Notes for reading: This is a play. The music playlist is as follows, in this order: ‘Magnificant,’ Choir of Trinity Wall Street; ‘Anthracite Fields IV: Flowers,’ Choir of Trinity Wall Street; ‘Aleph Bet,’ Victoria Hanna; ‘Summer Time,’ Lena Horne; ‘Peter and The Wolf,’ (no narration); There is an improvisational section with live musicians; ‘Railroad Wings,’ Patty Griffin.
The Choir of Trinity Wall Street’s ‘Magnificant’ plays.
A projector screen to the right of an otherwise empty stage.
The lights are dim, an image comes onto the screen.
More retro than old. Like Disney during the time of ‘Fantasia.’
Spheres, all different colors, and glowing in an ephemeral sort of way, bounce over the screen like they are floating in space. Mustard colored, magenta, chartreuse, green, blue, red, umber, pink, many colors.
After a few minutes of this, players, in onesies that are the same colors as the spheres, enter stage right.
This is choreography.
They twirl and swoop and dive. Lots of folding in on one’s self, over one’s self: folding over one extended leg.
The players are as waves, then a flight of birds.
They are, for the most part, unison.
One by one they spill from the formation.
They each summersault, in their own time, and land in curled-up balls, scattered before the projector screen. They stay there.
An audience member’s phone rings. One of the players, a man, in a mustard colored onesie, shoots out of his balled-up position. He stands up on the stage and looks out at the audience, trying to see through the glaring light, looking for the ringing phone.
Mustard: Lights! Lights! Bring up the lights!
The house lights come up.
Mustard locates the phone, runs into the audience, grabs the phone, takes it back to the stage and talks on the phone while walking all around the stage.
The conversation is murmured, no words can be discerned by the audience other than Kepler 452-b, which Mustard says once every few seconds.
One mustard colored sphere on the screen bursts like a ball of paint and drips down to the bottom of the screen.
It settles at the bottom of the screen like a thin layer of mustard colored sediment.
All of the other human spheres balled up on the stage begin to shake, but remain balls. In fits and starts they repeat Kepler 452-b over and over.
Mustard slows his pace.
He walks back over to the shaking human spheres that are all saying Kepler 452-b.
Slowly, dramatically, he tries to speak into the phone, but finds that he has lost his voice. He holds the phone in front of his face and tries to scream in to it. Nothing. He falls to his knees and looks out at the audience with his mouth agape.
Mustard keels over, and his hand with the telephone in it lands on a chartreuse colored, balled-up player. The audience can hear whoever is on the phone, their words also indiscernible except for Kepler 452-b.
This lasts for several minutes.
The chartreuse player comes undone.
She sits up on her knees.
She looks at her hands, turns them over in front of her face, and laughs. She holds them up to the sky.
She touches herself, her hair, her face.
Once she claps, a chartreuse colored sphere on the screen bursts and drips to the bottom of screen, forming a chartreuse layer of sediment on top of the mustard layer.
The voice on the phone says Kepler 452-b, and Chartreuse notices it, picks it up.
She looks at it and then looks out at the audience. She takes a deep breath, like she is about to sprint up a mountain, and then she makes a gesture of understanding and determination.
She jumps to her feet and begins talking on the phone. The only words that the audience can understand of her murmured speech are Kepler 452-b and Pattern-run.
The balled-up, shaking players repeat Kepler 452-b and Pattern-run.
The spheres on the screen distort a little. They stretch into ellipses or triangles then return to their sphere shapes.
The screen flashes for a fraction of a second like there is an x-ray being taken of the spheres, the sediment.
In the flashes, the audience can see that there are other shapes in the spheres: triangles, parallelograms, other spheres.
In the sediment there are bones.
Chartreuse paces the stage and talks on the phone.
The Choir of Trinity Wall Street’s ‘Anthracite Fields IV: Flowers’ plays.
The human spheres still balled-up and shaking on the ground, repeating Kepler 452-b and Patter-run. There are no x-ray flashes. This continues for several minutes.
