover their harmonies.
 
MEKHITAR.
Yes. I wasn't able to do that until today. (Unhappily) I was always busy with people and spent my time with their material needs. (Looks at the sky, solemnly) From now on I'll be watching.
 
VANENTS.
And you'll have to watch the earth during the day because we were created from it. It gave us life. The earth is the source and the beginning of everything. If you notice, men usually look at the ground because they were created from it, whereas women always look at men because they were created from men. Always keep this point in mind: the sky and the earth. Whatever isn't up there (points at the sky) is down here (points at the ground). Whatever isn't here, is up there. The two complement each other.
 
MEKHITAR (Pleased)
Very true.
 
LEVON (Marveling)
A perfect commentary.
 
MEKHITAR.
I'll think in that direction from now on.
 
PAKARAD (To Seta, with the same sort of movements and in his normal voice)
The weather was extremely hot. We were advancing on horseback. There was a medical officer beside me who knew the area very well.
 
MEKHITAR (To Vanents)
This is the tale of the snake.
 
PAKARAD.
We couldn't see a single village around us. All of a sudden, a little further away from the road, a snake appeared from among the rocks. It slid down and stopped at the edge of the road. We checked the horses... (Continues)
 
MEKHITAR (To Vanents)
Now listen to him, give it water. Silly creature! I sometimes wonder whether there could be anyone more senseless and more witless than this chap. He has almost everything: a good height, a good body; anybody who saw him would think he was somebody. (Makes a derogatory gesture) Of all the stupid people!
 
PAKARAD.
I got off my horse. I detached my water bottle from my belt, and took off its stopper. The snake stretched, raised its head, and opened its mouth. I began to pour water into the creature's mouth. When it had had enough, it lowered its head and slithered away slowly. It started to watch us from the top of a rock. I plugged my water bottle, mounted my horse, and we went on.
 
SETA (Marveling)
What a wonderful story!
 
MEKHITAR (To Vanents, sarcastically)
What a non-sequitur!
 
PAKARAD (Sharply, in a scolding manner)
It's not the style of the story that's the point, it's my courage. (Continues his story silently)
 
MEKHITAR (To Vanents)
Of course his courage is the important thing. I'm sure he took off as soon as he saw the snake.
 
VANENTS.
Were you ever with him?
 
MEKHITAR (Offended)
Why should I be in such ridiculous places? There are two things I've always disliked. Guns and animals, except lambs, because that's the only kind of meat I eat and I must confess I like it very much.
 
PAKARAD (To Seta, points towards Levon's house)
A group of cars were advancing over there. I noticed that the attacking forces were far greater than ours. The recommendations of the officers were considered right away; they had all decided upon a retreat. I intervened... (Continues)
 
MEKHITAR.
This is a bit better than the other one. You can listen to it if you have nothing else to do, because it's not a story. It's just an idea he has probably read somewhere.
 


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