Then, while Chartreuse is talking on the phone at the back of the stage, one of the human spheres, balled up on the stage in a green onesie, pokes their head up.
Green looks around, but does not come out of the ball.
When Chartreuse comes back around to where all of the human spheres are, Green puts their head back down and goes back to shaking and repeating Kepler 452-b, Pattern-run.
When Chartreuse turns back around and walks toward the back of the stage again, Green leaps to their feet.
Green looks all around.
Chartreuse stands at the back of the stage, her back to the audience, talking on the phone.
Green notices Mustard lying on the ground and goes to him. Green’s face is mournful. They stroke Mustard lovingly. They cry.
Then they hear Chartreuse say Kepler 452-b, and turn to look at her at the back of the stage for a moment.
Green turns back to Mustard, and from inside Mustard’s onesie, they pull out a knife.
Green looks at the knife for a moment, kisses Mustard’s head, runs to the back of the stage and grabs Chartreuse from behind.
It is clear that Green is slitting Chartreuses’ throat.
They tumble off stage.
The phone falls to the ground and the audience can hear the mumbled sound of who ever is on the other end.
There are another round of x-ray flashes on the screen.
Green returns to the stage covered in chartreuse colored blood, still holding the knife. Stops at the back of the stage and picks up the phone.
A green sphere on the screen explodes like light and disappears entirely from the screen. It does not add to the sediment.
Green appears weary.
They look off stage, presumably at where Chartreuses’ body is and bow their head.
They drop to one knee.
Their hands, still holding the phone and the knife, are pressed to their chest. They move their lips. It is clear they are praying.
They stand up and stumble toward the top of the stage, dumbstruck.
Then whoever is on the phone says Kepler 452-b and Green puts the phone to their ear.
Green repeats Kepler 452-b, Pattern-run and Spectacle.
The remaining human spheres, balled up on the ground, repeat Kepler 452-b, Pattern-run and Spectical. Green walks to where they are, listening to the phone, tapping the knife against their thigh like a ridding crop.
Green walks through and around, in between, the human spheres. Looks at each of them as they pass by, grazing some of their backs with the knife. Finally sits in front of a powder-blue sphere that is toward the top of the stage and leans back on it.
Green starts to cry, having a harder and harder time repeating the words.
Green tries to look at Mustard but can’t.
A powder-blue sphere pops their head up.
Blue examines Green, who is oblivious to them, looks around, looks back at Green.
Green is now crying hysterically, still holding the phone in one hand but not to their ear. It dangles over one propped up knee.
The knife still in their other hand, draped over the other propped up knee.
In between repeating Kepler 452-b, Pattern-run and Spectacle, the other human spheres make the sound of crying.
The animated spheres on the screen start to shake.
Blue sits up and leans Green back against their chest.
Blue holds Green, Blue rocks Green, Blue takes the phone and listens.
On the screen a powder-blue sphere explodes into diamond shapes. Some of the diamonds hang on the black background; some fall in to the sediment.
Blue rocks Green for a long time.
Blue listens to the phone but does not repeat any of the words.
Blue looks around at the other human spheres.
Gently, Blue, after setting the phone down on the ground, stands up and walks Green to the far side of the stage left.
Blue sits Green down and props them up against the wall.
Green is still crying and holding the knife, but flaccidly.
One by one, Blue rolls all of the remaining human spheres and Mustard off stage right.
Blue walks back on stage.
Blue looks at where the human spheres have been hidden and puts one finger to their mouth, tells them to SSHH.
Blue walks to the screen and taps on it, it rises, the animation disappears.
Blue looks all around the empty stage. Smiling and satisfied.
Blue goes to the phone, picks it up and takes a very slow, deep breath. Blue speaks into the phone, at first like a horse taking off in a race, but then they start to pace themselves.
Blue: So I was drinking wine out of a plastic red cup in some guy’s backyard yesterday, and all of the magnolia trees on his street were blooming and mature. The mailman was there. Grilling swordfish.
Blue: He, the mailman, was on the phone with his bookie the whole time. It was about the world series, or something, I don’t really know sports.
Switches phone from one ear to the other.
Blue: What I want to know is when your dog dies, and you have him cremated, and the vet gives you a clay paw “in memory of your pet,” who provides that service? Who are these veterinarians subcontracting this paw business to?
Blue: paces, pats themselves down, finds a cigarette, lights it and smokes The sun was setting, anyway. And the jasmine growing all over his chain-link fence made that swordfish smell kind of sweet… all of the money that this guy had to have to live on this street lined with full grown magnolias, and here he has this awful chain-linked fence to wind the jasmine around…
Blue: trance-like, looking out at the furthest most point of the theatre Don’t you know we hate a chin-linked fence, don’t you know there is nothing tackier than a chain-linked fence? Pauses, smokes
Blue: But that was a long time ago, now. Extinguishes cigarette
Blue: And I still don’t know about those paws.
Blue: Yup. Long time now.
Picks at something on the tip of their tongue. Like maybe a hair or a bit of tobacco.
Switches phone to other ear.
Blue: It’s a one to one ratio, you know. Balance. The thing and the thing that negates the thing, and you hold real still, holding them so close to each other without tripping the wire, flipping the switch, forgetting your name, your address, your email address, your phone number, your social security number, your birth order…
Blue: There is always a secreter and secreter word.
There is no music.
The voice on the phone is screaming.
Blue holds the phone up and stares at it.
Finally, Blue takes the phone to Green and puts it in their hand.
Green is still crying.
Blue crosses Green’s hands, one with the knife, the other with the phone, over their chest.
Blue exists the stage on the side where the human spheres have been hidden.
The last word that the audience can hear coming from the phone as the curtains lower is Wait.
A projector screen center stage.
A big one.
The sound of an old reel to reel movie fills the theater. The Screen snaps and pops.
There is the number countdown from ten to one inside a bulls-eye.
Six skeletons walk across the screen as though they are coming from off stage.
These are computer graphics.
Clunky. Still obvious, visible seams, ugly.
Each skeleton wears a top hat and a bow tie. Each has a cane.
One of them has a monocle.
They do a synchronized dance that incorporates the canes to Victoria Hanna’s ‘Aleph Bet.’
A few eight counts in, all of the skeletons stop to watch Monocle bang out a beat on his own bones.
Stage right: Enter a little boy.
He rides a tricycle on to the stage.
The skeletons continue to dance, but their heads turn in unison to follow the boy across the stage.
He has a teddy bear under one arm.
The choreography becomes more complex, and the skeletons keep looking over at the boy to see if he is impressed, but his back is to them.
He is examining his teddy bear.
There is a rip in the bear.
The boy has a concerned face, and he reaches into the bear’s wound to see how bad it is.
He pulls a whistle from the bear’s wound. He blows it once for a long breath.
It takes the skeletons by surprise. They stop dancing.
Monocle steps to the far left of the screen to take a closer look at the boy. The boy puts the whistle in his pocket.
Monocle looks back at the other skeletons and they all shrug, resume their dance.
On the screen a dog runs up to the skeletons.
The dog barks and draws the boy’s attention. He gets off of his tricycle.
He sits center stage with his back to the audience, very close to the screen, looking up at the screen.
The dog is running amok on the screen. It is running between the skeletons trying to snatch their bones. They fall down, fall out of rhythm, they make annoyed and frustrated gestures.
Finally monocle pulls one of his own rib bones out of its cage, and when he does a brightly colored geometry, graphs, appear where the rib used to be. All of the skeletons seem fascinated by it, and he has to clap his hands emphatically to get them to keep dancing.
He throws the rib bone for the dog.
The dog and the bone disappear off screen.
Hanna’s song fades into Lena Horne’s ‘Summer Time.’
Stage left: Enter a woman. She’s anachronostic. Lightly steam punk, her aesthetic seems confused. She is wiping her hands with a dish towel.
She puts her hands on her hips, shaking her head, staring at the boy who hasn’t noticed her but remains fixed on the cartoon.
The skeletons notice her, but only for a moment: the dog returns with the rib bone, drops it before them, and again goes after their leg bones, creating a distraction.
The mother pulls the boy back from the screen, kisses his forehead, walks off stage. The boy returns to his spot.
Stage right: Enter a skeleton.
There are things in its hand. We can’t see them.
It sets them next to the boy and stands the boy up. The boy remains enthralled by the graphics.
On the screen, other skeletons have volunteered their bones to distract the destructive dog.
They all have bright geometry where the bones were.
On the stage, the skeleton has put an army helmet on the boy. The audience still cannot see what other things the skeleton has brought for the boy. Skeleton turns the boy around towards the audience.
The audience can now see that the boy has a gun.
Velcroed to his clothes is a skeleton.
Attached to his body by a belt the Skeleton gave him are grenades and knives. There is a place for his teddy bear.
The skeleton is whispering into the boy’s ear and pointing at the audience. He points vigorously, like firing a machine gun. The boy nods his head like he understands.
The skeletons on the screen have stopped dancing.
They are very interested in what’s going on on the stage. One of them is keeping the dog distracted by holding out its mandible and letting the dog chew on it.
On the stage the skeleton finishes its instructions to the boy and exits.
The mother enters.
She fusses over the boy, inspecting the weapons, shining his helmet, wiping his face.
The boy stares straight out into the audience.
The skeletons watch and become emotional over the scene.
There is no music.
Mother: You’re so young, are you sure this is what you want, of course you know I’m proud of you either way, it’s just I think you might really enjoy the fifth grade, maybe even seventh, but I doubt it, no one likes the seventh grade…
Mother: You know I can have your father take the garbage out on Sundays, and I think I might like to mow the lawn, it seems meditative.
Mother: I’ll never forget you, and I’ll keep your room exactly as it is, and wait til Kathy Lamman hears about this, she’s always bragging about that Joshy of hers, he’s so smart, he always gets the best grades, but I ask you, since when do grades have anything to do with brains, all the dumbest people I knew in school got the best grades.
Pauses, examines him
Mother: You know what I mean, you always understand.
Mother: You’ll out grow these clothes. This belt. Take your measurements every few months and send them to me, I’ll go to the garage sales. I’ll use the money I don’t have to spend on feeding you. I’ll get a new bear, a new belt, I’ll send them to you, and photographs and funny stories too, to remind you of who the people in the photographs are. I’ll send you letters all about that Joshy and how dumb he is, a real moron compared to you.
She finishes fusing over him, stands up and steps back to examine her work, crying and holding her hands to her chest like she is over come with pride. She hugs and kisses him.
Mother: You can’t forget me: I made you. exits
The sound of drumming fills the theatre.
The boy starts to march in place, the skeletons march on the screen behind him. They all look like a trained infantry. Not all of them have replaced the bones that they threw for the dog.
The dog prods along beside them with the mandible in his mouth.
The boy takes several loud and very powerful steps toward the top of the stage, makes a quick military right turn, marches to the far end of the stage, makes and about face, marches to the other end of the stage, the skeletons watch him and seem apprehensive.
The boy turns back around and marches back to top center stage, faces the audience. He lowers to one knee, points the rifle at the audience. The skeletons gasp and cover their eyes. All the lights go out.
III. Jane Vu’s Play
On the stage are five paper panel screens, the kind you change your clothes behind.
A person is behind each of them, a dancer, and the silhouette of that person can be seen through the paper screen.
The score (only the score, not the narrated story) to ‘Peter and The Wolf’ plays.
In Turns, the dancers come out from behind the screens and dance.
This is dialogue.
One dancer calls out another, and a “dialogue” takes place between them.
They run back behind their screens, the next pair come out.
Their can be more than two dancers in a “conversation.”
After some time the sound from an interview with the author of this play, Jane Vu, plays on top of the music.
The sound of the interview is a little distorted.
The women interviewing Jane Vu are Gen Xavier and Ophelia. Jane Vu is a Vietnamese transgendered woman.
JANE VU: So through all of the typical teen channels of communication it was made clear in no unspecific terms to Jimmy that the only way to my heart would be through a successful coup and subsequent acquisition of Delaware.
Jane Vu: I wan’t fucking around back then.
Pause. The dancers continue to dance from behind the screens, the dialogue continues.
Jane Vu: My wallet is missing, I drove here without a liscense. I know it’s somewhere in the house, probably with my house keys, probably conspiring with my house keys in the bathroom – no: in the study – no: in the frigde, probably the fridge.
Jane Vu: And I keep setting my coffee down and leaving it places and not noticing until I try to drink from my empty hand and end up hitting myself in the face.
Pauses. Dancers dance.
Jane Vu: I am a horrible speller. I have all of these elaborate strategies for dealing with it on the faceplace and in all the little tweeties I have to do, but it can still be pretty embaressing.
Pause. Dancers dance.
Jane Vu: I just know that I’ve connected, somewhere in my mind, achievement with death. Especially happiness. No matter what I do with my life.
Jane Vu: Once you start feeling like that, you’re dying. Or already dead. But it’s days gone by, right? Tic toc. Tic Toc.
Jane Vu: Finish the book, tic toc. Learn another language, tic toc. Climb the tallest mountain, tic toc. Own the tallest mountain, tic toc.
Pause. Dancers dance.
Gen Xavier: How long have you been living as Jane?
Jane Vu: All my life.
Ophelia: But you were John before, right?
Jane Vu: I was never John, that’s just what they called me: it was my American name.
IV. The Film on The Wall: Inez’s play
There are live musicians.
This is improv.
There is a stage on the stage comprised mostly of a fake brick wall, which is dripping around its edges with fake flowers.
A film flashes in fits and start on the wall.
Enter a young woman, The Player/Siren, in a blue sequence dress which has a train held up by a thin ribbon that attaches the train to her wrist.
Her hair is suspiciously blond.
She walks to a microphone standing on the stage. She faces the audience.
Behind her, in the film on the wall, there is another audience seated in auditorium style seating, watching her and facing the audience in the theatre.
The Film on The Wall is in black and white.
Player/Siren: I just have to reach right in.
She turns so that she profiles both audiences: the one on the wall and the one in the theatre.
This is where the siren on her back is first revealed to the audience in the theatre.
And the audience in The Film on The Wall now see the woman on the back of the siren for the first time.
They have a visible reaction.
The Siren/Player reaches a fist to her mouth while talking, like she is going to reach down into her throat.
Player/Siren: Just grab a hold of at least one chamber and say she sings; it’s ad lib and child-like, nursery rhyme-like Baby Fear, Baby Fear, never fear, I am here and I ‘ll love you and I’ll hold you until you know that I am not going anywhere because you deserve love too you big baby no matter how you light all of my joints on fire.
Player/Siren: Baby Fear, Baby Fear, I am here, so never fear, my dear I will rock you and I will hold you and I will love you all of the time and I won’t stop or ever try to kill you in your sleep. I step right up, I shout my name and I will have you on my back and I will never let you go for fear or shame. Baby Fear, Baby Fear, I am here, I am here,
and I will hear out all of your plausible scenarios and will feel all of the pain of every moment that ever called thee and I will hope that you find peace because I can see that you are hurting and I don’t want anyone to be hurting, including, if not especially my tiny
Baby Fear, Baby Fear, I hold you here, and here and here and here and there is pain in my chest and my eye will do that twitchy thing.
She pause to think, starts to walk around in an almost aimless way, using the tail of her dress to clean things. She seems to be thinking of what to say next.
Musicians continue to play.
Player/Siren: I sing this song with conflicting melodies and I wonder if that is a thing that people do. I do not wish to devour your presence or ever try to say that I don’t need you.
Or that you’ve never guided me or often served as home and refuge and sometimes a sassy kitchen. Or that I haven’t fed from you and learned from the viciousness available in your marrow.
Player/Siren: I know I have all of these vampyric tendencies, but that’s only if I try smothering you with the pillow after everyone else has gone to sleep and I’m crying the whole time while my hair gets frizzy. Baby Fear, Baby Fear, I brought you here, I am your maker and your master though in my heart I know that isn’t true…
She comes back to speaking here.
The music quiets but does not stop.
In her cleaning around the stage she has found a note.
She picks it up and reads it aloud.
Player/Siren: These people don’t like you. They are not your people. Not sure how we got here, but here there is a dark and inky night sky, and we are so weepy, always so weepy and dramatic, this caravan of folks who found this dreary night. This is the song the women sing.
The note seems to trigger a memory.
PLAYER/SIREN: something contrived and child like in her voice, forced What was it that I kept dreaming about Clara? — about toast? I wrote faster and faster trying to remember about the toast. It was burned. Burned because the bread was broken and so they had to toast it in the oven instead of the toaster, and they put the oven on broil and weren’t listening with their noses to the sound of the burning bread.
Player/Siren: her voice matures, becomes more organic He was sitting at the table doing a crossword puzzle, asking Clara for the answer to every other question. And Clara was standing at the kitchen sink looking out the window at the neighbor kids who were playing with snow that someone else brought back in the bed of a pick up truck from a trip to Tahoe. The kids were screeching and laughing like banshees at the top of their lungs, and he said, A four letter word that is also a sign? – and she said, Stop. – and he said, I can’t, I’ve got at least half a puzzle of empty of blank space, tiny empty space, staring at me. – and Clara said, Stop. – and he continued with, Why do I always have to ask you for the answers and why do I always have to skip around the puzzle relying entirely on context? – it’s all circumstantial – and she said, Stop, and he said, – I’ll tell you why, to keep my wits, to stay sharp as a razor – and Clara yelled, Stop, and the smoke detector started screaming and they both then realized that the bread was burnt. Clara was reassuring. It’s not burnt, she said. And she scraped the burn off with a butter knife and spread jam on a slice for him. And then the man said the following: In the city are the cafes and in the cafes life is watching live life. Rents due tomorrow, he said, interrupting his own story and only turning toward her enough for her to know that that part was meant for her specifically: rent’s due tomorrow. And then he started again: The machine, a shining machine, steams the milk and that acrid coffee smell that is so sating spills onto the street, life living … living jobs, living promotions and unemployment, making deals and eating rats… something, something, the whole city chugs and rains around the café.
V. Her Clothes and The Things She Writes With: An Interview with Inez
A Donut shop.
Above the counter is a t.v. set that shows the shop what the security camera is recording.
Pairs of old men sit at all the tables playing chess.
Inez and the podcast hosts are sitting at a table in the middle of them. She is wearing flannel pajama bottoms and a large grey hoodie.
She smokes and drinks coffee.
She has a notebook and she writes in it while watching the chess matches around her.
She seems absent minded while talking to the hosts and rarely looks away from what she is doing.
Customers come and go.
Very few white people.
Inez is white and cis.
Gen Xavier: So you want to learn to play chess?
Inez: I do now, but for a long time I didn’t. I knew how long it would take me just to become proficient.
One of the men at the table closest to her makes his move, slaps the chess clock.
She takes vigorous notes.
Inez: A game like chess, you have to feel like a complete basic, a total amateur, for so long. But I started to notice myself picking up moves, recognizing strategy. Then it was a matter of understanding the things I was seeing. Context. It’s really more about context than mastering anything.
One Old Man Chess Player: Don’t listen to her. Pauses, contemplates board.
One Old Man Chess Player: She takes notes for Christ’s sake.
He and Inez look at each other in a way that communicates some kind of knowledge and understanding of one another.
Another Old Man Chess Player: She’ll go home and replay the match. She’ll be both sides.
The hosts look at Inez.
She shrugs her shoulders and says, Whatever.
At another table someone slaps the chess clock.
Gen Xavier: You write here?
Inez: That part’s new. Originally I was just interested in voyeurism, typical white people stuff, you know. And the owner lets me smoke. But I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take a break and do some work. Relieve my guilt over not writing.
Inez: These men. These men are so serious. Gracefully focused. They make it look easy, but I’m sure that’s not how it feels.
she pats her stomach and makes a face, indicating some kind of digestive issue, but it looks rather like a kids game where you try and pat your head with one hand and rub your other hand in circles over your belly at the same time.
Inez: A lot of antacids getting passed around, you know what I’m saying. But who knows. Maybe it’s like floating for them. There’s no title involved here at the donut shop, I don’t suppose.
Puts out cigarette, immediately lights another, doesn’t exhale just drinks her coffee.
Inez: I used to work with this guy, he was obsessed with my eating. There were always cookies and crap all over that office, and I helped myself, just like anyone else. But he was always all over me for it: You’re eating again. He was always telling me to be careful. I was running like forty miles a week back then.
Inez Tugs at her hoody.
She is loving with her clothes and the things that she writes with.
Inez: Anyway, I always thought it would be funny if one day he came into his office to find me crouching under his desk with and empty brownie pan and chocolate smeared all over my face, just looking all crazy. fumbles with lid of coffee cup
Gen Xavier and Ophelia laugh hysterically.
Gen Xavier: I know people with those problems. winks toward Ophelia who winks back and they both touch their noses with their ring fingers.
Inez: So getting back to what you were driving at back in the car, I guess my greatest regret would have to be…Pauses, deliberate, composed
Inez: That book.
Inez: When I used to live in the Hillcrest area of San Diego there was this tiny used book store literally across the street from my house. The guy who owned it liked me, he gave me credit. I spent a lot of money in there. So one day there was this book on display in the window about the floral industry, which I guess is one of the seediest industries… waits for reaction to her pun, the hosts just shake their heads
Inez: A tell-all attempt by someone who was in the business but got out to get their soul back. Anyway, I didn’t have any cash on me so he said he’d hold it for a few days. But, when I got home that day there was a Pay or Quit notice on my door, so I had to bail in a hurry. I never went back for the book.
Players end games.
New players who were watching before now sit down and new games begin.
Inez: And as far as all that stuff about my ‘vision’ or whatever: it’s not like that.
Inez: I just really saw the world that way for a long time. Some real, some less-real, cartoony. I thought that’s what everyone saw, so I never really brought it up, specifically.
Inez: But then in the seventh grade I was walking home with a group of my girlfriends and we found a dead cat. We stopped to look at it. It was split in two: front-half, back-half. And we were wondering why someone would stuff the center with sawdust. So we knelt down to investigate the matter with long sticks in our hands and saw pretty quickly that we were looking at thousands of creamy white maggots. So, of course, I plunged my stick into the deepest part of the cat’s maggot-belly and my friends did that thirteen-year-old-girl-thing where they acted disgusted but were secretly thrilled.
Pause. Smokes and watches.
A player motions like he is going to move several different pieces.
He always hesitates, changes his mind.
He is stuck. Everyone is waiting for him.
Inez: Real doubt. That perfect white sterile room full of infinite echoes, as many mirrors. Way past proto-doubt – which for a long time I took for fake doubt, but then realized that there is no such thing as fake, there is only proto, there is only incomplete. Initial.
Inez: lights another cigarette In this room, this sterile room, you know that you don’t know – or, you don’t know your ass from a whole in the ground, as my dad used to say, but you do know that you don’t know while also knowing that that information is pretty vital, that you need it, and that it could be a matter of life and death. And you know this not knowing very clearly and from every possible angle.
Inez shakes her head, laughs, extinguishes her cigarette, rises to get a refill on coffee and then sits back down.
Inez: I’m sorry, I guess I’m just really feeling my age today. There’s something going on I my ass – hemmeroids, or something. Looks at hosts with a little disgust and a little embarresment.
Inez: I guess I’m that age. All of the pours are standing out on my hands and my hands seem really pale. There’s just this general feeling, a thinning of things… you know, I recently read some online article about women using the word ‘just’ in the work place. It’s a permission-word, I guess, makes you seem all submissive, is what this article was saying.
Patty Griffin’s ‘Railroad Wings’ comes on.
Inez reacts with surprise.
She points up at nothing in particular.
Inez: I used to get so drunk I didn’t know that I’d sung her entire canon. I used to wake up choking. And out of no where I’d know all of the words. Fucked up all alone in by bed in my work clothes.
Someone slaps the chess clock.
She pauses, notates vigorously, lights another cigarette.
Inez: No. Not that bad. That’s hyperbole. I’m being hyperbolic. It’s just that I used to. Get real drunk. Sing in my bathroom. Used to, I don’t anymore. I tried writing back then, too. Kept trying, anyway. Nothing great, just stuff I heard around, all mixed up. Blank stare kind of stuff.
Inez puts her hand to the bridge of her nose like she is having a headache
She looks beyond the chess players now, out the window of the donut shot.
She is staring.
Inez: I want to breathe sea air all of the time from my own kitchen window.
Inez: I could live surrounded by tall and old trees that smell like wet dirt whenever I open the window in the kitchen that is mine and drink coffee that I made in my kitchen.
Someone smacks a clock. Brings her back inside.
Inez: I’m struggling with something new. Puts down her notebook The patterns are inconsistent, they can’t sustain each other. In fact, leans in and whispers they might obliterate one another.
Inez sits back, seems withdrawn.
She becomes louder, seems almost aggressive.
The hosts look at each other subtly.
Inez: And so what if I do want to fall in love? So what if it’s something that I think about so obsessively that it makes me believe I might actually need to be diagnosed with something.
Inez: A maladaptive day dreamer, that’s a real thing, right?
Inez: Fluidity is always masked by something rigid, the rock said to Moses when he knelt down to apologize.
The hosts look at each other like they aren’t really sure what’s happening.
Inez: It reminds me of something I saw a few weeks ago while I was sitting on my couch and staring at the patterns in my carpet, which is something I like to do from time to time, because if you do it for long enough the patterns start to shift and… Anyway, there was a cave. A dirty and empty cave. And I was in it and I was a cartoon.
Someone slaps clock.
Inez notates vigorously.
Inez: I was beating a rug against the brown wall of the cave, a red rug that was crawling with spiders. They kept scurrying back op the wall to climb back on to the rug and the webs they’d already been constructing – it’d been a long time since I’d tried to clean – and I killed many of them and was crying, because I still had to clean the rug. I felt like this so adequately reflected the way I saw the world since I was a kid.
Contemplates options in the chess match closest to her.
Lights another cigarette.
Inez: I always have at least one character that smokes.
Inez: It’s a ballet I love to watch in the mirror: my own smoking habit.
Inez: When I was a kid the old people always said it was a disgusting habit – especially for women.
Players slap multiple clocks.
Inez notates vigorously.
Customers come in and go out.
Games start to end.
No one is talking. Just the sounds of the shop.
People pack up and start to leave.
It’s all very natural.
Eventually just the women are left.
Music can hold enormous power in memories and experiences, transporting us instantly to an age, location, or person. What sonic joys, mysteries, disbelief, and clarity have you experienced? Identify songs of influence in your life and explore them like variations on a theme, melding syntax and song structure, recalling the seriousness or levity that accompanies. Whether it’s an account of when a specific song first entered your life, the process of learning to play a song, teaching someone a song, experiencing the same song in different places as it weaves through your life, unbelievable radio timing, sharing songs with those in need, tracking the passing down of songs, creative song analysis, music as politics, etc, I am interested in those ineffable moments and welcoming submissions of your own variations on a theme, as drawn from your life’s soundtrack. Please email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep an eye out for others’ Variations.
**(“song” is a broad phrase: could be a pop song, a traditional tune, a symphony, commercial jingles, a hummed lullaby, 2nd grade recorder class horror stories, etc)**
Jacquelynn Gothard was born and raised in Sacramento, California. She is currently living in Oakland and working on a novel. In 2015, Gothard received and M.F.A. in Prose from Mills College.